I took a walk in a blizzard around Anchorage one day in late February. Swarms of quarter-sized snowflakes drifted down while 10-degree air tickled my lungs. The cold and the snow swallowed sound, giving me the illusion that I was in a remote forest, even as the city of 300,000 people hummed right along, unfazed. It was Alaska, after all.
I marveled at my sensory underload as I turned onto the Chester Creek Trail and headed toward the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which would take me toward downtown. I looked up and saw a statue of a moose munching at a tree. That’s a weird place for a statue, I thought. I wonder if kids climb on it … and hey -- are statues usually brown and hairy? Then the statue moved its head because it was, yeah, an actual moose.
After an ill-advised selfie, I kept going. Dozens of people passed me running, biking and cross-country skiing, even though, as I mentioned, it was 10 degrees out and snowing like crazy. The next day, I walked along the same trail and watched the sun slow-motion explode in yellow, pink and purple as it set behind the Tordrillo Mountains. The day after that, I returned in the morning, faced the other direction and exhaled white clouds watching the sun rise over the Chugach Mountains.
A blizzard, two mountain ranges, a sunset, a sunrise, a moose: in just one location, I experienced much of the very best Alaska has to offer. And there is so very much more to the 49th state, as I learned in two trips there spanning two weeks in the last two years. The list of things to do in Alaska starts and ends with “go outside,” and in the middle is a warning: Be prepared.