Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I've survived the Alaskan winter and will be rewarded by its summer

It certainly has been a while since I’ve written, but that only means I’m having a good time and haven’t had time to write. I got settled in a pretty good life here in Anchorage. I work, I play, I have lots of friends, I see live music, I got hiking… and soon I will be moving… again.

Since I last wrote I attended the events of Fur Rendezvous which is like a week long party with lots of bands and a fair (and it was still freakin’ cold out… people were riding the ferris wheel and other rides). At the end of the Rendezvous is the beginning of the Iditarod, the longest dog sled race in the world. My friend’s father was a racer so I got to be on the other side of the line and play with the pooches before they left at the false start. False start is where they start in Anchorage, then they stop in Eagle River 20 miles away only to have the real start in Wasilla. Lance Mackey won, it was a close race and exciting. Everyday the paper wrote about it. Sadly, a snowmobiler hit one of the racers and killed a dog.

Anchorage skyline just before fireworks went off for Fur Rondy

Playing with a pup before she started her race at the start of Iditarod

I also hiked Flattop. I’m not sure what names go with what, but whenever I went to this mountainous area I called the whole thing Flattop, but there is a mountain called Flattop that you hike. Hiking it in the summer is pretty easy, it’s literally very flat on the top and people party and camp up there. Doing it in the winter is MUCH harder and I had to wear crampons and carry a pick ax. Bill called me a “true mountaineer” for that which I thought was funny cause it wasn’t like climbing Denali.

On my way up Flattop

Taking in the summit on Flattop

How it WAS pretty hardcore of me was that I was just coming down with something that turned out to be mono. I woke up that day feeling awful. Bill suggested we go skiing and I wanted to do something less exhausting cause we do a lot of hills when we ski. I figured a nice scenic hike would work… didn’t realize how bad Flat top was. So of course, I hadn’t eaten anything, we hike, we go to eat and I was hit hard by something and was sick for three days. Went away and came back for 3 weeks, 1 of which was probably the worst week of sickness I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t do anything, it was so frustrating.

I went snowboarding! First time in 7 years (and it will NOT be another 7 before I go again cause I have a board now, thanks Brian!) This is me with Susy from Amsterdam who I will talk about much more later.

And the coolest thing was I bought a car! I don’t make a lot of money here and have been living off my savings but this opportunity fell in my lap. I drove Brian to work one day (in Bill’s car) and mumbled “I need to buy a car”. That evening I get word from him and his friend Brett (the weather man) that the reporter for the news station is leaving and needs to sell his car fast. So I bought his car for $900. I know Steve, the reporter, and trusted him. His only stipulation was I continued to call it the thin mint. It’s a Hyundai Accent. This car has history. First, it’s not physically in the best shape, has a light duck taped on, a few dents, and I noticed AFTER I bought it that someone carved “southern” above where it says Accent on the back. Some people think it’s funny, I guess it gives it character. However, I just found out that the water pump broke and I have to put in more moola to fix it. It’s being fixed as I write this actually. So I went to Steve’s going away party with all the news folk and the stories people were telling me once they found out I bought the thin mint! I like having a car that’s mine, in my name, under my insurance. And it’s my way of getting around Alaska for the summer because I have a LOT of plans that will require some transportation.

I went home briefly at the beginning of April and found that I was homesick for Alaska. While home I got to see friends and family, went to Chicago, saw some museums, sat in a planetarium made in 1913, saw the Blue Man Group, and got pulled over twice for expired plates. I went to Oshkosh with friends because they are filming a Johnny Depp movie there (and Christian Bale) and they were supposed to film on the day we were there, but they moved it to Monday. But I got to walk around downtown which they revamped into 1930s looking Main Street. Fake cobble stones and all (which are rubber by the way). It was pretty awesome. The movie is about John Dillinger so when it comes out you can know that the scenes with planes and the scenes or a small town were filmed in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and that I was there.

I was scared that I would miss the overnight spring in Alaska by being home at the time I was. Here in Alaska there are only two seasons: Winter and Summer. Our springs and falls are so short they pass in a blip and literally one day it will be brown and wet and the next green everywhere. Luckily or not, the weather has been crappy everywhere. It snowed in the Midwest (rained in Chicago, nothing like wondering through a breezy museum soaked) and snowed in Alaska at the same time. Now everything is muck as the days are getting brighter and warmer and all that snow is finally melting… but the wetness is taking its time to disappear. I think I got caught in a billion sink holes playing disc golf the other day because of how wet the ground was. So I didn’t miss the overnight spring and now I’m afraid it’ll happen AFTER I leave.

The sun rises at about 6am (or sooner, I just happened to wake up and see it this morning) and sets at 10:30pm. It’s sooooo confusing for me and always a surprise to look at my watch and see how late it is. I LOVE it. And the days will be longer further north where I’ll be this summer too.

I am moving to Healy, Alaska in two weeks for the summer, just south a bit from Fairbanks, the interior. “Interior Alaska, anchored by Fairbanks, is the real Alaska, the real frontier.” What I’ll miss about the south part is kayaking, glacier hiking, and Sixmile, the hardcore river rafting which is all 8-12 hour drives from Healy.

BUT, the interior has a lot to offer too. Denali National Park, McKinley as my daily back yard view, bugs the size of my head, swarms of tourists. It’s a bizarre place, it’s colder in the winter and warmer in the summer as opposed to the sourthern parts of Alaska. It’s drier, the flowers get massive because of the sunlight, and yes, the bugs are HUGE. I was watching a documentary about the grizzly man, the dude who documented bears, lived with them, then got eaten by them. While interviewing a pilot you could see all the flies and swarms of bugs flying around him… It’s all a part of being an Alaskan, or a part timer Alaskan.

Now what big mountain would this be?

mmmm my incredibly large backyard

This summer is going to be awesome. For the last month I’ve been very sad about leaving Anchorage because I did make a lot of great friends here and some of them will leave mid summer. I’m going to try to come back to Anchorage for things here and there, but Healy is a great opportunity that I’m looking forward to. This summer I hope to hike this path from Girdwood to Eagle River which is a two day hike and very pretty. There will be river fording and whatnot which I heard was “so cold it’ll make you cry”. I hope to do some river rafting, go to some festivals, hike around Denali national park, definitely celebrate solstice (hopefully with the couchsurfing collective who will have their own DJ… will explain in a second), and volunteer with the couchsurfing collective in Homer, AK (8 hour drive from Healy). There is just so much to do!

I know I make these too long and no one likes reading all this, but I’m going to write it anyway. I’m sure at least ONE person will make it all the way through. haha. (That wouldn’t be you Sara, I know). So, I mentioned couchsurfing before, it started here in Alaska by Casey Fenton. Two of my good buds know him and have been part of it from the start. One was Matt, the guy who got me to come here. The couchsurfing collective is coming here to Alaska for three months, following their last collective which was in Thailand. The collective is a bunch of smart people, house people, PR folks, random folks that get together and work on the site and make it better. They live and work together for three months and move around. The next collective will be in Argentina. So, they need a house and they sent Susy to be the house hunter to Alaska and look. Casey told Susy, a funny chica from Amsterdam, to meet up with Matt. Matt has a birthday party in Girdwood (40 miles or so south of Anchorage) and leaves his car at the Anchorage airport for Susy who gets off her flight from Amsterdam and drives all the way to us at the party. Susy ends up staying with me and Bill while she house hunts and we hang out and put together a couchsurfing “party” where we just looked up and invited everyone to come meet at Humpy's. It was quite a turnout and was really fun. It was awesome to have met different people separately and come together to find they all know each other. We met these fire circus people there too! Later that week I attended a bonfire at the beach to watch them practice.

Fire practice on the beach

I’ve been doing my best to help Susy out. She now has Matt’s car, Matt’s phone, Casey’s phone, and the help of us couchsurfers to make her way around. She found a house in Homer where they will live, work, and play. I’m so attracted to the idea of a bunch of foreign folk getting together for a common goal. I love this site too! I’m going to Homer next week to couchsurf cause I want to see it before I move to Healy. A lot of the people I’ve spoken too already hosted some of my friends here. We’re all intertwined in a way. So Susy invited me to come volunteer this summer, and since it’s so far and I only have three day weekends, she is willing to have me as a “guest” which is reserved for just 2-3 people per collective. Big deal in my book. If that doesn’t work out I’ll camp in their yard for the time I’m there. So by going to work with them, I’ll meet the other collective members who come from all over the world and possibly have an in to work with them in Argentina starting in Novemberish. So all in all things are awesome.

This weekend I’m going to Girdwood to watch the Slush Cup (snowboarders/skiers who try to jump a big puddle… it’s a festival, lots of people) and Sunday is my last day of work at Sugarspoon as a server/barista. Then onto Homer (south of Anchorage about 3 hours? on the Kenai Penisula), and back to enjoy one last awesome week of Anchorage. If you’ve made it this far, way to go, I’m impressed. Is your name Ann?

For reference purposes:
Where I live now till May 8th or 9th

Girdwood is where the big resort is and where a lot of awesome events like the Slush Cup is held, and "Hippie Fest" otherwise known as Forest Fest officially. It really is where the hippies reside, but they are wierd rich hippies... not quite fulfilling my personal definition of hippy but whatever, it's a cool small little town and the drive to it is scenic

And finally a reference to how big Alaska really is.

"To be a true Alaskan you have to piss in the Yukon River and make love to a native." I will probably do neither. And some radio talk show host twisted it to say something even naughtier and it caused some issues with people. I pasted a group of native protesters and one of them did a wierd gesture to my car as I passed them. This was before I knew what was going on so I was pretty offended. I'm still offended cause I didn't even hear the show but that just comes with the territory of living in this crazy place.

"To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.”

1 comment:

annabelle616 said...

Yes, I did make it through the whole blog. And yes, my name is in fact Ann. How did you know? :)
Glad to hear that you’re excited about your summer plans. Sounds like you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied.

Missing you in WI