Had you going there, didn’t I? You thought I was completely full of it and deluding myself by thinking I was going to keep up writing this thing. Nope, I’ve just been honest-to-God kind of busy lately, what with the getting back to town and reconnecting with my wife I’ve been long-distance-relationship-ing for most of the summer. And I had to spend some time freaking out about, and then tidying up, our little house, as my idea of a clean place to live and my wife’s are (while not diametrically opposed) rather different. I also got distracted by my shiny PlayStation with a couple new games that came out over the summer I was itching to get into. On a related note, Arkham Knight is amazing, though my OCD is fighting with my ADD over whether I should solve all the Riddler puzzles.
Before I made it back home last week, I stopped over at my in-laws’ place in Chugiak, mainly so I could spend a little time with them before being locked away in the Arctic for the foreseeable future, but also because I discovered on the way down that flying between Kaktovik and Sacramento in one trip sucks, and I was exhausted and out of it for a couple days when I got to my parents. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that (and I should have remembered this) my mother-in-law is generally against “taking it easy” as a form of recreation. I, on the other hand, like to think I have raised it to an art form.
So, after a couple months of not doing a whole lot (by design), I was suddenly doing all the things, and simultaneously feeling guilty about not doing a whole lot (by design) for the last couple of months. She’s good at that. I got in late on a Thursday, and by Friday morning we were down the mountain again, hitting the Anchorage Costco for supplies, sorting out the storage situation for our stuff that isn’t in the Arctic with us, and taking the opportunity to donate blood. As I have mentioned before, both my father-in-law, Buff, and I are O- baby donors, so blood banks practically salivate over us. Considering the fact that my blood is so precious, you would think they would attempt to make the process as easy as they could, and I suppose they do, but it would be nice if they remembered what I said on the forms from last time, and the time before; yes, I have “ever” taken this one particular form of acne medication, but no, I haven’t taken it in over a decade, so it’s probably not still in my blood.
On Saturday, since the weather was nice, Deb suggested we hike the Twin Peaks trail in the nearby Chugach State Park, and maybe pick some blueberries, too. This sounded like a good time to me; I was feeling confident after hiking both the Bumpass Hell and Mill Creek Falls trails at Lassen Volcanic NP and leaving my parents in the dust only the weekend before. And this trail was roughly the same length, how hard could it be?
Well, there’s a big difference between hiking a trail that is relatively flat (though I would describe Mill Creek Falls as fairly up-and-down) and effectively climbing a mountain. It’s about two-and-a-half miles up to the end of the trail, and the “unofficial” trail that leads to blueberry pickings is probably another three-quarters of a mile beyond that. There’s a reason they tell you to avoid “strenuous activities” for about 24 hours after giving blood, and I always assumed it was because you might faint or something. Nope, it’s because you might start bleeding profusely from where they took the donation, which I didn’t notice until I was most of the way up the mountain. It wasn’t life-threatening or anything, but it is always disconcerting when you feel that hot, wet, stickiness and you’ve got bright red bodily fluid leaking down your arm.
Then, after this arduous hike up a mountain that literally caused one of my veins to burst, we set about harvesting blue (and crow) berries. One of the things about my mother-in-law is she does nothing by halves. As I explained to her at the time, if this had been a Hinton family outing (assuming we had all made it up the mountain to begin with), we would have taken in the scenery, probably snacked on sandwiches or something we’d brought with us, picked a few blueberries for the novelty and hiked back down. The Rix’s come prepared. We had empty Tupperware containers, small buckets, and “berry combs”; hand tools specifically designed to pick small, hard berries en masse. And, by God, we stayed there until we had literally picked gallons of berries. But this is the subsistence mindset: why spend actual hard-earned money on berries at the grocery store when you can hike up a mountain and get buckets of them for free? There’s certainly a logic there, though I have to admit I haven’t quite grasped it yet.
Now, I also have to admit it hasn’t occurred to me until now that harvesting in a state park may or may not be kosher, or if where we ended up even still qualifies as “in the park”. I know it is heavily frowned upon (to the point of illegality) in a National Park, but I don’t know enough about Alaska park rules to know the specifics of blueberry collection. Not that the in-laws have a history of flaunting the rules, but they don’t exactly have the reputation of strict respect for park regulations that comes from having a father who spent time with the California Department of Fish & Game and the Department of Parks and Recreation.
At the end of the day, it was a good time all around, I was only a little bit sore the next day, and we have loads of berries, even up here, since some travelled with me. So I shouldn’t complain. The views were gorgeous, and I had an opportunity to go out and do something, which, trust me, is going to be few and far between these days.