Introducing…

Kiki Kapow, #101

Fairbanks Cold’n Heart Junior Derby

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My daughter started roller derby last fall with the Fairbanks Cold’n Heart Junior Roller Girls.  She didn’t know how to skate really at all.  The coach assured us that lots of girls start from scratch.  I was hoping to get her into something that would give her more confidence and this is certainly it.  She loves to dance and so once I put her into a hip hop dance class.  The teacher didn’t talk to me once, not even to introduce herself.  The lady at the front desk only talked to me the one time I went in to sign her up and pay and to point me in the general direction of her “classroom”.  She obviously doesn’t have the body structure for a ballet dancer or gymnast but how to explain this to a young girl and then tell her that her body shape was ok?  Anyways, we never felt at home at the dance studio and it was a very strange feeling.  I mean, I can fit in ANYWHERE.  But a warehouse, next to some type of garage, with mattresses duct taped to the posts and awesome posters on the walls?  Oh yes, we feel so much more at home.

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Thirsty work.

 

 

 

 

She let me chose her number, #101, in honor of Checkpoint Mile 101 of the Yukon Quest.  She gets to go with me next year and I’m sure she will love it as much as I do.

That’s all for now my friends.  Have a great week and take care of yourselves.

Georganne

Is Spring Really Here?

Last year we had the spring that never sprung.  It was cold and wet and nasty until finally, summer was here…then gone.  Our warmth passes so quickly.  I love winter, obviously, or I wouldn’t be able to live here.  But when it starts to warm up, it’s such a time of excitement and expectation.  It’s almost heartbreaking when it doesn’t happen as it is supposed to such as last year.  This year, it seems like Mother Nature is apologizing for last year as we are already in breakup.  The snow is melting, the sun is out, life is good!

I know it’s been a long while since I posted anything.  Mostly I have been hibernating so there’s been little of interest to write about.  I’ll try to catch you up with a few pictures.

Christmas came and went fairly quietly except for the kids got their first guns.  They are just little .22s.

Of course, there was always nights of chasing the auroras.

One of my aurora photos was used on a Denver station news program.  I was pretty excited.

We did a bit of entertaining and a lot of cooking.

Olivia’s very first home made cinnamon, raisin, yeast bread.

I also taught her how to make home made chicken noodle soup, with home made noodles.

Worked at Checkpoint Mile 101 for the Yukon Quest again.  This was my 5th year working there.  Needless to say, I love it.  I ended up staying an extra night and day after everyone left, just putting wood in the stove and playing my fiddle.  I’m going to plan on doing this every year as it was so peaceful and restful after all the commotion and lack of sleep that working there during the Quest brings.  I didn’t write about it this year but you can look back over the years in this blog to see some stories if you care to.

I did take some video of the two passes I have to cross coming home from the checkpoint.  The roads were actually very good even though in the videos, you can see they were icy.  Last year three of our members got stuck or left the road while trying to get out to the checkpoint.

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Cleary Summit

Did a bit of henna here and there.

I love doing bellies the most!

Of course, winter is a time to go visit friends, hang out, have fun, drink some beer, etc.

Here’s my Solstice centerpiece, complete with Yule Log.

While Olivia was working on her roller derby skills.

I got to hang out with pretty mushers in tuxs for the Bunny Boots and Bids fundraiser and Wine Tasting.

And of course, practiced and played my fiddle.

I don’t think I posted this video yet.  It’s how I have to unfreeze the drain.  Living in a dry cabin, having to haul all our water, makes us really conserve.  Of course, if you are only using tiny bits of water here and there through out the day, and it’s -40 outside, the water freezes before it clears the drain.  We have a grey water system which means that the water just goes straight from the kitchen sink to the gravel pad that the cabin sits on.  I have had to do this a couple of times each winter.  It’s not really a big deal but yea, at that cold of temperatures, one’s lungs do not want to inhales so you end up breathing very noisily as you can hear in this video lol.

So, onto the upcoming summer!  I have a camping, float trip down the Delta Clearwater planned for the kids and I.  I have a trip up to visit my friend Susan in Kavik River Camp planned for later in the summer.  I have a zipline adventure trip down near Talkeetna planned with my friend Lori.  And I want to take my kids back packing in the back country for the first time.  I have taken them camping lots of times but never into the back country.  There be bears out there you know.  Backpacking has almost always been my special solo adventures.  I keep them for myself.  But maybe my kids would like them for themselves as well.  Of course, you can’t forget my annual Fowl Adventure.  Chickenstock Music Festival then a visit to my friends’ Wayne and Scarlett who live off the Yukon River.  Can’t wait to see them!

Until next time my dearies.  I’ll be here.

10 Years in Alaska

On Christmas Eve 2003, I arrived here with my then 2 year old daughter and my 5 year old son.  I had the help of my parents and one of my aunts was our landing spot upon arrival.  I was in a rear wheel drive Cutlass Supreme.  It’s large trunk and all floor boards were filled with my most precious worldly possessions and the minimum requirements of setting up a bare house hold.  The drive was days and days of slippery, sliding, white knuckle driving.  But I knew the moment I crossed the state line that I had found my home.  I took this picture right near the boarder.  It is the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  “At 13.2 million acres which is bigger than the country of Switzerland, Wrangell-St. Elias stretches from one of the tallest peaks in North America, Mount St. Elias (18,008) to the ocean. “

I have hung this photo in every place I have lived in for the last 10 years.  It will always remind me of the first time I FELT Alaska.  It was powerful.  I stopped in the middle of the road to take this picture.  There were no cars coming, no rush, no kids fussing in the back seat.  It filled me with both peace and longing.

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This was also taken on our way up, Haines Junction I believe.  I loved the look of the sky; mysterious, mystical, meaningful.  It was just the barest of hints of the mystery and magic yet to come.  The magic of the promise that IS Alaska.

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People tell me I am so lucky to live in Alaska.  I say to them that luck has very little to do with it.  Priorities, a tight budget, and working my ass off has got me here to where I want to be.  Of course, a little luck, or as I call it, My Alaska Karma, has helped here and there.

2013 in review

Wow, this is exciting.  Thank you friends for reading.  Think I’ll write a book now.

Have a wonderful new year!

Georganne

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hello Winter

Yes of course, winter has been here for a while now.  It’s been a pretty good one so far.  We did have a blizzard that knocked out thousands of people’s power for a week or so.  I think it was pretty interesting that the city opened up a warming center at the high school (because a lot of our stoves burn heating fuel but are powered with electricity) but after a few days they closed it because it just was not being used.  Fairbanks helps its own.  We all have friends we can go stay with if not generators or battery back ups.  We are down to 4 hours of sunlight a day.  Of course, we have twilight on either side of that so it makes for some hours long sunrises and sunsets.

Sunrise 10:25, sunset 2:55.

Length of Day, 4 hours and 29 minutes.

Length of Day, 4 hours and 29 minutes.

Of course, all this darkness leaves more time for aurora hunting.

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As you all have read, I had plans to retire the “Rust Princess”.  She was old and tired though still going like gangbusters.  After keeping my eyes open all summer for a fitting replacement, may I present, “The Princess”.  Yes, she is a princess with all the bells and whistles.  Why have I been here almost 10 years and only now getting auto start and heated seats?!!  Never again!

Alaskan cabin

Our Halloween was extremely warm.  This is the first time since we’ve been here that it wasn’t around -20 or colder on Halloween.  Also, we normally have between 6 and 9″ of snow by then and we had none on the ground until that evening.  The trick or treaters loved it!

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Olivia has joined the jr. roller derby league here.  She is really enjoying it but frankly, I think I have as much fun as she does.  It’s great because it really focuses on team work as well as strong women.  She has wonderful, friendly but badass role models.  I’m grateful we finally found her something to put her heart into.

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With winter comes mushing season.  Here are a few pictures from the Bunny Boots and Bids Yukon Quest Fundraiser and Winetasting, where the mushers served hors d’oeuvers dressed in tuxedos.

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Me and Allen Moore, winner of last year’s Quest.

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Two favorites, Brent Sass of Wild and Free Mushing and Mike Ellis of Team Tsuga.

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Rookie (to the Quest) musher Matt Hall and friends Amanda and Robert.  Keep your eyes on Matt folks, I do believe you will be seeing much more of him.  I go visit Matt’s mom and dad (Wayne and Scarlett) every year as part of my “Fowl Adventures”.

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We had 9 people in our little cabin for Thanksgiving.  We also had 9 pies so it worked out really well lol.

Olivia working on pies.

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Now on to Christmas preparation.  We got the tree set up and the cat got her present of playing with the boxes.  We are cat sitting for a friend and the cats were fighting over the boxes.  It was pretty funny.  Guess I’m easily amused.

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Rowwwwwrrr!

I guess that’s all for now.  I think I will have a Solstice party to celebrate our upcoming 10th Anniversary in Alaska.  What do you think?

Measure Twice, Cut Once.

This is a pretty common phrase.  I mean, you all have heard it right?  It’s as handy as “lefty losey, righty tighty”.    With my late husband being in construction, of course I have.  But it also applies to other areas of life as well.  This phase actually just popped into my mind due to a Facebook messaged posted to my wall.  As many of you know, I’m pretty active on Facebook.  I try to stay non political and non controversial.  Because really, who wants to read that shit.  Every one has their own beliefs and some random Facebook post isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.

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Last night a small plane, with 10 passengers crashed.  4 confirmed deaths.  Our local news was reporting it and I was posting about it on Facebook.  I posted the link to the most recent update.  I have friends who are pilots and friends who have friends who are pilots.  Opening my page I noticed, with a bit of shock, that a “friend” had posted a very graphic link under my share of the most recent crash update.  It was some Taliban link to the beheading of a 12 year old boy.  I didn’t follow it, only read the header available on my Facebook page.  I immediately knew my friend had been hacked.  As in, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure she wouldn’t have posted such a thing to my or anyone’s page.  I posted to it to tag her to alert her that she had been hacked and told her I was deleting the link.  Apparently she misunderstood.  But instead of saying “What?”, she posted this,

“I live in New Mexico so how the hell would I know about a Cessna crashing and whatever? You don’t discuss something such as what ever it is that bothers you? You just come out screaming accusations? I don’t like to be accused or censored Georganne so I have unfriended you AND I am blocking you for such unpleasantness. How horribly unkind of you.”

For one, how is saying hey, you’ve been hacked, you need to change your password, “screaming accusations”?  My friends and I look out for each other.  It was only common courtesy.  Unkind?  Really, I was trying to help out.  But if someone’s misunderstanding, and over reaction makes them want to unfriend and block me, I can only say, “You must not have been a very good friend to begin with (my bad, I thought you were, but I am trusting and a bit naive like that), don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”

The Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea, July 2013

I started this trip report when I returned this summer but it was so big and overwhelming, and I was so busy with other trips, I am only finishing it now.

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I have returned from my big trip kicking around on the Kenai Peninsula.  I took my friend Morgan and we had a great time.  I had been planning this trip for a couple of years.  I wanted to go last year but that didn’t pan out.

Kenai Peninsula

We ended up getting a late start out of town.  After all, it was our vacation so no need to get up early.  We left at 2:00 pm with the only goal to make it to the other side of Anchorage before stopping for the night.  It’s about 350 miles to Anchorage from Fairbanks.  We knew we would be stopping here and there on our way so knew it would take a bit longer.  But days seem long when the daylight doesn’t leave. Our first stop was at the Alaska Veterans Memorial.

The Alaska Veterans Memorial is an outdoor memorial grove in Denali State Park in Interior Alaska. The memorial honors Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Alaska National Guard, and Merchant Marine veterans from Alaska, as well as specific Alaskans who were awarded the Medal of Honor. There are also small memorials to the passengers and crew of military plane crashes in Alaska. The site was selected because of the scenic beauty of the area and its location between Alaska’s two largest cities. On a clear day visitors can see Denali from just outside the memorial.  It is 147 miles (237 km) from Anchorage and 214 miles (344 km) from Fairbanks, on a hill above the Byers Lake campground. The main memorial alcove was constructed in 1983, Governor Bill Sheffield, himself a veteran, dedicated the site in 1984.

Alaska Veterans Memorial

I thought of my dad, who was in the Navy, while taking this picture.

Alaska Veterans Memorial

The main alcove of the memorial consists of five 20-foot (6.1 m) upright concrete slabs, each with a large star cut through the upper section and a description of a branch of the Armed Forces history in Alaska inscribed on the lower section.   An inscribed plaque at the entrance honors the Alaska National Guard and the unpaid volunteers of the Alaska Territorial Guard, which filled in for the National Guard when it was mobilized during World War Two.

Alaska Territorial Gaurds

The sculpture at the front of the alcove depicts two members of the Territorial Guard watching for threats with binoculars.

Denali in their view.

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I know most of you know it as Mt. McKinley, but I even forget that.  It is Denali.

Mt. Foraker with Denali in the background.  I know most of you know it as Mt. McKinley, but I even forget that it is named that.  To us, it is simply Denali.

Talkeetna

Talkeetna is the town that the show “Northern Exposure” was based on.  It’s a lovely little town but frankly is too touristy for me now.

Talkeetna is known as the base for expeditions to climb Denali.  There is a base camp at 7,000′ and that is where most of the climbing expeditions start.

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Quick camp

By the time we found a spot to camp that night, it was 2 am.  We found a spot and threw up the little tents, crawled in and slept.  Down in this part of the state it DOES get dark at night.  So we had no idea until the next morning what a pretty place it was.  Even though the ceiling was low, it was beautiful.  I could hear a water fall and after only a moment or two of exploring, found it right next to our tents.  We spent a while walking up and down the river, communing with nature, looking for rocks to make Inukshuk with, but these rocks were too round.  Inukshuk need angular rocks.

Hope map

The next day we left the main highway and made a side trip to Hope, Alaska to visit a friend of mine.  He gave us intel on a cool place to go, so we went.  After all, we are on vacation and can make spontaneous side trips.  We have no schedule to keep, no clock to attend.

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Sourdough from Wilderness Survival Forum.

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Coming from the sub arctic desert that is the Fairbanks area, this lush green was so peaceful and beautiful to my soul.

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Our side trip was up near Resurrection Pass Trail.  The Resurrection Pass Trail was part of a route used by early gold miners to get from Resurrection Bay near Seward, AK, to mining claims along Turnagain Arm. 

 

There were lots of pretty scenes at the end of Turnagain Arm.  I’m really enjoying learning all the manual settings on my new camera from my friend Jan.

Turnagin Arm

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Hope, AK

During a stop in a town (Sterling?  Soldotna?), there were some buskers out playing in the parking lot of the McDonalds we had stopped at.  I only had a buck in cash but threw in my pack of cigarettes.  They played a special song for me then.  I love buskers.  Most of the time they are pretty interesting.  I also know how very intimidating it can be playing in front of people.

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Next stop was Cooper Landing and Russian River Falls.    This area is famous for “bears eating salmon” pictures.  Luckily, we didn’t get any of those.  It was still about a week before the salmon would make it this far inland.  We did have to sign a document at the campgrounds saying that we were warned of a bear breaching a tent the night before.  Turns out it was at the tent site next to ours.  Lovely!

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Bear scat.

Russian River Trail

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Russian River Falls

Russian River Falls.

Russian River Falls

Russian River Falls

Russian River Falls

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It might have only been 5 miles but it slightly kicked our butts!

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We didn’t bring our guns but did wear bear spray.  After hiking, we treated ourselves to a beer and a “wearing of the boa!”  The boas are only broken out on special, celebratory occasions.

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Then it’s on to cooking dinner over the campfire.  We had some nice steaks and veggies.

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Mushrooms, fresh green beans, and onion.

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This was probably the most satisfying meal of the trip!  I have a propane burner for making coffee first thing in the morning, but I prefer to cook on an actual fire.  I can cook on a burner at home.

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After dinner I played the fiddle for a bit.  I got applause from a few nearby camps.  That was pretty neat.  I’m still at the stage where I get very nervous playing in front of others but apparently if they are not actually in camp, my brain doesn’t recognize they are there hahaha.

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The next morning we had bannock and real butter for breakfast.

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Bannock cooking over the fire.

Don’t worry, I didn’t LEAVE them on the fire like that.

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Next stop was the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Ninilchick, AK.

Ninilchik Alaska Russian Orthodox Church

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church is the most photographed building in Ninilchik. Its services began in 1846 with the arrival of lay missionary Grigorii Kvasnikoff. This present building was designed by local architect Aleksei Oskolkoff and dedicated in 1901. Ninilchik was settled around the turn of the 19th century by creoles, Russians, Aleuts, and Indians. They were retired hunters and trappers that wanted to find a homeland of their own. Some of their great grandchildren still reside here to this day.  Ninilchik is a popular tourist attraction located at the mouth of the Ninilchik river, famous for its fishing and the beaches are known for their clams at low tide. The Russian Orthodox Church was built on the hill above the village.

Ninilchick, AK

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Along with the Russian graves in the cemetery, there was also an American Legion cemetery.  All were covered in wild flowers.

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We finally make our way down towards the bottom of the peninsula.  We stopped at the first beach we could access.  There were several eagles there.

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Eagle and Mt. Redoubt.  This is the volcano that erupted a few years ago.

Katchamak Bay

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Eagles and Mt. Redoubt

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One of these is still young enough to have a brown head.

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There were also tractors taking boats out of the water.  It was a really neat operation to watch.  The tractor would hook up to the correct trailer that were lined up higher on the beach, back it way out into the water, then the boat would pull up onto it.  Awesome sauce.

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Homer spit

Homer Spit

First view of the Homer Spit.  It goes about 5 miles out into the water.

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Our friends, Susan and Steve were already in Homer on their own adventure.

I had originally wanted to camp on the beach on the spit.  But after arriving and checking it out, I noticed a couple of things.  There were lots of tents down on the beach and only one porta potty towards one end.  I do not care to camp in anyone’s cat box.  Besides, it’s very rocky.  I do go on trips with the sole purpose of roughing it.  This was not one of them though.

So we ended up in sweet grassy tent spot in the RV park Susan and Steve were staying in.  The lure of showers also contributed to my choice.

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The famous Salty Dog Saloon.

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A jelly fish I saw on the beach.

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These pictures are from when I walked the whole spit.  This was the ocean side.  The other side was a lot calmer as it was protected.

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From the Shore

by Carl Sandberg

A lone gray bird,
Dim-dipping, far-flying,
Alone in the shadows and grandeurs and tumults
Of night and the sea
And the stars and storms.

Out over the darkness it wavers and hovers,
Out into the gloom it swings and batters,
Out into the wind and the rain and the vast,
Out into the pit of a great black world,
Where fogs are at battle, sky-driven, sea-blown,
Love of mist and rapture of flight,
Glories of chance and hazards of death
On its eager and palpitant wings.

Out into the deep of the great dark world,
Beyond the long borders where foam and drift
Of the sundering waves are lost and gone
On the tides that plunge and rear and crumble.

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View of the spit from “my” beach.  There’s an eagle on that stump.

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Susan and Steve.  Beach walking really is for couples in love.

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A little beach visiting with Susan, Steve, and Moe.  I played a bit on my fiddle a bit and Susan took a picture of me.

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Sitting on the shore, watching the moon rise as the night comes upon me, contemplative, happy, satisfied.  Funny how my feelings could have so easily gone in the opposite direction.

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Out on the spit there is the Seafarer’s Memorial.  It feels to be a very meaningful place.

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One time when we were sleeping in the big tent, Moe was snoring so I threw my bra at her.  I had told her turn over a few times but she didn’t hear me and the bra was handy lol.  Heck I thought it was a much better option then throwing anything else I had nearby, a shoe or my gun.  So this morning I woke up to find her sleeping in the chair.  Guess she was doing her own communing with nature.  Really, I didn’t run her out of the tent.  I promise!

Sleeping under the moon light.

Sleeping under the moon light.

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Wakey wakey!  Time for coffee.

About half an hour out of Homer, out East End Road, the Eveline Trail State Recreation Park provides spectacular panoramas of Kachemak Bay and the surrounding rugged mountains and glaciers.

In June and July, lupine adorns the hillside, offering a bounty of purple flowers.  In July and August, the lupine fades and the fireweed bursts, covering the fields with hot pink buds on tall, leaning stems.
Also scattered throughout the area during the summer months are meadows of pushki, wild geranium, paintbrush, monk’s hood, columbine, chocolate lilies, forget-me-nots, valerian blossoms, watermelon berries and tall-stemmed larkspur.

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Glaciers.

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One can not go to the coast without eating seafood.  Clams with blue cheese and bacon.  Mmm, bacon.

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I was really looking forward to our trip through the Whittier Tunnel as I have long been in love with its history.   It’s actual name is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.

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“This route didn’t become a reality until World War II. The main advantages of using Whittier as a rail port was that it was a shorter voyage, reduced exposure of ships to Japanese submarines, reduced the risk of Japanese bombing the port facilities because of the bad weather, and avoided the steep railroad grades required to traverse the Kenai Mountains.

In 1941, the U.S. Army began construction of the railroad spur from Whittier to Portage. This line became Alaska’s main supply link for the war effort. Anton Anderson, an Army engineer, headed up the construction. The tunnel currently bears his name.”

So basically, it was our secret port that the Japanese didn’t know about.

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First dual mode rail/vehicular tunnel.

Longest dual mode tunnel in the United States.

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We were the first in line.  We had to wait for the green light.  But we had gorgeous views for our wait so I didn’t mind one bit.

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Portage Glacier and Portage Lake

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So basically, you are driving on the railroad tracks.

Whittier Tunnel

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This is the view from town.

One unique feature of Whittier is that most people live in a large apartment building, a carry over from Whittier’s history of a military base where all housing was barracks.  The first building is Begich Tower.  The second, dilapidated building is the Buckner Building, once a city under one roof.

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This is a river right behind town coming directly off of the glacier.  It was cold just standing nearby.  DSC_0215

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There are only a few roads out of Whittier and they don’t go far.  But we followed one to its end and after a bit of a hike over a hill, we found this beautiful spot.

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 Well this is getting quite long and I still want to tell you about my visit to my friend Lulu’s cabin so let’s move on.

Lulu and I have been friends since the summer of 2004, my first summer in Alaska.  I found her rocking down the house at the Howling Dog Saloon outside of Fairbanks, in Fox, Alaska.  Unfortunately, she rarely plays in Fairbanks anymore but I was able to get my LuLu fix while down south.

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Bug dope and mosquito coils are a must.

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Isn’t this just the cutest cabin you’ve ever seen?  It even has running water and a toilet.  The one below is the one Moe and I got to stay in.  It did not have the running water and toilet but there was a bathroom house in a separate building.  Nice little women’s only commune…

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Lulu had one of her students sing too.  That was pretty special.

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Photo by Moe.

Next was a visit to the Iditarod’s Headquarters in Wasilla.  The Iditarod is one of the two 1000 mile dog sled races we have every year.  I work for the other one, the Yukon Quest.

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The Last Great Race

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Reddington pups

Reddington pups getting socialized,

Photo by Moe.

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Leonhard Seppala

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The famous, Susan Butcher.

 “December 26, 1954 – August 5, 2006) was an American dogmusher, noteworthy as the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by the Susan Butcher Day.”

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Eagle overlooking the blue waters.

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The last trip of The Rust Princess…

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And that my friends, was my biggest trip this summer.  Over 1600 miles, 11 days, irreplaceable scenery.  I love this state.