Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


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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!

 


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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!