While in Soldotna we did get the opportunity to play golf, you probably forgot that was part of the trip since we haven’t played since being in Dawson Creek at John Rigsby’s Farmington 9 hole course. The first 9 hole course was a lot of fun, the greens were pretty sparse but fun was had by all. The next day we played the Kenai Golf Club and enjoyed a wonderful game walking the 18 hole course. It was amazing the good conditions of the course with the short season so far to get it in shape. The fun part was that it was about 50 degrees and all the Alaskans were in shorts and golf shirts. The views of the mountains
were sensational. Mt. Redoubt is one of the 5 active volcano’s in Alaska which we could see on the course
Leaving the next morning we drove towards Anchorage. We drove back along the Kenai river up to the Russian river where the heavy fishing takes place that we showed you on the way to Homer. This is known as the “combat area” because the fisherman are ten feet apart but also proof is the signs along the road advertising “Hooks Removed” a much-needed service. Back over the mountain range and back down to Portage on our way to Girdwood we drove along the Turnagain Arm which is part of the Cook Inlet and stretches from Portage out to Anchorage. The tide is 35 feet from high to low and as the water comes back in it is known as a “bore tide”. There are only about 60 bore tides in the world. The water comes in causing waves as high as 30 feet in China. Turnagain’s bore tide has 6 to 10 foot high waves and is the most northern bore tide in the world.
Girdwood has a famous jade store called Kobuk Valley Jade.
The jade was discovered by a gold prospector 80 years ago, named Heinrich, in the northern Kobuk Valley, he decided if he couldn’t find the gold he would bring the jade back to Girdwood and work on it there. He used a barge to get the jade to Anchorage and stored it for a few years waiting for the completion of the Alaska-Seward Rail Road. Once completed he had the 12 boulders shipped to Girdwood. He then started to create various objects from the jade as he cut it in the shop. Currently you can see the Jade slabs being cut in the back of the store. Unfortunately there are no more native jade craftsman, so the jade is shipped to China to be crafted into jewelry pieces.
We then visited the Alyeska ski resort and took the tram to the 2300 foot level of the 3900 foot mountain.
There is a view of seven glaciers from that point on the mountain and then down to Tournagain Arm. The North Face run, goes down under the tram, is Double Black and ungroomed, making it the hardest rated run in North America. NO THANKS!! We will introduce you to Joe Crosson in a minute, but we asked him about the run and he said with fresh powder it is a thrill, but a dentist tried to ski it in icy conditions, fell and died on the mountain, AGAIN, NO THANKS!!
On to Anchorage and golf with Joe and Pete Crosson. Our nephew Steve Wilson, John’s brother Will’s son married a 4thgeneration Alaskan, Lauren Crosson. Lauren’s parents threw a lovely wedding last Thanksgiving in Las Vegas that we had the pleasure of attending where we met Lauren’s parents, Joe and Susan, along with the Crosson clan. We told Joe and Susan that we were planning a trip to Alaska and they said to stay in touch and get together when we got to Anchorage. Our tee time was about 4:00 PM at the Anchorage Golf Course, that everyone knows as O’Malley’s on the Green, the name of the restaurant at the course. It is a public course that is in fantastic condition. We had a great time and finished at about 8:30. Mind you, it is like 5:00PM back home from a lighting point of view.
Joe and Susan had us up to their home for dinner which Pete joined us for and caught up on family and got great ideas on things to do in Anchorage. We left the house about 11:30 and drove by the golf course; the course was still full of players enjoying their golf! The first tee time in the morning is a little after 5:00AM and the last is about 8:00PM. We were joking with the drink cart girl asking when she got done for the day, she said 10:00 PM. Different world, but such a delight.
With ideas from Susan and Joe we visited a number of places in Anchorage. Sunday we spent the afternoon at the Anchorage Museum. The mammoths and mastodons exhibit was just great, these beasts roamed the world for millions of years, weighing as much as 8 tons and having tusks up to 16 feet long.
These early cousins of the elephant eventually went extinct but left an abundant fossil record. One of the displays was about a baby mammoth found in 2007 by a Siberian reindeer herder named Lyuba, after the herders wife. Researchers were amazed by the condition of the 42,000 year old mammoth, wrinkles still creased her skin and taste buds dotted her tongue while her eyes and internal organs retained their original shape. Tiny hairs were visible on parts of the body and tail. She was 110 pounds and 45 inches long. Lyuba was only about 30 days old when she died of suffocation after being trapped in mud. The scientists performed DNA analysis and other tests as Lyuba was by far the best-preserved specimen they had ever seen. Just a great scientific story!
Monday we went to the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. This is a “must see”. It is located on Lake Hood which is lined with seaplanes,
the busiest float-plane base in the world with over 800 takeoffs or landings per day. The museum chronicles the history of aviation in Alaska, starting with the first flights in Fairbanks around the turn of the century and the pilots that flew the vast areas of Alaska, not available, except by dogsled. Knowing the Crosson family we read “Mercy Pilot” about Joe’s grandfather, Joe Crosson, who had gone to Alaska in the 1920’s and was an integral part of the history. Joe Crosson was good friends with Wiley Post and Will Rogers and had to fly to Barrow to recover their bodies after their fateful crash that stunned the world. The museum also had a section dedicated to the “forgotten war” against the Japanese in the Aleutians. Japan had actually occupied some of the western islands. The restoration and exhibits of the old airplanes was amazing and outside they had more planes
to see that had been apart of the flying history, The restoration building was fascinating ass several volunteers were actually restoring older aircraft that had been contributed to the museum.
To put into perspective what aviation must have been like in the early days, think about flying an open cockpit airplane at 40 degrees below zero, landing on ice and snow, then having to remove the oil from the crankshaft and keeping it heated at night in order to keep it from freezing for the return flight in the morning. Talk about real men and women!!
The Native Heritage Museum was another wonderful experience. We walked around and viewed examples of their native homes. Many were built underground for protection from the grizzly and to protect them from the weather, temperatures way below zero. The entrances were not the doors you see here, they were small winding passages from ground level into the home to protect them from bear entry.
We also listened to interesting talks and storytelling by some of the natives. One women was talking about her 22-year-old son that just killed his first whale. It is still a right of passage for the Alaskan Native men. We also watched a native dancing and singing show by natives originally from Kodiak.
We do enjoy the history of this State.
We then drove back to downtown Anchorage to meet Joe and Susan for dinner. They decided we would eat at Cafe Paris, a delightful old restaurant
that made it through the earthquake with little or no damage and has wonderful fish and steaks that compare to the best steakhouses in the lower 48.
We had another wonderful evening with the Crosson’s.