“So you guys know the capital of Alaska is Juneau right?” I asked them. They nodded and responded with a yes. “Well, Event #4 takes place in Juneau but it’s impossible to drive there from here. We have to fly.”
That part is also true, you cannot drive all the way from Anchorage to Juneau without taking a ferry. However the part about actually going to Juneau was a sham. Still, they believed me and were all excited about going to a completely different part of the last frontier, especially Chris.
We packed our bags and headed back to the Anchorage International Airport, where I was able to return my rental. I wasn’t sure how I was going to reveal to them that we were flying to Honolulu, Hawaii instead of Juneau, Alaska. I didn’t plan this part out. But yes you read that right, I decided to go to a place completely opposite of Alaska, and what state is more opposite than Hawaii?
The flight to Juneau was at 12:30pm (12:30) but our actual flight to Honolulu was at 2:30pm (14:30). Just in case one of them checked for Juneau flights online, I made sure we arrived to the airport early, so they wouldn’t question it. Legit, they were convinced we were headed to Juneau. But how and when was I going to reveal it to them?
Since we were early, I had everyone sit down and told them I had to use the restroom and that I would print out our boarding passes. About 15 minutes later, I had all of our boarding passes in hand with the plan to hand it to them and let them see for themselves. I captured their reactions on video. Once they saw me recording, they knew something wasn’t quite right.
Here’s how it went down:
Shave your legs Veronica! You’re going to Honolulu!
From the video you may have noticed a few things which I’ll get to explaining. Firstly, Veronica was completely shocked (which I knew she would be) and had no idea that we were actually leaving Alaska and headed to Hawaii. Secondly, Chris didn’t seem as surprised as he suspected something was up the moment he saw me recording everyone. Also, I detected a hint of disappointment. Chris assured me that he was ecstatic about going to Hawaii but at the same time disappointed that he wasn’t going to Juneau. We all loved Alaska but Chris loved it more than any of us. If it weren’t for his keen eye, we wouldn’t have seen a single moose or a bear at all.
There’s no doubt we will have a blast in Hawaii but going to Alaska was something he always wanted to do and to have it end unexpectedly, I can understand his reaction. Lastly, as for Katelin…you may have noticed her reaction wasn’t very genuine either, but there is a very good reason for that. There was one more thing I’ve been fibbing about. All this planning for the fake road rally and the League of Eight Extraordinary Events in Alaska and Hawaii was a complete surprise to everyone, except for Katelin. She’s been in on the whole thing for months now. She initially wasn’t part of the league when I told her all about it months ago, but after I told her the secret, we both thought it would be great for her to join in and she could help sell my story to the others. Up until now, she’s been a great actress, going with the flow, pretending to be clueless about everything…well mostly everything. I left her in the dark about what the actual events are. Also, we both worked out a way for her boyfriend, Sean, to join us in Hawaii too.
Now that more truths were revealed, we just had to wait for our single flight from Anchorage to Honolulu. Once we arrived, I picked up a rental car and the four of us drove to our new accommodation about 20 minutes away. It’s another AirBnB with a kitchen, bathroom, a big bed and a pull out sofa bed. It was a little smaller but perfect for us.
Immediately after dropping everyone off, Katelin and I went back to the airport to pick up Sean who arrived a couple hours after we did. Sean would be joining us for the remaining events, but just like the others, he also has no idea of what the events are. “Event #4 begins in the morning. Everyone wear your swim suits. We’re getting wet!”
The next event, Event #3, took us 24 hours to complete. 24 LONG ALASKAN HOURS!
None of us realized how long it was going to take; not even me and I’m the one who booked this thing. All I knew for sure was that we had to wake up freakin’ early for it. I’m talking around 1:30am (01:30) to drive from our geodesic dome in Eagle View to Seward, the location of Event #3. After the first couple of events in Denali, we drove five hours south to our new accommodation right outside of Anchorage to a geodesic dome I found on AirBnB. It’s someones home that we rented, located on a bee farm but central to everywhere we needed to go. It’s perfectly Alaskan!
After settling into our wonderful new home-stay, I decided to break some news about Event #3 to the gang. Out of all eight events that I planned, this particular event took me the longest to organize based on how elaborate it was. I sat them down on the couches in the main room.
“We’re going to Seward to kayak through glaciers, icebergs, whales, seals, and all that stuff,” I began to say, almost with a tone of exhaustion. “It’s an all day thing and we have to be out the door at 1:30am in order to make it to Miller’s Landing by 6am, which means we should all go to bed around 7 or 8pm tonight. We are kayaking for eleven hours!”
They were astonished. They couldn’t believe or really grasp what we were about to do.
I decided to tell them so they could dress appropriately for the glacial chill we were about to endure and to mentally prepare themselves for the fact we were about to be kayaking for eleven hours in elusive waters where whales like to play. We spent the next hour looking up videos online of the area we were going to, the Kenai Fjords, but more specifically Aialik Bay. Everyone was brimming with excitement!
I woke up around 1am and rounded up the gang for our drive south into Seward. Leaving at such an early time gave me peace of mind for the drive. If anything were to go wrong during the drive, we’d have plenty of time to get it resolved. Plus, getting there about an hour early gave all of us time to snooze once more before our long haul into the glaciers.
Event #3 of 8 – Glacier Kayak in the Kenai Fjords of Alaska
I woke up my car mates at 5:30am (05:30) to meet up with our guide, Ben, at Miller’s Landing. I’ve been in contact with him for the last couple days to make sure the weather was fitting and our dietary requirements were in order. We walked up through the fog and the mud puddled road to the cabin property, where we were able to check in and grab a light breakfast.
“Meet me at the dock behind us in just a few minutes,” Ben said as he walked off with a random assortment of boating equipment. Ben was an older man, I’d say early 50’s, with a single yoga-style tone to his voice. He’s been doing this for awhile and you could tell. He wasn’t the most enthusiastic guide I’ve ever had but still he was kind and most certainly knowledgeable.
I walked outside to the dock…the eerie dock where our small boat bowed out into the mist. Ben told us that this boat would transport us about 100 – 150 miles into the fjords. But where in the heck were we headed? I could barely see a few yards in front of me.
We boarded the small transport boat and set off to Aialik Bay, wherever that was. On the way there, Ben said we could potentially spot whales and seals. I personally found the opportunity to catch a little more sleep. The drive back home was going to be exhausting, so any moment I could find to rest my eyes was absolutely necessary. Besides, the fog covered everything. I was still most anxious about actually kayaking through icebergs and glaciers, something that I’ve never done before. Same goes for the others.
The boat ride to Aialik lasted a little under two hours before we docked on one of the stone riddled beaches. We unloaded our kayaks and gear onto the shore. They were double kayaks while Ben had a single. We briefly went over proper packing and paddling procedures and what to do if the kayak flipped or if a wild animal approached us in the water. If anything, it’s important to remain calm because the last thing we would want is our kayak to flip. The waters here were the coldest I’ve ever felt in my life! If we fell in, our bodies would instantly tighten from the freezing sea and wouldn’t be able to function before we succumb to hypothermia. Thankfully we were bundled up and vowed not to flip our kayak.
It was just the five of us on that shore. There were a few other kayaks around but we lost them in the murky distance. It felt like a weird dream. The water resembled a milky steel and was as calm as you could imagine, but teaming with mysterious life right below and even above. There were only sounds of nature and a sense of tranquility among the isles in the short distance. The only nuisance were the pesky flying insects that swarmed the shores. How are these bugs so active in the cold like this? The shore was piled with smooth stones and plates of slate. The stones were the perfect size for skipping rocks across the liquid steel.
Veronica was my kayak partner for this event. Katelin and Chris manned the other. We put on our skirts and packed our kayaks with our bags and food that Ben prepared and set off into the mist. Almost immediately we could spot many small icebergs that have just calved off from an approaching glacier.
The first glacier we approached, Aialik Glacier, was massive! Ben told us that it stretched a mile long, even though it didn’t look like it from where we were. We couldn’t get too close to it just in case ice started to calve off. From our distance, we could see humongous thumps of ice fall off and two seconds later we would hear a loud “thunder” followed by an intense surge of water spouting into the air creating waves that we could feel from our kayaks. It was too surreal!
As for the whales? We didn’t see any around, which I wasn’t mad about but still a little disappointed something monstrous didn’t pop out of the water. Only a few otters and seals. The cold didn’t bother them one bit. It started to take its toll on us though. Our pants were drenched from the water that was already in the kayak. Veronica and I had the same mental thought process.
“This is fun and amazing. We both aren’t fond of kayaking. We both hate being cold. Why is our kayak going slower than the others? Let’s get the heck out of here.”
We followed Ben and kayaked around the isle back to our shore where Ben would prepare lunch that he made at his home for us. We were all starving and were ready for whatever he was about to serve us. But first he set up a tarp between two of the kayaks to shield us from the drizzle. It barely made do.
As he prepared our lunch, Chris and I went further along the shore to break slates while Veronica and Katelin built a fire to keep warm.
After a cold yet much needed lunch (pasta with veggies on a corn tortilla), we geared up to paddle around and through the inlets around us, which proved to be way more strenuous than we all anticipated. We basically paddled out into the open sea of nothingness, with the current along the shorelines of the isles.
“Why is our kayak moving so slow?” I would continue to say. Veronica and I were baffled. We were kayaking at normal pace and usually in sync, but for some reason, the other two kayaks were always out ahead in the distance. Thankfully after paddling for what felt like hours into a void, Ben had us dock at an isle inhabiting bears and some of the mossiest forests I’ve ever seen. The forest floor was essentially a giant blanket of cushiness. Like a natural downy fabric softener. Nothing but a soft baby green moss…with animal skulls lying around. I could have slept right on the moss if it weren’t for all those skulls laying around. There was a resident murderer around here somewhere.
At this point, I began to feel miserable. I enjoyed everything we were doing but I was soaked from waist down. I didn’t wear the proper pants for this event and I was tired of kayaking forever. Veronica felt the same way. However, that miserable feeling went completely away when we kayaked towards this…
There were chunks of icebergs everywhere, all coming from another large glacier called the Pedersen Glacier. At what first seemed like a dangerous maneuver through the icebergs turned into a real life game of Frogger for me and Veronica. The chunks of ice flowed every which way, with some even turning right-side up in the water creating small shocks of waves that shook the surrounding bay. It was impossible for me to perfectly steer our kayak through the ice and eventually accepted the fact that were just going to crash into a few chunks. May as well have fun with it? I was laughing the entire way at Veronica’s expense, since I was doing all the steering and she was sitting in front, she had no idea what direction I was taking her. Add on the fact that there was an evil-eyed seal chasing our kayak and poking its head out the water, leering at us. We definitely pinballed our way through the ice chunks, much to our amusement. We were fine as long as our kayak didn’t flip and that stalker seal didn’t come any closer. We were eventually treated to the Pedersen glacier, which was smaller than the Aialik Glacier, but the challenge was welcoming and rewarding. Thousands of ice chunks and dozens of seals surrounded us. It was by far one of the most amazing sights in all of my travels.
We explored our surroundings on foot for about 20 minutes until Ben suggested we head back to our original beach. This leg of the trip would be the longest so far. We had to kayak all the way back, but this time against the current!
The current was so strong that at times it didn’t feel like we were moving. It was a little frustrating but we knew we had to keep paddling or else we’d be stuck out here forever. It took us about three hours to get back to where we needed to be and by that time we were beat. Cold, dead, and beat. Shivering beats. Once we docked we saw that our kayak had all the heavy bags and the heavy bag of storage water. “That’s why we were going so freakin’ slow!”
Now all we had to do was wait for our boat to come pick us up. The boat was about an hour late but came in the nick of time. We were all soaking wet and freezing. As soon as we boarded, everyone changed into their dry clothes while I remained a still statue nestled in the corner of my seat until we got back to land. I eventually changed at the car, thankful that the day is over, but even more thankful that I was able to witness everything we saw in the Kenai Fjords. We were the only ones out there and had the whole bay to ourselves. We didn’t see any whales up close but we did see a couple of whales breach on the way back to Miller’s Landing. Now all we had to do was drive a few hours back to our geodesic dome and become enslaved to our dry warm beds. We got back to the dome at the same time we left, exactly 24 hours ago. But WELL worth it. This event gave us more than we all expected.
I told Chris, Veronica, and Katelin that we didn’t have an event tomorrow, but instead it would be a day of rest. “Event #4 takes place on Sunday when we fly to Juneau, Alaska” I warned them.
What they didn’t know was that I was about to pull the rug from right underneath their unsuspecting feet once again…
“We have two events tomorrow,” I began to tell the others. “The first event takes place in the morning.”
Then the questions hit me hard.
“What is it?” “What do we wear?” “Are you gonna prep us?” “Just give us a hint!”
I was pretty tight-lipped as to what the mysterious eight events were and planned on not revealing any of them until the moment we arrived at the given event.
“Just follow my lead,” I would say to them. “I’ll let you know how to dress and what you should bring.” I wouldn’t let any of them go in unprepared. It’s the least I could do. However, for the first event only, I told them what we were doing to curb their anxious minds.
“We’re going white water rafting, bright and early in the morning!” I revealed to them. I wanted to lie and pretend we were doing something else completely different to throw them off, but decided that I’ve been lying to them enough lately already.
Event #1 of 8 – White Water Rafting in Denali National Park Alaska
Alaska has been blowing my mind with its mesmerizing landscape in every direction I looked. The spruce woods and mountainous ranges extend as far as the eye could see. Anything we chose to do here would be complemented with the background scenery. This place is a photographers dream zone. Our white water rafting through the rapids of the Nenana River, from the births of Mount McKinley, was about to be awesome!
We went to a shop just outside of Denali where we were suited up in an outfit to keep us dry in Nenana’s freezing cold waters.
Our guides for this hike were three dudes by the name of Chicago, Peacock, and Derek. All three were non-locals and were up here in Alaska for the summer. As a matter of fact, most of the people who worked in these shops weren’t locals and were only here for summer work. Why? The winters here are the worst thing to ever exist and it was understandably so. Even during the peak summer season, although it didn’t snow, it sure did rain a lot. Actually, more of a drizzle that created an everlasting haze, but it added to the mind-soothing eeriness of it all. It drizzled the morning of our event, but none of us seemed to mind. Especially since the suits we were wearing kept our bodies snug and dry.
I’ve been white water rafting several times on previous trips. My first time was in Peru which was amazing. Then again in Thailand and Nepal. Nepal takes the prize as the best water rafting I have ever done, mainly because of the consistency of the high class rapids and the number of times our raft flipped. In order to have the perfect rafting experience, the raft has to flip and throw us off! I planned on asking our guide to make sure our boat f*%ing flips. Go crazy! I had high hopes…until I saw the other people in our raft. They were of the elderly type…the safety first, peaceful, ‘Heavens to Betsy’ elderly type. Still, I remained optimistic.
The Nenana River flowed a muddy gray through the basin as our raft propelled neatly on top of the motions. We were given brief instruction about proper paddle commands and procedures before we took off. This was going to be about 11 miles of rafting, so my hopes of hitting some major swirls were high!
Just like most white water rafting trips, the rapids eased us into itself before hitting us with the good stuff. We did get splashed in the face quite a bit, but only our hands and heads got wet. The dry suit we had on worked wonders and thankfully too because the water was really, really cold. Refreshing, but cold.
We hit a few rapids that ferociously rocked our raft. Not fierce enough for anyone to fall out, but enough to get decked with onslaughts of water blasts. I began to think we wouldn’t flip when I noticed our cautious guide avoiding all the higher class rapids, much to the delight of the elderly woman behind me. I had my water camera on me and whenever I stopped paddling to capture the thrills, she would indirectly make it known to me how everyone should be paddling. “Keep paddling! Everyone needs to be paddling!” She would say this everytime I plopped up my camera. She also did this when Katelin tried to do the same thing. “Everyone needs to be paddling!” Talk about a wet blanket.
We paddled for a couple of hours before our guide decided to let Chris and I jump into the water.
It was crazy how dry I was and the cold didn’t penetrate one bit! I grabbed onto a rope to make sure I didn’t get swept away before being hoisted back into the raft. From there, it was smooth sailing as we approached a bank to get back on foot and the end of event #1.
White water rafting is always fun no matter the conditions. Even though it wasn’t as extreme as I had hoped, it was still mighty enjoyable and a great way to kick off this League of Eight Extraordinary Events!
Event #2 of 8 – Ace ATV through the Alaskan Wilderness
The second event took place on the same day but hours later, at 9:30pm (21:30). One would think it would be dark at this time but not here in Alaska. This time of year in Denali it doesn’t get completely dark until well after 2am (02:00). What better way to explore the wilderness late in the evening than on single rider Ace ATV’s?
Veronica, Chris, and Katelin didn’t know what they were doing until we walked up to the ATV Denali shop when it became obvious. We’re going for a ride!
The best thing about this tour was that it was just the four of us and two guides, no one else! So no waiting on slowpoke tourists or sitting through dumb tourist questions. We had this tour to ourselves. The guides preffered the smaller group too.
We each had our own Ace ATV to explore the Alaskan wilderness as we followed our guides through some pristine spots with excellent views and a story or two. The ride was excellent and way more fun than I anticipated.
It was well past 10pm(22:00) and still light as day outside which was really weird. We could see the sun attempting to set but it was taking forever to do so. Such a beautiful tease.
The second event ended the day on a thrillingly high note. Two extraordinary events down, six more to go!
My clueless friends are unware that things are about to get intense.
It’s two weeks worth of eight unique events that take place in a number of interesting spots spread throughout Alaska, one of the most adventurous places I could think of. No one really knows what the events are or what they encompass. As a matter of fact, the majority of the league is shrouded in mystery. Where will we stay? How are we getting around? What the heck is going on? Only I know all the answers.
How can you join the league? Well, you can’t just join the league. You have to know the right people (me) and you have to be super tight with those people (me). Also, those lucky participants are highly deserving and travel compatible. The League of Eight Extraordinary Events is something I imagined up for my friends and I to enjoy as we explore places we’ve never been, before I go solo into the unknown. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska and now was the perfect opportunity.
Alaska, the Last Frontier, is by far the largest of the United States of America.
A large landmass, the size of almost a third of the continental mainland made up of rugged mountain ranges and island archipelagos. Alaska is known for its wilderness of natural beauty, scenic parks, and bears. Lots of brown bears, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, and moose the size of trucks. Some of these animals may make an appearance based on the events I know we will be doing. I know what to do in case of an unexpected encounter but to be killed so early on this worldly quest because of unpreparedness would be a shame. With that, I prepared a printout for the gang on how to handle a bear or moose encounter. After a bit of research, a moose charging at you with those gigantic behemoth sized antlers sounded a lot scarier. Odds are slim that we’ll run into any of these animals in the wild, but you know…just in case!
While waiting in the Detroit Metro Airport, the group was still in disbelief as they tried to decipher any hidden meaning of the documents I gave them.
We didn’t have a direct flight to Anchorage. Instead we had a long layover in Seattle where we were able to explore outside of the airport for a while.
We returned a few hours later to catch some sleep before the final flight. It was mighty uncomfortable but that’s just how airports are.
Once we finally landed in Anchorage, the time was about 8:10 am. We freshened up in the restrooms and went to retrieve our luggage. One of the biggest fears of a frequent traveler is to not see your precious bag loop around the conveyor belt. It’s only happened to me once and thankfully I’ve been fine ever since. We spotted our bags almost instantly as we approached the belts. Next, we headed straight to the rental car company where I had a ride waiting for us in reserve. We weren’t staying in Anchorage nor in any hotels. I had a little something more “Alaskan” waiting for us.
I didn’t reveal right out the gate that we were heading just outside of Denali National Park, which was approximately a five-hour drive. Instead, they were able to figure out on their own that it had be Denali National Park, based on the direction I was going. I can’t keep everything a secret! Thankfully though, the linear drive was easy and full of awesome scenery; some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen on a consistent basis on any given road trip.
The first of the eight extraordinary events won’t begin until the next day, which meant we had plenty of time to stop at will, explore, and soak in our surroundings as much as we could. Alaska is definitely the most beautiful state I have been to thus far.
Just outside of Denali National Park is the town of Healy where our accommodation is located. I booked us Alaskan Spruce Cabins, secluded away from everywhere else nearby, and it was ours for the next couple of nights.
Events #1 and #2 take place the next day. The gang has no idea what’s in store for them!