23 September, 2009

The Last Loop

It's late in the year: the leaves have changed and they're falling; it's colder during the days and close to - or just below - freezing at night; there's Termination Dust on the mountains; and we've had some serious frost on the windshields some mornings. Any day now, I expect there'll be snow on the ground when I wake up.

With all that in mind, when Billy said he wanted to make the trip up to Flattop and walk Blueberry Loop, we all thought it'd be best if that happens sooner, rather than later. I don't have the gear (nor the desire) to walk the Loop in the snow.

Just yesterday, we got Termination Dust (first sign of snow on the mountain tops - marks the "termination" of summer) on the mountains. I heard that we're supposed to have rain & snow tomorrow, but today is supposed to be mostly clear. So, if we're going to do it, we need to go today. The trail's at a higher elevation, there's no telling when it'll be covered in snow. We're going tonight.

Since we hadn't planned this yesterday, everyone had to get changed - work shoes just won't cut it for this trail - which means we got a late start. I've never done Blueberry in the dark. Or dusk. It was beautiful. The trail was a little wet from the previous day's rain, but not muddy; and the clouds at sunset made for some spectacular views. The view of Sleeping Lady was particularly stunning. She's always pretty, but tonight... with the clouds and the colors... it was especially gorgeous.

Nita and I walked the Loop while Todd, Billy, & Greg wandered off to find some caches (of course!), and we hooked back up at the parking lot. We walked 'round the shadowed side first, to end up on the sunset side at the end of the walk. The wind was cold - so I'm really glad I brought a hat, and could probably have done with a coat instead of a jacket (and *definitely* some thermals for my legs!) - and we saw flakes instead of rain towards the end of the walk.

It's the first time I've seen our city lights from this vantage. I doubt I'll be going up to do the Loop anymore this season. I'll have to wait for Spring to go again. But I'm glad I took the chance this time, to see the familiar landscape in a new (non-)light.

22 September, 2009

Sara's Visit

It seems like just last weekend we were visiting with Sara. Oh, wait! We were!! =) She got in Thursday night, and leaves me on Tuesday. A short visit, but it's better than nothing!! Unfortunately, I came down with a cold while she was here. But she was kind enough to be content to just hang with me at the house, for the most part. (Greg was gone over the weekend - he took a trip to Fairbanks to photograph the first roller derby bout of the season.)

We did make an excursion to Heath's, to celebrate her 30th birthday on Sunday - yay, party!! We also had people over for dinner on Monday. Other than that, we mostly spent our time together visiting at the house. Though I did make her special request for dinner (to make sure she knew I'm glad she's here), and promised that next trip we'll go to Bear's Tooth for dinner and a movie... =)

All too quickly, the weekend is over and I have to take Sara to the airport. It's always sad to see any of my family leave, but it's especially hard this time. No more visits until next Spring - which seems so far away right now (and I have to endure the winter first). I'll just have to keep the memories close, and look at smaller chunks of time. The Halloween party is coming up in a few weeks. I'll focus on that first... =)

14 September, 2009

Valdez Weekend

Since we have several friends that like to take advantage of the siblings that work at Peter Pan to get fish, we planned a road trip to pick up the orders (saves on shipping), with the additional benefit that I get to see Sara one more time before she leaves Valdez. Yay! Unfortunately, I remembered (when we were 4 hours from home) that I left my camera on the table. All the pictures in this post are courtesy of Greg (and his fancy-pants camera). =)

Greg & I drove down (over?) after work on Friday, which means we didn't hit town until 1am Saturday morning. Sara was able to get us a nice "room" (really an apartment-style place, with it's own bathroom and a kitchen to boot!) at the cannery. It had a lovely view of the marina (above), and was a very nice place to hang our hats - for the little bit of time that we were actually in it.

Sara had to work for a bit Saturday morning, so while we were waiting we went to breakfast. Then picked her up to wander around town and spend some time together. Before the trip, Greg downloaded some cache coordinates, so we headed out to find some new things to see. It was a grey, drizzly day - but still relatively nice. Not so much rain that we got drenched, and warm enough that I wore sandals and a jacket. We saw a glacial lake with floating chunks of ice (above), and another cache was at a small waterfall (below).

Sara had to go back to work for a couple hours, so Greg & I wandered around some more while she was gone. We saw two black bears, and took some turns down roads we'd never traveled before. We took advantage of the 4-wheel drive on Sully (thanks to Sheri for helping to name my car!) to get to some of the areas. Valdez is a lovely spot - even in the overcast and rain - although I can't imagine the winter, where I've heard they get snow that can pile up to the rooftops. I'll stick to the summer excursions! =)

For the evening entertainment, we took a ride on one of the cruise ships. It happened to be a fund-raising event for the visitor's center - a murder-mystery set in the 1920's. We didn't have costumes, but it was fun to see the locals all decked out, and of course the scenery from the boat was amazing.

Sunday morning we were able to spend a bit more time with Sara for breakfast, then it was time to load up the fish and head back home (I still had laundry to do before the workweek began). We stopped at the crest of Thompson Pass and did a little more off-roading. The pass is always a good spot for spectacular scenery. When it's clear, it's like you can see the world below you. When it's cloudy, it's like you're shrouded in mystery. And it's always as if you're at the top of the world. (I have pictures at the pass here where it's sunnier with Sheri.)

We made a short stop at Harding Glacier too (mostly so I could use the restrooms), and got updated pictures. In the post here, I have pictures from 2007 - and if you click on one of them you can just make out three people climbing the ice. It's still awe-inspiring to be so close to such a magnificent view.

We stopped a couple more times on the road home (for some of Greg's caches), and got to enjoy the beautiful fall colors. Alaska is a beautiful place, and I'm extremely glad we've had such a wonderful summer! (Hopefully that doesn't mean we're in for a terrible winter...)

It was a lovely, if quick, weekend. Very nice to spend more time with Sara - and a fun road trip, to boot! She'll be at the house to visit in less than a week, but she doesn't get to spend as much time with me as she used to, so I'm really glad that we were able to get together a couple times over the summer. =)

13 September, 2009

Labor Day Weekend - King Mountain

The last campout of the season... a sad affair, and a wonderful event. =) The weather was gorgeous - full of sunshine, and we got to see the full moon at night. (Which meant that is was cold, but we got a beautiful view of the full moon...) The picture below of King Mountain and the full moon is courtesy of Greg and his fancy-pants camera. All mine turned out dark or blurry or dark and blurry, so I used one of his instead.

Saturday was a day of hiking - for those that were interested in going... and (of course) there was a cache. The hike to Castle Rock takes all day. I applaud those that were stalwart enough to make the trek. I, on the other hand, (and a few others) opted to stick closer to home.

A lovely day around the fire, visiting and enjoying friends. That's how I spent my day. I can't imagine a nicer way to spend a sunny, fall Saturday.

It's always hard for me to accept the coming winter. Changing leaves and cold nights are harbingers of the Great Time of Dark and Cold. Of course, I start fending off thoughts of winter in June, when summer solstice passes and the days start getting shorter. It's not noticeable for quite some time, but as of the 21st of June I know the clock is ticking.
As summer wanes, it's even more important to me to horde those warm, sunny memories of summer. I have to have something to keep me sane during The Long Sleep. This weekend was a great chance to stockpile pretty pictures. I can just see myself in December: Remember that great campout in September? Where it was warm and pretty, and we had such a great time with our friends? Maybe we can do that again, in just a couple months... I can last just a couple more months...
I think I'm getting a little hung up on the upcoming cold. Could be because the weather's colder now and the news just reported that we may get snow in the next couple days. (I'm a bit behind, and finishing the writing of this post on the 24th of September.) So to snap out of it, I'll mention James (remember kilt-donning James?). We had a nice chat around the fire one afternoon. We both agreed that the licorice (from Costco, purchased just before the campout and sealed until we arrived), was less than fresh. I expected it to be softer and more chewy. It was actually a little tough - so James used the marshmallow/wienie roaster to warm some up. Turns out it softens a bit if it's warmed over the fire... but tastes a bit smokey too. Different, but apparently still tasty. Kind of like the bacon s'more? Hmmmm...

We got rained on just a bit, Saturday evening. Enough to put up the extra awning, but not enough to make anyone uncomfortable. (Unless it was the hikers, who got caught in a bit of the deluge on the way down the mountain - but we warmed them up with a fire, hot chili, and toasty warm beverages.)

This weekend was fantabulous! All the more enjoyable, knowing that it's the last time this summer that I'll be going camping. Greg might go on a winter trip (he tried last winter, but the volcano put an early end to that), but I don't think that'd be a wise idea for me. I'm sure my nose AND my feet would be cold... The weather, the friends, the campfire... a marvelous way to spend the long weekend.

09 September, 2009

Labor Day Weekend - At the Fair

Labor Day Weekend... Time to go camping for a long weekend - friends, food, fire... how can you beat that?!? And then, it's the last weekend of the Alaska state fair. If you combine the two, how much better can it get?? Not much, I say!
Took Friday off, so we could head out to King Mountain campground Thursday night. It'll definitely be the last campout of the season - nights are cold enough that even the tent heater doesn't help long. I suppose it'd last longer if we left it on all night, but it might not be the best alternative. I'm sure the fumes would dissipate, as the top of the tent is all mesh and heat rises, but I'm fine with not testing that theory. Except that I wake up at night when my nose is cold... but because we have the super-cold rated sleeping bags, at least I don't wake up because my feet are blocks of ice. =)
We ate our way through the fair on Friday. Started the morning with some bacon & eggs around the fire. And what's a little breakfast without a nice bacon s'more? It was too early in the morning for me to be brave enough to try it, but I *know* bacon makes everything better. Greg didn't even mind that the graham cracker was cinnamon. Cinnamon, toasted marshmallows, and bacon - and he said it was really tasty... Maybe I'll give it a go next time. =)

We knew we'd be staying the whole day at the fair, so we dressed accordingly. For me, that was tennis shoes (good soles and really comfy); Greg wore his pants where the leg zips off to make shorts; and James, you may ask? He wore his utili-kilt. Lots of pockets, apparently really comfortable, and he didn't over-heat. Good choice, James! =)

Just as we entered the fair grounds, we encountered an acrobatic equestrian group. You know those movies (or books)? The ones where the long-haired horsemen jump into the saddle from the ground - and they duel with long sharp swords (rapiers?) as they're crashing through the underbrush... this was like that, only with pointy toes and girls in short leotards. Amazing to see the horsemanship and athleticism of the participants, but my camera didn't get any pictures to do it justice. Always just a click behind the action. Oh well.

From there, we headed in to see the *enormous* vegetables. I saw sunflowers that were probably 15' tall, and a 594 pound pumpkin (imagine how many pies that'd make!!). There was a 147# watermelon (wonder if it had seeds?), a record breaking 22# radish (not red, like I imagined), and of course the record breaking cabbage - weighing in at 125 pounds. Have to make a lot of corned beef to go with *that* cabbage!

And then it's time for food. Turkey leg, cream puff (I really think you *should* eat dessert first, whenever you can!), deep fried cheese curds, roasted corn on the cob, and deep fried pickles. Good thing we were sharing - if it'd been just me, eating full servings of all that, I might've had to succumb to a food coma. As it was, we took a break to sit for a bit and rest our barkin' dawgs.

I wanted to get my face painted, so Nita & I split from the group (rides, schmides!) - only to wait in line for almost an hour and have the only person who could paint the designs we picked go on "break". By that time, we decided we'd spent enough time in line - too bad it was for nothing... so, what to do? I'm glad you asked. Time to get fresh dipped corn dogs!

And then it's on to the demolition derby. First time I've been. Apparently this year they (amorphous people from the fair) decided to do it differently, so it wasn't as exciting as in years previous. But since I'd never gone, I have nothing to compare. It's marvelously invigorating to watch cars purposefully crash into each other until only one is mobile. It's also amazing to see how much damage these cars can take and keep moving. I'd never treat my car this way, but it'd be fun to get into a beater and ram it around a few times to see how many lickin's before there's no more tickin'... (as long as it doesn't explode!)

And after all that, it must be time for more food, right?!? Black beans & rice, halibut tacos, and the piece de resistance (insert accents over the first "e" in all but "de"): the powdered sugar coated funnel cake (and a bit of Greg's elephant ear). And then we're heading out to the car, so we can get a good view of the fireworks - only they started before we were there, so it was an exercise in looking up and walking without mowing someone over or tripping and splitting my skull on something (and landing in gum).

A magnificent day full of food, friends, and fun... and then we headed to the campground to sit around a fire. A truly lovely day, and even better that we still have three more days of camping goodness to enjoy. Ahhhhhhhhhh. =)