Day 13: Anchorage

Note: The blog is almost caught up — Days 12 and 13 posted today…

After another delicious breakfast at the Parkside Guest House, we decided to drive north to the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley and visit the cities of Wasilla and Palmer.

Back to the awesome Parkside breakfasts

An hour drive north of Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley gets its name from its two largest rivers and is bisected by the Parks and Glenn highways.

North to Wasilla and Palmer

On the way, we stopped at Eklutna Historical Park — in the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” native village of Eklutna — to visit a cemetery in which each grave is enclosed by a highly decorated “spirit house” the size of a large dollhouse. This unique practice evolved from the melding of Athabascan and Russian Orthodox beliefs.

Yes we did. You are welcome.

Each spirit house was decorated different than the others

Our stop in Wasilla (home of Sarah Palin, for you non-politicos) was mostly just to say we were there; at a local park we posed for pictures in front of the city sign and noted the Iditarod Trail Headquarters.

Matt feels a general sense of exasperation in this city

Lots of hitchhikers around; our minivan had room for two or three, I suppose

Forty miles northeast of Anchorage lies Palmer, a charming city that is one of Alaska’s major agricultural regions, thanks to its rich soil and long hours of summer sunlight. Looking for 100-pound cabbages? This is your place. Home to the Alaska State Fair, a musk ox farm, and an old gold mine, Palmer is lined on both sides by the Chugach mountain range. We drove up winding Hatcher Pass Road to Independence Mine State Historical Park, home to a long-dormant hard-rock gold mine that operated from 1938-51. Set in a “bowl” of rock and arctic tundra, the mine is built up into the hillside in a rather picturesque manner; we didn’t take the self-guided tour, but did stop to get some pictures.

Still some snow up here at Independence Mine

View from the east end of Hatcher Pass Road

Our next stop was the Palmer Visitor Center, where we talked to local guides about the city’s history and I browsed through a local cookbook offering recipes for moose, walrus, and salmonberry preparations, as well as the ubiquitous recipe for tater-tot casserole that seems to make an appearance in every one of these kind of cookbooks no matter where they’re from.

Mary getting some local historical information at the Palmer Visitor Center

All about the Matanuska Colony

Lunch was at the In and Out Deli, a deli/grocery store recommended by one of the visitor center employees. Once fed, we drove back to Anchorage, bypassing Palmer’s animal refuge center even though I was running out of time to see a bear and could have done so here. (Would have felt like cheating anyways)

Recommended for its delicious sandwiches, the In and Out Deli did not disappoint

Matt had seen a disc-golf course in the park on our first night in Anchorage, and he convinced the rest of us to go buy discs and try it out. After deeming the discs at REI too expensive, we ended up at Play It Again Sports, where we learned that serious disc-golf players have separate discs for short/mid/long distances. We decided to start small and settled on one disc for each of us, choosing two short and two mid-distance ones.

45 minutes to pick out four discs. You'd think we were disc golf pros.

At Westchester Lagoon Park, there is a nine-hole disc golf course that is free to all. There are four courses found throughout Anchorage. Disc golf is incredibly popular here; it is played by hurling a smaller-than-a-Frisbee disc toward a basket, aiming for the fewest possible throws to get it in. Each hole averaged 250-300 feet, with tree and water hazards. After a few practice throws, we got down to business; it was harder than it looked, and it was fun to watch the other, more experienced players show off their skills.

It takes a special kind of skill to land your disc IN the tree.

All I cared about here was not throwing my disc into the lake.

This photo was better than the group shot taken moments later

Reading the guidebooks, I learned that Anchorage had two summer collegiate baseball teams; after a quick Google search we discovered that the Anchorage Bucs were playing an evening game and decided to check it out. Matt’s parents dropped us off at Mulcahy Stadium, where we paid $5/ticket and took our seats directly behind home plate.

Best seats we'll ever get for five bucks

Reindeer sausage!

The crowd was small but pretty invested in the game, and we enjoyed the sunshine while rooting for the home team. Some well-known major leaguers have played for Anchorage’s two summer teams in the past: Mark McGwire, Dave Winfield, Randy Johnson, and Reggie Jackson, to name a few. The Bucs won handily, and we walked back to the guesthouse around 10 PM.

Baseball with a mountain backdrop

All alone in our section

Another beautiful sunset - note the time

2 Comments on “Day 13: Anchorage”

  1. I loved a pretty Eskimo from Alaska. I had to lasso her, and she was quite a catch. Well,I showered her with hugs and kisses till she ran away with some native from Denali, and all that woman taught me was never count your chickens till they hatch. Well she’s gone but not forgotten; I’ve shed some tears, but I’ve no regrets. I think about that woman often – hell she may be gone but she’s not forgotten yet.

  2. Sure loved the scenery. Brings back such great memories. We certainly didn’t eat as well as you, though. Next time around we’ll do better. Enjoyed the blog so much. Looks like you had a great time. Looking forward to hearing all about it and seeing more pics.

    Thanks for all the updates


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