Thursday, August 29, 2019

Alaska - Part 4: Kids' highlight reel

Our trip to Alaska was really delightful for all, but there were obvious times of extreme joy for the kids. Those times mostly involved rivers, stones, sticks, cousins, hot drinks, ice cream,  junior ranger activities, and close encounters with wildlife...basically everything but long car rides and mountain summit hikes. But they did a decent job humoring me and Nate, who live for mountain summits. Here are a few of those moments of joy.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Alaska - Part 3: Kenai Fiords National Park

Although blogging about our time in Alaska three months after the trip was challenging, it has also been really nice to re-live the trip. Looking back through our pictures and picking the favorites to share here has helped me to fall back into vacation/exploration mode. In contrast to our trip to Disney World in October, I'm also reminded of my favorite types of trips. While I may complain about camping and being cold, these are the types of memories I want my kids to carry with them.

As we headed south again for our wildlife cruise out of Seward, we could see more smoke creeping from the north - this time from fires around Denali, which is crazy because during the first few days of our trip, we were hearing about tourists stranded by mudslides in there.
Quick! It's coming! Drive faster!

What an amazing blessing! During our cruise, we saw minimal signs of forest fires and plenty of amazing wildlife. We chose the 7.5-hour cruise, which took us out to the Gulf of Alaska and up into Aialik Bay. The crew was plenty forthcoming about the extent of sea sickness people commonly experience. There were plenty of naps had during the ride - likely because of the preventative dramamine that was taken by many. Louisa was the only one from our group to throw up, and as often happens, it helped her feel much better and allowed her to enjoy the rest of the cruise. 

It was really hard to not overload this post with photos, so bear with me...

Sea otter pelt
Thankful for Nate's eye that captures quintessential images, not just people
Steller sea lions basking in the sun
Make yourself heard! 
Baby sea lion on the left, hanging with a sea gull
Crazy climber mountain goat. Instead of food, it's finding safety from predators 
Majestic orcas were everywhere that day
Something so magical about them!
Puffins chillin' on the rocks... 
...gliding overhead...
Or swimming in the calm waters
A black bear and some kayakers
Just crazy beautiful
Should have pulled out the moose trick to get Peter to smile
Adorable sea otters
Alialik glacier is actively calving
Ice brought on board to make/sell margaritas. Also offered for ginger ale drinkers
Ice was calving every few seconds while we lingered at the glacier
Sucking on an ice berg
Cruising back to Seward 
Sisters staying warm

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Alaska - Part 2: A tiny, beautiful part of Alaska south of Anchorage

After five fun days in Anchorage with Jack, Marian, Wren, Anne and Andrew, we took off for the wild-ness (as Peter called it). It's crazy how now, when I look at the map of Alaska, I feel like we missed so much. Yet when we were there, it felt vast and gorgeous and like whatever we were seeing in that moment must be the best part of Alaska. Even Whittier has it's charm, despite the saying Andrew taught us: "Whittier rhymes with..." 

The tiny black oval below covers our tracks for this 10-day trip. Hopefully sometime we can go back and add another oval to our map. What a beautiful part of the United States!

The second map shows our tracks -- or at least where we spent our nights. On Saturday morning we drove from Alaska to Seward, receiving text updates from Anne (back in Anchorage), warning us of low-visibility at our destination. Seward was apparently filling up with smoke from forest fires in Homer. We thought we were so prepared because we bought rain pants for the girls before leaving for Alaska! Normally August is super-rainy; fortunately/unfortunately, there was NO serious rain during our entire trip. Of course that's a recipe for dry forests. Add in high winds and you get forest fires and smoke blowing around a peninsula. Thankfully, Nate is a nimble vacationer and was able to reroute us to a campground with clear skies. We liked Williwaw so much that we decided to stay parked for two nights. Campfires were allowed, so we kept warm there too! Actually, to be fair, the temperatures were warmer than usual for August in Alaska, but it still was in the low 40's when we woke up each morning.

Normally when you look across, you see snow capped peaks
"City" camping in Seward
Before landing at Williwaw for two nights, we hiked to Portage Glacier, which was spectacular! The hike up wasn't too long (despite some kids' complaints) and the views at the top rewarded us for making our kids persist. I think that was the day we promised an ice cream re-fuel in the afternoon, after the hike. Whittier was a lovely place for such a stop, and the we enjoyed watching people pull their boats and jet-skis out of the water for the season while eating our ice cream.

Say "glacier!"
The hills are alive
Peter was in a non-smiling mood most of the trip, unless we told him to make himself a moose
Our 12th anniversary photo
Ice cream stop! See, Whittier isn't so shi**y

On Monday we had hoped to hike Exit Glacier, but the smoke had beat us there, so we pivoted to Girdwood instead. This sweet town offered a fun playground for the kids, a decent grocery store, and a great hike down to a waterfall. Nate had read that there was a hand tram along the hike, which  got the kids excited. Unfortunately, the trailhead posted a sign that said it was closed until further notice. That is just the kind of news that tired children feel deep in their hearts. Cora was so so so very upset that we wouldn't be able to ride the hand tram that she and Nate had to sit back and cool off before catching up with the rest of us. We later read that it was closed because recently two hikers had died (in two separate incidents) falling to the rocks below. This was sobering news for the kids helped Cora stop her griping about the injustices of out-of-order hand trams. 

A posed picture to help us remember our disappointment (before we heard about the tragedies)
Chair tree
Another chair tree that helped distract Cora from her sadness. I think you can still see a tear in her eye
The activity center at the bottom of the hike
More kids' activities 
Sibling love
In this last picture, Cora is helping Peter up the trail, holding his hand so sweetly. I think helping others in their distress helps you get past your own worries, right? Looking back, I think this was Cora's way of consoling herself with the whole hand tram disappointment. Down at the waterfall, Peter found some rocks that he really wanted to keep. He was also tired and wanting to be carried. We told him that if he wanted a ride, he needed to ditch the rocks. He decided that was too high of a cost for a ride, so he loaded them in his sweatshirt pocket and carried them all the way.

We had already booked a non-refundable wildlife cruise in Kenai Fiords National Park, so all we could do was pray that by Tuesday, the wind would die down so we could get out and see some of the amazing wildlife Alaska has to offer. There will be a part 3 for this last hurrah of our trip!

See Where Our Pictures Were Taken