Alaska: Comin’ down the mountain

Today’s adventure was Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains. It’s a nice day trip from AnchoBlueberryBushrage or the Matanuska Valley, where we are located. During July and August, the (almost) 4000 ft pass is open all the way and provides for some amazing views – you feel like you arBerriese in a scene from the Lord of the Rings. Many of the peaks surrounding the pass are as high as 6000 ft.

Hatcher Pass was a major gold mining district and you can still see abandoned mines hanging in the mountains under glaciers. We were there for a completely different treasure: our annual low bush blueberry harvest.

We take a fairly steep trail, loading all of us (family and friends) into a four wheeler and RZR ATV. This allows us access to our super special place where we only see one other couple picking across the valley. In two hours, we have 15+ pounds. There are four of us picking and one little guy mostly eating. We use Linden Berry Pickers, which you can see in the picture of little. They make quick work of picking but we then have to pull out crowberries and leaves later. Well, some of us do… Maggie and I are a little more OCD in our blueberry picking.

I can’t pretend our last day was perfect. I had hoped to be home in time to take little on a hike to Thunderbird Falls. Instead, we had an incident with the four-wheeler which left myself, my parents and our pal Maggie to hike down (!!!) while my brother took the RZR with my kiddo. I was wearing birkenstocks and woefully unprepared for a hike through the brush and a stream crossing. Ouch.

OncBlueberryJelly.jpge we finally arrived home, it was time to begin the jelly. I like to use Pomona Pectin (http://www.pomonapectin.com) for low sugar jams and jellies. For this batch, we didn’t use any processed traditional sugar but instead sweetened the jelly with apple juice. It took a little longer to begin to jell but success! We have a little time to rest now for our trip home early tomorrow morning. Alaska, it’s never goodbye but always see you again!

 

 

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Alaska: Waving from Such Great Heights

We are in Alaska! This is an easy trip and one we take annually if not twice a year. It’s super inexpensive as we enjoy free room and board here as well as free entertainment, outdoor recreation and concierge salmon fishing. What a deal, right? Did I mention this is where Nana and Papa live? To Little, it’s heaven on earth.

For this trip, I am working remotely and thus we aren’t doing much exploring beyond the local area in Butte, Alaska. Butte is located in the Matanuska Valley. The Matanuska Valley was settled by pioneers in 1935 as a part of “The New Deal” and over 200 families were relocated here from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, specifically chosen for their proved ability to farm in tough, cold climates. It’s no wonder that my own parents from the Northwoods foButteSummit.pngund themselves here.

A few highlights:

Hiking! Little summited his first peak! His uncle Kurtis and friend Maggie took him up the trail in what ended up a torrential downpour. But he made it to the top! The trail is a relatively tough little hike, just over three miles but with lots of elevation gain. The trick to it is hiking up the right side that is maintained and has stairs for the step sections. http://aktrailhead.com/bodenburg/bodenburKnikJimsCreekg.shtml

Fishing! Little loves to fish. This summer he has caught cutthroat trout, perch, small mouth bass and bluegill. Of course he was excited to fish in Alaska with his papa! It’s good to know the salmon runs. We had hoped to catch a few silver (coho) salmon but the run just had not quite come into the creek we usually fish at. If we could stay a few extra days odds would have been much better. It was still a great opportunity to hang out with the family in one of the  most beautiful locations in the world.

carrotsGardening! The valley is known for being Alaska’s farming region. My own parents have a wonderful garden and greenhouse on their property. They grow squash, peas, beans, potatoes, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, onions, pumpkins, raspberries, currants, herbs and so much more. It’s a lot of work – my mom is processing as I type. She’s shredding and freezing veggies and canning fruit jams. It’s a great time of year to be here as little can spend hours outside helping her. We have just a couple days left and a few more great spots to hit so I will update more tomorrow.