The lodge at Hatcher Pass. Spent an awesome two days here with friends right before I left Alaska last month. We drove up from Homer, a nearly 5 hour drive, because the forecast called for active Aurora Borealis that night. We didn’t get an Aurora show, but we did stay in a beautiful A-frame cabin with an incredible view. The snow wasn’t much, so there weren’t any skiers up there, which meant we had the entire place to ourselves. My friend and I got up early the next day and chatted for a while with the lodge owner, a man in his 80s who claimed the land back in the homesteading days and built the whole lodge himself.
35mm long exposure of my cabin in homer, alaska with the big dipper in the sky above and some light aurora that wasn’t really visible to the naked eye. it was hard to keep my tripod very still when it was about 10 degrees out and i was holding my shutter button manually.
So my wwoofing host is friends with the guy who delivers mail to the few year-round residents across the bay. I’ve been trying to get across the bay to do some hiking in Kachemak Bay State Park, but water taxis cost $86, and that is so not in my budget right now. So Carey asked her friend Dave if we could go for a ride with him on his skiff as he delivered mail, and he kindly obliged.
Riding along with us were two researchers conducting a study on sea otters in the area. We dropped them off on a rock in the middle of the bay (!), where they set up their equipment and set up camp for two hours. It wasn’t even high tide yet! Crazy ass scientists. We picked them up in a few hours, no harm done. But it was quite an operation navigating those rocks and getting all of their equipment on and off board.
The homes on the other side of Kachemak Bay are off-grid, and mostly just used in the summer as vacation homes. There are also a number of resort cabins and yurts, but everything is abandoned this time of year, except for a few cabins that have year-round residents. So we got to enjoy a ride through the many coves and inlets across the bay, delivering a couple of packages, and eventually ending up at the home of and elderly couple, where the mail is sorted.
Here, we disembarked and spent a really lovely hour or so having coffee and tea and sticky buns with Sandy and Jimmy in their relatively newly built and incredibly gorgeous cabin. Out their front window they have a view across the bay to Illiamna Volcano (pictured in the photo with the researchers), and right behind their home is the beginning of Kachemak Bay State Park. Nestled in the mountains with a stellar view, incredible handcrafted architecture, a raging wood stove… it was heaven. I really hope I have a future that looks something like that life.
As per usual, I took more film shots than digital, but here are some iPhone and DSLR images from the day. It was about 30 degrees, and the wind was relentless, but the beauty of the day outweighed any discomforts. Also, I layered in smart wool base layers, a fleece, a down coat, and a snowboarding shell. So I was as warm as I could have been.
I hate to be posting a photo from the airplane window… but flying over the Alaska Range yesterday was the perfect welcome, and the encouragement I needed to get me excited for this month that I’ll be away from my boyfriend and my dog. It was 18 degrees this morning, its been snowing since I arrived in Fairbanks, and I’m so happy to be here.
Ahhh, so I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve been in Alaska for a week and a half now, Homer for a week. The past week has been partially busy with getting settled in, partially with working day to day on the farm I’m WWOOFing on, partially with spending the evenings cuddled up in my seeping bag in my cabin, reading, and drinking tea.
So I arrived to Fairbanks a few days before I needed to be in Homer, with hopes of catching a glimpse of the northern lights. My friend from high school is spending his first year in Alaska right now, working as a research assistant at UAF so I had a few days with a great classic-Alaskan dry cabin to stay at in Fairbanks. Unfortunately for aurora viewing purposes, snow started the day I arrived in Fairbanks, and barely let up until the day I left. But that was okay with me, the snow really transformed Fairbanks and the surrounding areas into a much more beautiful place than I remember from summer days spent there.
Allen and I made the 12-hour trek from Fairbanks to Homer in two days: this part of the trip I was very excited about, as we drove past my beloved Denali, and I got to visit my old boss and catch up, and we stopped in one of my favorite towns in Alaska, Talkeetna for lunch. I’m slightly obsessed with the cornish pasties served at the famous Talkeetna Roadhouse, so Allen and I stuffed ourselves with those, coffee, and handfuls of homemade cookies. Up until this point, Denali the Giant had been shrouded in clouds, but as we finished our lunch and walked down to the Susitna river for a view, she came out in all her glory.
If you haven’t heard me brag about Denali (Mt. McKinley), how its the coolest mountain in the world, and how much I LOVE this mass of granite, I’ll just let you know: Denali is the biggest mountain in the world. The highest mountain in North America at 20,320 ft, it’s elevation doesn’t compare with other tall mountains (Everest, etc), but it has the highest vertical rise of all mountains in the world. It’s base begins at about 2,000 ft, giving Denali a vertical rise of over 18,000 ft, compared with Everest’s 12,000. Ok- enough preaching- DENALI IS BIG. It takes over the sky as you drive point to point on the Parks Highway, when it is visible at all. Such a huge mass of mountain creates its own weather systems, and the mountain is often shrouded in clouds. Less than 50% of visitors to Denali National Park even get to see the mountain. Anyway. The view from the Susitna that day was as clear as I’ve seen it. And although the southern view of the mountain isn’t my favorite, I was so so happy to be standing on the banks of this ever-freezing river, admiring the mountain that I love.
After a weird night in Anchorage, Allen and I picked up another WWOOFer and drove the rest of the way to Homer. More snowy mountains and beautiful winter-wonderland views made up the rest of the drive. Upon arriving, I was very happy to see the house I’ll be wwoofing at. A sunny house with south-facing windows, it sits atop a ridge and offers views of the mountains and glaciers across Kachemak bay. Homer sits right on the bay, the halibut fishing capital of the world, and huge volcanoes (11,000+ ft) loom to the west, with the mountains and glaciers of Kachemak Bay State Park across the bay to the east. I’m staying in a small cabin out front that used to be a pottery studio, and I’m quite cozy there. Town is 15 minutes away, and offers all the usual comforts and amenities (something I’m not used to having so close while in Alaska!) as well as access to the bays and awesome views across the water.
Allen and I went to meet up with his friend Jackson, who is also WWOOFing, outside of Homer. He works on an Alpaca ranch, and we got to meet llamas, alpacas, yaks, goats, horses, etc. Denali the Yak thinks he’s a dog, and kissed my face unexpectedly. Picchu the dog is awesome, and many goats nibbled at my jacket. We went hunting with Jackson and his girlfriend for rabbits (I didn’t participate, just went along for the snowy hike). Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get any… but I wasn’t too disappointed.
Since then, Allen has returned to Fairbanks, and normal life around the house/farm has begun. The woman I’m WWOOFing for is great, her kids are wonderful and entertaining, and the work is good. It’s been busy, and physically challenging, but nothing I can’t handle. It’s good to be back on my feet from day-to-day. Right now we’re working on clearing out all of the dead summer crops from the high tunnel, the structure they grow within. We also pulled hundreds of carrots out of the ground, and I processed them for storage: cutting the tops off, scrubbing the dirt off, and burying layer after layer of carrots in sand.
I can’t believe I’m already to the point of having only three more weeks here. I’ve gotten very accustomed and attached to Homer and life here. I’d LOVE to stay longer, but I am a maid of honor in December, and duty calls. Hopefully the next three weeks won’t absolutely fly by as this one has, but we’ll see.