catching part of Kristin's volleyball scrimmage, heading to the Snow Goose Brewpub in downtown Anchorage for lunch, hitting the farmer's market and festival (not all that exciting, unfortunately), then heading back to Kurt's for some down time, a quick hike at the Nature Center (avoiding the trails that had bears!),
senior pics with Kristin, and a fish fry (halibut coated in buffalo sauce was definitely my favorite!). The next morning we packed up and started the second long trek of our vacation - another 5 hour drive to Denali National Park.
Along the way, we made a quick detour to a musk ox farm, which I had read about in one of the guidebooks. The tour was extremely thorough, and the qiviut that is harvested from the underbellies of the oxen and knitted into hats and scarves was extremely expensive, so we didn't get to purchase anything as we were hoping. I still think it was a pretty good stop (these animals were around with the woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers, but somehow they survived!), but the rest of the family would probably have another opinion...
Family picture with the musk oxen - Stephen had to keep feeding him grass or he was out of there!
Check out those horns!
Check out those horns!
Then, after a lot more driving, we saw Mt. McKinley (Denali)! Stephen was driving, and I was riding in the front with him while David and Mia slept in back (and the rest of the crew were in another vehicle) - and I saw this HUGE mountain covered in snow and I wondered aloud whether that was Denali or not, but Stephen was like, "No, it's probably not..." so we drove on, but finally I called the other vehicle and made everyone turn around so that we could head back to the viewing point and take pictures (the thing with Denali is that it's SO big that it has its own weather system, so it's fairly uncommon to actually get a good look at it - and when you get closer to the actual park you can't see it anymore until you drive 100+ miles into the park because there are so many other mountains hiding it). The images don't even remotely do it justice - WOW!
The best part? We saw it driving back through two days later, too? Daniel took a photo out of the car window, but we were all too exhausted to stop and take more photos!
This is the part of the trip where things got interesting. We stuck 5 Helvigs, one out-law, and one baby into a TINY cabin for the next two nights! Seriously, look at how big this thing was!
There was one large room with 2 double beds, a bunk bed, and a table for 4, an open doorway into a galley kitchen, and a separate (quite sizable) bathroom. Next door, there was a trapping cabin, with traps hanging sinisterly below. It was quaint.
But seriously, the lodging was really nice, just a bit small (and the entire Helvig side, minus myself, snores...). We put our 3 bottles of Alaskan wine that we had purchased in Homer to good use - and that was only the first night!
The next morning, we drove the rest of the way into the National Park. Here's some important information, which was kind of hard to figure out from the guidebooks and information online - there are trails that you can hike right around the visitor's center near the entrance, otherwise, you can purchase bus tickets and ride further into the park, get off the bus, and hike from there. Since we weren't sure what we were doing, we ended up buying a set of bus tickets, then realizing that we needed to purchase one for the baby - and bring along her car seat, which meant hauling it hiking with us. Needless to say, that wasn't going to happen, so we were able to return our tickets, drive straight into the main entrance visitor's center, and hike from there. Unfortunately, this meant that we didn't get to see much of the park, nor did we see any wildlife, but we at least got an idea of what is there in case any of us travels back someday! We did make the trek up to the top of Mount Healy, which we found out AFTER our hike was the most strenuous trail near the visitor's center. Mia had fallen asleep on our drive in, so she rode in the Snugli with grandpa until she woke up and was moved into the backpack carrier on daddy's back.
She did really well - except she decided she needed to eat and be changed during our only rain shower of the trip! We made due though, and it wasn't an extreme downpour so that helped! Here are some shots from the hike:
The next morning, we drove back into the park to do a quick (and easy!) trail around Horseshoe Lake to loosen up before making the long trip back into Anchorage.
We grabbed supper with the family, packed up 200lbs of halibut, rockfish, cod, and salmon, and caught a red-eye back to Minneapolis! What a great trip!