Out of Australia’s sweltering February, a day’s skip through Honolulu’s temperate winter, and into the snowy landscape of Anchorage… yes, I find myself (along with aunt Carol) back in Alaska – my third trip in ten years.
The plan: to make a solid start on my next novel during a four week stint house-sitting for a friend in beautiful Sitka, where I’ve been twice before on writing residencies. The prelude: a visit to the snowy middle of Alaska (Anchorage) and the south eastern island of Wrangell to catch up with friendships made two years ago.
We were lucky. Anchorage was a fairyland of deep powder snow (apparently last winter was warm and horribly icy). Our friend Lindsey whisked us out to her log cabin about 40 minutes from town in a valley called Eagle River.
To us straight-from-the-heatwave Australians this was utter utter heaven. The end of the road, forest and mountains all around, deep snow, hiking trails, frozen river.
We hiked out into the woods with Lindsey and the indefatigable Devito, crunching through the snow, a light snowfall dusting down on us. Saw the cabins where hikers can stay through the year (superb, but Spartan). Met my first moose. I went on alone after the others turned back, and on my own merry way home, re-encountered the moose blocking my path. Interesting moment – I’ve been warned how dangerous they can be. Eventually I was able to get around her without incident, except for quite an elevated heart rate.
We headed over to meet Lindsey’s neighbours that night and had one of those magical evenings that sometimes happen while travelling – when a bunch of strangers feel like your best friends by the end of the night. We played a hilarious game of dice, laughed our heads off, made future plans to meet up in various world locations, and staggered home at 1am.
Next morning – up! With Lindsey and Rachael (from the night before) we headed out to see Matanuska Glacier – a couple of hours drive away. So fascinating were the conversations that we missed a turnoff somewhere and found ourselves almost back home again. Set out with renewed determination and arrived at the glacier by 3pm. Lindsey somehow talked the manager into giving us a summer-only tour rate and taking us out himself to hike to the foot of the glacier and explore its edges. The Alaskans skipped along merrily – Cas and I marched gingerly over the icy bits in our cleats and I was convinced my hands and feet were freezing off – but it was so powerful and awesome it didn’t matter.
I’ve seen glaciers and crevasses before in Antarctica, but never got up close. This time we walked into the temporary ice caves that form in the glacier’s foot during the summer/winter melting and refreezing. Blue, glassy ice sculpted into planes. Hard to describe. Divine. Unforgettable.
Rather more forgettable the next day – up at 5, into the airport, onto the plane for the hop-hop-hop trip south to Wrangell. Got through the first hop OK and then mid flight were diverted to Seattle. Went from being 1300km north of our destination to 1300km south. At least we had a nice hotel. My wallet, unfortunately, ended up in a different location all together, adding to the litany of lockouts and forgettings that have dogged me on this trip – clearly turning into a senior now.
Back on the plane in the wee small hours and here in Wrangell at last – no snow, plenty of rain, tall forests, coastline, bald headed eagles, ravens.
More soon! Love Jesse xxx