Archive for December, 2012

Another day, another long drive. This was the day I accidentally left my wallet in my bag in the trailer! Whoops! It ended up not being the biggest deal, but just slightly annoying. Oh well, live and learn. This was also the part of the trip where everyone was just tried. Tired of rain, tired of camping, tired of lack of showers and flush toilets. Tired of each other. (Thankfully, we all survived the next few days, but barely.)

Most of this day was spent on a dirt road. We stopped at a few road houses for breaks, some lookouts for views, but mainly just sat in the van. And drive. It was sunny, but freezing, as at this point, we were headed to our northern most stop, though thankfully at a lower elevation then Tangle Lakes. I don’t really remember much about this day.

The roads...they never end!

The roads…they never end!

-At one point, we stopped and since I didn’t use the toilet when we woke up in the morning (the walk was too far for me and it was sooo cold) I waited until our first rest stop, but unfortunately, you had to buy something to use the john, so I borrowed $5 from a tourmate for gummies and the loo.
-The dirt road finally ended when Denali Highway met up with George Parks Highway, and we had never been so happy to see a gas station! I waited outside and chatted with a tourmate, when she spotted moose crossing the road! Very cool, as most of the group missed it as they were using the toilet and buying snacks.
-We drove up and passed Denali, into town to stock up on warm clothes for the final 3 nights as some people wanted sleeping bag liners or gloves. All the store outside the park were having “end of the season” sales and the sandals were on sale and I wanted a pair, but since I didn’t have my wallet, controlled myself, which was a good thing. The town was cute, just a bunch of tourist shops, but we needed something like that. We hadn’t seen that amount of people in over a week.

Back to civilization!

Back to civilization!

-We then dropped some of our tour off at the sightseeing flight because even though it was more expensive, the day was just gorgeous, so some people took advantage of that.
-We stopped in Denali to pick up our bus tickets for the following day before finally heading to camp at Carlo Creek
-We put up our tents for the last time! We got to put them up under a sheltered cover, which was awesome, plus, they had picnic tables. So helpful!
-It was a bit a trek to the bathroom, which sucked, but at least the toilets flushed and the showers were free and it was like all in one room, which is my favorite layout.
-We had some meat and potatoes for dinner and the potatoes were so good! Though I had a beer and cut myself grating cheese on the grater (yeah, I’m awesome like that), so no more grating for me.
-Can’t remember what we did at night, probably not much, as it was still really cold (the girls that stayed in the cabin the night before, booked a cabin for all three nights here, they were just done with camping) so probably just huddled by the fire.

Sneak peak of tomorrow in Denali

Sneak peak of tomorrow in Denali

Alaska – On the Road Again

A lot and not much happened today. For the most part, it was a a driving day. It was the start of the two day drive to Denali and of course, it was today when we found out that someone had gotten killed by a bear for the first time ever (in Denali) over the weekend. Perfect timing! Thankfully, they only closed a small section of the huge park and it was nowhere near where we were going. No way would they close the major tourist area in peak(ish) tourist season. But the timing was crazy. It was after this story broke that the half of the group that still wanted to see a bear, kind of got over that urge. We read tourism packets a little differently going forward (Cartoon bears with the caption “Come play with us!” took on a new meaning. And you wonder why this happens? Even though they do pound it into your head to stay 300m back from a bear (vs. like 25m for a moose)) and we were more aware to stay back, if we saw a bear.

Me and Alaska

Me and Alaska

Since we had 60 miles of dirt road coming into Wrangell, we had 60 miles going out. This was the day I left my camera in my bag, which was a bit of a disappointment. For the first time ever, we were running early and our guide told the coffee hut family we would be passing by around 10a and hopefully they would be open. We got there around 9:40 and of course, they weren’t open so we kept on trucking. On the road out of the park, stopped at the bridge we stopped at on the way in, but this time, some of the group went underneath it. Since I didn’t have my camera, I didn’t go and just got out to stretch my legs. We made another stop and then we were out of the park! We stopped at a burger shack in the town of Chitna for lunch and we had our first moose sighting! It was crossing the road, but unfortunately by the time we piled out of the van, it was pretty much gone. But still really cool! We walked through town to the burger stand and when we were waiting for our orders, it started to rain. TM and I chatted with some locals, who made the mistake of coming to order lunch when all 14 of us had placed our orders, but it was really interesting talking to some locals. They wanted to give us more fish they had back at their hour, but we were moving on, so we didn’t get any, which was fine by me. We backtracked to Glenallen and got cell reception for the first time in 3 days and had to refill the van with gas and food and to pick up thai dishes for dinner (chicken #2, here we come!). We unloaded the coolers to clean them out and some of us weeded through the food to see what was still eatable while the guide drove the van over to the gas station to fill up. I called my sister and said I would watch the coolers while some of the group took the food to the dumpsters and as I was talking to her, it started to pour! At first, I thought I would wait it out, but then it got so bad, that I just left the coolers and the good food out and ran into the supermarket for shelter. Of course, seriously, like 5 minutes later, it stopped and the sky turned blue and since half the group was in the market, they came out and didn’t even know what happened. At first, I didn’t want to leave the coolers and food alone in the rain, but then I remembered where I was. I was in Alaska, no one was going to take it, duh. The rain stopped when the van returned and the guide and I had a laugh because both of us, in our heads, debated leaving the bags we pulled out to rearrange for the food in the parking lot and THANK GOD we didn’t or they would have been drenched! We got so lucky there. After another repack, we were on the road.

Common road in Alaska

Common road in Alaska

We stopped a few more times and it was getting colder and colder, that at one stop, I broke down and put my shoes on (since it was a travel day, I decked out in flipflops, but always pack a pair of socks and have my sneakers handy, just in case) because I was so cold! It was very windy when we arrived at our stop for the night in the Tangle Lakes region. We got out and it was so cold and windy! The guide told us about canoeing in the lake to our campsite, but only one person wanted to do it and it was so windy, so she didn’t get to and we drove on to our campsite. I can’t even describe how cold it was. It was clear and beautiful, but because it was now cloudless, it was even colder! Funny enough, the Swiss girl and Russian girl both opt-ed to stay in cabins that night. What the hell, shouldn’t they, of all people be used to this kind of weather? Whatever. It was pretty miserable, but I didn’t want to pay $40 and it’s not like it was raining. There were no showers, drop toilets only and they were a bit of a walk. It made for an interesting night. For the first time ever, I slept with my sweatshirt on and socks, which I hadn’t done up to that point, as having two people in the tents kept them nice and warm. But not tonight. It also sucked to throw up our tents for just one night, that was annoying. As TM and I were putting our tent up, I commented that we only had to put up the tent one more time after this! YAY!!!

Road and hills

Road and hills

The night was freezing and we just huddled around the campfire for most of it, but I went to bed when the dust from the fire got to just be so bad. This was probably my least favorite night. I was so ready to get on to Denali!

I didn’t take any pictures today and the pack rafting guide was supposed to dropbox me some pictures, which I never got. Oh well! Joys of being on the water in Alaska!

In the build up the McCarthy, the guide told us about this activity called “pack rafting” where everyone gets their own blow up boat and we raft through small rapids in a glacier lake. I love rafting, so I always knew if that was available, I was SO GAME! On Friday at dinner when everyone was discussing what they wanted to do for the weekend, the guide excitedly came over to me and said pack rafting was a go on Sunday, as he excited for it also.

I got to sleep in a bit on Sunday, as the rafting wasn’t until the afternoon, but I was a bit unsure about what to wear and what to pack. I didn’t bring any thermals with me and was dreadfully unprepared in the shoe department, but I made it work. After we packed up the campsite and drove down half a mile down the road to Brad’s Place, where we would be spending the night, I gathered up all my stuff for the day. Since I didn’t have proper shoes, I decided to wear my expensive, wool socks today. I was a bit worried that I didn’t have thermals, but I wore my fleece sweatshirt and hiking pants and my hands ended up being the coldest part. Me, two other tour mates, the guide and two pack rafting leaders hiked out about a mile from camp to the lake where we then proceeded to blow up our boats and put our dry suites, booties and weak gloves on. Blowing up the boats was really cool as they used these like huge bags to push air into the boats and then we had to top them up ourselves, which took a bit out of me. We climbed into our boats and had a little lesson on water and paddling and what we were going to do.

Cold, cold glacier water.

I am such a control freak, I love being in my own boat, so this was awesome! It took a bit to figure out how and when to paddle hard and in what direction, but after paddling in circles for a bit, I finally got the hang of it. My hands were just really really cold because the gloves leaked and I was paddling so much and water splashed everywhere. We took a break after a while and dragged the boats back to shore, ate some snacks and tipped the water that came in out and I took my gloves off to warm my hands up. We then got back into the water and hit some bigger (but still really small) rapids and went around a few times.

I got my confidence up and I guess I leaned the wrong direction (as you tend to do when you think you are hot shit) and flipped my boat over, into the glacier rapids! I screamed bloody murder, if only so the guides could hear me and they came over quickly. I gripped onto my boat and lifted my legs up, as we had been told to do. They tried to get me to climb on top of my boat, but my upper arm strength is pretty bad and all I wanted to do, was get near the shore and climb out of the water. My hands were absolutely freezing and it took a moment, thanks to the socks!! but water finally started filling up my boots and all I wanted to do was get out. They finally pulled me out and I ripped off my gloves and the girl guide had me jump up and down and do jumping jacks to warm up my arms and legs. I was so shocked still, I did whatever they told me to do. I jumped around for a little bit, until they dragged everyone else over and out of their boats, so we could set up for the last ride back to camp. Thankfully, we were pretty much done with that part of the tour when I flipped, as I didn’t want to keep the rest of the group from doing anything.

Glaciers melt fast and all that water has to go somewhere!

I warmed up as much as I could at that point and I was confident enough to get back in the boat, for a slow and quiet ride, down TINY rapids and paddle back to camp. My confidence was gone and even going down the little rapids, I felt uneasy, but finished the trip. The guides said I did really well and listened to all directions and did what they said, so I felt good about that. I am sure my knowledge of swimming helped too in having me not freak out too bad and gave me the confidence to continue on instead of flat out refusing and walking home. No way, I’d much rather raft home, thanks! We finished the trip and dragged our stuff back to camp (I didn’t have the easiest time carrying my boat at this point because all I wanted to do was take a shower!) but I managed.

Oh, I forgot to mention the weather today! It was overcast the entire day and when we first got on the water, it started to spit rain and we hardly noticed at first because we were paddleing and hitting each other with water, so it was a good day to boat. Most of our tour went glacier hiking today and while the colors on the glacier are supposed to be AMAZING when it’s overcast, hiking in the rain can’t be much fun. I am so glad I ended up doing each activity on the day I did in Wrangell.

Fall comes early to Alaska

Once we were back to camp, I dragged my bag to the first cabin, no knowing who was sleeping where and grabbed all my shower stuff and spent a ton of time in the shower. Do you remember the last time I showered? Yeah, me neither and this was a perfect day for it! Also, when I took off my dry suit, my top felt dry but my bottoms did not and I was fully expecting a wet butt. But when I pulled the suite off, everything was pretty much dry! Big round of applause for the dry suite in doing its job! YAY!!!!!!!!

After the shower, I found out that all my pals where in the other cabin (and the snorer had moved her stuff into the one I was originally in) so I hightailed it to the other cabin. One of my tour mates gave me the loft as well and I was so happy to be up there! It was lovely. I hung my wet socks on the porch, seeing if they would dry (they didn’t, and that was the story on how a $17 pair of socks, worn once, sort of saved my life! A purchase well worth the price) and then went to the main house and just hung out there all night. The guide made burritos and most of the group was meh on it, he had to make a spicy and non-spicy meat (guess which one went first in this group?) but I loved them, so good! We hung out in the main house most of the evening, charging up our phones and cameras and taking advantage of power and lights for the first time in 3 days too! I charged my DVD player for the first time, just in case, but gave myself low priority because seriously, a DVD player? Who cares! Luckily, it charged before most of the group returned from glacier hiking. I walked back to the cabin alone, singing and clapping to scare the bears away because I didn’t have my torch and was alone. I made it back and snuggled into bed, watching tv. It was funny, we filled our cabin in like 4 seconds, thanks to the snorer and there were no more beds, but TM arrived last and she REFUSED to sleep in the other cabin, so dragged one of our blow up mattresses on the floor of our room. Of course, no one cared, but that just goes to show you, how bad it was! Give us tents ANY DAY.

Place was cute and had a sauna too, if you are into that!