It was a bittersweet day when we hit Seward and had to leave the Noordam. We really enjoyed our cruise and kind of hated to leave–especially at the crack of what would have been dawn in the lower 48. But we were also looking forward to getting to know mainland Alaska. Leaving the coastal area also meant leaving the temperate rain forest climate. We had been very blessed by not having typical temperate rain forest weather on our voyage up the coast but we got a peak at it on this day. We disembarked and were taken to board a cruisetrain on the Alaska Railroad. It was an overcast and rainy day when we got onboard and settled in to listen to our live tour guide tells us about the area. It was a very comfortable train with tables and snack service. The day was very gray outside but it held its own beauty. We did see our first moose and bear on this train ride, but I didn’t get any pictures.
We saw many miles of these Turnagain mudflats in the Cook Inlet along the way. These coastal tidal flats are full of silt from the glaciers that pour into the waters. The tidal depth fluctuations here can reach 40′. So much silt that nothing can live in it. The area of mud can reach up to 4 miles wide and is like quicksand, sucking in anything that is foolish enough to try to walk across it. The mud here is crazy deep. We heard a story that an oil company had tried to find solid ground under the flats and after drilling 980′ gave up!!! That is a LOT of MUD!
Once we got into Anchorage, we were just overwhelmed by the beauty of the FLOWERS! They were just breathtaking! All of that sunshine without vicious heat makes flowers and vegetables VERY happy! Everywhere we went in town there were flowers, flowers and more FLOWERS!
Alaska is far and away the largest state in the United States geographically, but it is almost the smallest in population–48th out of 50. Anchorage is not a large city, but it is the largest in the state with over 40% of the population living there. Juneau, the state capital, has about 1/10 of the number of people, in contrast. There are only 29 cities and towns in the state with over 1,000 people. Also, while Anchorage is fairly centrally located, Juneau is only accessible by plane or boat from the rest of the state. Odd, huh?
We heard a lot of about sled dog heroes on this trip and saw our first monument, this one to Balto, in Anchorage. Zoom in on the plaque above to read about it. We also heard a great deal about the Raven and Bear in native culture all along the coast and mainland. Here is a statue in Anchorage paying tribute. You can read more about the native legends here.
We walked around downtown Anchorage for awhile that afternoon and evening but since Larry and Mom weren’t feeling the best, we didn’t do a whole lot. Larry and I actually took a tour of some local medical facilities while the rest of the crew took a tour of the city. Again, we will have to go back to do some exploring!
We did take time to study a few of Anchorage’s murals close up. One of these was a Robert Wyland “Whaling Wall.” If you would like to learn more about these murals–life size depictions of sea life all over the world–check out these links. Wyland Foundation Wikipedia
We also studied this Alaskan history mural by Bob Patterson. I wasn’t able to find much information about this one but it tells a story for sure!
And check out this one. If you zoom in, you will see the bigger picture is made up with many smaller ones. This is a mosaic work called “Focus on Statehood” by Dan DeRoux. You can read more about it here.
There are apparently more murals around town we didn’t get to see. Next time!
Oh…and there was food and drink of course!