“On the road again; can’t wait to be on the road again…”

On the road again….making memories..

I took a break from blogging and social media. We left town for a few days. It rained at least 50% of the time, but we were gone! The rain was loud on the camper, but wonderful at the same time! We drove another long, long drive to Valdez, Alaska. It is about 6.5 hours. With no radio reception. All my hubby and I did was chat. It was a slice of heaven. No interruptions. No sounds other than the ones that come with driving a long ways. Some funny things? My FitBit thought I was walking. Honestly. I kept getting notices that I had met my hourly goal of 250 steps. By the time we got to Valdez, my daily 10,000 steps were done. I cracked up. The only thing I can figure is that the roads are just so bumpy my Fitbit thinks I’m walking. So I arrived in Valdez exhausted from all those steps and the immensity of the conversation I had with my hubby.

Kolbe and Maggie on our bed in the camper.

When I pack for vacation, I make our bed. Clean sheets. Blankets. Whole thing. Well, the dogs got into the camper and immediately made themselves comfy. And the bed was messy the rest of the trip!!

Rainy Saturday

Valdez is a port city. It gets lots of rain. So this weekend was no exception. We got a lot of rain. But I truly did not mind. I love it there. For some reason, I relax. The mountains are all around us. My granddaughter and I counted 21 glaciers around us. We could see countless waterfalls. The colors of fall were just making their way over the mountains. It was a beautiful site to camp and explore.

The first fish of the trip…

This trip ended up being more about fishing with grandpa than sightseeing. And even though they were fishing in the rain, it was still a lot of fun. Ever heard of the term, “combat fishing”??? I had but I had never seen it. This trip, we lived it. It was pretty incredible. There was a late-season, heavy, silver run of salmon. And everyone that loved to fish was there. LOL. I kid you not…fishing was side-by-side and if you left your “spot” another fisherman would quickly take it. Even if that someone was a kid. People were catching their limits in 4-5 hours. And the fish were big.

Valdez Labor Day 2022

I’m not sure if you can fully grasp how many people there are, but look at the photo above. Please note there are RVs and trucks, cars and campers parked all along the roadway until after the curve. There are people all on the rocks as far as there are cars. It was crazy. Raining off and on, and sort of chilly. But the fish were running, so the fishermen were there!

I learned about all the different sorts of salmon. I still couldn’t tell them apart. I suppose if I studied them, I could. But fishing is not my thing, so I just didn’t put forth the collegiate effort to learn! LOL! My granddaughter learned about fish, and zombie fish. The “fish” are swimming as if their lives depended on it (because it does) to reach their spawning grounds. It’s what salmon do. They are born in these rivers, migrate to the ocean, and after 2-3 years (depending on which type of salmon they are) then they return in early fall to spawn and die. Once they spawn, their life cycle is complete. The zombie fish are the ones who have been swimming for a long time but have not been able to reach their spawning ground. They keep swimming even after they have begun to actually decay. It is sad, really, to see all the dead fish that are floating around. There are literally 1000s that die before making it back. The wildlife take care of most of it, and nature takes care of the rest.

My granddaughter was appalled to watch fishermen reel in a zombie and throw it onto the rocks and it slowly flop around until they died. These fish have no chance of survival and they are not good to eat (decay has already begun). So most fishermen just let them die on the rocks, rather than throw them back to the sea. My granddaughter told her grandpa that “No fish should be just left to die out of the water. That is mean. We need to put them back in.” So whenever grandpa, or her dad, brother, or even she herself caught a zombie, she made sure they were “set free” back to the ocean. We all rolled our eyes but also smiled at how sweet that was. We all knew these zombies were doomed, but we loved her heart.

First Catch – Zombie fish…

She delighted in everyone’s first catch. When she got hers, she was so excited. Then realized it was a zombie. But dad and grandpa had to crawl over the rocks to be sure that zombie got to swim away. What a precious memory!!!

Me and Kathleen

My daughter-in-law and I supervised from the shoreline. We didn’t last as long as the men! We took off to look at the fish weir and watch the sea lions and harbor seals catching their own fish…

Sea Lions Labor Day. Valdez 2022

This trip we counted more than 27 sea lions at one time, catching fish. Oh my goodness are they loud. Not as loud as all the gulls, mind you, but between the sound of the fish weir (waterfall), the gulls, and the barking sea lions, it is not a quiet spot! And it is never dull. So much wildlife to see. And they could care less that they have an audience!

Valdez Waterfall

This is just one of the hundreds of waterfalls in and around Valdez. We drove – well, bounced – up this crazy road – trail – rock pile – to find this waterfall so the family could pan for gold. The story of me driving over a rickety old wooden bridge is a story in and of itself. And my eldest son was a total brat and teased me so badly about my fear of old, rickety, wooden bridges. Anyway, I digress. We found this amazing space through some trees to this waterfall. The water was brisk and bracingly cold, but nonetheless, shoes were discarded and silt was placed into pans and gold was hunted.

Is it????
Could it be????
I think there is a spec in there, Grandma!!!

It was so much fun to be out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and to run across another family biking or hiking. We would nod our heads at them like we shared a secret. We finally were doing what people think you do if you camp in Alaska! LOL! We had a great afternoon. We then chose to get all our moose chili fixings and return for high tide to try and catch more fish. Along the trek back to the trucks, I took some photos of the little things we passed by…

Spores in Valdez
Moss??
Fish 2 was caught!

And we had another happy fishing session. It was interesting to watch our grandkids disengage from electronics and enjoy the company of family, learning a new sport, and spending time outdoors in this amazing place we all call home.

The afternoon passed quickly in hunt of the perfect fish. The people were congenial and helpful. Fishermen love to share lore and tricks and special ways of snagging the fish. They all helped the kids with nets at the ready, and encouraging words. It was great. And people were from all over. But we noticed a majority were from Fairbanks, with Valdez being their only ocean access. And that boggled the mind for me. We have so few roads and have to make our way around mountains and rivers – there are no direct routes anywhere.

Our route is through Glennallen to Valdez

We looked at maps and I guess it’s about the same mileage as from Anchorage. It just seemed further from Fairbanks. There is a sign along the highway where it says something like “Anchorage 312 miles/Fairbanks 320 miles” so I guess it’s a similar drive. These people come every year for the silver run, and usually around Labor Day. I’m thinking we may return next year, too!!

We then drove out to the Valdez Glacier Lake and the glacier field. It was incredibly beautiful.

Floating Glacier Ice
Valdez Glacier Lake

We spent quite a lot of time there, gathering silt water in plastic bottles. They are fun to have because if you mix the water and the silt in the clear plastic, over time the heavy stuff goes to the bottom and you get to see all the layers of goodies contained in a glacier field. It gathers bits of the earth as it moves along the mountains. Most of the contents are quite literally thousands of years old. What a beautiful place!

Valdez Glacier Tributary

We chose to stop along the way to dig in some silt and look for “Squatch trees” along the river banks, only to realize they are across on sandbars and that water is far too cold and moving too quickly to even attempt to grab a tree. And if you do not know what a “Squatch tree” is, you can read my previous posts or research it. All I can say is, “Who knew?” LOL.

Valdez Harbor

After meandering through town, we drove out to the Harbor. It was just so darn pretty outside. We could walk along the harbor, among the boats, and see the fishermen bringing in their catch to process. We looked at the boats and spoke fantastical dreams about owning one of them (It will never happen) and joked about the amazing number of salmon and halibut we would catch. Then we found these amazing food trucks. The scent wafted over the seashore and had us practically drooling. We went back to our trailers and sat in the sun munching on the most delicious street tacos! They were simply the best any of us have had in – well – maybe the best ever!! So so good!

Grandkids being kids…loved it.

We were coming to the end of our trip to Valdez. Once more the fishermen headed out to see what they could catch. The kids have been bitten by the fishing bug. Grandpa is very happy about that. They were successful and we then made a great dinner and started to wind down our journey. We all retreated to our trailers to start the packing process. We had some of our usual evening, warm, Golden Milk and settled in for our final night of camping, ready to drive home the next day.

Valdez Harbor

As we were getting ready to leave, heavy clouds rolled into the bay, and and the weather was getting rough. We had winds the night before and we knew more rain was coming, so the timing for us was good. We did not leave as early as we would have liked, but we also didn’t mind being there longer. Valdez has mesmerized us and we can all imagine many more happy days camping and fishing and exploring. This was probably our last camping trip of 2022. It seems weird to close the door on that part of our lives, for now. We have plans to map out next summer’s schedule and deciding where we want to go. We will be making camping reservations early in January for the entire summer, to ensure we get good camping sites, in all the places we have come to love, but also plan to explore areas north of us. It is exciting to even think about. But today the winds are whistling, we have heavy rains, and yellow leaves dot our lawns. Summer is pretty much over, and so is traveling the roads of Alaska with our dogs and our camper until next season. What a grand summer it has been.

Valdez in the rearview…till next time!
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“…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

“…Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

winterroad

Oh do we have snow! Not as much as they have been warning us about (although it’s not over, yet) but everything is white. You see the world in whites and grays in this winter wonderland. The light from the sun weaves its ambient presence among us and the world is much more quiet and serene. Even the local dump is pretty, covered in beautiful layers of snowy goodness! As we wander into the last days of this incredibly wild year, I have pondered what my next days will be filled with. I am not good with “resolutions” and even the word sounds so final. I rarely keep them. I intend to, which is the main thing, but my follow-through for an entire year is usually weak. And since I know that about myself, and am “of an age” where I can readily express that with no embarrassment, I do! Ha-Ha!

2017

I do wish everyone a blessed and happy New Year. I pray that 2017 is a year of profound peace and prosperity, in whatever ways mean that to you. For me, I am seeking a return to what I somehow laid aside. I am anxious for inner peace – moreover, an inner contentment. It has somehow escaped me and I spend many nights tossing and turning, many days exhausted from a lack of good sleep, and an overall feeling of impending doom. That is no way to go through life. I am working on my health and my supplements! I know I need more vitamin D! I am working on that. We had a very successful experience trying the Whole30 elimination diet and we did so for 49 days, until Thanksgiving. Since then, we have both seen our overall health tank. The old aches and pains are back, some new ones cropped up, and we have an overall feeling of just plain, well, “yuck.” So in 3 days we will back at this Whole30 experience. You can google it, if you are unaware of what it is, and you can also look back at some earlier posts, when I explained in more detail what we are up to.

This year, we met a lot of new people and I can honestly say, our lives are the better for it. Our perspectives have broadened, and we have found areas that we want to grow in. It is wonderful, too, to find a group of like-minded individuals. While many of them have younger families, we have found a group where we are among our peers. And we both love being with people our age and life experiences. It is fun. And so in the coming year, we hope to strengthen these relationships, make many of these people close friends, and grow and learn many new skills. Living where we do, we are deeply intrenched in the seasons of the earth. Right now, in deep winter, we are all hunkered down and only occasionally getting together. I cannot wait for spring and summer – more opportunities to mingle, lots of new things to experience, and more people to get to know. And, we get to try our hand at a better garden this year!

windowsnowcoffeenoborder

One of the things I have learned this past year is that social media, while it can be a good thing, can suck you dry. It can pull you in, because perhaps you are lonely. It can take over your day. You can be so caught up in checking Facebook and emails, tweets and pins, that you forget to be present to those around you. You forget to live this life in the here and now. I do believe our computers aid us (I am typing this on my gorgeous, and purple, MacBook) but I also think that the ease with which they purport to make our lives, also complicates them. I can’t recall the last time I went days without checking things on either my computer or my phone. I deleted a bunch of apps off my phone the last few days. I decided it was just too much. Facebook Messenger was insane. Ugh. My phone beeps and tweets and sings to me all day long. Even when I turn off my notifications, something beeps at me. And I came to the realization that I sit far too long, looking at the activities of other people, and not having enough of my own. How silly is that?

So I am trying to keep a sort of “resolution,” in that I have deleted apps from both my phone and computer, and I am simplifying. I mean, for instance, I am down to 1 Angry Bird app. Period. And I am down to 1 solitaire game across all media platforms.  That is progress my friends! I am seriously thinking of deleting my aquarium app, as I have 6 tanks and if I don’t feed those darn fish…well, you know. (Gross). But seriously. I am 60 years old. And I play Angry Birds. What is up with that?? I feed make-believe fish in make-believe aquariums. I think I knew I was going off the rails when I started breeding sharks in amongst the angel fish. I mean, how sick is that?? And what am I NOT doing whilst feeding imaginary fish and  defeating imaginary pigs? I am not praying. I am not reading. I am not becoming a better me. Does Angry Birds help me get closer to God? Uhm, no. I think He is probably shaking His head at my silliness.

We are all called to be His children. We are all called to share the Word of God with those around us. We are all called to help our fellow man. Angry Birds does not do any of that. I spent an afternoon canning with some new friends this fall. In a very out-of-the-way place (where there was not even navigation in my car or phone reception, and yes, I got momentarily lost as I journeyed home) with some wonderful new people in my life. The conversation was great. We shared stories and we laughed. The skills acquired were really a re-introduction to canning, as I had not done it in years. But the skills shared, the wisdom in that cabin, has stayed with me. And I hunger for more of the same. These were some real people and I felt so welcome and so “at home.” We shared, with one another, the gist of who we are in the simple tasks of washing black currants, and boiling water, of making coffee, and slicing and blanching carrots. What a simple joy that afternoon was. And it profoundly struck me. That is what I want more of.

Do you know I have only been shopping in our one, large mall here 1 time? Guess what? I have no desire to go there. At all. I’ve never been a shopper, and I am really growing to hate crowds of people. But you know what I am anxious for? What I want to do? What I am excited for? Getting together to cook and  make some scrumptious recipes with some of my new friends. We’ve been teasing each other with recipes! I am looking forward to some shooting lessons. I desperately want to feel more confident in my basic skills in regards to being prepared for our next “snowmaggedon” or our new volcanic eruption, or the next big earthquake. Learning to freeze foods; learning to dehydrate foods. Canning, in all its glory. Planting a well-thought-out garden. These things excite me.

house-snow

As we age, our dreams change. I no longer foresee a house in a development, or master-planned community. I envision a place with space around it. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s home; it doesn’t have to please anyone else. But I would like it to to be simple, serene, and away from the “maddening crowd.” I dream of a log cabin, although I am aware of how much adjusting and upkeep they require. I don’t need my own lake or river, but it would be nice to have one close by so my dear husband can grab his fishing gear and walk down to the water, and relax while challenging the salmon. I would love to have space so he can hunt if he wants to, without having to drive miles upon miles to do it. And I want a space where others feel welcome and want to come and hang out. Even if it is simply for some card games and coffee. I would like my forever home. Because I am so very tired of moving. I want my roots in this land to go deep. I want a home where my grandkids will someday say, “Remember grandma and grandpa’s house in the woods where we got to fish and run around?” I want to make those memories with my grandchildren, and with my children, and my husband. I want inner serenity. I want peace and contentment. I certainly don’t want millions of dollars and all that it requires to take care of it. I want to be safe and comfortable, in a space where I can host others, and share some peace and laughter with them.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

And so for 2017, I wish for you the same. The peace the world cannot offer; the peace of Christ. I wish for all of us, to have fear leave us and for contentment to find us. I pray the world will calm down and we can each find this peace in our own little corner of it. For some, it will be an apartment in the middle of a vast city, driving to and from on complicated highways and byways. For others, it will be on farms and rural homes. Still others in suburban hideaways, where they can escape the madness of their commutes. But at least once a week, I pray we can all find our way to kneel before the One Who created us, to give thanks, to be humbled, and to enjoin with Him Who gave us life and breath, and hearts to love. “Our thoughts determine our lives” (Elder Thaddeus) is something I try to live by. If we all have thoughts of peace and we share them, peace will emanate from us and fill those around us. One way to find peace is to seek the quiet and serenity wherever, and whenever, we can. For me, I think I will slowly unplug from the rat race. I may still play a round or two of Angry Birds, but I am trying to rein that in, too. I know that waking early, spending some time reading the Word of God and having a chat with Him, starts my day off right. I also love to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, and a little time with my husband before he is off to his day. These good habits that ground us are often hard to come by, and hard won. But they give us peace and prepare us as we enter into the work the Lord has given us for this day. And for me, I will take these “resolutions” and tackle each day, one at a time, as I resolve to find peace, contentment, and work on all these new things and new people in our lives. “…Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

candles-church

God’s blessings on you and yours as we wade into this new year – 2017.