Monday, June 16, 2014

Living on the Edge

I keep saying I'll love Alaska as long as something doesn't kill me while I'm here. I've never lived someplace where a walk requires me to be armed for bear attacks and where 'cute' animals could attack (I'm talking about you, moose). But in the spirit of this quote I found online after we got this assignment:

I am attempting to wholeheartedly embrace these opportunities as they present themselves because I think that's going to be the key to loving life here. That attitude is how I ended up on an ATV for eight hours last Saturday. A bunch of wives went on an ATV trip last summer and said things like, "it was awesome!" and "definitely top three on my favorite things I've done here in the last four years" so I was in. We booked through Outdoor Rec and just had to show up with extra layers for warmth, lunch and water. They provided the ATV's, rain gear, helmets and guides. A dozen of us loaded into two vans and headed north to the Knik River for a day I'm sure I'll never forget!

When we arrived at the staging area, they taught us how to start our engines and told us to drive around to get a feel for how the throttle and brakes worked. Then we were off.

The trip began with a short drive along the river but we quickly found ourselves in the woods on narrow, rutted, muddy trails. There was nothing easy-going about launching ourselves down into a ditch at a forty-five degree angle with tree roots and rocks sticking out. We were about ten minutes into the woods when I gently rolled my ATV onto its side. I say gently because I had time to hop off and it was fairly easy to remedy (a friend wasn't so lucky and hers landed on top of her….twice). That was when I realized I truly had no idea what I was doing and that maybe a little more instruction at the beginning would have been good. We eventually emerged onto the wide beach along the river. The open flats were awesome - fast and easy to navigate. Through the day, we found ourselves alternating between wooded trails, water crossings and open stretches along the river.

Like everywhere else we go here, there were postcard-worthy vistas at every turn. In the center of the picture below, you can see the Knik Glacier - it's the light blue band above the river in the valley of the mountains and it was our goal to get there. This picture is from at least ten miles away.

Thankfully it was a fairly sunny day, but because it's been so dry lately there was a lot of dust. The riverbed is made of rocks and a fine, glacial silt which stirs into an impressive cloud when 12 ATV's roll through. I think it's safe to assume my lungs were coated with fine, glacial silt by the end of the day. For illustrative purposes, here's a selfie at the beginning of the day:
And here's one at the turnaround point:
Just a little dirty. By the time we rode all the way back, we were beyond filthy but it was worth it to see the Knik Glacier up close. There are actually two arms of the glacier feeding into Lake George. That shade of blue is impossible to accurately capture on an iPhone!

It was a long day full of craziness (lots of rolled ATV's, a couple of moose sightings, a few episodes of getting stuck in the mud) and it caused some massively sore muscles the next day, but was definitely an only-in-Alaska kind of experience. I don't need to ride an ATV every weekend, but you can bet that if there's another opportunity next summer, I'm in.

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