Baby Beluga: August 29th 2011

Little note from way back in August!

So I’ve been at my job monitoring belugas for a couple of months now. Everything has been going well, except for the fact that I hadn’t found a beluga to monitor. Everyone else in the group had already spotted their first whale, while I just sat and watched logs float by for four hours. Until yesterday! Finally, I saw my first beluga. Ever in the wild! It felt good.

Those stealth machines popped up right next to me, seemingly out of nowhere! It was crazy hectic, though. I spent more time trying to figure out what I should be doing than actually being able to just be in awe of them. The past months, I’ve spent my day scanning the horizon, doubling back on some floating object over there, driftwood over here. A log or dead body? Anything is possible in the Cook Inlet.

When my first beluga finally popped up, I was in disbelief for about the first ten minutes. Maybe not so good when you’re supposed to be figuring out numbers and patterns. While I never saw a face, I saw plenty of beluga butts and flukes. Enough to remind me how much I love these whales and why I signed up for his job.

Not exactly how I get to see them.

Beluga Whales. FYI- This is not how I see them in the wild. I wish!

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The Butt

Sadly, our summer hiking adventures have all but come to an end. A bit prematurely, since we technically stopped our adventures Memorial Day weekend (so really, they weren’t even summer hikes…) Anyway, I digress… I give you, the Butte!

The Basics:

Total Miles: 3 miles round trip

Total Time: It took us about 2 hours round trip, with an hour of relaxation at the top.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Kid Appropriate: We saw tons of kids hiking the trail! It’s not as easy when you’re carrying a toddler, however. Especially when you get to the part of the trail where you need to use ropes to help carry yourself up. It is doable, though. The fact that it’s not a very long trail helps a lot.

Dangers: Wildlife- Bears in the area and steep drop offs are the main concerns.

Reasons to do this hike: The view! This hike affords an amazing birds-eye-view of the valley, as well as the local Knik glacier.

The Journey

One sunny weekend morning, a friend called to say she was up in our neck of the woods and wanted to know if we wanted to go hiking with her and her family. Of course, Silas and I jumped at the opportunity. We don’t get out much. So, I grabbed Silas and his carry pack and we drove about thirty minutes on the Old Glenn Highway (love that road. So scenic) to Butte, Alaska, to climb the apt named Bodenburg Butte. Everyone just simply calls it the Butte (or, as I like to call it, the butt… Don’t judge me. I hang out with a toddler all day). Of course, I wasn’t remotely prepared. No water, no snacks, no camera (hence, no pictures in this post)… Luckily our friends had us covered. So we began our jaunt up the hill (apparently, a butte is an isolated, steep hill- Thank you Wikipedia. Definitely aptly named, then).

Much of the hike is on wooded trail, so it’s nice and shady and relatively cool. There’s a nice spot through the middle of the hike with an open lookout with benches, where you can rest your weary legs for a moment (we did that). It’s obviously mostly uphill, but much of it is a gradual incline. It’s not until about the last twenty minutes that things start to get tough (I’m talking ropes and all). Even once you make it past the roped area, there’s another nice hill to climb. Then, all of a sudden, you’re at the top, with a group of other hiking strangers, staring down at most of the valley, including the Knik glacier (which apparently can be seen in Star Trek) and river. It’s pretty spectacular. The area at the top is big enough to sit around and relax all day. You may just want to. The fresh air and abundant sun that day made the time seemingly disappear, as we sat and chatted with friends, while Silas enjoyed the rock collection he managed to scrounge up.

After about an hour or two of relaxation, we headed back down the trail and headed into Palmer for some coffee and more chatting at Vagabond Blues (where I asked for iced coffee and received still hot iced coffee… Interesting). My pesto salad was good, though, and Silas thoroughly enjoyed is cheese quiche.

After that, Silas and I headed back home, with dreams of glaciers, fresh air and birch wood forests dancing above our heads that night.

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Exit Glacier

The Basics:

Total Miles: About 1 mile.

Total Time: Depending on how leisurely you want your walk to be (I wouldn’t even consider this trail a hike. If you want a real hike, without the toddler, try the Harding Icefield trail. Close to 8 miles round trip, plan a whole day. Very strenuous, but also very scenic. From what I’ve heard, you can even camp out on the icefield), allow for about an hour to really see everything.

Difficulty: Easy.

Kid Appropriate: Very kid-friendly. Easy paved trail up until you get to the glacier. I would recommend letting the little one walk the paved trail on his/her own (if they’re old enough, of course) and then carrying them up the rocks to the glacier.

Dangers: Wildlife- Moose and bears frequent the area (evidence lies in the droppings all along the paved walkway). Also, the rocky area towards the end of the trail could be dangerous for small children trying to climb on their own. One final warning, don’t get too close to the glacier ice walls. A tourist was killed back in the 1980’s when the glacier calved on top of their head.

Reasons to do this hike: It’s an easy walk that yields beautiful views. Get up close and personal with a quickly retreating glacier (quickly in glacial terms, of course).

The Journey

Before realizing how crazy the Caines Head hike would be, we had decided to also hike the Exit Glacier trail, as it was only about fifteen minutes outside of Seward (and conveniently, also the second hike in our book). So, after a wonderfully relaxing stay in our hotel room, we woke up early the next morning for breakfast and headed out again for some more hiking (this time more of a light walk, thank goodness).

If you drive about five minutes outside of downtown Seward (heading back towards Anchorage) and take a left on the confusingly named Herman Leirer road (you’d think they’d just call it Exit Glacier rd., since that’s where the road ends), you’ll be on your way towards the glacier. After following this road about ten to fifteen minutes (watch for moose), you’ll arrive at the Exit Glacier nature center and the beginning of the trail. There’s no roughing it here. The visitors center has nice bathrooms, tour guides and even a small gift shop. The trail is paved and nicely maintained, following a mile round trip loop. There’s plenty of options to veer off the trail, including hiking some river glacial moraine, but just watch out for wildlife (though it seems overly populated with the human variety, there are still lots of moose and bear in the area). You also have the option of continuing to the edge of the glacier, if you want to climb some rocks.

Ice Wall

If you want to get more up close and personal with the glacier, just continue off the paved track.

The Ice Wall

Whoa! Hey Ice Wall!

This trail seemed the perfect end to our weekend getaway in Seward. It was easy and gentle on our weary legs and Silas would have been more than able to hike most of the trail (though he happily stayed in my husband’s arms the whole time). It only takes about an hour to take everything in at a gentle pace and you get the chance to see a beautiful glacier, complete with light blue ice walls right next to you! If you’re tired, take a break at one of the many benches made available along the trail. Need some water? Stop by the nature center beforehand and stock up. Want some trail advice or information? Just ask the friendly nature guide at the center.

Cozy Silas

Silas nice and cozy in daddy's arms.

Cheeky SIlas

"Haha, you have to walk and I can just sit here and relax!"

After a quick peak at the glacier, we were ready to head back home. The perfect end to an interesting weekend in Seward? I think yes!

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

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Caines Head Part Two: There and Back Again!

So, the first post of our Caines Head adventure was all about the journey to our home away from home for the night: the North Beach campground. This second installment of our family adventure focuses on camp life on the beach and the trails that you can hit up while at North Beach.

Fort McGilvary Trail

The Basics:

Total Miles: 2 miles one way. Optional additional trails- South Beach (extra .5 miles) and the Alpine trail (2.5 miles from Derby Cove).

Total Time: This trail took us about 2-3 hours. Leave plenty of time to explore the fort and don’t forget to bring a flashlight!

Difficulty: Moderate. Steady incline, but nothing too extreme.

Kid Appropriate: This trail might be a little tough for children under 7. I’m sure carrying is always appreciated. I know Silas enjoyed it.

Dangers: Wildlife is always a potential hazard. Keep your wits about you. Also, stay safe around the fort. It’s pretty old and dark. There’s also many steep drop offs by the fort, so watch yourself!

Reasons to do this hike: History. I’m a history buff, so I think any fort is neat, but Fort McGilvray is particularly unique. The fort was at a strategic location to help defend Seward and most of Alaska (especially the all mighty railroad) against the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. Plus the views are also as good as any reason.

The Journey

Like previously mentioned, when we finally made it to the campsite, it was all about relaxing (after we set up our tent and got out of our dirty clothes). Nick chose to put up our tent in the woods, back behind the beach and near the picnic area. I wasn’t feeling to good about his decision from the get go. I didn’t like the idea of being back in the woods, nor the fact that our camp was right next to the picnic tables and all of the food that was being stored away from bears. We decided that we would keep the tent there until we could see how far the tide would go up. If there was still lots of room left on the beach at high tide, we would camp out there.

Our campsite was originally over that bridge and through the woods.

The tent that we decided on at REI a week prior to our trip was the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. A bit on the pricey side, but we figured it was a long term investment and cheaper than taking family vacations to Hawaii. I’m not sure what to think of this tent. It’s definitely great for backpacking, weighing in at less than three pounds! It’s also incredibly small (I guess that’s a given considering the weight). However, there’s not much to do in that tent besides sleep. I had to shimmy my way around to get in and out of clothes. With all that being said, it wasn’t too bad to sleep in and it snuggly fit Nick, Silas and I. The best part: No bugs or water snuck it’s way in! There was a battlefield of mosquitoes trying to ram their way inside our tent and none of them could scream “victory”! Also, I can’t personally tell you, but I’m sure Nick would be able to let you know that the tent is very easy to put up and take down. It took him all of about five minutes to do each one.

Along with the tent, we had our 20 degree weather sleeping bags, overnight pack, MRE’s, extra clothes, rain gear, hats, crank flashlight, first aid kit, bear spray, water conditioning bottle and lots of diapers and other assorted baby products. We bought a magnesium strip for lighting a fire, but that little guy managed to conveniently fall between the cracks of our couch while we were doing our packing. Needless to say, we never had much of a fire going. Luckily it wasn’t really needed on that beautiful, sunny Friday!

After setting up camp, we got busy eating. Nick packed some military MRE’s, which worked out amazingly, as our fire starting skills proved inadequate. We had some veggie burger and ribs, courtesy of the little chemical pack that heated up our water. We even had some bread, cheese, muffin top, trail mix, potato sticks, iced tea, etc., to go along with our main meals, all in this little plastic pouch. If you have a chance to score some MRE’s, I would recommend it. They’re super helpful while backpacking. Silas even enjoyed it, which really says a lot. We made sure to keep the picnic table tidy and dispose of all of our trash in an odor proof bag. You know, the bears… Nick tried to hang up a bear bag in the trees, but we ended up using the compartment in the picnic shelter provided for food and trash.

After high tide and going to the bathroom in the woods (which we later found out was not needed… There’s an actual bathroom at the start of the Fort McGilvary trail), we decided to re-set up our tent closer to the beach, in the perfect little patch of grass. Beach and ocean one way, lots of fallen trees and noise making things on the other. I’m pretty sure I would know if there was a bear coming. A few unsuccessful beach fire attempts and another close-to-shore guest appearance from our sea lion friends and we were off to bed. I should say Nick and Silas were off to bed. I think I maybe possibly slept an hour, at most.

I woke up to the sound of crunching leaves around the tent. Slight panic led to the realization that it was just one of the many dogs at the campsite and then I was left hoping that they wouldn’t pop a squat near our tent or decide to make a flying leap onto it. While I’m pretty sure it didn’t rain the previous night, condensation was all up in our abode. I guess that’s what happens when you have a tiny space and two and a half people (not that I consider Silas only “half,” but that’s the question we always seem to get when out to eat… “Table for two and a half?”) Opening the tent door, however, released worries and slight annoyances to a beautiful view of the sunrise, right in our faces.

Sunrise over Caine's Head

Yep. Sun's still rising!

We decided to start our day early and set out on our hike, so that we could be back in time for a boat taxi pick up. One of the many luxuries of Caines Head is that if you don’t want to hike back, you don’t have to! There are two taxi services that run back and forth to the North Beach campsite. One of them (the one we happened to use), is from Miller’s Landing, a nice looking camping area that also provides kayaking tours, fishing excursions and, of course, boat taxis, among many other things. A short jaunt to the edge of the campsite led to more campers, the beginning of the local trail and… A bathroom! It’s OK, I’m pretty sure anyone who saw my bare bottom in the woods would have thanked me for it!

Sunrise on the Rocks

Fog rolls in.

Where oh where can the little trail be?

While in our minds, we started off fresh, our feet were not pleased with our decision. As I waddled my way up the trail, I began to relive the previous day’s hike all over again. I just kept telling myself that it was only a couple of miles and who didn’t love an old WWII fort? The thing with old military forts, is they always seem to be out in the middle of nowhere. Such was the case with Fort McGilvary. As the trail led higher and higher, I began to wonder if it would ever end (it didn’t help that we decided to carry all of our gear with us. I would recommend leaving it at the campsite. Don’t take my word for it, but I trusted the people there). On our way, we passed forest, swampland (which I affectionately deemed Dagobah), and sneak peek ocean views, high above the ground. We were even lucky enough to spot some harbor seals (I think) from the little outlook complete with memorial plaque, dedicated to the soldiers who manned the fort during it’s glory days.

Military memorial plaque.

Dagobah! The first of many, I would later find out.

Though this trail is only two and a half miles, it’s close to a constant incline. Once again, I found myself acting like a baby, muttering things under my breath like, “I can’t make it up any more hills, I’m not a freaking fit soldier!” I’m pretty sure I threatened my husband on multiple occasions… Luckily, the trail is well maintained. It did used to be the main road for those buff army men, after all. Legend has it (well, it’s not really legend… More of a fact) that the soldiers were dropped off at North Beach and then had to hike to the fort. No thank you.. As for wildlife, we didn’t see much (maybe luckily?) I had a close encounter with a ptarmigan (is that horrible of me? What? It scared me… Ok here’s a nice picture of a ptarmigan), who conveniently fluttered around on a tree branch right as I was passing by. You know you’re paranoid when you jump in horror because you think a little bird is a big, angry bear.

Just waiting for the bears. This was also near the area where I ran into evil ptarmigan. I think I was justified to freak out.

Once you get about a mile and a half into the trail, you start seeing signs of the fort. Abandoned, scary looking buildings lined the trail and left over, rusting metal cans were nestled off in the woods. It’s also at this point that the trail forks off another one and a half miles to the South Beach trail. South Beach is where the soldiers used to call home. I’m sure it’s a wonderful little place, with more abandoned buildings in a beach setting, but I wasn’t ready to go that extra mile (and a half). I would like to go back one day, if only to do the hike to South Beach and the other, longer Alpine trail (which forks off from the tidal trail around Derby Cove, a little bit before North Beach). I’m sure it’s nice when you’re not carrying an overnight pack.

One hill after another finally led to the main fort. Nick and I decided that the inside of the fort looked too scary to really even peek in. It is Alaska, after all. Scary people abound and this looked like the perfect place for a schizophrenic psycho killer, looking for some private locale to settle down. I decided to climb up the little path I had found on top of the fort, hoping for a view of Resurrection Bay. After a brief jaunt around large pieces of concrete, there it was, a beautiful, pristine view of the ocean! For a minute, I went back in time, imagining I was stationed out at this beautiful spot. Picturing this as the view outside my office window. Then I remembered the hike to get out here and that pesky four letter word that kept popping up in my head… Bear. I think I’ll stick to Wasilla.

View outside my office window...?

I got a little lost trying to get back down. It doesn’t really seem possible, considering how small the area is, but it does happen (or maybe it’s just me… I do tend to get lost going just about anywhere!) As I struggled to find my way back, the idea of running into a big, brown bear ran through my head. Kinda ridiculous. I’m pretty sure not even they would hike all the way out there. After I found my way back to Nick and Silas, Nick decided to check out the view, as well. After we were all satisfied (I can’t speak for Silas, because, well he doesn’t really speak), we headed back down. The way down is (as seemingly always) much easier and relaxing. As the weather started to cool and the clouds darkened, I began to dream of our taxi ride out of this joint.

We got back earlier than we had anticipated, so Nick called the water taxi to see if we could catch an earlier boat. We were in luck! While we waited, Nick set the tent back up and we made friends with some campers who had a nice fire going. As the boat arrived and the skipper jumped out to skip rocks, I was ready to get back to Seward. We decided that we’d spend another night in Seward, like we had planned, only in a hotel room, instead of a tent. As we boarded the tiny skiff, we were all awarded life vests that in no way fit us. Mine was too small and Silas’s was way too big, but it allowed for a good laugh. I’m pretty sure poor Silas was embarrassed. I’d post a picture, but I vowed I wouldn’t take one of him at such a low point in his life. The good news is, he slept like a baby on the boat ride back.

Waiting for our taxi to come.

Goodbye Caine's Head.

Until we meet again!

After about fifteen minutes (really? Only fifteen? I thought it took us five hours to hike out there…?) we arrived at Miller’s Landing, a cool little gypsy looking campsite. You can rent a cabin, hitch a tent, or bring your RV, plus they have tons of tours and services. I would recommend this place. I know I’ll be back! Silas and I went inside and grabbed some coffee (well, I did… Another reason to recommend Miller’s Landing: free coffee) and sat by the fire, while Nick hiked out to the car. We packed everything up, said goodbye to our Caines Head experience and headed back into downtown Seward to look for a hotel.

We ended up staying at the Hampton Inn. It felt like paradise. Clean sheets, nice bathroom, shower! I could go on. Not only did it feel good to sleep on a bed, but this was the first time that we had really gone on any sort of vacation since last summer. It was nice to just relax. We ate at our favorite restaurant in Seward, Apollo Restaurant. I couldn’t say enough good things about this restaurant, and I probably don’t have to. They are mentioned in Frommer’s, after all. With dishes like this (from their Facebook page), how could you go wrong? You can even bring in the fish you caught and they’ll cook it for you! I got the fried halibut, good as always, and Nick got fettuccine alfredo. Delicious! Another place I would highly recommend. After dinner, we headed straight to bed (even though I had grand plans of staying up all night and watching cable, a luxury considering we haven’t had it in months).

We woke up at 6 a.m. for breakfast (yummy), a quick walk around the harbor (that was Silas’s choice. I really had no say in the matter, as I had to chase him around), and to pack up our belongings and head out. Our next stop was Exit Glacier, the second hike in our book and also the next chapter in our hiking saga! Stay tuned!

Seward Harbor. Always beautiful!

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Caines Head Part One: Getting There!

I’m gonna break this entry up into two parts, since it’s become very thorough and long(maybe too much so). The first half will be about the trail to Caines Head and the second will be focused on the North Beach campsite and the trails around the area. So, here we go!

Lowell Point to Caines Head

The Basics:

Total Miles: 4.5 miles one way. 2.5 of those miles are tidal.

Total Time: This obviously depends on your level of fitness and how leisurely you decide to be, but just for reference, it took a relatively fit and not so fit couple with a toddler strapped to us about five hours. We didn’t make many stops along the way, but it was pretty slow going.

Difficulty: Many rate this hike from moderate to difficult. I would consider it to be difficult. Maybe that’s just because I haven’t gone on a serious hike in a couple of years, and we had a 17 month old with us, but while it’s no Harding Ice Field, it’s no Flat Top either.

Kid Appropriate: I would consider this hike to be kid appropriate either if you go at a negative tide and have enough room to walk along the rocks in the tidal zone, instead of on them, or if you get a water taxi in and just enjoy the campsite and hike the Fort McGilvray and South Beach trails. It’s also probably a lot easier to walk from Caines Head, than to, as most of the scary rocks are close to the campsite.

Dangers: This hike has many of the same dangers that any hike in Alaska offers. There’s lots of bears in the area, both black and brown, so be on the lookout. Make lots of noise while hiking and be aware of your surroundings. It’s good to be on the safe side and carry some bear spray and maybe even a horn. The only other major dangers have to do with water. Often, one or more of the bridges along the trail are washed out, meaning you’ll have to ford across them. First, find the safest place to cross. If the water is above your knees, make sure you have good footing and think about crossing with a group of people. Secondly, the tidal area of the walk, while beautiful, can be potentially very dangerous. The tide in this area moves fast, and your only option may be to cross slippery, jagged rocks along the way. Make sure you leave Lowell Point with a couple of hours to spare before low tide ( I would recommend at least three). When you reach Tonsina Creek, make sure that you have at least an hour before low tide (I would say no less than two). If you get stuck at the rocks and still want to cross, I would really recommend abandoning any dignity and just getting on your bottom and scooting across. You’ll have a green butt for the remainder of the hike, but at least you won’t have a big gash on your hand from falling on the rocks! Always make sure to check out the local tide chart before undergoing this hike.

Reasons to do this hike: I’m sure there’s different reasons for everyone. There’s beautiful scenery, both woodland and coastal. There’s abundant wildlife (lots of birds, sea life and terrestrial mammals, such as bears… Did I mention you can fish right from the beach for Dolly Varden and Salmon in season!) It’s a bit of a challenge, which makes it rewarding… The list goes on. Also, though a popular trail, it never seems to get too crowded. Many people who make it to the campsite are like-minded individuals who enjoy the outdoors. Make some friends along the way!

The Journey

Going in page order of our hiking book, the second hike was determined to be Caines Head, located in Seward. It’s described as moderate, weighing in at 4.5 miles round trip. Being someone who hasn’t gone on a good hike in a while and has never carried an overnight bag, I would call this hike strenuous, and barely achievable with a baby on board when the tide isn’t negative. The trail starts at Lowell Point parking lot, about a ten minute drive from downtown Seward. If you already have all of the camping and hiking gear needed, a trip to Caines Head is relatively cheap. There’s a $5 a day fee for parking, but that’s about all you have to pay for!

As we started off, we were already somewhat exhausted. Our plan to wake up early and finish up housework so our house sitter didn’t walk in, look around and leave straight out the door in horror, resulted in Nick waking me up at 8 a.m., when we had wanted to be out of the house. The one time my alarm doesn’t go off… I was prepared to just say the heck with it and sleep in, but Nick was determined, so we did some light cleaning, packed everything up and were headed out the door in about an hour!

The trip to Seward is long, but beautiful. Most of it drifts along ocean coastline, with mountains in the background. The rest winds through inland blue and green lakes, waterfalls and small towns full of personality. It takes about four hours (depending on the driver) from Wasilla and about three hours from Anchorage (although Nick managed to make in in two. Hmm…) We made our ritual stop in Girdwood (about an hour from Anchorage) for gas and pastries at the Bake Shop. Nick actually went in this time and bought something to eat. Surprising since he never has anything nice to say about their cookies (while not always soft and delectable, I happen to enjoy them). He brought out an M&M’s brownie, which has more the consistency of a cake, but still delicious and conducive to sugar highs; Exactly what we needed for this trip!

The best thing about our mini vaca, besides family time and wildlife sightings… It was sunny in Seward!! That rarely happens, but on Friday, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! It was simply amazing. After a quick stop downtown for a bathroom break and a minute gawk at the cruise ship in the deep harbor, we headed straight for Lowell Point, parked, cashed our money and headed out. I carried the main overnight bag with our tent and sleeping bags and Nick carried Silas, along with a backpack full of food and toddler goodies.

Right from the start, I was having a hard time. It went uphill fast, but it was still doable. The first (about) two miles started in the woods and soon I forgot we were right next to the sea. The whole time I panicked each time I heard a twig snap. We had bear spray with us, but I just don’t have much faith in that stuff. After about two hours of forest greenery, we had made it through the first leg of our journey and stumbled (for me it was seriously stumbling) out in to the open. I was surprised to see people once again, some crossing the marshy area nearby, while others kayaked under the bridge and down the clear blue-green stream.

This area was also where one of the bridges had been washed out, so we had to cross the stream by foot. The water wasn’t extremely deep, but it was enough to where we had to take off our shoes and wade through the water. That water is cold! I suppose all glacier fed rivers are, but about ten seconds into it, I was definitely feeling the cold pangs in my feet. I’ll shed any image you might have of me as a brave hiking warrior right here and paint the mental image of a slobbering, sweaty, barefoot woman crossing a (not really that scary) stream in an extremely awkward manner. I don’t know what was up with me. Normally I’d take the long way around in order prance through some mountain water (especially given the fact that I was sweating so much… I could have thrown some water over me and pretended that I was never really sweating in the first place. That wetness on my back? Just the result of a heroic water passing.)

Tonsina Creek

Tonsina Creek: The end to the first leg of our journey!

Creek Crossing

This is the ice cold water we had to cross in order to keep on the trail.

Ocean

And... Ocean!

Family

We were so excited to reach the ocean that we even stopped for a family picture!

Sea Otter

Sadly, out of the (seriously) about twenty pictures that I took of this sea otter, this was the best one...

I began to become nervous after we had crossed the river, as I realized this was sort of the point of no turning back. Once the tide came up, it would be nearly impossible to cross back over the stream. Luckily, there’s the Tonsina campsite right on the other side! I didn’t see anyone camped out at that time, but it seemed like a nice area, right by the stream and beach and tucked away in the green washed, moss carpeted forest. We continued on, following another couple that had just crossed along with us. I love seeing people on the trails. Maybe it’s a false sense of security, but I feel safer knowing that there are people ahead and behind me, making noise, keeping the bears and moose away.

After our first small trial on the trail, I felt somewhat reinvigorated and on the other side of the beach, we saw some sea otters lazing on the waves, right next to the shore. Later on, we peeked at some sea lions that would revisit us at North Beach the next day (yes, spoiler alert! We made it to the campground!) I was feeling good about the hike and ready to take on the next part of the trail: the coastal two mile trek to the North Beach campground.

Tonsina Creek Campground

Nick and Silas, back in the woods, near the Tonsina Creek campsite, after a quick meeting with the ocean.

Though we went back towards the stream to find the trail again, we found out later that we could have easily just followed the beach to reach the tidal part of the hike (heads up, it saves about fifteen minutes!) After about a half an hour, we reached the part of the hike that can only be attempted at low tide (there’s even a little warning sign). We decided that we would keep going, as we had just about enough time, according to all the research we had done in our book and online. Wrong! First off, let me say that unless you’re brave and good on your feet, I would give yourself at least two or three hours from the Tonsina area. In fact, I really wouldn’t recommend going unless there’s a negative tide forecasted. We were told not to go above four foot tides. That day, the tide was at three and we had to climb our way over slippery, algae covered rocks (did I mention they were sharp).

Looking back, we probably should have just waded through the water. We were already soaked anyway and it would have saved a lot of stress and break downs on my part. Every time we climbed over a rocky patch, I wondered what would be on the next side. Would we have enough time to get to North Beach (the next camping site) before the tide came in? Would we get stuck in a small cove with no way out except to climb a rocky cliff? I had no idea and neither did Nick. I was just hoping we wouldn’t need to call for help!

After about an hour of hiking along the water and false hopes of promising looking beaches, we finally reached a sign next to the trail that would lead to the campsite! I’ll admit, by this time, I was dragging my feet and ready to just lay down on the beach and call it a night. The campsite wasn’t far from this point, but it went straight uphill into the woods and eventually led out onto North Beach. About ten minutes into the woods, we ran into a couple who said we were almost there. That just about made my day! Finally, we saw the light from an opening in the forest and heard the waves crash on the shale rock. I finally began to feel comfortable again, thinking about how nice it would feel to change out of my saltwater soaked, algae invested pants and just relax on the beach and stare out into the pristine ocean.

As we walked on the beach, we passed the couple we had started out with on the second leg of our journey. They were surprised we had made it, maybe a mix between the fact that they had barely made it and because we showed up probably about an hour later than them, even though we started out at the same time. I’ll blame part of that on false security on my part, taking lots of pictures of sea otters and being all too happy to relax for a minute on the beach area at Tonsina. Also, there was that break down along previously said algae covered rocks…

As soon as I reached the beach, I parked my butt right down on the rocks, to take a breath and relax. Afterward we started looking for a good campsite (pretty much anywhere, there’s not much competition). We found a place in the woods, near the picnic shelter (I later made Nick move the tent, because I didn’t like the idea of sleeping right next to all the food particles and cooking utilities. Remember? Bearanoid). So began our next leg of getting comfortable and falling asleep (or keeping watch ALL night).

I’ll leave off here for now. Next up is all about camp life and one of the trails in the area! I’ll depart with this picture of Silas anxiously awaiting his first camping meal!

Silas ready for his first yummy gourmet camping meal of baby fruit jars and MRE veggie burger!

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Bearanoia!

With the end of the school semester and my new found free time, I’m changing this blog up a bit! My husband has a book dedicated to hikes all over Alaska and we’ve decided to create a sort of bucket list out of it. Our plan is to cross a hike off the list every weekend that we have free. For the time being, that won’t include destinations that we can’t drive to (air fare is too expensive!), but we can hopefully make it around South Central and the Interior pretty decently.

Our first hike of the season was in Portage, called the Byron Glacier Trail. We’re starting off easy, at only one mile one way and level terrain, with a nice, clear path. I don’t think we’ll be able to do anything past moderate while Silas is young. I’m proud of him, though, he did most of the hike himself! He was a good sport until the tail end, when he started to become a Mr. Grumpy Pants.

Unsure about this whole hiking thing.

Loving it!

And he's done hiking now.

We made Silas stop for one final photo op in front of the hike signage.

The trail was very easy, except for the fact that half of it was still covered in snow and you couldn’t actually finish the whole hike without a good set of poles (which one hiker just happened to have). We came across lots of moose droppings and I’ll admit that I was bearanoid (actual term in our hiking book) most of the way. We didn’t see any wild life, though, save the occasional bird. We did pass an avalanche chute halfway down, though. It was pretty spectacular and looks like it stopped just before the trail. It created a sort of ice bridge through the stream. At the end of the trail, what we deemed the end anyway, was a nice view of Byron Glacier. I’m almost in awe of glaciers. They’re so beautiful, with their tints of baby and deep water blue. It’s as if you’re in a different world when you’re near one. The air feels cooler and the landscape is serene and so unlike anything you could imagine. There’s the Harding Icefield hike at Exit Glacier in Seward that I’d love to do sometime, probably without Silas and preferably with a guide. Someday!

This was where the avalanche stopped. Right before the trail!

The snow bridge that was created by the avalanche and stream below.

Byron Glacier!

Our plan for this coming weekend is to hit up the Caine’s Head trails in Seward for memorial weekend (probably along with everyone else). We were going to rent a public use cabin, but apparently you have to do that a year in advance, seeing as the cabins in pretty much all areas to the south are booked until September. Our next bet is a tent, which we don’t have. Hopefully we can borrow one or find a cheap one! Scratch that! We bought one at REI the other day (along with lots of other gear that racked up the price). It’s called the Big Agnes Fly Creek tent for two. We also scored two sleeping bags and a multi-trip backpack. Now we just need a water purifier, lamp, first aid kit… The list goes on. I’m debating on bear repellent. I don’t actually believe that stuff works, but it might be nice to have around in case it does. Pretty much everywhere in Alaska is bear country, and like stated above, I’m bearanoid.

That’s all for now. I’ll try to post a blog about our upcoming weekend trip before we head out on Thursday night. Our plan is to make it to Seward Thursday night and get a hotel and then head out early Friday morning, as we have to time our trip with the tide. We’ll hopefully spend Friday and Saturday camping and then head back home on Sunday. I’m excited for our first big camping trip!

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Thankful For Animals :)

I have something to ask of you all. Before I ask, I’ll give a little explanation…

I’ll admit it, I spend a lot of time on Craigslist looking at the pets section. I don’t plan on getting another dog or cat, I just like seeing what’s out there. I’ve noticed lately that there are a lot of dogs and cats around here at the shelters that are on the “list” lately, meaning, they’re in danger of being euthanized. Must be the holiday season…

I decided to head to our local shelter because they were holding a special “black tie” event. Adoption fees were half off for most cats and dogs. There was an abundance of different kinds of dogs there. Most all of them were sweet and friendly. It was so sad to realize that many of the dogs that I saw there today might not be alive for much longer. Hopefully the event that the shelter put on got more people out to adopt. There were a good bunch of people there and I’m hoping almost all of them took home a new family member. Here are some of the adoptable dogs whose time is running out at the shelter. You can find more adoptable dogs at the Palmer shelter here, or look for one near you.

Cooper

Josie

Tika

I wish more people would adopt dogs instead of buying a brand new puppy that was bred to be sold. There are SO many dogs out there that don’t have homes and will just be killed because people would rather spend $500 on a puppy that’s going to tear apart their house and poop and pee all over their floor. It doesn’t make sense to me…

I mean, I guess I got a puppy, but I still adopted her. I understand wanting to build a relationship from the beginning, and lets face it, puppies are adorable. However, they only look that way for a little while. Then they grow up, still cute, but not always as adorable, I guess. I’ll tell you, I don’t plan on ever getting a puppy again. It’s a lot of work. There are so many adorable, older dogs at the pound that already know how to behave, and cost $50 to adopt instead of hundreds AND you’d be saving a life.

So I have a couple of favors to ask. PLEASE, if you’re thinking about getting a pet, please adopt. There are so many animals out there that don’t have a home. If you buy a puppy from a breeder, you’re just giving them reason to breed more puppies. More puppies that quite possibly won’t have a home a couple of years from now. It’s cheaper and kinder to adopt. Please do. The Humane Society reports that six to eight million dogs and cats enter the shelter each year. Three to four million of them don’t make it out of those shelters. Half of them are euthanized.

Also, holiday season is upon us, starting with Thanksgiving. While many are thinking about the needy humans in the world at this time (for good reason), few are thinking of the millions of animals around the world who don’t have a home anymore, by no fault of their own. Please think about donating to your local animal shelter, whether it be your time, money, or just a bag of food or treats. You’ll be making some sweet, beautiful dog’s, cat’s, ferret’s, etc day. In the least, please visit this Click to Give website to donate food to rescue animals (and of course, it’s always good to click the other Click to Give buttons too!)

So, next time you’re thinking about getting a pet, any kind of pet, please think about adopting. It saves lives.

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