Scott and I just returned from our 10 day adventure. We had an amazing time. According to their advertising, it is "Big, Wild Alaska." Let me tell you there is still truth in advertising. We had a wild adventure. In honor of our trip, here are thirteen highlights about our travels.
1. THANK YOU! First and foremost, a huge thank you goes out to Nana, Mimi, & Poppa. Thanks for taking such great care of the girls. They had so much fun, they were disappointed to see Scott and I return.
2. A LONG WAY TO GO! Did you know that Alaska is closer to China than it is to Raleigh? Neither did I. It is technically only 4 time zones away, but if the time zone lines were drawn straight it would probably be 7-8 away.
3. MIDNIGHT SUN!
If you visit at the summer solstice, the sun basically never sets. Here is a picture from 11:30PM (yes PM, not AM). With sun round the clock, that meant we didn't have to waste a minute of vacation sleeping.
4. LIONS, & TIGERS, & BEARS!
OK, there weren't lions or tigers, but there were bears galore. And moose, and caribou, and big horn sheep, and wolves, and fox, and bald eagles, and ptarmigans (it's the state bird, and I like how it's spelled) and marmots, and more, more, more. Here are just a couple of our encounters. Everything was a safe distance, with the exception of #11 below.
5. THE HIGH ONE!
It's called Denali in Alaska which means the high one. We know it as Mt. McKinley. At 20,320 feet it is tall and stands thousands of feet above the next peak. It is also a shy mountain, usually blocked by clouds. However, after 3 days of clouds and rain at Denali National Park it appeared it all it's glory the morning we rode out. Here it is.
6. SMALL SUMMITS!
We left summitting Denali to the pros, but hiked a few hills ourselves. We enjoyed soft steps trekking through the tundra and great views at the top.
7. THE OTHER STATE BIRD!
The mosquito. In Alaska you either have rain or mosquitoes, we had mostly rain. So luckily, not too many mosquitoes. The day they did descend in full force (by the millions) we understood why locals worry more about the bugs than the bears. We were on our anniversary trip, mosquitoes or not, we had to sneak in a few smooches.
8. THIS PLACE IS BIG! On a map, it looks the same size as Hawaii, but Alaska is bigger than the smallest 26 US states combined. We only saw a tiny bit of this vast state, but even that required a ton of time. Of our 10 days traveling, we spent over 52 hours sitting on our bums enjoying the view from various planes, trains, buses, and cars.
9. GREAT SEAFOOD & AMAZING BEER! We ate seafood at almost every meal. That is when were weren't enjoying caribou or moose. The seafood was fresh and delicious. As a bonus, there was always fantastic beer to wash it all down. I think there is a different micro brew for each Alaska resident and each one is delicious.
10. WHO BOOKED 14-HOURS IN A KAYAK!
I did. I take full responsibility to subjecting us to an infinitely long day suffering through 35 degrees temps and pouring raining. Lucky for us our guide knew what the hell he was doing. He had us ditch the boats for a few hours so the seven of us could hide in a 6'X8' hunting hut to warm up. On the positive side, paddling our kayaks surrounded by icebergs was AMAZING. It was a sight unlike anything I have ever seen (or ever will again). First a picture of the the icebergs and then us drying clothes in the hut.
11. FISHING GEAR!
What do you take to go fly fishing in Alaska? Waders to stay dry, fly fishing pole, extra line, extra hooks, and a loaded and cocked shotgun. Yes, our fishing guide brought a loaded shotgun with us to the river. He cocked it before we ever put a foot in the water. Was this needed? Heck yeah, the bears have first dibs on the salmon. We shared the river with two bear cubs, but hurried away when they got close. Thank God, the gun was precautionary only - no shots fired. Scott brought in one nice looking salmon. I hooked one, but it got away (really, I promise).
12. A DIFFERENT WORLD! The biggest surprise about Alaska was how undeveloped it remains. Outside of the cities, running water and electricity are often not available - that includes in people's homes. And though grocery stores are around, many families rely on hunting and fishing for sustenance. Many areas of Alaska remain a throwback to an America that you no longer find in the lower 48. People truly know how to live off the land. As for me, I wouldn't make it past my first winter.
13. HOME SWEET HOME! The adage is true "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I missed Sarah and Jaley the whole trip. The best moment of all was on Monday morning. Before anyone else was up, Jaley and Sarah crawled into bed and just cuddled with me. Hugs and kisses that are worth more than a thousand vacation pictures.
All told we had a great trip. We saw some wonderful sites and went on several "Big, Wild, Alaskan Adventures." However, the piece I loved most was just hanging out with Scott. It has been half a decade since we enjoyed that much time as a party of two. It reminded me just how wonderful a guy he is. Lucky for me, he claims that after the past decade together he plans to hang around for a bunch more.
That is life in the Stroller Lane. Lots of Love.