Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Vacation With the Parsons

We recently met up with some of our very favorite people to spend a few days camping together in Virginia!  We've known and loved the Parsons since our college days and our children are literally each other's first friends!  The only really unfortunate thing was that Harris was not with us as he is currently at camp!

Jack loves to boat and so he made sure to get us on the water both of our full days together.  The children (and the guys) went tubing and had a blast.  Since moving from Atlanta , we really never get to go boating so it was a real treat for us.

On our way home, we stopped for a bit of a college tour at UVA.  The Parsons are big fans and were happy to show us around.  Grace has always thought she wanted to go to a small school for college but we think it's a great idea to look at all sorts of schools.  We parted ways at UVA but Kathleen and I both agreed that it was not nearly enough time together!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Family Visit

This has been the summer of family visits and we love it!  Bryce's sister, Leah and family, came to visit from Iowa and they even convinced their brother, Ben to join for a couple of days.  It was wonderful to visit with them and for the children to see and visit with their cousins.

We spent most of our time on the back patio (we got lucky with weather for July!) but we did manage to take a day and go to the beach.  It was so crowded but it didn't seem to make a difference in that it was still loads of fun and a beautiful day!

One day we went down to the creek and played and floated down the (very) "lazy river."  It was such fun and we are so glad they made the effort to visit us.  We are already looking forward to the next time we see them!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Seward, Alaska

For the last part of our trip, we traveled to Seward, Alaska.  This part of Alaska is on the coast and we were excited to see the water and hoped to catch glimpses of some sea life!  There was a major forest fire in the area so while we were there, there was often a layer of smoke settling in and obscuring the mountains.

We took a boat out for the day and were lucky enough to catch glimpses and observe sea otters, sea lions, humpback whales and orca whales (plus bald eagles and lots of sea birds!).  We were super lucky with perfect weather and smooth seas!

 sea otter, how cute is he?

 a pack of orca whales

 a humpback whale 

 just hangin out...

sea lion and his ladies

The scenery was beautiful as we made our way to the Aialik Glacier.

The Aialik Glacier dumps into the sea and I wish these pictures gave some perspective for just how massive and awe inspiring it really is.  It was fairly active while we were there so we saw a fair amount of calving (when the ice falls off into the ocean).  

That evening, the boat stopped at Fox Island where we had a tasty dinner of crab legs!

That evening, after getting off of the boat, we had some downtime at the river.  With it never getting dark this time of year in Alaska, there was plenty of time to enjoy all it has to offer!

The next day, we did some sea kayaking.  We kayaked 8 miles and hiked 4.  It was a tiring, but beautiful, day and I didn't take many pictures at all.  

Before we headed back to Anchorage to catch our flight home, we visited Exit Glacier.  On this trail they have marked the location of the glacier through the years and it was a stark reminder of how much is melting and fading every year.  In fact, our whole trip was a good lesson in how we must take care of this planet of ours and start to make hard, but important, choices that may be inconvenient for us but life saving for the planet.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Spencer Glacier

After we left Denali, we headed back on the train to Anchorage, rented a car, and headed to the Alyeska Resort.  This was our home base as we explored the Spencer Glacier on kayaks!

Spencer Glacier ends in a lake where chunks of ice that have calved off of the glacier float as icebergs around the lake.  Along with a guide we kayacked out to the glacier and got up close and personal views of the icebergs.  They were so beautiful!

Once we landed close to the glacier, we got out of our kayaks and hiked up and around the glacier to get a closer view.  Pictures don't at all convey the enormity of this glacier!

We also took the train a little further north for some beautiful views and an easy hike.

Before we left the Alyeska, we took the tram to the top of the mountain behind the resort and had lunch.  During the winter, this mountain is a hot spot for skiers.  After lunch, we hopped in the car and headed to Seward!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Denali National Park- Alaska

As Alaska is so big, getting around to various places takes a lot of time and effort!  On our trip, we spent a lot of hours just getting from place to place.  Fortunately, the magnificent views do make the time well spent.  When we started planning our Alaska trip, our number one destination was Denali National Park but not only was getting there from Anchorage time consuming, but in order to get to the backcountry it's even more time!

We flew in to Anchorage (an almost 8 hour flight!) on Friday and on Saturday we took the Alaskan Railroad to Denali (7 hours).  We all really loved the train ride out as we were served breakfast and lunch which was super fun on the train!  

We were also lucky to see Denali (formerly McKinley) from afar.  This was quite fortunate because she's only out about 30% of the time, the rest of the time being covered in clouds!  The train also had an open air platform on the back that was fun to take in the views.

Once we made it to Denali, we spent the night in a cabin before catching the bus into the back country.  Before the bus left we did have time to take a hike around the visitor's center.  

We also were able to go to the ranger's dog sled facility, which Grace and Harris absolutely loved.  It's such an iconic part of Alaska and we were so glad to be able to learn about mushing,  pet the beautiful dogs and witness the dogs running.

The bus was basically a glorified school bus and took about 6 hours to get to our cabin.  Fortunately, we had a great driver who was entertaining and gave us loads of information.  On the trip we saw grizzlies, dall sheep, caribou and a moose!  The backcountry is absolutely breathtaking and I am so, so glad we took the time and made the effort to see it.  

 that teeny tiny white dot is a dall sheep!

We spent two nights in the backcountry in cabins.  While there, we mountain biked to Wonder Lake (Grace and Harris even took a frigid, quick dip!), hiked up blueberry hill, skipped stones in the river, went on a botany walk and tried not to get devoured by mosquitoes.  We also walked to the end of the road in Denali National Park.  Fun fact: less than 1% of the world's population ever make it to the end of the road here!  

 Denali mountain is behind all those clouds!

This photo was taken at around 10 at night!

At the end of our time there, we chose to fly out of Denali rather than taking another long bus ride.  Even with my reservation about flying in such a small plan, it was a definite highlight of the trip.  On our way out of the park, we flew around Denali mountain and it was nothing short of spectacular.  Words, nor pictures, can adequately convey the overwhelming presence and majesty of this mountain.  

And that's a wrap on that part of our trip!  From there, we headed back to Anchorage on the train, rented a car and headed to the next phase of our trip!

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