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Anchorage, Alaska - spectacular mountain vistas & abundant wildlife!

© by Mike Keenan

Thirsty Moose, photo by Roy Neese, Visit Anchorage

Thirsty Moose, photo by Roy Neese, Visit Anchorage

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After our Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska aboard the Radiance of the Seas, we board the historic Alaska Railroad whose iconic blue and yellow trains journey through Alaska's untamed wilderness to Anchorage, an ocean-view city with a backdrop that includes a stunning range of mountains in this land of the midnight sun. Anchorage enjoys average temperatures in the mid-15's Celsius all summer long with 22 hours of daylight. We will fly out of Anchorage (population - 301,000), Alaska's largest city with 41 percent of the state's population, but not before a full day of exploration.

Anchorage Skyline, photo by Ken Graham, Visit Anchorage  Bald Ealge 2012 Roy Neese  Brown Bear - Jody Overstreet  Native Culture, Photo Credit Shelly Wozniak  Portage Glacier, Courtesy of Visit Anchorage  Turnagain Arm - Nicole Geils

With the Chugach Mountains looming large and sparkling Cook Inlet summoning like a siren, you can lose track of time here on more than 135 miles of lush, maintained paved trails. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail runs along the dazzling waters of Cook Inlet and connects with wooded parks and trails. Just minutes from downtown, Chugach State Park is a 500,000-acre natural wonderland.

The Anchorage Museum provides a quick historical overview, 10,000 years of history and we learn about Anchorage's growth from tent city to a modern metropolis. At the Alaska Museum of Natural History, we examine the immense forces that forged the mountains. New galleries and boutiques along G Street are popular with tourists while wild salmon surge up Ship Creek mere steps away. Moose, bears, eagles and beluga whales all make Anchorage and its surrounding areas home.

One can experience extraordinary vistas from Flattop Mountain, a popular day hike just 15 minutes from downtown. Flattop Mountain is a 3,510-foot mountain located in the Chugach State Park along the Anchorage hillside. The most accessible mountain to Anchorage, Flattop is a popular location for hiking, climbing, berry picking, paragliding, and backcountry skiing. Campouts are held on the summit at the summer and winter solstices. Even bigger mountains are on the horizon. In fact, Mount McKinley - the tallest mountain in North America - is visible from downtown.

At the Alaska Native Heritage Center, we trace centuries old Alaska Native traditions and explore modern Native culture. Here, one may talk with local artists, musicians and craftsmen from around the state and visit traditional native village sites.

As for food, Anchorage sizzles with local favorites and international flavors to satisfy any craving. Start the day with a piping hot stack of sourdough cakes. Sample fresh Alaska crab, salmon and halibut for lunch or dinner. Do you have a taste for Thai? A hankering for Himalayan? You'll find it in Anchorage. What is better than fish caught fresh in the morning? Alaskans take fresh food seriously. You may even grab a bucket and check out one of the local berry picking spots or meet growers face to face at one of several Anchorage farmers' markets.

It's August and unfortunately, we do not catch sight of the Northern Lights with the breathtaking hues that dance across Alaskan skies. The best months for aurora viewing stretch from September to March. Many hotels provide aurora wake-up calls so guests don't miss out on this awe-inspiring phenomenon

Hanging baskets and flower beds line Anchorage streets, and I notice that the extra daylight produces huge blooms. We check out beds tended by gardeners in Town Square Park, along Fourth Avenue and near Peratrovich Park. You can find fireweed, tundra rose and many others growing wild trailside.

My duffing days are over, but Anchorage has four award-winning 18-hole golf courses, and with such long days, you can enjoy them all under the midnight sun. With moose, fox and myriad other wildlife in and around Anchorage, a leisurely round can be part nature walk, too!

Each time the tide goes out, it exposes extensive mudflats, which are composed of glacial silt carried down by rivers to the sea. These mudflats hugging the coast of Anchorage exhibit a quicksand-like quality, and if you venture out onto them during low tide there is a very real possibility of becoming stuck. We are advised not to walk on the mudflats!

Potter Marsh is one of the most accessible and scenic wildlife viewing areas in Alaska. Spruce, cottonwoods, and alders frame the north and east borders. To the south, Turnagain Arm sweeps out to Cook Inlet. Bald eagles, water birds, and spawning salmon flourish here. A 1,550-foot boardwalk with interpretive signs provides access to the northern part of the marsh. The boardwalk starts at the brown highway sign on the Seward Highway at mile 117.4, which is a 10-mile drive south from downtown Anchorage.

Sleeping Lady is the local name for Mount Susitna and a well-told Alaskan legend of a silhouette of a woman stretched out and sleeping on her back. The mountain is located across the Cook Inlet and is visible from Anchorage, often depicted in paintings.

Alaska's size is immense. Anchorage alone encompasses 1,961 square miles, equal to the state of Delaware. We must return home, but with fond memories of Alaska's incredible beauty.

For more pictures, go to: https://www.pinterest.com/mustang6648/alaska/

Ship Creek Fishing, photo by Ken Graham, Visit Anchorage

Ship Creek Fishing, photo by Ken Graham, Visit Anchorage

Moose, photo by Wayde Carroll, Visit Anchorage

Best Viewed (in person) Full Screen

Best Viewed (in person) Full Screen

Best Viewed (in person) Full Screen

Besides writing for the five Niagara Postmedia newspapers, Mike has been published in every major newspaper across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. He has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City, Seniors Review and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. With hundreds of reviews, photos and helpful votes, he has earned Trip Advisor's "Top Contributor Badge" and is considered an "Expert" in both Hotels and Restaurant reviews. Mike posts photos to Pinterest where he has a following of four thousand viewers.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan
Visit Anchorage

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