Adventures in Girdwood, AKPosted: October 11, 2011
This weekend we took an 8 hour road trip to Girdwood, AK so my husband could attend a Physical Therapy Conference. The conference was at the Alyeska Resort, one of the few ski resorts in Alaska. The ski season doesn’t open until November, but there is still lots to do in this area. The drive to Girdwood, past Denali, through central Alaska, past Anchorage to the Turnagain Arm (a branch of the Cook Inlet), is beautiful. We saw the sunset over the mountains on our way down. Turnagain Arm is a unique body of water with huge mudflats, home to Beluga whales, and surrounded by mountains on three sides. The Alyeska Resort is set back off this body of water in Glacier Valley. The resort was very nice. During our Alaskan adventure, we have become more used to tents than hotel rooms, but I have to say we enjoyed our one night in a fancy hotel.
Our room faced a series of snow capped mountains and the huge king bed had lots of pillows (one of my favorite things about hotels!). The resort has just about everything you could ask for: several restaurants, a ski shop, an outdoor pond (used for ice skating in the winter), a salt water swimming pool, a hot tub, a great room with a fireplace (moose head above) and chairs looking out big windows to the mountains (this was one of my favorite spots for the weekend), and on and on. It had a little something for everyone. Lucas was at the conference from 8 a.m. – 5 or 6 p.m. each day so I was on my own to explore the area. As I mentioned, I spent time in the great room reading and looking at the mountains, and I of course went hiking. How could I not with a mountain in my backyard!
On Saturday afternoon, I decided to hike up the north face of Alyeska Peak. The trail reached the upper bowl of the mountain where the resort has a little restaurant, museum (which was closed), look out, and chair lifts. A tram can take you from the hotel up or you can hike the steep three mile trail, which is what I decided to do. The trail starts out in spruce and aspen woods following along Winner Creek. Then it takes a sharp turn and heads up. You are above the treeline fast with views of North Star Mountain to the north, out to the Turnagain Arm, and across at a series of mountains. It is pretty in every direction. Near the top the trail transitions to snow/ice. It has a series of switchbacks that makes you feel like you are zigzagging to the top rather than just getting to it. But from the snow covered upper bowl you have great views. Everything here is pretty. At the restaurant/cafeteria I had a hot bowl of seafood chowder and looked out at the mountains. I am head over heals for Alaskan Mountains. After a half an hour, I decided it was time to head back. As a hiker, I could ride the tram down for free so I took that option, although I think the views were better from the trail!
It was a great way to spend the afternoon. But it did feel a little strange to hike alone. I missed having someone to share all the beauty with, so instead I took tons of pictures. More on our Girdwood adventure tomorrow.