Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alaska Continued

Thurs – Sunday, May 14-17, 2009
At this time of year people are allowed to drive into Denali National Park up to 30 miles. Once the season officially starts no one will be able to drive into the park in their own vehicle past 2 miles. Road and park management limits road travel to the big green school buses the park provides (at $70 per person) and a few special resort vehicles given permits. We drove in 4 days in a row up to the Teklanika River campground where the road was blocked. We saw all of the “Big Five” – bear, moose, caribou, dall sheep, and wolf. We also saw lots of snowshoe hares and Willow Ptarmigan - the state bird. Both of these turn completely white for winter and then turn brown again for summer. They were both in mid-change. The bunnies had white feet and white around the edges of their ears but the rest of them was in the standard nature camouflage grey tones. The Ptarmigan had varying degrees of change but basically they had brown heads and necks but white bodies.

Monday, May 18, 2009
We went back to the Talkeetna area, shopping, taking more photos of the mountain . We went up to the ritzy Talkeetna Lodge for a great view of all three mountains, McKinley, Foraker, and Hunter. We went to the gift shop where I bought a book by a Talkeetna local guy. I love stories of locals, how they chose to come to Alaska, their journey to get here and settle in. We had lunch at the restaurant and then headed south to Wasilla.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Aside from doing your typical shopping stuff and some nature things definitely on the agenda, there are only a few special things I’ve really wanted to do on this trip: see local art, go to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see big game close up, and do something Iditarod. We could have visited the kennel of a famous musher in Denali but I chose rather to either go to Iditarod Headquarters or to a different musher’s kennel nearby. I chose Iditarod HQ. It was a simple thing but fun. They have a small dog team there and give rides around a loop trail. I was happy to see the dogs. They are all so sweet and love attention. But, boy do they stink! Dog smell multiplied by a factor of probably never having a bath in their lives. I saw a boy helping out and he looked like the brother of a current musher. I inquired. Yes, he’s a Redington. His father, Raymie, drives the team at HQ. His grandfather is known as “the Father of the Iditarod” because he founded the race back in around 1973. I got to talking to Raymie and his wife, Barb. Once they found out I actually follow the race and know some names, they really talked race talk with me. It was fun. I’m sure The Fisherman was kind of bored but he took it well. When they found out he’s a fishing guide down on the Kenai Peninsula, they started asking fishing questions because they don’t fish down there very often. I imagine it was fun for The Fisherman, to give advice to a longtime Alaskan about fishing.

Wed – Thurs, May 20-21, 2009
After the Iditarod HQ we headed down to Anchorage and made it just in time for an afternoon movie. We saw Star Trek. We both really liked it. I didn’t watch the original series very much as a kid but I remembered enough of it to really enjoy how the movie created a history for the characters and their relationships. We hung around Anchorage for a couple days, shopping, looking at some galleries, and doing more movies. Oh, when we were in Talkeetna, we visited a quilter’s shop and got some great ideas. When in Wasilla, we bought some fabric at Sylvia’s Quilt Depot for a project. Then when in Anchorage we stopped at The Quilted Raven. We bought fabric for another project that The Fisherman wants to make himself. Hopefully we’ll be able to make some nice wall quilts this winter.

Friday, May 22, 2009
We had one of our first cloudy days as we headed out of Anchorage, down the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet and towards the game park. It was just too cold, windy and rainy to stop. We decided to make a special trip back to visit it, along with the Anchorage Zoo. We made it to Gwin’s Lodge to visit friends. It was a tough visit, given the sadness that encompassed the place. The owner, Bob, passed away a few months ago and the place is in a bit of turmoil trying to get up and running for the season. We visited with friends, Rob, Charlotte, George, Shirley, and a guy we call Fly Bob. He acquired his nickname because the owner of Gwin’s was also named Bob. Fly Bob ties flies. When I first met him in the summer of 2006, he had spent the whole previous winter tying about 8000 flies which he sold to Gwin’s. So to distinguish him from “Gwin's Bob”, he became Fly Bob. He had several boxes of flies he’d tied this winter. The Fisherman picked up the ones he’d ordered from him and we spent the evening on his little porch catching up. An old friend, Mike, stopped by. He’s now working in Anchorage. He was just stopping by to get his gun from Fly Bob so he could head further down the road and go camping and fishing for Memorial Day Weekend. Mike stayed just long enough to be the one to spot the bear approaching in the woods! Excitement ensued. A loud shout sent the bear running but then there were other people on the property to warn, possible photos to be had, etc. The bear ran up the hill and around the back of the Gwin’s property. Then he ran out across the 2 lane highway and stayed at the side of the road for awhile. That created what is called a “bear jam” on the highway. About 20 cars of holiday traffic all stopped, watching the bear, taking pictures, and marveling at the wildness of Alaska.

Saturday, May 23, 2009
In Soldotna, we checked in with Talon Air and visited with Alan and Shelley, Tiffany and Tommy for awhile. It was fun seeing them again. They're looking forward to another good summer. We dropped off our freezer at the Guide Shack. And we dropped off 3 big boxes of frames which we still have to put photos and mats into for the photos they got from us last year. It was GREAT getting so much stuff out of the van. We were REALLY cramped in there this year.

We also picked up our truck. The Fisherman bought us a used diesel 4WD truck last September. We need 4WD to get into our property better. The truck started right up and we drove out to the property in both vehicles. The Fisherman checked the road to see if it was good enough to drive on. It's a curvy and hilly road from the northern edge of our land in to the cabin. The low spots are places of concern. The dirt is as fine as flour and if there's not a lot of rocks and gravel mixed in with it, it's sink city. There can be a nice crust on top but if you just wiggle your feet up and down in the same place for about 20 seconds, you can see it turn squishy right underneath the surface.

So we did our best to discern if it was passable and decided it was. We transferred a twin mattress set into the truck bed. (Yes, we drove up with a twin mattress and box spring crammed in alongside our sleeping bed in the van. It was good to get that out of there, too!) We headed up the road and did really well. We got to the soft low spot and the right tires grabbed onto some soft stuff. We were pulled further into the squishy ground...and got absolutely, positively, unquestionably...stuck! We buried the right side of the truck up to the floorboard in muck! No way out.

Now, we have a twin mattress set in the back and we're only halfway to the cabin. My strong husband CARRIED the mattress up the steep hill to the cabin, came back and got the box spring and then carried IT up the hill into the cabin. We must have taken 4 trips to get everything out of the truck bed and up to the cabin. But we did it. Meanwhile, the mosquitos were having a feast out of my hands, the only thing showing besides my face. My face they managed to only assault with annoyance but no bites.

The cabin fared well through another winter. We have such an amazing view. It's so fun being inside the cabin, looking out the window and seeing the white birch trunks, spring green leaves, and snow covered mountains in the distance! When we get discouraged with hassles like the road, we look at our view and get re-strengthened to keep plodding along with all that is required to make this place liveable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We headed down south to Ninilchik and the Deep Creek Beach where we hoped to find lots of bald eagles like last year. There weren't as many when we got there in mid-afternoon. We took photos for a little while and then decided to head down to Homer to see if we could find some more. We didn't. But we went to Pioneer Ave to some galleries and then spent some time on the Homer Spit looking at shops. The Spit is the second longest natural jetty in the world. It's over 4 miles long. There is a marina there and lots of shops, small restaurants, and charter businesses. The Fisherman told me that Homer is where The Deadliest Catch's Time Bandit is harbored when it's not out in the Bering Sea in search of crab.

After Homer, we drove back up to Deep Creek Beach and found LOTS more eagles. We took pictures and just enjoyed being around them. I looked up at the cliffs and counted up towards 100 bald eagles! We watched the sun set behind Mt. Redoubt, a currently active volcano. The steam plume rose above the over 10,000 foot peak just across the water about 50 miles from us. Very impressive. This was about 11pm. We didn't stay till the sun fully set. Sunsets in Alaska are interesting. Not only are they VERY late, they don't go straight down. They go sideways. Very neat for photographers because it means that sunset lasts a couple hours. Cool!

Time to dash again. We're headed for Mexican food tonight and then to Seward tomorrow.

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