I was in Alaska at the end of May for the Higher Education Teaching and Learning (HETL) conference at which I was presenting with my colleague.  Having never had the chance to go to Alaska, I took to opportunity to spend some holiday time exploring the state after the conference.  At first I was apprehensive about the visit and actually not very excited about the holiday.  I imagined Alaska would be a cold, desolate place even in late May.  I actually delayed planning my exploration for months, busy with other things, and only really sketched out my plan for my week a few days in advance of leaving for Alaska.  I guess I felt that Alaska was a bit of a mystery, not knowing how wild and rugged it would be.

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world. John Muir

I decided at the last minute to rent a car and bring all of my camping gear, along with my conference khakis and dress shirts.  The plan was to attend the conference, hop in a rental car and cruise out of Anchorage, visiting the Kenai Fjords in the south and then Denali  National Park in the north.  I could not convince any of my friends to make the flight to Alaska on their own dime, so I was venturing alone.  When planning I imagined that I would have loads of time to explore, and worried I would be able to keep myself busy for the full week.

The conference itself was well organized and well worth the journey.  Our presentation was a success and we had a rousing discussion afterwards with fellow conference goers from around the world.  The conference was very international, as we met colleagues from all over Europe, South America, North America, Middle East and Africa.  I do presume the many had bundled some holiday time onto the conference and were taking some time after the conference to tour as I was.

Anchorage is a lovely little city, with many lovely restaurant and live music options.  My colleague and I spent the first night at the Whale’s Tail wine bar in the Captain Cook Hotel for dinner .  The restaurant has a wine dispensing system which accepts a unique pre-loaded credit card and gives one many options to try the 32 different wines on offer.  We had a lovely meal here the first night after a couple glasses of wine.

As we left the restaurant on the first evening, something did not quite feel right.  We walked out of the restaurant at 10pm, and it was still daylight.  I returned to the hotel and was still bewildered, the sunset in Anchorage around this time of year was after 11pm at night!  I took the opportunity to view the sunset from Resolution Park a beautiful little spot which faces directly west out over the Cook Inlet.  In the distance one can see a wall of snow covered mountains across the sea, the northern end of the Aleutian Range of mountains which form a line of mountainous islands across the Bering Sea towards Russia.  Resolution Park became my favourite spot in Anchorage and I spent nearly every night which followed watching the sunset from here.

On the last day of the conference my colleague and I decided to rent bikes and cruise down the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which starts near Resolution Park and goes south along the coast.  The trail passes right by the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport offering amazing views of planes landing and taking off. Anchorage is a stopover point for heavy freight planes from Asia coming into North America.  I have never seen so many 747’s in my life!  At the airport when we arrived there was a line of about 10 parked together.  I also managed to see many take off and land while in Anchorage and had a chance to chat with a cargo pilot at the hotel.  I probably would have spent the whole afternoon at the foot of that runway, but my colleague was not as much of an aviation nerd as I am, so we carried on.  The trail continues down into Kincaid Park and we had a chance to see the low tide plains of the Turnagain Arm.  

I bid my colleague farewell as she was returning to BC the following day and went to rest for my last evening in Anchorage.  The following day I had plans to pick up my rental car and drive south through the Chugach State Park onwards to the Kanai Fjords National Park.

CC BY 4.0 Anchorage: Alaska Trip by Michael Paskevicius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.