Monday, July 30, 2007

Tangle Lakes, Alaska--Still My Favorite Camping Place

Tangle Lakes AlaskaI put up a pretty good show on this blog--writing about the Alaskan outdoors and camping, hiking, fishing--but those who know me know I'm all talk. I do outdoor things for five reasons: and they all have the same last name as I do.

Yes, I occasionally venture into the great outdoors because I love my husband and my children and they, in turn, love going camping. Me? I HATE to be cold and I HATE to be dirty--and I don't think there are caps big enough to emphasize that "hate" part--but because of my fervent love of my family several times a year I suck it up and go camping. Without showers. Or shampoo. For days. Yes, I'd have been toast if I'd lived before indoor plumbing was invented.

However . . . there is a place, a nearly perfect place where my family has camped since before Alaska was even a state (that was back in 1959 people) and it is wondrous enough to draw even me from my germophobic fetal-position to crawl outside with my wool socks into the Alaskan wilderness. The place is Tangle Lakes.

Blueberry Picking at Tangle LakesAbout six hours north of Anchorage in the Alaskan interior is a campground that is much different than the what you'd see around south-central Alaska. Instead of the forested mists of the peninsula there in the nearly treeless rolling hills is nestled a network of lakes and rivers that is Camping Heaven complete with sun, hills, water and blueberries. That's right blueberries. Places where you can sit on the hillside and just pick until you can't pick no more. And did I mention the fish? Scads of grayling, which look rather like a trout but with an enormous dorsal fin.

Though it is six hours north of Anchorage, just as in midwestern America the temperatures are more extreme than here on the temperate coastline. It gets cold in the winter but also hot in the summer--or as hot as Alaska ever gets.

Octopus Lake, AlaskaSome of my favorite memories from childhood are our regular camping trips there: watching out the car window for a glimpse of Octopus Lake (can you see the octopus in the picture to the right?), wading in the water by the boat launch, nearly losing the canoe, Mom making blueberry cobbler from our fruitful pickings, 4th of July fireworks with birthday cake.

The last time we went it was so hot and the river low enough that the boys took their camping chairs and fishing gear and sat in the middle of the river to fish--yes Virginia, there is a heaven and it's called Tangle Lakes. But this year was my first time going with only my own family for company. Usually Tangle Lakes is an extended family party but this time it was just we Mittons and though I had every intention of making it just as big of a party as in years past this time it was a bit different.

While excellently maintained, the lower campground where we usually camp has been permanently closed to all but fireless picnics (and whoever heard of such a thing) leaving us to camp at the larger campground across the highway without the sweet little river running by our campsite where you could fish or wade right out of your tent door. The weather that is nearly always sunny and hot was this time temperamental. Andrew and Grace were canoing on an adjoining lake when a rainstorm hit, complete with thunder and lightning, leaving me to worry until I saw them dragging their water-logged bodies and boat back to the RV. There were more campers than I'd ever seen it before so instead of having our little spot by the river all to ourselves we were around enough people to have to tell the kids to keep their voices down.

Now don't get me wrong, it's still my favorite place to camp--we picked more blueberries than any other previous year (two gallons by my reckoning), the boys spent the time fly fishing and we played nightly card games until it got dark enough around midnight to make us think of bed but it was different and a little sad to see things changed.

The campground was still terrific, but Tangle Lakes was the only place where I could feel like a real outdoorsy Alaskan, an authentic adventurer, the place where I could say I actually liked to camp and meet nature one-on-one, woman to woman and hold my own. If it changes where now will I go?

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35 comments:

JaniceNW said...

How much does a gallon of blueberries weigh? We rent and the landlord(freakin a**) has an office in front. There about 100 blueberry bushes of several different varieties. Last year there were no berries cuz Mr. Idjit trimmed the berries at a crucial time for berry development. This year they are laden. He tried to charge us 2 bucks an lb like he does to those who stop by to pick. I laughed in his face(nicely). He has yet to fix the leaky water heater, the leaky bathtub faucets, and a dozen other things that have cropped up in the past seven years.

It sounds like a lovely place to visit. I'm with you though, camping to me is a nice motel with no room service.(wink)

Corrie said...

I enjoy camping, but with kids I tend to worry too much. Also the mosquitos are party crashers.

You pictures of Alaska make me want to come visit. Maybe we will have to set that goal of hitting all 50 states before the kids are grown. (As long as I can travel by RV and sleep in a bed).

la bellina mammina said...

Love that pic. We plan to go camping next year - and Alaska had been on the list, so this makes good research!

subarctic mama said...

I love Tangle Lakes! We haven't made it there this year. With the little ones being so little still, We've been sticking to Chena Lakes. Hopefully next year.

jchevais said...

I love nature... but I love indoor plumbing too... it would be a tough call for me too.

Mary Alice said...

That sounds (and looks) beautiful. If we ever get up to Alaska we will have it on the list. And Lord knows our family looooves blueberries.

If you ever go South you can hit our favorite camping spot at Lake Jocassie in South Carolina. You have to boat out to the campsite and bring your own everything because there is nothing, not even running water...but it is beautiful there. The water is crystal clear and there are waterfalls that fall from the cliffs right into the lake. Awesome water ski area. We would wear ourselves out there!

FriedOkra said...

Wow, that DOES sound like paradise, excepting for the no shampoo thing. :)

chelle said...

The camping there sounds so wonderful! We are heading out next weekend with the kids. I am so a camper!

Stephanie said...

2 gallons of blueberries! Oh I am jealous!

Kelly said...

Oh! Oh! I know where you can go. How about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (in the U.S.) or the Quetico (in Canada)? It's pristine wilderness of lakes and islands and pine tree (and yes, blueberries!). I haven't camped there in years, because we haven't lived close enough. But growing up, I used to spend a week in the Boundary Waters every August with our youth group. It was paradise. I'd love to go back.

But of course, this is real "Alaskan-style" camping. :-) No RVs allowed, only tents and what you can carry in your canoe to the camp sight (including a shovel and toilet paper).

mcewen said...

Outdoorsy! Alaskan style or Californian - give me double glazing.
Cheers

Daisy said...

It's a little opposite in my family -- I enjoy camping and I'd love to have a summer cottage in the woods, but the rest of my family would faint without cable TV. Sigh.

Heffalump said...

Ah blueberries! We love blueberries.
I hate it when other people infringe on time in the great outdoors. I would love to design a campground someday that kept everything spaced so that people felt like they were there alone. Of course I would go bankrupt pretty quickly.

SusieJ said...

So lucky for you that there is this place to visit -- well worth the visit.

Xun said...

Beautiful pictures. Great writing. Just make me want to escape the city. With my kids. However is age 3 or 4 too young for camping?

Scribbit said...

Xun-it probably depends on who you talk to. Me? I have a hard time getting out camping with children at all :)

But my brother is a hardy Alaskan who takes his five young children out regularly--in a TENT if you can believe it. I've thought he was crazy but admire his ability to handle it so well. They love it.

Lori- Fairytales & Margaritas said...

What a great place! We go camping every year. But, in Arizona it's hard to find a place with greenery and water like that!

Mommy Babble said...

It looks beautiful. So peaceful and calm. I love camping and being in nature, but unfortunately no one else does so I have to do without. Pictures like yours makes me want to run off to the wilderness for a few days. :)

Thea said...

I'm with you...I camp for the company, not for the sake of camping. I'm all about a pillow-top King size bed...

These are beautiful pics, too! Thank you for sharing...

Ally Bean said...

I'm more of a nature in the city park sort of woman. I applaud your bravery in even trying to camp out and like it. You are one tough cookie.

kailani said...

We still haven't taken the kids camping. I guess it's because I'm just not an outdoor gal. The scenery is beautiful, though!

Sarah said...

Take me with you next time. It sounds amazing!

crazy working mom said...

Wow, great post and BEAUTIFUL photos! Thanks so much for sharing.

Leslie said...

I've enjoyed camping, but haven't tried it with Julia, yet. Of the two of us, Dave is less of a camper than me!

Tangle Lakes looks like a lovely place to visit. I'd go just for the blueberries!

Stream said...

As a fellow Alaskan neighbor, camping in Alaska can't be beat for one main reason (in my opinion) NO SNAKES. We've have taken our kids out camping, starting at 4 weeks old. It takes a good man for me to do such. He makes breakfast before I usually get up. For me the worst is not the actual camping, but the getting home and having to put away all the "stuff" I dislike that. One look in our garage and you'd get the clue. I can't park in it.

Mountain Dweller said...

What a beautiful place. Camping is not something I rave about, but sometimes it's worth it just for the views and the change of scenary.

JAM said...

Oh my goodness. What a beautiful place. I'm not much for going showerless either, but I'd have to break down and get scuzzy if I could camp there. I LOVE the Octopus Lake. That's just cool.

Babystepper said...

Looks beautiful! Reminds me a bit of Taylor Canyon near Gunnison, CO. Someday when my kids are bigger...

Morning Glory said...

This sounds like a really dreamy place. I know for sure my husband would love it.

Amber said...

I can see why it's the only place you like to camp. Talk about GORGEOUS! I am still hankering to make it up there someday but my husband's Alaska camping pictures involve wall-to-wall mosquitos... :-)

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

" ... germophobic fetal-position ..." i loved that! :) k

my4kids said...

Finding a place you love to camp is a big thing and hard to change, especially if you have been going there since forever!

Damselfly said...

I wanna go!

Carolanne said...

Blueberry muffins!! MMmmm
Sounds like a great place to camp and a great time to make family memories.
Very pretty!

Camping said...

I like this blog very much and im interested with blueberries. This is an excellent blog have a nice pictures. Thank you for sharing.