Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They Really Do Exist

After much debate and denial on the part of Eric and I, it is official, bears really do exist in the state of Alaska!

You see, for months now there have been tons of bear sightings in Anchorage and several attacks on humans. We've read the stories, have seen lots of pictures, and have a friend who seems to see bears almost daily. Despite the fact that we have actively gone out on numerous drives, specifically looking for bears, we had not seen one in the wild. Eric and I were starting to think that everyone around here must be delusional (after all, we haven't seen any bears), the pictures and stories were part of a huge plot, and that bears don't really live in Alaska. Just when we were about to come to terms with the fact that bears don't actually roam the streets, forests, and trails of Anchorage...the phone rang!

Our friend, Cathy, the one who seems to see bears several times a week, was calling. She was calling to tell me that there was a bear in the trash can in her backyard, it had been there for around a half an hour and it was making a mess of the trash! She was also letting me know that after failed attempts to get a hold of her husband, she had called Eric and he was on his way up the hill to her house. Well...anyone who knows me knows that I wasn't going to let Eric partake in this great adventure while I was hanging out at home with the boys, cleaning house. I hung up the phone, grabbed my camera, yelled to the boys to get their shoes on and we were out the door in a flash. We didn't even bother turning off the t.v.!

We pulled up the driveway of Cathy's house just after Eric had arrived. We pull in and see Cathy standing outside, up on her balcony, waving to the boys and I to stay in the car and Eric standing outside of his car with his .44 handgun drawn! It was quite a scene and boy, talk about the drama! Cathy had the best vantage point of the bear from her balcony perch, so as soon as the bear was otherwise occupied, she motioned us to make a run for the house. We ran as fast as we could and slammed the door shut behind us!

It was humorous for me to see Eric with his gun drawn when we pulled up, because he's not usually about drama. I later found out that apparantly, the bear had heard Eric pull up, it peeked over the fence at him and they had a brief staredown before the bear got down and continued to mutilate and devour the contents of the trashcan. Considering that the bear was only about 15 ft. from where Eric was standing and that there was only a wooden fence between he and the bear, I guess Eric decided at some point that it would be a wise thing to pull his gun out. He had a clear shot of the bear and could have easily taken it down, but there wasn't any real threat of danger and that's not what we're about, so we all went about our business.

Once inside the house, we ran up onto the balcony for a better look at the bear and its antics. Despite the fact that there were nine of us watching it, and loudly cajoling it to leave, that darn bear still stuck around for another 10-15 minutes. We had contemplated using bear spray on it, but we were enjoying the adrenaline rush of having it around. We finally just let it leave on it's own free-will.

Although I enjoyed our first bear sighting tremendously, my favorite part of the event was when the bear finally decided to leave. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't my favorite part because he left, it was my favorite part because of what he left. On his way out, that bear had the nerve to stop and take a big dump, right in the middle of the backyard! I may not have been positioned in a way that I was able to get many good pictures of the bear, however, I was lucky enough to get that on film!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer Set For Infamy

On the front page of last Thursday's Anchorage Daily News was an article spelling out just how bleak and cold this summer has been, especially for this California girl. Anchorage is on pace to hit 65 degrees for the fewests days on record! The article, which would be enough to send a lesser person into a very dark depression, even went as far to lay out the staggering statistics in black and white. Let's measure the misery:

Days in a year at 75 degrees or above
Average: 4
Last year: 21
2008: 0

Days in a year at 70 degrees or above
Average: 15
Last year: 21
2008: 2

Days in a year at 65 or above
Average: 44
Last year: 46
2008: 7

Days in a year at 60 degrees or above
(this statistic is my personal favorite)
Average: 88
Last year: 97
2008: 35

Although Eric has been fortunate enough to leave this wonderful place we call "home" for brief jaunts here and there, the boys had I have not been so lucky. We have been in Anchorage every single day of 2008, so far, and have only experienced 35 days of temps. over 60 degrees, and far fewer days of sun. Am I whining? Perhaps. I prefer to think of it as just reporting the facts.

Logan and Eric will be leaving town for a few days at the beginning of September and I'm starting to think that I might just suck it up and pay for Kaiden and I to fly somewhere. It's not cheap to get out of here, not even to just hop over to Seattle, but at this point, I think my sanity is worth more than I'd pay for an airline ticket.

Back in February I was put on a Vitamin D supplement because my levels were extremely "low". I don't know how high the numerical scale for vitamin levels goes, but I know I was only at a 12. Now, six months later and after taking a one-a-week supplement of 50,000 iu of Vitamin D, I am still in the "low" category and have only moved up to a 24. Ideally, I would have been weaned off the supplement and put on a far lower dose of over-the-counter supplements, but so much for that grand idea. I'm going to maintain the initial dosage for 3 more months and then we'll check again.

I'm sure I heard the doctor prescribe a little rest and relaxation in a sunny locale (I just conveniently misplaced that prescription). My husband can't argue with that......can he?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gas Commentary

O.K., I know nobody wants to read about the price of gas in their free time, but.......You see, before we moved to Alaska, I had this idea that the people living here probably paid pennies on the dollar for their gas compared to those in other states. WRONG!!!!!!

Just today, AAA put out a survey that says the average price of regular gas in Alaska is the highest in the nation, topping this month's list at $4.64 a gallon. We are followed by California and Hawaii respectively. YIKES!!!!! My intent is not to start a political commentary, I just thought that information was interesting considering the dollar and production figures we see in the papers daily with regard to oil production in Alaska.

As you can see, we're all in the same boat. Even those of us living in Alaska.

Friday, July 11, 2008

26 Glacier Cruise

For me, the highlight of our "family excursions" in Alaska was a day-trip glacier cruise on The Klondike, a charter run by Phillip's 26 Glaciers. The catamaran left out of Whittier at 1:00 p.m. and we returned back to the port just in time to catch the 6:00 p.m. tunnel back to civilization (aka Anchorage). Several days in advance, we pretty much randomly chose the day we were going to take the cruise and it turned out to be the most beautiful day of the summer so far. We were really lucky!

Whittier is considered "The gateway to Prince William Sound", as you could guess, our journey took us out into Prince William Sound. Of course, the glaciers are always magnificent to look at, but it was such a pleasure just to be out on the water this day. The water in the sound is considered "protected", and as such, the ocean there can be quite calm. On this particular day, the water was like glass at times.

I didn't count to make sure we actually saw 26 glaciers, but I don't doubt that we did. We definitely stopped at plenty and had ample time for photo opps. One of the glaciers even calved right in front of us. It was really something! We were also fortunate enough to be able to see quite a bit of sealife. There were plenty of otters out frolicking in the sun, sea lions, a couple of baby seals, and several bald eagles were seen lounging on the icebergs.

Eric works with a gentleman who is an Alaskan Native and seems to know just about everyone in Alaska. As luck would have it, Melvin actually knows someone who knows one of the ship's captains. Melvin made a few phone calls and was able to get us an invite to join the captain in the wheelhouse. How nice was that!!!!!! It was an extra nice treat for the boys to be able to sit in the captain's chair, see how the ship actually operates, and to share the captain's vantage point.

In August Eric's parents are joining Eric, the boys and I on a seven day cruise of The Inside Passage of Alaska. This day-trip really hyped me up for our impending cruise. The glaciers we've had an opportunity to see thus far have been amazing to me. Now I can't wait to see the really big ones in the middle of nowhere that drop huge chunks of ice off in the middle of the ocean without notice.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Exit Glacier

I have to tell you that as I was laying in bed this morning, contemplating this blog post, I had a brief moment of panic. You see, Eric flew out to Dutch Harbor this morning and in hopes of catching a glimpse of all things "Deadliest Catch", he took the camera with him. I thought my pictures for this post were with him, but lucky for me (and you), my brilliant husband downloaded them from his memory card onto the computer last night. By the way, Andrea, I'll have Eric do a Dutch Harbor post for you when he gets back. Keep your fingers crossed, maybe he'll even catch a glimpse of Sig and Edgar in the local bar! For now, I can go about my blogging as I had originally intended.

One of the days my family was here, we took a day-trip to Seward. On our way there, we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and much further down the road, we made a stop at Exit Glacier. We had no idea what this glacier was going to have in store for us, but we did know that we would be able to hike out to it and actually touch it. Touching it was the big draw for the kids and I, and actually, probably for the rest of the family as well. When we finally made it out to the glacier, it did not disappoint!

At the visitor's center we asked about the "trail" out to the glacier. We were mainly concerened as to how long it was and how difficult the terrain would be. We were assured we could all make it out to the glacier fairly quickly and were warned about a few "little rivers" to cross. The "little rivers" didn't concern us too much because we were told that people had set stepping stones in the water along the way to make the crossings manageable. At this point, there was no mention of wet feet or water deep enough that one false move/slip and it could merit a change of shoes and socks (shoes and socks that we did not have to spare). Armed with the limited knowledge that we had, we set out to touch the glacier.

We started out on the trail and shortly, we approached the "little rivers". Off in the distance we could see Exit Glaicier, but we soon realized that we would have to cross several, a little-deeper-than-anticipated rivers, using not-nearly-enough-stepping-stones-to-ensure-your-feet-would-remain-dry. After crossing the first bit of water and reassessing the situation, Eric and I decided our immediate family wasn't going to be going out to the glacier because we didn't want the kids moaning and groaning about wet feet for the rest of the day. We all decided to turn around and venture a little further along a different trail to see what we could see. At the end of that trail, we ran into some people who had just ventured out from that point to cross over to the glacier. They said it wouldn't be too difficult, so we decided to give it another valiant effort (plus now we had to listen to the kids moan and groan because they weren't able to walk out to touch the glacier). This time, we all decided we were gonna' touch that darn glacier even if our feet and potentially our bodies ended up soaked.

After much fancy footwork, we all finally made it to the glacier (relatively dry) and it was really a neat thing to be able to say we did. This particular glacier has receded so much over time that it doesn't appear to be calving (big pieces braking off) anymore, but little pieces of ice do still come loose from it and they make a little tinkling noise as they bounce down the face of the glacier. Standing there, touching the glacier, was one of those only in Alaska moments. It was one of those times when I was actually in awe of the fact that I live in Alaska. Fortunately, I do have those moments every now and again.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back In Action...Finally

I want to thank those of you who diligently follow my humble little blog, for continuing to check-in even though I've been on a brief hiatus. Yesterday afternoon, after a 5 hour round-trip drive to Seward, we successfully sent the last of our family members on their way. My mom and dad caught their flight back to CA on Saturday afternoon, my brother-in-law and his family set off for an Alaskan cruise yesterday afternoon (thus our trip to Seward), and my brother and sister-in-law actually left on an earlier than planned flight back to AZ in the middle of last week.

Our house is now officially visitor-free until early August and we're going to relish the solitude for a while. We enjoyed having everyone here, but I found that it's not always a cake walk having so many different personalities under one roof. Until moving to Alaska, we had always lived within about a 45 minute drive of our families, so housing relatives for an extended period of time is a new experience for us. Eric and I have been married for almost 12 years, so it has been a while since either of us has had a lengthy amount of "togetherness" with our parents and siblings. The good news is, we all managed to survive (even though my brother tried to melt our Trex deck down, but that's a story for another day)!

I had thought about writing one long blog with an overview of the highlights of my family's visit, but instead, I've decided to draw the excitement out over the course of the week. We visited a lot of interesting local sights and learned a ton. I have some fun stories and neat pictures to share. Check back tomorrow to see the first post of what will hopefully be a "week-long series".

I had better get started on my first installment. See ya' tomorrow!