Monday, March 9, 2009

Embrace Alaska!

We're like any other military family. Every few years, we pack up our things, say goodbye to the friends we've made, and head off on a new adventure somewhere else.

Every time we move, I always look back and wonder why I didn't visit all of the places and see the sights while we were there. There are so many places I wish we had gone while we lived in CA and TX.

I don't want that to happen this time. Alaska is such a long trip from the lower 48. I'm sure it's one that we won't be making very often. We have a little over a year left on this tour and I have decided that we are going to embrace Alaska!

No, I'm not going to run out and buy a snow machine. That's going a bit far in my opinion. But, I have compiled a list of things that I would like to do and places I would like to go before we leave.

Drum roll please......
Here it is:

1. Chena Hot Springs
We almost made it there once. We took off on a long drive in that direction, but neither one of us had realized just how far down Chena Hot Springs Road the hot springs actually were. Apparently about 60 miles. I think we probably made it 45 before turning back.

A resort to stay overnight in, hot springs to soak in, the Aurora Ice Museum - where you can enjoy an ice-carved appletini, dog kennel tours, dog sled rides, aurora borealis viewing, ice carving lessons, cross-country skiing. Doesn't it sound like fun?

If I could find a babysitter, it would be a great weekend getaway when Andy gets back...

2. See the Real Santa Claus.
We've been to Santa Claus House many times. It's just down the road a bit here in North Pole. I never actually took the kids to see Santa though. Next Christmas, I plan on getting their pictures take with the real North Pole Santa Claus.

3. Ice Alaska
This looks like one of the coolest things to do around here (literally).
The World Ice Art Championships are going on right now! I plan on taking the kids there before they end on March 22nd. Check out their website. They have amazing pictures of the carvings. It's incredible what they can do with a block of ice!!!

4. Go Dog Mushing (or at least watch the kids go dog mushing!) They have a program on post every year where the kids get a chance to do just this. I would love to get them signed up next year.
Mushing a Dog Sled in Alaska Photograph - Alaska
Mushing a Dog Sled in Alaska Photograph - Alaska

5. Go cross-country skiing. I have absolutely no idea why I have a burning desire to go cross-country skiing. Maybe it's because even the thought of downhill skiing makes my knees weak. I'd rather go for the great workout at a slower speed - with the ability to stop when I want! I have never tried before, but there are plenty of trails here. It would be the perfect place to give it a try.

6. Take a trip to the Arctic Circle. We are about 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle. That's not very far. Could I really go back "home" to the lower 48 without making the trip? I don't think there is much there besides a sign to take your picture in front of and a small store to buy your official Arctic Circle certificate from.
This is definitely not a trip that I'm taking on my own though. Read the following about the Dalton Highway, which connects Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay:

But this is not a road for the faint of heart, or those with a brand-new vehicle! It is still the main supply route for the Prudhoe Bay oilfields, and you will be sharing the road with large tractor-trailers. Windshields and headlights are easy targets of flying rocks. Most rental companies will not allow you to drive their cars on the Dalton. Trucks speeding along the slippery gravel track kick up thick clouds of dust or mud, reducing visibility to absolute zero; potholes take a heavy toll on cars and services, gas, and repairs are practically nonexistent. Don't even consider driving the Dalton unless you have 4-wheel drive, a CB radio, extra fuel, food, tires, and a trunk filled with supplies. This is grizzly country, so when camping, keep a clean campsite, storing food at least a quarter mile from where you sleep.

Now, I know that we wouldn't be going past the Arctic Circle, so we wouldn't be driving the entire highway, but does that sound like a trip you'd want to make without a husband?? Definitely not.

Maybe we could take one of the many tour bus trips instead of driving our own vehicle...

7. Go panning for gold at one of the local mines.
El Dorado Gold Mine offers train rides and gold panning. The train alone would be worth it for Nick's sake!

9. Denali National Park
We drove by Denali on our trip down to Anchorage, but we didn't actually go into the park. You can only drive a little ways in and then you have to take a shuttle bus the rest of the way. Being stuck on a crowded bus with 5 small children quite frankly sounds like a nightmare to me. However, apparently there is a "lottery" each year. If your name is chosen, then you can actually drive your own vehicle in (I believe in Sept). I will have to look into that!

10. Take the kids ice skating.
I have ice skated one time in my life. I almost landed on my face. There is a skating rink less than a mile from our house though and I pass it daily. I feel bad that we have never actually been in there. Maybe one of these days I will gather the courage to take the kids - or maybe I'll pay for them to take a couple of lessons and I can take picture from the sidelines. :)

11. Ice fishing.
Did you know that you can actually rent public use icehuts on lakes near Fairbanks so that you can sit and ice fish? Why would I want to do this? The thought of walking out onto a frozen lake terrifies me and I don't even like the taste of fish. For some strange reason, I do think that it might be kind of fun to try though!
Man Ice Fishing on Frozen Lake
Man Ice Fishing on Frozen Lake

12. Build an igloo in our backyard.
This sounds like a good family project for next year. The snow here is very powdery and doesn't pack well. This might require water from the house to perfect.
Interior of Arctic Igloo, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada by Stuart Westmoreland
Interior of Arctic Igloo, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

13. World Eskimo-Indian Olympics
I just think that this looks so interesting! With events like the Four Man Carry, the Ear Pull, and the Knuckle Hop, I think it would prove very entertaining!

14. Drive the ALCAN back to the lower 48.
We took the ferry from Washington on our way up here. I would love to be able to drive on the way back. There is so much of Alaska and Canada to see! I will be sure to pack my camera and lots of extra batteries and memory cards!

I don't know if I'll be able to check every single one of these off of my list, but I now have something to strive for!


SmallWorld at Home said...


I just can't imagine. Maybe I could get my husband to do a 6-month sabbatical in Alaska...

Family G said...

Wow, that's one long list! Quite a few cool things, but I don't know about driving on the Dalton... Also, I don't know if icefishing would be for me. But all the other things sound like so much fun and such an unique experience. Go for it!

P.S. We never visited all the places I wish we would have visited either. But there are time and money constraints and sometimes you just take for granted what's right around the corner.

heidi said...

Do take some time to do some of those things. I had a friend who lived in Wasilla and she never really appreciated all that AK had to offer. My uncle was a state trooper for over 20 yrs there and now I believe he is working with the national parks in AK some how and he says it all deserves time to be enjoyed because there is so much and its all so beautiful. Of course you know in the summer to look out for your state bird??? LOL...those humongous mosquitoes. I'm jealous you have so much nature to enjoy right in your own backyard. =o)