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A parka in Palmer

I was getting a little stir crazy around the house. I asked Kim if she wanted to go winter camping. She did. Off we headed.

You would think that winter camping would be pretty easy, but I had a couple of requirements. An outhouse (in case we needed to poop), a great view away from city lights to enjoy the darkness, and a place where we could hang out and do something (either a trail to hike, or a bar where we could drink a beer). That was it. Running water or heat was not necessary.

First on the list was going down to Seward to hike as far up the Harding Ice Field as possible. I called and found out the park road was closed. In addition, runoff had covered the trail, freezing it over in many areas and making glare ice and dangerous conditions. I had ice cleats, but Kim did not. Seward was out.

Talkeetna was second on the list. I called every campground on the map and they were all closed up for the winter. I have no issues with pitching my tent in a field, or in the trees off the side of the road, or on the banks of a river, but I could do that closer to Anchorage and not drive 240 miles round trip. In addition, the area had suffered some serious flooding, recently. Talkeetna was out.

We headed up to Eklutna Lake. It was a wonderful drive, the sky was clear blue. The lake not yet frozen over. The campground was closed. Wtf?! We briefly considered pitching our tent right next to the sign that said no camping, but I didn’t want to pay for a ticket (again). We walked to the lake and enjoyed the view and headed to Palmer, Alaska.

Image of Eklutna Lake in Alaska.

Eklutna Lake this weekend – Campground closed for winter.

Kim standing in her parka with lots of snow, mountains, and a setting sun in the background

Winter parka in Palmer…. Barrow rated.

We set up the tent, built a fire ring and set up the firewood. Night was upon us: the sunset is at about 4:45 p.m. this time of year (sunrise is about 8:40 a.m). We pulled out the jet boil and tried to have a nice hot spaghetti and veggie dinner with garlic bread and wine. Instead of candlelight we had headlamps. The dinner was hot when it hit the plates, but the veggies quickly froze, along with the bread. Kim was laughing at me because I tucked my bread inside my coat to keep it from freezing. I gulped the dinner down to have at least luke-warm food. The wine froze.The Knik Glacier is just 50 miles from Anchorage, on the northern end of the Chugach Mountains. The Knik Glacier feeds the 25 mile long Knik River, which drains into the Cook Inlet. That is a lot of Knik (pronounced Ka-nick). We pulled off right there at river access near the Old Glenn. We had the place all to ourselves. Wind was low, temps were low teens. We figured the night time temps and the proximity to the water would put us at about 0 degrees for the night. Balmy temps. No outhouse, bar, or trail, but no ticket either.

Image of cooking spaghetti while camping

Spaghetti via Jet Boil

We read for a while (Kim brought along something about cool Android apps), I brought Buddhist literature. We chatted the night away and snuggled down into our bags. The fire would not stay lit, and we soon lost interest in it anyway. Neither one of us are a fan of s’mores; we just ate chocolate. We had a discussion earlier on what would be warmer, a classic fur-lined winter parka from Barrow, Alaska (Kim lived in Barrow for 15 years and her sister-in-law made it for her), or my synthetic down Mountain Hardware coat with silk lining. We crawled into the tent.

Image of Kim reading by headlamp in a tent

Kim reads in the tent all about Android Apps in about 10 degrees, via headlamp.

We got up early in the morning, the night sky still dark, the stars were gorgeous, the half-moon bright when no city lights interfere. We got everything packed in the truck, we had chocolate for breakfast, and headed to the coffee shop for a cappuccino. Although I brought the French press, it was too cold to make coffee that way, and I knew Vagabond Blues was not too far away. At some point in the early morning hours Kim went out to go pee. She couldn’t find her boots, so she wore mine (one whole size smaller – she must have been desperate). She said she was desperate enough to go outside in her stocking feet – which I said is the sign of a true Alaskan.

Image of Kim standing in her parka with massive mountains in the background

The view from our tent site. Winter camping near Knik River, Alaska.

P.S. I didn’t freeze while sleeping, but she did.
She didn’t freeze while standing in the wind for hours, but I did.

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About Maya

My name is Maya, and I wander.

Comments

  1. Awesome. Beautiful pictures! Good times!

  2. Oh, and nice parka!

  3. Thank you for describing a world I am unlikely to inhabit (both because of where I live and my general wussiness) and expanding my adventure consciousness.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Maya! You are a wonderful tour guide. I loved it! And a co-worker just handed me his old military mummy bag for the next time.

    Liz, You can be a wuss most of the time. But you want to make memories, too!

  5. Is wussiness a real word?

  6. Oh, I have my memories, and my adventures … LOL. But only one of them has taken place in subzero weather!

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