The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

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

 

A Cold Rainy Day Can’t Stop the Good Times! July 1, 2015

Filed under: Adventures in Gainful Employment,Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 9:35 pm
Tags: , ,

Hello all!  Time to catch up on the adventures I’ve had on my days off.  It’s been three weeks since this next adventure, and unfortunately some of the details will escape me, but the important part is I had fun, right? Of course it is.  Here we go…

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June 9, on my day off it was cold and rainy, but I wanted to take advantage of the time I had.  I took one of several tours that starts here from the lodge instead of having to ride the bus an hour to Talkeetna. It was really a cute tour- a covered wagon ride!  They picked us up in front of the lodge…

I can't remember the horses' names right now but I THINK one of them was Snorty.

I can’t remember the horses’ names right now but I THINK one of them was Snorty.

…and off we went.  The first stop was at an overlook which would have had an unparalleled view of Mt. McKinley, had it been a clear day.  Instead we got a still-beautiful view of the cloudy, mist-covered valley and the trees bright with rain.  It was kind of magical.

Down in the Vaaaaaalley!

Down in the Vaaaaaalley!

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We continued on.  One of the other guests on the tour noticed that the horses were working so hard and creating so much heat there was steam coming off of them.  Not that they were really working terribly hard.  Their full strength could pull about five times the weight of the wagon we were in.  We came to the main part of the tour, where we met three really special characters:  Lucky, Baby, and He Whose Name I Can’t Remember.

They were shaggy but cute.  We would get quite up close and personal later. :)

They were shaggy but cute. We would get quite up close and personal later. 🙂

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First we all gathered around the gold panning trough for a turn at panning for gold.  Our guide, Monty, demonstrated the panning technique.  Each of us were given a little plastic gold pan with a small amount of rock and gravel in it and allowed to try our hand at it.  I had seen it done before, and actually own a gold pan exactly like the one we were using, which I got when I went to Colorado as a kid.  Each pan was guaranteed to have a few flecks of placer gold in it, and sure enough, mine had some in the bottom after Monty had helped me do it right.  (read: did it for me.)  While his wife Nina was conducting the next part of the tour with us, Monty fished the gold out of each of our pans and laminated it to a card that we got to keep:

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While Monty was laminating the cards, Nina was helping each of us prepare a s’more treat around the fire they had burning under a gazebo with log seats around it.  While we ate them and enjoyed the fire, she told us about a few of the different plants and flowers around us.  The s’more was tasty, and the fire smelled so good!

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While we were eating our snack, I was looking around at all the amazing examples of antlers and horns they had sitting around.  Little did I know what they had in store for us with those.  It began with Nina asking who had a special occasion, like an anniversary.  There were three couples on the tour with me- two who were old friends and neighbors from Georgia, and one couple from Bermuda.  So one of them had an anniversary not too far in the future, and it turned out that they made them wear the moose antlers and try to get a kiss.

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I was quite pleased I was on the tour alone and didn’t have any occasion coming up, until I realized they were going to get everyone under the antlers, one way or another, so of course I ended up with my turn.

Am I not the cutest little girl-moose ever?? :)

Am I not the cutest little girl-moose ever?? 🙂

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So then we got to the part of the tour I had heard much about.  Nina gave us a piece of graham cracker to hold in our mouth for the caribou to take from us, and we got our picture taken “kissing” a caribou.  See?  I told you we got up close and personal later.

Pucker up, Sugar Lips! :)

Pucker up, Sugar Lips! 🙂

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After the Caribou Kissing, we returned to the lodge.  My friend Courtney and I decided to go ahead and do the bus ride thing, and went to Talkeetna for supper and a little roaming.  We walked all around the vie, played by the train, took some silly pictures, and finally got back to the lodge on almost the last bus of the night.

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Stay tuned for the next adventure:  Courtney and I take the Three Rivers Jet Boat tour.

Until next time,

D.

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Braving Devil’s Canyon May 29, 2015

Hello, all!  As promised, today’s entry is the tale of yesterday’s adventures.  I had so been looking forward to this particular tour!  I called and checked in with them early in the day the morning before, and they said they did have space available.  As an employee of McKinley, the tours offered to guests are offered to us at very nice discounts.  On the flip side of that deal, we can be bumped from any tour we sign up for, right up to the last minute, if full-rate guests show up and want on the tour.

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Luckily that was not the case yesterday.  First of all, I had a friend with me this time.  Yay!  You may remember that I had to do all my adventuring solo on my last day off, and I was quite happy with the end results of that day.  I had a good time and all, but I was hoping that at least SOME of my touring would be done with new friends.  So yesterday I was blessed to have the same day off as one of my co-workers, known as Nattie B.  She is a really fun lady who reminds me of my mom and all my aunts with her snarky sense of humor and her youthful adventurous nature.  I definitely enjoyed the day with her.

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But I am getting ahead of myself.  We called again late in the day the day before, just to check on how full the tour was, and they told us they still did have space.  The tour was set to depart Talkeetna at 9:30 a.m. and we were supposed to check in around half an hour early.  Unfortunately, this required that we get up and catch the 8:00 shuttle bus leaving the lodge.  We were quite concerned about that, because just as we can be bumped from the tours, employees are also last priority for the shuttle buses.  If there are a large number of guests trying to get to town at any particular time, employees have to wait for the next shuttle.  So we were aware of the possibility that we would miss our tour and have to try it some other time, and we were well prepared with a Plan B but were hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.  This is actually a pretty good system because it inspires thankfulness and joy at every step along the way.  i.e. “Woohoo! We got on the bus!”  “Woohooo! We made the tour!”  Basically, once you have gotten to the point where you know you won’t be bumped, the rest of the tour is pure gravy. 🙂

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Ahead of myself again.  We made the 8:00 shuttle and were on the road to Talkeetna.  It’s supposed to be about an hour’s ride, but there are two seasons in Alaska- Winter and Construction.  So they are working busily on the roads here, and there is always a possibility you will find yourself sitting in traffic more than once on the relatively short trip between the lodge and town.

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On this particular day, we sat and waited in traffic three times, with the result that we just barely made it to Talkeetna in time for the tour.  We jumped off the shuttle bus, hurried into the tour offices, signed in, and went right back outside to the tour bus.  (Woohooo! We made the tour!  Let’s go before someone else wants on!) We took off to the launch point, which was just a five minute bus ride across town to the river.  We had to stand on the banks and wait a little while for the boat to get there, but that was just enough time to take selfies and get a close look at the work of some very industrious beavers.  (I will edit this later to add the pics of the gnawed trees.  I took those pics with my camera instead of my phone and don’t have an easy way to get them online.)

This is me and Nattie B.  Aren't we cute?

This is me and Nattie B. Aren’t we cute?

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So then the boat showed up and we boarded, easy peasy.  I am always worried that I might have trouble doing some of these things- climbing on boats and so forth, but so far I have not had to be embarrassed.  Thank goodness.

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So we got on the boat and sat down, and our driver/captain introduced himself and his co-worker:  Israel and Emily.  They were both really great throughout the tour.

The view from our seats.  We didn't get a better pic of Is and Em.

The view from our seats. We didn’t get a better pic of Is and Em.

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So the tour continued up the river.  They would stop the boat occasionally to show us points of interest like the abandoned townsite of Curry, Alaska- an old railroad town and once home to the fanciest hotel in the state.  We also stopped for several minutes for pictures of the mountain in the distance.  It began to be lost from view the further up the river we traveled.  (Once we stopped when Nattie spotted a moose.  She was really good at yelling, “Moose!! Moose!!” The rest of the passengers are lucky she was there.  If it had been only me, I would have spotted the moose and let the rest of them miss it.  I’m bad that way.)  We passed homesteads and properties with funny stories behind them.  One, a rather wealthy man bought a property off the internet for a steal of a price, brought his wife to visit it, thoroughly unprepared for its remoteness and accessibility to wildlife, insisted upon staying in it after it had been ravaged by bears, and after four days there, listed it back online for sale. 🙂

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I have to confess that this part of the trip was…not dull exactly, but because I had stayed up late talking with my roomie the night before, and had been working hard, I was really tired.  Sleepy.  The boat was loud, but the smoothness of the ride and the constant sound was hypnotic and I could have easily fallen asleep.

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Finally we got closer to the exciting part of the trip.  Israel stopped the boat well below the rapids area so he could tell us exactly what we would be doing and a little about the history of the rapids.  That area has NEVER been successfully rafted, and only successfully run in a jet boat twice, and the first guy got half his teeth knocked out in the effort.   A little about the boat itself here- we were riding in a jet boat, which had no rudder or propeller, but was powered by three 400hp Chevrolet engines.  It weighed 17 tons and only needed 12 inches of water to travel.

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So what was going to happen was that we would run up the rapids as far as we could get, and then he would hold the boat in position against the rapids and everyone could come up and sit in the front window and Emily would take our picture with our own cameras.  There were somewhere between 30 and 40 people on the boat, which meant he was going to have to hold position for about 20 or 25 minutes total.  So ready, set, here we go!

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And then we wobbled to the front for pics, the boat rocking and rolling all the time:

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Cheese!!

 

Hang on and smile!!

Hang on and smile!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After everyone had been photographed and taken all the pictures they wanted, it was time to turn around and go back down.  Isreal turned the boat around in the smoothest move I’d ever seen.  He just gave it a little throttle and it spun around in the current facing right back downstream.  That was when it came time to run back down the rapids, which he warned us could actually be bumpier than the ride up.

After we had made it back down the roughest part of the rapids, Israel impressed us with a little circle spin in the boat.  That was pretty cool, and then he announced that he would be keeping it mellow for a little while because Emily would be serving lunch.  This tour was so long that lunch was included.  Well, if we had paid full price it would have been included, but Nattie B. and I had paid for our lunches separately.  I have to say here, all it was was a small sub sandwich cut in half, (choice between roast beef and turkey), potato salad, pickle spear, a couple of cherry tomatoes, some grapes, and an Andes mint, but it was the most delicious thing ever, because I was ravenous.  In my rush to make sure I didn’t miss the shuttle earlier, I had only had time to run through the cafeteria and throw together half a breakfast burrito and wolf it down.  So I appreciated that sdimple lunch.  We were offered drinks (choice between water, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, or Mountain Dew) and I happily chose Dew.

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Nattie B. and I had really funny moment here.  I noticed that she had barely eaten half of her first half of her sandwich, and my entire lunch was basically gone.  I commented on that fact, and then I absolutely broke down in a giggle fit.  I was trying to tell her through my laughter that I had done everything but suck the mayonnaise out of the little packet.  (I am still laughing at that thought even as I type this a full day later.  People here in the cafeteria probably think I am nuts.)

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Here again, this part of the trip was relaxing, and I was beginning to get pretty sleepy.  Soon we were almost back to Talkeetna, but there was one other portion of the tour- the brief stop at a replica Athabascan fish camp and a trapper’s cabin.  We were able to get off the boat and walk through the camp, and the naturalist gave us a little bit of history.  We saw several bear pelts, and moose and caribou antlers at the fish camp, and other kinds of pelts like beaver, muskrat, otter, mink, sable, and fox at the trapper’s cabin.

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After the stop at the camp and cabin, we were only a few minutes more getting back to town.  We pulled up to the bank we had launched from and disembarked, again quickly and easily.  We tipped both Emily and Israel and walked back to town.  A few stops along the way at the general store and the roadhouse, and we made it back to the shuttle bus stop.  We were super thankful to be able to board the bus and not have to wait.  We sat down and waited to take off, and I was immediately drowsy.  I’m pretty sure I slept with my mouth open halfway home.  I asked Nattie if she was laughing at me, and she assured me she wasn’t, although if she had been, she certainly couldn’t be blamed!  I’m sure I looked like a giant fly trap.

*

We delivered our gifts to our co-workers.  One of them had requested a cream cheese brownie from the Roadhouse, so Nattie bought all of us one. I had also purchased some lemon-poppyseed cookies and a thing called a pasty, which was a little pie stuffed with wild rice and salmon. I saved those for a bedtime snack though, because we went straight to supper in the cafeteria after that, and then trod the Hill from Hell back to our rooms.  I used a newly discovered litany to help me make it up the hill.  In my head I was chanting, “Devil’s Canyon, glacier landing, river rafting” to help me remember that I had been and would continue to have amazing experiences here, and the trip up the hill, though hated, was a part of the package.  Acceptance was more or less what I was shooting for, and I think I have just about achieved it.

*

Now looking forward to my next day off, which is supposed to be on Tuesday, when the shuttle bus goes to Wasilla, the closest larger town, and I will be shopping for new work shoes.  Yayyy!!!

*

Until next time,

D.

 

My First Day Off- And An Amazing Day It Was! (Part 1) May 20, 2015

Filed under: Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 10:24 pm
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Hello, all!  It has been such an amazing day that I don’t even know where to start.  How about here:

Riding the 7:00 a.m. shuttle into Talkeetna, Alaska, my first day off after the start of the season, the exhuberance of my spirit was quiet, but could not be repressed.  It was already such a beautiful day:

Waiting to start my Day Off adventure!

Waiting to start my Day Off adventure!

*

The tour I had been hoping to do was with a company called Mahays Jet Boat Tours.  It was the Devil’s Canyon Adventure.  When I got off the shuttle, I went straight to the tour place (which was a short trip, since the shuttle parks in the tour place’s parking lot!) and checked on the tour.  Sadness.  The particular tour doesn’t start until May 25.  On to Plan B.

*

Plan B was a river float tour.  I walked through town to the Talkeetna River Guides office (stopping at the post office to buy postcard stamps, but they weren’t open yet) and checked on their tour schedule.  There was one getting ready to leave right then, but it was almost full, so I opted to sign up for the next tour, which didn’t leave for about two and a half hours.  Perfect!  Just enough time for breakfast and some wandering.

*

Breakfast was Plan C.  I had heard many raves about a local place called the Roadhouse.  Every little town has one, right?  The Roadhouse was basically right across the street from the river float place, so I walked on over.  It was crazy busy and crowded, with a very interesting feature that would prove instrumental in what was the first and perhaps most amazing of the day’s great moments:  family style seating.  All the tables were like Christmas-Dinner sized, and you just sat wherever there was an open chair.  At first I was seated in the window seat bar, facing out at the street, but then I decided to be social.  There was a seat at one end of a table with three couples, and I moved to sit there.

*

The server was an interesting character.  I wasn’t quite discerning enough to tell where he was from, but his accent kind of reminded me of Russian.  I had already been advised, luckily, to order a half-order of whatever I was having, because their famous sourdough pancake was literally bigger than the plate.  Everything there looked good, and they had a bakery counter with some Ah.Maz.Ing-looking food in it.  They had breakfast quiches, cinnamon rolls the size of your head, and a coconut cream pie that would feed about 20 people:

I took a picture once of a counter like this at a French bakery on St. Martin!

I took a picture once of a counter like this at a French bakery on St. Martin!

This was my breakfast.  Sourdough pancakes from starter that dates back to like, 1912 or something, reindeer sausage, and birch syrup, which I had been dying to try. :)

This was my breakfast. Sourdough pancakes from starter that dates back to like, 1912 or something, reindeer sausage, and birch syrup, which I had been dying to try. 🙂

The smell of the place was very distinctive.  Something about the food and the coffee and the atmosphere reminded me strongly of the town where my Dad’s mom lived, where my dad and my middle sister were both born, a place I have never really felt a strong affinity for.  But so strangely, I suddenly was almost overwhelmed with a nostalgia and a sadness for the town of Shamrock, Texas.  Maybe it was more a moment of missing my Dad’s mom, who passed away several years ago, or maybe it translated into missing my dad, because that was his hometown.  Either way, I had to text my mom to tell her about it.  I mentioned it to the lady next to me, and we talked about how smells can be powerful memory triggers, and I said I think they are the most powerful.  I’ve had another experience with that, but I’ll share it some other time.

*

All of the couples were on their way to their cruise ship and were very friendly.  They asked about me, and I told them I was a summer employee at McKinley.  They asked where I was from, and I told them Oklahoma, and then one of the men asked where in Oklahoma, and I told him Southern Oklahoma, Ardmore area.  (The first incredible moment of the day is coming up… can you feel it?  Ready to be amazed? Here we go…)  So when I said Ardmore, the lady says, “Oh, we have some really good friends who live in Ardmore…” and she named them, and I practically screamed, “OH MY GOSH, YOU KNOW (insert name of completely awesome couple I know and dearly love here)!  Holy cow, I know them!  They are completely awesome and I dearly love them!” and so it went.  I practically teared up, and then we started talking about taking pictures and just quietly posting them on Facebook and waiting for our mutual friends’ reaction.  After we finished our breakfast, we went outside and took this:

Unfortunately, the excitement has erased their names from my mind!  Mary and Bill, maybe?

Unfortunately, the excitement has erased their names from my mind! Mary and Bill, maybe?

*

After the pictures, we said our goodbyes and they headed off down the street and I went back to the general store to use the ATM, then on to the post office to pick up some more postcard stamps.  Then I decided to check out the Talkeetna Historical Museum, to see if I could squeeze it in before my tour.  As I  approached the door of the museum, the curator and a park ranger were just coming out the door.  Or more accurately the park ranger had come to see her before the opening and was leaving.  They let me know they wouldn’t quite be open for a while, and I told them I had a tour in a while and asked if I would be able to do justice to a museum tour between opening and the time I was supposed to be at the raft place.  Turned out I couldn’t, but the park ranger invited me to come down to the ranger station and watch their short movie presentation about climbing Mt. McKinley.  I figured it would be a good way to kill time, so the ranger and I walked the couple of blocks down to the station.  Here again was an enjoyable moment, meeting a local and having a nice conversation.  The ranger’s name was Jay, and I found out he had once worked in Oklahoma!  We arrived at the ranger station and I watched the move and used the facilities.

*

The lady at the float place had told me to be back there by 10:30, and it was only a few minutes after 10 when I left the ranger station, but I went ahead and went back to the float place and checked in.  There was a little coffee place right next door, called Conscious Coffee, and I sat there and enjoyed an Irish Creme latte while I waited for my float trip:

Ahhh, caffeine!

Ahhh, caffeine!

*

Ok, now I am going to be really cruel and mean, and break this entry into two parts.  In the next part, I’ll tell you all about the float trip, my river guide, my super tasty lunch, and the conclusion of the evening. Stay tuned! 🙂

*

Until next time,

D.

 

Another Day, Another Destiny, and Master of My Own House May 16, 2015

Hello, all!  Things are going well here in the Last Frontier.  Today is Saturday, and it marks a two-day hot streak for me, attitude-wise-speaking.  See, Thursday was rough.  It was the first day of the gift shop being open all day.  We were busy.  I was physically and emotionally tired, and I was aggravated about things beyond my control at home.  Now, I know there will be more days like that before all is said and done, but I’m not going to lie- that day… I was wondering if I was going to make it through the summer.  Obviously we know, that’s not an option.  If I were to have to go home before I am supposed to, I would be crushed.  It would be considered a failure of epic proportions, both by me and by everyone who has had to listen to me talk about this adventure for the last 5 months.  I would never live it down.  In short…an attitude adjustment was in order.  Needed to clean up my mental house, so to speak.

*

So yesterday morning I woke up with a plan.  I decided that I was going to break out and get adventurous.  I packed my backpack with a change of clothes, my ID and my money, various medicines needed to get me through the day (for pain and for energy) and I went to work.  I worked all day, just as busy as the day before, but focused on trying to do a good job and keep a smile on my face.  I made sure to stay ahead of the ache in my feet by taking Tylenol and ibuprofen as needed.  I took some energy-giving medicine in the early afternoon after lunch.  And speaking of lunch, I had been astounded how much my energy had picked up on Wednesday evening after supper when I had been dragging so hideously, so I made sure that I took my lunch on time and that I ate as healthily as I could and drank more water.

*

Finally, it was the end of the shift.  Lucky for me, I did not have a cash register in my name yesterday, so I was able to leave as soon as I finished my task.  I clocked out and went to the front desk to make sure I knew what I needed to do to make my plan happen.  Then I went straight to the employee restroom and changed clothes.  It felt soo good to be wearing normal clothes for once instead of my uniform.

*

And then…I went back upstairs and out to the shuttle stop for the bus to Talkeetna.  Now, Talkeetna is the little tourist town that is near the lodge.  As the crow flies, it is only 14 miles from the lodge, but thanks to some stubborn townsfolk, apparently, as I learned on the bus ride, highway couldn’t go through the town and they had to build a spur road instead.  The result?  The aforementioned bus ride to Talkeetna takes a solid hour.

*

Anyway.  No worries.  I gave the driver my ID and my shuttle slip for the trip into town and boarded the bus.  There were only two other employees going to town and I didn’t know them.  Prior to my departure, I had asked some very kind ladies at the Naturalist Desk what there was to do in town, and had received some stellar advice.  First on the list was Shirley’s Talkeetna Burger Barn.  I was assured the burgers were to die for.  Then I was informed that there was a special treat available there that I needed to check out. More on that later.  I also asked about the general store in Talkeetna, because I discovered, out of ALL the ridiculous amount of junk that I brought with me on this little Alaskan Adventure, the one thing I apparently forgot that I would need was laundry pre-treater- Shout, Spray N Wash, or some variation on that theme.  (I basically cannot get through a day without getting something down the front of my shirt.)  So I was going to try to locate some.

*

So.  I got on the bus and enjoyed a nice ride into town.  I might have enjoyed making the trip with some new friends or something, but nobody was available, and for the moment I was actually more satisfied with my exercise in independence.  We pulled into town and stopped across the street from the Princess tour services office, in the parking lot of one of the tour operators, Mahays Jet Boat Adventures.  They do some of the tours offered by the lodge, so I know I will be going there again.  I got off the bus and after retrieving my ID from the driver, I walked across to the famous Burger Barn.  It was a little trailer like what you would see at the county fair, complete with wooden picnic tables out front and a refrigerator from which you choose your soda after you order.

$5 for anyone who spots the misspelled sign.  Ok, not really. :)

$5 for anyone who spots the misspelled sign. Ok, not really. 🙂

*

So I ordered the McKinley, which had mushrooms and Swiss cheese and I asked them to add grilled onions.  It came with fries or chips, and I had some fries and I chose a Diet Dew from the fridge.  I sat at the table and waited.  It was shady and windy, and so cool I was getting goosebumps.  Finally my food was ready and it was as good as promised.  I finished my burger and most of my fries and took my drink and went walking in search of the general store.  Now, you may remember if you have read the trip report of my cruise in 2012, I am terrible with directions.  Like, so bad there should be a medical treatment for it.  But how lost can you get in a town that basically has one street?

DD5 *

I had asked the driver for directions to the general store and it was easy to find.  This is the town that has a cat for a mayor, btw.  I think his Honor’s name is Mr. Stubbs.  Anyway. Talkeetna’s other claim to fame is that it is the town that Northern Exposure was loosely modeled after.  It is quite a cute place. The general store had no laundry pre-treater spray, but it did have a dog sled and animal skins on the walls.

View down the stairs in the general store.

View down the stairs in the general store.

I stopped in to a couple of other gift shops on my way back to the bus (comparison shopping our prices at work and theirs, if truth be known.). There were a couple of items I really wanted, but I decided to save my money instead.  The tie-dye hoodie with the moose in hipster sunglasses was really calling my name.

*

The last thing I did before I went back to the shuttle stop was stop back by Shirley’s for a treat you can’t get anywhere else.  There is a plant here in Alaska that in the summer grows into a beautiful purple-red flower called ‘fireweed’ and Shirley, bless her creative heart, has found a way to make Fireweed Ice Cream.  I tried and tried to come up with a common flavor to compare it to, but I couldn’t.  It was sweet, creamy, and delicious. DD3 *

Soon the shuttle bus arrived and I was headed back to the lodge.  I had entertained my co-workers earlier with an impromptu performance of Master of the House, from Les Mis.  So on the bus ride back to my temporary home, I occupied my mind by singing to myself, all the songs from LM and then all the songs I had been learning in my voice lessons and hope to sing at auditions someday. Finally back at the lodge, I stopped in the gift shop to say a quick hello to my co-workers and to tell them that my adventure had been a success.  I hiked the killer hill to my room feeling quite proud of myself, both for the good day and the trip to town.  Once back in my room, I quickly collected my laundry and got it started.  I was in a hurry because they had posted a sign on the door that stated that the door would be locked at 10 pm and if your clothes were still in there at that time, they would just be held prisoner until the door was unlocked at 8am. I watched for them to come lock the door and I was prepared to beg and plead for the freedom of my clothes, but nobody ever came to lock the door.  My clothes were finally done about 10:30 and this was the sky:

This is 10:30 at night.

This is 10:30 at night.

*

A peaceful end to a really good day.

Until next time, D.

 

 
The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

Shawn L. Bird

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

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