Monday, August 31, 2009

Michelle's Excellent Alaskan Vacation Day 4

July 31, 2009

I leave Denali Backcountry Lodge tomorrow AM. It’s been a tremendous experience. After lunch yesterday, I put a fire in the gazebo & sat reading & writing. Joe & Susan sat out in the sun along the creek. Bill returned form the Fannie Quigley hike & joined me in the gazebo. We talked quite awhile – or should I say HE talked. When the time came to move on, he said, “ I hope I didn’t talk your ear off..” I still have both.
Since I had a sedentary afternoon, I wasn’t real hungry come dinnertime, but I went to the dining room anyway. I had a glass of wine and hors d’ouvres upstairs and chatted with Pam & Wiley from WA. When dinnertime came I sat with the couple I’d met at the train station who are recently retired, form Ann Arbor MI – never did get their names. Dinner was shrimp & scallops, but I wasn’t very hungry – ate politely, & excused myself before dessert.
I took a walk out to the end of the road (literally) & back around Fannie Quigley’s. It was a path I knew and I’d forgotten to sign out at the desk as they ask us to do when venturing out without a camp guide. I wanted to go back out into/onto the tundra. I thrill at the wide open expanse, the spongy floor the abundant berries, & especially the intoxicating fragrance of labrador tea.
I strolled back toward camp, but detoured up a path toward the ridge where remnants of Fannie’s garden remained. It was a steep incline, the path was rugged, & I found my heart rate racing. I stood on a bluff & could see for miles. I breathed in deeply the fresh, clear air and listened to nothingness. “I’m on the top of the world, looking down on creation” I thought to myself.

I returned to camp and went to the building they call the cultural center. There I popped in a video about Denali: the taiga, the tundra & the arctic. As the video ended, other guest filed into the room for a scheduled video presentation. I put my boots back on, straightened up my chair and quietly departed. I went to the library and borrowed a couple of books on wildflowers & one on berries of Alaska, returned to my cabin & read until I could no longer keep my eyes open.
This morning, - Friday – started with a 9:00 AM guided hike along an old mining road, along Moose Creek & into the valley where intricate beaver dams & lodges had been erected. Shannon was our guide, a tiny, soft-spoken twenty-something girl from Homer, AK. The group was Pam & Wiley, Joe & Susan, Bill, myself and a newcomer, Martine, from Paris, France. We hiked an elevation of about 2,000 feet & probably three miles

We found a pair of cast-off moose antlers & had fun with them before returning back to camp, just in time for lunch. The skies began to cloud over, the air cooled, the humidity rose and the threat of rain was imminent.

A gold panning demonstration was beginning & I watched as guests tried their hand. I walked back to the main lodge, got a fresh cup of coffee, went upstairs and picked up a book on the history of the Alaskan RR. I eased into a rocker on the upstairs porch & was quickly engaged in conversation with a man & woman who were “day visitors’ - had come in on a bus from the park entrance, they were from Vero Beach, FL. I had only begun reading about the start of the railroad & how the government restricted private ownership of the coal being mined, forcing bankruptcy with only 70 miles completed. Joe came out on the porch & joined me & it was pretty good timing as he is a bankruptcy attorney & he answered some of my questions that rose about government intervention in private enterprise. We talked awhile until it began to drizzle – I mentioned that I thought I would stir up a fire in the gazebo if he & Susan were up to joining me. I returned to my cabin to grab this journal intending to write by the fire, as well as get my thermos to fill with hot apple cider. When I got to the gazebo, Joe was already building the fire, Susan came along shortly and we talked about two books they had that their older son had authored. The books were on Shin Buddhism.
Another couple joined us- Al & Marian – recently retired educators from CA. We conversed, stoked the fire, read a bit until it was “happy hour”. We bought beer & wine & enjoyed it in the gazebo next to the alder wood fire, as the rain fell steadily.


Wiley, Pam, Moi, Bill, Joe & Sue

After dinner, we returned to the gazebo, & built a very substantial fire. Bill, Joe & I chipped in on a bottle of Reisling. We took an old tinder bucket to use to chill the wine. It had a hole in the bottom apparently from an ember. Joe chewed a piece of gum and plugged the hole, then we dipped it into the creek & 40-50 degree water served to chill the wine perfectly. Al & Marian joined us, Bill talked & talked, thrilled to have a fresh audience. Wake up call is 5 AM, so, at 10:30 PM we wrapped it up. Tomorrow is the long ride back out.

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