Couchsurfing in Alaska was easier than I could have ever expected. Invitations to stay poured in and I had to sift through requests to meet up for coffee or hike. For my time in Anchorage I settled on a group house with a girl named Roz. Here are some excerpts from my journal.
I woke to the sound of Montana shuffling around in her bag. Montana wasn't really her name of course but she answered to it readily, her big blue eyes looking softly amused each time the nickname was used. I pulled my eye mask down to confront the startling contrast of broad daylight.
I had arrive in Anchorage the night before, weary and a little concerned about what I would do if my hosts were asleep. In a text previous to my departure I had warned Roz of my post midnight touchdown and got a "yep that's normal" as a response.
We pulled up to the given address. "So these are strangers?" the driver asked again with concern. I had explained couch surfing to him but he still seemed to doubt its reality. Perhaps the slight lilt of anxiety came through in my voice. I had never arrived so late to a host house. What if they didn't answer? Where would I go next? The taxi driver waited until I waved him off and I had stepped into the warm yellow glow of the living room to gratefully sink into one of the offered couches.
Roz and Ryan were still awake to greet me as well as Daisy, the basset that was to claim the side of my leg for the rest of the evening. Roz is the bright-eyed spitting image of Lauren Ambrose in Six Feet Under. In moments after meeting me she was calling me "girl" and offering all the vegetables and beer her fridge had to offer. Ryan is the familiar stoner type. Laid back if a bit reserved, but welcoming.
My long day of layovers and taxis in New York had not been lost on arrival and I soon bowed out to claim my spot in the basement next to another sleeping couchsurfer.
I rolled up my sleeping bag the next morning, carefully repacking my backpack. At nine in the morning the light was already pouring in the windows as if it were mid-day. I reached the landing up from the basement and heard a swift paw at the side door that lead out to a cement porch and a backyard dotted with winter-locked grass.
I opened the door to let Daisy in and was almost thrown back down the stairs when the door swung open and a dog the size of a small pony barged in. Enter Max the St. Bernard, soon to be followed by Rebecca, his "momma."
She offered her name and an easy smile. Rebecca is that special type of person who makes you feel warm inside. There was something markedly maternal about her despite her cursing and often silly demeanor.
"I was not expecting that," I said, pointing to Max as I explained that I had opened the door for Daisy.
"Oh Daisy is gone for the week. Roz is camping in Washington. She said you can have her room while she's gone actually."
One of the things that amazes me most about couch surfing, which is the same thing that provokes panic and doubt in all my non-surfing friends and family, is the inherent trust that has to go along with the process.
Alaska took that trust even further though. Throughout my stay in Alaska I was given leave to come and go as I pleased. No doors were locked and no warning was need to preview my hosts as to my daily plans.
In turn I was lead to trust as well. Trust that my belongings would be safe in my given room while I roamed and trust that the door would in fact be unlocked when I returned.
I stayed with Ryan, Rebecca and Roz when I first came to Anchorage and then again when I got back from Homer.
|Where I stayed the first night|
On my return to Anchorage from Homer, Ryan and I decided to hike Flattop Mountain. Flattop is the most hiked mountain in Alaska because it distance, at a stone throw from Anchorage, opens it up to tourists as well as locals. It's 3,510 feet in elevation and about 1.5 mile hike up.
The mountain was still mostly covered in snow and I was quickly reminded that I do not care for snow hiking. Dogs sprinted past us and tired hikers at the top chose to slide down on their coats rather than risk the slipper crawl down.
But eventually we made it and just in time to see a paraglider take off from the top. Flattop a really stellar view of Anchorage and the coast and despite the hassle of the snow it was totally worth the hike.