The icy wilderness of Alaska is the perfect place to lose yourself. But Warren doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to lose someone else.The book, Trudge On, Soul, is the result of three long years of late nights, critique groups, and editing. If you haven't read the blog, I'd suggest you stop reading and at least click here to read the preview chapters of the book. The blog and pictures have spoilers and the book is a much better read. Think of the website as a documentary, and the book as an engaging movie. Triumph Motorcycles did an article on my Adventure here. A Photo Album of the trip is available here. Click here if you want to jump to the start of the blog with an index of each day.
The Adventure Continues...
Last night was cold mid 30’s) and I was thankful for my thermals and warm sleeping bag. Once I’d snapped, zipped, and velcroed everything, I slept warm and cozy. And not to complain about my comfy bed, but it sure made it tough to crawl out at 6am into the frigid air. We had to push it early though or we’d miss the Fjord tour (we had to check in by 10:30). We didn’t know it yet, but at the end of a cold morning we had some amazing scenery waiting for us.
Mike had already answered my morning wake-up call from his tent, a savage and primitive communication method involving flatulence (I’ve warned you about our maturity) and so I knew there was no backing down now. He was moving so I had to follow through. Groggy and tired, I climbed out, knowing the cold air would wake me up and push me forward. It did. Once I was out of my bag I scrambled like mad to get my warm riding gear on.
The weather was clear and I figured things would warm up pretty fast and so didn’t wear my heated pants. I didn’t want to be hot. Well, it didn’t warm up. It stayed cold for the entire drive. At least I wasn’t freezing like Mike (thanks to my heated vest). To make it worse, our visors fogged up and the sun was in our eyes, which meant we were pretty much riding blind. I spent the first ninety minutes riding with one hand up shielding the light (very tiring, try it!) and my visors open (brrr) because I had to keep a close eye out for animals that might dart out in front of us. My vigilance paid off. A half hour in we saw a big old moose cow in the scrub. I yelled and pointed her out to Mike, which gave her a good scare and she bolted into the forest. Finally, a moose! We were thrilled!
It was a cold four hour ride. I kept debating whether to stop and put on my pant lining, but that would take time and I was too cold to stop and deal with it. Sometimes it’s just easier to push through…for four hours. Okay, I’m lying. Had I stopped early on the entire ride would been much more pleasant. So often my attempts to get out of work are so not worth it.
It actually turned out good that I didn’t stop because when we finally arrived we were short on time. It was a mad rush to buy tickets, find parking, secure gear on our bikes, and grab some food (we hadn’t eaten at all yet). Then we hightailed it to the boat just before it honked it’s way out of the harbor. The worst part of all this was me trying to secure my gear and load up for the trip. I had to rush and like I’ve said before, I make mistakes when I rush. I like to be organized, double, and triple check everything. Fortunately I grabbed everything I needed and safely secured the rest in one shot but it took me a good fifteen minute of stressing on the boat before I let it go. I should probably retitle this blog to “A Basketcase in Alaska.”
Speaking of which, I had one concern about the Fjord tour. I’ve spend too much time leaning over the back end of ships to be able to say that the sea and I are friends. It hates me and I can’t blame it, I throw up on it’s face every time we hang out. I wish we could get along, but we don’t. I have regretted every ocean trip I have ever taken (except for large ships like ferries and cruise ships). I had told Mike I would prob be sick for full day because of this tour but we still had to do it. Medication you say? No, I’ve tried everything. Nothing has ever helped. But even so, I loaded up on bonine and ginger (and the only reason I did the ginger is because I love ginger candy, it doesn’t seem to help).
The cruise was incredible. The stars must have been perfectly aligned. The sun was out, sky was clear, the wind backed off, and the water was glass. Out in the open sea the crew commented on how it had been many years since there was a day like this. I didn’t even have to deal with the rhythmic pulsing of gentle rolling waves!
But even better, our tour was like a live version of National Geographic Explorer. We floated right next to massive cliffs where the chatter of thousands of birds drowned out all other sounds. Sea lions sparred on the rocks, porpoises danced around our boat, and puffins dived for fish. We saw six foot long otters floating on their backs soaking up sunshine. Humpback whales spouted and dove. I saw things that have fascinated me all my life.
There was one thing, more than anything, I wanted to see. It was the main reason I wanted to do this tour; a visit to a glacier that fed directly into the ocean. A monstrous wall of ice, slowly breaking apart in massive chunks that crash into the water (calving). Ideally, our trip would have included a stop at Glacier Bay National Park but we couldn’t pull that off.
Even from a distance as we approached the glacier it was inspiring (look close and you’ll see a ship to add perspective to the picture above). A cliff that lives and breathes, carving and crawling across the land to dump skyscraper sized loads of rock, dirt, and ice into the ocean. I was mesmerized as we chugged closer, waiting and watching with my camera. And then it happened. A cloud of ice dust started to appear and an entire wall broke free and crashed down in a display of brutal power. Even from miles away, it was awe inspiring. It may sound corny and although I had done nothing but watched, I felt like I had accomplished something. And I had. I had checked off an item on my bucket list.
We floated in close, within a quarter mile I’d guess, and the ship engines shut off. We sat in the quiet, icy waters for a good 45 minutes, under that sheer 600 foot cliff. It was amazing. There were several other smaller calving moments and we were close enough to hear the thunderous booms when it happened. I can’t imagine what the big one would have sounded like.
The ice drained me. It is fortunate that we started back at this point because I was sapped and content to just close my eyes and sit basking in my childlike amazement.
Once our tour ended, we decided to change our plans. Rather than camp in Seward, we decided to make a charge for Anchorage. If we stayed there tonight, tomorrow we could hit Talkeetna to see if we could do an airplane tour of Mt. Mckinley and then spend the night in Denali.
We hit the road and made good time into Anchorage. I searched the entire route in vain for wildlife. I wanted to see something, anything, but it was very quiet. Along the coast just before Anchorage I saw several cars stopped on the side of the road. I slowed and then saw people out looking up at the mountain. Following their gaze, I looked up to see mountain goats! “I’m stopping!” I said to Mike, and pulled over onto the shoulder. Moments later, he started making all kinds of crazy sounds (some may have been swear words) and flow past me off the road on the right, down into the shoulder, bouncing wildly, and finally came to a dusty stop. “Holy #@$! Are you okay?”
I could hear him breathing heavy through my headset as he sat on his bike, which had finally come to a stop and appeared to be unharmed. “Yes, I think I am…(more heavy breathing).”
I am proud to admit, that I did apologized for my quick stop before I started laughing. But laugh I did, long and hard. It’s one of those not-funny-in-the-moment things but hilarious later when everyone is okay. In fact, maybe the quick change from horror to relief is what sparks the laughter. But once I knew he was safe and secure, I couldn’t stop. I still laugh when I think about him bouncing, cussing, and flying through the sticks on his motorcycle. Maybe it reminded me of a silly cartoon, maybe it was just the long day of intense driving looking for non-existent wildlife, or maybe it was just one of the funniest things I’ve seen. Whatever it was, it got me. I think he might have laughed too, eventually, after he cleaned his shorts. I’m not sure. I was laughing too hard to notice.
Once the dust settled and I got control of myself, we and walked back to the mountain goats. One of them climbed down and started eating grass right in the middle of the crowd that was forming. More cars stopped. The train stopped. Pretty soon the whole highway hit a standstill and those were weren’t interested in the goats expressed their frustration in various methods. We watched for a good thirty minutes, one goat stayed up high and the other seemed to be enjoying his moment of fame. Then he turned and ran up the cliff. And I do mean, he ran up the cliff. It was very cool to watch. When I rock climb, maybe I should wear goat hooves instead of climbing shoes.
We hit the road again and finished up at the House of Harley-Davidson in Anchorage where we took advantage of their free camping and free showers for motorcycle campers. I can’t remember what we had for dinner, probably more instant potatoes. We chatted with another camper from Denmark who left home a couple of years ago on his bicycle. Once he hit China, he decided to just keep right on going. He said his family was begging him to come home and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. For now, though, he’ll keep riding. I was able to speak some Afrikaans with him, which was cool (it is similar to Dutch). I wish I would have talked to him more, he probably has some amazing stories.
We covered 300 miles today but it seemed like 600. Probably because of the fjord tour. Tomorrow I get to do two bucket list activities, hopefully. First, see Mt. McKinley. I say hopefully because many people have told me not to get my expectations up. Even in the ideal season the mountain is often covered by clouds (and we are in the rainy season). Second, visit Denali National Park. With grizzly bears, moose, and caribou galore, Denali has always beckoned to me and my camera. One long, adventure-filled day after another!
Thanks for reading about my travels. To read more of my adventures, click here to visit my travel page.