Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kayak Glacier Camping Adventure – Kenai Fjords NP

Fri, we rented kayaks and had a water taxi take us 2 hrs. to Aialik Bay by the Kenai Fjords. We kayaked to 3 Glaciers & camped 2 nights. First we dropped off Mike’s dog, Mia, to be boarded then headed to Millers Landing. Arriving by 5:30am, but did not leave till 7am; things just take longer in AK.

On the boat we saw orcas, thin wales, humpback whales, sea lions, Dahl porpoises; very amazing and hard to capture on camera. We lucked out w/ a sunny day. We kayaked an hr. to Aialik Glacier. There were tons of birds and I appreciated the sounds of the waves.

When we took a break, we realized the 10-liter water container had completely leaked inside the kayak, Luckily Mike brought water tablets, found a waterfall, duct taped the container shut, and we were set.

I pushed us off shore w/ no socks or shoes in 20 something deg glacier water; I can’t believe I am doing this. Within 2ish hrs. we got to Peterson Glacier, where we camped. I knew we could only enter and exit the glacier by high tide, but did not know that also goes for the campsite. Lots of lessons learned today! We were 4 hrs. early. We did a rocky, wet landing then waited in the sun and saw a bear from afar. Had a very close bear encounter by campsite, which I am posting separately as this is getting too long.

It rained at night and awoke to lots of fog. Have to leave via kayak near high tide, but did not make it. So we kayaked to the glacier again to get closer. Then packed everything up, walked it over the hill to the ocean to exit as we entered, not the proper way. 2 hrs. to kayak to our next glacier and campsite at Holgate, no concerns with high tides! The next day is our last day and getting picked up by 4pm.

Headed to Holgate Glacier at 10am, made it in 1hr 10 mins. I had to kayak the whole time barefoot b/c my shoes got wet when entering the kayak and did not want to have wet socks.

We packed our gear and waited in the one dry spot by the bear box under a tree. We waited 2 hrs.! Thankfully Mike rented satellite phone. After 3 long attempts we got through. The captain did not see our names in the book and totally forgot us. He would be here at 8pm. The park had a cabin that is rented out, so we headed there knowing people we there. They took us in and we chatted while warming up.

The 28 yr old captain felt so terrible and embarrassed. It’s a family own business and his dad’s 61st bday. We got in by 10pm, they fed us pizza, bday cake, margaritas, gave us tokens to take showers, do laundry, and a free cabin stay. Overall it worked out. I was wet and cold all day and looked forward to being home in dry clothes.  It is funny to say “home” b/c that changes every day. Sometimes I don’t know where my home is that day.

Click here for more pix.

Seward, Splash Course & GeoDome

In Seward by 2:30pm on Thurs, went straight to Millers Landing for our required “splash course”. They taught us to self-rescue in case our kayak tips over. Therefore, we had to tip ourselves to demonstrate we can do it. This was the craziest thing I have ever done. The water is 40 deg; I dislike the cold, and have poor circulation on my hands and feet. I was completely shocked when we went over. Took time to breathe normally again and regroup. 

You have about 8 mins in this cold water before getting hyperthermia. Since I am sitting in the first seat of the double kayak, I have to wait for Mike to get in as I wrap my body to the front of the kayak to stabilize it for him to get in (sorry no pix). Thankfully, we passed on our first try. We kayaked back to shore, got clothes, and took a warm 4 min $2 shower. Amazingly, it was not as bad as I anticipated, but still shocking the very moment you hit the water and are stuck in a kayak. You have to find the rims to take off the spray shield, which holds you in the kayak.

When we told people about or self guided 2 night kayak trip, they gave us a crazy look and this is Mike’s first time kayaking! I arranged a couch surf that night; we met up w/ Nick and Jessica at a pub. They moved here from HI and are working on a fishing boat and tour boat. Fishing boat is a 14 hr. work day; poor Nick. People, here, have 90 days to make money for the year and heavily depends on tips. At the bar, we heard a tsunami siren, this is my first and it was not a drill. Some people left the bar; we with others waited for some more news. After about 10 mins they called it off. A town close by had a 7.2 earthquake.

Nick & Jessica are renting a geodome w/ no electricity, no running water, no bathroom or even outhouse. A guy from PA built it, made w/ metal frames and plastic around it. They have a wood-burning stove, but heat does not keep. I barely got sleep; we left at 4:30am for our kayak adventure. Wish I had more time there, as it has some good hikes w/ glacier views. It is very pretty w/ close mt views. Nick and Jessica live interesting lives and would have liked to talk to them some more too.

No photo album on this post.

Camping & Hiking Girdwood

Pix for blog: green leaf, me on the tram, me with water, bear)
Girdwood is known as a ski resort town. Could not really find a town center, which seemed odd to me; just groups of shops and houses spread out on small roads.

There’s a famous bakery we visited and questioned ourselves if we were in the right place b/c all they had was bread, cinnamon buns and a deli menu. We were expecting more baked goods; it was pretty comical being so confused in such a small town.  We then visited a famous pizza place and had some beer. And in town we saw a bear. We did not see any on our 4 hr hike earlier that day. Also today, Mike learned that he is going to med school in the Fall.

Wish we could have stayed more than 2 nights as there are lots of hiking trails and I feel I did not get a good sense of Girdwood. People raved about it and I did not get to explore much. The guys I met in Talkeetna live here in winter and work at the famous, huge, ski resort.

Greg and the 2 HI girls stayed one night and left after our 8 mile Winner Gorge trail hike. Mike and I left for Seward the next late morning.

Click here for photo album.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Random Thoughts Related to Travel

Below are some random thoughts I collected that relate to traveling:

Friend said, “I have all the time in the world”. I replied than you are a rich man.

Never hear anyone regretting that they traveled.

Not worrying about how everything can go wrong, just go with what comes at you.

People ask me where I am from, which is hard to answer. I am born and raised NY, recently lived in PX 4.5 yrs. Where do I currently live is my face question. Nowhere, anywhere, here right now :)

So far unintentionally spent my holidays on the road trip wwoofing. Easter arrived to the vineyard in UT. Memorial weekend spent in Little Tutka Bay, AK with the kayaking group.  Fourth of July on an organic/sustainable farm island near Juneau.

Apparently Germans travel for 2 years frequently.

When traveling I forget what is dirty and what is clean and when things were last washed.

Happy I shaved my pretty hair, when traveling and in places w/ less water access it is less greasy and less to maintain. 

No photo album on this post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Up Next - Girdwood, Seward & Juneau

In Anchorage, I met up again with Mike, from GA. We decided to travel together for the next week. Today heading south to the town of Girdwood to do some hiking. Greg D., guy I started the trip with in March, will also be joining us for a portion of the trip. Then continue further south to the town of Seward. We are renting a kayak, hoping on a Halibut boat charter to take us to Aialik bay to do two nights of solo camping and check out Kenai Fjords NP. Should be rad! We have to do a splash course to know kayak safety and exit/re-entry process, just in case we tip over.

On June 27, I am taking a ferry from Whittier to Juneau. It will take two nights and $220 just to get on the ferry. U can sleep in the  main atrium on the lounge chair if u have a sleeping bag, so no pricey cabin for me.

I have another 3 week wwoofer gig set up with Whale's Eye Ecovillage-Sustainable Living Center, on an island off of Juneau. They have an organic garden and conduct workshops on sustainable living; should be a great experience. 
I will be camping a lot this week so not sure when the next time I will computer/net access to upload pix and blog. No photo link album with this post :(

Note: Pix on the left is my friend Kerby riding the mechanical bull. I did one round, but no evidence to display here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Open Words - Life Thoughts

Below are some random thoughts that I have collected on this trip. Obviously these are my views and they apply to me as well; take no offense.
When I think of what’s in my boxes and all the clothes I have, I’m disgusted. Especially when people have so much less. They were not necessary items and just held me down. Not to mention all the money I wasted.

Technology is like a black hole, it sucks you in, spend way too much time on the computer, for example, and do not even know what you did. Then you feel like you did not accomplish much. It’s a distraction from living life. I stopped paying for cable years ago as I don’t want to see people doing cool things, I want to go out and do them myself. 

In cities you see many people upset, angry, and overall their general attitude is they want to be left alone. That’s b/c they have no space/privacy. They are in a compact area, shared with too many people. In a more rural setting, people are friendly, not only b/c they know each other, but b/c they want to interact with people. They have their own space and time.

Why is it when we get married, it is tradition to load ourselves with stuff. Kinda ties us down more. It seems to be consumption overload then making it difficult for the newlyweds to move around and travel.

Dislike the idea of gift cards, waste of plastic and forces a person to go to the store. What’s the difference or advantage over real cash. Real cash is easier for both parties.

No photo album on this post. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Talkeetna aka Never Never land 6/14-6/17

I did not know much about Talkeetna, except it is a cool, pretty town with lots of hikes. Meredith set up a couch surf with Greg S. He was delayed by a day on a flight from Seattle and rolled in town a few hrs after us. What a trooper to take us in. Meredith's friends from Girdwood, last minute decided to meet up w/ us and they all left the next day, 2 days earlier than planned. I stuck around with Greg and his band mates and had the best time.

We arrived on Tues, me bday. Got a shower for $5 at a hostel as Greg has no plumping or electricity (not too uncommon in AK). There happened to be another bday girl in town so we joined posses and flooded a few local bars. Most people are seasonal workers, coming from various states. Some of the girls are camping by the river for the whole summer. People live here b/c they want too. It's a small simple community and people are content. Being in such an environment is contagious, u feel it inside and is hard to describe. I imagine it was like Portland 20 yrs ago before it got big and trendy to be a hipster :) Guys here have greasy, tangly hair not b/c they want too.

Not having expectations is the best; I've been pleasantly surprised and just enjoy every new moment, like waiting at the junk yard while they got a tire fixed. Greg is in a band and they all just took me in and hung out with me while they worked various schedules at the bar and shop. They also gave me a lift to Anchorage Fri as they made a 7 hr journey to Homer for a gig that night.

I did not want to leave (typical case for me in AK). It's just all so pretty with killer generous people. I could see myself there next summer, ya never know :) Like Steinbeck said" We don't take a trip; a trip takes us".  click here for pix.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Denali – An Inspiring & Natural Connection

Denali NP is hard for me to put in to words to do it justice. 6 million acres of vast wilderness, where the wild can roam free surrounded by hundreds of mts. So many mts that they go nameless. Denali, the high one, is 20,320 ft. high.
The tundra is vegetation that grows higher than tree lines making it an excellent location for wildlife, such as caribou, bears both black and grizzlies (saw from the bus), moose, foxes, dall sheep and more.

We camped at Wonder Lake for 3 nights and only heard about the horrible big mosquitoes when we arrived in the park. We left Anchorage by bus at 7am, got to the park at 1, took the 2pm park bus to get to our camp by 7pm. Chris and Mike met us at camp a few hrs later and could only camp 2 nights.

The air was so refreshing and I felt so alive. Despite the bugs, on/off showers, and not seeing the mt while we were there, it was still an amazing experience. I've been to 20 National Parks and this is on my top 5. Volcano NP on the big island also touched me in similar ways. There’s a huge HI & AK connection, which I will write about in another post. 
I have not camped in about 5 weeks and this was my first Alaska camping. And what an excellent way to celebrate my bday! Always wanted to camp on my bday and got to celebrate with new traveling friends.  

On my bday we caught the 6:30am camper bus for the 5 hr. drive to the entrance as we were planning to catch a train to Talkeetna. I befriended an Aussie couple traveling America for 8 months and they gave us a 2.5 hr lift to Talkeetna; saving us $80 a piece. Travelers and locals have been so friendly and it’s just another world here, will talk more about this later on. Click here for more pix.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

ANC: Where Travelers Meet

Earlier yesterday I got to meet Kerby, another local surfer, who took me to a nice hidden beach by the park near the city.  Today he showed me his art studio and latest project, which was pretty neat.

Then met up with the other surfers from GA, Chris and Mike that met Greg in MT. We hiked Flat Top Mt; 3 miles with 1252 ft elevation gain. We were a tad hung over but awesome rolling green hill and lightly snow peaked mts. The end was a crazy scramble; getting down took some time, but all beautiful up there.

Tomorrow am, I finally get to meet Meredith, another couch surfer, and head to Denali for a 3 night camping trip. We've communicated online and by phone to plan the trip; we met on the CS forum as many of us are looking for travel buddies. Chris and Mike are also joining our campsite. I have a good feelin this will be a fun trip.

After Denali on June 14th (me bday), Meredith and I will head to Talkeetna (somehow) to visit some more surfers and maybe hike and camp more. Will be back in Anchorage and reconnected with me laptop on the 17th for 2 nights; over and out. Click here for pix.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fleeing My Alaskan Coop

On June 8th I flew my Alaskan coop.  They would love to have me all summer, which was a tempting offer. They have more helpers coming this summer, but we get along so well and been helping them with much needed marketing work, (websites, brochures etc) in addition to all the random kayaking business stuff.   

It’s been great to help them and get to know them during my month stay. It’s like I have a family here and could visit again. Who knows, maybe I will one summer as the nature scene is different from the Spring.  On the right, is a pix of me eating barnacles. looks gross, but not bad at all.

Took the water taxi back to Homer. Then caught a free 5 hr car ride to Anchorage via couch surfing; saving me a $100 bus ticket.  Sabrina, from Homer, and I had lots of travel talks and our love of the Big Island.   

It was weird coming from a remote place in just one month to all the car traffic, people, etc but it felt so good to have a running shower. I stayed with Kelvin via couchsurfing, a 24 yr old native. Next day, not planned,  I met up with Greg and his new travel buddy, Theresa, a German chick.  

We all met up at bar with other couch surfers I met in ANC and he met in MT. what a great night. So many travel vagabonds here all in the same spirit to let loose and go. Alaska is such a free feelin place with friendly peeps all around.

For new pix added to my Little kayak album, click here and scroll down to pix 39.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Archery & Alpaca Farm

The sun has been so bright lately and you can see clearly after midnight. We stayed up past 11pm to see the sunset, but you can’t really see it b/c it’s so darn bright and u see spots for a few mins afterwards. 
And finally, we got to shoot some arrows and I learned a thing or two about archery. Simple tools, but a few things to keep in mind when positioning your hands, elbows, and your stance. After a handful of tries, I got very close to the bulls eye. 
A few days ago, I visited the spit life in Homer and took random touristy fish photos. I've updated my Homer album; new pix start on photo 42. includes touristy life at the spit and visit to the alpaca farm- so many darn cute animals, who also hosts wwoofers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Nature: Random Thoughts & Observations

While hiking in UT, in the red sand in between the mighty rocks and canyons, I've noticed small plants and flowers blooming. I've never witnessed Spring so slowly and closely come alive before. Being in nature so consistently, you start noticing tiny things around you.

Many times while hiking, solo and while w/ others, the song titled "Enjoy the Silence" pops into my mind, and I have been trying to do so.

In the silence, you discover a new world of sounds.

My two constant scents consisted of dirt and smoke (camp fire of course).  Have not done many fires, but the smell lingers in my clothes. And now while being on the boat almost every day, I feel salty :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Memorial Weekend: Hike, Kayak & Sunset

It’s strange to take a boat to go hiking. Rubber boots are needed for the boat and rain pants. Then bring your hiking shoes and of course bear spray. As I got dropped off the beach, I luckily quickly remembered I left my hiking boots on the boat. Agh, so much gear to remember.  I hide the boots by the trees and headed up the Grace Trail hike. I knew I would not be able to finish the 9 mile 6-8 one way hike as the boat was picking me up in 6 hrs.

I did not expect the snow though. I made it through some snow, even a steep part. Right after that I got the view that I was looking for of the mts and islands. But coming back down I got to unintentionally slide on me bumb; kinda fun. I never hiked alone before AK and it’s given me a lot of time to think. Ideas of what I should do, where should I go this winter have been running through me mind.   

So many options, but need to research them a bit to see what make sense. I won’t mention them till I have a better idea, but I think Peace Corps is out of the picture. Since it’s been such an internal battle, I figure it is not right for me at this time. 

The next day was a sunny, dry day and gotta another good sunset night. We went kayaking with Rick's sons and their wives who were all visiting us.  Click here for more pix.