Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sister Adventures: Alaska Part 2

Hello and welcome to part two of my Alaska adventures. Currently brisk winds and cold temperatures combined with bites of non-dairy Mint chocolate chip ice are helping me relive Alaska as if I never left. I'm settling in to share highlights of my favorite adventure.

Dog Sledding & The Chena Hot Springs: An adventure of a Lifetime!

Wake up sleepy head! It's time to hit the hills. Time to hitch up the dogs. What?! This Georgia girl (and lover of tropical destinations) is about to ride a dog sleigh in temps below zero with layers and layers of snow as the landscape, and I was excited!

For body fuel we whip up some peanut butter and coconut protein balls for the road. This trip was going to be sans children so we give the girls hugs and kisses and clamor into the car; laden with snowsuits, gloves, hats, scarves, face masks, hand and foot warmers, as well as some serious snow boots.  Also with us, buried at the bottom of our bags was a bathing suit for the hot sprints. There was no reconciling this concept in my mind, but I packed it anyway. More on that later.

In the meantime, we drive the 30 or so minutes to Paws for Adventure!! Once parked and out of the car we take a moment to soak in our surroundings.   Almost every sense is stimulated as you breathe in the fresh air, listen to the excited barking of the dogs, and see raw beauty spreading out before you in blankets of white. Up ahead the owner beckons us to join her in the warm yurt where we check in and get suited up for the chilly ride.

Inside the yurt...

Outside the yurt...

We watch with childlike awe and interest as the musher harnesses each dog. I can't help but smile as the dogs seem to be begging for their turn to pull the sleigh. They love it! Once 10 dogs are clicked in, Chase instructs us to load up into the sleigh. Much obliged. The dogs begin protesting the additional delay, as they are ready to go. He gives the command and the sleigh lurches into motion and down the first hill we go.  Even now my eyes fill with tears and my heart fills with pure delight as I recall our squeals and laughter at this new thrill. I know. I don't get out much.

I hardly notice the cold temperatures. I opened my eyes as wide as they would go. I didn't want to miss a thing! We each were given a turn to stand behind the sleigh and attempt to "drive".

I snap one picture of Lauren at the helm and my fingers began to hurt from exposure to the cold, but I had to get a picture of what I was seeing!
 My eyes couldn't take in enough breathtaking beauty.  Even my phone hated the cold and moved unbelievably slow. I snap a couple pictures and quickly tuck my phone away and try to regain feeling in my finger tips. I'm so glad I did! For this will soon be framed and on my wall...

Oh LORD! Take me back. I can't get over it. Our "musher" informed us that dog sledding is an addicting sport. Though I don't love being cold I could appreciate his passion for those dogs and being out on the trails. He has completed in the Yukon 500 and plans on completing in the Yukon 1000 next year! Whoo baby! 

And a couple more pics...

Needless to say, I'd highly recommend this treat for those traveling areas where dog sledding is available!  

I could have went home, completely full of adventure but our day wasn't over. Up next, the Chena Hot Springs!

Just like everywhere else we drove, we were greeted with more snow.  This is where the bathing suit was supposed to come into play.  My fingers and toes were still numb from the morning sleigh ride, I still had on several layers of clothing, including a snowsuit on and now I'm supposed to unclothe and put on a bathing suit. The very idea seemed ludicrous to me.

We wander around and follow the signs to the hot springs. A building that looks like a small YMCA comes into view and we enter cautiously.  A young man works the desk and the walls are lined with shelves for shoes and boots.  Lauren and I exchange a look and approach the desk.

"Hey, uh, we're here to see the hot springs."

"Cool. That'll be $15 a ticket."

"Ok. So. What do we do?"

"What do you do?" He looks at us as if he's wondering what's wrong with us. 

"Yeah. What do we do?"

"Well, there's a locker room down that hall. Change into your swim suit and follow the walkway down to the hot springs. It's enclosed and sort of heated."

"Uh. Ok."

At this point we knew we needed to just go. We head to the locker room and giggle at how crazy it seemed to be donning our swimsuits. I was cold already.

We shove all our belongings into the locker and pad down the walkway to the springs. I'm shivering and wondering why we thought this would be a good idea. And then the springs come into view. It's beautiful. I put my toe in and quickly draw back in shock. It is hot! I wondered if I would even be able to get in!

There are a few others already soaking in the spring. They seem to be just fine so I move forward and slowly let my body adjust. It's amazing. The moisture in my hair begins to freeze but the rest of me feels as if I'm soaking in a hot bath.  We begin to explore every cranny, making short video clips for Instagram and Snapchat.

It was -11 degrees outside. Imagine how frozen my hair would be in 30 or more below zero!!

After about an hour, we begin to experience dehydration. When going to the hot springs one should bring a bottle of water. The other visitors already knew that. They were guzzling.  It was time to get out.  Our bodies were so warm from the 106 degree soak we just took that we hardly notice the freezing temps back down the walkway. However, this wore off quickly and we dried off and dressed in a flash.

It was time to head home. What an amazing day. I knew I would not forget this incredible adventure and I felt so blessed to share it with my sister. And thank you for sharing along with me. There's only one more post to go!!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sister Adventures: Alaska Bound!!

Several months ago my sister called me with the news.

Sis: "Guille (her hubbs) received new orders."

Me: "Okay...Where? Germany?? Hawaii????"

Sis: "Um. No. Alaska."

Me: "Alaska?! It's cold in Alaska!"

Sis: "Yeah. I know."

Me: "Okay, when?" 

Sis: "We will be moving to Alaska at the end of August."

I cried. She cried. However, we hung up after mutually assuring each other that this would be temporary, as well as an adventure of a lifetime for her and her family. Besides, they were stationed at military bases in Georgia for over 8 years. We've been blessed!

The start of August was here before we knew it.  My sister and her family packed up their home at Fort Benning and sent most of their belongings on a moving truck headed to the Last Frontier. Meanwhile, we anticipated their extended stay before it was officially time for them to hit the road. 

Those few weeks flew by and their last night came. My brother in law's sweet family hosted a going away party, where we played headbands and joked savoring our last moments before the inevitable arrived.  I vainly worked at keeping my tears at bay. I knew we would see each other again. It would only be temporary, so why was it so hard?

Group Picture Attempts...

Mom, Ethan, Lauren, Glen, Myself, Collin, Guille, Lexi, Evan, Caden, & Lyla
Yeah. We weren't going to get a perfect picture. Here's this one. So much easier with two cooperative people.

I hugged her tight and escaped before I embarrassed myself with an onslaught of ugly crying. We started our Snapchat streak and I began anticipating each day's snaps of their travels and adventures. 

Days go by. They are well into Canada when I get a surprise of my own...

YUP! Some friends determined to surprise me with a flight to Alaska.  In no time at all, I video chatted my sister to tell her the news. And yes. I knew at that moment, that I would document it all for these sweet sends. Not to mention my own keepsake. 

I know. Lauren loves that I'm sharing these lovely pics!

Well, that was at the start of September. I wouldn't be leaving for Alaska until February.  With a full calendar, the time passed quickly and before I knew it I was packing for what would be one of my greatest adventures thus far!!

Travel day arrived and at 3:30 in the morning, Atlanta time, my hubby drove me to the airport and dropped me off.

I was by myself. 
No kids. 
No hubby. 

I wandered through the airport in a daze. I almost forgot what you do through security! Oh yeah! Take off my shoes. Drop every loose article into a tub and send it down the conveyor. Go in some tube, spread 'em and put your arms up.  Reclothe and move on. This is always an interesting experience.

I stopped at Caribou coffee for breakfast. By the way, their blueberry and almond oatmeal is delicious!  Soon the attendant started calling first class, VIP, Gold Star, Card members (sheesh) parents with children, blah, blah, blah. Finally I heard my row called and boarded the plane.

Let the Snaps and IG stories begin! Somebody pinch me. Is this really happening??

Four hours and 40 minutes later we are welcomed to a buzz of activity at the Seattle airport. I'm sure this is normal, but there was no doubt something was amiss. Large, wet snowflakes rained down from the sky and airport employees clamored around outside to load and unload luggage. Meanwhile passengers stare at the arrival/departure board while scratching their heads.  Turns out Seattle is unprepared for the weather, so my flight would be delayed for a couple more hours.

I leave the "T gates" and begin exploring other gates. I loved that airport! There's live music throughout, plenty of restaurants, shops and even a spot to get a mani/pedi if you so desire. I  chose to pass the time with more snaps and IG stories. 

Piano Player
Finally, my plane leaves and 3 1/2 hours later we land! At this point, it's 8pm their time and midnight my time. Long day, right?  But, I'm there and my sister and niece are waiting for me!! How good it felt to hug them! 

We get my luggage from the baggage claim and step outside in the fresh Alaska air.

HELLO! My senses are instantly awakened by an incredibly cold air that this body has never known! Every time I took a deep breath, I immediately coughed. (Anyone know what that's about?) Lauren laughs at my shocked reaction. She knows. I like warm beaches and won't get into the water until it's about 90 degrees outside.

I also notice that although it's dark, there's no mistaking the snow! It's piled high, where plows have worked to keep the roads clear. And even with the plows, the roads have a layer of ice and snow packed on.  I couldn't believe how much snow there was.

Once settled into her home, the long day of travel took a toll and I struggled to keep my eyes open. I went to sleep excited about the adventures to come...

Lauren wasted no time in getting me out the next day to see Fairbanks...We drove by the university and I absorbed as much of the scenery into my memory as I could. There were cypress trees and birch trees, each branch heavy laden with layers of snow. In the distance, wherever you looked were what appeared to be mountains. I've been told they are domes. Looked like mountains to me.

We snapped pictures in front of the infamous university sign. It's cooler if you wait until it's 20 below, but who knew if we would get back by.

We both share a love for coffee, so of course we would hit a local coffee shop, where they roast their own coffee beans and make their pastries fresh. Oh mama!

Her husband's schedule couldn't be more perfect for this week! He only worked the mornings, so we dropped the girls back off with him and then went hiking at Creamer's field. It used to be a dairy farm, but is now a reserve for migrating birds. I only saw one bird, but the snowy forest was enchanting and I kept thinking I must have walked in Narnia. Where was that ice queen with the Turkish delights!?

Frosted hair and rosy cheeks

I still hadn't adjusted to their time zone, and found myself wanting to turn in at 7 their time. However, once again I fought it off until a normal bed time. Right as I was crawling into bed my sister called out for me to hurry up and get outside.

Of course my iPhone couldn't capture how amazing these pillars of light were in person. And to top it off fractures of light froze in mid-air, looking just like fairy dust. Fairy dust! What wonderland was this? I went back to bed and watched those light pillars fade away with a smile on my face.  An adventure of a life time had begun.

to be continued...