The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

Stalking the Northern Lights and Celebrating Christmas In August! September 2, 2015

(Originally begun 8/28/15)

Hello, all!  Alaska remains as awesome as ever.  The weather here has been in a weird pattern that has dropped the temperatures down a little colder than they normally are at this time of year.  It was only about 35 degrees when I woke up.  I didn’t have to work morning shift today, so I stayed up late last night and tried to see the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis.  I left my room at about 11:45, walked down to the lodge, and took a spot on the back deck that promised fairly prime viewing if the lights should appear.  At first I was one of only a few people out there, but within an hour or so, it was standing room only.  Unfortunately there were no big appearances, although the conditions were pretty good.  Or… it’s possible they took off and went crazy shortly after I decided I had only a few moments left before I was permanently frozen and decided to go back inside and beg Security for a ride back up to housing, which I was given and for which I was extremely thankful.  When I got back to my room, I tiptoed in, careful in the darkness, trying not to wake up my roommate who had had to work way overtime due to the power outage.  I had settled down in bed and was wondering if I would ever warm up, when I heard someone clomping up the porch and a key in the door and I thought “Dear God, who’s coming in here?!”  My heart was already pounding when I realized that it was Roomie herself, who had gotten off work, found the note I left her, and decided since she was off work so late, she might as well go try to check them out too!  Silly me.

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So anyway.  I did get a little glimpse, and I’m not giving up until I get to see some really pretty ones, but for now I have something else to share.  Remember in my last entry when I said I was going to talk about a strange but lovely surprise?  Well, it revolves around a tradition that takes place here at McKinley and apparently other National Parks.  It’s called Christmas In August.  It seems that somewhere, sometime long ago, there may or may not have been some people who were trapped by a freak blizzard in August in Yellowstone or some other National Park.  They decided to celebrate Christmas, either because it was the 25th, even though it was in August, or because they felt pretty sure they weren’t going to survive to see the real Christmas.  So they were singing Christmas carols and they were heard and saved by rescuers.  So it has become a tradition to celebrate Christmas in August in National Parks, and even though this lodge is actually within a State park, they decided some time ago to participate in the tradition.

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Which is a really long way of saying that over the last week I have enjoyed looking at beautiful Christmas trees, my fellow Gift Shop Girls and I built a “gingerbread” house (which was actually built from graham crackers) for a competition between all the departments, I received several gifts because I signed up for Secret Santa, AND… I helped organize Christmas caroling for the guests!

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We met in the training room and practiced, and then a couple of days later we met and walked down to the fire pits and sang a few songs, then walked through the gift shop singing, and into the Great Room of the main lobby for a few more.  I’d like to say I was brave and was the leader I was supposed to be, but there were a couple of other girls with much better voices and I let them sort of take over.  One of them started the songs for us and the other one did a bit of a solo on ‘O’ Holy Night.’  It was fairly unusual for me to actually get involved in something here, as I have been painfully shy most of this time, but when one of the managers visited the gift shop and mentioned the caroling that was planned and the lack of someone to help lead it, my dear co-workers assured the manager that I would be the perfect person for the job.  So I was sort of volunteered before I even knew about it, but of course I was happy to be part of it.

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We sang two nights in a row, the 24th and 25th, and on the final night one of the F&B (food and beverage) managers listened to us in the lobby and afterwards he said all the carolers could have free ice cream from the coffee bar! That was a pretty good reward for our showing off.  It was a really great time though.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love Christmas and I need absolutely NO excuse to sing!  Often in the gift shop, my co-workers and I would break out in song during the slow moments and while counting our register drawers before opening and after closing.  Such fun!

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So that is the story of why a bunch of vacationers walked into a lodge in Alaska in August and were greeted with Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, stuffed Santa dolls, and some fairly pitiful Christmas caroling. All my theater peeps had better watch out, I’m thinking, because it won’t be long before it will be time for us to do our caroling and the Christmas parade float again! I’m already all warmed up and ready to go.  Heh heh.

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Until next time,

D.

 

A Photo Walking Tour August 26, 2015

(Originally begun on 8/23)

Hello, all!  Things here in Alaska are still wonderful, and the wonderfulness quickly approaches an end.  One of the girls from the gift shop is leaving today, with three more leaving by the 31st of August.  It’s beginning to get pretty weird.

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BUT.  I still have time to share my adventures, and to write about all the things I see and do, so today I got up and took a walk through a part of the property I had never been through before.  Sure enough, it was a rewarding walk well worth the time.  The property is divided into two loops around which are situated the guest buildings.  The main lodge building houses a very few guest rooms, as well as the general manager’s home, the gift shop, the Mountain View dining room, and the Grizzly Bar.  Employee housing is above the upper loop, so that’s really the only one we ever have occasion to see, as we walk to and from work.  The lower loop I had never explored until today.

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Employee housing is out past T and the gift shop is G. That long road between is the one I am following in this entry.

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The weather is gorgeous.  The mountain is mostly out, and the guests are in ecstasy, posing proudly and taking pictures with that incredible sight in the background.  They are very lucky, as you might remember.  There is a thing here called the ‘30% Club’ because there is only about a 30% chance of viewing the entire mountain on any given day.  If you get to see it, you’re in the club.  A lot of people have visited here this summer wondering if the whole thing was a hoax, because believe it or not, there are days when you literally can’t tell there is even a mountain there.

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So as I mentioned before, it is a beautiful day and I only have so many of those left, and I want to be sure I don’t miss anything I will regret.  I took my shower, gathered my work clothes and all my other junk needed for the day, stuffed it all in my backpack, and set out on my walk.  The pictures I am going to be sharing here will include a sort of “photo walking tour” of the route I take to get to work, starting with the view from out my front door.

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Continuing on, I walk behind the housing and down through the maintenance buildings.  Behind the maintenance buildings is The Infamous Hell Hill.  This was the hill that I only take going to work.  I refuse to climb up it going back to the room afterward.  Yes, I am sure it would probably have benefitted me, but geez louise, that thing is steep and it feels like the chest wheezes it induces will last forever!

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I stopped halfway down and took another picture from the hill.  When I get to the bottom, I cross a little road where if you look back left there is more employee housing.  Then you have to choose to take either a rocky, rough little trail, or take a few extra steps on the pavement and go to the stop sign and turn the corner.  Before that though, I want to show you a picture of a very important spot in my experience here.  You can see it in the middle picture above, but I am about to show you another view of it.  When my friend was looking through my pictures of my walk this day, she was curious as to why I took a picture of something so seemingly random, but I am about to tell you the story.

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Looks pretty ordinary, doesn't it?

Looks pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?

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Well, I was going to tell you a much longer version of this story, but then I hit the wrong button and froze my screen and lost what I had done.  The point was, this was where I sat to catch my breath, the first day I was here, having walked up Hell Hill IN the rain, WITH a 20 pound box and a 5 pound purse, NOT knowing where I was going or how with any certainty I was to get back to my room.  This was where I sat and made probably the biggest mistake of this whole experience.  I sat there, drenched to the skin, huffing and wheezing and more or less in tears, and I told myself, “If I stay here and stick this out, it will be the hardest thing I have ever done.”  It was only much later that I regretfully realized what I should have said to myself in that moment:  “Wow.  That was really really hard, but I did it.  If I can do that, the rest of this thing should be a piece of cake!”

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Ah, well.  Lesson learned.  Moving on.

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Continuing down the hill toward the lodge.  Believe it or not, it is actually fall here.  The trees are changing colors and losing their leaves, and there are bright colored berries on some plants along the way.  My beloved fireweed has turned from beautiful bright pink blooms to spiky stalks of cottony fuzz, which apparently means winter is only a few weeks away.  So strange!  Anyway…

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This is the road down to the lodge, and a line of buses that were there one day when I went down for lunch. Some days there are a LOT of buses there at that time.  I am totally losing the thread of this entry, aren’t I?  Here are some of the images I captured on my walk around the lower loop on this beautiful day.

So those were some of the sights I enjoyed on my walk.  Here is a short clip of the water feature. Stay tuned for my next entry, where there is a strange but lovely surprise.

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Until next time,

D.

 

Come On, Ride This Train! (My Day On the Alaska Railroad) August 10, 2015

Hello, all!  Well, it is another day off today, and it is raining and cool, conditions which have not stopped me from getting out and having adventures on other days off, but which today I think I will avoid by staying in and writing about my last day off. Or…the one before that.  I’ve sort of lost track at this point.  Anyway, the adventure I will be sharing today is that of riding the Hurricane Turn Train.  This is a train that travels through the valley along the Susitna (I think) river and stops at Hurricane Gulch and then comes back.  It takes about six or seven hours, but it can be a fun day.

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I had been really antsy about wanting to ride the train since I first got here and most of the employees were gone on a train trip up to Denali Princess Lodge to be guinea pigs for the Denali employees to have a dry run at their service before they opened for guests. Since my mini-vacation plans for going to Denali fell through a while back, I finally gave up and decided that at least I could take a train ride out across the valley and back, even if it wasn’t the fancy, pretty train, and make a day of it and maybe even see some animals.  The train had an upper level observation deck that offered really great views, but I am getting ahead of myself.

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On this day, I was lucky enough that I was able to catch a ride to Talkeetna on a shuttle bus that almost didn’t go. Shuttles leave the lodge every hour, and sometimes there are no guests wanting to go at that time, and if that is the case, any employees who happened to need to go on that bus are … well, a little out of luck.  They have to wait an hour to see if any guests will want to go on the next bus.  So on this day, the bus I needed to catch turned out to be empty, but it was scheduled to be the next bus coming back from Talkeetna in an hour and a half.  So I rode to Talkeetna on an empty bus, and the driver, Polly, and I had a nice chat.  It was probably the most enjoyable shuttle ride I have taken, unless I had a friend with me.

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So Polly was able to drop me off at the Alaska Railroad depot in TKA and I went in and bought my ticket.  I was about an hour early, because I had been told by co-workers who had done this trip that it took a while for them to process the ticket.  (It didn’t seem to take all that long to me, but it wasn’t a very busy day.)  I got my ticket and then had time to kill, which was a good thing, because I had to find something for lunch.  On the other trains that go to Fairbanks and Anchorage and Whittier, they have dining service, and rather nice service at that.  For this train, you have to eat beforehand or bring something onboard with you.  They offered snacks for purchase and free water and coffee, but that was all.

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So I took a short walk to town and came across a little restaurant I had heard about called Latitude 62.  My friends had eaten here and enjoyed it, so I thought I would give it a try.  Also it was closest to the depot and I didnt want to risk missing my train.  It was part of a small lodge, and was very quaint and “country” and reminded me of some place that might be found in my dad’s hometown of Shamrock, TX.  They were playing really great old classic country on the radio, songs I hadn’t heard in years.

I ordered a French dip sandwich that was very good, with cole slaw on the side.  I had been trying to eat healthier for a while, and that sandwich made for an awesome cheat!  I also ordered a dessert to go, because the train ride was going to be an all day thing and I knew i would want something.  (At that time i didn’t yet know about the snacks onboard.)

Soooo good!

Soooo good!

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Finally it was time to head back and get ready to board.  After a restroom stop, I took my little dessert box and walked back to the depot, about a five-minute walk, and made a quick trip to the souvenir penny press.  I had spotted that in the depot earlier and I wanted to make a couple of pressed pennies for my kiddos.  (As a side note, the newer pennies with the shield on the back will not work in those presses.  Whatever metal they have in them just breaks instead of pressing out.  I didn’t have to learn this the hard way, thankfully.  There was a warning note on the machine not to use them.)

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After that I went to the boarding area, a little covered pavillion beside the tracks.  A small crowd was already gathering and the conductor was already giving his little talk.  There were only about 20 or 25 passengers total.  Many days, the train is almost full.  Another interesting note about this train- it is the only “flag stop” train left in North America.  You can stand along the tracks, wave a cloth or your arm or whatever, and they will stop and let you on.  For many of the people who live out in the woods, the train is the only way they can get to town and back.  Their homesteads aren’t accessible by road, but only by boating down the river, snow-machining down the frozen river in winter, flying in by small plane, or catching the train.

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Finally we boarded and the train pulled out.  It was a bit of a drizzly day, but it seemed a perfect day for a quiet ride on a train gazing out at the incredible vast, green country passing by.  My seat was facing backward, and as we began to move, if I could have shut out the voices of my fellow passengers and their crying babies, I could have almost imagined I was in a time machine, speeding backward through time.

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We saw places I had heard a bit about and was vaguely familiar with, like the old railroad ghost town of Curry.  Curry was once home to the fanciest hotel in the area, but changes in the railroad caused it to die out a little.  It could have survived as a tourist spot until the hotel caught fire and burned to the ground.  Now there is nothing there but some rusted relics and the memories of a few railroad men.

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As we continued on, we saw many more places and things.  No animals, unfortunately, although the engineer of the train saw several that he tried to let the conductor know about in time to point them out to us.  We were able to see a small family of Trumpeter swans, just barely sticking their heads out of the weeds.  But mostly there were beautiful views.  We stopped a couple of times so people could look out the open sides of the baggage car and down into the ravines where the king salmon were spawning in the river. I had hoped to get to see that, because it was so late in the season, and they were almost all gone.

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At one point the train was stopped and we could actually get off the train and walk around.  We were very close to a stream (or maybe it was part of the river) there and I was pretty sure I saw a few more salmon spawning.  Although it was an intimidating descent, we were able to get closer to the water by climbing down the river bank.  It was incredibly beautiful.

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Just before boarding the train again, I took a couple of close-up pictures of the plants.  My favorite, the beautiful fireweed, and some little mossy lichen-ish plants.  Then as the train continued back toward town, we stopped at a tiny place called Sherman, Alaska, which was really no more than a point on the railroad, but which has been the homestead of a family named Lovell for many years.  Mary Lovell, the mother of that family, wrote several books about their experiences as homesteaders, beginning in the early sixties.  She boards the train every so often and rides to town and back, visiting with passengers and selling her books.  I was privileged to meet this amazing woman and also bought one of her books, Journey to a Dream.  I plan to buy the other too, Suddenly It’s Spring, before I leave here.

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Finally the train returned to Talkeetna, and I had just missed the 7:30 shuttle back to the lodge, so I had to wait for the 9:00, and find something for supper.  I debated and hesitated before finally deciding on the Kahiltna Bistro.  I chose a table off by myself out on the deck, and even though the sun was going down, I wasn’t bothered by mosquitos, as I was worried I would be.  I was tickled that I got the yellow napkin roll out of several different colors the waitress had in her hand.  (I know, it’s the little things.  I am easily amused- what can I say?)  I ordered the Seafood Mac and Cheese, which had scallops and shrimp and some other kind of fish in it, garnished with some little purple herb that I asked what was, but never got an answer.  It was tasty though.  I sat there and dived into my new book and enjoyed myself until time to go catch the shuttle back to the lodge.

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All in all it was a very peaceful and pleasant day off.  As always when I am away from the lodge, when I saw all the houses and cabins off in the woods, the part of me that wishes I could stay here was awakened again.  I know I can’t right now, but this is just a wonderful, incredibly beautiful place, and I will do my best to live here for good someday.

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Until next time,

D.

PS- There was a family with some teenagers on the train and they had bought pizza from the Mile High Pizza Pie place before getting on the train.  During one of the stops I noticed one of them had scribbled something on the pizza box sitting on the table, and on closer inspection I realized it was a song lyric that I have always liked, that kind of sums up this whole summer pretty well.  I snapped a picture of it to remember the moment.

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right- I hope you have the time of your life.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right- I hope you have the time of your life.

 

This Day Went to the Dogs! August 2, 2015

Filed under: Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 4:26 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Hello, all!  Greetings again from Alaska!  First off, let me give you this awesome piece of news:  the videos are uploaded!  I edited the last two posts to include the takeoff for the flight tour and the glacier landing and takeoff vids.  There now, aren’t you tickled? :)  Now then, I am hoping you are waiting to hear what super-fun adventure I’m going to share with you today.  So wait no longer- today’s post is going to be covering the Sun Dog Kennel Tour!

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First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the Iditarod sled dog race, it’s an amazing event.  I can’t even imagine the stamina and perseverance necessary to compete in this race, both for the humans and the dogs.  But make no mistake- in this race, the athletes are definitely the dogs.  They are highly skilled, precisely trained professional athletes who also happen to have a natural gift for and love of their sport.  Wow.  It’s the Doggie Olympics, basically.

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So on this particular day off, I boarded the Talkeetna shuttle, as so many days off begin.  The ride to TKA takes an hour or so, and is usually uneventful.  The first few trips on that shuttle when we got here way back in May, we saw a moose or two alongside the road, but I haven’t been lucky enough to see another one since then.  When I got to town, I went to the Kahiltna Bistro, which is where both the kennel tour and the fishing tours offered by this lodge originate. The same family owns the restaurant and operates both tours.  I checked in, had some time to kill before the tour, went walking, blew money on a pair of earrings for myself from one of the gift shops, and returned to wait for the tour.

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Finally it was time to start and they loaded us into a big black van.  (Yeah, I know that sounds like the beginning of a really bad-ending story, but it’s not.)  We took a short drive of less than five minutes to the kennel site.  Their yard and buildings were beautiful.  There were flowers hanging in pots and planted in garden beds and the first thing I thought was that I wished my mom could see them.  Unfortunately, genius me, I wasn’t quick enough to take any pictures for her.  During the short ride I was able to discover that my co-tourists were from… Denton, TX, less than an hour from where I live.  It is always fun up here when I run into someone so “close” to home, so to speak.

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The led us into a little building where they gave their presentations.  There were little seats all around the walls and the floor was painted with a map of the race with all its checkpoints.  They had sleds and equipment hanging overhead and on display in the floor.

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After a short orientation in which the tour guide told us a little bit about how the race worked, how they took care of the dogs, etc., they divided us into groups and led us out to the area where the dogs were kept.  Dozens of them, all with their own little houses.  As they walked down among the dogs, choosing the ones who were going to get to perform that day’s pulling demonstration, the dogs just went crazy.  It was obvious that they loved to work and once the ones who weren’t chosen realized it wasn’t their day, they settled down and looked completely dissatisfied.

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The demonstration consists of hitching up a full team of dogs to a modified vehicle like a small jeep.  Don’t worry- they didn’t have to pull its full weight.  They were helped along by the motor running, but they were still definitely doing a lot of pulling. The teams we had been divided into before were the groups we would ride with in the vehicle, because it only held about six people.  The teams were named for checkpoints in the race.  I didn’t take notes, (because basically I’m a goober) so I can’t tell you our team names.

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Each team took a short ride behind the dogs, the rest of the people riding in the van, keeping up with the dogs until the next stop.  At one point they stopped and let them go down into a creek and cool off.  They were so cute rolling in the water and drinking.  It was a fairly warm day, so I know they had to be hot.  Their tongues hang out to the side when they run.  It’s kind of funny.

 

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When we had all ridden behind the dogs, we returned to the kennel and they were unhitched and we were allowed to pet and praise them.  They all looked tired but happy.  Finally, the most anxiously awaited part of the tour arrived: the part where we got to hold and play with the puppies, to help “socialize” them.  They have to get used to being handled a lot during their training and by vets and judges during the races.  There were two different moms with puppies; one litter was 40 days old and one was only 3 days old.  So.  Stinkin.  Cute!!

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As soon as everyone had had a chance to hold the puppies, the tour was over.  We loaded back into the van and returned to the restaurant where we were dropped off.  I knew I wouldn’t have time to get back to the lodge in time for supper, so I went in search of a good place to eat.  My friend Natti B enjoys eating at a little place called WestRib.  She says they have the best burgers there, so I decided to give it a try.  A short (5-7 minute) walk through town, and I was there.  I chose a mushroom swiss burger with sweet potato fries.  (Looking at the pic now, they may have been regular fries.  I don’t remember.  I just remember I was hungry and they were good.  I ate every crumb.)

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It was super tasty, but unfortunately they took just a little too long, and I ended up missing the 7:30 shuttle and had to kill time waiting for the 9:00.  I ended up getting my second scoop of fireweed ice cream.  Still not really describable.  I feel almost certain it must taste like some other kind of berry that I’m just not familiar with, but I have no idea.  All I know is that I truly can’t describe the taste.

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Finally the shuttle came and I caught a ride back to the lodge.  I believe it was on this shuttle ride that I began amusing myself by composing my bus driver safety speech to the tune of Les Mis music.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I will post it here in its own post as soon as I do.  I know, there is no superlative adjective for nerdy.  Nerdiest?

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Anyway.  Thanks for reading me, and for coming along on my Alaskan journey.  Look for my next post soon, which will be about my ride on the Hurricane Turn train!

Until next time,

D.

Bonus Video: Huskies Howling

 

Flight Tour of Denali- Part 2 August 1, 2015

Hello all!  This will be part 2 of the adventure of my flight tour of Denali.  When I left you last we were headed for the glacier landing.  Again, I took a video of our landing on the glacier, which I hope to be able to post at some point, but right now internet is not too cooperative.  Anyway.  The landing was pretty bumpy.  If you actually watch the video you will be absolutely certain I am about to die.  But I didn’t.  We landed safely and piled out.  The pilot had told us from the beginning that there were a few men who had been working on a structure called Mountain House that had been built there by famed Alaska pilot Don Sheldon, or someone associated with him, and we were going to be picking up these men and their equipment at the glacier landing, which meant we were actually going to have just a little bit longer stop on the glacier than we normally would have.  Yay, us!

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So we all got out of the plane, and right away I discovered my lovely overboots, meant to keep my shoes and pants legs all nice and dry…were pointless.  The terrain was not as I expected.  I was thinking more of a solid surface with a covering of snow, like what you’d find on a mountain, like a ski field or something.  Clearly I wasn’t really thinking straight.  We were actually landing on a glacier.  Maybe what I expected was that the glacier would be frozen harder, but it wasn’t, at least on top.  What I’m saying is, I sank in slushy snow up to above my knees if I stood in one spot too long.  I am ashamed to say, I let this little fact make me somewhat crabby.  I felt embarrassed because I was the only one who was having this problem.  You get where I’m going with this?

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So anyway.  I took a few steps and sunk down, floundered around and got back on my feet again, took a few steps and here we went again.  One person finally gave me a hand to help me up about the third time I went down, but by this time I was pretty annoyed.  I tried not to let it ruin my experience.  After all, for what could be the one and only time in my life, I am standing on a freakin’ glacier, for cryin’ out loud!  So I tried to look around, take pictures, asked someone to take a picture of me by the plane.  Tried to breathe in the cool air and make it a good memory.  Meanwhile, the pilot was reconfiguring the seats and helping the men who had been working on Mountain House to load their gear.  I was more than ready to get back on the plane and was able to do so, despite the high step and my slippery boots and wet pants and lack of convenient place to grab onto for leverage.

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We took off again and headed back to Talkeetna.  The views were still amazing, and the trip back seemed to take much less time than the trip there, naturally.  I was struck by the fact that you expect snow-covered glaciers to be white and pristine, but as you can see from the photos, a lot of the glaciers were brownish and muddy.  I tried to capture pictures of the bright blue of the glacier, but never felt the pictures did justice to the amazing actual color.  So indescribable!

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We landed back at the airstrip and disembarked.  I claimed my purse and headed back to the lodge, trying to process the experience I’d just been privileged to have. It was beautiful and amazing, despite the little moments that I unfortunately allowed to detract from it.  I was blessed to be able to take that flight, and whether or not it ends up being the one time I ever do a tour like that, it will always be special.

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Ski tracks! Or rather airplane wheel tracks!

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This was a Native lady who had lived in Alaska for years and this was her first time to do this. She and her husband were interesting to listen to, and she rode in the co-pilot’s seat on the way there.

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Glacier Selfie!!! :)

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People on other planes had somehow brought sleds and were sliding down the hill.

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One of the Mountain House workers.

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It’s me again, Margaret!

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This is a sign we always see on our way back to the lodge from Talkeetna. It just always makes me think about staying in Alaska and which way I would choose to go if I could.

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Thank you all for reading and sharing my adventures with me.  Lots more still to come- my Sun Dog kennel tour is up next, and I think on my next day off I am going to do the Chulitna River Float tour, so look for that.  It’s still amazing to think that today is August 1st and there are still almost 7 weeks left.  I am looking forward to the State Fair, which runs from August 27 to September 7.  The lodge is supposed to running at least three shuttles there for employees during that time.  Can’t wait!

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Until next time,

D.

 

 

My Flight Tour of Denali- The Great One! July 29, 2015

Hello again.  Ok, I know it’s long overdue.  The next couple of posts will be covering the big adventure I had been looking forward to:  my flight tour around Mt. McKinley.  The date was June 21, Father’s Day.  I had a day off and was able to book a flight for 3:00 in the afternoon.  It was a very pretty day, mostly sunny, and pretty perfect temperature.  The company that Princess uses for their guest tours is called K2 Aviation.

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I went and checked in with the front desk, then was told to pick out my overboots for the glacier landing, which were about as lovely and fashionable as the boots I was sporting on my first tour here, my Talkeetna river float trip with Spiff.

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We waited for quite a while, but that was ok with me because I had found today’s technology nirvana: a place to plug in my phone and charge it. :)  I had brought my little regular camera with me, but I take almost all my photos with my phone up here because for right now, I don’t have a way to share the ones I take with that camera.  Finally the pilot came through and called us all outside.  I had placed my purse in a safety locker, because I decided I didn’t need it on the plane and heaven knows I didn’t want to add any more weight!  We walked out to the hangars where there were lots of little planes.  I was hoping ours would be yellow, but we ended up heading for this one:

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The pilot gave us the whys and wherefores and what to do and not do, and so forth.  I was the 5th wheel again, just like I was on the wagon ride tour- there were two couples on the flight, once again much older than I. We chose our seats and got our headphones on.  It was pretty exciting.

You don't have to tell me how cute I look.  I know. :)

You don’t have to tell me how cute I look. I know. :)

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Then we taxied out and got ready to take off.  I took a video, which I hope to be able to upload at some point, but the internet here is a little wonky and it never seems to let me upload videos.  So we took off, and it was a much smoother experience than I had expected.  The land was beautiful.  Some of the pictures I took of the winding rivers and streams below us were because they reminded me of the abstract art paintings of a friend of mine:

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Soon we began to get to the glaciers and the snow, and from there on it was just amazement:

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And unbelievable beauty…

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Soon we were headed for the much anticipated glacier landing!

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I will post the rest of the pictures and summarize the experience in a second post.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

D.
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Edited to Add:  Video is uploaded!

 

Pause and Breathe Before the Wild Ride to the End July 28, 2015

Hello, all! Greetings from Alaska, again. Today is an odd day around here. People have begun to see light at the end of the tunnel. It hasn’t been an easy summer, I guess, for a lot of the employees here at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. A lot of people have left the lodge sooner than they intended, whether due to needing better pay, a loss in the family, a year-round job offer, or just a decision that this wasn’t the place for them. Some will leave before the end of the season to go back to school, and some will be here until the end. For many of us today, the following image sums up the mood:

For a couple of reasons...

For a couple of reasons…

 

I think first of all, the realization that it will be August in just a few days has put the heart back into a lot of us.  Despite the difficulties, we are making it.  Time is passing and soon this summer will be behind us, for better or worse.

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Secondly, something was done today that made us realize that it will all be over before we know it.  They posted on the wall a list of all the employees and their departure plans- last working day and when they were scheduled to be on a bus.  Naturally some of them needed to make changes, inform management of different plans, etc., but for the most part, the crowd around the list of names on the wall reminded me of checking to see who made the cheerleading squad or got cast in the lead role.  It seeemed to catch people by surprise, either way.

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For the last few days, a quote has been flitting through my head, provided by my all-time favorite TV show, M*A*S*H.  It’s from the episode where they are interviewing them for the documentary, the black and white episode.  Hawkeye says, “I think…I’ll never forget the day I go home.  Right now I can’t imagine it.”  Now please don’t think I’m comparing a summer working at a cruise hotel to a tour of duty in the Korean war; I think you know better than that.  But the sentiment is the same.  The sense of anticipation, of accomplishment, is the same.  The sentiment.  Knowing we have made it through something that isn’t exactly easy for everybody.

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After we all spotted the list for the first time, I can’t speak for anyone else, obviously, but as I was walking up the dreaded hill back to housing (yes, it’s still not something we look forward to- I’m still red-faced and sweaty by the time I get back to my room) I was listening to my iTunes on my exercise playlist, and an oldie but a goodie came on: “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride,” by Men At Work.  That one always seems to help push me, always makes me strut a little, and today especially, the lyrics “…the road behind was rocky, but now you’re feeling cocky” were particularly pointed.

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As anyone who knows me well could tell you, I can apply music to just about any situation in life.  For example, the last two times I have been on one of our motorcoaches riding back from Talkeetna, I have been composing my own version of the “bus driver safety speech” (which all the drivers have to give, and most put their own spin on) to the music of Les Mis!  I’ll share that one later, but it just serves as an example of how anything involving music fascinates me.  The point of all that was to explain why I was struck by another song lyric that crossed my radar yesterday.  It was my day off and I took the opportunity to ride on the Alaska Railroad.  I will cover that in a separate post, but the song lyric was from a great song I’ve always liked, “Time of Your Life” by Green Day.  Someone had scribbled it on a pizza box I saw sitting on one of the tables on the train:

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“It’s something unprdedictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you have the time of your life.”

 

I was just struck by those words and how accurately they summed up this summer so far.  I also noted, for what it’s worth, that was my twin daughters’ senior song.  Hmmm…..

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Anyway.  I know I still owe you guys a post about my big flight tour and my other day-off adventures.  I will get on those right now.  I just wanted to share this day and this feeling with you while it was fresh in my mind.  I basically compare it to cresting the top of the highest hill on a roller coaster.  This is the pause before the mad rush to the final run.  It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, the second wind.  In other words… we’re gonna make it!

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Thanks again for reading!

Until next time,

D.

 

 
Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

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