Touching Uranus: The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail


If you’re reading the title of this post, and wondering if this means I had a physical or something … yes, on Friday actually … but that has nothing to do with this post (you dirty minded something something).  Having the physical sparked a bit of energy to get out and log some miles by foot.  For some reason, I was inspired to head out to the Coastal Trial.

In some of my other posts, I bragged about the trail system in Anchorage – with three trails being the brightest gems.  My local love, Campbell Creek, still is well  used by the pup and I.  Chester Creek is a little out of the way, but I spent a fair bit of time on it last fall.  The most used trail by locals, tourists, bikers, joggers, dog walkers, strollers, & every other non-motorized thing in Alaska is hands down the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  If the three gems are like the triple crown of horseracing – the Coastal Trail is the Kentucky Derby of the three.

You can tell the difference just in their names.  Campbell and Chester run next to creeks, thus their name.  So guess what the Coastal trial runs along.  Okay, to be fair, it is a specific coast.  Anchorage is a big triangle, the western point being where the Cook Inlet splits between the Turnagain Arm and Knik Arm. This paved trail run the coast of the Knik Arm starting practically downtown Anchorage, and ends at the tip of the triangle in Kincade Park.  Along the way, it runs along the mud flats through neighborhoods of Smuggler’s Cove & Turnagain.  Getting a well needed resurfacing & repaving this summer, tt travels through not just Kincade, but Earthquake Park (where the trail is the best to see the effects of the Great Alaskan Earthquake), and past Westchester Lagoon (a large pond (or small lake) used by boaters, swimmers, divers, skaters (during winter) and you name what else).  For a coastal trail, there are elevation changes, rolls, and turns making it a nice challenge to anyone on it.  It’s used for many of the big activities in town, most notable as the route for the Mayor’s Marathon, Anchorage’s annual Marathon held the weekend of the Summer Solstice.

But what makes the trail great is the views, and they are SPECTACULAR.  Y’all know I am a bit of a Mountain-view-aholic, and this feeds that hunger.  On a hazy day, like yesterday, you can still easily see Mt Susitna, aka the Sleeping Lady, a massive glacial hill a short distance across the waterway.  On any given day the rest of them really pop.  On the western part of the trail, you can see many of the Alaskan and Aleutian Mountains to the north and east.  Because the trail winds with the coast, there are some of the best views of downtown, framed by the Chugachs behind it.  On clear days, like this morning, Denali appears over the other side of the Knik in all it’s beauty.

The Coastal Trail also includes a scaled version of the Solar System.  You may have seen this in other places tied to science museums, and is a neat concept.  Basically, they marked locations on the trail to match how far planets would be to each other based on a known scale.  In Anchorage, the sun is a prominent statue downtown, with Mercury, Venus, and Earth being just a few blocks away.  Mars is about the start of the Trail.  Pluto IS the end of the trail, 11 miles away.  Educational yes, but there is an added benefit, you can gauge distance when you are out there.  Yesterday, still trying to get my legs under me and getting a late start due to a rainy morning, I did well to cross the gap between Saturn to Jupiter and back again – a nice 3.07 mile walk.  When I got out there this morning, I went looking for a real leg stretcher.  Starting about midway at Earthquake park, I backtracked to Saturn (the extent I went yesterday), then returned to where I started and kept onwards to the next planet before heading back to the car.  Because you all know your solar system, you know that the walk today meant “Touching Uranus”.  In all, that was a 6.21 mile hike today.

I thought some about doing the whole trail, either one way or round trip, that may be asking a lot for me let alone walking a dog who wants nothing more than to pull me today.  But if its anything as beautiful as today is, it could be worth every pull.



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