What the heck I did in Alaska

Though I’ve shared tidbits here and there, a more lengthy and detailed recap of our Alaska trip is due. Since I was having trouble figuring out where to start, I came up with the brilliant idea of taking the before-I-left list of things to do that I shared with you guys and explaining what I did and did not do. What I accomplished, and where I slacked off. And of course, what I thought during these events every second of every day.

And every nanosecond of every second.

You know, the usual. Let’s go!

1) Take as many pictures of Heidi and James as I possibly can.

I would have liked to get more good shots of Heidi–but little James was fully documented.

His excited hooting is my favorite thing.

The camera loves him–though he really looks so much cuter in person. Something gets lost in translation going from real-live baby to flat image.

And Heidi is an amazing mother.

A perfect combination of on-task, relaxed, caring, involved with her baby but not to the exclusion of her friends. Active, in shape, and (ehem) tinier than I am, the wench.

She has, in the words of Oswald Chambers, a ‘strong, calm sanity’ about her that I am praying to have if I’m ever a mother.

2) Schmooch baby James on an hourly basis. No, not ‘smooch’–’schmooch.’ Two very different things. Baby James was thoroughly schmooched. I also, if you didn’t catch this post, ate his feet. Many times over.

3) Visit the town of North Pole, home of the aforesaid Santa Claus. Yup! We hit up this town the Saturday before we left. Small anecdote: there was a big sign by the reindeer that said “Do NOT feed the reindeer! They are on a special diet.” An entire family-full of people was completely disregarding the sign and feeding them who knows what kind of weeds that they were violently pulling up by the fistfull.

Part of me wanted to march right over and wag my finger at them. “Hey! Look at the sign! These reindeers are on a special diet, man! Respect the rules!”

Then I meditated on the violence of their weed-pulling and decided it wasn’t worth even the small possibility of getting into a throw-down fight with a traveling family.

So instead, we headed into the baby store.

Whoa–did I just say “baby store”? I meant Christmas store. I must have a certain something on the brain.

Or . . . perhaps nothing on the brain, as this classic ‘spaced out’ expression indicates in the pictures above.

And I’d like to point out my favorite way of holding James, documented right here. I call it the ‘patent-pending one-armed yoga baby hold.’ And I will create some kind of franchise emporium based on this technique, because that’s how comfortable it is.

4) Bathe in the hot springs? We didn’t end up going to the hot springs–but we did consider experiencing a blast of cold air instead . . .

. . . until we realized you had to buy a T-shirt. And dangit if I didn’t want to buy a T-shirt.

5) Eat salmon. Or something. Possibly on a dinner boat experience. Not only did we eat salmon at the Salmon Bake in Pioneer Park, but I rode a salmon. Thassright.

I rode that salmon long and hard.

And does it look to anyone else like my face reverted to my 9-year old self? Mom, can I get off this thing already? Hunh?

6) Do this excursion thingy that involves panning for gold.

We drove about 20 minutes out of Fairbanks and hopped on a train-tour of an old gold-mining operation, serenaded by an Alaskan guitar and fiddle-playin’ man who told us stories of his heyday on the stage with Johnny Cash.

Then, a bunch of interns on summer vacation from college showed us how to pan:

There’s a lot of swirling and swiveling, and it’s all based on the principle that gold is really, really heavy. Heavier than the water and stones and dirt, so as you add water to the pan and swish it about, the gold will sink to the bottom.

Then you ‘wash out’ the top layer of soil/pebbles/stones, fill the pan with more water, and repeat the process. Until you’re left with this:

A bunch of little flecks and, if you’re lucky, a nugget. You can tell you’ve got a nugget because it will make a ‘plunk’ sound when you drop it onto the pan.

At the end of the excursion, everyone receives a bag full of dirt and is guaranteed–guaranteed, mind you–that they will find gold. If you don’t, you get a new bag.

James even got his own bag, the proceeds of which will go towards his college fund. Since he was strangely unable to replicate the gold panning motions with his tiny fat hands and rubber-band wrists, we agreed to pan it for him. But you owe us, kid!

He seemed grateful enough, I guess.

We made about $12-13 each in tiny gold flecks–sadly, not enough to counteract the cost of the $30 tickets. Then again, if you made more than you paid, I suppose things would stop making sense on some kind of fundamental capitalist level.

7) Become a gold-panning millionaire and share my largesse with you by inviting you to my new Gourmet Spa Space Station on Pluto.

Well, this didn’t exactly happen. I considered making off with this man’s gold . . .

. . . but then I realized I was all but stranded on the mountainside, wouldn’t know where to run, and ultimately didn’t want to give James the idea that thievery is in any way cool.

I know the little guy really looks up to me, see.

I guess that Spa Space Station will just have to wait a few more years.

8) Hike around the National Park of Denali.

No hiking–but lotsa driving.

We kept trying to identify Mt. McKinley. “Oooh, I think that’s Mt. Mckinley!” I would cry. “Hey! Look–Mt. McKinley!” my husband would interject half an hour later. Then after another 15 minutes, we’d spot it again. And again. It just kept cropping up!

It turns out we never did see Mt. McKinley on that drive, as we discovered at a rest stop that showed a 3-D montage of the mountains and proved exactly how far away we were from that highest of peaks.

Ironically, we finally saw Mt. McKinley back in Fairbanks, and from that distance it was unmistakable, looming over all other mountains and hills.

Can you see it there against the skyline? Let’s move a little closer . . .

. . . now can you see it?

Impressive, eh? Especially considering that, in Fairbanks, we were around 160 miles away. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

9) Cook up a storm.

This didn’t exactly happen–I got sucked into Heidi’s lovely rhythm of making simple, delicious meals (instead of the sometimes complicated endeavors I can be drawn to). It felt so good to take it easy in the kitchen! I think I might be addicted. And while we’re talking about food, I must showcase the sandwich that my husband prepared for our Anchorage roadtrip:

I can’t look at that thing without laughing.

10) Spend two nights in Anchorage with my man, which entails a 6 hour drive through an incredibly beautiful part of the country.

My favorite part of this trip was not Anchorage itself, but the laughter and talking and sharing that happened along the way with my husband.

He’s just my favorite person in the world. There is no one else I’d rather spend time with, laugh with, and experience new things with.

We ambled along, pulling to the side of the road to take pictures, stopping for coffee and beef jerky, talking, and reading Harry Potter out loud.

Even if he doesn’t have a concept of slicing cheese into sandwich-appropriate-sized pieces–he’s still the best.

I also have to say that–and my husband agrees–despite its utilitarian-ness as a city, Anchorage hosts one of the best museums we’ve ever been to.

It was a combination art museum, children’s museum with hands-on experiements, natural history, and history museum. It had everything, from dioramas to video to science to majestic paintings. There were life-sized replicas of Alaskan dwelling places through time and across cultures, complete with wax figures and everything. I love a museum with some good wax figures. If you’re ever in Anchorage, don’t miss it! Especially because there’s this cool video thingy in the children’s section that records you jumping, and plays it back in reeeeeaaaaallllly slow motion . . .

. . . look, I’m flying!

There he goes!

11) Are you ready? Not blog. Mission accompli. And honestly, I’m glad to be back, and to be writing again. During our first few days back, when I was dead-tired, I asked myself “Why am I even blogging? Why would I ever want to do such a thing?”

Then again, that’s what I ask myself about everything when I’m tired. Why am I cooking? Why am I in a band? Why am I doing that photo shoot? Why am I alive?

As soon as my energy returns, I remember: because it’s fun!

And to close us out, here are a couple shots of the pipeline:

It’s an Alaska classic.

And don’t be thinking that this recap is the end–you’ll be hearing more about Alaska before the fall is over, I can tell you that. Like it or not. Whether you’re there or you’re square. Come hell or high water. Something about the biscuit train.

Wait . . . the biscuit train?

Not even I know where I got that one from.


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21 Responses to What the heck I did in Alaska

  1. Sarah says:

    looks like you had a really fun trip. i love car rides with my husband too… especially when we aren’t rushing to get here or there. yay for husbands!

  2. Asmara says:

    Vaya post mas chulo Jenna,habrás disfrutado muchísimo en Alaska…por cierto,te queda fenomenal un bebé en brazos ;-).Besos

  3. Skippy says:

    That was CHEESE? Holy wow. I thought he put mango chunks on a pepperoni sandwich. I actually said out loud “What the bleep is that?” No offense hubs, but really?

    And James. He is better than Alaska. And if you know me, Alaska is the only thing on my bucket list.

    Just send James. I have references and experience. giggle He is adorable. And looks a heck of a lot more edible than your husband’s sandwich. :D

  4. Veronica says:

    I love your blog, you always manage to make me smile, especially when you talk about your nephew. :) Glad you enjoyed Alaska, it is a beautiful place!

  5. giselle says:

    So fun!! I have always wanted to go to Alaska. =)

  6. You have the legs of a damn gazelle. If you weren’t so nice, I’d hate you.

  7. Rachel says:

    Little James is very cute! So jealous that you had a fun trip Jenna! :)

  8. Mary Royers says:

    That gold panner looked like quite the characters.. ahah..

  9. Zane Davis says:

    Awesome photos! And it looks like it was a wonderful trip as well.

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks Zane! Yep, it was a pretty wonderful time. How are you and Julie?? Adam and I were just wondering out loud about how you guys were when we passed Bryn Mawr yesterday afternoon.

  10. Circe says:

    The gold panning looks like a lot of fun. I’ve always wanted to go to the north. It looks like a great trip, I can’t wait to see more

  11. My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara) says:

    lovely happy shots, thanks for sharing. it seems like you really do love babies… getting ready? :)

  12. Veronica says:

    You rode that salmon hard? I can’t believe you said that! Bwahahahaha! That is so, so wrong. Much like your hubby’s sandwich. I’m tempted to print that picture off to show to my mother but I’m not quite ready for her to die of a heart attack. She is a major perfectionist and when it comes to slicing veggies or cheese, it’s got to be just so. She once told me, when my cheese slices weren’t exactly the same thickness, that I had to slice them all the same because she could feel the variations with her teeth. OY!! Thanks for sharing these beautiful pics. James is such a cutie–I want to gobble those fat cheeks.

  13. Veronica says:

    (the cheese slices were for a sandwich I was making her)

  14. Kimby says:

    Jenna, thanks for the GREAT re-cap of your trip! If you ever decide to host a tour of Alaska, please sign me up. :)

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