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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jack's first trip: Alaska

We recently got back from a wedding in Alaska. The beautiful bride, Anne, is Tom's cousin and she was at our wedding eight years ago as a kid. She is now all grown up and eight years and four days later, we attended her wedding on July 18th. The ceremony was touching with Anne and her husband Nate reciting their own vows, and the reception sparkled with Anne's touches throughout - from the handstamped favor boxes to the ribbons hanging in the windows that were strung with pictures of she and Nate from childhood to the present.
CLICK HERE for pictures of the wedding.

It was our first family trip with all of Tom's cousins who live in Sacramento, CA and Portland, OR. We rented a house together in Anchorage which served as our home base for exploring Alaska. At its fullest, there were 17 of us in the house and Jack had fun being in the welcome arms of one person and then another.

The weather was a very temperate mid-60s and although rainy for most of
the week, the rain was thankfully held at bay for the wedding which was a warm sunny day.

We took several day trips to visit glaciers, the Alaska Wildlife Preserve, and the Alaska SeaLife Center. And with it still being light out at 10:30pm, it's easy to pack in long days of sightseeing! Alaska's daylight hours range from as few as 6 at the winter solstice in December to roughly 24 hours at the summer solstice in June. Here's what it looks like at 10:30pm:

Our first excursion was a drive north along the Glenn Highway to Matanuska Valley. We passed beautiful mountain ranges and gained a sense of the "real" Alaska scenery once outside Anchorage.
CLICK HERE for pictures along the Glenn Highway.

We visited several glaciers - all of which have receded significantly over the years. Nate grew up in Anchorage and recalled for us how the glaciers covered much more ground than when he first visited them when he was young. Glacial ice is very dense and you'll notice that it often appears to shine a true blue color which is caused by how sunlight is refracted and absorbed through the ice. The ice will appear blue if only the blue end of the visible light spectrum escapes because the ice is so dense with few air bubbles to scatter and soak up the different rainbow colors of the spectrum.

The first glacier we visited was at the Alyeska ski resort where we road a tram
to the top of the mountain. Alyeska sits amid the Chugach Mountains in the Girdwood Valley about 40 miles south of Anchorage. Tom and some of the others hiked to the base of the glacier and then we all had lunch and admired the view.
CLICK HERE for pictures at Alyeska.

We also took a boat cruise to view the Portage glacier which sits in a freshwater lake that was created as the glacier receded. There were small icebergs bouncing in the lake that were formed as they "calved" (that is, broke away) from the glacier.
CLICK HERE for pictures at Portage glacier.

We also hiked an easy trail to get a close-up view of the Exit Glacier with its roaring waterfall of rushing water through the glacier.
CLICK HERE for pictures at the Exit Glacier.
CLICK BELOW for a video.

Quick: what do you do if you are attacked by a brown bear? Play dead or fight back? According to the below, the answer depends on whether or not he decides to eat you...

We were promised that we would have a moose sighting while in Alaska and were not disappointed. We ran across one grazing just behind the house along a well travelled trail when we went for a walk one night. They may be common to Alaskans, but we were totally thrilled!

We also found moose, elk, brown bears, etc. as we drove through the Alaska Wildlife Preserve (CLICK HERE for pictures at the Preserve) and other native sealife at the Alaska SeaLife Center (CLICK HERE for pictures at the SeaLife Center).

Before we knew it, it was time to fly home. This was our first flight with Jack and were intially nervous about what to bring, what to pack, how to make it through a 4.5 hour flight with him on our laps, but he (and we!) did really well considering the disruption to his sleep schedule and the air pressure changes upon ascent/descent.

All in all, our Alaska trip was definately an adventure on several fronts, and a wonderful one at that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Toys & New Discovery Redux

Jack loves to go bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. Though that circus music is starting to wear a little thin on Mom and Dad :)