Friday, November 16, 2018

Denali and Colorado

In August, we were able to spend a couple nights just outside of Denali National Park. Gary the Elephant was able to come with us, and he enjoyed himself very much. We didn't see any animals on our drives into the park, but we did see Denali. That mountain always fills us with awe. It looms so big. We have seen it many times, but never from inside the park. 


Less than 12 hours after returning home from Denali, we were on a plane headed to Colorado for a week long conference. Since we had some spare time before the conference started, we decided to visit the Garden of the Gods. What a beautiful place! Gary traveled with us again, taking up precious space in our luggage that could have been used for Hobby Lobby and Target purchases, but he was happy to be included.

After the week was over, we had some time to kill before our flight so we headed to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge features hiking trails, and an 11-mile (18km) wildlife drive. We chose to do the drive instead of hike (I am sure those of you reading this are not surprised). The Refuge was crawling with black-tailed prairie dogs. We enjoyed watching them pop in and out of their holes, chase each other around, and run all over the place. I was hoping we would see at least one bison and I was not disappointed. The deer were right along the side of the road, and didn't seem too bothered by our presence. I appreciated that because it allowed us to get some pictures. I like it when animals accommodate our picture taking.

We tasted Smashburger for the first time at the Denver airport. All future trips are now being planned around Smashburger locations. If you have one near you and you haven't tried it yet, GO! You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A visit from Alicia

Our dear friend Alicia came to visit us in July. We gave her the whirlwind tour of this part of Alaska. I am going to apologize for all the pictures. I guess I should have divided her trip into 2 or 3 posts, but that just sounds like a lot of work and effort. Instead, you get to enjoy this too-many-pictures-for-a-blog-post post. I regret nothing.

Our first stop was to the Santa Claus house in North Pole. Lucky for us Santa was working that day so we got to tell him our Christmas wishes. We also visited the reindeer and spent time feeding and petting them.

Because Alicia was staying for almost 2 weeks, we had a chance to head south to Anchorage and then over to Valdez. Denali was out in all its splendor and glory on the drive down. Once in the Anchorage area, we visited one of my favourite places, the Wildlife Conservation Centre.

We did a number of other things in the Anchorage area, but I don't have pictures of those (you're welcome). I do, however, have a few pictures from the Anchorage Museum. I had never been there before, and let me tell you, it is worth the visit, if for no other reason than to see the moose bladder art pieces (second picture below).

After a couple days in Anchorage, we headed to Valdez, driving the Glenn Highway to get there. This road, while absolutely stunning in its beauty, was also terrifying at times. Hills, sharp turns, no guard rails; at every turn I was convinced we were going to meet our death. We survived, but this is not a road I would want to travel again. One of the highlights was passing the Matanuska Glacier. Thankfully there was a large turnout on the side of the road overlooking the glacier so people could take pictures without needing to fear for their lives.

We had to stop at Worthington Glacier on our way into Valdez. It was raining and cold, but we managed to get pretty close to the glacier. It was interesting to see how much it had changed since my last visit, two years before. It wouldn't be a trip to Valdez without a trip to the fish hatchery. We were a little early for the salmon run, but the seals, otters, and sea lions were there to entertain us. 

Once back in Fairbanks, we visited Chena Hot Springs and their ice museum. We also took in the botanical gardens, and the local fish hatchery (I had no idea Fairbanks had a fish hatchery!). And, there was gold panning, which is quickly becoming my favourite thing to do with guests.

The highlight of the trip, however, was the 8 hour bus tour we took into Denali (Husband and our friend Shelia joined us). It was an amazing experience! We saw so many animals: caribou, dall sheep, snowshoe hares, grizzly bears, arctic squirrels, a golden eagle, a fox, and a wolf pup.

Alicia and I met way back in 2003 when we both lived in Massachusetts. We bonded over our shared birth date and have been friends ever since. It has been years since we last saw Alicia so we tried to pack as much as possible into this trip. There were late nights of board games, laughing, and reminiscing. We were sad her husband and son couldn't join her, but are hopeful that next time they will be able to come along. Alicia has visited us in every state we have lived in so far and we look forward to her keeping up the tradition. Thanks for coming to visit, dear friend. I love the memories we are making.