This was a weekend for the books, friends. Let me start by saying that you know it’s going to be a good one when your S.O. packs your pack and the car before you’re even done with work. All I had to do was change my clothes and we were on the road, heading north for the long weekend.
Our friend Jared got a caribou tag for Unit 13, a subsistence unit that covers a ton of acreage north of the Mat-Su borough. Adam was invited along to help, thanks to his hunting experience on Adak and willingness to carry meat. Jokingly, my value to the trip was a little less clear when we set out. I’ve never been hunting and ‘quiet’ isn’t really a setting on my voice. But! That didn’t matter. I wanted to check out a new area and spend time with friends, so I tagged along.
We drove well past 10 PM Friday night, north past Talkeetna and eventually turning onto the historic and totally badass Denali Highway. We pulled off and made camp, sleeping beneath stars and a very faint Northern Lights show. Adam broke out our zero-degree bags for the weekend and it was so, so cozy. Especially at 5 AM when they woke me up again for the long day ahead.
I’ll skip through the blood and gore to let you know that I’m officially spoiled for future hunting trips. A beautiful day in Alaska’s backcountry with friends, the good fortune of a healthy herd early in the day and a well-executed field dressing… I’m afraid if I ever go hunting again, I’ll be too soft for the real hard work.
We had anticipated spending the entire long weekend in the backcountry. In reality, it took less than a day, so we drove the remainder of the Denali Highway to Paxson and skedaddled back to hang the quarters and process meat. Fair to say, our trio was exhausted by the end of the day. Jared and Adam did some quick math and decided that from hitting the road, to the backcountry hunt and back home again – we were only gone 30 hours. Oof.
With no other weekend plans, Adam and I hung around the valley to help Jared process caribou meat. Another first for me – making our own sausage! I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to source our food and be a part of the process from field to table. It’s an incredible undertaking and a labor of love (some emphasis on labor). With KNBA‘s Truck Stop playing behind us, the three of us got to work and completed the caribou sausage project by early afternoon. Again, done early and with no other plans…
I don’t think any of us have complaints about the nature of the weekend. With an afternoon to burn we went hiking in Hatcher Pass. Another first for me: a quick climb up Hatch Peak to shake up the afternoon slumps. I’ve been up a shoulder of the peak in winter, but this was my first time on the trail and to the true summit. As always, Alaska views didn’t disappoint.
Hunting, hiking, happy friends… It was a Labor Day weekend well-spent.