Perched on the edge of a cushy motorcoach seat, dirty shoes curled beneath him, my son turned sideways, trying to catch a glimpse of the funny-looking loader creeping along the dock. Loud and lumbering, the machine slowly captured an enormous metal container, thus beginning a long journey southward for the contents inside. What – AK Kid wondered, could possibly be inside? Trash? Recycling? Dirt? The possibilities were as interesting as the scene unfolding below, and I patted myself on the back for remembering about this tour.
We were spending our Sunday afternoon at the Port of Alaska (Anchorage), taking a closer look at the inner workings of Alaska’s most vital link to Outside. True story; if we eat it, drive it, or wear it, it probably came through Anchorage aboard a ship or train, and without the Port, we’d be sorry-looking folks, indeed. In the hour-long tour, our family rode in a fancy motorcoach, saw tanks of oil and aviation fuel, watched a ship be loaded and another, unloaded, and dined on a specially-prepared lunch at the Port offices. The sun was bright and the breeze, perfect as we sat on the upper deck and listened to the Director of Operations discuss the inner workings of this fascinating facility. At just over an hour, the timing was perfect as well, and when we were dropped off at the Alaska Railroad Headquarters on 1st Avenue, everyone felt just right. The next tour is scheduled for Sunday, August 11, between 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tours leave on the hour, and all adults should bring photo I.D. Everyone should wear walking shoes and carry a jacket for those cool breezes. This tour is great for kids preschool and up, but all ages are certainly welcome.
Right next to the port road is access to the Ship Creek/Port of Anchorage Small Boat Launch, a place often overlooked by visitors (and residents) in favor of flashier viewpoints like Point Woronzof or Earthquake Park. But the boat launch holds the rising and ebbing tides of real Alaska, with fishers, boaters, and sunset-gazers. It’s simple, unadorned, and definitely the place to go if you’re looking to talk up the locals. AK Dad quickly became engaged in a conversation about fishing spots with a gentleman who had, by his own admission, been tossing a line in the water there for over 30 years. Also at the boat launch is the original anchor from the first USS Anchorage, a pretty special find for us after our involvement in the commissioning of the second USS Anchorage, LPD 23. To find the launch, take the first signed street to your left after crossing over Ship Creek. Stay left on the little gravel road until you come to the end. It’s worth it, especially on a warm, glowing, late-summer evening.
Back on the main drag and headed east toward Post Road is the Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, recently given a complete overhaul and visitor-pleasing facelift. We were so pleased to see the bright paint job, the stainless steel sculptures, and wide walkways, where guests can watch enormous salmon as they attempt to leap up the falls. If fishing is on your itinerary, this is a must-see before heading out; you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for Alaska’s signature fish. The hatchery grounds are open daily, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The indoor facility is open M-F, only.
For those interested in walking to the boat launch and/or hatchery, follow the paved pathways from 1st Avenue. Watch for moose and heed fishermen and women who feel the need to get themselves on the creek, but fast. And enjoy watching our natural, and man-provided goods, as they arrive in Alaska.