Got into Golden Nugget RV Park in Anchorage on Friday evening, and Saturday we went downtown to the Farmer's Market Festival. It turned out to be much more of a craft fair than a farmer's market, but it was very nice. Lots of native Alaskan made crafts and some really interesting things. We met several of the craftspeople and it was fascinating to talk to them about how they came to their particular crafts. Many of them were Native people, but some were transplants from the Lower 48 who, like so many people here, came to discover The Last Frontier and never left. Even though Anchorage is the most like a city with which we're familiar in the Lower 48, it's still here in Alaska, with all the challenges of the winter. So I can definitely see how a certain type of person would find this appealing, to live in this rugged beauty, close to nature, and full of adventure!
After the market we took a trolley tour of the city--a good way to see different parts of the city. We constantly marveled at the beautiful flowers in the city, and the guide told us that there are 1700 hanging baskets in Anchorage, all of which are watered twice a day--quite the task! But it's a relatively short season, but one filled with all these extra hours of sunlight, so they grow fast and big. The airport in Anchorage is right downtown, with the control tower right smack up against the main drag--nothing like we're used to. And on one side of the airport runways is a big lake, dotted all around the shoreline with floatplane docks and tie ups. The guide explained how 1 in 18 Alaskans have a pilot's license, but 1 in 5 Alaskans actually fly. The airplane has long been such an important feature of Alaskan transportation, since many of the regions are not reachable any other way. You can get your learner's permit at 14, and, after the requisite number of hours, can get your permanent license at 16. And indeed, a number of folks here have pilot's licenses but no driver's license! So we were advised to be sure and ask to see the pilot's license before we boarded any of the many "flight seeing" excursions in the area. Not surprisingly, there are a pretty significant number of plane accidents throughout Alaska. He described how hard it is to get one of the limited number of slots on the lake to park your floatplane--the rent is $125/month, but just for the privilege of having your name on the waiting list you pay $300/month! A recent news story told of a man who put his 2 year old daughter's name on the list, in the hopes that she would be in line for a spot by the time she turned 16 and got her own plane! I never realized this before, but the floats on a plane are removable, so these planes can be outfitted with wheels for landing in the bush--with these big fat puncture resistant tires--and skis for landing on the snow and ice as well.
We also saw a mama moose and her calf, munching on some willow along the way--behind a fence since it's close to the airport and they try to keep the moose off the runways!
We visited the Ulu Knife Factory--the ulu is styled on a traditional Native American knife, and is used for just about any kind of food related chopping task. They often come with a cutting board with a concave indention fashioned so you can use the curved blade for chopping. Since it was on Saturday, the factory was not in production mode, but in the store we could view the machines in the workshop. While we were parking our car we talked to some young people who were putting on their waders to go salmon fishing in the river behind the factory, and later we saw them pulling out quite a few fish!