From the Canadian Border to Anchorage… Alaska Highways

Matanuska Glacier is one of the sights along the road from the Canadian/Alaskan Border to Anchorage.

I lived in Alaska for three years between 1983-86. While the organization I was executive director of was in Anchorage, I wandered over much of the state, backpacking in numerous areas including Gates Of the Arctic National Park, kayaking in places like Prince William Sound and cross-country skiing, which included a trek into Denali National Park where we camped out in 30 (34 C) degrees below zero weather. You go to bed with your shoes and a hot water bottle! The beauty and wildness of the state is legendary. Yes, there are insects galore, big bears with sharp teeth, moose, and wolves. But they come with the territory.

Our drive from the Canadian Border to Anchorage was much tamer, but the beauty was there, as you can see from the following photos.

Speaking of wildlife, we spotted this beauty at the King Mountain Lodge. Can wildlife get much wilder?

Bright fields of fireweed contrasted with the darkness of black spruce along the road.

The road continued to wind among almost mystical mountains.

This mountain is part of Wrangle St. Elias National Park, one of the most remote and untamed national parks in the world.

This cache is a bit on the fancy side, more for tourists than keeping out the bears that want to raid your food supplies. But you get the idea.

More mountains…

Glacial rivers are gray from the rock ground off of mountains.

Another view of Matanuska Glacier.

I really liked this view of mountains along the highway.

More mountains. These with a different look.

An appropriately painted house along the route.

The bar at King Mountain Lodge. Road houses were once common along the highway, and necessary to accommodate travelers who couldn’t travel long distances over the rough highways on a given day. Most were quite colorful, and often filled by interesting characters. King Mountain continues to provide an interesting place to stop.

Peggy found this motorcycle inside. The owner, seeing her interest, took her out for a spin.

A photo of Libby Riddles was on the wall. Libby was the first woman to win the Iditarod, the world-famous sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. And she did it while I was in Anchorage. I called her and asked if she would be spokesperson for my organization. She agreed. I picked her up at the airport where she had just returned from a photo-shoot with Vogue Magazine and we spent a couple of days together as we ran around to all of the local media.

A shot of Libby and me sharing a laugh in the mid-80s.

I found this lovely pond on the edge of the highway.

These are the mountains that backed up to my home in Anchorage. I could be up in them in 30 minutes and would often go on hikes after work. One of my trips was a 25-mile day hike where I came out in this canyon. It included crossing a fairly substantial glacial river where I had to save my hiking companion from being swept away.

I’ll conclude with this sunset. In next Monday’s post I will take you off to the island of Kodiak for  a visit with brown bears!

FRIDAY’S POST: The Mekemson kids are at it again and a railroad detective shows up at out house to accuse my brother of dark deeds, which fortunately, he didn’t do.

MONDAY’S POST: We continue our 18 day trip by raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.







57 thoughts on “From the Canadian Border to Anchorage… Alaska Highways

  1. As always, I love your photos of the majestic mountains, but the fireweed caught my attention. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any or anything like it. Gorgeous! Alaska is still on our bucket list. But I wish we could see it as a resident would rather than just from a tourist-on-a-boat perspective.

  2. These are just stunning photos Curt. What an opportunity to live and work in this gorgeous environment. I especially love photos of the glaciers.

    I have not yet seen a glacier, and time is running out. I’m laughing as I realize that is true of the glaciers and me! Being able to live in a place certainly makes for much bigger exploration possibilities.

    I often speak with young people locally who are working in hospitality here ensuring that the visitors have a comfortable/interesting visit, while not ever having climbed a few red rocks, or lay out at 2AM to see the clear winter sky of the desert.

    The photo of your view from your home certainly must have teased you every morning to come out and play, and hastened you home after work just to gaze upon the beauty.

    A wonderful photo essay Curt. Thank you.

    • I was lucky during my years of working in California and Alaska to define part of my play as work, JoHanna. Designing long distance backpack and bicycle trips as fundraisers for the American Lung Association provided me with an excuse to be in the out-doors for most of the summer leading trips. And, of course I had to preview the routes. (grin) –Curt

    • Peggy and I were up there a couple of years ago in February, Carrie, and took the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks. We had a clear day, were warm :), and had gorgeous views of the snow covered terrain, including Denali. Worth a winter trip! –Curt

    • It’s always fun for me to put up posts on our adventures. Reviewing the photos that Peggy and I have taken brings back the memories in a very vivid way. Alaska and British Columbia are both spectacular. Thanks for coming along on the trip, Anne Clare! –Curt

    • I’ve always felt that experiences are of more value than things, Yvonne. So that has provided freedom to go out and explore the world. I’m ever so lucky to have a companion that agrees! –Curt

    • Working with Libby for a couple of days was special, Peggy. The Iditarod is the World Series of long distance dog sled racing. Libby won the race by taking off in the middle of a nasty storm, when all of the men were hunkered down. It took both courage and trust in her dogs. –Curt

  3. Going to bed with the shoes on is something one can only dream off. I remember the winter I was in Finland with temperatures of -35C. Yet, the farm-house I stayed in was warm and cosy. Great post, Curt.

    • Thank’s, Gerard. Actually, our shoes were in a separate bag, snuggled up to us. Otherwise they would have been frozen solid the next morning. I had a sleeping bag rated to a minus 30F, had on long underwear, and wore very warm socks. It was quite toasty as long as I stayed in my bag. 🙂 –Curt

    • It’s amazing how much you can see by the few roads, though, Dave. And the train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks adds another whole element. Taking the Fairy up from Seattle is also a kick. –Curt

  4. Gorgeous photos as always, Curt. Funny to see you with a tie. Somehow, I suspect it’s not too often 🙂
    Love the goat and the field of wild flowers so much. For different reasons 🙂

    • Laughing. I’ve told this story before but once I attended a large function in Sacramento where we were honoring a sate legislator who had done a great deal for environmental and health issues. I was running late and he had already started his comments. I tried to slip quietly in the back door. He spotted me, stopped talking and said, “Now I know this is important. Mekemson has a tie on.”

  5. I wondered about the background of the photo with you and Libby, and you answered my question — Christmas seals! Both Christmas and Easter seals were such a big part of life back in the day. I suppose part of the reason for their disappearance is cultural change. Other forms of communication have to be used today, as snail mail declines. Still — even the taste of those lingers.

    • Christmas Seals were once the primary source of fund raising for the American Lung (previously the TB) Association, Linda. They are still important but much less so in the modern era. One of the things I did, through the Trek program and grantsmanship was to develop other sources of income to fund the Association’s programs. –Curt

  6. How cool that you met Libby. I’ll bet you had some fascinating conversations. And how nice of the bar owner to take Peggy for a ride on his motorcycle. That’s one of the things I loved about living (briefly) in Alaska — the sense of community among people there. I never made it to Anchorage, but hope to travel the Alaska highway someday.

    • Did I ask you where you lived, Juliann? Remoteness can create insular thinking, but it can also create community, friendliness, and some real characters! Libby and I talked a lot about dogs. 🙂 –Curt

  7. Trying valiantly here to catch up with your adventures. The mountains and glorious scenery are to be expected, but have to say that Peggy is a gal after my own heart… I used to tell folks I fell in love with my late husband’s motorcycle before I gave him a second look. (I wasn’t entirely kidding either!) 😀

    • Peggy is an adventuresome soul to say the least, Gunta. The owner gave her a wild ride, sans-helmets. 🙂
      Her love of adventure is one of the reasons we hit it off from the very beginning. The first time she met me was when I climbed off my bike at the end of my 10,000 mile bike ride! –Curt

      • I get the feeling that Peggy and I might be kindred spirits (though I can think of a couple of examples where I might just draw the line). I never did let hubby talk me into wearing a helmet on the bike. What’s the point? 😀

      • Always a fascinating argument over helmet/non helmet. I led bicycle treks for several years and helmets were important. I’d probably be dead had I not had one when I went skidding across the pavement on my head once. So… 🙂

      • Yeah… there’s that skidding across the pavement on your head thing, but then it really takes away from that sense of freedom riding a bike allows. I know I drove my late husband a bit nuts when I’d ride with a halter top, shorts and sandals. Luckily it didn’t seem to slow him down much. My only injury came from touching a bare shin to a hot tail pipe one time! The luck of the wild, I ‘spose! 😀

      • Laughing. Don’t get tail pipe injuries on bicycles. When I did my 10,000 mile solo trip around North America, I figured I was taking enough risk without adding my head. 🙂 –Curt

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