Whenever Iden tells someone he’s from Alaska it’s pretty much a guarantee to hear one of these 3 things:
- “I went to Alaska on a cruise once… I haven’t been back yet, but it was beautiful…”
- “Oh I watch all those shows on Alaska.. it’s a crazy place…”
- “My uncle’s best friend’s sister’s mother-in-law’s boyfriend’s son lives there… do you know him?”
Yes. It’s a gorgeous state. Yes. There are tons of shows on it. But Anchorage, AK is also a pretty typical city aside from being isolated from the contiguous states.
Anyway, we had the pleasure of revisiting Anchorage these last couple weeks. Last summer – being my fist time in Alaska – we did a lot. Not that we didn’t this summer, but it was definitely more laid back this time around. It’s instances like these when I wish I began my blog two years ago…
Speak Easies and Tough Hikes
The first night in Anchorage we met up with a couple friends downtown and went to – I kid you not – almost 10 bars. One of them was a speak easy that only served pre-prohibition drinks and really stuck to the theme with their outfits, dim lighting and of course a necessary password to get in. But my all-time favorite place we went that night was The Bubbly Mermaid where they serve fresh oysters and champagne – mmm! Killer combination not to mention some of the freshest oysters I’ve ever had!
The next day I didn’t feel so great (10 bars will do that to you) but I muscled up the energy – yikes, maybe a little too literally – and went on a slightly advanced hike with Iden’s mom, brother and his girlfriend. Flattop Mountain is a really scenic hike but the last 15ish minutes it’s practically a straight incline. Not really sure how I made it to the top in the condition I was in but it was accomplished!
The next day we went on another walk/hike to Byron’s Glacier with our friends Justin and Anna. This is definitely a tamer “hike” compared to Flattop, but still really scenic. As you can see from the picture below, the weather doesn’t look so hot – see what I did there? Honestly this is how it was the majority of the time we were in Anchorage but it was certainly nice to take a break from the heat and humidity from San Antonio!
Canoe Trip on the Little Susitna River
I would tell you the Fourth of July was the big event of our trip but then I would be telling you a monumental lie. Our 3 day, 2 night camping canoe trip definitely tops the trip by a log shot, even if it didn’t go exactly as planned…
Expectation: A mild river with subtle currents, zero blockages, a balanced canoe and ideal weather conditions.
Reality: Fast currents, log jams, an overloaded canoe that was ready to tip at any given moment, and rain.
Aside from almost immediately tipping the entire canoe over and breaking one of the paddles in half through the rapids, within 10 minutes we ran into a log jam that eliminated access through the river. We then had to portage all of our stuff for about half an hour in mosquito infested woods until we were ready to get going again.
About 5 minutes later, we ran into another log jam. We then beached our canoe and Austen went to investigate the situation. 15 minutes later he came back and told us that there were 3 MORE log jams after the one we were already stuck on. He also then realized that the waterproof pouch that he was wearing around his neck with three iPhones in it was GONE. Oh. Shit.
(I refuse to bring my phone anywhere that involves nature for various reasons so mine was the only one left in the car – phew!)
So you could say our spirit was at an all time low. Not only did we have to portage almost a mile with an overpacked canoe that had extremely heavy stuff in it, but we were now mapless and without any means of contact to the outside world. So. Fucking. Screwed.
I put myself in their shoes and acted like my phone was also missing and yes I was bummed, but I also didn’t want it to ruin the entire trip – which is exactly what I told them. So while we weren’t as optimistic as when we first got to the river, we pushed ourselves to continue, got through the other log jams and finally made it to tolerable waters.
Over halfway through the first day, we realized that we put in to the water too early. We had canoed passed the original spot we were supposed to get in at about 3:00pm… so there’s that.
After an exhausting day, we found a campsite and called it quits for the day.
By the end of this day, my body was extremely itchy with mosquito bites. We counted 34 bites on one arm! And naturally I’m allergic so yeah, my arms and legs (and eyebrows?) looked pretty haunting. (Why am I the only one who ever gets bit? Grr..)
The second day we woke up in higher spirits. We packed up and began the trip on the sweet little river of ours (ha.) Because one of the paddles was broken and we had to keep the canoe balanced, either Emily or I had to switch off between sitting on the floor of the canoe and paddling. I think we both ended up favoring the paddling seat because it was a lot more comfortable until the last day when I figured out how to get the most comfort from the floor of the canoe (is that even a thing?)
Just as we thought we knew how to navigate the river and its rapids, we hit a snag – no pun intended. While tying to dodge yet another log, we were forcefully pinned against it, perpendicular to the current. The current immediately forced our canoe under water. As water rushed in, threatening to swamp us at any moment, I leapt onto the log which reduced the flow of water. Simultaneously, Iden dropped his paddle, wrapped one arm around the log and pulled the upstream gunwale above the water line, “stymying the flow of frigid river water which assaulted our humble vessel” (his words not mine.)
Our only option then was to slowly maneuver the canoe to the bank where we were able to pass under the log. Austen and Emily who were seated in the front of the canoe had to duck beneath while Iden and I had to each gradually and cautiously ease our way back in from the top of the log.
After retrieving the dropped paddle that was downstream in a snag, we pulled off onto the nearest beach to recuperate and rid our canoe of the invasive water.
It wasn’t until we were safely on land that the gravity of the situation sank in. Had we swamped, we would have lost our belongings and possibly our lives – we were lucky to survive!
Come dinner time, we were scoping out a pretty sweet campsite. There was only one thing wrong with it: it was crisscrossed with bear tracks.
I was super stoked on the campsite and am aware that bears very rarely attack groups of 4, not to mention when you hunt for bears it takes days to lure them in, however, Emily – understandably so – wasn’t thrilled on the idea.
We made camp elsewhere and anxiously awaited the final day and conclusion to our trip.
At this point we were all ready to get back home. The only problem was that with no map, we had no idea how much longer we had to go. Deb was meeting us at a pick up spot at 6pm but had no way of contacting us. So we were left with no choice but to paddle. And paddle. And paddle.
6:00 came around and we still had no idea where we were or if we even remotely close to our destination. 7:00 rolled around. 8:00. Finally, we passed a weir and asked how much further until the next boat ramp and we were informed that it was 4.5 miles ahead. Hallelujah!
Because we were dropped off at the wrong spot, we were super behind and ended up paddling 26 of the 55 miles alone on the third day!
Miraculously, Deb was still waiting for us at 8:30pm. It was an ecstatic moment for us all, to say the least.
What’s even crazier is that we went back to the spot where we thought the phones were lost – literally in the middle of nowhere – and the boys had to bush wack down to the river but somehow, someway the phones were found… what! The chances of them being found were extremely slim so that was an even better ending to our trip.
4th of July Weekend
After the canoe trip we needed some down time and spent a couple days at home.
On Sunday, July 3rd we went and saw Diplo – “Diplaska” is what they called the show… still can’t believe they went with that name – but it was fun all the same.
July 4th we did the most American thing you could think of and went to a baseball game with a fireworks show at the end. The thing about fireworks in Anchorage is they had to wait until 12pm for it to get even remotely dark. But even then I would consider it to be “dusk” lighting.
Until Next Time, Anchorage!
It was so nice to have family around for those few days. That’s something that I really miss being so far away from both our families. It can get pretty hard at times but it makes those moments that we spend with them even more special.
Stay tuned for my next post for some news!