Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the Biking Trail at Anchorage Coastline

On the last day of our Alaska trip we were at Anchorage. It was a beautiful Monday. We walked around the small downtown area in the morning and did a bit shopping. There were not many people on the streets except two group of protesters near town square - for and against health care reform.

In the afternoon, we rented bikes from a local bike rental shop and rode the bikes along Tony Knowles coastal trail. We had two wishes before setting out. One was to see Mt McKinley, the highest mountain in north America, which we hadn't been fortunate to see unveiled from the clouds. The other was to have encounters with moose, the trail was famed having moose roaming around a lot. Of the five major wild animals at Denali National Park, bear, wolf, caribou, Dall sheep and moose, moose was the only animal we had not seen.

The entrance to the trail is Elderberry Park. A slight downward slope that curves toward the sea and goes beneath a bridge started our ride. Justin and Nicholas got on their bikes and quickly raced out of sight. Lily and I had to shout after them " Stay on the right, be careful" as we got on our bikes and followed them.
The trail is paved and the first mile or so is quite flat, so Nicholas could keep pace with Justin even though he was on a much smaller bike. On the trail, there were people walking, roller skating, and biking, but definitely more bikers than joggers or roller skaters. This portion of the trail is right by the sea. Pedalling at a moderate pace, we saw sea gulls flying over the bay, snow capped mountains in the horizon, a few white clouds floating under the sunny blue sky. "I am so glad we chose to ride on this trail" , Lily exclaimed.
Around a big turn, Westchester lagoon was in front of us. There is a stream flow out of it into the sea. Justin and Nicholas stopped on the wooden bridge across the stream to take pictures of ducks in it. This bridge would be a perfect location for salmon viewing if it were salmon spawning season.
A little further down the road, the trail is in the forest, well shaded; the forest is thick, we could barely see the beach despite that it is only a couple hundred feet away from the trail. The trail becomes more wavy, a long upward slope slowed Nicholas down. Lily slowed down as well to accompany him. Justin and I moved ahead and pedaled to the top of the small hill, where there is an arc like structure, like gates at the intersection of this trail and another one. That is the the earthquake park for Good Friday Earthquake. On the shore side of the trail, there is a monument, several information boards describing earthquake in sea in general, tsunami, and Good Friday earthquake. We stopped there to look around and Nicholas and Lily arrived in a couple of minutes. We had a break there, drinking water and had some snack.

A mile or so we reached Point Woronzof, a vista, supposedly the ideal location to view Mt. McKinley, we did see snow capped mountains far away; clouds and a thin haze hid the distinctly higher Mountain. Now I could only wish to get a chance to see moose. Lily had a picture with Anchorage downtown as background. We moved ahead, next destination - Moose park.
Again, Justin and I were ahead, while pedalling we also looked into woods from time to time hoping to catch a glimpse of moose or any other wildlife. We stopped a couple of times to rest and to look around more carefully, we did not see a thing, except fresh animal droppings and tracks - Justin claimed those were bear paw prints. At 5.5 milestone, Justin stopped, he was a bit tired by now, and it was almost half of the 3 hour rental time. He decided to wait for Nicholas and mom. I pushed forward, hoping to go further a couple miles in the next few minutes and got lucky. At around 7.5 mile mark, a loud airplane noise was right above my head, I looked up, and saw a airplane, its tire, landing gear and its black belly clearly, it might be just 100 feet above me. Anchorage International Airport's runway is right by the trail, maybe less than a mile away. I stayed there a couple more minutes, watching two more landing planes and turned around.
I pedaled really hard, hoping to catch up with the rest of the family; finally I saw Lily by herself near earthquake park. She just taped the kids biking on the trail, and was waiting for me. "We saw a bull moose by the trail", she told me excitedly, " we stopped to tape it and to take picture. Nicholas was so excited he ran towards the moose, I had to shout to let him stop. The moose might be startled a bit, it crossed the road and disappeared into the woods". " Did you take pictures of it?", I asked, "No, but I did catch it on tape when it walked into the woods". "You were lucky", I said, a bit envy of their fortune. Timing is everything for wildlife sighting.

Lily suggested to tape a bit when I pedal on the trail, this excited me. So I stayed where we were and let her go ahead to prepare for the video recording. She taped me pedalling and then I taped her pedalling. We were amused of ourselves for acting like this. It was fun though.
Back on bikes, in a minute or so, a crowd was in front of us, Justin and Nicholas were off bikes, standing, bikes on the ground. Seeing us, they whispered - Moose! They were taking pictures, less than 5 yards away from the moose. A mother moose and her two cubs were right by the road, eating tree leaves. We took out camera, camcorder, started taking pictures and video recording as well. Shortly, the cubs walked on to the trail, standing there for a few seconds and walked to the beach. the mother moose looked at the cubs a few times but stayed where she was...... It was amazing!!
A few minutes later, after taking many more pictures, recording more videos, we moved on. Ready to go home.
What a bike ride!! How marvelous to end the trip like this.

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