took a hike, took a camera: Humpback Rocks

When I pulled out of my driveway I could see my breath float and disappear as it hit the warmed air. School was cancelled for the day and a sky as stark as the broken white road lines watched over the Valley as I drove myself to the hospital. Prayers and worry filled my mind, jumping between the two just as quickly as the large flakes melted on my windshield. I gave myself pep talks. This is a routine procedure. Out loud. Worrying will lead to an increased heart rate. Alone. I’m gonna be fiiiine. As if I was talking to a friend. You’ve got this.  Attempts to calm my nerves. In four hours this will all be over. 

Naked, except for a one-size-fits-all gown, lying flat on my back I stared up at a device that resembled a gigantic headlight. Heads covered in pale blues and greens with only eyes exposed bobbed in and out of my sight. While squeezing a syringe of valium into my IV the nurse to my left asked, “What do you want to hear sweetie?” Somehow I knew she was referring to music. “You mean like anything?” I asked, curious if we’re talking Spotify here or like “the doctor is going to sing you a lullaby” kind of thing. “Yep. Anything at all.” The next 10 seconds in my brain looked something like this: I actively thought in that moment how if I had been asked that very question on any other day of my life in relation to being on my deathbed (I exaggerate), I would’ve replied without hesitation: Wilco. But I stopped myself when I realized the doctor would be going INTO MY BEATING HEART while listening to the music I choose. Wilco can get weird if you’re not prepared for it. I did not want that man distracted by what could sound like old tv white noise, tambourines and keyboards being thrown on the ground and journeys inside of journeys of utter instrumental chaos while feeding a tube through my arteries. My conflict surprised me but instinctively I answered: “The Head and the Heart.” When I heard myself speak, I realized the irony in my choice. I think the nurse thought I was making a statement about my physical state but by the time she understood a male nurse found the album and clicked play. The first song starts out with a tick tick tick tick tick tick. I turned my gaze towards the gigantic headlight, couldn’t help but smile (it was the drugs) and drifted off.

The next time I opened my eyes I was still on the OR table. I’m still alive. The large black monitor to my left displayed an image of my heart. My moving, beating, living heart. Oh mah God. That’s my heart. There were several tubes inside it. I started to get anxious and I could feel my throat pounding. I looked up at the nurse to let her know I was awake. She fixed that quickly.

Day five of recovery after the cardiac ablation left me feeling frustrated yet eager and thankful. Externally, aside from bruises the size of my head and the color of mixed berries on both legs, I was doing fine. But my energy level was crippling as so much effort was going into healing me internally. It was comforting to know that my body was doing exactly what is was designed to do and that this feeling wouldn’t last forever but being forced into slow-mo was humbling. It put the plight of others in perspective. I consider myself an active individual but I don’t ever want to take that for granted. These legs and arms and organs will not always do the things they can do today and I don’t want to waste away my ability or my health. So there I was, Day 5 of recovery and I set out on my first post-procedure hike. My swollen thighs carried me to the top of Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Through mud and ice a foot thick we, slowly, worked our way up to the gorgeous views. At the top we enjoyed leftover wings and treats that were sent to me from friends while I was stuck at home, couchbound. Being outside, breathing that mountain air, the feeling of being capable and strong and worthy of those feelings was healing that day. It heals me a little bit every day.

bsomeIMG_1116 bsomeIMG_1130 bsomeIMG_1133 bsomeIMG_1125 bsomeIMG_1136 bsomeIMG_1144bsomeIMG_1137 bsomeIMG_1149 bsomeIMG_1150bsome bsomeIMG_1170 bsomeIMG_1168bsomeIMG_1191 bsomeIMG_1160 bsomeIMG_1198bsomeIMG_1196bsomeIMG_1213bsomeIMG_1215bsomeIMG_1202bsomeIMG_1205bsomeIMG_1207bsomeIMG_1210

Cell phone summary:Humpback Rocks Hike

Advertisements

took a hike, took a camera: Cranny Crow

Blake had a bummed bum so he stayed behind (heh!) and took a heavy dose of Netflix. He hated not going on our first hike of the year…but it was Super Bowl Sunday and I fully intended to eat my weight in wings so – movement of my body was a necessity. Since friends were coming over late afternoon and Blake was laid up at home, we wanted to stay close.  So we headed back 259W just passed Highland Retreat for Lost River State Park. Once in the area, we found the trailhead with ease, thanks to a park map loaned to me by a hike-loving coworker. On our trek up to the Cranny Crow overlook, we hiked on frozen mud and patches of snow. On our way back down, the frozen mud was nice and squelchy squirchy and the patches of snow had disappeared into the earth. It’s no secret that the West Virginia mountains are wonderful but it’s great to be reminded of it in person. Fresh crisp air, blue skies, layers of blue ridges fading out of sight, eerie howling animals in the distance – yep, West, by God. Before returning home, we stopped at Lost River Grill to enjoy a warm beverage to the sound of The Judd’s playing on the radio. Ella’s eyes lit up and we broke into a mother-daughter duet that even Naomi and Wynonna would envy. When the songs were over, our cups empty, our bodies warm and content we left to go welcome our Super Bowl guests and watch Queen Bey’s halftime show. Drooool.bsomeIMG_0686bsomeIMG_0692 bsomeIMG_0695 bsomeIMG_0691 bsomeIMG_0696 bsomeIMG_0703bsomeIMG_0730bsomeIMG_0707bsomeIMG_0712
bsomeIMG_0717bsomeIMG_0719bsomeIMG_0724bsomeIMG_0754bsomeIMG_0737bsomeIMG_0735bsomeIMG_0738bsomeIMG_0744bsomeIMG_0741bsomeIMG_0751bsomeIMG_0766bsomeIMG_0756bsomeIMG_0762bsomeIMG_0770bsomeIMG_0771bsomeIMG_0778bsomeIMG_0779bsomeIMG_0763

Cell phone summary:

Cranny Crow WV

(…some selfies, a crow pose at Cranny Crow, my new specs, Ella being Ella at Lost River Grill…)

took a hike, took a camera: Cedar Run Falls

I’ve never fully understood what causes us to remember certain moments over others and what causes many moments to fall through the filter. It makes sense to remember huge events: my wedding day, the birth of my children, the day my Nanny passed, the day I purchased my own home as a single mother, that time a dog ate my face for breakfast (really, 50 stitches I won’t forget). But what makes us forget other seemingly huge things? Things like graduating high school, driving a car for the first time and signing divorce papers all happened in my life but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them. I remember a lot about my senior year of high school but not about graduation itself. My Nanny taught me just about all there is to know about operating a vehicle but I can’t recall the first time. I do, however, remember the first time I drove as a licensed and legal 16 year old…it was with my three little sisters. We went to the mall.  I have been married and divorced but it appears that those final final days have been blocked from my memory. The brain is so fascinating.

Just before sitting to write this post I was making myself lunch. I heated up my quinoa soup, topped it with Sriracha and put the sauce back in the fridge. As I was sitting at the table eating, I realized I didn’t know where the Sriracha went. Sure enough, it was in the fridge. I put it there, I guess. We all do this at one point or another. We get to work and don’t remember the commute. We take a second dose of our vitamins because we forgot about the first dose. We put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the dishwasher. We see a bruise and think “surely I should remember how I got that“. We stare at our car door wondering why on earth our house key won’t unlock it. I’m not alone here, right? We are distracted individuals. These types of things happen because they’re routine and we go into autopilot. Not much brain power is needed to do mundane tasks so they are forgettable. Things that really stick with us are the new experiences. The firsts. The first time I hiked Old Rag: epic. The first time I went white water rafting with a bunch of ballsy dudes: terrifying, but memorable. The first time I camped and hiked in Denali, Alaska: surreal. Epic, terrifying, surreal…not words I would use to describe my morning routine. Each of those adventures not only put me out of my comfort zone but they made me feel strong, independent, confident, capable and worthy of all of those feelings. Being little in the middle of big nature does that for me. Giant rocks, massive mountains, roaring river rapids – nothing will put you in check like Mama Earth.

I don’t know what my kids will remember about their childhood and I really have little control over what they’ll retain along their way. But I like putting them in front of memorable experiences. I like showing them what it’s like to feel small…and I like feeling small with them. Each summit – a badge of self-reliance. Each waterfall – a source of confidence. Every trail – a step closer to themselves. I hope they carry these memories with them and I hope more is learned from our days in the mountains than I could ever teach them with my words. 
bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7170
bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7173 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7179 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7182 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7186 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7198 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7200 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7208 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7219 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7217 bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7216bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7224bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7225bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7228bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7232bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7233bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7237bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7242bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7240bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7271bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7254bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7270bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7273bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7325bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7285bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7288bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7293bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7320bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7332bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7327bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7295bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7298bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7304bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7307bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7308bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7310bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7312bsomeCedarRun_IMG_7315

Cell phone summary:

bsomeCedarRun_IMG_9543

took a hike, took a camera: Miller’s Head & Stony Man

It was Labor Day weekend and one look at Skyline Drive would lead you to believe that everyone in the Valley had hiking on the brain. Rightfully so. It was a gorgeous day and somehow between my August hike and this one, Fall started. The top of the mountain  beamed with yellows and fading greens. Still lush but whispering change. We settled on a hike with only two cars in the lot: Miller’s Head, a short little number with a trail that leads up and down through the woods to a stone-built overlook. When we finished our hike we craved more so we tossed in a hike to Stony Man Mountain. A numbered trail with a corresponding booklet that shares a bit of information about each spot along the way. The view at the top does not disappoint…even when my eyes are fixed on my kids, through a lens.

Miller’s Head
bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2295 bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2299 bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2304 bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2297bIMG_2324 bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2306 bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2317 bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2321bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2338bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2332

Stony ManbMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2346bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2363bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2359bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2352bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2372bIMG_2366bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2383bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2374bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2377bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2375bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2394bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2396bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2392bMillersHeadStonyMan_IMG_2386

Cell phone summary: MillersHeadStonyManCelljpg

took a hike, took a camera: Stony Man Mountain

I forgot about my approaching birthday until the day before it. Not because I’m a doofus but because I had a ridiculous schedule the two weeks prior. I shot a wedding on a Saturday, left for Alaska on that Sunday, hiked 1, 2, 3 mountains, returned home way late Thursday, Friday was my son’s birthday and dinner, Saturday I shot another wedding, Sunday we went on a group hike to celebrate his birthday and all of the sudden, it’s Monday and my birthday was the next day, Tuesday, June 30. When I list it, it feels like I’m lying. But I’m not. For my birthday I wanted to do a hike and luckily the weather was in my favor. My friend Danielle met me in New Market and we headed to Skyline Drive. There is truly never a dull moment in her company. On our way over the Luray mountain, there were a few whoops and hollers and fragmented sentences and white-knuckle clutching coming from the passenger side.  I got the impression my driving was making her nervous. We laughed. A whole lot. I almost hit a deer. Then we laughed some more. I’ve heard of Stony Man Mountain before but it wasn’t until I read the description in my hiking guide that I learned how the name was given. As we rounded mile 38ish on Skyline Drive, we could see the profile of ol’ Stony, and his chiseled manly nose, looking west. I couldn’t wait to get up there and look with him. Within moments of being on the trail, we met hikers ranging from diapers and pacifiers to fanny packs and canes. A really mild hike and certainly enjoyable for all ages. At the top we had a granola bar while enjoying an amazing view of the Shenandoah Valley. Danielle is a photographer, too, so we each got lost in our lens for a bit before returning to real life where we sat on Stony’s forehead and chatted about life. One of my favorite things about the trail guide I have, is that it tells about the flowers and trees you see along your hike and often it gives some history of the area.  For this hike it said that we’d “pass red spruce and balsam fir, remnants of the Ice Age.” That’s pretty cool! So on our walk back down, we set out to find the trees. I was so eager I tripped over the same rock twice. We found what we think is a red spruce and/or a balsam fir. (You can judge us below.) We left the mountain content and with minds and hearts recharged from the vast beauty of our Valley. Our post-hike treat was a cheese plate and wine on my deck because Happy Birthday to me!

The profile of Stony Man from Skyline Drive.

The profile of Stony Man from Skyline Drive.

Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6423Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6419

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6453 Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6432 Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6450 Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6452Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6437 Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6435

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6457

photo by Danielle Campbell

photo by Danielle Campbell

Stony_Man_Hike_IMG_6461

A cherry tree?

took a hike, took a camera: 13th Birthday Group Hike!

And just like that, I have a teenager. My son, my precious baby boy, is a teenager. We’ve all heard it before, and it’s true enough to repeat: time moves impossibly fast. It’s just leaving, right now, right past us. My children, who souls are most beautiful, remind me of this daily. It’s like I have three hearts and two of them beat outside of my chest. They exist, enclosed in the ribs of my children. A nearly perfect combination of me and his father, Blake is a kind young man with a heart of pure gold. He is wonderful with small children, has a ridiculous sense of humor, is sharp as tack and, most importantly, he loves his mama. (swoon) When I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate his 13th birthday, he said he wanted to hike to one of his favorite waterfalls, Whiteoak Canyon, and invite friends and family. His request made me proud. I’ve intentionally been taking them hiking more frequently this year and we hiked Whiteoak in February. Then, the trail was covered in ice, snow and mud and there was hardly any green to be seen. This time, it was a completely different hike with lush life all around us. The air was surprisingly cool for a June afternoon so when we arrived I looted the soon-to-be-dropped-off-at-Goodwill bag in my trunk and tossed sweatshirts out to our shivering group. There were 11 of us total: a good group of adult friends, kid friends and family.

Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6352 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6299Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6300 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6310 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6307Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6345 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6306 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6320 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6312 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6314 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6330 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6334 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6341 Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6342Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6351Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6349Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6361Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6372Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6377Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6374Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6369Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6356Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6380Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6357Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6397Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6414Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6404Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6409Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6401Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6400Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6408Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6416Whiteoak_Canyon_IMG_6418In lieu of my usual cell phone summary, I give you an Instagram screenshot. (My phone is toast and I’ve lost all the photos. Boo.)

Tree-huggers.

Tree-huggers.

took a hike, took a camera: North Face Trail, Girdwood

It was our fourth and final day in Alaska. I woke up still full from last night’s massive attempt at eating my weight in fajitas. After a quick shower I walked downstairs to find a sweet note on the counter from Kate. She treated us to a train ride to Girdwood, left her car keys, gave directions to the train station, jotted down a few key words and instructed us to have a good day. She’s awesome like that. We boarded the Alaskan Railroad(!) and for about an hour we took in gorgeous views while sipping our morning coffee to the hum of the train. Girdwood was the first stop and I had to laugh when I saw the small wooden “train station” sitting in the middle of nowhere. I reached in my back pocket for the note Kate had left that morning and some of her notes started to make sense: “take Alyeska Hwy to The Bake Shop and get on shuttle to Alyeska Resort.” From the train stop, we walked up a hill, through some trees where we found a pedestrian trail that followed Alyeska Highway, the main road. It was a beautiful three mile stroll to the heart of Girdwood. The skies were beaming blue and the roads were lined with giant wildflowers and a good sampling of Alaskan-style housing: angles, decks, steep roofs, great windows. Since we forgot to pack water (doofus move) we stopped at the first roadside business we came to (about a mile and a half in) called Chugash Adventures. They had some really cute local items and since it was our last day, I let myself be a tourist and left with a small piece of pottery and a trucker hat that features the work of a local photographer. (Support the arts y’all!) Our walk continued and soon we arrived at the end of the highway. We located The Bake Shop and took the shuttle to Alyeska Resort. Just behind the resort is a slew of trails to choose from. We chose the North Face Trail. This 2.2 mile hike sounds meek…but don’t be fooled. In that 2.2 miles we climbed 2,000 vertical feet. And I didn’t take many breaks for photos because I was certain, as I usually am, that a wild beast was just around the next turn. Even though most of the hike was spent huffing it up steep inclines and making lots of loud noises to alert the animals of my presence, there were a few moments that stand out. Like this one section of the hike where a foot-wide walkway made of boards and plywood lead you through a lush meadow. And this other section that is so steep, there was a big chain to hoist yourself up the rocks. And then this other part near the top where you’re out of the tall bush, switchbacking through a more gradual incline and you can see everything! Gosh, I really couldn’t think of a more perfect time to visit this town. It was absolutely breathtaking. At the top we exchanged exhausted high fives and walked to a spot on the ground were we could sit and catch our breath. The last two days of hiking ended with trembling legs so when I felt my legs trembling, paired with the rumble of the tram coming and going, I didn’t think anything of it until I overheard one of the guides explaining that we just experienced an earthquake. (!) All the way up there on top of that mountain…those trembling legs and tram rumbles I thought I heard was actually an earthquake. Talk about an epic day. Ben and I ordered a beer from the deli and sat on the deck in disbelief of the sites around us.  FullSizeRender-49FullSizeRender-51 IMG_0547 IMG_0548 FullSizeRender-50FullSizeRender-52 IMG_0555IMG_0562IMG_0565IMG_0567FullSizeRender-53FullSizeRender-54IMG_0646IMG_0582IMG_0647IMG_0611IMG_0608FullSizeRender-55

After a sufficient rest, we hiked a little further up the mountain to a footbridge hovering over fast-moving glacier water. I had to touch it – it was cold. Ben had to taste it – his nose went numb.  Then we hopped on the tram and watched the North Face Trail zoom right by us. Kate drove out on her motorcycle to meet us for dinner at Jack Sprat and one of her friends joined. Everything brought to our table was delicious and beautiful. After dinner we got a ride to the train station and headed back to Anchorage for the night.

Farewell Alaska, you have a beautiful soul. I hope to return to explore more of you one day. ❤FullSizeRender-57IMG_0631IMG_0634IMG_0633IMG_0636IMG_0642IMG_0670FullSizeRender-58

took a hike, took a camera: Flattop Mountain, Anchorage

In my brief experience, Alaska breeds badasses. “A short walk” translates to ~3 miles. “A moderate hike” translates to post-hike leg trembles. “I’m a little out of shape” translates to “I think I’ll do some push-ups while I wait for you pansies to catch up.” <–All of these things actually occurred.

After the day in Denali and Talkeetna, we returned to Kate’s home in Anchorage and crashed. I was up early because the sun was peaking through the blinds. I showered and enjoyed part of a danish that Kate bought in Talkeetna the evening before. Jessie picked us up and we all grabbed a breakfast burrito and latte from the City Market where we met up with her friend Holly. Jessie and Holly were taking us on a short, moderate morning hike to Flattop Mountain located in the Chuggash State Park. And while the name “Flattop” does in fact describe the appearance of the top of the mountain, there was nothing else flat about it. The hike is just over 3 miles and it starts out easy. The terrain was similar to that of the trail the day before in Denali National Park, except this time we had spectacular views of a whole different set of incredible mountains, the city of Anchorage and the coastline. We reached a series of plateaus on the way to the top, each followed by another climb and all with wonderful views. About half way up, there was a class of preschoolers following close behind me. They shouted question after question to their teacher and she patiently answered each one as we all huffed our way up. Surely there was a superhero cape tucked away in her backpack. When I reached the rocky mountain face right before the top, the climb got harder…in a mind-over-matter kind of way. Loose gravel on steep inclines proved challenging. On the way back down, Holly darted through the crowd and the next time I saw her, she was doing pushups on a log. She’s hardcore. We ended the hike successfully covered in dust and sweat.

I remembered my camera (and battery) on this hike but I also shot with my iPhone. There is a mix of both below.IMG_0425bsomeIMG_5440bsomeIMG_5446bsomeIMG_5453bsomeIMG_5455bsomeIMG_5450bsomeIMG_5462bsomeIMG_5464bsomeIMG_5471bsomeIMG_5472bsomeIMG_5478bsomeIMG_5479 IMG_0450IMG_0447bsomeIMG_5484IMG_0435IMG_0432FullSizeRender-40

Later that day we grabbed some fuel at Spanard Roadhouse where Jessie drew us a map and highlighted all her favorite spots. We set out on foot to explore downtown Anchorage. Later that evening Jessie and Kate had a kickball game. We watched and cheered them on and then headed to dinner. Sleep followed soon after…one more day and one more mountain to hike before flying back home.
IMG_0451IMG_0463IMG_0460FullSizeRender-41

took a hike, took a camera: Denali National Park

Alaska, Day 1 | fly, drive, camp | Baltimore to Anchorage to Healy

June 21, 2015 : to-date, my Life Solstice. It was literally the longest day of daylight of my life. We left Arlington, VA for BWI at 4am on June 21 and 24 hours later, on that same day, we were pitching tents in Healy, Alaska under dusk or dawn skies, I’m not sure which.

Our flight landed in Anchorage around 1pm. Kate picked us up, put an Alaskan beer in our hand, drove us to her place to load up camping supplies and then we ate a meal at Snow City Cafe where her sister Jessie works. When Jessie finished up, we all hit the road for Healy, Alaska. Healy is about four hours north of Anchorage but with wild fires lining parts of the road, seasonal road reconstruction and two eager, snap-happy tourists – the drive took us six hours. Kate pointed out that billboards weren’t allowed there and because of this, we were able to see the beauty from the car, without obstruction. Our destination for the day was 49th State Brewing Company where we caught the tail-end of their Solstice BrewFest. It was around 10pm when we arrived but the party was going strong. Live music played while we deliriously ordered a cold beer and way too much food. Neighboring the brewery is an extremely convenient campground where we set up for the night. There was intention of hanging out and playing card games but….zzzzzzz, I was out when my face hit the pillow. I was so tired I mistook a moose for a horse as it trotted by our campsite. Everyone laughed but, in my defense, well, whatever – I was tired.

Legroomfordays Chicago Airport United Air2 FullSizeRender-19IMG_0238 Anchorage1IMG_0245FullSizeRender-20IMG_0251

…from wild fires to lush landscapes…
IMG_0255IMG_0273IMG_0256FullSizeRender-22FullSizeRender-21FullSizeRender-24IMG_0275

Road work was sprinkled along the trip. We met one worker who reminded me so much of my aunt Debbie. She was fun and welcoming and had a cigarette hanging from her mouth during most of our conversation. She had the right idea though, the mosquitos were fierce.
FullSizeRender-23IMG_0313FullSizeRender-25IMG_0320

The bus from the movie “Into the Wild” was at 49th State Brewing.
IMG_0325IMG_0335

Above: a short time-lapse video of us setting up our tents in a sleepy stupor. Below: a shot from our campsite in Healy taken at midnight. The sun dipped below the horizon but it never actually got dark!FullSizeRender-26Alaska, Day 2 | hike, drive, sleeeeeeeep | Healy to Talkeetna to Anchorage

Woke up in a tent around 6am. The whole no-darkness thing it pure tomfoolery. You just get up and go until you slam into a wall and then you sleep until you can’t. Kate and Jessie were still sleeping so Ben and I went on a serious search for coffee. Our search led us to a gas station where the Russian man behind the counter assured me they had “whole wheat” milk to use in my latte. My uncaffeinated brain laughed a little too much. Kate made us breakfast at the campsite and we all packed up and stopped for more coffee at a cute little spot along the road. Under the sleepless sun, we sat and enjoyed the morning. Ben ordered a triple Americano and didn’t realize “triple” meant three shots of espresso. Half way through our game of Cards Against Humanity, he kind of tweaked out…we’re talking giggles and shakes. He later said “I didn’t know if I was going to be alright.” (lol) After coffee and cards we drove into Denali National Park. I never saw the name of the trail we hiked that day but it’s right off the parking lot at the Savage River stop. It wastes no time heading straight up. Before we knew it we were already at the first of many impressive overlooks. The trail consisted of rocky switchback after rocky switchback, some rock scrambling and hoisting, then later there was loose soil with a gradual climb and wide open views. As my first hike in Alaska, I appreciated being able to see across the terrain…in other words: I was happy to know I could spot a grizzly from afar. And while we didn’t spot any grizzlies, we did see some Dall Sheep, caribou and some cool birds. I also learned that there aren’t any harmful snakes in Alaska. And they don’t have poison ivy/oak. I asked these questions because I realized I was on the lookout for those things…like I would be if I were hiking here at home, in Virginia. We hiked in one direction for about 90 minutes then turned and hiked back to the car. We devoured leftover brewery sandwiches by the Savage River before doing some abbreviated yoga to loosen up and then we hit the road again. A little more than half way back to Anchorage is a town called Talkeetna. Kate has spent a lot time there and wanted us to see it. Our timing was perfect for dinner so we stopped at Denali Brewing Company for food and, of course, a unique local brew. My favorite beer that day was their Louisville Sour. I was very sad to hear they didn’t sell bottles or cans to bring home to share. After dinner we walked around the quaint little town of Talkeetna. I bought some souvenirs for my kids, who I was missing already, Kate grabbed some pastries for the next day breakfast and Ben met Stubbs, the town mayor, aka the cat.

FullSizeRender-27 IMG_0345FullSizeRender-31IMG_0396IMG_0354IMG_0355IMG_0356FullSizeRender-28IMG_0358FullSizeRender-29IMG_0377FullSizeRender-34FullSizeRender-33FullSizeRender-35FullSizeRender-36IMG_0388IMG_0405FullSizeRender-37FullSizeRender-38

These photos are all shot with my iPhone. I did not forget my camera on this excursion to Denali…I just forgot my battery. Doh!

took a hike, took a camera: Lewis Falls

Want to know what happens when I go on a hike with 6 kids: I don’t take many pictures. That’s what. Those kids had my attention directed and redirected all over the place! All six kids and four adults, including me, hit the trails to Lewis Falls. On the hike back to the car, my daughter and I led the pack. We sang songs and talked and laughed. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a great hike that ended with a much needed stop at Jack Brown’s Singlewide on our way off of Skyline Drive. We refueled and headed home. Also, there are no photos of the falls on this post. As mentioned, I was easily distracted and never got a shot. Wamp. But hey, go see it for yourself!

Lewis_Falls_0102 Lewis_Falls_0103 Lewis_Falls_0104 Lewis_Falls_0105 Lewis_Falls_0106 Lewis_Falls_0107 Lewis_Falls_0114 Lewis_Falls_0108 Lewis_Falls_0110 Lewis_Falls_0115 Lewis_Falls_0116 Lewis_Falls_0118 Lewis_Falls_0122 Lewis_Falls_0125Cell phone summary:

LewisRiverCellPhone