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On a Clear Day – we could see 20,320 feet by Ann Treacy
February 24, 2012, 2:04 am
Filed under: Alaska

Sunday was our last full day in Anchorage. So we made the very most of it! We headed north towards Mt McKinley. The day was perfect. It’s was crystal clear – and not really cold.

We could see Mt McKinley nearly the whole drive. From a great distance is looks like a small floating mountain. But I suppose that’s really just the top above the clouds. The weather on the mountain can be -22 F in the summer!

We drove through Wasilla – but we weren’t able to see Russia. Maybe we didn’t look hard enough. We did see that while the setting is beautiful, Wasilla isn’t the most attractive town you’re ever going to meet. We drove through to get to Talkeetna, which is near-ish to the Denali State Park. I say near-ish because really I just couldn’t get over how large Alaska is. From Talkeetna we had an amazing view of Mount McKinley. It was pretty spectacular. We also stopped into the Denali Brewing Company tasting hut. The beer was very good and the guy working there super friendly. Especially after it was established that his dad was Irish.

On the way back we saw a moose. John, who is kind of a fearless driver, stopped on the highway and backed up so that we could get a good picture of the moose. Very fun to see!

Eventually we made it back to Anchorage. Had a very nice dinner and saw a band. All in an effort to be tired for the plane ride home the next day. The plane ride is about 6 hours.



Whittier Alaska – tunnel & snow by Ann Treacy
February 21, 2012, 2:25 am
Filed under: Alaska

On Saturday I did a quick walk in the morning to see the sunrise. It’s not like you have to wake up early for it – sunrise sort of started at 8 am. But it was nice to get out and see a little patch of the city. I think people thought I was a little crazy; it was 14 degrees and it’s very slippery. A few folks stopped to kindly ask if I needed a lift. (Anchorage will not be winning any plowing or shoveling awards any time soon – but then I guess I could see losing interest in upkeep. I read that they’ve had 7 feet of snow this winter!) (Nearly forgot to add that I included the shop sign for my Scrabble friends – Oomingmak: The Qiviut Shop.)

One of the best things about a totally surprise trip to someplace great like Alaska is that you don’t really over prepare – or have any preconceived notion of what it will be like. So on Saturday when Bill suggested we head south I must admit I didn’t really know where we were going. We were originally headed to Seward – but took a detour to Whittier.

Whittier is about 60 miles from Anchorage. It’s on the west side of the Prince Island Sound, which may sound familiar because the Valdez port is on the south end of the Sound. In 1989, it was the location of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Whittier is not really that close to Valdez (as in we weren’t tempted to make the extra drive) but it gives you an idea of the geography. One cool thing about Whittier is that you have to take a one-lane tunnel to drive there. So there’s a schedule sort of like a drawbridge. The tunnel is 2.5 miles long.

Also Whittier had more snow than I have ever seen in one place. There were piles of it – I didn’t do a great job of capturing it – but it seemed like there were 10-15 foot banks everywhere. And the snow was blue – glacial blue, I guess. Except for the snow – the town could have been in West Cork. There was a harbor – where we saw otters and maybe a seal. I took a picture – knowing from experience that it wouldn’t really turn out – but I’m including it. We stopped at a pub/hotel for a drink – and even once inside it seemed kind of strange to me that the bar staff didn’t have Irish accents. The total bonus was that I got carded! It was a really nice place – we were kicking ourselves that we hadn’t thought to check out of our other hotel before heading out.

The town was a little sleepy in February – and there was at least one big Scooby Doo-esque abandoned hotel/asylum-place – but you could see the potential for summer! (And we enjoyed it even in Feb.)



Day Two Anchorage: Coastal Walk by Ann Treacy
February 18, 2012, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Alaska

You know you’re in a pretty city when the coastal walk also boasts some beautiful views of the mountains. While much of the day was spent working – we did get out for a nice walk. Because it’s February, we didn’t see a ton of actual coast – well at least in terms of water or sand. But the views are spectacular. And we could see one hearty boat trying to get to the dock.

We walked down the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The trail is apparently 10 miles long – although we didn’t go nearly that far. One of my highlights was the moose warning sign. Lots of good advice on keeping away from moose – but of course that sets up an expectation. We didn’t see one – but we have two more days. The trail sort heads from downtown towards the airport along the coast. The homes that we passed were amazing. It’s a shared path for walkers and cross country skiers.

Also – lots of fun little urban art outbursts on our various walks.



Alaska – the sun finally & Museum by Ann Treacy
February 17, 2012, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Alaska | Tags:

Day one of Alaska was a lot of time inside a windowless room, which wasn’t half as bad as it sounds since the people were so friendly. I’m hear with John and Bill as part of a team to talk about broadband. So today we worked a conference and talked to people about their own technology use and set up. Then about 3:00 we finally got to see the sun. We arrived the night before around 9:00 – in the dark. And the conference started at 8:00 this morning, which is a little earlier than sunrise in Anchorage in February.

The weather is actually not very cold – probably about the same as home, hovering around freezing. (Academic freezing, not really cold freezing.) But Alaska got all of the world’s snow this year. There are piles of it everywhere and folks have said that much of it has melted in the warm up they’ve been having. But it made for a very pleasant walk. We walked towards the water and then towards the mountains. It’s very beautiful – although with all of the buildings, the pictures don’t really do justice.

The town itself is not very big.

We also visited the museum, which was kind of cool. It was nice to see the history, which we didn’t get much time to prep for the trip. The art was beautiful. There was an exhibit of faces who had climbed Mt McKinley. We thought they were going to be before and after faces – but they were just afters. But they were cool anyways. Amazing to see the difference between the skin that was covered by goggles and the weathered faces that clearly did not have enough protection.

Also in anticipation of comments – I will try to get a picture of me outside to prove I was here. But I’m a much better as photographer than photographed!



Winter Carnival Ice Sculptures by Ann Treacy
February 1, 2012, 4:57 pm
Filed under: St Paul

It’s been a funny winter. It’s February 1 with predicted temperatures in the 40’s! I think we’ve had 8 genuinely cold days all winter. So we were glad to get out and enjoy the Winter Carnival Ice Sculptures before they melted.

For readers outside of our area… St Paul has celebrated a winter carnival since 1886. It’s happens over the last week of January and first week of February. It is kind of a fun gage of weather. Like trick or treating, I can always remember the weather for Winter Carnival events. Last year it was cold and snowy. And while this winter has been warm, it was kind of chilly when we were looking at the sculpture – but I think that kept the crowds down – or rather moving. I suspect lots of people came to see the art – but hustled right through and didn’t linger.

We saw a few of the sculptures being made, which is always fun. The range of sawing tools, and melting tools and detailed tools and axes is kind of amazing. The sculptors generally appear to be dressed for the weather – in fact I’d like to know where the get some of that fleece – but it seems that inevitably there’s a time when you have to take off the gloves and use your hands. It’s cold work. But as the pictures demonstrate – it’s worth it. The hard thing is that the sculptures are particularly beautiful in the sun – but harder for me to capture on film.

Oh added extra bonus (for us) this year’s Winter Carnival was the Beer Dabbler – think outdoor wine tasting with great bands – except swap out the wine for beer.




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