Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Two-Way Denali Bus

Well, I've had many many posts from trips in Denali, but this was the first trip in which I took a bus both in AND out of the park. My itching-to-bike legs didn't like taking the bus out, but my overall exhaustion didn't mind it so much. Similar to driving the Parks Highway, the Denali Park road has a memory around almost every corner. "Here's where I saw my first bear".. "Here's where there was a little rock slide just after we biked past".. "Here's where the bunnies were flying left and right every 10 feet".. "Here's where the moose stood 20 feet away".. "this hill is really fun to fly down".. and the list goes on and on. The buses today were only running out to Toklat mile 53, but the weather wasn't cooperating for a view of Denali either. Toklat ended up being a really awesome place to hike at - with miles of riverbed to make a very easy hike out of, and little brush to wack through. There is a peak near there I would like to bag at some point, maybe later this summer. The ideas keep rolling in with so few weekends in a summer.Here's Patty along the Toklat riverbed, in sepia style.
Today was chilly because of a blowing wind, but as far as I'm concerned that just kept the bears away since they could smell our scent. ;) Oh also!! We stopped in the visitor's center at Toklat to find my buddy Alex from last summer, whom I biked the Denali Highway with. It was nice to talk to him for a little bit.. crazy that a year has gone by!
Patty was doing a little dance but I don't remember what for. Pretty funny though. :)Everyone has to get a picture at the park sign. Some awesome random people took this one for us!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Remote and Abandoned in the Wood River Valley

Just 30 roadless miles east of the Parks Highway lies an abandoned lodge that once flourished with fly-in tourists and vacationers. Martin talked about flying me out this way for months now.. so we finally did it with my sister Patty in stow! The weather was looking a little sketchy for flying, since winds were fairly high through the range, but Martin having flown for the majority of his life, was not concerned. It was up to us whether our stomachs could make it, and both Patty's and mine could. (barely.) We got quite the view of moose from above, a rollercoaster-like flight (updrafts and the like), and a random little adventure.
Where's the moose? Do you see them? We saw at least 15.... they lost their novelty after a short time. :)
I was pretty pumped by the time we got into the mountains. The flight down into the mountains was a lot of flatness through the Tanana Flats (imagine that.)
Patty loves more than anyone I know, to do jumping pictures. Though I can't take the credit for the idea, I'm glad that it makes a lot of extra smiles looking back at the pictures.
We got to the formerly known as Alaska Wilderness Lodge and peeked around a little. In this photo Patty took below, I was talking about how I'd like to move into this sunroom. The view's a little bit better than my cabin. ;)After exploring the abandoned lodge and cabins area, playing a round of ping pong on a dusty table, and taking some jumping pictures, we hiked down to a nearby lake. At the lake, we found a canoe sitting there.......moments later, my joking comment about taking the canoe out for a spin turned into reality (this is how most random things unintentionally start). Sitting in the middle of the lake, we scanned for bears and wolves, but none to be seen. There were tracks around but no wildlife. That is ok - I can do without bear encounters. I got over wanting to see them after the first summer I was up here after finding some of the best bike trails along salmon running streams. That is another big gold star on why I love winter.. the bears are sleeping.
A photo with the Piper Martin took us up in.Martin caught Patty saying earlier how she always wanted to be a pilot growing up, and he let her steer. Personally, I was partially frightened of my sister flying our airplane, but she did a fantastic job keeping us level.
Our little adventure could not last forever as we had to attend to things back in town, but had what I think was one of the most fun trips I've done in recent times. It was not "epic" by any means, it wasn't tens of miles of hiking or biking and pushing the limits, but it was really random and fun and getting to show my sister this part of Alaska is something that made the trip one of my favorites. There is something about getting out in remote land that can't be explained in words, and I know how lucky I am to experience it. The gross part is, the more of it you see, the more you want it. I haven't figured out if that is a good thing or a bad thing. But sharing it man, that is the really cool part.
Back home in the 'Banks.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sister, Sister

A month or so ago, Alaska Airlines had a smashing deal of 30% off all flights to/from Fairbanks if you traveled by a certain date and booked it that day. In a scurry I emailed my relatives and friends who had ever mentioned possibly coming to Alaska someday and got one taker! My sister Patty left her babies for the first time ever to come see me for a few days!! It was very exciting to show a family member around Alaska, even if just for a short time.
Patty still has a rockin' rain jacket from the 90s. I told her it could totally be back in style.. no one would know!

I dragged her up to Angel Rocks all jet-lagged, and down to the Deltas for her first jagged mountain peaks, within a day and a half...
And we played tourist around town a little bit.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Clearwater Float

For Al's last day in Alaska, we spent what I would call a "family day" with some of my buddies with little ones, floating the Clearwater in Delta. Here are Pat, Jenny and Michael. Michael likes to run around my cubicle area sometimes... he's a nice distraction to work.
And here's Anna and Chloe on Chloe's first boating excursion. She was SO GOOD and happy the entire time. What a pleasant little girl. She is super fun because she just wants to stay outside all day long and can be entertained by pebbles on the ground.. needless to say, her and I get along really well.
Here's a group shot. There was one more boat too but I didn't get to know the people very well on this trip. Thanks to Jenny and Anna planning this trip, I was off the hook for being in charge and was able to sit back and relax. :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back on the Water

It's that time of year!! Time to cruise the Chena.. here's my over-enthusiastic boat (Alexis and Ashlee) testing the waters.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Thunderstorm of the Year!

Bison Gulch is a quick but sort of steep hike just off of the Parks highway. As long as it is not windy at the bottom of the trail, I recommend going up it!

Mammatus clouds in Alaska!!! My favorite.. (can't hide the nerdiness.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Savage River Scramble

Alexis and I went into the park to where we could drive to at mile 15, and began a hike on the established loop trail at Savage River. This caribou surprised us about 20 feet away.. maybe less than that. I swear these things must be blind-ish!
We have had clear and warm weather for such a long time I am a little afraid of what the end of summer will bring for us this year! It is so nice that everything is starting to grow and the flowers are blooming.

We got off of the trail and wandering up a ways, getting a good look at some dall sheep. It was interesting to interact with them and find their level of comfort as our distance from them.
I found out that Al is nearly as stubborn as me when it comes to getting to the top of things. The loose rocks on the mountain made for a slow ascent.
After our hike, we got dinner and a backcountry permit and moved ourselves to another part of the park.
It was quite the nice view.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Last Day to Drive to Mile 30

Today marks my 4th May 19th in AK. ;)

Alexis and I headed north from Palmer on another crystal clear day to Denali. We barely made it there for our rafting trip, but did and had a blast. After dinner we set up camp and drove 30 miles into the park for the last few hours before NPS closed the road past mile 15 for the summer. We got quite the close-up wildlife viewings. Here's a video of a moose about 20 feet from the car!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Anchorage and Girdwood

After dropping Celine off at the train station, we headed into Anchorage to meet some of my former coworkers for lunch. Most people were busy or out of town, but I was able to see a lot of people I used to work with at the office! It was so fun running around saying hi to everyone. For just being there for three months I am impressed that they can remember my name, really. Maybe because I kept coming back. I do enjoy going back where I started. It brings some feeling of accomplishment, like you are actually going somewhere in the world. That's with anywhere though.Alexis and I headed down the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm to Girdwood, one of my other favorite places, land of paragliding and downhill skiing with spectacular views of the ocean and a happy little hippie town with an awesome used book store and tasty bakery. After meandering up some very snowy trails, postholing in a view spots, and making a snowman, we descended back to head to my favorite place in Anchorage - Moose's Tooth! Stopped up at the Flattop-Anchorage overlook to see if the initials have made it thru another year and they have - as well as LeeAnn's from '05! :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ice Climbing at Matanuska Glacier

Wow! What a spectacular day exploring and climbing the Matanuska Glacier in southcentral Alaska! The weather has been nothing but perfect all week.
Celine and Alexis about to get onto the glacier.
Each glacier I've been at has been unique, but this one tops them all off. The glacier is ginormous, and sits in one of the most beautiful locations. To make the day even more fun, what started as a 4 person climbing trip turned into 10.. lots of new people and lots of enjoyment on a picture perfect day.
Just to give you a gauge of the monstrosity of this glacier, here is the face of the first part of the glacier below. You can see another group of climbers here for size reference.
A few of our happy climbers...
..and belayers! Huge thanks to Dean for leading the trip.Here is a photo of some more detail of the glacier from a little farther back.
The radiative capabilities of the sun this time of year are enough to make one stand there and take it all in. :-)"We came, we climbed, we conquered... we got tired" - nothing like a tasty meal and ice cream after a good venture!

I do love the Matsu valley..... being here and despite the 7 hour drive from home, having access to such a place is something worth much to me. (some photos from Al and some from Celine. Thanks girls for letting me highjack them!)