Tag Archives: vacation

Labor Day Weekend

7 Sep

I guess since I said I’d post again this week, I’d better do it, huh?

Our Labor Day weekend was great. The time for my flight into Minneapolis Thursday night got changed about 15 times but I finally landed only about 45 minutes later than planned. Travis flew in to the other terminal from Fargo (where he was for a work trip since the previous Sunday) and my dad picked us up from the airport. We made our way over to my older brother’s house, who is moving to San Francisco this fall and renting his house out. My mom met us there and we went out to dinner at a local burger joint call Flameburger. It was delicious. Travis and I split an order of fries and a chocolate malt, and I still managed to eat my entire cheeseburger. Then we made our way to my parents’ cabin, which is about an hour north of the Cities, and crashed.

The next day, we drove back down to my brother’s house to help him out with cleaning and packing. The renters were moving in on Saturday, giving him just one day to get everything done.  Needless to say, he needed help. We worked until 4:45 when we got pizza delivered. In the meantime, my oldest brother, sister-in-law, and nephew (!!) arrived and after we ate our pizza lupper (lunch/supper), we headed back up to the cabin, making a stop for groceries and beers on the way.

On Saturday, the brother that was moving and my youngest brother and sister-in-law arrived. They brought tons of fresh vegetables from their local Farmers Market – sweet corn, green beans, potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes. Saturday was my oldest brother’s 35th birthday and we celebrated with 24 candles (that was all we had) on an buster bar ice cream cake. It was actually really easy to make and it was delicious – you just mash up a box of Oreos and combine with 1/2 cup melted butter. Press into a 9 x 13 pan and top with sliced vanilla ice cream (I bought the kind that comes in a box). Top that with 1 1/2 cups peanuts and a jar of fudge sauce. Freeze and voila! Deliciousness.

On Sunday, we celebrated my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. I spent hours upon hours the previous several weeks making them a scrapbook of family memories and gave it to them at breakfast. My oldest brother smoked some BBQ ribs for dinner – they were delicious, even if the texture still grossed me out a bit. For dessert, we had an angel food trifle with strawberries and bananas.

Besides eating, we spent a lot of time enjoying the lake on the pontoon and floaties, playing cornhole, bocce ball and ladderball, skiiing (just the guys), and watching my absolutely adorable nephew do all sorts of stuff – crawl, pull himself up, play with his toys and torment the dogs.

 

 

 

Travis and I flew back to Denver Tuesday night, on another delayed flight. Get your act together Southwest! Travis was a sweetheart and dropped me off at our house before going to get the dogs from our friends so that I could go to bed. I was ridiculously tired!

It was a great trip – even though it seemed like we would be there for many days, the time flew by. Hopefully we’ll get back to Minnesota sooner than a year from now!

Still here!

28 Aug

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Hey friends. Sorry I’ve been so MIA lately. I promise that my posting will pick back up soon.

This week, I’m trying to get lots done before I fly to Minnesota on Thursday for Labor Day weekend. And my work computer for some reason refuses to load any and all WordPress blogs so even though I haven’t been commenting on your blogs, I have been reading what I can! It has been more than a little frustrating to not be able to read Mel’s race report or congratulate my friend B on her first home. Hopefully it’ll get back to normal soon!

As far as running and other workouts are going, I’ve been lazier than I like to admit. I went for my first run in weeks on Sunday morning and it was awesome. Definitely the motivation I needed to be more diligent about getting out there (which I did again last night)! Relaxation is good but I definitely feel better when I’m active.

Anyway, I’m so pumped to be going to Minnesota. Of course to see my family and celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, but also to get out on the lake. We haven’t been on the lake ONCE this year. That better not happen ever again!

Have a great holiday weekend friends and I will be back next week! Promise.

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…