Quin's Progress


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Eagles and Reindeer and Bears, Oh My!

Alaskan Brown BearHe looks like a "Gus" to me, what do you think?

Alaskan Brown Bear
He looks like a “Gus” to me, what do you think?

As a city denizen, the closest contact I have had to wildlife in recent years was that raccoon that stole my Shamrock Shake while I was taking pictures up on Twin Peaks in San Francisco a couple weeks ago.  Cute as he was, the experience didn’t give me chills.  Well, I’ve got them now, and it isn’t just because of the temperature.

One of Three Bald Eagles I Saw Near the Portage Glacier

One of Three Bald Eagles I Saw Near the Portage Glacier

Anchorage is surrounded by vast wilderness that is home to the kind of wildlife most of us have only ever seen in zoos or on TV.  Between the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and the Chugach State Park and National Forest, a day trip out of the city will make you feel like you are in an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (or, insert name of more timely TV show reference here, for those who are too young to remember the 1970s).

Caribou aka Reindeer

Caribou aka Reindeer

Just keep the telefoto lens on your camera at the ready, and don’t be an idiot and try to get close to, pet or feed the animals, and the Kenai Peninsula will reward you handsomely.  I had an amazingly lucky day, in part, because we hired a local guide to show us to the best spots to see these magnificent creatures, and to keep us from getting ourselves killed by, oh, say, an avalanche or a grizzly bear.  (He also happened to know of a truly memorable little donut shop tucked away behind the only gas station on the Seward Highway.  The maple bars were puffs of heaven glazed with sin!)

Girl Grizzly Hanging Out, Munching Some Kind of Bone (Hopefully Not Human)

Girl Grizzly Hanging Out, Munching Some Kind of Bone (Hopefully Not Human)

Ohhh...More Bears...Easy Fellas

Ohhh…More Bears…Easy Fellas

But, although I took all the photos in this post out in the wild hinterlands, you don’t actually have to leave Anchorage city limits to have a wildlife sighting.  Believe it or not, the city of Anchorage itself is home to not only 300,000 people, but also about 1,600 moose, and scores of black, brown and grizzly bears, linx and other species of wildlife.  Inside the city.  Urban wildlife.  Seriously, moose just walk down the street like sulky teenagers and pick through people’s trash bins.  Bears saunter around and nap on people’s back decks.  Most of them wander into the city from Chugach State Park.  The prevailing attitude seems to be:  (1) Moose are stupid and dangerous, so stay out of their way; and (2) Bears are cool, just don’t corner or threaten them.  In fact, more people are hurt each year by moose than by black and grizzly bear attacks combined.

Bear Fight!

Bear Fight!

Anchorage locals are eager to point out that the only bear species that will actually hunt a human being is the polar bear.  The rest of the bears, they say, are happy to just share the space with us, as long as they get the fishing spot they want, and people don’t mess with them.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?


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Taxidermy & Booze

Half a Bear Sticking Out of the Wall Over Our Table at the White Spot Cafe

Half a Bear Sticking Out of the Wall Over Our Table at the White Spot Cafe

Gentle friends, I know this will not come as a surprise to any of you, but can I just say for the record, it is frickin’ cold in Alaska!  Holy chilblains, people, I am pretty well insulated to begin with, and I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with all my thermal bundling, but I still get a full body ice cream headache every time I go outside.  Thankfully, we decided to start our Alaskan Adventure in Anchorage, where the mild coastal climate is a balmy 10 degrees Fahrenheit–a good stepping down place to adjust before heading to Fairbanks, where it is currently -17 (as in, 17 below zero, not counting wind chill).  Did I mention I’m from California?  We complain when it gets below 60.  Okay, thank you for letting me get that out of my system.  I feel better now.

Anchorage Skyline Across the Cook Inlet

Anchorage Skyline Across the Cook Inlet

Anchorage in March is kind of like an episode of the Twilight Zone.  During the day, the frozen streets are pretty much deserted, businesses with illuminated “Open” signs are empty, no one answers the phones, glassy-eyed taxidermy animals stare at you from every wall, and when you do encounter a human being, they assess you almost suspiciously before telling you that you should have come in the summertime instead.  It’s a little spooky.  It’s livelier at night, mostly because everyone seems to be bombed.  I know I was.

Peach Brandy Toddy--Delicious!

Peach Brandy Toddy–Delicious!

There was a bar next to our hotel where they made hot toddies with peach brandy, and it became our evening habit.  Definitely took the chill off!  Here’s the recipe for you, in case you are feeling a chill coming on, too.

Hot Peach Toddy

In a mug of your choice, add the following and adjust proportions to taste:

1.5 to 2 oz. peach brandy
A tablespoon or so of honey
A tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice
Hot water
Garnish with lemon wheel or wedge.

Cheers!