Way up North.
A few years ago, an Alaskan man named Jason stumbled into my life and stole my heart. He moved here to Boston on a whim and we have since spent the last four years collaboratively working together on the project of Us. In August 2016, I returned to his homeland with him for two weeks. During those two weeks we embarked on a 10 day camping road trip that started down on the Kenai, took us out to McCarthy, up and over to Denali, down through Talkeetna and back to Anchorage. Our first night in Anchorage sharing beers at F Street Station with Jason’s hometown friends, every time I’d recite our itinerary I was met with a pause, a raised eyebrow and something along the lines of “that’s...an ambitious itinerary…”
It was an ambitious itinerary, to say the least. Not only was our 10 day road trip a little on the ambitious side, it also rained. The. Whole. Time. I think we got one dry night in Paxson, and a half a dry day in Denali. Jason, a life long and very experienced outdoorsman proclaimed he’s never been so good at setting up and breaking down camp in the rain as he was before this trip. We were so grateful to Jason’s dad, who, only at the last second before we left, decided to toss in an extra large tarp into the bed of the truck “just in case”, and keeps ratchet straps stashed under the seats.
Traveling, road tripping, and camping with your partner is not only an incredible experience but an incredible test of a relationship. We were truly tested. And we have arrived at the other end of it stronger and more understanding of each other than we ever were before.
I was warned by several Alaskans about this trip. About the importance of being bear aware. About the frost heaves. About checking our spare tire before we hit McCarthy Road. But more than anything I was warned, to be careful; that Alaska has...an effect. I was told, it gets inside your soul, and doesn’t leave. I was warned I may fall deeply in love. That I may not want to leave. Or that when I do leave...I’ll come back. Many do come back. And they stay.
Two weeks in Alaska, and Jason kept catching me with my nose pressed to the window of his Dad’s Dodge Ram, eyes peeled in awe of...all of it. He’d smirk at me. What? I’d ask. “Be careful…” he said.
That was four months and 3000 miles ago. Alaska carved a little spot out in my heart, and remains with me everywhere. Thank you to the Forty-Ninth State, and to Jason's amazing family and friends for welcoming me into your incredible home.
For those of you who are curious, I'll post a full write up of our itinerary and some of my fave spots we hit both on the road trip and while we were in Anchorage at the bottom of the post.
The images below are a mix of iPhone 6 and Fuji X100T.
Day 1: Hidden Lake Campground, Kenai Peninsula
Day 2: Eklutna Lake Campground. We made a stop in Girdwood on our way back up so Jason could take me for tray Pizza at Chair 5!
Day 3: Liberty Falls Campground, Chitina. Stopped at Grizzly Pizza for reindeer sausage pizza and Alaskan beers before we got to our camp ground. If you, for whatever reason, find yourself out that direction on the Richardson highway, you MUST stop at Grizzly for some pizza and a chat with Billy and Mary Ann!
Days 4-5: Glacier View Campground, McCarthy. Breakfast at The Potato and Lunch and Dinner and drinks at Golden Saloon!
Day 6: Tangle Lakes Campground, Paxson
Day 7: Savage River Campground, Denali National Park
Day 8: Talkeetna Road House--we got the Lil Cabin! After getting settled into our cabin and availing ourselves to the showers in the road house, we treated ourselves to a late lunch at Mountain High Pizza, which was, and I say this as an 11 year resident of Boston, some of the best pizza I've ever had. We had a rather unremarkable dinner at Wildflower Cafe. I'd say of everywhere we went on this trip, that was probably the one place where the food was NOT spectacular. There is some really amazing food happening in Alaska!
Day 9: Visited Jason's old friends Margie and Gary at their log cabin in Big Lake.
Day 10: back to Anchorage. Had a welcome back dinner at Moose's Tooth, that, I'm sorry to tell you Bostonians and New Yorkers, is the best pizza I've ever had. Yes, John, you were right. I didn't want to admit it in the moment, but yes, the pizza in Alaska is better than any pizza in Boston. There. I said it ;)
Other amazing food and beverage had during our trip: Tommy's Burger Shop, Midnight Sun Brewing, Kaladi Brothers Coffee (Alaskans take their coffee VERY seriously and it shows in both the quality of coffee and the abundance of road side coffee shacks strewn all over the place! There was even one on McCarthy Road!), King Street Brewing (I mean--tall boy pop tops?! Come on!), and of course, I got to visit the Infamous Koots (which, by the way, ALSO had really good Pizza? What is up with the amazing pizza in Alaska?).
John, Susan, Sarah, Nate, Brian, Traci, Tori, James, Dorothy, Kevin, Margie, Gary and all of Jason's family and friends: Thank you again, for being so great and so welcoming. I cannot wait to come back.