Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Field Trip: Anchorage and Denali, Alaska

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It's hard to believe but we left for our trip to Alaska more than one month ago now!  Sometimes it feels like yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago, but I think that's normal for vacations. While you're there, time is very elastic - a total separation from your life that revolves around work, laundry, food blogs, you know.  But then you get back and you are thrust, quite literally, back into your old life!  Regardless, it was worth it!  I hope you enjoy the recap this week!

We flew into Anchorage on a Wednesday evening; John and I got in about two hours before the rest of the family.  We caught a cab to the hotel and hung around Anchorage waiting for them to get in.  I had made late reservations for dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse so by the time everyone got in and walked to the restaurant,we were all much too tired to eat much.  Almost everyone had soups and small nibbles. For me, that was crab cakes and the BEST seafood chowder I've ever had in my life.  Not a joke people. 

The next morning we woke up in our hotel, the Historic Anchorage Hotel which was charming and right in the middle of "downtown" Anchorage.  We headed out to Denali National Park with a planned pitstop on the way at The Flying Squirrel Cafe.  It's so famous now it is even in guide books but this small little cafe is really just on the side of the road into Telkeetna.  It's about a 30 minute detour from your Anchorage to Denali drive but it's worth the trip!  John had the special which was a roast beef with pickled rhubarb and horseradish mayo.  I had a fancy grilled cheese with tomatoes and gouda.  We got tons of desserts and muffins to go and a stuffed bread that was too delicious for words.  Stuffed with mozzarella, peppers, onions - it was delicious and enjoyed by everyone.

Denali was filled with hiking, beautiful scenery, tons of animals, and delicious food.  That first night we ate in our hotel, The Grande Denali Lodge.  Our waitress that first night was hilarious, telling us all about how they were out of bread and waiting for the next "shipment", by telling us we couldn't do much about it because that's just "crazy Alaska", unknowningly coining the phrase for the rest of the trip.  Dinner at the hotel was good; we got simple sandwiches and relaxed.

Our first full day, we drove into the park to Savage River (the farthest you can personally drive - mile 16).  We did a nice little hike there and then went to dinner at the 49th State Brewery.  I was jazzed about this because Friday night they do an all-you-can-eat pig roast!  They roast whole pigs in their blonde ale and then pull it and serve bowls of it for $22 with a few sides.  When we got there, though, I was swayed by the "yak burger" which was locally raised.  Of course, they were out of that (crazy Alaska) so I went with my original pig roast option.  The meat was tender and delicious.  John couldn't help digging into mine as well after he finished his carne asada tacos!!

Crazy Alaska continued for the rest of the trip.  The next day, we took the bus to the Eielson Visitor Center and did a very steep hike that I picked to see the best views of Mount McKinley!  Our bus was at 9 am and by the time we got back it was after 8 pm!  We went to Prospector's Pizza (out of 2 different kinds of pizzas) and ordered about 8 pizzas for the 8 of us!  Every single kind you could possibly think of arrived at our table!  It was a blast and by the end of the evening, it was all we could do not to pass out on the quick ride back to the hotel!

After our time in Denali, we headed back to Anchorage for one last evening before the second half of our trip.  We got to enjoy the Alaskan Market which was only a short walk from the hotel and had lots of neat jams, honeys, nectars, ice creams, basically everything you could think of that was local to Alaska.  It was a fun way to wile away an hour or two at the end of an afternoon.

The next morning we were out the door by 5 am in order to catch a flight to Juneau where our crazy Alaska adventure continued...Click Here for Part Two!


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