When dad picked me up he said, "You're out of practice."
Let me back up. It had been a long work week, actually short because Monday was a holiday and we had just got back from Clam Gultch. But by Friday, everyone was talking about going BACK to Clam Gultch for the weekend. I was not thrilled. I drive a lot already and as I previously mentioned, we drove a lot over 4th of July weekend, and here it is 4 days later and they want to turn around and do it all over again.
That's when dad asked me if I wanted him to drop me off in "The Pass." Now dad has been forever telling me of a little place of mystery and history called "The Pass" or at least that's how he has always referred to it. Up till now, I only knew that it was up high and really cool. I learned more along the way like Doc Cunningham put in the airstrip, and used to have a spot with wooden platforms for tents but the Forrest Service burnt them down since they didn't look natural. I also learned that a drop of rain could basically fall and have two choices, roll one way down the Chickaloon Pass or the other way down the Talkeetna Pass. I was at the head waters of two main rivers. Dad flew me around and oriented me to the area, set down and I unloaded my gear...then I watched him fly away.
Now don't think he left me ALL alone, Buddy was with me and I had a radio that on 121.5 could talk to the jets flying over, just in case...and Rusty's .45 of course. But I was up at 5,000ft and rarely did planes fly OVER this pass and the bears were at least two valley's down. It was just me and the sunshine and the breath of freedom. Freedom from societal norms. Freedom from convinces. Freedom from technology!! No Service!! I literally cast off my cares (and clothes) and went climbing. Buddy lost about three years off his life and turned into a happy puppy!! He wouldn't stop playing fetch and pranced every where he went. Everything was new and exciting!
Setting up camp was quick and easy. Everyone except the neighboring squirrel was happy with the site. He didn't stop chattering at me till I broke camp and went home! I was shocked and sad to find that my air-mattress wasn't holding air. I stole some duct tape off the scope box to stop up the biggest hole and ended up having to blow it up again every 3 hours. It started to rain a couple hours into my stay so into my tent I went. It was so nice to just snuggle into my fleece and down bag and listen to the rain. I read a book, started knitting a pair of gloves and slept, and slept and slept. All the sudden I realized it was Sunday and I hadn't gotten out of the tent in almost 24 hours!! It was the sudden growling from my stomach that brought me out of my slumber and back into my senses. I hadn't eaten since I left home. Oh! and did I mention it was cold? I was on the verge of freezing but had lots more clothes I could have put on. Little did I know it was snowing just above me!! I could see glimpses of it through the cloud bank that had obscured the pass the next morning.
Hungry! Right! So I opened the tent and in the vestibule set up the stove...(first mistake). I had bungeed the vestibule to some rocks and everything was wet wet wet! Since it was still drizzling, I decided to cook from inside the tent and use dad's stove...(second mistake). It took me a bit to figure it out get it set up and lit...so by the time the thing roared to life, I wasn't ready for the blaze it put out waiting to catch the burner or the back draft that was bringing the blaze into my tent. I was frozen in fear and stuck without a way out of my tent and no way to reach the zipper to the vestibule. Then the surge of panic and adrenalin hit me...I was flailing and and throwing and thanking God that everything was soaking wet! Somehow, the rocks with the fly still bungeed to them ended up on the other side of the tent, the stove on its side a few yards away still blazing in the rain and me breathing heavy thinking, "Did I just get away easy??" That's when the burner caught and I started laughing hysterically. I decided to cook the rest of my meal a couple feet from the tent and heck with the drizzle, it was now my new best friend.
Fed and ready to explore, Buddy and I "packed up" and took off on our adventure. I decided to follow the Talkeetna River up to it's source since I wasn't too excited about getting wet in a river crossing. I put on my new Keens and carharts and threw on my backpack and headed out. The clouds moved by quickly and gave us peeks of the peaks around us. Once in a while we even got a ray or two of sunshine! We had a great hike along river beds, across high tundra, over bolder piles left by meandering glaciers. Past lakes and caribou tracks and poop. We hiked all the way up to the glacier (Piedmont, since it ends on land.) Then I realized I hadn't brought any food, or the gun, and somehow, somewhere, I had lost the antenna to the radio. It was time to turn around and head back to the tent. We photographed rocks and mud, water and foliage, bacteria and lichen. Marmots wistled at us and birds chased us away from their nests. We even got the ground squirrel talking about our intrusion. Not once did we see a sheep or a caribou. Back at camp I realized we had been out for over 8 hours and so I cooked up some dinner, cleaned up and it started to rain again. Snuggling back down I decided if dad didn't come pick me up in the morning, I would try crossing the river to check out the huge gorge and cliff at the mouth of the Chickaloon Pass.
I woke up to sunshine streaming into my tent! It was practically a sauna!! I was excited to go exploring again so I got dressed, repacked with necessities I had forgot the day before put in first and started making breakfast. I figured if dad wasn't there by the time I was done I was heading out. Fed and cleaned up I heard a sound I hadn't heard in 3 days...the sound of an airplane coming through the pass. My heart dropped as it circled my camp and landed. It was such a beautiful day, I wanted to push dad to go hiking with me but I knew that we had a lot of catching up to do back home. Buddy ran up to the plane and to my great surprise was ready to jump in and GO!! (He hates traveling) We broke camp, much to my neighbor's delight and flew home trading stories all the way. We checked out a hanging glacier and a nursery of baby goats and a Golden Eagle!! I had such a grand time, I can't wait to do it again!!
I was unprepared for all the astonishment at my adventure. Since then I have been questioned by many Alaskans as well as others why I went on this solo trip and wasn't I scared. I think it is sad that people are so afraid of and detached from God's green earth, his creatures and his people. I loved being in a place so quiet I could hear my heart beat and my soul think. The usual fast stimulus of life sated so my eyes and feet could discover many miniature miracles and anchient earth artifacts. I was so full and rested when I got back, I wish this place of being on everyone, no matter how you get there. No, I was not scared I had my common sense and lots of comfy accommodations as well as my Buddy to keep me company.
I'm just out of practice...
2 days ago