Saturday, July 19, 2014

Life in Alaska, Part III

Now then, Pooh," said Christopher Robin, "where's your boat?"
"I ought to say," explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, "that it isn't just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it's a Boat, and sometimes it's more of an Accident. It all depends."
"Depends on what?"
"On whether I'm on the top of it or underneath it.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Creamer's Field, Fairbanks, Alaska

And then, it was time to go to the other little cabin in the woods, the one my friend actually lives in.  It's not just about the drive, though.  You drive....and then you park.  And then you get onto the boat, and drive it down the river a little ways.  Get out (into a horde of mosquitos), unpack anything you've brought on board without dropping it into the river, slipping in the mud, or falling in the river yourself, and then you're there.  Don't get me wrong, it's totally worth it.   Completely off the beaten path, hard to get to, no one around to bother you.  Awesome.   And almost completely off the grid.  No running water.  Solar powered electricity, with back up generator for emergencies.  Wood stove for heat/cooking.  An actual, honest-to-goodness outhouse.  And, whenever you take the boat back and forth, you cross right in the water trails of the beavers that live there, and it's rare to not see one or two while traversing across.  But, I felt like Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal" trying to get from the truck to the boat with my wheelie suitcase, in the dirt, swatting mosquitos.  Now, my friend swore it was hot.  Thought she was dying.  It was 70 degrees.  We had very different ideas on heat (remember it was 102 when I left Texas the day before).

We spent the afternoon getting settled into the little cabin in the woods: unpacking, cooking food, killing mosquitos.....and then we needed to get better directions to Denali for our trip the next day.  So, we called a friend.  "Well, you know....."  and down the bunny trail we went.  We got back on the right track, and then "What bus are you guys on?" and there goes the bunny trail again.  Half an hour later, and we were finally getting the directions we needed.   "You go about 11 miles past Healy.  But, those 11 miles are construction, so you might only do 60mph, so that'll take you about 22 min."......Um......there's something wrong with that math there, but oooooookay.  We did finally get a good time estimate though, so we could plan on what time to wake up.    By the time we got settled down to sleep it was around midnight and we had a wake up time of 3am.  On our way out to the truck by boat, we passed a bald eagle on top of a large limb in the water, which made for a nice, first thing in the morning picture.  I was very grateful that my friend was awake enough to drive to the park, and I slept most of the way.  The ride through Denali was amazing, except that we were not able to sit together on the way out (5 hour one way), but were able to talk at the several stops we made.  And when we weren't stopping and getting out, we made several pull over stops for wildlife viewing/photography.  And what wildlife there was.  LOTS of caribou, which I had never seen before in the wild.  Several adults in groups of 2-3, and then, we ran into the "nursery herd", which was a whole group of cows (female caribou) and their calves.  There were probably 50+ animals altogether.  A little later, we ran into several caribou up on the ridge of one of the mountains, but our guide decided we had seen enough caribou, and she did not stop for pictures there.  We also so 4-5 grizzly bears, which were all a beautiful golden color this time of year.  We only saw one moose, but it was a great sighting.  We were traveling over a bridge, when someone directed our attention to the water on the side we weren't looking at (most of the animals were on one side of the bus), and there was a mother and young moose in the water, side by side, looking straight at us.  Amazing.  By the time we got our cameras up, they were running out of the water, but I got a couple of shots of the young moose running up and out of the water.

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