Sunday was sunny so we went to the beach.
We only found out about the Beach the summer before last. It's not exactly a secret -- everyone seems to know about it -- but yet we all act as if this isn't really a coastal city. Many people run, ski, or bike the Coastal Trail, 11 miles of pavement skirting the edge of the mudflats and bluffs between downtown Anchorage and the airport, but everyone drives south for saltwater sports. The Beach is a stretch of real sand (as opposed to silt) along the bluff below Kincaid Park, just beyond the end of the Coastal Trail.
Our first and last visit to the Beach was last October, on another sunny day. The south facing bluff caught the fading warmth of the autumn sun. We had been transported to an undeveloped beach in California.
Yesterday was just as sunny, but the November sun causes more of a mental than physical warmth. My friend Rose had told me about biking the ice and icebergs on the beach the week before. Paul doesn't have studded tires so we decided to just walk. We passed two men and a dog huddled around a bonfire. A few other couples walked along the waters edge or up against the bluff, out of the wind.
We walked about a mile to a small point and saw that the major point was still another mile away. The beach ahead was more exposed to the wind. Paul suggested climbing up the bluff to the trails on top. We topped out near the highest hill, 330 feet above the beach, with clear views of the Kenai Peninsula to the south and the Alaska Range across on the west side of the inlet.
Ours was the only car in the parking lot on Monday evening when we parked at the Prospect Heights trailhead to Chugach State Park. We had thought that someone else would be walking or skiing under the full moon. We had chosen this trailhead so we could quickly get to treeline and be able to look over a large valley to the moon above the mountains on the other side. We climbed along the western rim of the valley, stopping occasionally to try to capture the moon and the scene on camera. The only signs of human life were the planes flying high above to the south on their way to the airport.
The trail ended at the Powerline, the most direct route back to the parking lot. The lights of Anchorage lay below us. A fog was rolling in from the inlet. We quickly descended to the trailhead. Ours was still the only car in the parking lot.
October ended with the first snows and November started with clear skies and cold temperatures. Except for morning fog, the sky has been mostly cloudless. With only 8 hours of low-angle light, temperatures do not vary much from day to night. At our house the temperature has hovered between 8 and 12 degrees for days.
Often interesting cloud patterns are associated with spectacular sunsets, but I find these clear sky sunsets just as beautiful. And more peaceful. As the sun moves behind the mountains across Cook Inlet, the sky overhead deepens to a dark blue, then indigo. A thin band of orange forms over the mountains. And between the indigo and the orange is a perfect gradation of the color scale.