Steps walked: Shaun - 14,800 and 43 floors climbed (we're figuring the little plane had something to do with this number); Shannon - 14,660 and 41 floors climbed
Critter count: 4 moose (only 3 for Shannon though)
Today was a day of literal ups and downs. We left the B&B at 6:30 to get to Talkeetna by 8:30 for a 9 o'clock flightseeing tour of Mt. McKinley. We anticipated that the flight was in jeopardy because of the constant rain, but we figured that we'd take our chances and then see the town of Talkeetna no matter what.
We were correct that K2, the flightseeing outfit, couldn't fly, but we were able to reschedule for tomorrow. They also mentioned that, should the weather change, we could check back with them to see if we could fly today. So.....off we went to tour Talkeetna which is a very interesting little place.
First we drove through town until the road deadended at the river which was beautiful and atmospheric with the fog drifting over the water. No critters though, dang it! We proceeded to spend the day personally ensuring the economy of Talkeetna is alive and healthy on this day in history. There was an Alaskan artist market in town which was right up our alley....homemade shea butter lotions and teas, beautiful jewelry, and even a lady who makes her living taking pictures of the northern lights! We picked her brain big time to try to determine if we'd get to see them while we're here.
The highlight of the market was a woman who makes jewelry with porcupine quills integrated into the design. Some were long, some were short, some were naturally colored, and some were dyed, but they were all quintessentially Alaskan, so we bought a bunch of stuff from her. Naturally, we got to talking to her and everyone in Alaska asks where you're from. When we said we were from Michigan she almost came across the counter at us. Apparently Michigan porcupines have highly coveted quills...who knew? She offered us $50 if we found an adult porcupine as road kill and would send it to her in a 5-gallon bucket! Seriously! I kid you not. Only in Alaska.
Speaking of only in Alaska....here is the mayor of Talkeetna....Mr. Stubbs....I'm serious here folks. He's a cat, duly elected and vetted, and he is 16 years old.
We ate at a lovely cafe that made Nutella crepes as a semi-lunch and then again at a hippy place called Mountain High Pizza Pie. While we were there, the sun came out and the rain stopped and life started looking up (remember my up's and down's comment?).
We decided to check back in with K2 to see if they were flying. Lucky thing we did too because we were able to hop on a flight leaving in 20 minutes that would probably be our only opportunity to go. The plane was a teeny weenie 6 passenger Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six, and we went with 2 other people plus the pilot, a very cute guy named Chip. Our flight was significantly shorter than we signed up for, and we didn't see Mt. McKinley or get to walk on a glacier, but they didn't think we'd be able to do that trip at all anyway. They saved us some money and got us an awesome view of the surrounding mountains just the same. Shaun also briefly saw her first moose from the air, but it wasn't nearly as satisfying as she had hoped. Here are some highlights from the trip, and Shannon got a wonderful video of one of the turns we made (thanks Phil!).
On the way back to Anchorage we stopped at the Kahiltna Birchworks which makes really excellent candy (that we've been sampling the whole time we've been here!) and syrups and other stuff from the sap of birth trees rather than maple trees. We got a tour of the "factory" and samples of sap taken at 4 different points in the 3-week harvest season. It was fascinating, and we had never heard of harvesting from birth trees. The syrup is less sweet than maple, so the caramel candy is really nummy but not too rich. Thank goodness for all the exercise we're getting, right?
On the way back to Anchorage, we stopped to hike to Thunder Bird Falls which is a 200-foot waterfall on the Eklutna River. It was quite an uphill hike with lots and lots of the Alaskan state bird (the mosquito) present, and us without our bug spray! Once we got into our hiking groove, though, it was very fun, and the falls were gorgeous!
Due to the extended amount of daylight in this part of the country, we figured we'd use the time to climb up Flattop Mountain and check out the trail that overlooks Anchorage and the Cook Inlet. The drive up reminded us of Mt. Nebo in Arkansas, and the views were looking incredible....but then once we got up above the clouds....damn! We couldn't see the inlet or the city or nothin'! We did get some pretty cool atmospheric kind of pictures, AND THERE WERE 3 MOOSES THERE!!!!!! Ok, so I got a little more excited about these guys than the one I saw from the airplane. A mama and her 2 baby mooses were visible between the uncloudy and the cloudy areas of the mountain, so we got to take some pictures of them even though they were pretty far away. Thank you, Dad and Dar and Nikon for the 42-times zoom on my camera since we used it as binoculars too!
After Flattop we were starving to death and it was late and nothing was open and Shanny girl wouldn't let me see the pretty sunset sky because she was in bitch mode....okay so maybe it was because she was starving and tired but she was still bitchy. We went to a place recommended by David (our host's son) called Moose Tooth Pub and Pizzaria which was very good. Thank goodness it was open until 11 since at this point it was after 10. Once we got back to the B&B, we collapsed and called it a very good day.
To finish today's blog post, we'll leave you with a cool pic that Shannon took from the car in the middle of a bridge. Tomorrow we leave for the Kenai peninsula!