We made frequent stops to admire the awesome mountain vistas, taking plenty of photos and allowing Tucker a chance to run. Spying a small creek a bit off the highway, we finally got the chance to take our Oru Kayak. Unfortunately, the road was in bad condition, and we ended up with waterlogged shoes after attempting to wade through a swamp mash. Unused kayak and filthy dog were loaded back into the car, we drove on.
We made a pit stop at a gas station in Tok, resulting in a scene as odd as the name of the town itself. Four young adults, clad in hoodies and sweatpants, crouching gargoyle-like on the curb, cradling cups of soup. We looked ridiculous and we knew it; laughter turned to tears and back again. We miss our homes and Netflix and a million little luxuries. We did manage to pull ourselves together that night, gathering wood to make pasta over the campfire. Flames crackling, the spice of woodsmoke, and a "summer glow" over the frozen river gave us hope for the rest of Alaska. We woke up the next morning warm and content.
A day spent driving from the border of Alaska/Canada into the heart of the valley. Nestled between Palmer and a pullout of the Glenn Highway lies Jim's Creek. A small dirt road is hard to miss among the curving pavement of the highway above. Once you are down to the creek side, there are about 3 campsites that you are more than welcome to take a choosing to. Water flowing, the sand beneath your boots and the soft sunset that loomed in sky made for a hell of an entrance into our beloved Alaska bush. We set up camp just in time to eat with the sun falling and the smell of smoke filled our noses. Tucker ran around the creek and was oh so tempted to jump into the river for a nice fish for his own dinner. Surprisingly, the temperature deemed suitable to enjoy a fire and playing in the inky black of the sky. We stayed outside for most of the night until we buried ourselves into the warm sleeping bags. As much as the night seemed like a fantasy, the reality was waking up to a cold, dead battery in the car. Of course we were a solid 14 miles away from civilization so walking was out of the picture. We flagged down the camper that had set up a bit away. We pulled him out of his slumber to beg for jumper cables and some sage advice. Not only was he helpful in getting our car back in working order, he was extremely awesome! It's always nice having a break while on the road. You can kick back, watch a fire for hours, and drink a couple beers… but, you must be proactive and make sure all the lights are turned off in the car!
Glen’s digital watch face glowed midnight. Knowing the solar wind is most active between 1-3am, we trudged off the couch, laced up our boots, and threw our coats on. We made our way carefully down towards the river, grabbing a few pieces of wood along the way for warmth once we set up. It's officially my 20th birthday, and I open this second decade of my life in the starlight, on the banks of a frozen river, staring intently at the endless sky.
And then it happened. Slowly, a streak of what looked like a cloud appeared. Curious, Glen adjusted the long exposure on the camera. Then we saw it. A gloriously green blur forming right above us out of the clear sky. Staring up with mouths open and eyes wide, all the trials and exhaustion of our journey melted away and we were overcome with sheer awe. Ribbons of green and purple exploded overhead, the aurora borealis performing its celestial dance. We were mesmerized, consumed with raw emotion at the unspeakable magic of this natural beauty. We stood there for over an hour, tear filled eyes fixed on the heavens, faces bathed in the gentle glow. I start my twenties with a baptism of starlight.
Girdwood is a little gem that we encountered in Alaska. We hit up the gas station and a coffee shop called Alpine Bakery so often that the barista started to recognize us. The bakery had day old "vintage" donuts that came in packs of four and were only $2 and taste just as good fresh ones especially after camping. We recommend pairing them with a nice hot chai and cozying up in the parking lot to use their wifi while you eat.
As we got deeper into Girdwood, we passed through a quaint neighborhood with lots of fancy houses and dog walkers and daydreamed about being able to live in such a nice town with such nice houses. Virgin Creek was nestled in these neighborhoods and we had to venture up some hills to get to it. We wondered how the tiny cars we saw in people's driveways were able to travel on such a steep dirt road. When we arrived we were greeted by a random dog that followed us along on our hike and played with Tucker.
The hike to the falls was short, but definitely not sweet. The trail was pure ice and since we were carrying all of our expensive gear we had to tread carefully. Seeing the falls was worth the shady trek though because the raging water was surrounded by soft moss, clear ice, and light snow. The sun was shining through the trees, which made the greenery look spectacular. Alana scaled some rock to get right up next to the falls and Tucker followed suit. He was so amped up that he almost fell into the creek a few times.
After taking some pictures and enjoying the views, we headed back to the car. Along the way we tripped a couple times with our cameras in hand. Luckily nothing happened to any of the gear, but our clothes got ruined and we had to do a quick change in the middle of a neighborhood. Although it felt good to exchange our damp and dirty clothes for fresh ones, it was a very vulnerable experience being naked in broad daylight with lots of people walking about.
We got in the car after changing and drove around for a while to find a campsite. We were bummed out because it started to rain, but we were able to find a pull out off of a dirt road that was surrounded by trees and opened up into a little alcove that gave us some space to set up and stay dry. This ended up being one of our favorite pullouts because everything worked out perfectly. We were able to start a fire, ate a nice hot meal for dinner, and got to watch cars bottom as they sped through the pothole filled road. It was the type of night where you feel so content with the present moment that its the only thing you think about. We weren't worried about taking pictures, the cold night ahead, or anything else because being surrounded by good friends and huddling around a warm fire in the rain was pure bliss. Shoutout to Girdwood, Alaska for giving us the opportunity to experience these simple joys.
Hatcher Pass Lodge
April 20, 2018! Alana's 20th birthday. Aka Alana's golden birthday so it has to be celebrated accordingly! The night before we saw the northern lights so it definitely was hard to beat that! We booked a quaint lodge in hatchers pass outside of Palmer, Alaska. It boasted multiple small red cabins and booking the site through phone months prior made us even more excited. We pulled up into a blizzard. You could barely see the red structures peeking out from the snow and post-holed from the car to the main lodge. The lodge was an instant relief as a hot wood stove took the icy sting from our clothes. We were the only guests for the evening so we got our pick between 10 throughout the property. We settled on a cabin with a large loft and pullout couch for the nights shenanigans. We were loaded with a local brew and a stack of cards for hunkering down to beat the white out. We hauled a big ol salmon earlier in the day so we not only had a beautiful dark stout to accompany our meal, we had salmon, arugula and fresh strawberries for desert. The contrast between the stark white and the brilliant reds as the cabins were the only "lighthouse" for backcountry skiers and other snow sport enthusiasts to get back to home base. Hatcher Pass Lodge is known for the amazing summer views but seeing this destination in the winter only made things more special. The forecasted another 4 for the activity of the solar wind but sadly the clouds hovered above us the whole night so no northern lights that go around. We stayed up all night listening to calm tunes, playing cards and our isolated night at the summit of Hatcher Pass.
We call it the heart of Alaska. Full of spirit, joyful fisherman and midnight sun lifestyle to fuel your regular schedule for the rest of the year. Seward holds one of our favorite places in the world. Kayakers cove is a hostel based 12 miles off the coast of Seward. Although the season was too cold for us to venture out to the cove, we spent the couple days of paradise exploring the bustling town. Lowell point is the base takeoff to take the sea taxi out to kayakers cove. We had been to the point from last year and wanted to take a deeper look at what Lowell Point holds so special. We spent the rest of the day folding our Oru Kayak and paddling against the rough current. Beautiful gems developed between the stark contrast of the water and containing the bright pink and yellow rain jackets dawned on our cold backs. The rain started pounding on us shortly after the kayak adventure. Desperate for a warm bed and the ability to charge our camera equipment, we booked a hotel for the night. As we are sure we have mentioned before, Alaska is in pre season. Meaning nothing is open except the dotted grocery stores, bars and the occasional coffee shop. The hotel was pretty much vacant as we arrived and began to unpack our belongings. The funny part of this whole trip was the fact we were completely unprepared for the weather. We brought our swimsuit expecting mid 70s for the trip. Instead we encountered an assortment of rain, snow and hail. This hotel was the first night of the trip that we were able to utilize the “spa” and have a night out full of swimming and the hot tub.
Coming down the Stewart Cassiar highway, we noticed that an one hour detour not only led us back into a small town in Alaska, an unknown gem to all travelers. This landlocked city has a population of 87 from the last 2010 census and the nearest surrounding Alaskan town is miles away through bush plane or ferry. Another fun fact is that the state of Washington is closer in miles than to Anchorage, Alaska. It's interesting due to the nonexistent US border going back into the states. We were intrigued but went on with our night. Hyder, Alaska is similar to Seward as it boasts high peaks surrounding by a bay that stretches for miles. We scored on a view that delivered both and also saw some sea lions and otters swimming about. We decided to find camp instead of kayak that night considering we'd be back in the morning. We found a pullout a few blocks away and hit the sack. The next morning we woke up bright and early to kayak on the bay we were at the night prior. But coming from the Midwest, we forgot that a bay would be tidal and we were surprised by arriving back to the same spot with low tide and obviously just mud to kayak on. Oh well, we will find a fun place in Canada and move on with our day. You know how we said there was no US border, well there was a dinky little border for Canada entering back in to Stewart, BC. Not considering that we were up so early and the town on both sides are so small, the border was not open when we arrived. Instead, we had to get on a hand line perched outside to talk to the Canadian Mounties about who we are, where we are going and are motives for going back into Canada. For anyone who has drove between a foreign border, knows that it is difficult even presenting yourself in front of an officer. The lady we spoke to on the phone did not buy our story of why we popped into Hyder, Alaska and stated that we had to wait for a present officer to talk to. After about 20 minutes still at the border, a middle aged man comes biking through the border, gives us a wave and goes inside the border building to change for the day. He comes back out to fill him in on the situation. He was also suspicious of our activity and decided it would be a good day to search our vehicle. Noted we wanted to kayak a few minutes earlier, we are all wearing shorts and tee shirts while we were ordered to stand in the 30 degree weather while they took they sweet time shifting through our jackets, dog toys and our sponsored gear. As nothing prevailed, they said sorry in the most Canadian way and waved us though excited to see how the rest of our trip pans out. What a way to start off a morning. The quickly rose from 30s to 75 degrees and we were determined to find a lake to kayak. This was the first day we have had weather above 60 degrees and Boy was it heavenly. We scored on a random lake in the middle of British Columbia and decided to have a "quick" layover. 4 hours later, we kayaked, bathed and re organized the truck for to rejuvenate our cold bodies. Arthur enjoyed the cold water and stood in the lake lathering the soap between his hair. He walked out of the lake and we all noticed a black spot on his leg. Upon further evaluation we realized a leech and spent the few moments screeching in laughter and poking fun at the situation. Arthur's screams only fueled our laughter and gave us the much needed comic relief of the day. Although the day did not start off strong, it will be the most remembered and cherished moments from the trip. The warmth, the laughter, and memories that ensued will always bring a smile to all of our faces. We are thankful for days like this. We are thankful for our friends and the moments that you sometimes take for granted.