Alaska 6/8: Coasting Along the Coast
We arrived in Anchorage well before the visitor information was supposed to be closed, but for whatever reason it had already closed for the night. I had no access to the internet and was exhausted so I called my husband and asked him to book me a hotel room. He spoiled us and got us a room at some fancy downtown hotel. It felt so good to sleep in a big bed. You appreciate the small luxuries so much more after a couple weeks in a tent. To not have to set up and take down our shelter each evening and morning and to sleep at whatever time we chose was so welcomed.
After a good night's sleep we awoke refreshed and ready to venture around town. I found a nice little path along the Ocean that I biked down using my faithful bike and the bike trailer. It had spectacular views of the city and wasn't overly laborious. We finished the ride off with a long stretch on the children's playground and then hit the road.
I had no destination, only a direction: South. We started our drive later then I had anticipated, as usual. Around Girdwood we started to get hungry so we pulled in to a local pizza joint. It was definitely frequented more in the winter (Alyeska Resort which borders the town is pretty famous for its skiing) but was still fairly packed. Our server was able to point us in the direction of a nearby campground and after dinner we went to scope out the scene. As soon as I opened the vehicle door an army of mosquitos was waiting for me. After about 20 seconds of fighting them off, I decided that we could just keep driving until there were less mosquitos. Two hours and one incredibly scenic drive later, we ended up in Seward. There was a cute little campground right on the Ocean in the middle of town but I wasn't interested in camping in town so I just drove around until I found another campground sightly outside of town.
We awoke to another beautiful day. (It was really starting to become the norm) After a bite to eat we meandered down to the Alaska Sealife Centre to check out the sea lions and puffins. Once we had had our fill we were off to the beach. After driving down a short, windy, and sometimes single lane road I managed to find an amazing oasis of a beach. We threw away the whole day laying on our towels and building sun castles, our worries drifting away with the ocean breeze. Of course, we headed into town for some seaside Halibut and a nice glass of white wine (apple juice for the little one) to celebrate a day well spent.
When driving back to Anchorage I managed to book into a hotel again. I still hadn't managed to find a nearby campground although I'm sure that they exist. Perhaps if I was ever able to get into the tourist information centre I would have been able to find one. The following day we started the drive back towards the Yukon (Haines Junction). This time instead of driving North to Fairbanks, we headed toward Tok along the AK-1 N. We did "the usual"- drive until we found a place that astounded us or we were too tired to carry on.
At some point in the early evening we stumbled upon the Gakona Lodge & Trading Post which had a sign advertising tent sites. As usual, we hopped out of the RAV in our summer dresses prepared to set up camp. The cheery owners told us to choose any spot on the lawn and that camping was free. As we started assembling the tent the gentleman who managed the place asked me if it was just the two of us. When I replied "yes" a look of horror spread across his face before he told me that we couldn't sleep in the tent and that he would give us a cabin for the night at no cost. I told him it was fine, that I appreciated the offer and then got back to setting up camp. A few minutes later his wife came out and once again ushered me to sleep in a cabin. I realized that he had pulled out the big weapons by sending her out to try to convince us. Knowing that it would offer them peace of mind, I graciously accepted their offer. I suppose the thought of a twenty something mother and her 2 year old daughter sleeping on the lawn of a (supposedly haunted) lodge on the side of the highway was too much for them to stomach. With great appreciation we laid our heads down on our comfortable beds that night. As far as amenities, there was a small tavern which somewhat managed to fill up, despite there being a very small population of locals. There also happened to be a children's playground across the road. Or maybe it was just a slide and a swing. I only remember the slide because it was certainly not up to code.