I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted something here. I have slowly been getting back into things over on my Facebook page and am always off and on in my Instagram, but I have all these drafts over here and I hate that I’m not setting the time aside to blog. I love being here. I need to make it a priority. I have lots to share in the next few weeks and several are near completion, so I will get on it! As you can imagine, I’ve been digging out from everything that was waiting for me upon my return. But I’m back.
My new thing is telling everyone that they must visit Alaska at least one time before they leave this world. You can smell the air. And not in a bad way. What I mean is that you can smell how clean and clear it is, how fresh and untainted it is. There were times on my trip that I would find myself just breathing outside. I really want to move there for at least a year. It was incredible and I knocked quite a few things off of my bucket list while I was there.
Let’s start with the easiest achievement. I traveled on a plane. By myself. This was the first time that I was alone on an airplane since before I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but I figured it out.
I was glad that I was alone since I had a really tight connection through Seattle on my way to Anchorage from Atlanta. I never would have made it with my kid in tow. So I relaxed on that next flight, celebrating that I had made it. And I was sitting with two older ladies that were like a window into my future. We all had a few drinks and we kind of ended up being the rowdy row. One of them had lived in Anchorage for 10 or 12 years, so she had some tips for me. It was a great flight and I was so excited to land in Alaska!
My friend that I went to go visit used to live with me when my husband was deployed. We refer to each other as “Roomie” and he will always be one of the special people in my life, no matter how far away or how much time passes between visits. He is just a fabulous guy.The first full day, we drove south to Seward. It was so beautiful on the way and we made a few stops along AK Rt 1.We stopped at Portage Lake before hoping to get to Portage Glacier.This was the most amazing tasting ice I have ever had. Sadly, this was the closest I was able to get to a glacier. Despite the ridiculously warm weather (it was in the 40s my first two days there), they still had the roads closed for potential weather. But, hey, I got to see one with my own eyes. That’s good enough for me.Then we made it to Seward and the rain started. There isn’t much to do there and a lot of stuff was still closed from the winter, but it was still pretty. Like everywhere I went.On the way back to Anchorage, the fog rolled in…but I don’t think this is called fog. It was a fascinating phenomenon to watch and I got some incredible pictures. This was one of them from Bird Creek at Chugach State Park. The next day, I tooled around the city of Anchorage with the other friend I was visiting, the reason the Roomie ended up in Alaska. She’s really cool and they are a great couple, and do nothing but make me laugh. She took me to a mall where loads of native people had come into the city to sell their goods. As I planned this trip to also hit up the Last Great Race on Earth, I was able to see and participate in some of the Fur Rondy events, including visiting the craft fair. I bought some lovely jewelery that I already forgot what it was made from, but it’s awesome. We went to the Ulu factory and we went to the museum. Loads of fun there, especially in the children’s part, the Imaginarium Discovery Center.The next day was the start of the Iditarod. There were close to 80 teams for this year’s race and we watched close to 70 of them leave the ceremonial start line, breaking only to use the bathroom. I loved walking around before the start, watching the handlers prep the dogs.
Contrary to the belief of people that protest this stuff, these dogs are well cared for and loved, and I saw it with my own eyes. The dogs reciprocate a lot of affection and are so excited to do their work. It was an experience of a lifetime and definitely one I am glad that I did.
So many bios that the emcee shared about the mushers included variations of the words, “they came to Alaska for (something) and never left.” After my trip, I completely understand. I can’t wait to go back and it will be harder to leave next time. I missed my family, but I also realized how much I had missed mountains. And the air. I will never be able to shut up about the air in Alaska.
Te people watching was beyond compare. It’s called the Fur Rondy, short for Fur Rendezvous, so people come out in their furs and some take pictures with strangers because they can get a little outrageous. I knew about the fur part, so I brought my Russian-themed, fake fur hat that I ended up getting quite a few compliments on. So after the ceremonial start was over, we went to grab some of the BEST street food that I have ever had. And I lived in NY, so for me to compare to NYC street food…it was sooooo good. Of course it was made even better because it was reindeer sausage. The second or third time that I had already eaten it by this point 😉After gobbling our street food, we went to go register for the Reindeer Run, well, the lady and I did. Yes, we ran with actual reindeer. It’s like the running of the bulls, but no one dies. It was only for a few blocks and we did it with two of her friends. Fun stuff and something that I would never get another chance to do anywhere else. And we dressed up for it, too.That same day (night), I knocked off the biggest item on my bucket list. We set off around 1:30 in the morning or so to try and catch the Northern Lights. It turns out that they actually have a fairly accurate forecasting system in place. We trekked out to the top of a mountain and stood in the cold night (2 a.m. until about 3 or so) to watch. I was so happy. And I wasn’t cold. I had purchased the perfect stuff for this trip, in addition to having items left over from my skiing days. Here are a few of the many that we took that night (morning) at Eagle Point in Eagle River.
(I have to mention that on the morning that I left, we were headed to the airport at 4:45 a.m. to get my 6 a.m. flight when Mother Nature gave me the BEST sendoff. I happened to look out the window while along the highway, and there they were. The Northern Lights. In all their green and glorious glory, fingers trailing up overhead. I almost cried and we had no camera. And I was late, so we couldn’t stop. This is not a usual sighting for Anchorage, and definitely not where we were. Mother Nature really didn’t need to do that for me…I’m already wanting to move there…but what an incredible treat that was!)
We mostly rested the next day, although I did make it out for a run while they went to the gym. Yes, I ran to Starbucks to get my coffee. That was a cold walk back as I was so sweaty under my layers and couldn’t run with hot coffee. Dumbo, over here. The day after, it was decided that he’d take me to Talkeetna. Amazingly on the drive up, you could actually see Mt. McKinley. This is apparently not something that happens all that often as it is usually clouded over. I thanked Mother Nature. Aside from there being almost no snow for my trip, she was able to share much greater things with me. Talkeetna is a cute and very little town, but it has its own brewery…yes, please. And thank you. They have a few good brews going on at Denali Brewing Company. While in Talkeetna, I HAD to take advantage of being where I was and get up in the air, see the mountains and rivers as the birds do. So I contacted a flight school and booked an intro flight. Best $100 I ever spent, and it was actually paid for with a gift card that two of my good friends had given me for my birthday the week before.
So I got to fly in a Champ for the first time. And I LOVE taildraggers. The views were incredible. God’s country.
After my awesome flight, I wanted to see a little more of Talkeetna and take in some more nature. We ventured down to where three major rivers meet; the Chulitna, the Susitna, and the Talkeetna. And they were frozen, so I got to walk on a river. Who gets to do that? And Denali is in the background.What a gorgeous mountain. What a beautiful state. I could get lost for months just exploring. I want to be back there.No matter where we went, I was in love. So much beauty in every direction you turn. I could easily make this my home. Just have to convince The Russian. We’d be closer to Russia 😀There was one more thing that I had left on my wish list for this trip and on my last night there, it was looking like I wasn’t going to get to cross it off. And then I spotted her. A city moose. It still counts as seeing a moose. Check. I hated to leave. I usually get a little melancholy when packing to head home, but this felt different. I think it was a combination of things. This was the first time that I had left my family for more than a weekend, a whole eight days. (And it was incredible, not just for sleeping in and getting 10.5 hours of undisturbed sleep the first night, but the experiences.) I miss seeing my friend whenever I want. I miss having time to myself in this life that I have that is way too busy. I think it’s also partly because I could feel the pull of this place. It was strong and I will not forget about it. Someday, I hope. Thank you, Roomie, my dear friend. You and your lady helped me have what I feel was a trip of a lifetime. I am grateful for your hospitality and generosity, and for helping me to knock a bunch of things off my bucket list before I turn 40. I owe you.
Flying to Alaska on miles = $11.20
Crashing with friends = Free
Falling in love with Alaska = Priceless