Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ALASKA 2011: Anchorage, Denali, Seward

Alaska 2011

Before I delve into this Alaska post, take a look at this picture I took from the plane looking over Yosemite National Park and Half Dome!!!! Can you believe I’ve been on top of that?!!?!? Sooo cool to see it from the air.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summers! Summer is my favorite time of the year, and you probably knew that already if you’re a good friend of mine.
Ever since I was really little, my parents have always taken me and Garrison on vacations whenever we had a break. Because of swimming and school, that usually meant our vacations were after Summer JOs in August, and sometime during the Christmas break. This schedule has carried over still and those are usually the times we go on trips. Like last year’s Alaska trip was in August.
Well, this year was a little different for the first time. The reason why we ended up on vacation in June/July was because of me and fortunately it was for a good purpose!

I got a job at Felt Bicycles!

Yep, everything fell into place. Long story short.. I applied for a different job within Felt, my resume got passed to the Director of Engineering, and he called me up for an interview! I got the job for a position as a helping hand within the engineering department doing whatever they need help with and it was my Engineering Management degree and experience managing my Senior D project that sold me! Well that and the fact that I have two Felts and I love biking haha.
After that we discussed my availability and determined my working dates to be July 5 to August 12. Only 6 weeks, but 6 jam-packed weeks.
I was initially able to start work on June 27th, but Jeff, the guy who’s my boss and the Director of Engineering, was going on vacation. So he asked me to come in on the 27th to pick up a laptop, and I would get paid for 10 working hours that week to start reviewing their Microsoft Project timeline files.

Therefore….. that leads me to my blog post topic…….. ALASKA!
After that second time that I came in to Felt to discuss work and dates, I immediately went home and told my mom that if the Naumans were going on vacation this summer, it would have to be this free week that I had until work started on the 5th. So, being the loving parents they are, my mom and dad scheduled a vacation to Alaska very quickly. We were set to take off late afternoon on the 27th and come back home late on the 4th of July right before I started on the 5th.

If you recall, we went to Alaska just last year at the beginning of August to Glacier Bay National Park. We stayed in one place for that period of time and it was just a tease compared to all that Alaska has to offer. It’s the biggest state in America and we just had to go back and experience more of it. My mom’s obsessed with Alaska and she just wants to go everywhere. So when I suggested we go there since our planning timeframe was so short, she immediately jumped on the opportunity.
My dad scheduled the flights and stuff, so we were set to fly into Anchorage after a stop in Seattle and then move on up to Denali, then back down to Anchorage and take a train to Seward for the last couple days before flying out of Anchorage back home.

I try to focus my blog more towards fun things and training/racing reports, so I won’t bore you with the details of the trip. You can ask me more about it if you care and I kept a record of it along the way in my vacation Memos.

That being said, there are a few epic activities I would love to share about!

1)      Denali Whitewater Rafting down the Nenana River!

What? Rapids? Rafting? That has nothing to do with training, you are correct.
However, it was just too awesome to not post here. Most people probably don’t know this about me, but I’ve rafted down a lot of rivers in Wyoming and Montana and even New Zealand. That goes back to all those Nauman vacations I mentioned earlier. We’re an adventurous breed.

So this whole rafting thing wasn’t a planned activity until we drove into Denali on that first full day in Alaska and I saw a big sign for it. I had to do it and I was immediately so stoked. We signed up one of the days after a helicopter tour and woke up bright and early to suit up into dry suits.

Needless to say, it was awesome. We rafted for 2 hours through Class 1-4 rapids and it was just a blast. Our guide was great, and the couple we shared the boat with was very nice. That was the first time we had ever been down a river that was completely glacier-fed. All of the water was silty and gray in color because it was coming off the glacier after being frozen and stuck there for millions of years! My dad said it best when he mentioned that it looked like liquid cement just tearing down the river.
Perfect trip!

2)      Mountain Biking through Denali National Park

This was quite a special treat. The Denali National Park and Preserve is completely closed off from regular vehicular traffic and it’s like Zion National Park where you can only drive in on a big bus. The park runs these buses on a schedule every single day and there are varied lengths of the trip, with the longest being a full 12 hour day into and out of the full length of the park on the main road. But it’s really annoying because you can’t just drive through on your own.

Thus, when my Dad and I found a brochure for the Denali Outdoor Company advertising their rentable mountain bikes, we scratched our heads trying to figure out where you would ride the bikes.
That led us to asking the guy at DOC and explained how you can hop on one of the Park buses that has a two-slot bike rack on the front, head off into the Park on the bus, and get off wherever you want to bike back! Yes, please!
Shortly thereafter, my dad and I had bus tickets for the next morning at 7:30am and we rented the bikes and put them in our room for the night.

This was definitely an unforgettable experience for many reasons. 1) no one really knows you can do this; 2) no one we talked to had ever done it before, even the guy renting out the bikes; 3) it was pouring rain; 4) our bus broke down; 5) it took an hour to get a new replacement bus; 6) only old people visit Denali, so no one else was biking the road; 7) it was just me and my dad; 8) we were in one of the best preserved National Parks in the US; and 9) we found moose tracks in the road!

The rain was definitely annoying and I was just wishing it would go away the whole time. Grinding up the steep hills wasn’t bad, but having to speed down hills with mud and muck spraying everywhere just sucked. Overall though, the scenery and the natural wilderness just trumped all the suckiness of the weather and we were overwhelmed with how awesome the Park views were.

I would highly suggest any mountain biking fans to travel up to Denali and do that ride someday before it either gets too popular, or more people start visiting the park and they stop allowing it. I would love to go back someday for a longer ride if anyone wants to join me!

3)      Running around Seward

Seward, Alaska.
My new favorite little coastal town. I’m a sucker for American coastal cities and this one was absolutely beautiful. Picture a little town on the water with a big marina and towering snow-capped mountains surrounding it in every direction.

We took the train to Seward from Anchorage after we returned from Denali and that was a cool trip in itself because we saw a few huge glaciers that the train chugged right along on by. The plan was to be there only for a night and then return later the next day on the later train. So we posted up in the (generic) Seward Hotel when we got there and got ready to explore the town!

The funny thing we learned while we were on our way to Seward and the entire time we were there was that the Seward 4th of July celebration is apparently the biggest 4th of July party in Alaska. People flock to Seward leading up to the weekend in their RVs and motorhomes for a camping spot and a chance to celebrate Independence Day with fellow Alaskans. It’s pretty neat and we just happened to be there at the right time... minus the fact that we were missing the actual 4th of July there haha.

The other fun thing that happens on the 4th in Seward is the Mount Marathon Running Race, a tradition dating back to the first race in 1915 on the 4th of July. The basic statistics are as follows: 5km (3.1 miles), the race begins in downtown Seward, the halfway point is at the top of Mount Marathon, and it is a 3022ft elevation climb in a little over a mile and a half. RIDICULOUS.

Obviously there was no way were doing that, but we were in Seward for the two days leading up to the race and there were a lot of people gearing up for it.
Which now leads me to talk about my late night Seward run! Following a relaxing dinner at the Railway Cantina near the train station and some ice cream by the waterfront, I decided I needed to do a long run. I let my food digest, and suited up for what I thought would be a nice leisurely run.
Little did I know it would turn into a full on motivational run! I was getting cheered and high-fived as I ran by the camp sites by people who probably were just assuming I was doing a little practice run before the big day haha. It was so funny and I just played along with it the whole time. Alaskans are nice people for sure.

For now that’s my update from Alaska 2011. There were tons of other activities we did, but these were the most ‘active’ and interesting other than some hikes here and there : )
I hope you thoroughly enjoyed it!

Keep posted for anything interesting I come across at Felt!

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