I arrived in Anchorage Alaska on Saturday 13 May after disembarking a 7 day cruise and took a flight directly to Fairbanks. While looking out the plane window it was interesting to note that for a state covered in so much ice there are also a lot of dry arid areas. I later found out that this is because 2/3 of the state is covered in permafrost just 2-3 feet below the surface, which can make it difficult for vegetation to grow.
As I arrived in Fairbanks I realised a common pattern seems to be forming with my travels where I spend the first day in a new place just figuring out how to get around. Fairbanks is one of those very spread out towns, where a car would be really useful. But nevertheless I have now figured out how to get to most places I wanted to go using the local bus service.
So where did I go and what did I do in Fairbanks? I…
…visited the Ice Museum, where I watched a informative video about the World Ice Carving Championships. Ice Carving up here begins with big blocks of pure ice being carved out frozen lakes. After the video I literally entered a freezer (at -5’C jackets and gloves were a must) to see the ice carvings
…I took a Riverboat Discovery Tour which included a Dog Mushing Display, views of some really nice houses & log cabins, a visit to a mockup native Chena Village where native Alaskan guides provided information about how Native Alaskans lived prior to white man arriving, including smoking Salmon and how they used every part of the animals they hunted.
I travelled from Fairbanks to Denali in a small shuttle bus with only 2 other passengers. Luckily it was a clear day and at a particular spot on the highway I got a clear view of Mt McKinley (also known as Mt Denali) which at 20,310 feet is the tallest mountain in North America.
On my only full day in Denali National Park it was only 3’C (glad I didn’t forget my beanie and gloves that day). In the morning I took a short bus trip to a place called Savage River, along he way I saw a couple of Moose (but no bears😟). Then in the afternoon I took a horse & wagon ride which included a yummy meal. I would have really liked an extra day or two in Denali as it would have been good to take a tour deeper into the park and closer to the mountain.
The following day I took the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage for another scenic journey.
I then had 3 full days in Anchorage which I spent relatively quietly (travelling can be tiring so it was time to slow down a bit). Still I did do the local trolley tour, visited the Native Heritage Centre, strolled around the local weekend market where I ate a Reindeer Burger (which was quite yummy) and finally I visited the Anchorage Zoo to see some of the Native animals I missed out on seeing elsewhere in Alaska.
Anchorage is one of those cities where all the downtown streets are named A, B, C etc and the cross streets are 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. I always thought cities with streets named like this were a bit corny and unimaginative, but as a tourist I now realise it makes it a lot easier to figure out how to get to where you want to go.
Well that’s it for Alaska for now. I came here, I learnt about the history and the wildlife, I experienced (some of) it and enjoyed the beautiful sights. Maybe I’ll be back again one day……