Alaska Day One: Anchorage --> Portage Glacier

I'm not sure anyone really *cares* about the details, but I have like a thousand pictures and I've been missing Alaska something fierce, so y'all are stuck with a day-by-day series of posts. Actually, you're not stuck. The little x on the upper right (or left, for Mac users) corner can make it all go away :)

My first day in Alaska I drove southeast on the Seward Highway along Turnagin Arm. Along that route, I swear there's a trail or an observation area every 5 miles. I'm sure they do this in other parks, but there every park or maintained trail I found had a little box for you to just write down where you parked and put in $. To me, it kind of underscored the "you're on your own" aspect of the trip. It was both liberating and (a little) intimidating.

One thing I can't capture in film or video is the smell - it's a sweet, flowery smell. Of course it's not *everywhere*, but in the natural areas, you smell that more often than anything else. Even at the marshes and right by the water.

My main stops were Potter Marsh, Beluga Point, Portage Glacier and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

I'm hoping this photo slide show plays well and does the area a small measure of justice. If you want to view the photos at your own pace, just click on the slide show and it should take you to the album.

Lu-Lu's Opera

(All sung to a baby doll and two stuffed Bambis, unless otherwise noted. And we all thought Bean had the lock on unintentional comedy.)

I want my gramma and my grampa
Grampa is my favorite
Grampa is my favorite boy
I forgot my deer
I'll go get it, I'll be right back
Can I come with you?
No, you can stay right here, I'll be right back

Mama, I'm getting my baby deer
her name is Bambi

I found her

(resume opera)
I found it

Nice to meet you, nice to meet you.

I love you horsies; I love you guys deers

My name is calypso and name is Ayssa
neigh-neigh (because all deer say neigh-neigh, apparently)

Are you pickin' on your nose guys?

Neigh! yes! We're just pickin' on our nose


To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.

(Title quote from John Muir)

I've been home for almost two weeks, and Bean's b-day got it's spotlight, so it's time for the rundown on my trip to Alaska.

I was off-duty July 4th weekend, and had the 5th off, so I decided to extend it a little on both sides and take myself on vacation. I had considered Wisconsin to visit family, and Florida to visit friends and my sister, but - much as I love my friends and family - the options just weren't dinging my bells.

I wanted to push myself to do something that scared me. Trekking around Alaska alone was the gutsiest thing I could think of to do as a solo trip. And I’ve wanted to visit the 49th state for a long, long time.

(Spoiler alert: I could *not* see Russia. From anywhere. Not from a back porch or from a mountaintop. I even tried with my spiffy new 75/300 zoom lens. No dice.)

Alaska has been calling my name for years. There’s just something about it that speaks to my soul; all that wide open space, all that natural beauty, all the wildlife … And it’s Alaska. One of the last truly great wild spaces on such an epic scale. Denali. Countless other mountains. Rivers and streams. Humpback whales. Black, brown and polar bears. Killer whales. Seals. Wolves. Bald eagles. Caribou. Moose.

I’m seriously wishing I was back there already.

I went without any real plan or itinerary, other than flying in and out of Anchorage and staying 4 nights in Anchorage, then driving down to Seward for a night before flying home. I reserved hotel rooms and a car, and winged the rest. And you know what? Traveling like that rules.

Actually, traveling solo kind of rules, too. Next time I go I’m bringing CD’s for the car, because there’s plenty of dead air as you drive around. But then you pick up some random station and listen to local public radio stories about Raven's Radio Hour, which I wish I had seen while there. And then that goes away and 20 minutes later you can indulge in some guilty pleasure sing-alongs with Journey and 38 Special (you know you know the words to both of those) as a staticky classic rock station penetrates the mountains all around you.

It's just an amazing place, and using Anchorage as a base was brilliant, if I do say so myself. There's just so much to explore within a 2-3 hour drive. In that time you can get to Seward or Talkeetna, on any of hundreds of trails and activities between them. You seriously can't drive more than 15-20 minutes heading toward either without somewhere to pull over and just walk in the woods.

I'll give y'all the day-by-day breakdown in the days to come. It's the most beautiful and amazing place; one I'll return to many, many times.

Happy Fifth Birthday Bean!!

Sweets, we've gone through a lot together so far, and I wanted you to know what I know:

You have a heart as big as Texas
You make me laugh every. single. day.
You've changed me, for the better, in so many ways.
You're an amazing person.
You ask so many great questions about the world around you.
Your curiosity and inquisitiveness keep me on my toes.
You're sweet and loving and never hesitate to show it.

You are magical, amazing and I am so lucky to be your mommy.

Happy Birthday, Princess. I cannot *wait* to see what the next year brings.

One hour old

One year old

Two years old

Three years old

Four years old

Five years old

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