Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I once lost a contact and 17 men died

Current mood: ecstatic

Hello from Anchorage!
Seriously enjoying the abundance of Alaskan sunlight and wildlife here.
I (we) took off for AK on Wednesday and arrived in Fairbanks, land of the midnight sun, where our enthusiastic Hungarian taxi driver immediately started swearing up a storm in his story about some stranded passengers. He took us to our B&B (Minnie Street B&B) and the guy drove and rarely looked away from me, which is scary because I was sitting BEHIND him. So we arrive alright and the B&B is cute and it has a sweet kitty and the largest wind chime I've ever seen. (It was taller than me. If you know me, that's fucking tall.)
Fairbanks was nice, we wandered around downtown and Pioneer Park and rented bikes and went on a 30-mile trek. Got a little too warm but we saw a lot of Fairbanks. We did not see much of this midnight sun, as everything we do we have to get up early for, so we're in bed by 10pm. Too bad!

Then off by train and whisked away (well, I guess I wouldn't say whisked... the trains aren't exactly Japanese technology if you know what I'm sayin, it was more of a mosey) to Denali National Park. Absofriggin gorgeous. This park is huge and beautiful. Huge, like size of Massachusetts huge. Seriously.
I know you know this but Alaska is bigger than California, Texas, and Nevada... combined. Really. You have to let that sink in. It. Is. Fucking. Huge. It's big like adding up all the length of my arms and legs. And that's a lot. Hey, love me, love my limbs. It's obnoxious and entirely unnecessary.
And! In all that space, it's number of roads are equal to that of Rhode Island.
Crazy, right?
So, we are met in Denali and ride on a bus to our next locale, the North Face Lodge. Located 87 miles into the center of the park, it takes about 5 hours to get there. Eight if you stop to look at wildlife. We saw bears and glaciers and moose and caribou and it was spectacular.
We arrive around 8pm and call it a night. The next day we embark for our hikes - after our superb breakfast (veggie omlettes, yum!) and head out into the spongy tundra. The hikes here are trailless hikes. You aren't allowed to walk on anything that looks like a trail and the ground is like walking on a lumpy mattress and it's really uneven. It's crazy walking but if you fall down it doesn't hurt! Oh and there's blueberries growing so when you fall down you have something to nibble on.
And wow, was Mt. McKinley was in it's full glory view. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and this big bitch is impressive. The day before it was a little cloudy and you look over to see the mountain and you see a peak and you think - oh, that's tall. But then you look higher, higher, basically halfway up in the sky and you see another peak and holy shit, you realize that is actually the top. This mountain is huge and pictures just don't give the same effect as being there in person.
Our hike was fantastic, it was hot and it was sunny, the only downside is that the little flying bugs were out in mega force so I was pretty quiet. If I ate a bug I was going to freak the fuck out so I kept my mouth shut.
I get all freakin sunburned, which I had not expected, but whatever, right? A little sun on my arms and face just give me a nice pink glow. It was a great hike.
That night we're all sitting around chit chatting about stuff and somehow we end up talking about losing contact lenses and I tell this story that I once found a hard contact lens for a friend, on a dock, at the lake, at night. The old guy in our group starts talking (I call him stinky pipe guy cause he's always smoking his stinky pipe) and he turns and dead seriously says, " I once lost a contact in Vietnam and 17 men died."
We all just stopped talking and slowly walked away. I mean, if he was serious, what the hell, and if not, What the hell? How do you follow that up? Yeah, wow, woo. Sorry about that dude. That's pretty rough. Hey? Oh? I gotta go...

Day 2 hike: We wake up and it is the complete polar opposite weather of the day before. It was sun, now there is none. It was dry, now it is raining, the sky was clear, now it is solid clouds and fog. We put on layers and gear and rain wear and hats and more crap and head out. (no new camera today : ( do not want to soak new toy!)
I am wearing braids in my hair, baseball cap, a hat under that to cover my ears, a tank top, long sleeve shirt, and jacket and 2 pairs of pants and over the ankle hiking boots. I'm layered.
So, Damon points and laughs and says I look like a softball coach. I say what? Are you saying I look like a lesbian in my hiking gear? He says to me, "Are your shoes comfortable?" and I say, point taken. After all, lesbians do wear comfortable shoes. Oh well.

The hike was great. We got soaked. Absolutely soaked. I get back to the bus after our 4 hour trek and squeeze puddles of water out of my braids and my pants and our naturalist guide Dan just laughs at me. You squeezed that much water out of your hair?!

We drive out the next day to a much improved weather situation and I get some great photos from the bus. I'm still so excited. We saw this fox that had just killed a duck and he was trotting down the road with his prize, and I got him looking right at the camera with his prize meal in his mouth. Priceless.
And I got some good moose shots and bear and caribou. Gosh what a great toy. I love my new camera. Big thanks to my friend Andrew for recommending image stabilization. Ever tried to take a non-blurry photo from a bus going 25-miles per hour on a dirt road? I have several. Bah ha ha to you.

After another long bus ride and an even longer train ride we're in Anchorage. After a beer and some dinner I'm feeling pretty happy. Only halfway done with vacation so there's much more excitement to come. I'm super excited to hang out with my friend David the next 2 days. It's all that's on the plan until Seward on Thursday so we'll see what we do!

More Alaskan shenanigan updates to come later.... tune in later for more!

No comments: