Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Address Change

July was a crazy month, so crazy that it's already August 4th and we don't live in Anchorage anymore. We had a great time with all of our visitors and shared some special memories with them all. We've had 11 visitors since my last post, and haven't had time to say much about the five or six weeks that went by. We made trips to Seward, Talkeetna, McCarthy/Kennecott, Cordova, Juneau, and Cooper Landing and had a blast at each one. Some were rainier than others and some had more furniture than others, but I think we all had a great time regardless. Thanks to Scott, Kadie, Tony, Katharine, Josh, Heather, Mom, Andy, Sally, Erik, and Julie for making the trek north in late June/July. We really appreciate you guys visiting us and hope you had as much fun as we did. Our friend Wally was up here as well (pilot for AK airlines who we got to see a few times) and had a very "easy" dinner with him too before we took off. Good times.

So as I eluded to earlier, we're moving on to Minnesota. We officially moved out of our apartment on July 30th and squeezed in one last trip to Seward which started rainy and ended sunny (better that way than the reverse). We're now in the Yukon, apparently camping with grizzly bears. The campground we were going to stay at tonight was closed due to bears in the area (we were a little surprised that they closed the whole campground) and the campground we're staying at up the road has a LOT of warning signs - which I think are just scare tactics to get you to keep a clean camp. We keep a clean camp regardless, so I'm not concerned.

Tomorrow we'll keep on truckin' and see how far we get. Right now we're about three hours from Whitehorse.

Here are some pictures from our last month in AK.

Sandhill Crane at Creamer's Dairy in Fairbanks

Mary on Root Galcier in Kennecott; Mt. Blackburn in background

Our view from camp at Reed Lakes

View from Seward coast

Group shot at top of Exit Glacier/Harding Icefield

Friday, June 19, 2009

And We're Off

I know it's been a while, but I have a good excuse. Our good friends Alex (my best man) and Nancy (first friend I made at UCLA) made a trip up to Alaska to visit us! We've been on the road since June 2nd and we definitely made the most of it. When Alex first got here, we were discussing our favorite hikes and camping places. Well, I can honestly say that the places we went with Alex and Nancy are now list toppers in all categories. The solitude and challenging hiking in McCarthy/Kennecott and the awesome (in the truest sense of the word) experience in Cordova at Childs Glacier are two of the richest experiences I've ever had.

Kennecott was an old copper mine in the early 1900's that was very productive and McCarthy was the town set up to cater to the miners. I could write tons of boring facts about the mines but will spare you. I do recommend you look into the place if the old ghost-mining-town thing interests you. We did a lot of hiking in the area, up to one of the old mines (Bonanza) and then we did a backpacking trip out to a spot called The Knoll, which is a 3,800ft bump that sticks out from the mountains surrounding the root glacier. We camped at the top of this thing and had a great view of the Stairway Icefall, which drops more than 5,000 ft into the valley that the root glacier travels over. Since it's moving faster down this drop than when it hits the valley, the glacier breaks apart along the way down - although we are taking glacial speeds here so the word icefall is a slight exaggeration in my book. It's still an amazing place to pitch a tent and somewhere I wouldn't mind returning to in the future (I'm generally not a big fan of doing duplicate hikes since there are just so many good ones out there). Here's a picture of our tent out on The Knoll with the root glacier in the background:

Nancy arrived after our trip to Kennecott and we grabbed a very scenic ferry ride out to Cordova, a small fishing town in Prince William Sound at the mouth of the Copper River. Upon arriving we headed out to Childs Glacier to camp and check out this "must see" in the guide books. Well, on this one the guide books hit the nail on the head. We turned off the dirt road we had been driving on for an hour into the campsite, and immediately spoke with the camp host about camping fees, wood, etc. While chatting, part of the glacier calved off into the river making a tremendous rumbling noise that literally shook the air. All of our eyes lit up in excitement and we could hardly contain our laughter. We stayed up past midnight on the river bank 1/4 mile from the glacier watching this thing calve huge chunks of ice and then got up and did the same thing the following morning over coffee and oatmeal. It's hard to explain just how exciting this was, but the glacier is 300ft in the center and we saw a couple 200ft sections of ice fall violently into the river, sending a small wave towards us that washed up on the river bank below. It was truly spectacular to witness and SO loud!

All in all, I wouldn't have changed the trip at all. We also went to Kodiak (another fishing town - where the Deadliest Catch boats are moored), Talkeetna and into Denali NP. If you're interested I have pictures of everything on the web. Links are below.

And to Alex and Nancy, thanks for the great trip! I'll never forget it.


Kodiak Pictures

McCarthy Pictures

Cordova Pictures

Denali Pictures

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Event For The Ages

I am honestly speechless. No words can describe how happy I was on Saturday. Just know that I wandered around the Anchorage Convention Center in a trance-like state of euphoria, donning a constant grin and wondering if I'll ever be able to grow a real mustache. My whole body was warm with the enveloping joy you often feel as a child, but rarely as an adult.

The World Beard and Mustache Championships was a complete success for me. Part fashion show, part facial hair competition, it consisted of everything from lengthy mustaches to jaw-dropping beards. My concept of facial hair has been completely ripped apart and rebuilt into what now stands as the Pantheon of Face Hair. Inside are the Gods that I was lucky enough to witness:

Jack Passion's Natural Full Beard 'Big Red' - it was the real deal after much promotion by the LA Times

A Seattle man who styled his 'freestyle' mustache after a spoon and fork

Gunter Rosin's glorious Hungarian/Wild West mustache

And, my personal favorite, the full bodied, ear-high Imperial Partial Beard of the German, Karl-Heinz Hille

Click Here For More Pictures

Friday, May 22, 2009

One More Day

Tomorrow is a special day for my blog. It marks the culmination of my travels with facial hair, all wrapped up in a tidy little event custom tailored for yours truly. In case you forgot, Saturday May 23rd is The World Beard and Mustache Championships, which coincidentally is being hosted in Anchorage, AK this year. What luck! It's a biennial event (usually hosted in Europe) that appears to be right up my alley. I mean look at this guy:

THIS GUY IS IN ANCHORAGE RIGHT NOW! It's like a dream come true for me.

So tomorrow is the big day. Not sure what it'll bring, but I know what I'm going to bring: my camera and most likely a case of the giddies.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pigeon Woman

I’m in the process of renewing my passport which expires in July. Yesterday, I found a local photographer who does passport photos whom I will dub the pigeon woman from here on out. Her nickname is pigeon woman because she had a pet pigeon inside of her house/studio. Once we broached the subject of her pet pigeon, she informed me that it was a pigeon she'd rescued that had been attacked by an eagle and now had psychological problems making it fall to the ground like a rock whenever it tried to fly. She said that they [the pigeon’s problems] were improving, as evidenced by its ability to fly halfway across the room when I almost stepped on it accidentally.

We were chatting after she took my picture (she actually made me take three different ones: I wasn’t smiling enough in the first two. She brought up a good point that it’s always best to beam a smile in your passport photo so that you don’t look too shady to the border agents...not that I have anything to hide...not that I’m defensive about not having anything to hide) and when the pigeon came up she said, “Do you want to see him dance?” I said, confidently, yes.

What followed was an exchange between pigeon woman and pigeon that really needs some sort of audio capture, but I will attempt to transcribe. It went:

PW: Hmmm - gluck, gluck - Hmmm - gluck, gluck - Hmmm - gluck, gluck

P: (Quivering and moving around in little circles) Hmmm - gluck, gluck - Hmmm - gluck, gluck

PW: Hmmm - gluck, gluck - Hmmm - gluck, gluck - Hmmm - gluck, gluck

P: (Quivering and moving around in little circles) Hmmm - gluck, gluck - Hmmm - gluck, gluck

Then she looked up at me smiling. Apparently the Hmmm - gluck, gluck means the bird is happy. If it’s a gluck - Hmmm, then it’s angry. Don’t ask me how she knows that.

This experience may have cemented my preference for mom and pop businesses vs. your average box store. I could’ve gone to the UPS store to get my passport photo taken and saved 5 bucks, but I wouldn’t have seen the pigeon woman show.