From Kenai we drove to Palmer, which is past Anchorage, right next to Wasilla. We drove the same road we had taken down to Seward and Homer, and as we were nearing the Alaska Wildlife Refuge Center, near Alyeska Mountain where we had hiked while staying in Anchorage, we contemplated stopping. We had not had the chance to visit this site when we were in Anchorage, so we initially thought we'd stop. For some reason, though, both of us just felt like we didn't need to do it as we passed. As it turned out this was remarkably fortuitous, as there was a horrible accident at this site about an hour after we had passed the turnoff. A tour bus was apparently following too closely and ran into a 5th wheel as the driver of the truck pulling it was stopped to make a left turn into the Wildlife Center. The accident left one dead and several critically injured. Had we stopped, given the timing, it is very likely that we would have been coming out of the center at this same intersection right at the time of the accident. Fortunately no one in our caravan was involved, but two rigs were on the road after the accident site and as a result got stuck in traffic for nearly 12 hours as they had the road closed to clear the debris and conduct the fatality investigation. What a nightmare, and so tragic for those injured and the one killed.
In Palmer we had a steak cookout--the staff had bought steaks for everyone while we were in Anchorage and everyone brought grills to the picnic pavilion and grilled their own steaks, with potluck side dishes to share. We did some veggie burgers in place of the steaks, but it was a great meal and a great evening. The next day Kathy and Ken joined us as we visited some quilt shops--one in Wasilla where Trisha got the last Row By Row kit she wanted, and also found a really cute pattern to make a big Santa!! Woohoo! We stopped at the Wasilla visitor center, where they also had a Univ. of Alaska agricultural experimental and show garden, with lots of beautiful flowers and some of the biggest cabbages and kale plants we've ever seen. They had a display of statues of some of the record breaking big veggies they had grown--don't think the pictures will do this justice, but just imagining an 18 pound carrot is mind-blowing!
Also visited the Iditarod Dogsled Race Headquarters, where we watched a video about the dogs, their breeding, their training and care during the race. This is just so fascinating, and one woman who's won the race several times talked about how from the day they're born the little pups just want to pull and run! The whole concept of dogsledding has taken on new meaning for us as we've seen these kennels, dogs and sites. We'll really be so much more knowledgeable about the race when it's time next year!