Wednesday, July 20, 2011


View from our float down the Kenai river.

In early June, while relaxing in none other than beautiful Tucson, AZ, I received a call from Joe with rather unexpected news:

Joe: Emily, keep an open mind—
Emily: —is it ever really closed?
J: Sweet honey bun, I know you were hoping to be done living out of your car, but how would you feel about going to Alaska instead?
E: ...
J: See, our dearest friend Travis needs some help up there and asked if I could come up for a few weeks. The best part is, you can come too and have a delightful vacation. What do you think about that my exotic Spanish flower?
E: … Alaska?
J: Yes yes, surely you’ve heard of it.
E: I’ve heard the Italian sodas in Alaska are better than anywhere else in the world. I do believe I’ll drink two every day we’re there.
J: Sounds fantastic. We can also go to Denali National Park, the Portage glacier, the Harding Ice field, the Anchorage Museum, I’ll show you my old office building, hiking up Flattop Mountain will be a fun morning, as will floating down the Kenai river with my old friends Pat and Denis. And of course, you’ll have a few days to yourself while I’m flying dangerously around in a helicopter risking my life for the sake of a Gyrfalcon survey in some of the most desolate parts of Alaska. So you should explore the numerous bike trails within Anchorage, as well as my favorite used book store.
E: Okay Joe, I’ll go to Alaska with you.
J: Splendid! Now if you don’t mind, drive back to Las Cruces and get all of our winter clothes, my stellar sea eaglet.

Mossy trees in the Girdwood Rainforest.

As it turns out, we managed to do everything and more. It was a great trip, particularly sentimental because of all the stories I’ve heard Joe tell about the time he lived up there. It was interesting to see where he worked, and to meet so many of the people I’ve been hearing about.  From our first full day in Anchorage when we walked around the downtown portion, I felt like I was going to burst with excitement. Alaska is a place we’ve talked about visiting for a long time, but there are a lot of places on that list. With the unexpected request from a fellow raptor biologist to help out, it just seemed too good to pass up… even though it meant delaying our long-awaited return to normalcy (not living apart, and in my case, not living out of my car). Totally worth it.
Joe with a Gyrfalcon nestling.

Anchorage, from Flattop Mountain

Denali was definitely one of the highlights. We saw an absolute tonnage of animals out there. Another amazing sight was Exit Glacier, part of the Harding ice field. Growing up in the desert made the implications of a glacier a bit abstract for me, but seeing glacier after glacier throughout Alaska offered quite a bit of clarity on the matter. Ask me anything about them—go ahead, ask.
Standing on Portage Glacier.

Crevasses in Exit glacier. 

This was an amazing trip, and I truly can’t wait to get back there and see more of that mystical state.

Behind the dark mountain in the foreground, and the snow
 covered mountains in the background, stands Denali, mighty and tall.

Caribou, red fox, grizzly bear
black bear, marmot, ptarmigan

Backpacking in Denali National Park.


Ron said...

Alaska, I'm so jealous, but you need to change your back-pack, Skidmark. . . cool opportunities for you.

Carol said...

Wow! What a great adventure! I had to enlarge your animal pictures just to see what a marmot and a ptarmigan looked like. You need a smaller backpack (though it is very cute.) I don't even want to know why he calls you "skidmark." LOL!