DAY TWO: ANCHORAGE ALASKA

IMG_4339We had a wonderful day in Anchorage with perfect weather in the 70s and sunny. This is such a cool city. The city is ringed by beautiful mountains and the vegetation is lush. The city itself has some funky neighborhoods and endless things to do from biking to nature tours to sea plane rides. We made this our bike and hike day. It proved a brilliant choice.

IMG_4334We began the day by going to a local favorite: the Snow City Cafe. It is generally viewed as the best breakfast in Anchorage and has that funky Anchorage feel. There was a long line but we had called for a reservation, which I recommend. The food was very good, including their signature disk of stuffed french bread below. We really liked the hash browns. It was a great way to get a solid meal before a touch bike and hike.

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IMG_4328We looked around for bikes and spoke with the three main companies (two are one block from Snow Cafe). They all seemed good choices but we preferred Downtown Bicycle. The rates were very reasonable and you should be able to rent bikes for $35 or less. Downtown Bicycle has a large selection of bikes and an excellent staff (the other two companies had just one person). The founder and owner Peter Roberts (shown below) is incredibly knowledgable about bikes, hikes and everything Anchorage. He carefully selected bikes to match our level of skills. The package comes with a lock, helmet, and repair kit. Peter lays out bike routes with you on the map and gives you an idiot-proof set of directions. We choose to do the famed Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which is the best known and loved of the four greenbelt trails located in Anchorage. It is roughly 13 miles from the bike store on 4th Street near the federal building. It was a few blocks down 4th Street from the Snow Cafe.

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IMG_4338You can get on the start of the trail just down the street from the Snow City Cafe by going down 5th Street. While I have not biked in over three years, the trail is doable for those who have let their biking skills lapse. You go over gently rolling hills and straight segments into wonderful wooded areas with the coast just off to your right. In the distance are the Chugach Mountains, Denali (Mount McKinley), Mount Susitna (Sleeping Lady), and Fire Island. Long mud flats and marsh land run along the coast. You begin to rise up the trail in the second half with some steeper rises and ending with a very steep climb up the hill to the end of the trail. (I walked the final stretch). The last couple miles are some of the best areas to spot moose and bear. We did not see any on the way up. However, once we made it to the top, we took the mountain bikes into the surrounding trails which were very challenging. What is hilarious is that I had just told Jack not to go to fast on the dirt trail out of concern of his literally running into a moose. I was explaining how to respond to a charging moose (and used to backpack around moose a great deal on Isle Royal National Park). Jack had stopped to say something when I came around the corner and saw that he was standing a foot away from a large moose. We both slowly pulled back to her the female moose her space (hence the longer distance of the shots below). However, it was wonderful to see the moose eating off the trail. Since she was not moving, I decided to take us down a hill and off trail to avoid trying to pass the moose. Having scored our moose of the day, we returned on the coast trail. The drawback of the trail is that it is near the airport so you constantly hear large jets or sea planes. Indeed, there is one spot for aviation fans where you can stand under planes just before they touch down. While I would do without the planes, the sight seeing spot was pretty impressive as that massive jets fly over head. The trail is a wonderful excursion for the day. If you do a little hiking, it will take between 4-6 hours. Obviously, you can spend much more time depending on how many hikes you want take. You have a very good likelihood of seeing moose or bear or both. Nice workout and awesome sight seeing.

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After the trail we decided to go to a local favorite for dinner the New Sagaya City Market on 13th and I St. Locals raved about the place as a way of getting different foods at a low price. We were frankly not impressed and decided not to eat there. It is an excellent store, but the salad bar and hot plate options are not that impressive and not worth the ride. We returned the bikes and were going to a favorite pizzeria when Peter Roberts pulled up from a tour on the Flat Top trail. He asked why we were getting pizza in Anchorage and strongly suggested a salmon dinner. The restaurant Peter suggested was Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse. It was a great recommendation. The bar is a local favorite with a huge number of beers and a long menu. We had the Calamari, which was incredible. I had the salmon dish and Jack had a hamburger –both were very good. This is a fun choice if you are finished a bike & hike before lunch or dinner.

One point of caution however. A year ago, Anchorage shutdown Uber and forced a settlement over wages. I understand the complaint against Uber but this is a city that could use some competition. The result is just two taxi companies: Yellow and Checkered. Our experience in getting taxis was horrible. We called a Yellow taxi to pick us up at the bike shop and called three times but the taxi never came. We walked to Humpy’s and then the restaurant called Yellow taxi to pick us up. They called Yellow four times and I called them twice but the taxi never came after over an hour waiting. Frankly, this strikes me a city in desperate need for some competition. Unfortunately, the bus service is not particularly good in the city so you have to either rent a car or throw yourself at the mercy of these two companies (Checkered taxi finally rescued us).

We will be returning to Anchorage in a few days, but our first full day in Anchorage was wonderful. Tomorrow we rent a jeep and head to Denali National Park.

12 thoughts on “DAY TWO: ANCHORAGE ALASKA

  1. On the road to Denali, one will pass by a very small town named Cantwell. When I went through there, I stopped at a small mom & pop restaurant that was probably the most libertarian-republican place I’ve seen in years. There were hundreds of bumper stickers and signs on the walls devoted to freedom, firearm rights, self-reliance, independence, and pulling no punches in its criticism of democrats. It was a true and real man-cave.

    If a person wants to experience the other side or clear the palate after having to deal with the far left continually, a stop at this restaurant offers a bit of a respite.

    Someone told me that this restaurant might have burned down so I don’t know if it is there or not. I think it was on the left side of the highway when heading northbound.

  2. Great report. I saw my first moose just strolling through a park in Anchorage. Two favorites worth trying are reindeer dogs[natural casings] and fried halibut cheeks. I like salmon, but LOVE halibut. Alaska is a fish lovers paradise.

  3. City politicians that keep Uber and Lyft out need to be voted out of office. “There is no freedom w/o choice.”

  4. I was canoeing in Canada as a kid and one afternoon when we are putting in we hear a noise in the woods. My companion is nervous, but I am very brave and tell him not to worry. I remind him that whatever it is, it is as afraid of us as we are of it. Not so much as it turns out. Just as our bow touches the bank a really pissed off bull moose erupts from the bushes heading straight toward us. We set a new water speed record paddling backward, and had to sustain it until the moose was chest deep. My companion remarked that the moose seemed a good deal less afraid of us than I had claimed, because the moose showed no signs of having to change its underwear.

  5. Stay safe on the trail. This is Grizzly country. As of May 13, 2016:

    A man is recovering in Anchorage, according to Alaska State Troopers.

    Kenny Steck, his wife Hannah and six family members were hiking in Southeastern Alaska May 13 when he encountered the predator while filling up water bottles. Steck, an experienced outdoorsman, had left his bear repellent back at camp.

    The massive animal then came charging at him.
    “It was a feeling of complete hopelessness and helplessness, really. I felt like I couldn’t do anything to make it stop or make the outcome change” .

  6. Darren, I don’t know that you’ll have to be concerned with the far left being associated with the Democratic Party any longer. Until conservatives figure out who can lie and kill for crony capitalism better than Clinton, you’ll have her as your guidon.

  7. So glad you and your son are eating a good breakfast. Charlotte, I told him he must have been a travel reporter in a past life. I have enjoyed trips to London, New Mexico, Utah, and my favorite, a trip to Sicily a couple of years ago. One can, if vicariously, accompany Mr Turley on his trips because his photos are magnificent and commentary excellent. It’s truly like you are along for the ride. I ❤️ this blog!

  8. Great images. Would love to plan a visit there.

    I strongly doubt the bike rental shop has such, but if they do, the first choice is a Trek Stache model (any of three in this series). Just got mine several weeks ago. Of my five mountain bikes, far and away this is the best.

    Wheels are 29+ size, meaning the largest diameter w/3 inch wide tires (normal mtn bike tires about 2.3″, so-called “Fat Bike” tires for snow are 4″ to 4.8″). The frame has proprietary feature for the shortest possible wheelbase for the large diameter wheels, for sharper handling qualities. The tires are just wide enough for occasional snow rides, but narrower than regular Fat Bike tires for more fun and speed in dry conditions.

    Even the entry level Stache 5 starts at only $1500, an incredible value for superb performance. (no business affiliations).

  9. Professor Turley,

    I am thoroughly enjoying your photos and stories about your travels in AK. I concur with commenter Charlotte Johnson in that you would be an excellent travel writer. My brother lived in Anchorage mid-1990s (unfortunately I never went to visit) and loved it – I always enjoyed his tales of ice fishing, the moose walking around Downtown and the owls who attacked the night skiers. Cheers and wishing y’all continued safe holidays!

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