0 degrees today. If you ask anyone in town about Healy, they’ll tell you Healy doesn’t exist. About 90 miles south of Fairbanks, Healy is a small coal mining town. There’s really not much to do here unless you like hunting and fishing and outdoorsy type stuff. I heard someone remark, “We’re off the grid!” If you want to get lost, this is the place to be.
I arrived here a little late.., around noon. The sun doesn’t rise until 10:30 am. This is not the last time I will oversleep on this trip. I finally found a camp ground at a gas station a couple of miles from the start of the stampede trail. $7 a night for 6 nights. I had to get it so I could plug my car in to prevent the battery from draining. Plus, any car left on the side of the road, unattended, is free game. There was one car 300 feet from the campsite next to the highway and it was stripped clean.
The picture above is one of two gas stations in the town of Healy. The other one is about a mile north. The girl working at the other one was practicing playing her guitar. That reminds me, I have to call GS.
I called GS to tell her I was starting my hike to the bus. She was very worried about me when I told her I was going to do this. So I promised I would call her. GS is my guitar teacher and friend. I’ve been fighting depression for the entire year and I’ve been neglecting my guitar homework. But she told me it was ok. (she told me this awhile ago and on that day, I realized that she would not give up on me and this was the day I let my self trust her.) Trusting people has always been a struggle for me. The first time we hung out, I blurted out some things I never imagined telling anyone else so soon after meeting her.
I left the car and started on my journey to the bus. I knew immediately that I was going to have problems. My pack was still too heavy and it wasn’t sitting right on my hips. No matter how much I adjusted the straps, It never felt comfortable. After walking only a mile, I began to adjust my plans. There’s no way I’m going to make it at this pace. It took me an hour to walk a mile and I only have 6 days to make the 22 mile trek and back. Luckily someone stopped and gave me a ride to the start of the stampede trail. The next two miles were even worse because it was all up hill. At the end of the two miles I decided to call it a day. It was 4 pm and getting dark. I needed to find someplace to set up camp. A lady in a truck had stopped to ask me what I was doing. “Following the trail”, I said. She looked at me like I was crazy and said “ok, be careful!” I was going to run into her again saturday and again on monday.
This looks like an easy walk, but it wasn’t. I had to stop and take a break. I had just climbed an incline and I was exhausted. I wish I had a thermometer in the picture to show you how cold it was. I walked a little further from where this picture was taken and found a spot 100 ft off the left side of the road to camp. You have to be careful where you walk in Alaska. I think they can shoot first and ask questions later.
I walked thru the densely packed trees to find a spot to pitch my tent. There were rabbit tracks everywhere. I thought about the story the jewelry store owner told me. He said that he knew someone who was dogsledding and a wolf pack killed one of the dogs. Normally wolves are shy animals and will stay clear of humans. I finally found a clearing large enough for my tent.
This was the first time I had pitched my new tent. I bought the EV2 tent at Mountain Hardwear. “Cute Girl” recommended it. I was supposed to pitch the tent before I left Portland but i kept putting it off. Now it’s zero degrees, it’s getting dark, and my fingers hurt. This was the easiest tent I ever pitched. The air was crisp and dry. I quickly got all my gear into the tent and dumped everything out of my bag, set up my sleeping bag and decided not to eat because It was too cold. Instead, I buried my head under my sleeping bag and went to sleep. It was a challenge trying to stay warm. My feet were the coldest but not uncomfortably cold. What I should have done was change into dry socks. Nothing dries at this time of year. The thought of wolves were still on my mind as I fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning there was frost all over the inside of the tent and on the opening of my sleeping bag. And it was still as cold as it was the night before. I should have opened the ventilation on the tent. It was light out so I knew that I had overslept again. The second I got out of my sleeping bag, the freezing temperature began to numb my fingers and toes. My soggy feet the night before quickly froze as I struggled hurriedly to pack my stuff.
a minute later…, “F_ck!” I’m gonna die out there if I go on. The realization that I could not go on like this was disappointing but I also did not want to end up on the 6 o’clock news or as an addendum to a novel. Amputated appendages would make a good conversation piece but I’m fond of all my fingers and toes. So I decided to ditch my gear and to get the car so I could think of a plan B. It took about 2 miles of walking for my toes to thaw. My fingers were easily and quickly thawed by placing my hands in my mitts but my toes took longer to thaw. Once I got to the car, I drove back to the “campsite of shame” and discretely and quickly threw all my stuff back into the car without anyone seeing me. It took 4 trips to load everything into the car. My “into the wild” trek was pathetic and humorous at the same time.
For the next three nights this is where I spent most of my time thinking, planning, and thawing. Luckily they had a TV. But the only thing on was the news about the Nigerian underwear bomber. I wish I had a good book to read. My phone stayed off 95% of the time because I wanted to conserve the battery. I tried the mystery meat and I must say it was good.
Forget tent camping. I decided to sleep in the car. It’s too cold to sleep outside. In the car, I could easily turn on the heater whenever it got too cold. I’m a wimp!
The secret to car camping is to get a car that’s big enough to stretch out in the back seat. I didn’t do that since I was not planning to sleep in the car. I really underestimated the climate. The nice thing about the compact is that it did not have a center console to get in the way. The only thing I had to maneuver around was the shifter. Piece of cake. My back will thank me later.
I don’t remember where this was taken. I love the purpleish-blue color of the sky. Is this considered twilight? My kitchen is painted this color.., it’s called storm blue. The color blue is supposed to suppress the appetite.