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Saturday, October 03, 2009


High above in an ocean of stark white clouds, I watch as the ocean parts. Far below me are steel gray mountains topped with snow. Great swaths of glacial white serpentine through the clefts in the rock and spread out to fill openings like a white lava flow. Below us, stretching as far as the eye can see are black mountains, glacial lakes, and flowing ice. If you look carefully at my photo, you will see the glaciers forming that lake. It is so magnificent, I have to catch my breath.

Soon we reach Anchorage, but the plane veers out over the peninsula and mud flats to turn to land. Anchorage is the home of approximately 40% of the state's population and stretches far out toward the Chugash Mountains. We are treated to a singularly spectacular view of this unlikely-placed outpost of civilization. This beautiful approach is our introduction to Alaska. It seems a promise that this trip will rival the other wonderful trips we've taken.

For our first four nights in Anchorage we are staying at the Hawthorn Inn and Suites. I'm spoiled. When we stay for any length of time, I like to spread out, have a sitting area, tables, etc. Our suite allows that, and after we unpack, Rob and I, quite beat from the long trip that had us leaving Warwick at 5 AM, decide on an early dinner we hope will be very Alaskan.

Great advice from our hotel's desk clerk sends us to Humpy's. A humpy (wipe that smile off your face) is a pink salmon. That is one type of salmon that fights its way back upstream, the male spine bending as it chases the female to the mating grounds to spawn. Humpy salmon, considered sacred by the folks at Humpy's, is never swerved there where the motto is “Keep on spawning.” lol

Humpy's is exactly the kind of place we are looking for; it is a wonderful, friendly, mural-walled, indoor-outdoor, low-key pub favored by the locals. People greet each other as they enter, and as we sit outdoors and enjoy the long hours of daylight, we are treated as one of the crowd. The hours in this land of the midnight sun is from 10:00 AM until 2 or 2:30 AM.

Our waiter and Rob talk about the many locally brewed beers by The Alaskan Brewing Company until Rob chooses Midnight Sun Meltdown Double IPA (India Pale Ale) and loves it.

For dinner we order two salmon dishes we intend to share: grilled salmon “perfected with a dill caper cream sauce” and plank salmon “broiled to perfection on a brick plank and finished with a creamy bĂ©arnise sauce.” Listed on the menu as “starch of the day” is terrific garlic mashed potatoes. Grilled garlicky vegetables are delicious too. It is quite a chore to decide salmon is better. We are split, but our first delicious and relaxing meal in Alaska makes us think this is going to be a fishy vacation—and the best!

By the way, Alaska's nickname should be "The Jean State." EVERYONE wears jeans. Businessmen in Humpy's wore jeans with their jackets; almost everyone wore jeans or jean shirts or jean shorts. Guess what we're wearing tomorrow?!

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