Thursday, August 12, 2010

Epilogue: Talkeetna, AK - May 22, 2010

Watch for links to video below, and click on pics for larger versions.

I woke this morning with a pretty good headache, and I look (and sorta feel) like death haha. Too much partying last night, I guess haha. I didn't get to bed until deeeeeeep into the morning hours... people kept buying round after round and slamming 6-ers on the table! What's a boy supposed to do? Sheesh. I think Denis and I were some of the last few people left in the Fairview Inn at closing time.

Luckily, some extra special anti-hangover medicine was made available at the table, and actual food included another pair of those mindblowing cinnamon rolls from the Talkeetna Roadhouse. After that, we all went back to the TeePee to get our crap and met in a back alleyway behind Denali Overland Transport--a weird combination of gift shop and shuttle service--to load up the van for the drive back to Anchorage. And already I longed for just one more look at the terrifying ridges of Mt. Hunter that I'd been staring at all week long.

It was a long drive. Or so it seemed to me, anyway. Reason is, I've had to PEEEE all morning, and I keep forgetting (this entry seens to be generally rather bathroom heavy hahaha).

Along the way, we stopped for coffee at a great little roadside stand in Wasilla for some excellent espresso, and then, like an idiot, I managed to get back in the van, sit down, and enjoy my espresso long enough to oops... realize I hadn't take a leak as the van started to move again for the next leg of our journey. Doh!

Aside from that, however, one of the things I learned on the drive back -- once again from Tyler -- was that the first big mountain range we'd driven through on the way in from the Anchorage airport to Talkeetna 10 days ago was the Chugach Range. He also informed me that it was visible from the Anchorage airport. I didn't even realize I was taking pictures of 10 days ago... (!) AWESOME!

But why is this really cool? Because the Chugach Range is very high on my list of places under consideration for my first heli-ski trip. Tyler mentioned an especially interesting fact about the Chugach that actually explains why it's such a good place to heli-ski: although the summit elevations of most of the mountains in it are rather unimpressive with numbers around 8,000 and 9,000 feet, the lowest points of the range pretty much dip into the sea, which means almost ALL of their 8,000 or 9,000 feet height is prominence--meaning exposed and skiable (or climbable).

On another mountain, your base camp might sit at, say, 5,000 feet above sea level, and you might climb from there to an 8k or 9k summit--only 4,000 vertical feet of prominence. A 9,000 foot Chugach peak, by contrast, is almost two vertical miles to its summit from where you start climbing (or skiing down, as the case may be). Many of the biggest mountains in the world have far less prominence than most of the peaks in the Chugach Range--an incredible fact, but such is the scale of things in Alaska.

Arriving at the Anchorage airport was uneventful (other than I finally BOLTED to the bathroom hahahaha) but then, after we all rescheduled our plane tickets, we were left with many many MANY hours of a whole lot of nothing to do--with my fellow climbers (Denis, Jeff, and Paul shown here).

I think I had something like 13 hours to sit in the airport and do nothing but think about how much I wanted to just sleeeeeeeep. Once again, I spent a lot of time hanging out at the same bar I sat at on the way IN (but this time with my climbing compadres).

The pizza at that place truly suuuuuucked... especially after such a good one at Mountain High Pizza Pie in Talkeetna the day before. Also, the  garlic knots suuuuucked big balls. Actually, so did the salads--and now that I think about it, pretty  much everything else, too, except the beers. The cheese sticks weren't bad, I guess. Hard to screw up deep fried cheese.

We spent some time wandering the hallways, shopping, goofing off, eating, and eventually, I became extremely bored and apparently rather easily entertained by... the floor...? Hours later, it got no better, and I became STUPENDOUSLY bored.

But the time passed, and as I watched each of my climbing compatriots peel off one by one, each headed back to their own worlds, the lives they left behind, I couldn't help but feel a little sad that it was coming to an end. All I trained for, all I worked for now behind me, and nothing but incredible memories now. And as they left, I became the last remaining RMI AK Seminar 2010 team member in Alaska, left to wander the marble hallways of the concourse for hours on end, a sunburnt ghost of an experience past.

Absolutely, completely, utterly, amazingly, mind-bendingly, incredibly, and ultimately magnificent... and here endeth my first Alaskan saga. Glad to be home safe and sound.

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