Friday, September 7, 2018


"Over the last two years, we have learned to depend on this great land, with its wondrous vistas and challenging terrain, to inspire us and remind us of what matters most to us."

on a recent hike to see Bear Glacier
(📷: Carolyn Orloff)
I believe that the micro ecosystems that surround us, whether they be city skyscrapers, suburban sprawl, pure wilderness, or something in between, play a critical role in shaping who we are and how we evolve as individuals, couples, communities, and as a species. I love these recent images of my husband and me, because they capture the essence of Alaska’s influence on us.
on a recent hike on the Caines Head Alpine Trail
(📷: Adam Bauer)
As the saying goes, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.” Our lifestyle in Alaska encourages and challenges us to live up to that saying on a daily basis, both individually and as a couple. It is not always easy, and sometimes it takes a lot of hard work and time to find our way back to the same trail, so that we can continue to walk together in the same direction. Over the last two years, we have learned to depend on this great land, with its wondrous vistas and challenging terrain, to inspire us and remind us of what matters most to us.

My wish for all of us is to take the time to discover and deeply experience different environments, and then make conscious choices to surround ourselves with the ecosystem that puts us at ease and motivates us to act in the interest of our authentic selves. This in turn will benefit our loved ones, communities, and the planet. We're all connected in this one great macro ecosystem!

In joy,

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mt. Alice, the boss

views of Resurrection Bay from Mt. Alice
Living in Alaska and frequently hiking over the last two years has convinced me that mountains have personalities. There are those that will make you earn every single step and view on the way up and down! This, at least for me, describes our tallest mountain in Seward, Mount Alice. She always kicks my ass in one way or another. 

I have attempted to climb to its Godwin Glacier overlook on a number of occasions. My husband has reached that point on the mountain a couple of times over the last two years without me. I am happy to say that I finally did it earlier this summer, but not without Alice testing my nerves!
B in his element. Mt. Alice's highest peak is on the left.
I managed to keep it together on the way up, and was quite proud and pleasantly supervised with myself when we reached the top, given the crazy steep crumbling rock and snow fields we had just finished crossing using the ‘ladder approach’. 

However, on the way down, Alice reminded me who’s in charge. That’s when I didn’t keep it together. 

While we were crossing another steep downhill snowfield, and each step looked like it was taking me toward an endless abyss, because I couldn't see around the corner; and I started believing that if I didn't take an absolutely perfect step I would end up rolling down the entire side of the mountain and into Resurrection Bay; my dear husband sensed the level of my stress and started to say something sweet to me, when I  screamed back "Please don't talk. I'm starting to freak out!" It got so bad that I started kicking the snow in frustration, as if that was going to make me get down quicker, or safer, or make my freezing hands feel better! 

I made it!
Luckily, and gratefully, he continued to remind me, in his signature gentle way, that everything was just fine, that we were safe, and that I could do this. And with that, along with a bit of crying by me and some loving hugs from him, I managed to get back to Zen somehow and enjoy the rest of the climb down. But not without feeling deeply humbled, once again, by Mt. Alice, the boss. 

Happy mountaineering!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Five years ago we had this dream of living a more human-powered and wilderness-inspired lifestyle in Alaska, but it seemed like it wouldn’t be possible for a very long time. Then about three years ago we started thinking and talking about trying to make it happen sooner. Over time people stopped believing us, because we had been talking about it for so long. Then about a year and a half ago, we recognized that it was “now or never” and decided to put the puzzle pieces together in order to make it happen in less than 4 months.

The above video shows the day of our arrival in Alaska about a year ago, on September 28, 2016, with 5 cardboard boxes and a Japanese mattress J. A year later, we own a few more things, mainly bikes, and still no car! And what have we learned? Well, most importantly that once you start to act in the direction of your dreams, they just become bigger and wilder …

Happy "Dreams Come True"!
~Modern Akhmatova

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Alaskan Summer Rhapsodies

"We spill over into the world and the world spills over into us. The earth, that first among good mothers, gives us the gift that we cannot provide ourselves.'Thanks,' I whispered, 'for all of this.'" ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer

Summer may not be officially over according to the Gregorian calendar, but it sure is starting to feel like it here in Alaska. With the tourist season coming to an end, the dropping temperatures, fading colors, and overall easing of sensory overload, I can once again reflect and slow down more easily and naturally.

After my first trip to Alaska in the summer of 2013, the thing that struck me the most was the sheer size of Mother Earth's creation in comparison to wo/man's. The land's infinite power and beauty are inescapable in Alaska, that one can't help but get out of their own head and stand awe-struck in gratitude. 

And as far as I can tell after 11 months here, summer is Alaska's biggest show. Life is at its most extroverted self. The snow melts as the rivers get deeper, wider and faster. Mother Earth nourishes an ever expanding array of plants, animals, and insects. The mountains sing in bright shades of lupine, paintbrush, columbine, and daisies, uplifting birdsong, expectant bear encounters, and excited human exploration.

It is a time when Mother Earth's wonders come out in full view, showing off in so many ways that it's hard for human beings to keep up or not feel overwhelmed. The best way to absorb everything was to simply accept the sensory overload, let it wash over you and become a reverent witness. 

Here are some of Alaska's summer wonders that my partner and I are grateful to have enjoyed, although there were many others that we didn't capture in photos:
a bittersweet symphony 
'it's a berry world'
oh, Alaska

the salmon run
the perfect place to rest
an exercise in reciprocity
sun-struck serenades 
village life
time for fishing
peaks like these
wild bonsai
delicate symmetry 
bikes and beaches
family walks
Seward in July
wild woman in training

tandem bike rides among mountains
falling in love
kayaking on Resurrection Bay
ice field dreams
endless vistas
secret doorways
whale wonders
where the wind blows

And then August rains come rolling in, as the salmon spawn and life starts to close in on itself.

life, death, life
Happy summer reflections!
~Modern Akhmatova

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


"All this adult seriousness isn't necessarily the only way to be connected to the land. Being playful is a big part of it." ~ Bjorn Olson (human-powered adventures advocate)
Even though bicycling has been a constant part of my life for over 4 years now, I hadn't really experienced mountain biking until this past weekend. B (my significant other) had done it a couple times and loved it. So, he was very excited for me to try it here in Seward on one of the local trails that's only accessible in the summer and frequently visited by mountain bikers. One our way out the door, B ran into our neighbor and told him what we were about to do. In response, our neighbor said "Prepare to be yelled at!"

B had warned me that the first half an hour or so of the trail going up through the woods was going to be a bit tough with all the roots and rocks sticking out of the ground. Well, as it turned out, it was like that for about the first 1.5 hours! I slipped on or fell off my bike about 4 times and bruised myself in 4 different places during this time. B also fell down so bad at one point that he got a nasty cut on his right knee and a few cuts on his right palm. Unlike me, his reaction was one of "This is awesome!" What is more, he kept saying, basically from the very beginning, "It should get better and easier from here."
Surprisingly, I didn't actually end up yelling at him at all. :) Despite all the bruises, scrapes and bumps, it was a lot of fun experiencing a trail on a bike. The satisfaction of being able to ride over branches, rocks, narrow paths overlooking mountain ravines, and steep hills, while trying to keep balance on a bike, was constant and oh so satisfying!

Once out of the woods and above the tree line, the trail opened up to incredible 360 degree views of the mountains surrounding us as far as the eye could see. Our sweet Seward and Resurrection Bay could be seen as well, beautiful shimmering blue expanses out in the distance, merging with the light blue sky that blessed us that day. For the next hour, we rode over a pretty easy trail across alpine meadows whose red shrubs, grasses, pristine ponds, and an assortment of wild flowers, danced in the alpine breeze, waving hello as we passed by.
And of course, that wasn't all that Alaska had to offer. The trail we were on is called Lost Lake Trail  for a reason. There is a lake at the end of the trail, which we hadn't seen, even though we had hiked the "winter" trail up this  mountain on many occasions. Needless to say, we were very excited to reach it that day and finally get to enjoy it in person. The lake isn't visible until very far into the trail, so you really have to earn the experience, which is a typical state of affairs in Alaska. :) As we reached another of the many hills in the meadow, we suddenly could see the lake in the distance. It literally stopped us in our tracks. The shades of blue were breathtaking. That's when we realized that every step of the hike, push and ride up was more than worth it.
From there, we rode like crazy toward the lake, all the while watching it get bigger and more enchanting as we got closer to it. Once at the very edge of the lake, the pristine waters and thin ice sheets still covering much of it, we couldn't help but feel a sense of calmness, gentleness, and purity. This was exactly the kind of place we liked to dine in. We pulled out our sausage, sesame sticks, homemade protein bars, pita chips, fig newtons and dried figs, and ate in utter joy!

After about an hour of lazing around in the sun, B walking into the water barefoot and then having to go in a second time to rescue my hat (oops!), we got ready to head back.

While we got bruised and hurt on the way up, going slower than walking pace sometimes, we managed to go back down, at what seemed like lightning speed, without as much as a thought about something going wrong. We rode to our heart's content, and to my sheer surprise at being able to keep up with B, because I am usually the cautious one when it comes to speed. There were a few moments when I literally held on to the bicycle bars and hoped for the best, despite the very real risk of falling down a ravine on one side or flipping over my bike and onto a trail full of rocks and giant roots.

Rather than considering myself crazy or risk-averse, I think I gained confidence and trust in my bike throughout the trip, so that I could do some things by the end that I never would've imagined myself doing at the beginning. And I must say that going down, after earning every step of the way up, is very motivating to enjoy the return as much as possible :).
Once off the trail and headed home, I said to B, "I feel like we are two kids that just had a whole lot of fun riding up and down that mountain." He smiled and agreed.

Happy feeling like a kid again!
~Modern Akhmatova

Sunday, May 21, 2017


 "The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences." ~ Jon Krakauer
Entering Caines Head State Recreation Area.

This past weekend, we embarked on our first backpacking trip in Alaska, and more specifically in the 6,000 acre Caines Head State Recreation Area. We were getting antsy to start backpacking as soon as possible, given the oncoming "onslaught"😊 of the tourist season and the increasing accessibility of Mother Nature's wilderness due to raising temperatures. With that, we decided two weeks ago that we were going to make our way to South Beach this weekend, rain or shine. And of course, much to B's joy and my consternation, it rained as we loaded the packs on our tandem bicycle and made our way over to the trail head!
The sun decided to come out right as we started our hike along the coast! 
It was a route we had never hiked before, mainly because it is a combination of coastal and mountain hiking. The coastal part is blocked unless you hike it during low tide which means it is only passable about every 12 hours or so. Once you go in you should be prepared to spend the night or get a boat or plane to pick you up on the other side. Lacking a boat or a plane, we were left to feel a combination of urgency and excitement as we started our trip on foot on Friday afternoon, racing the tide.

This is a pretty popular backpacking route for locals, but we were able to avoid the crowds because we left on a Friday afternoon. We didn't see anyone the entire time we were out there on Friday and all day Saturday morning. We had the secluded beaches, mountains and historic WWII monuments to ourselves, except during the last 2-3 miles of our trip back. We covered about 10 miles on Friday and 8 miles on Saturday.
Sign at North Beach. 4.5 miles into our hike.
We were on the coast by 2:30pm on Friday and in the tent by 10pm. During those 8 or so hours, we enjoyed beautiful coastline views of Resurrection Bay and surrounding mountains. We watched seagulls and Barrow's goldeneye ducks flying overhead or hanging out in the coastline waves. We listened to waterfalls rolling over mountains and into the bay. We discovered wonderful public use cabins and creepy WWII fort (Fort McGilvray). We explored lush temperate rainforest covered in moss and flowering wild blueberry bushes along with receiving three magical visits from rufous hummingbirds. It was certainly a day to remember, and one that left us thoroughly satisfied and exhausted by the time we snuggled into our sleeping bags on Friday evening.
One of the two main 6 inch gun blocks that is part of Fort McGilvray overlooking Resurrection Bay.
Drawing of Fort McGilvray that was built during WWII and at one point housed 2,000 soldiers. The fort still stands, and is open to the public, though it's in disrepair and quite creepy. 
Exploring one of the many overgrown bunkers built during WWII. 
After spending the night near the water, close enough to hear the waves crashing through the night, we got up the next day rejuvenated and ready to seize the day...or so we thought! We stretched our sleepy limbs with a leisurely walk along the shoreline, and a breakfast of PB&J sandwiches and cold water. Shortly thereafter, we packed up and were back on the trail by 9:45am.

South Beach on Friday evening. Our campsite was nearby.
Once again, we were heading into new territory, having chosen to complete the loop trail and thus follow a different route on our way back to North Beach, where we were going to catch the low tide and arrive back in Seward. At this point, we were 6.2 miles away from North Beach and we had about 6 hours to get there. I was a bit nervous about trying out a new trail with so many time constraints, but B felt that it would work out ok.  And so, with a combined sense of trepidation and excitement, we embarked into the unknown once again!
Snack time overlooking a waterfall on Rainforest Trail between South Beach and North Beach.
Beautiful moss-covered woods and more stunning waterfalls!
Over the five hours we huffed and puffed our way through steep mountainside, stopping to eat alongside one of the countless, huge waterfalls. Though we were hiking the Rainforest "trail" we lost the trail three times. The trail was washed out by flooding as we climbed up the south face and then buried under snow fields as we started down the north face of the mountain. After losing the trail on the descent the second time we gave up finding it again and so decided to follow the water downward instead. We got soaked from head to toe bushwhacking our way through snow, mud, swamp, growing evergreens, devil's club shrub, and flowering wild blueberry bushes. What seemed like ages later, not knowing exactly where we were, and still racing the clock for the low tide, we hooted and hollered in pure joy when we recognized the North Beach day hut through the trees. We were going to make it in time for the tide.
Walking on North Beach toward Seward.
Enjoying the refreshing alpine waters on our way home.
Needless to say, we took it easy once back on the coastline, reveling in all the excitement we had just experienced and appreciating the calm bay waters gently hitting the shoreline. It was at this point that we also started to run into other hikers, backpackers and walkers going in the opposite direction. We stopped to chat with a few and suggested that they stick to the Caines Head and South Beach Trails and avoid the Loop and Alpine Trails, unless they were ready to bushwhack and snowshoe their way up and down the mountain 😉.

Seagulls hanging out on the rocks, while we hiked nearby. 
Once back at the Lowell Point State Recreation Site trail head, we loaded our packs onto our tandem bicycle, got on and biked the last 5.5 miles of our trip back home. As we rode through downtown Seward, we were greeted by sunshine and hundreds of people enjoying the local Mermaid Festival. We discussed possibly stopping to see what was going on, but promptly decided that all we wanted to do was get home, eat pizza and be lazy for the rest of the day 😊.

Happy exploring of the unknown!
~Modern Akhmatova