Thursday, May 13, 2010

On The Road Again...

Well, with camp finished and a bit of free time to kill, Dave-O and myself...after a hectic bit of arranging, a sainted woman who goes by the name Dawn, and one reliable vehicle later, made our way out towards Denali. I love a good drive, especially through beautiful country...and well, Alaska is beautiful country. We'd stop now and then for a good view of the landscape, as the vistas pretty much demanded it. Of course, now and then, there was the demand for something else...the demand to 'party!' And, well, nothing says party like a dedication plaque! So, I ask you, are you ready... are you ready to party?


(You might want to scroll past the next picture if you're easily offended. However, if you're 'ready to party,' this establishment will probably accommodate you. I think I'll pass.)

stay classy.

Moving on...So, here's the river as we cross into Denali National Park. There was rafting taking place just beyond the bend. I was immediately sorry I was not participating as I love rafting and at the time of my last planned trip, I was totally dying. Maybe next time...definitely next time. Anyway, I was taken with the place before we even got into the real park. Sure, you head in and the shops, cars, and hotel are all buzzing, so it doesn't feel much like the great outdoors, but at the same time, it does. You can see beyond all that into the total and absolute vastness that is being offered and it's astounding...even with the clutter. I was really excited to start heading out towards Wonder Lake.

We ventured up to the hotel, but I'm not showing it to you...because it's a hotel...and I'm sure you've all seen one before. The wind however, was intense due to the location of the hotel on a bit of a precipice overlooking the park! I love a windy day.

(I promise you, everyone goes gangster around me...)(Dave-O^)

We made our way to the bus station to hop on the bus we were taking out to the lake to camp. It's, I believe, around 85 miles into the park and a 6 hour bus ride. When I first heard that, I was not amused. I did not think 6 hours on a bus would thrill me in the least. However, as it turns out, the bus ride is pretty good times. The roads are, in some areas, completely scary...which is a bonus in a way. You also get a really good overview of the park via this 'tour.' Plus, given the fact that you're covering a lot of ground, you see a lot of wildlife. (More of that later.) The six hours passed extremely quickly and the scheduled stops gave you a good opportunity to get out, stretch your legs and wander around a bit. (I will say, I would be sad if all I did was a bus ride...even staying overnight wasn't long enough. It's the kind of place where a few days worth of hiking and camping is well worth any discomfort/cost.)

Well, as we get going, things start to get pretty. It's just so open, so big. I think that's what amazes me the most. Whenever I come back home from up there, everything just seems so small for so long. Even the sky seems to shrink.

(My natural skin tone is not 'hot pink!')

THERE'S A GRIZZLY BEAR IN THAT PICTURE! Even though she and her cubs were a fair distance from us, I was excited. And really, don't you want a mother Grizzly to be a fair distance from you? From what I've heard, Ursus Arctos Horribilis (fancy!) is not as approachable as Teddy Ruxpin would have you believe! (I bet they're totally soft and cuddly while they're ripping your face off.) Still, I was totally thrilled as I'd never seen one in the wild.

Inflatable hoodie! Isn't that landscape gorgeous!? This is one of the stops along the way...obviously. For someone who comes from a place where foothills are as big as you get, the mountains can be almost visually overwhelming. Awesome. (Wow...I never realized how short those "long" pants were. Oh well, I destroyed them a week later through some mishap anyway...)

I'm not sure if they were diverting the river channel, building up the bank, or putting in a new visitor station, but for some reason, the presence of construction equipment bothered me. Of course I realize that we are impacting the think otherwise would be naive, but I suppose that particular visual reminder left me unsettled. Ironic that I'm musing all of this while sitting on a bus specifically designed to invade these spaces. If you'll allow me to wax philosophic for a moment, even though the area is preserved and protected, we're still marking our trails all through it. We're totally invasive, even if we are lessening our impact. Don't get me wrong, I believe the National Park system is awesome and one of the best conservation efforts ever established in the US. I'm stoked that Denali exists and that I'm fortunate enough to take advantage of it, but seeing something like that just reminds me that you'll always know when people have touched a place. (Not that it's always bad, just always...obvious.)

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." -John Muir

The first hint that something bigger lies beyond...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

...And All The Salmon You Can Eat.

So here we are, the fabled salmon bake at Pioneer park. We were extremely glad for the small crowd. You see, the day before, Sarah Palin had been in town and the place was swamped. There was no chance at getting all upons that deliciousness. Thankfully though, we had other business while everyone else was Palin around with Sarah, and it was the next day we'd scheduled for eating obscene amounts of...everything.

Salmon, cod, halibut, prime rib, salads of various sorts, bread, and not pictured, desserts. It was all...very, very good, let me assure you. The salmon was great, but ohmygosh, that fried halibut was amazing. The steak was good too...and nice and rare! Let's pretend this was my only plate...because apparently its unseemly when a girl can put it away like a lumberjack who's not watching his waistline.

As you can see, we all ate to the point of discontented contentment. (I laugh every time I look at this picture. Boardy, Lena...priceless.)

Further evidence.

Now, there are some wonderful wood carvings about P.P. This is of course, a totem pole. The Native American totems throughout the Alaskan landscape inspire a sense of wonder at the indigenous peoples intricate use of storytelling through artisan craft. Often, family histories, religious belief, and stories of cultural importance are displayed upon these totems.


Last time I checked, the wooden kitchen spoon wasn't intrinsic to the Inuit culture. Perhaps I'm way off base, but Pioneer Park, I think maybe you're fudging a bit on your authenticity.

However, I'll forgive you because you've got a giant carved salmon that you can ride. As you can see, Boardwalk, Jail, and Chance are all happy to have their quite respectable picture taken.

Being respectable, I find, is highly overrated.

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At some point during this trip, we ended up at a little coffee shop in Fairbanks. College Coffee is the name I believe. While I don't recall if I drank anything, I do recall that there was a rather boss musical circle that day. (Sarah, the above shot is for you...and yeah, also for me.) They played mostly in the Irish style. I nearly had a conniption when they busted out Swallowtail Jig. They were a talented group of fiddlers, pickers, drumers, and flutists. We highly enjoyed the concert and stayed a good while to listen to them.

Anytime a man wears a kilt, he gains my respect. I also seriously wanted to steal his belt buckle.

We did a lot of other things, such as go to Value Village, where I purchased a sweet hot-pink Salty Dawg hoodie. Chance, not sure she bought anything, but she made the trip in style via her dog/monkey hat and safety goggles.

At one point, Lena and I hung out downtown...where she went swimming in the town fountain. I really am unsure why I didn't join her.

I did however go swimming later in the Salcha River with Shortline and Chance. Let me just say that Alaska in July is not warm, not when you're from Alabama. No, it's not warm at all...and the water, well, it just follows suit. However, the swim was tons of fun no one lost any fingers or toes, so I'm calling it a great success!

Of course we went four-wheeling. I love the fact that this little stretch makes it look all safe. This little stretch is a lie. The Brinks (one of which is pictured here driving) are always kind enough to lend us their rides, couches, and food whenever we're in Salcha for any span of time...they're great hosts, great folks, and just awesome people. If everyone was as kind and accommodating as them, we would live in a far different and far better world.

Oh, I went to North Pole, found Santa. He wanted to go on break...I wanted a picture. I didn't get any coal this year so I guess I didn't annoy him too much. (I need a bigger Santa. There was not enough lap on this one.)

Well...there you have it. My completely odd blog about Camp Baldwin/ Salcha/ Fairbanks/ Wherever/ Whatever else. However, all tales are not told...and never will be, but there's still more. I happened to find myself in Denali one day and an Ice Hotel a bit maybe I'll update again tomorrow...or three months from now. Who knows? I certainly don't.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dancing in Fat Mud

So, camp ends. However, that doesn't mean the fun is over, oh no! Immediately after camp, Lena, Boardwalk, Chance, and Myself headed down to the Tanana River for some...river...stuff. (This is from two different areas of the river, on two different days.)

This is right outside of Delta Junction.

We forged the river, strong current, knee deep water, and the stones on the bottom tried to eat my feet, but no oxen died, we didn't drown, and nobody got Dysentery! We also discovered the wonder of 'fat mud,' at least, that's what we call it. The best term to describe it is 'gushy.' More on that later...

I believe this is midway between Delta and Salcha. It's just a huge flood plane and it's lovely. It was so green at the time, the river was high on the banks, and the mountains were so gorgeous...


Considering the wildfires absolutely ravaging the entire landscape, we were lucky to see anything. More on that later too. They were spectacular though, the smoke plumes were huge.

Anyway, back to good times. Lena playing in the fatmud. Here, it's just a hand, but pretty soon, we took a step further...

...and got knee deep! Now, I must say, this is actually a dangerous thing to do. People have gotten stuck and died in the mud, but well, we're just horrible examples ok?

I'm knee deep this horrible picture...where I apparently have elf ears.

There was no solid ground! Chance and Lena, all of us, we just kind of plopped our way through the mire. It was great! That mud, makes the most satisfying sounds ever, just so you know. The gushiness of that stuff is absolutely spectacular!

The haze in the sky made for some gorgeous sunsets. This is right outside of Fairbanks.

It's simply serene.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Alaska, July 2009 cont.

One of these days, I'll catch up on this blog.

In the meantime, trekking back to Delta Junction...

During a break one day at camp I got use of a car and a few minutes to just go out and myself. I loved it. There's a buffalo farm just up the road and I wanted to swing by and see them. I've seen buffalo before, my dad's boss used to farm them, my sister was chased by one, and we've actually got some hybrids just down the road from where I live, but still. They were just out there, being...buffalo, and that was pretty cool.

I love the fact that there is this much land and nothing in it.

Of course, there are mountains...everywhere you look, it seems you'll find one range or another.

I know it's Alaska, but for some reason this picture looks very "Swiss Alps" to me. I think it's because of that small building, which in my mind, is a dairy farm.

Yeah...I could deal looking at that every day.

I really enjoyed the solitude of those moments. I rolled down the windows and just allowed my head to clear. It's been nearly a year since that drive, but I still recall it fairly sharply. That land has great attitude.

Back at camp, it's campfire time. Now, campfire time is a great little thing. Mark usually brings a message full of insight and wisdom and it makes you think 'stop knowing me so well!' We also sing, dance, act retarded, burn stuff, and generally have a great time in Christian love and fellowship.

Here's some of that singing I was talking about earlier. Boardwalk and Lena were the music leaders during the week, switching out guitar and 'hold the poster' duty. If you look closely, you can see that we were bringing it old school with the classic musical number 'Pharaoh, Pharaoh."

Did you know that the simple addition of cut up pieces of garden hose will turn your fire an array of beautiful colors? Well, it will, and now you know. (I'm not sure of the toxicity, but well, we all die eventually.)

We usually burn a couple of cardboard cores the last night of camp. The winds were really,really high that night though, so we couldn't double stack them this year. I mean, we're all up for a healthy amount of carnage, but not the kind that requires life flight and alerting the burn unit.

I. Love. Fire.

All the girls of Cabin Three, Camp Baldwin, Delta Junction, AK, July 2009. I love them all. It was a great group, fantastically ridiculous, and ridiculously fantastic.


Next time, some post camp activities: Fires, Fat Mud, Wolves under glass, and all the salmon you can eat!