Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yay for vacations!

I will be leaving for California tomorrow night. My flight leaves at 12:30 am and I'll be arriving in Sacramento by a bit after 9 am. I long to see my family, my friends, my cats, stuff my face with Chinese food, and visit my favorite places, including Moonshadows and Alder Creek. I want to take all my friends out to dinner to say happy birthday, some belated, some quite early. I want to forget work.

Logan and I have been trying to get outdoors since the summer is nearly over. Leaves are already changing color here and it's chilly in the mornings, though still warm during the day. We hiked a trail near Lake Eklutna, which was a very steep one. We took the dogs with us and during the last mile, Uffda lay down every chance she got. And made a few opportunities of her own as well. She was quite tired, poor "little" girl. Bruno, however, trotted briskly every second and was still tearing around the yard when we got home. So we decided next time, he gets to carry their water, cookies, and travel bowl!

We had bought a pack for him. It hangs on both sides of him, fitting like a harness with a loop on the back to clip the leash. We just never had an opportunity to use it yet.

So we went on a hike at Hatcher's Pass, called Archangel Valley. The drive up the trail was rocky; Logan had to put the Landcruiser into four wheel drive for the last part. When we reached the gate where the hike started, it had begun to rain. It had been sunny at home when we left, but clouds loomed over the mountains as we got close to the pass. We thought it would pass along and clear up.

Boy, were we wrong. It got harder as we went. Logan forgot his hat, though we were both wearing the tops of our Frog Togs. I put on the hood of my sweater, but it was soaked through by the end.

This was the most frustrating (and scary) hike we'd ever been in. We would have been better off leaving the dogs at home. I'm sure Bruno had a blast, but some things went wrong that made things ... sticky.

The trail got really thin and hedged in close by thick bushes. We got to a point where the path forked and we took the wrong trail. We reached a place where we had to jump across some big rocks with the stream running over them. I thought the dogs would slip and fall when they jumped. Uffda almost refused to jump, and I can't blame her. I almost didn't want to, myself.

We had read that there were some abandoned cabins at the end of the hike, so that was our aim, to check them out. After the rocks, we topped the hill and saw we were on the wrong side of the stream. By this time, it was more river than stream. We tried to find a place where we could jump or cross without soaking our feet. One place looked good, but when Logan stepped into the water, his foot sunk. He had high boots on, so it wasn't a problem for him, but it would have been for me. So I went farther down and found a place where there were more rocks and less water. This was a worse idea, because the rocks were slippery and I soaked my right foot, anyway. I was wet from head to toe by this time and starting to get chilly. There was nothing to dry my hands on. My fingers got pretty stiff after a while and I worried about hypothermia.

So we were starting to feel really stupid when we finally hit the ridge and saw a large expanse of field to cross before reaching the cabins. As we started across, we discovered it was mostly swamp. I soaked my my other foot and we decided to finally call it quits.

Logan had some spare wool socks in his pack, so I switched out my soaked ones. Then Logan took our packs and I took the dogs and the dog pack. We let the dogs run around free since they usually stay close. That was our other big mistake. Bruno likes charging around. He wanted to chase a bird that streaked out of a bush, but that would have meant diving off a big rock. I'm so glad he listened to me when I yelled at him, though it took three times to turn him around.

I had reached the narrow part of the trail where bushes clustered thickly on the edges, hip high. Bruno decided to plunge head first into the downhill side bushes. All I could see was an occasional wiggle. Uffda decided to follow him. I yelled and yelled and eventually Bruno emerged with some difficulty. I kept calling Uffda and saw the bushes wiggle here and there.

Then the wiggles stopped and whining started. She had gotten stuck just a foot from the path. I pushed through the branches and saw that she was stuck down under a bush behind a rock wall. She couldn't jump the wall and the bush on top of it and was freaking out. I tried pulling her up, but only succeeded in pulling on her fur. She didn't even so much as whimper. So I dropped down the where she was and scooped her up in my arms. She's at least 60 pounds now and it was all I could do to lift her up. If she'd been like Bruno, she would have leaped from my arms and scrambled over the bush to the path. But she was scared and would not move. I couldn't throw her over the bush, so now I was stuck, too. I was so afraid she was hurt. Logan had caught up and asked if I'd got her and I said, "NO!"

He came down, managed to wrap his arms around her while still up on the ledge, and lifted her to the path. I was so relieved, I almost cried. And as she walked down the path, I saw no sign of injury. I immediately put their leashes on after that event.

I was never so excited to see the Landcruiser as I was that day.

And here's the kicker: As we drove down the rocky road, the sky behind us showed patches of blue. Logan took pictures of it as a way of shaking his fist.

While much of this is embarrassing to tell, as it makes us look like unprepared greenhorns, I wanted other people who read this blog to know that you can never be too prepared in Alaska. Even something as a simple hike on sunny day can turn into a disaster. Just want you all to know that because I care about you.

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