Thursday, January 21, 2010

The AK Fam Takes Off

Every once in a while during an Alaskan winter, this mommy will start to lose her mind and begin fashioning delusions of grandeur about trips to Hawaii or Mexico or, at the very least, someplace where there is no snow and daylight until at least 5 o'clock. I want out. Now.

But then we end up taking a trip like the one we returned from yesterday, and I throw all those warm-weather notions into the ditch. It's been a tough winter, but Yukon and I and little Bear somehow managed over the course of three days at Sheep Mountain Lodge to remember why we live here and recall how a place where frozen eyelids and frost-nipped fingers can engage a passion for life unrivaled by anywhere else our family has managed to call 'home'.

A quick and scenic few hours from our front door, Sheep Mountain is a popular spot for summer tourists travelling the Glenn Highway on their compulsary tour of the state. In the winter, the Lodge is the secret treasure for Anchorage-ites looking for some uncrowded Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and/or relaxing. Few people, little traffic but for the occasional overland transport truck or the one school bus from nearby Glacier View School, and the quiet confidence of owners Zack and Anjanette Steer, an Iditarod mushing family whose unobtrusive yet gracious hospitality made us feel as if we were old friends from the moment we met.

Our log cabin hideway was perfect, the beer stayed cold, and our little son was able to play and play until his little paws were dragging the ground; which he did after a morning sledding with the Steer's youngest cub. We slept in, ate good food, and skied along premium ski trails affording views made even more spectacular by the stunning blue skies and near-zero temperatures.

Zack Steer was in the midst of last-minute training for his Iditarod team, choosing and changing and making final preparations for this race (beginning of March) and the Yukon Quest, which begins in a mere two weeks in Fairbanks. The blue tarp in front of the winterized actual Lodge building houses the stash of supplies and food for both races, and the Lodge interior has been transformed into a staging area and workshop for Zack and his dog handler, Jake. It was a fascinating look into just how much work is involved for a 1,000+ mile race across a frozen land, and we were humbled to see the whole family's efforts.

No TV, no radio, no internet or cell service. Just we, they, and the Alaskan wilderness. We welcomed the yips and yowls of nearby coyotes every evening as a final statement that all seems well in our world, just as it is.

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