Thursday, October 06, 2011


Ah, California sunshine.  Fall was was just about upon us in AK when I took a jaunt down to Yosemite to meet up with Julia, her family, and her two Boston friends, Fitz and Kelley.  I got one last dose of summertime in before returning to full-fledged fall back at home. 

The blue team.  Kelley, me, Julz, and Fitz
We did a "break in" hike the first day.  Nine miles and 3,000' of elevation up to the tippy top of Yosemite Point, which is above Yosemite Falls.  We about lost Fitz that day...but he sucked it up and kept hiking with us for the next four days, albeit with a much smaller pack than the girls.  Which we gave him endless grief over...which was well deserved in my humble opinion.

Yosemite's much bigger in the spring, but we weren't complaining.  We had lunch right there over the top while watching a guy in a peach speedo (I kid you not) play precariously close to the edge - could've been the proud owner of a Darwin Award.

Day two marked the start of our overnight hike.  It started out innocently enough from the Ten Lakes trail head.  It was sunny and warm, and totally beautiful.  But then we noticed some pesky storm clouds rolling off in the horizon.  Certainly, they wouldn't come any closer!

Near one of the ten lakes...with storm clouds starting to rain on our parade.  Literally.

 Then it began to rain on us.  Fitz, by the way, had the smallest backpack in the history of the world strapped to his back.  So I gave him my day pack to wear as an overnight pack, then he proceeded to strap more than half the crap he had to carry to the outside of the pack because there was no room on the inside...and well, here's what it looked like in his "rain" gear, aka trash bag.  As you can see, I could NOT stop laughing at him.
Who the hell hikes with a pack that looks like this?!  Beige Bob!

Uh, and then it began to HAIL.  Despite living in AK (and being hailed on last time I went backpacking, actually), this was the biggest hail I've ever seen.  It hurt!  But it was still a pretty hilarious situation...
Who loves hail?
Fitz does not lovehail.

  We camped next to a raging stream that night, which was lovely white noise for sleeping purposes.  Fitz didn't believe in my fire making abilities at first because he thought the downed wood would be too wet.  Bwahahahaha!!  Fitz, come kayaking in Prince William Sound...a little hail storm is NOTHING.  We fired up some dried wood and got ourselves all settled into a cozy camp.  We hiked out to the May Lake trail head the next day and made our way to the Tuolomne Meadows backpackers campground for the night.  Nothing too exciting to report there, other than that $5/person "lodging" is pretty sweet.

Pretty Indian Paint Brush along the trail to May Lake
 The next day was a "rest" day and we headed outside the park to explore a trail one of Julia's friends found in a guidebook.  W.O.W. was it awesome!  Fin Tail Lake...go there!

We conquered Cloud's Rest on our final hiking day.  Many doubted our ability to make the long hike in one day, but really, all the hiking we'd done in the previous days really prepared us for this one.  And the views were totally worth it.

No lack of energy here, people.

This was the view of North Dome from Cloud's Rest.  Mark my words, I will NEVER climb Half Dome.  Can you see the line of ant people climbing the cables?  NO THANK YOU.  I like my life too much to try something as crazy as that. 

Click the image to zoom in a bit.  You'll see more Darwin Award candidates in the making.

My recommendation: GO TO YOSEMITE!  I'll be going back there someday for sure.  If not for the hiking, for the nearly-free beer!
By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOREN!!  My sister turns 30 today. :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lost Lake Run

The longer I live in AK, the longer my checklist of cool things to do grows. One of the "to do's" on my list for several years has been the Lost Lake Run. I finally managed to get myself a spot in the race months and months ago (this baby sells out fast!), and just this last weekend, I did it! I accomplished my big goal of the summer! The race consists of a 15.75 mile trail that takes you up and up for 5 miles (with much of your view looking like this):Not my picture, I took this from the internet

Then there are about 4 miles of rolling hills up in the alpine tundra. It was raining pretty hard up above tree line, but it's hard to notice the rain when the views were still stunning:

Again, not my pic, thank you internet. This one captures very similar weather conditions we experienced this past weekend. The bike would've been nice!

And then there's a big push at mile 9 up "heartbreak hill" before you plummet down to the finish line. Guess what? Yep, not my pic. But this shows the beginning of the plummet. Of course, it was NOT this sunny and you couldn't actually see Resurrection Bay. Not that I would've seen it - I was busy focusing on the 10 feet in front of me and that's about it.

I was hoping to finish in less than 3.5 hours, as I'd never run this far before (longest run prior to this was a 13.07 mile training run up and down a mountain) and had no idea how fast or slow I'd go. I've also hiked the trail before, but didn't remember much about the elevation gain and whether I'd be able to run up the "ups" at all. When I reached the halfway point at 1h 40m I knew the hardest part was behind me, and that I could break 3 hours so long as I didn't hurt myself. I managed not to fall the entire race (woo hoo!!), even with all that rain and slick gloppy mud, and finished in 2:50:21. Yee haw! I still had gas left in the tank too, so I know I can go faster.

Remember how I said my list of cool things to do keeps growing? Well, now that I've done Lost Lake in the rain, I want to do it in the sun! And I want to do it faster. I'll add it to the list...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

From the River to the Mountains: A Story of Salmon and Hail

Another form of adventure up in AK is dipnetting. This is something you can do only after living here for a calendar year. And it's ridiculous. This year there were record-breaking numbers of sockeye (red) salmon entering the Kenai River, and wouldn't you know it? All of Alaska showed up to scoop big nets in the water to haul their 25 fish! Including yours truly. We scored some sunny weather, which didn't help with the crowds, but I'll take it!

My very favorite kind of salmon is smoked sockeye. Jedd just so happens to be the proud owner of a smoker. So does his brother. So, after filleting 55 fish, we soaked them in home-made brine, got up at weird hours to stoke the smokers, and smoked about 25lbs of fish. Oh my God, SO good. (Sorry, the pic is kinda smokey, heh heh.)

In addition to catching my salmon for the year, my garden has begun to really produce! I've been outside playing so much that I haven't had much time to cook. But my fish and produce got me inspired. The other night I made a smoked salmon salad with lettuce from the garden (and guess where I got the smoked salmon), and a rainbow chard and onion quiche. My onions aren't quite ready, but I have swiss chard growing out the ying yang, so into the quiche it went.
I don't have any "real" adventures on the immediate horizon (well, some are brewing...), so I've been able to train a bit for the Lost Lake Run in August. I'm scared. Very scared. The run is 16 trail miles, the first 5 of which are up and up and up. The farthest I've ever run is 9 miles. Uh oh. Luckily I have my trusty running buddy who is ALWAYS up for a training run into the mountains!

I've convinced myself that it isn't always necessary to run while in the mountains, and that hiking could be good training for Lost Lake too. So I convinced Jedd to hike up to Reed Lakes for my birthday. We made a weekend of it. I'd never camped up there, but have always wanted to. So, off we went! On the way up the weather was very cooperative. For a little while anyway...

About halfway up to Lower Reed Lake we ran into some weather. First it was a drizzle. Then there was a big clap of thunder. Oh man! It rarely thunders here, so that was exhilarating! We decided to march on (we wouldn't have if the thunder and lightening continued, don't worry), and then it really rained. Whew we! Jedd was soaked! And then you know what it did? It HAILED. In mid July. Hail. Evil. We almost turned around then and there, but when you're standing in the middle of no where and it's hailing, it's not like its going to be any better to hike back home than it is to hike to your planned destination. So we hiked on and set up camp.

You'll be shocked to learn that I really started to come down as we were putting up our tent. Shock, surprise. So we sought shelter under a rock outcropping. Wrigley also sought marmots, Mo sought some zzzzzz's, and Jedd and I sought our beer. :)

Once the rain died down a bit we high tailed it up to the Upper Lake just to check it out. But first, a couple shot. Awwwwwww (vomit).

Here's a view of our camp from the trail to Upper Reed Lake. Not sure if you can see it, but the tent is literally in the middle of this picture. It's a beautiful spot and this trail is still my fav!

And then there were 3

We started with 7. Krista couldn't make the trip to Kauai from Oahu thanks to a particularly pesky fever. So then there were 6.

6 of us kayaked the Na Pali Coast, and boy howdy, it was purdy!! This is from our lunch break. Note that we appear to be wearing Alaskan garb...that's only for sun protection. It was hot hot hot. To cool off we'd jump off our boats and into the water...amongst sea turtles!

Here begins the hike to Kalalau. Notice we're down to 5. Dan wasn't feeling well and decided to be our chauffeur instead of hiking.
Views did not suck.

Uh, until we got to this point. I'd been dreading it the whole hike. Mile 7. I fear heights, and the Earth sliding out from under my feet while at elevation. Just before this point we lost Karen and Kristin. Karen wasn't feeling well (what was up with our group?!) and Kristin bugged out after seeing Mile 7. And then there were 3.

Jedd, Duncan, and I made it to Kalalau!! We camped amongst the "forest people" (and cock roaches, ewwww), ate wild cherry tomatoes, bathed in a waterfall, relaxed in a peaceful forest with our was SO wonderful.

When am I supposed to sleep?

Wow, what a fun summer this has been!! It kicked off with a kayak trip from Valdez to Whittier. A group of 4 of us took the ferry to Valdez, then launched right near the ferry dock. We made the trip in 9 days, averaging 15-20 miles per day. We battled wind the first day and thought we were in for a long trip, but by day 2, the sun was shining and the waters were much calmer. We made serious headway over the next several days, so much so that we tacked on about 25 extra miles just so we wouldn't make it back to civilization before we'd planned. Here are some pics from our journey:

Columbia Glacier is the world's fastest retreating glacier (I think). Normally when I visit glaciers via kayak I can get right up to the face...this time we were stuck 8 miles back. Why? Because it looked like this!! We could've maybe hopped across the ice to the face (see it waaaayyyy back there?), but certainly not kayaked!

With all that ice, it was obvious what needed to happen. Glacier margaritas and campfire pizza, of course.

The next day we paddled to the largest falls in Prince William Sound. They were, indeed, large. Also large were the waves we had on our penultimate day. We made a 5 mile crossing in 4-5 foot chop. I recommend that just about as highly as I recommend going up to the face of a glacier and petting it. My favorite part of the trip, aside from the people on the trip, were the humpbacks that visited us on our last morning. Two popped up about 10 feet off shore. So, so cool. Now, I've seen just about every nook and cranny in NW Prince William Sound via kayak. It's amazing how big that place is - I kayak there every summer, yet there is so much more left to explore.

We made it back to Anchorage in time to catch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. If they ever come through your town, you must go!! The lead singer, incidentally, he is not Edward Sharpe (no one in the band is named ES), looks like a hippie Jesus. His band mates look like they're straight out of Woodstock. They put on a hell of a show - one of those bands who sound better in person than on any recording. They let the audience choose the song line-up, took requests, and otherwise rocked the stage. Yay them.

A friend from college arrived from Detroit to explore good 'ole AK right after my kayak trip (and while ES was in town). I took her paddling in Resurrection Bay with Jedd and Mark. This was Jedd's first time kayaking, and I think I have a convert on my hands. He managed to catch dinner from the yak too! We also managed to scored a cabin and fishing trip (on a boat with an actual motor). Oh, and there were more whales. Ho hum.

After all that, Jedd, moi, and a few other Alaskans headed to Hawaii to join forces with Krista and Duncan. Our objective: kayak and hike the Na Pali Coast in Kauai. We started with 7, then were down to 6, then 5, then 3. Jedd, Duncan, and I made it to Kalalau, the end of the trail, and I have the pictures to prove it...(up next...)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Triathlons, Boston, and Trail Running

I have a few pics of my first triathlon that my awesome cheerleader (Jedd) took. But they're mostly pics of me hating life while running, so why post those? The triathlon was a great into to tris, and now I'm not sure I'm really into them. This tri was the opposite order of most, so I ran first. Ouch, running! I'm a jogger. I can jog for a long time. Running? That's a different story! So I was in P.A.I.N. by the end of the run. The biking was awesome. I was flying, and loving it. And the swim? Cake. Obviously. I was using this tri to decide if I'd like the Hammerman Triathlon later in the summer. I'm still undecided. Huh.

After the tri, I headed to Boston to visit Julia. She'd organized a BBQ with all her friends so that I could meet all the people I've heard about. That was FUN! Look at how cute the guests were:

Tilley, Julia's dog. SOOOOO cute.

Julz and I did a little swimming and running in Beantown (she's training for a 1/2 ironman), and then headed up to Maine. The plan was to go rafting on some ridiculously high, fun waters, but thanks to a huge fail in communication, that didn't happen. But what did happen is that Julz and I got to stay in a fantastic cabin in the woods and sleep for 12 hours! It was a relaxing trip to Maine, indeed. We also checked out a raging waterfall, hiked with Tilley, and basically tried to stay dry (the weather was crap).

After returning to Beantown, we met up with our high school prom dates. I kid you not. They were in town, and we all stayed at Julia's house. There are some awesome "prom" pics we took, but they're on facebook, so I'm not going to duplicate them here. I'm too lazy. Nate, Julz, Kristin(not a prom date), and Brian and I all went to the Cubs game at Fenway Park. This was the first time the Cubs were in Fenway since 1918. And they STILL haven't won a World Series in the interim. Awesome job, Cubs. Anyway, it was great fun to watch the Sox slaughter the Cubs. There were just about as many Cubs fans in the stadium as Sox fans, so we all had a great time razzing each other.

Moi, Kristin (the Sox fan was surrounded!), and Julz

Disclaimer: This is joke. Loren is NOT a hooker. I got some good laughs out of this shirt.

Our seats! :) They were awesome!

After a near-death experience flying into and out of Minneapolis on my way home from Boston (we flew through tornado-inducing winds, I don't recommend it), I made it back to Anchorage in time for my 8 mile trail race. I heart this trail, though I've never actually "raced" on it before. You start at sea level, then go up and up and up, then even out, go back down to sea level, and then you get to go up and up and up and up and up again. And then finally back down, and you're done. I feared that I wouldn't be able to walk today, the day after, but I'm surprised by how good my legs feel - just a slight soreness! I was limping around last night. Weird. Anyway, here's a pic of the view I shot as I was hustling my way up one of the mountains. It was a B-E-A-Utiful day!! And I'm happy to report that I did not get dead last. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summer Plans

I always do this to myself - I get so busy and keep adding things to my calendar. But, these are the things that make me happy. So what if I don't really have time to sleep or hang out at my house? That's what winter is for! Here are my summer plans so far.

In addition to the usual home projects and gardening:

May 7: Pink Cheeks Triathlon in Seward. This will be my first ever triathlon, and I think it'll be really fun. Seems to be geared towards swimmers. I think it's the ONLY triathlon I've ever seen that's geared towards swimmers. Too bad I haven't been swimming in, oh, 10 years. Luckily, it's pretty short: 900 yard swim, 10K bike, 5K run.

May 14-21: Visit Julia in Boston. We'll hike and camp and raft. And cheer the Cubs to victory over the Red Sox. Go Cubbies!

May 24: Turnagain Trail Run. This is an 8 mile trail above the Seward Highway. I've run this trail before with friends and had a great time. This time around I'll be racing nordic skiers, who happen to be fantastic runners, and will be happy if I don't come in dead last. Seriously.

May 28-June something: Taking the ferry to Valdez, and I'm paddling all the way back to Whittier. It's 115 miles as the crow flies...I have no idea what that means for a kayaker, who will obviously NOT be going as a crow would go. This will be my longest and most demanding kayak trip yet, and I'm really excited about it!

June 9: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will be in town, and I'll be watching them. Yippee! (If I'm not at the concert, please someone, send a search party because I'm stuck somewhere between Valdez and Whittier and really, really want to be at the concert.)

June 18: Seldovia Music Festival. While not an athletic endeavor, maybe I'll get to hike a bit more this year. Last year the weather kept us indoors most of the time, except for an excursion to the amazing tidal pools. (Besides, Julia will be doing a 1/2 Ironman, and since we share a brain, it's like I'm doing one too. Right.)

June 24-July 5: Hawaii bound!! I'll be kayaking and hiking the Na Pali coast (see the below post) and otherwise exploring Kauai. REALLY excited for this trip! And the best part? Jedd is going, yay!!!

July 16: Hammerman Triathlon. This is an "off trail" triathlon: 1/2 mile swim, 13 mile mountain bike, and 4 mile trail run. I hear it's hard. I believe it. The mountain biking is pretty technical...gonna have to work on that. I haven't signed up for this one yet...I'm going to see how I like the Pink Cheeks Triathlon first.

August 27: Lost Lake Trail Run. This is a 16 mile trail run along a stunningly beautiful trail that I have hiked and skied several times. I'm campaigning to get others to sign up for this one. It's sure to be a good time! Want to join?

Sept 9-18: Backpacking Yosemite with Julia. Hopefully the thin air won't kick my ass too much after all the training I'll be doing for my summer adventures!

Better go run! I have a lot to get ready for!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Legislative Woes

I've been busy working. Really busy. The legislative session was supposed to end on Sunday, but nope, now they're in special session. As a result, I haven't had much in the way of adventures lately. Unless you count going to the greenhouse on a Sunday hoping to do some gardening and instead having to drop everything to run back into the office to do another memo as an adventure...and I don't. Though I did bill a 15 hour day. While still not an adventure, it did set a new record. If I was still working in the private sector I would've celebrated the fact that I'd just earned myself a vacation day. But I don't get compensated for the extra 7 hours in the public sector. So I wasn't exactly celebrating. That said, if the coastal management bill passes, I WILL celebrate. It would be no small miracle, and wow, so much work has gone into it. I digress.

Down in Homer people are still having adventures without yours truly. I really miss Jedd - he's been back in Homer for the last several weekends (with one quick surprise trip to Anchorage early last week - yee haw!), but is going to be back up in my neck of the woods tonight. Yippee! But in his absence, our friend Mark likes taking pics and sending them to me. Isn't Jedd (Mr. Plaid) handsome?? Yes, yes he is. (That's Hanna and Brandon in the front - they're building a cabin this summer together - how fun is that?!) You can click the pic to enlarge.

You'll note that my baby is drinking quality Alaskan beer. Not that I have anything against Ranier. Just sayin'.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shedding Winter

I have been taking a lot of long weekend trips to Homer, and have been spending many nights in log cabins. Jedd lives in a log cabin, we've rented a log cabin on Tustamena Lake, and we have friends who have a log cabin in up near Talkeetna.

We went up to the Talkeetna cabin a few weeks ago. You park along the highway, and then snowmobile in about 6 or 7 miles. Wrigley refused to ride the sled (why ride it when you can race it?) and ran behind it at 20mph for about 5 miles before he slowed a bit. I was impressed! While at the cabin we decided to do a little Alaskan white trash version of water skiing... This involved a snowmobile, a tow rope, skis, and some alcohol. Yours truly was pulled all around the place, first along skinny, bouncy trails, and then we hit the "open road" of the lake. Yeeeeee Haaaaawwwww! We were on cross-country skis, so it's not like we had awesome carving abilities...and that's where the alcohol helped. :) It was VERY fun, and while trashy, I highly recommend it. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Sadly, there are no pics of this. Actually, maybe that's a good thing.

We also spent some time shed hunting. Sheds are the paddles/antlers that moose shed every winter. They tend to whack their antlers against trees, and whomp! down to the ground they go. We made our way over to the very appropriately named Moose Creek and began our search. Brandon, one of our friends, was the first to call out, "Found one!" He did that within 5 minutes. So we were all pretty stoked. Then, about 30 minutes later, I accidentally found one! I was only stopping to put my gloves in my backpack b/c it was too hot and just happened to notice the tip of a shed sticking out of the ground near my feet...I almost walked right by! I had to unbury it, and holy moose racks, it was a big 'un! I took this pic of Wrigley with it (note the old timey snowshoes...they were awesome)...

He kinda reminded me of Max from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Or the Life is Good puppy. Wrigley, however, wasn't psyched about having it on his head. In his mouth was more his style.

Later in the afternoon we went several miles up the river to check out a different area, and whaddaoyaknow?! Jedd found the perfect match to my shed!! So now I am the proud owner of a "nice rack." (snicker snicker)

Also noteworthy is the northern lights displays lately. I have NEVER seen them from my house b/c it's way too light in the city. But they've been so impressive that I actually snapped a few pics from my back deck. Here, they are directly over Denali.

Finally, what's a blog post without some alpaca poop? As part of a fundraiser for the Homer Broomball teams, I entered the Alpaca Dung Raffle. Basically, there's a $1,500 pot split between two winners. Each of the winners are chosen by two lovely alpacas, and when they poop, that poop is measured out on a quadrant grid, and there you have your winners. Here's Marley goin' for it. (Sadly, I did not win, though I did get some awesome schwag in a silent raffle.)