Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Camping in Alaska: Who Brought the Space Heater?

A goodly amount of time passing since my last true camping experience, with tent and Therma-rest and lantern and all that, I appear to have forgotten what sleeping on the ground in early September means.

It means that my 40-year-old body protests mightily when forced to recline on uneven ground punctuated by sharp stones that seem to zero in on sensitive areas. It means that one must be in tune with the clock and have appropriate lighting apparatus available to go to the pit toilet, get ready for bed, and find the child's stuffed animal.

Camping in Alaska in early September also means that one must remember the temperature gradient is vastly different from that of camping in the Lower 48 during the same time frame. As one who is historically chilly no matter the season (the only place I was not cold during a camping trip was in South Carolina in May, when I was too hot, and complained about the same amount), I am privy to the Ultra-Warm-Below 40-Keep-Em-Toasty sleeping bag, appropriating it from Yukon who manages to sleep in his skivvy's even while snow piles up around the tent (I know this because of reports from Boy Scouts).

This past Labor Day weekend was unusually warm during the day, with sunny, bluebird skies fooling us all into thinking it was August, not September. Only the yellow birch trees peeking out from behind the spruce forests reminded us otherwise. We were all attired in shirtsleeves and sunglasses during a hike up Exit Glacier near Seward, and lounged the afternoon away in camp, drinking adult beverages and watching the kids ride their bikes around the campground.

Huh, the sun went behind the mountain. How did the temperature manage to fall from 65 to 45 in a matter of seconds?? Where the hell is my fleece? Why is that child not putting a hat on? Why is the dog shivering uncontrollably? Get the whiskey!

Thankfully, after remedying all of the above, the Kirkland family and their friends spent two lovely, albeit chilly nights enjoying the last gasp of Alaskan late summer/early fall. Even a downpour upon our departure did little to squelch our spirit of adventure in the tradition of thousands of sourdoughs before us.

I was just darned glad that Safeway had a Starbucks.

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