Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Alaska: Part I.

I was debating covering our Alaskan honeymoon. Not because we didn't love it (we really loved it and plan to return), but because going through and sorting pictures is arduous (I've been reading Game of Thrones again)

I have a new goal of completing the photo book by next weekend, which means actually finishing it this weekend so as to give the printers time. That has sped up the process. I love books for recounting the experience not just for us, but also in retelling. We tried a slideshow approach already, and flipping through a thousand pictures is hard for anyone to stand. I'm procrastinating. The merits of photo books has nothing to do with this.

So without further ado... Alaska!

We chose Alaska because we are adventurers and felt like it'd be harder to visit the more involved we got with life (i.e., children). We chose to fly into Anchorage and rent a car to do our exploring. We thought about a cruise, but quickly eliminated that because we didn't want to waste days on a boat and the neuro-virus, clogged toilets, boats being towed to shore stories were all-too-recent. We weren't about to spend our honeymoon without plumbing while puking.

So we flew into Anchorage. The first day was uneventful. We hopped off the plane, had lunch downtown, and walked the Coastal Trail for about an hour and a half before checking into the hotel. 

We woke up like this. *flawless*

Then we decided on a nap which turned into 13 hours of sleep. Wedding planning is no joke. 

As a result of our all-night nap, we both naturally awoke, feeling refreshed, at 5:30 AM the next day. We had a glacier hiked planned for the afternoon, but took advantage of the morning and of a tip we read in some pamphlet that the chances of seeing a moose are greater in Anchorage than in Denali. Specifically, Kincaid Park offered great chances because of its proximity to the airport. The airport is fenced in and that creates a sort of moose traffic jam as they reroute around or hang out around the fence. We found the airport fence, but didn't find any moose (meese? mooses? I have a hard time accepting the plural of moose as moose).  We did find a gorgeous lake, beautiful birch trees, and a lot of mosquitoes. 

We hiked back to the car and continued driving through the park. We came upon what must've been the park center with a bunch of soccer fields, activity building, and a disc golf course. We ambled about and almost ran into our first moose who was munching through the disc golf course. 

We took a lot of pictures and attempted selfies because that's so 2014. 

After we had enough of marveling at the moose, we hopped in the car to drive to the glacier. I was nervous for this - the drive. They didn't provide an address, just a mile marker number, comforting us with the 'this is Alaska, folks' line which is not comforting. I like addresses and I like attempting to be on time and I like Waze to tell me my directions. We padded our travel time to allow for mistakes.

Turns out the drive was fine. There's really one main road in and out of Anchorage and they were correct in that you can't mess it up. Well, you can, but it'd be fairly difficult and even easier to correct. There are lots of scenic stops along the way and we took full advantage. It made driving much more relaxing - having ample travel time and frequent pull-overs to look at these incredibly unbelievable, picturesque landscapes. 

This post is already so much wordier than I anticipated. 

Then we hiked on a glacier! This was one of our favorite parts of the trip. We went with Mica Guides on a three-hour ice trek, which was more like a gentle walk in helmets and crampons on our feet.  This glacier used to extend all the way up to where I was standing, taking this picture. That's over the pond and all the dirt that looks like a construction zone. Since the 70's, it's been shrinking to its current footprint. Actually, that footprint is under the dirt a bit, too, so it's deceiving. That's one of the dangerous parts about glaciers- the ice may be closer than it appears and the landscape is constantly changing. The ponds are called kettle ponds and are created when hunks of ice break off, either above or below the dirt crust, and melt in place.

Anyone is able to walk on this glacier- there is an entrance fee because the only access road is through private property and there were RV's and people in slippery, rubber tennis shoes running around. I wouldn't advise it. It was so hard to tell what would be beyond the next ridge, and sometimes it was a hundred-foot hole. 

Our guide pointed out different features of the giant, moving mass as we marched around up little hills, over small streams and crevices, and to different landmarks. 

So much of the glacier looked like something out of a cartoon. The ice was so shiny, the blues so vibrant, and the angles so intense and seemingly random. It was beautiful. We were pretty naive as to what we would experience on it, but it turns out there is no snow. It's ice. All ice. Even the pillowy, soft looking white in the background is ice. Hard ice that requires you to really stomp down on your crampons to get a good foothold. 

We had debated the glacier walk because it was a two-hour drive from Anchorage, on our first full day, we wanted to relax on this vacation, and we knew we'd see glaciers based on other plans. I'm so glad we did it. Seeing a glacier does not compare to hiking on it, dipping your fingers into the little puddles that form when small specks of dirt attract so much light on a white surface that they make finger-sized pools, hearing the water rush in hidden crevices underneath, and learning fun facts. I love facts. 

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