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Serenity Segues to Stress

Updated: Sep 19

Monday-Tuesday, 21-22 August 2023, Anchorage

I expected the Gulkana-Anchorage flight to be uneventful - no National Park scenery, flying at 'normal' altitude - but it surprised me. The peaks in the Chugach Range sparkled in the light, and rivers of ice flowed through them.

The Verizon rep called back as I checked into my airBNB. Since my hostess said the Verizon store was under two miles distant, I told the rep I'd get it straightened out today. Off I went on foot, using Google Maps app to get there. Or at least to get close, at which point it sent me around in circles.

Once I found it in the mall, my frustration grew. An estimated wait time of 30 minutes turned into an hour before the tech became free. Then he spent 30 more minutes vainly trying to fix the issue. No luck. I settled for paying my overdue bill (that Verizon had fronted for me) and figured I'd get my account reset once I got home. At least I found a good restaurant on my two-mile walk home. (I considered a rental car for this layover, but the cheapest started at $200/day.)

Back in my room, I prioritized getting the second Katmai blog posted. I enjoyed reviewing my real-time writeup, reminiscing over that fantastic park outing. Getting it typed in, matching it with the abundance of photos, and editing the videos stretched into the following morning. Actually posting it? Another matter entirely. I hit 'upload' for the two long videos, and the Wi-Fi went into molasses mode. After letting it spin for an hour while I organized my luggage, I gave up. Time to get fresh air while wandering to the Alaska Botanic Gardens, and let the computer plod away for the day.

After the debacle yesterday, l gave the Google Maps app a chance to redeem itself. Plug in the garden and see the result: a four-mile stroll, mostly through a regional park. Ooh, nature! Let's walk my stresses away. Write those directions down!

At the end of my street, the app directed me to the Homestead Trail. The only trail I could find was a footpath into the woods with no trail sign. I took the path, following an under-used walkway into the heart of the woods, spouting forth my bear chatter as I went. (Signs reminded me that bears can be everywhere here.) Eventually it reached an unmarked junction. Without a clue as to which way to proceed, I pocketed my handwritten route notes and turned on the app.

It directed me past a few side paths, and my path kept getting narrower. Oh, well, at least it's too narrow for a bear, I reasoned.

For a bear, maybe - but how about an alligator? The path grew wetter, with standing pools of brackish water. I had to step bank-to-bank to keep dry.

Finally a large pool blocked my way, with no apparent way forward. When my stream of invectives failed to clear the path, I gingerly returned to the last side trail, which quickly took me to... the Homestead Trail! The rest of the stroll was along well-marked, maintained paths big enough for service vehicles to use.

Now maybe I can start tamping down that stress reflex!

The gardens made it worth the hassles. I quickly found False Spiraea,

a plant I'd always admired. Others of note (whose names I could remember) included Bridal Veil Astilbe

and Asiatic Lily.

Foxglove (Digitalis) I'd grown in my garden before.

Many others fell from my memory,

or had no sign identifying them. One garden exhibit featured rock gardens, plants requiring well-drained rocky soils. (I dubbed them 'Alaskan bonsai'.)

Several others offered peaceful nooks and colorful displays.

I especially enjoyed the VW Bus planter.

A couple items surprised me. On one tree, fungal growths attached themselves to bark. The interpretive sign said they were useful from transferring fire to new locations. If you put an ember in one, it would smolder all day before adding it to tinder to start another fire.

Elsewhere they'd erected a 'bee hotel'. Bees without a queen or a hive would fly into the holes here to rest from their important pollination effort.

(Maybe the bee I photographed later was staying in that hotel!

One more shot!

Now for my final exam in Google Maps 101. I didn't feel like walking four miles 'home'. Could I use the app to get me home via public transportation? My score: A+! It took two buses (20 & 55) to get me within a block of my room. Total wait time for the buses barely hit ten minutes.

At least my uploads had finally completed, allowing me to post the blog. Now I must repack my bags for the third time this trip, and get ready to fly far north to Kotzebue. (That's even further north than Nome!)

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