Sunday, July 20, 2008

back from the great, not-as-white-as-you-might-expect north

i've been back from the big birthday trip for almost two whole days now, and i still haven't quite adjusted to this whole "getting dark at 9pm" thing. i mean, the sun didn't actualy set on my birthday until i got back to south carolina on friday. (yet, even with the two extra days, i still haven't compiled a new list yet....perhaps it's because i'm now old, and therefore, in the early stages of alzheimer's.)

you know, if you'd asked me last year to predict how i'd spend my 30th birthday, i don't think i would have come up with an accurate prediction, in any respect. the most surreal part of it is that, of all of the elements making up my surroundings on the happy (?) occassion, i think the part about it being in the sticks of alaska may have been the easiest to predict, and that's a stretch, as it is.

it's kind of like if i'd been asked five years ago if the lead singer of hootie and the blowfish and jessica simpson would ever put out country albums. if the new kids on the block would ever reunite. (should i be ashamed to admit that i've spent most of the day humming "summer time"?) if lindsay lohan would decide to play for the other team. (interestingly enough, my male friends harboring crushes on lindsay seem to be nothing if not more interested in her, in light of the new situation. go figure. )

but i digress....and before that, i think i was getting ahead of myself.

i thought about making this my usual photo-happy post-trip post, but will attempt to use a modicum of restraint. however, my slacking off at work this morning involved focusing on resizing pictures for galleries, which you can find on both my myspace and facebook pages, as well as my msn space (and possibly even by the end of the day, though i don't know that i'd go so far as to put money down on it.)

thursday, 10 july 2008:

two hour delay leaving columbia. seven hours of quality time spent at the chicago o'hare airport. on the bright side, by the time i left, i was at least one book closer to reaching my goal of 50 read since my last birthday, finally making it through dave eggers' and you shall know our velocity! hiking buddies (who made the whole trip possible, might i add) picked me up at the portland airport. they seem relieved that my birthday hadn't actually passed while i was stuck at o'hare*.

friday, 11 july 2008:

multnomah falls, oregon- the second highest year-round waterfall in north america, at over 600'

saturday, 12 july 2008:

mama's birthday. as usual, sibling beat me to the punch on this one, though it's only because of the time difference. i wasn't devoted enough to the cause to set an alarm for 3:00 am just so i could be first. consolation came in the form of a short pilgrimage to haystack rock with kate:

and, later, the 102 year old wreck of the peter iredale at ft. stevens state park:

we ran out of time to visit mt. st. helens national monument, but made it to seattle in time to wander around a little before grabbing sushi, followed by mojitos at a nearby restaurant with the crankiest, most sullen waitress i've ever encountered. (i'm not naming names, because when we complained to the manager about her sevice, or lack thereof, it seemed like it wasn't anything the manager hadn't heard before. i would not be surprised to learn that she lost her job there and is now supporting herself running some sort of dominatrix/phone sex line. i hear some masochists dig neglect.)

sunday, 13 july 2008:

ah, seattle. i liked it better than i thought i would, though i still think nirvana was overrated. the city made me wish i'd watched singles again right before my trip, just so i'd have a little more familiarity with my surroundings. then again, i just realized that if that movie were a child, it'd be driving now. that's a little unsettling.

in the event you find yourself wandering around seattle, definitely check out the underground tour. (that's the officia link, complete with info about the underworld tour which, sadly, i didn't get to embark upon, due to bad timing.)

post tour, karen and i split up, and she reunited with kate for lunch, while i grabbed a pound of rainier cherries at pike place market (for less than the cost of a gallon of gas!) and sat down in the park to scrible out a few postcards. after a while, kate and karen found me, and kate and i carried the dinner ingredients back to our hotel** before embarking on our cruise around the bay.

dinner was tasty, though a little awkward, as our hotel allows guests to adopt beta fish during their stay. (the proceeds go to charity)as a result, we adopted gus (i believe his real name was frank), who was moved temporarily while kate cooked our salmon dinner. it was similarly awkward the previous night, when we inquired at the desk about good sushi restaurants. if gus/frank had ears, i sincerely hope he was too busy listening to himself blowing bubbles in his tank (i swear he was the most flatulent beta fish i've ever met.) to hear us discussing his distant cousins.

monday, 14 july 2008:

though the hills in seattle are pretty steep, i was itching to do a little hiking, so off to mt. rainier national park we went.

our hike to nisqually glacier seemed like a good idea on paper. i mean, it was supposed to be about a mile and a half round trip, and i was sure to get some good pictures. however, as you can see, there's a small problem of snow all over the place, even in the middle of july. since we were in tennis shoes, we decided it would be wise to abort our mission and try hiking a little further down the mountain, where there wasn't nearly so much of the white stuff.***

narada falls, also in mt. rainier national park. we attempted to hike to reflection lake from here, but had to abandon the hike when we lost the trail in the- you guessed it- snow.

tuesday, 15 july 2008:

after arriving at the hostel late monday night and nearly creaming a naked foreign chick with the bedroom door (i've already been informed that i was remiss in not taking any pictures), i stumbled out of bed early to shower and head to the train station for the ride to denali national park. wound up joined in the bathroom by a second naked foreign chick. (again, i've been instructed as to exactly how one should discreetly snap photos on one's camera phone while pretending to check the time or some such thing. too bad my phone makes a little camera noise.)

i met a guy on the train, josh, who had run away from louisiana to find himself in the alaskan wilderness. he was kind enough to take this one for me before we stashed our stuff in lockers and embarked upon a short hike:

there are relatively few established trails in the park (wandering is encouraged in the wilderness, because it keeps the tundra from getting trampled to death), and josh and i headed down the trail to horseshoe lake. here's the view of the lake from one of the smaller side trails:

and, for those readers who were disappointed about the lack of naked foreign chick photos, here's a gratuitous beaver shot:

wednesday, 16 july 2008:

after shelling out about $30 for the bus to eilson visitor center, i bid josh adieu, grabbed some snacks and a sobe (cranberry grapefruit- my favorite) and settled into my seat on the bus. i took a pretty obscene number of pictures during the 132 mile round trip, so you can appreciate my restraint here:

polychrome overlook. an article on this in a recent issue of national geographic adventure played a big role in my decision to visit denali.

another shot from polychrome overlook. this high-quality photo was taken by another tourist, whose wife so charmingly called out "tell her to take a picture of us" as this was being snapped. it made me miss being around people with manners.

while this wasn't actually my first view of mt. mckinley (or "denali", as it's also called), this was probably the best. the clouds rolled in at the summit between the time i took this and my arrival at the visitor center, which is about 30 miles from the mountain.

mt. brooks (possibly my new favorite mountain because i think it looks so cool)is on the left, and mt. mckinley is somewhere behind the clouds toward the middle/right.

after hiking around at the visitor center (and, of course, photographing the gnomes and visiting the passport stamping station) for about an hour, i hopped back on the bus for the ride back to the wilderness access center. with time to kill before the hostel shuttle was due to arrive, i went looking for the beavers at horseshoe lake again. however, something stood in my way. (that's the very short explanation. i need to save something for the award winning autobiography, of course):

the text message i sent right after being "rescued" by three people and their two dogs said (and i quote, since i saved it):

i just spent 10 minutes trapped by moose. can't say that's ever happened before.

needless to say, i was called back immediately.

i won't bore you with the details of my trip back from denali, except to say that

1. there are not words that can adequately express how much i hate chicago o'hare.

2. i still don't have any pictures of naked foreign chicks to post from my last night at the hostel in anchorage....probably because i was in bed, working on my 50th book before they got home.

which leaves, as i alluded to earlier, ringing in my birthday. perhaps this will give you some idea:

that's three legged mule, an alaskan bluegrass band. they were playing a show at panorama pizza pub, which was across the street from my hostel. you'll note their attire- somewhat piratey, right? that would be because the pizza pub was having its third annual pirate night/homemade boat floatilla.

so, putting it all together, i turned 30 in a pizza pub in the sticks of alaska, while listening to a bluegrass band (featuring an accordian, of all things!), surrounded by pirates carrying around homemade boats, which they launched at 12:30am, while it was still somewhat light outside.

like i said- i never would have predicted it.....and i have 362 days to figure out how i'm going to top it next year.

*go ahead and add o'hare to my proposed list of dante's rigs of hell (modern edition) it is easily the worst airport i have ever been in, and since i've done my fair share of travel through the atlanta and philly airports, that's saying a lot.

**i know karen and kate will be looking for it, so i should add that when we checked in, we were told that while we weren't getting an upgrade, we would be staying on the seventh floor which, as the desk employee was kind enough to point out, "is one of our highest, if not our highest floors". as you might have guessed, this was a running joke for the remainder of our trip. i forgot to mention it to kate and karen when i texted/called from alaska, but at both of the hostels, i had beds on the top bunks, which i suppose, were "one of the highest, if not the highest". *snickering*

***cue the new kids on the block. or, more precisely, weird al's parody, entitled "the white stuff"


Callie said...

I wasn't able to read the whole post. I've promised Munchkin I'll take her swimming.

First thing - Happy 30th Birthday!

Second - the pictures look GORGEOUS!

Third - I want to go to Alaska!

duff said...

callie: good grief- you're fast! i think i finally hit "publish" about fifteen minutes ago. the post took me about 3 hours to put together, which i think should get me off the hook for a week or two....maybe long enough to get the photo album together. (after i find one that'll hold 300 photos- about half of what i shot.)

thanks for the bday wishes :~)

Ren said...

Lindsey Lohan is a lesbian? What? I MUST have confirmation of this!!! (Oh, yeah, nice post, great pictures, nice rock, "demonstration logs" hehehehe, you're pretty, pretty white, and stuff...)

mr_g said...

Great post and pics. Welcome back, and Happy Birthday!

Larry said...

Thanks Duff, now I'm going to get fired. I'm not supposed to be lookin at beaver shots at work.

duff said...

ren: i never would have guessed it, and since my gaydar is notoriously bad, that means she's definitely one.

mr_g: thanks :)

larry: you're probably not supposed to be picking your nose at work and flicking the boogers onto your coworkers, either.....