Saturday, June 30, 2012


Day 1

We set off for the coast around 8:30 pm. We drove for a few hours, soaking up the scenery and one another's company. We spotted 5 moose (our made up plural is moosen, meaning many moose) and 1 "caboose", which is really a caribou, but "caboose" rhymes better:)

Nenana Bridge

Moose! They weigh up to 1,000 lbs, so we kept our eyes peeled for any jumping into the road for two reasons. 1) We didn't want to die from ramming a moose. 2) The car company said Jessica was too young to purchase insurance and wouldn't let her so, therefore, we were driving with a hope and prayer nothing went wrong.

 Beautiful AK mountains at 11:00 p.m.

Eventually we got tired, so we set up camp at the east fork of the Chalitna river around 12:30 a.m.! It's tricky if you don't consistently check the clock during twilight and night hours; you never know when it's time for bed because it doesn't get dark.

Day 2

Slept in a bit and woke up to rain. Took down camp after a little breakfast in the tent. It was still raining so we moved quickly, using the stuffing method. We had to dry everything in our apt. when we got back. You could hardly walk around with all the camping gear sprawled out.
The rushing river was just behind our camp site. It helped sing us to sleep.

There are wildflowers everywhere you look and once those flowers die, a new variety will pop up in the same exact spot. The landscape is never the same two weeks in a row.

If you stare closely right above the tree line you will see a faint shadow of mountains that look like clouds. Here, mountains are on top of mountains.

Travis and I explored Talkeetna on our way down to Anchorage. It is a resort town for those that brave Mount Mckinley aka Denali (the high one). We explored the rangers station where all Denali climbers must check in before climbing. The rangers give them a two hour briefing and look over all the climber's gear and food to insure safety. Climbers must submit an application before climbing the mountain. On the application they must list their climbing experience in detail,describing the mountain ranges and summits they have climbed. Of course the rangers cannot stop anyone from climbing the mountain, but they strongly encourage climbers to wait; if the climbers are lacking experience the rangers suggest other mountains to conquer before attempting Denali.

Denali climbing season begins in April and ends in July because the sun's reflection off the snow is too powerful. In the middle of the summer climber's can experience severe blizzards for weeks at a time and winds reaching 100 mph. It takes most people 21 days to scale the mountain, which is 20,320 feet. The climb back down on takes about 5 of those 21 days. The climb up takes so long because the climbers must take a few days to acclimate their bodies every so many thousand feet.  The rangers said there are 3 things required to survive the mountain: respect, perseverance, and luck. 

I don't think we will be climbing Denali anytime soon, but my respect for those that attempt it grew a lot during the ranger's lecture. To think, I have cousins that will climb Denali someday! Power to them. I believe they will have all three of the survival requirements on their side. 

Talkeetna has a Park City feel to it, in that all the buildings are log or older looking to keep the theme and spirit of the town.

New to my home decor wish list.

Bear mittens! Talk about toasty.

It was still rainy and chilly but that doesn't stop locals from enjoying their summer months. Everyone was eating outdoors.

So we tried fitting in with the crowd and dined outdoors as well. It was fun despite the rain!

Seafood Chowder in a sourdough bowl. We ate at the most amazing pub. Man Vs. Food showcased the West Rib Pub on his Alaskan feature. I want to drive back to Talkeetna right now just for the food!

We rolled ourselves out of the west rib and back to the car because we needed to press on to Anchorage. Mostly we knew we would get distracted and need to make more adventurous stops on the way down. 
Stop Numero Uno

Driving through Wasilla and saw a taste of home. We couldn't resist the reeses blizzard. There are four DQs in the whole state. There are like 20 in UT. It was a fun detour.
 Stop Numero Dos
This was a short hike, about a mile and half round trip. The view was amazing and helped us forget about the swarm of mosquitoes that were following us all the way up. The mosquitoes are worse here than back home hands down.

After the detours we made it to my cousin Jake and Amy's place! Their house is amazing with a chicken coup, zip line, rope swing. fire pit, hot tub, view of Denali and other mountain ranges, and not to forget, Amy's art work. We didn't even get to play with everything. To say the least we had a blast with the Maloufs the rest of the weekend! 


Day 3


Shrimping today! There is so much to describe and tell! Amy and Jake rented an ocean liner from the base. They took us all out for deep sea fishing in Whittier. The place was called Prince William Sound and it was full of bays, glaciers, sea life, and beautiful mountains. Jake's cousin Rob and his wife also joined us fishing. We threw out shrimp pots, a bear skull:), and fishing lines in hopes of catching some halibut. We saw dahls porpisuses, sea lions, and an otter. The dahls swam right up to the boat and were jumping formations all around the boat.It was rainy and cold at first but it cleared up and turned into a beautiful day.

Prince William Sound Whittier, AK
Gulls Fall. This was the first place we took the boat. All the little white dots are seagulls. I thought I was getting away from these birds moving all the way up here.


We felt like sailors in our head to toe rain gear.

Fishing for halibut. These suckers feed on herring and can get up to 300+ lbs! No luck today though.

Glassy water.

The Great Unveiling 
You have to pull the lines back up 500ft because the shrimp feed at the bottom of the ocean. You feel it in your whole body part way through the pulling.

After all of Trav's hard work we earned one shrimp. Not such good luck today, but the other pots had a bit more shrimp.

We used cat food for shrimp bate. The container was crawling in sea lice. ewwww.

We didnt catch any halibut and only caught enough shrimp to snack we did! Amy pulled out her camper stove and we sautéed the shrimp in butter and had a shrimp feast right on the boat at 9 pm in the broad day light. The day was perfect and I spent it with fun people and Mr. Hall:)

 Whittier Tunnel

Second longest tunnel in North America and longest rail/highway combo tunnel in North America at a whopping 13,300 ft. That's a big hole in a mountain. One more comment on behalf of Travis: The Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado, his home state, is the longest mountainous tunnel in North America and the highest point on the interstate highway system. "God bless Colorado"-Travis T. Hall

We made the second to last tunnel at 10 pm, phew. If we hadn't we may have needed to stay the night in Whittier because the tunnel closes down after 11 pm. There is only one tunnel leading into the town. It must accommodate both directions of traffic and a train. While we were waiting for the tunnel home, we were trying to figure out how to unlock the doors on our rental car. There were no locks on the sides of the door. Then Rob says "did you push the button in the middle?" There in the middle of the dashboard was a button with the lock symbol. It was such a funny moment. We were tired at the end of our 12 hour fishing day. It was well worth it! Not many get to independently experience the alaskan ocean the way we did. Even with a charter we wouldn't have seen all we did and been able to beach the boat and walk around the different land masses to explore. It was truly marvelous!

Day 4

Home again. We had some French toast and said our goodbyes to Jake, Amy, and the kids (Ben and Jess) around 10 am. We were getting a little later Of a start but it was hard to leave Jake and Amy's cute family.

We drove home on the eastern side of the state so we could see as much if AK as possible. Travis' back flared up again so I had to drive. It was a great test of my patience as I don't usually drive long distances and our 7 hour journey turned into 8.5 due to construction and winding roads. In Alaska there are only 4-5 main highways connecting this large state, and most of the time they are only two lanes. T
echnically there are 11 highways in the state, which are probably dirt roads if you ask me. None the less, the scenery was beautiful and we got to visit Palmer where my classmate Dani is from. It was as beautiful as she described.

Lots O' Driving

Palmer, AK

Highway 1 to Glennallen. We saw glaciers from the road!

The trans-Alaska pipeline. It runs for 800 miles carrying oil from Prudhoe Bay, at the top of AK, to Valdez,the bottom coast of AK.


We made it home ad returned the rental car in time! A great brother from our ward brought us home. I'm so grateful for my ward! We talked to both our families and went to bed early because we were both exhausted and Travis had a long week to prepare for, which  began with a 6 am wake up call. 

Thus the close of another adventure.

Monday, June 25, 2012

First Adventure

 We decided to start our first weekend off trying to do something adventurous. We don't have a car so it can be tricky to get around. Luckily there is "some sort" of a bus system that runs between North Pole and Fairbanks and then around Fairbanks. By "some sort" I mean the buses come on the hour or every hour and a half if you are lucky. So, a 20 minute commute to Fairbanks becomes a 2 hour plus commute some days. But we are still grateful for the bus when we need it.

The 9:20 bus got us downtown around  10:15 am. We then caught a second bus to the western side of town where we explored the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus. We checked out a cool modern art museum that had some displays depicting step by step the process of woodcut printing, wood carving, acid wash photography, and painting. I was enamored by the woodcut print work and want to take up a new hobby. Check out this woman to get a look at amazing woodcut prints- Sara Tabbert. Anywho I was inspired.

 Travis and I had fun taking in all the scenery around the campus because it is plopped down in the middle of a forest and has an awesome view of the valley (see above). I need a better camera to do it justice. They had a frisbee golf course that weaved throughout the campus and they had multiple trails that connected the different sections of campus. Of course they had normal side walks and it looked like any other regular campus, but it had these little hidden extras that made it unique. We enjoyed our time there.

We also checked out the local farmers market. I want to go later in the season because then they will have more fresh produce. The fresh bread sufficed for this time. It was delicious. Travis wasn't so sure about posing for the picture below, but I made him do it anyways. After the market we grabbed some lunch at a cafe I had read about in a local brochure. It was called Sam's Sourdough Cafe. "Sourdough" is not a term used lightly up here in AK. You have to be a long term resident who has stuck it out through a lot of winters. Once you have done this, you are entitled to the nick name "sourdough". The locals love it and the place was packed. We thought, "hey this is going to be one of those great hole-in-the-wall restaurant experiences." Meh not so much haha. It was still fun though. The food was just like cheap diner food should be, except more expensive. My buffalo burger and the reindeer sausage Trav got were pretty good though and we felt like locals chowing down with the crowd. The rest of the food..... not that great.

Bufallo burger and reindeer sausage above also a trail from UAF's campus.

Worlds smallest water glass from Sam's Sourdough Cafe. Literally a shot glass. Maybe it's a family diner by day and bar by night. We got a good chuckle from it.

After we said goodbye to Sam's we had to walk a ways to catch a bus to the depo or else we would be waiting another 2 hours for a bus back to North Pole. Just when I thought we weren't going to find the bus stop, I saw a nice looking red bricked building in the distance. You truly can spot any LDS institute building or church a mile away. We had stumbled upon the UAF institute building and YSA branch house! And the bus stop was right in front of the main doors. I was pretty excited and went straight to finding an open door because I wanted to go inside and feel a little bit of familiar for a minute. We found an open door and went in. I went to use the bathroom and when I came out Travis, in his usual fashion, had already made a couple of friends. They were a senior missionary couple from Sandy, UT. It was fun chatting with them and learning more about the area. After we said our goodbyes and left to catch the bus, I felt awesome knowing that wherever Travis and I go we will have friends and we will have people that are willing to help us and even take care of us if we need. The church is amazing and I am so grateful for the support we feel from it.

We caught the right bus and didn't have to wait another 2 hours to get home. We successfully navigated Fairbanks and had fun together! When I was young and naive I thought marriage was final and boring, but it isn't. I just have the coolest person to do things with all of the time now.

And We're Off

Destination: Alaska   ETA: 3:30 pm

We made it to North Pole, Alaska on Tuesday, May 29th. The flight was a bit long, but at least we didn't have any extreme layovers. Travis was a sport and his back is getting stronger everyday. Brother Fuller, from our ward, picked us up from the Fairbanks airport. He greeted us at the baggage claim with pink and yellow Hawaiian leis and Twix candy bars. "Welcome newlyweds!",  he boomed. The members of our ward have definitely taken us under their wings.

Married to this handsome guy.

Fairbanks Airport

After a 20 minute ride home brother Fuller helped us get our bags unloaded and into our little 300 square foot apt, which is attached to the back end of the PT clinic Travis is interning at. Talk about a short commute to work! We settled in for just a few minutes before we headed to the grocery store. Travis said we would be fine and didn't need to go to the store because we had plenty of food. I asked what we had and opened the fridge. Here is the fridge inventory: a dozen eggs, a container of country home butter, a bit of broccoli and a loaf of bread. Oh, and a water bottle. This boy was such a bachelor before he met me! At least he had some healthy basics.

Our first grocery store experience was an eyeopening one. Yes, there are interesting people in North Pole Alaska, and I have even shopped with Santa Claus on a couple of occasions since moving here, but it was the cost of everything that blew my mind! It cost $2.50 a pound for apples, $4 for a jug of milk, and $5 for a bag of corn chips:(. To say the least, Travis and I have a hard time grocery shopping because we are both cheap. We have learned a new tactic. Let me describe, you just don't look at the price if you really need it:) The upside of the whole cost thing, is that I really appreciate sales and think that a bag of cheese for $7 is the best thing in the whole world.

I have had fun exploring North Pole since we arrived. I don't have work here because it was a bit tricky to find a job for 6 short weeks, so I do volunteer work and observe an SLP at the hospital every now and then. Travis on the other hand works 12-15 hour days at the clinic. So, I have taken it upon myself to explore the town and report back to Travis each night. Everyone is very much so in the Christmas spirit all year round here.

We live just off of Santa Claus Ln.

    This is what is looks like everywhere. The town is nestled into the woods.
Adventure in Fairbanks

Above is a little summary of one of my adventures in Fairbanks. I had the whole day to explore the city, but once I got off the bus it started pouring rain. I ducked into a cute boutique called If Only....A Fine Store. They had artisan type crafts and a kid corner full of children's books and games. I got Travis a cute little surprise from the kid section-cowboy band-aids:) While in the store I asked one of the gals working if she could recommend any places to visit in Fairbanks. We chatted for a bit while she wrote down some suggestions. It didn't take long to write down her recommendations because well, in Fairbanks you kind of have to make your own fun. She was a nice girl and I had fun chatting with her about Travis and I, and our new little adventure in Alaska. When I was getting ready to leave she said, " I feel strange doing this but if you like, you and your husband should do something with me and my husband sometime." It was the coolest thing ever! She told me she knew it was hard to make friends in Fairbanks. So, we exchanged numbers and ended up going to dinner a couple weeks later at the Pagoda. They were the coolest couple and it was refreshing to meet another young couple with similar values as us, even though they were not the same religion. Too many young adults in this world kinda miss the joy in having committed relationships and wanting to have a family of their own. The food was wonderful but the company was better. I think heavenly father works in mysterious ways to bless us with tiny tender mercies, like ducking into a shop to avoid the rain and making a new friend. Who knows if we will get to do something with them again in our short time here, but it was an experience that will make me think twice when I meet a kind stranger down the road.