July 24, 2018
Hey, what’s up, hello!!!! We have officially completed both of our backpacking and rafting sections of our trip! Our 8 day trekking adventure in the Talkeetna Mountain Range was epic. Day 1 was eventful and exciting. It was our introduction to the next week and a half. Chuck drove us in a bus to the trailhead where we taught several lessons before beginning our trek. Lucy and Maggie were our LODs who fiercely led us into the wilderness 4 miles deep and 1500 feet up, working our legs well. After eating lunch we finished the rest of our day at our first campsite. For dinner we ate Pad Thai and at Moonup shared difficult personal experiences from which we have learned a positive lesson. Afterwards, we put our smellies inside the bear fence and went to bed.
Our next day was a lovely eight mile trek through the valley that we entered on the previous day. After an oatmeal breakfast, Renzo and Emma led the way. The flat terrain provided a sweet rest from all the elevation gain. We wove our way across trickling streams and soaked in all the crazy views, grateful that we were finally entering the deep wilderness. It rained a bit in the afternoon, but spirits stayed high. The sun warmed us back up soon. At our campsite for night, which we refer to as hunting camp, we met our friends the marmots (also known as micro bears). The creatures were deceiving- they looked adorable but ferociously went after our food. Walker and Wick truly made it their goal to prevent any microbear from stealing our much needed food. Their endeavors proved successful. We shared Moonup around the food to prevent further microbear curiosity. We chowed down on some Oreos and chatted about future aspirations and goals. We slept hard after a long day.
Day three warmly welcomed us with some bright sunshine. We filled our bellies with pancakes and hit the trail. Throughout the day’s walk, we rolled up and down hills, keeping Caribou Creek on our right. The LODs, Rachel and Renae, picked out a stunning lunch spot for us overlooking where we had come from and where we were heading. Lunch came to a close when Rachel woke Wick up from his nap with a nice splash of cold water. We soon came to the biggest river crossing of the whole trip. Luckily, the water of the Chitna River was rather mellow, and we all made it across smoothly. Maggie helped lead one crew across. The three leaders attempted to scare all the students by jumping out of the bushes. It kinda worked. After some more rolling hills, we made it to our campsite right on caribou creek. We dined on some Mexican bowls and shared with the group something that most people don’t know about us. It was cool to get to hear more about all the cool people in this crew. We slept tight for a big day the following day.
We started to really feel deep into the backcountry on day 4 as we started to do some bushwacking. The rain made the day even more intense. Tom and Walker, our leaders for the day, boldly and successfully navigated us. After climbing about 1000 feet, the sun came out. Emma serenaded us all with the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”, and we enjoyed some lunch. The view from our high point was stunning, so we stopped for a small photo shoot before making the last push to camp. This campsite was AMAZING. Two alpine lakes made beautiful reflections of the stunning mountains surrounding us. We went all out on chicken pesto pasta for dinner. Since it was a late night, we got to watch and almost Alaskan sunset while we did Moonup on a grassy hill. Our day was full and complete.
Charlotte and Briggs led the way on day 5. Our goal for the day was to get as close to “the Pass” as possible. We were to go over the Pass the following day. Rolling hills and fields of wildflowers carried us closer and closer to the Pass. Lunch was the highlight for the day- we took the most wonderful nap and munched on some carrots and humus. Rachel, Renzo, and Wick showed off the mad handstand skills. The rest of us took pictures. We crossed a lovely stream at the base of a small waterfall where we filled up our bottles and hung out for a bit after a bit more walking, we decided we had reached a perfect place to camp. The LODs and leaders surprised the group with some snowballs- Oakes really took Emma by surprise. After settling down, we chowed down on some black bean burgers and quinoa. For Moonup, we cozied up in our sleeping bags which was most certainly the move. We did Moonup looking out at the Pass- tomorrow’s journey.
Day 6 was our most challenging and wild ride yet. After filling our stomachs with chocolate chip pancakes we left our beautiful campsite and headed towards Glass Pass. After a couple of hours we rolled up to the top with the most rewarding scenic view. We were ecstatic! We were joyful! And very proud of how far we had come over the course of the last week. After a lengthy and rightful photo shoot, we ate lunch and explored the surround areas. A crew climbed to the top of a big rock pile where Tom practiced his screaming eco. Lucy and Renzo then met with the leaders to discuss the rest of the route for the day. Then the group was debriefed, we strapped on our packs, and began our descent. First, we came down Glass Pass mostly on scree. Second, we approached a beautiful cirque, where we saw a nearby prancing caribou. Third, we experienced the majority of our day, a larger and longer stretch on scree. This was by far the most strenuous portion of the backpacking section. It was nearly 3 and a half miles and throughout we were mostly creating our own path, scaling the side of a mountain, and taking extra precautions with each step. To say the group remained flexible and positive throughout the whole day would be an incredible understatement. The day was very long and would not have been nearly as enjoyable without all of the laughs and lovable craziness expressed by these students. Once we finally arrived to camp, we pitched our tents, heated up water for Ramen Bombs, and had a funny Moonup. Everyone was so tired and barely functioning, we were just speaking random words and barely making any sense. Everyone answered the last meal ever they would want to eat and then we all fell asleep fast and deeply.
Resttttt dayyyyyy! In celebration of completing a successful and safe week in the backcountry, and to honor our ridiculously awesome day prior, we slept in and ate eggs, hashbrowns, and kale wraps for brunch. Our kitchen was set up on a rock bed with an inspiring view so instead of relocating, we remained in the kitchen all day long. Wick played music, Schlatty water colored, and Ani, Lucy, and Rachel read. Everyone else took well deserved naps. For dinner, we ate an absurd amount of mac and cheese. Maggie and Ani held a laugh filled Moonup and we retired to our tents to rest up for our last day of walking.
The next morning after breakfast we descended the gentle hillside we had been occupying down to the Chickaloon River. Arriving at the river was very rewarding and we took a moment to reflect on the journey that brought us there. Once we were at the river bed it was a leisurely 3 mile stroll up river crossing alluvial fans and rock bars as we made our way to the landing strip where our rafting guides would meet us the following morning. We camped near the landing strip and Renzo, Maggie, and Tom prepared yet another absurdly over-portioned dinner. Rachel and Schlatty held Moonup by the river and asked some very thought provoking questions. We were all in unspoken agreement that this Moonup had been the most deep and meaningful yet by a long shot. It was hard to fall asleep that night because we were energized by our anticipation for the following morning.
The next morning we hopped out of bed and gathered near the end of the landing strip IN THE MIDDLE OF WHO KNOWS WHERE to watch the first plane land. It was yet another clear and perfect morning and we could see it coming from a mile away. Photos and videos will never be able to do this sight justice. It was so freakin cool. As soon as the first plane landed we got to work unloading the rafting gear from the plane and loading up the gear from backpacking that we would no longer need. Then we chowed down on breakfast as the first plane took off and the second made its descent to the airstrip. 4 flights came and went in the span of about an hour and a half and before we knew it we were ready to get on the water! Our guides gave us a thorough safety run down, then we munched some lunch, put on our dry suits and hit the Chickaloon! This stretch of the Chickaloon is incredible with stunning views that are changing by the minute. We rafted for about 4 hours with a short portage over a notorious rapid named “Hotel Rocks”. Shortly after Hotel Rocks we pulled off the river and set up camp. We had a luxurious Dutch oven enchilada dinner with brownies for dessert. We were so psyched for the next day of rafting ahead, but we were also having momentary bouts of sorrow over the conclusion of our trip that was quickly drawing near.
Our final day in the backcountry started off with a bang with breakfast burritos. The NOVA river guides really know how to cook! We suited up in our nifty dry suits again and hit the river. We had three hours or so in the raft, and we soaked up every single second. We wound through a few canyons and one of our guides, Jessie, was especially great about teaching a bit of geology. Towards the end of the trip, the Chickaloon River met with the Matanuska River, signifying that our journey was coming to an end. After pulling over to the side at our stop and hauling out all of our personal and group gear, we ate lunch at the Chickaloon NOVA site and were reunited with the rest of our belongings. We organized everything we brought with us and quickly after that the Magic Bus arrived to take us to Anchorage. We safely arrived to our campsite, had the wonderful experience of showering then began Iron Chef! The group was divided into two teams and prepared separate meals for themselves and especially the judges, aka the leaders. Both meals were unique pasta dishes and had incredible chocolate desserts, but Renzo, Briggs, Rachel, Ani and Renae came out on top as the winners. After cleaning up, we gathered around for our final Moon Up, where we reflected deeply and meaningfully on our last three weeks by sharing favorite memories and how we are going to adjust our lives based upon the lessons we learned while in Alaska. We had many laughs and time to verbally acknowledge and appreciate our experiences together one last time. After many many hugs, we all hopped in our tents and went to bed in preparation of tomorrow for when we head to the Lower 48.
July 13, 2018
Ice Climbing on the Matanuska Glacier was an unforgettable experience! On our first day we left NOVA setting out in helmets, harnesses, and crampons which properly and safely equipped us for our adventure. Our guides brought us to an area that was encouraging towards beginners in making massive strides on ice. They set three routes for us ranging in difficulty. Colton, one of the guides, started blasting some music on the speakers, and we were ready. Everybody got to climb several times. Ani was one of the very first to conquer the challenging route. She decided to go hardest to easiest, and absolutely crushed it. Renzo really took ice climbing to a new level; he made it all the way up without even using his crampons. The guides were quite impressed. Walker did the climb without the ice axes, which was quite an accomplishment as well. Charlotte and Lucy pushed themselves by climbing several times. Then we all jammed to the music and cheered our friends on as they climbed. Come lunch time, we pulled out our Sammies and enjoyed a midday break on the glacier and a crazy lunchtime view of the Chugach Mountain range. After lunch, we learned how to set an anchor in the ice. After we got our anchor set, we tested just how strong it was. Maggie, Walker, and Rachel were tuggin’ as hard as they possibly could on the rope, and it didn’t even budge. Colton had to chip away practically all of the ice around our anchor before we could break it. Our trust of the climbing system skyrocketed after that. We finished up a few more climbs, and meandered our way back to the vans. We had the afternoon to hangout and snack around the picnic tables. The highlight of the afternoon was a moose. Tom and Briggs spotted it as they were hangin out by the river and got us all to come see. After all the hoopla, we started on dinner. Rachel and Briggs whipped up some delicious pasta with a coconut cabbage mushroom sauce. Meanwhile, Tom built a toasty fire for all of us to enjoy. The lovely day was finished off by the fire with s’mores, music, and moonup. We all agreed Renae and Maggie perfected the s’mores technique- melty chocolate, golden marshmallow. Leaders of the day, Briggs and Charlotte asked us about our happy places and life mottos. We went to bed, so full and pumped for climbing day 2.
Today started off right when we ate eggs, bacon, and English muffins for breakfast. After a relaxed morning, we put on our boots, grabbed the rest of our gear and left camp. There was no need for a detailed talk on how to use the provided equipment properly, we were pretty much pros at that point! Instead we hopped in the vans, drove to the glacier, and trekked to a climbing area near the ice falls where we had climbed yesterday. The big difference in today’s climb, however, was we first repelled down and then steadied our feet in order to climb back up. There were three routes set. Two side by side that brought you down all the way to the water and the third was set inside a deep crevasse! We spent all day climbing in the hot hot Alaskan sun, something that we hadn’t had much of up until that point. Additionally, we had some funky dance parties and photo shoots when Emma expressed her true sassy self. The pictures are epic. Once we were done climbing we trekked back through the moraine off the glacier. On our way back to camp we stopped for another variety of icy enjoyment (the creamy sugary kind). Back at camp we took an afternoon nap, then started preparation for our upcoming backpacking section. Renzo and Walker went down by the river and built a bridge, but later took it down because #LNT. For dinner we made Southwestern Mexican bowls, had another bonfire with s’mores and Wick’s music, then Moonup. As LODs, Walker and Ani asked us to say who has had a great impact on our lives. It was inspiring to hear about different individuals who have positively influenced all of us. We expressed our deepest appreciatiation and gratitude. To end our day, Bobo and Oakes decided we hadn’t had enough sweets so they melted cookie dough on the Coleman, putting everyone into a deep food coma calling for an easy transition to our sleeping bags for bed.
Wick, Bowen, and Oakes
July 11, 2018
Hello friends, family, and everyone else! We have successfully made our way out of Prince William Sound and would love to share some of our experiences thus far.
Looking back on Day 1, our time was well spent in the airport. The first arrivals came early afternoon and the last was around 9:30pm. We munched on lots of grapes and cheese balls and asked a lot of ice breaker questions. To say our group consists of an array of unique talents would be an understatement. Oakes and Bowen ordered pizza and after indulging until our stomachs hurt, we left the airport on the Magic Bus and to meet up with Wick at a new campsite. After informing the group on some crucial information regarding tent care, bears, smellies (things that bears tend to enjoy sniffing around for), and EB (Exhibition Behavior), we had our first Moonup (our nightly discussion and winding-down time). Because it was so late we did not have a very lengthy gathering; however, we discussed the purpose behind it, announced the Leaders of the Day (LODs), and discussed the general plan for the days to come. Afterwards we took to our sleeping bags for some much needed rest.
To Whittier we go, and what an interesting place! After waking up to a musical number performed by the leaders, we ate our first camp breakfast, then we learned how to properly take down a tent and store it then packed up all personal and group gear and left Anchorage. On our drive to Whittier we soaked in some incredible coastal views, and after about an hour on the road we passed through a long dark tunnel under the Chugach Range that spot us out into the tiny and admittedly bizarre town that is Whittier, AK.
The rest of the day was spent preparing for our upcoming sea kayaking section, and enjoying the uncommon sunshiny day on Prince William Sound. We got some ice cream and visited a pair of reindeer that one Whittier resident keeps as pets. Again, Whittier is a VERY unique place.
After Briggs, Lucy, and Tommaso (recently renamed ‘Tomato’) whipped up some delicious veggie stir fry, Walker and Emma led us in our first official Moonup. During Moonup we all talked about the reasons why we were here in Alaska, and what brought us to embark on this journey. Once again we hopped into our sleeping bags and covered our eyes (because it’s still bright out at midnight) and dozed off.
The next morning it was finally time to hit the water! We stored all of the things we wouldn’t be needing while sea kayaking and packed up our boats with food and shelter, and good vibes! It was overcast and windy but everyone was psyched to be out on the Sound. Briggs and Lucy led us along the Southern Shore of Passage Canal for about 4 miles before we stopped for lunch on a beach brimming with perfect skipping stones. After lunch we paddled for about 3 more miles and la fed our kayaks in Squirrel Cove. Squirrel Cove is home to an extensive network of boardwalks and wooden camping platforms that prevent permanent impact on the lush Alaskan coastal rain forest. The campsite is incredibly beautiful – if you’ve ever seen Star Wars, it looks like it’s straight out of a scene from the forest moon of Endor (give it a google).
After setting up camp, Rachel (recently dubbed Roochel), Renae (recently dubbed NaeNae), and Walker cheffed up some to-die-for chicken pesto pasta, and everyone chowed down like fiends. Moonup brought laughs galore, and after we were all ready to fall asleep standing up, but we decided our tents would offer a more comfortable place of respite. The forecast for the following day called for heavy winds and a small craft advisory, which unfortunately meant no paddling, but we all delighted in the fact that we could sleep in and have a day of relaxation!
The next morning we woke at a reasonably late hour and started in on breakfast. Bacon and hash browns were on the menu and we all ate our fill, then some. The forecast from the night before was right – winds were high and so was morale. After breakfast we went for a hike around Squirrel Cove and were pretty taken aback by the beauty of the coastline. Then we all piled into a nearby cabin to play some cards and relax while we wished the bad weather away. After Charlotte and Renzo prepared us some healthy portions of an insane curry creation, we all congregated in the cabin once more as Tommaso and Maggie led Moonup capped off by an exchange of ghost stories.
There was no sign of the weather letting up that night or the following morning, but we were all happy and comfortable staying at Squirrel Cove to weather the storm. On the third morning Rachel and Lucy busied themselves making personalized pancakes for everyone in the group. After breakfast Maggie took us along the shoreline at low tide to show us a baby waterfall. Tommaso and Walker brought along our empty water jugs and we restocked our water supply. That afternoon we relaxed again in the cabin, playing Stratego, cards, and concocting a horror story to leave behind in the cabins guest log. Tommaso and Emma made some tasty pizza bagels for dinner that night, and after dinner we all found ourselves back in the cabin for Moonup, led by Ani (recently dubbed Noosh) and Rachel.
The following morning it was time to leave Squirrel Cove and head back to Whittier. We ate a quick breakfast then broke down camp and awaited the arrival of a water taxi. Although we wished we had more time on the water, we were all thankful that we had the opportunity to spend quality time enjoying the natural splendor, relaxing together and eating tons of good food.
Now we are heading to the Matanuska Glacier for some good times climbing ice! We couldn’t be more pumped, and we are crossing our fingers for good weather.
Tata for now!
Bowen, Elizabeth, and Wick
July 6, 2018
Hello Northern Lights Families!
We heard from Wick, Bowen and Elizabeth – All students arrived safely in Anchorage last night, and the trip is off to a great start. Stay tuned for more news from their adventures.