Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm: Grizzlies, Guns and Denali

My last several weeks in Alaska are almost over. Below are some pics of what I've been up to in the latter half of the guiding season. Soon I'll be flying to Seattle and then back to college in Vermont. I'm trying to enjoy my last moments of freedom as much as I can. 

Exploring 50 feet inside a moulin

Sliding down into the glacier

Ready to climb

Noah: "The ice axes attacked my face" 

Chillin' in the evening---notice the puffy jacket+hoody----autumn came early to AK

Jeff had bleeding issues that were easily fixed with some feminine products

Ellie about to indulge in my prepared tortilla dinner

Our food shelves.
Can you spot mine? Hint: it has an orange, large oatmeal container, peanut butter, pickles and not much else. 

Rich and Ellie playing cribbage and drinking boxed wine from goblets

Ice screw-induced trauma

We're THAT good

One of the staff party games involved running and kicking a roll of toilet paper across the lawn in flippers 

Epic Bloody Mary

Setting up the shooting range. Notice the stuffed puppies, dolls and chicklets

Our safety talk was very thorough

Someday I'll own a gun

My boss getting dressed blindfolded

The fated sea kayaking trip during which it poured everyday. 

Mandy and I were camped with clients on an island while sea kayaking, when a storm picked up with 40 mph winds and 8 foot swells. We were sleeping under the kitchen tarp after escorting the clients to the limited sheltered campsites in the woods, when the paddle holding the tarp up was whisked away. I woke up at 2 am with the tarp on top of my sleeping bag, horizontal rain and no headlamp (idiotic of me I know). Long story short, Mandy and I had to save the kitchen set-up from the rising tide and then set up a tent in the middle of the night, pouring rain, howling wind when it was barely above freezing.

By 4:30 am we finally got back into our soaking sleeping bags and began looking forward to cooking breakfast for the clients at 6 am.

I seem to have bad luck with sea kayaking near rain forests and camping on islands. When I was in 9th grade on a highschool outdoor trip, four guys and I went for a walk after dinner on the island we were camping on. It was raining, it got dark and we became disoriented. By 11 pm we finally stumbled out of the brush and onto the beach, but it was on the opposite side of the island. The tide was high so there was no way we could navigate the slick, seaweed-covered rocks around the bluff to get back to camp. We spent the night huddled together, soaking wet on a rocky ledge about 2 1/2 feet wide until sunrise, when we made our way back to camp and our furious trip leader. Maybe sea kayaking is just not my thing.

Manders driving clients after no sleep

Denali: Highest point in North America and one of the Seven Summits 

Gorgeous glaciers

My blueberry-topped instant cheesecake 

Manders is a bad-ass 

Views in Denali National Park

A grizzly chewing on a caribou---you can see the red antlers 

Denali or McKinley, call it whatever you want 

Clients descending on the food

Joe: "the fog is over there" 

Cooking pesto pasta

Joe and Ellie warm and cozy

A client enjoying life with a cigar and Baileys-spiked coffee

Approaching a glacier

I'm going to miss this life. Waking up in the morning, I crawl out of my sleeping bag, unzip my tent, put on two fleeces, grab a cup of tea from the CNB, visit the outhouse, check the handheld mirror to make sure there's no dirt on my face and in 2 minutes my commute is over and I'm at work.

No morning shower, no 40 minute commute, no cars, no money, no pretentiousness, no false social niceties.... College dorm life is going to be different. 

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