Thursday, June 20, 2013

Alaska Day 1, Part 2 - Musk Ox and Reindeer

A nice visit to the Alaska National Heritage Museum and a little shopping excursion to the nearby Target for some groceries, and I was ready to head to Palmer for the next planned attractions. 

Representative photos posted here go to my album to see all photos taken this day. 

Along Alaska 1 - also known as Glenn Highway - the views of the Matanuska River are beautiful!   Snowcapped mountains reach right down to the river, dipping their toes into the icy waters.  I pulled into one of the turnouts and grabbed a couple of photos looking south and west along the river.

Matanuska River

Matanuska River

The musk ox farm is just a mile down the road from this scenic viewpoint.  I made the turn onto the side road and drove less than a mile to the farm.  It sits on a beautiful verdant valley, the musk ox clearly visible, looking like large brown lumps decorating the pastures.

The gals working the visitor center welcomed me and very soon we had a small group, as others arrived.  We were led out onto a back porch where the tour began with a talk about what musk ox are, where they came from, why they're farmed here today.  Musk ox became extinct in Alaska from hunting, but their numbers are growing today, thanks to their importation from Greenland and careful breeding and protection.  They are farmed today for their fine under-fur called qiviut.  It is lighter than cashmere and provides greater insulation and wet protection than wool.  The qiviut hairs are spun into yarn and knitted into garments, hats, scarves, shawls today.
Musk Ox bull

Musk Ox mom and her baby behind her

Musk ox yearlings

Our tour took us first to the bull pasture, where a couple of fine specimens lolled in the grass or played with a large tank-shaped inflated ball.   Then we moved to the moms-and-babies pasture, where there were more than two dozen mother musk ox with their young 2-3 week old calves staying close to their sides.  They're so prehistoric looking, but quite magnificent.

Feeding dandelions to a musk ox yearling

We then moved on to a pen filled with yearlings.  They were cute and playful and not afraid of us at all.  We could feed one of them dandelions through the fence.   Musk ox are related to the goat family, evident from their horizontally oriented slit irises, their cloven hooves, and the shape of their front legs are decidedly goat-like.

The tour complete, I got in my car and headed for the reindeer farm on the Old Glenn Highway just a couple of miles south of Palmer.  

What made visiting this reindeer farm especially fun were the three children who were so totally enthralled!  They were maybe 7,8 9 years old and totally into these reindeer!  After some instructions on how to feed them, how not to touch their antlers with their temptingly soft velvet, and how gentle they are, we were given little cups containing some kind of chow and turned loose into the pasture.  Let me just say that these reindeer have been around the block a few times, when it comes to having contact with humans!  They swarmed us, and not always because they were hungry; they wanted attention and petting more than they wanted food, as they were obviously well-fed.

There's also a rescue moose enjoying sanctuary at the farm.  He was found abandoned by his mother and put in the care of this farm by the state of Alaska.  They bottle-fed him as a baby and so he's very tame, never able to live in the wild.  The kids got huge enjoyment getting a "moose kiss" from him. 

Moose kiss - step one

Moose kiss - step two

The reindeer farm sat right at the base of the spectacular Chugach Mountain range so when I left the farm I continued back toward Anchorage on the Old Glenn Highway, rather than Alaska 1.   The old Glenn Highway skirts the very base of these mountains that leap straight up from the valley.  It was a spectacular drive!  
Old Glenn Highway

Eventually it rejoins Alaska 1, and I continued back to Anchorage, but not before coming up behind a truck on fire on the shoulder.  Oops!

The day's driving route:


Jumbo shrimp, scallops, calamari - at Benihana's
The restaurants in town are always packed every night, so without a reservation it's hard to get a table.  There's a Benihana next door to the hotel.  Why not?  You never eat alone when you eat at Benihana's! 

I was the last to be seated at our table - a couple about my age, and a family of four with a girl about 12 and a boy about 9.  The waiter asked if there were any celebrations at our table and as it turned out, the couple sitting next to me were both celebrating birthdays next three of us celebrating birthdays!

Boys will be boys!
It was a very pleasant dinner and nice conversation with our group.  The 9 year old boy was adorable...and so typically uninhibited as boys are at this age.  We three birthday celebrants received ice cream with candles and a serenade in Japanese by the waiter staff.  We also received birthday photos, which was fun!

Tomorrow:  Drive to Talkeetna for a flightseeing excursion over Denali.

1 comment:

  1. You had an awesome rest of the day. Muskox, reindeer and a moose. I didn't know muskox were used for their fur.

    And all in such picturesque surroundings. Very nice.