I arrived in Anchorage at about 11 PM on Wednesday night. It was cold, but not unbearably - a few degrees below 0 (C), maybe. I spent Thursday working at my friend Laura's house and at a local cafe, and afterwards we went for a walk along the frozen mud flats, where I got a pretty good view of the city nestled in the mountains.
Friday I also spent working - checked out another local cafe (surprisingly good pourover), but I was very ready to be outside. After work we packed up and headed southeast towards Girdwood.
Laura very graciously allowed for many photo stops so I could gawk at mountains. I've seen mountains before, but this was just a different magnitude than what I'm used to.
We got to Girdwood and headed to Alyeska Resort, Alaska's biggest downhill ski resort. It's a super pretty area and was surprisingly quiet, compared to the ski hills I'm used to.
We took the tram up to the top of the hill and had drinks at a bar that has probably the greatest views of any bar I've been to.
We took the tram back down after sunset - around 8:30 - and had some great sushi at the Alyeska hotel.
Saturday morning we got up early and headed out to Portage Glacier, a short drive away. We loaded up our gear and Nordic skied across Portage Lake to the glacier on the other side.
The glacier itself is hiding behind the far end of the lake, and when it first came into view, I was stunned. The scale, the colour, and knowing the age and history of the ice make it a pretty special experience. It's also shocking to look at photos of these glaciers 10 or 20 years ago and see in front of you how far they've receded.
It was also incredibly sunny and warm, and the skiing was fast. After our ski, and a beer & snack in the sun, we drove out to Seward, about 2 hours away. The scenery on the drive was great. Kind of like driving through the Rockies but just felt like an order of magnitude bigger. We went for dinner at The Cookery in Seward, a new, modern restaurant in Seward that would be right at home in Vancouver or Seattle. A few of Laura’s friends arrived around then and we spent the rest of the evening on the beach with dogs (still can't believe how late the sun set) and hanging out at our cabin.
Sunday morning we got up and had a lazy breakfast and made our way out to Mt. Marathon, which, in the summer, hosts an extreme trail race. We took an easier trail and got nearly to the peak in a couple of hours, but hit quite a lot of snow near the top.
The wind at the top was extreme, but the views were pretty incredible. Being nestled in amongst jagged peaks, looking out at mountain ranges as far as you can see extending over the ocean.
We made our way down and headed back to Anchorage, stopping in Girdwood for beers at Girdwood Brewing. Laura headed to the airport Sunday night, and I left the next morning for Juneau.
I arrived in Juneau shortly after lunch on Monday and spent the afternoon exploring the town. It's much smaller than Anchorage - about 30k people and accessible only via plane or boat, so it really feels like a quiet, sleepy coastal town (at least in the off season before the cruise ships arrive). Monday evening I had a cocktail & excellent pizza in town and spent the evening mostly planning the rest of my stay in Juneau.
Tuesday morning I woke up early, breakfasted in my hotel and grabbed a Lyft to Mendenhall Glacier; in retrospect I should have just rented a car for this trip, as cabs/Lyfts were expensive.
I decided to hike the East Glacier trail, about a 4 mile loop, which was mostly successful - I was however pretty poorly equipped footwear-wise (leather boots with medium traction) as there was a LOT of ice on the trail. I was mostly able to hike around through crusty snow or through dry spots, but there were a couple of spots on the way down that I decided to slide down rather than slip and fall - I grabbed some spikes in town as soon as I got back. The trail itself was scenic, but the "viewpoints" for viewing the glacier were clearly laid out when the glacier was a lot larger than it is now.
When I returned from the trail, I hiked out along the frozen lake to a waterfall and some closer views of the glacier.
After spending some time in the sun at the glacier, I took a cab back to town and enjoyed a post-hike beer and hot tub at my hotel. I spent the afternoon in town at Amalga Distilling (brought back a great bottle of their "Juneauper" gin) and planned my last excursion.
Wednesday I got up and headed out on foot towards Perserverence Trail, one of several trails in behind Juneau that are accessible without driving.
It was a great trail, mostly flat and not extremely icy (though I was prepared with spikes this time). It follows the path of the first "highway" in Alaska, built for gold mining.
There were several spur trails for checking out mining remnants, but the snow was heavy and I tried to stick to the higher-traffic trail (though I only saw 3 people on my whole hike).
The whole hike was about 14 km out and back from downtown and took me 4 hours total. I was pretty sore from the prior day's hike, so I was happy to get back to town. I had a great ramen from a local cafe and went to the official Alaska Museum, which was modern and excellent - a lot of great Alaska Native exhibits and history about Alaska that I really did not know at all.
My last discovery in Juneau was "The Narrows", a cocktail bar in town that felt like a transplant from Seattle or Portland. I spent the evening chatting with the bartender and trying different local beers and American whiskeys.
Thursday I got up at 3:30 and headed home. Overall it was a pretty incredible trip - I really felt like I was exploring somewhere new and unknown. Also happy to finally be the first Harris to travel somewhere new. I will be back soon.