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Culture, North America

Goldilocks I am not!

August 28, 2017 • By

Hiking Shenanigans near Hope, Alaska

There are places I read about in travel magazines that I file away in the ole’ noggin of must-see sites.  In most cases, the description matches my expectation and I am glad I made the time.

This trip, I decide to visit Hope, Alaska, a small former gold mining town located on the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.  It’s a two-hour drive from Seward to Hope, and I’m immediately annoyed I made the trip because there is nothing here but RVs and a couple of closed shops.  Upon first glance, Hope reminds me of a modern day ghost town and I wonder if someone named this place Hope because it’s Hopeless.

Fantasy Aisle

Hope Alaska, a former gold mining town and a weekend getaway spot for Anchorage residents

It’s mid-morning; quiet fills the air and calmness coats the glassy water.  I slowly understand the appeal of Hope.  It’s quaint but I prefer activity to sleepy towns. If searching for a respite from city life, Hope would be the place to go. Its simplified beauty and serenity make it a place where people are one with nature.

I am not sure what do with myself and I drive around to make sure I haven’t missed anything.  I visit Tito’s, the only restaurant open (in fact, the only place to eat) and contemplate my next move.  I pore over my map and decide I will go hiking on the Resurrection Pass Trail.  I could use a little resurrection.  I get to the trail, park the car, sign away my life–name and time of entry with the National Park Service–and hit the trail with little to no knowledge about where I am going or what the trail entails.

Fantasy Aisle on the Resurrection Pass Trail near Hope, Alaska

From Hope to Coopers Landing in Alaska

There is something incredibly appealing about Alaska.  It’s pristine, untouched, beckoning and terrifying. I am on the trail and I’m talking to myself. I notice footprints below and I assume they belong to a moose or bear. I start yelling, “Hey Bear!” Half the time I think my voice sounds like I am calling the bear to greet me, not to scare it away.  I’m staring down as I walk because I am a klutz and prone to tripping…but how am I going to spot bears?  It’s a conundrum, and as I mull it over, I start to daydream. These prints are definitely those of a wild animal and, from what I learned on my safari years ago, they are fresh.

“I will be ready,”  I say to myself.

Fantasy Aisle Kelly smiling near the Resurrection Creek on the trail near Hope, Alaska

Along the Resurrection Creek on the Resurrection Pass Trail

I’m overdressed and the flies and mosquitoes are attacking me. Since I am dripping sweat, the monsters consider me more attractive meat.  I layer down and continue listening to the sounds of the rushing Resurrection Creek.  The spruce and aspen forests and some flowers cover the terrain, but I am mostly focused on why the hell I am torturing myself on this hike.

My mind wanders all over the place:

”I am miserable.”

“I am going to have to pee soon.”

“How long have I been walking?”

“Is it time to turn around?”

“Follow your passion.”

“Is this my passion?”

“You cannot love someone else if you don’t love yourself.”

Fantasy Aisle

A flower that juices contain a phototoxin reacting with skin when exposed to ultraviolet light

And then I think about the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and my internal dialogue continues.  “That’s a bunch of bullshit.  Some mother who lived in a forest made that story up so her kids wouldn’t be afraid to go outside.”

“Oh my god.”

It hits me. I am in a place that feeds on my deepest fears.  I am a self-proclaimed hypochondriac and I am in a state–in a land– where I am surrounded by everyday threats of tsunamis, avalanches, moose, bear, caribou and wolf attacks, and hypothermia.

How am I on this trail alone, with bear spray I am not entirely sure I know how to use when I couldn’t even leave my job to try something new? When I dated someone on and off for 10 years with no future and I was afraid to be alone.  This is madness.

I hear rustling and wake up from my fog.  It’s two hikers.  We exchange greetings and ask if the other has seen any bears. (I’ve learned by now that this is a normal line of questioning in Alaska.)  The couple tells me I should be in good shape because three hikers and a dog are about a mile ahead of me.  I giggle.

“Ok, thanks.”

Fantasy Aisle

My scary “bear” dog print

Those big bad prints belonged to a dog. I cannot stop laughing.  I take the time to pee, squatting as the mosquitoes bite into me and then I turn back. The return walk seems longer than I remember but I am strong and confident.  I can take on the bears.  I shoot a video for my friend who urged me to visit Alaska, still laughing about the bear “claws” I discovered.

After a four-hour-hike, I arrive back to the car and initial my safe return with the ranger’s log. Now, where should I stay tonight?


Culture, General travel, North America, Travel Gear, What to Pack

First Day in Alaska

August 17, 2017 • By

I am a city girl.  I ride the subway, I hail cabs and I complain about garbage and rats.  The sound of heavy traffic, roaring fire engines and honking horns soothes my soul.  Carry-out menus line my kitchen shelves and my refrigerator contains a handful of perishable items.  Breakfast for idiots is my kind of book and I have a chef who cooks for me. I live in a 465 square foot studio and identify my neighbors not by their faces but by the sounds of footsteps or a hair dryer and blender.

Why on earth did I decide to visit Alaska?  This is an easy answer.  It’s the complete opposite of anything in New York City.

An hour after my arrival in Alaska, I found myself on the side of Mt. Alyeska in Girwood hiking the North Face trail.  My friend Brooke Edwards outfitted me with bear spray, binoculars, layers of clothing and the important and necessary day pack and off we went.  At some point while swatting mosquitoes, yelling out, “Hey Bear,” I wondered why I would embark on this journey.

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Mt. Alyeska, Alyeska Resort, Girwood, Alaska

Brooke assured me this was an hour-to-the-top type /kind of hike and I would appreciate the views.  I admired how she didn’t break a sweat and I struggled to maintain my dignity. Brooke may not have understood my current level of experience involved(better word) “hiking” up 20 or so steps from the subway to the street and a few block stroll along a flat and even surfaced Lexington Avenue. (See Life on the 6 Train)

The view at the top exceeded my expectations and I was happy to get a sense of my surroundings and take in the scenery of the Turnagain Arm, a branch of glacial water surrounded by towering mountains that leads to the Gulf of Alaksa.  Turnagain Arm proved not to be the Northwest Passage Captain Cook sought to discover but its natural beauty rivals any landscape I’ve seen in the world.

Catching my breath, I hobbled to the restaurants as I peeled layer after layer exposing my sweaty back and the markings of an out of shape city girl.  I hoped Brooke would be amenable to a “Kelly kind of eating and drinking break” before heading down the mountain.  She did better than that, after a brief exchange we decided to go fancy in our hiking gear and dine at Seven Glaciers Restaurant, where I feasted on my first Alaskan halibut and a Boullabaisse soup, loaded with seafood and a saffron broth.  We topped off my first day with a pleasant tram ride down the mountain and heaps more wine at the Alyeska Resort.

Fantasyaisle

My expert guide Brooke Edwards at our first toast after hiking Mt. Alyeska, 7 Glaciers Restaurant

With the midnight sun (11:30 PM sunset) toying with my emotions and idea of place, I settled in for a few hours of desperate sleep before jolting awake at 5:30 AM when the sun beckoned me to hit the road.