Alaska Day 2: Anchorage to Matanuska

Alaska Day 2: Anchorage to Matanuska

Journey proper starts today. We collect the Jeep from the wonderful Alaska 4×4 rentals (“People choose Jeeps for a reason so don’t worry about minor scratches if you take it down a dirt road. All we look out for are dents and cracked windscreens. Have a great trip.”) and hit the road.

Our first stopping point is to buy provisions. We pull into a Carrs Quality Center on Gambell Street and, well, all I can say is that it’s the roughest supermarket we’ve ever visited in all our years of USA travel. I ask where the restrooms are and have to be escorted there. The door is unlocked and my guide / warden waits outside, presumably to make sure I’m not shooting up. Cigarettes are kept under lock and key. At the check out desk, another shopper rambles incoherently before walking out.

This isn’t quite how I’d pictured Alaska. Looking at Government figures, it would seem that, while on their way up, poverty rates in the Anchorage municipality are actually lower than those of the rest of Alaska, which in turn are lower than the national average. So I guess we just chose the wrong location.

Leaving Anchorage we head north and stop for a restorative walk along the short nature trail at Eagle River Nature Center. This is more like it. There’s a Beaver Viewing Deck (but no beaver), wonderful scenery, and the reassurance of knowing that if a bear does make an appearance, there are plenty of small children present who would surely represent an easier meal.

Reaching our destination from here is simply a matter of following the spectacular Glenn Highway north past lakes, through Palmer, alongside the grey glacial water of the Matanuska River, past the spectacular Matanuska Glacier that we will visit tomorrow, to our idyllic cabin – Tundra Rose Cottage at milepost marker 109. Next door is Grand View Café, a fully licensed restaurant owned by the same people, and a great place to end our first day on the road with a brick oven-baked pizza and a few beers.

Oh yes, the name Grand View. Look out of the window of the café and you do indeed get a grand view of the mountainside opposite, complete with the tiny white dots high up there that are Dall sheep.