Thursday, March 30, 2006

The weekend wrap-up...last weekend, that is

So, here are some other images from the rest of the weekend of fun. It was so amazing to have such wonderful people to visit and we really shared some great memories and laughs, lots of laughs! This was the group at Hatcher's.
Getting ready to head up the mountain. It is always nice to have other's pics put on the same computer because every now and then i look like i went too!
Our reward for the huge trek up the hill was a feast at Moose's Tooth. So, so good.

The day after we went to Hatcher's, we headed down to Alyeska to check out the skiing. This is an image of Turnagain arm, a little "arm" off the Cook Inlet on the way south to Girdwood.
I have no idea what everyone is looking at, so it makes it that much more mysterious....oooooo....
just like this one of Spring
The brave heros about to take on the looming peaks of Alyeska..

Quick stop at the top of the mountain, recap before the great descent. Actually we are at the top of the bunny hill, about to go get lunch, but you can't tell that from the picture, pretend we are tough.
Lift ticket: $35. Ski rental: $27. Dinner at Chair Five after a great day of skiing: $18. Amazing day with friends and a fantastic view to boot: priceless.
Spring took advantage of the sun's fleeting moments after the great day outside. So pink..

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hatcher's Pass...again

Another epic journey up Hatcher's Pass. Lisa's cousin Casey and his wife Annie, along with our friends Kevin and Spring from Hawaii, come up for spring break this past week. We had a crazy weekend! Saturday we took off early and headed up to Hatcher's Pass, and what a perfect day. Super warm though. It was nice because we pretty much had the bowl to ourselves. 8 pairs of snowshoes, 2 real snowboards and one plastic, and a sled, or course. Epic Alaskan day.
An overview of the group starting up the hill...

Looking back down the hill at everyone coming up:Casey, Lisa, Annie, Laura, Ben.
Casey and Ben, truckin' up the boards.
A small group broke off to attempt the huge ascent, foregoing the easier, less slippery way that the rest of us went on. Good pics, though.

Kevin explains the nature of poles...or something.

The girls enjoy the day...with no shirts on, of course! Notice the Patagonia bra theme?
Ben's first snowboard adventure, look at him go. What you don't see is that later in this day, he had a terrific yardsale and lost everything he was wearing...classic.
Annie on top of the world.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

a little story about a big mountain...

The wind is unbelievably biting at 70mph. As I tried to focus my camera with my head stuck out the sunroof of Lisa’s Commander, I realized that my new investment could be ripped from my hands at any moment, not to mention that I was tearing horribly from the near 30 below wind chill. I pulled myself safely back inside the car to a laughing Ben, still clutching the guitar I made him bring so we could practice our act. With a few shots of the sun-drenched morning captured on digital, we were on our way to Hatcher’s Pass.

Hatcher’s pass sits to the Northeast of Anchorage in the Matanuska-Susitna valley. From Anchorage it takes roughly an hour of driving though winding mountain roads anchored with the kind of mountains you see on postcards. Mountains with snow and glaciers falling softly down the steep rocky threatening sides. Mountains perfect for people ignorant to the backcountry of Alaska.
After many stops to side fee stations, we found the base of Hatcher’s Pass. More accurately, we ran out of road. To the right were looming mountains spotted with various bowls and crevasse, blanketed in more snow than one could guess, and waiting in glittering glory for exploring. To the left was Hatcher’s pass with much the same landscape, but we opted forward and to the right, mostly because we didn’t want to cross the road.
A few minutes of preparation, fee paid, we started out. We followed the trail left by the snow cat at first, plotting our course through the snowy abyss. The mountains were a buzz of activity, all little bees out on this beautiful wintry morning to enjoy Alaska’s finest. Snowboarders, sledders, fellow snowshoers and various telemarkers were all buzzing about the valley, finding their primo snow for the day.

We headed off the road to the right and made our first fresh tracks toward the back bowl. Heading straight up a hill, I found quickly that following Ben might not be the wisest idea due to his stubborn drive to conquer all. Shortly after this first thought I was confirmed while sliding backwards down the hill, clutching my camera from the peril of the white fluff.

Up and over the hill we found the most beautiful fluid S turns I have ever seen. Those responsible shared afternoon refreshments after their long hike and cascading descent. At this point Lisa decided that a group picture was in order. Ben set up the tripod and in two attempts of hilarity, ran up the hill towards us at whatever top speed can be obtained with large planks strapped to your feet. Highly amusing.

As we neared the top of the next hill, Ben decreed that if we climbed to a peak that four snowboarders occupied across the valley, we would get an amazing view. Lisa and I were ready for our reward beers already, but decided to succeed to this request, seeing the glint in his eye and knowing full well we were going whether we wanted to or not.

Set into the valley, we could hear the various conversations around us. Four snowboarders were debating, in Spanish, the best way down the rocky face which they had chosen for descent. Two tele-skiers were commenting on Ricola commercials and a group of snowshoers were mostly falling down the hill from where we were going.
I followed the track to the steep ascent and began the long journey up.

Lisa and I jumped on a formed track from multiple enthusiasts attempting the climb. Ben, however, chose a path straight up. After much struggling, he made some progress. And while I called him a stubborn SOB, the climb made for some wonderful images.

Up, up, up, up…for what seemed like quite some time. The track was narrow and melting a slight cap on the snow, calling for serious committed steps so as not to slide backwards or fall off the side, reminding me of many a treacherous path taken in Hawaii.

Following the last cat track up, I asked the already summated hero if he could see to the end of the world. He said yes and Lisa and I quickened our pace, clawing our way up the steep hill to see…nothing. The next peak. Super.

It was still worth all the work and beauty. We shared an orange and almonds before the big question came up. How do we get down? Ben’s approach was simple enough, on your butt.

I was less eager to just fall down the hill and even less trusting of following him after that last ascent, so I plodded over to the right, hoping to avoid the steep downhill mess and step gracefully down the side. Funny really , to assume anything about a 55-60 degree angle will be graceful.

Halfway down my own path, the sun had softened and crusted the top layer, which hid the half foot of fresh powder under, which hid the 2 inches of ice that had formed. Taking generous confidant steps I walked forward, to be suddenly careening down the hill sideways at a rapid speed. Mostly falling my way back to my group, Ben announced on arrival that one could ski on snowshoes and proceeded to demonstrate by running balls out down the hill, face planting in a terrific yard sale with snowshoes up and over head. Beautiful.

Most of the down was like that: falling, skiing, sledding, falling. The last descent for all was taken via butt, used as sled. We followed the cat track out and made it safely back to the car, just as the sun was dipping behind the mountains. Ben’s only comment was a well justified summary of the day: “This is why we live in Alaska, eh?” Yes, yes it is.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

my first iditarod

Last Saturday, a group of us went downtown to watch the ceremonial start of the 34th Iditarod. It was a cold one, but the sun was shining, the dogs were happy and after a healthy breakfast at Country Kitchen, we were off to watch the races. This team is lead by a co-worker of Ben's from the hospital.

Looking down fourth street in all of its chaos. The race start is just past the sign

Race you!
looks like a brusier, huh?

A group shot of the race goers, a.k.a. The Lisa's: Lisa(Andy's wife), Andy (Lisa's co-worker), Lisa (as herself), Ben (Lisa's boyfriend) and me (Lisa's personal photographer)

Lisa and I, cold and loving it!

The race crowd loaded into a parking ramp

Ben and Lisa, either celebrating the race or joining the Germans...