Happy Friday!

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Happy Friday! 

What will you be doing this weekend?  Our weekend will be spent moving [for the 5th time in two years]! Let the hockey season begin :)






Photos of Elf the moose taken at the Alaska Zoo's Moose Madness event Saturday, September 8, 2012.



Berry Picking on Flattop Mountain




We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather (sunny, clear skies, no wind) and climb Flattop. It gets its name for obvious reasons,  it has a flat top. 

For an extremely out of shape person (sadly, like myself) I like to think that climbing Flattop is comparable to having a really bad hang over. It really sucks and you feel like puking your guts out.  You may even let out a "I'm dying!" or a "I'm never doing this again!"in the process. But, when it's all over, everything is better.  You suddenly get amnesia and forget how awful you felt.  

Kind of how I felt Monday.  But, I made it, with minimal to no complaining. I kept up, and surprisingly didn't even fall once. When you do make it to the top of Flattop, you realize all that pain and suffering was sooooo worth it. The views are absolutely breathtaking!

It was such a clear day that we could see Denali in the distance...


Once at the top, we had an impromptu berry picking session. The tiny dark berries littered the mountain side. After much debate, and not wanting to end up like the guy from "Into the Wild", we realized we were safe and so we picked away.  (Note: Don't just eat random berries you find. Do your research first. Flattop does get service, so we googled it.) However, what we thought were blueberries turned out to be crowberries.  Don't worry, still edible, but not as sweet.


The crowberries made delicious whole wheat pancakes (with real maple syrup, the Canadian stuff, obviously).


So, the moral of this story?  
a) I think I need to get back into the gym.
b) Do your research before you just eat random berries.
c) Whole wheat crowberry pancakes are delicious.
and d) I continue to fall further in love with Alaska.






Falling Away From Summer

"[Denali has] much to offer those who understand the language of the great silent places ..." - Harry Karstens (1st park superintendent)


Yes, it's only the beginning of September, but fall arrives much earlier in Alaska.  And if you're not careful, you might blink and miss it...

We spent a recent weekend hiking and camping in Denali National Park.  It was our second trip this summer. This time we traveled to Denali to see the glorious fall colors we had only heard about.  Our expectations were more than met. I'll let the photos do the talking...


Funny little creatures those Arctic ground squirrels are.  I've titled this one "Get in my mouth!" (of course with a Fat Bastard accent).
Female dall sheep doing what they do best... climbing the rocks and protecting their babies.
Ravens.
Orange lichen.  Each individual lichen can be thousands of years old!
Black bear track.
Sparrow.


Still in heaven.  Denali has easily become one of my favorite places on earth.

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I must mention that the weekend above was the weekend Denali experienced their first fatal bear mauling in the 90 year history of the park. I'm sure you've heard about it, but if not, click here for one of many articles in the Anchorage Daily News. Although extremely unfortunate, in a 6 million acre park home to numerous black and brown bears and that sees millions of visitors every summer, Denali has done very well with minimizing the number of human wildlife conflicts. It just goes to show that being "bear aware" is not something to be taken lightly.  

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With that, summer has sadly come to an end for us.  The grand adventures will be put on hold for another 8ish months.  But until then, the regular routine will begin again, starting with a move back into "the dorms" this weekend. Can't say I'm not a tad bit excited for winter.  I love adventures, but sometimes I need a little routine in my life... To be able to sit still.  Although, I did hear (from multiple sources) Anchorage is expecting MORE snow that last year.  Oh Lordy! How on earth am I going to deal with more than 11 feet of snow? Hibernation, here I come!

Even though my brain and body may be in hibernation mode in the coming the months, don't worry, the blog will not be.  So, stay tuned for what, and how much snow, lies ahead of us...



An Alaskan Hurricane

Disclaimer: No, this post is not about a fancy new drink Steve concocted.  I wish.  

I have never experienced a hurricane, only seen and heard about them on tv.  However, this past Tuesday night I think we experienced Alaska's version of a hurricane.

If I could have, I would have posted about this yesterday.  However, we've been without internet since Tuesday night. Without internet because a massive wind storm tore through the city the night before last.  I'm talking 50 to 90 mph winds.  Sensors in many of the windiest places around town, like the upper hillside, lost power before the apex of the storm, so meteorologists are even suggesting gusts likely reached 100 mph (160 km/h) or more! An unofficial number of 131 mph (210 km/h) was even quoted. Whoa is right! Those numbers are comparable to last week's Hurricane Isaac. So was Tuesday's wind storm Alaska's version of a hurricane?  I think so.

Thankfully we live on the west side of town where the wind, although definitely still really gusty, was not as bad as the east/hillside. If I was having anxiety thinking the roof of our house was about to blow off, I can't begin to imagine what people on the hillside were feeling.  I can tell you I probably would have been out in the car.  Ya, I have some weird and irrational fear of buildings collapsing.  Don't ask where it came from, but the wind storm definitely did not help.

Bummer. 
Enough about my craziness... According to some, parts of the city looked like a "war zone"-  trees were uprooted, fences were demolished, cars were smashed, float planes were overturned, transformers were blown and wires were downed.  Around 50,000 Anchorage residents were without power, some for over 12 hours. As of this afternoon, some residents were still without power.  I just think about all of the poor people who worked so hard over the summer stocking their freezers full of fish for the year, only to potentially lose it all.

Yes it gave me anxiety, but it was also cool to watch out the window and to marvel at how strong even some of the skinniest trees are. Do you ever wonder why only certain trees get entirely uprooted?  Is it survival of the fittest tree? And those poor animals. I wonder how the animals that live in the wild, like the birds, moose and bears, handle wind storms?  Do they hug close to a tree branch that's swaying with the wind or do they find a place in tall grass or between large rocks to hunker down for the night? Either way, I would not want to be them during a wind storm. I don't think I'd be a very good wild animal, especially in Alaska. However, I must say, the animals at the Zoo have been on a high since yesterday morning due to the unlimited smorgasbord of fresh birch and willow browse. They definitely don't mind a good wind storm if it means fresh browse.

Annnywaaays... Although the storm created citywide confusion and more work for firemen, insurance agents and utility, maintenance and city workers, most importantly no one was reported injured. And we have internet again. Happy dance.



Switchin' It Up


We decided to switch it up this weekend... and go camping in the rain. This past weekend we ventured to Eklutna Lake, a state campground 45ish minutes north of Anchorage. 

It always seems to rain on our camping adventures.  In fact, we've stopped checking the weather forecast fully expecting it to rain. So, we've learned to make the best of it and no longer let a little water spoil our weekend! You can say we've kind of perfected the art of camping in the rain. Besides the obvious camping necessities (firewood, good food, warm clothes, etc., etc.), here's some of our tricks:

+  We did our research and invested $ into a quality tent that will keep us dry (Alps Mountaineering Lynx 4)…
+   …Along with sleeping bags that will keep us warm (Kelty Cosmic Down 20).
+  We've become good friends with tarps and Steve has become quite the knot master, having our tarps up, and down, in seconds.
+  Our Xtratuf rubber boots have become like a second layer of skin.
+  We keep travel Scrabble and a deck of cards in the camping box.
+  We keep a flask of whiskey on hand to mix up the perfect hot-tottie that warms the soul and helps you forget you're sitting outside in the rain (see below). 

Despite the stress, and discomfort, the rain may cause, we'll take any adventure we can.  We don't let a little rain discourage us. We make the best of it. And that's exactly what we did this past weekend (and pretty much every other this past summer)...



Camping in the Rain Hot-Totties:
+  1 package of spiced apple cider juice crystals (preferably no sugar)
+  shot of whiskey (your choice)
+  splash of pineapple juice
+  hot water

Combine all above ingredients in a travel mug and voila! Enjoy!


Have you ever gone camping in not-so-ideal weather? What's your secret?