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2 days in ANC after Thanksgiving

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Old Oct 17, 12, 11:27 pm
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2 days in ANC after Thanksgiving

I'm taking a MR to Anchorage during the week after Thanksgiving. I'll be on the ground two whole days and would like some input. I'm staying each night in Anchorage and will have a rental car.

So, checking the sunrise/sunset schedule, I'll have around 7.5 hours of daylight. For one day, my thought is to drive the Seward Highway with a stop to ride the Alyeska Tram.

I'm open for suggestions on the second day. I'd prefer to get out of town to take pictures as opposed to staying in the city for the day. So I'm thinking driving the Glenn Highway for a few hours before turning around. Any interesting spots there, or would that be a waste of time?

The goal for both days is to be back in town just after sunset so I can do shopping and such in the late afternoon/evening.

Considering the time of year and probable road conditions, is there anything I should know?

Also, I will be monitoring the northern lights predictions. If I see there is a good chance for the lights, where is a good viewing spot? (I understand I probably need to leave the city for it.)
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Old Oct 18, 12, 1:51 am
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Do you have warm clothes? It will likely be windy and cold in November, and you should have winter gear if you venture out of town. The car rental agencies don't seem to put winter tires on their vehicles (or maybe it's just the cheap cars that I rent, but I've had some scary experiences slipping and sliding on Anchorage roads -- and I have years of experience with winter driving).

Driving to Girdwood (Alyeska) should be okay since it's a well traveled route. If you are going primarily for the tram, check to make sure it has reopened for the winter: http://www.alyeskaresort.com/resort/...rial-tram.aspx
Whatever you decide, keep your plans flexible in case there is a big snowfall or frigid temperatures or icy roads. But the weather and road conditions may be just fine.

Last edited by AAL; Oct 18, 12 at 2:09 am
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Old Oct 18, 12, 1:11 pm
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You might want to email the priest in charge of the Eklutna Historical Park and cemetery to see if you could get access. Normally it's closed in winter (except for religious events and burials) but you might luck out.

Eklutna is the nearest native village to Anchorage (around 45 min. north of downtown on the Glenn Hwy) and it's fairly famous because of the "spirit houses" covering the graves in the cemetery. In the winter they can be very picturesque, and even if you can't gain admission to the grounds, if memory serves there are a couple of places where you can look through the fence or manage to get some decent photos of the two churches (one modern with an onion dome, the other the old log church.)

Just before you get to Eklutna is Mirror Lake (east side of the highway, Eklutna is to the west) which probably won't be frozen over yet, so might offer some interesting pictures. It's certainly lovely much of the year, especially in the autumn.

You'll have to eyeball it in the weather/road condition front. It can be a tricky time of year, with some freeze/thaw still possible. Ice, not snow, is your enemy.
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Old Oct 18, 12, 4:46 pm
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Good points about the icy roads. I'll try to stay informed. Looks like average highs are in the low 20s so I'll be as prepared as possible.
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Old Oct 18, 12, 8:52 pm
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I like the idea of driving to Girdwood too. Also check the website for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see if they might be open when you are there. It is worth the money to see the orphaned/refuged animals there.

If you do have a high aurora forecast, I suggest driving north of Anchorage to Eagle River. Exit at the Hiland Drive exit and take the drive up the hill. I was there last March for a phenomenal Northern Lights display. I was glad that I went there because I heard from others that Glen Alps (in Anchorage) and another spot just north of Anchorage were so full that the police were prohibiting more cars from entering those areas.
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Old Nov 6, 12, 1:02 am
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
You might want to email the priest in charge of the Eklutna Historical Park and cemetery to see if you could get access. Normally it's closed in winter (except for religious events and burials) but you might luck out.

Eklutna is the nearest native village to Anchorage (around 45 min. north of downtown on the Glenn Hwy) and it's fairly famous because of the "spirit houses" covering the graves in the cemetery. In the winter they can be very picturesque, and even if you can't gain admission to the grounds, if memory serves there are a couple of places where you can look through the fence or manage to get some decent photos of the two churches (one modern with an onion dome, the other the old log church.)

Just before you get to Eklutna is Mirror Lake (east side of the highway, Eklutna is to the west) which probably won't be frozen over yet, so might offer some interesting pictures. It's certainly lovely much of the year, especially in the autumn.

You'll have to eyeball it in the weather/road condition front. It can be a tricky time of year, with some freeze/thaw still possible. Ice, not snow, is your enemy.
Funny you mention the spirit houses- I've helped paint them. During warmer times of the year there are also couches along the highway that locals would sit and waive at those driving by on the Glenn

Mirror lake is also a nice place to visit- I ice fish there annually and have worked at the Boy Scout Camp across the water (you'll see a lifeguard tower with a hut below, plus a totem pole )

Originally Posted by fti View Post
I like the idea of driving to Girdwood too. Also check the website for the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see if they might be open when you are there. It is worth the money to see the orphaned/refuged animals there.

If you do have a high aurora forecast, I suggest driving north of Anchorage to Eagle River. Exit at the Hiland Drive exit and take the drive up the hill. I was there last March for a phenomenal Northern Lights display. I was glad that I went there because I heard from others that Glen Alps (in Anchorage) and another spot just north of Anchorage were so full that the police were prohibiting more cars from entering those areas.
And for those in Eagle River (me) ... I was in the valley (Palmer and Wasilla) during the last epic showing... and I'd say the view out there was 10x that of which we can see here. A ribbon of light clear across the sky- sadly I left my camera at home.

Have fun and let us know if you'd like to meet up at all- see the link at the top of this thread
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Old Nov 8, 12, 10:22 pm
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The drive to Girwood is pretty and if the tram is open it's worth the drive!

I would pass on the AWCC, we were less than impressed.

We really regretted not having a chance to drive north, but there is no shortage of awesome scenery in the area.

Make sure you plan buffer time if you're driving the Seward Highway. It's a two lane road so any wreck can shut the highway down.
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Old Nov 29, 12, 11:07 pm
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I wanted to say thanks for the input. I'm about to spend my last night in ANC before catching a 5:45am flight in the morning.

On Tuesday, I drove all the way to Seward and back. Beautiful views. On the way, I drove through Girdwood, but the tram didn't appear to be running. I had dinner at Humpys.

Today, I drove north of Anchorage and made a quick stop at the Eklunta cemetery (very easy to find). No one was there, but there was a gate open with a metal box asking for a $5 entrance fee if you wanted to view the grounds. I paid the $5 and took several pictures.

Then I continued driving up the Glenn Highway all the way to Glacier View to take pictures of the Matanuska Glacier.

I handled the cold weather pretty well. The temps here ranged from -5F to 15F. Some places outside of ANC (Seward and Palmer) got close to 30F when I was there.

The driving on the icy roads here in ANC takes some adjustments. I discovered that I couldn't be aggressive at all or else you'd be subject to some slides. Even making turns was challenging. Outside of ANC, the main roads (mainly Hwy 1) seemed to be in better shape.

I must come back during the summer when I don't have to worry about the weather and I can enjoy more outside activities. But this was fun.
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Old Nov 30, 12, 1:59 pm
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Thanks for the report. The hand tram closes for most of the winter. I am looking forward to visiting Matanuska Glacier next June and even getting onto the glacier. Will also spend a couple of nights near Girdwood.

Did you do anything in Seward? Or just drive there and back?

Hope you have a good flight today!
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Old Dec 1, 12, 1:26 pm
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I wanted to get back to ANC before sunset (around 3:50pm this week). By the time I made it to Seward, I knew I couldn't stay long. I just got gas, took pictures of the harbor, and grabbed lunch at Subway before starting the drive back.

I saw the signs for the roads for glacier access at Glacier View, but those roads looked a bit treacherous and may have been closed for the winter. That's another activity to consider when I return.
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Old Dec 1, 12, 10:12 pm
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Originally Posted by Smaug View Post
That's another activity to consider when I return.
The Alaska bug has hit you too?!?
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