Thoughts, ramblings, experiences and joys of an Alaska girl. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is firmly rooted in the Great Land of Alaska.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Catch up!

I can't believe I haven't blogged since March! I'm going to claim summer maddness. This summer in the Great White North has been AMAZING! (say it with a sing-songy voice... I typed it that way). The weather has been sunny and warm, the days have been long, and the activities of my summer have been plentiful!

My niece came to visit in early June, and it was one adventure after another. We went to Girdwood the first week she was here. I've never seen a bear there, until I went with her. It ran right across the road in front of my car, then turned around to look at us. On the way back to Anchorage I was telling her to look for dall sheep when we happened upon 2 dall sheep right on the roadside at mile 106. THAT is a rarity, folks. Most of the time, one is lucky to see them as small white dots on the cliffs far above.

We went on a cruise out of Seward to Fox Island on Fjords Tours. Almost immediately after the tour boat captain told us that there had been no whales seen that week, my niece starts yelling, "WHALE, WHALE, WHALE!" We saw 3 gray whales that day, along with dall porpoise, puffins, glaciers, seals and walrus. She is good luck!

On our way up to Chena Hot Springs to stay at a cabin just off the entrance that my brother-in-law (once removed) owns, we saw too many moose to count, and an owl on a fence. I thought the owl was fake, until it turned it's head and looked at us. We got a lot of great pictures. I'll post soon. We stayed in Chena for 3 nights, then headed down to Denali Park for July 4th weekend. In Denali, we took the wilderness tour and saw almost 30 brown bear, more moose, caribou, dall sheep, ptarmigan, snowshoe hair and arctic squirrel.

I had her eating sprucetips, flowers and sticks (as she put it), and even got her to try escargo stuffed mushrooms. Out of everything she ate, the escargo is the only thing that grossed her out! I had her picking fireweed, berries and pressing flowers. She said she was freezing the whole time. I think her thin Florida blood just couldn't take the weather difference. I kept her busy camping, hiking, picking, driving and enjoying the Alaska summer with me.

She headed home just a few weeks ago and I miss her terribly. She helped to make this wonderful summer even better.

The weather is cooling, there's a chill in the air now, the fireweed flowers have hit the top and are beginning to seed, the leaves are turning yellow, and the berries are ripe. Fall has arrived. Winter is right around the corner! Time to start planning for next spring already!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tourist in my own backyard

Alaska is huge. Not just big, not just expansive, but HUGE! Huge to the extent that there are many places that don't have road systems. Even our state capital can't be reached except by boat or plane. I could spend the next 100 years here and still not see and do everything that I'd like to. I will never make it to all the Native Alaskan villages, my wallet and the fact that I work Monday through Friday won't permit. Now, if I had a job like my friend Julie, who works as an optical tech, going from village to village, I'd possibly make a lot of village trips. But, even she doesn't go to all of them. They have optical techs who go to certain areas, and she won't make it to all the villages either. I know that realistically I won't go camping at every camp ground that can be found in Alaska. There just aren't enough available camping weekends in the summer, in my lifetime, to camp them all. I won't make it to every glacier, see every lake, river, stream or waterway. I will never hike to the top of Denali. Although there are many other towns in Alaska, some with populations of less than 10, some with populations in the tens of thousands, I probably won't make them all either. I've resolved myself to the fact that I am limited by a mortal body and an empty wallet. However, I am capable of seeing one place completely, and that is my own town.

Part of my job is driving around 2 days a week doing home inspections all over Anchorage, Eagle River, Girdwood and as far north as Peters Creek. In my "travels," I've seen things that others probably haven't seen, or if they have seen they probably don't take the time to really notice. There are sculptures and statues all over Anchorage. From elementary schools to churches, from small businesses to corporate headquarters, art is all around Anchorage in abundance. There are carved totem poles, bronze sculptures, iron facades, and interesting buildings with true character throughout the city. There are mural painted walls, antler covered homes, and touches of Alaskan charm on every street. I've started looking forward to my Monday and Tuesday drives, and I've decided to take my camera along to snap some photos of my "Alaskan Drive Bys" in Anchorage. In fact, I'm going to start posting them here as part of a whole "Drive By Shootings" series (sorry for the play on words).

I've come to the conclusion that it's ok if I don't see all of Alaska. It's ok if I'm not going to be able to see and do all that I'd like throughout the rest of Alaska. I'm in ALASKA! That's exciting in itself! I'll focus on what I'm capable of seeing and doing right here in South Central AK and appreciate it for the opportunities it affords. I'm still going to hike, camp and drive where ever I can and take some special trips, but for now, I'm going to relish what Anchorage has to offer. I'm looking forward to playing tourist in my own back yard. I'll not act like Anchorage is just a "jump off" spot to see the rest of Alaska, but rather the staging platform for this summer's adventures. Maybe the things I find in my drive bys will help others appreciate Anchorage as well. I have an aunt with muscular dystrophy who isn't capable of hiking, biking, camping, climbing or flying all over Alaska. Her actions and adventures are limited to what she can see from the car window, or where her wheel chair can get her. So, I dedicate my drive by segments to my Aunt Cheryl. Look for future entries, I can guarantee you haven't seen all of Anchorage like this before!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things Spring Brings

Yesterday, I was perusing my bookshelf at home for books on Alaskan flowers, trees, and edible plants. I know, just a few posts ago, I was bemusing the end of winter and how it's my favorite season. However, with the coming of spring, my "tree hugger," nature lover side comes to life. I can't find anything in my refrigerator to eat, but when I look through the edible plants guide, suddenly my back yard is a buffet of new and interesting delicacies.

I was reading sections of the books to my husband last night, and he just shook his head and said, "Uh, yeah, Cristine... you enjoy that." He isn't interested in trying the shoots of Devil's Club, or cream cheese filled stalks of Cow Parsnip. I may be able to get him to try Pineapple Weed tea, but I'll be hard pressed to get him to eat dandelion greens for dinner. I made spruce tip jelly last year, which no one else in my family has tried yet. I think they are convinced that one of my "concoctions" will poison them.

It's going to be a bright, clear day today with highs near 12 degrees. With the sunny, snow free days come visions of break up and warmer temperatures. I will miss the snow, but I'm looking forward this year to tasting my way through the Alaskan flora that can be found on the hillsides and in my own back yard.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Homerward Bound

One of the reasons I moved to Alaska when my daughter was an early teen was so that I could share the experience with her when she was young, but when she was still old enough to appreciate all the things Alaska has to offer. I had images of hiking with her, of going on camping trips throughout the state, of viewing bear, moose, wolves, eagles and other wild Alaskan animals in their natural habitat. However, as anyone with teenagers knows, they grow from children and develop minds of their own.

We moved to Alaska and she became a snowboarder, snowshoeing through hip deep snow on unmarked paths is not her idea of a fun winter activity. After the first time we went camping and she experienced her first night's sleep on the rocky ground, she decided that "roughing it" with mom wasn't her idea of an enjoyable camping trip. When I tried to convince her to go to Denali Park with me last year, trying to win her over with tales of a 10 hour bus ride 2 days in a row through the park, she flat refused to go. She wrote a poem called "The Berry Picking Blues" after one of our "fun" berry picking trips up the side of Harp Mountain in Eagle River. I had to bribe her with an Ipod Touch last year to go berry picking with me on the trail to Symphony Lakes (this year, she won't be bribed. It's costing me more to get her to go than it would for me to go to the store and purchase a couple QUARTS of berries!). Picking fireweed, red currants, blueberries, high bush cranberries, lingon berries, and spruce tips for jelly ranks high on her "most painful things to do" list. Hiking isn't her thing. Biking isn't her thing. Spending a day at the Alaska Botanical Garden is like asking her to spend the day watching traffic and counting cars. I'd just about lost hope of enjoying the "Alaska Experience" with her, until now. This semester in school, she's taking Photography. Suddenly, Alaska is teeming with wonder for her!

For the photographic opportunities alone, she's agreed to go with me to Homer on Friday, my day off of work. The eagles congregate in Homer out on the Homer Spit this time of year. Even when they are not being fed, they can still be found perched on buildings, walking the beach, or soaring above the water. She's not put off by the 4 hour ride there, or the fact that we'll probably be there for another 8 hours, only to have a return trip to Anchorage of another 4 hours. She didn't balk when I told her that I wanted to leave at 5:30 in the morning to get to Homer early. She now has images of swooping eagles, majestic birds in flight, and perched eagles that she anticipates taking amazing pictures of. I'm even letting her borrow one of my cameras so that she doesn't have to use her pocket point and shoot model. To tell you the truth, even if this is the only trip we ever take, and the only "Alaskan Experience" we enjoyed together, it will be one that I always cherish. If this was the only experience I had with her in Alaska, it still would have made it worth moving here. How many people get to experience viewing wild eagles (and so many of them in one location) with their children? Maybe when we are there, she'll be excited enough about all that Alaska has to offer that I can convince her to take that overnight camping/hiking trip on Crow Pass that we've been trying to convince her to go on this coming summer. Maybe if I mention the pictures she could take? Hmmmm, maybe I should take it slow instead. One trip at a time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in the Great White north. The snow was falling thick, all day long. I know some of my fellow Alaskans are very tired of the snow, the cold, and the long winter. I'm not one of them. I was thankful yesterday for the snow. I haven't done much in the way of winter activity all winter. I haven't snow shoed, I haven't XC skiid, I haven't gone sledding. All the activities I look forward to doing as the days turn colder in fall, I haven't participated in. But, with the snow falling, as I brushed off a good 4 inches of snow off my car last night, I felt elated and filled with the thrill that I've been given another chance to reclaim my winter.

Today, the sky is blue, the sun is blazing, and I can hear the water running from the snow melting off the roof near my window. A day brings so much change here in Alaska!

This weekend, the hubby and I are heading with friends to a cabin on Big Lake. We'll drive across not one, not two, but three frozen lakes to get to the cabin that in summer is only accessible by boat. We'll snowshoe, we'll sled, and we'll enjoy the white gift from the gods that we were given yesterday. I know it's not going to make it any easier for the iditarod mushers who take to the trail this weekend. I know it makes the roads hazardous for drivers and turns them into ditch divers. I know it makes some of my fellow Alaskans miserable and wishing the cold would end already! As for this Alaskan, every flake that falls brings a smile to my face, lifts my spirits and excites me for what activities the snow brings with it. The snow fall leaves me planning to go places that I can't go when the ice melts and I can't walk across it, has me heating milk for hot chocolate, has me sitting in front of a fireplace snuggled up with a good book about Alaska, and gives me the opportunity to spend time with family.

As the days get longer and warmer (despite the snow fall from yesterday), I know that spring break up is on its way and summer is hot on its tail. That's the time most here look forward to, but not me. When the sun is at it's highest and the sunny days are at their longest, I'll be dreaming of the cooler temperatures of fall, dreaming of long lazy days picking berries, and dreaming of the first snowfall when the mountains and trees are covered by their blanket of white again. For now, I'll enjoy what time I have left with my friend snow, enjoy the eagles that perch in Eagle River on the snow covered spruce trees, enjoy watching my dogs bound through the snow with glee, enjoy the sunsets that winter brings and summer takes away. I'll tuck myself into my warmest cold weather layers, put my snowshoes on my back, my camera it it's pack, and head out into my own winter wonderland to relish the time we have left together.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Long time, no type!

Wow, I can't believe I haven't written in so long! I'll catch up soon. I have the whole weekend (I have no work Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Of course, I didn't work today, or yesterday either... freezing rain, icy roads and high winds kept me off the roads and away from Anchorage). So much to catch up on! We won the Denali Road Lottery and went again this past September, our son made Anchorage Jr. Youth Symphony where he plays first chair clarinet, our daughter decided to go to San Diego for Christmas instead of with the rest of us to Hawaii, and we have a new President and a new year ahead to look forward to! I'll catch up on this blog, as well as my other, and catch up on my reading of my favorite musings from others too.