Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Next Stop, Seward


Poor visibility due to the Swan Lake Fire, June 23
Sunday. I left Homer before 8 and made my way back up the Sterling Highway on my way to Seward. There aren’t many highways in Alaska, so there are limits to the direction in which you travel. As I passed Anchor Point, I noticed the air was getting denser, and the distinct odor of a campfire growing stronger. I’d seen posted warnings about a forest fire near Sterling on my way down to Homer a few days earlier, but this was the first time I’d encountered it. As I approached the town of Sterling, it was like driving through heavy fog — I could only make out the car in front of me. In the coming days, the fire would grow to 100,000 acres and the smoke would obliterate the mountain views for days, from Seward to Anchorage, but lucky for me, that was still several days away.

Finding the right spot. Waterfront Park, Seward
I arrived in Seward to discover all of the campsites “full”. It was noon, and I hadn’t eaten much during the day, so I parked in downtown Seward (which is barely a block, no larger than old town Marblehead), and walked around. I had lunch, browsed some shops, and then decided to hit the road and maybe try Miller’s Landing for a campsite. At this point, it was after 3:00, and as I turned down the street passing the waterfront campgrounds, noticed the “full” signs were down and several dozen open spots. Timing is everything! The solstice weekend was over and everyone was pulling out. I found a campsite directly on the water. Awesome.

It was chilly and very windy by the water, but I didn’t mind. The walk along Resurrection Bay was stunning and stretched for miles, and I had a picture perfect view of the bay and mountains. It really couldn’t be any more perfect. Eagles and sea otters and ravens...just wow.

The view from my tent. Amazing.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Part 2 from Homer, AK; Seldovia


After securing another site stay at the campground, I returned to the marina for a wildlife boat tour to Seldovia, across Kachemak Bay. I hadn’t had any interest in a boat tour prior to my arrival, but after seeing the mountains and glaciers in the distance, I suddenly wanted to cross the bay! It did not disappoint.

I caught the 10 a.m. departure of a boat named The Raibow Connection, which travelled out to Gull Island first before turning towards Seldovia. I got my first glimpse of sea otters and eagles in the wild, (which I saw aplenty in the coming days), seals, kittiwakes and common murres, and a puffin! In Seldovia, I hiked the Otter Bahn trail (3 miles round trip) before returning back to town with time to pop into a few shops and sit down for an iced coffee at a small coffee shop. Seldovia was charming.

Another great day!







Friday, July 19, 2019

Good Morning, Homer AK.



Good morning from Homer! Waking up to a sunrise at 4 am, with the moon still high in the sky behind me, was magical. I wasn’t sure what my plan was for the day, but knew I wanted to spend one more night in Homer. I broke down camp and headed over the causeway to have breakfast on the spit. Google informed me that the only place open at 6 am was the Baleine Cafe, so off I went. It was fantastic! And so friendly! I was one of only a few customers in the cafe, too early for most of the tourists. Fishermen came in for breakfast, a few stopping by for call-in orders to go. I’m sure it was a packed place an hour after I left. I explored the quiet docks of Homer and window shopped the closed stores. So peaceful and unhurried without the tourist traffic.




My plan for the day was to take a boat out to Seldovia which didn’t leave until 10, so I returned to The Mariner campground and noticed a few campers had packed up and left, including one directly across from me on the beach. I paid for that spot and moved the Jeep, and placed my reservation slip on the post. (I took a photo of it this time for evidence. No one was stealing my spot this time.) While I was doing that, a nice older gentleman came over and said, “I was hoping you’d return!” He then held out the removable crank that engages the pop-up tent on the camper. OMG, I must have dropped it when I broke down camp! He not only saved my camping adventures for the next week, but also $500. Ron (at the rental company) had explained to me that it’s been difficult getting replacement cranks from the tent company and begged me not to lose it. Two days later, I almost did. Woah. I thanked him profusely. I was really lucky.

Morning in Homer, AK

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Cooper Landing, Russian River


The next morning I drove out to Cooper Landing early, planning to packraft with Kenai Backcountry Adventures, but after learning it was just me and a guide, I changed my mind and joined a small group of people kayaking the Upper Kenai with another outfitter instead. I spent three hours on the river with some fun folks, (instead of 6+ hours, solo, just me and a guide), and I was able to include a hike on the Russian River Trail as well. Better plan! My morning on the Upper Kenai River and Russian River was spectacular — salmon were running (sockeye?) and the river was teeming with fishermen lined up along the Russian River competing for fish.


Combat fishing on the Russian River
Homer was my next stop after hiking the Russian River Trail, and as I approached the southern end of the peninsula, the weather shifted and I was met with clouds and rain. A pretty contrast to the upper end of the Kenai.

I explored Homer, drove along the bay to catch glimpses of Grewink Glacier through the fog, stopped for coffee and food at Three Sisters Bakery, and headed out to Homer Spit. It was the solstice — or rather, THE SOLSTICE, which is an actual event in Alaska — the longest day in a place where the day never really ends. At the end of the Spit I learned the campground Ron recommended was full, (as were two other places on the Spit), so after checking out a few shops, I returned to the start of the causeway where The Mariner campground sat and found a spot. (Actually 2 spots, which was lucky because someone stole the spot I’d paid for and I just didn’t have the energy to argue.)

It was such an amazing day — Alaska doesn’t disappoint.

Happy Solstice!


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Next Stop: Hope, Alaska


I picked up the Jeep camper, grabbed some food and supplies from REI, and headed south. The views along the Turnagain Arm were breathtaking and I stopped several times along the way to take it all in. So incredible.

Hope, Alaska


My first overnight stop was the small village of Hope, 20 miles from the Seward Highway. Many original cabins built during the gold-rush era are still standing in Hope, not far from the banks of Six-Mile Creek. A small cafe, bar, and community hall are nestled on the town's "Main Street", but you could miss them if you blink, it's that small. The area is gorgeous. Whitewater rafting and hiking opportunities are aplenty here, with the Six-Mile Creek and the northern end of the Resurrection Trail being a huge draw. (The other end of the trail begins/ends in Cooper Landing). I had initially planned to mountain bike the Resurrection Trail before Alison started talking to me about bears... and I realized biking or hiking solo in the backcountry was too risky. Still, I kept Hope as my first destination and I’m glad I did. It’s a special place.

The view of Turnagain Arm from Site #6 at Porcupine CG
I next headed to the Porcupine campground, found just beyond Hope in the Chugach National Forest. I located my reserved site, set up camp, and headed out on a moderate hike to Gull Rock and back. My left calf was still giving me some issues, so I didn’t push too hard. Later in the evening, I had a chance to watch the Bore Tide come in from the advantage of my tent. So cool. Really, so cool.

A pretty good day.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Alaska! (The Recap)

Welcome to Anchorage. 19 hours and 21 minutes of daylight.
ALASKA! In a word, WOW. Everything was grander and more spectacular than I could have imagined — I had such an amazing time. When I arrived in Anchorage on June 17th, after a long travel day, (with my connecting flight in Chicago delayed and rebooked, my backpack traveling to Denver instead of Anchorage), I was not prepared for the brilliant sunshine at 9 pm. Ah, welcome to the Land of the Midnight Sun!

Single track at Kincaid Park.
I was admittedly afraid of finding a bear on a blind turn
My first three days in Anchorage were terrific. I stayed at an AirBnB for a few days not far from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which was a true gem. My left calf was tight and cranky after my aborted run on Sunday, so I didn't push it too hard and abandoned my hiking plans for a few days to give it some rest. (I was still anticipating a ten mile mountain run on the 29th). Instead, I filled my early days exploring Anchorage by bike and foot, learning more about the history and culture of the state.

I walked an easy three miles into Anchorage on the trail one morning, took a tour of the city, got a coconut-milk ice cream at Wild Scoops, (founded by Sheldon's granddaughter, Elissa!), and picked up an ulu at the Ulu Factory after becoming convinced that I needed one. Lol. Anchorage isn't very big, but it's a neat little city.

The following day, I rode the trail in the opposite direction out to Kincaid Park, (passing through Earthquake Park), for some singletrack exploring. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about finding a moose or bear on those winding trails. Still, it was a great day.

Thursday morning, backpack ready to go (after making it's way to Anchorage late Tuesday), I picked up a Jeep camper from Alaska Adventure Rentals and hit the road for the Kenai Peninsula.

Yaaayyyy!
I loved the Jeep and the crack in the windshield was badass.
Adventure time!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Last Training Weekend

5 miles with Ingrid! Great pace and my fastest 5 mile run.
My final weekend of training before Alaska! My dearest friend Ingrid arrive from Hawaii on Thursday, planning to spend a few days with us before attending a conference in Boston. We’d been out of touch for a while, and missed a good chunk of life events during that time, but it was easy to pick up where we left off. Good friendships are like that — they last forever.

Fortunately for me, Ingrid is a pro in ultra-triathlon and racing events and helped me wrap up some final details of pre-race prep. She reviewed my gear and added some suggestions — I’m good to go. We ran five miles together on Friday followed by a 4 mile Lynn Woods hike in the afternoon — and then spent Saturday morning kayaking and attending an arts fest before I drove her into Boston. It was sad saying goodbye, but hopefully we’ll do better at keeping in touch.

I had a long run, 7-8 miles, on my training calendar for Sunday, and planned to meet the girls for a 4 mile run after getting in 3-4 miles beforehand. Unfortunately, a quarter mile into my run, I felt my calf tighten and pull. Ouch! It wasn’t the worst strain I’ve had but it was enough to cause some pain. I limped back to the parking lot, not willing to push it any further. We had a farewell party for Jaclyn at Notch Brewery after the run, and then I returned home to pack (and nurse my tight calf).

I’m all set, ready to go! Tomorrow is a long travel day — Boston to Chicago to San Francisco to Anchorage. Departing home at 6:30 am with Mike, (taking the T to the airport) and hopefully arriving in Anchorage before 9 pm Alaska-time. I don’t know what the math comes out to, but I’m thinking 14 or 15 hours? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Ready to go.

Windy day on the water

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Alaska on the horizon

Long run done

“Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.” — Kara Goucher

Monday, June 3, 2019

Arrrgggghhh Ticks

Our rainy Spring didn’t let up last week as we had another five straight days of wet weather. Fortunately we got a break on Friday as I headed up to Vermont for a training weekend with a few of the girls. Jennifer and Amy drove up to join me on Friday, arriving at the cottage mid afternoon. Unfortunately, the lower pasture was still wet and muddy and Jennifer’s car got stuck, but we were able to get it out late in the day.

The mud turned out to be the least of our concerns. Not more than an hour after their arrival, Amy pulled a tick off her clothes. And then another. And another. Soon I was doing the same. I changed my clothes and a tick fell out of my bra while a fifth was attaching itself to my bare thigh. (I felt a “tug” on my skin when I brushed him off). Argggghhhh. I put on a long sleeved shirt, tucked my jeans into my mud boots, tucked my shirt in and sprayed my exposed skin with Deet. Walking to the brook to turn on the water, I brushed tick #6 off my boots. By the end of the night, Amy was up to seven tick encounters, I had six, and Jennifer none. (She claims her Mediterranean blood wards them off. I’m not sure if she was joking.) Doing one final tick check before bed, I found one buried in my back below my shoulder blade that needed removal. Damn it. How did it get on my back? I was covered! It was unsettling.

On Saturday, we headed to the mountain and hiked the Swoops and Loops mountain bike trail. It was a great trail and I’m excited to go back and ride it! I wore permethrin treated hiking clothes and new Hoka Speedgoats, also treated with permethrin. No ticks! After our hike, we returned to the cottage to do some chores, (mowing, trimming, and repairing some of the ruts in the road), before Jaclyn’s arrival. The three of them were registered for the Covered Bridges Half Marathon on Sunday, although Amy had to pull out with a foot injury. We had zero tick encounters on Saturday with the combination of Deet and permethrin.


Jennifer cut the grass in our war on ticks
Jaclyn arrived at 3:30 and we headed out to dinner in Claremont soon after. When we returned to the cottage, Jennifer sat down on the porch to read her book and a tick fell from the porch roof onto her lap. They were on the porch! It was raining ticks! The worst. We retreated indoors and spent the night inside, heading to bed on the early side.

The next morning, Jennifer and Jaclyn ran the half marathon while Amy and I rode our bikes up the course for a few miles, (as far as we were allowed to), to cheer them on. It was a damp, overcast day, which was typical of this Spring. My training weekend turned out to be less than what I really needed to get out of it — I needed to get some elevation training done — but the ticks really rattled me. We closed up the cottage after returning from the race and headed home.

Will borrowed my car the next day and caught a tick crawling on my steering wheel. There’s no escaping them.

Is this one from Massachusetts?
Or did he hitch a ride from Vermont?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

10K Done!

Gold Star Run for Honor 10K
Honoring CPL Scott J. Procopio of Saugus, MA
I had a relatively decent week with my training runs, joining Amy, Jennifer and Alison on Tuesday for a run in Wakefield, not far from our old house in Melrose. I managed to exceed my target on Tuesday with a 4.6 mile run, and meet Thursday’s target with another 4.5. I moved my Sunday long run to Saturday and ran the Scott J. Procopio Gold Star Run for Honor for the second time — this year running the 10K (6 miles) instead of the 5K. It wasn’t speedy by any means, but I did break my 5K PR in the process and finished the 10K at a 12/min mile, which I wasn’t disappointed in. I know my pace is slow but I’m chipping away at it little by little. Running isn’t my strength.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Run, Ride, Run Some More

Peace!
Training is going ok for the Alaskaman XTri coming up in six weeks. (OMG! Only six weeks left?!) I’m trying not to stress out but I AM actually worried. I feel woefully undertrained but not sure how to change it at this point. I feel so damned exhausted.

My weekly runs are now 4.5 miles Tuesday and Thursday, (Tuesday night swimming has ended for now but I hope to return after Alaska), with my long runs on the weekend at 6 miles. I have a 10K this Saturday and then progress to 7 miles the following weekend. It ramps up fast. I was given a major shot in the arm this week from the BOWZ gang when I joined them for my long run on Saturday, the Boston Brain Tumor Ride on Sunday, and my 4.6 mile run on Tuesday. Alison, Jennifer, and Amy kept me going — plus Jaclyn on Saturday’s run and Cate on Sundays ride. I really do get by with a little help from my friends.

BOSTON BRAIN TUMOR RIDE

Sunday’s Boston Brain Tumor Ride was a good one in terms of riding. I actually felt really good on the bike and rode the first ten miles with Jennifer and Amy, averaging a bit under 16 mph, to the first water stop. Since I was focused on my half marathon training this Spring, and spent less time on the bike than I would have liked, I planned to ride the 40 mile route with Cate rather than the metric century with Jennifer, Amy, and Alison — although I knew after the first ten miles I would have been fine for the metric. Maybe. Who knows. At any rate, I planned to ride with Cate and I stuck with that plan and met her at the first rest stop. I’m glad I did! Riding with Cate was a little slower, but I really enjoyed it. I loved chatting with her and riding a casual pace. It was only her third or fourth time on the bike this Spring, and soon after we split from the other ladies, she mentioned she’d be happy just riding 25. That was fine with me! It was a gorgeous route and we had a great ride through Concord, Lexington and Lincoln, arriving back at the start under heavy clouds. I then headed back out on the road to return to a barn I’d seen 4 miles into the morning start with a giant peace sign on the doors. I wanted a photo! The extra miles brought me up to 32 for the morning. I’m not unhappy with that.

It began to lightly rain as I headed back, turning into a steady rain soon after I finished. The unexpected weather put a bit of a damper on event activities as riders finished up soaking wet, cold, and shivering. Cate and I waited for the girls to get back and then we all drove to Starbucks for coffee and warmth. It was a nice ride for a great cause in memory of Alison’s mom, Charlene. Congrats to Team Noggin for raising $4,001 for the National Brain Tumor Society, and a sincere THANK YOU to Fred, Kathy, Mike and the boys their support and sponsorship. xoxoxo

Cate, Jennifer, Amy and Alison (Team Noggin)
Boston Brain Tumor Ride

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Ascutney 2019

Purple Trillium on the mountain
We finally landed a sunny Saturday -- the first since March 16th, (I'm not kidding on the stat! It was reported by a newscaster) -- so Mike and I drove up to Ascutney to open up the cottage for the season. We had a great and productive day cleaning and sorting and sprucing up. My cousin Rich and his wife Becky also came up for the afternoon and Rich installed the water. Mike managed to attract 2 ticks within an hour of each other -- or perhaps he got them at the same time. Hard to know. He's now being called a "tick magnet", which amuses my pun-happy husband in crazy way. Lol.

The wet, rainy Spring brought more than ticks -- it brought mud. The road through the lower pasture that leads to the cottage was pretty dicey to drive through, and we risked getting the car stuck each time we passed through it, so when Mike and I woke up to a gray and damp day on Sunday, we closed up the cottage for the weekend rather than return after breakfast. We then headed out to the Windsor Diner and went straight to the main mountain entrance for a hike afterwards.

Arriving at the main gate at Ascutney State Park, we discovered the main access road was closed to cars, (until Memorial Day weekend), so we parked off the road and climbed under the gate to head to the Futures Trail.

For some reason, looking at the sign, neither one of us noted that the Futures Trail was TO THE LEFT. We both went straight. Lol. We hiked for an hour up the mountain, not really on a trail but seeing imaginary trails through the woods, following haphazard lines for a mile before calling it a day and turning back. In all, it was only two miles roundtrip and not exactly what I needed for training, but it was fun. A great day for a hike.

Next time, we'll take the actual trail.

The Futures Trail. GO LEFT.
The sounds of the stream lead us back

Saturday, May 4, 2019

April went too fast. April dragged on.


First mile in new Hokas at Ferry Field, Univ. of Michigan
Hard to believe it’s already May and we’re just eight weeks away from Alaska 2019. The time is passing too quickly and I’m getting a little anxious about my training. The weather this spring has been miserably wet and cold and not at all friendly for hiking. My ambitious plan to open up the cottage early and spend some time up north was overly ambitious. Vermont was still getting snow in mid-April.

As much as it flew, April also dragged at times, with those cold, rainy, gray days making my commitment to 30 Days of Biking almost tortuous. I was happy to do it for Will, who enjoys seeing my daily photos from the road, but I’m so glad to have that challenge behind me.

Another year, done! Will is home for the summer.
I took a break from training to head out to Michigan to get Will for the summer, (a three day road trip), and now it’s back to training! I’m starting to semi-enjoy running and have hit the five mile mark on each of my long runs the last two weeks, which I never thought possible. Following my training plan, I’ll be increasing that mileage by +1 mile weekly between now and June 16. I’m still ridiculously slow but my main focus is on endurance. I may not get a chance to improve my speed over the next 8 weeks, but I’ll work on that after Alaska.

I’m afraid May might pass quicker than April.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

30 Days of Biking, Final Days (Year 6)

April 29, Blue skies ahead, clouds behind me.
April 30, 40 degrees and rain. An unceremonious end.
Year Six, 30 Days of Biking, done and dusted. April is a long, cold, wet, cruel month — it has the promise of Spring with the remnants of Winter. Biking every day, often in inclement weather, often felt tedious.

I want to say I’m officially done with this yearly challenge, but I suspect I’ll get drawn in again 11 months from now.