Tag Archives: Anchorage AK

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 29

north of Valdez, Alaska

Saturday, July 14, 1973

 The day started with more grocery shopping.  Since my aunt took my mother to do it, I suspect they went to the base commissary, which makes sense as it would have been more economical.  Prices are high in Alaska, or at least they were back then.

 After they got back we left and headed east on the Tok Cutoff (Glenn Highway) from Anchorage, then turned south on the Richardson Highway towards Valdez.  It was apparently a long day’s drive compounded by the delay caused by the grocery shopping, because we didn’t get to where we stopped for the night until after six pm, which was late for us.

We stopped at a campground called Little Tonsina 65 miles north of Valdez.  Nowadays (and I’m sure back then) it was a state recreation site.  What my diary says of it is that it had a pump instead of a spigot for water, and that there was a bunch of old equipment lying around, including a wagon, that was very nice to climb on.

 This is one of the campgrounds I have a vivid mental image of, because it was right by a very gravelly, glacier-fed river, and because we ate the last of the frozen salmon that night.

Little Tonsina River

 True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 28

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska

Friday, July 13, 1973

We spent the morning at a museum I didn’t name in my diary, but I suspect it was the Anchorage Museum, which like the other museums we visited on this trip, appears to have come up in the world since 1973.  I was rather impressed with it, however, especially the anthropological exhibits about the native peoples.

After lunch, my father the petroleum engineer went off in a small plane on a trip that he’d arranged with some of his colleagues to see some of the proposed path of the then-still-unbuilt Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which now runs from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Sea to Valdez, on Prince William Sound on the southern end of mainland Alaska.

The pipeline was, as you may remember, an exceedingly controversial project at the time, and it had not yet received federal approval. Exceedingly controversial everywhere except Alaska itself, it seemed, where so far as I could tell it was viewed in a very positive manner by most of the population.  As a matter of fact the most common bumper sticker we saw on our trip read “Sierra Club go home!”  I don’t know if Alaskans still feel the same way about it after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill that caused such horrific damage to Prince William Sound, but the prevailing mood at the time we were there was “bring it on!”

While my father was gone, my aunt and cousin took my mother and me shopping.  Apparently I bought the bulk of my Alaska souvenirs in Anchorage, because my trove included another book, Sally Carrighar’s Icebound Summer, about her adventures as a wildlife biologist and writer in the Alaskan wilderness, a change purse shaped like a moccasin, and a trio of miniature mountain goats:

Miniature china mountain goats

I started collecting miniatures when I was very young.  These aren’t anything special to anyone but me, just mass-produced bone china, but they’re part of a collection that’s made it with me so far through twenty-five moves and two divorces, so I think I’ll hang onto them.

One more night at my aunt’s, and we were on our way again.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 20

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska

Wednesday, July 4, 1973

Today is Independence Day.  We didn’t shoot any fireworks.”  When I was growing up, fireworks were either something you watched being shot off at Disneyland (which was less than 10 miles from our house, so we could see them from my best friend’s roof — my father wouldn’t let us climb up on ours) or something you bought at a fireworks stand that my father set off at the end of our driveway on the Fourth.  I think that’s the first Independence Day of my recollection where we didn’t have fireworks.  No wonder I was disappointed.

We spent part of the day exploring Anchorage.  The most interesting place we went was Earthquake Park.  The Anchorage city parks website does not seem to have separate pages for each park, which is unfortunate.  Anyway, on March 28, 1964, which happened to be Good Friday, the Anchorage area experienced the second most violent earthquake in recorded history.  It was a 9.2 on the Richter scale, and destroyed a good deal of Anchorage and killed a number of people there and elsewhere, as well as causing tsunamis felt all the way down on the Pacific Northwest coast and damage across hundreds of square miles and to other communities in the region.

What I remember of our visit to the park, nine years after the quake, is that the ground was still spongy.  It literally moved under your feet when you stepped on it.  There was a trail, with signs telling about the earthquake and its aftermath, which we followed.  The weather was cool enough that it almost felt like winter to me, who grew up in Southern California, with the wind whipping in off of Cook Inlet.  Supposedly you can see Mt. McKinley from the park, but we’d had our good viewing luck already.

We were going to go to a museum that day as well (my diary doesn’t say which one), but it was closed because of the holiday.  So we went back to my aunt’s and uncle’s house, and the rest of the day was spent being lazy.  I took Gay for a walk, and my aunt took us for a tour of the base.  And that was our second day in Anchorage.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 19

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska

Tuesday, July 3, 1973

Not a whole lot to say about the day we arrived at my aunt May’s house, which was actually a duplex on Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska.  Which is now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the same way Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base just down the road from where I am now are Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  JBEF, I guess, like JBLM.  I wonder if they call it Jay-Beef?

Anyway, my uncle Lucien was a chaplain, a Methodist minister to be more precise, in the Air Force, and Alaska was one of many postings he had all over the U.S. and the world, including Germany, Korea, and the UK, during his career.  As a matter of fact, their posting previous to the one in Alaska was at McChord.  Visiting them was how I fell in love with this part of the world.  I live less than five miles from where they lived, although the lovely old farmhouse with the horse pasture (and horses to go in it) they lived in is now a strip mall.

Only one of my three cousins was still living at home when we came to visit this time.  My cousin Diedra is about three years older than I am, so she’d have been about a senior in high school at the time.  The other two are older, and I don’t know if they were married by then, or off to college (not likely, since they’d have been home, so to speak, for the summer), or what.  I’ve always liked my cousin Diedra, and while I think she probably wasn’t looking forward to having her younger cousin tag around after her for a couple of days, she was nice to me, anyway.

An Airedale like Gay

And then there was Gaiety, the Airedale terrier they’d brought back from a posting in England a few years previously.  Gay was a gorgeous, very friendly, and very patient dog, and I enjoyed her company very much.

And that’s really about all that happened that day, which was mostly spent sitting around and chatting, since we hadn’t seen my aunt and uncle and cousin in four years.

True Gold , a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 18

 Anchorage, Alaska

Monday, July 2, 1973

 We left Mt. McKinley early the next morning, after discovering the trailer’s tank was out of water and stopping to fill it up and dump the septic. 

 My entry for this day is filled with road construction, and, given my vivid memories of the highway between the park and Anchorage, I’m not surprised.  Twenty-one miles (according to my diary) of boulders strewn across the road, for starters.  And machinery with wheels taller than our trailer.  Of course, I suspect my heroine Karin would have thought it a vast improvement given what she’d had to travel on.   But still, it went on and on and on…

 Then suddenly we hit the end of the construction, and the road was like glass.  I think we were all afraid to go inside the trailer after that, figuring everything would have been shaken up like James Bond’s martini, but my diary doesn’t say whether it was or not.  At least we’d latched all the doors and cupboards closed, including the refrigerator.

 The rest of the drive wasn’t very exciting.  I do remember the Matanuska Valley, which was famed then for growing enormous vegetables.

A very large cabbage. I don’t know who the man is, but the photo is clickable if you want to find out.

 And, of course, now it’s famous (or infamous, depending on your political persuasion) for being the home of Sarah Palin.

 It was odd, after driving through so much untamed country, to suddenly find ourselves in what looked like transplanted Iowa, plowed fields and plants growing in neat rows.  But we only had to look up at the mountains to see that we were still in Alaska.

 We arrived in Anchorage late in the afternoon, and called my Aunt May from a pay phone, but no one was home, so we found ourselves a trailer park along the side of the highway and listened to the traffic rushing by all night.

 True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords