Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bonus Round!

Another highlight of 2017?
Watching this guy win his first boxing match at The Fight Before Christmas at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
As the main event.
So proud of him.

Skyline Trail

August 4, 2017: Major sandwich-making going on up in here. The fam & I, along with some friends, but minus Pazely, are going on a hiking adventure up Skyline Trail tomorrow. I've already heard the horror stories. I'm scared.
I don't care HOW long it takes me. I will get to the top even if I have to crawl there! Leaving early in the morning. Can't wait! #skylinetrail #hikingadventure #imightdie #caniridepiggyback #slowpokeaintnojoke


I am not a very sporty human. Not athletic in the least. I like playing some sports. I'm just not good at them. I like being a team player. But nobody wants me there. If I ever am chosen, it is last. It's no hit to my pride. I have embraced my awkwardness on the field, on the rink, on the court, & now...on the trail. 

About an hour & a half drive, near Cooper Landing, the 4-mile round-trip walking trek began. Two miles one-way to the east peak, with an elevation gain of 2888', & described as "very strenuous".
It is a steep one. Everywhere. All the time. Extreme terrain.
The whole hike took us 6 hours. And, technically, I don't think what we climbed was called "a mountain", but for today's purposes, & for all the times I ever talk about this trip in the future, I will refer to it as such.

I am not particularly what one would call a "fit" person. I hate exercise. I am slow, I am a whiner. And although the Mr. gave me several opportunities to back out, leading up to the day of the hike, I insisted on this challenge.

Thirty minutes in, I was in tears.
Up. Up. Always up. The vertical was never-ending. 
I couldn't stop breathing so heavy, so deep. I am sure I broke the record for most breaks taken on the ascent. Obvs. Nine in our crew & I was in the back of the pack all day. I was jealous of little Henry, in the toddler pack, strapped on his dad's back. Do they make those in my size? I need to look into that.
My lungs burned.

One thing I was sure of: If I heard the words "We're almost there!" one more time, I was gonna throw some sand. Or kick a wildflower. Or do something equally as intimidating. 

Now, I have not described in much detail the mental game of endurance that I was subject to, or the physical game of taking a stroll from hell through this forest that would JUST...NOT...END.
But those things were all there.

Hours later, we made it to the top. I made it! I was sweaty & giddy! We looked over the flatlands. Those views were my motivation. I wanted to be able to say I'd been there, seen that.

I set my toes set free on the summit. Wiggled them in the fresh mountain air.

There used to be a book at the top, kept in a box, which hikers would sign, but it was missing. Instead, we found some signatures scribbled on a weathered wooden board. With a blue-colored ink pen left by a stranger, I signed my name alongside the others.

I pulled the sandwiches out of my backpack for some lunch on the summit. They were smashed & soggy. I couldn't stomach eating them. They didn't even taste sandwich-like. I decided the next time I climb a mountain, which I'll never do again, I'm bringing a gourmet meal. Maybe even some fancy napkins.

After some more jubilation, some selfies, some consumption of water, it was time for the hike back. 

On the way down, we found an enchanted forest, thick trees covered in moss, tangled limbs swooping low, tempting hikers for a sit or a climb. I saw fuzzy blooms on flowers. And red waxy leaves growing on charcoal colored lichen. Bright yellow fungus. Mushrooms of several varieties.

Down-down-down we went. The slope of the trail was beginning to hurt my feet. I took photos to take my mind off the pain. Eventually I was in too much pain to take photos. I was sure my toes were a bloody mess. The pain was so intense that I decided to just walk in my socks. For over half the descent, I walked without my shoes on. I have tough feet, but still. Ouchie mama. I got several wide-eyed looks from passers-by. 

The Mr. softened his stride to walk with me, sacrificing his position in first place, to make sure his wife was ok in the last slot. Because, apparently, everything is a competition for all the healthy people of the world, & I'm all back here just trying to survive.

We also saw a bear. So, not only did I have to worry about blood loss in my phalanges, but also getting eaten by a wild animal. This day was getting better & better all the time.

As I continued on with the hike, I had two thoughts:
1. Lord Jesus, send a helicopter NOW!
2. I would rather give birth again, than do this hike.
This was an intense experience. This was THE hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life. 
Even though each step was more painful than the last, I kept putting one dirty socked foot in front of the other dirty socked foot.
Because that's what you do when things get hard: you make footprints on a mountain. 
You also sometimes slide down on your butt because your feet hurt too bad.
But then you end up with a big 'ol spot on your rearend that looks like you pooped your pants.
So there's that.

I called in the direction of several hikers heading up, "You're almost there!"
It was a cruel & false statement. Yet hilarious.
I snickered.

And then I saw it: telephone poles! I never thought I'd be so happy to see a telephone pole in all my life! Adorable cables connected to telephone terminals, all in a happy little row.
I cried.
It meant we were getting close. Not close enough, but my helicopter hadn't arrived yet.

Hundreds of steps later, I heard it: traffic! Vehicles whooshing by, right below us! 
I cried again. 
We were so close to making it all the way back to the cutest little parking lot where the cutest little mini van was waiting to take me to the cutest little house where I could take a hot bath, crank up the heating pad, soak my feet.
Where I could eat good things, & not walk.

Seeing the sign at the end of the trail, I cried.
They were weird happy-sad tears. Plus I was laughing, too. My emotions were a hodgepodge. It was pain & elation mixed all together. 
But I had done it.
Achievement unlocked.

On the ride home, we took account of our wounds & hot-mess status. Zoey had dirt leggings. Haha!
Though I was afraid to take my socks off, my toes were not bloody. (A few months later I would lose my big toenails. And I'm still tending my wounds: Hashtag fungus.)

After we got home, I hobbled around like an old lady for a few days. There were so many sore things all over me.
You can believe I bragged about this accomplishment for a very long time. I am so proud of myself. So stinkin' proud. Go me! And you can also believe I will NEVER do this hike again.

Yet even after all the pain, the hardship, the emotion, & misery this was one of my highlights of 2017.

I can do hard things.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Fish Story

At the end of each year, I always like to look back on all the memories I've made. All the adventures collected. All the moments lived. I love remembering. I love the journey of retrospect.
Before 2017 comes to an end, I want to highlight a couple more adventures on the blog...

The first to mention is a fishing outing I took with my Auntie Val at the end of July. River fishing to be exact. Kenai River fishing to be more precise. As in, the world renowned Kenai River. Four species of salmon find their way into this river, as well as various Peninsula bays, rivers and lakes, to return to where their lives began: Chinook (King), Sockeye (Red), Coho (Silver), & Humpy (Pink). The river is also home to Rainbow Trout and Arctic Char (Dolly Varden). On this specific excursion, we were out for the Reds.

My first order of business was to pack a lunch: peanut butter Oreos + a PB&J sandwich + carrot sticks. Add a juice box + a mushy note from mom, & this meal would've been fit for any grade-schooler. But instead, it was made for this here adult woman on her first ever river fishing trip.

I'm not entirely new to fishing. But I'm pretty sure I can count on both hands the number of times I've gone fishing during my 42 years of existence. Included in the count is that one time I caught a boot in the swamp across the street as a kid, growing up in Louisiana. O
r the other time (same swamp) when my dad bought super long bamboo poles that, if you weren't careful, tangled in the thick Spanish moss draping from the giant oak trees.

The last time I fished was several years ago when my brother took me trolling in his boat on Lake Wallula in Washington. We were out for 2 1/2 hours & hadn't caught a thing. I was talking with my brother about how we should maybe try some different bait—particularly some ham & cheese sandwiches I had spied in the cooler. He just thought I was weird, but I was seriously gonna pull my pole back in the boat & loop some hammy goodness on that hook of mine. Yet before I could do that, my line went taut & I reeled in a salmon! My brother didn't. #winning

River fishing, I was about to find out, was something entirely different.

Our spot on the Kenai, less than an hour drive away, was a private location. Cabins, each depicting a different Alaskan native word, were available for rent. Chickens wandered the property. Friendly dogs moseyed around the yard. A red picnic table welcomed visitors for a sit.

We dressed in all our gear. I hoped I looked the part in all my layers. The waders were a nice touch. It was my first time wearing them. They rose to my chest. I was prepared to get wet, to be cold. I was ready for the probability of stinky fish guts touching me. 

We walked through knee-high water, some mucky mud, & a small wooded patch to get to our "fishing hole". And then I did it: I walked into the river. I was in it. IN the river. People spend big bucks to come to these exact waters I was standing in, for fishing adventures of a lifetime. The current was strong. My waders felt cold as the heavy water, sometimes waist-high, pushed against my body on all sides. I was glad I had doubled up on socks. And pants.
The cool temp of the water was making me wonder if I should have tripled up.

We were gifted with blue sky. On occasion, the clouds stole the sun. The shadows made me chilly. 

My grandpa Joe, a Nikiski homesteader, had taught my Auntie Val to fish. And she was teaching me. So I like to think that my grandpa was, indirectly, instructing me as well.
The setup on the rod & reel for the type of fishing we were about do isn't anything fancy. All you need is a weight attached to the line several feet up from a bare hook. The tackle box was full of some colorful beauties, but we just used a tiny fly.
I wondered where the bait was. Any worms? (Or even ham & cheese?) This did not make any sense to me. Although, not gonna lie: I wasn't disappointed at the absence of worms.
No bait needed. The red salmon had their minds on one thing: procreation. They were working hard to get upstream to lay or fertilize eggs. Ain't nobody got time for snacks!

The casting technique I learned is sometimes called "the Kenai flip" because you begin by flipping your line upstream, 45 degrees from the shore. The salmon stick close to shore, where the water isn't moving so fast, so all you need is about 10-20 feet of line. (It was so crazy to think that fishies were swimming just feet away, right under me!) Your reel is never in use. (Unless you make a catch, of course.) The process is a pulling of the line with one hand, while flipping the rod with the other.
As the current began to pull my line quickly downstream, the lead weight on my line hit the bottom. I continued to sweep the pole with the current, as my hook spread out under the water, "flossing the fish" as it went. It's called "flossing" because your line is literally flossing their mouth, passing right across their nose. I kept my pole level with the water, a few inches above the surface. As my line became perpendicular to the bank, I gave the pole a quick jerk, hoping the hook would snag a salmon in the 'ol kisser. The whole motion of flipping took about 15 seconds.

Flip. Sweep. Tug.

And repeat. 
All. Day. Long.

I learned that red salmon are plankton eaters, not meat (or cheese) eaters. So they're not gonna bite. Instead, their mouths open & close as they breathe. It seems it's luck where the hook lands. As I flipped & flipped & flipped, I began to recognize the feel of the weight hitting the bottom, even the fish bumping the line. As I gave that all-important final jerk-of-a-tug at the end of each flip, I could feel the "close calls", the "I almost had 'ems", the "I lost its".

It was motion & rhythm. And I was getting the hang of it as the hours went by.

I was enjoying the repetition. The countless casts. I was half hypnotized while watching the line get pulled along by the current, again & again. Fishing was peaceful.

Fishing the Kenai with Auntie Val
A blue jay landed on a tree branch near our private cove. Ducks flew in & out. Across the way a group of guys hollered & hooted after catching & netting a big fish.

A weird eel swam by me. And then an apple core, a snickers wrapper.

The water flowed so fast. Once, the current caught me. I dug my toes into the bottom of the river & held on to tall grasses to steady myself.
It was quiet.
There were friendly chats when someone new showed up on the scene to flip their line alongside you. I watched an old man across the river fishing from a dock. I saw boats drift by, filled with people & poles, trolling while watching.

I'll cut to the chase: My aunt & I eeked out every minute we could from the 24-hour fishing licenses we purchased. We were able to fish twice. TECHNICALLY I hooked two fish. On the first day I caught a small one, so we threw it back. And by "we" I mean my Auntie Val. I wasn't at the fish-touching level in this game yet.
Later, during the second day, I caught a fairly decent sized fish—I could tell it looked like a nice one when it jumped out of the water after I hooked him. Feeling the fight was exhilarating, even if only for several seconds. Unfortunately, my line was twisted & caught all funky on the reel, so the line snapped. I was mad about that one for a few days. I can attest to the heartache in "the one that got away". It's like when you have all these dreams & plans, and then your lover leaves you, stranded, without hope, lost to drown in sorrow. Ok, maybe not that dramatic. But there IS a sting.

My aunt caught one salmon. So, though we stood for hours in the river, our reward was a humble one.

As our day was coming to a close, my aunt & I waded through the water toward the bank.
"One more time," she said, as she tossed her line in the river for the last time.
(Always hoping the next one could be THE one.)
"OK, one more time," I agreed as I tossed my line in as well.
Then, I cast a second time. "I lied," I confessed.
"Me too," my aunt admitted as she flipped her rod again.
We laughed.
At least 40 casts later, we finally walked back to the car.

The heaviness of my body on land took several minutes to get used to. And the chill to some of my bones had me desperate for a hot shower & warm socks.

I came home empty handed & exhausted. The anticipation, the buildup of possibility, the potential of a catch had tired me out. My back & wrist ached from, oh, I don't know, the hundreds of times I cast my line out!
I know my aunt really wanted me to catch a big one. To bring home a trophy, so to speak. But I got an authentic experience with her, in a place she's called home for most of her life. A place I now get to call home. And that's a prize to me.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Summer Silence

This blog, meant to be my Alaska journal of all things adventurous, or just ordinary, has been silent since breakup at the end of April, about 5 months ago. And let me tell you why:
I sit now at the dining table, writing, kerplunking on the computer keys, fingers slightly sticky from an English muffin I ate with breakfast —an English muffin smothered in fresh homemade raspberry jam I made with two friends after we picked 16 pounds of this wild fruit.
I do believe that was the first time I'd ever picked raspberries. Overgrown vines of fruit in neighboring yards, all for the taking. I wore my purpley-red splotchy stained hands with pride. And I even found a tiny little patch growing in my yard. My very own raspberries! 
Something I found out that also coincides with berry-picking: spiders. My vocal chords got a workout during those afternoons of collecting raspberries. 
Raspberry jam is one of those things at the nucleus of all my happy memories. Grandmother's jam, specifically. This jam makes me think of grandmother, which then takes me on a trail of memories full of laughter & gladness & love. Long family car trips over mountains. Agate hunts on beaches. Searching for tiny crabs under barnacle-covered rocks. Ferry rides. Card games & board games played with cousins & aunties & uncles.
The jars of jam my friends & I made have been equally divided. My portion now sits on the pantry shelf reminding me of my first Alaska summer: where the sun just sits there in the sky all day, giving you permission to extend your play-time. This constant daylight was the weirdest, most extraordinary thing to me. (Blackout curtains for the win!)
The darkness of winter held me & my family captive in our home. But once that sun came out for summer, how could we not want to stay up until 1:30 in the morning, roasting marshmallows & all-beef hotdogs & mushrooms & onions & pineapple & nectarines & chicken & steak & bacon & peppers & apples & corn on the cob over firepits & BBQ's nearly every weekend with friends? We could not resist. Daylight foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrr. (Our eyeballs, literally, would not shut.)
It's a good thing I actually don't mind the constant smell of campfire smoke. Because that was the essence of my summer. It was in my hair, in my clothes, in my home.
All this sunshine meant I had the chance to take off the mudboots of spring to wear the sandals of summer!
*tosses boots in the air like a boomerang that won't return*
I wore sandals twice.
*quickly retrieves boots & slips them on once more*
I just don't think I'm acclimated. I need to do a little bit more interacting with my climate. So it's a good thing my feet look good in black rubber.

My summer included things like wild bunny visits, weekly workouts, thrift store shopping, drawing, painting, dabbling in pancake art, snowcones, Italian sodas, sticking my toes in cold lakes, crafting up hundreds of succulents for a friend's wedding, baptisms, relay games, a scavenger hunt, walking a 5K, crunchy tofu tacos, a crazy tree-falling accident in the woods, junk food wars, becoming a mom to teenagers, developing a gyro addiction (Charlie's Angels gyros = tummy love), + getting to lead worship while sandwiched between two Harley's at the Hogs, Rods & North Road Rides event at Aurora Heights.

But I also I experienced a lot of firsts this summer. And, in my favorite format of list-making, I shall now share those firsts with you...
• I ate my first Alaska salmon IN Alaska, like, the day after it was caught & it was AMAZING! Fish gifts from friends are the BEST!
• I went fishing in the Kenai river for the first time. Blog post coming soon!
• I'm pretty sure I experienced the weirdest 4th of July: No fireworks for the first time. I hear around here they have fireworks right before Thanksgiving? Because that makes total sense.
• It was the first time I've ever lived somewhere with so much rain! But raindrops on rooftops are now my new favorite sound.

• My family & I visited a Nikiski beach on one of the hottest days of the year. I never thought I'd say 68 degrees was hot. So yeah, that was a first.
• I saw a real bear in the wild for the first time on a hike I took with family & friends up Skyline Trail, which is another blog post to be shared. That hike was the hardest thing I've EVER done. I'd rather give birth to multiple babies ON that trail than do that hike again.

• I visited Homer for the first time. The girls & I thoroughly enjoyed this outing with friends! The bubble station on the pier was a favorite. As was visiting the beach near the Islands & Oceans Visitor Center. We also had ice cream at the Flagship Creamery & Crepes shop, spent a lot of time at Karen Hornaday Park, & ate dinner at Fat Olive's.

• I had my first fire ON a beach, when a big crew from my church spent part of an evening at Captain Cook State Park.
• This summer was the first time I've ever driven 7-hours (round trip) to go school clothes shopping. #smalltownprobs

• The Mr. consumed his first ever bacon s'more. 3400 calories, in case you were wondering.
• The 13-year old caught her first fish.
• I watched live rugby for the first time at the Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby Tournament. I am now a rugby fan!

• I think I broke a personal record for the most firepits ever attended in one summer. I didn't get an exact count. But it was a lot. 
• I made my first ever triple layer cake. 
• I made wildflower bouquets with flowers from my yard. I have been having so much fun identifying new-to-me flora & fauna. Some yellow flowers I thought were snapdragons are actually called "butter and eggs". How absolutely adorable is THAT?!

And, finally, it was the first time I ever uttered these words: "I miss the stars!" 
But they are returning. 
I'll see you soon Betelgeuse, Antares, Mu Cephi!
We'll meet again, Sirius, Talitha, & Zaurak!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Life after a breakup.

Photo by Pazely Mans
A lot has been happening since I last wrote...
Spring, for one.
But it's a different spring than I'm used to. On Facebook, one friend (who lives in a different part of the United States, not so close to Russia as I am) has posted pictures of their irises blooming. Another friend has had sunny yellow adventures (of the flowering kind) in Cali. I see macro shots of poppies, flowering dogwood trees, fields of daffodils. It doesn't stop. And I kinda want it to. Why? 
Because I'm jealous.

As exciting as it is to see the new world around me begin to transform before my eyes, nothing could have prepared me for breakup. (What sort of evil is this?!) According to an article entitled "Speak Alaskan" on the website, "Breakup signals springtime in Alaska. It's the time of year when the frozen rivers break apart and flow again." (That doesn't sound so bad.) They go on to say: "In town, the snow melts, leaving enormous puddles, dirty cars, and generally quite a mess. It's not a great time of year to travel in the backcountry because the snowpack is gone but the ground hasn't dried out yet." 
They failed to mention the snow melting into the shape of giant frozen craters EVERYWHERE in the landscape, & that when you try to take your kids to school you may or may not be able to get out of your driveway, & if you do, you will most definitely bottom-out while driving through said craters, & then you will get STUCK in the craters right at the edge of the school parking lot, & all the other parents taking their kids to school will drive around you because you're kind of in the way, & your kids will be SO EMBARRASSED that they "could just die!", & you can't help but laugh to keep from crying, & you're just praying that somehow the rocking motion you're making inside your vehicle will do the trick to get you UNSTUCK because you're wearing pajamas, & you really don't want to get out of the car in all this ice-snow-chaos because the pajamas you're wearing are not your cute pajamas.
Yeah, they left out that part.

In my own definition, here is what breakup is: breakup: a noun & a verb & an adjective & probably other stuff too: //dirty snow that starts to melt. No, wait! It's gonna freeze a little now. Yeah, it's gonna freeze & melt & freeze & melt & then turn to muddy-mud-puddles-mixed-with-mud & then there will still be large chunks of ice in the road that'll mess you up & then you're like, "I think I broke my car, I heard a lot of scraping."//   //And the color brown.//   //And this sound: "bleeakjsjkf".//

Photo by Pazely Mans

Photo by Pazely Mans

Photo by Pazely Mans

Photo by Pazely Mans

Breakup is also where you find all those things you thought you lost all winter. As the snow melts in your yard, it carries your items ever-so-carefully to rest upon the soggy earth for you to find. That, & all the trash from your neighbors. (Man! Debris for daysssss!)

This kind of breakup is not unlike the dissolution of a relationship between two people: There is a giant hole where there once wasn't one. (Everywhere, holes.) It is a painful scenario to be involved in. (Heartache on many levels.) There is no color left in your world. (Depression hits.) It is drab & ugly. (Depression 2.0 hits.) The disintegration is imminent. (You can't stop it.) You can't believe how this could be happening to you. (Denial takes you to its secret dark place.)
You think you're fine one minute, & then you hit rock bottom. (I literally bottomed-out, people.) 
What if you get stuck in this situation again? (You avoid going out. You even consider homeschooling your children through breakup JUST so you don't have to drive in that mess.)

Technically, as I write this, the worst of the breakup is over. For the most part. I think? I don't know. I've never done this before! I'm guessing. But I have since regained my confidence & have re-entered the outside world with a renewed tenacity. I'm all over here with my new mud boots flippin' attitude like, "What? What now?! Come at me, breakup!" 
(I'm so giddy over the boots! I've never lived anywhere that necessitated wearing them, yet I have ALWAYS wanted a pair. Dreams really do come true. Also, I've realized that if I don't wear my big girl boots I'll ruin my cute shoes.)

The breakup means the snow is vanishing, which means the earth can breathe & flourish into a spring-like wonderland. And all the spiders hibernating their egg sacs in the snow can now be born & come live in our house. (SERIOUSLY! I'm so grossed out by all the spiders.) 

I'm anxious for color & life of the blooming variety. That part is all just going a bit more slowly than I'd like. I've been out searching for spring. And like I said before, it just looks different than I'm used to. 
It is...longer days of sunshine, which is an odd concept to get used to. But I've been soaking up as much sun as possible on the days when the light has been at its best. And a gorgeous daylight it can be. It holds the power to change moods. (We hung our blackout curtains just in time. Tonight, for instance, the sun sets at 10:06 PM. And we're still gaining more light every day! Isn't that cray-cray & fascinating?!)
 It is...the birds! I've been listening to them chittering & gossiping about all the things they have to catch up on since they last parted ways seasons ago.
It is...the ants redecorating their homes. 
It is...our wild bunny friend continuing to make his visits. 
It is...the squirrels playing chasing games on my roof. 

Photo by Pazely Mans
And I have spied green things— I've just had to squat on my hands & knees to find them, & then attach a macro lens to my camera to see them. And most of them are probably weeds.

A friend recently shared with me how she was listening to a podcast once about early childhood education. The teacher talking was from the midwest & had moved to rural Alaska to teach. She was so excited for the "spring" weather in Alaska that she asked the kiddos in her class to paint what reminded them of spring. They all painted brown. She was horrified—until she experienced the breakup.
I get it. I totally get it.
It's a messy cycle, this breakup business. 
But I have survived. 
I am a survivor.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Best. Day. Ever.

I went cross-country skiing.
Can't you tell?

I don't own any proper skiing attire except gloves. And a cute hat with a giant pom-pom. So, before my adventures in the snow, I went on the hunt for ANYTHING to keep me warm & dry. I found an ugly "old man", all-weather jacket *with holes in every single pocket* (but it fit!) at a thrift store. And that's about it. I didn't have any luck finding snow pants, so I wore layers instead: the Mr's thermals + jeans. 
Actually, I take that back. I DID find a pair of snow pants. They were the last pair for sale on a Walmart clearance rack. But the Mr. made me put them back.
He must have a thing against neon Hawaiian print.

After a quick stop at Beemun's in Soldotna for boots & ski rentals, we were on our way to the Tsalteshi Ski Trails.

Now, I must say that I have been downhill skiing a handful of times as a kid. I did not like it. Especially that one time I went down backwards & fell (& kept falling) & I couldn't get righted the proper way & I was just a heap of a mess of snot & snow & tears. And my dad going by overhead on the ski left yelling down advice to me wasn't helping, & then my Uncle came & saved me & I was done. Done with a capital D. Get these stupid skis off me with a capital G. Leave me alone with a capital L! Where's the hot Cocoa with a capital C? 

I also went snowboarding once as a teenager. Not a fan of participating in that sport either. I think it's the whole "downhill" thing. And then there's the equation of speed + tree = death. It's simple math, really.
But, cross-country skiing? As I got older, the idea of this intrigued me. I have been wanting to give it a go for several years.

So I was thrilled to be invited to an afternoon of cross-country skiing a few weeks ago. A whole big crew of us went. Mostly some of my new church family. I think it doesn't matter what adventure you go on—it's essentially about who you go with that makes the journey special. It's fun to have shared experiences. Because, instead of one account, the story can be told a dozen times, a dozen different ways. And re-living an event through narrative is one of the best parts. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. We seriously couldn't have picked a more beautiful time to do this! It was overcast, not too cold, & we had fresh snow. 
Although I did have proper gloves, my fingers were immediately beginning to get numb even before we started. I was worried & contemplating the fact that I might get frostbite & have to learn to play the piano with my toes. 
But other than that, I was strapped in, feeling anxiously excited & ready to go!

We skied both the Porcupine & the Wolverine trails, for a total of 2.9 miles. I think if I would have known we were going to be skiing for almost 3 miles, I would have had many hesitations. 
And possibly whined excessively.
Sometimes it's good to not know things, to do your research AFTER the fact. I can't convert meters to miles without an app anyway. So I was under the cover of blissful ignorance—and just focusing on getting blood-flow to my fingertips & trying to stay alive...

Cross country skiing is not anything like I imagined. I pictured flat. Like, a completely horizontal landscape. Nope. There are hills. And as you can hear in this video, I'm not much a fan of hills. That's me on the right. Screaming. And then my friend, Destiny, comes in & joins the chorus. I think the whole forest could hear us. (Other skiers later attested to this truth.) Snow fell off trees as the sound of our screams reverberated throughout the trails. Birds resting on branches took immediate flight. 
**NOTE: I can't currently get the video to work on my blog, so click HERE to view it on Flickr. And, thanks, to my friend Christina for filming it. This 25-second video clip is one of the best gifts ever.**

Random fun fact: Twice, while I was skiing, an old man passed me. We were going uphill. *sigh* 

I admit that I was the slowpoke of the bunch. I eventually fell to the rear of our ranks. But I didn't mind. It was peaceful. Trees everywhere, all covered in snow. Trails winding through the woods. I even saw a bald eagle. And then... I saw a clump of fur hanging from a nearby branch. I froze. Crap. Some sort of wild animal had come this way. It could be anywhere! It could be watching me right this minute! But then I looked around & realized that there were little furry things hanging from all the branches. It musta been moss or something.

In the end, my screaming ski buddy, Destiny, joined me for the final leg. We both discovered that we {obviously} were slow, we aren't necessarily sporty folk &, though we may often lack skill, we do have a decent attitude about trying. 
Once, with Destiny by my side, I did a face-plant. (As seen in the first photo at the top of this post.) 
"This is too good not to capture," Destiny said, as she dug around in one of the pockets of her snow jacket for her phone. 
"I can't see my legs!" I yelled. "Where are my legs?!" 
Destiny snapped a photo. "Do I look cute?" I asked. (It's a thing I always say when someone takes my photo.) 
If I wasn't wet before, I was certainly wet now. And then I got the giggles. Could not stop laughing. 
Getting up on skis after a fall is one of the most awkward & difficult things ever. Especially with an audience. I couldn't do it. I was weak from skiing & screaming all day. But Destiny gave me some tough love & used what I think was her stern-ish voice. Mostly she was saying, "You can do it! You can do it!" But between her words I mostly read: "I am NOT getting down there to help you, Nikki. I can't. I won't. Do you understand? Because then we'll both be down in the snow, helpless & frozen, & that is NOT what is going to happen right now! So grab your ski poles, & push your body up off that ground, girlfriend! These woods are full of wild animals. And if you don't get up, the animals will eat you! I can't be a part of that, so I may just have to leave you behind & head to base camp & eat the potato chips I left in the car while the rest of us wait to see if you'll come out of this or not." 
With a giant grunt, I stood up.
Our legs were ready to be done skiing, the trail seemed to go on forever. Destiny had a mini panic sesh. And then it started to snow, big heavy flakes. "This is like a nightmare that never ends!!"
To add to the drama, we thought we might be lost. I had a quick pep talk with Destiny. "You can do it! You can do it!" But what I was really thinking about was if I would be able to fashion a sled of some sort from tree branches, along with Destiny's skis (she wouldn't be needing them anymore since I'd be pulling her on the sled). And then I was hoping that by the time the sled was built, that old man with the tremendous skill & speed I ran into earlier in the day would come by again, because then maybe he could pull me AND Destiny on the sled. That would be nice of him. 

Well, turns out I didn't have to build a sled. Moments later, we finally arrived at "base camp" (a.k.a "the parking lot where we started") where everyone was waiting for us—& HAD been waiting for a while. They had started to worry, too.

During my 2.9 mile ski trip, I fell a total of 5 times. And I didn't die. So I'd say it was a successful ski adventure. I won't tell you how many times Destiny fell. If the name of the game was "Let's See Who Falls the Least", let's just say: I won. 

As a happy little treat on the way home, we grabbed Odie's for lunch + donuts from The Moose is Loose for dessert. Unfortunately The Moose was out of regular maple bars. (My favorite.) Fortunately, their GIANT gingerbread-boy-shaped donuts were covered in the same maple icing.  I grabbed a couple to share with the fam back home.

The day ended with friends around a fire-pit, along with good eats & conversation. 

 Well before I arrived here in Alaska I decided that I want to do ALL THE THINGS. I want to experience everything there is to experience in this amazing world I now call my home. It's so fun that I now get to check something off my Alaska Adventure List.  

I want to go ice fishing, & regular fishing. I want to go four-wheeling & camping & hunting & ice skating. I want to learn how to gut a fish & fillet a fish. I want to learn how to smoke salmon & can salmon & make jerky. I want to make jelly from local wildflowers & hike local trails. I want to ride a dogsled, go bear watching. Wallow in mud pits, have campfires by the beach. I want to try out snowshoeing. I want to hunt for agates all day, see the Northern Lights with a good view. And there are so many other things I don't even know about yet that I hope I'll get to do one day!

 Sometimes I ask the Mr. "What if this is where we will grow old? I just might become an old lady in this wilderness that we call home. And I'll watch you become an old man." 
And so I guess this is the beginning. 
Cross-country skiing? Check.