Friday, September 22, 2006

End of Summer Road Trip: AK

8 moons

Ambiana reached 8 moons on the outside while we were in Alaska

We are back from Alaska having flown 4500 miles and driven an additional 1000 miles from Chicago back to our South Hadley Falls riverside home. Here are some pictures, the descriptions will follow shortly. Just a note as to the "missing" pictures on the previous posts and the blog template; the server that host the Spanda website abruptly canceled our account due to a co-ordinated spam email attack on our account which was shutting down their server. No notice or anything so if you are considering hosting with Vodahost...DON'T!!!! I will be re-adding the pics over the course of the next week once I find a new and more reliable and secured server...

We flew to Alaska. It's amazing how ordinary that sentence is, as if stepping onto a metal tube with wings, then accelerating it to over 500 miles an hour such that we gain lift to 37,000 feet (over 7 miles) and cruise over large portions of the planet was not one of the most magical things we could ever do. Flying never ceases to amaze me (or make me a bit nervous). To Ambiana it was probably nothing much more than a bigger car with more people and no driver. We flew first to Minneapolis and than changed planes for the flight to Anchorage. I love those first few moments when the wings catch the air and lift us up off the earth and the clouds reveal themselves as oh-so-near to the ground as we climb among and above them, the footprint of our culture made visible in the layout and grid of our highways, roads and buildings. The views during takeoff and landing are the best and I study the patterns which appear through-out Nature in greater and lesser magnitudes; the forests upon the land, the trees amongst the forest, the leaves on the trees, the veins on the leaf mirrored in the subdivisions in the communities in the towns and the cities.

Ambiana was buoyant and the first flight was empty so there was plenty of open space. Not so the remaining 4 flights in our flight circle from CHI to AK to CHI again. Our seatmate on the 2nd flight loved Ambiana and she her which made the flight for her more fun. Ambiana is in a mamamamama phase and when Momma is in sight she wants to be with Colleen. Colleen is a super great momma and gives Ambiana everything she needs and more. She was content to wander the fuselage with Ambiana and meet people which they are very good at doing. I think it is absurd to watch movies and cruel that they put a hanging screen EVERYWHERE which compels me to watch whatever is on for uninterrupted periods of time which i break way from to look elsewhere which is why i like nay need the window seat so I can look out and ponder the vast extent of cloud or earth that we are cruising over.

We landed in Anchorage, coming over the cook inlet at sunset with the mountain peaks white and the shorelines a bright green. The anchorage bowl is surrounded by peaks and water and is a beautiful sight. We found our luggage and then outside Our friend Kris found us and took us in his mini-van an hour North to Wasilla and his home with Venus, Toshi, Violet, Ebony and a cat or two and oh yes some rabbits :) Back in Ak in Wasilla! w/Kris and Venus!...I met Venus in the rainforests of Sitka 10 years ago when I was guiding the cruise ship clientel by kayak among forested fjords and islands and have encountered her through-out AK since then. She paints pretty pictures. Kris came to Girdwood on a wave of music in 1997 and is an artist in a lot of what he does. We had a bed in the basement across the hall from 7 or 8 year old Toshi and yummy oatmeal for breakfast.

We went shopping with Venus and out to her sisters place on KGB (Knick-Goose Bay) Rd...her sister had 3 dogs, ambiana loves dogs, and 10 month old son who was crawling all over the place. Ambiana loved him too. She loves everyone, or she did at the beginning of the trip, somewhere along the way she decided that she doesn't like to be held by anyone other than Colleen or me unless they sing the bouncy song then she does the bouncy dance (EveryOne do the Bouncy Dance!) and every thing is ok...or maybe not :(

Katrina & Dylan and Marika & Shine

We took a road trip forty miles north to Montana Creek and finally got the visit Marika and Katrina at their homes, or Marika's anyway, it is a beautiful homemade log cabin on a pond in a birch forest. Unfortunately Marika told us it is also the Meth-Amphetamine??? capital of AK cause land is cheap and its on the edge of nowhere. Marika made us a yummy smoked salmon dip and gave us crackers and we met Katrina and her two daughters out by the trampoline. Marika has 2 girls also both with awesome crazy hair. Toshi loved the trampoline and made new friends, one of the girls giving him a radish from her own little garden. It was nice to see them, they feel like sisters. Back in Wasilla I made lasagna for dinner which Colleen slept through and had for breakfast.

The next day all of us but Kris who was at work took a walk around the neighborhood. Our Contra Friend Providence turned out to be babysitting at a house on our walk route and we stopped and hung out with her and her bro Valiant for awhile, it was good to see them, they are active, alert, intelligent human beings not like the socialized drones following the cultural programming. Venus drove us in to Anchorage on Friday night which was Colleen's 30th Birthday. We celebrated by seeing all our friends at the dance; Hatton, Rich, Heather, Gregg, even Becca and her son Oliver who is a sweet little cutie-boy. We didn't know where we were gonna sleep when we arrived at the dance but had faith in the dance community or in ourselves to make something happen. We ended up in Heather's basement place 2.5 blocks from the dance by ourselves as she was staying with Rich and heading down to the Kenai for a canoe trip at 7am.

We slept in and then hooked up with Hatton having to make the first and only hike however small with all our gear. No picture of that exists so let me paint the scene for you...Colleen and I both had on big backpacks, mine is bigger, she straps Ambiana's Backpack to her front and I strap Ambiana to mine. In addition I carry the camera bag and the car seat which fits like a puzzle piece upon the top of my backpack. Colleen has a bag of food in each hand. We walk maybe 3/4 of a mile to a church lot on Lake Otis Parkway where Hatton and his sister pick us up and Ambiana rides forward facing for the first time, she loved it! We went to Gwennies on Spenard which is the best breakfast place in AK since the Lyon Family Cafe was run out of Girdwood. Hatton drove us to Carrs Huffman where while waiting for Acorn to pick us up we ran into Jenna and her beautiful six moon old baby girl Sophia.

'Corn arrived with his 2 boys, Micah who is 6 and Ben who is 3 almost 4. We went thru the taco bell drive thru and then to UAA where Acorn is getting his Phd. in Moss and he needed to measure the evaporation rate of some specimen...Science, Colleen loved it, she went into the lab with 'Corn while I stayed out with the boys and ran up and down the wooded hill surrounding the building. Soon we were on the Turnagain Arm driving at the foot of the Chugach Mts towards G'wood. It was raining when we got there but the sun some came out as it is following us because it thinks Ambiana is so cute :)

Amy and Tucker were over when we arrived at Acorn's. Girdwood seems to have more than the usual number of growth related changes. Big faux-wooden condos rise now in what once was a cottonwood/spruce grove next to the trailer park where Acorn lives. The building that housed the Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts Gallery when last we lived here and was the laundromat when I first arrived in 1992 is now a bookstore and newsstand. Where Darby's Aloha Alaska Cafe and gift shop once was is now totally real estate occupied. Molly Towner moved to Anchorage and Girdwood Travel is no more. J.J.'s the Chinese American food place is now the SilverTip Grille. The old post office is now the home of the clinic and the former clinic is for rent. At the new laundromat Dog Wash has been replaced bya Mexican restaurant and the used clothing store is now Malia's G'wood Salon. Juniper is renting out space in Court One. The Merc is the same and so is the library which was the first place we visited. Camilla and George were there and it was really nice to see them. We love libraries and the G'Wood branch was like my reading den during my Virgin and Crow Creek years.

Walt & Shubie

Colleen volunteered to babysit and Acorn and I rode bikes up to Walt's. I smoked his ass, he wanted to race and had a big lead heading over the bridge but the running we've been doing with Ambiana asserted itself and I flew past him up the bikepath hill I let him catch up on Timberline but puled ahead on the hills of Vail. I was knocked off the bike by the steep ass hill that must be summited to reach Walt's place and walked it, still I was at Walt's before Acorn who took the longer-less-steep way. Walt and Tami have been to Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand since we last saw them. They have had an epic year or two, their house looks like a million dollars and all the more so because they built it themselves. Colleen and Ambiana and I walked here the next morning and awoke them for an awesome Sunday Breakfast. Walt cooked but did not eat salmon omelette's. Acorn and Shubie showed up with Tucker, Micah and Ben and after grub we went out his backyard into the temperate rain forest of hemlock, spruce, blueberry and devil's club, and climbed the ridge of Max's Mt a bit before dropping into the Virgin Creek gorge and reaching the cascade upstream of the falls in sync with the sun's appearance in the little arc of sky available between the ridge line of Orca Mt and the absence of trees upon the water's course. I tell you the sun LOVES ambiana. (no nickname just Am-bi-an-a)

I LOVE Virgin Creek Falls, have loved it ever since I first stumbled across it hiking from the wetland meadows on the Arm to my campsite and having gone to high on Orca came down upon the falls from above in Winter. The next AM I took Ben up there and have been making pilgrimages ever since. To honor the river spirit in all-things I built a cairn in an alcove on the SW bank. Over the years the shrine has grown. I consider myself somewhat of a caretaker and have a symbiotic relationship with the spot and the objects acquiring chi there. It is acceptable I believe for us to take with us some object that has been resting there gathering misty chi especially so if one has placed that object there some time ago. Neither is it not inappropriate to take for awhile and object that calls one forth. Of course all $$ goes with me as currency has no place in nature. Walt and I crossed to tend to the shrine for a bit. Then we hiked out of the forest and all the way down to John and Julia's to visit them and their kids Wesli and Murph. Murph was 6 months old when we left last July and now he is 18 months walking and jibbering. He's a coming attraction for Ambiana+1year. We walked down to the Turnagain Arm and then back up to Acorn's having walked about 8 miles.

Wesli & Murph w/ Ambiana


On Monday the 11th of September we took a walk up to the Bake Shop to say Hi to Mike and Stephanie and Laura and then visited Virgin Creek again. Shortly after we got back to Acorn's trailer Ben and Laurel arrived to pick us up and take us back to Seward. This is the 1st time we've met Laurel and we we so pleased to meet her after hearing so much about her. We stopped just south of town and ran around Orca Rock for a bit as it was so warm and sunny and the tide was out. Ben and I used to come to Orca Rock a lot the first winter we lived in G'wood to sit in the sun above the sea. We've had many fun and interesting times upon this rock. The drive to Seward took a couple of hours and the scenery was beautiful, fall lasts about an eye-blink in AK and we were happy to see some fall colors among the aspen and cottonwood.

Ben's land is on a mountain slope just north of Seward. You climb a steep path to a bench where he has built his 2 story cabin perched on the edge of a ravine with a clear running creek flowing through it. Ben's house shows Laurel's touch since we were last here last June. There is a stove and oven and a table in the downstairs room and the upstairs loft has been painted yellow and has a bed in it up on the level with the East and South facing windows which overlook the woods and the mountains and Resurrection Bay through the trees. It is a really cute and snug little home. We pitched our tent and spent 4 nights camped outside.

In the mornings when we woke up Ambiana and I would go and gather blueberries from the forest for our pancakes and/or oatmeal. We spent the days wandering Seward with Ben and Laurel. On Tuesday we awaited the arrival of Ben's new windsurfer but when it finally arrived there was no wind. We were given a salmon by a boy who was fishing in the harbor and we cooked him up around the campfire that night! We were joined by Ben's neighbors Ryan and Gail and there lovely kids Noah, 10 and Bijou, 5.

On Wednesday we went for an afternoon hike up to Vogt Lake. It was a beautiful walk through the birch and spruce forest up along a rippling cascade to a gorgeous mountain lake ringed with fall colors. The water was freezing but we took a quick little skinny dip swim each which took our breath away it was so cold! I love the forest here on the Kenai, hardly and devils club and lots of ferns and tall green grasses. Back home we enjoyed a fire at Ryan and Gail's fire circle. That night Ben noticed the Moon rising far to the north, we didn't know it at the time but the Moon is at the northern most extremity of an 18.6 year cycle and this month is not setting at all, just coming down real low in the north without going beneath the horizon before rising again.

Mochi & Dwindlin

On Thursday the rain came in, we spent the morning at the library and the afternoon watching Ben master his new windsurfer in the bay. We also met Kathy who owns the land we are interested in. We looked over the 4.9 acre plot and have mixed feelings about it as a big ole' gravel road adjoins the property. It would be a good investment though and we'd have Ben and Laurel and Ryan and Gail and their kids as our neighbors. We have time to think about it as the land wont be surveyed and ready for sale for at least a year. Ryan and Gail had us over for spaghetti and to look at some of Ryan's photos he has taken of his ski trips amongst the peaks that tower overhead all around.

Mochi, Noah, Ambiana and Bijou

Friday was another Gray and rainy day. Laurel left early for some field work mapping moose habitat out at Spencer Glacier and ben debated whether to go surfing or not. He decided against it and drove us back up to Girdwood and Acorn's place. He spent the night and we hit the pool and the sauna and then Colleen volunteered to watch the kids again we rode up to Walt's on Bikes. (I smoked Acorns's ass again even though I wasn't feeling as strong. I took the longer less steep way this time and stayed on the bike the whole way) Walt and Tami were in bed early recovering from a late night last night at the Open Mic in Hope. We ended up cruising G'wood by bike and then making Pina Coladas on Acorn's porch. Ben took off the next morning and we hung around and visited with Colleen's former co-worker Rosalie and her husband Brandon who were in Gwood celebrating their 2nd wedding anniversary. They treated us to dinner at the new Silvertip Grille. On Sunday we lazed around all day until 6pm when Acorn took us to the airport. We stopped and had pizza at the Moose's Tooth and then were dropped off at the airport at 7pm for our 1am flight. We flew to Seattle and then to Houston and finally to Chicago where Bill picked us up because Kris was in the hospital overnight with a kidney infection. She came home the next morning so we got to see her before we left for home. We drove to Toledo and spent the night with my dad and Patti and my uncle John and Aunt Julie who were visiting my dad who had also been in the hospital with a numb lip the night before.

On Wednesday we drove to the Scahills for a wonderful quiche dinner and a super short visit as we had to be back in South Hadley 'cause Colleen had to work on Thursday. I drank a late night Latte which kept me wide awake the whole way home, us finally arriving at 3am. We finished the Bob Dylan audio book on the way to Toledo and between there and home we listened to an account of the World Trade Center Clean-up. Amazing to hear what a*&holes the fire department could be , soaking up there status as mythic heroes and elevating their losses as somehow more worthy than the police and civilian losses.