Saturday, July 25, 2015


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!

Driving downtown
 Loved the motif on this little drive through coffee stand
 Even though not as high as Denali, these mountains that surround Anchorage are still quite breathtaking

 Pretty cute take off on John Deere--at a booth at the market
 This guy is quite the carver; we had a good time chatting with him
 This Native American woman is showing off the Christmas ornaments she makes from the silt in the rivers, formed by the glacier crush as the glacier moves
 The rough sphere on the right ultimately is painted and fired to look like the finished product on the left
 The visitor center in downtown Anchorage, with the old style dirt and grass insulation on the roof

 A magpie just hanging out on an upper level window sill
 Some more of their beautiful flowers

 One of the many totems you'll see throughout downtown
 A locomotive outside the Alaska Railroad HQ

 This tile mosaic was on the wall of a local high school, where the tour guide attended.  He said that when the class of '71 commissioned this work as their class gift, the principal denied their request to have their class year as a plaque where paintings are typically signed.  So they got creative, went to the artist and enlisted his support to work around the principal, who didn't discover what they'd done for some 4 years, according to the tour guide!  Look closely at the right foot above the claws!!

 This moose habitat is right across from the airport

 And here's mama and her baby, having lunch

 Above, lovely whale mural on the wall of building downtown; below, moose with spirals, so you know Trisha wanted this picture!!

 Pony rides at the market
 A bust of Eisenhower, who signed the statehood law in 1959 for Alaska--locals refer to this as Ike on the half shell

 the Ulu factory
 And I couldn't resist the picture of the Alaska Railroad locomotive as it passed by the parking lot
 Humongous geraniums outside the factory store!

 Some artifacts showing the early ulus
 A lot of reflection in the windows looking in on the factory, but these shots are for you, Todd!

 And someone enjoying a lovely carriage ride around town on a beautiful sunny Saturday

 Trisha walking under one of the huge hanging baskets; second picture is of the Alaska state flag

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