20 July 2008

Flattop Mountain - Round II

This is just a quick post to let you know that I made good on my promise to hike all the way to the top of Flattop. Although, like the rest of this summer, today was overcast, it was still a great day for the hike. I couldn't see McKinley due to clouds, but the sun and wind combined for the perfect hiking temperature.

To top it off, my hiking company was quite interesting: a 60-something doctor from NYC and a middle-aged Boeing contractor. They've both lived adventurous, inspiring lives. I hope to be able to share the same sorts of stories they shared with me when I'm in their shoes.

Enjoy the videos from the top of the trail. I recommend turning your volume down because the wind gets quite loud...although not loud enough to drown out the sound of the kids who wanted to "attack" me when I was taking the second video a little too close to their fort.

Check out the gallery for more photos.


video video

13 July 2008

Girdwood

Yesterday, Erica, Kiki, and I headed for Girdwood. As it turns out, this small, friendly, artists' colony is pretty cool! And, though it's only 40 miles from Anchorage, it feels like an entirely different world.

As you might remember, we originally intended to cycle the trip in mid-June. Weather caused us to delay the trip, and research taught us that we'd only be able to ride on a path separate from the busy, winding highway for 10 miles on either side of Girdwood. So, Erica borrowed her mom's Blazer, and away we drove!

Our first stop in town was the local art center. What a neat place! I think we all picked out some unique Christmas presents and a few treats for ourselves. The potter, who was working at the shop at the time, gave us her home address to stop by and look at other pieces. I'm pretty excited about the bowls and plate I bought!

From there, we headed to the Alyeska Resort for a tram ride to the "top" of Mount Alyeska. This is the ski resort in Girdwood and certainly the winter hub of the town. Much to our surprise, several feet of snow pack greeted us at the top of the tram. Nonetheless, we tromped around in our sandals, enjoyed a brie and bread picnic, and watched in amazement as person after person paraglided off the mountain and into the wind. We met an entire family from Findley, Ohio. With the exception of grandma, grandpa, and youngest grandchild, they all went paragliding! It looked really enjoyable and peaceful, except for when the winds sent them so high that they became a mere speck in the sky. (Yes, the fleck on the top right of the photo is a paraglider.) On a return trip to Girdwood, I definitely think I could be convinced to give paragliding a go.

The view from the top of the tram was pretty impressive. Looking up the mountain, another chairlift takes skiers to the true peak. To one side of the tram, there is a fantastic bowl, which would probably provide some excellent riding when completely covered in snow. To the other side, at least three glaciers, Glacier Creek, and a valley make up a picture-perfect scene. And, looking down the mountain, Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort happily sit in the glacier valley which meets Cook Inlet and the Turnagain Arm. Before we knew it, though, the wind picked up a cool breeze, and we decided to take the tram back down the mountain.

We had dinner at the Double Musky. I won't go into much detail beyond offering a general recommendation. There is definitely a reason why this cajun gem has such a sparkling reputation. Oh, be sure to go hungry because dinners are HUGE and come with fresh cheddar/jalapeno rolls and salad.

To wrap up the evening, we went back to the b-n-b (Glacier View B&B) for a few drinks in the hot tub. Connie and her cat were excellent hosts! She has an incredibly modern and comfortable home. I lost count of both the glaciers visible from her place and the fuschias on her porch. Connie is fearless, a little crazy, and the kind of b-n-b host who I hope to pay a return visit.

This morning, Connie prepared us a leisurely breakfast before we headed for Portage Glacier. Because it is retreating, it's quite a distance from the visitor's center. If it wouldn't have been 40-degrees (F) and sprinkling, we might have trekked a little closer. As it was, though, it was still neat to see icebergs and a very, very blue glacial river.

I'm down to a week and a few days left in Anchorage, so I suppose it's time to wrap up my projects at work and study for my final. You can view pictures from this and other weekends here. While these past months have been an experience, I am really looking forward to going home and getting back into my daily routine with George.

10 July 2008

Ohio and Kentucky

George and I spent the holiday weekend (Independence Day, for our international readers) together in Ohio and Kentucky. It was great to meet up a little more than halfway through my time in Alaska, and I really enjoyed a visit to true summer and darkness.

The first stop was Columbus, Ohio, for a visit with my family. We ate lots of yummy homemade food, played a few games, and generally enjoyed the company. Mason (my oldest cousin) and Justin (my brother) introduced George to basketball. (For the record, Justin and I beat Mason and George in a little 2-on-2.) And, I know I say this after every trip "home," but I truly can't believe how quickly my niece and nephew are growing up! Laila is a very mature soon-to-be first grader while Beathan is a full-fledged high-schooler complete with girlfriend and busy sports schedule. Wow!!

To top off the great visit, my friend from high school, Miranda, and her boyfriend, Ken, stopped by for a few hours. Miranda and I were inseparable during our last years of high school, so it was refreshing to catch up on the many years that have passed while we've been busy living our lives thousands of miles apart.

The next day, George and I headed to Louisville to celebrate Sam and Brian's wedding. (They are friends we met in Seattle, but they chose to hold their wedding in Brian's adopted hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.) The festivities started with rehearsal dinner on Saturday night at the Jefferson Club. The view of the surrounding city was superb! We enjoyed meeting their friends from near and far and experiencing southern hospitality. Brian's parents threw quite the party! Oh, and if you find yourself near Louisville, stop for some (Kentucky) Derby pie. This local favorite is pecan pie's chocolate chip-filled cousin.

The wedding, on Sunday afternoon, was also beautiful. Sam and Brian are a great couple, and George and I were so happy to have been part of their special day! As a bonus, we even got to spend some time with the bride and groom throughout the reception and after-party.



All-in-all, we had a very enjoyable weekend...and sadly parted ways on Monday to head back to the grind.

02 July 2008

Everyday Life in Anchorage

This trip is definitely not all fun and hiking. After all, I did come here for a class and to work.

My days start with 4 to 5 hours of work. Each day is a bit different from the one before it. Often, I'm met at the door with new assignments. I'm getting used to it, and my boss is getting used to letting me have some coffee before he asks too much of me. At the halfway point, I am quite pleased with my work experience. My boss gives me a fair amount of responsibility. I do some research projects, plenty of drafting, and a bit of client contact. So far, I think my favorite project is negotiating a commercial lease on behalf of a tenant. Combing through a 20+ page lease clause by clause really appeals to my love of details. I've also enjoyed drafting a few motions, but I'm not fully convinced that litigation is my cup of tea.

In the evenings, we have class for two hours, four nights a week. During June, we studied Alaskan Native law. It was surprisingly interesting. I'll write a post at some point on the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Unlike reservations in the lower 48, this legislation established native corporations for Alaskan natives. Has anyone heard of it? Starting next week, we'll be studying environmental law. Bring on the polar bear!

I get from place to place with the help of my feet, bike, and bus. The bus system is an experience all its own. Really. Although I'm getting used to it, I certainly have a greater appreciation for the Seattle bus system. Here in Anchorage, by and large, the only people who ride the bus are those who absolutely cannot afford even the most basic of cars. Not only is there stigma surrounding bus ridership, but also the schedule is not exactly convenient. Most buses only run every half hour (peak time) and every hour (evenings and weekends) for limited hours, and they cost $1.75 per ride with no transfers. I have seen a shocking trend of poverty and alcoholism in my rides as many of the same people show up on bus after bus. This is really just the tip of the iceberg; most all of us (especially the women) have stories from the bus.

Anchorage has many drawbacks, but it's growing on me with the appearance of moose in my daily life and 4 weeks of adaptation. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing George, some of my family, and a few friends this weekend during a brief trip to southern Ohio and Kentucky.

Back for Breakfast

Much to my (pleasant) surprise, the moose family came back for breakfast. Aren't the babies cute?!






01 July 2008

Moose!

A little after 10:30pm, Kiki knocked on my door and said that there were a bunch of kids and a police officer outside her window. After looking around and not seeing anything, I opened a window and asked what was going on: MOOSE! Of course, I grabbed my camera and started clicking away as soon as they came into view. I've missed my last three chances to photograph these crazy creatures, and I was not repeat my mistake. After all, mama moose and her two babies were literally right outside our window. This is definitely the closest I'll get to a moose while being safe.

These are not the greatest pictures in the world, but I was trying to hold still to take them through the screen and dirty window without a flash, at dusk.