Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leaving Society Behind

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 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...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mt Marathon...FINALLY!!

Well it has been a while hasn't it and boy do I have stories to tell. Tawni, I hope this makes you laugh as you requested. I will have to keep it to one story per post or you will be here all night reading this thing! Lets go back two weekends ago to 4th of July.

It was a long work week, nobody new what the plan was but we all new Seward was somewhere in the mix. Mark and Melony stopped by and invited anyone who wanted to halibut fish out of Homer to meet them Saturday morning. Of course Clam Gultch was also a given it was just how when and where. Thursday evening still nobody knew what the plan was, mom and dad had been shopping for a motor home but ended up using the Gigantoid Company Motor Home instead. The boys packed up the 4 wheelers in a covered trailer and hit the road after work. Dad still had more to do so he sent mom and I off in the motor home by ourselves with a "to do" list about as long as Santa's "nice" list. Dad and Andrew later flew to Kasilof...oh, let me back up a trace. Margaret and Zach had company from Oregon, friends from Multnomah up visiting. They went to Doner's Beach on Thursday I believe and Chad and Luanna whom both had 4 days off had decided to join until Wednesday night, Chad bought them both tickets to Montana for his family reunion, so they left Thursday afternoon. So much for plans eh?

So back to mom and I (because that is where I was!) we stopped in Eagle River for propane and food. Propane wasn't so easy to find but eventually we got it (and didn't even have to back up the beast!!) Figured out where it went but never ever figured out how to turn it on. Upon rejoining the string of cars on the Parks Highway, the oil pressure dropped through the floor. Now imagine my mother driving this 34+ft long beast through Anchorage, looking for a gas station she trusts herself to pull through with 3,000 other RV's trying to get a last fill up and top off before hitting the same 2 lane road we are driving down. Not only that, but mom points between the seats and says, "I don't even know where the engine is in this thing, do you think it's there?" This starts the first of many laughing till we are crying fits that last most of the weekend long. I wish I could remember them all. We can't get a hold of Dad who is most likely somewhere above Nikkiski by now and Margaret has no clue what kind of oil the beast takes. We try to rouse Keith Wright but by now it is 10:30. We take a guess, fill her up and still no oil pressure. The dip stick is terribly long and takes mom ten minutes just to get it in and down the hole only to pull it out again...we are giggling hysterically.

We decide that the gauge isn't working (even thought the beast was seriously low on oil) and make our way to Girdwood to check the oil again. On the way dad finally calls us, Margaret has kindly driven out to Kasilof to pick them up. Andrew forgot to unpack the truck into the plane while dad was fueling up so they are without many things including sleeping bags. Back in the beast there is no heat so I have ransacked the beds of their blankets and wrapped them around us.

Arriving in Girdwood, we open the engine compartment to find a hot engine and the dip stick says we still need more oil. This can't be good. Only then are we approached by two college age girls looking to hitch a ride to Cooper Landing. I told them it was an iffy ride, no heat, questionable oil pressure, not much to count on but it was up to them, there was plenty of room. They had been waiting on a promised ride for over an hour and were glad to take us up on our big roomy questionable ride. So we closed up the hood and made our way down the road. We did make it to Cooper's Landing and decided after dropping the girls off to pull over for the night.

It was 1:30am and so we called dad and said our good nights, bundled up in real beds and slept like two lumps on a log sideways! We hadn't figured out how to level the beast yet. Morning was much brighter and our spirits rested we felt better prepared to face the rest of the trip, especially after seeing an Esspresso Drive thru that served Kaladi's!! We called dad as we got close just to find that they had just pulled out to go to Homer.

Arriving we tried to light the propane and failed so we went to Merry's Clam Shack for hot tea, only to hear that Andrew and Dad had slept in the truck sitting up all night WITHOUT bags or blankets of any kind!! Pour boys!! So now most of us after a VERY long work day have had very little sleep and still we charged on with our many plans. Mom and I kept the beach fire going, we knitted, drew and read. Mom tried to help me paint my toes and we both about wet our pants laughing, in the sand with wet toes bright pink/orange and big drops of it all over my feet and her hands. We made quite a pair! We visited with Moe and Merry and Jo and Hiedi and different Doner gang members as they came in off their boats. Heather and Luke were also down for a visit...the beach is a grand place to chill and visit. We got to hear all about Heidi's trip to Greece too and see all her pictures. Mom and I made hobo dinners.

Margaret and her friends eventually went to Homer to help clean fish. They all got back very late sometime after midnight and we all fell into bed...I think dad was already passed out in my sleeping bag on the couch when we got back to the beast. Buddy was exhausted from running up and down the beach chasing waves and atv's and balls and rocks and kids but there was little sleep for the weary.

6am my alarm clock went off, we had 15 minutes to get ready before Merry and Heidi were to pick Scott and I up to drive to Seward. It was July 4th and it was Heidi's first race to the very top of the mountain and my first attempt to climb it. The plan was for everyone else to follow in the plane, unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and so it was just Scott and I who attempted the climb.

The first part was very precarious!! Basically rock and root climbing, then it was just straight up, one foot in front of the other, excruciatingly painful the HELL do they RUN it??? Scott would get a ways ahead and wait for me. I would be ready to quit when I would see a flash of yellow ahead and think, okay fine, I can make it that far then, and on and on it went. Mark sped past us at one point and Mr. Veenstra came out of the brush at one point and told us that Emily would be racing too. We could hear clearly the band and the announcer getting the women lined up for their race. At the first gun shot, we still hadn't made it to midway. I thought we would be caught on the trail but we shot out at the shale just seconds before the first woman runner to break through the brush. It was a tight race to the finish, we could hear that the Seward favorite was behind the Olympic runner and past her just at the finish, protecting her title and gaining her 6th and final win in Mt. Marathon. 53 minutes and the race was over but women were still pouring out of the brush and climbing up the crazy thing!! After Heidi past us the second time on her way down, we tried our foot and riding the shale down between was AWESOME!! I believe that was the best part of the whole day really, cause then we got lost thinking we had found the easy way down only to find ourselves standing at the top of the rock face with tree roots to swing by...down down down we went and I don't know if I shall ever climb it again but I can now say I've been up it at least to midway!

We had BBQ at the church parking lot during the parade. I ran into my old boss from Helly Hansen and then we watched the men's race. They are crazy and act invincible climbing down the rock cliff at the bottom!!

Then we headed back to Clam Gultch...oh for those of you back in Portland...Wasilla to Clam Gultch is 225 miles, Clam Gultch to Homer 40 miles, Clam Gultch to Seward 132 miles. A Whopping total of 792 miles for the weekend.

Tosha met up with us in Seward and came back to Clam Gultch with us to spend the night and her birthday. It was awesome, we had a bon fire in the pouring rain and the next day sat around the campfire, drank hot tea and picked nets. My boat even caught a KING Salmon!! We drove down the beach to visit and climb the waterfall and enjoyed one more night on the beach before dad flew back, the boys drove back and mom and I chug chug chugged our way back to Wasilla in the big ugly beast. We were only to happy to send it on it's way to Eielson AFB a couple days later which I am glad to inform you made it.

Mom and I enjoyed our fits of giggles in spite of the headaches caused by ill prep and planning. Craziest part is, they all turned around and did it all over again the next weekend!!! I, on the other hand, have a different adventure to tell you about, in my next post.