Friday, September 12, 2014

Hatcher Pass Marathon Alaska

Trying to catch up and I wait so long to update another amazing event takes place in between and I cant gather my thoughts.....well at least I will blame that on the reasoning of not being able to gather my thoughts.
I chose Hatcher Pass Marathon as my Alaska race simply because of the name - HATCHER! Thats my last name and so it was a must do event.  I did not look at the profile or description of the course but that is typical of me....I like the element of surprise and all I can do at anything is my best.  Once you realize the race has the name Pass in it then you realize oh....its gonna be on a mountain pass. It is a point to point run starting in Willow AK and ending in Palmer AK. You pretty much run up the pass for around 25 miles with a total elevation gain of around 4000 feet. It really isn't bad....there are some really step climbs but lots of gradual and the views are just breathtaking. I can honestly say I did not want this event to end! The nice thing also is they do allow for an hour early start which I took along with about a dozen people. This is a small event but if more people realized how beautiful this was that are doing all 50 States this is a MUST do event for Alaska. Sure there is some challenge to it compared to other Alaskan Marathons but trust is worth it!
The event takes place in July - here is a link to the webpage so if you want an experience keep your eyes on the page for next years registration! I will be back sometime but next July I already have another amazing event planned.
Now lets talk about this wonderful runcation I took with my 20 year old son Tanner! So much WOW that still is in my head that it is hard to describe this amazing experience.  We always try to make the best out of the time we have and push ourselves to see and do everything possible in the amount of time we have - one day we will be resting in heaven and there is too much to do and see while we are here on earth! The first day was all travel but was really cool landing at 9:40pm with the sun shining! I had made travel plans beforehand for us to take a train,kayak, glacier climb the next morning and we would stay in the town of Anchorage for the first two nights. While we were traveling I received a message from a friend of mine I met last year at the Center of The Nations week long event David from California - he asked a favor of me and told me the situation....his young nephew lives in Alaska and was hiking a couple days prior and fell over 20 feet off a cliff! He was life flighted to Childrens Hospital in Anchorage and David wondered if there was anyway I could find something for his nephew and take it to the hospital and let him know his uncle was thinking about him. OF COURSE I will do that!!! With the time change and all we didnt feel the effects the next morning for our first days adventure - which by the way was almost 13 hours!! We did the train ride to Spencer Glacier then Kayaked Across and then did the Glacier Hike. What an experience!
 The train ride was long but the scenery was great. It stopped at several stops along the way then we arrived several hours later to Spencer Glacier where we suited up for the kayak trip across the lake to the Glacier. Once on the Glacier we got our helmets and crampons and we were off hiking the glacier. The tour company was awesome and even had us all try our hands at a little bit of climbing the glacier which was cool. I was surprised how hard it was even walking on the glacier with the crampons and feeling off balance but in time we got a little more use to it. We then kayaked back across the lake and put all the gear away and visited while we got ready to wait for the train to come back and pick us up. It was a long day but went by so fast and we saw and learned soooo much. We got back to Anchorage around 10pm and started looking for a store that we could find some goodies to bring to David's nephew the next morning. We were planning to drive to Whittier to do the glacier tour on the boat that next day and had to make the tunnel by a certain time. We found some fun stuff for his nephew and got back to the hotel so we could get our stuff all packed and ready since when we left Thursday morning we would not be back to Anchorage until Tuesday and Thursday night we were going to be staying at a Bed N Breakfast on the Palmer side of Hatcher Pass (of course the name of the place was Hatcher Pass B&B- We slept pretty well and still were fine with the time change, probably because we were so busy seeing things and wanting to see more! We arrived at the hospital and Davids sister was expecting us, his nephew was sound asleep - poor kid - broke his arm the other arm messed up, his jaw was wired shut so he couldnt eat solids and his mouth was always drying out so David suggested tic tacs which we got several kinds as well as several bags of mints and fun stuff. Tanner nor I didnt think twice about taking a couple hours out of our trip to do this for this boy....he was sooooo lucky to have even survived this and was glad we were there at that time to be able to send some love from his Uncle that couldnt be there in person! After we left the hospital we headed toward Whittier as we planned to take the 21 glacier cruise - we didnt purchase our tickets yet due the the weather forecast for that day and glad we didnt! As we got closer the weather got rougher so we called and found out all tours were cancelled for that day. We stopped at a wildlife park even though it was raining we got to see the wildlife.
We headed on to Palmer but along the way we saw different markers along the road with places to stop and do some short hikes and we took advantage of those. Later we checked into our cabin and drove up over Hatcher Pass and did some short hikes at the summit. Wow it was gorgeous!
We also drove down a side road and got to see a young bear cub! At the gas station next to our Bed & Breakfast we had the best find....sweatshirts and tshirts that read I AM A HATCHERPASSHOLE! We got matching ones and a couple tshirts to have for white elephant gifts for the family Christmas Party.

Friday am we drove to the town of Talkeetna and it was a little cloudy that day so the view of Denali wasnt the best but was still pretty amazing. We then headed to the Willow Side of Hatcher Pass where we were staying at another Bed & breakfast this time inside some folks home.
This was the small lake behind their house.
I cant recall how many acres there land was but it was so peaceful. After we checked in we kinda drove around and checked out a local farmers market for homemade tamales!

The marathon was on Saturday....The forecast was for rain and it started with a drizzle but soon turned out to be a super nice day. Tanner volunteered so it was nice to see him on the course a couple times. I caught myself in this daze pretty much the entire 6 hours just looking around at the mountains and valleys around me. In Alaska you go above tree line around 2300 feet or so and that was interesting.

After the run we headed back to the B&B took a shower and decided the next morning we would head back to Anchorage that night instead of the following...there was much more to do in Anchorage then the area we were in.  Several people told me about doing a couple hikes so the first stop on the way back into Anchorage was called the West Butte....this was a nice climb....there were a lot of steps but not really too technical. We got towards the summit and then it was lose dirt and rocky but we made our way to the top for a wonderful panoramic view! After the hike we made our way to Anchorage and ate dinner at the Moose Tooth where I tried a couple local beers but then received a couple messages from friends that we must now go hike to the top of Flat Rock Mountain, I decided to stop the adult beverages at that time if we were to make this hike.  Lets say I am glad I did! I still dont have the words to describe this hike! We didnt start until 8:30pm or so and it's really only 1.7 miles each way with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. The beginning isnt too tough and even when you get to the railroad tie style stairs that take you to the next level isnt technical just gets the heart rate up. We took our time and took some breaks and just sat and admired the views at how high we already were but at the same time looking over and up to where we still needed to be!
Once we hit the next level the climb to the summit is now mountainous and when I say mountainous its rocky no trails and lots of slippery areas of lose dirt and rocks, there is also no safety, no ropes nothing, you slip you fall and you drop a long long way.  I still didnt have my strength back from my shoulder surgery which was just under 12 weeks prior but I had to use my entire body to pull myself up some of these huge rocks. On many occasions we stopped to try to figure out what our next move in the world were we going to get to the top and then how in the world were we getting back down. It was terrifying but we knew we had come so far and were getting closer that we would regret not making the trip on up. As we hung on to a large boulder some folks were coming back down and could hear us and could hear our fear, also a biplane did a fly over and was within feet of us and that really threw us off cause we were not expecting that.....but we laughed. The 3 people coming down were locals and gave us a tip to try to find the faded white dots on the boulders and follow them, sure there was major climbing involved but there wasnt that loose girt that would cause us to slip off the side of the mountain...they also said listen you can hear the flag you are almost there!!! We made it and were elated....Tanner immediately headed off to all the different areas of the summit to take in the 360* view of Anchorage. It was so cold and windy at the top and was almost 10:30pm by now but the sun was still out!

 Going down was not as hard as we expected but we did have to sit and slowly scoot a couple times. Once we got back to where our car was Tanner dropped to the ground and kissed it!

We got to our room and got things packed and ready as the next morning was suppose to be beautiful weather so we were going to drive to Whittier for the 21 Glacier Cruise, our flight was leaving Anchorage around 10:45 pm that evening.  We saw quite a few humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, and other wild life.
Was a trip that will be remembered for a long long time!

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