The end of June brought some visitors to the Last Frontier, as well as summer solstice, the longest day of the year (more on that later, and yes, it's light all night long. So strange.) Matt's parents and sister made the journey and we were so happy to show them our corner of the world.
We spent the first day walking around Anchorage, wandering the Farmer's Market,
and taking in a spectacular view of the Cook Inlet, on a gorgeous day.
Salmon fishing is taken very seriously around here! One of the best salmon fishing ares in the state is right downtown, at Ship Creek. It can get a little crowded, to say the least.
And people were pulling them out, left and right. King salmon is the highest quality, and most desirable breed, and the season is short, only about two months. We enjoyed watching the fish be cleaned, but I was mostly transfixed by the ashes dangling from this guy's cigarette. Smoked salmon, anyone?
Yes, please! We have bears in these parts. Lots of them!
Lunch at Moose's Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. Yummm!
Another highlight was our hike up the North Face trail at Alyeska Resort.
It's hard to believe this was the same place we skied, just four months prior.
We definitely still found some winter though.
Much of the hike seemed straight up, though I do hope there aren't as many mosquitoes in heaven.
Hooray! The summit! The view of the Cook Inlet is always spectacular regardless of the time of year.
Grandma and Grandpa rode the tram to the top and met us for lunch.
And Eva showed off her two perfectly heart-shaped rocks.
We all rode the tram down together and enjoyed the majestic scenery.
Anytime you see a bunch of cars pulled off the side of the road in Alaska, slow down because there is usually wildlife nearby.
We joined the rest of the spectators watching a large herd of mountain goats high on an adjacent cliff. Having binoculars handy made all the difference!
The only downfall to the beautiful surroundings? The mosquitoes were out in full force! Too bad we left our various predator sprays back home in the garage. Safe and sound. Sigh.
(**Side note- You can buy bear spray everywhere around here, even Costco. We even see bears regularly in our neighborhood. I saw this guy on my morning walk about a block from our house. No, I wasn't exactly happy about it.)
Kenai Fjords National Park
We spent the next few days in the town of Seward for some deep-sea fishing, ocean kayaking and a glacier tour in the Kenai Fjords National Park. This friendly little guy was there to greet us as we boarded our cruise. Sea otters are quite curious and playful and can often be seen checking people out along the dock.
The park ranger who narrated our cruise absolutely loved his job, and it showed. (I love people with passion about something!) Sea otter's have the thickest fur of any mammal, roughly 1 million hairs per square inch, as opposed to humans at 150,000 per square inch. Incredible!
I love the sea lions, always sunning themselves on rocks. My type of critters.
Did you know that whales can eat up to 2 tons of these things every day? That's about 40 million krill, per day! Seems like they'd be too small to bother with.
And speaking of whales, we were so fortunate to see several humpback whales on our cruise.
And not only did we see humpbacks, we saw a family of orcas, as well. I think the captain was about to cry at our good fortune. He sounded absolutely giddy! Apparently, orcas are more shy and do not like to get very close. We had a mom, dad and baby perform for us for quite awhile. This was better than Sea World, any day!
Now on to the Holgate Glacier. It was C-O-L-D!
The glacier might easily be one of the most incredible things I've ever seen.
I can't even begin to describe the glacier, but say that it was indeed a living thing. It creaked and made sounds like thunder, then big sheets of ice would fall to the water with a splash (known as calving). I think I could've watched for hours. It also reminded me how small I am and how big our Creator is, definitely something to be feared and respected.
This spotted seal seemed to enjoy watching too!
Another great tour of the Kenai, some of the most beautiful and pristine land on earth.
Matt took his dad on a deep-sea fishing excursion, so the ladies decided to try our hands at sea-kayaking.
After getting all outfitted, we headed to the beautiful Resurrection Bay for our tour.
Not your typical 'beach vacation", but beach nonetheless.
We were equal parts terrified and excited.
Terrified because of all the extremely large ocean mammals we saw the previous day. They were still out there somewhere!
After a fairly rough start, we finally got the hang of things. We paddled close to two miles and made it to our destination in one piece. Whew!
We did spot one small seal, but nothing bigger, thankfully.
We had a snack, and took a short hike. And, yes, went to the bathroom outside. ME! Maybe hell has in fact, frozen over....
Our guide showed us some edible plants,
and we walked through the rainforest. The moss was amazing.
Somehow when I think rainforest, I only think tropical, but this was a rainforest nonetheless. And it was beautiful!
We also learned that the blue/gray color in the streams was actually glacier silt making it's way to the ocean. The silt carries minerals to the ocean which makes the water so rich for feeding all of the various wildlife.
Back to our kayaks for the launch homeward. Things went much more smoothly this time!
And I even relaxed enough to get some action shots. I'm sure happy my phone didn't end up at the bottom of the ocean, though.
Eva and Aunt Steffanie.
Back on land and I was slightly relieved, to say the least. But it was an exhilarating experience which I would definitely do again!
Upon our return, we picked up Grandma and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Seward Sealife Center, a rescue center and aquarium for native sea life. The girls loved the hands on area, but the water was so cold it was painful!
Meanwhile, Matt and Grandpa had great success on their halibut fishing charter, and caught their limit of two each and also a few rockfish.
The crew unloaded all of the halibut right out on the ground to be claimed,
then they began filleting everyone's catch.
Seavey's Ididaride and kennel
No visit to Alaska would be complete without sled dogs. The Seavey family is a three generation Iditarod family and has many championships collectively, including this year's winner, Mitch Seavey.
Our tour began in the kennel with a movie star. This dog actually starred in the Disney movie Snow Dogs, but we laughed because they said that even though he's beautiful he doesn't like to run. He will run about two miles and then has had enough. The Iditarod is 1,000 miles (read about our Iditarod experience here).
So, he greets people for show, and lets the other dogs run. We actually learned that most sled dogs are mutts for just that reason. The pure bred's don't tend to be as competitive.
Our favorite part? The puppies!
So much cuteness.
This was the first time in my life that I ever considered getting a dog. But, even as cute as they were, the thought quickly passed.
Our guide had Beetle, the dog, model some of the extra snow gear available for the race. Beetle was a five-time Iditarod champ and was not happy about this new line of work, but he endured.
And we got to play dress-up as well.
There were about 85 dogs at this kennel and ALL of them were desperate to be picked to run the sled. They were making quite a racket!
Time for our ride. Ready, set, GO!
And off we went, through the lush, green rainforest.
And a quick stop for photos. Say cheese!
And retired, five-time Iditarod champ, Beetle, was back out front where he belonged. His demeanor was so much different than it was during his modeling job.
Back at home-base, we were able to greet our team and thank them. Eva is talking to Bugs. He was named Bugs, because he bugs others, and he wasn't given a partner that day for that very reason. He was a hard worker, but an annoying personality, poor guy. I guess dogs are like people in many ways.
And our favorite, Beetle.
Such a great time in Seward, now it was time for the visit to come to an end with the two and a half hour drive back to Anchorage.
Coincidentally, Matt's family also got a taste of summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Anchorage had about 20 hours of sunlight on June 20th, but there is also a thing called "civil twilight".
Civil twilight means that for 28 days, it is basically light around the clock.
For example, this picture was taken at about 11:00 pm, when we took Grandma and Grandpa back to the airport.
And THIS was taken at 2:30am. Though it's not technically sunlight, it's definitely light.
Alaska. A strange and fascinating place, indeed. We were so happy to show Matt's family some of this wondrous place we call home.