Ahh, how can a week I’ve waited for all summer fly by so quickly? Amanda’s trip here was possibly the most fun I’ve had since being in Alaska. And I miss her terribly.
Day one was really just a few hours together and a ton of hours waiting beforehand. Ethan went to bed around eleven, which left Simon and me on the couch with Guy Fieri. It seemed like forever, but finally Amanda landed, called, and picked up some McDonald’s on her way here. She ended up scoring an upgrade through Enterprise; instead of a little pick-up truck, she rounded the corner into my apartment complex in a huge Expedition!! Okay, that excited me a lot–I haven’t been in anything bigger than our Fiesta since getting here! We hugged and laughed and lugged up the stairs to my new home. I gave her the grand tour and we settled in for the night.
The next morning we set off with the help of some skinny vanilla lattes and found a Walgreens so Amanda could hook Ethan and me up with a fully stocked medicine cabinet (she’s a pharmacist, remember?). Next we went to the ever exciting Target for a microwave (we’d been here two months and microwave-less…how was that even possible?!). Amazingly Ethan phoned to say he had off for lunch; he met us at a little Chinese joint which was super close to both of us. With time to spare, we drove to the park on base and explored the vast woods next to this river. Ethan showed us some moose droppings (quite interesting) and we ogled the incredible amount of ferns in the dense, green forest. It was fun just romping around with my two favorite people.
Once Ethan reported back to work, Amanda and I headed into Anchorage for some marathon shopping. We visited four places and found nothing except some funny Instagram opportunities (you can see them on my Twitter) and a little owl trinket for Amanda. We picked up a pizza dinner and stayed in the rest of the night. It was so good.
Wednesday, or day two, we had allotted for experiencing nature. We live on the edge of Chugach State Park, so we decided to take advantage of that. With a short drive up our nearby highway, we found Thunderbird Falls, a simple trail to a deck for viewing a substantial waterfall. The first leg of the trail was a steep hill that left us a little winded, but we breezed through to the end where we felt happy at the view, but a little unsatisfied. On our return we decided to take another path down to the “creek.” This trail reminded me of our Hawaii hike, zigzagging through the trees on a pretty steady decline. The temperature dropped severely once by the creek, and the rushing of the waterfall begged us to get closer. There was some major mud, hence the cuffed-up pants. We got closer than the picture above, but that was the best spot for self-timer. We actually climbed over rocks and stepped in the creek a few times. We were so close that my hair started to curl from the amount of mist in the air. My camera lens got speckled and my left sock got really wet. But it was so rewarding. Oh yes, there were so many mushrooms on this hike, I couldn’t help but document them. I’ve never seen mushrooms so big!
After working up an appetite, we headed in the direction of our next adventure. Being so close to downtown, we had to stop at Humpy’s. We split the ale-battered halibut fish and chips as well as the indulgent berry crisp. It was simply fantastic. We were so fulfilled. Since downtown is so small, we explored a few neighboring streets and shops before piling back into the SUV (p.s. we found a penny smasher…it was awesome).
Our next destination was more just a road that follows the coastline of our area of Alaska…more specifically, Seward Highway. We desperately wanted to find a beach, but surprisingly (to us anyways), it is difficult to reach the beaches here. The coast is more like a marsh and often blocked by large ditches and tall chain-link fences.
The drive on Seward started very windy and sunny. We stopped for some pictures of the mountains with glistening water surrounding them and we were hungry for more. With each newly visible mountain we swore we’d only go that far. But each new mountain we saw was more appealing than the last. Soon the sky was cloud-covered and we were past Girdwood, the city Amanda had mapped on her phone. The mountains were more and more incredible and we actually squealed when we saw glacier streams that were crystal clear and bright blue (we are Missouri girls where the rivers are brown and gross, ‘kay?). I was a little unsure about the lack of cell service and Ethan potentially worrying, but Amanda insisted on driving a little further.
Thank goodness we did.
As we took a right near some vastly snowy mountains, we saw the most beautiful/crazy/incredible sight of our entire trip–an actual glacier. A big, ice-blue glacier in the valley of two mountains. We were in awe and snapping our cameras ferociously…but the pictures really do not do this thing justice. Amanda and I were giddy and gushing. We proceeded to drive through a tunnel and saw some ice chunks in the water, but we realized nothing would compare to that blue glacier. The ride back included just one more stop to marvel the rivers of blue and as we got back into Anchorage, we got some take-out at a local taco place. Such an incredible day. Such incredible beauty. I’m so happy Amanda was the one I shared such an adventure with.
Thursday, I was already feeling sad that Amanda had to leave really early the next morning. We decided to head up to Palmer for breakfast and a Musk Ox Farm tour and explore Wasilla too. The farm was set off the main road and consisted of the barn and two minor buildings. We got some graphic tees and waited for the tour to start with an odd assortment of other people.
So the musk ox is an indigenous animal to Alaska that produces a very fine hair. It’s called qiviut, which is known for its warmth and softness. The oxen shed their hair during the spring and the workers collect it to be distributed to the tribes of Alaska for refinement and weaving. Pretty cool. We got to see the newborns who were milling around a small yard closest to the barn, as well as the older oxen who were fenced off for mating. One of the females, Luna, ate a dandelion I held through the fence for her. Another path of the farm led us toward the adolescents, which were named after state capitals. Rocky (a.k.a. Little Rock) kept mooing at us from behind the fence. The tour came to a close and Amanda and I still had all day to hunt for furniture (we couldn’t let the SUV’s hauling capabilities go to waste!!).
After major disappointment in Wasilla, we heading back to Anchorage for another look in the antique stores. I ended up finding a dresser with some potential at Ozarks and a brass wall sculpture gifted by my mom through Amanda at Pack Rat. We grabbed a grape soda and on a whim went into Ben Bridge Jewelers to see if we could find a pair of necklaces in the same blue as the glacier. I was just excited to be in a fine jewelry store, but when we spotted some dangle earrings in the perfect shade and yellow gold, our idea sprang to life! We got the manager to remove the earring portion and add a loop to thread a chain through. We were officially successful in purchasing our first sister necklaces (and my fourth real piece of fine jewelry). I’m thinking we need to make this a tradition.
We killed some time at the downtown mall before crossing 5th Ave to eat at Phyllis’ Cafe, where we feasted on crab cakes and boiled potatoes. We returned home, hauled the beast of a dresser and sculpture into the apartment and later ate some oven s’mores while watching Project Runway.
Amanda and I had some tears when she left (and even before that). I had passed out in the living room watching TV with her, and she woke me up around 2:30 am when she was leaving. You can’t possibly fathom how much I miss my c-ster. Friday I had a really rough time dealing with her absence; even Simon was sulking. Ethan being here helped though.
I won’t be seeing Amanda again ’til Christmas time (cross your fingers). We’ve gone long periods without seeing each other, but this will probably feel like the longest. I hate being so far away from her, and all my family. Her visit, however, was a much-needed vacation for the both of us, and I couldn’t be happier about how it went.
Stay tuned this week for more glimpses of her visit. Does all of this make you want to visit Alaska now?
Happy Monday, xx