Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer has come to an end!

This summer seemed to have lasted FOREVER! It has been gorgeous here in Alaska!!! Yes, rain and all!!!! There have been a lot of rainy days, but quite honestly, I will take cool and rainy over hot and humid ANY.DAY!

We made the best of the 3 summer months. My kids played outside with all of their new neighborhood friends, we explored Anchorage and the surrounding area, we went camping, Adam's sister and her husband came up for a week and a half, and we went up to Denali! We had a GREAT Summer!

I am enjoying Alaska more and more as our time here passes. Adam and I have actually told each other on several occasions that we just don't want to leave. It is just way too nice here! And the weather is perfect for us! I am definitely NOT a hot weather person! Give me jeans, a hoodie, and temps in the 50's and I am a happy girl! Throw some fall foliage in there and my world would almost be complete!  When Adam's enlistment is up, I really don't know what we are going to do! He may try to extend his time here, we may just get out and settle here, or we may end up moving on and hope to fall in love with the next place we go to. Who knows! We've got time to decide!

Adam's sister, Amanda, and her hubby, Dave, came up for a visit. We showed them all around the base! We even went to a few areas that we had never been before! We discovered this amazing view from a small, scary road on the back side of the base!

Then we decided to go across the highway to the other area the base owns called Arctic Valley! And, I had my VERY FIRST WILD BEAR SIGHTING! I was seriously ecstatic!! I was on a wild Alaska high or something! lol!! I just couldn't contain how excited I was to see a BEAR that wasn't behind the bars of a cage! {don't worry, we were all safely in the car!}

We wanted to really bring them up there to see the amazing view of Anchorage, the bear was just an added bonus!

We finally made our way up to Denali with Amanda and Dave! We went to Costco the night before to grab all of our food supplies for the trip and packed it all up! I think we may have packed a liiiiiiiiittle bit too much! But, at least we were well fed!

The trip was AMAZING! And quite honestly, pictures didn't do it any justice! The drive up there was incredible! We pulled over a few times for views, lunch, and some.... potty breaks in the middle of nowhere! { yeah, I wasn't that adventurous! I held it! lol} We pulled over one time for Nicholas to go to the bathroom and we saw the train heading up to Denali! He was ECSTATIC!!!

Denali Alaska 2012

The drive was quite nice. We took 2 cars since Amanda and Dave were going to be doing some more exploring around Alaska without us. So, we had the kids in our car and we followed Amanda and Dave. We left Maddybug here with a friend. We knew she wouldn't enjoy the long shuttle trip through the park or the hiking { and I honestly think it was the best decision we made as much as I HATED it. I missed her tons :( }. So, it was just My sister-in-law, her hubby, Kenzie, Nicholas, Adam and myself on this adventure. The drive was actually pretty quiet for the most part. When we realized Nicholas was passed out... we just DROOOOOOOOOOOVE. We stopped after he woke up to eat lunch. But, we wanted to take advantage of him sleeping, so we let our bellies growl for a bit!

It was a 4 hour drive that turned in to a bit longer due to some pit stops ( ie: walmart to grab some walkie talkies.... Adam and Amanda had a BLAST with that! lol) We got to the cabin that afternoon and were really taken back by how gorgeous it was! I REALLY wish I took some shots of the cabin and the grounds. The cabin was cute! {yes! I said cute!} It was perfect for the 6 of us to sleep in and have plenty of room to walk around,  places to eat and sleep, a small kitchen area complete with a mini fridge, dishes, sink, and COFFEE MAKER! ... and a bathroom/shower to use. Oh and a friggin amazing view! It was incredible!! We stayed at Healy Heights in the Windward Cabin, and it is just 12 miles from the Denali Park Entrance.

Denali Alaska 2012

After we checked in to the cabin,  unloaded all of our stuff, and grilled up some dinner, we headed down to "Glitter Gulch", the town just outside of the park entrance. It is a cute little town full of local shops and places to eat. Again, I wish I got more pictures of the actual area, but, I didn't. We were having a bit of a grumpy  night with Nicholas... so my attention was elsewhere. 

Denali Alaska 2012

Denali Alaska 2012

Nicholas was having a rought evening. I think the long car ride just got to him. So, he and daddy had several daddy/son talks that evening.
Denali Alaska 2012

We did a little exploring, bought a few things from the gift shops, I bought a new tripod for the shuttle tour the next day {which I didn't use ONCE!}, and then we grabbed some ice cream and headed back to the cabin! We needed to rest up for our LONG shuttle trip bright and early the next morning, Amanda and Dave's 6th Anniversary!!

We woke up in time, surprisingly! And we got to the Visitor Center in plenty of time to catch our shuttle!
Denali Alaska 2012

It was a gorgeous day out! Started out a bit cool, but it was CLEAR! And that is what we were hoping for. Apparently only 30% of the people who come to Denali actually get a chance to see the Big Mountain, McKinley! We were still about 85 miles away from that actual mountain here, but it was such an amazing view! We were so excited to actually be able to see it!

Denali Alaska 2012

Here is Kenzie and Nicholas with Aunt Amanda with Denali waaaaay in the background!

Denali Alaska 2012

Our shuttle driver was great! He had so many random facts to tell us about the park and everything inside of it! Even though it was his first summer driving the park road! He pulled over several times to let us take in the views and try to spot some wildlife!
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Denali Alaska 2012

Denali Alaska 2012 Denali Alaska 2012 Denali Alaska 2012

It took us a little over three hours to get as far in to the park as our shuttle was going to go. At that point we hadn't seen much wild life. But, boy did that change when we got out at the Tolkat Visitor Center! We got out to stretch and enjoy the view of the Tolkat river! It was gorgeous, as is the rest of the park!

Denali Alaska 2012

They had some antlers/horns on display for visitors to pick up and check out! Check out that rack on my hubby!!!

Denali Alaska 2012

The scenery was just incredible!!! I think we all were getting used to the feeling that there was no animals out that day! There was nothing in sight!
Denali Alaska 2012


Denali Alaska 2012

This bear came out of NOWHERE!!!! He was moving fast, too!!! The shuttle drivers were running around trying to get people back on the buses before the bear realize how many entree's he had sitting before him! Nicholas didn't even notice the bear, even with people shouting at him to move back and get on the bus! He finally caught on after Amanda and I and a shuttle driver kept hollering at him and running to grab him. Everyone made it on the bus safely and the bear went about his business. He walked down the river bed to go dig up some roots. So, we were all let off the busses for a bit longer to see what the visitor center had to offer!
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We bought the kids each a monocular so they can check out the views without having to wait for the binoculars we brought to be passed around. Then we headed back on the bus to make the three hour trek back to the park entrance.

Denali Alaska 2012

On our way past the visitor center, we saw our little friend again!

Denali Alaska 2012 Denali Alaska 2012

We stopped at a rest area and we snapped a pic of hubby and his sister... don't they look alike?! lol!

Denali Alaska 2012

And pretty close to the end of our trip, we saw another bear!
Denali Alaska 2012

Shortly after this, we got off the shuttle so we could go see the dog sled demonstration. Mackenzie and Dave were in heaven!!! Mackenzie is a big animal lover and Uncle Dave REALLY wants a dog!!! So, I think this was their favorite part of the trip!

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It started raining after we saw the dogs. So, I put my camera away. I didn't get any pictures of the actual demonstrations. But, MAN! These dogs are STRONG!! They pulled around a dog sled like it was nothing!! And they were so excited about it!!! It was a great way to finish the day! Oh, but, that wasn't the end of the day.... We decided that since we didn't get to hike much while we were back farther in Denali, that we would hike the rest of the way back to the visitor center. It wasn't too far. Only about 2 miles. Which, we have done with the kids several times before! But, Nicholas was DONE! There was no shuttle for us to take at that point so, we had to suck up walking with a melting down 6 year old.

We ended up making it about a mile and a half and then caught a shuttle the last part of the way. The kids were spent.  And I think we were tired of hearing the complaining and whining and crying... oh yeah, and screaming! lol!!!

So, we got back to the car, headed back to the cabin, got cleaned up, then headed to eat at The Salmon Bake!We had some delicious food that filled our bellies then headed back to the cabin to crash!

The next day, Amanda and Dave headed out quite early to do their next shuttle tour. We had reserved two tours as well, but we ended up canceling the second one. I am kind of glad we did. I don't think the kids would have enjoyed a second day of being cooped up in a shuttle again. So, we went back to the park and explored the science center, then made our way back towards Anchorage. But, we had to make one pit stop first! Adam knew we were going to be driving right past Talkeetna both ways of the trip. So, we decided to stop on the way back. He saw an episode of Man Vs Food filmed there. So, of course, we had to stop at the West Rib Cafe and Pub!

It was actually quite good!!! Adam got a Caribou Burger! I tasted it and it was surprisingly better than my regular beef burger! And actually a little bit better FOR you!!! Go figure! The kids got grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese! lol!!! And then dessert!!! Rum bread pudding. Oh.My.WORD! It was AMAZING! We will definitely be making our way back up to the small town of Talkeetna again sometime soon!!! 

Next time I will share my Birthday adventure! And the kids first day of school!!!!
Summer is officially over. And as much as I hate to see it go, I am THRILLED that we are back on the school schedule! My kids do SO MUCH Better with the school schedule!!!!
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