Keeping busy in Healy, Alaska

Welcome to Healy Sign

As you can tell (since its been 2 weeks since our last post) we have been quite busy!

When we first arrived to our stopping point of Healy, Ak, where we would be spending our time until September-October. We wondered what we were going to do on our days off with it being such a “small town”. Healy, Alaska has a population of around 1,000 people (in the winter). Now in the summer time that number pretty much triples, with all the people flying and driving in to work. Tourists come in from the train and cruise boats to adventure in and around Denali National Park. Healy is a nice little town, everyone here is very welcoming and helpful no matter the circumstance. Anyway we have had no shortage of finding things to do. Between going hiking, four wheeling, meeting Jeff King ( Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Champion), rafting down the Nenana River, Zip Lining through the Talkeetna forest and over a lake, a Discovery Boat Tour in Fairbanks and a couple dinner & theater shows “Music in Denali” and “Alaskan Cabin Nite Theater”.

Jeff King’s Husky Homestead – Dog mushing in general is a huge sport in Alaska. Competitors prepare all year long for this 1,100 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. We wanted to know more about the sport itself and what kind of training and preparation went into the event itself so we came across Jeff’s Husky Homestead. We hopped on the shuttle bus that took us down south past the Denali National Park entrance, when we arrived we were greeted by over 60 dogs, including a new litter of puppies that were about 10 weeks old. As the puppies got passed around to be held (this is actually part of the puppies training, to be held by numerous people and socialize them well) we awaited our turn and then passed them on to the next people. When everyone had there chance to cuddle and play with the new litter we were seated and Jeff started letting us in on his ways of training the dogs for the big race! Fun fact, the dogs eat about 2,000 calories of food per day during the summer months vs. 5,000 calories per day in winter months when not racing and 10,000 calories during the race each day! They sure are lean, mean, calorie burning machines! (they’re not really mean, they actually all have sweet personalities and love to play and be petted) Let me tell you though, once they know that they are fixing to be hooked up to the sled to race (or a four wheeler in the summer months), they are in race mode! They know exactly what is fixing to happen and they get very excited to do what they do best. Jeff was very insightful about how he prepares for the race, another fun fact, the entry fee for the Iditarod Race is $3,000 and each team can have up to 16 dogs per sled but no less than 6 dogs per sled by the end of the race. (Its very common for dogs to be sent home during the race if they are not performing up to par or if one gets injured.)  Jeff had a special all in one sleeping bag/snowsuit made to accommodate him to save time and space on the trail which was made of goose down from Cabela’s as it can get down to -50 degrees on the trail during the race. Overall our trip to Jeff’s Husky Homestead was a great experience and very informative. Special thanks to Jeff King and his crew!

jeffking and us champion in the making

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Helicopter Glacier Landing In Denali National Park!!!

IMG_2851 © 2015 lucas freimuth

Doug Hagle (manager at Denali Tundra Tours as well as a good friend) and myself (Lucas Freimuth) pulled into the parking lot of ERA helicopter tours on May 27th, 2015 hoping to get a spot on their 2hr glacier landing tour! The company was scheduled to take their whole fleet of helicopters (3 to be exact). We went through the safety briefing video and laced up our snow boots they loaned us, which enabled us to have good footing and grip on the slippery ice. Everyone had to leave any purses and\or backpacks behind due to safety reasons, which was weird for me not having my “go bag” (3 day survival bag) that i carry everywhere. The helicopters swooped in one after another, seeming to come out of no where. I had only been on one other helicopter with my families long-time friends the Vanderwouldes. This one was bigger but also much louder! Although Doug and i were unable to fly together because of weight restrictions he was able to fly in a different helicopter. He had been waiting for several years to get an opportunity like this one to do a tour with ERA. We took off after meeting with the pilots which were much younger than you would expect an experienced pilot to be (30ish years old). The ride was very smooth to the glacier which was roughly 100 miles out. Nothing but beautiful greenery, white snow peak mountains, and tons of lakes\streams below! The pilot landed us about 25 feet from a sizable glacial lake (about 100 square feet) which was super cold and as blue as the deep blue ocean! On our flight back we went a little different way and got to check out some Dall Sheep which were up high in the mountains for breeding (first and only wildlife of the tour). Overall the tour went very well and was well worth the money! Hope to do it again with my one true love (Cynthia Ryon). 🙂

P.S.- Terra Hagle has helped Cynthia and i get onto some great trips since we’ve been here. She has done so much for us over the past few weeks and we can’t thank her enough! THANKS

IMG_2850 © 2015 lucas freimuth

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20,000+ ft up in the air!

Me and Airplane © 2015 cynthia ryon

climbing towards the summit © 2015 cynthia ryon

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

The moment I walked onto the 11 passenger plane my heart was already beating out of my chest. For one, I am EXTREMELY claustrophobic, two, my fear of heights were already starting to overwhelm me. As I buckle up and realize there is no turning back, I grip my seat tightly with my hands, close my eyes and say to myself… ” You are fixing to do a once in a lifetime experience, you are one of the few people that actually get to see Mt. McKinley up close and personal. Its totally going to be worth it, so suck it up and get over your fears, even if its only this one time.”

As the plane lifts off the ground, my heart absolutely drops and at this point I realize there is no turning back. This is it. Here i am up in a plane above Alaska of all places, and on my way to see the top of the highest mountain in North America, is this for real? I snap some pictures and just sit there in a blank stare at the beautiful scene outside the window in front of me. I was at a  complete loss of words for the image that is now forever burnt in my mind. Experiencing Alaska on the ground has been, up to this point, fantastic, and now getting to get a birds eye view on such a beautiful stretch of land is just breathtaking.

As we get close to the mountain, we were instructed to put on our oxygen masks ( if you know me, at this point I’m freaking out inside, trying to stay calm. Here we are so far up in the sky we need oxygen masks, what the heck have i gotten my self into!)

Here I am trying to control my breathing in this small oxygen mask, freaking out, when the pilot says ” There they are!” referring to a group of climbers that he has been documenting since their departure. As he gets closer to the top, he points out their camp where they stayed the night before and then pointed to their current location. As we all take a closer look, we see 10 people waiving and making themselves noticeable. Here I am facing all of my fears, sitting in a small plane, wearing a oxygen mask, looking out a plane at Mt. McKinley (at 20,000+ ft up in the sky) at a group of 10 people fixing to summit the top. Completely blown away would be a understatement. To be able to witness this group so close to an amazing goal was such an amazing feeling.

The whole ride back i just kept thinking to myself, how lucky we were to witness that. What an experience for myself. Facing my fears and reaching outside of my comfort zone was the best thing I could have ever done, now i have such a amazing memory to look back upon.

IMG_3432 © 2015 cynthia RyonIMG_3376 © 2015 cynthia ryon

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Alaska!

© Copyright 2015 Cynthia Ryon
© Copyright 2015 Cynthia Ryon

We finally made it! 9 days on the road and we are finally here! Relief and excitement overcome both of us as we make it all this way without hardly any hassle at all, and only a few days until we start our job. As we make our way through the border and hit the road going towards Fairbanks we stop at the end of the Alaskan Highway in (Tok, Ak) we take a couple pictures and grab us a bite to eat at a local burger joint. People drive up on their four wheelers and get food to go while groups of families come and gather for ice cream sundaes and chat for a while while their kids play in the large field next to the tables outside. As we finish up eating we hop into the truck and try to figure out where we want to park for the night. On the side of the highway we spot a campground to our left, so we pull in not realizing it was 10pm since it was still very light outside. Luckily the owner was still out and about and came right over to offer us assistance. We let our dog Scout out to run and play with his black lab (I’m sure Scout was ready to see another friendly face to play with) The owner was very nice and gave us a Good Sam discount and walked us down to show us our spot and get us settled in. Our second campground in 9 days. Here we start to figure out just how bad the mosquitos really are here in Alaska, they were everywhere! As the night progresses we slowly start to tinker with the camper a little bit… and by little i mean we took out the entire stove and made way to under the fridge to see if we could reach the leak that we found a few days prior. Sadly we were unable to get our hands to where it was coming from so we gave up and went to bed. The next morning we walk up to the office to get some further directions and to see if he knew any RV service places that would be able to get our camper in. Luckily he knew of just the place and even called ahead for us and reserved us a spot. Fairbanks here we come!  We make it to Arctic RV, where we would eventually come to find out that the guy working there at the front desk was from Asheville, NC (about a hour from where we are from). What are the odds! Our first main stop in Alaska and we meet someone from our neck of the woods. They got our camper in and in no time we were ready to go. We stayed and talked to him for a while and he gave us some great pointers and suggestions for our trip. The guy working on our camper noticed our four wheeler in the back of the truck and offered to show Lucas and I some trails in the area. Of course Lucas was down to go! I stayed behind to get some grocery shopping done for the next month or so since we would not be anywhere near a grocery store for awhile! Lucas had a absolute blast getting to go out in the backcountry for the first time since we left. Me, well I got the camper completely stocked up with everything we would need for at least a month or so until we could make it back to Fairbanks. Needless to say Alaska has been awesome and we have only been here two days! As we finish up our running around in Fairbanks we make our way South to Healy, Ak. Our final destination. When we get there we are greeted by our Managers and a couple employees that beat us to the homestead. Everyone was very welcoming and excited to finally meet us. We finally made it “home” to where we will be staying for the next 4-5 months!

Canada <3

IMG_2633 © Copyright 2015 Cynthia Ryon
© Copyright 2015 Cynthia Ryon

Canada has been by far the most beautiful place we have been on our trip. As we enter Banff National Park, gas stations are becoming less and less available and more expensive. At 9:15am we head to our next destination — Lake Louise. It is just as beautiful as everyone said it would be. Although majority of it was still frozen over we were still in awe of its beauty. Throughout the park, as we headed North we started to see tons of wildlife. We stopped at a herd of 23 elk and also managed to see 2 black bear. As our second day in Canada starts to go by, we see a little different side of Canada. Outside the city all the way through Banff, you get to the deep outdoors. There are tons of campers and travel trailers just pulled off to the side of the road camping and four wheeling. At least 15-20 families spending their time out where their is no service and just enjoying each others company. It was nice to see that side of Canada. Canada has been filled with incredibly nice and helpful people.

As the night gets closer we get to Grand Praire and find a Wal-Mart to park the truck and trailer. Here we found for the first time that Wal-Marts in Canada have wifi! We were able to contact family and let them know where we were and how far we had made it.

IMG_2848 © Copyright 2015 Cynthia Ryon
© Copyright 2015 Cynthia Ryon

Getting Across the Border

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We finally make it to the Canadian Border! What a unbelievable moment. 5 days, 2,100 miles and $430 in fuel, who would of thought this moment would actually be here.

From all the research we did before we left, I’m pretty sure we were OVER prepared. Not even two minutes and a few questions later and we were on our way. From the get go things start changing pretty suddenly. Miles per hour turned into kilometers per hour, gallons of gas were in liters and everything was expensive. $68 for 68 liters of fuel.

We make our way to Banff National Park (using our Atlas, since our GPS stopped giving us directions.) As the sun starts to slowly go down we pull over at a campground off the side of the road. We get out and ask the lady about nightly rates and the weather forecast for the night (it had just begun to rain/snow) She tells us its supposed to get down to -5 degrees. We both were really questionable about it getting down that low since it was May. We decided to move on to the next campground or possibly try to find a McDonalds to park overnight. -5 degrees seemed very unrealistic to us and we both thought she was saying that to get us to hurry up and park in there for the night. Little did we know, until the next morning it FINALLY dawned on us that she meant -5 degrees C not F. We both felt like big idiots! On the upside though, we did find a McDonalds with free wifi and were able to FaceTime family for the first time since we left the USA. You do not realize how much you utilize your phone service and internet capabilities until you no longer can use either one. So at this point, as we travel through a foreign country we are using our atlas to guide us through and we are relying on wifi to contact family and friends whenever we get a change. Things sure have changed for us both since we hit the road just 5 days ago!