Thursday, August 6, 2009

Camping and Hiking

Monday July 27th

6:47 pm: The weather outlook in Seward looks bleak for this weekend. Rainy and cloudy everyday. Our plans for the weekend camping trip might be in jeopardy.

Thursday July 30th

9:21 pm: Somehow the weather forecast for Seward has changed for the better. It will not only not be raining but should be sunny on Saturday! However, on Tuesday and Wednesday Seward received as much rain as it typically does during the entire month of July which has caused some flooding in the area. We decide to make the trip.

Friday July 31st

8:03 am: We wake up early to do some work and pack so we can leave by noon.

2:36 pm: Rebekah is finally ready and we hit the road.

4:07 pm: We take the 15 mile side trip to the town of Hope (#45 on the list) thinking it's 15 miles and it will be worth it to see the town.

4:23 pm: We arrive in Hope, and while we get to see the one room schoolhouse that is still in use by the town as a library, we realize it was not worth the 15 mile detour.

8:11 pm: Camp is all set up in Seward. We found a campground in downtown Seward right on the beach and were able to get a nice spot since we were there fairly early. The campsite has a picnic table and a fire circle, and at only $10 per night is a very nice location.

(our tent)

11:24 pm: After grilling out and sitting around the campfires with our camp neighbors, a couple from Philadelphia camping throughout Alaska for a week, we go to bed early so we can wake up and be ready for the long hike.

Saturday August 1st

6:17 am: We wake up early, eat breakfast, and get ready for the hike.

8:36 am: After the drive into Kenai Fjords National Park and to the Exit Glacier Information Center we put on our sunglasses, sunscreen, layers of clothing, camelbacks, bug spray, pack our cameras and lunch, and put on more bug spray for good measure. So far, the sun has not come out. But, there are only low hanging clouds that look like they are going to break up as the sun warms the sky.

9:00 am: Every Saturday morning at 9 am a ranger leads a hike up to the Harding Ice Field (new entry #94) beginning at the Exit Glacier Information Center. The hike is 8.6 miles round trip and goes up 3,000 feet on the way there and back down 3,000 feet on the return trip. The hike is listed as strenuous. We find out that the road to the Information Center was flooded and closed earlier in the week and had just opened back up at 4 pm on Friday. 24 hours before the hike began the ranger did not know whether she was going to be leading the hike or not.

9:47 am: The guide is leading the group and is sharing a lot of information on the local vegetation. We learn which berries and plants are poisonous, which to avoid, and which are edible. There are many berries along the trail which make for a nice snack on the way, but also attract many resident bears. Bears are seen on the trail almost every day of the summer.

10:16 am: The first part of the trail is in the forest and winds its way through the trees and creeks. We finally clear the treeline and it feels like we have been hiking for at least 2 miles. This ranger kindly informs us that we are only 1/3 of the way to the top. This part of the hike was really difficult, and Rebekah and I agree that it will probably get easier from here. At least the weather is nice - it is sunny and warm and there is barely a cloud in the sky!

(Exit Glacier reaching down into the valley below)

11:29 am: We were wrong - the second part was definitely harder. We winded our way upwards through Marmot Meadow surrounded by brush and berries. The group stops for a break on this rock outcropping which overlooks the valley below. We eat a snack of crackers and trail mix to give us energy for the remainder of the hike. We are now roughly 2/3 of the way there and Rebekah and I again agree that the worst part is probably behind us.

(a marmot in Marmot Meadow)

12:27 pm: Rebekah has started complaining. The third part is definitely the hardest! We are now hiking through arctic tundra and over and around rocks and gravel. This is the steepest and most strenuous part of the hike.

12:59 pm: We finally make it to the emergency shelter (for emergencies) at the top of the hike. It only took 4 hours to hike 3.8 miles and climb 3000 feet! We hike a little farther to get a better view of the ice field and to eat the lunch we hiked up with.

1:13 pm: It is gorgeous up here! You can see ice and more ice for 30 miles in one direction and 50 miles in another. You can also see the ice field head down and form Exit Glacier as it creeps into the valley below. We made it all the way up here and Rebekah only complained about a dozen times! This hike was definitely worth it and is one of my all time favorite hikes! The weather is great and the ranger says is one of the best days they have had all summer. One thing to consider for the future - during the early months of spring you can hike on or across the ice field.

(The ice looks close. But, you can tell by how small the people are farther down in the picture that the ice is still pretty far off. And those people aren't very close to the ice either.)

2:26 pm: The hike down is pretty difficult as well - but for a different reason. Our leg muscle and joints are exhausted from climbing the 3,000 feet up that they are tired and begin to ache on the way down. Because we are tired we are hiking slower than we normally would, which actually makes our leg muscles more tired as we have to strain to walk slowly down the hill.

(more of the ice field)

2:44 pm: We are walking down the trail and as I wind a corner I almost run smack into a Black Bear (part of #86) walking straight towards me on the trail eating berries. It is only about 8 feet in front of us, but doesn't seem to really care that we are there. This is good as it does not want to attack us, but bad as it does not want to give up the trail and we are surrounded by thick brush on all sides. Finally, we make enough noise that the bear gets the idea and walks into the brush itself to get away from us. Rebekah thought it was cute and now wants one as a pet.

(the bear - and this is not zoomed in at all)

3:37 pm: We are now down into the tree line and our legs our killing us. If we stand still our legs will actually shake because of how tired our muscles are. Rebekah, after doing well on the way up and only complaining about a dozen times, has complained about a hundred times and has now declared that she is no longer having fun.

4:09 pm: We made it down to the bottom, but barely. We walk straight to the car and sit down.

(last one)

7:22 pm: After showering, running to the store, and eating a big dinner we spend the evening recovering by the camp fire. Our camp neighbors return and tell us about their day trip. They took a boat down to one of the inlets in Kenai Fjords National Park where a rather large glacier ends into the ocean. The boat tour sets them up with kayaks and they kayak around the bay, looking at the glacier and watching it calve into the ocean. The trip was $400 per person, but they said it was one of their favorite things they have done and definitely worth it - so it will probably be something we look into in the future.

Sunday August 2nd

10:13 am: We finally wake up after a long nights sleep and try to make pancakes. However, we forgot the spatula at the house (twice) and forgot to buy one at the store so it quickly becomes messy and we give up. We were considering going on another hike today, but we are too sore so we will have to save that for another weekend.

11:46 am: The campsite is packed up and cleaned and we begin the drive back to Anchorage. The hike was worthwhile and memorable (for many reasons) and the weather ended up being one of the best weekends in a couple of months. Our first weekend camping in Alaska was a success!
(on the way home from Seward)


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Picnic with Palin

Every year, there is a Governor's Picnic held in Anchorage. This year, it just happened to occur on the last day that Sarah P. was to be our Governor. Steven and I went to the picnic and got to be served lunch by the famous (or infamous, depending on who you talk to) Mrs. Palin (new entry #93 on our List of Alaskan Things to Do). There was a very nice singing of the National Anthem and the Alaska Flag Song. There was also a song by "Hobo Jim" who is apparently pretty famous 'round these parts. You can see him at the Wild Berry Park. He sang about the different landscapes and people of Alaska. Hobo Jim is the Official State Balladeer for Alaska. He wrote a nice song called "I Am Alaska" and he sang it for us during the picnic. Click here for a video I found of him singing the song (down in Kenai though, not here in Anchorage).

After Hobo Jim sang, a girl sang the Alaska Flag Song. It is a song about nothing other than the Alaska Flag. Now for some trivia. Without looking or listening to the song first, make a guess as to how many stars are on the Alaskan Flag. Listen to the song to find out if you are right. The video with the school children is cuter than the video that I took!

Finally, we got to hear from Sarah Palin herself. I could not figure out how to turn the video, so I'm sorry that it's sideways. As you may be able to tell from this video, most of the audience was of the older generation...

After Sarah spoke, we heard from our new Governor, Sean Parnell. Then, we all got in line to eat. I got some great pictures of Sarah and Parnell.

WOW! Such an exciting day! After the picnic, Steven and I went to the Public Lands Information Office (#3) . They have a lot of information there about the parks here in Alaska. They have this especially cool "Bear Cam" that is a live feed from a river in Katmai National Forest. While we were there we saw about 5 or 6 bears in the river, fishing and playing. We also got to talk to the ranger who went down there a few years ago and saw the bears up close (well, not too close).

Keep reading! Our next post will be about our hiking and camping adventure down in Seward and also about our bear encounter...