As 2013 comes to a close, and snow drifts down in lazy clumps outside my windows, it seemed like the perfect day to look back. I have been blogging here for just over 2.5 years, which seems crazy and unreal and wonderful. So today I thought I would re-post some of my favorite memories (oldest to newest with links to the blog post).
Thanks for sharing in our journeys and we look forward to new adventures in 2014!
Happy New Year!
I have been doing a lot of reflect over the last few days and it seems fitting: It’s a new year. I added another notch in my birthday belt two weeks ago, and it is my 100th blog post on becominganomad. I am still having a hard time believing that it has been over a year and a half since I started blogging our first days in Alaska, and it seems even harder to believe that since then we have camped, hiked, backpacked, and eaten our way across the country to our new home in PA. I still get misty-eyed when I think of Alaska, so it seems fitting that today as I reflect on the last year, and this blog, that I have snow on the brain.
I smile to think that in elementary school I was one of the only kids who always voted winter my favorite season, and it carries over to today (although fall is creeping up there at a very close second). Something about being able to see your breath and boots and snow days and forts created out of piles of snow and the way the world transforms in white has always left me breathless. I still press my nose to the cold window glass near the end of fall wishing for snow. Lots of snow.
As you get older snow has more practical consequences, like shoveling and tough driving, but I still can’t seem to help myself. I will always wish for snow. I love the way the world looks when it snows. Suddenly everything is different: brighter, quieter, cleaner. It is almost like a fresh start.
This winter (in stark contrast to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Alaska) I feel as if I am playing hide-and-go-seek with snow. It is teasing me. It appears, bright-white, wet, and heavy, blanketing the street and the trees, only to melt into clumps of gray, crusty-chunks bunched in piles near my car. Everything melts too fast for me to sink into the quiet of snow.
It seems strange to still be heading out to walk in just a fleece. Like spring. Snow transitioning to ice and disappearing all around. The walking path a sheet of crumpled glass. The creek near our house running deep, cold, and clear. The broken edges of a snow pile giving way to green. Although I am missing the depth and scope and beauty of a pure winter, lately, I have also been enjoying the battle. Here and gone and in-between.
But, I still have my fingers crossed for piles and piles of snow. Don’t be mad folks that are ready for winter to be over 🙂
Cheers to snow and the new year and a 100 more adventures to come!
Today my newest blog post for Women’s Adventure Magazine came out! To read about our flight seeing trip to the south face of Denali (Mt. McKinley), click here.
This weekend we headed south on the Richardson Highway for Valdez, Alaska. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe this drive. So today I will let pictures do most of the talking. But I will note that we saw three mountain ranges, lots of wildlife (moose, caribou, bald eagles, and a wolverine), tons of snow, rushing rivers flanked by ice and snow, waterfalls, a canyon, and ended at the Valdez Arm which opens into the Prince William Sound, and eventually the Gulf of Alaska. In the course of our seven hour drive we had sun, rain, snow, and sun again. The day offered a little bit of everything, and I wouldn’t change a moment of it!Moose, Black Rapids Pipeline, Alaska Range Thompson Pass, Chugach Mountains Thompson Pass, Chugach Mountains Caribou Horsetail Falls, Keystone Canyon Small Boat Harbor, Valdez Alaska Range
Our hike this weekend was an exercise in persistence and a lesson in the pitfalls of “break up.” Spring in Alaska means water and snow and icy and everything in between. We had an idea what this would mean, but not really a sense of how this changes hiking.
We set out for Granite Tors in the morning armed with snowshoes and layers of clothes and dry shoes that would be waiting for us back in the car. Prepared. This hike is a loop that runs along the North Fork of the Chena River and then ascends into the mountains where it passes by and around large rock outcroppings know as tors. It offers mountain views all around. My kind of hike.
The first section of the hike was sloppy. Melt water flooded the trail in many sections and thick, wet mud blanketed the rest. But we had expected this. What we hadn’t expect was what came next. As the trail steadily climbed out of the flood water and mud, we thought we would come to snow. Strap-on-your-snowshoes-and-go-kinda-snow. Instead, we encountered a hopscotch of deep snow and bare ground. It was a pain in the butt. For over an hour we continuously put on snowshoes only to take them off again. The sections of snow were too deep to walk, up over our knees, but walking on bare ground in snowshoes isn’t a great idea either. Fortunately, we at least had good views. Mountains, mountains, and mountains.
We did finally get to a spot with more continuous snow, but it wasn’t very stable. In some places you could easily walk on the top of the hard-crusted, wind-blown snow, but then a few steps later, you would sink, even in snowshoes, up to your knees, hitting what we started calling “bomb holes.” The hardest part was getting back out of them. Your snowshoes would catch in the thick, icy snow, and you had to work to get them moving again. It was like trying to walk up stairs with glue on your feet.
At the crest of a hill about four miles in we realized we were never going to be able to finish the loop. It was just too slow between the bomb holes and the on/off processes with snowshoes, so we stopped for a break to enjoy our distant view of the tors. I never get tired of looking out at the mountains, especially when you have the view all to yourselves.
There was also weather rolling in. Out over the mountains in front of us, huge dust-gray clouds clumped and hung around the peaks. In contrast, behind us the sky was crayon blue and clear. I loved the feeling of the sun warming my back as I watched the dark clouds roll and bubble like a caldron moving towards us. It was time to head back.
The walk down turned out to be the more comical version of our hike up. After three hours of sun, the snow was mushy, and we found ourselves sinking and flopping and falling through the snow all the way back down. When you hit a bomb hole the motion of your body, coupled with the downhill grade, sent you forward at a pace that face planted me into the snow, twice. I wish we had a video of us laughing and falling and laughing our way down the mountain like the two stooges. It would have made a great black-and-white movie with a pie in someones face at the end.
Hiking in Alaska is always an adventure!
Today my first blog post for Women’s Adventure Magazine came out. I will now be posting monthly for them! To see the post about my last week mushing click here.
Lucas and I have been vigilantly monitoring the snow plowing progress at Denali National Park for the last few weeks, and this weekend, we got our break. On Saturday, the park road was opened to the public up to mile 29 for the first time since the fall. Saying we were excited is perhaps an understatement.
Denali has quickly become one of my favorite places in Alaska. I could happily explore this massive park every weekend and never get tired of it. There is just so much to see.
For this excursion, we decided to drive the road out to mile 29, Teklanika, and then continue to hike deeper into the park via the road. Less than five minutes into our drive, we were chatting, and looking out at the snow covered peaks wishing to see a moose. And bam. A moose, snacking a few yards off the road in the woods. It was a good sign for the day ahead.
The drive itself is always beautiful. Denali is one of those places you can never quite capture in a picture because it surrounds you. Full mountain immersion. It is like being lifted into another world, quiet, still snowy-white at this time of year. The peaks look like they have been draped in yards and yards of white silk. And these kind of views stretch in every direction.
We also got super lucky on Saturday. The clear-sky day revealed the mountain. Denali (McKinley). It peaked out early, within ten miles of the winter visitor center, and we craned our necks to watch it as it appeared and disappeared behind corners all the way out to Teklanika. I am always amazed at how huge it is. It stands in the sky like a giant, even when it is hundreds of miles away.
After a leisurely drive, taking pictures, getting out to walk a little on the hard-packed, wind-swept snow, we made it to the “road closed” sign and continued on foot. The next section of the road, out to Igloo Mountain, is sandwiched by mountains and crosses a few rivers, little and big. The first river, the biggest we crossed, had several open patches of water. The deep blue water appeared from under the snow and ice, swept across the riverbed rocks, and disappeared just as quickly under more ice. Signs of spring.
At Igloo Mountain we decided to hike, off the road, into the snow a little bit. A side trip. At first the snow was hard-packed and wind-swept like what we had walked on earlier. But at the top of the first rise we found ourselves on the tundra, covered in thick patches of icy, wet snow, and we started to sink. First to our ankles, then knees, and then up to our thighs. We struggled to move forward. It was like walking in silly putty. I even spent some time crawling across the snow to help distribute my weight. I wish we had a video. It was comically ridiculous. We gave up less than a half mile from the road. We were missing the snow shoes we left in our car. But we both like a little adventure, and it was one of my favorite parts of the day.
On the way back, the light was beautiful. Soft against the blue sky, and the Denali, the mountain, continued to dance along the horizon. And the icing on the cake, we saw another moose, laying down in the snow, on our way out. Back to back moose sightings. Oh, Denali. I am already dreaming about our trip back this summer.