August 17, 2022
We woke to light rain and headed out of the gorgeous waterfall campground by 7 am. Near the town of Glenallen, AK, we turned southwest toward Anchorage. We soon found ourselves on the most beautiful stretch of highway so far in Alaska. And we finally got a break from potholes!
The road followed the Matanuska River but in the early morning the river initially was hidden under low clouds. Eventually, the clouds lifted, revealing a lush green valley and the crisp blue river, both stretched out beneath a stark and stunning mountain range.
We were captivated by the scenery and stopped at least 10 times snapping pictures. Around each turn there literally was a view more stunning than the last.
It was cool and windy and the clouds danced in the mountains, occasionally allowing views of massive glacier-topped mountains.
We stopped for breakfast at a tiny state recreation site with an incredible view looking directly onto huge Matanuska Glacier. The recreation site is located at a pull-off near the tiny, and aptly named, town of Glacier View. Matanuska is a valley glacier and was below us, even though we were at less than 1,700 feet elevation. The massive glacier is 27 miles long by 4 miles wide.
We were the only people at the park during breakfast. Though we’d become accustomed to sparse numbers of people on our journey, it surprised us not to see other people at a famous glacier overlook just off the only road to Anchorage from the east.
After our meal overlooking the glacier, we took a breathtaking hike, wondering how this awe-inspiring scenery was possible an hour and a half from the biggest city in Alaska. Occasional rays broke through the mostly cloudy sky, adding to the drama.
We quickly decided not to spend the newly-required $125 per person fee to tour and walk on the glacier. Though we’d have enjoyed such an experience, we’d just hiked on Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies less than a week before—for free.
As we got closer to Anchorage, traffic gradually increased until we were on our first four-lane highway in a long time. After so much time in sparsely populated areas, it felt odd to be going into Alaska’s biggest city (by far), though it’s barely half the size of Sacramento.
Along with the increasing traffic there were increasing clouds and a forecast of rain by later in the day. So we decided to use our Marriott points which got us a way-too-nice room downtown with views of the sound.
The bellman eyed two rather scruffy-looking Marriott Titanium members as we rolled a luggage cart with the cooler, a six-gallon water jug, two duffels and a backpack into the elevator. We declined the $35 fee to park at the hotel, and instead found street parking for $6.
Our upgraded room was nice with a giant window overlooking Cook Inlet, though at least during our stay, Anchorage was far from scenic. We’ve been in plenty of waterfront towns, but we found Anchorage’s waterfront somewhat disappointing with unattractive buildings, parking lots and a large expanse of mud fronting the shore. At least there wasn’t much traffic in town.
It was gray and low clouds foretold rain soon, making the city seem even more gloomy. But we had a warm, dry place to wash up, freeze our ice packs and wait out bad weather through the night.