Friday, May 25, 2012

All About Day 3!

Mountains everywhere!
I made it home safe and sound! It is good to be home, but I am not liking the 90 degree weather here in Indy...would much rather be a bit chilly in the 50 degree weather of beautiful Alaska! I finally have my computer back and internet so I can finally blog and share about my adventure! I was disappointed because in Anchorage the reception was spotty at best and there was hardly any Wi-Fi.  I was counting on that so that I could update my blog while on the road, but I had to roll with the punches.  But you all will get to hear all about it now!! So I left off with Day 3--day 3 was awesome.  I spent the night at a pretty nice hotel after discovering my hostel was completely shut down for renovations and repairs.  I got a great night's rest, hot shower, and some killer waffles for breakfast and was ready for the day! I started off heading to Anchorage's Saturday farmer's market which was amazing! over 100 vendors were there selling their crafts and yummy foods! I saw everything from Native Alaskan knifes to Salmon Quesadillas! I talked with several of the vendors and each one had a different story to share.  Most of the people were not native Alaskans, they had come up to Alaska for one reason or another and ended up staying because they loved it so much (I can see why!) I found some great souvenirs and a couple of memorabilia for me! I even got some porcupine quill earrings! Yup you read right--porcupine! This lady takes the quills that fall off and makes earrings out of them! It is pretty cool!
Porcupine Earrings
Extra Large strawberries because of the extended daylight!

After the farmer's market, I headed out on the Seward Highway! This was definitely a highlight of the trip (who are we kidding, the whole trip was a highlight), there were great views of the mountains and all along the way were pullouts to stop and take pictures and just breathe in the mountain air.  Alaska has a different feel to it, there is something humbling, empowering, and scary all at the same time about standing at the base of a mountain with no one else around and no civilization except for 2 hours by car...

Along the way I saw Dall Sheep (mountain sheep), bald eagles, paragliders, waterfalls, variety of birds, and of course snow and mountains! One of the things I did along the Seward Highway was stop at a small town called Girdwood which is home to a ski resort with a mountain tram.  At this time, the avalanche risk was too high so there weren't any skiers, but the tram was up and running! It took you to the top of the mountain where you could walk around and there was even a restaurant where I grabbed some lunch.  It was snowing and very winter-esque at the top of the mountain...loved it.

View from the Tram
The next stop along the Seward Highway was the Alaska Conservation Center.  This was a really neat place that takes injured or abandoned animals and rehabilitates them until they can get back out to the wild or will give them a home if they aren't able to be released back into the wild.  This place was almost like a safari in the way it was set up, only Alaska style! You drove through with your car but could get out and take pictures or walk around.  They had all sorts of critters there! Bears, Musk Ox, Reindeer, and Lynx, just to name a few.  Plus, all of the proceeds go back directly to the Center.  It was a really neat place and a great way to get up close to real wildlife!

After that and a few other stops for pictures, I made it through the mountains to Seward.  This little town is something different. It is primarily a sea-fishing town, a lot of the locals make their money from harvesting the Salmon that flow into Seward.  Cruise ships dock here as well and that is about the only sign of modern is such a tiny town that the only name I recognized was the Subway they had it town, and that was a big deal! It is a cute town though, and has a lot of character and remains part of a simpler time and way of life...they aren't all tied up with the latest technology or keeping up with the Jones'. They live there for other reasons.  It is literally in the middle of nowhere, with the Gulf of Alaska on the other side of the bay, and Anchorage, the closest city, 3 hours away.  You better fill up your gas tank before heading out of town because the next gas station is about 45 minutes outside of town and you're stuck with no cell reception in the middle of the mountains if you run out! There are only about 3500 people that live there, but there are a lot of tourists that make their way there during the summer and it comes to life, with tours, fishing excursions, kayaking trips, and shopping. :) It took some adjusting to get used to and I had a bit of homesickness this day after arriving in what seemed to me a foreign country...nothing about it at all was familiar to this city girl from corn-filled Indiana. But I survived, and enjoyed every minute! Stay tuned for stories from Day 4 tomorrow!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 2!!

Well, today was interesting! Before I rattle off a bunch of stuff, just want you all to know just how beautiful Alaska really is indescribable. Everywhere you look there are massive, towering snow-capped mountains...literally everywhere! Anchorage seems to be in a valley, with the Chugach mountains to the east, and Mt. McKinley (the tallest mountain in North America!) to the northwest. Awesome. I can see how people could live here...breathtaking! Here is a picture of Mt. McKinley from my phone:
Alright, so here's the rundown. I had a pretty good night at the hostel--little weird sleeping in a room with 4 strangers, but whatever. Headed to the airport and realized I needed to change my itinerary for coming back to Seattle, wasn't going to make it back to the hostel in time on the way back--good practice for being flexible for what was to come...
The flight into Anchorage was beautiful! Clear skies and mountains as far as the eye could see! There was quite a bit of turbulence ...not a fan. After getting to the airport, realized there is hardly any cell phone reception, cause you guessed it, I'm in flippin' Alaska!! But, that means I can't use my phone as a GPS, which I was kind of counting had to fumble my way into downtown, nearly swerving off the road multiple times after staring too long at the mountains. :) Finally arrived at my hostel, only to find it closed down for renovations!! Started to feel a bit overwhelmed, but took a deep breath and used my big girl skills! Found a map, a hotel directory and ended up getting a room right next to the harbor. (Only bad thing is in Alaska prices are crazy and ended up forking over quite a bit for the room) but the good nights rest will be worth it :) After getting settled in my hotel, headed out to get something to eat at a place called Gwennie's--recommended by a friend. It was a neat little local place that it looked like all the fisherman came to after a long day! Definitely a rustic mountain place! Food was good and had my first salmon in Alaska--awesome! Then drove around and explored a bit--found a great overlook of Denali National Park!
Super exhausted tonight! Its 10:15pm here and it's still light out!! Going to try and get some sleep for another big day tomorrow! Can't wait to post my pictures from my camera! :) <3

Day 1!

Well I survived my first day alone! And survived my first experience at a hostel! Let me start by saying I feel very traveler-esque sitting here eating breakfast at my hostel with 3 different languages being spoken around me, world maps posted on the walls and a very soho type feel throughout! Anyways, yesterday was definitely an experience! Started off the day with my flights. First one was good--second one I had the pleasure of sitting next to a screaming baby all the way to Seattle. :) But I did it. On the plane ride into Seattle I had a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier from my window. I let out an audible gasp when I saw it. Just glorious. Made my way through the Seattle airport and found my way to their monorail system--so cool!! It took me about 30 minutes to get into downtown. Once I got downtown, I made my way to my cozy hostel and then turned the corner and Pike Place Market was staring me in the face!! Just like all the pictures! Love it! Plus the waterfront is right behind that, so awesome! I was pretty jet laged from the time difference so I actually ended up taking a nap near the know just another day :) Then it was time for the food tour of PPM--amazing!!! I will share more about that when I get back. But completely awesome. After that, I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island where I was greeted with what else but rain...but what would a trip to Seattle be without rain! Such a cute town and I made a couple of stops there as well. After drying off, I headed back into Seattle with a great way to end the night--the beautiful lit skyline of downtown Seattle!! I don't have any way to post pictures right now, so unfortunately you'll have to wait but for a preview, check out my facebook!!
Today I am flying into Anchorage and headed to a new adventure! I will try to post again tonight! <3

Monday, May 14, 2012

Final Preparations!!

Um....this is really going down. In 48 hours I will be on my way to the airport to head to ALASKA!! Heck to the yes.  And by the way...I am an official college graduate now! Graduated yesterday with a degree in ASL/English Interpreting--it was a great day.  I had my own personal cheering section and got to spend the day with my family and all my awesome friends.  I definitely felt special and loved! Graduation was my one thing left that I had to focus on before my trip...and now it is know what that means!

I am pretty much ready to go, I haven't started packing yet though, gonna start on that tomorrow.  I need to make a quick trip to the store to pick up a couple of final things like more SD cards for my camera, snacks for the plane, and a new set of headphones.  But I think I am good to go!! I can't believe this is actually happening...I have been planning this for almost 9 months and now it is finally here.  I love planning so much, hopefully the trip is as fun as the planning process!! :)

Honestly, I am kind of freaking out.  What am I thinking going to Alaska by myself?! Ha! Can I really do this? Can I make it alone? What kind of snafus will I run into? And then I remember why I am doing this. I remember my bucket list and the life I want to live--one of exploration, adventure, and taking life by the horns.  I can not believe how big this Earth really is and I am fortunate enough to taste, see, smell, feel, and hear a small corner of it.  I am so thankful that I am able to take this trip, and to share it with all of you!! I will be attempting to blog as much as possible so make sure to check back in this week!! I will also be posting copious amounts of pictures and videos to Facebook so make sure to check that out as well! If for some reason the great wilderness of Alaska does not allow for internet access, you all will just have to wait until I get back to see the 1000s of pictures I am sure I will take (I am convinced my camera will not stop flashing) So get ready!!! Once again, I will leave you with a preview of hopefully what I will see this week!! :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coming Together!

First of all, I am jumping up and down with excitement as I write this (not really, I am actually on my couch, but still really excited!) because I just passed my National Interpreting Certification written test!! For most of you, you have no idea what that means, and that's ok...just trust me that it's a big deal and means I am only one step away from becoming a full-fledged nationally certified interpreter! : ) It has been stressing me out and now I can finally relax and get ready for my trip! ...which happens to be in only 16 days, not that I am counting or anything... : )

Today, I got a lot done in regards to more prep and planning.  I made about 5 reservations today for my activities that I will be doing (the ones I know for sure and that need reservations) I made reservations at Major Marine Tours for my whale-watching excursion, Bardy's trail rides for horseback riding, Savor Seattle for the food tour, and at Seavey's Ididaride for the dog sled tour!  Whew! Here are the links in case you are bored and want to check them out!

Major Marine Tours

Bardy's Trail Rides

Savor Seattle Food Tours

Seavey's Ididaride

I also went ahead and ordered my zoom lens!! Hopefully that will get here soon so I can play with it a bit before I go! Super excited about having a new lens to mess around with and hopefully I will be able to get some great pictures!!

Let's see...what else...I think I have made reservations for everything I can--except for the kayaking, I am giving it a few more days before I try and see if anyone else has signed up...  : )  So in making reservations, I had to pay at the time of booking so most of my trip is now paid for! Which makes it nice! I am still working out how it would be best to carry my money/budget, but I will just need money for food, souvenirs, gas, and a few other activities! Any suggestions on carrying cash or debit cards while gone?? I would love to do the envelopes for my trip, a la Dave Ramsey style, but am worried about it getting stolen.  Any ideas?

Things are definitely coming together!! I have just a handful of things left to do before the big day--I am starting to get nervous now...wondering if I can really pull this off, if everything will live up to my expectations...I am trying to remember to be flexible and keep in mind why I am doing this trip! I know that I will have so much fun, but it is still a little unnerving to be preparing to go over 3000 miles away! Any prayers for the next few weeks will be coveted and appreciated! I am also hoping that in the midst of all my running around and enjoying myself, I take time to pray, journal, reflect, and be thankful for my life and the huge blessing of travel!!!

I will leave you all with another glorious picture of Alaska!!

Seward at dawn (breathtaking!)