Saturday, August 16, 2008

Send me on my way

So Sam and I just got back from our 5-day backpacking extravaganza. And it was SO awesome. If blogger wasn't so slow in uploading photos...I'd have the majority of this post as pictures...for your viewing pleasure. But, since I don't have 5 hours to kill in the library, I'll post as many as I can before I must go.

So the trip started at 5 am Sunday morning. We left around 5:30 and were dropped off at the Summit Creek trailhead around 7:15. We took our "before" photos at the start of the trail, smiling with toothy grins and laden with 40 lb packs on our backs. Summit Creek is roughly 8 miles long through alpine/tundra area. Most of the trip you are in a bowl surrounded by mountains on all sides of you. You gradually climb uphill for the first three miles, and then the next two and a half are along a ridge following the side of a mountain. The trail had several snow crossings and creek crossings. The latter was a time where I got go for a little swim. Without fail, everytime we had a creek crossing, I'd slip off of the rocks we attempted to cross by and fall shin-deep in water. Sucked. The rest of the trail my feet, shoes and socks were soaked, sloshing and gurgling the entire way. (But that didn't deter me!)

This was probably three miles in. Snow was everywhere. Fortunately, I think we had about 3 or 4 places where we had to cross it wasn't all the time. This area here is close to the place where we ran into an older couple that were hiking. They were your hardcore hiker-type: petite, lean, and muscley, with poles in either hand and all their gear nicely snug on their backs. They told us they had hiked off of the trail and camped up in the mountains you see behind me there - and that it had snowed on them during the night (and they saw caribou!). Crazy. I would say that it was around 48-55 degrees our entire trip. Dall sheep! We saw a family on our way down from another snow crossing we did. I'm pretty sure there's three females, one male, and two babies in this group. We got pretty close to them! At this point, we saw the sheep, and then out of nowhere, we heard this high-pitched, whistling sound, similar to that of a referee's whistle. We first thought that it could possibly be a whistle from one of the hunters we had met along the trail. But then after another whistle, we turned our heads to the direction of the sound and saw a marmot! They can get pretty big, but they're usually 2 feet long and resemble beavers in a way. They're gray-tan color and have little fluffy tails. We saw a bunch more during our hike.

This is near the last 2 miles of Summit Creek trail. Before this vista point, we had done a grueling climb from a low point (the bowl area) up to this point. Many breaks were necessary (and taken). But once we got to this point, we were rewarded for all of our efforts. It was an absolutely stunning view. Along the side of the mountain to the right of the picture near the bottom is Resurrection trail. Summit hooks onto Resurrection. We hiked on that for about 3 miles and then took the Devil's Pass trail from there.

One of the creeks we had to cross. And one I subsequently fell in. Not only did we have to cross a creek, but immediately after doing that we had to cross snow. Not fun. But challenging. On this creek we saw our first ptarmigan. We hadn't seen any the entire time we'd been up here - and that's mainly because they're mostly found in alpine/high elevation areas. During this time of the year, they have a red tuft on their heads and they are mostly brown/gray with spotted feathers. During the winter, they turn completely white - so they are almost possible to see in the snow.

Here are the two ptarmigan we saw. One was female (in background) and the other was male.

This is at the point on the Resurrection trail that shows you which direction each trail leads to. Devil's Pass cabin was right behind us, and then we took the Devil's Creek trail leading to the left of this sign.

This is a photo of Devil's Lake. Just beyond the lake is where we camped for our first night. This was about 1.5 miles into the Devil's Pass trail. It was so pretty.

The view we had in the morning. Absolutely breathtaking, huh? We got lucky in finding a fairly flat area to pitch our tent in. We slept on a bed of lichen and it was pretty cushy. The next morning, we woke to sunshine and a fairly crisp temperature. I can also now say I've been in my skivvies in the tundra of Alaska.
Sam just waking up from her perfect slumber.The tent was pretty small...but we kept eachother warm. :)

Me just waking up as well.

Morning view, just got started on the trail.

The Devil's Pass trail had even more creeks to cross than Summit. And more treacherous to boot. Fortunately, I guess I got a little experienced from the day before and didn't have any tumbles (thanks to Sam). These creeks, though difficult to cross, provided us delicious refreshment. There's nothing like drinking naturally cool and fresh water that you took right from a creek.

One of the more treacherous creeks we crossed.

This was a really pretty waterfall we had to go under along the trail. It had some really cold water!Wolf print! We ran into some hikers the day we did Summit and they had told us they had seen a wolf while they were hiking. This print was on the Devil's Pass trail. We suspect it was the same wolf.

The second day, we did 9 miles in roughly 4 and half hours. We kicked ass. We did more than two miles per hour. We finally ended at the Devil's Pass trailhead at around 12:30pm. We did a little victory dance and then took our "after" pictures:

We are #1.

Once we got back onto the Seward highway...we didn't walk more than a mile before we got picked up. We held up our little typed up, overly prepared "SEWARD" sign and within 20 minutes, got picked up by a hippie homeopathic doctor that had a reassuring "Coexist" bumper sticker on the back of his Honda Element. Yes, hitch-hiking we did indeed. I know it was incredibly stupid, but we were fortunate. We had a really nice guy who had done a bit of hitch-hiking himself, and he was generous enough to take us all the way into the town of Seward.

WE WERE OFFICIALLY IN SEWARD!!! It was so exciting.

Once in Seward, we walked down to the boat docks and had us a nice meal in the "Marina" Restaurant (in which I ate a caribou burger. Yum yum.). We then walked to the SeaLife Center and checked out all the Sea Life. Yeah.

Exhibit A: The homo sapiens. Look at it attempt to fool itself into thinking it's driving a boat that is really a wooden box cut out to look like one. Exhibit B: A Murre, I think.Exhibit C: A horned puffin. I swear I bet some of the tourists at this place were taking pictures of all of the sea life and were going to go back home and brag to their friends and family about how they got such close-up pictures of all of this sea life out in the wild. I guarantee.

A HUGE Steller sea lion. It had a really freaky eye that was looking at us.

An Alaskan King Crab. (It's a bit blurry due to the fact that it's in a tank.) These crabs are supposed to be THE deadliest catch.

After the SeaLife center, me and Sam had some quality time with the Captain. We spotted him in downtown Seward.

Then we met up with Eve and her sister, went out to dinner, and then spent the night at Miller's Landing in Birch cabin. It was such a change (and better sleep) than the night before. Then the next morning, we went on a Kenai Fjords Tour, like the one I did during our first week of training. This was a 6-hour cruise, the one we were originally supposed to go on but didn't, on account of bad weather. As opposed to the previous one, this one is two hours longer, and you get to see more of Resurrection Bay. We also got a close look at Aalik Glacier. This picture above is of a humpback breaching. The picture's blurry of course. We were all so excited because he did it out of nowhere. He was being a total ham. He breached a total of three times, and did a lot of back-stroke swimming. It was so amazing. It was peculiar that he should be breaching, because it is typical humpback behavior to do such a thing around other humpbacks. But we didn't see a single other. It was just him the whole time, putting on a show for us.

The picture above is of the humpback swimming stomach up. He kept on flapping his fins back and forth on top of the water. The sound was incredible. The next picture is of Aalik Glacier. It is a forbidding sight. Here's the ice calving. The sound is out of this world. Since sound travels slower than the forces of gravity, you could watch the ice falling in silence. Then a couple of seconds later, a huge, cracking CRASH and BOOM into the water reverberated the entire surroundings. It's a sound you can't really describe in words. One of those - you have to experience it moments.

More close-ups of the glacier. In the crevasses, the blue was a much deeper hue. Anywhere there was a crevasse was huge potential for the ice to calve. Apparently, I'm pretty sure this glacier recedes 200 m each year. The Kenai Fjords tours guarantees this sight. It happens every couple of seconds (even quicker at some points) of every day. The amount of mass this glacier loses each day is incredible.

Sam and me on the boat. It was pretty cold! It felt like you were standing next to a refridgerator. Pretty cool feeling (haha, forgive the pun).

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any orcas. But we did see a ton of steller sea lions. This is a huge area for the stellers to hang out. Unfortunately, they are endangered. The ship captain told us that this is probably the smallest number of stellers he's seen this year. He told us that usually, you can't even see an inch of rock beneath the seals because there are so many covering the entire area.

For the entire boat tour, we saw a plethora of wildlife. Horned and tufted puffins, double-crested cormorants, red-faced cormorants, auklets, steller sea lions, harbor seals, humpback whales, sea otters, eagles, mountain goats, murres, oystercatchers, tons of gulls, and kittiwakes were just some of what we saw. I took a ton of bird and wildlife pictures - but unfortunately, it would take me hours to put them all up on here.

After our cruise, we walked outside of town and hitched a ride from a Russian fisherman to Exit Glacier. This picture above is of the glacier. You can actually hike down right to the toe of the glacier and touch it. Unfortunately, the water you see there was running fast and deep - so it was too hard to cross to get to the glacier. Instead, we hiked to the edge of the glacier, and got about 10 feet close to it.

This is a tremendously dorky picture of me. I didn't realize the hood of the jacket I was wearing looked so retarded. Anyway, that's Exit glacier behind me.

After we hiked up to Exit, we camped at the Exit Glacier campground for the night. The following day, we hitched a ride back into town with a couple from Wyoming, who were celebrating their 10-year anniversary. The next day in Seward we hung out around town for a while until we got on the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage.

Anyway, I've spent way too much time in the library. I'll have to post more photos later of our trip and time in Anchorage, in which we hiked Flat Top Mountain. Hope you were stimulated by all of the photos, and wish you were here!


likerenoir said...

Hi Emily,

Thanks for telling us all about your adventures and including lots of photos. I saw your photograph that you labeled "incredibly dorky" but I actually think there was more than one dorky photo! Anwyay, the important thing is that you had fun and your clothes protected you from the elements.

You will be in for major weather shock when you come home. Tropical Storm Fay is expected to hit Florida later tonight and tomorrow. The entire forecast this week is for thunderstorms and hot temperatures, but cooler than it was - only upper 80s as compared to mid-90s! Hopefully, we will not lose our electricity because I don't want to lose all that yummy halibut in the freezer.

See you soon,


The King said...

The Tales Of Impmonster and Her Alaskan Adventure continue ...

Touring the hills and vales, marvelling at the mountaintops and humpback whales and slip sliding away down glacial escarpments with glossy postcard snapshots to prove it all!

What an experience!

The three months have zoomed by, but you've managed to cram in so much and experience a way of life that none of us will have the pleasure of enjoying. You are blessed Emily.

Your mother's right ... the outer garments have been your life saver and with so many wonderful shots of all that gear, no doubt L.L. Bean is now going to be making contact and inviting you and your bunkhouse cohorts to moonlight in their next catalogue!

The Emily and Sam Collection with cameos from all of the other characters in this wonderful Alaskan panoply, will surely be the hit of next year's spring season.

The photographs are incredible! Not only will you retain a mental memory of your adventures, but you will have a photographic album that will help you recollect the amazing sights you've experienced in the Alaskan Great Outdoors ... which undoubtedly will eclipse the equivalent in your own home town.

Well done my little bundle of fun! We're all very proud of you.

Julia said...

this post is cute, but would be better with pics of me! enjoy your flight home crazy pants, and you better have found my mug lid