Big Sam left Seattle in the year of ninety-two
With George Pratt his partner and brother Billy too
They crossed the Yukon river and they found the bonanza gold
Below that old white mountain
Just a little south-east of Nome
Sam crossed the Majestic mountains to the valleys far below
He talked to his team of huskies
As he mushed on through the snow
With the northen lights a-runnin' wild
In the land of the midnight sun
Yes Sam McCord was a mighty man
In the year of nineteen-one
Where the river is windin' big nuggets they're findin'
North to Alaska go north the rush is on
North to Alaska go north the rush is on
Eleven Butts, three generations, ranging in age from 2 to 75, headed for Alaska last week, “The Last Frontier.”
The trip was inspired by former Point Richmond residents, and now Alaska residents, Tony And Carla Beckerley. Tony bought Little Louie’s in Point Richmond from its original owners about a year after it started up in 1979. Little Louie’s was started by two women, one of whom had a young child named Louis, hence the name “Little Louie’s.” The original location was 119 Park Place, the site of the current Interactive Resources conference room. Carla met Tony when she was babysitting our kids in 1983 while we were in France, and they later married. Carla and Tony have three adult kids scattered in California, Ohio and Illinois.
Tony expanded and moved Little Louie’s down the street to its current location and turned it into a very successful business. In 2002, he sold the business and moved to Ohio, where he started a career in the hospitality business, beginning with the Granville Inn. Over the years, Tony managed hotels and conference centers in Columbus OH, Bar Harbor, ME, Yosemite National park (Yosemite Lodge) and Jackson Hole. Currently he manages Aramark’s properties in Denali National Park and Glacier Bay in Alaska as well as Banff, Canada.
Figure 1 - Little Louie's
We just had to go to Alaska to see Tony and Carla – and their dog Ellie, one of our Rosie’s Lab pups
Last Saturday, we all arrived in Anchorage and took over Chez Beckerley. There were lots of surprises, the most immediate of which were (1) It’s actually warm up there, about the same as here, and (2) there were no mosquitoes. A good start.
Anchorage has a population of nearly 300,000, but seems much smaller. Lots of air traffic with an international airport (Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport), an airbase (Elmendorf) and a general aviation airport that is dominated by float planes. Shirley and I started by exploring Anchorage, renting bicycles and taking the Coast Trail along the waterfront. Right there in town, we saw Sandhill Cranes and a Bald Eagle. Fisher folks were pulling in salmon from the river that runs through town. If we had been there in winter, we would have been dodging moose and bear.
Anchorage is busy, with standing room only at restaurants and brew pubs. Alaskans like their beer.
Figure 2 - Butt family plus Carla at the Matanuska Brewing Company
We couldn’t go to Alaska without going fishing. On Monday, Andrew, Daniel, Shirley, Ryland and I drove about 90 miles up past Wasilla to the Little Susitna River where we met our guide, Ray. We fished up and down the narrow tidal river from an aluminum jet boat using spinning rods and lures. We ended up with two good-sized Coho Salmon but lost four more.
Figure 3 - Tom and Ryland
Figure 4- Fresh as it gets
Figure 5 - Ready for dinner
Figure 6 - Salmon and Alaskan Beer, a winning combination.
On Tuesday, we took an all-day driving trip to Seward, a commercial fishing and tourist town of less than 3,000 people about 120 miles south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula at Resurrection Bay. It is a cruise ship port and the southern termination of the Alaska Railroad. One the way back to Anchorage, everyone but me hiked up to the Exit Glacier (I was suffering from a cold).
Figure 7 - Halfway to Seward
Figure 8 - Seward restaurant offers "Bucket of Butt (halibut)
Figure 9 - Cecilia at the Exit Glacier
Wednesday was the big train trip to Denali. Our party split up with four of us taking the train and the others driving about 240 miles. We were on one of two special dome cars that were part of a larger train but owned and operated by a separate company. Each car had a bar and a restaurant.
Figure 10 - Wilderness Express to Denali
Figure 11 - Wilderness Express
On Thursday, we lucked out with possibly the best flying weather of the summer. Andrew, Daniel and I took a sight seeing flight that circled Denali, the highest peak in North America at over 20,000 feet.
Figure 12 - Denali, 20,156 feet high
Figure 13 - The glaciers coming off Denali are over 3,000 feet thick
Figure 14 - Denali Air
Meanwhile, Sarah, Kim and Cecilia took a helicopter trip and landed on a glacier!
Figure 15 - Sarah, Cecilia and Kim
On Friday, we switched from air to water and took a raft trip on the Nenana River.
Figure 16 - Tom, Cecilia, Kim, Harlan, Andrew, Daniel and Ryland.
Figure 17 - The Nenana River
Figure 18 - On Friday evening, we all had dinner at the Denali Village Dinner Theater.
On Saturday, we managed to assemble all eleven of us for a hike on the Triple Lakes Trail, but it was cut short for an ATV adventure.
Figure 19 - Triple Lakes Trail
Figure 20 - Rest stop
Figure 21 - ATV adventures
Figure 22 - Butts and Beckerleys at the Beckerley lodge at Denali National park
Figure 23 - Harlan with Ellie of Alaska
Figure 24 - Harlan and Andrew
Come Sunday, it was back on the train to Anchorage. It was a rare cloudless day in Alaska, and the passengers were constantly vying to get the best photo of the normally cloud-obscured Denali.
Figure 25 - Lots of oohs and aahs
Figure 26 - Denali from the train
One disappointment. We didn’t see a lot of wildlife in Alaska, but here is a stuffed grizzly in the Anchorage airport.