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Call us crazy but we actually chose the dead of winter for our first visit to Alaska and I'm glad we did!

I snagged a four day weekend from my radio job and off we went to Anchorage for Valentine's Day weekend.

Even though it was dark as we cruised high above Canada on the way the snowy mountains were clearly visible down below and quite an impressive site.

After landing we rented a car and headed to the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage.  Web site is here. This is a wonderful hotel and since it was off season they upgraded us to a beautiful little suite that faced Mt. McKinley or as the Alaskan people call it Denali.  This big mountain tops out at 20,320 feet making it the tallest in North America.

Now being in the dead of winter you'd think the peak would be shrouded in clouds, right?  Not at all.  Each and every day we had a clear view of it from our hotel room and the sunsets turned it bright pink-orange. It was beautiful.  It was hard to believe that it was more than 100 miles away from Anchorage.

Fortunately the city was very much alive during our weekend visit mainly because they were enjoying the annual Anchorage Fur Rendezvous.  It's a huge, city-wide winter carnival with rides, fireworks, dog sled races and special cuisine.  Although we didn't get a chance to sample it, such interesting items as seal and other native species were cooked and enjoyed.

It was very cold (highs probably around 15F and lows about -5F) but there wasn't much wind so it wasn't uncomfortable.  We watched the dog sled teams compete and it was very interesting to see the various contestants.  Some involved little kids with just a couple or three dogs pulling the sleds.  Other sleds had an adult with the full compliment.

One sunny day we ventured out toward Mt. McKinley figuring we'd get a better view if we got closer. Ironically the closer we got the worse the view became.  So we just enjoyed the snowy countryside and returned.

We also ventured down the highway toward Seward and the snow capped mountains were just breath taking.  Along the way we saw moose galore.  During the whole trip we counted 27 moose including some within the city limits of Anchorage.  One group consisted of seven of the stately animals just lounging around under trees.

There were plenty of bald eagles in the countryside along with other hawks.

We stopped to see the Portage Glacier on our little trek south from Anchorage and it was really pretty.  Along the way you pass by a place called Beluga Point.  During the summer as the highway traces the edge of Turnagain Arm beluga whales are easy to spot.

I found the people of Alaska "interesting."  They, for the most part, seemed like free spirits.  It takes a special kind of person to chuck it all and move to a place as isolated as Alaska.

We glanced briefly at the Alyeska Resort on our trip to the south and it was quite impressive.  In fact it was the talk of the town in Anchorage that weekend because it was hosting a bunch of celebrities including Pierce Brosnan.  There were people milling about outside the gates to the resort just waiting to see if they could get a glimpse of any of the stars!

We had some enjoyable dining experiences in the Anchorage area and one of our favorites was Simon and Seafort's Saloon and Grill.  This place was absolutely packed with locals and we had to wait about thirty minutes to get a table.  Our absolute favorite restaurant there was the Glacier Brewhouse.  Their website is here.  The place is huge with beamed wood ceilings and great local seafood.

As with way too many of our trips, we didn't even scratch the surface of America's "last frontier" but we plan to return and see much more of this incredibly pretty place.



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