Recently, we went to Katmai National Park. Katmai is best known for its bears—brown bears, some of the biggest in the world, made gloriously fat by the endless supply of spawning salmon that enter the Brooks River every year.
Many apologies for not having posted in a while, but summer in Alaska is short, and man, but we’ve been busy. We’ve traveled to the top of Alaska and back down again, with all kinds of stops in between. We’re heading into winter with lots of travel experiences to write about, and here’s the first of them, about our short trip to the Arctic!
In August, Dale and I and our friend Jingyi took a day trip to Barrow, or Utqiaġvik, as it is now known.¹
The town of Utqiaġvik (an Iñupiat word that’s pronounced oot- kay-ahg-vik) is the northernmost point in the United States, and this was our reason for going. We wanted to dip our fingers in the Arctic Ocean, maybe see polar bears or whales, and visit the northern-most point of America before catching the 7:00 PM flight back to Anchorage.
Utqiaġvik sits at 71°18′N 156°44′W and is 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, so you might think its slogan, “top of the world,” is accurate. In reality, there are towns in Norway, Denmark, Canada, and Russia that are further north,² but Utqiaġvik is at the top of Alaska (and therefore the U.S.), and it made for a great trip.
For such a small town, Seward has a large collection of public art. In fact, the Alaska state legislature named Seward the Mural Capital of Alaska in 2008 because of the prominent number of murals that can be seen around town.
We never take flying for granted.
Maybe it’s a result of growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, when going on an airplane was still a big deal for most people, but we’re always thrilled to see familiar territory in a new way, and even the most mundane of terrain becomes fascinating at 30,000 feet. And when the landscape is particularly spectacular, as is the case with Alaska, the flight becomes a gift laid out before our eyes.
There are numerous Camino routes throughout Europe, including Camino Francés, the most popular walk and the one featured in a favorite movie of ours, The Way. So why, then, did we choose to walk one of the lesser known routes, Camino del Norte?
We had a particular vision for what we wanted in our Camino experience, and Dale did some serious homework to find the trail that most matched that vision:
“Cheri! Get inside!”
I was at work, walking from one building to the next, when I heard Dave, Facilities Manager, clapping his hands and yelling at me from across the parking lot. How weird, I thought.
We’re on the prowl for bears.
It’s an obsession, really. I talk to coworkers and monitor Facebook pages, looking for the best places to see bears. We drive unpaved roads and rural neighborhoods at a crawl, perhaps slower than we should, considering that Alaska is a place where people value their privacy. We scrutinize creeks where the salmon are starting to run and peer into the forest that lines the roads, hoping to glimpse the round, dark shape of a bear.
I experienced a great deal of anxiety while walking the Camino, and much of it was centered around getting lost. A part of me feared that we would disappear into the wilderness of northern Spain, licking the peanut dust off our empty snack bags to survive.
Never mind that Camino del Norte is not that wild; I was neurotic about having the right resources during our journey.
In the fall of 2015, Dale and I hiked 425 miles of Camino del Norte, the northern-most branch of Camino de Santiago, a historic pilgrimage with starting points and routes all over Europe. Continue reading “It began with a movie: Why we walked Camino del Norte”
Here’s a little bit of mid-week happiness: sea otters!