ALASKA Day 6: Quiet Time

Day Six was my last day in Alaska and it was a day for peace, quiet, and reflection; so I spent it alone hiking nine or ten miles of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The trail runs from downtown Anchorage, along the coast of the Cook Inlet and past the airport. The trail is a magnet for cross-country skiers in winter and hikers, and rollerbladers after the snow melts. Along the trail are lakes, spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains, spots along the Cook Inlet to watch waterfowl and sunsets, and some city parks, including Earthquake Park, which was the site of the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Anchorage. Lori, one of my hosts at the Earth Bed and Breakfast was kind enough to drop me off at the trailhead. The temperature was about fifteen degrees--balmy compared to the -35 outside when I was dogsledding in Fairbanks, and while I wasn't dressed as warmly for hiking as I was for dogsledding, I quickly found myself overheating and sweating along the trail and I had to take off a fleece layer. Additionally, there were many times when I took my fleece facemask and gloves off as well. Who knew 15 degrees could be so warm?

The marker at a Coastal Trail trailhead.

Jupiter Sign. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is not just a trail, but it's also an educational experience.

The trail actually begins in downtown Anchorage on 5th Street with the Sun. As the pictured sign explains, walking the trail is a scale version of the distances in our solar system. Each step represents the distance that light travels in one second. As it takes eight minutes for light traveling at the speed of light to reach the Earth, it takes eight minutes walking out from the sun (or about 4 city blocks) to reach the Earth. It takes 37 minutes to reach Jupiter, and an hour and twenty minutes to reach Saturn and so on and so on. Walking the trail from the Sun out of Anchorage and towards the Cook Inlet, you get an understanding of the relative distances the planets are from each other. Each sign also includes up to date factoids about each planet, their special features, like the rings of Saturn or the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, and all of the major moons. It's really very cool.

The sun trying to come out 0.5 Miles down the Coastal Trail.

View of Birch Trees and the Cook Inlet from a park bench about 1 mile down the coastal trail from the Jupiter Sign. The white cliff on the left of the picture is the end of the runway at Anchorage International Airport.

Looking east from the Coastal Trail across a frozen lake to the Chugach Mountains.

Four young ladies I caught up with along the trail. They were taking a rest from skiing and we started talking. I've forgotten two of their names--I should have written them down, but two of them are Ophelia, named of course from Hamlet, and another one is Naomi. The Chugach Mountains are in the background.

Looking south down the Cook Inlet towards the open Pacific Ocean from the Coastal Trail.

If you look very carefully, in the middle of the picture you can see a jet which has just taken off from Anchorage International Airport. Regrettably, sound carries very well up and down the inlet and the Coastal Trail. The sounds of jets taking off and landing at the airport roll like soft thunder over the water. But walking the trail is peaceful nonetheless and it affords a lot of time to think and take stock. The low light of winter and the nearly uniform color palette of this grey and white day created a stark and otherworldly beauty that was perfect for reflection.

As I walked down and back up the trail, I ended up back in downtown Anchorage, where I went souvenir shopping for my niece and nephews and then out to dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse. I had the most amazing Alaskan King Crab--not fishy at all, completely fresh and tender served with warm butter, brewhouse bread, Alaskan Seafood chowder with shrimp, salmon, clams, and dill, and a spinach salad with mango, strawberries, and mandarin oranges. MMMMMMMM! I also had a pint of the Oatmeal Stout, which was by far the best tasting and smoothest dark beer I have ever had. It would be worth moving to Anchorage just so I could eat at the Glacier Brewhouse on a regular basis. My compliments to the management and staff.

Later, I returned to the Bed and Breakfast around 6:00 pm, wrote out a couple dozen post cards, made myself a cup of spiced apple cider and watched Miss Congeniality 2 on cable before heading to bed.

Thanks for reading.


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