Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mosquitoes the size of mangos

So we left the fjords and Anchorage behind and headed to Denali National Park. Five hours by bus to meet their bus for the long drive through the park. But when you see moose and caribou around every corner, and golden eagles flying overhead, the ride feels pretty special! We stopped for a picnic, my first indication that staying at Camp Denali meant AMAZING food! There was cake and fruit waiting for us when we arrived, and then we were escorted to Little Maude, our cabin in the woods. Idyllic really, except for the hordes of mosquitoes. I could go on and on about these mosquitoes--how huge they were, how plentiful, how nasty--but I'll spare you the whining. They did put a real dent in our experience. I was up at night swatting and spraying and smudging the room, and still woke with welts on my arms and face. If I dared go outside without my net over my face, my DEET everywhere, and my body covered up, I got eaten alive. Ok. There's the whining.

The first day we opted to skip the hike (read aforementioned description of the mosquitoes) and took a private plane around Mt. Denali instead. That was pretty cool! The afternoon was spent watching Annabelle and her new buddy frolic in the little pond while we lounged, read, and eventually cracked open a bottle of chardonnay. That was the first day in a very long time that I did not work at all. I just relaxed. No internet, no phone, and I just loved every minute. At 6 there was a little reception with yummy cheeses and then a delicious dinner. We met such great people and just enjoyed talking to everyone.

The next morning we signed on for the foray (read: easiest hike). And it is a happy blur of wildflowers and ground squirrels, and Annabelle working on her Junior Ranger activity book in time to get sworn in before we returned to camp. That's when we found out that the group ten minutes behind us encountered a grizzly bear during lunch!!!!

I will long remember the kale salad from that night's dinner, and the ribs and rice that followed, and then the rhubarb crisp. Sigh. The food.

It was a long way out the next day, but we were rewarded with several grizzly bear sightings (nice when you're on a bus!) and then once on the train a moose with two calves! It doesn't get better than that. And here's a big shout out to the Alaska Railroad and their Gold Star Service. We drank Alaskan beer and ate yummy food and Annabelle played tag with all the staff. A real delight that ride was.

And as these things go, before I knew it I was on a plane home...

Happy to be back, to eat Gogo's spaghetti and meatballs last night and then flop into bed with Annabelle reading (her: Betsy Tacy; me: the new Curtis Sittenfeld)

Hit the ground running today and am already in NYC to be on a panel at the Center for Fiction tonight.

But home tomorrow, where we are waiting for my niece Melissa to have her baby! I want her to hold off until I get back from Ithaca on Sunday, but not sure she can.

So I will be watching Sam let the sun shine in during Hair. If you are in or near that part of NY, go see it. It's free!!!!