My advice to anyone planning a trip to Alaska is to go in September. Firstly, the locals aren’t expecting you. This weekend in Seward for instance, which is where we are at the moment, there’s a big arts and music festival on. In Homer, where we’re going tomorrow, there’s a film festival. Tourist season is over and Alaskans are celebrating before they have to hibernate next to their log burners. In addition, and rather more specific to this particular September, the weather has been surprisingly good. Even the locals can’t believe it. I actually got sunburn, although not necessarily that amazing as I have the pigmentation of a mini milk. Our first journey in Gina was to Flat Top Mountain – the most climbed mountain in Alaska. As I was navigating we went the wrong way and hiked to Rabbit Lake instead. It turned out to be a hugely successful mistake however, as the lake in question was beautiful, flanked by huge Mordor-esque mountains. G decided to impress the two German girls we’ve picked up (Zabrina and Petra – crazy but great fun) and went swimming in it. He was incredulous that a lake could be so cold. Silly, silly man. As he slowly regained his pulse we bumped into another girl called Lesley, who’s job was to fly around Alaska and tend to people who have been mauled by either farming machinary or bears. I asked her about the bears. Apparently, the trick is to act dead if a grizzly bear attacks you although you are allowed to fight back a bit if it actually starts eating you. Think the gate is getting locked after the horse has bolted but we nodded at her sage advice. She also asked if we were carrying guns or bear-spray on any of our hikes. We realised the wilderness out here is actually rather wild.
None more so than in Hope, a tiny gold rush hamlet on the Kennai Peninsula and the scene of not one but two brushes with death that we had. Firstly, a moose charged at us. It was eating apples off a tree and we stopped to take photos of it. Next thing I knew it was lurching pretty ungainly in our direction and I was running and screaming. To avoid death by moose you’re supposed to run in zig zags. I challenge anyone to remember this when a huge brown death monster is rampaging after them. You just try and outrun your mates and not cry. Secondly, there was a bloody earthquake! 6.2 on the old richter scale. Having survived one in Nepal, G an I obviously took this in our stride and didn’t panic at all. The locals were pretty cool about it too – they survived the 9.2 one in 1964 and that sunk Hope by 8 feet so this one was just a light ruffle of the feathers.
We actually missed Hope it was so small. G reckoned it was a joke on the map but on second glimpse we found a tiny turn-off and located the collection of sheds that constituted the DownTown Precinct. By this time it was bloody freezing and there was no danger we were camping. Luckily we sourced a wooden cabin in the forest with four beds, owned by a lady with a broken leg called Barbara. She let the four of us stay in it for a couple of nights so we could climb Hope Point and go to the local Music Jam. The hike up Hope Point was strenuous but stupidly beautiful. Like the opening credits of The Raccoons mixed with New Zealand. At the top we could see Anchorage and the whole Seward Highway snaking through the mountains in between. G also saw a black bear, which was another box ticked. At least he claimed he saw a black bear – the photo he took of it would indicate that he saw he a dark bush about 500 metres away.
Other boxes were ticked today as well! We saw Orcas in the wild! Sea otters! Sea lions! And most impressively, a vast tidewater glacier, calving huge lumps of itself into the sea. The whole mountain seemed to be groaning under the strain, thundering it’s disapproval. G likened it to a giant 2p machine at the amusements, sliding icy coppers in to the torrent below. He’s a poet I tell you!
So tonight it’s off to the Seward music festival. We were there last night and it was pretty wild. I fought a four-year old kid in Spartan armour who kept referring to himself as Leonidis, drank too much local cider and danced to a reggae band from Gambia. Next stop is Homer, then back north and onwards…to Canada! A least that’s the plan…don’t let us down Gina!