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...)