Had to set an alarm this morning so I’d get up way early enough to get some wash done and pack up for the week long adventure to go to three different wilderness lodges across the seven days. Since I’m used to simply taking from the car each night whatever clothes I need for the very next day, this requires some thought I haven’t had to do thus far. Listening and going by the weather reports up here is worse than in Wisconsin. Bottom line is whatever the weather looks like at the moment, it could be completely different in just a few hours. I decide not to take my winter coat along but do tuck in the long underwear just in case. I also take one pair of shorts just in case. From what I understand, Alaska has had a much cooler and wetter than normal summer, unlike much of the lower 48. That should make going to Barrow in a couple of weeks very interesting (Barrow is US city/town furthest north of our entire country). Perhaps my winter coat will come in handy over and above the night I spent in the car atop the mountain!
have everything done except the note out to this blog by 2:00pm. Alaska Wildland Adventures is picking us up at this hotel at 2:30pm. They are already here so I rush to try and get a quick blog out so folks know not to expect any communication and thus do not worry. Then, they are waiting for me to finish since we are all checked in. I close quickly and boom – we are on the shuttle bus on our way to Kenai Riverside Lodge, 2.5 hour drive south from Anchorage.
We pass through Turnagain Arm. The story is that Captain Cook (late 1700s) complained coming through all the water by boat that there were so many turns and he had to keep telling his men “turn again.” When they were trying to name it, they gave up and simply called it Turnagain River that when later charted was determined to be an Arm to the Cook Inlet, not a River. Thus it became Turnagain Arm. We also go through some of the Chugach National Forest with dramatic views of the mountains and Inlet. We surprisingly see Dahl Sheep on the rock inclines right next to the road. Actually…correction,
about half the group saw them. The other half of us were on the wrong side of the bus so we missed the unusual sighting. I don’t take many pictures because it is the same road I will take myself to Seward and Homer toward the end of the trip and the bus window reflections are hampering any pictures I take now. So I just enjoy the ride and scenery. In route we meet our hostess for our trip. Her name is Anna and absolutely delightful if first impressions are anything to go by. She points out particular items of interest and answers our many questions. We also meet each other. There are twelve of us altogether doing this entire trip. I’m sure we will get to know each other better as we go. Luke is driving the shuttle. He will be with us for the drive to the Riverside Lodge and also for the hike tomorrow. Evidently everyone will switch out but Anna will be our constant. Works for me!!
A few of the anecdotes and things of interest during our drive:
· The funny thing about Anchorage is that it is only 20 minutes to Alaska
No Baluga whales
(It’s an Alaskan joke and in other words, folks in Alaska do not really consider Anchorage part of Alaska because it is so dense and city-like, different from every other part of Alaska. Approximately 3,000 people live in Anchorage – half the population of the state)
· Fireweed – I mentioned this in previous post about how it changes red after the flowers bloom. Another tidbit is that once this flowers, supposedly 3-6 weeks later will be the first snow fall depending on where in Alaska you live. MMmmm…if that rings true, I will also see snow in Alaska since the flowers are definitely in full bloom.
· Turnagain Arm has the second biggest influx of water in the world with its Vortide. That is one to one and a half hours after the low tide, there is a tide of up to six feet of water coming in to Turnagain Arm – the Vortide.
· Baluga whales are sometimes seen in the Turnagain Arm. It is deep enough for them but too shallow for Orcas who prey on the smaller Baluga whales. Baluga whales are also the only whale that has articulated vertebrae in their neck
which is why they can shake their head much like humans do. All other whales have fixed vertebrae in their necks. Unfortunately, we do not see any Baluga whales as we ride along.
· Alyeska Lodge (Resort) has the only true ski slopes in Alaska. There’s skiing elsewhere in Alaska – just not formal ski slopes.
· Girdwood is the Valley of seven glaciers which makes this one of the most scenic drives in America. National Geographic evidently just classified it one of the top drives in the US. And I’ll get the opportunity to drive it myself in the weeks to come. I’m certain I’ll do a lot more stopping than we are now.
· There are no snowmobiles in Alaska. They are called Snow Machines!
We arrive at the Kenai Riverside Lodge, meet the welcoming staff, receive directions about waste, water, and electricity relative to the Lodge and then get a tour with our cabin assignments. The cabins are very comfortable and as the name insinuates, it is right on the Kenai River and simply relaxing and so serene. My cabin is set into the woods, very rustic, and homey. We have some free
time during which I sit with others at the river and then a dinner with the best Rock Fish anyone has tasted. Unfortunately, they really cannot serve what they catch here since they are under the same FDA guidelines as the rest of the US. It sure tasted fresh though. And then all the fixings – again not going to lose any weight here for sure!
The kids on the trip beg for a campfire with s’mores and Anna meets their request. I had intended to go to bed early but a campfire? …along the side of a flowing river? …with rocking chairs and cool people to relax with? Can’t resist and end up staying out with the rest. I even have a s’more! Mine was a regular, old-fashioned s’more. The “new” s’more use Reese’s peanut butter cups in place of Hershey’s chocolate. ‘Twas awesome! Campfire out; Lights out; another wilderness day tomorrow! I fall asleep to the breeze blowing through the trees, the rush of water in the river and a heart filled with thanksgiving.
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