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Enjoying Skagway – Chilkoot Trail (a tiny piece, anyway!)

Until this trip I thought Sitka was my favorite little town in Alaska, but I think Skagway has taken over first place now.

It’s just a darling little town, and I knew that already, but until today I didn’t realize how incredible it really is.

I swear I’m not going to bore you with every little thing we do for a month (oh no! Not vacation photos!) but since photography (and making memories!) seem to be the closest I can come to being creative right now, I hope you’ll bear with me! I’ll try really hard to share only the best stuff!

Today we did a “hike and float” trip that just knocked our socks off.

Skagway is very historic in that the Chilkoot Trail was the starting point for miners trying to make their millions in the Alaskan gold rush. I don’t want to give you a big ol’ history lesson. If you want to learn about it, there are plenty of resources that would be far more interesting than the story I could tell, but you need to know just a little to appreciate the historic nature of our tiny little adventure.

 

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We were in hiking clothing and boots carrying tiny little packs, and the toughest part was ascending 300 ft in a 1/4 mile. The people who did this during the gold rush wore wool clothing (the women, skirts!) and had to haul a mandatory 2000 lbs of provisions, 50 lbs at a time. The final climb from Sheep Camp to the summit (4 miles) at 3500 feet was a 30 degree incline up 1500 steps cut into the ice. The average man could only do 1 trip up and back a day for 40 days, and there were still miles to go after that.

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You may have seen this iconic photo of the “golden staircase.” Those aren’t ants! They are some of the thousands attempting the climb…

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The hike we took today was but the first two miles of a 33 mile trek that broke the majority of the people who attempted it, but it gave us a real appreciation for what they went through.

But man, was it a gorgeous two miles.

The trail was fairly steep and fraught with opportunities to trip or slip and fall.

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Our daughter thought it was cute that we helped each other through the tricky parts…

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Hannah filled our water bottles with glacier melt water that was delicious and refreshing!

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Stay tuned, and tomorrow I’ll show you some of the beautiful sights along the trail.

 

 

A Lesson Relearned

There are some things we have to relearn over and over again before we finally get it. I mean REALLY get it. I had one of those experiences today.

Oh, and you remember the part about us ALWAYS having a story to tell from our vacations? Well our streak continues! Grab a cup of coffee…

Mr. Tattered put together the vast majority of the trip to Alaska. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to come up with much, if anything I contributed. It ended up being pretty complicated because of all the different things we’re trying to do.

Getting around in Alaska can be a little dicey. There are areas you can’t get to very easily, and Skagway, our destination for today, is one of them.

The original plan was to fly from Anchorage to Juneau, stay overnight one night, then catch the Alaskan Ferry at 6am for the six hour trip to Skagway. It meant basically two travel days. BUT, he heard about a smaller ferry that left from Juneau in the late afternoon and arrived in Skagway that same evening, thereby getting all the travel into one day. So we  he rearranged everything, cancelling the lodging reservation, and the reservation on the big ferry (which included a penalty) adding an additional night to the lodging reservations in Skagway and booking the new ferry trip, (non-refundable) keeping in mind the whole time to allow extra time for mishaps along the way.

So, of course, there was a mishap. Our plane experienced a mechanical problem in Nome and was delayed 1/2 an hour, then 1 1/2 hours. With each passing minute we were getting closer to the time when we would miss the ferry. We adjusted the pick up point to save time, made new lodging reservations for Juneau just in case we missed the ferry, and we had until 3pm to cancel them without forfeiting the money. We re-made tentative reservations for the big ferry for the following day which needed to be cancelled by midnight to keep from getting ANOTHER cancellation fee. We did everything we could think of to mitigate the problems. Mechanical failures happen, and you have to roll with them.

At 2:30 it looked like we would make it. The ferry company was willing to hold the ferry for 10-15 minutes, and a supervisor with Alaska Airlines called the taxi company in Juneau to make sure that a van taxi big enough to carry us and all our luggage would be waiting for us.  It looked like we were good to go. We called and cancelled the lodging reservations and boarded the plane. We were a little frazzled, but optimistic.

We sat in the plane for five minutes, then ten. FINALLY the flight attendant came on the loudspeaker to let us know there was a holdup in getting the proper catering on board. I spoke up and suggested that no one cared about the food (which is just snacks you have to purchase – it’s ONLY an hour and twenty minute flight – no one was going to starve.) After another ten minutes they decided to go ahead and leave, sans food. Then we sat some more, the minutes ticking by. We were getting closer and closer to having the day blow up in our faces. We’d been praying for everything to fall into place, but it wasn’t happening. By now we are figuring out we’re not going to make it to the ferry before they need to leave and we were VERY UNHAPPY. We had non-refundable ferry tickets and lodging we would not be using to the tune of nearly a thousand dollars. PLUS, we had no place to sleep for the night.

After what seemed like an eternity, the pilot came over the loudspeaker to tell us that the company had over-ridden their decision, and we would be staying in Anchorage until the catering situation had been taken care of. There were three stops after ours, and Anchorage was the supply stop – they were unable to do it along the route. All hope of a happy ending had been dashed.

Finally we took off, and one hour and twenty minutes later we landed in Juneau. I immediately got on the phone to see if the room we had booked and cancelled earlier was still available. It was not. We considered spending the night at the airport as a last resort. But, we went to customer service first to see if they could help us find some lodging, and we’d worry about trying to get the airline to compensate us for the lost money later. The incident had us thinking it would be cold day in H-E double toothpicks before we flew with Alaska Airlines again.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The lady at the desk said her supervisor would be there in about twenty minutes, could we hang out until then? Then she went to work researching options. When the supervisor arrived they put their heads together and came back and asked us to follow them. The supervisor booked the five of us on a charter flight on a small eight seater plane that would leave in a little over an hour, getting us into Skagway an hour and a half earlier than the ferry would have. On their dime. And the B and B we were booked at had not sold our rooms. Mr. Tattered has an aversion to small planes, but we were about out of options. The skies were pretty clear and we had plenty of daylight left, so we decided to go for it.

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Hannah was able to sit in the co-pilot’s seat and she was THRILLED!

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We weren’t in the air for three minutes before we realized that the messed up, awful, very bad day had suddenly taken a change for the magnificent.

Almost instantly we flew over the Mendenhall Glacier, which is FAR more spectacular from the air than it is from land, and it only got better from there.

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We were awestruck. I couldn’t take photos quickly enough. The majesty of the ice fields and the many, many glaciers it contained (there are 48 of them, and I lost track of how many we saw!) The flight was WAAAAAAAAAY too short, and before we knew it, we were taking a sharp turn into a valley with Skagway at the end of it.

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We were ALL grinning from ear to ear. Okay Bea wasn’t. She was mad that her sister got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. After a few minutes she fell asleep and that was that.

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We agreed that God must have been laughing as we groused about our misfortune. We could almost hear Him saying, “Silly children, you have no idea the awesome plan I have for you…So VERY much better than the ones you made for yourselves!”

Why have we not learned that lesson already?

We felt like we had emotional whiplash to have gone from being SOOOOOOO mad, to SOOOOOOOO glad in a matter of less than two hours. So instead of having a SCATHING conversation with Alaska Airlines on the phone, we’ll be sending them a glowing thank you note.

Yeah. They messed up. A really, REALLY big mess up. But they fixed it in spectacular fashion. REALLY spectacular fashion.

Enjoy a few more snaps of awesomeness…

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And join me in TRYING to remember that when things don’t quite like we hope they will, we need to be open to the possibility that something maybe even better might happen instead!

 

 

Anchorage – Through A Tattered Lens

As far as creativity goes, I’m taking a breather. At least from my traditional means of being creative.

I haven’t done any actual art for a week. Not because I didn’t bring anything with me to work on, because I did. I just have been so busy “making memories” there is little time for actual art. Unless you count writing and photography, which I’m managing to keep up on, and not just the getting paint on your hands, messy kinda art.

So, for right now, let’s say that photography counts (‘cuz, really, it’s all I got right now!)

Let me share a few of my “Through A Tattered Lens” photos of Anchorage. Not the iconic photos you EXPECT to see, but rather the things I see through my lens that a lot of people don’t give a second glance.

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Bridge foundations reflected in the pond water.

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Birch curls.

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Rusty sign.

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Bridge shadow reflection.

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Sucker hole

(that piece of sun peeking through the clouds that makes you think the sun might come out…SUCKER!)

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Alaska Railroad engine.

And my favorite so far…

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Feather floating on the water.

Wishing you the time to search out the interesting and unusual in your world…

One Way Or Another

I’m desperate to see a male moose in real live person. You may have gathered that.

My friend Ann is a moose magnet. She moved to Colorado, has had 10 sightings already, and has taken some amazing photos. I am a moose repellant. They run when they hear I’m coming.

So desperate times call for desperate measures.

We went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Well, we would have gone anyway. We love the Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Sitka, and figured this would be similar, only for mammals (which it is.) But this way I’m hedging my bets. Even if I don’t see one in the wild, at least I will have seen one. It feels a little like cheating, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. At least I’m admitting it’s not an actual “in the woods” sighting!

Tada! My male moose!

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We were so glad to discover it wasn’t one of those roadside excuses to extract money from the tourists.

They are building a herd of Alaska Bison, which were nearly extinct, and plan to release the herd to the wild in 2015. I like that a lot.

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They take in orphaned and injured animals and try to educate people about them. We were sad to learn that baby moose are often separated from their mothers at an age when they cannot care for themselves. We met two of them. They were so cute!

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They also had an elk herd, including several babies. It was so sweet watch them nurse.

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We also saw bears,

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musk ox,

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caribou,

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and Sitka Deer.

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It’s a kinda cheesy way to see animals, I guess, but it beats not seeing any.

I am not fond of zoos or circuses, or keeping wild animals in captivity unless it is necessary. But I am mindful of the words of Jacques Cousteau – “People protect what they love.” If you never get a chance to EXPERIENCE animals, it is difficult to love them. Rescue facilities are “less bad” than circuses and zoos, and are a way of exposing people to creatures they may never see otherwise, and hopefully inspire in them the desire to protect them.

Until I’m persuaded to see things differently, I’m going with that.

And besides, thanks to them, I got to see a real live male moose.

Smelling the Flowers

In Alaska at the winter solstice, the sun rises at 10:30 am and sets at 3:30 pm – only 5 hours of light per day.

The reverse is true at the summer solstice. The sun rises at 4:30 am and sets at 11:30pm – only 5 hours of darkness. So we are here not far off the summer solstice and are the beneficiaries of what happens in nature in a stable, temperate climate with so much sun – the flowers are GORGEOUS. There is a fabulous mix of wildflowers and those that people have planted, many that I have never seen before, even in all my years as a florist and backyard gardener.

We spent the morning of our first full day here at the Alaska Botanical Gardens. Fortunately both the little ones LOVE flowers, and the oldest is a budding photographer. She has her own point and shoot camera and took loads of pictures of the flowers (as did Gawgs!) and tried her best to catch one of a bee, with less than stellar results. But she kept trying. The bees loved the foxgloves, but they just wouldn’t stay still!

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I could easily go nuts showing you flower after flower, but I pared it down to just a few favorites.

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The people who designed the gardens did an amazing job of using the natural landscape as a base for building them. They used lots of natural elements, like birch branches woven into borders and as supports for climbing plants, and lined the walkways with low-growing flowers then the taller ones behind them with the pine, fir and alder trees as the backdrops. It was really impressive.

And then I NEED to show you our little friend. I have been trying to take a photo of a dragonfly for the longest time, but I can never catch one sitting still long enough to get anything but a blur. This little guy landed on Mr. Tattered’s pants as he sat on a bench and just stayed there. I would have preferred a more attractive background, but you “take what you get and don’t throw a fit” (as Bea would say!)

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We had a great time “smelling the flowers.” Hope you’re taking time to do the same -  literally AND figuratively!

 

 

Moose Repellant

Who even knew there WAS such a thing!?

But if you want to make sure there isn’t a moose within 25 miles of you, just take me with you.

I know. We’re only 1 full day into the moose hunting trip trip to Alaska, so it’s a little early to be conceding defeat, but I’m just bummed. This is our 3rd trip to Alaska. The 1st trip we saw a few females from a bus, but no males. The 2nd we saw NONE. This time I did my research.

And we wished on wish sticks. Lots of them.

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And Hannah said she even prayed to see them. I have to admit bugging God about it was a little further than I was prepared to go – but He knows my heart, so even though I didn’t come right out and ASK for it, He knew. If He wanted me to see one, I would’ve. Right?

Anyway.

Kincaid Park is supposed to be THE place to see moose in Anchorage. We even went out after 9pm (the sun doesn’t set until like 11:45 or something ridiculous like that!) so there was plenty of light to see them by. There just weren’t any around. At least not in the part of the park we were in.

Somehow I allowed myself to believe that moose in Kincaid Park are like bison in Yellowstone. Well, I’m here to tell you it ain’t so.

It’s not like I expected a herd of them to be standing on the side of the road. They are solitary animals and don’t pal around in herds. And I didn’t expect them to come to me. I was more than willing to hike into the woods and be carried off by mosquitoes (in fact I nearly was!)  Getting bitten and being itchy for a week would have been a small price to pay.

We followed a trail that looked like the perfect place for them to be – lots of trees along the path, with clearings just beyond them. We walked slowly and (mostly) quietly looking carefully, and nothing.

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The park gates close at 10pm so we didn’t have long. It was reluctantly and with a heavy heart that I headed back to the car. My partner in need of seeing a male moose in the wild (Hannah) didn’t want to leave either. Da asked her if she would rather get out of the park before the gates closed without seeing a moose, OR stay and see one but have to sleep overnight in the car. My heart swelled as she said spend the night in the car. That’s my girl.

The park was beautiful, and in spite of coming up empty on the moose front, we had fun.

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Maybe tomorrow night. Yeah. We’re coming back. And back. And back. And back one more time, if need be. We’ll be in Anchorage for 5 nights. What else are you going to do at 9 o’clock at night, sleep? I think not.

 

It’s Official – I’ve Lost My Mind

…or I’m just a glutton for punishment, or maybe I’ve taken the first step to crossing something off my bucket list. It’s hard to tell just yet.

I LOVE Melody Ross and Brave Girls. I have for a long time. I met Melody at Creative Connection way back in 2011, and was impressed from the get go. She is so nice and unpretentious.

One of the things on my bucket list is to go to one of her Brave Girl Camps, and although I check the dates every year, they’ve never been held at a time I could go. (Maybe this will convince me I NEED to go?)

In lieu of attending each year, I get my Brave girls messages in my inbox 4-5 days a week, follow her on Facebook, and check in on her blog from time to time.

Now she is doing a monthly Brave Girls School, and I signed up. It was kinda crazy. I really didn’t even think about it. She announced, and I signed up. No investigating what it was all about. I trusted that no matter what it was, it was bound to be amazing.

My welcome packet and 1st month’s class box arrived today.

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I can hardly wait to dive in…

Given that I haven’t figured out how to get myself to actually TAKE the classes I buy, the fact that I signed up for one a month is what has me feeling like I’ve lost my mind…

But maybe since it is Melody, it will be different. Maybe.

And how this fits into the decision I made just yesterday about ditching the self-help mentality is beyond me. I guess I forgot I’d already committed to this. Oh well. I can opt out at any time. In case of it is more than I can cope with. I really am going to make myself nuts.

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