I told you several months ago about our trip to Anchorage and eating our way out of town after three or four days. Little did we realize that that trip would spawn more trips to the big city since then than we have made in the past three years. Usually, when we drive that way, we whip right through Anchorage and head north, but this summer it is Anchorage all day, every day each time we drive the road.
But these trips have given us a unique look at the drive from Kenai to Anchorage. That first time, in late March, was still snow covered although the highway was clear, even the Pass. The snow berms along the way were above the car, and in places it was like we were driving in a topless tunnel. Construction was minimal. Flagged through at the Skilak turnoff at Russian River going up and stopped for half an hour there coming home while they tore up the road. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant trip both ways.
The second trip, in mid-May again was fairly smooth. There was ice on the high lakes, although I wouldn’t have wanted to walk on it and still snow patches here and there as well as snow on the measuring stick at the top of the pass. But it was definitely impending spring in the lower climes. The burn was beginning to green a little and we drove on new asphalt where we’d watched them tear it up a few weeks before. Construction season was gearing up with a construction camp as we came off the Pass and much activity at Portage turnoff. We weren’t delayed, but slowed down to a crawl in a couple of places along the arm as they prepared to blast some rock. No sheep and the only swans were a lone pair on Potter Flats. But the bushes along the Arm were beginning to show leaves, ahead of ours on the peninsula.
The next trip was on a Sunday afternoon (early Monday morning appointment) and we noticed a glorious change in the landscape. Actually, the first thing we noticed was fresh striping on the highway along the new asphalt at Skilak turnoff. Funny what you don’t miss until it’s finally there again. Also, the burn was showing signs of recovery (it’s going to take years). But the distraction of spring was wearing itself out. I found myself thinking, as we turned to the left up the hill at Tern Lake, “25 minutes to the Pass, then an hour more into town, if we don’t stop at Girdwood.” But we always stop at Girdwood. The “candy Store” as Granddaughter #7 used to call it.
It was Sunday afternoon so no construction and we made good time around the Arm. Only one swan at Potter Marsh and still only one when we made the return trip a couple of days later. I worried the other may have gotten run over or some other dire happening.
The next trip was also a Sunday afternoon, and coincidentally, Father’s Day. Also one of the few nice days, as we’d begun the monsoon season we enjoyed this summer. And, as we remembered when we neared Russian River campground, the first day they’d increased the sockeye limit on the upper river and opened the sanctuary for fishing.
Cars and campers were waiting to turn into the campground; others were browsing for a parking spot in a packed full lot. Anyplace a vehicle could get off the road there were two parked and the traffic from Cooper Landing on to Anchorage was unending.
We didn’t stop at Girdwood this time because we couldn’t get into the parking area for the cars and campers going every direction. The one big surprise this time were two sheep along the road near McHugh Creek. The first ones we’d seen in all the trips back and forth this summer. They were sorta huddled together wondering “what did we do?” as the cars flew by both directions. And two swans were on Potter Marsh along with two “ugly ducklings.” Thank heaven!!
Two weeks ago was the final trip (we hope). Pretty benign actually. And time to enjoy the change to summer along the road. The Games of Bridges at Portage has us wondering about the finished product but we’ll wait ‘til next summer to find out. Girdwood was back to normal, and the swans at Potter Marsh are now four…the ugly ducklings are getting their flying gear…and it’s still an hour to the Pass, another hour to Cooper Landing, and a hour home. The scenery may change with the seasons, but the drive never does.