Saturday, June 30, 2007

Three misc videos, out of place, kind of like a set of not-very-interesting trip B-sides:

Night #20. Kenai Fjords National Park. 5200 miles. We ditched Anchorage earlier than planned after hiking up the range to get a good view of it, and then found a great little tent site in the Kenai at the foot of the Exit Glacier. But before that we took a stroll and a snooze in a little meadow. I listened to Washington Phillips (thanks A.N.) which was perfect music for the situation. It felt really good. A found more flowers that blew her mind a little. We ascended 3500 feet up the side of the Exit Glacier to get a view of the Harding Ice Field. It was amazing to see mountains in the making, being carved out right now. We pretended we were in the Ice Age. The hike was pretty strenuous and we were exhausted. A lot of slushy snow hiking. But it was so worth it. Perhaps the second best view we've seen on the whole trip. Watched two mountain gophers get in a fight. Now this morning we're in Seward looking for a shower. Seward is beautiful, right on the ocean in the Kenai NP. My feet smell like sour cream.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Night #19: Anchorage, AK. 5100 miles. We arrived in Anchorage. We like Talkeetna better. Anchorage kinda blows. Lots of gift shops and stuff downtown. But still surrounded by mountains and water and stuff. I bought my gift to myself here. A wolf wallet! It was between that and the bear wallet or the bald eagle wallet. The lady I bought it from said, "So just the wolf then? Not the bear?" A thought this was pretty funny. We then went to the Bear Tooth Theater Pub. This place is pretty rad. We had a pizza and a pitcher while watching Blades of Glory. Umm, not so much on the Blades of Glory. But the pizza was tops. We stayed at a municipal campground this time on the edge of town. Hopefully this was the last time. I took my fourth shower of the trip there. It was dirty nasty. There was this guy who seems to live there complaining about how his woman never goes to work. He said he may have to get a job now. There was another guy in there who had very loud stool for about 25 minutes. And the campground maintanence guy opened my shower curtain while I was in there to "see if it was clean." Ok. Another camper was feeding a fox. Not cool. We're getting out of town now after having a killer breakfast at the Snow City Cafe. Southward toward Seward. Also, been reading the Octopus mannies in camp and in the car. Some real doozies in there--you should be proud of yourself.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Night #18: Talkeetna, AK. 4900 miles. When arriving in Talkeetna, we got our first good view of Denali on the south side of the range. There was an entire mountain above the highest line of clouds. Man. We ate at Mountain High Pizza and listened to the banjo/violin stylings of the Flat Mountain Girls. Talkeetna is one of the raddest towns we've ever been to. It is 14 miles of the highway so still fairly sleepy and clean from the inflitration of cruise-y tourists. It is the town from Northern Exposure. There are still locals there (almost all men) and they live, in the evening, at the town's 5 dirty little pubs. We stayed at the campground that was at the end of the main street. It's a little drinking community where all the McKinley climbers take a flight from. We took a flight the next morning around the mountain. It was a clear day, remarkably, and what we saw was unreal. Not sure I can describe it here--I'd get all choked up. We flew all the way around Denali at 12,000 feet and were still a mile below its peak. If you go to AK, there is no reason not to blow all your money doing this. It was so beautiful it made me want to throw up. Also, we landed on a glacier and breathed it all in for a while.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Night #16 and #17. Savage River. Denali National Park. 4750 miles. Took an 11 hour bus out to the interior of the park (the only way to get into the park actually other than walking or biking). We were lucky enough to see the north peak of Denali. It doesn't come from behind the clouds too often. We got off the bus (in order to pick up another one later) for a 4-5 hour hike in the tundra right near the foot of the range. It was amazing. So quiet. Everything was so large and much further away than it appeared. You can walk up a glacial river bed toward the mountain for hours, it seems, and never get any closer. Allison had National Park Euphoria and was taking pictures of everything. Wildflowers mostly. "I've never seen anything like this flower--I'm goin to take 5 pictures of it" she'd say. "You don't even like flowers," I'd say. We saw a mama Grizzly and her 2 cubs about 500 yards from us. We went the other way. Our second bus driver was Jon. He knew all the boring facts about Denali, and would explain those facts by providing minutes and minutes of even more boring context. Also, he writes poetry. He recited one for us. It had an ocean metaphor in it and it was called "Alaska." He also sang some songs for us. The trip started at 6:15 am and we didn't return to our campsite until 10 pm. It was one of the best days of our lives. The next day we went white water rafting on the Nenana, a glacial river. It was very cold but we didn't fall in. I wore a purple dry suit that made me look like a fat 1950's version Martian.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Night #15: Riley Creek. Denali National Park. 4660 miles. Learned all about Denali, its history and science from the visitor center, its extensive displays, and its educational films. Hiked up Healy Mountain near the park's entrance. Did not get eaten by a bear.

Night #14: Just north of the Denali National Park Entrance. 4650 miles. Walked around North Pole. Learned all about a dam project from a lovely campground host. Walked around the UA Fairbanks campus. Left Fairbanks for Denali. Saw an old hotel named Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn. Tented off the road. Ate Jambalaya.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Night #13: North Pole, AK. 4450 miles. Went to Fairbanks' Summer Solstice Festival. They closed off the downtown to open up a lot of native jewelry booths. We got to see an ice melting contest (first one to melt their block of ice gets something) which ended up being very classy (sense my sarcasm). And we watched a break-off. I was about to get in there and show them my electric worm. Went to a restaurant that ended up being too fancy. We felt trapped, y'know. But when the waiter ignored us for 30 minutes before taking our order, we put our cash on the table and took off, told all the people waiting, fairly loudly, that the service sucked. Oh yeah. Then went to the Midnight Sun baseball game and chanced sitting in the good reserve seats. It paid off, though the guy who chanced it next to us got angry when the rightful owner showed up. He yelled "I'm going to knock you out pal" and "I'm going to shove that popcorn right up your ass." The rightful owner went to complain but never came back. The best part is, the guy only stayed for 2 innings. Anyway, the game was cool. They stopped in the middle of the 4th to do a midnight sun celebration. It was still very bright when the game was wrapping up (the Goldpanners lost) and it was 2 am. Man alive. No lights were ever turned on. We tented north of North Pole, in a campground. Also, our rental car kinda smells like the inside of a butt.

Night #12: Fairbanks, AK. Captain Bartlett Inn. 4400 miles. Planned on going on an overnight hike deep in the Chena River Valley into the heart of bear country. We had all our provisions prepared. Our packs were heavy and full of promise. However, the mosquitoes were thick, the hike was not very pretty, and the deet was making us kinda sick. It was very hot and humid too. Who would have thought? So we gave up. We weren't having fun. So we hiked back out after just 4 miles or so. Saw a moose and her calf 50 feet from us on our way. Got a room at the Captain Bartlett Inn. Laundry. Shower. Bought a pepporoni/jalapeno pizza and a 6 pack. Watched the Cubs vs Rangers (saw Sammy hit his 600th live) and then three back to back episodes of Law and Order SVU. Felt so good. Most importantly, we got to close the shades.

Night #11: South of Chena Hot Springs. North of Fairbanks, AK. 4350 miles. Made it to Fairbanks. Civilization. Went on a little hike that was all mud and mosquitoes. Found a little spot near a river to set up camp then went north to Chena Hot Springs. Ate a burger at the little restaurant. Used some of my Russian Language skills. Took a dip in the hot springs. It was hot and smelled like eggs, boiled all the toxins out of us. There was a big Alaskan guy who stood in front of this fountain thing that shot out scolding hot water like a fire hose. He took it on the face for like 5 straight minutes then on his back and shoulders. He was grunting. Then he meditated for an hour. I miss that guy.

Night #10: 40 miles north of Paxson, AK. 4030 miles. Drove to the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, AK. Drove south to Paxson from there. Got a good look at the Pipeline. It looks like a big long stitched up scar on the landscape. But surprisingly, I found myself fascinated by it. Found an air-strip deep in the woods when we were hiking around. I like to think it was the one the boy from Hatchet was flying to when his plane crashed. Tented on a glacial river bed on sandy beach kinda and the water was milky. Ate some noodles that tasted kinda like tin.