Friday, April 18, 2008

April in Alaska

I just returned from 3 days and 3 nights in Anchorage. A couple of my colleagues and I went up north to conduct a team-building session with our Business Services team. It's spring in Alaska, when the weather can't really decide what to do with itself. We had beautiful sunny skies some of the time, and one afternoon and evening it snowed steadily for several hours.

I stayed at the Copper Whale Inn in downtown Anchorage with one of my colleagues, Diane. She's become a regular at this B&B, and I liked it as well. It's much more personal than a business hotel (although unlike many B&Bs, we had our own private bathrooms), and we had amazing views of Cook Inlet out our windows. I also liked its proximity to restaurants downtown. Apparently, the building is one of the few structures to survive the 1964 earthquake.

Front of the Copper Whale Inn

Living room of the Copper Whale Inn

On Tuesday afternoon/evening when it snowed, I decided that I needed to walk to the restaurant downtown after all the heavy eating we'd been doing. It wasn't a pleasant walk because I wasn't very well equipped for the weather, and it was also difficult to cross the street at times because of all the standing water from the snow melt. But I stopped at this lovely artists' cooperative on the way. Anchorage has some wonderful galleries.

On my last evening in Alaska, we drove out to Girdwood along the Turnagain Arm. We weren't sure whether we would brave it, because the snow from the evening before had been frozen over in the morning, and we Oregon/Washington travelers are not very intrepid in the snow and ice. However, it had warmed up sufficiently in the afternoon to lead us to believe it would be safe enough. Girdwood is 30 miles away from Anchorage.

I have made this drive several times over the past 12 years, but I have never seen such majestic scenery. The entire drive along Cook Inlet is rimmed on either side by huge mountains, one after another, and this week they were beautifully blanketed in snow. We tried to ignore the signs that warned of avalanches and falling rocks and concentrated instead on the beautiful scenery. Dall sheep apparently cavort on the hills, but I've never seen any, and I've also never been lucky enough to see any Beluga whales in the water (even though I try to lure them with my version of "Baby Beluga"!). This website has extensive photos of this wonderful drive.

As is the case with all scenery, photographs rarely capture its splendor. And unfortunately, I didn't have my proper camera with me, but you can see a tiny glimpse of our view via my cell phone camera photos:

The end point (and purpose) of our drive was to have dinner at the wonderful Double Musky Inn, a fantastic New Orleans style restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. The Double Musky is famous for its pepper steak and seafood dishes. I had crab-stuffed halibut. One of my friends had the pepper steak and she gave me a taste (it was enormous!). Even though I'm generally not a red meat eater, I have to say that it was the best steak I've ever tasted.
The restaurant is decorated ecletically, with wonderful artwork, stained glass, Mardi Gras beads hanging from the ceiling, and New Orleans style mirrors and signs. It has more of a feel of a roadhouse restaurant than a place of fine dining...but the food is certainly not roadhouse food! (And the prices reflect the fine dining...) A few years ago when I was dining with some other coworkers there, we saw Bonnie Franklin (of "One Day at a Time" fame) across the room. As we were leaving the restaurant, her party was outside as well, and I couldn't resist telling her how much I loved her in that show--it was one of my favorites as a teenager, because it was one of the first to feature an independent, feminist, working mom.
Here are some photos of the funky interior and one of the exterior:

To top off the trip, I was lucky to be upgraded to First Class on the flight home (because of being an Alaska Air MVP), and the views over the mountains were absolutely stunning. I have always loved that flight, but yesterday was particularly spectacular. I have to say that flying over the Northwest for work has given me a keener appreciation of our beautiful region of the world! Looking out the window, I saw rows upon rows upon rows of snowy mountain far as the eye could see. Amazing! These photos give you a tiny glimpse of what I saw.

Of course, the highlight of the trip was coming home to my four lovely boys. Three days and three nights is a long time to be away from them. The night before I left as I was kissing Chris goodnight, he said to me: “Mommy, I don’t want you to go. I don’t think Daddy will be able to handle it.” I reassured him that Daddy would be absolutely fine…however, I have to confess that I’m glad my children don’t want me to leave. I hope it will always be so.
And now they are forecasting snow in Portland this weekend, while Anchorage is expected to reach as high as 50 degrees F.! I'm ready for spring.

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