Archive | July, 2012

Weekend Fun

30 Jul

Two weekends ago, my mom was in town and we had a girls’ weekend. It also happened to be our birthdays – hers on Friday and mine on Sunday. Friday night, we took my mom out for dinner at a inconspicuously delicious Italian place called Abrusci’s.

On Saturday, we drove up to Georgetown and rode the Georgetown Loop Railroad.

We got tickets for the parlor car, which included a drink and chips or cookie for free!

The whole trip only took an hour, which was the perfect amount of time to experience the railroad without getting bored.

The day we were up there, the Triple Bypass bike race was going on (so named because they go over three mountain passes). That just looked brutal. But part of me thought it looked kinda fun… I’m not sure I’ll ever be into biking enough to want to do something like that though.

After the train ride, we continued on to Frisco and ate lunch at the Butterhorn Bakery. I’ve officially declared this my mountain spot. Everything is delicious and portion sizes are huge.

After lunch, we continued driving through Glenwood Canyon and then headed down to Aspen. It was a very beautiful drive, although a little south of Glenwood, it started pouring. Cars going both directions were driving through massive puddles and I was a little freaked out. But we survived and made it to Aspen by about 4 pm.

We stayed at the Aspen Meadows Resort (got a good deal through Hotwire) and it was a nice hotel but I wasn’t overly impressed. They did have a free shuttle to downtown so we took advantage of that and did some shopping scoffing. Holy crap things are expensive in Aspen! I kind you not – the cheapest store there was J. Crew. My mom actually found a sweater that cost $1,000. We ate dinner at Jimmy’s Bar & Restaurant. I had quinoa-stuffed zucchini cannelloni. It was good, albeit interesting. My mom ordered meatloaf and it was really good. Best meatloaf I’ve ever had.

The whole experience made me realize how wealth is completely relative. I never feel poor in Denver and yet I go to Aspen and feel completely out of my league.

But Aspen does have the whole beauty of nature thing down and that definitely made this trip worth it. On our way back the next morning, we drove up Independence Pass. So awesome. The road near Aspen is so windy and narrow that you’d think it would freak me out (and it probably would if I wasn’t driving) but I loved it. The views near the top are nice too.

And with that, our short girls’ weekend was over. My mom was in town for a school nutrition conference and it started that afternoon so while she went to that, I took a nap and bummed and then Travis, me and her all went out to eat downtown at The Keg in LoDo. It was a good, l0w-key birthday. My mom stayed until Thursday, so we had lots of time to hang out and chat. It was so fun having her out here!

This past weekend, Travis was helping a friend fix their swamp cooler so I took the pooches for an overly ambitious hike at Chautauqua in Boulder. I was planning to take the Gregory Canyon Trial to Ranger Trail to Saddle Rock Trail, for a total of 3.5 “hard” miles (according to the map). Well, apparently hiking at sea level a month ago doesn’t equate to hiking now at altitude. It didn’t help that I got going late so by the time we got out there at 11, it was 85 degrees and sunny on a shadeless trail. (There were plenty of other crazies out there though.)

About 30 minutes up the trail, I was only about halfway to the end of Gregory Canyon. Both the pooches and I were dying so even though I felt pathetic, I turned around. This was my first real hike in Colorado this year (and it’s almost August!?), so I can’t be too surprised that this was the outcome, especially after doing nothing for a month.

Turning around ended up being a good call because I’m pretty sure Katy overheated. And I did what you’re not supposed to do – give her a bunch of water. She puked at least 4 times. Oops. (She is fully recovered now though.) Charlie refused to drink any water. She’s too smart for me.

Even though my hike was shorter than planned, it was still pretty and I enjoyed getting out there.

That night, Travis and I went out to eat at Bonefish Grill and then played mini golf with some friends from church. We ended the evening in the best way – frozen yogurt. Mmm…

Sunday (yesterday), we went to church and then spent the afternoon watching the Olympics (I also took an hour and a half nap). It is so awesome to have relaxing weekends (definitely worth fighting the urge to be productive). Both Travis and I had very busy springs (him with studying, me with training) and we are both just ready to do nothing for a while. Ahh…

Back in the Groove

26 Jul

This past Monday marked one month since the marathon. In that time, I ran once (and it was not enjoyable), went on a couple of hikes in Alaska, and walked the dogs. But since I know that getting back into shape is a lot less enjoyable than just staying in shape, I decided it was time to get back in the groove of working out.

So here’s my rough plan-that’s-not-a-plan:

Cardio 3-4 days a week – with the idea of running, biking and swimming at least one day each

Strength 2 days a week

I have a stash of strength workouts from magazines and blogs that I’ll pick from for my strength workouts.

My main goal for working out now is to enjoy it. I cannot tell you how excited I am to go to the gym and read while working out. It’s definitely the thing that makes the time go by the fastest for me and I have so many books and magazines waiting to be read that I love being able to kill two birds with one stone. Being able to read while working out actually motivates me to go too. Oh and my work will reimburse both Travis and I $30 if we can prove that we go to the gym 8 times in a month. Win-Win-Win.

As for doing a triathlon or a bike race this year still, I’m not ruling anything out but I’m also not feeling very optimistic about those odds. I’m just playing everything by ear.

And for some reason, right now I’m really digging hiking so Travis and I are planning to go backpacking a weekend in August and another one in September. We missed the window for getting a backcountry permit in the Grand Canyon (applying now gets you a permit for December…no thanks) so that will have to wait. I’d also like to do some fun day hikes on our open weekends, and possibly a 14er too.

Overall though, we’re planning to focus more time on getting stuff done around the house, as well as starting to prepare for selling our house. We don’t plan on putting our house in the market anytime soon – moving involves a lot of variables, all of which are still up in the air, but my opinion is, if we’re going to do these things anyway, we might as well do them now when we can enjoy them instead of waiting until right before we sell our house!

After a big race, do you usually jump right back into your routine? Or do you do something else for a while?

Alaska: Ketchikan (Days 3-4) and Home

25 Jul

The third day that we were in Ketchikan happened to be the Fourth of July so while Al and Matthew got up early to go fishing, the rest of us slept in and then we made our way downtown for the parade which started at noon.

The stair streets continued to amaze me.

 

 

Travis had to take his turn as the pirate since he wasn’t with us the other day:

Since we had time to kill before the parade, we did some more shopping and posing.

Travis’ mom is awesome.

Al, Matthew, Kurt and Marlene met us in front of the fire station to watch the parade. It started with a helicopter flying with the American flag.

I was amazed at all of the groups in the parade. Since I grew up in a big city (80,000 people), I’m always surprised at any signs of “civilization” small towns have (though Ketchikan probably isn’t considered small at 14,000 people). Travis is helping to rid me of my big-city prejudices.

They raced rubber duckies in the water by Creek Street as a fundraiser, which was a fun idea (and a fun float!).

After the parade, we ate the sandwiches we brought along and then walked around Creek Street (since the guys had been fishing when we went before). We saw a trolley…

…and a fish ladder, which helps salmon run the river without going through the rapids.

Since we were downtown, we decided to check out the Discovery Center, which we had heard was pretty interesting. We found out that since it was a national holiday, admission was free. Can’t beat that!

We saw baby salmon:

Lots of stuff about the natives and the industries that built Alaska into what it is today:

 

Learned about the core samples we had found on our hike to Lower Silvis Lake:

 

 

 

And I think this is interesting – Alaska is so big that it would stretch across the Lower 48.

After all of our discoveries, we walked back to the apartment. For dinner, we went to a BBQ hosted by some of Kurt and Marlene’s friends. We brought burgers and drinks and they provided quite the spread. I filled up on all kinds of jello salad before my burger was even done because I decided I’d rather eat jello salad than a burger (though I did end up eating my entire burger too). Alaska reminds me in many ways of Minnesota – the greenery, the snow (in some parts), the bugs, the nice people, the jello salads. Everything except for the ocean and mountains. Minnesota doesn’t have those. Although the ocean has been mistaken for big lakes by several people (Minnesotans)…

Around 9, we headed back to the apartment to watch the fireworks, which wouldn’t be shot off until 11 pm. We had planned to walk down to the main street again but the fireworks started just as we were leaving and we discovered that we could see them fine about 200 feet from our front door. So we just stood in the street to watch them. It was a very good show for a small town. 😉 The loud ones would create an echo that bounced off all the mountains around us. Very cool. I love fireworks. And I love being able to walk only 200 feet before I’m home and can go to bed. No traffic fighting for us!

The next day was our last day in Ketchikan. And it was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining, the clouds were sparse and Deer Mountain was asking to be climbed. So climb it we did.

Since it’s a fairly strenuous hike (3,000 feet elevation gain in 2.5 miles), Al and Beth opted to do a different hike. So it was just the four of us younguns. For the first 2 miles, it felt like we were in a jungle.

 

So many stairs.

An idea of how fast it climbed:

This is called Devils Club. Why?

Because of these guys:

The first overlook had awesome views of the ocean.

 

As we continued on, we came across a place where a mudslide or avalanche must have happened.

 

 

Right before the second scenic overlook, we started encountering snow.

 

And more beautiful views. Now we were really getting up there.

 

 

Even though the rest of the way to the top was all snow, we decided to continue on (although if we had known what we know now, we probably would’ve turned around.)

 

 

It was so steep and slippery that we pretty much scrambled up on all fours.

With extremely short walking sticks.

The views were breathtaking.

I was trying my best to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, instead of freaking out about how high we were and how steep it was.

We got to a point, though, where it was so steep that we weren’t sure how we’d get back down. So Matthew, Drew and I stopped about 400 feet from the top, while Travis continued on and disappeared over the top of the ridge.

I distracted myself from the fear of Travis dying by taking pictures.

Yes, I know I look ridiculous but the bugs up there were HORRIBLE. It has been almost 3 weeks since this hike and I still have a bug bite on my arm. And I hate bugs. Hate. Hate. Hate.

Finally, Travis’ head poked back over the top.

Thank God he’s alive!

Then the fun part began – shoe skiing! When you get a running start on snow like this, you can just slide down on your shoes. It’s a little tricky and I fell more than once but it was a lot of fun. And a lot of cold.

When we got past the snow, Travis was able to actually wring water out of his socks, they were so wet. But we lived to tell our tale! (Later that night, we found out that people die on Deer Mountain every year because of unpredictable avalanches. Ha… glad I didn’t find that out the hard way.)

So the sun does still exist.

After our hike, the guys showered up while Al, Beth and I ran a few errands. Then we ate dinner (tortellini, garlic bread and salad) before heading over to Kurt and Marlene’s for a bonfire and s’mores. Around 10, we said our goodbyes, drove back to the apartment, finished packing as much as we could and went to bed.

Our flights back home on Friday went without incident. Travis and I got back to our house in Denver by 6 pm, just in time to pick our dogs up from doggie daycare. Home sweet home for all of us!

So was Alaska everything I thought it would be?

Yes!! It was an awesome vacation and I loved that we got to do a lot of hiking and sightseeing. Renting an RV was a great idea – it was so nice to not have to deal with lugging our stuff into hotels, not worrying about where to stay or having to sleep in less-than-ideal hotel rooms. Obviously, it was also a huge blessing to have awesome friends in Ketchikan who were willing to show us around, cook us amazing food and spoil us. But it would be a fun place to visit even if you didn’t have those connections. And since it hadn’t rained in Colorado for months, the rain every day didn’t bother us. I would definitely recommend visiting Alaska to anyone who likes the outdoors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alaska: Ketchikan (Days 2-3)

23 Jul

Our second day in Ketchikan, Travis, Matthew and Al went fishing with Kurt pretty much all day. So Beth, Drew and I had a lazy morning, then walked to the shops in downtown.

Drew refused to take a picture as a pirate. He retorted, “I don’t do that in public.”

I was so fascinated by the named streets that were really just staircases that I took a picture of this “intersection” two days in a row:

The cruise ships are HUGE.

And you could definitely tell who was a tourist (dressed up, wearing heels) and who was a local (wearing jeans and Ketchikan sneakers). We were kind of in-between because our plans had been to be at a cabin all week so we only brought jeans and sweatshirts along.

Creek Street was the old red light district. While I like historic things, brothels are not one of them, so we declined that tour. (The rest of Creek Street is now just local shops.)

By the time we were done shopping, we were ready for lunch so we headed back to the apartment. The fishermen stopped by for about 5 minutes and when I discovered they were going back out fishing, I got a little angry at Travis. But I got over it and our group of 3 decided to ride the city bus out to Totem Bight State Park, which went smoothly with not a single incident. But on the way back, our bus driver stopped at the gas station to fill the bus up. That was a first.

The volunteer working in the visitor center was just closing up for the day and was in a very good mood so she let us in to the building where they were ‘rehabilitating’ some old totems that were rotting.

It was a lot easier to look at them when they were laying down (otherwise, some of them are so tall you just about fall over following them to the top).

Then we continued on to look at the clan house on-site, which was interesting. The natives lived in houses like this in clans of 45-50 people during the winter. In the summer, they set up camps near wherever they were fishing.

We of course saw more totems, but they’re not as cool in pictures as they are in real life, so I’ll spare you. It was low tide at the time so we walked out on to the exposed seaweed and looked for hermit crabs.

While we waited for the bus, Drew played with something I haven’t seen in over a decade.

I asked him if he knew what that even was. He did. Smartypants.

We got back to the apartment around 6 and since we had no idea when the guys were coming back, we made dinner when we started feeling hungry. Beth and I (but mostly Beth) put together beautiful homemade pizzas. About 10 minutes later, they were burnt to a crisp. Apparently, the oven temperature was not accurate. We were able to salvage them though – just the cheese was burnt so we peeled that off, put on more cheese and put them back in the oven, checking them every minute. So we had pizza for dinner and it was still pretty tasty. The guys came back not long after that and after they ate, we all went to bed.

The next day, the guys weren’t going fishing until the afternoon so we all went on a hike up to Lower Silvis Lake. It was 5 miles round trip and gained about 800 feet so while the climb wasn’t crazy steep, it was constant. All up on the way out, all down on the way back.

The guys saw the tunnel around the big pipe and just had to walk through it. I refused because of the spider-danger. Nothing is worth encountering spiders.

Being the almost-teenager boy that he was, Drew had to try climbing everything.

Even if it meant he could barely get down.

(He survived.)

We got up to a dam and had to climb over the fence to check it out.

Water, water everywhere.

We also came across a big pile of granite core samples.

We contemplated bringing them home for a new kitchen countertop but decided against it.

Finally, we reached the lake.

The bugs were so bad there though that I literally kept pacing back and forth until we were ready to turn back. Travis decided to imitate Ace Ventura and walk the ledge.

Then the guys went out fishing.

The rest of us hung out with Marlene, talking and drinking. Being around Drew reminds me of how much I hated adult conversation when I was his age. Talking seemed like The Worst way to spend your time. Now, I honestly enjoy it. I guess that makes me an adult, huh?

We played some Phase 10 as well until the guys got back and had gutted their fish. Then we had dinner: salmon chowder. Yum. So delicious. I can’t wait until we get some of the salmon Travis caught from his parents because I will be making this! After dessert of mint brownies and ice cream again, we called it a day.

Only one post of Alaska left… don’t be so excited. 😉

Alaska: Ferry and Ketchikan (Day 1)

22 Jul

We got on the ferry around 6 pm on Friday, June 29. We wouldn’t be getting off until 6 am on Sunday, July 1. Yes, the ferry ride was 36 hours long.

We had reserved a 4-person berth, which was nice because it gave us a secure place to put all of our crap, and I was able to go to bed at 7:30 that night. Seriously. We ate our pizza up on the top deck under the Solarium and then I tried to hang out in the observation deck but was too sleepy. So I went to “take a nap” but didn’t get up before morning. Apparently, I was tired!

The Solarium

Our ship’s name

The map of the ship

At first, the ship seemed huge. But after being on there just a few hours, you pretty much knew where everything was (at least, what was accessible to the passengers).

To be completely honest, I got a little bored on the ferry. There’s only so much watching and waiting for wildlife, reading and crosswording, hanging out and napping I can do. We stopped at 4 different ports before getting to Ketchikan: Sitka, Kake, Petersburg and Wrangell. We stopped at Sitka in the middle of the night but got off for 20 minutes at Kake the next day, walked to the only store within walking distance and bought some ice cream.

The stops at Petersburg and Wrangell happened while we were awake but they were only for about 20 minutes and we didn’t think it was worth it to get off, only to get right back on.

Finally, we were coming in to Ketchikan. It’s very cool to watch how they get the ship tied to the dock in the right place. They winch it in. (The pics below are from 2 different ports, if you’re confused about why the dock is on one side in some and on the other side in others.)

We got off the ship, walked across the street for some blessed coffee and waited for our ride in the Alaska Marine Highway building. (I was reading blogs on my phone for the first time since getting to Alaska.)

Have I mentioned that Al and Beth (and Travis and his sister Carolyn) used to live in Ketchikan? Al and Beth moved there when they were first married, stayed for about 8 before moving back to MN and haven’t returned for about 25 years. I think they enjoyed seeing their old stomping grounds.

They still have some friends who live there – Kurt and Marlene. They were so nice and accommodating to us! They let us stay for free in an apartment they own that doesn’t have any renters currently. They borrowed us a car for free. And they invited us over to their house 3 nights out of the 5 we were there.

After Kurt picked us up, we went grocery shopping, napped and then drove around town to see some of the schools Travis went to and apartments they lived in. One of those apartments was actually just at the end of the street a couple hundred feet from the apartment we were staying in.

The streets in Ketchikan are crazy steep and narrow. The street our apartment was on was so narrow that you had to back out of it – no room to turn around! And the steepness reminded me of San Francisco. They have named streets that are just stairs, which I’ll talk more about in a different post. I remarked “Wow, I bet this is horrible in the winter” and was told that it doesn’t really snow in Ketchikan, and when it does, it melts pretty quickly because they get 160 inches of rain a year. Ketchikan is literally in a temperate rainforest (as opposed to a tropical rainforest).

Look at the moss on the back of this roof (the apartment at the bottom was the one they lived in):

Near our apartment was also a float plane harbor, which had planes flying in and out as early as 7 am everyday (grrr):

We tried to go tour the fish hatchery and native museum but you had to pay for them now (not 25 years ago!) so we ended up just walking around in the rain for a while.

Then we went to the Saxman Native Village to see the world’s largest collection of totems.

We learned what most of the symbols mean but I’m not going to tell you because 1) I’ve already forgotten and 2) they never made a ton of sense in the first place. I need an expert to interpret the poles for me.

After driving to the end of the southbound road (there are only about 20 miles of road in Ketchikan because it’s on an island), we went over to Kurt and Marlene’s house. Their two daughters and son-in-law were there too so we were a big group! We finally ate some wild salmon worth writing on the blog about! The locals know how to do it right. It was awesome. We also had carrots coated with pecan Nut-Thins and sour cream (I think… regardless, they were delicious, trust me) and baked potatoes. For dessert, we had mint brownies and ice cream and were informed at the end of the meal that everything had been gluten-free (their son-in-law has celiac). I was impressed – nothing tasted GF!

After we were thoroughly stuffed, we played some Phase 10 until about 10:45, and then went home to bed. There was fishing to be done the next day!

Coming up: Ketchikan Days 2 and 3

 

Alaska: Seward (Day 2) and Juneau

21 Jul

The morning after our Kenai Fjords Tour (our second day in Seward), we got up around 8, ate breakfast and took showers. We left the RV park and drove to Lowell Point, for a hike to Tonsina Point that you could only do at low tide.

The first part of the hike was pretty, though it was just on a gravel road.

But then the trail narrowed and we crossed a stream or two.

As we continued on, we encountered a lot of plank bridges covered with nets, to keep them from being incredibly slippery in the constant dampness.

We also crossed a lot of bridges.

Even though it was cloudy and rainy, the views were still beautiful.

The trees covered in moss reminded me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Finally, we made it out to the beach.

The sand is black because of the high concentration of mineral sediment from the surrounding bedrock, which is also black. It looks cool, no?

We were there at low tide so we could walk out a long way.

Barnacles!

After hanging out at the beach for a while skipping rocks and looking at the flat rocks (like the ones we saw on Fox Island), black sand and kelp, it started raining pretty good and we were getting hungry. So we decided to head back. Travis and Drew walked along the beach instead of following the trail back. By the time they reached the RV, their feet and pants were soaked.

We ate lunch and then got on the road back up to Anchorage. We ate dinner with our friends, A & L, who are in Anchorage doing traveling nursing, at the Snow Goose Restaurant in downtown Anchorage.

The food was decent but nothing to write home a blog about.

We were flying to Juneau early the next morning so we parked and slept at the RV rental place, since it was close to the airport. The next morning, Travis drove all of us and our luggage to the airport, then drove the RV back to the rental place and literally ran back to the airport.

Our flight to Juneau was short and uneventful. We were greeted by typical summer weather in Alaska: 50s and rainy. We rented a sweeto minivan from a company called Rent a Wreck (seriously) and drove to downtown Juneau.

We did some shopping – I bought some Glacier Silt Soap, which is made with the sediment in glacier runoff. It smells amazing, makes your hands really soft (and not filmy like regular bar soap), and it’s made and sold only in Juneau!

Then we took a tour of the capitol. It’s a pretty humble building – no dome – because it was built as a federal building and not a capitol. And it’s not they have a ton of room to build a completely new one, since the town is right on the ocean.

After the tour, we walked over to a historic Russian Orthodoxy Catholic church.

It was interesting, and the smallest church I have ever seen.

We walked back to the main strip and ate lunch at the Red Dog Saloon. It had a cool atmosphere, similar to the Old West feeling. I had the fish and chips and they were pretty good.

After lunch, we drove around the island and Juneau, and saw the Mendenhall Glacier from afar.

Then we bought some pizza to eat on the ferry and headed to the boarding area.

Coming up: Alaska Marine Highway and Ketchikan

Alaska: Seward (Day 1)

20 Jul

If you missed my first two posts on Alaska, here are the links to the marathon recap and our adventures in Talkeetna/Denali.

On the morning of Day 6, we took showers at the Big Bear RV Park (which were very nice btw), ate breakfast, and got on the road. I sat in the front of the RV with Travis as his co-pilot, which was nice because I could really see where we were going (otherwise, in the back, you can only look out the side windows or you have to ride hunched over to see out the windshield.)

We stopped by the RV rental place on our way through Anchorage and got a new air mattress, which we liked a lot better. The inflator machine also ran on batteries instead of electricity, so we didn’t have to fire up the generator every night, which was nice.

Finally, we were on our way to Seward. The drive was beautiful.

 

We stopped at several scenic overlooks and wildlife viewing sites.

 

 

 

 

Everyone looking at Dall sheep on the distant mountainside

We ate lunch on the way and arrived at our RV site by mid-afternoon.

 

 

After checking in, we had plenty of daylight left to go check out Exit Glacier.

 

 

 

That sign was where the glacier reached in 1951. It’s receding fast!

Here’s why the glacier looks blue (I won’t tell you myself since I’ve been saying it backwards whenever I explain it):

We grilled up hamburgers and potatoes for dinner when we got back. Then, while Beth went to do laundry, the rest of us played several intense rounds of Gin Rummy and Trav’s dad, Al, got caught cheating.

The next morning (Day 6), we got up early for our Kenai Fjords Tour.

We didn’t know this before arriving at the RV Park but Kenai Fjords Tours has free shuttles that run to several of the local RV parks. Just thought I’d tell you in case you’re planning a trip to Alaska after reading all these posts. 😉

The Seward Harbor was really cool. I can’t get over how awesome mountains + ocean is.

Our ship was the Nunatak.

It got cold on the boat!

The first wildlife we saw were sea otters, just chilling right in the middle of the wide open sea.

Silly otters.

Then we saw a couple of humpback whales, which was very cool. You can just barely see the whale fluke in the bottom left of this picture.

Then we got closer.

It was a mommy and a baby!

The landscape and water were so pretty too. Such a change from all of the sediment-y glacier runoff we’d been seeing.

It was nice and warm in the back of the boat, and with standing in front of the heat exchange but the diesel fumes started to make me sick so I had to go back up to the top deck after a while.

I love how the sky and ocean are almost the same color in this picture:

The next wildlife we saw was a group of Killer whales (maybe 5-6). They never surfaced at the same time but it was cool to see so many in one spot.

We also encountered some stryofoam that had washed over all the way from Japan (aftermath of the tsunami).

They tried to spear it but it was too big.

All this time, we were making our way over to the Aialik Glacier. It was massive.

For a point of reference:

That ship was the same size as the one we were on. The glacier is something like 400 feet tall and breaks off into the ocean by as much as 20 feet per day. We could hear the ice heave and pop, and we even got to watch some of it break off:

It was very cool. Literally.

Matthew with some glacier ice

Way more awesome (and bigger) than the Exit Glacier.

We set off again and before long, we saw a whole bunch of puffins and seagulls on appropriately named ‘Gull Island.’

So many birds.

The sun poked its head out of the clouds for a bit, which was very welcome.

We saw some sea lions sunning themselves.

In these pictures, it looks like mid-day but it was actually almost 5 pm! We got off on Fox Island (which only Kenai Fjords Tours’ customers get to do) and ate a dinner of salmon and prime rib. I didn’t have any prime rib (ew) and the salmon was a little dry and disappointing. But the boys got some good rock skipping in with the flat, oval rocks that made up the beach.

And then it was back to port and to our RV park. We picked up some drinks at the liquor store (for those who were old enough) and attempted to have a campfire. But wood was scarce and wet, and it started to rain a bit so we threw in the towel and went to bed.

Well, this post has gotten quite long! Between this tour and the one in Denali, I’m pretty sure I took about 400 pictures. So I will write about our second day in Seward in another post…

Waiting with My Heart Exposed

19 Jul

One more post before resuming the posts about our trip to Alaska…

So I’ve mentioned before that I went off birth control and we are trying to get pregnant this year…

Now that the marathon is over, it could happen anytime.

OR it could take a while.

It’s that limbo, that waiting and not knowing, that excitement and anticipation and longing and hoping and wanting it to happen right now so I can start decorating the nursery already…

That’s hard.

I already see that whether the road to pregnancy is long or short, it will be difficult. I can be a tad impatient about big things like this. Which is why looking for houses in Minnesota “just cuz” is dangerous for me. I am constantly tempted to see something I love and panic because we need to get our house on the market and sell it NOW so we can buy that house before someone else buys it first! 

God’s faithfulness reminds me to take a step back and breathe. Remember Truth.

“This God, his way is perfect – the word of the LORD proves true.”

When I was involved in Campus Outreach in college, a common phrase we girls used when talking about boys and dating/marriage was “Guard your heart.” And I got to thinking this morning what that actually means, and how it applies to this situation too. Here are my thoughts:

“Guard your heart” is a call to live in the moment. Instead of waiting for That Day When, you embrace the reality of This Day Now. You offer God the sacrifice of thanksgiving for this day being what it is, right now, and deem it Enough.

In Psalm 118, the psalmist writes, “This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I don’t think that those two verses occurring together is a coincidence. You could rephrase it: “This day is the LORD’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes. Let us rejoice and be glad in his creation of this moment.”

Yes, sometimes it feels like you have to search high and low for the things to be thankful for. But they’re there. And the more we train ourselves to look for them, the more we see.

Faith is not easily won. It is fought for. But we can count it all joy, for the glory to be revealed far surpasses the fight.

So I will not dampen my excitement, or pour myself into something else to be distracted from my heart’s desires. I will sit at the foot of the throne, heart exposed, waiting for God’s faithfulness to prove true, however and whenever.

Move Slower…

13 Jul

Hey friends – I’m still definitely going to tell you about my trip to Alaska but just wanted to let you know that between getting back into the routine, catching up from vacation, being crazy busy at work and really enjoying weeknights that don’t have me running around like a chicken…

My posts are going to fewer and farther between than normal.

Right now, I just need my life to move slower. I need to rest, relax, and not feel like I “have to” do anything.

Even exercise.

I tried running the other night. It was weak and pathetic.

I took that as my sign that I need more recovery time. So that’s what I’m doing – with running, and life in general.

Instead of running, I’ll walk. I’ll stop to smell my neighbor’s flowers, harvest vegetables from our garden, watch copious amounts of TV, and go to bed early.

Dont’ worry – I’ll be back… I just don’t know when. 😉

 

Alaska: Talkeetna and Denali

9 Jul

Hi friends! I’m back. Alaska was wonderful and so much fun but it’s good to be home. Now that we’re all unpacked with clean laundry and food in the fridge, I can tell you about our Alaskan adventures.

You’ve already heard about how the marathon went. 

After the race, we went and picked up our RV.

{at our first campsite}

We weren’t able to get a late checkout from our hotel so Travis and I ended up showering at the RV place. A little strange but it worked. After lunch at The Village Inn, we went grocery shopping (we cooked all of our own meals, except 3-4 that we had to eat out) and then headed north on our way to Denali.

We made it as far as Talkeetna and then settled in for the night at the campsite above. It wasn’t the most appealing campsite ever but we didn’t really mind as we were all exhausted from traveling and a long day in the RV (and me, running a marathon!).

Right away that first night, we realized how weird it was to have so much daylight. It’d be 11 at night and you’d think it was 5 because of all the daylight. Even when we went to bed at 10:30, it was bright outside, and whatever time we got up, it was light outside (it gets dark around 11:30 and light around 4 that far north). We ended up making a sunlight blind from a beer box for the upper bunk of the RV.

The next morning, we walked over to check out the small town of Talkeetna.

The water is so dirty because it’s glacial runoff and is full of silt. (I actually bought some soap in Juneau made with glacial silt and it’s amazing! It makes your hands feel so soft.)

After touring the town and doing a little shopping, we walked back to our RV and got on the road. We stopped frequently to take pictures and see the sights on our way up to Denali because 1) we had nowhere to be and 2) the mountains were gorgeous.

We stopped at the Veteran’s Memorial.

Saw Hurricane Gulch, which is pretty impressive.

After a very bumpy RV ride, we finally made it to Denali National Park.

We went to the Visitor’s Center, then ate dinner and fixed the air mattress that Travis and I were sleeping on (it had gone flat the night before!). After that, we took advantage of our copious amounts of daylight at 9:30 pm to go on a walk down to Riley Creek.

{Check out the giant blister on the inside of my right big toe!}

The next morning, we got up early for the 7 am Eielson Tour into the park.

 

{From left to right, Travis, Drew (our nephew), Matthew (T”s bro), Al (T’s dad), Beth (T’s mom), and me}

The first animals we saw were some caribou (reindeer) down by the water. They were pretty far away so you needed binoculars and a mega-scope on your camera to see them well.

And then 3 different times, we saw a momma brown/grizzly bear and her 2 cubs (at least 2 different sets, if not all 3). They were SO cute! The little cubs were bumbling along and playing with each other. It was very cool. They only have about 600 bears in the entire 6 million acre park, so seeing that many was really special.

We stopped a couple of times along the way (it takes 4 hours to get up to the Eielson Visitor Center – it’s 66 miles into the park). You’re allowed to hike around and get on another bus if you want but there aren’t any trails (you’d have to just bush whack) and it seemed fairly involved to get on a different bus. So we just stayed on our own the whole way. Our driver was really funny and knowledgeable too so it was an enjoyable drive.

Finally, we got up to the visitor center. It had been a sunny, warm day when we started out on the trip into the park but the closer we got to the mountain, the cloudier and colder it got. Apparently, Denali is big enough that it creates it own weather and when the sun melts the snow, it creates a lot of clouds and hides the mountain. All we could see up at the visitor center was fog (which is normally where you get the best view of the mountain).

On the way back, we were all tired and struggled to stay awake. We saw some more bears, eagles, a marmot, some more caribou and then we were back to where we started.

We had already “checked out” of our campsite so when we got back to the RV, we hit the road back toward Anchorage. For the night, we stayed at the Big Bear RV Park in Palmer (near Wasilla).

We finally had a campfire! Every other place we had been were selling little bundles of firewood for $10. This place had a bargain of $6 a bundle. Having a fire was a little weird though because it was completely light outside.

And that was the end of Day 4!

Coming up: Seward (whales!), Juneau and the ferry