Sunday, June 29, 2014

Flattop Mountain

It feels like it's been raining since I arrived in Anchorage - which was good my job hunting as I managed to land a job in less than a week - but no so great for hiking and exploring the surrounding beauty. 
So when the rain clouds lifted this afternoon, Brian and I took the chance to hike Flattop Mountain. It is apparently the most hiked trail in the state and even as we were sitting at the summit at 10:30 at night, we were surrounded by dozens of people.

Although a steep incline with some scrambling near the top, the short and sweet hike followed by spectacular views make it more than worth the trek. We were thankful to have done this highly recommended hike. And on such a spectacular day! We were lucky enough to catch a peak at Mount McKinley on the horizon. Sadly my little iPhone camera did not quite capture the beauty of this place. I need to remember to get my little point & shoot out more.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Adventuring Out

While I take looking for a job very seriously there are only so many things I can do in a day to advance myself. So after shuffling through the morning job postings, Bosco & I decided to venture out into Eagle Creek to take a walk on the historic Iditarod Trail.
Beautiful! Then again, I'm not seeing much around here that isn't beautiful.
Not more than half from the parking lot (after already having hiked over 7 miles), I stopped to snap this little picture.
I'm finding my little iPhone 5 camera to be an injustice to the world of Alaska. It does nothing to show the actual beauty of this place. Well that was a sidetrack... the real point of this story is that as I was once again admiring this little area, a movement caught my eyes. A small, juvenile black bear was contently doing his bear thing in the tall grasses. Well crap. Where was momma? Not wanting to linger in this area any longer, I unharnessed my bear spray, removed the safety for only the third time in my life, and began down the trail again talking calmly, but loudly to my new little friend. Unfortunately for me, the only way back to the parking lot that contained my little Crosstrek was to proceed slightly closer to the juvenile. So I checked my surroundings, feeling fairly confident I wasn't about to be ambushed from a short distance. Anything like a pissed off mother bear would have to step into the opening, which was large enough thankfully that I would at least have some reaction time with the bear spray, even to a fast approaching black bear. Fortunately wherever mom was, it wasn't close enough that she wanted to come hug me and cover me in adorable black bear kisses.

Crisis averted. I also think it's time to retire my bear spray and start carrying a real gun. Bosco, I don't think we're in Montana anymore.

Later that night I met up with a friend of a friend from Missoula for a hike up Near Point Peak, on the southern end of Anchorage. Although I had already put in 8 miles that morning on my Dew Lake Loop hike I wasn't going to pass up the chance at a guided hike from a local. So Bosco & I packed up again and headed for the trail head.
Near Point added another 8 miles to my day with a 1,900 ft gain, but the views at the top did not disappoint.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thunderbird Falls

My first hike in Alaska! Besides the day we spent buying my new car it's been doing nothing but raining here in Anchorage. This morning, during a brief pause in between the raindrops, Brian & I headed out for a quick hike to a beautiful waterfall a few miles outside of Anchorage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ultimatum: Part Deux

Two years ago I gave myself an ultimatum. I needed to either find new passion in Missoula or it was time to leave it. This June that time frame was going to run out. However, in the two years since making that ultimatum, I found my passion - it just so happened to manifest itself with the name Brian. Little did I know that his walking back into my life would ultimately work into my [unknown] master plan/time frame.

After many tearful goodbyes, two years after my initial ultimatum (to the week), I packed up all my belongings, Bosco & myself into mi Baja and drove away from Missoula. Even as I hit the highway like I've done hundreds of times before, my eyes were filling with salt water.

My first destination was Kalispell for a few nights with my new in-laws. It's been fun getting to know my new family & I appreciated them letting me crash their already busy schedule for a few nights.

Once my time was up there, Bosco & I crawled back into the heavily loaded yellow Subaru & crossed the Border in Canada. Banff was our first Canadian destination - a beautiful city tucked into the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the Alberta Providence. While the town itself it beautiful, the surrounding national parks are what really left me wanting more. I hope Brian & I can return there together someday for some exploration & highly recommend it to anyone else. Bonus, dogs are allowed on leash on many hiking trails in Canadian National Parks.

The following morning the pup & I rose early so that we could drive to a remote mountain lake before heading back out on the highway. After our short side adventure, we were back on the road. After over an hour of driving we stopped in a small town for a quick breakfast of Tim Horton's donuts. Hey, when in Canada...

 It was here that I had my first nagging feeling that I was not heading in the right direction. Only after breakfast and a few more kilometers of driving were behind us were my fear confirmed & we turned around.

Once we were finally on the right path, I was amazed by the scenery of Jasper National Park. Wow. Now Banff was nice, but this, this was phenomenal. If only I had days/weeks/months to play in this park I would have thought I had died & gone to heaven. Although knowing I was behind schedule due to my three hour driving mistake, I took my time driving through this park as to try and fully appreciate its awesome beauty. Bosco & I found ourselves running short on time & slept in the city of Fort St John, about 4 hours south of our intended destination. 

Once again, fully rested, we checked out and hit the road. Both myself and mi Baja were running strong that day, so we skipped lunch in order to make up some lost time the day before. Several hours into the day, as we were passing through the most heavily bear infested section we had seen this far (5 in a 30 minute time period) my cruise control kicked off. Thinking I had bumped it with my knee, something I'm prone to do, I flicked it back on. No response. So I hit the gas pedal instead. Still nothing. As the panic started to set in, I quickly pulled over the the side of the road and popped the hood. My music was still playing, no indicator lights were on the dash, so I turned her off and went out to inspect. No smoke, and after a quick check of the fluids (I'm apparently notorious for not checking my oil appropriately) couldn't find anything visibly wrong, but I'm no mechanic. So I let her sit for a few minutes, checking for any cell phone service (there was none) & tried to start her back up. The power came on, but the engine would not turn over. It wouldn't even try to turn over.


Several cars had passed at this point & not a single one even touched their brakes. In the middle of nowhere, not knowing how far I was to any sort of civilization, I sat on the side of the road and had a good cry. After an unknown amount of time an RV with an elderly couple inside stopped. A short ride later & I was able to purchase a calling card to call for a quick call to both Brian (to keep him in the loop of what was going on) and a tow truck in the nearest town, some two hours away.

After a series of events (In an effort to save hours of your time, my time, and what's left of my mother's quickly graying hair, I've omitted from here the stories of the attack dog, herd of buffalo that almost trampled Bosco, motorcycle ride, broken tow truck fiasco, etc. from the 7 hours it took from breaking down to finally being picked up by a tow truck. You'll have to ask for those in person.)  and a 900$ tow later, both myself and mi Baja were at our home for the night, Watson Lake, Yukon. The next morning it was concluded that my timing belt had broken, and with the Baja having an interference engine, it was rendered useless and would need to be completely replaced for her to run again. Not wanting to be stranded in a foreign country any longer, my husband and I decided that my best bet was to get to the nearest city, Whitehorse, which was still nearly 6 hours away. Being stranded in a small town and having heard the news, Stan, my tow truck driver from the night before, offered me a lift to the city as he was going to be passing through that day as a pilot car driver for an over-sized load. I graciously accepted his request & took the ride. Stan was a wealth of knowledge about the area, having lived there the last 35 years, and despite my intense anxiety over being stranded in the middle of no-where, his stories helped calm me and point my mind in another direction.

Once in Whitehorse, my husband had a U-haul waiting for me. A quick cab ride later and I was now sitting in a U-Haul truck with a trailer attached, driving back the same 6 hour road I just traveled down. At midnight Bosco & I pulled back into our hotel to crash for the night. As exhausted as I was, the never ending sunlight kept me awake for a few more hours. 

Around 5 the next morning I was already back up. A mixture of adrenaline, anticipation & the already ridiculously bright sunlight had only let me sleep a few hours. Since nothing could be done about the car until the mechanic shop opened, Bosco and I decided to explore the area the town was famous for; the Signpost Forest. Having no intention of leaving my Holly Ln sign here before the trip, after being stranded here for a few days, I thought it was only fitting I pay homage to the good luck (minus the breakdown) I'd been receiving during this fiasco. Seriously. It could have been so much worse. I was grateful for the way things were playing out and my guardian angel named Stan. So I found the perfect spot for my little sign from Pennsylvania whose once intended destination was my new, heated garage in Anchorage.

After what seemed like forever, the baja was loaded onto the trailer & I was off for the Alaskan/Canadian border. Only a few hours outside this border did I actually hit the rough section of the Alaskan Highway that I'd been hearing about. Thankfully I was doing this in a fully functioning vehicle instead of an unknowingly wounded Baja. At the border, once FINALLY back in the country, I got a second wind. Between that and the sun not setting I drove straight through, a total of twenty hours, from Watson Lake to Anchorage where Brian's outstretched arms gave me one of the most welcomed hugs I've even experienced.

I'm thankful to say that once settled in Anchorage, the local Subaru dealer was happy to take in a trade of my expired Baja for a new 2014 Crosstrek XV. Brian didn't want to drop a new engine into a car pushing 200,000 miles only to continually worry about me in the Alaskan winters.

My experience getting here was most certainly an adventure... but hopefully many more positive adventures here will trump that one.