Sunday, November 27, 2011

2 Years in the Frozen North

Steven and I were a little crazy to just get on a plane with some of our belongings and head up to Alaska even though we had never visited there before. Even thinking back now to what we did, our families must have thought we were out of our minds. As I write this, I think about how I would react if my child came to me with this same plan one day many years in the future. Yes, we were a little (or a lot, depending on who you ask) crazy.

That being said, I would never change one thing about all that we experienced in Alaska during the two years that we were there. We are just so lucky and so blessed to have had all of those experiences. Looking back, it seems like only a dream. Good thing we chronicled all of our adventures here on this blog, or no one would ever believe what we did!

We are lucky to have been introduced to many wonderful people along the way as well. Not only friends and work acquaintances, but people we met during all of our wonderful adventures. From people on our cruise, to the broken down Canadians on the Haul Road, everyone was truly placed in our path by God.

Steven and I will have lots of stories to share from our time in Alaska as we continue on our life-long journey together!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Final List Tally

At the end of our time in Alaska, we completed 97 of the 121 items on our list and partially finished 2 additional items. Many of the items we did not complete included activities we didn't really get in to like cross country skiing or traveling to remote places by plane or boat. Three items that I can't believe we didn't complete and that I would most want to complete on another visit (besides the traveling to remote places) are catching a salmon in Ship Creek, attending the Midnight Baseball game, and ice fishing in Mirror Lake.

For a final time I am including the entire list below (bold and italicized indicated completed items):

1. Catch a salmon in Ship Creek
2. Visit the Visitor Information Center Log Cabin
3. Visit the Alaska Public Lands Information Center
4. Go to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art
5. See the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-op
6. Buy some Musk Ox wool
7. Visit the Ulu Factory
8. Buy an Ulu
9. Visit Earthquake Park
10. Visit Resolution Park
11. Hike through Kincaid Park
12. Cross country ski through Kincaid Park (Rebekah has done this!)
13. Go to the Alaska Native Heritage Center
14. Go to H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark
15. Go to the Alaska Zoo
16. Bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
17. Cross country ski the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (Rebekah has done this!)
18. Visit Potter Marsh during the summer
19. Watch the bore tide come in
20. Hike the Turnagain Arm Trail
21. View Dall Sheep from Windy Corner (Mile 107)
22. Visit the Eagle River Nature Center in August
23. See the beginning of the Iditarod
24. Enjoy the festivities of Fur Rendezvous
25. Ski the Hilltop Ski Area
26. Ski the Alyeska Resort and Ski Area
27. Visit Girdwood and the Crow Creek Mine
28. Hike through Crow Pass Trail
29. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
30. Visit Portage Glacier, Explorer Glacier, and Byron Glacier
31. View Mirror Lake during the summer
32. Ice fish in Mirror Lake
33. Hike to Thunderbird Falls
34. Visit Eklutna Glacier
35. Hike up Flattop Mountain
36. Hike throughout Chugach State Park
37. Visit Kachemak Bay State Park
38. See the Grewingk Glacier
39. Visit Shuyak Islands State Park
40. Visit Kenai Fjords National Park
41. Visit Denali State Park
42. Ride a snowmobile through the wilderness
43. Visit Denali National Park
44. Visit Wood-Tikchik State Park
45. Travel to Hope
46. Travel to Homer
47. Visit the Norman Lowell Studio and Gallery
48. Travel to Kenai
49. Travel to Seward
50. Kayak in Resurrection Bay
51. Visit the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center
52. Hike the Skilak Lookout Trail
53. Travel to Whittier
54. See Columbia Glacier
55. Take a boat across Prince William Sound
56. Kayak in Prince William Sound
57. Kayak in Cook Inlet
58. Visit Valdez
59. Visit Cordova
60. Visit Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
61. Fish the Russian River
62. Visit Lake Clark National Park
63. Attend the Alaska State Fair in Palmer in August
64. Visit Hatcher Pass Lodge and Independence Mine State Historical Park
65. Drive Hatcher Pass Road
66. Visit Talkeetna
67. Hike in the Talkeetna Mountains
68. Visit Fairbanks
69. Attend the Midnight Baseball Game (June 21)
70. Visit the city of North Pole
71. See gold dredge #8 and view the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline
72. Visit the Aurora Ice Museum
73. Have a drink at an Ice Bar
74. Sit in the Chena Hot Springs
75. View the northern lights
76. Visit Juneau
77. See the Mendenhall Glacier
78. Explore the Alaskan Rain Forest
79. Visit Glacier Bay National Park
80. Visit Katmai National Park
81. Visit Kobuk Valley National Park
82. Visit Gates of the Arctic National Park
83. Visit the Seward Peninsula
84. Drive the Dalton Highway
85. Ride on a dog sled through the snow
86. See a moose, brown bear, black bear, dall sheep, beluga whale, killer whale, humpback whale, minke whale, harbor seal, sea lion, polar bear, bald eagle, arctic tern, caribou, marmots, red fox, wolf, lynx, wolverine, musk ox, sea otter, mountain goats, dall’s porpoise, king crabs, opilio crabs, puffin, porcupine, snowshoe hare, and many more animals
87. Visit Matanuska Glacier
88. Visit the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer
89. Visit Indian Valley Mine
90. Fish for King Salmon on the Little Susitna River
91. Visit the Alaska SeaLife Center
92. Hike to Exit Glacier
93. Meet Sarah Palin
94. Hike to the Harding Ice Field
95. Polar Bear Plunge in Goose Lake
96. Go sledding on Flattop
97. See the Fall foliage of the tundra
98. Cross country ski in Hatcher Pass
99. View the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks
100. Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North
101. Hike Mt. Baldy
102. Visit Ketchikan
103. Visit the Alaska Brewing Company and Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
104. Visit Skagway
105. Cruise through College Fjord
106. Visit Soldotna
107. Visit the Bear Creek Winery
108. Experience the 40 Below Room
109. Go Halibut Fishing
110. Visit Captain Cook State Recreation Area
111. Dip net for Salmon on the Kenai River
112. Attend Arctic Thunder
113. Visit Worthington Glacier State Recreation Area
114. Visit Liberty Falls State Recreation Area
115. Visit Kennecott & McCarthy
116. Drive on the Denali Highway
117. Visit Coldfoot
118. Visit Deadhorse
119. Enter the Arctic Circle
120. Cross the Yukon River
121. View the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Final Leg Of The Journey

When we arrived in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday we headed for the home of our friends, Vas and Julia. We got there around lunch time and Vas took us out to eat while we waited for Julia to get off work for the day.

After lunch we met up with Julia and headed downtown to explore. Our first stop was the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, a nice park with many interesting and weird sculptures throughout. Next we headed down to the state capitol building.

We were able to go inside and see the state legislators in session, the state library, and explore parts of the rest of the building. It was a very interesting and historic building.

Outside the capitol building there is a statue of Lewis and Clark looking West and right down one of the main roads into the heart of the city.

We decided to walk down that main road and do some exploring into the local shops and restaurants in the area and walked all the way down to the Des Moines River. At this point we were starting to get hungry so we headed to a great Mexican restaurant in town to meet up with another of their friends, Tatyana. Dinner was great - they had a guacamole station where they would come and make it right at the table.

After dinner we headed back to Vas and Julia's place to hang out over a bottle of wine. We stayed up late talking and had a great time visiting with them during the short time we were there. Thanks to Vas and Julia for being great hosts and tour guides!

Thursday we woke up and continued on our way. For the first time in the US on this journey we left the main highways and took the back, country roads for a more direct path southeast. As we were driving along there was a sign we passed for the American Gothic House in the small town of Eldon, IA. I ignored it and kept driving, but Rebekah thought it sounded interesting (without really knowing what it was) and insisted we turn around. When we got there we saw a parking lot, a visitors center, and an old, rickety white house.

However, once we walked in to the visitors center we recognized what this place was. The old, rickety house is the home from the painting American Gothic by Grant Wood. The visitors center had history and stories of the painting along with costumes you could put on. Then you could go stand in front of the house where the center staff will gladly take your picture. I thought this was a little strange, but of course Rebekah was excited...

I think we nailed it.

After taking off the costumes we continued on our way through the country of Iowa and Missouri and made it to St. Louis around dinner time. After stopping briefly to take a picture by the Gateway Arch (which took more time than we originally thought - it is not easy to park with a U-Haul in downtown St. Louis) we crossed the border into Illinois and found an Olive Garden for dinner.

After dinner we continued on our way, becoming more anxious to arrive the closer we got. Taking 64 to 57 to 24 we crossed into Kentucky and stopped at a Days Inn off the highway in Kuttawa, KY. We woke up early Friday morning and continued down 24 through Nashville and then hopping on 75 in Chattanooga. Since it was close to evening rush hour as we approached Atlanta, we took GA 20 to stay north of the city and arrived at Rebekah's parents house just before dinner.

In total the trip took 11 days and we traveled 5,555 miles traveling through 12 US states and 2 Canadian provinces. We saw much of the country, but unfortunately didn't get to see and do as much as we wanted due to the weather and our time constraints. However, it was definitely a trip we will not soon forget!