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.
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.
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.