Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


Leave a comment

Ways I Saved In July

This type of  post is new for me and a bit of a departure from my usual life recap posts.  See, July posed a bit of a challenge for me.  Because it was the end of the fiscal year I found out I would have to wait 6 weeks for my next pay check instead of the usual 4.  On top of that I also had to pay my tuition for summer semester, so when all was said and done I was left with a pretty empty bank account to get me to the next paycheck and I had to get a bit creative.

I can’t lie, having a severely restricted budget for the month was super difficult.  For example, there was one Saturday when the weather was gorgeous and I had nothing to do so I thought I’d take a road trip down to Homer.  Unfortunately road trips require gas and gas costs money, so it didn’t happen.  However, despite the frustrations that came along the way, I actually enjoyed coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make my few dollars stretch further.  In the end I compiled a list of things I did, ideas that worked, and blessings I got, and I thought I’d share it here .

So without further ado, here’s how I saved in July 2016:

  •  Cooking with what I already had:  My cupboards have never been bare.  I always have a few packages of pasta, pancake mix, ramen, etc., I just usually skim by these items until I crave them, instead favoring what I want right now (pizza anyone?).  So, in July I made the decision to only cook with what I already had with the exception of buying milk and eggs since most recipes call for one or the other. In the end I never went hungry, I found new recipes, and I appreciated what I had that much more.
  • Planning a Potluck:  Speaking of food, as an RA (Resident Assistant) I’m expected to plan and execute one event in the Residence Hall every month.  Since fireworks are difficult in Alaska (thank you 22 hrs of daylight), one of my fellow RA’s and I planned a Fourth of July Potluck and Movie night for our event.  I brought cupcakes (which I already had the mix for on hand, see #1 above) but got to enjoy other dishes like beer battered halibut and home made mac n’ cheese.  Not a bad dinner at all.  Then on top of the food we also had free entertainment by watching Independence Day on our big screen.
  • Went on ResHall Grocery Runs instead of driving myself:  In the Residence Hall I live in (picture college dorms but better), since we have kitchens but don’t have a dining hall we offer grocery runs every week to the local store.  Anyone can go on them so long as there’s space left in our Sprinter van.  More often than not we go to Fred Meyers, which is my store of choice, so instead of hopping in my car and driving myself (therefore using gas), I joined in on the grocery run.  I was able to pick up the few items I actually needed and the transportation cost me nothing.
  • Biked into town–  I needed something from the grocery store and it was a non grocery run day so I borrowed a bike and rode to town instead.  It wasn’t easy considering it’s been years since I’ve been on a bike, but it was free!13880374_10102722653168578_8337803630607402409_n
  • Cancelled my CBS All Access subscription–  A few months back I subscribed to CBS All Access so I could watch Survivor and The Amazing Race.  Both shows are currently out of season and I found I wasn’t using the app at all, so I cancelled it therefore saving me money.  I’ll pick it up again sometime in the future, but there’s no need to pay for something you don’t use.
  • Earned Amazon giftcards for things I needed:  I’ve been a product tester for awhile and one of the sites I go through, Crowdtap, also gives you the ability to earn Amazon.com giftcards for answering various questions or surveys on the site.  Another site, Swagbucks, is similar in that you can earn giftcards for doing various different activities.  When I watch TV etc. I usually like to multitask so I decided to put my multitasking to good use and try to earn some giftcards through these sites for a couple things I needed.  In the end I had $20 to work with, and while I won’t do this consistently it’s a good option, especially for those who like to shop on Amazon a lot.
  • Went on vacation for free:  Ok, this one is a little more of a blessing than something I did for myself.  Back in May my Dad called me and asked if I would like to come down to Washington to visit this summer and offered to use their air miles to get me a ticket.  Of course I said yes!  My parents ended up renting a house on a Lake in Eastern Washington for a week and it was absolutely perfect. See my post here to read more about it. My parents also covered everything which helped me out a lot in the end.   Some other ways I was able to save on this trip were:

-Used my Club 49 membership to get free checked luggage on my flight

-Brought my own snacks for the flight and an empty water-bottle to fill up in the terminal to save money.  I did end up buying a soda from McDonalds, but the McDonalds in the Anchorage airport is on of the few that still honors $1 drinks instead of jacking up the price like other airports.  They also don’t have tax so I was able to pull a dollar bill out of my wallet and be done.

13901328_10102734786158968_7224316368299274631_nSo there you have it, some of the ways I was able to save money during July.  This is most definitely not an exhaustive list, but I thought I’d throw a few things out there.  Right now I’ve continued the challenge into August.  While I’m not quite as strict as I was in July I’m really doing my best to save more, especially with my internship coming up next month!

 


Leave a comment

That Time I Ran With the Reindeer

I’ve often spoken about how my love for history and all things travel was sparked and fueled by my fathers (and grandfathers) extensive collection of National Geographics.  The sites, the cultures, the experiences, all so different from my little corner of the world.  I was completely captivated.

One of the events that has always captivated me was the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.  While I never actually had any spark of desire within me to run with the bulls myself, the concept was just so interesting.

Enter Alaska.

Every spring, around the start of the famous Ititarod, Anchorage celebrates Fur Rendezvous aka Fur Rondy.  Being as this is Alaska and we have a lot of great nature things to do but not many non-nature activities, I always keep my eye out for new and exciting opportunities. So, when I took a look at this years Fur Rondy schedule and noticed an event called “The Running of the Reindeer” I was immediately intrigued.  I did a little research and immediately knew I had to do it.  I mean, a three block dash, in the snow, being chased by reindeer, while wearing costumes, what could be better?!

I immediately recruited a couple friends to do it with me and then we officially faced our first challenge.  What would we wear?  We considered many different options.  Mario characters, animals, minions…. Eventually we decided on Where’s Waldo.  A fun, cheap, and easy option.

Now lets fast forward to race day.  It’s no secret that our winter here in Alaska has been less than steller.  It’s been warmer that normal and slightly dry.  They actually had to bring in snow to cover 4th Ave for the race and other events there (Including the most important event of them all, the Ititarod, which had it’s ceremonial start that same morning).

Although our winter had been warmer than usual, the race day was still fairly cold.  I’m actually pretty impressed that I managed to fit three layers of clothes underneath my striped Waldo shirt.  Thank goodness for stretchy fabric!

About 30 minutes before the dash was about to start everyone began congregating in the middle of the street and it became such a fun atmosphere.  People were dressed in all sorts of costumes and it became one big photo-op with all the different groups wanting to get pictures with eachother, whether they were people you knew or not.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many photos we were in that day.

PicMonkey Collage1

The dash itself happened in 4 heats: Men, Women, Groups, and Tourists.  We signed up for the group heat because we were originally going to have our guy-friend Skylar join us, but afterwards we were definitely wishing we had done the womens heat. Why? Because the group heat was HUGE.  Definitely the biggest of them all.

Photo Mar 05, 4 14 35 PM (1)

We found more waldos!

When our time finally came to run we were pretty frozen from standing so long so we were ready to go.  Finally the announcer called for us to get ready, Hobo Jim started playing and song, and we were off.

Everything was great at first, but let me tell you, y’all, running in the snow is dang hard!  I probably made it 100 ft before I had to slow to a trot, but that’s ok because the reindeer were still nowhere in site (since our heat was soooooo large).  It actually got to the point where I thought I would finish the track before I even saw a reindeer so I slowed to a walk, and finally, about 2 blocks in the first reindeer came whizzing by, wedging itself quickly between me and my friend Leslie.  Soon there were reindeer all around.

PicMonkey Collage2

*I got these pictures off of Instagram.  I was obviously a little preoccupied during the dash

And then there was the last reindeer.  My empathetic side came out and I felt so bad for it.  It seemed scared and confused.  It would stop, turn around, run in circles.  By this point I had started jogging again and before I knew it this little scared reindeer was right in front of me… and then it stopped, and I bet you can guess what happened next.

Yep, I ran into a reindeer.

That’s right, the reindeer didn’t run into me, I ran into it.  Poor little thing.  Fortunately neither of us were knocked over.  Also fortunately it was one of the reindeer without a rack.

By the time we reached the end of the track my lungs were on fire and I was seeing stars.  Of course the paramedic in me started to diagnose myself.  It was like everything I had learned in class about perfusion and ventilation was coming to life, and I didn’t want it to.

Photo Mar 05, 4 45 18 PM (1)

After the dash.  Completely real emotions.  Feeling death.

In the end we all had a lot of fun. Would I do it again?  Possibly.  If I had a good group and good costumes to go along with it.  I will say it’s definitely a must-do at least once in your life.  You just can’t beat the experience!

 


3 Comments

Eye Candy: Homer, AK

Hello my name is Amanda and I’m a tired Paramedic student.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about how blessed I am to live in not only in Alaska, but on the Kenai Peninsula.  Guys, this place is really gorgeous!  Mountains, oceans, lakes, it’s never ending!  So, I thought I’d share some pictures today from my last trip to Homer, one of my favorite spots on the Peninsula, from when I visited at the end of last year.  It’s a small town without much to it, but it’s oh so beautiful.  While it’s fun to visit during the tourist season (the end of May to Labor Day Weekend) while everything on the Spit it open, there’s a certain magical quality of visiting Homer during it’s winter abandonment.

Homer Spit

Look across the Spit and Kachemak Bay.  The day, while freezing, couldn’t have been more perfect.

Homer Spit

The beach felt absolutely abandoned.  It’s such a unreal feeling to have a place like this all to yourself.

Homer Spit

The iconic Salty Dawg Saloons’ lighthouse rising up from the Spit.

Homer Spit

So, in the afternoon, as we were leaving the Spit in search of food we looked to the left and saw a bunch of creatures floating in the slushy bay.  Upon closer look we found at least 50 sea otters relaxing and playing in the surf.  I’d never seen so many otters (my favorite animal) in one place!

Homer Spit

Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall, no matter the season eagles can always be found hanging around.

Homer Spit

So there’s this spot, up on the hill behind Homer, where you can get a great vantage point over the city and the bay.  The absolute best place to watch the sunset.

And finally, just a quick shot of us and our freezing selves.  The air temp was in the teens so with the wind and Lands End (at the far tip of the Spit) it had to have been close to 0 degrees!

Homer Spit

So there’s some eye candy and travel inspiration for the day.  If anyone wants to come visit let me know!

 


Leave a comment

Here’s to 2014, Looking Back At This Last Year

Oh what the difference a year can make.  2013 was not a good year and by the end I was feeling terribly discouraged.  As I looked ahead to 2014 I had hope, hope that good things would happen and determination to make them so.  Now, as I reflect upon this last year I can confidently say it was everything I wanted and so much more.  I would even go so far as to say it was one of the best years of my life.

That’s funny for me to say considering the year contained one of the worst months of my life.  You see, March was not good to me.  It started out with terrible cement burns on my legs that made just moving a horrible chore and ended with a highly publisized controversy in relation to the organization I worked for that caused immense heartbreak for me and my co-workers.  Thankfully, when you hit the bottom there is nowhere you can go but up and give each blessing, big or small, that much more significance, and let me say, the rest of 2014 was full of them.

2014

In May after months of prayer and research I made the decision to apply to go back to school to finally become a paramedic.  It was a scary move for me and one I didn’t fully trust for another 2 months, but it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.

At the end of June I once again headed to Tijuana, Mexico with my church to build homes for those in need and once I got home I was in full planning mode for the transition from full time employee to full time student.  At the end of July I officially gave my two weeks notice at World Vision and leaving was definitely bittersweet.  While working in a call center is not my calling in life (I actually hate talking on the phone) I couldn’t have worked for a better organization and my co-workers made each day so special.

2014

Mid- August brought the big move.  I loaded up my new car (Praise the Lord!  One of those blessings I was talking about earlier) and began the journey north to Alaska.

I got the incredible chance to spend the first half of the trip on the Alaska ferry traveling from Bellingham, WA to Haines, AK.  I saw sights I never imagined I would lay eyes on.  The inside passage is so gorgeous (when it’s sunny) and met so many great people.  The remaining drive to Soldotna was long and lonely but provided perfect time to think and reflect. In case you were wondering, Yukon territory really is as empty as you would imagine, go figure, but as soon as I pulled into the school after 3 days driving I knew I was home.

2014

This last semester I was given best friends, got to go on incredible adventures and laughed more than I had in 28 years.  I couldn’t feel more blessed.

2014

Now, as the year wraps up and I’ve officially got the first step in my pursuance of becoming a paramedic finished (EMT 1, hooray!) I eagerly look forward to what this next year will bring, and I remember that no matter what happens that God is good!

Happy New Year Everyone!  Here’s to 2015!


Leave a comment

The Alaska State Fair, Hiking Flattop & an Update on Life

It’s officially been a month.  To an extent that is so hard for me to believe but on the other hand so much has happened in these last 30 days that it’s felt like an eternity.  That and the fact that I pretty much waved goodbye to summer when I waved goodbye to Washington.  See, next week the rest of the country celebrates the official first day of fall, meanwhile, in Alaska Weather Underground tells me we’re going to have low temperatures in the 30’s, the 30’s people!  Where I come from that’s winter.  What am I going to do when it gets down to 0…. or lower?!

I’m in for it, I know it.

On a happier note I have great news, I got a job!  Yay! Praise the Lord!  I’ll now be working at the help desk for the IT department at my school.  I was getting to a point where financial stress was starting to get the best of me but God definitely provided.  Now I can pay my bills and I don’t even have to leave campus, which means I’ll be saving on gas too.  Woohoo!

Ok, onward to stories.

________________________________________

Recently my Facebook feed has been flooded with pictures of friends back home enjoying the Washington State Fair (although it will always be the Puyallup fair in my heart and mind).  It’s made me a bit nostalgic.  The rides, the Hobby Hall, the Fischer Scones…

Over Labor Day weekend a friend of mine from my Liberty U days who lives in Anchorage with her family invited me to come spend the weekend with them and go to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, and it was…. interesting.  Alaska may be the biggest state in the US but their state fair is not.  For you Washingtonians I would put it more on a level size-wise with the Western Washington Fair or even the King County fair.  But what the fair lacked size-wise it definitely made up for in character.

Alaska State Fair

Alaska State Fair

I can pretty much sum up the fair in two words: Fair Hair

Fair hair is face painting taken to an extreme level and at the Alaska State Fair apparently it’s the thing to do.  However, I do have one word of advice, on a 5 year old fair hair is adorable, but on a 15+ year old?  Not so much.

Alaska State FairMy friends sweet little daughter Isabelle.  She definitely had the best Fair Hair of the day.

We spent literally all day at the fair, from 10 am to 9-ish pm.  Definitely the longest I’ve ever spent at a fair ever.  It was ridiculously exhausting, but the day was packed with everything from lumberjack shows to acrobats to giant vegetables and of course fair food.  Just FYI, the corn fritters with honey butter are to DIE FOR.

…Now I want corn fritters and honey butter, bummer…

Alaska State Fair

Clockwise from left:  Fair games and prizes that are always near impossible to win; The obligatory elephant ear which was about half the size of the elephant ears I get at the WA state fair, just saying; Epic beard contest; Acrobat show

Alaska State Fair

Alaska State Fair

The real reason we were at the fair that day (and stayed so long) was to see the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty.  It was set up like a concert but it obviously didn’t include any singing.  It was more of a Q&A and just super fun and entertaining.  Not everyone from the family was there but we did have Phil and Kay of course, then Alan, Jep and good ‘ole Uncle Si.  I really, really enjoyed myself and I really appreciated their hearts.  Their faith is so evident in everything they say and do, it was so refreshing to see.

Some of my favorite quotes of the night? (there were many but I only had the mind to write down a few):
When asked what he thought of Alaskans-
Phil:”Alaskans are the best people because they kill and eat stuff.”
to which Si chimes in “Well that’s because they have things that kill and eat you.”

True Si, very, very true.

And later when Si was asked to describe himself he says “I see myself as an uncureable disease and they haven’t found a cure yet… I’m also like space, I go on and on and on.”

Also very true, haha.

Oh I’m so glad I went!  The tickets were $40 so I debated for awhile whether or not to go but it was so so worth it.  Just as entertaining in real life as on TV, even without Willie and Jase.

Alaska State FairThey wouldn’t let us take pictures using cameras and this is the best my little phone could do sadly.  I love that the venue was so small you could easily see everyone on stage.

After all of the excitement that occurred at the fair on Saturday we took Sunday to just hang around, go to church, relax, and in my case hit up the Apple Store in Anchorage since my Macbook Pro decided to stop working when I crossed the Alaska border (nothing that a new $80 power cord couldn’t fix, ouch!).

Then monday, before I started the long drive back to Soldotna we had one last adventure, climbing Flat Top.  I was told it’s an “easy” hike and one of the most popular hikes in Alaska since it’s so easily accessible from Anchorage, only a 15 minute drive.  Now for those of you that have no idea what Flat Top is (which, lets face it, is probably most of you) it’s simply a mountain, just east of the city that appears to be flat on top.  Yep, they got real creative with it’s name.

 It’s definitely a popular hike, the parking lot was packed by the time we got there around 11am, but an easy hike?  In my opinion no, but I’ll never say that any hike we’re you’re basically climbing up, up, up only to come down when you’re done is easy.

Flat Top HikeIt took us a good hour and a half to get to the top.  The first 3/4 of the hike is just a lot of walking up + stairs, but then the last quarter is brutal.  You’re basically rock climbing.  I mean, no gear was required or anything, but it would have been easy to slip and go tumbling down and get very, very injured if you’re not careful.  The difficulty of the hike however made the feeling when we reached the top that much sweeter.  There’s a big pole at the summit that serves as a “you officially made it, congratulations!” point, so of course we needed to take as many pictures as possible with it.

Flat Top Hike

Really it’s the view from the top that makes it worth it.  When you look west you can see Anchorage and the Cook Inlet.  We definitely got blessed with a gorgeous Labor Day to do the hike on.

Flat Top Hike

And then peaking around the next corner you can just catch a glimpse of the start of the Turnigan Arm which separates the Kenai Peninsula (where I live) from Anchorage.

Flat Top Hike

Flat Top Hike

Don’t those colors steal the show?  So beautiful.  You don’t just see colors like that naturally everywhere.  I didn’t even edit these photos, the colors are just that great.

After another hour or so of hiking down (hiking down that last quarter was almost harder than going up) we were officially pooped and starving so we hit up Mc D’s for lunch and then I started the long 2.5 hour trek home.  Thankfully I was going the opposite way of all the traffic and as you can see it was a sunny day, so it was a pretty nice drive. Not a drop of rain, even through Turnigan pass where there’s almost always clouds.

_______________________________________

The last few weeks have been filled with a number of adventures, big and small.  All of which I’m excited to share with you.  I have a feeling the bigger adventures will start to slow down as the weather gradually deteriorates and the days get shorter, but we’ll see.  Alaska is one big ball of unknowns to me right now and I find that the greatest adventure of all!


2 Comments

Off to Alaska: Days 5 & 6

I purposefully planned the last 2 days of my road trip so that I would only have 6-7 hours of driving each day, so on day 5 I was in no hurry to get up.  I figured I could take my time and get rolling whenever so I ended up leaving the campground around 9:30.  Thankfully there wasn’t a rain cloud in the sky which I thought was a good sign compared to the last few days!

Alaska Highway

When I looked at a map it didn’t seem like I had far to go to reach the Alaska border so I thought the morning drive would be cake.

Oh was I wrong.

While I’d had some pretty bad stretches of road the day before the last stretch was by far the worst.  At one point I came upon a stoplight, in the middle of nowhere (which seemed really out of place) advising me to wait for a pilot car which comes around every 15 minutes.  Great.  So I turned off my car and settled in for the wait.

 Alaska HighwayThis seemed so out of place.

About 5 minutes later a RCMP officer (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) pulled up behind me and walked up to my window.  My first thought was that I was doing something wrong and didn’t even know it, but no, he just wanted to chat (since he was now stuck waiting for the pilot car too).  He asked me where I was from and where I was going.  I let him know I was moving to Alaska to go to Paramedic school and he thought that was pretty cool.  After our chat I didn’t have much longer to wait, only a couple minutes later the pilot car showed up and we were on our way.

I learned really quick why we needed a pilot car.  The road was crap and my car got a nice mud bath.  In fact my car is still covered in mud.  Even the rain won’t wash it off.  There must be something about  Yukon mud…

Alaska HighwayPlaying follow the leader.  This was a nice, muddy, bumpy 10 minute drive down half finished highway. (BTW, the original color of the pilot truck was white, betcha couldn’t tell)

About 30 minutes down the road, I rolled into Beaver Creek and thought it would be a good idea to get a little gas since I was pretty positive what I had in my tank wouldn’t get my to Tok.  I reluctantly put in 8 liters (just over 2 gallons).  At roughly $5.55 a gallon I couldn’t let myself get more without crying.

Just 2 minutes down the road I was excited to come upon the Canadian border station.  I pulled out my passport and got ready to head back into Alaska, and then I saw the sign…

US Border station: 30 KM.

Really?  That’s odd.  Why is there 30 KM of wilderness between the US and Canadian border stations?  I may never know.  And for some reason those 30 KM seemed to take FOREVER.  Thankfully when I finally reached the US border crossing there was no line (because honestly I hadn’t seen another car since Beaver Creek) and I got through without any issues.

Alaska HighwayStraddling the international border between Canada and the US.  There’s actually a stone obelisk marking the border as well as a 20 ft or so swath cut through the trees stretching as far as you could see.

Alaska HighwayYay!  Finally in Alaska!

Onward to Tok!  By this point I was starving and I could not wait for lunch.  Alaska is an hour behind Yukon so I set my clocks back an hour and headed on.  I had decided to stop at Fast Eddies in Tok for lunch because apparently it’s THE place to go.  They talked about it on the Milepost and they raved about it on the ferry.  Honestly I thought it was good, not extraordinary, but good.  It was definitely a nice break from driving and the first time I’d allowed myself to eat at a restaurant on the trip (aside from the two times I bought stuff on the ferry). I also saw my first state trooper while I was there, which is no big deal in real life but it made me super excited since I’ve probably watched every episode of Alaska State Troopers.  Love that show.

Alas I needed to keep moving on so I filled up my gas tank ($4.29/gallon, ouch!) and headed off.

The rest of the afternoon was rather unextraordinary.  After the incredible scenery in BC and the Yukon the sites from the Tok Cutoff where just kinda blah.  After I moved onto the Glenn Hwy things started looking prettier, thankfully, I was beginning to worry about all the grand visions I’d had of Alaska’s beauty and wondered if I was wrong about anything else.

Glenn HighwayThe Glenn Highway is when things started to get really pretty again.

Glenn Highway

I stayed that night not far from the Matanuska Glacier and overlooking the famous “Lions Head.”  I pulled into the campground and got set up right before the inevitable rain storm rolled in, thankfully it only stuck around for about 20 minutes and then it was all blue skies again.

Glenn HighwayWhere I camped for the night.  I snapped this pic before I set up my tent right there in front of my car.  That cool shaped mountain formation in the middle is Lions Head.

Glenn HighwayI may have been trapped in my car waiting out the rainstorm, but I had to step out for a second to take a picture of this pretty double rainbow over the campground.

I slept Ok that night, I did get pounded by another rainstorm and had moments when I thought a bear might come by and eat me (irrational), but I survived and by 9:30 the next morning I was on my way again.

I stopped briefly to take pictures of the glacier and then headed on to civilization.

Matanuska GlacierThe Matanuska Glacier as seen from the highway.  You can actually do glacier tours, but obviously I didn’t have time for that.

Anchorage did get a little confusing.  I managed to get on the wrong highway in town but I did end up finding my way in the end.  I met up with a college friend from Liberty for lunch, Sarah, at the Olive Garden and then began the last leg of the journey, which was also the part I was most excited about, the Seward Highway!

I had heard on so many occasions that the Seward Highway was gorgeous and since the day was sunny I knew I was in for a treat.

It didn’t disappoint.

Pardon the lack of pictures from this leg.  I was both really excited to get to the school and a bit pressed for time so I didn’t pull over anywhere (also I figured I’ll have plenty of chances to do it in the future), but trust me, this was the Alaska I’d always pictured.

Seward Highway

My not so great pictures of the Seward Highway.  I actually took them while driving.  I know, shame on me, but that tour bus in front of me was going 10 mph below the speed limit, that makes it a little better right?

Seward Highway

It’s actually a pretty sizable journey from Anchorage to Soldotna, about 2.5 hours.  Luckily, like I said, most of that is beautiful.  Sadly, the ugliest part is actually when you get closer to Soldotna.  You’ve left the mountains at that point and are surrounded instead by these strange stubby trees.  Oh well.

I pulled into the school around 4 in the afternoon unloaded my car and started to settle in, so relieved to be at my final destination.

I’ll write another blog later showing you guys around my new home, but thanks for following along my journey to get here, it really was an adventure and I can already tell that is going to be the theme for the year.  I can’t wait!


Leave a comment

Journey to Alaska: Let the Roadtrip Begin!

The wake up call my last day on the ferry was definitely early but not so bright.  We officially docked in Juneau (well, 12 miles outside the city actually) at 3:30 in the morning, and, despite the early hour the purser still came over the loud-speaker to announce our arrival, of course waking me up.  I think most others fell back asleep, I tried but for some reason I couldn’t.

Even though Alaska is “the land of the midnight sun,” this part of Alaska, and at this time of the year still has darkness early in the morning so there wasn’t a lot to see off the ship, so instead I just people watched, people getting on, people getting off, making up stories in my head of where everyone was going.

At 5:30 we finally pulled away and were on our way to Haines, my departure port.

Sometime during the night we had outrun the rain so I kept my fingers crossed that it would stay away.  I had heard that this was the most beautiful section of the journey with snow-capped mountains and glaciers.  unfortunately, even though the majority of the 4 hour journey was rain free, low clouds and fog made visibility poor.  Every now and again we would see something spectacular peek through a crack, but that was it, a small peek.

Alaska FerryThe first peek that there were good things behind all the clouds.

Alaska FerryAnd sometimes the clouds would part a little more to show something even more spectacular.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska FerryHanging out in the Solarium.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

As we approached Haines my heart began to sink a little.  It was that same feeling you get when vacation is over and you know you have to go back to work.  Even though the ferry was far from luxury it was nice to allow someone else to do all the work for me for a few days while I sat back, read, took pictures and talked with new friends.  Even though I was excited to get to Soldotna I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get there and I would be by myself most of that time, so I just wasn’t looking forward to it.

As we pulled into Haines, new friends helped me carry my ungodly amount of items down to my car, making the three deck journey infinitely less painful.  I wasn’t sure how long they would give us before we needed to be off the ship so I wanted to make sure I was loaded up as quickly as possible.  It seems that I forgot the whole car elevator part though, because it was a good hour before I was off the ship.

I made a quick stop in Haines to give my Mom a call to let her know I was alive before crossing into Canada and then I was on my way.  The further I drove away from Haines the nicer the weather got, Thank goodness!

Alaska Roadtrip

I drove through an eagle sanctuary, where I didn’t see a single eagle (come on!) and 40 miles down the road officially crossed into British Columbia.

And, Oh. My. Gosh.

Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, which covers essentially the entire drive through BC along the Haines Highway is INSANE.  I don’t think I could ever think of the correct words to describe it or ever take a picture that would do it justice.  It was an otherworldly beauty.  Like being on top of the world, far above any tree-line, and the glaciers, oh the glaciers.  There were dozens of them.  Everywhere I turned there was a new glacier.  Guys, if you ever get a chance to drive this highway through the park, do it.  It’s so worth it.

Haines HwyYou can just see a glacier straight ahead.

Haines HwyI haven’t even edited this picture, these vivid colors were real.  It was amazing.

Haines Hwy

I was a little sad to leave the park but as I continued into the Yukon it was still beautiful, different, but beautiful, and just so you know, everything you’ve ever thought about the Yukon, you know, that no one lives there and that its vast stretches of empty wilderness, ya, it’s all true.  I felt like I pushed forever just to reach Haines Junction, the point where I would meet up with the Alaska Highway.  I thought I would find a nice little town when I got there, but seriously, blink and you’d miss it.  I was so confused.  It’s definitely not a town that you need to spend any time in.  I filled up my gas tank and headed on my way.

Alaska HwyThe sunshine in Yukon was a vast change from the rainy weather that morning.

About 45 minutes down the road I officially made it to Lake Kluane, the Yukon’s biggest lake, and it definitely lived up to all my expectations.  It was beautiful (and freezing!).  The water was a pretty glacial blue, so photogenic, so I found a place where I could pull over and take some photos.  I could have honestly spent hours there but I had no idea how long it would take me to reach my campground for the night. I’d heard this would be the most difficult portion of the Alaska Highway to drive (and boy was it rough), so I wanted to make sure to give myself enough time.

Alaska HwyLake Kluane with a couple cairns stacked in front.

Alaska Hwy

Alaska HwyLook at the color of the water.  So, so pretty.

Alaska Hwy

Alaska HwyThe bugs in Yukon y’all, there were SO MANY!  My windshield was gross.

Not even 30 seconds down the road, I look out my window and what do I see playing on the shores of the lake?  A big ‘ole brown bear (Aka grizzly).  It’s a good thing the road was empty because I slammed on my breaks and yelled “that’s a grizzly!” out of sheer excitement.  I didn’t stop and take any pictures, although looking back I wish I had, but it was a pretty cool site and one of only a couple of wildlife sittings I had on the whole drive (the other was a group of wild horses about an hour down the road).

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful although very rainy.  I swear, I just couldn’t escape the stuff.

Alaska HwyThe road was terrible in many spots.  This is a small taste.  Later on it was full on gravel.

Alaska HwyThe rain would come in swift and hard.

Alaska HwyThen it would be as if the sun had never left.

Alaska Hwy

I ended up pulling into my campground around 5, it wasn’t raining at the time but the sky showed a real potential for it and I wasn’t excited in the least to set up my tent and spend the night in it, so when the owner of the campground offered to rent me one of their hard sided tents (it was only $10/night more) I jumped at the chance.  To have walls, a floor and a real bed?  Not a bad deal.

I moved in, cooked myself a bowl of ramen noodles for dinner and watched a movie, simply because I could.

Alaska HwyMy home for the night (the tent, not the car) at Discovery Yukon Lodgings.  I totally recommend this campground (they have cabins too!) for anyone traveling the Alaska Highway in the future.

Alaska HwyIt’s a bed, a real bed!

By 9:30 I was so wiped out I was more than ready for bed however I looked up and there was a spider on the ceiling directly above me.  Oh no, that was not going to work.  I jumped out of bed and did my best to explain to the spider that it needed to leave or I was going to be forced to kill it.  This went on for 20 minutes, 20 minutes!  I really tried but unfortunately in the end the spider had to meet its maker, I just couldn’t sleep otherwise.  The funny thing was though, as soon as I killed the spider I began to hear howling outside.

I thought “it can’t be…nah…..wolves???  wolves!” and a whole pack of them by the sound of it (at this point I was really VERY happy that I had opted not to sleep in my tent).  They could have been half a mile away, I’m not sure, but they sounded a lot closer, like feet away.  Way to close for comfort.

My thoughts?  Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Stay tuned for one more blog post as I wrap up the journey with days 5 and 6!


Leave a comment

Off to Alaska: The Alaska Ferry Day 3

Six AM comes early, but that was the time we were scheduled to land in Ketchikan and with only 3 hours in port and a lot to see I wanted to make sure I was off that ship as quickly as possible.

The night before a woman I had met on the ship, Lynn, and I decided we would go explore Ketchikan together. She really wanted to see totem poles and I really wanted to see Creek Street so we figured if we teamed up we could see more and hopefully keep each other on track because if you’re not back at the ferry when it’s scheduled to leave it WILL leave without you.

We made an agreement to make sure each other were up on time so we could get out and off.  The wakeup call proved unnecessary however because as we approached the port the purser came over the loud-speaker to let us know.  For some reason the announcements would just reverberate off of the steel on the deck and there was just no sleeping through it.

Thankfully, as we pulled into Ketchikan, even though it was overcast it wasn’t raining yet.  However, having grown up in Seattle I knew it could start raining at any time so I made sure I was fully prepared in case it started (and it did).

As soon as we got off the ship we were approached by a man who runs a shuttle into town (the ferry docks about 2.5 miles outside of the tourist center while the cruise ships port right in the middle of town). For $10 they would take us into town and then bring us back later. We figured it was a good deal so we went for it.

And a big plus of getting into port so early? We beat all the cruise ship passengers to the hot spots. Hooray!

Alaska FerryWelcome to Ketchikan!

Alaska FerryIf you rub the totems stomach you were supposed to get money within in hour.  Unfortunately It didn’t work.

Alaska FerryThis cruise ship towered above Ketchikan.  I’m sure if you put our ferry next to it, it would be like putting a Chihuahua and a Great Dane next to each other haha.

Alaska FerryCreek Street!  So cool!

Alaska Ferry

Alaska FerryPardon the poor quality of the photo but the river through town was literally solid with fish.  I had to document it.  Do you see them?

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

I had a blast exploring. After being on the ship for a full day it was nice to get off and stretch my legs. unfortunately by 8:00 the rain had caught up to us and we were experiencing a full on downpour so we hopped on the shuttle and headed back to the ship.

Now, if you remember, I had been sleeping in a tent attached to the top deck of the ship. unfortunately, when you’re set up on the steel deck of a ship the water has no place to go, so, when rain might not be a huge problem when you’re camping elsewear, on the ship it was a huge deal. While my stuff fared pretty well, poor Lynns entire bag was soaked. By lunchtime only 3 tents, including mine were left. Then the wind picked up and all the rest of us decided to just take our tents down. We didn’t want to sleep in them at that point anyway. Thankfully when people got off in Ketchikan reclining chairs underneath the solarium opened up so I was able to just claim a spot on an open chair and veg out.

Alaska FerryOnly a couple sad little tents left.  Mine was the grey one.

Alaska FerryMy new bed under the solarium for the last night on the ship.  It was actually really nice!

And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Honestly if I went back and did it again I would probably just skip the tent and sleep on the chair from the beginning (with a sleeping pad of course). The only thing is, the heat lamps that hang overhead (and are constantly going) make you really sleepy. That coupled with the rain made me want to sleep all day, so, to prevent myself from missing out on everything I headed back up to the forward viewing lounge to charge my laptop and do some writing.

We began our approach into Wrangell at 2:30 that afternoon and as we got close the water visibly changed from a murky brown to a glacial blue. It was really cool.

Alaska FerryThe contrast between the regular water and the glacial water was intense.

Alaska Ferry

Even though it was raining I decided to get off the ship in Wrangell, just to say I had been there. Wrangell and our next stop, Petersburg aren’t on the cruise ship route because the passages are to shallow/narrow, so I knew it would be a unique opportunity to see the town.

unfortunately we were there on a Sunday and literally everything was closed, even the grocery store. It was like a ghost town. The only sign of life was a little girl and her mom sitting under a tent selling garnets. apparently there is a rule in Wrangell that only children can sell garnets. I thought that was interesting.

Alaska FerryLooking back at the Columbia after getting off in Wrangell.  See what I mean about it being dwarfed by the cruise ships?

After an hour we were once again on our way toward Petersburg.

As we cruised through the channel we passed tons of little fishing shacks and little fishing communities. Even in the rain it was cool to see. There were some points during the voyage were we came so close to land that it felt like I could toss a rock and make it to shore. No wonder the huge cruise ships can’t get through.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska FerrySome of the channel markers the ferry had to navigate through.  Insane.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

I kept looking to see if any wildlife would show themselves. It looked like prime moose/bear country, but I think even they avoided the downpour, bummer.

After being disappointed in Wrangell I decided I wouldn’t even try to get off in Petersburg. The town is much larger than Wrangell but the rain was pounding and our stop was pretty short so I decided it just wasn’t worth it and elected to take pictures from the deck instead.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Even though the weather for the day was disappointing I still really enjoyed the sights. I’d love to go back and cruise through there again on a day with more favorable weather, although I hear those are few and far between.

Stay tuned for day 4, the last day on the ship and the first day of my roadtrip!


4 Comments

Off to Alaska: The Alaska Ferry Day 2

Ah, onward to the good stuff!

Lets start off by saying the quality of sleep I got that first night (as well as most people in tents) was the pits. I don’t know what it is about night-time on ships but the wind just pounded us. I probably woke up every 20 minutes fearful that my tent was going to blow away with me in it. Thankfully it didn’t, no ones did. The gorilla tape really did do a good job, thank goodness!

Alaska FerryThe Gorilla Tape did it’s job!

Now, I have to admit, when I got up Saturday morning, I wasn’t to optimistic that we would see anything that day since we were socked in an endless expanse of dense fog.

Seriously the fog was so thick at points that the captain was blowing the ships horn every 1-2 minutes (or at least it felt like it).

Alaska FerryThe weather got foggier as the morning went on.

Alaska FerryThe weather looked awful, but at least it wasn’t raining.

Since there was nothing to see I journeyed down to the forward viewing lounge, which is filled with seats similar to airplane style or what you would find on a typical ferry, found a good seat next a window (even thought I couldn’t see anything) and watched a movie on my laptop to pass the time.

About an hour later we had left the shelter of Vancouver Island and officially entered Queen Charlotte Sound. Because we were now in what was considered “open waters” the ship quickly began to rock and while I don’t normally get seasick I was feeling it so I decided to try and take a nap instead to ward off the nausea.

Alaska FerryThere was a digital map by the purser’s desk letting us know where we were at all times.

I woke up two hours later to hot sunshine hitting my tent. Sometime during my nap we had blasted through the fog layer and the weather had turned beautiful.

Not long later we were further rewarded with our first whale sighting of the trip. While they were a decent way from the ship I was able to capture some of the humpback whales acrobatics with my telephoto lens. As the day went on we spotted more and more whales, more often than not it was just the spray as they surfaced along with a little hump as they dove back down again, but a few times the whale would wave at us with its great tail.

Alaska FerryThis whale gave us a great show, jumping and playing around in the water.

Alaska FerryOther whales’ would only give us a brief glimpse.

Later on in the afternoon the captain came over the loud speakers to announce they had spotted a pod of Orcas. You’d never seen so many people jump up and head to the rails of a ship so quickly. The orcas however proved to be a little ship shy and we didn’t see them come up again until we were well past them unfortunately.

The real star of the day however was just the landscape. Oh it was so pretty. Endless fjords, islands and steep mountains diving into the deep ocean waters. Everytime I had to leave the deck to do something like eat or use the restroom I got really anxious, fearing I would miss something cool.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

Alaska FerryEvery now and again you’d catch a waterfall flowing into the ocean water.

Alaska Ferry

Alaska Ferry

We really did luck out immensely with the sun. A lot of voyages get stuck in rain the entire time, and while later on we got our fair share the day was spent cruising BC’s inside passage was so beautiful.

Stay Tuned for Day 3…


Leave a comment

Hope From Dust: Mexico Part 2

Ok guys, I’m ready to finish telling you about Mexico.  Pardon the long pause.  I sat down to write this several times and just didn’t have the energy or motivation.  I’m mean it’s summer after all, time to live life, play outside, have fun right?

Anyway, here we go…..

As I mentioned in my last post, this year I had the opportunity to serve as a leader on a site team the week we were down there.  Each site team has a total of 3 leaders, 2 adults and 1 youth, so I wasn’t the only one on the team, which is good, because the house would have never gotten finished!  Haha. No, I really had a wonderful team and wonderful co-leaders this year.  For the first time in a long time the adults were outnumbered by youth which was was cool to see.  It is meant to be a youth trip after all.

While last year almost all teams were building in the same little community, this year we were split to two different areas, miles and miles from each other.  6 teams built in one area, 4 teams in another.  My team was part of “the 4” and our community was up on the side of a hill/mountain with a beautiful view of the valley/town below.

When we arrived that first day we got a chance to meet the family we’d be building for, Elizabeth, Juan Carlos and their 3 year old daughter Estefani as well as Elizabeths parents.  All 5 of them lived in a tiny 1 room house.  Juan Carlos was the only family member who worked and he only brought in $100/week.  This was definitely one of the poorer families I’ve built for over the years, but what they lacked physically they made up for in joy and heart.

The first day of our 4 day build is always dedicated to getting the foundation laid.  If we can get that done we’re golden.  Once we had met the family and found out where they wanted doors etc. we got right to work.  Some worked to squaring/leveling the foundation, some took inventory and others sorted through the stacks of 12 ft 2×4’s we had to find the good ones. By lunch we were ready to start mixing concrete.

DAy 1

DAy 1

DAy 1Over the years we’ve learned tricks to make the build go smoother, and one of them is the more hands you have to do the work the quicker it goes, so when it’s possible we like to match up with other teams to get the foundation mixed and poured.  This year we happened to have a team just next door to us so we teamed up with them and cranked out our foundation in a couple hours, then we switched and worked on theirs.  Even though it took about the same amount of time overall it seemed to go by so much faster because of the change of scenery and the extra hands to mix.

DAy 1

DAy 1The second day of the build the goal is always to frame the walls/roof and get them up.  Sometimes we’re able to go beyond that, sometimes we aren’t.  This year we had a bit of a special situation.  The families lot was really small and cramped and the space they wanted us to place the house backed up against a large cinderblock wall on one side and onto their house on the other, meaning we had two walls we wouldn’t be able to stucco in the end.  The one wall that backed against the cinderblock wall was one of the longer walls in the house, so we got a little creative.  While that wall is usually built in two pieces then stood up, in this case we specially built that wall as one big piece then covered the outside with sheets of plywood (that isn’t actually what it’s called, but forgive me I don’t remember the technical name, you get the jist) and painted it white to make it look finished.  I’d never done that on a house before so it was cool to see/do.

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2The third day is dedicated to covering the walls and making the house actually start looking like a house.  This is a day where there is a lot of hammering going on.  I managed to hammer three fingers alone (I then had to play guitar that night at campfire, needless to say I had a tough time) and got a nice big blood blister on my thumb.  Yuck.  Anyways, back to the build.  Covering the walls isn’t complicated, there are just a lot of steps.  First you have to stretch the baling wire (we attach it to the walls before we stand them up), then you cover the walls in tar paper, next you cover the tar paper with chicken wire, and once that’s all tight and all the holes in the tar paper have been covered with duct tape you’re ready for your first coat of stucco.  While we’re doing this there are also people on the roof laying down tar paper, roofing paper and taring the cracks.  I haven’t worked on a roof in 7 years so forgive me if I forgot a step there 🙂 I should also mention that all throughout the build so far Juan Carlos, the father, had been helping us.  Once we reached the first coat of stucco his true talents shone through.  The man was a beast at stuccoing.  He was both fast and good.  We only had two walls on the house to stucco as I mentioned before, Juan Carlos took the big one and we took the little.  It took all of us just as long to do the little wall as it took him to do the entire big wall next to it.  Craziness!  This once again left us plenty of time to help out the site team next to us stucco their walls.

Day 3

Day 3

Day 3The 4th day is always about finishing the last coat of stucco and presenting the house to the family.  When we arrived Juan Carlos was already hard at work stuccoing the wall again, so we set up quickly to finish our little wall as well.  The whole house was done in about an hour.  Some of us went for a bit to another site to help since a good chunk of their team was down due to sickness, then we headed to Walmart to do some shopping for the family and when we had come back they had cooked an awesome lunch for us.  Chicken and homemade tortillas.  They set up a table inside the new house and we feasted, it was incredible. After lunch it was finally time to present the house to the family.  This was one of the most emotional presentations I’ve done yet. The family was so thankful for what we had helped do for them and Juan Carlos let us know that if we ever need help in the future he would be the first one there.

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4This is why I go to Mexico.  While I know many people that argue against the effectiveness of short term missions (and I understand their points in many cases), this trip to Mexico is a special situation.  It’s not about me, or the person next to me.  It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus and giving these families a wonderful gift in his name.  It’s not a fancy house by any means.  The same thing here in the US would probably serve as a storage shed, but to these families it is precious and life changing.  You can see it on their faces and hear it when they speak.

While I don’t know how much longer or how many times I will be going to Mexico with this group, I will go as long as God gives me the opportunity.  Even when a stomach bug goes around and it feels like the whole camp is throwing up (I thankfully didn’t get it until I’d been safely at home in Seattle for 3 hours, but still… ugh) there’s something magical about going down with Go Inc. and Amor and I already look forward to what God has in store next year.