Tuesday, July 11, 2017

driving in alaska

With errands dotting our to-do list, Anchorage was the first stop on the summer travels.  

 The city is full of trails and we were fortunate enough to be staying within walking distance of an entrance.  

Between errands we managed to get out to Girdwood.  Girdwood is home to Alyeska Ski Resort and in the summer they have great trails for short hikes.

 We stopped at Beluga Point on the way.

 There are ski runs in the distance on the drive into Girdwood.  Having grown up on flat land, mountains just blow my mind.

 The trails were pretty busy that day.  It was cool yet sunny.

 The color of these falls was just incredible.  

Towards the end of the week Isaac's parents, and then sister, joined us in Anchorage.  We took them to some of our favorite places.  Just in the last year we have had quite of few trips to and through the city.  A few favorite and regular spots have certainly developed.  Isaac already had a few from the summer he spent doing his teacher training.

 Checking out Sleeping Lady with Don and Mary.

Monica came into town the next day and we all went for a climb up Flat Top Mountain.  

 Even part-way up had a spectacular view of downtown Anchorage and Sleeping Lady.  

The next day we packed up, stocked up and headed out down Highway 1.  Our first stop was Sterling.  The drive there is along the Kenai River and through the Chugach Mountains.  The drive was pretty spectacular.  Salmon season hadn't opened so traffic was easy.  In the weeks to follow the road would become full of folks in search of this year's catch.

 Don and Mary rented a Minnie Winnie for the adventure and it was fun to watch them roll through the scenery.  

We took a day to drive to Seward.  I had never been there.  We had lunch by the old depot and saw some whales spouting in the bay.  Seward is were the original delivery of medicine to Nome began.  There were markers to commemorate that fact.  Today their is a ceremonial start in Anchorage and race actually begins from Willow.

 Stopped at a scenic overlook on our way to Seward.

A pack of Paulsons walking by the water.

Our sled dog will have quite a bit of training before she is ready for the Iditarod.  Two seconds later she had pulled loose and taken off.  

Driving back we stopped to look at Exit Glacier.  Along the road there were markings to show how big the glacier had been year by year.  As we got even closer the shrinking was shockingly visible.

 Where Isaac is standing in the picture is where the glacier had been ten years ago.  

 As the glacier continues to melt the valley shifts, establishing plant growth.  The melt has become much more rapid in the last few years.

The following day we went for a hike around Skilak Lake. 

 Ada charged ahead to warn any animals of our presence and then checked back to make sure we were all still walking.  She was a great hike leader.

 The view from the top was amazing.  The color of the water comes from the silt left by glacier run-off.  

The next stretch of our journey took us farther down the Kenai Peninsula, to Homer.  We stayed at the Homer Spit Campgrounds out on the spit.

 The pup finally got her car legs.  It took about a week for her to learn to relax and nap during our road journeys.  

Isaac pitched our tent right on the beach.

 Don and Mary had the campsite right behind ours.  We experimented in dutch oven cooking and enjoyed halibut fish tacos.  

 Ada experienced waves and salt water for the first time.  She's a big fan of seaweeds.

When on the Spit in Homer, stopping by the Salty Dog is a must.  The inside is covered in autographed dollar bills and miscellaneous items left by patrons over the years.

 Using a photograph for reference we were able locate our dollar bill from last year's visit.

 We added a bill that had been riding around in my purse since Mexico.  

 It was a fun atmosphere and so nice to share with family.

 From the hills of Homer we met friendly groundskeepers and viewed glaciers across the bay.
 The rocky coast is my favorite kind of beach.

 Don, Monica and Mary down on the beach.  

 Seaweed is such a new thing to me.  Having grown up land-locked all the variety of vegetation found in the ocean is just fascinating to me.

While a study-abroad student in the south of France I met Eliza.  As we stitched through our experiences she talked about growing up in Alaska.  Her stories of Halibut Cove were so intriguing.  Getting to see the Cove was high on my list of expectations for this trip to Homer.  It was so exciting to get to go and share that with the whole Paulson clan.

 It was a smooth ride over on the Danny J.  The wooden-decked ship was once a troop transport.

 The highlight of our trip was a delicious dinner at the Saltry.  Their local oysters, harvested nearby, were the best I have ever eaten.

 The Cove is home to artists, galleries, and the only floating USPS post office in the country.

The return ferry trip highlights included a deck-wide happy birthday song to a fellow passenger and...

 an orca pod sighting!  It's the tiny black protrusion in right side of the water.

 Monica, Mary and I went to explore tide pools and barnacles.  Tides, another one of those magical ocean features.

 The view of the Spit and the Bay from the hills behind Homer.

It sure was fun to explore a bit of Alaska with this crew!  Ready for Denali next year?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

and then there is summer


Life is ritual and routine.  

Coffee, breakfast, dog, work, lunch, classes, dinner, dishes, walk, relax, sleep, repeat.  Repeat. 

A second year in Alaska has taught me as much as the first.  I learned how to teach adolescents and all the busy-ness that comes with that.  Each day was broken apart by class periods, passing periods, attendance, and tardy slips.  Instead of coaxing the solutions to story problems, I broke down artistic process into manageable steps.  As hastily as the school year began, it ended.

Now comes this other part of life.  The part were Isaac and I break routine.  We leave to visit with our families.  Slipping in and out of their routines.  We bounce from coast to coast, house to house.  The summer ritual is keeping luggage tidy, finding coffee, checking in and out of flights.  And the dog.   

Sunday, March 19, 2017

return of the sun

Sunshine has returned to Alaska, with ferocity.

The winter sun mumbles across the horizon for about a quarter of the day.  December is our darkest month.  I'm often asked if the darkness is difficult.  It becomes very routine.  I would say the sudden jolt of sun is more unsettling.  

It's almost alarming how rapidly the amount of daylight hours increases.

As the time sprang forward the use of blackout curtains at bedtime became necessary once again.  It certainly feels more strange to go to bed during daylight than it does to spend five pm in darkness.

But the shift of weather has been wonderful.  It's still cold, but the sunshine and good gear help to enjoy the magic of winter.

 The sun helps with house-training (adjusting to dog-life once again).

Having a high-energy puppy is such a shift from my lazy Stella.  Walks are now a daily occurrence.  After school it's become habit to meet up with my friend, the language arts teacher, Victoria, and her pup Maggie.  Ada is finally learning how to play with other dogs.  

 After collecting water at the village's freshwater spring, we walked back via the river.  Justin, Victoria's boyfriend, is getting ready for summer fire-fighting.  He carried their bottles of water, eight gallons, on his back.

The walk on the ice inspired our Saturday adventure.  Isaac, myself, and Ada met up with Justin, Victoria, and Maggie to walk across the river.  There is at least six feet of ice on the river right now.  It's the main route of travel between the villages.  I've also heard of another village driving trucks between their village and the neighboring hub airport.

 Mountain Village from the other side of the Yukon.

 There are well-traveled snow machine tracks through the willows.

 We couldn't help but venture down this tight trail.  I was amazed at how straight the willows grow. 

The moose have been rutting on the trees.

It was when I traveled to Nunavut that I first shifted to the uniqueness of winter.  In winter we were able to walk around on land that would be nearly impassable on foot.  We were able to just walk across the river.  It was really incredible.  

Isaac and Justin had a little fun shooting on the river bank.  

Don't let the snow fool you, Spring is certainly here.  I've noticed the return of a few birds and a some willows beginning to bud.  There is still plenty of snow and ice to enjoy.  I'm looking forward to getting out on Isaac's snow machine and taking more walks over the frozen tundra and river.  All this winter wonder is only buoyed by the fact that there are only eight weeks left of school for the year.

Friday, February 24, 2017

and then there was Ada

We'd been talking about it.  On the way back from Mexico we almost went looking for one.  But then it came to us.

One day word of mouth reached me and so I asked Isaac, Do you want a puppy? To which he replied yes.  Not much later a puppy arrived at our house, well, two.  We chose which one we wanted and that was that.

But we soon realized the puppy was far too little to be away from it's mom.  After one night of feeding her every two hours via syringe, she was returned to her mother.  We wanted her, we named her and so we requested that when she was ready to be away from her mother she be returned to us.

And a few weeks later she was.

Ada, dubbed so by Isaac in honor of the first coder Lady Ada Lovelace, came back into our lives.  It was a Thursday night, and I had just finished up quarter two parent-teacher conferences.  As I neared my porch a four-wheeler drove towards me.  The driver pulled up and Ada was produced.  She had just had a bath and she was ours now.

Isaac and I were just as unprepared for her as the first time, but at least now she could eat and drink on her own.   Food was prepared from frozen moose, and I retrieved Stella's old kennel from the storage closet.  We learned that unused shelving made good barriers and that Boston Fern leaves are not poisonous.  

 We were glad that Ada's arrival was a Thursday night, so we had the pending weekend to adjust to life together.  Our life that no longer involved sleeping in or wearing socks around the house.  But did involve snuggles and licks and having our arrival at home be celebrated as the best thing to ever happen all day ever.

 Those first few days we found out that she would go do sleep if we swaddled her.

 Mostly she just always wanted to be near someone.

The outdoors were not her favorite.  Hopefully this will change as she gets older because Isaac has high hopes for a skijoring companion.

 She was a little unsure of other dogs.  Ada and Maggie, a fellow teacher's dog.

 And when walking she mostly just tried to step on our boots in an attempt to be carried.

 On the trail to the old airport after a good snow.

 One day we saw Ada's mom when returning from a walk.  I had only met her once, when we returned Ada, but I immediately knew her by her eyes.

Puppies are so much work.  This I knew from when Stella was a puppy.  With her I remember regretting the decision for a solid two months after I brought her home.  It was no different with Ada.  Constant attention, pee, food, pee, poop, pee, play, pee, poop, pee, pee, and repeat.  She has her own little behaviors that made me think what was I thinking?  But after a few weeks she was growing and we started to get to know each other more.

 And then one day I actually thought I kind of like having a dog again.  

 She brings some spunk into our lives and its nice.

 With Ada, I've been getting outside more.  Taking a walk in -7 degree weather is just another Tuesday.

 And she's growing.

 She's learning to sit and to stay.

She was a good choice.