Jamming it all into a weekend


A sad realization of this blogging life and one of the more frustrating things to keep it going is the way life doesn’t smooth out experiences like a nice pat of butter on a hot slice of toast.  It’s more like a frozen pat of butter on cold toast as it clumps, tears, and breaks in pieces.  Most the time, when I realize I need to update all you Bear Feeders of life in Alaska, I basically have nothing more to talk about than the weather or a dog.  Then blammo, a weekend like this past one happens, when there is so much about Alaska to share but — for one, I am too busy experiencing it to stop, pull out a lap top, and make jokes about my dog — and for two, its a long way between places up here, and its not safe to blog & drive.

So let me at least try to summarize the weekend here, and leave the door open to retelling portions of the story where it really needs to be expanded upon.

For starters – if you haven’t it’s good to take a look at a couple posts from last week – because this is basically a continuation of “Into the Great Undecided” and will tie back to “Where There’s Smoke (or Not Funny Ha Ha)”.  Also, the first installment for the weekend came out yesterday with “McCarthy, AK – Something Special”.  It’s also important to know that a week ago I came down with a cold – and as much as I hoped, I still carried a rough cough and sore throat through the weekend.  My co-camper, Laura Sherman, would be heading off for a weekend of camping with our dogs – namely me and Auggie, and her with Farley & Puck.

The plan, as it was FINALLY decided the Thursday night, and they re-re-decided Friday morning, was that we would head out to Valdez, find a campsite, then spend the weekend there doing … well … we’d figure that out when we get there.  Both of us had to be back Monday night, had our tents, had packed enough for cold & wet weather, and had what we needed for campouts and cook outs.

Our arrival in Valdez was fairly late.  It’s 300 miles and 6 hours to Valdez from Anchorage, and that makes a late night when you work all day like I did.  The campsite we found (actually it was an RV lot that we ‘accidentally put tents up in’) was on the small boat harbor near downtown Valdez.  Coming in late, meant we basically put the dogs in the car and went downtown for dinner.  Which became drinks.  Which became – falling upon the bar laws of Valdez which only required bars to be closed from 5AM to 8AM — and strangely enough, allowed smoking.  As it turned out, we did a similar plan on Saturday night – though cut the night early due to some run-ins that if I detailed here, you all wouldn’t believe me when I say how angelic and peaceful of a person I really am (did you hear that, kids?  that was sarcasm)

As pretty as Valdez is, as fun the night life is, it took us only a day to exhaust the activities in the seaside town that didn’t include a fishing boat (which was considered, just not something we we did).  The city is quite peaceful.  As much as I enjoyed the museums and people we met – probably the nicest times was when we just sat out on a gravel stream delta or a grassy knoll by the sound and watched the mountains fight the clouds.  Peace was easy to find in this place, and was easy to appreciate.

That being said … we got itch.

Saturday we made a run for McCarthy.  It wasn’t a short run either.  The road to McCarthy began 80 miles outside of Valdez, then we had another 80 miles to go.  We had to get gas at one of those gas stations right out of time.  The pump was one of those that had spinning dials that you had to guess the number when you told the attendant (yes, you had to tell them).  Thirty miles off the main road at Chitna, AK started “the road to McCarthy”, a 50 mile dirt road, mostly one lane, and included wood floored bridges – including one that was nearly 300feet above the valley below.  We camped next to a glacier feed river right across a foot bridge to McCarthy, and it took all of 10 minutes for me to realize … with only an overnight here, we were doing this wrong, and I needed to come back and do it right.  This place deserved a long camp-out and a long time to explore all that there was.  We were deep into the Wrangle Mountains, and if I wanted to experience Alaska, this is how I could do it.

Time wasn’t our only enemy in McCarthy, so was smoke.  By Saturday, the Funny River Fire down near Soldotna, AK had grown to 120,000 acres and the smoke was creating a hazing making it near impossible to see any of the mountains around McCarthy.  Okay … before you think that is bad, try this on for size … that smoke had traveled somewhere between 300 and 400 miles to be there with us.  We literally came this way to ensure a smoke free vacation, and this was, well, not.  Still the McCarthy people were saying this was the biggest weekend they ever had – simply because so many people were up from Anchorage dodging the smoke, and it seems we brought it with us.

The long drive home was hampered when little Puck grew gravely ill, and our co-campers stopped for immediate vet attention in Copper Central.  Word is the little guy is on the mend, but the last stretch home seemed a little less climactic when we were down half the crew.

So, now the recovery begins.  Auggie & I rolled home at about 9PM.  Tonight’s plan is to clean out the car of all the hastily loaded tents, sleeping bags, smelly clothing, and spilled dog food.  It’s raining today in Anchorage, and is expected to rain through the week – giving us all hope the fires in the Kenai will be put out and the summer can continue.

What I did learn this weekend was:

1) I need to go back to McCarthy

2) Valdez is beautiful, but a bit boring for a 3 day weekend if you don’t go on a boat

3) I can pull off this camping thing, I had a cough and didn’t die in my tent

4) Always come to a complete stop at a stop sign

5) Auggie’s too soft around the edges.  The dude did just fine, if he shut up a little.

6) PBR is now a hip, sophisticated beer



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