The Final Chapter of the Alaskan Adventure

Our last week in Anchorage was an abbreviated one. We closed the show on Friday night in order to give the trucks the weekend to make the drive down the Al-Can Highway to Eugene. With that, the week went by very quickly.

I spent the majority of Monday working on my final self-portrait for my 365 Project. It was kind of a comedy of errors getting the photo done. I drove up towards the Anchorage Overlook, trying to find an appropriate roadside spot for the shot, and as I pulled over to one such spot – my car got stuck in a snow bank. I spent a few minutes trying to dig it out when another car pulled over. As luck would have it, it was Paula and Matt, two of the actors from the show, who were on their way up the mountain to walk their dogs. Matt tried to dig out around my tire with the ice scraper from their car, but that wasn’t working – so we went back to their rental house to pick up a better shovel. After about an hour and a half of messing around with this (poor Matt tried his best to dig the car out), a big pick-up truck pulled over and the guy who was driving it, hooked my car up to his truck with a chain, and pulled it out of the snow that way. By the time it was all said and done, I had totally lost any excitement or motivation to try and take my photo. Anyway, I finally did get it done, and then I drove back down into town, and Ryan and I went for lunch at Snow City Cafe. I spent the rest of the afternoon processing the photo and typing up my 365 notes.

My final 365 shot

My final 365 shot

I honestly have no recollection of what I did on Tuesday. How sad that without having a 365 shot to look back to, I have no idea what I did. Hmm. I do remember driving out to the water after the show on Tuesday night to take some photos of the sunset. That’s right – SUNSET AFTER THE SHOW! Crazy, right? When we first arrived in Anchorage, the sun was setting at about 9:30pm. By the time we left, two and a half weeks later, it was setting at 10:30pm. It was pretty nutty getting out of work that late and it still being light out. I actually really loved it. I imagine the opposite – it being dark all but five hours of the day during the winter, is majorly depressing though.

Sunset over Anchorage

Sunset over Anchorage

The Sleeping Lady

The Sleeping Lady

On Wednesday, Ryan and I drove back up to the Anchorage Overlook, being careful not to get the car stuck in any more snow banks 🙂 We walked the little half mile trail to the overlook spot and took some photos of the view. Unfortunately it was quite hazy out, so the mountains in the distance were pretty faint. If I had been in a better mood to take some photos up there on Monday, I probably would have gotten some nice shots. Monday was a much clearer day – so clear in fact, that I could see Mount Redoubt and her smoky plume off in the distance.

Anchorage in the distance

Anchorage in the distance

The trail at the overlook

The trail at the overlook

After that, we attempted to hike Blueberry Hill, a fairly easy trail of about two miles in length. There was, however, so much snow up there, that we couldn’t follow the trail – and there was a real lack of signage. So, we kind of walked and climbed around for about an hour and a half and then called it quits. It was also a lot colder up on the mountain than it had been down in town, so we were a little underdressed and getting chilly. Still, it was a nice afternoon and I’m glad we made it up there before leaving town.

Attempting to hike Blueberry Hill

Attempting to hike Blueberry Hill

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On Thursday, we had lunch at the Moose’s Tooth, a delicious pizzeria and brewhouse. We had been hearing about the amazing pizza there for two weeks, and we finally found the time to fit it in – I’m so glad we did! After that, we drove over to Earthquake Park, a small park on the Coastal Trail, that still has evidence of the 1964 earthquake in the form of buckled trees and sunken land. It was interesting to read about the effect of the earthquake, and the tsunamis that followed. Being from California, I do find it kind of funny how much the 1964 earthquake is still talked about in Alaska. I mean, I know it was a big deal – but it was a long time ago – it just doesn’t really seem like it should be news anymore. We walked around the park for a bit, sort of hoping to see a moose – there were lots of fresh droppings and tracks in the snow – but no luck seeing the actual animal.

Sunken ground at Earthquake Park

Sunken ground at Earthquake Park

We got a tip from Jovon that there were Dall sheep down at Beluga Point, so we jumped in the car and drove down there hoping to see some sheep on the cliffside, but alas, no dice there either! We had spotted some moose in Potter’s Marsh on the way down there, so we drove back to try and get some photos – but it was raining by the time we got there. We had no wildlife luck that afternoon!

Potter's Marsh

Potter's Marsh

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Friday was all about buying presents and souvenirs. Ryan and I had our final Snow City Cafe lunch – I had the Crabby Omelet – so good! Then we drove over to the Ulu Factory to buy some knives. Ulu are traditional triangular knives that the Inuits use for a variety of things (even cutting ice for igloos!) – but would be good for someone like me for cutting up herbs in the kitchen – that sort of thing. We ran into Jovon, Ken and Wayne at the Factory, and we all stocked up on knives and other souvenirs. After that, Ryan and I did some more shopping around the downtown area for other presents to take home.

The Ulu Factory

The Ulu Factory

After the show that night, the crew began the load-out. It was not without some drama – again a good number of locals did not show up to the call, making things harder for our guys. And then as the trucks got to the weigh-in station, it was found that the sound truck was too heavy to make the trip (the weight restrictions on the Al-Can Highway had recently changed because of the thaw). So, a couple of our crew had to re-load part of the truck onto a seventh trailer to lighten the load. They barely made it to the airport in time for our flight.

And with that, the Alaskan adventure was over. I had a great time, and I know that I only scratched the surface of things to do and see there. I definitely want to return during a summer at some point and spend some more time seeing other parts of the state. It is such a beautiful place with so much to see and do – definitely plan a visit if you can!

And now – back to the lower 48!

Anchorage, Week One.

I started my “back to work” week with a Monday of errands, not very interesting – a Petco run, groceries and a rental car switch-a-roo at the airport. Ryan and I had lunch at the Snow City Cafe, a quirky diner downtown. They have lots of healthy, veggie options on the menu. I had some veggie tacos that were delicious!

Tuesday it was back to work.

The Performing Arts Center in Anchorage is quite big – lots of room onstage and backstage, although strangely, not a lot of dressing rooms. Everyone is sharing rooms here. Load-in seemed to take a long time for no good reason – except that at least a dozen of the local stagehands didn’t show up for the local call, making things a lot more difficult and time-consuming for our guys. I guess they don’t get many big shows through Anchorage and maybe the stagehands here aren’t used to the standards we expect. Who knows. At any rate, at 3:00pm when we were supposed to do a brush-up rehearsal onstage in preparation for John O’Hurley’s debut, the stage was far from ready. The actors did a run through of lines in the green room instead.

Despite the setbacks, the show was received extremely well that night. The audiences have been so appreciative here. John O’Hurley became our new King Arthur, and we celebrated with a champagne toast after the show.

On Wednesday, Ryan and I decided to change hotels. We just were not happy at the Westmark. Our room was run down and dirty (dried up chow mein in the carpet – ew!). One of our wardrobe supervisors, Angela, had gotten a good deal on another hotel, the Inlet Tower, on Hotwire. We booked a room there as well (for $20 less a night!) and moved over there Wednesday morning. We are so much happier at the Inlet. We have a great view of the water, the room is bright and cute, the bed is super comfortable, and we have a fridge and microwave. It is a bit further away from downtown – about a 15-20 minute walk, but it is so much quieter, which is definitely a plus.

In the afternoon, Ryan finished getting his taxes together and then we headed over to the mall where he went to the post office to mail them out, while I went to the AT&T store. My purse had gotten stepped on during load-in and my iPhone was smashed. The guy at the AT&T store was totally unhelpful and told me it would cost $700 to replace. I went outside and called Apple, and they said if I came into an Apple Store I could get a new one for $324. So, suck it AT&T store, I’ll go and visit Apple when I’m in Seattle. I decided I could deal with a broken phone for two weeks.

After the mall, we headed back over to the Coastal Trail and spent an hour or so walking it before we had to get ready for work. It is such a beautiful trail along the inlet – what a great thing to have right downtown!

Walking along the Coastal Trail

Walking along the Coastal Trail

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The next day I wanted to do some more hiking, so Ryan and I drove north to Eagle River and did a three mile hike in the mountains there. It was really beautiful, but I was more than a tad worried that we would run into a bear while we were there. There was no one else around, and there were “high bear activity” signs everywhere! This is the time of year when all the bears are coming out of hibernation and they are hungry. Luckily, we did not run into any wildlife of that sort – we saw some moose poop, but that was about it!

At Eagle River

At Eagle River

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On Friday, I had my best adventure to date here in Alaska. David, our associate company manager, organized a small group of us to go snowmobiling! We met up in Girdwood and got suited up at the company’s office, and then drove ten miles further south where we went out with a guide for a five hour snowmobiling adventure. It was so much fun – we climbed an iceberg, crawled inside a glacier and raced at 70 mph on our snowmobiles. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and I’m so glad that I went.

Ryan, on top of an iceberg!

Ryan, on top of an iceberg!

Me and my snowmobile

Me and my snowmobile

Walking towards the face of Spencer Glacier

Walking towards the face of Spencer Glacier

Heading up the mountain on our snowmobiles

Heading up the mountain on our snowmobiles

Inside Spencer Glacier

Inside Spencer Glacier

A dogsled near the glacier

A dogsled near the glacier

David jumping in the snow, with Spencer Glacier behind him

David jumping in the snow, with Spencer Glacier behind him

Sorry for the overload of photos, but it was just such an amazing experience, I had to share! Of course when we all got back to work raving about the day, two other groups immediately made reservations to go – I think by the time we leave Alaska, half the company will have gone snowmobiling!

On Saturday afternoon, I had wonderful opportunity to meet up with another friend from Flickr, Val. Val lives in Mountain Village, a small town out in the Alaskan Bush on the Yukon River. She is a teacher, and it was so interesting hearing about her life there. There are only 750 people in her town! We had an awesome lunch at Orso, and then went and took some photos together before I had to head back to work. She and a group of her friends came to the evening show and I gave them a backstage tour afterward. It was so great to meet her – I just love all the friends I’ve made through  Flickr, and the opportunity to meet some of them this year has been amazing.

With Val

With Val

On Sunday, after our two-show day, David Havasi, one of our ensemble guys, hosted a party at his brother’s house (his brother lives here in Anchorage). It was a lot of fun to wind down with everyone  – Spamalot parties are always good. And David’s brother and his wife were so nice and welcoming. It was a great way to end the week.

Everyone playing a card game

Everyone playing a card game

Tim and Carissa

Tim and Carissa

David showing us some funny baby photos of himself (Carissa's face makes me laugh in this shot)

David showing us some funny baby photos of himself (Carissa's face makes me laugh in this shot)

And that was my very full first week in Anchorage!

Vacation in Alaska, Pt. 3 – Alyeska Resort

We arrived at the Alyeska Resort that evening, sleepy and ready for a relaxing evening. The resort was a welcome surprise – even nicer than it looked online. It was big and comfortable and inviting. Our room was really gorgeous, with dark wood furniture, a big comfy bed, and a stunning view of Mount Alyeska and the tram.

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We settled in to the room, and then ventured around the hotel, exploring all the lobbies. There were three floors of restaurants and shops – we went to the sushi bar for dinner. It was delicious! Ryan got the scoop from the sushi chef on the best ski runs.

The next day Ryan went off snowboarding for the whole day. I had a luxurious day of a facial at the hotel spa and then a drive around the small town of Girdwood. It was wonderfully relaxing.

Ryan and I met up in the evening and took the tram up to the top of Mount Alyeska to the resort’s five-star restaurant, 7 Glaciers. Unfortunately it was snowing and misty out, so our views were clouded over, but I did get a few shots from the tram.

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7 Glaciers was fantastic. We had an amazing meal with some great wine. And for a few minutes, the mist actually did clear so that I could get a photo of how high up we were!

The hazy view from 7 Glaciers

The hazy view from 7 Glaciers

At 7 Glaciers

At 7 Glaciers

The next morning it was beautiful and clear out – it was also Easter! We had a nice brunch at one of the restaurants at the resort before packing up and taking off for Anchorage.

7 Glaciers in the distance atop the mountain

7 Glaciers in the distance atop the mountain

On the way back to Anchorage we spotted a few more moose in Potter’s Marsh, which is on the Seward Highway just outside of Anchorage. We pulled over and snapped a few pics.

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We checked into the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage (which was dirty and rundown and a big letdown after the nice hotels we had been in all week) and then set out to walk around town. Most everything was closed as it was Easter Sunday, but we did some window shopping and ran into a few people from the show who had started to trickle into town over the weekend. We had dinner at Orso, a great restaurant across the street from the Westmark. It was a delicious meal and a nice way to end our “vacation”. The next day Ryan began load-in at the theater and it was back to work for both of us!

Vacation in Alaska, Pt. 2 – Seward

On Thursday morning we woke up to snow – lots of falling snow. We ate breakfast at the hotel and decided to attempt a drive to Exit Glacier, which was nearby. The park services website said all the roads were open, but when we drove up Exit Glacier Road, we found that one of the bridges was under construction, so access was a no go.

No matter, we headed back into town, and stopped for coffee at Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery – a very cool coffee shop housed in an old church. There was lots of local arts and crafts for sale in there – after a browse around, we left and walked over to the Sealife Center.

Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery

Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery

Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery

Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery

The Alaska Sealife Center was a really interesting place. The only cold water marine science facility in the western hemisphere, the center rehabilitates injured marine animals. There were many educational exhibits, including one on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which was really enlightening. And then there were the animals – there are lots of animals in residence at the Sealife Center, from birds, to sea lions to fish. There are labs you can tour, as well, for an additional cost. It didn’t seem like there was a whole lot going on while we were there (you can look through windows down into the labs), but from what I could see, and from what I read,  it seems like the Center is doing a whole lot of good for many marine animals in the area.

A puffin at the Sealife Center

A puffin at the Sealife Center

A little boy is mesmerized by the seals

A little boy is mesmerized by the seals

After the Sealife Center, we spent a bit of time exploring downtown Seward – which pretty much consists of one block of restaurants and tourist shops! Many of them were closed for the season. I wonder what the shop owners do the rest of the year? And how do they make a living in the off season? There was, strangely enough, a yarn store! We went inside, as I was hoping to find some native Alaskan fiber – but there wasn’t much stock, and most of it was stuff I could get anywhere. We investigated a number of the tourist shops, and picked up some stickers and some homemade fudge. Then we headed back to the area of the hotel (about a mile away near the entrance of town) and had lunch at the Railway Cantina. Halibut tacos with pineapple salsa! They were so good!

Just a note about the food here in Alaska – it is expensive! Most everything has to be flown into the state, so its no wonder – but even the native fish is on the pricey side. Most every meal I’ve had here so far has run me at least $25. Most entrees cost that much. It is the state with the highest cost of living, and I’m seeing why! That being said, all the food I’ve had here so far has been delicious. If I’m going to pay out the nose for food, at least its been tasty!

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Later on that evening, we went for a walk along the rocky beach to the historic start of the Iditirod. The Iditirod is a 1000 mile sled dog race that has been taking place for years and years. It used to run from Seward to Nome – now the race starts in Anchorage. The trail along the beach was lovely. There was an old boat launch and pilings sticking up out of the ground that looked very ghostly. I imagine Seward is a bit more hoppin’ in the summer, but at this time of the year, we were pretty much the only ones around – save for maybe one dog and its owner, and one motor home.

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As we left the hotel for dinner that night, I told Ryan I was going to leave my camera in the room. My shoulder was killing me from carrying my camera bag around all day. I said to him, “since I’m leaving my camera, I’m sure we’ll see a moose.” Well, not five minutes later as we were driving down Exit Glacier Road, what did we see? Yep, a moose. He ambled slowly in front of us across the road and then settled in a field alongside the road to eat some grass. I did manage to shoot a couple of bad photos with my phone.

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Moose!

When we woke up in the morning it was still snowing hard and we began to doubt that our cruise on the Resurrection Bay would be happening. But then the precipitation started to lighten up. We walked over to the cruise line office and it was open and they were checking people in. I guess a little snow is no big thing in Alaska! We set out on the Resurrection Bay at noon and were out for four hours. It was overcast and misty, but we still managed to see otters, sea lions, two bald eagles and a pod of porpoises that swam alongside our boat! Sadly we didn’t see any whales, but it was nice to be out on the water for the afternoon (despite the choppy waters near the mouth of the ocean!). The skies started to clear as we returned to Seward.

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When we got back to “port”, we packed up the car and began the 80 mile drive north to Girdwood, where we would spend the next two days at the Alyeska Resort. More on that in the next post!

Vacation in Alaska, Pt. 1 – Anchorage and the Seward Highway

We had a week off following the engagement in Cleveland, and Ryan and I planned to spend the time in Alaska, doing some sightseeing before our time was consumed by the show there. We are performing “Spamalot” in Anchorage for ten days straight without a day off, so I wanted to make the most of our free time in advance. I’m not sure how much time we’ll have for sightseeing once the show is up and running.

On Monday, Ryan needed to fly back to Green Bay for a few hours to deal with some things pertaining to his house, so I flew on ahead to Seattle. The weather was a bit dodgy leaving Cleveland and lots of flights were delayed, but luckily I made it to Chicago before the worst hit, and from there west, it was all smooth sailing (or flying, I guess!). We had decided to stay the night in Seattle, to break up the long trip a bit. I’m not sure I could have handled being on a plane for ten or eleven hours straight, and I’m sure Tallulah couldn’t have. So, I checked into the Crowne Plaza in Seattle for the night, and spent the afternoon walking around downtown, meeting up with my friend, Bret, and his friend, Robert, for dinner. It was great to see Bret – we’ve known each other for years, having worked together back in the Bay Area, and then he came out and subbed on “Spamalot” last year for a whole month while we were in “Tornado Alley” (Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque). He is tons of fun.

Ryan made it into town before midnight and then we hit the hay in anticipation for our flight to Anchorage Tuesday morning. The next day was lovely and clear out, and to our relief, we learned that the eruption threat level of Mount Redoubt had been lowered from red to orange. It was a smooth flight to Anchorage. There was a lot of cloud cover over the ocean, but then all of a sudden, the clouds cleared, and all I could see was ice and snow. We started to descend, and it looked as though we might land on a field of ice, but then out of nowhere, a runway appeared, and we were on the ground in Anchorage!

Alaska, as seen from the plane

Alaska, as seen from the plane

We grabbed our bags, jumped in the rental car, and drove to our hotel in downtown Anchorage. After getting Tallulah settled in, we went to Glacier Brew House for dinner. Yum! Our first meal in Alaska did not disappoint. Ryan had halibut and I had cajun shrimp. Also, the beer brewed on site was delicious! We went for a walk after dinner along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. It was so beautiful out. The sun doesn’t set in this part of Alaska until about 9:30pm this time of year, so we had a nice long walk in the waning daylight.

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The next day, we began our drive down the Seward Highway from Anchorage to Seward, about 120 miles south. We would be staying in Seward for two days. We planned on visiting the Sealife Center there, and also taking a whale watching cruise on Friday.

I had read that the drive down the Seward Highway was one of the most beautiful drives in Alaska, and that definitely proved true. We pulled over to take photos so many times in the first few miles, that we realized we had better start being more selective otherwise we would never reach Seward! One of our first stops was at Beluga Point, where in the warmer months, you can spot beluga and orca whales. We got out of the car and hiked up some rocks to take in the view of the Turnagain Arm. It was gorgeous.

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As we continued on the Seward Highway, we stopped for lunch at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. After eating some sandwiches, we spent over an hour walking around the property, taking photos of all the animals. The AWCC is a place where injured or abandoned animals are brought to be rehabilitated or raised. The animals are kept outside in their natural habitat in large enclosures. It was amazing to be able to get that close to moose and brown bears and elk, and get some great photos. There was a man who worked at the AWCC near the bear enclosure, and he was able to get one of the bears to stand up on its hind legs by bribing it with an apple. It was quite a sight to see. I’m really glad that we had the time to stop at the AWCC – it was definitely a highlight of our trip.

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After we left the AWCC, we continued the drive onward to Seward. We arrived in the late afternoon at our hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the pretty view of Resurrection Bay from our room.

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We went out to dinner and then for a walk by the bay. The next day…Sealife Center! More about Seward in the next post…

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