Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


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Savoring My Season

Hi y’all it’s been awhile, I know, but I’m alive, yay!

Things have quickly changed up here.  The leaves turned and were on the ground within a week and since then it’s just gotten progressively colder each day.  Like bitterly cold.  It was 14 degrees last week y’all, brrr.  It’s going to be a long winter.

Being back in college is hard, I can’t lie.  Tests and homework and roommates….  There were times in the last 7 years when I really, really missed school.  I know crazy right?  I mean, as my senior year of college wrapped up I absolutely couldn’t wait to be done with school, FOREVER.  This is something I distinctly remember, but still, as the longs days of class and nights filled with homework became distant memories I thought “hmmm, maybe I should go back to school again.”  Obviously, as I’ve stated before becoming a paramedic is something I’ve wanted for years but I actually considered going back to school several times to pursue several different avenues, studying Egyptology in Egypt is still one of my favorites.

Surprisingly I don’t hate tests and homework this time around, maybe it’s because I finally know what I want to do with my life?  Or maybe it’s because I’m not bogged down with 18 credits, not sure, but it really isn’t so bad.  That said I am still counting down the days until Christmas Break (37 days!) although it kinda terrifies me at the same time considering I have my EMT certification tests right before I fly home.  I mean, I’m sure I’ll do fine, but its scary none the less.

Moving away from class and homework and all things academic, I really am liking living here in Alaska.  While my specific living situation is less than ideal many days (long story, not for a blog), I do really like living in the KPC Residence Hall and have managed to find myself a small group of great friends.  We’re together so often others have come to call us “the elite 4” but we prefer to call ourselves “The Pevensies” (ala “The Chronicles of Narnia”) since no, we are not elitists.   Nights are usually filled with card games, late night runs to the store for ice cream, playing Wallyball or watching shows on the big TV out in our common area.  So far we’ve polished off “Sherlock” (and I’m tearing out my hair at the thought of having to wait another year for a new episode!) and now we’re working on “Warehouse 13” via Netflix.  If you haven’t seen it you totally should!  The pilot was absolute garbage but it’s gotten really good I must admit, and we can’t just sit an watch one episode at a time, we need to do at least 2 preferably 3.

We also try to have adventures as best as we can.  Things really close down/seal up around here after the tourist season ends but we manage to have a good time.  Recent adventures have included a bonfire at Kirsten’s moms house to roast hot dogs/marshmallows and burn Keevens disgusting shoes (they were real bad, trust me), a road trip to explore the beach up at Captain Cook Park, swimming at the Nikiski pool and a short jaunt to Girdwood for dinner (ya, Girdwood is a  2 hour drive…).  To be fair, after getting dinner we did run up to Alyeska to play in the snow and get a bit of our Narnia fix.  Totally worth it.

So there you have it, life thus far.  Not terribly exiting and not a lot to report on but so good none the less.  A year ago I would have never guessed I’d be here, and while each season has it’s challenges this one has been pretty sweet thus far and I’ve been happy to take a step back and really try to enjoy it.

Now if only it would snow, because lets be honest, the bitter cold and ice is getting old, and this Washington girl wants to go sledding!

And of course, what would a post be without pictures?  Keeven is a bit a of a selfie maniac so I have plenty to choose from like…

Lake night Ice Cream escapades to Safeway for Moosetracks!

Ice cream with friendsRoad tripping to Girdwood (R-L: Keeven, Kirsten, Me and Tobin)

Roadtrip to Girdwood

Building a mini snowman at Alyeska on our road trip adventure.

Roadtrip to Girdwood

Before I came up I found these fun photobooth props on clearance at Target so of course we had to play with the whilst singing “What does the Fox Say?”

friends

Oh and a picture from the Halloween dance at the Residence Hall last week.  I don’t have many pictures since I was the one behind the camera most of the time, but here’s Keeven and I, we were both Unicorns…

Halloween

And finally, a picture of a moose, because I feel like this is very Alaskan and I took this picture from my bedroom window.  There are so many moose y’all, it’s crazy!

moose

Fin

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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.

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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.

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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!


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Influenster #VitaVoxbox Review

I’m taking a break from my recent steady stream of Alaska blogs to go down a bit of a different path.

A little over a month ago I wrote a blog about a box of goodies I received (aka voxbox) from a website called Influenster.  I must say, Influenster is a pretty cool site. Part of me wants to keep it to myself in order to keep the pool smaller and increase my chances of receiving products in the future, and the other part of me wants to tell everyone I know to sign up because it’s that cool.

From what I can tell Influensters main purpose is product testing/reviews.  Once you sign up you put yourself in the running to receive what they call a Voxbox.  This is a box of free items that you get the chance to test out and review.  Sometimes there are items from multiple brands in the box, sometimes it only focuses on one, it really depends.  The probability of someone being chosen for a voxbox also depends on a couple of factors, demographics being a huge one, but also your social media presence as well as how active you are on their website doing reviews etc.

I signed up for Influenster at the beginning of June and already received my second Voxbox, the Vitality Voxbox, last month!

Influenster Vitality Voxbox

Before they choose you to receive a box Influenster sends out an email survey to make sure you qualify.  In this case I wasn’t feeling to confident because the first half of questions were all about coffee, and if you know me you know I think coffee is gross.  The big bummer about that though?  Ya, last month Influenster launched a voxbox with the new Keurig 2.0!  People received the Keurig to try out for FREE.  I was so bummed, if only I liked coffee!  But, despite me obviously not qualifying to receive the Keurig I did qualify for this other voxbox and I still think it’s pretty great.

So you wanna know what was in it?  Here’s a little picture overview…

Influenster Vitality Voxbox

This time around I really wanted to try everything out (well, to the extent that I could) before writing this blog so that I could write thoughtful reviews.  So here’s what I thought about everything

First Up,

First Degree Advanced Burn Cream ($5.97-$8.99)-  Between cooking and flat ironing/curling my hair I get little burns all the time, but you know what?  I’ve had this burn cream for a month, ready to go and not a single burn!  I mean, in all honesty that’s a good thing.  I would never wish for a burn nor burn myself on purpose just to try out a product.  So yes, I haven’t used this yet, but I have heard great reviews from others if that makes a difference.  According to the box it “helps reduce the appearance of scars, protects against infection” and “soothes the pain and cools the burn,” all of which are a plus.

Influenster Vitality Voxbox

Elizabeth Arden FLAWLESS FUTURE Powered by Ceramide Caplet Serum ($60 for 1.0 fl oz)-  That’s a bit of a mouthful no? So, I didn’t receive a full size of this in my box but I did receive a big enough sample to give it a good try.  I do really like the packaging, or I guess moreover the appearance of the serum.  As it sits in the bottle there appears to be little pearls suspended in a clear gel but then once you pump it out everything gets mixed together into a pearlescent serum.  The purpose of the serum according to the packaging is to “reinforce skin’s essential moisture barrier, even skin tone, retexturize, and reduce the appearance of early signs of wrinkles.”  I’ve been using the serum everyday after I wash my face and I can say I’ve noticed a difference.  While wrinkles aren’t really a problem for me just yet I have seen my pores shrink as well as my skin just tighten and brighten overall.  The serum is also very lightweight and dries quickly, which is nice.  The only thing not so nice?  The price.  It will probably be a little while before I can get some for myself but for any of you willing to spend a little extra on your skincare routine I definitely recommend it.

Influenster Vitality VoxboxJust ignore the ugly chipped fingernails pro favor, they’re really bad but the serum is really good.

Playtex Sport Fresh Balance ($3.99)- Playtex/PLaytex Sport Tampons aren’t new to me.  I like them a lot and have used them for years.  The only thing I don’t like about these specific tampons are that they’re “lightly scented.”  From my experiences in the past scent is just not a good thing in this area so I probably wouldn’t buy these specific tampons in the future.

Pure Leaf Iced Tea (Sweetened)- I don’t like iced tea, I just don’t. Hot, Chai tea?  Yes, but ice tea, no.  That being said, I really debated whether I would try this or not in order to review it.  In the end though, I knew what I would think about it.  It could be the best sweet tea in the world and I still wouldn’t like it.  The positive is that I have a roommate who likes tea a lot so I decided to give it to her and have her tell me what she thinks.  The verdict? She liked it!  At first she thought it was to sweet but she let me know that it grew on her and she liked it in the end.  She has also tried the unsweetened version before and really liked that as well. #contest @PureLeaf

Influenster Vitality Voxbox

Softlips Cube ($3.49)-  I have to admit, this was the item in the box that I was the most excited about.  I’m such an 8 year old at heart haha.  If you know the softlips brand you’re probably used to seeing their packaging as long, skinny tubes.  In recent years other brands with more squat, cute packaging have been gaining popularity.  I’ll admit, I bought some of the competitors because I liked that I could just sit them on my desk at work and they wouldn’t roll away.  Softlips must have been paying attention to this because now they’ve released the new Cube version in three different flavors.  I received the fresh mint flavor in my box.  I was a little apprehensive at first because I don’t usually gravitate toward mint, but this mint must have some sort of menthol in it because my lips felt cool and icy as soon as I put it on.  I definitely liked it and I totally recommend it!  If you’re thinking of trying out this new chapstick here’s a link to a coupon for $1.00 off two.

and last but not least,

Bikini Ready Energy Gummies ($14.99/Jar)-  Some select voxboxes contained full size jars of these gummies but I unfortunately only got a sample, therefore I don’t think my review will hold as much weight was someone who was really able to try it out, but I will tell you my thoughts.  My little pack contained 2 gummies, which is essentially a single serving.  According to the packaging they “taste great,” and it “boosts metabolism” and “increases energy.”  But also if you read the small print on the back it says “two Bikini Ready Energy Gummies provides approx. 20mg of caffeine equivalent to 1/4 cup of brewed coffee.”  I don’t know about you but based on that statement I would need to eat a whole lot more than 2 gummies to get the energy boost I need.  The gummies themselves remind me of small sugar covered gumdrops.  The taste isn’t bad, not great like the package claims, but not bad.  The aftertaste however?  Horrible!  And it lingered.  I had to go drink a cup of juice just to get rid of it.  I also didn’t notice an increase in energy or metabolism however I’m sure it would take much more than one days worth to notice a difference there.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

Influenster Vitality Voxbox

So there you go, the #vitavoxbox.  If you like getting free things I definitely recommend going to their website and signing up, it’s really easy (and no, I was not asked to advertise them, I just think everyone should get a chance to take advantage of the opportunity if they would like).

You can follow my link here to get yourself all signed up!

So have you tried any of the above products before?  Anything you’re going to try?

* I received the above products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.  The opinions are my own.

 


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Home Sweet…Dorm

I’ve made it through my first two weeks of college… again.

I’ll admit, I was a bit apprehensive.  After not having class schedules, homework, assigned reading, notes etc. for more than 7 years I wasn’t sure how this would go, but go it did, and it’s not so bad.  I love my EMT class and my Anatomy and Physiology class is tolerable.  I can definitely get used to this whole 10 credits/semester thing (the first time around I always took the max, which was usually 18 credits).

Really the point of this blog post today is nothing exciting or heavy.  The main reason is to give my family/friends back home a glimpse of the place I live, and then a secondary reason is to give anyone like me, who is thinking of living in the Resident Hall here at KPC but lives to far away to visit a glimpse of what they could be getting themselves into.

So, without further ado, let the tour commence!

I must be honest, the idea of living in the dorms again was scary to me.  As I mentioned before, I’ve done the whole dorm thing already, all 4 years of my bachelors degree in fact.  So, at 29, the idea of moving into a dorm with a bunch of 18 year olds was obviously unappealing.  I mean, what would we have in common?  It turns out I didn’t need to worry though.  While yes there are 18 year olds in the dorm there are also 40 year olds.  It’s not a traditional dorm setting in any way.  In fact there are a lot of differences between the dorms here at KPC and the dorms I’ve lived in before, for better and for worse.

To start things off there are blackout curtains on the windows (perfect for summers and afternoon naps) and there is ambient floor heat (perfect for cold winter days and walking around barefoot).  This was one of the first features pointed out to me when I arrived and I knew I would like this place.

The resident hall is located just across the street from the Kenai Peninsula College (hereafter referred to as KPC) campus, and, fortunately, the campus is pretty small so I can be to any class in less than 5 minutes if needed.

The dorm building itself is a big L shape with the hub of activity located right at the intersection of the two wings.

Kenai Peninsula College DormsWalking toward the dorms from campus.  The parking lot is to the right.  My room is in the long wing going towards the left, on the second floor and on the opposite side of the building.

Kenai Peninsula College DormsWildflower garden outside of the dorm that adds a nice pop of color.  I’ll be sad when these are gone.

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms

Kenai Peninsula College DormsNo dorm names needed around here to keep things straight, there’s only one dorm so “student housing” is more than sufficient.

When you walk through the front doors the front desk is immediately to your left and the stairs/elevator to the right.  If you keep going forward you hit the multi purpose room and then the Fireplace commons where there’s tons of seating and a huge TV (as well as a fireplace as the name suggests).  There’s been several nights where I’ve walked by and found various dorm-mates playing board games or watching a movie here.

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms

Turn around and you’ve found our “mail room,” announcements board and one of many recycling stations found all over the dorms.

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms

When you walk up the stairs you reach a landing with a pool table, ping-pong table and vending machines.  The machine in the middle even sells microwave dinners, although I doubt I will ever be desperate enough to shell out $5 for one.  Thank goodness I have a car!

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms

Also on the second floor is our laundry room with free, that’s right FREE laundry (although I’m sure the cost is included in our rent).  Back in my Liberty U days I would often have to carry my laundry basket around campus, my pocket full of quarters, searching for a free washing machine, now I just have to walk down the hall, PTL!

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms

And right next to the laundry room is the gym.  It’s simple, just a few cardio and weight machines, but for this poor “college kid” this thing is golden!

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms

Because we don’t have the ability to organize dorms into different “halls” based on separate floors like many other schools the KPC dorms are instead separated into communities, most of which focus on a specific interest of the people living in them.  For example there is the Academic Excellence Community, the Alaska Native Community, The Substance Free Community etc.  I live in what is known as the Emergency Response Community, so, anyone with medical/legal interests (i.e.. nursing, paramedic, law enforcement) most likely lives in our community.

Kenai Peninsula College Dorms1. Right outside the gym we have this nifty Brita Hydration Station which I love since I forgot my pitcher back in Seattle. 2. Glimpses of the hallway. 3.  Next to each suite door there is a small bulletin board where announcements get posted.  Here’s one for a Nerf War they had in the dorms over Labor Day weekend.

Each community consists of 4 suites and an RA room all situated around a little sitting area.  Here is the sitting area in our community (we do have 4 chairs, but one disappeared…).  It’s a nice place to relax and watch TV, because yes, we do have cable (what?!), or should I say Direct TV.  The channels are really weird, 4.2, 55.8… who thought of that?  Why couldn’t they just stick with the regular 1,2,3,4 system?

KPC residence Hall

Outside of every door is a tag with the names of the students living inside.  Here’s the one for my apartment/suite.

KPC residence HallMaybe I forgot to mention the type of school I’m really going to.  At least I got sorted into the good house, no sorting hat needed 😉

Then, when you walk through our door this is what you see.  Our living room area is to the right, and kitchen to the left.  Straight ahead are two of the bedrooms. Mine is the first bedroom on the right.  We are also currently working on putting together a gallery wall above the kitchen table there.  The hope is to make it to look more like a home and less like a hotel room.

KPC residence Hall

Then, turn around and this is what you see.  We have a place to hang up coats etc. next to the door, there’s two more bedrooms/a bathroom straight ahead and then to the left you can see the utilitarian furniture we have in our living room.  It’s not pretty, but at least it’s not that uncomfortable.  We’re also brainstorming ideas right now for what to put on that big blank wall.  Pictures to come once it’s finished.

KPC residence Hall

And here’s our kitchen.  It’s a full kitchen with tons of storage space.  Not to shabby!

KPC residence Hall

Can you tell I have a love affair with the home section at Target?  I love, love, love everything Threshold!

KPC residence Hall

Now it’s time to see the bedroom, yay!  This is definitely my happy place.  It’s so bright and fun.  Having my own bedroom definitely makes living in the dorms worth it.  If I had to have a roommate I don’t know if I could do it.  Even though the bedrooms are tiny and storage is limited I just love my cozy little space.

KPC residence HallIt’s amazing what color can do.  The bedspread is from my trip to India way back on Semester at Sea, the rug I got on clearance at target (80% off!), and all of those pictures?  Ya they’re all stuck to the wall either using 3M strips or sticky tac.  Amazing the things we have to work with these days.

KPC residence Hall

KPC residence HallThe closet was kind of poorly designed.  They set the bar way to far forward, so I couldn’t close the curtain if I wanted to unfortunately.  Oh well, life goes on.

Oh, and here’s an interesting little tidbit.  We have to use a keycard to get into everywhere, and I mean everywhere, even my bedroom.  You flash it over the little black strip you see in the picture below to unlock the door.  It’s actually pretty interesting.  And the lights are super cool too.  They’re motion activated, so you push the little top button to turn them on and then after so many minutes if they don’t sense a movement they’ll start beeping.  This usually happens to me at night when I’m laying on my bed doing something, but to keep it from turning off I just move my leg real quick and it resets, otherwise, if I didn’t move after about 30 seconds of beeping they would just switch off.  Very energy-efficient.

KPC residence Hall

On to the bathroom!  When I walk out of my bedroom this is what I see.  There are two bathrooms in each suite, so I share this bathroom with my roommate Courtney.  The toilet/shower area is actually its own separate room so someone could be talking a shower and the other person could be brushing their teeth at the same time.  It’s great.

KPC residence Hall

The showers actually came with heavy-duty extra long shower curtains, but we found it didn’t quite stretch from side to side, so, since I’d brought a shower curtain with me we went ahead and hung it up in front of the other on, just to get a little extra coverage.  Well, that, and it’s prettier 🙂

KPC residence HallThe lack of storage in the bedrooms is definitely made up for.  In the bathroom there is a great little area to keep any extra things we might have and then there is also a linen closet in the hallway which has proven to be a great spot to store my luggage… and laundry detergent… and extra blankets… ya, 80% of the stuff you see in there is mine.

So there you have it, my little dorm home.  When I first applied to live in student housing (begrudgingly) I only thought I would stay for a semester.  Now, I’ll admit, I’m rethinking it.  Living in the dorms isn’t so bad after all.


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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!


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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!


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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!


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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…


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Off to Alaska: Alaska Ferry Day 1

8/16/2014

I’m writing this blog as I sit on the back deck of the MV Columbia, the largest in the Alaska Ferry Systems fleet, enjoying the scenery of the inside passage as it rolls by (although you will probably be reading this several days after the fact since there is no wifi on the ship). I must say God surely had a special plan when he created this piece of coastline because it is beyond beautiful.

I’m still in awe that I’m even sitting here to begin with. Although I dreamed of taking the Alaska Ferry one day, I thought that day would most likely be several years down the road. However because my parents weren’t to keen on the idea of me driving all the way from Seattle to Soldotna on my own they graciously offered to help cover the costs beyond my budget (because taking the ferry isn’t cheap) simply for their piece of mind.

Alaska Ferry- The milepost 40 years apartMy dad found an old copy of The Milepost that he had.  I thought it was interesting that they were exactly 40 years apart, and look at that price difference!

The ferry officially departed Bellingham at 6pm last night but they requested that all passengers be at the terminal by 3, so my plan was to leave my house by 11:30 am, 12 at the latest. That plan failed miserably. After last-minute items thrown in the car, pictures and tearful goodbyes I think I finally pulled out of my driveway just after 12:30. Even though I had beaten “rush hour,” traffic was essentially awful the entire way. My plans to stop for lunch had to be thrown to the wayside which allowed me to pull into the parking lot at the terminal at exactly 3:05. I thought maybe I would have a chance to walk up to Fairhaven to grab a quick bite but the guy who handed me my ticket let me know I needed to get my car in line ASAP, so I did.

Considering my car was the last in line I thought I’d get out and snap a quick picture of the ship. I was gone from my car for maybe 3 minutes and as soon as I sat down a man came up and told me he was going to let me go ahead and go next (as in skip the dozen+ cars in front of me) because “that is one of the benefits of having a small car.” My first thought was that my car isn’t that small but I wasn’t going to argue and drove past all the waiting cars with a big smile on my face.

Alaska FerryBack view of the MV Columbia.  This is all I could get before rushing back to my car and getting on.

What happened next was awesome and terrifying. I rode in an elevator in my car y’all. It was the weirdest feeling. Very unnatural.

The ferrys’main car deck is on the bottom deck of the vessel however they do have a smaller car deck on the second floor and the only way in or out is by elevator. Weird.

Alaska FerryThe car in front of me going up!

When I finally got my car parked I quickly pulled my bag out of the car and rushed to the top deck to find a place to put my tent. From research I knew that the Columbia has two decks where you can place your tent, deck 6 or deck 8. The deck 6 area was already pretty full by the time I boarded so I headed up to the eighth and there was plenty of space. And you know what? Even though I’m sure it’s a bit windier than the other deck, I feel like there is a greater sense of community between everyone up here on 8.  I like it.

I made friends quickly. People helped me set up my tent, I helped others set up theres and everyone became very fond of my roll of Gorilla Tape in order to attach their tents to the deck since there’s no way to stake it down.

Alaska FerryTent City set up and ready to go on the top deck of the Columbia.  The solarium is directly to the right.

Alaska FerryThe sign says it all.  To bad.

Alaska FerryMy “cabin” aboard the Columbia.

After everything was set up we all had time to kill before departure and started to get to know our neighbors.  I think the favorite question between passengers was “so where are you getting off?”

I was surprised, there are a lot of people on the ferry just for the ride, taking it up to Skagway then back to Bellingham.  Sounds like an adventure.

Alaska FerryLooking Back at Bellingham.

Alaska FerryThe Bellingham “cruise” terminal.

At exactly 6 we began to pull out of Bellingham. It was a bit bittersweet knowing it was going to be my last look at Washington until at least December but the air of excitement on the ship was contagious. Everyone anticipated the adventures to come and as we sailed past the San Juan Islands everyone knew the best views were still ahead.

Alaska FerryThe weather for our departure was perfect.  Here’s one of the viewing decks on the 7th deck of the ship.

Alaska FerryI’d say you can’t beat waking up to a view like this.

Alaska FerryI thought splurging on some fish and chips for dinner would be completely appropriate. 

Alaska FerryNext Stop, Ketchikan!

Stay tuned for day 2….


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That Moment Everything Starts Feeling Very Real

I’ve never been the homesick type.  Not to say leaving home is always easy for me but the separation just isn’t that hard.  I mean I do have my moments where I rather be home than anywhere else, birthdays, holidays….

Like the first Christmas I ever spent away from home.  I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  With the time difference between there and the west coast the time when my family was all getting together to celebrate fell at about 6am Thailand time (the day after Christmas). Despite the early hour I resolved the get up and Skype with them, I’d never missed Christmas and this was huge for me.

I remember bawling when the internet at our guesthouse failed, tears continuing to run down my cheeks as I wandered the streets of Chiang Mai in my pajamas trying the find an internet cafe that was open, and I did, thankfully, and only got one funny look.

That was the first time I really truly felt homesick, a horrible ache that fortunately didn’t last long.

So why do I tell you this?

Because I am having a severe case of separation anxiety right now.  Homesickness without having even left home.

Did you know that this is the longest period I’ve spent at home, in Seattle, since graduating college 11 years ago? One year, 7.5 months.  And if I’ve learned nothing else from my time at home it’s that the longer you stay in one place the harder it is to leave it.

And what’s funny is I’ve probably said “I can’t wait to get out of here” (“here” being more specifically my parents house) at least 2 dozen times over the past 6 months alone, but now that I’m faced with the reality of departure in only 3 short days, I’m beginning to mourn what I leave behind.

Possibly it’s because the future is so full of uncertainty.  The present, while not preferable on most accounts is definitely comfortable.  I have a family I can rely on, friends to hang out with, a church family I can serve with….

But in a few short days those all melt away.  As I stand on the deck of the MV Columbia and wave goodbye to Washington I’ll be waving goodbye to all I know and love for an uncertain amount of time.  While there will definitely be visits seeing as how I’ve spent 2 Christmases away from home now and that’s more than enough to last a lifetime, my life will no longer be in Washington, at least for this season.

I know that once I reach Soldotna, start settling in and creating a new life this sadness will fade away, it always has before and God always provides for me, but for now, it aches.

There is a bright side though.  It’s kinda like when you’re physically injured and people try to tell you that the pain is good because at least it means you’re not dead. This pain is good too, because it means I have something really good to come back to one day.

And on a final note can I just say Praise the Lord for things like FaceTime, Skype and even cell phones.  I can’t imagine what this separation would have been like 20 years ago.  Technology is making the world smaller and smaller everyday.

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Ok now that I’ve gotten all those emotions out I wanted to just share some pictures from this summer, highlighting some of those things that are so hard to leave behind (get ready, this is about to get photo heavy!).

We’ll kick things off here with the 4th of July.  July 4th has always been a big deal for my family.  I grew up on a dead end street so all the neighbors would get together, BBQ and light off fireworks for hours, it was awesome!  Now, while personal fireworks are illegal most place around us, we live in a little unincorporated sliver, meaning there are no rules governing fireworks, and EVERYONE knows this so they come to our neighborhood and have a good ‘ole time.  This means our fireworks with friends/neighbors tradition gets to continue and we get to enjoy a pretty stinken big fireworks spectacular without ever having to leave our driveway.

Here’s my sweet niece Ellie rocking her Seahawks shirt and a huge sparkler, followed by my little sis Emily, her guy Richard and my soon-to-be nephew Ezekial 🙂

4th of JulyYay for fireworks!

4th of July

4th of July

Then one day in July my Moms family all gathered together at my grandparents house to eat dinner and watch old films from when my grandparents were younger…

But first let me just say that my Grandparents have some of the prettiest hydrangeas in town

Grandparents

My sweet grandma

Grandparents

The whole watching films thing turned into a bit of a debacle, mostly because no one could figure out how to set it up

Grandparents

Eventually we got it rolling, but we had to hand crank the bottom roll and after 5 minutes it started melting!… So we switched to slides instead and that seemed to work better

Grandparents

Next up came the birthday parties.  A lot of times in my family it can take us awhile to get together so we end up rolling multiple b-days into one.  This one included 4 in total: Both my aunts, mine and my cousins daughter Sammy.

Here’s Ellie and Sammy playing in the river

Bdays

And when they got done playing in the water they decided to pick Huckleberry’s instead, yum!

Bdays

I played a little next to the river too, with my camera that is.  Selfie time!

Bdays

And then there’s always cake of course.  My aunt and I shared a cake this year because honestly no one needs 4 cakes… well maybe sometimes you do 🙂

Bdays

I of course couldn’t leave Washington without getting up to my mountain (aka Mt. Rainier) one last time, so I took a couple of the girls from my youth group up hiking at Sunrise.

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

And then came my last day at work.  My co-workers were incredible and blessed my socks off as I left.  I’ve only been gone for a week so far, but I’ll admit, I’m a little sad not getting to work with them everyday.  There are some really cool ladies right here.

Last day

This is Tracey, our lone Chinese agent.  I called her my Chinese mom.  This sweet lady has done some awesome things in her life!

Last day

Yep, I’m definitely going to miss them

Last day

And finally I leave off this post not with something I’m sad about leaving behind, but with something that makes me excited about my future.

At the beginning of July I got a chance to volunteer for Seatac Airports Tri-Annual Drill (TRIACE) and it was incredible!  I played one of 300 victims of a plane crash (they even had a whole backstory).  This was the largest drill of its kind ever done on the west coast and involved close to 200 emergency personal and even helicopters!

I made sure that I got there early enough in the morning to get one of the good (aka worst) injuries.  See, triage essentially has 4 stages, Black= dead or will die, Red= Needs to get to a hospital ASAP, Yellow= Needs to go to a hospital but can wait and Green= Not hurt or minor injuries.  My injury was in the red level and I had burns on my face, arm, neck and chest.  When we got there they gave us costumes and makeup to wear.  Mine involved this prosthetic burned chest piece that was definitely made for a guy as well as a t-shirt with the whole front burned away.  It’s a good thing I wore a tank top that day or I would have been showing a lot more than I cared to!

Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like.  My cellphone is lame and only has a rear facing camera so this is the best I could do.

Seatac DrillOnce the drill started they shuttled us all to the north end of the third runway and we all spread out on the tarmac around a training plane that the port has.  Thankfully it was the morning an not to hot yet otherwise I would have gotten a decent and patchy sunburn!

Once the drill began I felt like everything went really quickly.  Firefighters first got everyone that could walk away then came around  and tagged everyone with their triage level.  According to the description on a little card I got I could only sob in pain and say “I don’t know” to any questions asked (and not walk).  I’m not the best actress but I think I was pretty convincing.

This was my first experience on a backboard and my first experience in an ambulance, and it got me super stoked to become a paramedic.  Seriously guys, it’s going to be an awesome job.  It was also my first experience being interviewed for the news, although I didn’t make it on because of all the wildfire coverage going on at the time.  Oh well.

Here are a couple pictures I snagged from the write up the Seattle PI did about the event.  If you want to see more you can find it here.

I picked out this first one because I’m in it… barely haha.  If you look at the firefighters arm pointing and then work your way up to the first person laying down sideways, ya, that’s me.  I’m pretty famous now 😉

Drill

*Photo from the Seattle PI

Drill

*From the Seattle PI

You can also find more pictures from a different perspective on the Btown Blog here.  Every airport is required by the FAA to do a drill every three years, so if you get a chance to do one at your local airport I totally recommend it, and let me just say our emergency team were rockstars.  God willing they will never need to come together for an emergency like this, but if they do everyone will be in good hands.