Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Little Alaskan Adventure

Alaska has a special place in my heart and so I was thrilled to head off on a little adventure last week with my younger brother, visiting family in the Seward area, packing in as much activity as possible in just a few days.

The first morning we were out early to catch the sun rising over the mountains. I always forget until I return how absolutely stunning this place is... and repeatedly encountered frustration when what I captured on film in no way conveyed the majesty of what stood in front of me!

At every turn there is something amazing to see; bald eagles in the sky and evidence of recent visitors in the sand.

These bear tracks dwarfed my cute pink Nike's. 

And the tracks were everywhere, even trailing alongside the road. Head's up, be alert!

The first new snow of the season had just fallen on the higher peaks, and paired with the changing colors of fall it didn't matter that the skies were grey.

My last visit to Alaska was to a much different terrain, Nome in the north to see my nephew Travis cross the finish line of his first Iditarod last March. This is truly one of the intriguing aspects of Alaska, it's amazing variety of regions.

Bitter cold on the frozen Bering Sea off the shore of Nome

Travis and his fiancee Sarah run their kennel, Turning Heads Kennel, out of Seward and my brother and I came up to help out with various projects around the property as they prepare for the upcoming race season. Between the hikes, exploring and visits were sessions of painting, wood chopping, organizing and storing away of food for the dogs.

Their property is in a stunning location, with cabins...

... and views of the surrounding mountains.

Of course no trip to Seward would be complete for me without a run past the Seward Fisheries, where I labored away for seven summers earning cash to put myself through school. I don't think there is any way to convey the conditions of this type of work: it stinks, it's cold, it's wet, you're in slimy rain gear from head to toe and you're required to work seven days a week, 16 hours a day... for the entire summer. A physical, emotional and mental endurance race. I am very happy my appearance here this time was simply to remind myself of how fortunate I am that those days are gone and snap a quick picture!

One of the highlights of the trip was a hike to Exit Glacier on another day.

It was raining slightly, the skies were overcast and the Park Ranger encountered as we headed in said he wouldn't turn us away, but the park was closed (due to the government shutdown) and should we encounter trouble - a fall, bears - we would be on our own. All in all not the best start to an afternoon of hiking but we decided to proceed on, after taking particular note of the below. 

And for good reason, this park is known to be full of bear.

And we saw evidence. 

But it was worth the anxiety. A spectacular hike to a spectacular destination.

Though I have to say moving through the trees caused me to feel very very nervous, and I made sure to make a hell of a lot of noise!

Once up on the mountain, the stress was worth it, behind us the valley of turning colors... 

... doll sheep on the hills to the side...

... and the glacier ahead.

The crazy thing is I can remember when this glacier extended much further down into the valley. It is receding and it surprised me to see how much the glacier has melted since my last visit, even though that was nearly 30 years ago. It causes one to pause and think.

Then there was fun taking selfies at the glacier's edge. My brother has the best adventurous nature, and I adore heading out with him knowing I'll be challenged to keep up. It's good for my soul.

And leaving by a different path, to thankfully avoid the forested area.

Beside the exploring and work at the kennel, it was great to see family I don't meet up with often, here a game of red light green light lead by my youngest nephew followed by a bonfire. 

And the stars. Oh my goodness, if only I could share a photo, so bright flooding every inch of the
sky, they nearly didn't look real.

Another special sighting were bull moose alongside the highway, fighting, locking their racks in a contest over a female moose. Okay, I've never ever seen anything like this and I probably never will again. Hence I feel very sad I only had my iPhone with me and not my fabulous Nikon so I could get some decent shots!

Okay, I'll admit it, there is just something about Alaska that brings out my inner badass - I just want to embrace it all. So when my older brother said we should go off-road exploring on the ATV's, I was all in. 

Moose and wolf tracks...

... and a trail of amazingly large bear tracks. I did note after this encounter how alert my brother was, continuing through the afternoon - scanning left, scanning right. 

All the trekking was worth it, taking us to one side of Bear Lake...

... and another.

Finally it was time to head back home to my family and my comparably tame suburban life. I can't wait to return next summer with my kids and husband, I think they need a dose of this as well.

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  1. WOW!!! What aweseome pics!!! I would love love love to go visit Alaska!!!!! So jelly!!!!!!!

  2. So gorgeous!! I soaked in every picture, I love the mountains but I am very afraid of bears so I would be really freaking out seeing all the tracks. If I was with you we would have seen one....it always happens when I'm in bear country.

  3. Alaska is so beautiful! I had a three day trip to Anchorage and Homer in August and was in awe the whole time.

  4. What a stunning recap, Janell. I think it's so special you go and do this. And even more fun the family will join you next summer. And the pink Nikes take the cake!

  5. What a wonderful place to spend quality time with your brother and family. I have never been to Alaska and your photos make me want to go! Thanks for sharing. You look fab in those cute pink Nikes BTW...

  6. what amazing pictures. I would be so stinkin' scared of all the wild animals. when we went this summer, I wouldn't even walk around outside the denali visitor center b/c of all the beware signs! and my boyfriend totally made fun of me for making all the noise I did in Juneau, walking to the falls by mendenhall glacier-but there had just been bear down there earlier in the week. yeesh. you got some amaaaazing shots, and I can't believe those moose! we saw moose babies and moose mama, but nothing with antlers. I can't believe they'd do that so close to the road!

  7. Oh my goodness Janell what a fantastic trip! Thanks for sharing your experience as well as your many memories. Your photos and stories have brought back fond memories of my own trips to Alaska! Yes, lucky enough to have visited 2x! LOVED Seward and Exit Glacier. Glad you got to enjoy time with family as well, double bonus!!!

  8. Thanks for sharing the pictures! I LOVE Alaska and would choose it in a heartbeat over Hawaii even. I'm a mountain, snow, glacier blue girl.

  9. beautiful pictures, thank you for sharing your personal history too!

  10. Wow, thanks for sharing, what beautiful country - it reminds me of Montana, where I worked on a ranch for 4 summers and ended up transferring to school in Missoula. Alaska is so rugged and wild, and it looks like a great time. I LOVE the Iditarod and on my bucket list is to go mushing someday!! I would love to be lead by a team of dogs through the woods - how cool. Great pics! I was living in Maine until recently and at the LL Bean store they have stuffed replicas of two moose who locked horns and got stuck and died this way. It happened in northern Maine and I took pix that are on my blog.

  11. Wow, what gorgeous shots - thanks for the little trip to Alaska! It looks so beautiful and I bet the air was so fresh. We encounter a lot of wildlife in Muskoka as well along trails and rivers and I'm a little nervous walking along forested trails too. I can't believe you worked the fisheries for 7 summers! That must be where you got your work ethic from! xo

  12. I know Alaska only from a cruise and I was very impressed of the Glaciers and the wildlife.This is the place to be to clear your mind .

  13. have loved following your adventures post HOF. Enjoy! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Janell, fantastic pictures! Thanks so much for taking us along. It is so beautiful and the colors are amazing. I can't believe you worked at that fishery, but it was one of those character building summers Im sure! Your pink Nikes are adorable and so are you!
    xo Nancy

  15. Thanks everyone, it was an amazing trip and already trying to figure out when I can sneak back, perhaps in the winter with my boy? He always complains about the lack of snow around here, I could fix that problem fast with a few days of Alaska in the winter!

  16. Looks like a fantastic getaway..... adding Bear Lake to my "must-see" list!

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  18. Those pictures are gorgeous! I'm jealous!


  19. Thanks for sharing the pics! I have never been to Alaska, seen pics, and heard it is beautiful. Hey, I would like to know more about your summer job that you had there.

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  23. this looks like a life-changing trip. although, given your seven summers there - that may have been more so. btw - i cant believe what hard work that must've been. wow. and good for you! i've always wanted to visit alaska,and now, even more so.


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