I just came back from a trip to the Lower 48 where I was in San Francisco, New York, and Portland. I love the big cities, but sometimes I feel like I lose my way in the concrete jungles. I realized when watching the waves roll in on the California coast that I was changing into a needy, neurotic person. It happens when I don’t feel secure and validated. This trip was full of emotions and experiences, most positive and some hurt like hell.
I came back to Alaska without a place to live and a bucket list of places I’ve always wanted to visit. I could do the easy thing and rent a place and live life like everyone else. Well, I’m not like everyone else. I decided that it was time to go back to my roots and do an epic road trip. For me, this is an unplanned, pack the car, grab a map, and just drive. Seriously, who does that? ME!!!
I did my #GirlOnTheRun road trip around the continental US this way. Most days I would pull a paper map out, close my eyes, and then point out a place. Then that’s where I would go. This time though, I am just going to drive until I see a sign of something that looks interesting and go there. No hotel reservations, no excursions planned… just a tank of gas and loaded down with healthy organic food – enough for a week or so. Who’s ready to go on this epic #AKRoadTrip with me?
Day 1: Blueberry Picking || Arctic Valley
I left Anchorage a tad later than I wanted to. I had to work, get supplies, and make sure the car was road trip ready. Just on the outskirts of Anchorage is Arctic Valley, which is a ski resort that borders on the military base. How did I not know this was here sooner? The views up there were amazing!
Blueberry picking… The hills are filled with blueberries and sunshine || Arctic Valley Ski Resort
I hiked up the opposite mountain of where all the crowds were and hoped I would find blueberries. This is one of the more popular places to pick them and I didn’t know if they would be all gone. I kept looking and looking and looking and finally found my first one. I might have done a little happy dance. You see, I tried to go last summer and managed to just find 5… that was pathetic. This time, after an hour of picking, I had a little over a pint.
When I walked back down the mountain, I ran into much more experienced blueberry pickers that had this little berry picker device. Well, who knew? Of course that would have made it SO much easier! No wonder people were walking off the mountain with 5-gal buckets full and I had a little pint. 🙂
1st day of #AKRoadTrip Im Blueberry picking. 1 pint in about an hour. || Arctic Valley, Alaska
Posted by Dragonfly Running on Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Day 1: Matanuska Glacier
One of the glaciers on my list to see was Matanuska Glacier, which is only about 80 miles from Anchorage, but it takes about two hours driving. I love a good drive as it helps to clear my head, and so I decided to head there. My plan was to camp by the glacier if possible. There was a lot of construction on the road so it took quite a long time to get there. As I passed Mile 88, I looked to my right and saw this clear blue lake and what appeared to be a perfect camping spot – I knew I would come back here to stay the night.
As I drove, every turn was a new view of some of the prettiest mountains and the Matanuska River raging in front of them. I had never seen rapids in Alaska – it was a first! As I came upon Matanuska Glacier it took my breathe away. I stopped and my Canon T3i camera went to work capturing the glacier as the sun’s setting sun cast a protective shadow across the ice. This valley glacier is 26 miles long and 4 miles wide at its terminus. A valley glacier is a solid body of ice that flows just like a river through an existing valley.
Day 1 #AKRoadTrip Matanuska Glacier at 9:35pm.
You can drive right up to the tongue of this glacier, but the entrance is on private land. You have to pay a fee to drive up or you can park nearby and hike up. Since it was 9:30pm and I was pretty tired, I figured I could hike it another time with friends. I took a moment to remember all that I was seeing and then headed back to that little lake I wanted to camp at.
Day 1: Solo Camping || Weiner Lake
As I made my way back down the Glenn Highway, I prayed that no one else had found that spot near the base of the lake. I was in luck! It was mine for the night! This would be the very first time that I was pitching my tent in an area that wasn’t an organized campground. No other campers, no other people, just me in this place. Honestly, I needed the solitude. I needed to hit my reset button and shake off this funk I have found myself in. I needed to remind myself that I don’t need anyone else, that I can do everything by myself, and that I am good at it. I lost a bit of myself and my confidence in San Francisco and it was time to get it back.
When I stepped out of my car I couldn’t believe that this was going to be where I would rest my soul for the night. It was a truly magical place with the cliffs on one side, a serene lake in front of me, and protective woods to the right.
The best thing I ever did was listen to my brother when he told me to buy an REI tent. I had been reluctant as it wasn’t the cheapest on the market, but damn if that tent isn’t super easy for me to put up. Well, in full disclosure, the first time I put it up it took me over an hour. Now that I have camped over 100 days in it, I can have my whole campsite up in under 10 minutes. Progress!
I took a few photos, recorded a quick video (lots of videos coming from this road trip), then I wrote in my journal. My soul and heart had found peace in this moment of silence. I crawled into my sleeping bag and took out the book I bought the day before. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I had seen this movie in the theaters and I had cried quiet tears during that whole movie as I knew the feelings she had and was working through. I only read the forward and knew that this was the perfect book to have with me on this #AKRoadTrip.
I closed my eyes and thought of five things that I was grateful for, what I wished for, and then I asked to be protected against anything that would want to do me harm.
Traveling solo isn’t for the weak, it isn’t for the timid, it makes you become braver and stronger than you ever thought you could be. It heals you in ways you didn’t know you needed. I’m excited to once again, take the road less traveled.