Wow. What a TRIP. I've just finished uploading the pictures and I cannot even believe how much we did/accomplished/saw in our week-long journey to and in Alaska. We've called these family vacations "camp" for a few times now, but this time, well, it really was just that. Tents, campfires, breathtaking mountain views, outhouses, and a few pesky mosquitos (that ate poor Brady alive during that first hike.) Deet to the rescue!
Ps: Before our bike ride, I took an early morning bikram class at Anchorage Yoga! It was amazing and I was in awe of the community spirit the studio had. All the students seem to know each other and have a vested interest in each other's practice. I felt a longing for something like that at my home studio in NYC. Thanks to Melanie for a wonderful class and for making me feel so welcome!
Monday morning we were treated to a breakfast feast by Marko. Eggs, hashbrowns, the works. The man knows how to weild a propane grill like a pro. We headed out with the whole crew in tow to the Russian River Falls for a half-day hike. It was gorgeous. I felt safe in our pack of 10 + Marko leading the way, but definitely wary of the bears. We hiked for about 2 hours and came upon the falls and decided it was a perfect spot for lunch. There was a man-made overlook at this spot and it was a welcomed luxury to take a seat. Somewhere between my fig newton and PB&J, Lee goes "bear. it's a bear. it's a bear." (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) <---- me freaking out. Luckily, the grizzly was below the platform and in the river! And on the hunt for salmon! We had seen the pool of red sockeye swimming upstream about 10 min before and pooling below the platform. Well the mama bear sensed that too! (She was without cubs, but Marko could tell she was a parent hunting for food.) We watched her for at least 30 minutes dipping her head in and out of the cold water, but this young bear wasnt quick enough to catch anything yet. Poor cubbies! After that eventful morning, Lee and I were taken to the Russian River drop off point to meet up with our fishing guide, Jason for an afternoon of salmon fishing! I had never gone fly fishing before but I caught on (literally) pretty quickly and even snagged on to a few salmon but was unable to land any. The atmosphere was so serene. I stopped many times just to watch Lee fish. He is in his element when on the river and I love that he's been able to share a part of that with me. A father and son were fishing not too far from us and for many moments that afternoon my mind wondered about the day Lee takes a future son or daughter of his fishing. Memorable moment #3: thinking about just that.
Up first on this day's agenda: sea kayaking. Everyone paired off, got a quick safty/directions rundown from our kayak leader, Zach, and we headed into Resurrection Bay. Sweeping views of the mountains and even a glimpse of Godwin Glacier (more on that later.) We paddled almost 2 miles off shore and decided to lunch on a "ghost beach" that was partially destroyed by a tsunami yearrrrrs ago. Good times.
A quick turnaround at the kayak shop after our mini tour of the bay, and we were off to the most anticipated part of the day: DOGSLEDDING on the Godwin Glacier (!!!). I'm not sure what was better that day: the intense white wonderland at the top, the actual sledride, the sleddog puppies or the helicopter trip to & from....but it was certainly pinch ourselves amazing. Brady's camera secured what will undeniably be the "picture of the trip" of the entire family on the glacier (see fuzzy/blurry attempt of mine to take a picture of the picture). We learned all about how they raise and train the sleddogs, discovering even before the pups turn a year old how their personality will fit best along the team "line". My favorite was a 1yr old dog named Wichita who has outsmartted and outworked the lead male dogs to become the first female lead on this certain team. Love a good girl power story:)
It's a bit strange how things opporate inside Denali NP. There are no hiking trails (save for maybe a few at the park's entrance) but with 6million acres of land, it registers as next to nothing. Permits are needed for backcountry camping and can only be aquired with a 3-night minimum. Basically what they are doing is keeping out only the most seasoned campers (or daredevils---aghem Lammers/Dief;) and allow for hikers to simply trek their own course. Reminder: this is bear country in case you forgot. The park offers green bus tours for a $10 fee for those wanting to see the park by car and also to drop off hikers (us) in a more remote section of the vast area. We chose to jump off a spot recommended by Marko called Polychrome Pass. A few hours of hiking around there provided us with the most spectacular views of the entire trip. (Mt McKinley was clouded over, bummer). Along our hike we saw Dall Sheep (think Billy Goats), caribou and a grizzly (thankfully, wayyyy far off along the river.) I couldnt get over how, in any way I looked, the entire area was untouched by humans. Not a single telephone pole, electric anything. It was just how it has always been. I was in awe.
Our final day in Denali was a pick your own adventure and I chose my Kindle and a lakeside rock/chair for the morning while the rest went mountain biking. It was nice to get some alone time and take in the silence, the birds and catch up on some reading (The Hunger Games=excellent). At some point that morning, I headed to the van real quick to grab something and found Jen, Morgan & Isabella had rejoined us again! Morgan's bubbly personality started to open up and (realizing quick that I'm just a big kid) she took my hand and wanted to show me something: wild blueberries! Memorable moment #4: For the next hour, Morgan and I bounced around camp with a little basket and filled it to the brim with blueberries. Her mom Jen and I talked and talked. It was such a treat and loved hearing tales of a family who is so connected to nature and the outdoors that their 3yr old is telling me about what this and that is. Priceless. The crew returned and Lee and I took out the canoe for a liesurly loop along the lake. So peaceful. We were the only ones out there alongside a mama duck and 10 ducklings:) We had dinner that night at the Salmon Bake restaurant in the closest "town" near the park entrance and pretty much inhaled tons of greasy food + microbrews. Nom nom.
"what is an experience? something that breaks a polite routine and for a brief period allows us to witness things with the heightened sensitivity afforded to us by novelty, danger, or beauty - and it's on the basis of shared experiences that intimacy is given an opportunity to grow. people...effectively bonded by what they have seen." -alain de botton.
Mom & Dad, thank you for this trip and for the experience you gave all your children. Life memories that we will keep forever.