Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fall? Already?

I feel like we're on an episode of Frozen Planet.  "The summer months are short in the far north.  Humans and animals alike scurry around in the fleeting sun, making the most of the time to travel and harvest before winter sets in yet again."

School starts in less than three weeks.  The fireweed is blooming, with the flowers already halfway up the stalk.  They say that when it reaches the top, there are 6 more weeks until winter.  Our streetlights came on last night around 10:15, the first time I have seen them on in months. Nowhere else we have lived have I paid such close attention to the weather, hours of daylight, and changing of seasons.  In Alaska, we truly live by the patterns of nature.

June went by in a flurry of outdoor activity.  Not long after we returned from our Great Alaskan Road Trip, word spread that the first salmon were running in the Kenai River.  Who were we kidding- we are more the Kodiak-style of salmon fishers, where you drive to a river, drop in your line, and reel in fish with ease.  We definitely are not the Kenai Peninsula style of combat salmon fishermen, who line the banks of the Russian and Kenai Rivers, hollering at each other to keep their flies in their own shoulder-width allotment of the riverbank.  But that didn't stop us from packing up our camping gear and heading out of town on an hour's notice for a Father's Day weekend initiation into family tent camping. We went with some good friends and had just about every piece of gear we needed between us all.  We snagged the last public campsite in a 40-mile radius and had a blast.  We also tried fishing...for about 15 minutes.  There was no room for amateurs.

Washing dishes in the Kenai River

Combat Fishing Zone

We had so much fun the first time, that the next sunny stretch of days (about 2 weeks later!) we headed out again.  This time it was to Captain Cook State Recreation Area, past Nikiski.

Boulder Scrambling

Alaska's natural playground

Serious discussions at a beach campfire
We did learn a few Alaskan camping tips:
-Darkness comes late (or not at all).  We used a black-backed quilt thrown over the top of our tent to help everyone get to sleep.
-All food belongs in vehicles or bear lockers at night to avoid unwelcome visitors.
-Keep bear spray within easy reach of all adults at camp--and don't spray it around the perimeter of camp as a deterrent (that was actually stated in the instructions that came with the spray- ha!).
-Starbucks Via packets make perfect camp coffee.
-Bring a propane stove if you intend to have coffee in a timely manner in the morning, as most of the firewood around is damp.

The end of June brought the departure of the LT, who has been floating around somewhere off the western coast of Alaska ever since.   He has managed to visit with several native Alaskans along the way and promises to bring home a bounty of unique souvenirs of his journey.  Shell was supposed to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer but has (fortunately??) run into several delays. You can read more about that here, as I'm not at liberty to say much else about the subject.

July brought us lots of rainy days, as well as some visitors.  We gave them the full Alaskan experience, including clamming (but no clams!), halibut fishing, glacier cruising, and dog mushing.

A side trip offshore for ling cod while halibut fishing

The most beautiful day on Resurrection Bay

Surprise Glacier

Floating on bergy bits (no, really, that's the technical name)

Another visit to Seavey's Ididaride

Even though it's now August, we have a couple more adventures coming up before settling in for the fall.  First, it's to Denali National Park again, this time on the Alaska Railroad.  We will also be spending Labor Day weekend at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, about an hour north of Anchorage.  We are lucky to have a school that sees the value in family travel and doesn't mind a missed day here and there!  Until then, we will be savoring our last couple of weeks of swim lessons and beach time before having a first-grader and pre-k-er while looking forward to the LT's return.  We have crossed quite a bit off our Alaska bucket list this summer, with mostly winter activities remaining.  We are also already (!!) working on our list of locales to be stationed next tour.  That's right, we have to move again next summer.  So let's just focus on the now for now.

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