Tag Archives: USA

Tundra, taiga and copper – Alaska

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries of the world – John Muir

Alaska is more then Bears and Moose… it is the country of tundra and taiga. Taiga being the wide, widespread forrest of pine, larch and spruce trees. Locally sometimes called drunken spruce trees, for due to the permafrost the roots cannot really hold the trees and they start “wandering”. The taiga can be somewhat boring, as the trees block spectacular views. However, Moose like taiga and the small lakes. We see quite a lot of them along the roadside.
Tundra is the open, empty landscape, but full of small vegetation like mosses and lichens. The views are mostly beautiful, especially when the snowy tops of the Alaska range are filling the background. Caribou love the lichen.

Our next stop is after 170km driving on the unpaved Denali Highway, straight through tundra and taiga. White tops in the background, broad river banks in the foreground. Hardly any human being. Just pure loneliness. You can get lost here for a long time, but then life will be very tough. We stop at a roadhouse at Tangle River. It is a blockhut type place, build in a beautiful scenery with some small lakes to canoe on. However, it interior is utterly kitch and it makes our imagination go wild. In the end my bunkbed really sucks, but the inhabitants are hilarious. They would do well in a real life soap!

We move on along the Copper river in the direction of Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park & Preserve. Another amazing area in Alaska with spectacular nature ans some cultural heritage. The Alaskan native population already knew what was officially discovered end of the 1900’s. These mountains have (had) many copper deposits. It is even said, that the mines of the twin town of McCarthy and Kennicott held the largest ores ever discovered. It was mined for 40 years and transported by boat and railway. What is left are 2 small towns. Kennicott is now sort of a ghost town with some historic buildings and ruins. It is now starting point to amazing tours in the steep mountains surrounding it, and of course the magnificent Root Glacier. McCarthy, once the town of sins, is now a tourist town with hotel, some restaurants and adventure activities.

We camp on the river bank of the Kennicott river and make some memorable hikes. The first along the Root Glacier, on top of the moraine. We see bear droppings everywhere, so it is somewhat exciting to walk here. The next day we hike up to the Bonanza Mine. The trail is over 7 km one way and it ascents 1200 meter. No flat spots here, but amazing views. Reaching the old, wooden and ruined copper mine, we see pieces of green and blue Malachite and Azurite everywhere. This is so surreal. Very impressed we hike down the long steep path again. How tough life must have been 100 years ago.

Holiday is almost over. We drive back in the direction of Anchorage. We see the first traffic lights in 10 days, we see cars and people. It is busy and the rain does not help getting rid of the feeling that the holiday is almost over. The last night we spend on a riverbank with view on the Matanuska glacier (if it would have been clear). We have a nice Dr. Pepper marinated ribs dinner and a few campfire stories. Our guide/cook Phil tells us his story of a grizzly bear attack he barely survived in 1999 (Story in the newspaper) and another nice poem of Robert Service. No matter how nice the campsite is, when I close my eyes later on in the tent, I think back to Phil’s story and the many nights this trip we slept in this small tent in the same wilderness. Brrr…

Back in Anchorage the trip is over. We do some souvenir shopping and that is it. A last hike along the Knik and off we go. Alaska, it has been great!

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

The Spell of the Yukon – Robert Service

Advertisements

Into the Wild – Alaska

The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences – Christopher McCandless

We move north of Anchorage. First stop (well after Waseela) is Talkeetna village. A real tourist trap with way too expensive souvenirs and Mexicans selling sombrero’s. Yeah right. This is not why I came to Alaska. Happy to move on to Kroto lakes. Where? Exactly, not on the map. A hidden gem. We go up a dirt road close to Trapper Creek, where they sell ‘Death Roast Coffee’. After roughly 25 km we take our day packs and leave the vans behind. We head into the bushes. For 3,5 km we hike or rather bushwhack. No trail, no idea where we go. Just through marshy-land, and of course keeping an eye out for Bears and Moose.

After a while we just need to cross a small river per raft to reach a beautiful cabin. The cabin is perfect. It is called Mountain View, hopefully we will see the mountain soon. Down below is a nice lake with a small island, which calls for exploration per canoe. But first, enjoy the view until way past midnight. Hard to tell time when it does not get dark…

The next morning we go for a bushwhacking hike around the cabin. Lush vegetation, marsh, beaver dams and birds. No big wildlife unfortunately, but a nice way to spend time in the wild. Back in the cabin I decide to dive in the lake. The ideal way to get rid of the dirt of the hike. However… the temperature is very, very low and within seconds my skin starts tingling. Time to have lunch, go in the sauna after (and again dip in the lake) and finish the day with a nice canoe trip around the island, where we are greeted or warned by a Beaver. This is a paradise in the wilderness. Fortunately the last morning the sky clears and we are able to see the white peaks of the Peters’ and Alaska ranges, and in particular Mount Denali, with almost 6200m the highest peak of North America.

Denali National Park
We hike out, see a Porcupine in a tree, some Moose on the road and drive to Healey. The town closest to Denali National Park. For us a nice evening out, with photo opportunity at the bus from ‘Into the Wild’. A cult story about a teenager trying to survive in Alaska, living in an abandoned bus. Sadly he does not survive. His story is written down in a book, and has been filmed. As the original bus is to far away, hidden in the wilderness, a replica is made for the movie and displayed in Healy. 

Anyway, Denali National Park, a giant park (roughly 25.000 m2) with some of the highest peaks in America. We take a park shuttle bus (the only means of transport) to drive the 146km long road through the park. The views are spectacular, the excitement pure. We see Moose, Caribou and… yessss, Grizzly bears. A mom with cubs and another female. Amazing. This is why I came to Alaska. The endpoint of the shuttle bus service is Eielson visitor centre, from which we hike up the Alpine Trail. This is a 1,5km hike uphil (300m) ending with a beautiful view of the park. And an Arctic Ground Squirrel licking our shoes… yeah right.

On our way back we decide to also hike around the Horseshoe Lake close to the entrance. Moose have been spotted there the day before. Let’s see if we can find them. A nice hike of again 3,2km around a lake, owned by some Beavers. They have cut amazingly thick trees to make their den and 6(!) dams. We see them swimming with large branches in their mouths. These are quite some busy mammals! On the way back to the entrance and our little van, we encounter a Moose. A huge animal, clumsy and therefor much more dangerous than a bear. “Hi Moose, just passing through.” Beautiful end to a fantastic day.

Ready to really go into the wild…

Yaghanen, “the good land” – Kenai Peninsula Alaska


Nudnelyahich’u qeneshi – “plants and animals”

Alaska, the last frontier, living on the edge… there are many ways to describe this state. I explore it for myself in June 2017. Under the care and passion of a wildernis guide and an excellent cook we go to ‘the good land’, as the athabascan Kenaitze Indian Tribe calls it.

The first test in Alaska is the very basic camp in the Chugach National Forest where we stay in little tents, just close to a very pretty lake. Watch out for bear and moose when walking around… hmmm, we go in groups to the toilet (city slickers as we are). We go on foot for a 2,5 km round trip hike to Byron Glacier. This is very nice, very nice indeed.

Kenai Fjord Tour

One of the highlights of the trip is the boat tour in the Kenai Fjords National Park, from Resurrection Bay to the Aialik Glacier. And what a trip this is. We see many, many wildlife: Bald Eagles, a group of Stellar Sea Lions, few species of Puffin, Harbour Seals, some Orcas and funny Sea Otters. But most amazing is a juvenile Humpback Whale doing some tricks. Waving with the fin and jumping out of the water. This is the best ever! In the end some of our group get sea sick, but I survive and love it.

Harding Icefield Trail

The next day is a hiking day. We will go up to see the Exit Glacier via the Harding Icefield Trail. A roughly 14,2 km long roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 979m. But it is worth the effort (and pain in my muscles the next 3 days). Just as we pass all the snow fields, the sky opens up a bit and a stunning view on the huge icefield unfolds itself. Amazing. After lunch we go down, enjoying various views on the glacier and discovering many, many nice Alaskan flowers. 

The next morning we say farewell to our campsite, when at that moment a Moose decides to drop by. Huge, large, funny and clumsily dangerous according to our guide. Bye for now. We head back to Anchorage to resupply and move on to Denali National Park…

Aloha

Hawaii-38

Hawaii – thank you for having me. For showing me your beauty, your kindness, your hidden treasures. For showing me shaka, the concept of friendship, understanding, compassion, and solidarity. I have enjoyed you with all my senses,and hope to take some of your spirit home, to adopt in my own life.

Aloha, a very powerful word, greeting, way of living. What does it mean:
A Akahai – meaning kindness (grace), to be expressed with tenderness.
L Lokahi – meaning unity (unbroken), to be expressed with harmony.
O ‘Olu’olu – meaning agreeable (gentle), to expressed with pleasantness.
H Ha’aha’a – meaning humility (empty), to be expressed with modesty.
A Ahonui – meaning patience (waiting for the moment), to be expresse with perseverance.

True Aloha means you have to do all principles. So to live Aloha, is to live all of the principles. The Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii described true Aloha in 1917 as “To gain the kingdom of heaven is to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable – that is Aloha.”

It is not just a greeting, it is a condition, a way of life, a mind set, an attitude. It is an action, not a reaction. It is a natural response of respect, love and reciprocity. It is a way of being, behaving, a way of life. It is a commitment to being real and accepting others and giving dignity to who they are and what they have to offer.

Now, struggling with my jetlag I realise how fortunate I have been to be able to visit. Whatever happens in my future, nobody can take my experience away from me. Thank you, mahalo!

Maui e komo mai

20160404_084852_crop_1278x511-750x300And then there is Maui. Beautiful Maui. No ka bi, or is the best. I will be here for a week, so let’s see. First a few days with my friend, later alone. My worries about traveling in Hawaii by myself have already disappeared in the past few weeks. It is easy done here. However, how does it feel to be alone after such an intens trip so far. Well…

First we had a few days together. One day before we took the boat to Molokai. We spend it in and around touristic Lahaina. First we drive to a nice beach just north of it. Doing some snorkling, working on the sun tan. We see green turtles, again. Then we head back to town. It is a nice, happy village with all kinds of tourist shops selling the same stuff, all made by and probably sold by Chinese. And many, many restaurants. And a little bit of culture. The Front street is the place to be. Old buildings, reminding of the past, give the street it’s cosy character. It is nice. We stroll down the street, buy some really nice cow bone carved necklaces from a Hawaiian man. Lovely. The carvings have a certain meaning, which we can find back on their website. Long lasting live, good luck, safe travels, family, etc. And if it does not work, it will look nice anyway.

After Molokai, we stil have two days together. The first we spend hiking in Haleakala National Park, the second in Kihei. My friend leaves in the evening, so we finish with a nice big hamburger with fries at some local restaurant. Kihei is a strip of a few kilometers along the coast, filled with hotels, condo’s and shopping centres. Touristic again, but in a less cosy way. We find a nice beach south of Kihei, where we can snorkel again. I am surprised, the coral looks great here. Beautiful, just accessible from the beach. Again we see turtles and nice other fishes. At the end of the day I drop my friend off at the airport and head to Hali’imaile for my first 3 nights alone.

The b&b is called ‘Gods Peace of Maui’ and it is owned by a very nice couple. I have to be honest, I have only met Mika on my last day. I could enter, key was in the door, and they did not bother me any second in all the days I was there. I like it. I realise I miss my friend, but also I know I want to stay to see and do more things. I am not done yet. First day is hiking Haleakala and meeting some people on the hike. So I was not completely alone. Although, somewhere on the track I did see something very beautiful. I was so joyful and happy to see it, that I really needed to share it. Well, that is a bit tough when you are alone. I just made a picture to send it to the people I love. Modern technology, I sometimes hate it, but i  these cases it is very convenient to be honest. As if people are right next to you. Earlier that day, an older guy was watching the sunrise next to me. He at that beautiful moment called his wife with some smartphone app. She was in a different timezone complaining he woke her up. But he was so happy to share the moment, it was somehow adorable to see. And I even understood. He just needed to share that beautiful moment with somebody he loved. Just because he can.

The next day I drive to Hana, where you can buy a t-shirt stating “I survived the road to Hana”. It is supposed to be one of the nicest roads in Hawaii, and if you have to believe the Mauians, the nicest road of the world. Well, let’s see. I start in Pa’ia, that is nice already, and drive to Ho’okipa beach. I remember my Hookipa XXL t-shirt from my youth, Hookipa beach is something different though. Huge waves, a big group of surf dudes and dudettes in the water, waiting for the perfect ride.  And when they make a ride, it is awesome! These guys know how to surf, big time. Shaka!
But I have a road to survive. It is just about 45 miles or so, but it has 59 one-lane bridges and 617 (hairpin) curves in it. And that is just one way. I do plan to go back before dark. Off I go. First bit is ok. Nice views, beautiful bays, lush green forrests on the mountain side. And yes, there are the curves. I love driving curves, even thoug I am Dutch and not used to them. I find a nice radio station to go with the flow. Left, right, left, right… Halfway there is this small village called Keanae. I am just half way! I enjoy the scenery, wild lava cliffs, some Taro fields and a big rain shower. I find a nice coffee place where they also sell fresh baked banana bread. Hmmm… I have a chat with some couples. Again I notice that I am not alone on this trip. Even though the contacts are brief and I will never see these people again, the conversations are nice. I appreciate them.

Okay, done with the fun, we need to work, drive. All the way to Hana. It takes quit some time and around 2pm I am at my destination. What 2pm already? It took me close to 4 hours and I still need to get back. However, I feel rather tired and decide to just go to a beach for a picnic lunch and a rest. I do need to keep my attention to the road and the traffic when driving back. After a while I am ready to go. Left, right, left, right… I start feeling the muscles in my belly. Good workout! There is much more traffic on the road now. I stop a few times for some pictures, but it starts raining cats and dogs. Oooh, and I get really hungry. At last I arrive back in Pa’ia, greeted by a giant rainbow. I am exhausted. What a trip. 1234 hairpin curves, poor car suspension. I go for a nice Mahi Mahi (local fish) burger and drive the last few kilometers back to my b&b. I sleep like a baby.

Time to move back to Kihei. I park my stuff with my new airbnb host and go to ‘Iao Valley State Park. A nice area according to the pictures I have seen. In the end I am a bit disappointed. The weather was not very nice, too cloudy to really see the rocky needle. But also the limitatiins within the park. Tourists are not allowed to go hiking outside the one mile pathway provided. That is a shame, as the area can be really nice to explore. I also feel the native spirit here. It is a sacret place to them and possibly that is why access is limited. Shame, but I respect it.
I decide to drive along the west coast all the way to Honolua bay. Little did I know about tourism (I just studied it 25 years ago). All of a sudden the traffic signs change, the roads are better, the environment is clean, the roadside is nice green with lots of flowers and amazing buildings. I am driving on a resort, or better, I am driving in a town, consisting of a few very luxurious resorts. It is on the roadmap, nobody stopped me, so I keep on driving. This is posh. Definitely not my style of holiday, but for a lot of other people it is.
Finally I find a small bay, with beach and picnic opportunity. As soon as I sit and unpack my lunch bag I notice two big green turtles sleeping on the beach and at least 6 more in the water. Nice! I enjoy the scenery and soon two more turtles, or Honu as tthey are called here, wash up to the shore for a nice afternoon nap. There could not have been a better picnic spot on this road. I proceed to Lahaina to just enjoy the cosy scenery and some local pork slider dinner. A nice day, without really meeting people. I feel ok with it.

Then there is a day of diving at Molokini and sun tanning. Good fun to be under water and not get sea sick. I enjoyed the flora and fauna, did see loads of fish, few nudibranch, a giant octopus and a white tip reefshark in the depths beneath me. Imagining me being under water in the middle of the pacific. Woehaaa…
Next day, surf lessons. Just because I can. It is great fun, I even feel like a surf dudette few times. But man, that is hard working. No wonder these guys are drifting for a long time to catch the perfect ride. Paddle with the arms, jump on the board, falling off, paddling back. I am exhausted after the 2 hours, but I return after lunch to give it another go. After I lost all the skin of my knees on the rough surface of the board I decide to call it the day. Veni, vidi, vici waves! The funny thing of surfing is all the other starting surfers giving you a cheer and the shaka hand sign if you manage to get up and stand for a few seconds. We are all one big family. I have a nice chat with a family from Ottawa and that is it. Again a nice day, again ending with a beautiful sunset. I am going to miss Maui, miss Hawaii, miss Shaka, miss not being worried. I start thinking on how to implement this for me in our Dutch society.

He ‘elele ka moe na ke kanaka – a dream is a bearer of messages to man.

IMG-20160410-WA0003-666x500

See some more pictures on http://www.scubajo.nl/pictures.htm.