I know it’s been quite a while since I came to visit. I owe you pictures of SugarBelle – she’s almost 2 months old! – and an updated picture of Hunter – he’s 4 1/2 months and just got fixed – and of course pictures of Alaska. So, I’ll start with Alaska
IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! It’s just so big! Joel asked why we didn’t venture farther from Fairbanks & I told him “this place is twice the size of Texas. Everything is 2-3 hours away!” The mountains were high, the trees were acutally kind of short because of growing in permafrost, the people were so friendly. I didn’t feel like a tourist, but like I was visiting with friends. I’ll try to pop in some pictures to help.
Our first day there we rode the train to El Dorado Gold Mine & got to pan for gold. Kristen found twice as much as I did, so we put it all together in a necklace for her. What a cool souvenier!
That afternoon we rode a stern wheeler on the Chena River. We got a bit of history about the company’s founder; met Susan Butcher’s husband & watched a quick run of the sled dogs (pulling a 4-wheeler with the engine taken out – hey, it’s summer up there); toured an Inuit village (where we actually saw Susan Butcher’s dogs); tried Alaskan smoked salmon (I still hate ground up salmon); and were actually a little bit bored on this tour.
On our second day we drove to Denali National Park. I just can’t put into words the scenery going there, being there, and coming back. It was just breath taking. We didn’t see Mt. McKinley (the one thing I really, really wanted to see), but we did see wild caribou when we were leaving & stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures! It was cold that day so we had to buy sweatshirts to put on over our shorts & t-shirts. We did a 2 mile hike along a river that went from wide & sluggish to narrow & raging over rocks. The hike took about an hour and a half (2 1/2 hour drive to Denali) and we were glad to get back to the warm car. On the way back to Fairbanks we saw part of the Alaska Pipeline. A local couple that we had met told us about a local restaurant called Mondarosa. So on our way back from Denali we stopped outside of Nenana and ordered a Mondo Burger – big enough for 2 and oh, so filling! It was the cheapest meal we ate all week.
The third day found us heading for a local hot springs that the waiter at Chili’s had told us about. We drove for an hour or so on a winding mountain road that dead ended at Chena Hot Springs. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the hot springs because Kristen is under 18, so we took a dog sled ride instead. Oh what fun! It had been raining so the trail was a little muddy & the cart was a little bumpy and it was like 4-wheeling with dogs! Kristen left determined to turn Hunter into a sled dog. We had lots of time to kill before our scheduled tour of the Ice Museum so we walked on the horse trails & skipped stones in the creek. The Ice Museum was really, really cool (pardon the pun). It was 26* the day we went and the sculptor said they prefer it at about 20*. There was a castle turret, full-sized knights in armor jousting on horseback, a wedding chapel (the sculptors made it & then got married in the museum); several bedrooms, Coka – a – polar bears, and a bar. We DID NOT have a martini in an ice cup! The tour lasted about 15 minutes because it was SO COLD in there. Then we drove back to the hotel & enjoyed the hot tub.
We found a wonderful local attaction called Pioneer Park that had shops & museums & a local musical theater. We went to the theater one night & laughed & laughed at a funny spoof of the early pioneer days in Fairbanks. It was neat to see the museums and artifacts, but after a while you can only look at so many snowshoes & batches of mining equipment. We did get to look at a partially restored river steamer. The engine & boiler room on those things was HUGE!
We visited the North Pole one evening (you had to drive South of Fairbanks to get there). We toured Santa’s house & looked at the souveniers & bought Kurt a t-shirt with the John Deere logo except it had a leaping moose instead of a deer. It was a big hit back home. We bought our Christmas ornament & got a copy of a beautiful poem that I’ll post around Christmas. We saw Santa’s reindeer & Santa saw Kristen & she had to sit on Santa’s lap & looked at me the whole time like, “Do I HAVE to be doing this?”
We ate at a restaurant called the Loose Moose because we thought we could get a moose burger. It turns out you have to know the “right people” in order to get moose burger. So we ate caribou instead. We had fun talking to the cook & when he found out that Kristen deer hunts he gave her some caribou jerky. We ended up buying caribou jerky & sausage and they took some to Uncle Brian as a thank you for the wonderful hunting trips. We told the cook at the Loose Moose that we wanted to see a moose & he told us to drive down Farmer’s Loop Road and he guaranteed we’d see moose. If we didn’t we could come back & he would give us a free meal. Well, we drove down Farmer’s Loop Road 3 Times and NEVER saw a moose! Our one disappointment in Alaska that we never saw a wild moose. We didn’t go back to get our free meal because their portions were big & we didn’t want to waste the food. They had been so nice to us & we had enjoyed the conversation & the free jerky.
On our last full day in Alaska Kristen wanted to go back to Denali. So we drove south again & hiked some more & once again couldn’t see Mt. McKinley because of the clouds. This time we had to buy sunscreen because it was so hot! We did the same trail, except this time we hiked part way up Mount Margaret. I finally had to quit when the altitude got to me and I was digging deep for breath. Kristen never had a problem with asthma. That was a fun day despite getting bad news from back home about our church and a text that Lauren Crook had passed away. We were surrounded by beauty, but with sadness in our hearts. How we longed to be back at Polaris that last time!
We had a very relaxing vacation and it’s something that we couldn’t have done with the whole family along. Joel & Karra have to be constantly on the go & Kristen & I could take things slow and easy. I peeked an interest in “the North” and of course the history buff in me has had to pursue that with some books I bought on vacation. It was a great trip & we were so blessed to be able to take it. On the flight out as Kristen was looking out the window, she glanced backward over the wing & exclaimed, “MOM! THERE IT IS!!” Sure enough, Mt. McKinley snow covered & soaring above the clouds. We didn’t get pictures, but our trip was complete. I got to see Mt. McKinley.