by Karen Lewis
Out of all the seasons we chose to go to Alaska, it had to be one of the worst winters for snow ever. Here we were in the back of a car after being picked up from the airport in a blinding blizzard. The snow was piled up high at the sides of the road and some cars must have ran into problems and were stuck. We continued on our journey through the dazzling but heavy snow storm to the B&B where we were planning to stay for a while.
This was my first time in Alaska and I just thought this was the norm for this time of year, where the weather was concerned. After hearing some of the comments from the Alaskan people I discovered that it was actually considered to be quite concerning. Apparently it was the worst winter anyone could remember in Alaska, but for me it was a bit of a fun adventure.
While staying at the B&B in Anchorage, I remember looking out the window and being amazed at the size of the icicles hanging from the windows. I had never seen such huge icicles in any place I had been before.
This beautiful capital city is also surrounded by majestic looking mountains and wildlife. I remember sitting in Starbucks at the time looking out the window when I caught a glimpse of what looked like a cross between a horse and a camel’s head trotting out from behind a white mini- van. I quickly looked again to discover it was actually a large Moose running across the parking lot of Starbucks. We seemed to be the only ones who stood up at great speed setting our cell phones to camera while at the same time running towards the window to capture a photo. So quickly that the person I was with, tripped over a ‘Caution Wet Floor’ sign while trying to capture the moment. It was too late. The Moose had ran on to a busy road with oncoming traffic and survived while trotting along as if it didn’t just escape death.
While we were in the Anchorage area, we had a fearless friend who drove us through blistery weather of snow and ice in the hope we would see one of Alaska’s many glaciers. We passed by an arctic truck which had capsized on the side of the road, pursued the elements with vengeance, only to discover it was snowing so heavy we couldn’t actually see it.
After spending some time in Anchorage we drove along Denali Highway to our next destination of Fairbanks. This highway is out there when it comes to being in the heart of the wilderness. It is an incredible road through an open country surrounded by rolling hills and trees. I was always on the lookout to see if I could spot any wildlife, particularly grizzly bears, caribou, and moose, and at the same time hoping that we did not break down out there in the freezing temperatures, as we were driving in an ordinary car without snow tires or chains. Not to mention the wildlife that could have had us for dinner if they chose to do so.
On this highway we passed the entrance to the Denali National Park but the road into it was closed for winter at that time, but if I was back in Alaska in the future it is one place I would like to see. It is filled with great wild-life, as well as North America’s highest mountain, Mt McKinley.
Once we had reached the half-way mark on the road, we decided to continue the rest of the journey the next day as it was starting to get dark. We stayed the night in a warm and cozy log cabin surrounded by woodland. The next morning when we were packing up the car I heard a pack of wolves howling in the trees nearby. Flashbacks to the movie Wolf came to mind where all the characters had been eaten alive in the Alaskan wilderness. I know that was just a fictional story but all the same I felt safer inside the car with the doors and windows tightly shut.
Later on we stopped in the town of Nenana which the people there will tell you is well known for the famous fundraising event called Nenana Ice Classic, in which the individuals who are participating attempt to guess the exact time the ice will break on the Tanana River. Tickets are usually on sale from the beginning of February through to the first week of April in the hope of winning the prize share of a large sum of money to those who guess correctly.
At the North end of the highway we reached the city of Fairbanks, which is the main Northern City. Fairbanks is otherwise known as ‘The Golden Heart of Alaska’ which is more a reference to the people’s character as well as its beautiful location and the discovery of gold. Due to the city’s close proximity to the Arctic Circle, you will find that they have very long summer days along with very short winter days. The longest hours of sunlight lasting over 21 hours and the shortest winter day lasting less than three hours. While we were in Fairbanks we visited the world’s northernmost Denny’s where Reindeer is on the menu. Outside in the parking lot was an interesting ice sculpture.
From Fairbanks we headed to the town of North Pole to visit friends. While we were there we popped in to see Santa Claus at his house, only to discover that the man who played Santa Claus was on vacation at the time!
After spending time with friends and seeing parts of Alaska it was time to say our goodbyes in the hope that one day we may return. I found Alaska to be a very different world from where I am originally from as they tend to live off the land there. Where I am from we just go to the supermarket. Alaskans do too but it’s not uncommon to have a freezer full of Moose or Reindeer meat in the homes there to stock up for the winter.
If you ever have the chance to go to Alaska I hope you have a great experience as I did. However, I do recommend you go at a different time of year.
Check out more travel articles in KRL’s travel section.