I don’t have much to say, or a bunch of pictures to share. HERE are some pictures. When asked how it went 1 word springs out of my mouth every time, “miserable”. Me, Josh, and Freaky set out on my birfday weekend to spend 3 days, 2 nights, and 47 miles of walking through the woods. It was a perfect time of the year for this adventure. The leaves were at an almost perfect state of changing, the weather was cool, cold at night, and we even saw a little snowfall on our final day. We survived with no problems. We had plenty of water and food at all times, too much actually. We got dropped off in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on Friday at sunrise and picked up Sunday late afternoon in Pen Mar Park, Maryland, which is right at the Pennsylvania state line. I am overly joyed that I completed this trek. I had apprehensions but Wifey was encouraging and insistent that I could make the walk. Even through all the pain we found some time for a little Geocaching and signing pieces of paper hidden in the woods, yay for us. It has created a memory that will not soon be forgotten. Most of the weekend was spent simply putting 1 foot in front of the other. In between those steps we saw several gorgeous overlooks, bumped into interesting people and scenes, and did not murder each other. As miserable as the walk was we had a lot of fun and laughs, which happens organically in a group of complete assholes. This was definitely a horrible experience that I hope to relive again one day. That is a lot of what makes a good memory. Remembering something that frightened, sickened, or made me nervous and knowing I did it anyway. Due to weight limitations I didn’t take my good camera, but I did take a small camera that I apparently do not like too much. HERE are some pictures if you are interested.
Last weekend Charlie the Dog and I went to Frostburg, Maryland for an overnight. We camped in a park and hiked both days. In the morning we woke up to completely frost covered ground, in Frostburg, how ironic (yuk). It was mostly a successful adventure. We had a great time with some fun people. I dropped my fancy camera and pack into moving water on Sunday. I panicked, but quickly realized I can’t travel in time, so there is nothing I can do. Thankfully I think only 1 thing is ruined, and it is one of the less expensive things. This weekend a few of us are going to adventure along the Appalachian Trail through the state of Maryland. I doubt I will make it alive. Wish me luck. How about these few great pictures from last weekend?!?
Recently we took a day and went to Harpers Ferry, WV for a day of rafting. It was a beautiful day outside and we were done early in the afternoon. The Appalachian Trail runs right near the area we were, so we decided to take a short walk up to Weverton Cliffs. An amazing view out over the river and land. There is not much better than being outside with people that you can laugh at nonstop. Thankfully my muse was along to bring out my picture taking abilities. A few pictures HERE.
We left the Denali Backcountry Lodge in the morning at 6am. We saw a bunch of wildlife on the drive out of the park. The highlight was a grizzly bear eating a moose just 50 yards off the side of the road at a bridge crossing. A couple great pictures HERE. It was pretty intense to see. Vehicles are not allowed on this road until 6am so our bus had a head start. Leaving from inside the park and driving out, we were first to disturb any of the early morning animals that got comfortable with the empty driving road. On to the Denali visitors center to wait for our train to leave. We had about 2 hours to kill. It sucked being back in the real world. The visitor center is full of rubes, and here we are back in the mix. We saw more people in a minute than we had in the past 2 weeks. Mainly frumpy tourists (like us), Ornamentals with cameras, and Midwesterners wearing too much makeup hurrying to get their tee shirts. There is a lot to be said for seclusion and isolation. The train left at 12:30pm. A long 8 hour ride to Anchorage and the end of our trip. Those pictures of the bus ride with the grizzlies are HERE.
Very few pictures HERE. Bush Pilot Paul Claus dropped us off at the McCarthy airstrip where we were met by our charter pilot for the flight into Denali. Wouldn’t you know it, our new best friend in the whole world pilot Bill McKinney again. He had requested our return flight. I guess we hit it off pretty well. He liked having someone to talk about The Dead with. This was a much more eventful flight in the way of bumps and wind. It was just over 2 hours and some of it was very bumpy. Wifey had just come off a week of no anxiety flying, so this was an unfortunate turn of events for her. Of course we made it safely, Bill is an expert. Bill the pilot told me about some music he and some friends were going to be playing later that night just up the hill from where we would be staying, the Denali Backcountry Lodge. Once on the ground and he met up with his friends I proceeded to get an invite. I never felt more accepted in my life. I felt like I was slowly being integrated into the Alaskan Back County Society. In hind site I wish I had went. We got shuttled to the lodge by pilot Bill’s friend Matt. Once there it was almost 8pm, dinner time. It was yummy and then off to bed after a long day.
I guess we hit the Alaskan weather lottery while in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. We had a week in Wrangell of almost perfect weather, and now the forecast for the next few days is pretty shitty. Rain and wind. We slept in with a plan of going to breakfast and then I would go on an unguided hike alone. I set out but only walked for about an hour. Took a nicely leisurely stroll up a stream. Hiking here is not like what I am used to. There are not really any super defined trails, mostly bushwhacking. But I ventured out for a little while with my borrowed can of bear spray. After wandering for a little while I decided to loop back and take a leisurely morning and see what happens next.
What came next was a bus trip to Wonder Lake. It is a beautiful walking area with a view of Denali peak. Unfortunately the weather today only allowed us to see the bottom of the mountain. Seeing the full mountain is apparently a rarity. It only shows something like 40 days per year? Once the bus dropped us off at Wonder Lake we were going to ride mountain bikes back. It was a great ride back, about and hour. A great way to see a very small part of this park. Over dinner tonight we sat with 2 older couples from St. Louis. They were talking about bucket lists. One couple had now officially been in all 50 states. The other older lady wanted to complete the 50 states and smoke a joint for her bucket list. We quickly chimed in trying to help her by giving her suggestions of things to do in Delaware and encouraging her to visit Colorado to smoke a joint. Hopefully it all works out for her. We did not do too much here in Denali but I am really glad we were able to make it. Ben, Paul Clause’s son in law, told us that we would have a nice laugh at the cute little park that is Denali. After being in Wrangell I don’t think anything will ever be the same for me. Tomorrow is our trek back to anchorage for a flight home and back to real life. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks completely unplugged from everything and the outside world. I have never been happier. I could see living like this again. Tomorrow is a 6-hour bus ride out of Denali Park followed by a 7-hour train ride into Anchorage to catch a 1am flight back home. It is either that or stay in Alaska forever. I am still undecided. Very few pictures HERE.
Day 4 at Ultima Thule. Lots of pictures HERE. Today was a shorter day because we had to depart at 4pm. We flew with Steve who is possibly the loveliest man alive. He is the mechanic for the Ultima Thule fleet, as well as the guy that flew us from the airstrip in McCarthy, and our first ride in these tiny Super Cub planes. Most of the day was spent in the air. The wind was higher today and a lot of landing areas were not available. Today’s goal was to see moose for Wifey. So he went straight to an area that they call Moose Valley. Even moose valley was empty today because of the high winds. After some time searching Steve finally spotted a moose and her baby. We did a few circles, watched them hide in the brush, and then take off running. Mission complete. We later saw a giant buck as well. Steve did a few laps inside the very narrow valley for me to get some pictures of him. We then went onto a sandy beach area. It was almost comparable to a desert, so crazy to see in Alaska. It was a giant sandy beach area in between 2 glaciers with a bunch of crystal clear glacier ponds. Steve said this was his favorite swimming hole. There was a fantastic view. In a single site line you could see sandy beach with green grass growing, then a crystal clear pond, then rocky mountain outcroppings, and finally the snow capped mountain peaks in the distance. It was finally off to find somewhere to eat lunch. On the way there we flew over a recently burned area. Not too large, only a couple hundred thousand acres. This is where we saw the giant moose buck. It was decided to have lunch at a place called Jakes Bar. This was an old trapper lodge that was build by a guy named Jacobson. This was so fascinating. There were 2 small cabins still standing. The NPS has since done some improvements to ensure they remain standing. Mostly they were original with the woods stoves, a sauna, some cots, and shelving. There we also a lot of the original tools including a still operable axe grinding stone lying around. These cabins were open for use on a first come first serve basis. Of course they only way to get here is by a tiny plane. I was surprised to see how many visitors it actually had in the logbook considering how remote it is. Past visitors had stocked the cabins with everything. There was plenty of kindling, firewood, books, cooking supplies, water, and all kinds of other amenities. It is an unwritten rule to leave a cabin in the wilderness ready for the next visitor as they may be coming in from the cold, and need to make fire immediately with frost bitten hands. This cabin anywhere else would have been vandalized or not respected to the degree it deserves. I love Alaska. We were chatting with Steve over lunch about all kinds of things. Having a bunch of laughs and filling him in on what awful people we are, how we like being mean and having fun at other peoples expense. Steve made a comment that “in another life we could have been friends.” I jumped all over that by saying, “But not now? Gee thanks a lot.” He loved that one, almost fell off the porch laughing. I knew what he meant, but it was still fun to pounce on him. After lunch it was time to head back to the compound for packing and a very sad departure. I went to the main lodge to say goodbyes and take a picture of their geocaching trophy. I milled around like a sad lost puppy making sure they did not want to offer me a job. Paul flew a big group of us back in his larger Otter plane. I got to ride as the copilot, not much could have made me happier. I think Paul felt safer knowing I was there in the copilot’s position in case anything happened. One more round of goodbyes to our new friends, a handsome and well traveled family from Chicago, and the reporter and photographer for the financial times magazine. Hopefully I will be quoted. Lots of pictures HERE.
My beard came in great didn’t it?! Oh yea, also this other guy lost 150 pounds, big deal, my beard looks great!