Published: July 28th 2012July 26th 2012
A quiet morning by choice, then got moving for a great afternoon and planned early evening. And then...I had the most incredible, inconceivable, remarkable, unique, and astonishing thing happen for the evening that simply took my breath away - and kept taking it away for hours. Let's start with the day's beginning though.
I woke up this morning after only a few hours sleep and shortly after going outside, the dogs joined me - Patch, Tig, Rosie, and Nemo. There is a spirit here at Matanuska Lodge that permeates everything - including the dogs. It is truly a hidden treasure that I hope more folks will discover as I have. Tig stuck around me while the other dogs played. He stood close as if waiting for something. Being a dog lover, I couldn't resist. I picked him up and sat him on my lap and continued watching the stillness of the lake, listening to the breeze swing softly through the trees, and trying to free this ól brain of all the clutter. Tig positioned himself on my lap staring out at the same scenes, looking around just like me, and seemingly enjoying it all the same. Then he repositioned himself,
She's not as sad as she looks in this picture. Quite frisky and definitely happy actually.
laying down in my lap and let out the deepest sigh of calm, contentment that I have ever heard. And in that moment, I realized we were in the same place, the same zone. And so together, we prayed the prayers of thanksgiving for the moment, for this day. Leave it to a dog to remind me where I am and why or how I got here doesn't even matter. It just is. Perhaps God just knew we needed each other this morning. We stayed like that for quite some time with Brenda stopping periodically to visit us. She has the perfect mix of friendliness and distance - checking to assure I'm doing fine yet also offering that peaceful silence only alone time can provide. She is a gem!
Brenda made a wonderful breakfast - eggs, potatoes, bacon, orange juice, fresh strawberries, bread and coffee. WOW...what a feast. I had my fill and headed out to my personal deck space again and to get a few things done while enjoying the beauty. The lodge, the surrounding ambiance, and Brenda's charm at breakfast and periodically after made for as close to perfect as a morning can be. Should you ever
be headed this way and looking for a special place, this needs to be very high on your list. Thanks alaska.org for the great referral. You need only step out of the room to experience Alaska - turning your head from side to side to view the Matanuska Glacier complete with mountainous backdrop, the lake with its incredibly peaceful scene even from the distance, or just the tree filled hillsides that you know blanket the wildlife of this wilderness. It is so difficult to describe the peace and beauty of this special place but Tig and me, we're definitely there!
I decided early afternoon that though a book I had bought and started reading during a Youth Work Camp some weeks back was an attractive activity, I came to Alaska to see and feel Alaska so I really should get out and do something even if it is something small. I also knew I was going to be needing gas so decided I'd combine the two. After consult with Brenda, I headed back toward Palmer, destination Hatcher Pass and the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer. It is different scenery going back - more of the tree laden mountain sides
than the stark mountain peaks coming the other way. I went to Hatcher Pass first and it was quite the drive. I did the whole route including the fairly long dirt road section at the end - with just a little hesitation of course. Once at the top of the Pass, it was like a Sound of Music moment. All sides were covered with mountainous hilltops mostly covered with pines and other green tree types. An added bonus was hang gliders flying through the immediate area. What a thrill to watch! I will let the pictures speak for the drive. As it ended, I figured time was not going to be in my favor and so I reluectantly turned toward Palmer to refuel knowing the Musk Ox Farm would be skipped since it is only 30 minutes to their closure and the gas warning light is already on. Note to self - no more trying to get as much out of a tank of gas again!! I knew that but chose to ignore. It is not worth the risk of running out of gass in some wilderness area. It's not like there's a gas station at every turn. This time
Back on the Road
Matanuska Glacier as I leave the Lodge - never enough pictures of this site ;)
I made it - next time not so sure! Definite lesson learned.
As I head back to Matanuska Lodge, I promise myself I will not take any pictures but just enjoy the ride. I've driven this route and taken pictures before and stopping at most every roadside scenic pull out there is. So if I take pictures, they would be repeat and sometimes, guess I'm just going to get selfish and instead of taking pictures, have it and enjoy it all to myself. I am tempted a number of times to take that picture because somehow it all looks different - the clouds and shadows playing a different game today. I do stop at some pull offs and instead of taking pictures, simply breathe deeply and enjoy the moments trying to take pictures in my head to remember and cherish forever. Jerry would have so loved it here also.
It is past dinner time and the few restaurants up here do not stay open that long so I don't even stop at Matanuska. I pass the one I went to last night and proceed to look for the third one Brenda told me about. I see Sheep Mountain
...on way back to Palmer. Seeing the other side of the views seen driving up
Lodge and keep going for that third one. I wouldn't find out until tomorrow that the third one I was looking for was actually the second one and I had already past it by quite a few miles. Eventually I realize I've gone too far and virtually nothing around. Then a sign and I find Eureka with a cafe, etc. I go in to have dinner there and it was absolutely great! A mom-and-pop type cafe, they had a special of hot Roast Beef Sandwich smothered in gravy with mashed potatoes and veggies. Probably not the healthiest meal but wow was it good. I ate too much but so, so good. The waitress was so welcoming and down to earth, it was such a pleasure. I pay the bill and intend to head back to the Lodge and ready the camera in my car to take a picture of the restaurant when my phone signals an incoming text. The text is from Bob - as in Bob Kaufman from alaska.org, Alaska App, and Alaska Channel. He's asking if he comes out there, do I want to go up with him in his plane. I'm like, what? ...like seriously? Is my
phone really working or possessed? Of course I say yes if he really wants to come out. He says he's already in the air so we make arrangements to meet at the air strip next to Sheep Mountain. The picture of the restaurant will never be taken as I head out of the parking lot excited for this totally unexpected adventure. I am already indebted to Bob and alaska.org for all the information and planning on their website as well as answering questions to create my itinerary. Now I'm going to get to be a passenger for a personal flight of the area? ...this must be another Disney World where magic happens.
I get directions from the Sheep Mountain Lodge folks to get to the airstrip. I park and then walk the short distance just as Bob is landing. As he exits the plane it is like a kindred introductory meet and greet. Through phone calls and emails, feel like I have known him for a long time, yet this is the first in-person. I cannot believe he is standing before me and we are headed to his two-person plane. What have I done to deserve this? I don't
know but I choose to simply cherish the opportunity! It takes me a little bit to translate Bob's instruction of how to get into the plane into my awkward execution. Eventually I am seated in the back seat and he is in the front readying us for take off. No fear; no anxiety; total trust and excitement for what is to come. And suddenly, we are off. It is exhilerating as we climb to what feels like the heavens. I cannot look around fast enough to capture the grandeur. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven and heading through that tunnel of light I've read about. There are truly no words to adequately describe what I see and hear as we climb higher and higher. You will need to magnify and imagine a hundred fold from the pictures to get a glimmer of what is laid before me as Bob directs the plane. He asks what I'd like to see or where I'd like to go and I think 'does it really matter?' Just being up here is astonishing. I tell him he is the guide and wherever he wants to go is perfectly fine by me. So
he begins by flying over the Matanuska Glacier and River. I am taken aback how low he is able to fly with and his voice echoes in my head as he explains what I'm seeing and how it came to be. The closest description I can give you of what I see and feel is to compare to Epcot's "Soarin'" ride only this is very real and much, much more dramatic. I cannot look fast enough in any direction to capture all the sights to see and the sounds and smells that quite literally overwhelm me. I hear Bob checking in to be sure I'm OK and then giving further explanation of what we are seeing and I feel like I'm having a total melt-down in trying to absorb it all. I wish I could just take this surreal movie I'm living to stop and take it frame by frame. It is extraordinary; it is astonishing; it is fantastic; it is amazing; and it is preposterous that I am actually in this plane experiencing this. It is like being held in the hand of God as He says "Look at what I have all created for you." It is celestial!
Bob starts talking about landing and though I am sorry to know it is coming to an end, very thankful for the experience. Then I realize he is talking about landing like now - like in the middle of this wilderness - so we can investigate. Everything is taking many extra seconds to compute because I am so aware of things that my sense cannot process quickly enough. I hear him now talking through what he is looking for in a landing sight. I have no apprehension - total trust - he very obviously knows exactly what he is doing. And then we are down, in the middle of the wilderness. Bob hops out and I clumsily follow doing my best to follow his instructions for exiting the aircraft. I am thankful I don't have witnesses as I am certain it was anything but graceful. That thought is quickly replaced with the overpowering ambiance as I take in my surroundings. I am overcome with emotion but fight back the tears choking me as I turn in a slow circle taking in every site, sound, and smell that my body is capable of processing. Hopefully I am not viewed inappropriate
as I give Bob a strong embrace that I can only hope conveys the appreciation, the pure joy, the blessings I feel in this moment and this experience. We walk and talk and we walk in silence as he grants me periods of opportunity to truly process. It is beyond extraordinary. I cannot help you understand any more clearly than that. This is a life changing event. I feel like I will never be the same person after this. At one point I say it would be awesome to just leave me there and pick me up in the morning. I guess this is all totally free country as Bob explains people do just that. Unreal! I make sure he really knows I was kidding so he doesn't fly off without me tonight - especially since he's just pointed out bear remains. We check out remnants of a downed plane and only hope the pilot and passenger got out safely. Bob points out that the plane's interior was made of street signs. I got one picture showing that. Not sure whether to call that creative or downright stupid but for us, certainly interesting. Our time on the ground in this
remote area comes to an end all to soon. Bob is as astute and insightful as his emails - a treasure to have met and had this time to talk. I do a little better getting into the plane this time. I have a video of us landing and taking off in this remote are if you care to watch. Again, an extraordinary experience.
It gets too late for taking pictures as Bob continues to show me the scenery of a lifetime. He points out a Moose in a clearing - the first live moose I've seen here in Alaska. We continue over unscathed areas of pristine beauty that simply touch the heart and soul. In route I get to see a picture of Bob's children who look very precious and so obvious both children and Dad love each other dearly. I look forward to hopefully meeting them and his wife before I leave at the end of September.
We come in for the true landing and I certainly cannot whimper one iota about the trip coming to an end. It is after 11:00pm and Bob still has to fly back to Anchorage. I ask him to text
so I know he gets home safely, forgetting that my phone does not work at or near the Lodge. Later, it would hit me of what a Godsend receiving his text about going up for a flight tonight really was. Had I been back at the lodge, I would likely not have received it. Because I had just finished at Eureka, I got it and this whole venture was able to take place.
I watch Bob fly away with prayers of safe travel and a sense of appreciative awe for the experience. Emotions I care not to publicly express hit on my own drive back to the Lodge. This was not just incredible, not just awesome, not just astouncing; It was/is a life event. I am so, so blessed and ever more thankful than ever. I arrive back at the Lodge just before midnight (a stop or two on the way back to absorb) and find myself totally incapicitated to do anything but replay in total wonder of the evening I have had.
There are more photos below