Alaska sans Phone (July 22nd - July 30th, 2019)
Yep! That’s right - I had no phone in Alaska. I had no idea how attached to my phone I had become until I didn’t have it anymore. It was a blessing in disguise that it slipped out of my pocket while we were loading the car to go to the airport at 3:40am on the 22nd. I spent a good part of the flight beating myself up. Luckily it had fallen in our friend's front yard, she found it and held onto it for me (THANK YOU!!!). Azlan was a doll on the flight and we landed safely in Anchorage. The Airbnb place we booked was in Wasilla, about 1.5 hours from Anchorage proper, called Forget Me Not Resort. Just past Big Lake, AK there is a 5 acre property with a main house occupied by the hosts, a cabin (that we stayed in), a green house and an upcoming game house. We had privacy but were still able to socialize with our hosts, breaking bread with them on more than one occasion. Upon arrival, they were cutting the 102 salmon they had just caught on the Kenai Peninsula. Now, mind you, I hate fish - I very rarely eat it and I certainly don't touch it, but that is about to change. I tried the sock eye salmon they prepared that night, it was delicious. It did not convert me into a fish lover but I may add it into our diets once a month. The next morning we rented a boat on Big Lake and puttered around for 4 hours enjoying the views and dreaming up our future summer cabin. The day ended with an unfruitful moose hunt while the sky remained bright into the very wee hours...maybe it stayed dark for like an hour somewhere around 2am. July 24th consisted of our first Alaskan adventure. Our friend, the one holding onto my phone, had recommended Flattop Mountain for a hike at 3.1 miles with a little climbing, she said. It sounded fairly simple so we made a day of it. The hike started off pretty easy, up hill, but on a distinct trail through some woods. As we ascended, the woods gave way to fog and stairs...and more stairs...and more stairs. It felt like we were going up Koko Head in Hawaii. We finally reached a flat part, I thought we had reached the top but it was just the 'saddle' between the hills. There we encountered 2 hikers that told us we were almost at the top and we had a little climbing to do. Gross understatement. We scaled rocks and boulders the rest of the way up. I would classify it as rock climbing, although a professional rock climber would probably scoff and roll eyes at that. All I wanted to do was quit, but I kept going, albeit crawling inch by inch. Azlan was a trooper and way ahead of me! By the time we actually got to the top - the real top - I was very proud and ready to drop. The fog had parted just enough to give us a short glimpse across the mountain for a beautiful view while we gobbled up our homemade ham and turkey sandwiches. When we decided to start our descent, the fog became sinister affording us a 10' radius of visibility. Another hiker had suggested we take the longer route down which did not consist of trying to slide down the screwy rocks we had just gone up. We took his advice and while it was not rocky, we couldn't see much and there was no trail. As we meandered over the steep squishy moss, I began to worry that we had gotten lost. It didn't help that I was currently in the middle of reading Into the Wild. Mentally I started to take stock of what we had leftover for water and food in case we had to sleep on the mountain. When I voiced my concerns to Ted, he simply stated "I will get us off this mountain today, no matter what". Being that he has Army super powers, I began to calm down. Eventually we heard voices in the distance and thanks to some very talkative hikers we found our way back to the never-ending stairs. Hallelujah! I have never been so happy to see stairs in my 38 years!!! The rest of the hike was happy and care-free and when we hit the parking lot pavement we felt pretty accomplished and very alive! On the drive home, we witnessed a car try to make a left onto our road screeching and smoking, braking and accelerating, until it almost stopped at the median before it hauled ass into our lane in front of us. It's hard to describe the exact sequence of events but it seemed like this guy was about to do a drive by, or was drunk, or was getting a wet willy, or was a suicide bomber. I am including this specifically for all my military related people out there. PTSD is real and it is a mo*he*fuc*er. Ted had a flash back and I am taking the liberty of sharing it because if you are suffering from PTSD, you are not alone. He had enough clarity to slowly pull over and get out of the car. I stayed in the car with Azlan, fully aware of what had happened. After about 7 minutes, he came back in the car. I did not ask what had happened, just if he wanted me to drive. He said that he needed to drive, immediately, or he might not drive for a while. I stayed quiet for a few minuets, paid him a compliment and started conversation. A few days later I asked him about it. He confirmed what I had thought (flashback) and then told me the story of what he saw in that moment. I hope I did the right thing for him. Either way, there is no question we will both be going to therapists when this trip is over!
The next day we took Azlan to an Arcade since the weather was crappy. In the afternoon, back at the cabin, we helped our hosts prepare 50lbs of salmon for brining prior to smoking. The preparation consisted of cutting the fish into long slender chunks with an Ulu knife (pronounced ooloo), tying the ends of two chunks with long string, and tossing them in a bucket filled with brine. Eeeeeeeeeeew!!!! I did this with my bare hands!!! Ted cut and I tied. So proud I did not vomit! After we descaled our smelly hands, we had a lovely steak dinner with our hosts. Before our unfruitful nightly moose hunt, we hung the salmon strips to dry on wood slats in front of a fan. The next morning, we checked out of the resort after hanging the fish-heavy slats in the smoke house and Ted did the honors of lighting the charcoal-wood mix on fire and closing the door. Our flight to Fairbanks wasn't until 11pm so we spent the day at the Alaska Conservation Center. Brown Bears, Caribou, Moose (finally), Muskox, Reindeer, Eagle, Foxes, Wolves, Porcupines, Black Bears, Bison...we got to see them all real up close and personal. It's a neat place where they rehabilitate animals and provide shelter to those that cannot fend for themselves. Check them out if you find yourself that far North.
Next stop: Fairbanks.
We arrive at our cabin at 1am in Salcha, Alaska. Side note: I am sitting here writing this, thinking to myself - Holy shit! I was in Alaska! Damn! I'm going there again Saturday! I never thought I would go to Alaska! End side note. Straight to bed we go, even though the sky is a medium shade of bright gray-blue (I am seeing where Crayola got some of their cooler colors).
July 27th we woke up late and to a beautiful view. Our cabin was structured like an A-frame and out our bedroom window, which was on the second floor, was a beautiful brilliant green yard yielding to a shimmering lake before a row of sprinkled greens and pines. We proceeded to the commissary for some basic munchies, the px for some shopping (where I was triggered and had some negative thoughts which I held onto for a few days), and then back to the cabin for nappy time. The next morning we linked up with a friend of mine that we had met in Germany during our tour together there. We spent the morning in the Pioneer Park where Azlan got to play with a buddy on playgrounds, ride a merry-go-round, ride a train, feed ducks and ride a salmon, all why we caught up with his mom. We had some delicious BBQ at Big Daddy's Northernmost Southern BBQ for lunch before heading back to the cabin for nappy time. That evening we went on yet another moose hunt as we were determined to see one in it's natural habitat and yet it was still unfruitful - oh well, at least we saw one! That evening, after Azlan was in bed, Ted and I watched What Dreams May Come. I was not prepared for this movie! It's a cool story, one of those artistic dramadies from the 90's. I loved it and hated it at the same time...mostly, I related to it. July 29th we went on a much more tame hike, Boreal Forest and Seasonal Wetland Trail . Despite the drizzle, we had a wonderful time prancing around between boardwalks and trails under the beautiful trees and greenery. We grabbed some lunch at Walmart, and some bug spray (the bugs are CRAZY in Alaska, fyi) prior to nappy time. That evening we walked around the shimmering lake behind our cabin and skipped some rocks. I have to hand it to Ted, he is a damn good rock skipper! Across the road (Richardson Highway) we grabbed some ice cream at the Knotty Shop followed by a lovely dinner that we cooked in our cabin, and then watched the Immortals. The next morning we went on the Riverboat Discovery. An old paddle wheel boat running on diesel which has an Alaskan Cultural stop along the Tanana River. At the cultural village stop, we saw and felt some cool memorabilia and original artifacts from the 18/1900s. All the people operating the family run attraction were extremely kind, knowledgeable and friendly. Riverboat Discovery was worth our visit and we were very pleasantly surprised with what we learned and experienced on this 3 hour tour. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant followed by a safe flight back to ------ MY PHONE!!!!!
Stay Tuned for the next part of our little adventure!
Daisa, Ted and Azlan