Midnight Sun Alaska

Summer in Anchorage, Alaska is supposed to be cloudy/rainy/cool but we were gifted with relatively warm temperatures (in the 60°s/30°s) and mostly cloudless skies.

Located at 61° N Anchorage receives nearly 20 hours of daylight in June. The other 4 hours are hardly dark, more like twilight. For a week around the solstice (June 22) Anchorage sunrise is at 3:20 am and sunset occurs about 10:45 pm nightly, leaving roughly 4 hours of twilight between.

After a 4,000 mile flight from Florida, a 4-hour time difference, and nearly constant daylight some acclimation is required. Most don't realize that Anchorage, at 149°54' W, is almost as far west as the Hawaiian Islands.

The first thing you notice when flying into Anchorage is the snowcapped mountains. There is a near constant 1980s-like amber glow on everything as the sun skirts the horizon.

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Below, flying into Anchorage International Airport over Cook Inlet

Anchorage International Airport with mountains

Due to its location, almost equidistant from New York City and Tokyo, Anchorage lies within 9½ hours by air to nearly 90% of the industrialized world. For this reason, the Anchorage International Airport is a common refueling stop for many international flights and home to a major FedEx Hub.

I found the plaque above in a downtown park describing Anchorage's geographic location relative to the rest of the world. The tourist-friendly sign below is located downtown by the Courthouse and Grass-roofed Tourist Information Center.

Resolution Park

After getting settled in at the Anchorage Hilton Downtown I wanted to do some exploring, even though it was already 9:00 pm. It was still light like 4:00 pm. So we walked down to where W 3rd Avenue and L Street meet. There, in the curve of the road is Resolution Park, named for Captain Cook's ship. The City of Anchorage erected a nice bronze of Captain Cook in the park and someone had placed a Hawaiian lei in his hand.

On the first day of June 1778, having sailed north along the American coast in search of the then unattainable northwest passage, the ships "Resolution" and "Discovery" commanded by Captain Cook, lay at anchor here.

Having charted the waters and coast of the main channel, Captain Cook dispatched two boats to examine the arm leading toward the east, and called it River Turnagain, convinced now that no passages to the Atlantic existed here. I'll reserve comment on his choice of place names.

Documents claiming possession of the land in the name of the King, together with some coins, were sealed in a bottle and buried at Point Possession, 20 miles south of this park on the Kenai Peninsula.

The majestic waterway, stretching from this point 150 miles to the open sea, was chosen by the admiralty to commemorate England's greatest navigator, and thenceforth bears the name Cook Inlet.

The park was pretty well trashed but I didn't let that bother me. Most of the signage was defaced and it was worn. I often wonder what goes through the minds of people that discard litter and deface parks?

Bears are the theme around Anchorage. I could do with a lot more like this one in front of the Courthouse which is lovely, and less of the stuffed variety that are kind of creepy. Why would anyone want to kill and stuff such magnificent creatures?

For me there was a surprising amount of greenery and flowers around Anchorage. Many varieties of flowers in bloom and trees looking like spring. I imagine they have long, explosive growth May to August and then lie dormant most of the rest of the year. One could grow some incredible vegetables in the rich volcanic soil with 20 hours of daylight.

I did some browsing in the touristy shops. All Made-in-China crap that one can buy anywhere in the world, any town, anytime.

The cool nighttime temperatures and the constant sunlight took a bit of getting accustomed to. This is how I coped, below.

From the roof of the Hilton Hotel I could see Denali, North America's tallest mountain that lies about 150 miles north of Anchorage. Apparently this was a rare sighting as the hotel staff were very excited that the mountain was visible.

Grizzly's was perhaps the most memorable of the downtown gift shops that I visited

I like the signage and the bear with claws outstretched

I gauge all these crap shops by how much they charge for a post card and whether they have any local art mixed in with all the Chinese-made trinkets

Grizzly's did have some local art but its postcards were 3/$1.00 which was about 30% more than nearby stores. They even had some elaborate post cards for as much as $8. The flowers outside were nice, however.

I couldn't figure why no one was on the street and most places were closed. It was after 9:00 pm when this photo was made, bright sunlight still filling the streets of Anchorage.

Below, another shot from the roof of the Anchorage, Hilton looking toward Denali. You can see the mountain in center of frame if you blow up the image.

Below, at first I thought these were snapdragons. On closer inspection I found them to be Tree Lupines (Lupinus arboreus) growing far, far north of their assumed range.

Next stop: Seward, Alaska.

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