Trek Alaska: Update #5

Dear Friends and Families,

Day 10- This Too Shall Pass

Rushed out of the cabin at 9 a.m.! With our food re-supply, tents, sleeping bags, etc., there was a lot of packing up and everyone helped. Wandered about Hatcher Pass through the independence gold mine in search of little nuggets of wealth and history in the Ghost Town of old. Heavy fog lifting by noon gave rise to the peaks torn apart by dynamite. We gathered around the picnic table to a substantial lunch of dips and spreads and laughter and stories… long lines at the outhouse, lots of families and even a wedding around. After lunch we all hiked up the Gold Cord Trail. Although it was only a mile the steep rocky terrain led us to a picturesque alpine lake. Spectacular granite outcrops, snow, and large boulders complete the serenity.  With the lake partially frozen, we watched a young man participate in his own polar plunge. With the surreal views and calming nature it was time for a captivating story.  Drew had the whole group engaged with the story of Daniel and Solomon and the meaning of the phrase “This too shall pass.” The listening, respect, and sharing among the group was fantastic – not a single interruption! After the story, the teens took turns retelling the story and reflecting on the ending. We returned to the bus for a two-hour drive to the Talkeetna Mountain House. A very lovely place, quite cozy! All hand built by Brian McCullough, a mountain Explorer from the area. Brian was kind enough to sit down and tell his stories of climbing Denali, Everest and even his adventures through Antarctica. Denali actually has a greater elevation than Everest, being that its base is near sea level (20,000 ft rise in elevation compared to Everest base at 17,000 ft rising to 29,000 ft). Climbers take a plane to the glacier 7,000ft up with 120lbs of gear. Guides costing upwards of $7,000 per trip, the climb is treacherous, with high wind problems, raging storms, and sub zero temperatures. We finished the night with a lovely rainy havdallah service and a history of Alaska video.
-Susan C. (Tour Guide)

Day 11- Happy Talkeetna

What a day!  Actually one of my favorites so far, I’m not exaggerating! We started off by heading to town (Talkeetna) just down yonder about 15 minutes from our beautiful mountaintop home. Our first stop of the day was to NSI where were greeted by Alex, an enthusiastic outdoor educator from Idaho.  We started off with a crafty project carving stamps out of erasers.  I chiseled out a tree standing by a river with a prominent TREK AK label.  There are some amazing artists in our group!  There were stamps featuring bears, moose, mountains, and many of Alaska’s glories. After stamp-carving, we began a Talkeetna-wide scavenger hunt. We wandered off in the wrong direction a few times and it was funny to watch the kids wander around and debate about which way was North or East. Our last stop of the scavenger hunt was the quest box, which is a box that apparently they have all over the world!  So cool!!  So we all took our newly carved stamps out and made our mark in the Talkeetna Quest logbook.  They also had free postcards for us to stamp and send to our favorite peeps back home.

As we were finishing up stamping postcards, we overheard on a loud speaker announcement about the first ever Talkeetna Pride parade was about to begin!  A bunch of the participants and I got very excited and were anxious to head over and join in the celebration.  So we made a quick detour to the park in the center of town (about a block away) and listened to the opening announcements of Pride Day in Talkeetna.

We headed back to NSI a few minutes away to finish up our last team-building activity.  Alex, the NSI guide, blindfolded the students (and Drew) and gave them each a number.  He then moved them around out of order and they had to find each other and line up according to their number order WITHOUT SEEING OR SPEAKING!  I enjoyed watching all of their personalities appear even as they were just standing around blindfolded not knowing what was going on. They were able to do it perfectly after a few minutes through clapping and tapping on each other’s hands.  Alex said that we were “performing” stage of group formation.  Woohoo!  With the exception of a few snickers, the group did a decent job staying quiet and keeping true to the challenge.  They’ve come a long way since trying to detangle their human knot 10 days ago…but that’s another story! It was then time to say thank you and goodbye to Alex and head to town for lunch and free time in a the cutest/touristy town it is.  It was perfect timing to see the Pride Parade heading through town.  I couldn’t help tearing up as I watched a few hundred proud folks marching the street and chanting “Love is Love.” It wasn’t my first pride parade, but it was my first first pride parade and I was proud to sharing in Talkeetna’s historical moment! Talkeetna is the hub for Denali climbers, so it is quite full of gift shops, restaurants, arts+crafts galore.  The group had a couple of hours to wander around and eat, shop, chill, and hang.

It was mid-afternoon when we headed back to the mountain house for some down time/packing time.  We went over the camping packing list for the next day and night and everyone was eager to pack quickly so they could have some more down time.  Each tent group was efficient and meticulous as they checked off each item from the list.  A big thanks to Susan for writing and printing the packing list for each group.  Then folks went off their separate ways to read, play football, nap, etc. Then it was time for our awesome night activity, NATIVE YOUTH OLYMPICS (a Alaskan classic competition) planned in big part by Alaskan participant, Alexis (and assistance from Sol).  We had three teams of three and Drew, Susan, and I made up another team for some events(and definitely would have won if we played them all).   The teams competed in four events: seal hop, kneel jump, stick pull, and wrist carry.  These are traditional games that Alaskan Natives play and all Alaskans play in gym class.  Another fun fact about growing up in Alaska! Drew was a hilarious announcer as we stood on the porch and announced the teams over some Alaskan Native music.  The teens definitely put on their game faces (see pics of Morgan doing stick pull) and worked well together to compete in games that they had less than 5 minutes to practice for.  Ok ok, Sol and Alexis had a slight advantage over the rest of the group, but the teams were matched pretty well.  Anyone could have won if they won the final challenge, the wrist carry which they competed in all as a group.  The Denali Thunderbirds consisting of Alex, Alexis, and Jake won all the glory of ice cream treat by carrying Alexis the furthest in the wrist carry.  There was actually a two-way tie so they had to do it twice.  But then Drew, Susan, and I really showed them whom are bosses when we carried Susan across the entire field (our beautiful backyard) and could have kept going! It was a great day and a great night and one of those days that reminded me why I love leading these trips so much and also made me a bit sad thinking about how we are nearing the end of our Alaskan adventure.
– Rebecca I. (Madricha)

Day 12- Things Far and Wide

Since Jewish days begin and end in the evening, my journey with BBYO Passport started at sundown around 11:45pm. I joined the group at the Talkeetna B&B to travel with them through Denali National Park. We started early in the morning as we had many miles to go! We drove North through the Alaska Range towards the Mountain. Some watched out the window, others caught up on precious sleep. We were welcomed into the park by Ranger Sierra who told us about the history, geology and wildlife within Denali. It was a gorgeous weather day and sitting outside was perfect as it was so warm. We boarded our camper bus for the five hour ride into our campsite at Wonder Lake. The mountains were huge and the space felt wide and big. Along the way we saw a few doll sheep, and caribou, but we all became super excited when we started to see the bears! What really held our attention though is that Denali Mountain showed herself from between the clouds. We arrived at Wonder Lake and set up our campsite. A short walk to the lake for evening games, we watched a sunset with the sky reflecting off the water. It didn’t feel like we traveled so many miles as we thought about bears, mosquitoes, ice cream as well as the earth and sky which we had savored throughout this day!
– Haim (Congregation Guest)

Our best,
Trek Alaska!

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment