Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crow Pass Hike

It's been 2 weeks since this hike -- the blisters have healed, laundry & work is caught up on, and I'm itching to do some more hiking -- so I better post these pictures and tell the tale:

CROW PASS: A Tale of Many Crossings

Two middle-aged women set out on an adventure: 24 miles from Girdwood to Eagle River over some spectacular Chugach Mountain terrain -- two nights of camping along trail, fording a major river, no kids, husbands, or cell phones -- relying just on ourselves!

Originally it was going to be my 22-yr old daughter, some of her friends and I, but Eldest ended up doing research in the Shelikof Strait, West of Kodiak. So instead of a mother-daughter trip, it became a 2-girlfriend trip. My long-time friend C flew in from Fairbanks for the weekend. My worried husband dropped us off at the trailhead in Girdwood: reports of the ford site being waist-high made us all uneasy -- we promised that if the water was too high, then we'd just turn around!

We had a wonderful trip! Both of us lamented that we had not done anything like this since before our children were born, and now for each the oldest child had graduated-- where did the time go?

The first 4 miles lead us up and over Crow Pass (picture above) and back down, climbing and descending 2000 ft elevation, right past Raven Glacier (see picture on left).

The weather was perfect.

It had been really hot (for Alaska-standards) and the glaciers were melting gang-busters. Therefore we had to cross several smaller creeks, such as this crossing here of Clear Creek at its confluence with Raven Creek. We each carried a separate pair of river-crossing shoes. Take a look at those COLD feet!

We camped in a meadow along Raven Creek, waking up the next morning to over 100 runners passing: this was the weekend of the Crow Pass Marathon. Incredible athletes -- this year the 3 hour record was broken (see ADN news article & pictures here) -- to think it took them 3 hours what took us 3 days!
The last runner was somebody I knew, and she called out to us leisurely eating our breakfast "That looks like a lot more fun" -- she had just climbed and dropped those 2000 ft in something like 1 hour!!!

We reached the ford site at mid-day. The Eagle River was impressively high when we got to it -- raging full of gray glacial melt water. Nobody was around, and we decided to go for it. We debated whether we should ford together or separately, and on acct of our heavy backpacks decided to go solo (unbuckled, ready for ditching in case of falling). We were worried about making things less stable holding on to each other, plus we each had picked up an alder walking stick along the way. In retrospect, we would have been better off crossing as a team.

So intrepid C went in first, and I followed after a little while. If you've never forded a river, let me tell you, it's an amazing and scary experience! The cold of that icy water hits you like you can't imagine. But what was even tougher is the tremendous force of that water, and how hard it is to get a steady foothold -- or shall I say numb-hold? My feet felt numb after a few minutes, and it was a challenge not panic, but just keep telling myself to "keep going -- you can do it!"

I don't know if it took 5 minutes, or 10, but by the time I got the other side (only an island, there was more icewater to go!!!), I ripped out my sleeping back and put my icecube feet inside. Ohhh, did they hurt warming up! But soon I was warmed & fed (chocolate helps!), and we did the 2nd crossing of the braided river, which luckily wasn't as deep or wide as the first part.

We hiked a few more miles and made camp for the second night. Vigilant about encountering bears, we carried bearspray and cooked & ate away from our campsite, plus I carried all the food in a bear-proof container (just for kicks, here's a NY Times article about a NewEngland black bear who figured out to open bearproof containers). All we saw of bears is this and other lovely piles of scat.

We had about 11 miles to hike on our last day, without the elevation extremes or wet crossings. Plenty more creeks to cross, but there were lots of bridges. I admit I was a little worried when we got to raging Icicle Creek (picture below), but luckily there was a log for crossing with a rope just a little further upstream.
Here's my favorite when it comes to creek names: Yakedeyak -- just say it real fast!

About 5 miles from home, there's a spot named the perch, with a good view of the "mighty" Eagle River, which we've come to call it. The river may look peaceful from up there, but we're here to tell you it's nothing like that.

We did it!
We were proud of having done this hike, and talked about getting together and doing another one next summer, perhaps somewhere in the interior (where the rivers are warmer...?)

When we got home, the kids cooked us a hearty supper of basghetti and meatball, we drank some wine, and slept like babes!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forensic Motherhood

Envision yourself coming home from an afternoon of shopping (dad gives mom of three kids a well-deserved break), and as mom walks up to her house, she finds it deserted. BUT, there is a trail of blood leading up the stairs, and the front door is wide open. What happened? Who got hurt? Where did everybody go?...
This happened to my mom some 40 years ago -- before the days of cell phones, or, apparently, before the days of pencil of paper. My mother nearly went out of her mind until my dad finally arrived back from the hospital, where my little sister had gotten stitches on her forehead, after having run into my brother on the swing (remember those wooden boards with sharp edges -- this was before someone smart designed the soft butt-hugging type that does not require surgery when you rammed another kid...)

Nothing that scary happened to me, but the other day I got home from work to a rather strange scenario, hubby having taken the kids to their music lessons in town.

Door is wide open...
I walk into the kitchen: there are 4 cereal bowl with the remains of milk and granola. I only have 2 kids living at home, so how is that possible? Easy, teenage son probably ate 3 bowls, and the 4th belongs to his little sister.
It gets better! I need to get some dinner started, so I turn to the stove. There is a black liquid oozing out from under the stove, and a yellowish-red powder dusting the counters and floor. Several pots and pans are on top of the stove, with various blackish-graying substances on them. Ahhh, now I remember, they had wanted to cook black beans for burritos -- Son had declared that he was tired of PB&J, and wanted to learn how to make burritos, from scratch!
I had soaked some black beans overnight. Instructions were to "cook until soft", mash them with a potato masher for "Refritos", then add spices. Turns out the pot of beans boiled over, explaining the black ooze. There was an attempt made to mash the beans BEFORE they were soft, which caused quite a few chunks of gray-black matter decorating my kitchen. Lastly, Son attempted to grind the spices -- problem was that he opened the lid while the blade was still spinning....

There are days where I would have been mad at the mess, but that day I only chuckled, being rather proud of myself for having figured out what happened. This is as close to CSI (=Crime Scene Investigation, which Germans would call a "Krimi" ) as I'll ever get -- I love watching the TV series -- the scientist in me enjoys a bit of detective work that goes into figuring out the clues left in the evidence at the scene of a crime...

Ahhh, the joys of forensic motherhood!

For the Black Bean recipe, go to my other blog, Borealkitchen

Photo credit to www.all-about-forensic-science.com for the blood spatter picture.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why don't she write?

No, I didn't get eaten by a bear, or carried away by a cloud of fierce mosquitoes! (But we did stop by this sculpture of a giant Mosquito in Delta Junction-- picture credit goes to a German blog Petaflop.de.)

We just get back from a most
wonderful camping trip to the Interior -- camping in and along the Alaska Range: it was magnificent!!! One week away from civilization (where even Sarah Palin news did not reach!) And yes, I will post pictures, but they'll have to wait, BECAUSE:

we're having an honest-to-goodness HEATWAVE here in Alaska -- we're into our second week of this amazing (above "normal") weather: it's been getting into the mid 80's (Fahrenheit) -- that's 25 C for you Europeans.

SOooo, needless to say, why blog when you can get a tan? work in the garden? drink cold beer, shooting the breeze, while sitting on the porch with good friends?

I'm afraid I might have jinxed this by (God forbid!) digging out my summer clothes yesterday(yes -- I was seen wearing SHORTS!) -- the clouds might roll in anyday!

Actually, I'd welcome some good rain for 2 reasons: first and foremost, there are a number of big forest fires burning in Alaska. Plus, at the end of this week, I'm planning to hike the Crow Pass Trail with a girlfriend (26 miles from Girdwood to Eagle River). This long-planned adventure involves crossing the Eagle River right below where it flows out of a glacier lake, and with the current heatwave causing gang-buster melting of the Eagle glacier, the river is swollen: icecold and chest high -- this will be an ICE COLD experience!

Wish us luck!