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Random Alaska Stories

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by wasilla, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. CoconutWilly

    CoconutWilly Tourist

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    Mesmerizing read. Keep going!
     
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  2. wasilla

    wasilla High-Roller

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    The answer is in the "it depends" category. I stopped because of the density of floating ice. I didn't want to be capsized by an iceberg turning over. I would have gotten a lot closer otherwise.
     
  3. wasilla

    wasilla High-Roller

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    I
    I appreciate that, but I think the novelty might be wearing off. I'll post at least a few more outdoor stories, but will try something different today.
     
  4. wasilla

    wasilla High-Roller

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    These stories are 20 plus years old. I figured I'd tell a recent one from a few days ago. I don't have any issue if a mod needs to delete it.

    I got back from LV on 3/3 and had hernia surgery the next day. I spent the next couple weeks recovering in my apartment. The world was changing around me. I was wondering how much my community had changed. My social circle seemed fine. Friends had offered their help and my landlord often delivered meals. I don't like my governor much, but really respected a press conference he conducted in which he relayed the facts our state was facing and what we were going to do about it. He then left the stage for our experts to explain what was happening, why it was significant, and what interventions were being instituted.

    Last Friday, I had a follow up doctor's appointment and planned to go shopping afterwards. The doctor did the follow up over the phone and we cancelled the appointment. I had been out of coffee for a few days now and was running dangerously low on beer, so I went out shopping. I guess a lot of people were off work, because the main road had a rush hour volume of traffic. My first stop was at a local box store that operates as a mini Costco. They had some empty shelves and had limited buying on many items. Fortunately they still had whole bean coffee.They had restricted a couple early morning hours for senior citizens, but I had missed that. It didn't matter, though, because the lines were short and people were friendly. It was hard to navigate through the isles, because of all the pallets used to restock the shelves. People were really patient. I saw a guy filling a barrel full of gas. Seemed unusually prepper like considering the other attitudes I was seeing.

    Next up was the liquor store. The growler station was closed for health reasons. As I was walking away, an employee popped out to start his obviously well rehearsed spiel. For some reason this annoyed me and I cut him off with "It's OK. I can read." I found some good deals on canned beer. I had to get the stuff upstairs so weight was important. Those who read my LV TR's know that I rave about Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. I found a couple of 6 packs for $10.99 each. The cashier was wearing gloves, but also took my card, even though their system is set up for the customers to run their own cards.

    Last stop was Carrs/Safeway. The shelves were well stocked. Almost everything that I bought was even on sale. They had a lot of palates in the isles and were constantly restocking. People frequently had to wait until someone selected their purchase before anyone else could move on. Once again people were very patient. These stores also had early morning senior hours, but the lines were surprisingly short. The one person in front of me was buying a cart full of groceries and was paying with cash. All the interactions I had seen today, including this one, seemed kinder and friendlier than usual. As I was wondering if this was the new normal, I saw the guy giving a couple of items back to the cashier. He hadn't brought enough cash. Without thinking, I told him that I had a credit card and that she could run those items with mine. He assured me that he didn't need them but said that he wished more people were like me. It seemed like most of us were like this now and told him so. I was thinking that maybe I was becoming a better person as I hit "no" out of habit to the request to donate money. I make far fewer charitable contributions since my retirement. I saw it was for people needing help with our new state shutdown and realized that I had a long ways to go on my path towards self improvement. I took my groceries to my car and decided to check out their liquor store. When in Vegas I start my mornings with Bailey's and coffee. I found a good deal on a 1.75 liter bottle. This time I donated. A baby step, but still a step

    It took me 30 minutes to get my purchases upstairs. I made several small trips and needed the exercise.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020 at 3:55 PM
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  5. GamblingGolfer

    GamblingGolfer High-Roller

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    Yes, the 'new normal' for awhile. Good for you to feel beneficial. We're half way through the mandated 14 day 'self isolation', so are depending friends to do our shopping, etc. Since I've put off my Alaska visit for 15 months, I hope it's all back to 'regular 'normal by then.

    GG
     
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  6. JennJenn

    JennJenn Low-Roller

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    No, for sure not wearing off. Us in the lower 48 who have never been to Alaska are loving these stories! Please keep publishing!!
     
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  7. wasilla

    wasilla High-Roller

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    93 Octane, more specifically, generally 1/4th of a mile or more distance from a glacier. Distance is hard to measure though as everything out here is supersized.

    Today's story is back in Glacier Bay, a few days later. After my bear encounter, I had been diligent with my bear precautions. My tent was one place, my kitchen another, and my pantry in two other places. I carried my bear proof container with my aromatic fresh and dry food a long ways from my camp. Bears are smart and how "bearproof" my container was remained to be seen. A bear did try to get into it one night without success.

    The trip was going well. The weather was good, water calm, and ice blue. I expected to share the place with a lot of tourists, but I rarely saw anyone.

    The wildlife in eastern Glacier Bay is intense. It contains most of the bay's marine life and a lot of land mammals. One clear morning, I was on the beach and saw a disturbance in the distant water. I'd never seen anything like it and watched mystified as it approached. I could eventually make out that it was a school of porpoises leaping through the water. I watched as they playfully passed. It was an awesome experience.

    I decided to go paddling and explore some more. It was one of those gorgeous paddling days were I Zen out and lose track of time. I was paddling against a headwind, but I wasn't in a hurry and really wasn't on my way to anywhere. I saw something move on the beach to my left. A brown bear was walking down the beach going the opposite direction.

    Brown bears don't have any natural predator's and are generally fearless. When people say to play dead, they're referring to brown bears. Many of their charges are bluff charges, but once contact is made they'll thrash you until you stop moving and they get bored. I think that some people that haven't faced one imagine that a human might be able to fight one off. Seeing one in the wild tends to explode that fantasy. Besides being huge and strong, they are also lightning fast. Those claws can slash faster than a person can react.

    They are also tough. I had a hunter friend who prided himself on one shot kills. This ended during his brown bear hunt. He stalked until he had what he considered a kill shot. The bear stood. He shot again, and again until his rifle was empty. Then he pissed his pants. The bear fell dead shortly after. That was his first and last brown bear hunt.

    If I ran across this bear while I was on land and it hadn't noticed me, I would have quietly backed away and gone the other direction. Since it hadn't noticed me and I was in a kayak, I decided to watch it. I stopped paddling and the wind was quietly blowing me back in the direction the bear was walking. I was being blown along at the same speed the bear was walking. It was surreal. I never expected to be traveling so close to a brown bear for so long. He was just strolling down the beach.

    Eventually he noticed me and stopped and looked. I said "Hi bear" to identify myself as human. He leaped into the water towards me. I knew bears could swim, but I didn't think he'd attack me in the water. My reactions were quick and I was paddling in the direction he had come from before he started swimming. As soon as my paddle blades slapped the water, he got back on the beach and resumed his stroll. This time he was walking alone.

    I don't remember what else happened that day. By the time I paddled back to my campsite, the bear had left the beach
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020 at 3:29 PM
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  8. GamblingGolfer

    GamblingGolfer High-Roller

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    Fascinating! Yes, bears aren't to be taken lightly or messed with.

    GG
     
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  9. 93 Octane

    93 Octane Chief bottle washer

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    I would've pissed my pants seeing the bear heading my way. Wouldnt matter if I were in the middle of a lake or not.
     
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  10. Saydeesgoto

    Saydeesgoto Tourist

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    Awesome stories of your travels! Thank you much for sharing with all of us. More please :)
     
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  11. wasilla

    wasilla High-Roller

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    As I've mentioned, my early days in Alaska were on a shoestring budget. I had some time off and hitchhiked to Denali National Park. There were free non vehicle tent sites at the parks entrance. Hikers had to register for the areas they wanted to camp in. Numbers were restricted. I didn't know the park and basically picked an area at random. There is a bus service that runs down the park road. It requires a special permit to drive your own vehicle. I saw bears and moose from the bus. For an Arizona desert rat, the scenery was amazing. The park is huge. Denali is generally more visible during winter high pressure systems, than your typical summer day. The weather was clear, though, and I saw the mountain as I approached the park. Denali is a tall mountain, but it actually seems taller because of the distance between its base and its peak.

    I had read the tails of climbers of this mountain. The first successful winter ascent and descent had been harrowing. Reading the tale convinced me that I was never going to aspire to be a world class climber. I think that I had unknowingly met one of that team when I was hiking, and he was working as a park ranger. I recall that, when his team was woken by a gale force wind on the mountain during their descent, that he was the guy who gave up what little shelter his team had and started digging the snow cave that allowed them to survive. He was Alaska famous. Another member of the summit team, Art Davidson, wrote a book of the climb titled Minus 148 Degrees. He reportedly came up with the title because this was the coldest that the wind chill chart dropped to. Ray Genet was probably became the most internationally famous of the team and later died on Everest.

    This wasn't winter and the mountain looked peaceful. It still was not a climb I was considering making. I had heard that climbing it was as much about willpower as it was about being in good shape. I later climbed small peaks with a group that included a woman whose determination far outstripped her apparent physical abilities. She later died short of that summit. I can't imagine dying before I would quit. That level of determination is alien to me. I had a friend of a friend that use to guide Denali climbs. He was allowed to go up twice a year. During a spring ascent, he was asked to rescue climbers in trouble above him. On Denali, you have to acclimate, so rescues are generally conducted by other climbers. He describes how he was able to see the coming wind gusts in time to plunge his ice ax into the snow and anchor himself. This allowed him to arrest the fall of his roped partner when he got blown off his feet. These were the rescuers.

    I know that I'm talking a lot about other people. I'm often asked what it is like to live here. People seem to know something about the scenery, fishing, and wildlife. One of the coolest things about living here though, is the people you run into. It seems like every third person could write a bestselling book.

    Like I said, this wasn't winter, and I wasn't climbing. This was a leisurely couple of days back backing. I got off the bus and started walking to my designated area. Once I went over a rise and lost site of the road, I was completely alone. The backcountry was trail less. It was mine to wander. I was a couple miles from the road and it looked like no human had ever set foot here. A small group of caribou was grazing a stones throw away. Since there is no hunting here, the animals aren't very skittish. I'd never seen a caribou before. They're beautiful.

    Alaska weather can turn bad fast, but it held for the duration of my trip. I had the same shitty gear that I had hitchhiked around the country with. It worked fine this trip, but I started spending my disposable income on better quality gear. After a couple days, I returned to the road and flagged down a bus. I think that I road it to the end of the line to see as much of the park as I could.

    I don't remember my trip back home, I do remember that, every time that I did something like this, this place felt more like home.
     
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  12. GamblingGolfer

    GamblingGolfer High-Roller

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    Mesmerising! A wonderful trip. We actually did, as part of our honeymoon, go part way up Mt. Robson (highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies). We didn't make it very far as it started raining very hard on the first day. A Park Ranger let us huddle on his cabin's covered verandah for a bit to dry off, then we had to find somewhere to pitch our tent. Somehow we managed to get a roaring fire going. The next morning, being on our honeymoon, we decided to bail and headed to Jasper to dry out.

    GG
     
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  13. jgates8

    jgates8 VIP Whale

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    Anything else you remember would be welcomed. Great stories
     
    Hoping the Easter Bunny delivers Jackpots!
  14. CoconutWilly

    CoconutWilly Tourist

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    "I could eventually make out that it was a school of porpoises leaping through the water. I watched as they playfully passed. It was an awesome experience"

    I remember sailing outside Waikiki once and a bunch of spinner dolphins swam along side and were surfing in the wake. Even a baby dolphin already had this skill.
    Reading your tales makes me want to visit....from a cruise ship. Or maybe a scenic train ride. Any experience with the train?