Thursday, October 28, 2010 is so much different in the Alaskan winter. I cannot deny that by the time that we arrived back at the car I felt overwhelming relief.

It started by Adam, a co-worker/friend/neighbor/Bible study partner of Matt's, our new "wilderness" friend (I officially dubbed him that title) invited us to go camping on top of O'Malley Peak just outside of Anchorage. Matt cautiously asked me...assuming I'd quickly reject the idea (now why would he think that??)...but I decided it'd be fun and add to our Alaskan experience. Plus, we'd be hiking up to where the snow was residing. It would be great views of the city at night and I was assured that now is the perfect time to out in the back country because the bears are quickly stowing themselves away for hibernation. Wonderful. Let's go.

Friday after work and a quick bite for dinner, we packed the car. Adam, Kelly, Matt, myself and Mocha. My pack consisted of every winter apparel item I owned, some hot chocolate, bear spray, sleeping bag, a thermarest and about 3 nalgens full of water. Nothing like the essentials.

Gearing up to go!
About 6:30pm (a little later than planned) we start up the trail. It's dusk and darkness was quickly falling upon us. Since our eyes adjusted as we headed up, the headlamps were not essential until we got to the top. It was cold, but once we got moving we had to make frequent stops to shed the excess layers.

And then to my wonderful surprise a park ranger came strolling up past us on the the trail...

"Just wanted to warn you folks that there are a couple brown bears a little further up the trail. You guys be careful. Make some noise."

Yes, brown bears. As in grizzly bears.

And again a frequent thought in my head as of lately, "are you freaking kidding me!?!"

I thought they were going into hibernation. Not chilling on the trail we are hiking along.

My trip quickly went down from there. Or shall I say my mind games began spinning out of control. Every bush, rock and noise I heard of course I assumed it was the bears stalking us trying to figure out the best way to attack us by surprise. Funny enough, nobody else seemed even bothered by the announcement from our park ranger friend.

Fortunately, after a grueling hike up (only about 2 hours) we arrived at a fabulous place to set up camp. I have to say it was beautiful. The snow covered mountain tops were reflecting the moonlight on one side and the city lights were illuminating into the night sky on the other.

The wind was blowing really hard, so setting up the tents wasn't the easiest thing to do. We had to hunt and find boulders to anchor the tent down so it wouldn't fly away. After we got both tents set up, we had a party. We invited Adam and Kelly over to our domain.  Adam brought milk and his nifty little stove and we enjoyed some delicious hot chocolate and music (via iphones) as we were bundled up in our cozy tent. After a couple hours of just relaxing and enjoying each others company we headed to bed (aka - our respective tents and sleeping bags).

The view at night

Then when the morning finally came
I didn't think that the next 8 hours ahead of me were ever going to end. The cold was only a slight problem in the big scheme of things. I realized when the sun came out the next day that my thermarest had completely deflated during the night which may have contributed to my chilled-ness. I actually had dreams about waking up with the sun shining, hikers walking by and I was overjoyed. It saddened me when I got startled and realize that nope, it was still pitch black outside, everyone was sound asleep except me and then wind was still howling. I could swear that a bear was about to jump on top of our tent and attack.  At least my racing heart kept the blood flowing and my body warmer. :) There is a bright side to everything.

After about 2 total hours of sleep and 13 hours of darkness, the sun finally started rising about 8:30am and I woke Matt up and told him I couldn't take it anymore. Being the wonderful husband he is, he woke up with me and we decided to hike to the top of the next peak (with bear spray in hand) to enjoy the sunrise together. Our compadres were still fast asleep, so we journeyed up alone (with Mocha, of course). We hiked through the snow and found a big rock to enjoy the view.

Did I mention is was cold? Below freezing. Brr.
It was beautiful and made me forget the night I just endured.

Once our friends woke up, we heated up some hot water for coffee and oatmeal, packed things up for the day and said goodbye to our campsite. 

Wouldn't be complete without a photo shoot to document:)

the whole gang
Matt, Me, Kelly, Adam
(and Mocha)

Hiking the ridge line back

The steep climb down
We were back at the car by lunch, just in time to get home and showered before our Saturday of activities began.  Though I was terrified at moments, I'm glad we went!  Truly was an experience, one I'm sure will be repeated before our time is up in Alaska.

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