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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's about D*&# Time!

I know I promised to have this wrapped up yesterday, but life got in the way. You know how that goes, right? Today however, I had a couple of pictures that I wanted to share with you all, which made me realize, that I never got to sharing my AK trip pictures. Well, yes, the ones from my phone, but I meant a real post. One with a bit of substance.


So here it is. Not only did all the boys greet me at the airport, but also a newly installed clothesline back at the house.


As well as some of the local wildlife. I found this guy hopping about as I was cleaning up the backyard today so my freshly hung towels didn't smell of dog poo.


What the heck?!? Any guesses as to this lovely creatures identity? I can tell you it's a cicada of some species or another, but nothing beyond that. I found it on the freshly painted deck yesterday and had to snap a couple pics.


As you can see, they're fond of acting dead in hopes you don't spot them. I love these guys. Despite the heat, it's been nice hearing these guys buzzing away (it's more a really loud trill) in the trees during the day. An extra big sounds for a not so tiny bug. The freckles showing on the back of my hand there shows how much sun I've been getting this summer.


I got to Alaska and headed out with my Mom to her place in Palmer. We then head up to Summit Lake in Hatchers Pass to spread Shiela's ashes.


It was one of those days that just couldn't decide if it was going to rain, or be sunny.


I actually like days like that. Keeps things from getting to hot. Granted, hot would have equaled 60 degrees in the pass, and that it did not do.


But beautiful, it was. The picture above has the little chalet's that you can rent below Independance Mine. In the middle of the valley you can see some of the old buildings there above the chalets.


Then again, most places are beautiful in their own way, in the rain or shine.


I know I showed you a similar picture to this before, but I still like it. It's a great final resting place for a grand ol'dog that always was up for getting out and going.


I actually spread her ashes over this little stream that flows down on the Willow side of the pass. I figured that way some went wast towards Willow, and the wind took some east towards the Matanuska-Susitna valley.


I always love the color of Summit Lake. In the cold this pond can turn steel grey, but still has depth to it. In the summer she sparkles almost turquoise. Who needs caribbean isles?

The following day I met Stefani and her mom and grandmother at the Alaska State Fair for SouthCentral. Every area has it's own fair just do to the states size and lack of roads connecting all areas.



We had a good time walking around, seeing the sites and having fair food. There's nothing like fair funnel cake is there? I already shared with you all the couple of pictures I got of the fair, but above is a little video I shot from one of the rides. No idea what the ride is called, but it was the last ride before I finally shamed Stefani into going down the little kiddie "Super-Slide" and we gave the rest of our tickets to a family that looked like they would appreciate them. Saturday we had the "family BBQ" that I shared a photo of with you before. Sorry, we were too caught up chatting and catching up to take a lot of pictures.



Sunday we
drove up to Eureka to see my uncle at moose camp before heading down to Anchorage to hang out with my brothers family for dinner. Let's not discuss the grooming I did of his dog while there... Poor Kirby the vacuum. I didn't get a lot of pictures of the drive due to low clouds and rain. This one blurry shot is of Matanuska glacier. Somewhere I have better pictures of it from ice climbing on the glacier face... Perhaps I'll go digging.


Then Monday, I met Betsy and Blossom for a hike to Eagle Lake. Okay, it was more of a slow ramble while we chatted. It took us almost 7 hours to go in and back out, but checking out the link I made above, it says it's 6 miles oneway so I don't feel so bad about the pace and the blisters, but I think that's a bit generous... What does your hiking book say Betsy?


As you can see, it was a bit damp...


But we're hardy tough Alaskans.


What's a bit of damp? The moss and ferns prefer the damp, no? Remember us laughing about this photo Betsy? I took one on the way in while you were snapping ones of mushrooms, and you took one on the way out. Bet yours looks nicer. Damn little camera from hell.

Betsy and Blossom!
Besides, the colors are richer on cloudy days.


Honestly, at times, it was more than "a little damp", but keeping on the hoof keeps you warm.


We actually had to lose a layer once we crossed the stream.


My hands however, did get a bit chilly. I had stated several times that I wished that I had brought a pair of gloves. In the past gloves and a stocking cap were regular items in my backpacking arsenal. It's amazing how much warmer you feel when you get out of the tent to find several inches of snow had fallen at night when your hands and balding head are toasty warm...


Ugh, a muddy dog is a happy dog! No, her legs haven't disappeared, they're just blending in with the trail.


Table rock is a landmark that we've eaten lunch on before. This time though, we pushed back to the lake for lunch itself.


Which we shouldn't have as we got the hardest rain when we tried to eat. This here is my nemesis. I love the look of fireweed, but am so very very allergic to it. You should have seen me the day I worked with the kids at zoo camp to collect it for the elephant and bears to eat. Snotty, is about as best and adjective I can come up with, and it doesn't even cover it. It was difficult to drive home due to sneezing and teary eyes, and the whole shebang. Ugly, like a good sobbing jag makes a beautiful woman ugly. Take my word for it.


This is the boulder field edges that make up the terrain that allows the lake to form. I don't know if this was caused by a rock fall from the sides of the valley, or if it is an old moraine from a glacial retreat. I tend to think towards rockfall due to the makeup of it from large boulders and not a lot of sand and soil like many moraines.



We sneak past the first part of the boulder field by going up the valley wall a bit.


Wild geranium clinging to a boulder in the path. Already bloomed out for the season at altitude over the tree line.


And we made it!


Now comes the real challenge of the boulder field. See that to the right? big oddly shaped rain slicked rocks.


This piece of bark with it's red caught my eye between the boulders as we hunted for a spot for lunch.


And after taking a tumble on the rocks and bruising my right hip good, this is as far out as I went before returning to where Betsy camped for lunch.


Then the rain came. See what I mean by the make up of the boulder field? Just a bunch of huge slabs of rock. That makes me think it fell from one of the surrounding peaks and blocked off the stream, causing eagle lake to form until it found a way around it.


Can you see how hard it's raining? It kind of sucked, and I finally felt a little cold. Of course, I was in shorts and a cold wet muddy Blossom leaning on me didn't help.


But even in the rain, it was beautiful.



I took another quick video just because I loved the noise of the stream. You might have to turn it up to hear it. I need to find a way to just loop this video over and over. As you can see, it was taken before the rain decided to fall.


I discovered that I shouldn't hike with a hood up in the sprinkles though, because it makes me shout. I can only hear my own rustling so I tend to start talking louder. Don't want to scare off the animals.


Selfie! The rain had kind of stopped as we headed back by a smaller pond down the valley from the lake.


Speaking of animals, we did see a small group of moose up on the side of the valley, but my little camera wouldn't have captured them. To see them you'll have to go here to Betsy's blog post regarding the hike. Well, second post regarding our hike. A blog you should  check out anyway because she's good with a camera. RRRRrrreeeeeeaaaal good.


Alaskan trees don't get a lot of vibrant autumnal colors, of those you have to look to our tundra ground covers. Both blue and crow berries greenery turn vibrant reds as do some of the mosses and the lichens add in some pretty oranges here and there too.


The pale green on the rocks here is some caribou moss (per Betsy). It's a lichen that caribou happily eat up.


This is an optional trail you can take off to the north to a hanging valley above south fork valley. It is very pretty up there.


You can also continue though the boulder field to Symphony Lakes further up the Southern part of the valley. That used to be a cross country running workout every year.


There are times I wish I was still 17 years old and 145 pounds running miles a day. Then my knees shout up at me and remind me what that did to them, and I quickly forget such thoughts.
Though, I have about 15 pounds I need to work on losing regardless of age and aches.


As the hike reminded me of. But it felt good, regardless of being stiff for a couple days.


I was too early for the frost to give me that smell of fall in Alaska. The cranberries and decaying leaves has a smell I don't think happens anywhere else. It's the smell of home I'm telling you.



Blossom Girl was ready to head home by the time we were getting back down towards the main bridge and arm of the stream.


I just loved the colors here with the greens and the contrasting boardwalk.


And of course, as we climbed back up the south side of the valley heading out, the sun came out.


Doesn't it always work that way?


And it decided to stay out. Meh, it would have been to hot and I would have ended up with a sunburn had it stayed out for the hike.

Tuesday we played around in Anchorage doing some errands. I bought the Guy some more AK State Trooper shirts, and a jacket since he's a former trooper himself. I already shared with you the pictures I snapped at the dog park when I met up with Betsy, Blossom, and Rio for a walk while mom did her own errand. Wednesday was her birthday so we spent it finishing up her winterization chores, going to lunch and watching a couple movies. Except, Mom we forgot to set the mouse traps and look for an entry point in the garage. Damn shrews.

Thursday, my brother had surgery, so Mom and I were up by 0400 to go get his kids for a day of goofing off while their pop went under the knife.


You already saw some of the pictures from this day as we went playing about under the "landmarks" postings. We started off with breakfast at Gwennies, then went south out of town along Turnagain arm. Here I had them playing chicken with high tide on the rocks at Beluga Point.


Only TJ was daring enough to come out on the point with me. Which was fine as I only had enough eyes to keep an eye on one of them as we climbed up the rocks, and had to rush him a bit as we raced to get back before the tide blocked our path. Beluga point is a headland separated by a gouge in the rock that fills with tidewater at high tide. And as it was on the rise, we had to make it fast.


Horrible selfie showing off my hat band line. the wind was up so I ditched the hat so I wouldn't lose it back at the car. Guess the line was still there for the picture... Ah, the joys of balding.


Coming up on Alyeska and Girdweed... I mean Girdwood. We had actually spotted a beluga off the road and pulled over to try and get pictures but they were to far out when I snapped this picture down the road towards Girdwood. I also snapped this next series of pictures along the arm.






Then tried stitching them together into a panoramic but it won't save the fifth and final shot.


Who knows why. Stupid computers.


I showed you all the lustrous town of Whittier already. Someone asked why they all lived in one place. The long and short of it is, useable buildable land. in the above picture, to the left just out of frame is the one residential building of the town I showed you before. See that ridge in the background that has the water coming off of it? That's a massive glacial moraine. I don't know if the glacier that created it has receded to the point that had the clouds not been there, you could see it, but there is a huge ice shelf that it extends from that sits up over the peaks. A glacial moraine, is not stable ground.


So between pier on the water front, railroad owned land, and the old military site that is unusable due to asbestos, there's not a lot of places one can build. Especially when you have to factor in the sizable tides, and the ground you have to leave yourself in case of tsunami. Yep, that life in the land glaciers and earthquakes baby!


After we got back to Anchor Town we hit the zoo. Watching the tigers enjoy their ribs is what made us head out for BBQ ourselves...


A lot of things have changed since I last worked at the zoo, but they still have a Northern Goshawk.


A Red Tailed Hawk,


And a Northern Hawk Owl. All injured and unable to live in the wild on their own. I don't know if the Goshawk is Orion, but I'm sure the Red Tail is not Aurora, because I believe I was told when she passed, and she was quite old and cantankerous. Just look to the scar on my left hand for proof of her formidable nature. All because she didn't feel like going on the fist that day. I do believe the hawk owl is still Hobbes however. I was one of the first to work with getting Hobbes fist trained. He was a quick and smart little owl. I was happy to see that he graduated to a larger enclosure as he recovered and trained well.


There's the happy and rambunctious otter crew. They are always good for some smiles. Since they were awake during the day and obviously on the hunt, I think the keepers hid snacks around the
exhibit for them. It keeps them active and thinking which leads to happier animals.


And they have a couple new coyotes. Hope Wiley is happy wherever we all go after this life. He was always one of my favorites regardless of his skittishness he never lost. The new coyotes have a new bigger exhibit where one was on the move but unwilling to pose for pics, which is completely understandable. This one was in the infirmary cage and sitting quietly while people passed. You can still see on his foreleg where there was an iv placed. Don't know the story, but unlike most zoos, the Alaska zoo had a mission of providing a home for orphaned and injured animals that require someplace to live should they not be able to return to the wild. Hopefully this guy fits right in and can find some peace here. I have more photos on my phone I will work on transferring over in the next few days of the zoo. It was good to wander through again with the kiddos.

All in all, it was a good day with the kids on the road. We got to chat, play I spy, and in general just hang out a bit. On Friday I tried to sleep in a bit, hung out with Mom before heading into town for dinner and to see my brother before leaving to the airport. It was a short visit, but good, and I was ready to come home.


I snapped this photo which was a perfect send off as I was settling into wait for my flight at the airport. Lovely sunset at 930pm, no?  That's the float plane airport at lake hood there in the mid ground in front of the cityscape and the clouds over the Chugach Mountains. I do miss it...



Michelle Shocked's "Anchored Down in Anchorage" cover by Mary McCarthy. I couldn't find an original version for a parting shot.