*Names and identifying details have been altered to protect the innocent people who could sue me.

January 28, 2011

Day 16

Dear all,

I'll try to write more frequently than every 10 days; sorry. Partly the internet here has been a little spotty, partly I've been busy getting out and about, and partly I've been staying busy being inside with writing and baking. (See photos: proof - I've been writing! proof - I made bagels!)

Last weekend, being the first real weekend I was here since the first two days I was still fairly jetlagged, Chester and I went down to the Kenai peninsula. We drove down on Fri night so I couldn't see much in the dark - just some snowy roads, a huge starry sky, and one snowshoe hare that darted across the highway right in front of our car (courting death apparently being common to all rabbit/hares, not just the East Coast ones). Chester’s mom has a nice little house with a corner fireplace, a whole wall of hanging plants and assorted others scattered around - including a lime tree producing real limes, I don't know how she does it - and, my favorite part, a chicken coop outside with 5 or so chickens (and, thankfully, no roosters). When we got up in the morning it was still dark so we made coffee, collected the chicken eggs for breakfast, and then stood by the fireplace and watched the sun slowly rise over the mountains. She has a beautiful view looking East towards the chain of three mountain/volcanoes - Iliamna, Redoubt, Spurr (IRS).

She had to go to work so we went down and met her at her salon (she cut my hair, which was overdue) and then we drove around the peninsula for a while stopping in at various family houses so I could meet people. We got a chance to walk along the beach by the oil refineries for a minute, but I guess they're on heightened security these days so we weren't able to stay very long. Chester’s mom had some frozen halibut she'd got over the summer (um, a 120lb fish - she said the captain from 'Dangerous Catch' happened to be there too and complimented her on it) so we had a fish fry for dinner with some of Chester’s family. And played a fun game whose name I can't remember, but it had to do with the word "things" and you'd all really like it, so I'll try to catch it next time.

[unrelated to the story, but proof that I've been writing]

Sunday we got up early, suited up, and started to drive home on the highway that leads out of the peninsula and into Anchorage (there's only one pass through the mountains). A plane ride would take 20 minutes, maybe about the same by boat if you could get through the ice, but driving takes about 2.5 hours, winding your way around with mountains rising up on either side. It's very beautiful, even frozen in the snow, and we passed several little towns that cater mainly to tourists during fishing season. The great thing about this highway is that there are parking lots every so often and the deal is basically you stop, lock your car, and hike into the mountains. The mountains on one side are for snow machines (apparently law-enforceable) and the other side is for non-machines: hiking, skiing, etc. We had snowshoes so we just hiked out for about 30 minutes and then turned and went back to the car. Baby steps. Maybe next winter I'll try hiking UP the mountain. For now I had a really wonderful time going slowly through the woods, eating snow off the trees when thirsty, and looking up at the mountains all around. The sun was setting around 4:15 then (we're gaining 3.5 minutes of daylight each day now) so as we were trekking back the sun got very bright at the ridge of the mountains and the light in the pines shone golden. A nice introduction to the back country.

[also unrelated to the story, but proof that I made bagels]

I'll leave you with just one conversation Chester and I had on our trek:

Me: It looks like you're standing on something.
Chester: Well, the snow's several feet deep here - it's covering up all kinds of low brush and small trees.
Me: Oh, yeah, it's a tree, bent over and covered with snow.
Chester: Huh, that can actually be a little dangerous, if you loosen the snow the weight falls off and the tree snaps back up - catapult style.
Me: Well, at least it's not a bear. That's what I originally thought.
Chester: Yeah, well, we could wake one of those up too, I guess.

Better pictures next week - now that I've gotten used to having numb fingers, I should be able to work my camera outside.

Love --

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