Lost Lake Traverse

Jyoti picked me up at 8am. It was an early start to what would be a long day.

What to expect – a long, long, long climb

We were planning to start at the southerm trailhead, walk to the peak, and back again. Doing the whole traverse would involve having two cars and a bit more organisation. We were taking the slightly less steep route upwards.

We were joined by friends of Jyoti’s, Gretchen, who we picked up, Lisa, who we’d met yesterday and her friend Angus, a young man from England who’s been in Alaska for a month.

The drive south towards Seward was the first drive Liesel took me on, all those years ago. Then, it was December, everything looked white and forbidding to this Englishman so used to seeing less than half an inch of snow once in a while. Today, the sky was blue, the Sun was out and we were going to have a good time.

Missed the mist when the road turned

We saw banks of mist on the inlet, smoke on the water and we saw some beluga whales in the water. Up on the mountains there were dall sheep, but I missed them.

We stopped at a ‘donut’ place for coffee and hot doughnuts, though I could only manage to eat one. This is where we met up with Lisa and Angus.

View from the road

The views from the road were spectacular. Even the locals were gushing in praise of the local landscapes.

We stopped just a couple times more on the long drive. I was in the front passenger seat the whole way and no-one took me up on my (half-hearted) offers of swapping places.

On arrival at the trailhead, we prepared for the hike itself. Bear spray, water, walking poles, back packs all sorted. I was carrying my ‘manbag’ full of water, snacks, spare clothes, phone, money and notebook. It was heavy, man.

I’m not a big talker at the best of times, and when exercising, getting slightly out of breath, I’m even less inclined to talk at the same time. But this is bear country, you’re supposed to make a lot of noise just to let the bears know you’re there. Luckily, Jyoti can talk and talk. The two of us often found ourselves dropping behind the rest. The trail was mostly uphill, unrelenting at times. On my own, I would have stopped more frequently to catch my breath, but not here.

I learned about someone whose job seemed to be waxing the skis of an Olympic ski champion. What a very specialised job, I thought. But there are several kinds of wax, each used for a different temperature, different kinds of snow, different slopes, different skis.

As we walked higher and higher, the view changed. Lower down, we were looking through the trees, but suddenly I realised, we were above the tree line. That meant one thing: put on the hat to protect my head from the Sun! Actually, it also meant unobstructed views of the slopes, the mountains, the glaciers, the valleys. All larger-than-life postcard images.

Mick crossing a stream
Moss on the trees
Scree on the hills
Gretchen, Lisa, Angus on the stream
Wow, a stunning, early view

I was glad that the path wasn’t maintained perfectly. It is cleared of overgrown vegetation each year for the race along the whole Traverse. But because of all the tree roots, rocks and other obstacles, I was very conscious of picking my feet up more while walking than I would usually do on a residential pavement, for instance.

On the other hand, some parts of the trail had a precipitous drop to one side that I was wary of. I probably wouldn’t fall far if I slipped off because of all the trees and plants growing there, but I did tend to keep to the other side of the track, while my sweaty palms dried out.

Not a bad safety net, really

As time went on, I had to stop more and more frequently. I started to feel angry. Angry about my inability to catch my breath, about my inability to keep up with the others, about having to watch every footstep to avoid tripping over rather than looking at the view, about the walk being too long and steep, about the medical profession for giving me drugs that seem to have messed up everything in my body (Note 1). Ah, angry, cross, irritated. That usually means I need food. I’m glad I brought so many snacks. I needed sugar. And carbs.

Cotton grass
The very patient St Jyoti
Michaelmas daisies
The source of Donald Trump’s hair

The cotton grass was pretty as were the Michaelmas daisies. And Resurrection Bay way over there!

Resurrection Bay in the distance

As we neared the summit, I had to stop more and more often. We caught up with Lisa, Gretchen and Angus but I needed to eat again. The three of them went ahead, while Jyoti stayed with me, deciding not to go all the way down to the lake itself. I’d decided I needed to minimise my exersions so if I could miss out the 3 extra miles to the lake and, worse, back up again, I’d be happy.

We picked and ate blueberries as we’ll as salmonberries, which look like yellow raspberries but they’re not as sweet.

Despite my mood, I loved the views. Jyoti pointed out the hill in the distance that was to be the end of our hike. It looked miles away, the small objects on top were, apparently, people. So much more uphill to go. I need bigger and faster acting lungs.

Jyoti has the patience of a saint, though. She let me walk in front, so I was going at my own pace. I realised it was slightly slower than Jyoti’s, and that one of the reasons I kept getting out of puff was because I was going too fast, trying to keep up with someone else.

We passed and were passed by many other people on mountain bikes and on foot and they all looked like they were having a wonderful time, and here I was, feeling that I was struggling to make it to the top of the longest hike in the world, ever.

In fact, I think I heard myself tell St Jyoti at one point that I never wanted to do another walk like this, ever again, ever.

But I conquered Mount Everest eventually and one of the first things I did was to lie down and have a stretch!

Mick having a rest and a stretch – Jyoti’s photo

The 360° view was stunning, beautiful: mountains, valleys, glaciers, waterfalls, the sea, Seward and of course, why we were here: Lost Lake, at the bottom of the hill. Next time, I will go down to the lake, but now, today, I didn’t want to push things too far. On the summit, Jyoti and I ate a mix of cheese, breadsticks with cheese, nuts, craisins, pop tarts, bread, chocolate. All the while, looking around and gaping at the view, enjoying the blue skies. Having a nice rest while I reset my brain to get rid of the negativity.

Mountains and glaciers
Lost Lake
Deep grooves with waterfalls

Looking to the south, we could see 11 or 12 glaciers up in the mountains. There were small patches of snow still on the higher slopes. There were signs of many landslides too on the upper slopes. We could see and hear water running down the ravines, but it must have been disappearing into the ground because there was no sign of water where you’d expect to see it at the bottom.

I crouched down to take a picture of the ground cover, where the leaves are changing colour from green to red. When I stood up, the world went black, I heard water rushing, and all I could think was, you’re having a dizzy spell, don’t drop the phone and oh no, there’s nothing to lean against. That was my first dizzy spell for many months (Note 1).

Autumn colours at ground level

The others walked down to the lake which, I must admit, did look inviting. Angus had a dip in the water while Lisa and Gretchen went in up to their ankles.

They re-joined us at the top of the hill and, feeling revived, I braced myself for the long walk back. I expected it to be mostly downhill but I remember from long bike rides that you don’t always notice the easy parts on the way out but they sure bite you on the way back. Today, however, it really was downhill pretty much all the way. In places, I was able to keep up with Angus and we left the girls a long way back.

We again went past the crew who are repairing a part of the trail. On the way up, they’d been having a nice rest, but they were now working as we passed them again on the way down. It would be a terrific commute, walking several miles before doing a day’s work, but they were in fact camping nearby.

Trail maintenance crew accommodation

We stopped and ate more blueberries on the way down and despite being already weighed down, I picked some to take back for Liesel.

The hardest part for me was crossing a couple of streams using haphazard stepping stones that I just hoped wouldn’t give way or move.

I survived. Yes, I got all the way down without falling over, without getting my feet wet and apart from a couple of skeeter stings, no injuries. Plus, bonus, I only had to pee once in the bushes all day. I commend my bladder.

It was nearly dinner time, and we decided to drive the few miles into Seward for a meal and a drink. I didn’t recognise the town itself, I’d not seen it without snow and ice everywhere. We went to the Seward Brewing Company where I had cauliflower tempura with a spicy shoyu sauce plus a glass of stout, which was served not ice cold, unusual in America. Whoever wrote the menu has a great sense of humour:

The menu
The view from upstairs that we only found after we’d eaten downstairs

It was a long drive back to Anchorage and I’m so grateful to Jyoti for driving. We had to stop at the doughnut shop again where Lisa had left her car.

No, we didn’t, we just parked up for a moment

What a fantastic day, a wonderful hike, great company, superlative views and an enormous sense of well-being.

If you’re not a Fitbit nerd, look away now: go straight to the next paragraph, do not collect £200! I think today’s hike was the longest I’ve done since the day I walked from home in Chessington into London. It was certainly much harder due to the terrain. When I got back home today, I was pleased to see that I’d walked over 30,000 steps, about 14 miles. And I still had to walk upstairs to bed! During the day, I took my 16,000,000th step since I started using the Fitbit soon after my 60th birthday. I fully expect to receive a useless pretend badge from Fitbit soon, it makes all this walking worthwhile.

I felt pretty good when Jyoti dropped me off at home, a bit tired, but no real aches and pains. I stretched all the leg muscles, took a preventative anti-inflammatory, had a shower, a long, hot shower and climbed into bed and chatted with Liesel for a bit. I expected to fall asleep more or less straightaway, but my mind was all over the place, mainly punching the air mentally, thinking what a great day it had been, and, despite what I may have said earlier, I’m really looking forward to the next challenging hike.

Note 1: A recap on my medical condition. I had a ‘free healthcheck’ when I turned 59 and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. This is a bad thing as it can lead to strokes and heart attacks. I was given medication. Very quickly, I realised that I had no energy, no stamina. From completing a 100-mile bike ride, I could barely ride 10 miles without becoming breathless. The GP prescribed a different drug but I was still unable to do as much exercise. I was feeling ridiculously tired after a day at work (I was a postman). I was told that because I was so active, I was aware of these changes to my body. Most patients with high blood pressure are sedentary and can’t tell the difference.

I followed the advice to cut down on salt and caffeine intake and little by little, my BP came down.

But something else was happening too. Now, if I stood up suddenly, or if I ran up the stairs after sitting down for a while, I would feel dizzy. My head would go all mushy and I would have to fight myself very hard not to fall over. I held on to whatever was close at hand, a wall, a tree, a person, until I came back to normal.

This is the sign of low blood pressure, which the GP confirmed is as bad as, if not worse than, high BP. I said, well, can I come off the drugs, then? Not straightaway, she said, but the dosage was halved.

A few months later, after a number of ‘normal’ BP readings, I came off the drugs completely. I thought that I would soon be as fit as I was before. I thought my strength and stamina would return.

And to be fair, it has improved a lot since I came off the medication. But I can’t say I am back to normal. The fact that today, I couldn’t catch my breath for long periods at a time while walking up a long hill and that I had couple of dizzy episodes tells me that my body chemistry is still messed up from the blood pressure medication.

I don’t mind getting out of breath and I don’t mind having limited stamina, but I know what my body used to be capable of, and it’s just not as good as it used to be. And I certainly never used to have dizzy spells. I had two today, the first in many months.

I said as soon as things started going wrong that I was much better off when I had ‘high blood pressure’ but just didn’t know about it. And I still feel that way.

I have a theory that my BP might be ‘high’ by some standard or other, but it’s ‘normal’ for me. And that what is considered ‘normal’ is too low for me. Plus, now, something’s been messed up by the medication, maybe permanently.

Still, it was a good, long, hard day today and I’m glad I did it. I think I learned a lot, and one thing is, I have to tell people if I can’t keep up. They’ll just have to slow down a bit, or at least allow me more frequent stops so I can catch my breath.

This is the background to why I got a bit cross a few times on this hike. And why, despite everything, I’m not going to let this experience put me off doing things.

Yikes, more hikes

The general tidy up continued but we were in the garage today. The one car that normally resides there has been relegated to the bottom of the drive leaving plenty of space on the floor for all the items that are being disposed of. For a number of reasons, the weekend coming up is the only one free for a Big Garage Sale, the local equivalent of a car boot sale. Only here, everyone comes to your garage. Which means of course it has to be publicised ahead of time. There’s a lot of stuff in the garage, but Liesel’s Dad seems to know what and where everything is. The ‘to go’ pile is satisfyingly big, especially now the items from the upstairs cupboards have been added.

So if, for instance, you want a really heavy chain once used by horses to drag logs, you know where to come…

With a view to fully preparing for the Garage Sale at the weekend, we paid a visit to The Home Depot. That place is huuuuge. This must be one of the biggest DIY shops anywhere: it’s like Homebase on steroids. Full of people buying stuff with which to do jobs themselves. It was a good 5-minute walk to the bathroom at the back. Inside which the soap comes out of the dispenser, water comes out of the tap and hand-drying paper is dispensed all with a quick wave. Because DIY folk don’t like working too hard to wash their hands.

On sale were sit-upon lawn mowers and traffic cones amongst other exotic items. We just splashed out and bought a sign to tell people where the garage sale is located.

Cones
Spooky
John Deere lawn mower

In the evening I joined Jyoti for a hike down to the beach. Funnily enough, it started right by the football pitch where we’d been yesterday. It was much warmer and much less windy tonight though. It’s gone now but fairly recently a wahle carcass washed up on the beach to be thoroughly enjoyed by the bears.

View along the beach towards Chugach mountains
Makeshift Tibetan shrine
Gonna be a gorgeous sunset in two hours time

Sunset is still after 9pm, so we reluctantly decided not to wait for it. The sea was lovely and calm so of course I skimmed a couple of stones.

The beach was sandy where I was expecting mud, so that made a more pleasant jaunt. We passed a few people jogging on the path and along the beach. Or, more precisely, they passed us.

Next day, we both went to the gym. I covered one mile in 11m58s. Then, after a bit more time on thr treadmill, it was over to the stationary bike where I cycled nowhere, or 1.5 miles, depending on how you look at it. Liesel did a yoga session. I don’t know which of us had more fun.

Liesel and I joined Jyoti for a walk on the (in)famous Flat Top Trail and Powerline Trail. The sky was blue, the Sun was out, it really was a beautiful day for a hike. A strenuous hike. I think the path started off at about a 40° slope and I thought, if this lasts much longer, I’m gonna have to crawl up on all fours.

But that was the worst part, and the ensuing four miles or so reavealed some spectacular views of the mountains, near and far, glacial valleys and of Anchorage itself. We were joined by a friend of Jyoti’s, Lisa: everyone knows everyone in this town.

Mountains just over the valley
Looking down on Anchorage
Anchorage and (I think) Denali on the right, at the back
Great views, photos don’t do justice to the scale of the landscape

In the evening, we went to the Bear Tooth where you can eat a meal while watching a movie: very civilised. We saw Three Identical Strangers, a documentary about a set of triplets separated soon after birth and each adopted by a different family. As a human interest story, it was indeed very interesting and moving. But there was an undercurrent of unethical psychological research practices.

Inside the Bear Tooth, waiting for food and for a movie

Shoe shopping and Sunday Soccer

One of my favourite things is shoe shopping. No, hang on, I mean: one of my least favourite things is shoe shopping. But today, Liesel took me to REI and we bought me a new pair of hiking shoes. I tried on two pairs, both fitted ok and were comfortable, so I chose the ones that were 0.5 grammes lighter. And $30 more expensive, of course.

I’ll never forget the day, nearly 44 years ago, when I went out with Sarah, one of our first dates. We were with Sandra and Nick, on one of their early dates. The thing is: we walked the length of London’s Oxford Street, along one side, back along the other, visiting every one of the 19 shoe shops and shoe departments in department stores, Sarah and Sandra trying on shoes in most of them. And we returned to shop number 1, where a purchase was made. Despite this, Sarah and I married a few years later. By comparison, today’s shoe shopping expedition was a breeze.

No. I was tempted to show you a picture of my new shoes, but unless there’s a real clamour, that’s not going to happen!

Instead, here is a shop that we didn’t go into, even though I thought a hash brownie would go very well with a cup of coffee.

Catalyst

In the afternoon, we went to watch Asa play soccer, at the arena in Kincaid Park. It was raining, so we dressed appropriately and took umbrellas with us. Unfortunately, it was very windy too, so the umbrellas spent most of their time being inside out.

The pitch was astroturf and surrounded on three sides by bushes and who knows what beasts were taking shelter there. The game was football, but it mostly seemed to be the blue team kicking the ball into those bushes and the white team going on safari to find and retrieve it.

Soccer
Soccer

I went for a wander, with a view to taking some spectacular photos, get some steps in and oh, alright, I’ll admit it, to try and find somewhere more sheltered from the wind.

There really is a ski trail called Toilet Bowl
Thank you to our sponsors
What a great idea: a bike repair kit

The really tragic news is that my Fitbit battery died and I lost three hours of data, which is probably about 50,000 steps, or 25 miles. I might be exaggerating.

How to open a bear-proof litter bin

In the evening, we went to Jyoti’s for dinner. It was a houseful. I’d met Suvan and Kayla before, of course, and Una. But this was the first time I’d seen Pam on this trip, and the first time I’d ever met Melanie, although I’ve heard a lot about her.

Sorry, there are no photos of the food which was all delicious, Pam’s cauliflower, Jytoi’s chole, Melanie’s kale, Liesel’s cucumber, Jyoti’s rice and koftes.

We watched la Vuelta on TV, despite the uninspiring commentary, before bed.

Hikes and bikes

I hope I never get bored with walking, hiking and generally welcoming the opportunity to be outside rather than indoors.

While Liesel stayed in with her Mom to start the process of ‘sorting stuff out (*)’, I accepted invitations from Liesel’s friends to join them.

Jyoti, Suvan and I had a nice walk in Kincaid Park, on yet another trail. Each one seems to be hillier than the previous one! We saw a moose and her baby but, other than a couple of birds, no more wildlife.

Moose and mooselet

Jyoti was kind enough to offer me fried eggs and toast for lunch and I’m too much of a gentleman to decline, so…

After a chat, we walked again, this time along the road where the roadsweeper swept by in a flurry of water and gravel from what may be a quarry over the road, or. more likely, a building site.

I turned left for home, Jyoti turned right to meet up with another friend. The rest of my day involved puzzles and looking at Liesel’s ‘stuff’.

(*) When I say ‘sorting stuff out’, I mean Liesel is going through her possessions deciding what to keep and what can go. At the same time, she is hoping to encourage her folks to get rid of some of their clutter too, 50 years of it.

This whole project will be a labour of love and hard decisions. Liesel and I spent two years selling things on eBay, giving away via Freegle (formerly Freecycle) and taking to charity shops. Sadly, some items ended up in a landfill site. Liesel’s parents’ house is even more chockerblocker fuller of stuff than ours ever was.

For my next hike without Liesel, Una and Jyoti took me to another skiing venue, Hillside. The only reason I didn’t have a go at the ski jump was, there was no snow. Also, the idea of climbing up that ricketty-looking structure is even more scary than actually skiing, never mind jumping. Plus, I’m not Eddie the Eagle.

Ski jump

It was great to see so many other people out today, too, mountain bikers, hikers, runners and I know that most of them are probably skiers in the Wintertime.

Back at home, the pile of stuff on the landing had grown. There is talk of a garage sale at some point.

Liesel and I went out to do some errands and we later watched Gideon playing soccer. His team won by a mile – but compared with the team he played with in Fairbanks a few weeks ago, they all looked so titchy!

Arsenal

The football pitch must be close to the airport, judging by the number of planes that flew over. We also saw a skein of geese. Flying south for the Winter? Not yet: they landed in the pond just behind the fence.

Gooses and gooselets

But most excitingly, my quest to take a good photo of a dragonfly continues. It they won’t land and sit still for me, I’ll just have to capture them in flight. So here are a couple of the best pictures so far:

Dragonfly

Liesel and I went to the gym where I spent some time on the treadmill, including a 12m37s mile. Liesel spent longer exercising here, but by the time we left, we’d both built up a good appetite.

It’s week two of the quest to acclimatise me to Japanese food. Tonight, we went to Sushi Garden. I thought I’d have a beer and asked for an IPA. I didn’t expect a bottle that big, a pint and a quarter of ice cold beer. No wonder I couldn’t finish my meal of two different vegetarian rolls. There was a lot of food there, to be honest. The first plate was enough for me but when the second plate turned up some time later, I knew then I wouldn’t complete the mission.

Then a lot of TV, more than we’d usually watch. Two early episodes of Father Brown but more interestingly, the first stage of this year’s Vuelta a España, the Spanish cycling grand tour. The commentary was cringeworthy but at least we found a way to fast forward through the adverts. And we turned off the annoying loud beeps that accompany every button press on the remote control.

Mr Blue Sky

Again, plans to get up early to exercise were thwarted. We had a bit of a lie-in instead.

We had plans to meet up with Monica for a coffee so we drove into downtown (is that the correct phraseology?) on a gorgeous, warm, sunny morning. Mr Blue Sky at last made an appearance.

Blue Sky reflected in a rare skyscraper

We paid a quick visit to the museum where Monica works but decided that we would have a proper visit and wander on a wet day: today was a day for walking outdoors.

The mountains looked spectacular. I think it’s the first time we’ve seen them from Anchorage not at least partially obscured by clouds.

Chugach mountains with cloud behind, not in front

We walked through the city for a while then Liesel drove me to the lagoon. The dragonflies are huge but none were sitting still waiting for me to take a photo. I don’t think we even saw one land briefly: maybe they can’t. One day I’ll snap the bright elusive dragonfly of love.

Nice antenna beyond the lagoon
Munchin’ moose
How to make a boring old fence look nice
Alaskan dogs can read

PS – here is a picture from Liesel of early onset Autumn. A few leaves are changing colour so we’re looking forward to the full experience of Fall real soon now!

Autumn colours

But one sunny day does not a Summer make. The following day was wet again. Despite this, I went for a walk on my own keeping a sharp look-out for moose, bears, cyclists, joggers and cars turning into side streets from all directions. We’ve been here a month nearly, and I still don’t always look the right way when I’m about to cross the road.

Talkeetna

Plans to get up early to exercise were thwarted. We had a bit of a lie-in instead.

Talkeetna is a small town about 80 miles north of Anchorage. If you’re planning to climb the highest mountain in north America, Denali, this is where you’ll come to prepare.

Model of Denali as seen in the Museum

Jyoti was kind enough to drive us to Talkeetna for a couple of days. She has a Mazda. Liesel and I have a Mazda at home too. But Jyoti’s is twice the size.

In fact, most cars in Alaska are twice the size of what we’re used to seeing on the roads in England. They’re small trucks, really. But at least the spaces marked in car parks reflect this, you don’t usually feel you’re going to hit the next car if you open your door too wide.

On the way to Talkeetna and on the way back, we stopped for a coffee in Wasilla, at yet another branch of Kaladi Bros. Here’s a top tip. If you visit, beware their toilet, it’s booby-trapped. Not only does the door lock not work properly, but when you flush, the lever springs up and hits your fingers. Once bitten, twice bitten.

Wasilla (to be added to the collection of missing letters)

This isn’t going to become a regular feature, don’t worry, but here is a picture of my lunch today. We stopped at the Denali Brewing Company and tasted some very tasty beer, ale and mead.

Before
After

A good friend of Jyoti’s, Diane, has a lovely log cabin in the woods a few miles outside the town and this is where we were spending the night.

Diane’s cabin in the woods

So we dropped our stuff off and then Liesel and I drove into town.

We’d had our wedding reception at the Roadhouse in Talkeetna all those years ago. We’d nailed the bottle top from our celebratory champagne to the doorframe and we were delighted to see that it’s still there.

Our bottle top from 12½ years ago

We walked around town, even though it was drizzling slightly. The potholes are something to write home about: Talkeetna’s very own little lake district.

Potholes worse than Surrey and Manchester

The museum was interesting too: again, more artefacts from the early days, especailly describing the building of the Alaska railroad.

Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1963
Probably not what it says on the tin
Making good use of local furry wildlife

We wandered down to the river, also named Talkeetna, which flows into the. Susitna. Because of all the rain recently, it was very high, hiding the beach, and flowing very fast. There are plans to dam the Susitna and of course there is a big campaign against the dam.

Talkeetna
No explination

The mountain climbing season is very short, April to June and numbers are limited to a mere 1500 a year. It must be like Piccadilly Circus up there sometimes! It would have been great to hire a small plane and fly round Denali National Park, or even to get on the train. But as subtlely hinted at elsewhere, the weather wasn’t really conducive to good seeing conditions.

We had our evening meal with Diane, her husband Jim, a pilot, and their son Luke. It was only a 5-minute walk between the cabin and their house, but we drove and probably just as well, because over there, through the trees, we caught sight of a moose with her twin calves.

Where are the mooses?

After a good night’s sleep disturbed only by the usual calls of nature, we went to Diane’s again for breakfast. During the night, in the gloom, I thought I’d seen a moose right outside the cabin. It wasn’t moving much. But in the cold light of day, I walked round and discovered it was just a fallen tree pretending to be a small moose.

Jyoti, Liesel and I went for a walk along the trails that had been prepared by Jyoti, her husband Mike and others, years ago. We were close to Z Lake, walked around X Lake and passed close to Y Lake. No, I haven’t forgotten their names: those are the names.

Unless you’re a bear

It was an undulating trail and again I was grateful to be walking it rather than failing to ski it.

We picked and ate cranberries (very tart), rosehips (pithy and seedy) and blueberries (quite sweet) on the way round, but we left the mushrooms and toadstools for someone else. The grasses were fascinating too and I know Sarah would have been interested. Not as much poop on the ground as there’d been at Hope last week.

Poisonous things and cranberries
Blueberries

The views of the lake were stunning, it was quite calm and would have been inviting were it not for the leeches that live there.

X Lake
X Lake

We were joined on our walk by a couple of other visitors to the state. Hannah is from Germany, here with her daughter Viktoria (not sure about the spellings). Viktoria is also on a gap year so Liesel gave her our details, and who knows, maybe we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.

Just a few puddles to negotiate

It was mostly dry as we hiked the trail, but it did begin to spit slightly when we drove back to a bakery/café called Flying Squirrel. We had a good lunch of soup and bread (Mick) and grilled cheese sandwich (Liesel). Diane appeared too as did our new German friends.

The drive back to Anchorage was uneventful, apart from the stop at Wasilla and the rain becoming more and more torrential. Over the Knik Bridge, it was pure white outside, we couldn’t see anything: this must be what it’s like driving through a cloud.

Not a pleasant drive back to Anchorage

Early plans to see a movie were dealt a severe blow: tickets had sold out. So while Liesel and her girlfriends went to The Beartooth for a meal, I went to the gym for a quick go on the treadmill. I decided that rather than just plodding along on it for a long period of time, I’d walk/run a mile as quickly as possible. 13 minutes, 52 seconds.

I had a look at the other medieval torture machines available for use, each designed to cause pain to different groups of muscles. The only ones I’d be interested in using are the stationary bikes, although the saddles tend to be too wide, and the rowing machines because at least I can see what I’m supposed to be doing!

I had a coffee at Kaladi while listening to the conclusion of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I browsed the books again at Title Wave, and met up with Liesel and Jyoti later.

The Big Breakfast

A pleasant early morning walk around to Jyoti’s for breakfast. Banana loaf from Una, plus fried eggs and toast. Lots of toast. While Liesel, Jyoti and Una went shopping, I went back home and caught up on the admin: journal, bills, emails, deleting rubbish photos.

It’s election time here in Alaska, well, the Primaries at least. There are boards all over the place. This one intrigued me as being slightly oxymoronic:

She’s not getting our votes

Yes, what a big breakfast. I had no need for lunch nor dinner, just an apple and some crisps. It was nice having a bit of a break in the house though.

45 minutes on a treadmill is not as much fun as walking around outside for 45 minutes. Every time I go to the gym, I come to the same conclusion.

On the other hand, I did listen to part 1 of a radio dramatisation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Everyone else in the gym was probably plugged in to some high-BPM, motivating, loud, thumpy-thump music. Not me!

It was raining. Some of the gutters above the shops have broken, so walking from one shop to another meant having to dodge cascades of water.

I was on my own after being dropped off by Liesel and her Mom. While entertaining myself, they went shopping. That’s two days’ shopping in a row for Liesel. She’s going to need a bigger bag.

I wandered around Title Wave too, noting down some books that I’d like to read one day. I was delighted to hear the Bee Gees playing in the shop. Well, a record of theirs.

It was raining. Cars driving through the car park had to try very hard not to splash people as they drove through the puddles.

I had a coffee at Kaladi Brothers again: possibly the best coffee in Anchorage. One thing I’ve noticed is that the free wifi offered in shops here seems to work. No need to register, just enter the well-publicised password and it works. Now that is civilised.

It was raining. There were some bedraggled people around, but nobody looked particularly miserable.

I wandered down to REI. I do need some new shoes and I thought I’d have a quick look here. I know what I want, I know the make, I know the size. But the choice available was overwhelming. Familiar brands as well as far too many unknown ones.

Liesel collected me, we went home and before going round to Jyoti’s for dinner, I attempted some of the puzzles in the newspaper. They seem to be much harder on a Sunday.

It was still raining.

I mentioned the Scarlet Pimpernel earlier. I brought recordings of a few radio dramas with me, and I was hoping they would last me most of the year. Well, I’ve listened to all 10 episodes of Dust: La Belle Sauvage read by Simon Russell Beale, but I think in the wrong order thanks to the way the BBCiPlayer works and/or the way I saved the files. I also listened to The Citadel, a series from Woman’s Hour about a Welsh doctor in the 1920s written by the same author as Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

I do miss listening to my regular favourite radio programmes and podcasts, though, but at least we’re not spending too long with our brains being turned to mush by American TV.