Not Quite the Adventure I Was Looking For…

I’ve been here in Alaska for a month and it has been an incredible experience. I came up here to work the annual salmon run in order to finance my future adventures, and  possibly squeeze in some adventuring with every chance I could get, and while I have been doing that, and things were great, that all changed this past week.

My company sent me up to Dillingham to help out the plant there. It was a nice change of pace and scenery and the little down time I had I took advantage with bike rides through the rolling hills of the Dillingham country side. It was such an incredible experience to be the only one on the road while being treated to fields of green stretching out to the mountains and river in the distance. The rush of going down the hill and letting go of the handlebars was so invigorating, I can barley describe the feeling. In fact I don’t think the word invigorating really does it any justice at all. It is truly an incredible experience.   wpid-20150722_222122_richtonehdr.jpg

After a week in Dillingham I was supposed to go back to Petersburg with a bunch of my co workers. The company had charted a plane for us to get back. We were supposed to have a quick stop in Anchorage to refuel but it turned into an hour layover. We were then told six people would have to stay the night in Anchorage and that they would be compensated for staying. Since I’m always looking for an adventure, I volunteered to stay behind. They gave us our carry on bags and then the plane left. Thinking that the company was going to get us a hotel, we all waited patiently in the terminal awaiting to hear of any news. Hours passed before I called the company to find out what was going on; only to be told that the hotels were filled up and we were on our own for the night. Two people left because they knew someone in town and didn’t want to wait in the terminal. Leaving only four people including myself in the terminal for the night.

As the night began to press on, we started getting restless. We had no money, some didn’t have phone service and we were stuck in the terminal for the night. I kept counting down the hours until my direct deposit would kick in, and then I knew I would be free. I had called up a hostel and they had plenty of space. I thought I would cab it, and maybe walk the city after checking in, but as time went on, I knew that wouldn’t be an option. The tree other men I was with, had little to no money on them, no direct deposit and one was suffering a migraine. One man used what little money he had to buy us all McDonalds for dinner. I knew that when my direct deposit came in, that I couldn’t leave them here. They were angry, and suffering. I just knew I couldn’t leave them behind like that.

When my deposit went through I called a local hotel and they had a suite that was available, and they offered me a discount. So I took it, and made the reservation. I then went back and informed the men, that I got them a room, and the hotel was coming to pick us up. Their faces immediately lit up, and their mood changed. Within minutes we arrived at the hotel and after I finished checking in we went up to our room. They were so happy with how big it was. Two huge rooms, one with two queen size beds, another with a fold out couch, tvs in every room, a fridge, microwave, the bathroom had a spa tube and a separate shower. It was amazing. One of the guys told me, that he had never stayed somewhere that was this nice. I felt happy that I was able to help these guys out. I didn’t even really know them, I had just learned the names, and yet here we were, “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers…” we would sleep like kings tonight. wpid-20150723_154439_richtonehdr.jpg

The next morning we were back at the airport. We were all on different flights and mine left first. I left Anchorage at eight and was headed off to Juneau. I was suppose to have a three and a half hour layover before my next flight, so I decided to catch a cab and head into town to see some sights before I left. I’ve been wanting to visit Juneau so I took this small opportunity to do so. Shortly after arriving back at the airport I learned there was a problem with the aircraft and a smaller plane was taking it’s place. This meant that some people would be spending the night in Juneau. I volunteered to stay. I don’t really know why either. I was desperate to get back to work. I literally only had a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste with me. The rest of my luggage was already in Petersburg, but I choose to stay. Maybe a part of me thought or hoped I would see the girl that I meet in Petersburg, even though I knew that she wasn’t here anymore. Still something compelled me to stay.

The airline gave me a room, a few meal tickets and and a flight for the next day,wpid-20150724_194425_richtonehdr.jpg for my travel troubles. After checking into my room, I went on a walk. The views around Juneau and it’s airport are breathtaking. In some places you can see the glacier. I found a small hiking trail that was actually very pleasant and empty considering how close it was to the airport. I’m glad it wasn’t too long of a hike though because the only shoes I had were my Ultra Tuffs, which are just rubber boots. Then again, I guess you can’t be a true Alaskan until you have done a hike in Ultra Tuffs.

As the night began to creep in and I wandered back to my hotel I couldn’t stop thinking of so many things. I thought of home, of my family and my friends. I thought of cats, I thought of places that I still want to see and the things I still want to do. I thought of all that and much more, and yet I didn’t feel lonely or alone, even though I was completely alone. I didn’t mind it, but at the same time I kind of missed everyone. Now I’m back in Petersburg, eagerly awaiting to start working again so I can earn enough money to have more incredible adventures.

 

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An Unexpected Encounter and a Day of Adventure.

The days are long here in Alaska. The tiny town that I am residing in for the next two months is quaint and everyone is friendly, yet I feel a little out of place. It’s been hard to make any connection that lasts longer than simple pleasantries. Then one day, I was walking by the Ferry Terminal and I stumbled into someone unexpected.

It was a cloudy and cool day and as I was out having a walk near the ferry terminal. I wore my daypack, because honestly, I feel naked without it. As I walked I found myself caught in my own thoughts. A squawk from a soaring Bald Eagle flying above caught my attention and I found myself watching it fly above me. They are a common sight on this island, yet I can’t stop myself from watching in amazement. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, WHAM! I felt myself collide with another person, and the sound of a smart phone impacting on the ground in a loud thud rang in my ears.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you.” I exclaimed.

“No, it’s my fault, I should have been looking where I was going.” I heard a soft voice say.

I picked up the I Phone on the ground (thank god for Otter box). It was that moment I finally saw who I ran into, as I handed her phone to her. She was in her early twenties, sandy blond hair worn short, and striking blue eyes. I think my jaw dropped.

“Are you okay?” I finally said.

“Yeah, I was just trying to get a picture of the Eagle”

After laughing off our disastrous meeting, we started talking. She told me that she was traveling through to Juneau where she was going to be visiting the Ice Fields and other amazing things. I told her about my great Alaskan Adventure. It was great to have a fellow adventurer to talk to. We shared tips, and stories about traveling and exploring. She spoke with such passion and excitement, and she was even excited to hear my stories and plans. Things were going great, until I learned she is only on the Island for a day. She embarks for Juneau in the morning. I almost let that be the end of it, I was about to say something along the lines of enjoy Petersburg while your here, but instead, I quickly said

“I know some trails here…I can show you them if you like, or perhaps you would rather fancy a pint?”

I honestly can’t believe I said “fancy a pint”, I would of rolled my eyes if she wasn’t looking at me. Lucky for me she thought it was awesome, and so we were off to enjoy a day of adventure and having a victory beer at Kato’s Kave latter that day. I took her to Outlook Park and showed her where the Devil’s Thumb would be, it it were not covered in clouds. We then went to Sandy Beach, hoping to see some petroglyphs, sadly we did not find any. We then went through Hungry Point trail, and took in the sights of Petersburg Mountain, the muskegs and a deer.

Even though we didn’t see some of the things we were looking for, we still had a great time, and shared some awesome stories. Despite having such a busy day we still had plenty of energy to have a couple of beers at Kato’s. She remembered it as the bar mentioned by the author from Into the Wild, and thought it was really cool to be in the same place she once read about. We then spent a good amount of time talking about that book, and McCandless, and I was really thankful, I just finished the book the day before.

Looking back on that day, I find myself missing the girl I shared a day with. Maybe because it was the company, maybe because I had a crush on her, or perhaps it’s becausebecause I felt like we were kindred spirits? Regardless, I now find my self returning back to the ferry terminal. Even though I know she won’t be returning back to Petersburg, and a small part of me is glad she won’t.

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss [her].”

Raven’s Trail

It’s been nearly a week since I’ve arrived in Alaska and it has been a roller-coaster of excitement and adventure already, but the past day and a half, everything has come to a slow halt. It’s mid day and I’m laying in my tent listening to the rain land and bounce off the fly and the nearby gravely ground. It’s calming and soothing to listen to as I read Call of the Wild by Jack London. However, no matter how pleasant and relaxing this is, I’m not content. I can hear the wild lands of Alaska calling me to her trails. Waiting for me to try and test my metal against hers. I contemplate putting on some rain gear and going out. My better judgment convinces me other wise.

Now it’s 16:00 the rain has stopped and I can’t contain myself anymore. There is a trail, nearby that I’ve been itching to try. So I pack my daypack and I’m out to try and conquer the trail. It’s a mile away from my tent, but it goes by quick. The road to the trail head is easy and not very traveled so there is nothing to slow me down. In no time I find myself at the trail head. A wooden sign surrounded by quarried diorite leads to the trail. First I’ll have to follow a service road for a half mile, and then the real trail will begin.

Even though this trail is a stone’s throw away from the airport, you wouldn’t even notice it was there. Only two commercial flights fly out of the airport each day. Any other smaller aircraft traffic is minimal at best. The road stretches out through the muskegs, as spruce saplings rise up from the mud, trying to claim it’s own niche in the world. I’m surprised by how well the trail is marked. A bright blue arrow points it out, as it could have been easily passed if it had not been. I half expected to see a cairn, and while I’m tempted to make one, I know it’s already 17:00 and I need to hit the trail.wpid-20150702_183626.jpg

The trail is a row of boards, or like a really long plank that leads through the muskeg. The boards have fish net on the top, and this helps get a good grip, because I imagine that with all the rain and mud it would be slippery. This kind of trail is alien to me. I’ve never encountered such a trail in all my travels. If you are traveling with a companion you would have to travel single file as there is only room for one on this trail. There isn’t even enough room for trekking poles on the board, it’s that small. Soon I exit the muskegs and enter the forest. It’s a surreal experience, the vibrant greens, and stillness, and the way the light peaks in through the branches. It’s more than what I expected.

Soon I come upon two hikers a man and women, both appear to be in their mid twenties, and both are very friendly. Luckily we came upon each other at a wide part of the boardwalk (the only part on the whole trail). The woman asks where I’m headed, and I tell her I’m going to the cabin at the top. She informs me it’s not at the top, and the man confirms. They tell me once you summit you will follow the path down further and onto another peak and that is where the cabin lays. After exchanging more pleasantries we are both headed on our paths in separate directions. I had no idea this would be the only human contact I would have on the whole trail.

As I enter the thick part of the forest, the boardwalk disappears, and I finally feel like I’m on a real trail. It’s muddy, and rooty and if you don’t keep your wits about you, and mind your footing, it will cost you. I almost catch a face full of Devil’s Club as I was watching my footing. Luckily my spider sense kicked and I ducked and narrowly avoid an unpleasant encounter with the thorny plant. The trail starts to get even harder, I think of all the challengingwpid-20150702_192004_richtonehdr.jpg trails I’ve done: Mt. Wilson, Mt. Baldy, Bright Angel, Angel’s Landing, I think I’m prepared, that I can handle it, that it won’t be that bad. While I was prepared, I underestimated how strenuous and challenging it would be.

Soon I’m gaining a foot of elevation with nearly each step that I take. The trail has round logs that sort of make a steep staircase, and I do mean steep. At times it felt like I was climbing more than stepping. To make matters more difficult the logs and trail are all muddy from the recent rains, making the trail more difficult. After a mile and some change of mostly steep elevation gains the path begins to even out and soon you reach the peak of the trail. Most trails peak to barren rocky tops, but not this little mountain. It’s covered in muskegs. I try not to linger as the standing water attracts the mosquitoes, but I notice the sun is low in the northwestern sky. I decided I’ll press on for another 20 minutes and if I don’t reach the cabin I’ll head back.

I move as fast as I can on the slippery boardwalk through the muskeg and brush, and after 20 minutes, the cabin is no where in sight. I pause for a moment. I check my map, I can’t be too far from it now, but then I realize the light is getting dimmer and I still have some thick muddy forest to traverse. So I head back. I’m really rushing now, as I do not want to get stuck in that forest with no light, because even with a head lamp and flash light I know the trail could be difficult to find. As I enter the forest, my fear comes to realization. It is much darker in here than I anticipated, and like I feared the trail is hard to see even with my headlamp. I try to pick up my speed but soon I slip and nearly fall. That slipped would of cost me dearly had I not been using my trekking poles. I slip again, and again, and finally I let the trail win. This will not be a speedy decent. I will have to take my time and watch my footing.wpid-20150702_211913.jpg

I make sure to make noise and bang my trekking poles together every few steps. After all this is bear country, and I do not want to surprise one on this lonely trail. I nearly go off trail once as I was following mud tracks and broken vegetation but I stopped and looked around and knew this wasn’t a trail. I had to back track several feet and luckily I spotted a blue diamond telling me which way to go. I count my lucky stars as an off trail adventure in this forest in the dark could cost me. I won’t lie and say the thought of getting lost in here didn’t cross my mind, or that I wasn’t afraid. Fear was with me, as I descended, but I used it as a strength. After all fear is a super power. It can make you stronger, run faster, jump higher. Adrenalin is like rocket fuel and it will course through your veins making you think faster, make it seem like time slows. How could you do the impossible without fear?

Once I reached the boardwalk I feel a little relief as I know the worst is over and and soon I’ll be back on the service road. I make haste on the boardwalk, as I still feel uneasy being on this trail in the dark. The good part though, was that there was more light on this part of the trail, due to less dense vegetation. It isn’t long before I’m back into the muskeg and the service road is in sight. Once I take that first step onto the road a big sigh of relief let out. Still I knew I had a half mile of service road through the muskeg to be really in the clear. Once I’m back at the trail head and reach the main road, I feel immediate satisfaction. I made it. I just did an intense trail, got caught in the dark and I still made it.

Looking back on this adventure I will admit that I was foolish for trying to accomplish this trail so late in the day. Or underestimating the trail. I didn’t have enough respect for the trail when I started, but now I’ve learned. Now I’m wiser, and now I realize just how wild my future adventures in this land will be. Also you will pleased to know I ran into the nice couple the next day on my way to the Laundromat. The woman explained how they were worried about me venturing out so late. It was good feeling to have, and we were all happy with the outcome.