Monday, June 4, 2012

Summit 2 Sound: Valdez

The second annual Summit 2 Sound went down in Valdez, AK on Memorial Day Eve Day.  Last year, due to a timing error, we were awarded last place. In Alaska this is known as the Red Lantern.  So we were back determined to regain / defend our honor.  

Expresso / Soup / Ice Cream Truck
3/4 of our team returned from last year.  Team "Valdez Nuts" had high hopes. As with last year, the weather was shit at the pass. The first leg involved a quick skinner up Mountain Little Odyssey right at Thompson Pass. Groups of 4 were sent every 5 minutes. Gear varied: split boards, snow-shoes, AT, new, old, light, heavy.

Snowing on Thompson Pass
It was snowing hard at the Pass which was no big deal for the skier, but the snow was mounting in the transition area.  The road biker would be in for a miserable ride. Snow and slush eventually gave way to a cold rain and road construction.

Through the Canyon
The stubborn rain continued, but Celene hammered on making good time and 26 miles later she was at the kayak beach.  The transition was awkward at best and left Celene sprawled out on the ground. Fortunately she was fine and Dean made his way to the water.

Starting the Kayaking Leg
The kayak leg starts on the far side of the Valdez Arm and heads towards town.  Skies were grey, but seas were flat making for good conditions.  Laura was pumped for the 4.5 mile through town and beat her pre-race estimate.
Ringing the Bell at the Finish
We were done and there still were teams left on the course, but this does not guarantee a red-latern free race because there are 4 divisions and each has its own last place award.

Like last year, skies cleared up after the race making for a beautiful afternoon.  The award ceremony wasn't until 6 PM so we had a few hours to kill.  So over to the Fat Mermaid to crush a few pitchers of Ghost Town Brown.  The award party was at Kelsey Dock known locally as "The Pringle" due to a pringle shaped canopy that covers the stage and some picnic tables.

From Valdez looking across the Port
We knew we didn't win, but we were nervous about the Red Lantern, and we breathed a sigh of relief when our name was not called.  Now we could get down to some partying!

The next day was Memorial Day and to celebrate our impressive finish, the entire team including our professional cheer leader, Emily, went out for a day of sea kayaking with Pangaea. We rode the water taxi for 2 hours to a terminal moraine about ten miles from where the Columbia Glacier calves into the sea.

The moraine traps all the ice in this 10 mile section of the fjord. Water drains in and out through several shallow channels with the changing tides, but the ice stays trapped.

On the Moraine
You easily paddle through the shallow channels to enter into the icy labyrinth. The sound of ice cracking and splashing into the water is constant. Glacial ice bergs are blue-est below water line, but because of the low tide, many larger chucks were grounded in the shallows exposing the blue ice to the daylight.

After 4 hours of paddling, it was time to get back on the boat.  We had good luck with wildlife on the way to the glacier, and our luck continued on the ride back. All told, we saw orcas, humpbacks, otters, porpoise, sea lions, and many birds that nobody cared about.

We were worked, but I needed to be back at work first thing Tuesday morning, so Laura and I hit the road.  The wildlife parade continued on the drive back: eagles, caribou, Dall sheep, a brown bear, porcupines, and moose aplenty.

Mother and Child
Work sucked. All I could think about was napping and as quitting time approached visions of my bed were dominating my semi-conscious thoughts.  The time had come, but just before flipping the switch, I checked my email. The Official Race were in and there had been a mistake on race day. Due to a timing error on race day the Red Lantern was improperly awarded to the wrong team.  It was ours.


I'm already thinking 3-peat.


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