Friday, July 10, 2015

July 10, 2015. In Anchorage.

Last night Joanna told me there would be 7 people here for breakfast and that we could eat early if we wanted, to make room for the rest at the table.  I said we would, but everyone else got up pretty early too. Here are Joanne and Julie, from Washington, DC; they are here for fishing and bear watching. Ruth and Mish are from Tel Aviv--they are adjusting to an 11 hour time change! They'll be here 3 weeks on vacation.

There is baleen hanging on the wall above the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen, and another piece of it in the hallway. It comes from the mouth of a whale, where it is used to strain the small sea creatures they subsist on from the great gulps of sea water they suck in and then expel after they strain out the good stuff.

This is the morning we planned to hike up Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park. It is a 2-mile hike from the parking lot up to the top of the mountain at 3,300 feet. We'd been told it was a difficult hike and that near the top we would be climbing, not walking, but decided to go for it.

We started out with no direction, just the location of the park. Bad move--we drove about 18 miles south out of Anchorage before we decided the park was too big to be wandering around in aimlessly.  We stopped at a scenic overlook (where above photo was taken) and I asked my phone where Flattop Mountain was. It told me to go back 10 miles the way we came, and directed me into a parking lot within the park. No trails there... fortunately there was a nice young woman on a bike who told me how to get there--back toward Anchorage and up several roads, including Toilsome Rd. where I took the photo below. It was indeed a Toilsome Road, very steep with lots of switchbacks.

The parking lot was almost empty. We took a comfort break and started up the mountain. Dianne had a water bottle and some snacks and I had my camel bak and camera. The trail started out with a mild incline.

Steps were set into a few spots where the trail had washed out. Dianne was trudging up ahead of me, while I plodded on (trudging is faster than plodding) due to my sore hip.

The trail got increasingly steeper as we climbed, sometimes disappearing, leaving us to find our own way up. Several runners passed me on the way up.

When I was near the top of Flattop Mountain this girl (who had passed me running up) was running down. I commended her on her strength and stamina. Savanna is 15 and has already run up this mountain 5 times while training for the Mount Marathon.

By this time I had passed Dianne. For a while I could see her struggling far below me, and then I could see her no more.

Finally I reached the top! It was a beautiful day with views of mountains and sea, and the city of Anchorage far below. The woman who took this photo was climbing with her husband and son, and brought me a message from Dianne--she had turned around and was heading back down; she'd decided not to attempt the final ascent. Unfortunately she did not send food!

It started to cloud up and by the time I was starting my descent I was engulfed in a cloud. The photo below contains 3 climbers on their way up, very near the top. I know they are hard to see but I wanted to show the steepness of the final climb. Trail? No trail here, just pick your way like a mountain goat and scramble for the top.

The next time I turned around Flattop Mountain was totally obscured by clouds. I sure was glad we'd started out early!

I arrived back at the parking lot around 1:30 PM. It was full and people were being directed to an overflow parking lot. Dianne wondered why anyone would start such a grueling hike at 1:30 PM, but I reminded her it does not get dark so they can start any time they want! We went to lunch, stopped at the bike shop, and then I dropped her off downtown so she could go to some museums. 

I went back to Planet Anchorage to take a shower and a break. I also took photos of Bella's watercolors, including the one above, that she painted for Joanna.

I drove back to town to meet Dianne at F Street Café, where we had eaten our first night here. The special tonight was halibut stuffed with crab and shrimp, served with fresh asparagus, lemongrass rice and buerre blanc sauce. Our chef, who cooked it right in front of us, presented our meals with a flourish. The food was perfect!

Before dinner we talked with two women who have lived here all of their adult lives. They love Alaska and would never consider living anywhere else. I can identify with that. This is indeed a wonderful place... After dinner we had a nice long conversation with Nick and Marya (above). Nick is in the US Army and has been stationed here for 4 years. He lives here with his wife and children, and they sound as if they never want to leave. They regaled us with stories about bears and moose, including the bear cub who played with the kids' soccer ball, batting it up and down the street until there was nothing left of it! What a great time we've had here.

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