Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Runnin'

Remember back in April, when I put the word out that I had signed up for three races?

I'm happy to say that as of July 20th, three finish lines had been crossed... Three good times were had (not including training runs & adventures)... And one benchmark and one PR were set.

Firstly, my girlfriend Coral & I ran the Twilight 12k. No memories except yummy beer at the finish line!

Then, Mayors. I've deeply internalized the highs and lows of the experience and put them in the place inside where I store all my intrinsic motivators. The feel-goodness remains close to the surface. I'm so proud of myself - who knew the ability to run a marathon was in me??

Oh yea... I make this look good. Finish line shot is a combination of laughter, tears and general crampage. New benchmark: 04:59:48

Happy Marathon finishers: Stacia, Yan, me and Hannah

And finally... the Her Tern Half Marathon. Coral & I signed up in February, Yan and Stacia in July. The all-ladies/one lucky guy race is so much fun and very girly. I faltered a bit after Mayors and was a little worried going into the race - I know I can run 13.1 miles, I've done worse, but I haven't really been training.

I am SO happy to say I've set a new PR: 02:12:33 for a half marathon - 14 minutes faster than last year! Hell yea! And, on the subject of PRs - it was Coral's first half marathon and she killed in in 02:30 and some change! Badass. 

Crossing the finish line... Always giving face. Ha!

Some of my Alaskan running friends. 

I was inspired by the races to write a little ditty, so I'll share with you. 

Summer Runnin' (to the tune of the Grease classic "Summer Lovin'")

Summer running,
over at last
Summer running,
not very fast

Racing a lot
registered for three

What the hell
was I thinking?

Summer runs
training's begun
Whoa, back in February!

Tell me more, tell me more
Do you run very far?
Tell me more, tell me more
I set a brand new PR

Uh huh, doot doot, uh huh 
~Slow Interlude~

It grows colder
but it doesn't end
I told Mom
I'd do it again

Then I made
my way back hoooooome
Wonder what
race is open nowwww

Summer runs
over at last
But, there's the 
zoooommmmbiieeeee haaaaaaallllfffff
(runners high amnesiaaaa-aaa-aaaaaa)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Trip Report: Devil's Pass to Resurrection Pass to Hope (Ladies Backpack)

No matter your hobbies, I'm sure you've had those well-intentioned conversations with your peers... "Let's totally do that thing together!" And months later... "We still haven't done that thing yet! Let's make it happen!" And months later.... Nothing.

Well, my girlfriends have broken the mold. It's true. We talked about a ladies backpacking trip. We met and planned ladies backpacking trip. And we completed ladies backpacking trip - over the weekend we originally picked, months earlier.

We opted to do Resurrection Pass from Devil's Pass to Hope. It offered new sights and a straightforward, nontechnical hike for all participants.

The Overview:

If you're looking for a straight forward hike with minimal heartache for ample visual rewards, Resurrection Pass is definitely it. Starting from Devil's Pass shaves off 7-9 miles (depending on where you find your mileage reports) and offerings sweet valley views, waterfalls, alpine lakes and a fun pass crossing at 2,400 feet.

Falls on Day 3

It's a struggle to find a decent map of Resurrection Pass and Devil's Pass online. However, both trails are so popular and well-maintained you would have a hard time getting lost. That's my opinion - you should still use your best judgement and prepare before enter any wilderness setting.

We started out Friday evening from Devil's Creek parking lot on the Seward Highway, just south of the Hope turnoff. In under three hours, we covered ~5 miles and found a decent camping spot before it was dark (yea.. It's getting dark again in AK). There was light rain most of the evening, but we still had good visibility of the valleys around us. It was surreal!

Heading toward Devil's Pass, Friday evening

The next day we slept in and eventually packed up as the rain started. For the first half of the day, it dumped. We were all well prepared with rain gear and for the most part, enjoyed the hike to Resurrection Pass. There were horses grazing in the fields above us, trail maintenance crews out and other recreational hikers in our first hour. Then we hit Devil's Pass (2,400'), rounded a bend and came to a beautiful alpine lake. It was gorgeous and there looked like a few great camp spots in the area. If it had been warm, I think we all would have loved to jump in - the lake was that clear and inviting.

So gorgeous. Three little packs on the left are Lisl, Aimee, Liz.

On Saturday, we covered ~20 miles to get to Caribou Creek. We set that as our end goal for Saturday night so that we would only have to hike 7 miles out on Sunday. The rain cleared by afternoon and we spent the afternoon and evening at a comfortable pace and made good time. We took plenty of breaks, including one at Resurrection Pass (2,600'). The trickiest part of Resurrection Pass is not related to the trail, but our own egos... While a direct and nontechnical trail, it's still 20 miles with a pack on. Our feet were SORE (at least) by the end of the day.

Devil's Pass. Lisl, Aimee, Liz & trail dogs Muesli and Bella. 

We had another (welcome) slow start on Sunday morning and took our time hiking out. The final stretch of Resurrection falls in line with the river and follows it out to public campgrounds in Hope. Our journey was muddy for the first few miles, eventually getting out of the brush and back on dry trail. The first and only sign of wildlife came within 1.5 miles of the end of our journey - one of our trail dogs chased a black bear and it's cubs out of the brush and across the trail in front of us. That adrenalin carried us to the finish line!

Taking off Sunday morning.

Logistics & Other Details:
  • Car shuttling is typical for Resurrection Pass (Devil's Pass or Cooper Landing to Hope). We lucked out - friends Hannah & Nate were running the pass and met us on trail to take keys and move cars. Still grateful - that saved us an hour at least!
  • Bear bins are available at most, if not all, designated campsites on creeks on Resurrection Pass trail. But, to be prepared bring a bear bin or know how to tie your food bags from trees. 
  • There are public use cabins along Resurrection Pass as well - they look beautiful and would be worth checking out!

Trip Highlights:
The alpine lake on Devil's Pass - go there. I whole heartedly encourage you to try and camp there if possible. East & Caribou Creek campsites are also pretty sweet.

My personal trip highlights are tied: burritos for dinner Saturday were out of this world. Lisl prepared ground turkey before we left so we could have real food while backpacking. And, as a special part of Mexican backpacking dinner - we brought tequila and triple sec and limes to make margaritas. That was also pretty awesome.

Also, shoutout to my hiking partners for being so tough and badass. And, Emily for hiking 20 miles in a day on her first ever backpack and not complaining once. She's a tough chick!

Emily @ Resurrection Pass. Badass!

Chugach Forest Service

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Alaskan Fireweed Jelly

Friday night, Emily & I hit the trails via bike and rode up through Mountain View in the direction of Muldoon. A few weeks ago, I had spotted some glorious Fireweed blooms and got the idea in my mind that we should make Fireweed Jelly. After getting an idea of what and how many many we needed from the planets, we took off!

Biking to the Fireweed stash was pretty straightforward. There's a trail/road system that gets us over through Mountain View and ultimately runs along Joint-Base Elemendorf Richardson along the Glenn Highway. We couldn't have biked more than two miles from our front door.

We're coming around the bend toward our destination and - Whoa! Moose! On the other side of the fence, but it startled us nonetheless. He was a youngin', with a beautiful velvet rack.

Hey now...

After the excitement of the moose wore off, we got to work collecting Fireweed blossoms. With two people at work, it only took 40 minutes (or less). For simple measuring (instead of guessing) we brought our Fair Share mugs

After rinsing the blossoms, it was time to boil the Fireweed color down. Taste and smell aside, what I am most excited for with Fireweed jelly is the GORGEOUS color. Can you believe this is natural?

And then you strain the (now colorless) Fireweed blossoms and what you're left with is Fireweed tea. Pour it back in and get to work bringing it to a boil with pectin and sugar.

The finished product!

Between picking the flours, running to Fred Meyer for jars, pectin and sugar the whole process only took 2.5 hours. I drew inspiration from a few sources (linked below), but here is my general recipe:

Fireweed Jelly: makes 9-10 1/2pint jars
10c Fireweed blossoms, washed
1/4c lemon juice
5 1/2c water
Pectin (3.5oz or two packets from Sure Jell box)
5c sugar

Mix blossoms, lemon juice and water in your big pot and bring to a boil, let boil for 10 minutes. Strain flowers from juice (I used wide-slatted colander, for fear the mesh would clog) and put Fireweed tea back in pot, turn to low - add Pectin (I free poured - the container I bought was 4.6oz, so I guesstimated how much 3 would be). Bring to boil, add sugar, stirring as you add. Let boil (a wild, frothy boil) for one minute. Turn heat to low, spoon into jars, lid and drop into boiling water for sealing for 10 minutes. Remove, set on towel on counter and wait for the sweet sound of jars sealing.

And my favorite - just by her writing style:

I'm off to make an english muffin with Fireweed Jelly on it right now! Bon Apetit!