Day 3 Highlights:
We drove from Denali back down to Anchorage. On the way we stopped by Igloo City, an abandoned Igloo Hotel built in the 70s that never even opened because they couldn't meet the codes. Now it's just a hilarious eyesore. See below. We also stopped for some Alaskan BIRCH flavored ice cream, which kind of tastes like a mild syrup flavor. It was good. Also purchased some brittle.
Then we hit up Palmer, which was a very rural, beautiful drive to the east of Willow and Wasilla area. Stunning views. Found a cool magic bus in the middle of nowhere (see below)
Then we did the April Bowl Trail (Rating: Moderate) which was amazing but the fog was thick. The mountains surrounding this area are steep, dramatic and green. It felt a bit like Norway at times. People were hang gliding off of them which was fun to watch. This hike had my favorite hiking feature: GLACIAL LAKES. See below. Nathan spotted some acquaintances on the mountain which was unexpected and very fun. We met up with them for drinks later.
Finally, we stopped by an abandoned gold mine that was working until the 30s and 40s. It was built during the gold rush era. Pretty creepy. See below. An overall eventful sabbatical day.
Odds and Ends: Palmer, AK is known to grow some of the largest vegetables in the US due to the sun being out most of the day.
We have reached ALASKA- the final frontier! Highlights:
Day 1: Climbed Mount Baldy Loop (1st picture- you can click on each of them). Difficulty: Moderate. STEEP incline up and then a nice walk along the ridge. Was paranoid of a bear encounter. You're supposed to make noise when you hike and indicate to the bears that you're a human so we spent the latter half of the trail lamely yelling "we are human beings!" into the brush. Overall, good first hike of the trip. Then drove up to Denali. On the way we stopped by the spirit houses (2nd picture). They are funky grave markings- a tradition that fused together Russian Orthodox Missionary customs with local Athabascan Indian customs. Then we stopped in Talkeetna- a funky, small village with some cool shops (Nagley's store below).
Food: Breakfast burrito with reindeer sausage. Best asian food (Laotian) I've had in years in Wasilla (home to Sarah Palin but now also home to my favorite Alaskan restaurant). Brazilian limeaid in Talkeetna- gotta start making this at home.
Odds and Ends: Saw a Confederate flag up here :(
Day 2: Denali bus tour. Saw 3 moose before the tour had to stop and go back due to rain damaging the road. Bummer but you make due. Did Horseshoe Lake Trail in light rain (4th picture). My red jacket is paying dividends here. Difficulty level: Easy. Beautiful lake scenery and a number of dramatic beaver dams.
Food: PB and J while hiking. Dinner: will update later.
Took a break from IRBs and finding funding sources to hit up the Great Smoky Mountains this weekend with some NY friends. Fact: Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the US. Makes sense- you have to go pretty out of your way to get to some of the other ones on the coastlines.
Tails: Peregrine Peak via Alum Cave Bluff Trails (Moderate) and Kephart Shelter via Kephart Prong Trail (Easy).
Meal upon trail completion: Pancakes.
Also checked out Gatlinburg, TN right outside the park. I felt like I was in
Las Vegas except in the mountains. Truly bizarre place.
A recent blog post by Hans Noel and Dan Hopkins shows their work on how Trump has redefined what "conservative" means to the mass public. They sample activists (people who are MORE equipped to make these evaluations) and have them rate which of two politicians is more liberal or conservative. This is called a "pairwise comparison". Republican activists tend to see legislators who support Trump as more conservative than their voting record suggest they are. The opposite happens for people who openly opposed Trump- they are seen as more moderate even though they have conservative voting credentials. Here is a great graphic with the perception rating on the X axis and the voting measure on the Y axis. You can see that Jeff Sessions, who very clearly embraced Trump, is moderate in his voting relative to someone like Jeff Flake. But he's PERCEIVED as more conservative than Flake, who openly opposed Trump.
Some of my sabbatical work will expand on this finding using both observational and experimental methods. Stay tuned and read their full article here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-trump-has-redefined-conservatism/