HIking · Living in Alaska · Skiing · Weekend · Winter

A Happy Holiday Weekend

Hi everyone!  This weekend was filled with so much awesome stuff that I’m going to need to split it into two posts.  And there’s no better way to start off than by focusing on Christmas and the start of Hanukkah!

On Christmas Eve back in Philly, we used to host a party for both of our families.  It was so much fun, and I’ve missed it the last few years.  This year we spent the holidays here in Anchorage, and we knew there were a lot of other people who were looking for a place to spend Christmas Eve.  So we decided to host a little party to celebrate both Christmas and the first night of Hanukkah!  Andrew got to explain the story of Hanukkah to our friends and they helped us light the menorah.

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On Christmas morning, we woke up and exchanged presents.  I got Andrew a guitar and he got me a few really awesome things, including a bike trainer!  I can’t wait to be able to ride my road bike all winter long in front of my TV.  And Ridley got a pizza toy and he clearly takes after his mom with how much he loves pizza!  I was starting to get pretty homesick after presents, so I was happy when we got the chance to spend the rest of the day surrounded by our friends.  We had the most delicious brunch at our friend’s house, and then we took a short walk on the Campbell Creek trail.  It was snowing and we were so excited about the fact that it was a white Christmas!

After our walk we went to see the movie Sing (sooooo cute and inspirational!) and then I finished my day off with some Christmas skiing on the Hillside trails.  It was really icy, which created the slickest skiing conditions I’ve ever been in.  I fell on the very first hill and definitely smashed up my right side.  I literally had to clip out and walk up/down every hill after that.  If anyone knows of any completely flat places to ski in Anchorage please let me know, because I need to get some confidence back after that!  The only good part of the ski was my amazing Christmas leggings.  I was super festive out there!

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Candy cane leggings make any ski better!

To make up for my botched Christmas adventure, my friend and I decided to plan an “epic winter adventure” for Monday because we both had off work.  My husband and Ridley came along as well, and he really wanted to hike out to Byron Glacier down in Portage.  It’s a really short, flat hike and it’s gorgeous, so I agreed right away.  The weather was nice and warm, and it kept getting warmer the farther south we drove.  When we arrived it was 36 degrees and raining, which was an unexpected start to our hike.  Another unexpected moment came when we went to drive down the road to the Byron Glacier parking lot and it was completely iced over.  Everyone was parked by the entrance to the road, so we did the same thing and walked about a mile or so to the trailhead on some serious ice.  I was sliding all over the place and was feeling pretty grumpy despite the awesome views of Portage Lake.

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Once we reached the trail we were shocked at how deep and narrow of a path the trail was through the snow.  We had to walk single file, and when we met another person on the trail we had to step off into knee-deep snow.  It quickly became exhausting to have to constantly check where I was putting my feet because one wrong move sent me sinking into the snow.  When we reached the valley the views were gorgeous and it definitely took my mind off the difficulty of the hike!

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The width of the trail through the knee deep snow

We also noticed that part of the trail had been washed out by a recent avalanche.  We were all a bit on edge after seeing the giant snowballs everywhere, especially because we could still see the path that the snow had taken down the mountain.  We decided to keep going towards the glacier though because we were almost there.

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Heading towards the toe of the glacier – and staying far away from places where we could fall into the ice!

Once we got to the end of the trail, we could see the top of Byron Glacier hanging down from the mountains.  The bottom part, however, was totally covered in snow from a recent avalanche.  I had just seen people posting pictures of the ice caves under the glacier on Friday, so I know it had to have happened over the weekend.  We were kind of bummed but also more than a bit freaked out about how many avalanches had happened in the valley in the last few days, so we quickly took a few more pictures before heading back to the car.  Overall it was 4 miles of crazy winter conditions that equalled a really good workout.

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It was my first experience with winter hiking, and I have to say that it was harder than I thought it would be!  I worry about bears in the summer, but the winter brings a lot of fear about avalanches and slipping on snow and ice.  We’re definitely going to get some crampons before we attempt any other hikes in above freezing temperatures again, and we’ll stay away from places that have a high avalanche danger for sure.  But I’m glad we tried it – it was definitely an adventure!

Have you ever done winter hiking before?  What did you do to celebrate Christmas?  Did you spend it with your family or your friends?

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4 thoughts on “A Happy Holiday Weekend

  1. Alaska was made for Christmas adventures, and you went for it! I hope that you are all in one piece today! But still, that is one epic way to celebrate Christmas

  2. Wow that is a lot of snow!!!
    Here it was storming for 4 days. And that over Christmas, rain, rain, rain and so stormy, we couldn’t even complete a run as it purely has blown us of the trails!
    As for the tights:
    I treated myself to a pair of X-Bionic running tights which will arrive today and hope they will fit as I would like to wear them this Saturday (30 miles race).
    Christmas itself we spend at home, just us, eating a lot of (vegan) food!

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