Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hikin' the Baldy

I joined a few friends for an after work hike up in Eagle River. Baldy is like ER's version of Flattop in Anchorage. I highly recommend this hike if you've got a few hours to spare. The views are awesome, and the snow glissading can't be beat!

Harriman, Part Deux

I went to Harriman Fiord last year (there's a post about it in the archives), and while I like exploring new places, one of the many things I love about AK is that visiting the same places always feels like a different experience than any other time you've been to that place. So, when my friend asked if I wanted to join she and her friends on a trip to Harriman, I grabbed my kayak and went! We basically took the same route I took last year to tour the fiord, but this time we covered more ground and camped in some new-to-me areas. Black Sands Beach was buried under avalanche debris, so it looked completely different than last year. And so did Cascade Glacier. Check this was a tidewater glacier in 2007 and was connected to its neighbor, Barry Glacier (Cascade is on the left, Barry on the right):

But not in 2008. Its no longer touching the water or its neighbor:

Its amazing how quickly these things can retreat. Wonder what it'll look like next year.

Last year we got weathered in near Surprise Glacier and didn't make it back to the end of the fiord, where Harriman Glacier awaits visitors. But this year the weather cooperated, and we made it all the way to Harriman.
We didn't see any bears on this trip, but did have an angry porcupine at our campsite. The first time I saw him I'd taken a walk to use the "restroom," and as I was taking care of business, something to my right caught my eye. That little guy was peeved. He was in full quill spray mode, and only about 10 feet from me. I have no experience with porcupines, so I didn't know that he can't actually "spray" me with quills (you actually have to touch them before the quills are released into your skin), but I had to laugh at the situation. The little bugger literally caught me with my pants down! He was a brave little guy and visited us in our camp several times. We also saw spotted seals, and now every time I see them I wonder if they can tell I've eaten their kin (see the Kotzebue entry below). So far, none of them have rammed my boat or given me the evil eye, so that's good.

Two Thumbs Up!

I went on my first kayak trip of the summer in May. If you've ever lived in AK, you know that May isn't exactly summer up here. But whatever, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. So, I organized a trip to Thumb Cove, which is in Resurrection Bay, with a group of about 10 people. All of but three of them were total strangers, but that's another story. We paddled across the bay in some of the calmest water I've ever seen. It was ridiculously flat! And it was sunny!! What luck! After crossing the bay, we headed south towards the cove, at which point we rounded the corner to the most stunning, jaw-dropping view you can imagine. Pictures don't do it justice, but I'll try anyway:
After locating our cabin, which, by the way, had to be reserved 7 months in advance(!!), I took a walk around the beach. Here's what I mean about "summer" in May. Four feet of snow blanketed the entire beach. Let's just say we were psyched to have the warm cabin that night! We woke up to more sun the next morning and did an epic paddle around Fox Island. There were chops and swells, and just as I asked my friend, "Do you think it's possible to get seasick in a kayak?" I started feeling a little woozy from the swells. Isn't that just swell? Har har. But no worries, the water calmed down as we rounded the southern shore of Fox Island and all was well with the world.

You Gonna Eat That?

Whew, I am WAY behind on my posts. After my trip to Barrow, I headed up to Kotzebue (in NW AK) for another mediation, which is what I was doing in Barrow. Anyway, the folks at the Kotz meeting brought in some of their local fare. So, yours truly tried some muktuk. That would be bowhead whale. Dipped in beluga oil. (I'd love to see your face right now!) It tasted just about as good as it looks:

The muktuk was from the "chin" of the whale, so the white part is skin, the brown part is fat. Most of the muktuk I've seen has black skin, but the chin is white. So there ya go. That was Day 1 of the mediation. It only got better from there! On Day 2 I ate boiled ring seal intestine!!! WHAT?! Yes! And it was a baby. I know it's hard to believe, but the intestine wasn't too long as you were able to think about something other than what you were eating. And if this doesn't gross you out, you ought to sign up for fear factor - after eating the intestine I actually thought to myself, "Wow, I have intestine stuck in my teeth." EWWWWWW!!! So, here I am, a tree hugging environmentalist eating endangered species (bowheads), mammals that haven't been seen in years (the beluga oil was from a harvest that took place after years and years of no whales in sight), and then a baby ring seal (proposed species for the endangered species list). But, these animals were taken (i.e., killed) by subsistence hunters, so it's not like they were killed for my personal consumption. And those critters had good lives out in the wilds of AK before they were killed...granted, the baby seal didn't have much time for fun... Hey, when in Rome, right?