Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lake Clark Wilderness Area

Although the Lake Clark Wilderness area is only an hour from Anchorage it is one of the least visited areas in Alaska. This breathtaking wilderness area offers ample opportunity for solitude and exploration of uncharted terrain. This summer Luna, Dad and I took 9 days to explore this exquisite land. From Anchorage we took a small plane to Lake Clark. From Lake Clark we took a float plane, which are now my favorite planes, to Turquoise Lake. This is where our adventure began.

We spent our first few days exploring this remote area of the world. We hiked to a few glaciers and relaxed by the strikingly beautiful, deep turquoise colored lake. After a few days we hiked to the other side of the lake. Since we were in such a remote, uncharted area, I decided to skinny dipping in the lake. I quickly discovered that I did not have as much solitude as I thought. As I was drying off, enjoying my alone time and taking in the beauty around me, I heard a plane. I looked up and saw a float plane coming over the mountains. As I was franticly trying to put my clothes back on it landed on the lake right in front of me. I suppose the lesson here is that even in remote areas of the world you can always find other people.

After a few days of exploring Turquoise Lake we started our trek down to Twin Lakes. We were in a secluded area with uncharted terrain, so obviously there was no trail down to Twin Lakes. We didn't know what was in store for us, but we started heading south. The trek wasn't too strenuous, but it was a little cold. One morning we awake to a little flurry of snow. The only wildlife we saw along the way was a large herd of sheep. We reached Twin Lakes and found a pleasant place, on a hill overlooking the lake, to set up camp. This camp spot was one of my favorites. Every evening a brightly colored rainbow would stretch across the mountains and land in the turquoise lake. We took a few days to explore this area before heading to the other end of the lake where we were to be picked up. This was a nice relaxing backpacking trip, which was a nice change from the very strenuous backpacking trips we usually take. If you are looking for a stunningly beautiful, isolated place to get away I would highly recommend the Lake Clark Wilderness Area.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg ("Salt Castle") is a quaint city in Austria. It's alpine setting and historical sites make it a spectacular city to visit. It was the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for many scenes in the musical The Sound of Music. Becky and I spent a leisurely 4 days in Salzburg. The first day was spent visiting the many sites. The second day we ventured to the ice caves - these were neat, but we couldn't take any pictures while inside the caves. The third day we went to some of The Sound of Music sites. The last day we just walk around and enjoyed the city.

 We couldn't find a hostel the first night, so we got a hotel room with our new friend from Australia. 

The largest chess set I have ever seen. I wanted to play, but it was being used. 
The best pretzels ever!

Our hike to the ice cave.

The Sound of Music

Our enthusiastic waiter at a Greek restaurant near our hostel (It was the only restaurant that was open on both Sunday and Monday.)

Most mornings were spent drinking coffee and people watching.

My sexy new outfit. 
One of the best meals we had (Wiener Schnitzel and Spinach Dumplings)  

Things we learned in Salzburg
1. Yummy morning dessert is called custard squishiness
2. Make hostel reservations before going to larger cities
3. You get free beer when you speak English
4. Austrian men giggle while reading Lonely Planet, Austria
5. When a drunk man can't remember your real name, change your name to Paige and Georgia
6. Becky and Megan + lots of beer also = giggle factory
7. Milka hazelnut chocolate tastes best when drunk
8. Becky and Megan crave sweets when drunk
9. If you stay in one place more than 2 nights it becomes home
10. While watching a soccer game,  20 year old kids will hit on you but engineers will go to girls that should be hit with a taser gun
11. Preztels are the best in Salzburg
12. Megan cannot focus when she has ingested too much Austrian beer

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Venice is renown for its beautiful setting, architecture and artwork - it is truly a remarkable city! It is one of Europe's most romantic cities. It is know by many names "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". I am delighted that I had the opportunity to see this extraordinary city. It is a very romantic area that would be a magnificent place to see with a significant other - I will just have to return someday when I have a significant other to go with. Venice is a fun place to go with a friend, especially after 3 bottles of exceptional wine.

After out long week of hiking in the Alps, Becky and I decided to head down to Venice for a couple of days. We made our way to Mayrahofen, where to our good luck, we found a train that was leaving for Venice in a few minutes. Unfortunately, that meant we did not have time to find a place to take a shower. We had been backpacking, had jumped into a glacier lake and had not taken a shower in 6 days, so we tried not to sit close to anyone on the train. The train ride through Italy was beautiful. When we arrived in Venice we found a reasonable hotel and took a shower. The next morning we made out way into the city and promptly found a gondola ride. After our breathtaking gondola ride through the stunning canals we were very hot, so we decided to find a nice restaurant along one of the canals for an early dinner. We ended up drinking 3 bottles of delicious wine and staying there for several hours. Our waiter was very entertaining and the more wine we had the funnier he became. On our way back to the hotel we decided to get some sweets, but we were laughing so much that they closed the store and refused to serve us. The next day we made our way back to Austria, with a small stop in Verona. All I have to say about Verona is that Juliet's Wall is not like it is in the movie Letters to Juliet.

 Our third bottle of wine :)!

I am so glad we decided to take a quick trip down to the "City of Water" - it is a uniquely beautiful area that I hope to visit again some day.

Things we learned in Italy

1. Venice is very hot and humid
2. The city of Venice is the second train stop not the first
3. Even though you have a reservation on the train your seat may be taken
4. You can't order just bread at a restaurant
5. Swimming in the canals is probably a bad idea
6. A gondola ride would be perfect with a significant other, although it is fun with a friend
7. Ambulance and police patrol on boats in Venice
8. In Venice, you can see 700 hundred year old building as well as modern bridges and buildings
9. Venice is actually a very small city
10. If you get on the train without a ticket, you may get a free ride
11. When using public restrooms, plan your bathroom breaks together to avoid paying more
12. Hotel prices may change depending on who is at the front desk
13. It is appropriate for a male to carry a man bag and wear capris and be straight
14. It is fashionable to wear pants that make you look like you are a flying squirrel
15. Look for restaurants with air conditioning
16. While your friend is in the bathroom don't take the room/light key
17. You know you've had too much wine when your contacts no longer keep things clear
18. Becky and Megan + 2 bottles of wine = giggle factory
19. Making a what we've learned list means we are in the FBI
20. When Megan is high maintenance good things happen...awesome restaurant service
21. Putting two tables together is preparing the bed.
22. Always keep lips moist just in case you need to cat whistle at hot Italian men
23. Crying after a bad phone call will get you a free class of wine from a nice server
24. After rolling off bed go back to task as if nothing happened
25. When you go into a sweet shop drunk and giggling they might close

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trekking in the Zillertal Alps

The Zillertal Alps are located in southern Austria, along the Italy border. Although the mountains are not as high as they are in some of the surrounding countries, the Zillertal Alps are less traveled and the views are exquisite. After riding in the train all night and getting very little sleep my friend, Becky, and I finally arrived in the charming border town of Brenner and started our 4,618 foot climb up to our first hut. Our entire trek consisted of 5 strenuous days of backpacking, 4 huts, the summit of 2 mountains and jumping into a very cold, glacier lake. Every hut had it's own unique view and atmosphere, and each day of hiking presented new, challenging adventures. Every day presented us with beautiful views and the opportunity to meet new people.

Day 1: Landshuter Hut
Distance: 4.3 miles
Total Ascent: 4618 feet (1408 meters)

The Landshuter Hut is located right on the Austria, Italy border. It was my favorite as far as hospitality. There wasn't much of a view, but it was less crowded and the man that ran it was very nice. He didn't speak English, but was very patient with us as we tried to figure out German. The best part of this hike was at the beginning when we passed through a few farms with cows grazing along the trail.

Day 2 Olperer Hut
Distance: 10 miles
Total Ascent: 1,280 feet
Total Descent: 2,913 feet (888 meters)

This was by far my favorite hut as far as the view and the people. Because the view was so spectacular we decided to stay here 2 nights. It was one of the smaller huts we stayed at and we hit it on a weekend, so it was very busy. Fortunately, we were able to get a bed for 2 nights and discovered that because we were members of the Austrian Alpine club they had to find a place for us to sleep.

The first part of the hike was in Italy and about halfway down we came to the Austria/Italy border where we met a kid from Germany who was backpacking from Munich to Venice. We had a beer with him at a small hut right on the border and continued on our way back into Austria.

Once we got to the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir (a breathtakingly beautiful turquoise lake filled with water melting from the glaciers above) it was a gorgeous hike straight up to the Oplerer hut, which hovers on the hill side over looking the majestic Hochfeiler mountains and the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir.

Day 3: Ascent of the Olperer
Distance: 2 miles
Ascent: 3,608 feet (1100 meters)

Although the entire trip has been fun, this was my favorite day. Both Becky and I got to do what we love. I climbed a mountain and she stayed at the hut and did some photography.

The Olperer was one of the hardest mountains I have ever climbed. Although it is not that high, I had to hike on a steep snow bank and had to scramble up a very challenging section with a fixed rope to help you get to the summit. There were about 10 people on the mountain that day and only myself and one other guy made it to the top. It was a little foggy on top, but the views were still amazing. On the back side of the mountain was a small ski slope with enough snow for people to still be skiing. The view from the front side was of the majestic mountains with the beautiful reservoir at the base. The views were so exquisite I could have sat up there all day, but I had a long challenging descent still to get down.

When I returned to the hut we found a perfect hill for Becky to fulfill her life long dream of singing in the hills and had fun taking random pictures. After our day of fun we sat on the deck and enjoyed the view and a beer. This is where we met Bernard and Martin, two Austrians from a small town outside of Vienna. I had passed them on the mountain earlier that day and after talking for a little while they informed me that I hiked too fast and would have trouble getting a boyfriend because of it. We played UNO with them that night and learned a few new rules for the game (see things we learned at the bottom of the page). They also introduced us to schnaps, an extremely strong post dinner shot.

Day 4: Furtschagl Hut
Distance: 5 miles
Ascent: 1,980 feet

This was the easiest hiking day we had, but this hut was my least favorite of all the huts. It had a beautiful view of the glaciers, but was not very hospitable. The best part of the day was jumping into the reservoir. In order to get to the hut we had to hike around the Schlegeisspeicher reservoir. It was a pretty hot day, the water was crystal clear and we hadn't had a shower in 5 days, so we decided to jump in the water. Due to the fact that the reservoir is filled with run off from the glaciers above, it was a little cold.

Day 5: Berliner Hut with the ascent of the Schonbichlerhorn
Distance: 4.3 miles
Ascent: 2,585 feet

This was my favorite hut as far as accommodations. It was the largest hut we stayed at, actually it looked more like a resort than a hut and it had the best rooms. However, this was the longest and most challenging day of hiking. We ended up hiking for about 9.5 hours. To get to the Berliner from the Furtschagl we had to hike over a 10,000 foot pass with some scrambling near the top. Once we were on the pass we dropped our packs and made the short climb to the top of the Schonbichlerhorn. The easy part was getting to the top of the pass. The beginning of the descent was so steep they put in fixed ropes that were essential for getting down. Once we finally got off of that part we had an extremely long descent down into a valley and then back up to the hut.

Day 6: The hike out

After 6 days of hiking and no shower we decided to hike out and take the train down to Venice. The next blog will be about our adventures in Italy.

Things we learned while backpacking in Austria
1. Goats wag their tail when happy
2. Austrians think Americans drink hot chocolate with swimming mushrooms
3. Jumping in a glacial lake may give you brain freeze
4. Beer is the best post hiking beverage
5. A traditional Austrian dessert is like mashed pancakes
6. There are no kangaroos in Austria
7. Schnapps is a VERY strong after dinner drink
8. Flashing is also a term used in the game UNO
9. The term mashed is used to describe anything that is mixed
10. While napping in the mountains, a fluffy dog sniffing your face may be mistaken for a bear
11. Good friends help carry each others packs up difficult sections
12. Huts may be farther away then they appear
13. Glacier streams can be a good spot to shave your legs
14. Blisters can look like tumors
15. Asking cute boys for help is a good way to start a conversation
16. Being a fast hiker may be the reason for not having a boyfriend
17. It is possible to be in Italy and Austria at the same time
18. People are amazed when you tell them you are from Alaska