I got up at 3am, glad that I’d actually put everything in my bag the night before. Somehow I was still barely ready for the rideshare which came at 4:10am. The security line at SEA moved well despite worries about TSA staff being reallocated away and so I read a book on my phone for two hours before the flight took off. After small talk and more reading at 35,000ft I was in FAI.
My phone didn’t immediately have reception so I walked around trying to find a map of Fairbanks or and information desk. I had reservations at a hotel just across the highway where the whole group was staying tonight. I enjoyed the irony of trying to use a map to find my way to the start of a trip where map and compass would be taught. Good thing as I couldn’t quite line up the tourist map I found with the airport roads. After rebooting my phone, I got service was called for the courtesy shuttle.
The afternoon passed with a trip to the grocery store to get lunches for the trip (2 loafs of bread, PB&J), a nap, a pre-father’s day call to dad, and some more reading, I went downstairs for the gear check.
The group trickled in one at a time, shaking hands and learning names. Andrew, our guide, showed up with a porter’s cart of the demo gear some of us were borrowing, maps, and food to distribute. I was borrowing a pack and tent, and had purchased an bearproof sack from Andrew. Fortunately the loafs of bread, an usual choice for backpacking trips due to their size (tortillas are a much more common), fit.
This is a more advanced group and I’m the only one who hasn’t been on a trip with Andrew before so the gear check was complete but not rigorous. Special attention was given to the fact that I was bringing PB&J on real bread (not tortillas) for 7 days straight but the calories checked out so after some laughs and pictures I given a pass (Instagram).
Andrew laid out the maps and showed the proposed route. Part of what makes this trip interesting is they while we have an intended route, there are some options and we’ll wind up choosing based on time and group interest.
In the evening, we all went out for dinner nearby. I guess you know you’re in Alaska when a Bacon-Cheddar Burger is listed under Lighter Fare & Vegetarian Options.
A lot of reminiscing happened. Apparently Andrew ran a trip or two in Alaska around 2011 at the start of his guiding career. While all ended well, the mishaps and learning moments made for good stories. The group began to gel and I’m looking forward to spending the next 7 days with these folks. There’s a range of personalities and styles which will make it all the more fun.
I seem to have gotten a (well deserved) reputation for laughing loudly. The best comment came during dinner: “it’s a good thing we’re going to be out in open spaces because that laugh needs some room”.