Monday, August 30, 2010

The Secret Beach

Beach in Anchorage, AlaskaEarlier this summer Lillian went with a group of friends to Kincaid Park out on the west side of town and when she came back she talked about how she’d been to the beach.

Now I’ve lived here my whole life and I know darn well that there’s no such thing as a beach in Anchorage, Alaska. Never has been, never will be. Mudflats we have, marshes we’ve got in abundance but a beach? With sand?? Not quite.

So when she came back with this wild story I was highly suspicious but yet intrigued and after extensive interrogation of my youngest daughter I promised the kids that on the next sunny day we’d go and try to find this mysterious beach of which she spoke. But it turns out it was a promise easily made then forgotten because our wet and gray summer didn’t have another sunny day until the first day of school (which the kids thought was highly ironic and infuriating). Nothing but rain and clouds for two months and then, on the first day of school, out comes the sun. Apparently even the elements celebrated the event as much as I.

Beach in Anchorage, AlaskaIn fact it was sunny every day after that. Gorgeous, clear skies that seemed vaguely familiar after all those days of rain and I decided that after dinner on Monday night we’d take advantage of the weather and do something wild and crazy--we'd go outside. Andrew came home a little early, we ate dinner as ravenously as wolves around a carcass then jumped in the car to find that pot of gold.

Once parked and out of the car we were a little unsure of where to go. We were, after all, following the directions of an eight year-old, and after wandering around the Frisbee golf course, tramping through the bushes and up, around and over hills for 20 minutes we finally found the trail that seemed to be vaguely leading west toward the water. We could see the inlet out there, it was shining with the evening sun but how to get there still seemed a bit of a mystery.

Beach in Anchorage, AlaskaWe walked for half an hour—Andrew figures it was about a mile—until finally Lillian said, “This is it!” and pointed to a winding dirt path leading off into the bushes. Andrew and I looked at each other skeptically and then at Lillian.

“Are you sure this is it?”

“Yup! It’s here. Follow me.”

She lead us into the vegetation, the cow parsnip and alders and willows so thick along the way that they grew up on either side to meet overhead in the middle with barely enough height for us to stand upright. Once on the path a random cloud blew in and began to drop water and I couldn’t help thinking we’d got ourselves into some horrible mistake. Forget about the bears and moose and other wildlife that would be happy to nibble or trample one of us, there’s nothing like rain to make a trip miserable and nasty.

But as we winded along single file the drops hit the leaves above us and nothing seemed to get through to us below. The rain picked up until the patter sounded like a large stream rippling over rocks and swirling in foam eddies overhead but we were always nice and dry below, following our intrepid daughter who still assured us that we were going the right way.

Beach in Anchorage, AlaskaAbout the time I had the disturbing thought that I was insane--I was trusting our navigation to someone who had a hard time remembering to close the car door after herself let alone one who could remember a trail taken nearly two months earlier--along comes a guy on a bike. How he got his bike through the bushes I’m not quite sure but there he was, coming toward us through the underbrush.

“Keep going,” he said in a great, thick Latino accent. “You’re almost there.”

How he knew where we were going he never explained but somehow his encouragement was just what we needed and we perked up, ready to follow the trail to the bitter end if necessary. The kids picked up on his words and we all kept repeating his accent and words to each other as we joked and laughed with sudden hope.

Beach in Anchorage, AlaskaAnd then, suddenly, we were there. We came out of the brush and were on the top of a sandy cliff with tall grasses swaying in the breeze. The clouds were gone and the sun covered everything around us—from the trail leading down to the beach below where the tide was slowly reclaiming the sand to Mount Susitna across the inlet.

It was tricky getting down the steep, sandy slope but once on the beach it didn’t matter that it was only about 68 degrees, the kids stripped off their shoes and socks and went for the water (assuring us that it was “really warm” while Andrew and I walked along the shore and I looked for beach glass.

Beach in Anchorage, AlaskaI’ve lived in Anchorage my whole life and had no idea that this place existed, had no idea that there was something so beautiful and between the joy of the discovery, the warmth of the evening and the fun at being together in the sand we had the best hour of the whole summer.

When we finally had to head home—there was a least a mile and a half of hiking between us and the car—we were swearing to ourselves that we’d be back right away and the kids kept saying how it was the best family night we’d ever had.

Funny how a beach can do that for you.

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Anonymous said...

I didn't know about that beach, either! Guess I'll have to wait a few years when we come back for a visit to discover it for myself.

Beth said...

I love your blog. This post made me feel happy--how cool is a secret beach??

sharon kaye said...

I am new to Alaska and was referred to your blog by a friend. I would love to find that beach. (We moved here from California and I miss a real beach.) We found the sand dunes. Is the beach anywhere close to that?

Scribbit said...

No, the sand dunes are over by the motor cross area--this is farther south. It's hard to describe because the trails are so tiny.

Another "beach" that's easier to get to is to go to the end of Northern Lights (west end) and park at the Point Woronzof parking lot. Right there is some beach at low tide but you don't want to wander too far.

CountessLaurie said...

"These are the moments..." I'll stop there or I might break out into a country tune :-P

I love awesome discoveries right where you grew up. It's magical!

Thanks for sharing!

Patricia L said...

What a great memory!

bigguysmama said...

That is awesome! Thanks for sharing your day with us.


jan in nagasaki said...

i grew up in Anchorage and we went to the beach all the time....

I don't know where Kincaid park is... but we lived out in Turnagain (on Tanglewood) and somewhere out towards earthquake park (could be near Pt. Woronzof) where we used to cross country ski... there was a beautiful sandy beach.... so spacious that one time we three kids were waving like crazy at a plane flying by and it landed right there on the beach... just to say hello!!!

Heart2Heart said...


Its so funny how we can live our whole lives somewhere and completely miss hidden treasures such as these. I am so thrilled that you have found your beach and now will have the time to fully enjoy it from here on out. By the way, did you find any sea glass?

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

I totally believe in the power of a beach!! Great that you discovered one!!

Anonymous said...

I've heard of the Kincaid beach for two or three years now, but haven't made the trek yet. Though my kids love the Point Woronzof beach.

The beach you describe, like the sand dune, are such seeming anomalies. One day I want to look up the geological theory of how they came into existence in what's basically a glacial valley.

This place is so cool! :)

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

A beach post, yay! I love your story. I kind of wish there were beaches to *hike to* around here. Sigh... Beautiful pictures.

Inkling said...

That is an awesome memory maker. You and Andrew do such a great job including your kids and intentionally making memories. In face, if I were younger, I'd probably lobby for you to adopt me. =)

I bet your daughter will always remember the time you trusted her to take you on an adventure. What a fun story!

GR said...

Your beach and your writing are wonderful. We had to laugh at the local kids (we call them the neighborhoodlums) complaining about the sun on back-to-school day. Bless you for squeezing a bit of summer fun from a dreary year. On the "bright" side; It's the best mushroom hunting year ever!

Scribbit said...

Now you can't leave me hanging like that--I've always wanted to hunt mushrooms and don't know where to go.

Though I hear that most people guard their gathering grounds like it's a national secret

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Very cool; always fun to find something new right in our own backyards :)

Karla said...

What a nice story! Thanks for sharing.

GR said...

Coincidental to your post, we last gathered shrooms on Beach Lake road. (Birchwood) Lots of birch boletes, a few kings. All of the spongy bottom (no gills) mushrooms are safe to eat. I love sliced king buttons basted with honey butter and grilled. Just about any sprucey forest has mushrooms this year. Even my property (national secret) right in town is loaded. Good hunting!

Scribbit said...

Now I wouldn't even know what a "bolete" was unless I'd had my pack of "Fungi Perfcti" mushroom playing cards.

No, I'm serious. They were a gift years ago and have pictures of all sorts of mushrooms. Even boletes.

I'll have to look them all up and see what they look like.

Denise said...

I just accidentally stumbled onto your blog. What an awesome surprise. You brought a smile to my face. Oh and your beach what an amazing gift you daughter gave you. My husband and I were just talking with our little boy the other day and he told us how much he wishes we could go back to Hawaii for the beach. Thanks again I love your blog and have added it to my tool bar:)
I also am going to try your salmon shells recipe. We love salmon and just made salmon tacos last night new recipes for salmon are always great. Thanks for sharing

Denise said...

I just stumbled upon you blog by accident. I love your beach story what a wonderful gift your daughter gave you leading you to a real beach in Anchorage. My husband and I were just talking with our son the other day and he was asking when we could go the Hawaii again because he misses the beach. Also I have to say thanks for sharing your Salmon Shell recipe we love salmon and eat it alot and are always looking for new recipes. We just ate salmon tacos last night. I think we will be trying to shell recipe real soon. Love your blog just added it to my tool bar.