I am alive! Both literally and figuratively.
Alaska was AMAZING! It awakened something inside of both Andy and I. Jack was just like ‘whatever, give me some applesauce and graham crackers and I will sleep on you’. But Andy and I were amazed. I honestly am not sure why Alaska wasn’t on the top of my “to explore” list? It should have been and I am so happy that it elbowed its way up to the top. That sneaky Alaska.
I am not really sure how to digest it all into a post, so I guess I will start with some pictures and use those pictures to turn it into a story. Picture-heavy books were always my favorite growing up.
I guess first off, I should say Alaska made me feel connected to my mom. I know she traveled there a couple of years before she died. She was in her “bucket list” mode and had a friend in Anchorage. I recall her talking about it. Bringing home a kitschy Inuit doll and signed copies of a children’s book for my brother and I…one of Jack’s favorite books (heart swell) – he grabs it every time. So I guess I should start there. I felt my mom there. I felt like I was seeing things she had seen, loving things she had loved,….it was wonderful and healing.
Our little travel bandit. So in the last few weeks, we discovered cheerios. Have you guys heard of these things? Well apparently they are now Jack’s favorite snack. Also that backpack – hilarious and awesome – hilawesome! He both loved wearing it, and carried his own snacks and toys! Genius.
This was hilarious. We got off the plane in Seattle and Jack was walking on his own and stopped to hug the columns…maybe he loves buildings as much as I do?
Next stop Anchorage….mkay, so Anchorage was our final destination, so what the heck were we doing? Well I’ll tell you. I wanted to see Denali basically. I had no idea if it was a good time of year to see it or what, but a little googling revealed there was a winter train from Fairbanks to Anchorage that runs on Sundays and goes through Denali. Um Done. So we flew from Denver to Fairbanks…yes stopping in 2 places and then the next day rode a train back to Anchorage. Andy laughed at me for the idea…until we got on the train. Then he was like ‘oh now I get it’….well he didn’t say that, but if boys did what they should do, he totally would have said: ‘OMG honey you were so right about this train thing, I am really glad we did this and I apologize profusely for teasing you about flying through Anchorage to come back to Anchorage’. Then he would do some sexual favors…or rub my back…or clean the house…maybe all three.
This post is going to be a mix of phone pics and camera pics, you’ll be able to tell the difference, but didn’t want you to be like “WTF is up with the quality Natalie?”…you are so judgey!
This is obviously a picture of alaska from above…aren’t you glad you have me here to translate this for you? me too.
Here’s what Fairbanks looks like in November at 5pm. So basically night time. And everyone was home apparently. We passed like two people walking around. It was quiet, yet beautiful.
Sunday morning we arrived at the train station. Jack explored and convinced us to buy a model train for him that is meant for ages 8 and up….he is so convincing though and we just really couldn’t disagree with his arguments on why we should buy it for him. He’s so crafty.
Throwing gang signs….this cracked me up. “Are we going to do the camera thing ALL day mom?” – Jack
A real-life conductor! This is Conductor Steve. And we just happened to pick the most awesome time to take the train – his last trip before retirement. That meant we got to stop several times (unscheduled stops) and there were balloons on board (score for Jack entertainment) and he gave us all a free poster and there was free cake. I know, we seriously lucked out.
We got off at a couple of places to take pictures and see a “really old church” (Note: our house in New York was older, what should you expect from a state that was incorporated after most of our parents were born?). Nenana is the location of the “Ice Classic”. When the river freezes they put a giant wood tripod out on the ice and it is hooked to a 100 foot cable. People from all around pay $3.50 to select a date/time slot. We were told that every second is accounted for. The person who selects the correct second the tripod travels down river (on the ice) 100 feet wins the pot of money. It is usually about $300K. Sounds good to me!
Conductor Steve let us open the doors of the baggage car to take pictures. It was freaking sweet! And cold, but way fun!
These areas were great for spotting moose…but I never caught one on camera.
This bridge marks the entrance into Denali
The train was short – it is longer in the summer, but we just had 3 cars and 2 engines. A dining car, a passenger car, and the luggage car. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect taking a 20-month kid on a 12 hour train ride. But it actually went really well. He took a nice two hour nap and we were able to move around the cars. It was really the last two hours that were hard. It was dark outside, so nothing to see, Jack wanted to sleep but the overhead lights were on…so it was not his favorite part of the trip, but still it went pretty well!
McKinley was covered in clouds, so we couldn’t see more than just the base of it, but this beauty was like ‘hey there! take a picture of me instead!’. Okay old volcano, I will.
Look! I was there!
So the train was really neat because there are a lot of remote places in Alaska that are inaccessible by car – like over 1/2 the state. But people near the rail-line walk, ski, or snow machine to the train and then jump on and ride to the nearest city for supplies. We stopped and picked up people, and dropped them off the entire ride. We saw moose and caribou and a wolf. It was really just a very beautiful ride.
This picture just cracked me up – we arrived safely at our hotel in Anchorage and vegged out.
The week was mostly me working – so not that exciting. But we did go out to dinner each night and have breakfast together in the mornings. Andy and Jack hung out in the hotel, watched marathons of “Preppers”, went swimming, played in the snow, etc.
We had some amazing food while we were there, a great sushi restaurant the first night, a way-too-fancy-to-bring-a-baby Scandinavian restaurant the second night (but in Alaska they seemed cool with it), and then I took my boss to his favorite restaurant on the 3rd night…Outback. LOL.
Thursday afternoon I escaped from work and we resumed the “vacation” portion of the trip. We explored the area, drove into the hills, downtown, the “suburbs” (there are about 300,000 people in Anchorage, so it seems weird calling them suburbs…there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of “urbs”). Friday morning we set out for Girdwood, a 45 minute drive south from Anchorage. Girdwood is the location of the Alyeska ski area, the tram and some pretty amazing hiking trails, I’ve been told. We intended to hike out to a particular point recommended by a friend (more on that in a sec) but it was 8 degrees on Friday and we just didn’t think Jack would hold up for a 5 mile hike in 8 degrees. But the car ride was more than enough for us to fall in love.
Stomp stomp stomp
A second catching of the smile.
We ventured back to Anchorage for a late lunch with my SILs old roommate (who is from there and moved back). Then did some more Anchorage adventuring. We checked out an outdoor store…Jack picked out some more purchases for himself. Man does he get upset when you take away his tackle boxes.
Yes I am ridiculous – is this the first time you had that thought?
So another huge bonus on the trip, for me anyway (and Jack), was meeting SIF. She was the first blogger I found…three years ago! And we’ve stayed connected ever since. I told her straight off the bat that I wanted to come to Alaska and we’d meet, but when it finally happened I was like ‘wow I can’t believe I’ve known her for so long and never seen her face in front of me’.We nonchalantly scheduled dinner on the last day and showed up like we’d done it a million times before. “oh hi, how’s it going?”. Very cool, very easy and fun.
As if we see each other every day or something. Jack snuggled up into her ample bosoms and was like ‘hells yeah mom! This chick is mine!’. Flashfoward for me I guess where I have to watch my son checking out women with me right there….I am so not ready for that.
Andy and I peppered her and her friends with questions about living in Alaska…basically we ended things like ‘we’ll be moving here in a few weeks’. LOL…but seriously, we both fell madly in love with Alaska. It was a wonderful trip where Andy and I squeezed in some reconnection time, while spending it with our little sandwich in tow. Until next time Alaska!