Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year in Review

2008 has been a good year, with lots of new experiences and good times. We finished our trip around the world, moved back to Alaska, and floated the Grand Canyon with my whole family. As the new year comes up right around the corner, I am having a difficult time figuring out what to do in 2009. I suppose it will all unfold as the time moves by!

Here is 2008 in Review. I wish everyone a New Year full of wonderful and surprising experiences!

January, 2008 I spent traveling through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia by myself, without a guide book. It was a great way to travel and I ended up in some pretty off-the-wall places as well as some well known ones reccommended by other travelers. This photo was taken during sunset at Angkor Wat, which was one of the amazing places I was able to see.

February, 2008 I met up with my grandfather and uncle at my mothers home in New Zealand on the South Island. My grandfather and I spent some time touring the North Island first, where I learned to drive on the right side of the road and managed to completely terrify my grandfather:
"Yarrow, you're too far over. You are going to go in the ditch."
"Yarrow, you almost hit that car"
"Yarrow, you are on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!"Or was that the right side of the road?

March 2008 I met up with Tim in Argentina and we traveled to Igazu Falls, and then through Paraguay and Uruguay. I turned 34 queitly as we where taking an all day bus journey across Paraguay.

April 2008 was spent in Peru, seeing Macchu Picchu (of course) and then heading down south to see my favorite thing . . . petroglyphs, at Toro Muerto. On the way we visited Amanti Island, where life was still going on much as it has for 1000's of years.

May 2008, was spent trekking around Huaraz, Peru, before moving up into Ecuador where we stayed under a smoking volcano ("no big deal" the kids told me) and took steaming hot mud treatments inside a giant box.

June, 2008 we were back in the United States for the first time in over a year. We flew in to Pheonix, bought a car, and drove to Alaska. I can remember being shocked by how convenient everything was in the US, and also by how many God-awful big box stores there were. Do we ever have some ugly architecture!

July, 2008 we arrived back in Alaska mid-June-just in time to enjoy the coldest, dreariest summer on record. That's OK-I still loved it!

August, 2008 was still cold!

September, 2008 was a month for gathering wood for winter, watching the moose rut, picking berries, and watching the fall colors.

October 2008 came in with angel dust in the mountains and went out with a wind storm featuring winds of 100 miles per hour. Lots of trees, roofs, power lines, and anything else laying around was taken out.

November 2008 the entire family went down to Arizona to do a 25 day raft trip of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The weather was spectacular-warm and clear-and we spent most nights sleeping out under the stars watching meteors streaking the sky.

December, 2008 is back in Alaska for the holidays. We have lots of snow this year and-go figure-it's cold! Minus 15 degrees today but with all the wood we chopped throughout the summer it's nice and warm in the house.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Solstice

December 21st, the shortest day of the year, gets less than 6 hours of daylight in Anchorage. But what beautiful daylight it is! We spent the afternoon chasing the sun up bird ridge, had a few drinks at the Brown Bear with friends, and then watched this fabulous sunset along the inlet before having dinner with the family. And starting tomorrow, we get a few more minutes of light each day!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Grand Canyon: 25 days in the rift

On the 8th of Nov, after many years on a wait list and several months of frantic preparation, Tim and I flew to Arizona for a 25 day raft trip of the Grand Canyon with our family and five people we had never met before. After meeting and unloading on the 10th, the actual river trip would begin on the 11th at Lee's ferry and end 25 days and 225 miles downstream at the Diamond Creek pull out.

That first day of setup went by in a blur of activity and confusion; unloading and pumping up boats, loading coolers, a kitchen, a Porto toilet, and all our personal gear. And then there were all the questions to be answered; who wants what boat? Where the hell is everything? How do you use and set up all this gear? And in the back of our minds, who is this handful of strangers that we will be on the river with for the next 25 days?

From left to right; Amber, Barney, Carl, Patricia, Ryan, Clint (in orange), Sandra and Yarrow (sitting), Gene (in the cowboy hat), Tim, Kimmer, Theta, Dick, and David.

We planned for an early start on the 11th, but disaster struck before sunrise! My uncle, Barney, ran into a cable in the dark and injured his back. He is not sure if he will make it or not, but we have to get down the river that day per park regulations. He spends the day laying down, well medicated, and my stepfather, David, treats him with acupuncture. Finally by midday we leave with Gene rowing Barney's boat to the closest campsite we can stay at, about six miles down river.

Fortunately, the next day Barney is starting to feel better and is ready to row the first big rapid of the river, House Rock. We reach House Rock about midway through the day and, having never been on a river like this before, I take one look at the raging current and big holes and decide that I am absolutely going to die. I grab my big sunglasses and slap them on my face to hide my tears of terror and jump into the boat with David, who has rowed the GC three times. Carl and David go through House Rock first, and then, still very much alive, we pull into the eddy to watch the others go through. Clint, with Tim in the boat, goes through pretty smooth. Then Ryan, who is rowing a big river for the first time ever, goes through and nearly gets buried in one of the holes, but manages to pull out of it OK. Barney follows last and somehow gets spun around backwards, but also pulls through. Seeing that it can actually be done, I am feeling much better now about the whole rapid thing.

Ryan in the House Rock hole.

Grabbing for the oars

Barney headed down backwards.

That evening when we pull into camp, we begin the routine that continues throughout the trip; setting up camp, dinner, and then sitting around the fire pan where Amber keeps us laughing most of the night and a competition begins between the pyromaniacs of the group to see who can pile on the most wood. In the beginning of the trip my mother, Carl, and I are the contenders, but by the end of the trip, Ryan, who according to his girlfriend, Amber, had never burned much more then one of those yuppie fire logs before, comes out as the clear winner of the title "King Pyromaniac".

Theta sitting in front of a fire that is just getting started for the night, with the wood pile behind him.

A few days into the trip we stop for our first layover day at Nankoweep where we can see the granaries left behind by the Anasazi about 900 years ago, and also hike up to the rim to see a boulder covered with petroglyphs. On this boulder is one of the most interesting Kokopellis that I have seen. We eventually have 5 or 6 layover days on the trip, all centered around hiking up beautiful side canyons or onto the rim of the canyon. All throughout the trip there was a meteor shower which made sleeping under the stars especially amazing as we watched blazes of light streak across the sky.

Little Nankoweep Kokopelli

Nankoweep Granaries

After House Rock, the rapids continued to come along along fast and furious, and every day we went through several. In one of the smaller rapids, Carl decides to play a trick on his passengers, Sandra and Theta, and jumps out of the boat with them talking away on the seat in front of him. It took them a while to notice that they were alone in the boat, and when they finally do, after doing several double takes, Theta jumps on the oars as the boat was heading for the canyon walls. He gets the boat through the waves and Carl eventually swam back to the boat and got back in.

We were lucky throughout the trip to have no flips, but three other people also ended up swimming, although not purposely like Carl. In Serpentine rapid, Ryan's boat tilted up on it's side and he was ejected from the boat. He was able to get back in quickly. My mom and David were not quite as lucky in Sapphire. My mother was sitting on top of the wood pile that they had gathered into the back of the boat for that evening's fire when David, not paying attention, took the boat through a big hole sideways and it tilted completely on its side. They were both tipped from the boat, and the entire wood pile fell on top of my mother, many pieces of which landed on her head! The boat came back down, right side up, but landed with my mom and David underneath it. Eventually they were able to get out from underneath, but while my mom was able to grab onto the boat, David was immediately sucked down into a hole. Barney watched all this from down below on the river and as the boat drifted down the river towards him he had Gene row to intersect it. At the right moment he jumped into the boat and pulled my mom back in, while David, who had eventually been spit out of the hole, swam towards the boat and, exhausted, was pulled in as well. After this near disaster, we were all a little more careful!

All too soon, the river started to mellow out again as we came closer and closer to our pull out at Diamond Creek and the end of the trip. On our second to last night came the moment we had waited for the whole trip; Bacon Bomb! Having saved our bacon grease in a metal can for the entire trip, we put the can in the fire to heat. Once it was boiling, we used another can attached to the end of a long stick to pour in some water and watch the grease explosion!

Our last night on the river, we all stayed up a little later and wished the trip could last a little longer. It was amazing to have spent so much time away from civilization, rowing and hiking and sleeping under the stars at night. It makes you realize how little we really need in life to survive and be satisfied!

Inner Granite Gorge-the oldest exposed rock in North America

On one of our hikes a few of us used a rope to get down into the narrows of Deer Creek

At Havasu, with it's blue, blue water.

David (left run) and Carl (right run) through Horn Rapid.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Home again

Tim and I just returned from a month long trip rafting down the Grand Canyon. I will write more about it and post some photos soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Blank Ballot

Yesterday, as I was handed a blank ballot, I felt so happy, so blessed, to live in a country where I have the freedom to vote. In our year and a half spent overseas, my husband and I spent time in many countries where people can't vote. Or if they can vote, the results of these 'elections' are already determined by corruption and intimidation before they even cast their ballot. The people in these countries told us that they did not have opportunity. They did not have freedom of speech. They lived in fear of their government. They had no hope for change. So as I stood in the voting booth with that empty ballot in my hand, it was amazing to me that I was there, holding onto hope. Holding onto the power to bring about change.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winter rolls in

Fall in Alaska has come and gone and the long winter has set in, introduced by a night of hurricane force winds that left trees down, roofs blown off homes, and power outages for about 20,000 people around Anchorage. The berries have been made into jam, the moose are in rut with the bigger bulls gathering up the females and chasing off smaller bulls, and it's almost time to vote.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Itchy feet

After 15 months traveling around the world, it felt pretty good to come home. And, it feels pretty good to be home, but... I'm beginning to get those travelers itchy feet again. Lately, I have taken to pouring over maps and Atlases and drooling over photos of exotic places I haven't been to yet.

What to do? What to do? Oh, Oh, What to do? Well, plan more trips, of course. In fact, our next adventure is only a few months away; in November, we have a private 25 day long whitewater rafting trip planned down the Colorado river in the Grand canyon. Following that, I am beginning to brew up some ideas for another solo backpack through Utah's canyon country. Finally, Tim and I are talking about next fall, using his three weeks vacation time to go to Iran. Why Iran? Well, for the history, the culture, the ancient architecture, the beauty of the landscape. And, of course, because it is someplace we have never been.

In the meantime, we are busy doing what most Alaskans do in the summer; getting ready for winter. Our preparations this year have included lots of wood chopping-our insurance against high fuel costs (which, by the way, are still cheaper than most of the countries we visited throughout the world). And of course we take plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful Alaskan wilderness before another long, cold winter sets in.

View of Turnagain Arm from Penguin Peak

Sleeping lady at sunset

The sun peaks through a border of dark clouds. Glenn Alps trail head.

A black bear watches us hiking up penguin Peak


Monday, July 28, 2008

Living in Alaska

Our Alaska Home

We have been home in Alaska now for close to two months and are settling in nicely. Tim has gotten a job, and I have been spending a lot of my time hiking in the mountains close by. I sleep a lot, a symptom my neighbor calls 'decompression', brought on by the sudden ability to relax after 16 months on the road! We are also planning our next trip in November, a private raft trip down the Grand Canyon with the whole family. Speaking of family, my grandfather made the front page of the newspaper yesterday and there are some videos of him talking about bear encounters, slowing down at 81, and frostbiting his ass in the Arctic online at the Anchorage Daily News website. Here are the links:

Mountain Man:Wilderness Shapes a Life

Griffiths bear encounters

Frost bite in the ass

Slowing down by doing the Alaska Wilderness race?

Photos from Alaska

My uncle running the Bird Ridge race

My grandfather and friend Jerry before the Wilderness race