Well, after fourteen…yes, FOURTEEN, hours in the backseat of a Blue Bird bus, I had not the mental capacity nor the patience to sit down and write about my day when we arrived back to the cabin last night shortly after 10:00 p.m. I was so over Alaska. So. Over. It.
I’m all for beautiful scenery and an abundance of wildlife, but if that bus had an “eject” button after ten hours of being bounced around on gravel mountain roads, I would’ve pushed it and launched myself back to Georgia lickidy split.
It didn’t start out so bad…I was asleep before we got out of the parking lot – between the bouncing, the heater under my seat, and the Dutch accent of our tour guide, it was as if I was swaddled in a blanket with lullabies playing softly in the background. Baylee was across the aisle from me snoring with her mouth wide open – I’m fairly certain the only part of the tour Baylee was awake for was lunch. I woke up about an hour and a half later, just in time to reach the first rest stop, but I didn’t have any trouble falling back to sleep as soon as we took off. I bought a book on climbing Mt. McKinley at our second stop, which kept me entertained between naps. We saw bears and their cubs, a caribou walking just a few feet from us up the road, Dall sheep, a moose, praire dogs, and we even got a glimps of Mt. McKinley. Only 10% of tourists get to see the partial mountain during their stay in Alaska and only 5% get to see the whole thing, so we were pretty lucky.
Each trip we take, I become obsessed with one aspect of the area. And I know this is weird, but it’s usually creepy facts about the area. For example, in San Francisco, I became interested in suicide attempts off of the Golden Gate Bridge. In Yellowstone and Yosemite, we bought books on deaths inside the park. In New York, I load up on knowledge about the 9/11 attacks. It’s not that I necessarily like things like that, I’m just interested in it. This time, it’s climbing Mt. McKinley. Not that I personally would want to climb it, but I’m fascinated by the people that actually are brave enough to attempt it. I read almost the entire book in a day and learned all about the history of the mountain, the native stories on how it was formed, the first summit attempt, the Sourdough Expedition, the first winter summit success, the trouble with litter on the mountain, the cost of climbing, and even death stories from the mountain. Only 51% of people who attempt to climb it actually reach the 20,320 foot summit. Any question about Mt. McKinley (or Denali as it’s called around here), ask me.
It all started going downhill after lunch – Tom had eaten the entire box of PopTarts and had even stolen mine from my purse while I was asleep, so I’d skipped breakfast and was extremely hangry by the time we reached the lodge where we were going to eat. We were served turkey sandwiches and soup – I’m positive I could have eaten about 10 more – and were directed upstairs to a sled dog demonstration, which was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip.
We learned about the different breeds of sled dogs, all about the Ididerod Race, and our guide was actually training to compete in four years to follow in his dad’s footsteps, since he won the race in 1973. Then, they took us outside where we got to meet the rescue sled dogs.
Back on the bus, I tried to read but kept falling asleep only to be woken up by the group of polygamists (yes, there was a group of sister wives in front of us) on the bus that kept claiming to see wildlife and then saying things like, “oops, that’s just a rock” or “get a picture of that squirrel!” When we would actually see wildlife, the guide would tell us to be quiet so maybe the bear would come closer – the sister wives had no clue how to be quiet and would scream, shout, and flap their arms out of the window and scare everything away. This added to my grumpiness, along with the lack of food, bumpy roads, and shivering cold– it all combined to create the perfect storm. We’ll skip this part; just know that it includes tears, violence, and me nearly kicking out a window at hour 13.
The tour was definitely my least favorite part of the trip – it was great, really great, for about 4 hours and then I was done. Who pays to ride on a bus for 14 hours? Oh, there’s a giant grizzly bear? Who cares, I can see that in a zoo. Let’s get this turnip wagon out of the woods so we can get some dinner.
Here are some highlights of the 14-hour tour:
– We saw two bears feeding on a dead caribou. Too bad they were like, 19 miles away and to see them clearly, you’d need to enlist the help of the Hubble telescope.
– Seeing real-life polygamists who doubled as professional photographers.
– Free cookies – Baylee and I had five each and Tom had anywhere between 10-15.
– The end of the tour.