Wednesday, November 27. 2013
Just in case anyone is out there... Sandi and I have embarked on a new project. We have taken on a TTT (Tiny Travel Trailer) project in the form of a 1969 Aristocrat LoLiner. Blog is here: http://aristocrage.n523rv.com. Since we have two different blogs.. this one and that one.. not sure which will keep up to date.. I guess it depends on our adventures...
Thursday, June 27. 2013
This weekend we are competing in the Elk River Festival DO competition. We came down today and are camping just north of Jasper, AR in our big camper. Plans for tomorrow are to do some geocaching and walk around Jasper a bit. Saturday morning we start cooking at 9am!
Sunday, May 26. 2013
We got up this morning and had breakfast with Don at the Roadhouse, then back to the lodge to grab our suitcases and head north. A couple of hours of driving and we made it to Denali National Park/Preserve. We had planned to do a rafting trip.. but yet again, the rivers are still chock full of ice. Instead, we booked an ATV Tour. It turned out to be really fun. We each got our own 4-wheelers (ATV) and spent about 3 hrs on some trails near Healy, AK. We opted for the "food" tour, so about half way in we stopped at a large cabin where they served us cornbread, corn on the cob, ribs, chicken, pasta salads and cobbler for dessert! We were pretty fortunate in that it was wet and muddy... so we really had fun muckin' it up. There we just one other couple with us that was up for adventure, so we weren't slowed down at all. We are back at the McKinley Village Lodge for the night. Tomorrow we plan to do some hiking and shopping.
On our way back to the hotel from our ATV ride we about run into a moose on the highway. Fortunately, Sandi's quick reflexes kept us safe. We stopped to take pictures.. and out came two calves behind the mother...
Saturday, May 25. 2013
After some cajoling, I got Sandi to go flying with Don.. me in the back seat. Of course she had a great time! Don flew us up river again and we landed on the gravel bar that I had landed on the previous day. We got out and looked around.... took a couple of pictures and back in the air. It was a short .8 hr flight but just as fun from the back seat as the front. We ran back to the lodge real quick and then back into town to go on our jet boat tour with Mahay's. Since the river is still thawing and has a lot of ice on it, today was the first day they were running on the river. It was a 2 hr ride up the Talkeetna River and short distance up the Sustina River. The trip was so-so... this time of year is in flux... and our bus driver told us we were here the 2 weeks that is the ugliest in Alaska.. the snow has mostly melted so it is muddy everywhere and the trees haven't put out their leaves yet, so it is brown. We saw a few bald eagles on the trip but that was it for wildlife. If someone was short on time, I would recommend a flight seeing tour before the jet boat tour. I'm sorta glad we didn't do the full day one like we had originally planned.
Friday, May 24. 2013
Today was dedicated to a full day of flying for me. We've been staying at a lodge off Christiansen Lake near Talkeetna, home of Alaska Floats & Ski's, Don Lee's flying school. Don offers a "bush pilot" training course. I don't have time for the full course, so he was generous enough to spend a day giving me exposure to some off-airport landings and some mountain flying. This morning we spent 30 minutes going over some basics and then headed to the airport. Don uses Piper PA20/22 Pacers with the large bush wheels for training. We departed Talkeetna airport and flew up the river a bit and did a landing at a private gravel strip near Princess Lodge. Then back down to the river to about 75 ft AGL. Just did some basic turns, following the river to get used to the plane. Our first landing on a gravel bar was very interesting.... hugged the shore line on a base leg and then a quick turn to final and on the ground. Yikes! We shut down and walked around a bit.... Don showing me what to look at when doing landings on gravel bars.. color of rock, wet, dry, debris, etc. We departed did a couple more landings on gravel. Get this.. in Alaska it is legal to land on highways, as long as it is done safely and doesn't impose any risk to people or structures. After a couple of approaches, we finally managed to catch a break in the traffic and we did a touch-n-go on the Parks Highway. Back in the air, we dropped back down into the canyon/river. Now that I had flown enough to get generally comfortable flying the plane, we flew the canyon back down the river... trees & terrain above us.. but still quite safe. Not many places you can do this in Kansas! We returned to Talkeetna, landing on the gravel runway that parallels the paved one. 1.5 hours in the logbook with a veteran bush pilot instructor.
After a quick lunch with Sandi, she dropped me back off at the airport, this time to fly with Fawn, one of Don's instructors. The agenda was to head for the mountains... in Denali... I will admit.... flying towards the mountains did come with a sense of trepidation. I really had no idea what to expect... but I did expect turbulence, winds, downdrafts, updrafts... got none of that! It was a smooth flight! Amazing flight as well... We flew up Ruth Glacier and then crossed over the solid rock ridge between Moose's Tooth and broken Moose's Tooth... glaciers everywhere... mountains... Toto.. we aren't in Kansas any more.. not even close! We headed west and flew by more mountain peaks. Headed north towards the head of Kahiltna Glacier and flew over the base camp where climbers start their journey to the top of Mt. McKinley. Still lots of tents and people down there. Then back down the Kahiltna Glacier. Once out of the mountains we landed at a small strip called Cache Creek, lots of mining in the area. While there, we saw a couple of moose.... actually had to wait for them to get off the runway. Back in the air and back in Talkeetna. 2.3 more hours in the logbook. Flying with Fawn was great...
Today I did some flying that I'm likely not ever going to do again anytime soon. Thanks to my sweet wife Sandi who encouraged me to do this and gave me a day out of our vacation schedule. Thanks babe! Your the bestest!
Thursday, May 23. 2013
What an enjoyable anniversary... We spent most of the day wandering around Talkeetna. We had lunch, did some shopping, hit a few geocaches, wandered around a bit more, grabbed a bottle of wine and headed back to the cabin. While in town, we did walk down to the river which is still mostly frozen over. AMAZING how much snow/ice builds up. We had a great time and are planning a quiet evening at the cabin tonight with our bottle of Riesling
Wednesday, May 22. 2013
Our last day in Girdwood. Unfortunately we were not able go rafting because the company would not receive their permit until Friday. We had breakfast at the B&B and then checked out. Ran into town and Sandi did a couple loads of laundry. We said goodbye to Girdwood and headed to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Portage, AK. This is a center that takes in injured or orphaned wildlife and rehabilitates them. It is a drive-thru (or walk) park. Not a lot of animals but a fair number. Wood bison, elk, moose, musk ox and black bears are the primary large animals with some smaller ones here and there.
After the park we headed to Talkeetna, a 150 mile drive. We arrived in Talkeetna around 4:00 where we are staying in the lodge at Alaska Floats & Ski's. We will be here for 4 nights. Tomorrow we will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary! On Friday I'll be doing some bush flying with Don. We are hoping that Saturday we can do a jet boat tour up one of the rivers here but winter is taking its time leaving the area.
Tuesday, May 21. 2013
The original schedule had us doing our Glacier Dog Sledding on Wednesday and we had planned on doing river rafting today. The weather was looking a little sketchy for Wednesday so I moved our Glacier Dog Sledding trip to today. It wasn't scheduled until 3:00pm though. Breakfast at our B&B was at 8:30a, afterwards we tried to make a trip up to Crow Creek Mine but we ran into another one of those road signs that says "travel not recommended".. we tried anyway but the road was in poor condition... not snowy, just lots of LARGE potholes. It would have taken us 30 mins to go the short 3 miles. So we turned around. Needing to kill some time, we went for a 2 mile walk along a paved trail next to Seward Highway. We also grabbed a few geocaches along the way.
So the highlight of our day was a helicopter ride to Punch Bowl Glacier in the Chugach National Forest. Once there, we spent a couple of hours learning about dog sledding, playing with the dogs and taking a 2 mile ride on a dog sled. The view was amazing! They have 60 dogs up here, most from Iditarod racing teams. They spend the summer pulling silly tourists like us around the glacier. Apparently this is summer training camp for them. They have a bunch of guys that stay up on the glacier with the dogs in tents for 5-10 stretches at a time. They have named one of the ridges' AT&T Ridge and another one Verizon Pass... as they have to hike up to these hills to get cell phone coverage. One of the things that struck me was how WARM it was up there. I really expected it to be cold! It wasn't.... it was nearly as warm as it was down in Girdwood, I even had to shed a coat. They other thing that struck me is how easily it would be to "miss" something while traveling here. During our sled ride, we weren't 2 mins away from camp and it was completely hidden by a small slope. You could walk within 100 yards of camp and never even know it was there. Can you imagine being an explorer 100 years ago?? Once finished we had a quick ride in the helicopter back to the airport. Definitely once in a lifetime thing to do.
Monday, May 20. 2013
We had planned to hike to Exit Glacier in Seward area but the road to the glacier was closed.... so that busted our day... instead we headed on to Girdwood. We arrived early of course, so we toodled around the town a bit, did a short hike behind Hotel Alyesta looking for some moose. Back to the B&B for a bit and then back out to do some geocaching in the area. Stopped for dinner at Chair 5 in Girdwood which was pretty decent. I had a "Tundra" burger which was a mix of Caribou and Bison. Sandi ate a little better with a Greek salad.
Oh.. just outside of Girdwood along the Seward Highway, we saw a large group (dozens) of Bald Eagles and some other birds on the tidal flats.
Sunday, May 19. 2013
Today was dedicated to a nearly full day boat ride with Kenai Fjords Tours again... this time to see a glacier up close. Of course along the way we saw a bunch of whales again.. Orca's and Humpbacks. A gaggle/covey/herd/flock/pack of Dall Porpoises also made an appearance around our boat, they were fun to watch.. very fast swimmers! We made our way from Seward harbor to the face of Holgate Glacier. We floated around for 15 mins or so... an amazing site! It was overshadowed somewhat when our GoPro camera got blown off he boat into the ocean. 100 mph capable my a$$. I had it suctioned to the ship and when the captain did some maneuvering a bit of wind got it.. and it was gone.
Dinner tonight was Ray's, which honestly was a disappointment. Sandi had crab lags which she said we very good and sweet. I had a salmon special ... had no flavor really. The Creole Bread Pudding caught Sandi's eye but it also turned out to be bland. Sure not worth the $100. (This was a splurge btw... we aren't living that high on the hog up here... but boy it is pricey to eat out here!)
Saturday, May 18. 2013
The clouds finally disappeared and revealed the amazing mountain ranges they were hiding. Down side is that the clouds were replaced with a very stiff wind and continued chilly temperatures. Today's schedule was pretty open. We went to the Alaska Sea Life Aquarium which was a small but very nice place to visit. Woody the 2,200lb sea lion was on display today.. what a monster. Sandi drooled over the crabs on display. After the aquarium, we stopped for coffee and a danish downtown. With nothing else planned, we drove slowly around all of the streets in town looking at the architecture. Very diverse in size and style and condition. We stopped back downtown, did a little window shopping and then came back to the cabin. I took a good nap while Sandi played on her 'puter.
For dinner we went to Chriso's Palace and had a pizza. After dinner we ran around town picking up a few Geocaches. A nice slow vacation day!
Friday, May 17. 2013
I think we both woke up way to early Alaska time... going to take some time for our bodies to adjust 3 hours. We got up, showered, ran to Starbucks, packed and got in the car. We made a quick stop at Walmart and then grabbed a bite to eat at Village Inn. Then it was on to Alaska Highway 1 for 125 miles of rainy, wet driving to Seward. Despite the very low clouds and inclement weather, it is beautiful! It was about a 2.5 hr drive from Anchorage to Seward.
Our event for the day was a Gray Whale Boat Tour with Kenai Fjords Tours. A 4-hr boat ride in Resurrection Bay starting at noon. Again, despite the inclement weather (35 degree's and drizzling) it was a great tour! Right off the bat we saw a couple of sea otters playing in the bay. We saw some bald eagles, a white sea lion and I caught a distant glimpse of a a whale blowing. As we got farther out, one of the Kenai Fjords sister ships radioed our ship that they had found some Orca Whales in the bay! We spent some time watching a large family of Orca's in the water. We moved around and found a bunch of sea lions on the rocks and lots of birds in the air. Sandi spotted a mountain goat WAY up at the top of the mountain. The tour got even better when we spotted several humpback whales. The best part was when one of them surfaced and then dove right under our boat headed for a school of fish. (Caught that on video!) What a tour! Captain Reene, the captain of our boat, had to be a marine biologist with a minor in Alaska history... or she had Google on the bridge. Her wealth of knowledge was amazing.
After the tour, we drove out to Lowell Point where we are staying in a 1-room cabin by the sea.. Millane's Serenity by the Sea Cabins. As Sandi put it "they are just too CUTE!". We are here until Monday.
Dinner was at Chinooks, right off the small boat harbor in Seward. It was very good. We had a window seat right on the water. For an appetizer "I" had the smoked salmon and Sandi had some crab & artichoke cakes. We split the Smoked Scallop Mac-n-Cheese for an entree.... also very good.
Thursday, May 16. 2013
The first day of our 2 week vacation to Alaska... nothing but travel really. We departed Kansas City at 1:30pm for a short flight to Denver. There we had a 3 hour layover and then a 5+ hour flight to Anchorage. The flights were relatively uneventful but the approach into Anchorage was "in the soup" and quite turbulent. The final approach to the runway was in the clear and the pilot made a smooth landing. We grabbed our rental car (a brand new Dodge Journey) and headed for downtown Anchorage. It was 9:00pm Anchorage time... but midnight by our body clocks.. we were wiped out.. but starving. We checked into the Westmark Anchorage Hotel and then walked across the street to the Glacier Brew House for a not-so-quick snack. If our first 12 hours in Anchorage are any indication, Alaska moves at a slower pace.
Monday, April 22. 2013
Mark & Phil from our KAMO group organized a camping trip at Stockton Lake State Park in Missouri. It was a perfect camping weekend! I think we had 10 teardrop/campers show up. We also had 5 Dachshund's as part of our group!! Dennis took some photo's... link below.
Tuesday, April 16. 2013
Sandi is giving me grief about not updating our blog. I figured she does enough posts to Facebook that anyone who knows us is keeping up with us there. But just in case...
In mid-March we took the teardrop up to Watson Mill State Park near Kearney, MO for a first run at camping for the year and also to do some geocaching. It was pretty chilly and the park facilities were all locked up still, so after camping Friday night and a little 'caching Saturday, we decided to head back home. It was also forecast to rain, which made the decision easier. The trip was good though as it reminded us of a lot of things we needed to pack and get put back into the camper.
The first weekend of April, we drove down to Arkansas where we bought a new (used) truck. It is a 2010 Ford F-250 Superduty Diesel 4x4. We bought it as a new tow vehicle for the big camper we take on our Dutch Oven related trips. I traded in my old '97 Dodge Dakota, the first new vehicle I ever bought.
It just worked out that we had also planned to go camping at Cricket Creek just south of Branson, MO that weekend and had invited our teardrop friends to come and join us. So after picking up the new truck in Clarksville, we drove up to Branson to camp for the weekend. Four campers showed up and Mark & Ginger stopped by to say hi while they were nearby. It was a perfect camping weekend!
Our weekends are starting to fill up already with camping and cooking adventures for 2013. I'll try and be better at updating... but if you are friends/family, you might friend Sandi to get more up-to-date info on our adventures.
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