After starting my new job in November, I learned that I would have nearly two weeks off over the holidays! That sure isn't grad school (where no one really misses you for 6+ weeks at a go), but a 2 week paid vacation is nothing to shrug off. That being said, the timing was such that a trip to New England was not going to be affordable on any front (though really, when is it ever?), and I wasn't so much in the mood to drop so much cash. So what's a girl to do with her free time in the dead of an Alaskan winter?
I somehow managed, finding myself some activities to pass the time including a three day trip up to the Chugach mountains on the Resurrection Trail with Kaya, Ben, and Pemba in between Christmas and New Years.
I hadn't fully appreciated the fact that indeed, southcentral Alaska does experience low temperatures. Somehow being in Homer and having -5 be a chilly mercury reading made me a little complacent. At the trail head in Cooper Landing (a little over 2 hour drive north/northeast from Homer) it was somewhere in the -20 range. Though I realize it was easily -50 in Fairbanks over this time period, let's go back to the fact that I'm now living in Homer. For better or for worse, -5 = cold. -20? Not terrible but I regretted a few things, mainly the paucity of chocolate, the lack of food readily accessible, my frozen-solid camelback...We started at the trailhead at around 1pm, ready for a 9.5 mile ski in to Juneau Lake Cabin, one of the public use cabins the Forest Service maintains.
The dogs were *so* ready by the time we got started, as were we. Thinking about how great Kaya's been in some past sledding-adventures (White Mountain trip awhile back, Thanskgiving with the wine), I hooked her up to her sled with my pack strapped safely in.
At the get-go, Ben was fairly well distracted (I thinK) by getting himself ready. So he may have missed the absolute ridiculous beginnings of what proved to be a failed endeavor. Long blue sled, half a dozen ropes everywhere, incredibly excited husky, freezing cold, me with mittens, ski gloves, and dressed warmly enough to feel a little less than graceful in my outfit. The trail proved to be too narrow and too winding for the intrepid team of Kaya and I. I let her go free, and I was stuck pulling the sled.
What a mess..
After our trip to Emerald Lake this summer, where Kaya managed to free herself of a very expensive and on-loan dog pack somewhere deep in the woods, she wasn't allowed to carry anything. And this led to the ridiculousness of Kaya the sled dog running wild and free, and Pemba, the miniature-sized black lab, carrying all of the dog food and who-knows-what-else-Ben-stuffed-in-there in her bright orange pack.
We made it out to the cabin with just enough light to spare, and no skin irreparably frozen. So many thanks to the folks who came before us, whoever they were, for leaving some firewood chopped and ready in the cabin. We were sufficiently chilled that gathering would have been a chore - warming up and eating were the top priorities to be attended to.
Dinner of tortellini's & sauce, bread, butter, and veggies (in butter - they were wonderful despite Ben's reticence) was phenomenal. Boxed wine complemented the whole thing nicely.
The dogs were toasted. Pemba fell asleep on Ben's boots and didn't twitch for a good long time.
And Kaya curled into her tight husky-ball and paid us all no attention
The next day we geared up with some coffee, burned up the rest of the firewood that had been left for us toasting bagels, and went off to collect more warmth. This involved using the variety of tools provided to us by the Forest Service and cutting down a dead tree, bucking it into "carry-able" lengths, hauling it to the cabin, and further sawing & chopping pieces to go in the wee-but-efficient woodstove to keep us warm (/alive).
Let it be known that Ben does not take pictures, and as such you all will just have to imagine me, burly and strong, hauling down equally-sized logs. It's true. I did. Just sayin' is all. I also learned how to chop wood! I'm a little ashamed, but only once before had I ever tried (when Emily briefly showed me and I managed to not injure anyone).
We skied for a bit after wood-gathering and after lunch, and by the end of the day we were thankful for a warm cabin, beautiful sunrises/sunsets (they happen so closely to one another these days...), happy & tired dogs, and good food.....
Ben was verklempt at the beauty of our sausage dinner
The next morning we gathered our things, made sure plenty of food was readily available for eating, melted a bunch of snow for water, put on our skis and headed back out to the trailhead.