Monday, August 2, 2010

A very Squirrel-y Birthday

So August eh? I realize it's been almost a month since my last post and the curious thing is, I'm at my computer almost daily. Work has been blazing along and incredibly, I feel like September is right around the corner. We're in full swing here and it seems like people can't get down the river fast enough or catch enough fish, it's always something. This job is truly amazing and I love how dynamic each day can be. From logistics to meeting and greeting to rafting to hiking to guiding people to Denali, it's always different. However, if you eat delicious chocolate for three meals a day, even that will get old.
In an effort to save our sanity and spice things up a bit, I executed my master plan. This has been in the works since May and through a ton of schedule juggling and much kindness from our friends and coworkers, I was able to kidnap Rocky and sweep him away to Denali National Park for a few days! My birthday was the 18th
and his was the 21st so it coincided perfectly. He opened the personalized itinerary I'd created using other trips as a guide and he unwrapped it in front of all the people who made it happen at our usual morning meeting. Sock and awe! Pretty sure I was way more excited than anyone, simply because I'd actually kept it a secret! That was that, we packed bags, a cooler, the car and we were off; northbound and guest-free!

We left Monday afternoon on a tear for Talkeetna, one of my favorite little towns. After getting hooked up with an AMAZING room at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, we enjoyed a hearty meal of halibut and burgers at the West Rib Pub. On to the Fairview Inn for bevys and saw that a senior citizens band (in red sequin vests :) complete with full bass and keyboard was jamming! Standing room only urged us into a two drink limit. We walked our dinner off down at the Talkeetna River convergence and formulated our Denali attack plan. Called it an early night and fully exploited the running hot water and cable tv. I haven't seen the news in months!
Up the next morning to see the town. There's a little historical museum, the Roadhouse for breakfast, and a myriad of shops to check out. The tv series Northern Exposure was based off this little gem and so it does look like a Hollywood set but in fact, it's mostly authentic.

After popping into Cubby's, the spankin' new grocery store, (Rocky was stoked they had the elusive canned crab chowder) it was north to Denali! He's worked in the state for 7 years and never made it this far up so I had my fingers crossed for mountain views. In typical Murphy's Law fashion, IT wasn't just invisible, so was the REST of the mountain range. It's like they weren't even there! I slipped into guide mode and tried to point out other neat little facts and promised wildlife in the park but it was a pretty big bummer.
Once at the park, we caught an afternoon bus about 30 miles in to Igloo Creek campground, filtered water, cooked our dinner and popped open some celebratory beers. We made it! I just couldn't shake the feeling I needed to be doing a constant head count or luggage tagging...
The next morning we hiked near Mt. Cathedral and rode the bus into Eielson Visitor's center. Bear, caribou, and ground squirrels abounded and I even saw my first fox! It was a lot to cram into a day but in true "sleep when you're dead fashion" we tried to do and see as much as we could. I think it was a great sampler for next time, should we make it back up there.
The next morning we hopped the camper bus out and dead headed down to Cooper Landing. What a long drive! Stopped for lunch in the world famous Wasilla, no luck seeing a Palin but our trip was pleasantly punctuated by the two Germans we'd picked up at the Park exit. Amusing to hear their questions on American road construction equipment.
So glad this trip happened, whirlwind but oh-so-worth it! How many people get to travel to Denali Park on their birthday? Remember when I said this job is fabulous?

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