Thursday, September 2, 2010

Alaska {6 of 6}: Anchorage

Flattop Mountain, Anchorage, AK {Friday, August 13th}
This is it! The last post of our marathon week of our Alaska vacay recap. If you've followed along this week, thanks! I have no clue how many people read my little blog (because my Google Analytics disappeared when I changed the blog design a few months back & I've been too lazy to figure out how fix it), so I'm always pleasantly surprised when someone mentions Simply Suz.

If you're just joining me, here's where we've been so far:
  1. Journey to Alaska/Denali (Sunday) - Click here!
  2. Denali - Part 1 (Sunday) - Click here!
  3. Denali - Part 2 (Monday) - Click here!
  4. Kenai - Part 1 (Tuesday) - Click here!
  5. Kenai - Part 2 (Wednesday) - Click here!
  6. Anchorage (Thursday) - This post!
Today we're in Anchorage!  We'll pick up mid-day Friday, after our drive from the Kenai Peninsula. Our first stop... Flattop Mountain!

Flattop Mountain was one of our short-list hikes. Katie & Matt (sis & bro-in-law) highly recommended it & Flattop had come up repeatedly in speaking with Alaskans about "must-dos" in Anchorage. In fact, Flattop is the most popular, most hiked (or "climbed") mountain in Alaska! The panaramoic views from the top were amazing. On a clear day (which we didn't have), you can even see the Alaska Range, including Mt. McKinley, from Flattop.
Spliced Panoramic from the top of Flattop {Friday, August 13th}
Flattop is part of the Chugach Mountain Range, which provides the mountainous backdrop for the city of Anchorage. The trail itself isn't very long, just 3 miles round-trip with a 1300 ft elevation gain. However, the last few hundred  feet are very steep & very rocky. You transition from hiking to climbing! Everyone who makes it to that point uses all 4s to make it to the top. It's always reassuring to read before you start a hike that several people have been seriously injured & a few killed from slipping on the loose rock. Eeek!
Rocky finish to the top of Flattop {Friday, August 13th}
Boy, the climb was worth it! We could see the Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm & the Anchorage Skyline!
View of Anchorage from Flattop {Friday, August 13th}
View of Turnagain Arm & Cook Inlet from Flattop {Friday, August 13th}
In addition to being very high up, the top of Flattop is also very windy & chilly!
Success! Top of Flattop! {Friday, August 13th}
Windy day on Flattop {Friday, August 13th}
As much as we enjoyed the view from the top, I was super nervous about going back down! For being big hikers, neither Matt nor I are really fond of heights (strange, right?). I get the heebie-jeebies when I get too close to the edge, but I suck it up & take my time, with the knowledge that I'll be glad I did when I get to the top. Climbing up, I felt a little more secure leaning into the mountain. Going down was a different story all together. Every loose patch of gravel & rock on the way down gave me a little heart attack. Here I am, happy to be down!
Happy that rocky descent was behind me! {Friday, August 13th}
After finishing Flattop, we raced to our hotel (courtesy of my folks who graciously shared some of their Marriott points. Thanks, Mom & Dad!). Matt & I were ecstatic to see a big comfy bed (sianara, sleeping bags!) & a clean, hot shower! That evening we indulged in 2 large pizzas & beer. (Cue hallelujah chorus). We had been dreaming about pizza for days & Dominos never tasted so good.
Anchorage, AK {Saturday, August 14th}
We spent Saturday, our last full day in Alaska, exploring Anchorage. In the summer months, downtown Anchorage hosts an excellent weekend market & festival, which is where we started our day. The market kept us entertained for awhile with performers, food & hundreds of vendors selling Alaskan-made goods. I didn't take any pictures because I was too busy stuffing my face with elephant ears (I'm sorry, 2 weeks of camp food gives you all sorts of unhealthy cravings! Fried dough & powdered sugar? Yes, please).

The rest of the day we just walked around the city. Anchorage has several (supposedly) excellent museums & attractions, but with the little cash we budgeted for this trip, we decided to save our $$$s for one more fish dinner before heading back to the lower 48. We're walkers anyway, so we were happy taking the city in by foot. Here's a few things we saw on our self-guided walking tour of Anchorage:
Is this not the coolest Visitor's Center ever? Check out the grassy rooftop. {Saturday, August 14th}

We're a long way from home! {Saturday, August 14th}
This little guy was only a month old. My folks saw a husky pup from this same litter 2 weeks prior! Imagine how teeny he must of been then! We may have seen the future Iditarod champ! {Saturday, August 14th}
The McAs have a great friend from Glen Ellyn named Hollis French! This is for you Mrs. French! {Saturday, August 14th}
Should have photoshopped Matt into this one. {Saturday, August 14th}
View of the Chugach Mountains from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail {Saturday, August 14th}
Mount Susitna, Across the Knik Arm opposite of Anchorage {Saturday, August 14th}
Cloudy Anchorage sky. View from Anchorage bus stop {Saturday, August 14th}
Our time in Alaska ended at the Glacier Brewhouse, where we enjoyed local, handcrafted beers (including my fave, a raspberry wheat beer) & one last salmon dinner! It was so delicious & is definitely a hot spot in Anchorage. My advice if you ever visit - make a reservation several days in advance. The walk-in wait time was 2 hours! Luckily, we weren't in any rush as we had a midnight flight out of Anchorage, & we found several galleries & shops to visit while we waited.
Chugach Mountain Range provides backdrop for Anchorage Airport {Saturday, August 14th}
Isn't there a saying: You know you've had a great vacation when you're ready to go home? (Maybe I just made that up - but let's go with it). We definitely felt that way.  It had been an amazing 2 weeks & we'd seen so many wonderful sights, but we were dog-tired.

We caught the red eye out of Anchorage Saturday evening (well, technically early Sunday morning) & saddled up for what would be a long day of traveling. We wouldn't walk through our front door in Chapel Hill until 10:30pm Sunday night. Our marathon day of travel certainly left us sleep-deprived (thanks to a screaming toddler who happened to sit right behind me on our flight from Anchorage to Portland), but we somehow managed to make it through a packed week that started 8 hours after arriving home (including a super-fun visit from Matt's brother Tommy & his sweet girlfriend, Caroline).

Here are my last shots of Alaska, taken outside of the Anchorage airport. What a beautiful place. Please put Alaska on your short list of must-visits in your lifetime.
Blue skies at the Anchorage Airport {Saturday, August 14th}
Anchorage Airport {Saturday, August 14th}
Anchorage Airport {Saturday, August 14th}
We did have one last stop before we made it officially home to Chapel Hill. We flew in & out of Charlotte (better flight times & prices), & my hometown friend, Ali, graciously let us leave our car at her place. She & her boyfriend, Jeffery even shuttled us to & from the airport. They're good people.
A pensive, Ali. Thanks for taking care of us, guys! {Sunday, August 15th}
Ali is an amazing gardener & I learned so much from our short visit with them before we shipped off to Alaska. She was particularly excited about some sunflowers that were ready to bloom right as we got back from our trip. Before we left, Ali sent me with 3 plants to add to my growing (potted) garden at home! I've managed to keep them far.
Ali's gorgeous sunflowers {Sunday, August 15th}
Ali & Jeffery also have 2 very energetic, water loving labs. They live on a lake (cool, huh?) & Charlie Brown & Junior just love to swim & make friends with anyone out on the water.
Charlie Brown & Junior doing their thing {Sunday, August 15th}
We couldn't have made it to & from Alaska without their help, so I wanted to give them a shout out on the blog! Thanks so much, friends!

So that's it! 900 photos & a 2 week Alaskan vacation recapped in 6 short blog posts (& way fewer photos!) Thanks so much for reading along!

Tomorrow, we'll be back to our regular scheduled programming here on Simply Suz. No more crazy vacays for the McAs for awhile!

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