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Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

I did not write this, but after living in Alaska for over 25 years, it gives a humorously accurate depiction of what it can be like living here in the winter. For all the folks dealing with harsh winter weather…

snow plow

December 8: 6:00 PM.
It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses print. So romantic, we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

December 9:
We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal-white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I’ve ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snow plow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life.

December 12:
The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry; we’ll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we’ll have so much by the end of winter that I’ll never want to see snow again. I don’t think that’s possible. Bob is such a nice man. I’m glad he’s our neighbor.

December 14:
Snow, lovely snow! We had 8″ last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn’t realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I’ll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish I wouldn’t huff and puff so.

December 15:
20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4×4 Explorer. Bought snow tires for the wife’s car and two extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that’s silly. We aren’t in Alaska, after all.

December 16:
Ice storm this morning. Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like heck. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

December 17:
Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for five hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should’ve bought a wood stove, but I won’t admit it to her. I hate it when she’s right. I can’t believe I’m freezing to death in my own living room.

December 20:
Electricity’s back on, but we had another 14″ of the stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. Snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they’re too busy playing hockey. I think they’re lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they’re out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they’re lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he’s lying.

December 22:
Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white stuff fell today, and it’s so cold it probably won’t melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to pee. By the time I got undressed, peed, and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob, who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter, but he says he’s too busy. I think he’s is lying.

December 23:
Only 2″ of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she … nuts??? Why didn’t she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did, but I think she’s lying.

December 24:
Snow packed so hard by snowplow, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch that guy who drives that snowplow, I’ll drag him through the snow by his hair. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I’ve just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was busy watching for the snowplow.

December 25:
Merry Christmas. 20 more inches of the slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. I hate the snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she’s an idiot. If I have to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” one more time, I’m going to kill her.
December 26:
Still snowed in. Why did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She’s really getting on my nerves.

December 27: Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze.

December 28: Warmed up to above -20. Still snowed in. SHE is driving me crazy!!!

December 29:
10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

December 30:
Roof caved in. The snow plow driver is suing me for a million dollars for the bump on his head. The wife went home to her mother. Another 9″ predicted.
December 31:
Set fire to what’s left of the house. No more shoveling.

January 8:
I feel so good! I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?  (Author unknown)

Well, I hope everyone is enjoying a great start to the New Year, and staying safe and warm! We don’t have much snow here at the moment, but my driveway and yard are like an ice skating rink, so it’s time to put the ice cleats on and get some more firewood.

Have a great day, and God bless! – Amber Lea

 

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I have lived in the beautiful state of Alaska for over 25 years now, and from what I remember from history, Alaska was granted statehood on January 3, 1959. When I first moved to the valley I live in, there were no WalMarts, Sears, Targets, or other such nationwide chains of merchants.

The people of Alaska were a hardy, and mostly self-reliant breed, and most lived a very different lifestyle than what was considered to be normal in the lower 48 states. The railroad and shipping industries have played a vital part in the transporting of goods to and from Alaska, and even with the Alaska Highway being opened to the public in 1948, continue to play a major role in the transportation industry.

Transportation costs to and from Alaska remain high, whether by land, sea or air, which has always resulted in the costs of goods being higher than elsewhere in the United States. And this is at least somewhat understandable, if not likeable.

What I want to RANT about is the fact that even while we may be willing (or forced) to pay higher costs for shipping to Alaska, there are still many places that REFUSE TO SHIP TO ALASKA!

In the lower 48 (or contiguous) states, people can order anything they want. Places like Amazon, E-bay, WalMart, Sears, etc. will deliver items right to a person’s door or mailbox.

I felt like Alaska was finally being accepted into the “modern era” when we had our first WalMart built in our valley, followed shortly after by Sears. Then I discovered ordering online…YAY! But we cannot order from WalMart or Sears, or any other major chain for that matter. It doesn’t make sense to me, to be told, “We cannot ship this item to Alaska due to the cost”, when the companies are already shipping to their own stores, WHICH ARE LOCATED HERE IN ALASKA!

I thought I found a happy solution with Amazon and E-bay, even if it meant paying a higher shipping fee than anywhere else in the United States. A few years ago, I even joined “Amazon Prime” (for a fee of course), and was promised “free shipping on ANY qualifying item”.

In the few years since joining Prime, I’ve ordered several items, including a microwave-convection oven. Some items have been sent to my post office box, while some have been delivered right to my doorstep.

Yet in this past week, I tried to order a simple, small shop vacuum. There were several models available on Amazon, including 5 that were “qualified for Prime shipping”. When I placed the order, I received the message, “we’re sorry, we cannot ship to your location”. I tried every one of the models on Amazon, whether it was sold directly by Amazon, or a 3rd party, and received the same message from every single one of them!

I could order all the spare parts, hoses, bags, and filters I wanted. But I could not buy the shop vac itself! I finally gave up, discouraged. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with weight issues, because the microwave I ordered certainly weighed more. And I’ve known people that have received goods weighing over 500 lbs. So I don’t know why I couldn’t buy my shop vac, it is a mystery.

Today, I received a coupon for 15% off the price of a throw rug type item. We’re talking a rug measuring 35” x 26” and weighing less than 10 lbs. I decided to buy it, but as I was placing the order, I put in the zip code, and I got the same message, “We’re sorry. We don’t ship to that area”. I looked on the pull down menu where the states are listed, and Alaska wasn’t even on the list. Yet the company proudly displayed “Made in America” on their website.

Yes, it costs more to ship to Alaska. But the consumer (the one buying the item) is the one paying for it. So if we are willing to pay the higher shipping fees, why are we being discriminated against in buying the items we want to buy?

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like we Alaskans are included as a part of the United States. There are still some folks out there that seem to think we are in a different country.

Once when I was on a trip to the South, a man asked me, “What kind of money do you folks in Alaska use”? I just couldn’t help myself! I replied, “We don’t use money. We just dig up gold nuggets out of our back yards”.

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Well, here we are on the final stretch of our trip. It begins in Bozeman, Montana.

We stopped at the local post office to mail off a few boxes of goodies so that Christian could have a little more room to move. It even cleared out a small space in the back, where I could actually see out the back window for the first time on the trip. (It didn’t last long though, as we found more stuff to fill it back up with. 🙂 )

As we headed out along Interstate 90 toward Missoula, we spotted a sign for Lewis and Clark Caverns and decided to check it out. It was a very nice scenic drive to the park entrance, and beautiful sunshine along the way.

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We didn’t actually get to take a tour of the caverns due to time, but we did enjoy the visitor center and our talk with the park ranger. He talked to Christian and peaked his interest in bats, explaining to him about how critical it is to protect the bats from certain diseases that are currently wiping out many of the bat populations around the country. Christian bought a little toy bat to help remind him of what he learned. We also bought a DVD about the caverns to watch later since we didn’t get to see them.

After we left the park, we continued on the scenic route which was a loop that led back out to I-90. It was getting very hot, and we were truly enjoying the air conditioning along with the scenery.

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After a few hours we stopped for gas in a little town off the interstate. It was one of those where you have to exit the interstate and drive a mile or two into a town. As we were pulling back out of the gas station, I spotted a sign across the road that made me laugh, and I had to take a picture of it!

You know you’re in a western town when, instead of used “car” lots they have…

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I know some of the local folks were probably laughing at us as we made a U-turn in  the middle of the road to go back and take pictures of the sign.

Later, we stopped for a lunch break at a quiet rest area.

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The name of the river was Clark Fork, and it was a very winding river, as we crossed it so many times we lost count.

A couple of hours later we stopped at another rest area. As we were pulling into a parking spot, a couple was getting into the car next to us to leave and they were being followed by a little ground squirrel that seemed to be begging. As we watched, it looked as if the little squirrel was going to follow their car until we got out. It came right up to us. We noticed there were about 20 other squirrels nearby, hanging around some bushes, and they didn’t appear afraid of people.

I know it is not a good idea to feed wildlife, and normally I wouldn’t. But these little creatures weren’t exactly wild anymore, as they have become accustomed to handouts (and their antics were too cute to resist for Christian). We had a couple of pieces of bread, so Christian began to toss a few small pieces out to them. Within seconds they came right up to him and started taking food from his hand. He thought this was really cool.

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We continued on along I-90, and soon came into Missoula, Montana where there was a wildfire in progress. The smoke was thick in the air, making it hard to see and breathe.

Missoula MT fire

Soon after we crossed back into Idaho, it began getting dark. We pushed on to Coeur d’Alene, which has grown quite a bit since the last time I was there. We stopped for a bite to eat and then spent the night in a Wal Mart parking lot.

Early the next morning, we picked up a few more supplies and then headed on to Canada. We stopped in Bonners Ferry for gas, and ended up making some new friends. The place we stopped at was called Wild Horse Mercantile & Saloon, a family owned and operated store. We spent over an hour there, browsing the handi-crafts and talking with the store owner, while Christian played with their grandson. He was ready for a break from us “old ladies”, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to play with someone his own age.

Soon after leaving Wild Horse, we came to the Canadian border. I’ve heard many horror stories about crossing borders, but didn’t think we had anything to worry about, other than it may take a while if they wanted to search our car. We all had our passports ready when we got to the gate, but they also wanted to see my divorce/custody papers allowing me to take Christian across the border. I had to use those papers to get Christian’s passport in the first place, so I didn’t bring them with me on the trip. (I’ll know better in the future, though it’s not something I would normally plan to take on a trip with us.)

The border agent was friendly and helpful at least, and after asking Christian some questions, was able to call his dad to verify that it was alright for me to take him across the border. There were no more issues after that, and we crossed safely into Canada.

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A short time later we stopped for a quick lunch. One of the snack items we had purchased before leaving Coeur d’Alene  was something Christian had never had before…

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Amy couldn’t believe that he had never eaten a Twinkie, but I’ve always tried to limit the processed foods and sugar because he has a rather negative reaction with hyper-activity. He said they tasted “kind of weird” and he wasn’t overly fond of them.

We were soon on our way into Banff National Park, enjoying spectacular views along the way.

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As we entered into the town of Radium Hot Springs, all of a sudden traffic came almost to a stop. As we creeped along slowly, we finally saw the reason…

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This small herd was seeking shade from the hot afternoon sun, and didn’t seem to mind sharing the town with all the people. I think all of us tourists that had a camera handy, were all taking pictures as we drove by.

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We were getting excited about stopping at the hot springs for a good soak, as none of us had been there before. I had been by there back in the winter of 1994, but it was already dark and snowing and I drove right by, not knowing it was there.

Radium Hot Springs

Radium Hot Springs 2

Water from the actual hot springs have been piped into this large pool, making it easily accessible. There is also a regular swimming pool on the other side of the building for a cool dip as well. We spent a couple of hours between soaking and cooling off, before heading on again.

As we drove along, we found a few places to stop for pictures, and Amy took a moment to dip her toes into the ice cold water in one of the rivers.

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She said, “That water is too cold”, as her feet began to go numb.

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By the time we entered Alberta, the sun was going down and we began looking for a place to stop for the night.

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We crossed over into Jasper National Park, and then crossed the 5,000 mile mark of our journey.

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We found a little pull off where we took about a 5 hour nap in the car. The next morning we continued our drive through Jasper, stopping on occasion to take in the sights.

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Even though it was a cloudy day, the scenery was still beautiful to look at, and we also began to see more wildlife.

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Well, that last photo wasn’t real wildlife, but they had a wonderful restaurant and gift shop there, where we spent too much money. 🙂 And this next picture does qualify as wildlife.

Black bear 1

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This was actually the 3rd bear we saw, with the first ones being young cubs that quickly disappeared into the trees before I could get a picture. This bear was trying to push his way through the barbed wire fence when we came upon him. As soon as he made his way through the fence, he turned around and looked at us. He watched us for several minutes, I guess making sure we weren’t going to follow him. And then he vanished into the woods.

We crossed back into British Columbia and finally arrived in Dawson Creek, which is where the official “Mile 0” of the Alaska Highway begins. When I was there in 1994, I bought a miniature replica of the mile post statue which I later gave to a friend. I wanted to buy another one, but it seems it is no longer a big deal to the town and we could not find any place that still carried these souvenirs. While asking around the town, one place was suggested as a possibility, but they were closed.

So we settled for our own pictures of the mile post marker in the center of town, and moved on.

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By the time we left Dawson Creek, it was almost dark and beginning to rain heavily. We made it as far as Fort Nelson before stopping for a nap. We left Ft. Nelson around 4:30 am and continued on. By then we were all getting a little tired of being in the car, even feeling a little grumpy. But we were determined to make it to Liard Hot Springs, our next stop over.

The weather was clearing up a bit, and there were more photo opportunities along the way.

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It was a bit of a surprise to suddenly see a small herd of mountain goats trotting across one of the bridges towards us. We stopped to let them pass, and to take some pictures.

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We soon crossed the 6,ooo mile mark and stopped for a little celebration and to stretch our legs. We also said a special prayer of thanks.

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We saw a few animals with radio collars while driving through Canada, but this little fella and his momma captured our hearts. The baby played “peek-a-boo” with us, being bashful, and the momma had a torn antler on her right side that hung down. It didn’t appear to bother her though.

Shortly before we made it to Liard Hot Springs we came across a herd of wild buffalo. Everyone had to stop as we were coming up on a construction zone and had to wait for the pilot car to let us go. I felt a little sorry for the guy on the motorcycle. Being that close to a wild buffalo in a car is one thing, but this guy had no protection.

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Even after the pilot car began to lead us through the construction zone, we still had to stop for the pedestrians.

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We came across this old fella taking a dust bath to ward off the bugs just before we reached the hot springs.

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We made it to Liard Hot Springs Lodge around 3:30 pm, ready for a good soaking and a hot meal.

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Liard Hot Springs 1

This is the upper end of the springs, where it is hottest. There used to be another pool farther up years ago, but it was closed down.

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This was down at the lower end of the springs where it is much cooler. There is a cold spring that feeds in here, making it ideal for children. The whole spring is shallow, maybe at chest level at the deepest.

This next photo is from a visit in the winter of 2004, which was the first time I visited here.

Liard Hot Springs 4 winter

Soaking in the springs was so nice, I didn’t want to leave. It really is amazing just how good it makes tired old bones feel! Many of the people we met here made the trip for the specific purpose of healing and the overall health benefits.

One of the people we met was a school teacher from one of the villages on the Kuskokwim River, here in Alaska. She was visiting the hot springs as therapy to avoid surgery on her back. It turned out that she was also a rock hound, like Christian, and they quickly sparked up a friendship. She showed him part of her rock collection, and gave him a first hand lesson in geology, along with sharing the locations of a few places she thought we might be interested in visiting.

Christian also made friends with a few children around his age, and they mostly stayed in the lower end playing in the cooler water.

After soaking for a couple of hours, we went back to the lodge for dinner, and then returned to the springs again for a couple more hours. I had the most restful night’s sleep in many years. The next morning we soaked again before breakfast. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave.

We left Liard late morning on July 29th and drove into the Yukon Territory, and on to Watson Lake to visit the Sign Post Forest. I had been by there before too, but in the winter time the snow was very deep and I only saw it from the road driving by. This time, I got to go walk around inside.

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What began as an ordinary mileage post in a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers camp in 1942, has now become a famous stop for tourists from all over the world. It started with a post used for distance between camps and cities during the construction of the Alaska Highway. In 1943 a homesick soldier added a sign with the name of his hometown in Illinois to the post, and it started a tradition with people from all over putting up signs from their hometowns. Many more posts have been erected since 1943, and the “forest” continues to grow each year with signs being made from everything one can imagine. There are now over 72,000 signs there, and of course, we added a sign of our own (the front license plate) to mark our journey.

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When we left Watson Lake, Amy and Christian were going to take a nap. But just as they were starting to fall asleep, I came across a brown bear just off the side of the road. I hit the brakes kind of hard, waking Amy and Christian up, and I turned around and drove back slowly, past where the bear was. He was busy digging for grubs and didn’t pay much attention to us. I turned around again and came back, driving slowly on the shoulder of the road until we were right next to him. (Thankfully, there weren’t any other cars around at the time and I was able to stop and turn around easily, which we did quite often for pictures.) This was one of the best photos I got, having been waiting for an opportunity like this. I didn’t want to push our luck and make the bear angry, so after a couple of pictures, we moved on.

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Brown bear 2

Not long after seeing the bear, we again crossed the Continental Divide for the 7th time.

7th Continental Divide Crossing

We were planning to drive straight through to White Horse, but stopped for a few gorgeous sunset shots.

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By the time the last bit of twilight was fading, we were crossing the line into Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Amy and I were discussing the days events when all of a sudden we both said, “Look!” We were both pointing to a bright green light flashing down through the sky. We’ve seen “shooting stars” and the like before, but they don’t usually last as long as this did. We never did hear any reports of what it actually was, but from what we could tell, it was a “fire ball” from a comet. (If anyone has any information, I would appreciate a comment on it. The location was just outside Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, around 11:00 pm on July 29, 2013)

We filled up with gas in Whitehorse and were laughing about all the bugs splattered on the grill of the car and gas can on top of the car. I had to keep using the windshield wipers and stopping to scrape the windshield in order to see where I was going. I thought Alaska bugs were bad! These were all collected between Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

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We spent the night just on the other side of Whitehorse in a rest area. We left around 3:30 am, determined that we would make it back into Alaska that day.

Just after sunrise, we came to Haines Junction and stopped for gas. There was a place I had stopped years before just past Haines Junction by Kluane Lake called Soldiers Summit. It was a serene and relaxing setting, almost mystical in the winter time. It was where the Alaskans and Canadians met in the building of the Alaska Highway, and they marked the spot with a memorial to all those who had contributed. It was just as peaceful in the summer time.

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Yes, we hiked up the trail anyway (with a can of bear spray in hand).

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View of Destruction Bay at Kluane Lake from trail head.

I knew we were getting closer to the border and home when we left Soldiers Summit. Perhaps the few cars in front of me were thinking the same thing, and that could explain why we all were going a good bit over the speed limit when we came to Burwash Landing. All of a sudden brake lights started coming on, including mine.

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Now someone there has a sense of humor (and artistic talent), and I have to admit, I was laughing so hard I could barely take the pictures!

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We stopped for a brief rest in Burwash Landing and visited the Natural History Museum before continuing on. We were getting into what felt like familiar territory to Christian and I, and we were beginning to get very anxious to get home. Amy was still very enthusiastic about the scenery, as it was very different than where she lives.

While passing one of the many lakes, we spotted a couple of pairs of swans swimming along.

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Swan Lake Canada

When we were getting close to Beaver Creek, the last town before the Alaska border, we were talking about our journey. The subjects of a message in a bottle and time capsules came up. We started thinking about marking our trip in a unique way, something that might be discovered someday by a future generation.

We came up with the idea of writing our names on a few rocks, along with the names of all the places we’d been and the date, and throwing them into Beaver Creek. Perhaps no one will ever find them, but then again, perhaps they will.

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We threw our rocks into Beaver Creek and stopped in town for gas. Soon we were at the Alaska border. (Thank you Jesus!)

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We still had several hundred miles to go before reaching home and we were getting very excited. It didn’t take long to reach Tok Junction, and I knew our trip was coming to an end. When we stopped in Tok for gas, we were greeted with a lightning storm and heavy rain. It wasn’t as spectacular as the ones we had seen in Arizona, but for Alaska, it was pretty cool.

Not long after we left Tok, the rain stopped, but I could see the storm clouds following us.

By the time we reached Glen Allen I was getting pretty tired. But I knew we were getting close now, and the anticipation of getting home kept me going.

As we pulled into Glen Allen, we crossed the 7,000 mile mark.

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The storm clouds had caught up with us, and again we were seeing lightning and hearing thunder. As we headed down the road, the storm shifted to the east toward Valdez and we entered into partly sunny skies.

Just before we got to where we could see the Matanuska Glacier, we were treated to a light rainbow.

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Matanuska Glacier

In another 45 minutes we were back in Palmer, Alaska…home at last! We had gone 7,165 miles in 14 days of driving time. We were exhausted, but it was the trip of a lifetime and we had a blast.

I feel very blessed to have been able to take this journey with Christian, and in a way, I consider it a gift from my Mom. I will always treasure the memories that were made along the way, and I will always be thankful.

I hope you have enjoyed my sharing our journey with you. I know hearing someone else’s stories and looking at their pictures is never the same as being there yourself, but perhaps through our trip, it will stir some excitement and desire to take a journey of your own. Perhaps you might even explore some of the same places we did for yourselves.

At any rate, I’d like to thank you all for your kindness in taking the time to read about our adventure. And again, if you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. I probably won’t post again for a few days, as I’m still behind on some chores. But such is life.

Take care, go make some happy memories, and God bless! – Amber & Christian

 

 

 

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