The next presentation was a history of mountain climbing on Denali. THAT was interesting and it was free! The first people to climb the mountain were a bunch of miners who did it on a bet. They wore their normal cold-weather clothes and were sustained by hot chocolate and doughnuts on their final ascent. Hard core! We also learned why the mountain is named both McKinley and Denali. Denali is the name it SHOULD be called, but some yahoo back in the late 1890's liked presidential candidate McKinley so much that he named it such when he "discovered" it. It was blessed by the US Geographical Society and so it officially must appear on maps as such. Since McKinley was later assassinated, no one really wanted to change the name and the Ohio congressional delegation (McKinley's home state) continues to resist officially changing the name to Denali.
The bus ride to Anchorage that afternoon was uneventful. The driver asked a few of us if he should stop somewhere for a break or should he drive straight through. We told him to just get us to Anchorage. So he did! Anchorage is a pretty funky town. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Albuquerque. We all agreed that the downtown seemed to be trapped in the 70's. Our hotel, The Captain Cook, was no exception. Talk about a dark and stodgy place!
That night the fates smiled on us when we tried to have dinner at a local brew pub. The place was hopping! (no pun intended) We were told it would be an hour wait. No. We went a few blocks to another brewpub, The Snow Goose. OMG! Best meal we ate the whole trip! The salmon was extraordinary. The beer was mighty tasty too!
The next day we caught a shuttle to the airport and picked up a rental car. Free at last! Free at last! Great god almighty we were free at last! While we loved being a part of a tour, we all wanted a little more freedom. We were no longer under the protective umbrella of Princess Tours. We had our own transportation and reservations at our own hotel. The itinerary was now all our own.
Half the day was already gone so we decided to do a quick roadtrip. We went just out of town to the Eagle River Nature Center. It was one of the gateways into the Chugach Mts State Park. The weather was drizzly, but we took a short hike despite the rain. We even saw a moose grazing along side the road. After that we went back to downtown Anchorage to hit up some of the gift shops. I also wanted to get a picture at the location of one of the most famous photos taken after the 1964 earthquake. We had dinner at a local diner.
You also have to love a city where there are so many bear-themed things everywhere.