Alaska travel blog

Elk at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Musk Ox at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Young Bull Moose at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Bald Eagle at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Caribou at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Kodiak bear cubs at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Tram along the Winner Creek Trail at Alyeska Ski Resort

Bryan takes the tram along the Winner Creek Trail at Alyeska Ski...

Bryan exiting the tram

On the Winner Creek Trail hike at Alyeska Ski Resort

It rained hard in the night and we woke up to drizzle and 45 degree temperatures. After breakfast and hoping it would warm up some, we took the little trail next to our campsite. Always mindful of bears, we walked along hoping to run into some other people. Pretty soon, we spotted a couple who were looking at the salmon spawning in the creek. We chatted for a few minutes then continued on. We came to a bridge with several displays for four types of salmon. There was a couple there with three young boys and we struck up a conversation with them. Hearing their southern accents, we asked where they were from. They are from Georgia but the husband is a traveling RN and is doing a three month contract in Anchorage. They home school their boys and we had quite an interesting talk with them. They were in search of bears, having already had several encounters with moose, including a female moose that hangs out in the parking lot of their apartment building. They were loads of fun to talk to, but they had their mission to find bears, and we decided to go check out the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center about five miles up the road from our campsite, where we would see some bears but in the confines of a closed off area safe for viewing. On our walk back to the RV, we ran into the same couple that we had chatted with earlier in the morning. It turned out they were from Florida. They had flown to Anchorage, rented an RV, and were staying at the Willawaw campground across the road. Of course, Bryan can talk RV's all day so we had a nice visit with them. They were planning to catch the 2 p.m. ferry from Whittier (tunnel) to Valdez and then drive to Anchorage before heading to Denali. Bryan convinced them they had time to go see Fairbanks and Tok and we also told them where they could find cheaper gas (Girdwood).

Next it was on to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We had seen this place advertised in some of the tourist magazines we picked up. Since it was so close, and they advertised the two orphaned brown bear cubs that were rescued off of Kodiak Island in November and December, 2010, we felt this was an opportunity to see bears in a safe environment and perhaps would take away some of our (my) concerns for hiking. You can either drive or walk through the sanctuary. All of the wildlife here have been rescued in some fashion and will live out their lives at the wildlife center. We first drove a slow loop to get the lay of the land, following the map, then parked and walked it. Another treat was to see several Musk Ox, which were nearly hunted to extinction. We had planned to visit a Musk Ox farm near Palmer but arrived too late the day we were there, so this covers us from having to make a trip on our return to Palmer. They also had Wood Bison, Elk, Caribou, and Moose. Another display showed Porcupine but we could not see them as they were hiding out in dens. There was a pair of black bears as well, but they were sleeping so we were not able to see them well. But the kodiak cubs put on quite a show, chasing each other around, splashing in a pond and playing with an orange ball. You'd never know these can be vicious killers since they were so cute.

We left feeling it was worth the $10 entrance fee and headed back to Girdwood to see about hiking. It was sunny in patches but still very cold. We picked up coffee and diet coke, then sat in the parking lot to see if we could spot any other hikers on the mountain. A couple of ladies came down a trail so I went over and asked them the situation. They had only hiked up a short distance to pick blueberries. One said it was quite wet and slippery with a lot of branches across the trail. Their feet were soaked. She said they only saw two other ladies with their dogs and a man who were also picking berries. We finally decided to go check out the Winner Creek trail that the map lady had recommended we take. The self parking lot is about a half mile away from the trails, which start at the back of the resort near the tram. When we reached the trailhead, another couple with a map in hand, were heading in the direction we were. I immediately asked them if they were hiking the Winner Creek and they said yes, so we joined forces. They were from Wisconsin and had flown to Anchorage a week earlier to visit some friends who live in Kenai. They were catching a red eye flight back to Wisconsin tonight and had some time to kill so had lunch in the hotel and decided to get some hiking in before their drive back to Anchorage and flight home. We had a wonderful time hiking and talking with them. Best of all, with all of the conversations going on, we were making a lot of noise and I never even thought to be on the lookout for bears, nor did we spot any. The trail was well travelled as we passed probably a dozen or more hikers. It was also very muddy and we had showers off and on during the hike. The destination was to a hand tram, to take you across Glacier Creek, and then connect to the Crow Creek trail which would make a 7.7 mile loop. Bill and Lorraine, the couple we hiked with, had not planned to hike as far as they did and had no intention of doing the tram. We thought we might do the tram but were not aware that it was that far of a hike. We didn't have any food with us other than a couple of energy bars and it had been a while since breakfast. We only had one small bottle of water for the two of us. When we got to the tram, it looked too intimidating to me with the swift water running in the creek below. The weight limit is 400 lbs so we could have ridden it over together but you are required to do a hand over hand maneuver to pull the tram on pulleys across the creek. While the four of us stood there, two women came and wanted to go at least part way and get a photo of themselves. So Bryan and Bill helped them pull the tram most of the way across the creek, we took their picture, then they came back. A few more people came and Bryan and Bill helped them across as well. Then Bill and Lorraine decided to go out a ways and have us take their picture. Bryan decided he wanted to try it as well but I couldn't muster up the nerve. So he went out, taking Bill and Lorraine's camera to get some shots for them. Then he came back in, we finished our hike and another day was done. It ended up being about a 6 mile hike by the time we got back to the car.

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