Week 9: August 15 – 17, 2014 – Part 2: Anchorage and Heading Home

After cramming a summer’s worth of clothes and gear into our suitcases and taking care of the paperwork to sell our ride for the summer to one of the trail crew guys, we were ready for the last leg of our Alaskan Adventure.  Friday morning, we crawled down from the A-frame loft one last time, we said our goodbyes, and Misha drove us to Anchorage.  We would be staying with a work associate (Brian) of Alex’s brother who generously offered to take us in while we were in town.

After grabbing lunch with Brian, he took us on a tour of Anchorage.  We checked out the Alaskan Heritage Museum in the Wells Fargo Bank Building before meeting up with Brian’s partner, Tim, and heading to a local Greek festival.

The Greek Festival provided us with great conversation, food, and entertainment.  After topping off dinner with baklava sundaes, we head back to Brian and Tim’s house for the evening.

We spent the night enjoying their company, dogs (Gilda and Gretel), stories, and learning about Tim’s cooking explorations (mustard, yogurt, bread, and cured meats).  We made plans to hike to the top of Flattop Mountain, in Chugach State Park, the next morning.

Future jar of mustard!

Flattop Mountain is a popular summit in Alaska.  It provides 360 degree views of the Alaska and Chugach Ranges, Anchorage, and Cook Inlet after only 1.7 miles of hiking with 1300 feet of elevation gain.  The trail also skirts Blueberry Hill, where, yes, you guessed it… you can pick blueberries when the timing is right.  Despite the rainy weather and cloud cover, we really enjoyed our hike.  The rainy weather made the rock scrambles near the summit slick, so caution was needed when going up and down, and the clouds hid much from our view,  but we still had a great time with Brian and another friend who came along.

After returning to Brian and Tim’s place, we had second breakfast before spending the remainder of the day enjoying their company and learning about and helping to make cured meats and mustard.

Tim’s meat curing work area

Calculating quantities

Cured Pork Jowl (top) and Salami (bottom) in process

Mustard is EASY to make!

As our hours in Alaska drew to a close, Brian worked to get us flight upgrades and succeeded in landing Alex in first class!  We had a quick sushi dinner before Brian and Tim dropped us off at the airport for the first leg of our flight.  We left Anchorage around 9pm local time on Saturday, flew to Houston, TX, where we had a 4 hours layover before our flight to Philadelphia.

We landed in Philadelphia shortly after 3pm EST on Sunday and were greeted by Alex’s parents and brother Tyler.  They took us back to Dave’s parents’ house where Dave’s car was parked for the summer. We all ate and shared stories of our summer before the two of us loaded our luggage in our car and headed home… but only for a short while! We made a quick unpack and repack and were off to Doug’s house in New Jersey.

9 weeks worth of mail!

Doug had picked up Alex’s car which had been in Iowa all summer getting repaired from the deer incident that occurred on Dave and Doug’s ride home from Idaho in June.  So, before the school year started on Wednesday for Alex and Thursday for Dave, we needed the car back at home. After a summer without climbing, however, we couldn’t be so close to the Gunks without making a trip!  Our friends Kevin and Sam met us at Doug’s as well on Sunday night and we all spent the evening catching up after months apart.  Monday morning Doug had to go to work (sad for him!) while the rest of us got some much needed sleep before heading to the Gunks for a day of climbing, and Sam’s first multi-pitch climb!

Alas, our summer was officially winding to a close.  We headed home Tuesday evening, Alex would have her first in-service day of the school year the next morning, and Dave would begin on Thursday.  It was officially time to get back to “normal” life… until our next adventure…

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