We landed back in the Anchorage airport around 2:30 pm and headed back down the familiar, stretching hallway that lead to the rental car hub, just as we had the first time when we arrived days before. A projection of the Northern Lights adorned the ceiling, flickering between it’s famous hues of luminescent green and blues, guiding us toward our next Alaskan adventure.
Our flight had been delayed a few minutes, so we ended up being about twenty minutes late to our rental car pickup. After waiting in line for another fifteen minutes or so due to what seemed like a complication for the person in front of us, we were helped by a younger attendant who immediately jabbed at us for being late; “Says you were supposed to pick up your rental car at 2:30,” he said, raising an eyebrow and flashing a smirk. “It’s almost 3:00. Way to be late.”
I’m typically pretty bad at dishing back, making for poor banter from my end. Usually I just laugh and say “yeah, yeah…”; I’m never quick enough to adequately shut people down. However, in a moment of triumph and wit, I immediately responded: “Well we would have been here on time if you hadn’t taken so long with the last customer.”
He dismantled his smirk and shook his head. Got’em. My confidence soared. This was surely a moment that I would never have again. I was a genius. Take that. I am now crowned the wittiest person in the world. I did it. I could retire from life. Okay, it wasn’t that good, but I was proud of myself. And I would ride that high for the rest of the day, or at least the rest of the hour.
We picked up our car, threw in our carry-on bags and set the GPS to our first destination goal on our second Anchorage experience: The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. When researching Alaska initially, we found this animal sanctuary, located about 45 miles away from the airport. This became our backup plan in case we didn’t see any wild moose. Even though we had accomplished that goal, we decided to check it out anyway.
The drive itself was gorgeous; the road paralleled steep cliff sides to the left and ice blue water to the right. There were a few lookout points where we stopped and tried to capture the enormity and beauty of it all, but the camera never could do it proper justice.
When we finally arrived, the gatekeeper handed us a map and explained the loop to us – we could drive or we could walk – and showed us where the animals were. The map was immensely helpful, but for some reason we didn’t use it, because we are fools.
We parked the car, stopped quickly in the gift shop for beverages, and then headed out to see some native Alaskan beasts. It was an interesting venue. The fences were made up of thin wires so you could look in almost as if there was no barrier at all. We started with the caribou, headed past the bison, and stopped for the longest probably at the bear enclosure. There was a bridge you could walk above and over the bear pit, and beneath us a hefty grizzly was shredding a salmon to pieces. It was probably the closest we would come to ever seeing anything like that in the wild, and we watched, enamored.
Megan and I had both purchased nice cameras the previous year; she, when she found out when she was going to Alaska the first time around, and I, when I heard about hers and got major FoMo. I hadn’t utilized mine as much as I had hoped to, so snapping pictures of these animals seemed like the appropriate time to make up for this. We both paraded around the center with our cameras strung around our necks, trying to angle our shots just right to make it look like we weren’t at a zoo, but rather getting the up close and personal experience.
We traced alongside the barricades, watching elk and bison, until we found a small overlook in the back of the menagerie, opening up to mountain peaks and a spacious body of water. We stopped and took pictures there for a while too. I made Megan take some candid ones of me so I could pair it with a quote to make my insta fire. This last sentence was intended to be self-deprecating, albeit factual, however I’m not sure if I’ve developed enough of a voice yet for anyone to understand that non-contextually.
We made our way back toward the other animals, this time admiring the moose and a small fox that inhabited a shelter in the middle of the park. The moose pen was on one side and extended outdoors, as an option for the moose to come inside and seek shelter, as the one we were looking at was currently doing. This moose was a male, it’s enormous antlers extending out and up on either side of it’s head. On the other side was a small fox who was seated atop a tall box in it’s cage. It’s crate was arranged a bit like a jungle-gym, with a bunch of toys for it to jump on or play with. We had a stare off for a few minutes before it decided it was shy, jumped down and ran off.
After the moose, we visited a tiny porcupine corral – open and small enough for you to reach out and touch the tiny, spiky animal, but prepared enough for inept visitors and legal ramifications by surrounding it with signs reminding you not to.
We checked out the gift store for a few minutes, where I piled a significant amount of merchandise into my hands, only to decide I didn’t need everything and put it all back. Megan bought some socks for the plane.
Finally, we headed back to the car to begin the drive back to Anchorage, with plans for one more stop to grab dinner before our 11:30 pm flight home.