Chapter 7. Anchorage
(Shari) We stop at a neat little lodge and restaurant north of Cooper Landing and order breakfast. While there we use their WI-FI to download some catalog pages on our future trips and proofread them. All the pages are not complete yet and we will need Internet connection later in the day. So our trip to another favorite campground is put on hold and we head to Anchorage. We do a little bird scouting before we realize our gas tank is on empty. So we head to the nearest Fred Meyers, hoping we do not run out of fuel before we get there. I buy groceries and that gives us 119 fuel points, a 10 cent per gallon discount on gas for the first 35 gal. So we pay $4.46 per gallon. Now we have only 19 fuel points on our card and have to buy more groceries to get more points to get more of a discount on gas. For those that understand Doug’s schemes for getting discounts through multiple gift cards, you might appreciate my scheme. I was thinking of buying a Fred Meyer gift card for $100 to get 100 points, using a credit card that gives back 3%, and then use that same gift card to pay for the gas at a discount. I will try this in June since we won’t need fuel until then and May’s points will disappear at the end of June. Oh, Doug would be so proud of me! We attempt to get a campsite in midtown Anchorage, but find the owner so hassled that he does not want our business. So we depart and go to another campground that we had used in 2008. It is next to a walking trail in a park but we have wash to do and Internet to use. By the time our work is finished, I am too tired to do anything but watch TV.
(Bert) We are leaving the bush and moving back into civilization or, at least, that is how it seems. When we went for propane yesterday, through G3 Shari picked up a few urgent e-mails on her iPhone and, apparently, I have several week-old e-mails with large attachments that I need to retrieve through WI-FI. So, we leave our isolated Russian River campsite and go out for breakfast at an inn north of Cooper Landing. During breakfast I get the codes to access WI-FI for the motel and download the attachments. They are PDF files of catalog pages for our 2013 and 2014 birding and nature tours. We stay in the motel parking lot long enough for me to proofread the documents and then start looking for a campground with WI-FI because more documents will be sent, awaiting my immediate response, since the catalog goes to print in two days.
Surprisingly, we cannot find any campground with WI-FI as we head north, leaving central Kenai Peninsula, going over Turnagain Pass, and around Turnagain Arm. That means we will need to stay in Anchorage tonight. The first one we visit says it is the cheapest in the city and offers WI-FI, but its Internet is not working today. A few blocks farther we pass a campground we stayed at a few years ago and decide to stay there again. It is $2 more per night, so is nearly the cheapest in Anchorage, but at $36 per night it is hardly cheap in my book. The “permanent” RV’s in the campground look like they haven’t been on the road in decades and the park’s environment would score a 1 on the Woodall’s scale, but everything is functional, including the laundry which we much need. I use the rest of the afternoon and early evening to catch up on e-mails and computer work. Sometimes I wish I had no other responsibilities and could just bird all day and sit beside a campfire each evening. Unfortunately, there are limits to the good life.
(Bert) I hear it rustling in the bushes and look in that direction. It pays me no attention, even when I clear my throat to let it know I am nearby. Its shaggy beard hangs down eight inches and its densely hairy brown body appears massive compared to me. This year’s antlers have partially formed and erupt from its skull like the stub ends of leg bones. It continues toward me, head down, teeth chomping on new green growth, moving steadily forward like a half-ton weed eater. It still has not looked me in the eye, but when it gets within about 20 ft. of me, I sidestep behind a small cluster of birch trees. Now it looks up, analyzes its relative position, and trots past me on the opposite side of the birch cluster. Continuing another 50 ft., the bull moose stops, turns its head and studies me closely, before resuming browsing for breakfast.
I continue birding the coastal birch forest, listening to the territorial songs of warblers. Compared to southern Canada and much of the Lower 48, warblers are of little variety in Alaska, especially away from its southeastern coastal panhandle. Yellow-rumped Warblers dominate. I also find Orange-crowned Warblers and, this morning, I see my first pair of Blackpoll Warblers this Alaska spring. I continue on a paved bicycle path, then descend to the muddy grasslands that extend a quarter mile to Cook’s Inlet. I hear, then see, a Savannah Sparrow, but almost do not recognize the song. It is quite different from the songs I have heard often in Manitoba. I’ve read that AOU might split Savannah Sparrow into several distinct species and I wonder if this may be a different species I am hearing now.
Then, it’s a day of errands, chasing around Anchorage in light rain. By late afternoon we settle into a campground we first stayed at in 1996. Although no electricity, I like the wooded environment and the near absence of other campers. And, at $25 per night, it is the best camping bargain in Anchorage.
(Shari) It is not supposed to rain today, but raining it is. It is a good day to do errands. Go to Wal-Mart for Bert’s medicine. Go to auto supply for fuel and oil filters for RV. We try to buy a sewer hose adaptor at Anchorage RV and find out they no longer sell supplies. They direct us someplace else, but we are done shopping for the day and drive to Centennial Park Campground. We have not camped here since 1998 and it has not changed a bit. This is a municipal campground with 144 sites but only about six are taken for the night. I thought there was electricity here and am a bit disappointed to find none. We may save $10 per night staying here but use that much in fuel running the generator. It is a good day for soup, so decide to use some chicken breasts for good ol’ chicken and rice soup. That warms up the RV and us too.
(Bert) Wrath of the Titans and Men in Black (part 13 when we haven’t seen the first dozen) and most everything else playing at the local Anchorage theaters do not appeal to us, so when we received a gift card to a chain of movie theaters, we have trouble deciding what to see. Shari, who is as proficient on her iPhone keypad as Horowitz is on keyboard, searched for reviews and found clips of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel showing on her 3-in. screen. This we’ve got to see on the Big Screen. Set in a hotel in India, with a cast of retirees from England, it appeals to my age and sense of travel adventure. The start-up hotel–actually a very old building in need of renovation–is managed by an eternal optimist and the clientele are aging Brits feeling useless and uncertain about their restricted futures. Arising throughout the movie is the Indian manager’s favorite saying, “Everything will be alright in the end and if it is not, then trust me, it is not the end.”
(Shari) “Everything will be alright in the end and if it is not, then trust
me, it is not the end.” That is the theme of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a
darling movie about older adults moving to India for a cheap place to retire. It
stars Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Why are we going to a movie you might ask?
Well, good question. First off, the day is drizzly and cold. Second, we are in
Anchorage and have seen most of it on other trips and are not interested in more
shops. Third, we are saving the best of Anchorage for the fourth leg of our
caravan when we do it with a group. Fifth, we came to Anchorage early so we
could be near WI-FI since we had catalog pages to review and we don’t want to
drive back to the wilds. Sixth, we picked up some theater gift cards (surprise,
surprise for those of us on certain previous trips) and are very grateful as we
would not have gone to see such a cute movie in Anchorage left to our own
devices. Now the movie is over and Bert is checking out some birding places as I
write this. Who knows where we will stay tonight.
(Bert) I quickly locate the nest, a large, yet tight ball of grass and moss wedged into a corner of the fish ladder over the dam. While I am fidgeting with my camera, Shari excitedly announces a Dipper has arrived. Quickly, I swing up my lens and rapid-fire a sequence of shots. I’ve caught the action of the adult carrying three stubby worm-like creatures in its bill, turning to the open yellow gapes of two chicks and stuffing the food into their mouths. It turns to leave and within seconds the other parent jumps into position and unloads more treats on the voracious chicks. We stay to watch several more feeding episodes, some so quick I can’t even get my camera into position.
I’ve finished entering bird sightings into my database. We finished Leg 1 of our caravan on May 13 with 152 bird species and 21 mammal species. Personally, I saw 145 birds and 18 mammals, and of course have added to my list in the interim. In the afternoon we meet Bob and Pat who will be with us on Leg 2 of our Alaska caravans when we fly from Anchorage tomorrow. Well, I better start packing.
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