September 6th - September 11thTable of Contents
Thursday September 6th Tent in Denali National Park. (Entered December 9, 2001)
Today I woke up, and checked e-mail. Then packed up and drove to Denali. – It is snowing here now. Very very cold in my tent. Ground is cold that’s why. I will put plastic bags down to Insulate.
I arrived in the park, got Backcountry permits and watched ½ hour video. I also bought a camper bus ticket, and decided on 6th, 7th, and 8th, and to hike in Zones 6, 7, and 8 I hiked about five hours today but didn’t get too far. There was much brush in the way. I am in a river bed now. (In the Teklanika River). (I was dropped off before the Sable Pass directly South of Cathedral Mountain before the “restricted wilderness zone” which encompassed most of zone 7. )
(The way it works in Denali if you want to go backcountry camping, is that you pick a zone that you want to hike in. They have a large map with each zone defined, and a book that has information and descriptions about each zone in it. Some zones are nearer to the Glaciers, and others are more on flatter ground. Some require large river crossings, others are higher altitudes. There are verbose descriptions in the book. They also have limitations on number of hikers in each zone each night. For example, I wanted to hike in zone 21, but that night it was full, so I had to pick another zone. I wanted to do a multi day hike going from zone to zone to zone. I was unaware that one could hike in one zone, get back on the bus, and have it transport you to another zone, hike in that zone, and move on to another. – I think if I knew that, I might have done something a little more diverse. But, as it was I very much enjoyed my hike. )
(The camper bus drives from one end of the park and back a couple times a day. The road is about 85 miles from the Visitor Center to the end of it. One can hike at any point along the road in any zone provided the quota of the number of people in that zone that evening has not been filled, and provided they do not enter re-vegitation areas. )
My bag is heavy with food. My hips hurt and so do my toes. My MRE wont fit in the BRFC. So it’s in my tent. I prayed, so things will be fine. (My brother Nathan had given me a “MRE” Military Ration as a gift a few Christmass’ ago, and I brought it with me to eat. It is encased in plastic, and probably emit’s less odor than other things I could have taken out of the “BRFC” Bear Resistant Food Container. I was concerned, because I didn’t want to have anything with odor inside my tent. I had already put my toothpaste, bug spray, etc. inside the BRFC, and I figured that if I had to keep something out, this was the safest bet. )
My stopwatch read 6:34:55 from the time I started hiking. I’m not sure about my route tomorrow. I might have to cross Big Mountains. I made many creek / river crossings today. There was lots of marsh. I was late getting on the bus and getting my stuff together. Always late. My topo map is lame. I got a Xerox copy, because mine were out at the bookstore. ( It took longer than I expected to get to Denali from Fairbanks, and I hadn’t packed everything I needed before I got my permits and stuff. Plus I got behind watching the 30 minute video, and buying the bus ticket, etc. – So, I had to pack my stuff on the bus, put my boots on, gaitors, etc. – Reminded me of being late to the Rainier trip. – I managed. ) ( – The bus driver was hilarious. His name was Richard, and he called himself “Be safe Dick”. I wish I could have ridden longer on the bus with him. )
I’m concerned about my MRE and empty soup can. I hope they are ok. Hiking with no trails is cool! Will I get work in Anchorage? Will see.
Friday September 7th, 2001 (December 9, 2001 )
I woke up to some tiny sounds hitting the tent. I thought maybe it was leaves or tiny seeds hitting it. I had heard sounds like that before and it sounded similar. But, the more I listened, the more sounds there were, and the more often they hit the fly of my tent. It wasn’t rain, because that sound is a lot more loud + annoying. I opened the door inside, and looked out on the ground. White. It was snow. I had never been in my tent before when it was snowing, so I guess that’s a first.
I didn’t feel like getting up and thankfully I didn’t need to go to the bathroom. After it let up a bit, I ventured outside to cook breakfast. I boiled water and as I was boiling it, it started snowing again. Most of the stuff I had in my hands, as well as oatmeal packages. Then after breakfast I ventured up river to see if I could get my bearing. It was tough to tell where I was on the map. I walked about 2 miles, and then came to the fork in the river that was on the map. I knew where I was. Then I got back to my tent around 12:30, and packed up to go. I left around 1:00PM. While I was packing, it snowed some more.
My fly packed away wet and my tent was damp. I put most things in plastic bags, good thought to bring so many. Then I started hiking up the mountain in the direction of the Toklat River. It was mostly zone 7, but a lot in the off limits area North of zone 7. It took me three hours to get to the top of the Mountain. Several times it snowed heavily. I had my long johns and Nylon pants and Gaiters, plus Capilene tee shirt, polypro long sleeve shirt, fleece vest, shell Gortex jacket, the hood was up, sunglasses with Orange lenses were on, and I could still barely see. I followed up the drainage creeks, because that seems to be the easiest route followed up the mountains. It avoids the worst of the trees and it’s mostly good footing. I went slow, but steady. I took a break halfway up. I had lunch and got some water. It was very much filled with sediment, which is now in my camelback, YUM! Dinner tomorrow.
I reached the top about 30 minutes after lunch. When I got there, it was a total white out. I really couldn’t see 50 feet in front of me, so I was very concerned about which direction to go.
The good thing about being up high is that you can see everything and get a good idea of where you are on the map. The bad thing is the weather – I hung out for a little and looked at my map trying to make sense of the direction I was in. In 10 minutes, it had cleared up a little, so I could see that the route I wanted to take was relatively passable.
So, I started down. It was still snowing but less than before. Halfway down I saw some white globs moving. It was about five Dall sheep. They walked away as I got closer to their location.
Then further down I saw another pair, they left the scene. The further I went down, the better the weather cooperated. The terrain was similar to muskeg and very mossy and wet to walk on. I started feeling it in my boots about ¼ the way down. My feet were definitely wet. As I went further down, I looked at my map some more and I picked my route. As I got down further, that kind of didn’t happen. I came to the left hand side of a feeder creek and it was all eroded down to the creek about 60 feet down.
I approached it slowly, trying to get a better look. The mud I was walking in suddenly got very moist. My feet sunk in up to above the calf. With each step I tried to walk faster to get some good footing, but my right foot got stuck.
I found purchase with my left, and pulled to get my right out. Mind you this was 65 feet above a creek bed on a very steep eroded slope. I pulled once, still stuck, twice, stuck, three times stuck, four times and I got it out. But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the sudden shifting weight of me jerking my foot out caused my Nalgene bottle to fall out of it’s holder and plummet down the slope to the creek. It hit a couple rocks on the way down, but managed to stay together.
So, now I had a good reason to take the risk and go down the steep embankment. I went slowly and pretty much slid standing up most of the way. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I had much less balance with a 40 pound backpack on my shoulders. When I made it to the water after a couple slips and slides my boots were about a pound heavier from the mud. I was now wishing for the wet grass I had just been cursing before, so that I could clean them off.
I followed the creek to the river. Once I was stuck and unable to make forward progress. I had to find a way across. I backtracked and tried to find a spot to cross. At one point I threw a bunch of rocks in the water to try and make a makeshift bridge, No dice. I walked up and down and finally found a spot. I got a little wet, but made it. Then I followed the creek to the Tolkat River though some brush and finally arrived. I found a great spot to camp, although not too level. Several rocks and roots in the ground.
I ate my MRE which was interesting. THC chicken stew was ok. I heated it up, also had PB, crackers, applesauce, and chocolate and coffee / plastic spoon, salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc. It wasn’t bad, the applesauce looked old, but I ate it anyway. Then I washed my pot and stuff.
Now I am getting to think of the things I wont need to bring next time (Axe, Big pot, big shovel, should get plastic one, some extra clothes, but will bring more socks. No camcorder. Will bring face shield, much less food. I am already 2 nights in and have enough food to last me three more nights (I think). Less granola bars less cliff bars. I need to invent the front pack so you can have stuff at the ready when packing a big pack. Food, camera, gloves, hat, etc.
Anyway, got to my site, setup camp, cooked, cleaned, went to stash BRFC and scout river. It snowed during dinner and actually just finished again. As I was walking to the river, I saw a bear with 1 cub about ¼ mile away. I yelled, but it either didn’t hear, see, or care about me. It didn’t look like it was too interested, so I continued on toward the river.
When I got back to my tent site, I urinated around the outside of the tent and watched the BRFC for 10 minutes, then came in and wrote in my journal. Good Night.
Saturday September 8th, 2001 (December 9, 2001)
I may have to get up and dump in the middle of the night. I had to at 4:37AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. The stars were beautiful late at night. No northern lights though, I guess they come out around midnight or so. I will try to look tonight if I have energy. Maybe I’ll set the alarm.
Today was the most intense day yet. Great for the weather, it didn’t snow or rain at all today. Although when I woke up, the outside of my tent had frost on it, and the zippers were frozen shut. Then when I went to the creek to make breakfast, the creek was frozen over.
So, it was definitely cold last night, oh yea. I couldn’t get back to sleep after waking up to dump. I was too cold. It wasn’t me, but whatever part of me was touching the ground. Way too cold. Had I known it was this kind of weather I would have brought the Thermarest, no question. Next time what month is it? September… It’s only the eight, but it definitely feels like autumn time.
I left camp around 12:00 noon. I have a hard time getting around in the morning. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe lack of sleep, anyway I noticed the tenters on the hill break camp before I did. – Oh yea, my poop from late at night was frozen too.
I headed for the river post moleskin re-application. My feet are shot. I men cooked. Major Blisters on both heels, in the bottom of my big toe, and ball of each foot. The top of my right foot is bruised, but on the other hand, I have learned to lace my boots better, to give them room where I need it. My legs are shot too, I can barely walk w/o my pack on, I am so sore. My back is killing me too, when I sit on the BRFC, I just want to lie down in agony.
So, after getting up I went to cross the East Fork of the Toklat River. It took me a half hour to find a good spot to cross. I noticed the other two hikers further downstream from me looking for the same. I almost got the sneakers on, but held out. Finally I found a relatively shallow place to cross, and basically did a big step and run across. Bonus for style points… Not!
Then when I was across, I headed up the mountain. I made it to the top, but the other side was steep, not gradual, so going down was an adventure. When I got to the bottom, I crossed one of the many tributaries of the E. Fork of the Toklat R. again. Then it was 4:00PM when I got to the bottom, I could see the road, and I was beat. I relaxed for a little while and just sat and drank water. Across the tributary, a hill rose up and then on the map was another tributary on the other side.
I watched my watch closely, because I wanted to get a good spot to camp with ample time to relax and such. I made it to the base of the next hills by 5:00PM. I looked ½ way up, and there looked like a ledge. Perfect for camping on. I thought I will play it by ear, actually I thought this at 4:00PM, I would play it by ear crossing the Mountain then at 5:00PM the base of the hill, I thought make it to the ledge and see how you feel. I thought I would definitely make it to the top in 45 minutes. So, I started out. I made great time even thought I was exhausted. I summated around 5:30PM and had a splendid view of the nearest glacier further into the mountains.
I kept going and figured it would gradual heading down to the next tributary. I was wrong. It was steep steep again. Not as steep as before, but longer. I made it down and found a tent site in some trees on the other side of the tributary. I can see the road, but am in the trees, so I don’t think they can see me. I’m gonna try and dump tonight before I turn in, so I don’t have to get up late late again. Tomorrow back to the Road, I will try to see if I can camp another night at the campground at the end of the road (Wonder Lake) I will ask the bus driver and see what he says – I should check the schedule tonight to see when it comes. Good Night.
September 9, 2001 (13th)
This day was a seriously long day. I woke up very early, set the alarm for 6:37, and got my camp together. My tent fly was frozen when I woke up, and when I packed it into the plastic bag that I put it in to haul it out of the park. I cooked breakfast while the ground was still frozen. My stove thawed a little area around the stove off which created a little ring in the spot that it was. I rinsed out my little pot that I made oatmeal in, and by the time that I had packed up my BRFC, and was ready to go, the residual water left in the bottom of the little pot was frozen.
I walked back to camp, and packed it up. I tried to do it in a manner that would allow the things that needed to thaw off more time to thaw. It was kind of difficult. I ended up packing my tent and fly away when they were still wet with frozen condensation.
The last thing I did before I left was to try and squeeze out a visit to the office. I walked over to the pit I had dug the night before, and the ground around it was frozen, as well as my shovel was frozen into the ground. It had moss around it that was frozen to it. I successfully visited the office, and covered up the pit with the frozen earth that I had pulled out the night before. However, my shovel wouldn’t compact back up, so I had to wrap it back up in the straps on the side of my pack for the hike back to the road.
I figured that the time it would take me to get back to the road was three hours. I figured this because of a conversation with a hiker I had on the bus in. He said that the entire flat area next to the road was all marsh, and VERY difficult walking. Secondly, because I could barely see the road. When I saw busses driving by, they looked like little Tonka trucks floating by. Thirdly, because I still had terrible blisters on my feet, and walking, let alone hiking was difficult.
Looking at the bus schedule, I figured that I had until approximately, 9:45 / 10:00AM to get back to the road. The stop before the one that I thought I was closest to was at 9:20, and the stop that I was trying to get to was at 10:20AM. When we left a few days prior, the bus was at least a ½ hour behind schedule.
I had hoped to get out of camp around 7:00AM, and I ended up getting out by 8:00AM. It took me a little more than an hour an 15 minutes to pack up all my crap, and to get hiking. Because the day prior was pretty hot, I had changed in to the second set of dry clothes that I had. The other ones were frozen.
I humped it back to the road. I mean, every 5 to 10 minutes, I was checking my watch to see how far I had come since I last checked my watch. The first 20 minutes or so, I sent down the wash, and tried to get at least as far north as I could before I headed west, and tried to cut the angle to get me a little closer to the road. Hiking with out a trail, makes one much more aware of the terrain that you are on, and makes one much more aware of the geographic conditions that you are hiking around in. I constantly tried to keep a few steps ahead of my self, and look at the best route to take across the terrain I was passing, and still keep the general direction that I was going.
It was much more challenging than just hiking through the woods, because when the terrain was passable, it was usually frozen marsh land, that fell 4 – 6 inches, each time I took a step on it. It had risen up that much the night before with the expansion of the water within the boggy area. Frequently, I was walking through shrubs, and small trees to keep in the direction I was going. Each of the small yellow and red leaves that I touched was frozen, and left a little frost on my gaiters as I trugged along.
I was moving as rapidly as I could, in the few areas that were inclined; I used my force breathing technique, and tried to keep up the same pace that I was traveling. I tried not to think about the blisters on the back of my feet, and kind of walked through the pain. My focus was on the time I was making, and making it to the road, before the bus got there. I really didn’t think about my options if I missed the bus. I supposed that it would be to catch one of the other busses that just went back to the Visitor Center, and miss the opportunity to see Mt. McKinley from within the park.
During the walk, I passed at least three tributaries from the E. Fork of the T River, which I had written about before. It was funny how the land changed as it went from flat, to marsh, to wash, to creek, to marsh, to wash, etc. When I crossed the creeks, usually on either side, there were lanes I could walk on covered with rocks. I walked on those for a bit moving all the time North with the Tributaries, and West with the marsh, and between times.
I made surprisingly good time, and arrived at the base of the incline to the road at about 9:30. I was psyched, and exhausted, and in pain. My blisters were quite sore, and when I finally walked on the flat of the road, I realized that it was difficult passing, because of my blisters, and the soreness of my legs and achy muscles.
I got to the road, after two little inclines, at about 9:50AM, and I hadn’t seen or heard a bus go in the direction that I was interested in going for all the time that I was close to the road. I was super psyched. I said “F**K YEA!”, YOU ARE GODDAMN RIGHT!!!” I was super psyched that I made it in the time I did, especially in the conditions that I did. I actually think that passing through at the time I did, when things were still frozen, actually helped me a bit. The marsh was frozen instead of being marshy, and it was easier to walk on, even if I sunk down in, it was easier than mushing down in.
I got to the road, and drank some water. I had been taking water breaks all along the way, a gulp here, and a gulp there. I walked a bit down the road, and saw three other hikers on the side of the road. I said hello, and talked with them a bit. They were from Israel, and speaking Hebrew. Their names were Anita Schachter, Yuval Davidov, and Gil Cohen. Yuval and Anita were boyfriend / girlfriend. They were all very smart, and students of one kind or another. Anita was a medical student, Yuval was a graphic design guy, and Gil, I think was studying to be an Electrical Engineer.
I enjoyed talking with them. They knew obscure things that I also knew, and were impressed with many of the things that they said. I asked them what they thought of our new president. They said that they didn’t think anything of them. “Exactly, he is nothing” – said Yuval, jokingly. Anita said that they thought that the previous one was better for their interests. I asked “What is it like living over there?” Yuval said “There are bombings at least 2 days a week in Israel.” I go to school near there, I still go, I don’t avoid going out because of these things.” “We just come to America” Ha ha ha. I had tea with them too. It had caffeine, but it didn’t really feel like it was affecting me.
We talked about where I was, on the road, and when the bus was coming. We saw a couple go in the opposite direction, and one come in our direction while we were sitting there. Finally the bus came, and it was going towards the Lake Campground. I think it’s called Wonder Lake, but I’m not sure. Thankfully, there were four free spots on the bus that we were allowed to take. As we kept going, the driver picked up two other backpackers. He made a little announcement on the bus that the two other people he had picked up at such and such had to get off the bus.
I was confused by this, and wasn’t sure if this meant that only people who had reservations at the lake were allowed to go in this direction. So, I talked with him, the next time he stopped, and told him the scoop. He said you can go with me to the end, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The road is pretty terrible. I said, “I drove to Prudhoe Bay, I know about terrible.” – So, I ended up riding the bus the entire way. Yuval and Anita found a place for me in the campsite with another Israeli friend that they had met along the way, but I didn’t feel like camping out, because I was so beat from the previous days.
Riding the bus all day was fun, exhausting, and dusty. At the end of it I felt like I did on the Dalton Highway. A little like I didn’t want to be doing it anymore. I’m sure the driver felt the same way. He was a big birdwatcher, and he gave us all the information about all the birds we saw along the way. His favorite bird was the Raven, and he proceeded to tell us all the cool things that it can do. “It can go virtually anywhere, from the peak of Everest and Annapurna, to the base of the Mexico Dessert. They adapt extremely easily, they pick at the litter of humanity.” He also told us a story about a guy who had been working underneath his car, and got hit in the head, and gone unconscious. – It was very cold, and he was probably going to go into hypothermia. Nobody bothered him, because it looked like he was just working on his car. A raven came along, tore through the leg in his pants, and started eating his calf. This woke the guy up, and he was alive. He also told us a story about someone who had written a book on the Raven, and determined that the Raven’s favorite garbage was noodles.
He was strange, eccentric, and kind of slightly funny. He seemed very slow-witted, had crazy white hair like Albert Einstein, was kind of skinny, and blithe. He often said, “Please remind me of the place you want to get off, because, as you can see, I won’t remember.” He reminded me of the Absent Minded Professor type. I liked him, but not as much as I liked the other guy who dropped me off.
Mt. McKinley was majestic. I got wonderful weather to view it also. There were two peaks on the top, and they looked like they were maybe 50 yards between them. Our bus driver told us that they were a mile apart. A friggen mazing. The mountain was huge, imposing, incredible, and beautiful. It is so big, that it creates it’s own weather. There are little halos that are created around each of the peaks on the way back from wonder lake Neat looking. There are little halos that are created around each of the peaks on the way back from wonder lake Neat looking. A large grizzly bear walked right past the bus, as well as a fox, and we also saw a bear munching on blueberries on a field near Wonder Lake.
The bus ride was beautiful, but long. When we got back to the campsite, it was 7:45PM, and I was beat. I didn’t want to deal with any of the crap from my backpack, so I only dealt with what I had to, and set up my sleeping area, and drove south for 10 miles, pulled off, and slept.
To get here, I asked the people in the visitor center if there was a convenient place to sleep in the park that I could just sleep in. The longhaired hippy looking ranger said no. Even though I figured that there certainly was. There was, because I saw some others sleeping in their cars when I went around looking for showers the next day. I also spoke with two guys who had driven from Virginia on their senior class trip. They drove a long way, but really didn’t have any plans. They didn’t even know what states, or what part of the country Yellowstone was in. They wanted to go backpacking in Denali for 3 or 4 days, and they totally looked unprepared.
I came back the next day, and was bummed to find out that I couldn’t take a shower in the park, because the shower facilities had closed the day before. The night was very strange; it was tough to get back into the swing of things being in a car, and having different things to do. Most of the day was strange too. I felt like I was myself, although looking through a veil at the world.
I met a cute athletic woman from Anchorage who I talked with a little bit. She was nice, and had beautiful blue eyes. I asked her to wear my orange tinted glasses to see what they looked like when she had them on. Her name was Jen Cambell. She was a Marathon runner, and her best time is under 3 hours 30 minutes. She is no joke. Very much athletic. She works out all the time, and seemed very into it.
I sent her an e-mail this morning, asking if she wanted to get together.
I am going.
September 10, 2001 the end of Main Street in a place called Talkeetna, AK.
Today was a “turning human again” day. The last four I spent in Denali National Park. I wrote about three of those, and last night, I was too whipped to write before I went to bed. This morning, I woke up on a pulloff on the side of the road between Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks. The inside of my windows were fogged over with all of the condensation from my body heat, and breathing throughout the night. I was cold during the night, and when I woke, was anxious about the rest of the nights that I will have to spend in my car. Around this time on my last trip, I was considerably further south, maybe in Death Valley, heading towards Tucson.
Sleeping was fine; it was getting up, and starting the car that was a drag. I didn’t really want to get out from underneath the blanket, and my nose was cold from the air. Eventually I managed, since I was concerned about having to go to the bathroom, and that I should head back towards the park tout suit.
I did so, and went to the visitor center. I was still nasty from 4 days without a shower, hiking through the wilderness of Denali. My face had a coat of grit on it from the previous day’s bus ride through the park, the dust of which was reminiscent of my trip to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway. I had four days facial hair too boot, and a fresh bump on the head from knocking myself on my rear hatch last night. And of course, I had all the blisters, and aches and pains of hiking too boot. – I was in pretty rough shape.
At the visitor center, I visited the office, and then brushed my teeth. Then I looked for the showers that Jen had told me about on the bus ride. I found them on the map, but couldn’t really see where they were in real life, and thought they might be a secret or something. So I asked at the Information center; the woman said, “They are behind the grocery store, but they are closed”. – “When did they close?” I asked. She informed me that they had closed the previous day, and I responded “bummer”. – I decided to check them out anyway, to see if there was a way around it. – They were locked, and I assumed the people that worked at the grocery store had the only keys. – It was closed too. I looked at the people inside, who seemed to be doing inventory, and kind of made a lame gesture asking if the showers were closed. The only one that looked at me, kind of nodded ascension.
So, off to Anchorage I was. I decided to check out the grocery store up the road towards Healey first, to see if I could find some skim milk to have with my cereal. – None was to be found. Only 2%, and I will not drink. – I supposed I could cut it with water, but why not just get skim. – Because, “We don’t get much call for that here.” –Said the woman with the lazy eye working at the Tesaro Alaska Gas Station / Convince Store / Laundry Mat in Talkeetna. I am skipping around.
So, no skim in Healey, I drove down the road, and stopped at turnouts a couple times, to look at McKinley, I also stopped periodically along the way, and brought some more order to my vehicle / home. I shaved after I charged my razor, I recharged my batteries in my camera and camcorder, and I downloaded and viewed the pictures I took of Denali. – I actually didn’t take a lot, I think the times that I was feeling strongest emotionally, I wasn’t interested in capturing the moment on film / memory. – Those are the moments that I don’t necessarily feel creative. Like when it was a blizzard, and I was crossing a pass in the mountains without being able to see. I didn’t really feel like taking pictures at that time. I also moved stuff around in my car more, and put stuff where it should be. Order is quite important when you have limited space to work with. I also snacked, and read about Anchorage.
Anchorage seems like it will be a cool place for recreational activities, but not really for culture. – I am hoping that I like it, and find a job. If I don’t like it / can’t find work, I will be close to the end of my funds when I get back to Rochester. If I do either, I will be able to afford to take a couple more weeks to find a place, and vacation a little. Then probably pay a deposit, and buy a plane ticket back to sell my stuff / put the rest in storage. Or maybe I won’t. It has been a good summer regardless.
So, I drove down the road, feeling more normal along the way. I was kind of “On the phone”, as my new phrase is to mean “zoned out,” returning from the backcountry. Slowly I started to care about cleanliness and paying attention to needs in a different way. Not as essential for survival, but convenient. It’s definitely a different way of thinking about things. I think it was a good thing that I didn’t walk too much today, hopefully my blisters will heal a little bit.
I finally made it to the Talkeetna Spur road, and turned left. I hit the visitor center there, and talked with a nice hippie woman who was very enthusiastic about her profession. She pointed several cool places out to me, and noted them on the hand drawn map of downtown Talkeetna. The Ranger Station, The Historical Museum, the Native Gift Store, Bakery, etc. Also the Talkeetna Lodge, where she assured me that the locals were hanging out on the back porch of. (And it wouldn’t cost me a dime).
The drive from the main road to Talkeetna was about 20 minutes. The Lodge was extremely nice. It was more like a resort than a lodge. Each of the Log Cabins was very elegant and impressive. The place looked like it was less than a year old. Especially the main area lounge area. It had a large fireplace, and gigantic airy 50-foot ceilings with rafters. – The view of the Mountain was splendid, and I took several shots. I think most of this role of film is of McKinley. There was also a wall of fame of climbers who had climbed the mountain successfully, and had done something famous. That was nice too.
Then I left for downtown. About 30 seconds from town, the roads turned to dirt. All the roads in greater Talkeetna are of this kind. – It kind of adds a nice little flavor to things. – Maybe one or two of the roads are paved, I’m not sure. – The flavor is very much seasonal hippie village. Much of the talk around town is about the season ending, and people trying to figure out what they are going to do for work for the winter. Other questions are like “So Dennis, when do you think you’re closing up for the season?” asked one local of the part owner of the west Rib pub and grill. “Well, the busses stop coming about the 20th, so well wait until then, and see what happens.” I met Lynn in Prudhoe Bay when I was up there. She told me to stop by Talkeetna on my way down to Anchorage. Lynn is Dennis’ wife, and other of the part owner of the West Rib.
She is a hoot. She is in frazzles about her kitchen that she is putting in. 50% of the custom kitchen furniture that she ordered is incorrectly made. It took her a year to order it, and now she has to wait another four months or so to get what she has fixed. Major Bummer. I just kind of zoned out, and thought about how I could help her to get her furniture ordered quicker. Maybe I could call the Home Depot or something. –
So, I came into town and parked my car. I walked first to the Ranger Station, and got a little book about climbing Mt. McKinley. I also talked with the woman at the desk, who also happened to be on the Camper Bus in Denali the day before about things to do in Denali, and climbing the Mountain, and such. She was nice, reminded me of a quite tall Maura McCauley. She seemed very intelligent, and well read to be working as a receptionist at a Ranger Station. Maybe she likes it very much. I asked, “Have you ever attempted to climb Mt. McKinley?” “No”, she responded quickly and solemnly. “Do you have any desire to?” – The same answer. She was nice, friendly, and cordial.
Then I walked to a gift shop that was circled on my map. Probably one of the Taiwanese Gift places. I wasn’t interested in anything in it. Then further down the road, I came to side road for the Historical Museum. I walked down it past the west rib, and to the UltraLight Flying Lessons staging area. – Some folks were doing that, and apparently enjoying themselves very much. It looked like a lot of fun. Turning right, I headed to the Historical Museum. I walked in, and about 45 seconds later, an old guy with long blonde pony tailed hair, and two earrings in each ear, walked up, and said “Do you want to do the Museum?” – “Yup”, I responded. He gave me the lowdown on the various exhibits. My favorite two things were “Talkeetna Codgers” a board full of all the people that made the town great. From the 40’s and beyond. It was a bunch of photos of people who had lived in town, and done different things. Most were trappers, hunters, or miners. Some had moved away, others had died in the town. I read each of the 30 or so of them. – Fascinating.
The other very cool thing was the 12 x 12 foot diagrama of Mt. McKinley. They showed the various peaks, the 14,000 foot ranger station. The different routes up the Mountain, etc. It was really cool. It was done from some topographical pictures that some guy had taken back in the 50’s. He and his wife had been the first couple to summit the Mountain, and she had been the first woman. She was hot back then. The old black and white of her is a great shot.
Then I went back, and talked with Mad Dog for a little bit. – He was living in Ohio, and had apparently come up here to visit. While he was here, he met a Real Estate Agent, who after becoming friendly with assured him “I am going to find you your dream home.” A year or so later, a woman who had been living with her husband in a cabin a good 10 miles from town, and a mile hike from the road. Put her cabin and the land up for sale. The asking price was 120,000. Her husband had died, and she couldn’t handle the winters alone. Mad Dog said, “After doing some research on prices of places in the area, we low balled them, and bid 60,000 dollars.” “To our amazement, they took it.” “We had never seen the place, but we figured for 60,000 who cares. He sold all his worldly possessions, and ended up with two bags full of stuff that they moved into the cabin with. He has been here a year since. Now he has his own radio station on the local NPR affiliate, 88.5FM, and he played Steely Dan / Doors stuff tonight. “Stuff that I like” he said. He was a cool guy. His place has a generator for the winter, but he rarely uses electricity, He gets his goods once a month, and packs in what he needs.
In order to get water, he and his wife row their boat across their lake, to a Natural Spring that comes out of the mountain. He said “I try to live in the now, not think about what’s happening tomorrow, and let what happened yesterday pass, and just think about “I’m getting water”.” – It was really neat the way he said it. “Time seems to go on forever when one does that.” – Cool, very cool.
After the Museum, I headed over to the Hostel to check it out. It was also a kennel. It was 23 dollars a night, and no free laundry included. Nor Internet access. I looked around and chatted with the owner, but decided later that I would sleep in my vehicle again. – Hopefully it won’t be as cold tonight. And if it is, it’s certainly not going to be 23 dollars cold. Plus there were only 4 people staying at the Hostel, and there were a bunch of pups that were making noise. Ehh. – It was kind of neat looking though.
I came back into town, and looked at the Native Gifts place. They had some cool woodworking things. Then went to the one bar / museum. Then headed to the West Rib. I talked briefly with the bartender about where Lynn was. – She said she was home. – She kind of gave me the diss. Anyway, I think it was a long day for her, and she just wanted to get going. Later Dennis, Lynn’s husband came in, and I introduced myself. He said she had mentioned me, and I was surprised and glad about it. He said, “She’s just next door getting packed up.” “Is it cool if I go say hi to her.” – “Sure” he responded.
So, I went over and chatted with Lynn a bit. She was remodeling her kitchen, and certainly buffed led. As I said before, it was a custom kitchen, and she paid 7000 dollars for it. They had messed part of it up, and she was quite upset. I didn’t get the full gravity of how upset she was, until later, when I kind of saw her eyes water a little. I guess that didn’t hit me until now. I probably should have been more empathetic with her about it. But I had to go do laundry.
This was later that I talked with her and the Doc. He carried a piece around town. In the west Rib, you had to check your firearms with the barkeep. That was funny. I saw it behind the bar, and thought it was there in case there were any rough housers. I had a burger and fries. – I had a craving, but after I got it, I didn’t feel so good about it. Kind of greasy and not so good. I think I could go vegetarian. Or at least cut out red meat. Chicken get’s great mileage with me. Tough part is going out though. Not so many options in many places. As David Ward put it “Consuming Dead Sentient Being is not my cup of tea.”
The Broncos were playing the Giants on Monday night. It was tough for me to root, because NY, and Denver were playing. I rooted for Denver though, just because they are my team. Ed McAffery had a compound fracture on his leg, and is out for the season. – I feel really bad, because he is one of my favorite players. I think breaking a leg might be better than killing your knee though. Maybe easier to come back from. I don’t know man, a compound fracture at age 32, that may be more than a season ending injury, more like a career ending injury. I didn’t see it. I was doing Laundry. It’s funny. Right before I left to do laundry, I thought, man wouldn’t it suck if he got injured. He is probably my favorite player on the Broncos. Since Terrell Davis was injured, he has really stepped up. This year Terrell is back, and maybe they have a chance. Not so much any more.
The doc came into the West Rib, and was chatting with Dennis. He was talking about slaughtering Caribou and Moose. He said he went hunting before, got in at 8:30, and at 10:30 had three caribou, and a Moose. And then I met Abe and Terry. These two guys just came up, and knocked on my window, and asked me to go party with them. – I would, but I don’t feel like drinking. They were pretty loaded I could tell. They smelled of cigarettes and beer. – I’ll pass thanks. – Terry said “Did you follow the yellow brick road to get here?” – Just keep going, and you’ll get to where we are.”
They were down by the three-river junction partying.
So, abridged rest of town. I went over to talk with Lynn, and helped her and the Doc move a cabinet. Then I went over to throw a load of laundry in while it was ½ time. I came back after a while. All my clothes fit in one load of wash. I was stoked. I dried my Alaska brewing company shirt too long, and it shrank. Stupid Cotton. They need to add a “Shrink Factor” number to clothing.
Then, came down to this kind of cool sandy rocky area and watched the sunset on Mt McKinley. It was beautiful. It seems like the place the Locals hang out. – I don’t want to be a local tonight. I want to sleep. Talked with the lady in the Tesaro quite a bit. She was very helpful.
Cool Cool Cool town. I definitely recommend it to anyone coming to Alaska.
September 11, 2001 International Hostel of Anchorage, Anchorage, AK.
Today was horrible. As you all know by now, the United States was attacked by an as yet unnamed terrorist act that hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in our Nations Capitol, and a small town 80 miles South of Pittsburgh PA. Four commercial airplanes were hijacked, and all crashed. One into each of the Twin Towers, one into the Pentagon, and the fourth seemed to crash short of its target crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania.
I started the day waking up in my car. The inside of my windows were covered with condensation as usual. I woke up to hear Abraham or Terry, I’m not sure which one, walking around drunk at 8:00AM, singing and saying wake up, it’s light out. I’m sure he didn’t know what had happened at the time he was stumbling around.
I then decided that if the convenience store on Main Street had skim milk, I would purchase it, have cereal, and that would be my breakfast. If not, then I would get breakfast at the Road House. They had skim milk, but I decided to get breakfast at the Road House anyway. I am not sure why. I walked in, and sat down. The waitress asked me if I wanted coffee. I told her no. I then heard on the local NPR affiliate, Noah Adams say something to the affect of “These unprecedented turn of events”, then they went to commercial. It seemed like it was a pretty big deal, so I asked the folks next to me what had happened.
They said “Two planes flew into the World Trade Center, and into the Pentagon.” – I said “Are you kidding me”, “no, really it happened at 8:45 Eastern”, “You’ve got to be shitting me”. I also remember saying “Get the F**k out of here”. I think I was in disbelief at the time. I made a comment about this boosting the economy, and they said something about “Yea, it could have all been a ploy”, then I made a joke about Allan Greenspan being behind it all. I don’t think I would have made the joke if I knew the full magnitude of the attacks.
I walked to my car to get my cell phone, and called all the people that I loved. – I spent most of the day getting in touch with friends and family, and kind of checking in. Then I went to the West Rib, and started watching the footage. I couldn’t believe it. I watched the horrifying coverage just kind of in amazement, awe, and without words. They showed the second plane hitting the tower. It flew right straight, then banked sharply, then seemed to disappear right into the side of the tower. Then a huge fireball shot out the other side of the building. I kind of watched all I could take, and then asked the bartender, who was cleaning up things for lunch I suppose, where I could get one of the bumper stickers that I saw on the buildings I saw in town.
She told me that the outdoor center had them. I went over there, and made some more phone calls. The building was closed. I called my father who was also in shock. He had been sitting in front of the TV all day, but was uninformed about some of the events surrounding the attacks. He had been watching fox. I told him to tune into CNN. Finally the storeowner showed up, and I asked her if she was open. She had been crying, because her eyes were bright red, and nose was runny. I asked her if she had a cold. She said, “No, have you heard what happened?” Yea, I had. I told her so.
Then I bought the sticker, and kind of made my way around the store. She said she wasn’t really open, but it was ok that I looked around. Things were 25% off for the end of the season. I bought some slings, and rope and stuff. Plus a figure 8, which is good for rappelling. And a top for my MSR container which I had lost camping. I told her later, that when I am not feeling like myself, I like to buy things. It kind of makes me feel connected, and that I am still in control. Even though in most cases I am really not.
I left the store, after my receipt wouldn’t print, I didn’t really care, and I wasn’t going to return anything. And continued my trend of buying stuff. I went to a gift shop, and bought a no Puffin sticker, then to another, and bought some little Alaskan wood thingy’s. Tops, scoops, and such.
Then I left Talkeetna, and headed to Anchorage. I started to feel disconnected again on the way. Something like I really didn’t understand. I was glad that I wasn’t on the more northern section of the highway, and that I at least had Radio Stations to listen to. I at least felt slightly connected by listening to NPR. Then when I got to Wasilla, I remembered that I needed to purchase gasoline. I got some, and then heard that the hijackings occurred at knifepoint. – This made me think that if I would have been on the planes, that I would have been able to stop them by kicking the knife out of their hands or something. Then this made me very angry. Thus spawned the Anger portion of the emotions that I felt about the event.
This soon subsided, and I started feeling what I am feeling now, and have felt since then. Kind of an emptiness, depression, and realization of what happened. The things that sparked the worse reactions are when I heard an interview with a Janitor describe holding on to a friend of his, and his skin falling off. Then when I saw the picture of someone falling out of one of the World Trade center on CNN. I really didn’t like those feelings at all.
I was a little impressed by the Speech by the president that I watched at the Iditarod Race Headquarters. He actually seemed articulate, and only screwed up once. As Sarah said, he had all day to practice. She was right. I kind of forced myself to check out the Idatirod HQ, and when a woman asked if I wanted my picture taken next to the sign, I sort of didn’t know how to react. I assented, and got the picture taken. I felt weird about it though.
When I got into Anchorage, I called Heather who had contacted Brian Walters and James Conlon, both who lived in NYC, and who were both all right. Then a Metro cop sort of guy came up, and started talking with me, while I was in my car. I was parked, he saw my license plate, and asked how I was. I really appreciated it. It makes me feel good now thinking about it. I called my voice mail, and my mom left me a message. She was crying, and said, “I have been thanking god all day long that you didn’t get a job in New York City, and that you are now in Alaska. I love you, and will talk with you soon.” It made me sad to hear it, almost like I wanted to avoid talking with her, because it would make me cry in a sad way.
Then I found my way to the Hostel, and got a room for the night. I saw the two people from Israel that I had hung out with in Denali. The one guy was watching the footage, and almost started to cry when I approached him. I heard from some other footage earlier that one of the visitors from Israel or Palestine said “It makes him sad to see this in the United States”. I am used to this in my own country, but not in the United States. I watched the TV a bit, and saw the picture of the person falling out of one of the twin towers, and was not happy about that. Then I watched for a little while longer, and then had Ramen noodles.
Then I felt like going to a place that there might be people talking about it. I was wrong about that. I went to “Darwin’s Theory”. It was a bar, and all locals. Not too many people were watching the TV, and none of them could hear it over the loud music. I think that was probably on purpose. Not to think about it, and kind of forget what had happened.
I called Katie Hickey, and Devora, and Lee, and tried a call to Tom, and called Joe, and Doug, and Sarah, and tried to get Allison, and Pete.
I think the most horrible thing of course is the devastating loss of life. Then the second most worrisome thing is what is going to happen next. Especially with the “not – so – smart” president of ours in the White House. And people coming on TV, and saying that we have needed something like this to make us step up security at our nations airports. – Ridiculous. Paranoid idiots seeming to suggest that we should go to war now.
Anger is bad. Bad, Bad, Bad. What is it going to cause? More bloodshed, and more anger. Just like Yoda said. I am going to bed.