“…eternal joy to the soul.”

My heart is full.

We just returned from a glorious five-day journey down to Valdez, Alaska. My heart is so full. There were so many firsts on this trip. First of all, it was a 6.5 hour drive. We split the initial drive into two parts and spent the night halfway, in an area called Tolsono. It was simply gorgeous. It rained most of the time, but between the raindrops the mosquitos were out in full force and we were all so grateful we were staying just one night!! The showers were amazing, but the mosquitos sort of killed the joy. LOL.

Tolsono Campsite View

This campsite is almost stereotypical of what you would expect when camping in Alaska. And it is everything I had wanted to experience. What I did not take into account is that to the right of this photo is a stagnant area of water. Kinda greenish. Yeah. Mosquito hatchery in full swing. LOL. But even saying that, I would return. I would plan around mosquito season and also take lots and lots of netting and bug spray. The sound of the stream going by our camper was so cathartic. It was mesmerizing and I fell deeply asleep in no time at all. We chose to forgo breakfast and even coffee, because of the bugs. We took off towards Glenallen, which was a short hop, to gas up and get some breakfast. We ate on the road…

Bridal Veil Falls Outside Valdez, with my grandson.

Our first big stop was outside Valdez at Bridal Veil Falls. They were magnificent. My grandson and I walked around to try and get a good view of them. It was pouring rain but it just didn’t matter. The sound of the falls was overpowering and the beauty was just stunning. In person, what a magnificent stop!!

We drove through to Valdez and it was full of rain and curves and so much to see. The roads are typically Alaskan….bumps and potholes…but the views make up for it! Valdez is on the coast and is a fishing town, as well as where the Alaskan Pipeline ends. We saw so many fishing vessels, as well as lots of oil tankers. The tide is pretty stark – when it is in it is so flush with water, but when it is out, there are miles of mud. It was pretty incredible. We could see distant glaciers, and even drove past one that we took the time to drive to on a different day. Worthington Glacier. Amazing.

One of the many piers in Valdez

We happened upon a festival that we had no idea was occurring the same weekend. We traversed some booths and had some good food. It was still raining like mad, so we chose to visit the local museum. It was filled with dioramas of the big earthquake and tsunami that flattened Valdez and it was not the best thing my grandkids wanted to see, so we ventured out into the rain and chose to go to the Fish Hatchery across the bay. Oh my goodness. Literally the highlight of our trip!!

Valdez Hatchery

This is a view of the Hatchery, on the right, as we approached along the highway. The clouds settling into the mountains made this view just incredible. And yes, it was still raining!! LOL.

I was so imbued with nature. It was surreal. Being raised in Southern California, where nature is held at bay and contained behind fences and cement pools and glass enclosures, this day was monumental for me. For all of us, really. It was so cool that we all experienced this first together. And I’m going to just post a series of photos. And even though I think they are pretty good, the sights and sounds just cannot be fully conveyed in a photograph!

Sea Lions gorging themselves on salmon trying to spawn upstream. Valdez, Alaska
Brown bears gorging on spawning salmon. Valdez, Alaska
Sea Lions-Salmon-Gulls
Lone Gull taking a rest…
Herd of female sea lions barking out orders for the males hunting…
Hubby and I with sea lions behind us.

I cannot fully express how wonderful this experience was. It was so loud – the sea lions barking at each other and all the gulls squawking at each other…it was a cacophony of the sounds of nature. Right in front of us. Life and death. Right in our faces. Incredible. The brown bears were along the roadside as we left the hatchery and the salmon ladders. The salmon spawn all over the coastline in Valdez. And when the tides were in, it was a feeding frenzy for all the wildlife. It rained the entire time we were there, but it was so incredible, we simply ignored the weather.

Valdez Harbor, Alaska

I wish that everyone would have an opportunity to ignore media. To stop rushing here and there. To sleep in the middle of nature, rain and all. To take in the glory that is the creation of God. We are so blessed to live here. And this weekend, we experienced so much more than what I have shared here. I actually went into a shale-lined, water-filled dark cave that was created in a rush to create a faster access from McCarthy and the Kennicott Mine to the sea and the ships that could take the copper. It was blown into the side of the mountain. The back side of the cave was where they gave up creating a train tunnel. I do not do caves. LOL. But my kids encouraged me, held my hand, and my husband was by my side the entire time. I overcame my fear and made it out the other side!! We climbed up to a glacier. We went on a tour of the hydro-electric plant. The kids went gold-panning. We walked up to and touched the Alaskan Pipeline. We drove through hours and hours of God’s country, displaying all its glory. We saw fireweed blooming, eagles soaring, and incredible mountains. I just pray that other people can be blessed to experience this amazing place called Alaska.

The Cave
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Rainy days and roadways…

A friend asked me to accompany her and another of our friends on a one-day, round-trip of about 4 hours each direction. We were going to a place I’ve always wanted to go, so I immediately said I would go. Three women, a little heeler, and a trailer! What could possibly go wrong?? LOL!

First photo of our trip…

I have to say, Alaska is so beautiful, it doesn’t matter where you go, you encounter more and more natural beauty. Those of us who live here, we still are in awe. And it never gets old. I have had friends actually tell me it is wilderness overload. I just do not get that. In my mind, you can never have too much wilderness! But I suppose if all you are ever used to is asphalt all around you and scripted living situations (master planned communities and highways connecting you to everything, with no break in city after city – aka SoCal) it would overwhelm you. So in that respect, I do get it. And one of the most ironic things for me about living in Alaska is that almost every driveway has some sort of recreational vehicle in it; even it if is a fishing boat or a stack of kayaks, 4-wheelers or snow machines, or even sheds filled with tents and gear – Alaskans sense that they want even more of the paradise we live in. Our neighborhoods are filled with trees and brush and so many homes have driveways that, if you don’t know the exact location, are completely hidden from the passersby on the roads. We reside in this wilderness and embrace it fully.

Isabel Pass

On our road trip, this was a mandatory stop. Above is Isabel Pass. It is named after a miner’s wife who was strong and independent and established a homestead in this vast wilderness. I cannot imagine the hardships she faced, trying to establish a home with absolutely no amenities – and weather that is sometimes overwhelmingly cold. There is also a glacier up in the center of the photograph.

There is a thing I recently learned called “Boondocking.” That is camping with no hook-ups. For those of us with tow-behind trailers or big RVs, it’s something you need to know in order to plan ahead. We can carry enough water and fuel to be fine boondocking, but it sure is nice if we don’t have to, as your gas mileage is much better when you travel empty! Isabel Pass is a boondocking location. But look at that vista!!! You can camp right next to the glacier. And there are streams all over the place. Camping near a glacier is its own adventure as the climate is particular to the glacier location. It can easily be 20-30 degrees, even more, colder near a glacier. Even in the summertime. This photo was taken a week ago. And it was drizzling and pretty chilly, but the beauty was incredible.

Isabel Pass Bald Eagle

As I turned back towards the truck, this guy was sitting on the treetop across the road from us, just watching. My girlfriend has a mini-heeler and so we kept an eye on him. Eagles aren’t above sweeping down and grabbing dogs! But to have a wild eagle so close just gave me such peace and a thrill as well. He’s not in a cage or a zoo – he’s freely flying around in the wilds of Alaska. We were blessed to see moose, as well, roaming freely and munching their way across the forests. Like I said, I cannot see why you get wilderness overload! I have eagles flying around my house and have a mamma moose and her twin calves in my yard. But I never tire of this. Never.

Tres Amigas

Most gals travel to the local mall. Not us. LOL. We drove roughly 350 miles to retrieve 100 bales of hay. And back again. In one day. The conversation was stellar. The friendships more cemented. And the journey was unforgettable. We kept laughing that we were like the cast of Gilligan’s Island – a 3 hour tour that ended up being more than 22 hours. LOL. So much for a quick trip! Why? Roads, weather, dinner at a brewery, friends, Alaska! LOL.

Delta Junction Hay Farm

Our destination was reached. The farmer loaded the hay for us and we tied it down and set off. Long story short, we made some stops along the way. We altered our return route to avoid road closures, only to discover roads were out there, too. Denali was pouring rain. The road home was fraught with 1 lost bale of hay and extreme tiredness. We stopped and napped for an hour from 2am to 3am. We finally got into my friends’ place about 6am. Exhausted. It took this grandma two days of fuzzy brain to recover. I no longer do all-nighters! LOL! I literally have an alarm on my phone to remind me to take my diabetes meds and to drink my “Golden Milk.” The alarm is set for 8:30pm. So hilarious – we were just finishing dinner in Delta at 8:30pm! It messed my system up big time. I didn’t get my meds or Golden Milk. Blood sugar was all over the map. Whew. I am back to normal, but it was a project! LOL.

Even with all of that chaos and rain and crazy company, I’d seriously consider doing it again. For my friend, yes, but selfishly, for myself. I just can’t seem to soak up enough of God’s bounty and beauty in this place called home. Alaska. I am beyond blessed.

Isabel Pass

“And it’s into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

John Muir

“…and it was very good.”

Our summer.

This past weekend, well, the past 4 days, we ventured into God’s country. It was actually so beautiful and overwhelmingly so, at one point I literally wept! I think we take for granted this amazing place we all call home. The earth was created by God for His children to enjoy. All the plants and all the creatures are here for us. Well, I do question some of the bugs and reptiles, but overall, it’s an amazing place.

Kachemak Bay, Alaska

We headed down to the Homer Spit south of us for 4 days with our son and his family. I hesitate to say this, but it was one of the singular, most enjoyable 4-day weekends of memory. It was truly a wonderful time. So much love and laughter, grandkids, dogs, and nature. It was so fun. As we headed down there, it started to pour. The rain was insane. And then we’d hit patches of glorious sunshine. The drive is a little over 5 hours in total. And we were towing our trailer, with our dogs. What could go wrong?

On our back window…

We reached camp, and we got settled in and set up, all in the pouring rain. We ate dinner – pizza – in our kids’ camper and then we scurried off to bed, dodging raindrops. The dogs were afraid of the wind and pouring rain. There were so many strange sounds, but for me, it was like white noise and I crashed. Except when the two large poodles decided they were afraid enough they wanted to sleep between us. Sigh. After a rough night of barely any covering, we woke about 6am to people walking by gabbing their heads off, laughter included, and waking our dogs, who barked. And then wanted outside. I rolled over to discover the mattress was soaking wet under my husband’s pillow – the window leaked all night! So that’s what that dripping noise was?!?!? Ha-Ha-Ha. Window was calked later that day.

We greeted our day with glorious sunshine, our coffee maker on auto, and the dogs happily enjoying their breakfast after a romp on the beach. Our weekend “combat camping” was off to a good start. If you do not know what combat camping is, have you heard of “combat fishing”?? That is where fishermen line up in the pristine wilderness after the elusive salmon, making their way upstream. Fishing season in Alaska is no joke. Most of the campers parked alongside us were there for fishing. So for them, lining up their campers in row upon row, in black silt and rocks, was no big deal – they were there for the fish. I am a little more of the “let’s get back to nature” sort of camper. This was definitely not that. This was on a spit out into the bay – not a bush or tree in sight. Just black silt, and rocks, and driftwood. Did I mention rocks? I grew up in Southern California, which had miles upon miles of sandy beaches. Squishing your toes in the warm sand is a particular pleasure. That does not happen along the Spit in Homer. Flip-flops at a minimum! Hubby wore his water-proof boots all the time. The campground was at capacity…even tents dotted the rows of camping spots. Fish on!

Combat Fishing – Russian River, Alaska

The good thing was that most of the people camping were there to fish. So the Spit itself was relatively empty. We could walk our dogs and the grandkids could play in the water and hunt for those elusive shells. Beach combing has become an art form with my grandkids! LOL! They walk, head down, looking for shells, for literally miles. We hiked over 5 miles of shoreline in one day. This grandma was beat. I retreated to the camper, took some Tylenol, and had an afternoon snooze. Five miles on the beach in flip flops, at my age. LOL. Whatever was I thinking? Oh, I brought my hiking boots and poles, but somehow forgot I had them and left them propped up in our trailer’s shower. I plan so well…it’s remembering the plan that gets me.

The Homer Spit. We camped way out at the end. Surrounded by ocean.

The camping was all about the experience with our family. Being right on the ocean with the waves and the boats, even large ferries and tour boats, was amazing. The sounds of the gulls flying overhead. The sounds of the dogs running on the beach. Our grandkids laughing or yelling, “Grandpa, come here and see this!” These were the times we live for. We played cards with the kids and taught them the art of shuffling, gin rummy, and various forms of solitaire. No electronics in sight! We walked miles and miles of coastline, soaking it all in. And like I stated before, I think this was one of the best weekends we have ever had. We relaxed, we just experienced. No agenda. No timelines. We planned meals but also allowed ourselves to eat out and enjoy a meal on picnic benches overlooking the docks, with the sun rising and the day warming up. Experiencing some amazing biscuits and gravy, with outstanding lattes, that I did not have to make for myself – epic! The grandkids wondering why their pancakes tasted weird, so we all sampled them. Who would have thought to flavor flapjacks with orange?! LOL. Then we chose to head out to Anchor Point. Oh my. Just oh my.

Eagles on Anchor Point Beach, Alaska

I don’t want to ever take this place for granted. (Nor the photographer who took this – it was not me). I was literally a couple of feet away from wild bald eagles. I was in awe. At one point my son says, “Mom, are you crying? You are crying! What is going on?” My reply? “Son, I was raised in Southern California where everything is in a box or a cage. These are wild animals, an arm’s length away, in nature, doing natural things. Right in front of me. I am in awe and so very grateful I get to see this. God is amazing and I am humbled.” There were literally 4 bald eagles around us. They were sitting in the trees behind us and on the beach in front of us. Along with dozens of seagulls. They were all vying for the fishermen’s cast-offs. And seeing an eagle fly overhead, carrying a halibut carcass, was so incredible. The eagles defending their food from the gulls. And allowing photographers up close so they could capture these moments. It was a core-memory-making event for me. I will never forget the sound, the smell, the sight of all that nature. I am blessed.

And I think He was standing in Anchor Bay…

I wanted to save all these words in my head because it truly was a remarkable weekend. We got to see the Spit in the summer, during fishing season. What a difference from our first visit during a snow storm in the wintertime! There were so many people. But you know what? Everyone was there to enjoy Homer in the summertime – we were, too. So you have to deal with humanity. LOL. Our next camping trip with our children is already on the books…next stop? Valdez, Alaska.The home of a fishing fleet, waterfalls, glaciers, and hiking. I’ll let you know…

Valdez, Alaska

“Splish-splash I was taking a …. swim”

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22
Water Aerobics

And so here we are. Almost summer. And the doctor not happy with the latest bloodwork. Glucose numbers down! Yay me! Cholesterol almost doubled in 3 months. What the heck? My cholesterol has always been fine. Until this last 3 month check up. LOL. Two steps forward and 1 step backwards. (Well, maybe a side trip! LOL!) And so now my diet (I actually love my nutritionist – she has become a good friend) devised by my nutritionist helps me monitor my blood sugar, the carbs, and the various fats. Yep – I basically eat like a squirrel.

Bike Peddler

One of the ways to positively affect your health is to move. I love being at home. I would rather be fiddling around with my husband and dogs, in our home and yard, than almost anything. And in the long winters here in Alaska, that time is mostly indoors. Sometimes it’s just too cold to be out in it. We go to events; we go on walks – but for the majority of winter, we are going to and from places. A lot of time is spent inside. On my recliner. (Recliner potato!) So to combat that, I added a peddler like the one above. I can watch/binge my favorite TV program and exercise at the same time. And it elevates my heart rate and works my legs/back muscles. But I needed more, and my nutritionist/friend asked me to join her at open swim at the local high school. Each time we go, we spend about 45 minutes exercising, and then we sit in the hot jacuzzi tub. Not gonna lie, that hot tub is worth the pool time!

Me and my buddies…LOL

One of the best things about sharing your health journey is that you have built-in support. My friends each have their own health issues they are working on, and we are there to support one another. We also, and this is such a key, we also pray for each other. It makes this whole thing far more doable.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

I have never taken my health for granted, but I have also never really involved entities like doctors, nurse practitioners, and nutritionists. Over the past two years, along with Covid, I was dealing with shoulder/spine issues and was blessed to find doctors and therapists who were holistic in their approach and preferred a dietary/supplemental approach over a pharmacological and surgical one. To add daily pharmacologicals to my diet annoys me. Incredibly. But I also realize I need some help getting my pancreas to behave itself and operate within normal measurable metrics. And right now, it is still reactionary. It is very affected by diet, stress, sleep, and if I catch some random bug. So the medicine is helping until I can reign it in. Along with glucose regulation, I have to keep fats and cholesterol under control. It’s a pretty full agenda. To say I was overwhelmed is to understate it. Having been a person who uses essential oils for pretty much everything, pills and medications are not my preferred method of taking care of myself. I now have a pill dispenser and I refill that weekly. I feel old. LOL!

This is what I now use…

I am excited, though. Summer is arriving every day. We now have 18 hours of sunlight per day. The average temperature is rising and we are supposed to be up to 70-degrees by next week. And the outside is calling me. My aerobics and peddling are geared towards my health, but my secret goal is being able to hike with my kids and grandkids. Alaska is so beautiful I will spend the rest of my life trying to see more of it, but I know I will never get to see it all. But if I can hike the glaciers and see more of this incredible place, with my grandkids alongside me, I will be so happy. And to get there, I need to push myself. Healthy numbers from the doctor, and healthy limbs and breathing from me. I know I can do this. I need to do this. All of this is to say, whatever impetus you need to get going, find it and do it. The rewards are life-extending. The rewards are the physical ability to make memories with your family. And those are my goals.

August 2019

The photo above was my first hike with my DIL and family, in 2019. We hiked a glacier!!! And I made it up and back, a little over 5 miles. I could not have done it without Kathleen’s help. She was encouraging, and physically assisted me over rocks and gulches and steadied me when I needed it. And I want to do this, and more, again. I want to use my new hiking poles I never got to use because of weather, and then a very busy summer in our garden. This year, we have some camping trips already planned and I want to keep up, not be a hinderance, and to enjoy the outdoors with my family, God willing.

My prayer…