Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Traditions: Camping

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I slept in a hammock on Wednesday and Thursday night, a tent hammock this is. I woke periodically throughout the night to the sounds of squirrels scurrying beneath me, birds fluttering in the branches and people walking the gravel road nearby as they travelled throughout the campground. Sure, it wasn’t the typical comfort of home, but a couple nights in the wilderness is certainly worth passing up modern amenities, like protection from bear and squirrels in the night.

A visit from out-of-state guests is always a good reason to make plans for out-of-town adventures, whether it’s my own guests or people I’ve never met. In this case it was the latter, and when the packed Subaru pulled into my drive to add my sleeping bag and pad to an already stuffed trunk, the two strangers made room for my gear while my friend introduced me to her high school classmates. It was their first trip to this great land, and while they’d already spent a few days in the interior on bear sighting and wildlife adventures, attention was shifting to the aquatic side of the nature spectrum and we headed for the coast.

Day One: Hike a glacier…or rather, near one. The eight mile round trip hike up the mountain paralleling a major glacier and ice field proved a to be a six hour journey that drained our water bottles and found us exhausted enough to bed back in our hammocks by 9pm. The weather was spectacular, with glimpses of sun and a steady breeze off the glacier to keep us cool. Most of the second half of the hike was on a trail of snow and slush, still dense and expansive even in the middle of July.

Day Two: Tour the other glaciers…and various wildlife. While the previous night’s early bedtime was due to exhaustion of climbing over 3,000 vertical feet, the next morning came early with a need to clean up the site and travel into town in time to make it on the tour boat at 8:30am. With nine hours of ocean travel ahead of us, I popped a seasickness pill and hoped for the best. Thankfully the waves were kind and when my stomach started to turn for the worse we found a calm patch nestled in a cove.

After staring in awe hour after hour at whales and birds, glaciers and porpoises, I am almost ashamed that it took out of state visitors to find me on such a trip. I see a lot of gorgeous wildlife and scenery in everyday life in Alaska, but setting aside a full day on a boat when the primary goal is wildlife observation and appreciation (and you have a seasoned captain to guide your tour and inform your view in everything from geology to ornithology) was well worth the investment.

All in all the trip was more than successful, it was nearly perfect. We spent the days outside in sun and wind and rain, cooked dinner over a campfire while reliving the day’s adventures, lounged on a rocky beach at the edge of our campground while the evening sun flickered on the waves, and disconnected ourselves from society for a while at a campsite without cell-service. And at the end of each day as I fell asleep to the rocking of my hammock, I would mentally settle in for the night: Hat? Check. Gloves? Check. Bear spray? Check. Another great day of summer? Absolutely.

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