Quick Trip to Anchorage

Quick Trip to Anchorage
McHugh Creek – one of our stops during our trip to Anchorage | Purchase Print

An interesting aspect of life in Fairbanks is that it can be difficult to get seemingly common medical care in town. In February, my wife sprained an ankle. After waiting for a little over a month, she found it wasn’t improving, so started physical therapy. After a few months of that with little-to-no improvement, it was time for an MRI. And it turns out she had a few tears, including the perineal tendon. And of course, there are no foot surgeons in Fairbanks.

The next big town over is Anchorage, just a little 350-mile hop down the Parks Highway. The six-hour drive is a testament to how huge the state of Alaska is, seeing as it doesn’t even traverse half the state!

map of Alaska with drive between anchorage and fairbanks
Google driving directions from Fairbanks to Anchorage. There are two roads leading south of town. Take the western one.

Fairbanks is just big enough that it’s easy to forget you are living in a geographically isolated community. We have an international airport, a Ph.D. granting university, a hospital, a couple of local military bases, a convention center, and a Wal-Mart (I don’t shop there, but it exists). Most of the things you expect in a city. But, apparently not everything. Like, produce in winter.

I digress. So, after waiting about a month for approval from insurance for Cat’s ankle surgery (insurers don’t understand the need to travel so far) and then another month because they were booked out, we were on our way to Anchorage for a meeting with the surgeon! Not for the surgery, just to determine what was necessary, so that we can return later for the surgery.

The appointment went well, lasting about half an hour. They poked at her foot a few times and determined that yes, we will need to cut it open. Good. Twelve hours of driving to learn what we already knew. I exaggerate, it was a good thing, it turns out whoever read the MRI in Fairbanks read it wrong (they identified the wrong tendon as damaged). And now we have a scheduled date for surgery in October. It will be so exciting for her to be able to walk again. I’ve missed having my hiking and running partner this summer. I can’t imagine how frustrating this has been for her.

We took a couple of days for our trip, taking some time to do some shopping and some sightseeing. The drive down was very scenic. We stopped at a few of the Denali State Park stops like Byers Lake and Denali View South. The fall foliage was gorgeous!

Byers lake with fall foliage
Byers Lake in Denali State Park | Purchase Print
Byers Lake with fall foliage
Fall foliage colors in the water | Purchase Print

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View of Denali from Denali View South in Denali State Park
Denali View South – stop on the Parks Highway | Purchase Print

It was rainy on the day of Cat’s appointment, but we did take a quick drive out along Turnagain Arm, stopping to walk along McHugh Creek. Even in the rain, this was a stunning spot!

Mossy logs and rocks in McHugh Creek
Mossy logs and rocks in McHugh Creek | Purchase Print
Mossy log with autumn leaves in McHugh Creek
Mossy log with autumn leaves in McHugh Creek | Purchase Print
Mossy rocks at a small cascade in McHugh Creek | Purchase Print
Cow moose in Potter Marsh along Turnagain Arm
Cow moose in Potter Marsh along Turnagain Arm | Purchase Print

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The rain turned to snow overnight, especially at the higher elevations. Perfect for the long drive home! It turned out the roads weren’t bad at all. There was a bit of snow and a brief snowstorm driving through the Alaska Range, but it was clear for most of the drive. We made one stop at Thunderbird Falls along the way. It’s a short 1-mile trail to the falls (within Cat’s current two-mile range).

Devil's Club at Thunderbird Falls
There was a lot of Devil’s Club at Thunderbird Falls. I was happy to have a wide, well-maintained trail.
The lower falls at Thunderbird Falls
The lower falls at Thunderbird Falls | Purchase Print

We’ll be flying down for the surgery in October. We have one day between Cat’s pre-op appointment and the surgery, so I’m sure we’ll spend a little more time exploring the area nearby. There are a few spots I have in mind, but I’m not super familiar with the Anchorage area. Send me or comment with suggestions!

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