Day 75: Hiking on a Glacier

I woke up to the sound of rain against the roof of my tiny, rustic cabin. I cringed at the thought of getting out of my warm sleeping bag to the bitter cold air and rain, so I decided to play on my phone with the small amount of battery I had left. I reached for my glasses on the floor beside the box spring I was laying on and realized they were almost frozen. It was painful to put them on my face. I had tried to charge my phone with my solar charger, but it was too cold and the phone wouldn’t charge.

I played on my phone for about an hour and heard the rain stop. I threw my coat over my thermals and braved the cold so I could go to the bathroom. Looking across the small river, I noticed the clouds and mist had rolled in, creating an eerie feel.

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My quick venture outside left me feeling very cold, so I jumped back into my mummy sleeping bag and walked around the cabin with it wrapped around me as I dug through my backpack for breakfast options.

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I was elated when I discovered I had a powdered Starbucks vanilla latte packet. I used my Jetboil to make the latte and sat on the porch enjoying the view.

I ate a poptart for breakfast and packed up my gear. With my paid admission, I could stay there all day and hike Matanuska glacier. Once packed up, I drove about a mile to the parking lot. The natives own the rights to the glacier, but Bill (whom I had met the day before) owns the access rights. There is some sort of guidance on the first mile of the glacier.

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People are able to hike the glacier by themselves or they can book a tour where a guide will walk them to other areas, like the ice caves. They’ll also provide crampons for your shoes. I decided not to do a tour because it was expensive. I’ve also hiked on a glacier in Norway and didn’t feel it would be all that different. Plus, I could still hike it on my own to the main areas.

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The first section of the hike was sandy and muddy. Certain sections had metal grates or wooden pieces of boards to help stabilize the ground so people don’t sink. There was a “path” for people to follow, which was basically just scattered orange cones here and there.

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I started the hike and was trying not to sink. About ten minutes into the hike, I ran into Keenan, the guy who I had talked with the night before about camping. He was leading a handful of people on a tour. He stopped to talk to me and asked how my night was. I told him it was super cold, but the views made it all worth it. He replied, “Right on!”

I continued hiking, mesmerized by the still pools of water, gray sand, and ice slowly popping through. I started to head towards the ice caves, but a tour guide warned me not to go that direction without crampons. I found the trail again and continued.

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I came across an area with a crevasse that I needed to cross in order to continue. It was a pretty large gap and not having crampons made me nervous. I watched as a girl struggled to cross, squatting down because she was too scared to make the leap. Her friends on the other side were trying to convince her to jump. I walked further down and found an area that I thought was safer and crossed there.

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The ground was deceptive. It was gray from the dirt, but was actually ice. I got closer to the main body of the glacier and got worried that I would slip. After about 30 minutes of hiking, I made it to the top and the stopping point. To go further, you needed to be on the other side with crampons. It was incredible to see such a majestic glacier. The blue and white colors intertwined with streaks of brown dirt. It looked fake and it was hard to fully comprehend the size and scope of it.

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After taking in the views, I hiked back to my car. As I got closer, I ran into Keenan again. This time he was leading a new group to go out to the glacier. I asked him, “Don’t you get tired of doing these?” He replied, “No man, it’s something different every time! Are you sticking around for the day?” I told him I needed to keep driving north so I could catch a ferry back to Canada.

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When I got back to the parking lot, Bill had just pulled up with a bus full of people who were getting ready to take tours. I stopped outside of the driver’s side window to talk with him. He said, “It’s a good thing you had the cabin last night with all the rain. Kept you and your stuff dry.” I was indeed happy to have that cabin.

When I got to my car, I plugged my phone in so I could book a hostel in Tok. I had stayed there on my way to Alaska and I would go right through there again. I enjoyed my stay the first time so I booked a room to ensure it would be available.

The drive was beautiful as the fall colors were making their way into the forest. It was only September 6th, but yellow, red, and orange were starting to sweep the trees and bushes. I pulled over to take some pictures of the lakes that made perfect mirrors of the mountains.

I pulled into the hostel’s gravel parking lot around dinner time. I had booked one of the rooms that had two twin beds because it was cheaper than the private room with one twin bed and a bathroom (the one I stayed in previously). However, while I was booking it online, two guys were booking it in person. Because of the double booking, I got my old room again for the same price!

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I put my bags inside my room and two German guys who were staying in the room with two twin beds were about to make dinner. They told me they had salmon, vegetables, and rice, and I was welcome to join them. I hadn’t eaten dinner so I joined them in the kitchen while they cooked.

The guys were from a small town two and half hours from Munich. Flo was 29 years old and studied civil engineering (which is different than how the US describes it). He worked as a mechanic for a bit and wanted to stay with the company since they had good benefits, so he had recently accepted a role as a Safety Engineer/Manager and said, “Nobody likes you in this role.” Flo’s uncle moved to Prince George, Canada 40 years ago and raised his family there on a farm. Flo has visited them a couple of times, but this time he wanted to explore Alaska.

Julian was 30 years old and was a tax accountant. He worked at his dad’s company, which had about nine employees. He works with private citizens and small businesses and explained, “Taxes are complicated.”

The guys get six weeks of paid vacation a year. If people in the US received as much vacation as Europe or Australia, maybe we wouldn’t have to quit our jobs to travel.

Flo and Julian were taking two and half weeks to explore Alaska and started in Whitehorse, Canada. They looked into renting an RV, but it would cost them $4,500 euros, plus additional fees for going into the US and driving on gravel roads. That’s part of the reason I didn’t do an RV. It’s incredibly expensive to rent them, you still have to pay for hookups, can’t park it anywhere you’d like, and I didn’t want to attempt to drive it by myself.

Instead, the guys were staying in a tent they bought at Canadian Tire and said they didn’t realize it would be so cold already. Staying at the hostel was a treat for them. They were following a guide book and were heading to Valdez the next day.

The salmon that they pulled out of the cooler was caught by a guy at a campground they stayed at. They bought it off of him and did a great job cooking it. The three of us sat down to eat dinner like we were a family.

Shelley, the owner of the hostel stopped by to say hello and told me that her brother (who she had wanted me to go on a date with) couldn’t get his plane ready in time to take me on a ride. She said she’d stop by and pick me up in the morning because she wanted me to meet a friend of hers who lived in a log cabin that her husband had built. I agreed to go with her the following day.

Flo and Julian told me about life in Germany. They learn another language at ten years old. A lot of people choose to learn French and their president said learning French was a great way for them to mend their relationship with France after being at war with them for many years. Flo said, “In 100 years, I don’t think there will be any wars or issues between Germany and France. We know each other’s languages and we’re close now.”

Hearing Flo and Julian talk about their view of Alaska was hilarious! They rented a Malibu and thought it was too full of plastic. They joked, “Good thing it’s not hot here or else the plastic would all melt.” They were shocked at how many Alaskans drove trucks. They described Alaskan men as having “beards, stains on their shirts, hunting, fishing, shooting, and have a crack in their windshield.” They thought it took a special person to live in Alaska.

As we were eating dinner, two woman came in to stay in the private room with a double bed. They were about 50 and 70 years old and one was dragging in an oxygen tank. The women were worried about the noise, but we couldn’t hear it once they closed the door.

We finished dinner and I washed the dishes while they dried and put them away. They asked that I help them with some English words. “What is the word for a female cousin?” they asked. I laughed and told them, “female cousin.” One of them said “snorkeling” instead of “snoring” and we all laughed.

I took a much needed shower after spending the night in a cabin with no water. I was happy to have a bed again in a heated room. It was so great to meet Flo and Julian. They were generous with their food and were very hospitable. Each day brought new people into my life and it’s much richer because of it.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Days 68-72: Weddings Galore!

I arrived in Denver, dropped off my stuff at my Aunt Lori’s house, and then headed to a cousin’s house for dinner. I had two weddings to attend – one on Friday and the other on Saturday.

I enjoyed a really fun evening hanging out with some family and drinking. I ended up sleeping on a pull-out couch there and when I woke up in the morning, I felt awful. It turns out turbulence from the plane, mixed with not enough sleep and too much to drink isn’t the best combination. I headed back to my aunt’s house and took a very long nap.

My parents and sister flew into town, so it was nice getting to see them. I spent the next day shopping and catching them up on my travels. The first wedding was that evening for my second cousin, Rene.

Rene is in her mid-20s, beautiful, and has the sweetest heart. Her wedding was at a gorgeous resort that overlooked a luscious green golf course.

After the ceremony, we ate an upscale dinner, followed by dancing outside. It was a great time and I was able to see many family members and catch up. We sent the new couple off with a firework arch.

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The next morning, the bride’s father, John, hosted a catered breakfast at his house. I stayed there for awhile and then showered so I would be ready for the next wedding. My Aunt Lori and Uncle Jim’s son, Michael, was getting married.

This wedding was on a large piece of property that the bride’s parents own. They had built a structure to cover an outdoor wedding as well as an indoor structure for the reception. They built both structures and landscaped in six months. Everything looked amazing!

Michael is in his late 20s and it was great to meet his new wife. The wedding was huge and I was seated next to people I didn’t know. One of the women at my table knew my grandmother when she was younger. I was thrilled to hear about her because she passed away before I was born. After the reception, there was a bonfire, dancing, and wood-fired pizza.

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When I got back to the house where I was staying, I started talking with my Uncle Steve. He lives in Idaho, but was staying at the house too. He is a pastor at a small church and we started talking about my travels. He was so encouraging and said he believes God has big plans for my life.

I told my uncle what I had told a few friends in LA before I left. I believe God gives all of us passions, which help direct us to His will. When I moved to California, I didn’t know anyone there and had never even been there before. But I spent the year after college praying and trying to figure out what I should do with my life. I kept feeling pulled to California.

I decided to take action and I asked for a transfer at Target (I was a Team Leader). Within five minutes, two stores said they would take me. I had two weeks to get ready to move. I had no idea where I was going to live, and would be leaving behind a boyfriend that I had been seeing for the last year.

Once I took action, everything fell into place. My sister drove out with me so I had someone to help me; my boyfriend loaned me his truck so I could haul a small U-haul and he drove my car out to me a few weeks later; my mom put me in touch with her cousin in Arizona who I stayed the night with and they put me in touch with their son who was in LA for the summer; and a family friend put me in touch with a friend they knew who lived there. They were out of town, but they allowed us to stay there for free for a few nights and left the key under the mat. To this day, I’ve never met them.

I told my Uncle Steve that story because it was a time in my life where I was at peace, knowing everything would work out just fine. People thought I was crazy. I was moving 2,000 miles away to a city I’d never been to – one of the most expensive cities – at age 23. It’s a time in my life I’ll never forget. I look back now and think that it was pretty crazy, but I didn’t feel that way at the time. I felt confident because I knew that following God’s will would make everything ok.

When I decided to quit my job, sell my house, and travel, it was something I felt pulled to do for about a year. So when I finally pulled the trigger, I felt confident everything was going to be fine. I think God reveals step one to us. He’s not going to reveal steps two-five and the final result because he wants us to have faith. Plus, how boring would life be if we knew each step and the final result?

I think there are so many people in this world that know step one – it’s the yearning you have in your heart. It’s the passion you can’t stop thinking about. But sadly, most people don’t take action. Without action, you’ll never make it to step two. You’ll never know the wonderful things God has in store for you.

My late-night conversation with my Uncle Steve was so fulfilling and inspiring. After two months of traveling solo, it was so nice to be refueled.

I hung out with my Aunt Lori and Uncle Jim for the next two days, getting to know more about them when they were in their 20s. My aunt showed me photo albums and it was great getting to know more about my grandpa because he died when I was five years old.

My aunt and uncle’s daughter, Melissa, was about to move to Wyoming so we talked about her new adventure. Their friends came over to eat a couple of times and I spend those days feeling like I was their own daughter.

It was time to fly back to Anchorage, Alaska, where I had left my car. I needed to make sure I was out of Alaska and Canada before all of the winter snow hit. I had a layover in Seattle again. I got lucky on the flight there and got an empty row to myself. The flight from Seattle to Anchorage gave me an exit row with additional leg room.

I wouldn’t arrive in Anchorage until close to midnight. I reflected on my time in Denver and started to get excited about the 36-hour ferry ride I would be taking soon from Haines to Prince Rupert.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Day 67: Mystery Man

Two of my cousins were getting married in Denver over Labor Day weekend. Since I didn’t want to cut my Alaska trip short, I booked a flight to Denver and left my car in Alaska. I would be in Denver for five days and it would be an opportunity to see family members while celebrating these unions.

My Uber arrived just after 4:00 am. I was running on about three hours of sleep because of the preparing and packing I had to do the night before. I talked with my driver about how Uber was temporarily removed from Anchorage because taxies were objecting, but Uber was reinstated the year prior.

When I checked into my Delta flight, they said my bag weighed 67 pounds! I told the woman behind the counter that the scale must be broken because I packed the same way I normally do for flights and it’s usually 50 pounds. She tried another scale and it also said 67 pounds. I felt justified all of the times I complained about carrying my suitcase up and down stairs constantly for the last two months.

The fee for an overweight bag was $100. I told the woman, “Wouldn’t it just be smarter for me to buy another bag at the store over there and pay for a second bag fee of $35?” She responded, “Actually, I have a suitcase that we need to get rid of in the back. You can have it. It’s missing a wheel though.”

She brought the suitcase out and it had a small slit in the back and was indeed missing a wheel. I opened my suitcase at the counter for everyone to see my underwear and started putting heavy items, like my jeans, into the smaller suitcase. I realized I was probably carrying more jeans than I normally do since I was traveling for such a long time. In addition, I was carrying my laptop bag as my carry-on, which threw off my normal packing routine.

While I finished paying for my two bags, the woman mentioned that they were overbooked by six-seven people because they normally have two early morning flights, but that day only had one, being the end of the season.

After choosing the slowest line at TSA, I walked to the counter at the gate to get my seat assignment. Delta stopped giving people a seat assignment unless they pay. I had a layover in Seattle and the woman told me she had another flight (also a layover in Seattle) that would arrive in Denver at 7:00 pm instead of 4:00 pm. I had dinner plans so I decided to pass up the other flight, even though she mentioned I would receive a gift card.

As I waited to board, I heard an announcement that they still needed someone to give up their seat. The person would receive a $400 voucher! I went back up the counter, but someone snuck in ahead of me and took the opportunity. I was kicking myself. Time used to be more valuable to me, but now that I’m no longer getting a paycheck, money is more valuable than a couple of hours. I tried to convince myself to let it go. Spending too much of my life stressing about things like this was not good for my health.

I was able to get an aisle seat, but it was the very last row where you can’t recline. I couldn’t sleep so I watched Infinity War while I was hit with butts from people waiting in line for the bathrooms. I cursed Apple once again when I realized my headphones wouldn’t fit the jack for the tv. Thankfully, they gave out free headphones for the flight.

It was a three-hour flight and I had a two-hour layover in Seattle. I couldn’t get my seat assignment until it was closer to departure, so I ate some breakfast. I got sidetracked and realized boarding was starting soon and I forgot to get my seat assignment. I walked to the counter and asked for an aisle seat. The women told me she only had middle seats left. She assigned a seat to me and I stepped aside to send some texts. A few minutes later, the woman tapped my shoulder and said, “I had to upgrade someone to Business Class, which means it opened up a seat in Comfort Plus. I put you there.” I was thrilled because Comfort Plus gives you an extra few inches of legroom.

A guy in his 20s inched near me and asked about boarding zones. It was our time to board so we headed down the tunnel. He said he was going to Denver for a wedding and I laughed, “So am I. Well two weddings actually.” The guy behind him chimed in, “I’m going to Denver for a wedding too.” We asked the names of the brides/grooms to see if we were going to the same wedding. They were both attending weddings for a Hanna, but were different weddings.

The window seat was empty and a large, tall man in his late 40s was sitting in the aisle seat. Arriving at our row, a tall man said, “I’m in the window seat.” He was so dreamy – tall, thin but fit, had a black cowboy hat on, a little bit of brown facial hair scruff, sunglass, and seemed like someone walking in from a movie. We got out of our seats so he could get to the window. The three of us standing in the aisle was comical. Aisle man was 6’5”, window man was 6’8”, and I’m 6’1”. As the window man started to go towards his seat, aisle man said, “Great, all of us in the same row.” Window man replied, “Yeah, all the big people together.”

I looked towards aisle man and said, “Did he just call me big?” Embarrassed, window man said, “I mean long, tall!” I replied, “Well, I do have hips so get over it.” The three of us laughed about how hard it is to travel when you’re tall. Thankfully, we had Comfort Plus. We each explained where we were going and I mentioned I quit my job, sold my house, and was traveling. Window man said, “Did you just go through some big life change?” I replied, “No…well, I mean, I did get divorced last year.” The men laughed and confirmed this was basically a mid-life crisis – a discovery of the self.

Window man sat there with his hat and sunglasses on, leaning with a cool swagger. I was regretting my three hours of sleep, barely any makeup, and shabby hair. We kept talking and within a few minutes, aisle man was out of the conversation.

Window man told me he was in Seattle for work and has been living in Edwards, Colorado for the last few months. Then he told me he was from the St. Louis area and was 38 years old. I couldn’t believe it. I’m also 38 and from St. Louis. We didn’t go to the same high school because we lived about 30 minutes from each other. I thought it was such a coincidence. Window man talked to me about where he’s lived (Alaska, California, Florida, and Colorado). For a few years, he lived in Malibu, about an hour from where I lived.

Window man and I kept talking, and talking, and talking. After about 30 minutes, he took off his sunglasses, and another hour later he took off his hat. His light brown hair was ear-length and he would run his hand through his hair, making it slowly fall back towards his face. His foot was propped up on the armrest in front of him and he played with his hat that was now on his lap.

I felt like I was in a romantic comedy. Maybe it’s because I had watched several recently, but this man seemed like someone straight out of those movies. He was very vague about his job so I kept thinking he was probably someone famous and I wouldn’t find out until the flight was over.

Window man told me about his father passing away 10 years ago from leukemia and how hard it was. He hasn’t talked with his brother since and had no idea where he was living. We talked about family relationships and the difficulties that come with it.

Window man and I started talking about romantic relationships and I told him about my marriage of nine years, the lies my ex told me, and the divorce. We also talked about power dynamics in relationships. I explained that even though I was successful and in a power position at work as well as most areas of my life, I don’t want to be in charge in a romantic relationship. My ex-husband was passive and never made decisions. I had to make all the decisions and do all of the planning.

Window man told me, “I’ve gotten the impression you’re an alpha woman?” I confirmed, “Yes.” He said, “I like alpha women. My girlfriend is an alpha woman. But I’ve told her that it’ll never be mistaken that I’m the man in the relationship.” We agreed that we want to be with someone who is our equal. I told him, “The thing with an alpha woman is she won’t let you be dominant in the relationship if she doesn’t trust and respect you.”

Window man told me his girlfriend is in the medical field and they have been dating for a couple of months. I was saddened to hear that he had a girlfriend. Then he said, “Who knows? Maybe she’ll break up with me in a few months.”

Window man and I talked about therapy and how helpful it has been for both of us. I explained how my therapist told me that I found my strength while hiking the John Muir Trail and the longer I stayed with Aaron, the more I lost it. She helped me to see how much he was manipulating me and how to process such a loss. Window man said, “I don’t know why people are embarrassed to talk about therapy. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago. Going to therapy helped me by saying things out loud. I would hear myself say things to my therapist and I would think, ‘Did I just say that? I don’t want to be that person.’”

I told window man I was very excited to be taking the ferry from Alaska to Canada in a couple of weeks. He’s taken the ferry three times and recommended that I don’t bring my tent to put on the deck (which I had been planning). He told me to put my sleeping bag on one of the lounge chairs under the solarium and I’d be set.

“So you’ve been very vague about your job. What do you do exactly?” I asked. He laughed and said it was hard to explain. He’s a pilot of small planes (flew them in Alaska) and now he owns a consulting company where he helps corporations separate their planes for corporate and personal use.

We had been talking the entire three-hour flight when the plane started to land. The turbulence was very bad, causing the plane to move up and down rapidly. Feeling nauseous, I grabbed the seat in front of me and told window man, “Hold on.” He asked if it would help if he opened the window. Once he opened it, he started to explain turbulence to me to distract me. It took him five minutes to explain it and ended with, “So you see, there’s nothing to be afraid of.” I replied, “I’m not afraid. I’m about to throw up.”

I started searching for my throw-up bag and couldn’t find it. He quickly found his bag and gave it to me. I was mortified at the thought of throwing up in front of this attractive, incredibly cool man. He said, “It might help if you eat something.” I found the mini-banana I put in my purse earlier. I was struggling to get it open so window man grabbed it, turned it upside down, and squeezed it open. He said, “That’s how the monkeys do it.”

I didn’t throw up, but was still not feeling very well. We landed and were waiting for the door to open. I handed window guy my card, “In case you wanted to follow my blog.” He noticed it was my only card so he took a picture of it and gave it back. He said he might check out my video about the John Muir Trail.

We stood up to leave the plane and shook hands. But then we ended up walking together when we got off the plane. I needed to use the restroom, but wanted to keep talking. As we walked down the hall, I realized I didn’t have my neck pillow. I paused, “Shoot, I think I left my pillow on the plane.” In my head, I debated on whether I should go back or not. Window man said, “You can just buy another one.”

We arrived at the tram to take us to the other side of the terminal. I stood next to him and realized just how tall he was. I’m not used to looking up at people and it was actually making me feel dizzy. Window man asked me how long I planned on traveling and I told him the plan was for two years.

The tram arrived and we headed to the main area. I pointed towards the baggage area and asked, “Do you have baggage?” He laughed, “Oh, I got baggage. But I don’t have a bag.” I needed to pick up my bags so we said our goodbyes. He gave me a hug and said “Maybe I’ll email you.” We chatted for another minute and he hugged me again.

As I walked away, window man said, “You have a lot going for you, stop picking bad guys!” I smiled, “I’m trying!” I arrived at the baggage area and used the restroom. I looked in the mirror and noticed I had smeared mascara under my eyes and looked terrible in my old jeans.

I got my bags and waited for my aunt Lori to pick me up from the airport. I was so happy to have met that man. He helped me realize he’s the type of man I need to date. He’s smart, driven, funny, thoughtful, reflective, and a good conversationalist. I was happy I didn’t take that other flight option for a $400 credit or I wouldn’t have met him. I stood there with a smile on my face, thinking about our conversations. Then I realized…I never asked his name!

I couldn’t believe it. In all that time, I never asked for his name and he never told me. I also had no way of ever contacting him. It would be up to him to contact me if ever wanted to talk to me again. I hated the fact that it would be up to him. However, my therapist helped me realize that I need a guy who is willing to put in effort. Someone who pursues me. It’s difficult for me to sit back and wait, but I’ve realized if a man isn’t strong enough to ask me out, he’s not the man for me. I wasn’t expecting this man to ask me out, he has a girlfriend. But if he finds himself single and interested, he’ll need to be the one to ask me out.

It’s been almost five months since I met window man and I haven’t received an email.  If it’s meant to be, it will be.

Post Edited by: Mandy Strider
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