ALASKA IN OUR HEARTS

A long day of travel and time adjustments on Saturday left us feeling rather exhausted despite all the exhiloration from this amazing week.  We opted to unpack, do laundry and get a good nights sleep before completing and sharing our final leg of the journey.

Earlier in our week we had tried to schedule a hiking tour to Exit Glacier when we discovered guided tours for the season were over.  Hiking it ourselves was an option, so that is what we planned to do until we got up Friday morning to an overcast, damp, rainy kind of day.  Not really having the proper weather proof gear needed for a hike of this nature,  a change in plans would prove providential in allowing us the ultimate prize!
Driving 4 hours back up to Talkeetna to get a majestic view of Mt Denali in all of her glory (it was sunny and clear up there). 
Our view of Denali, the never ending wilderness, breathtaking landscapes and glacier fields as well as our scenic hikes and walks through the mountains, and this great state of Alaska is what will stay with us forever.  

In the grand scheme of things, our time was short but we feel blessed beyond measure to have had this opportunity of a lifetime.  We made the most of every minute and would love to return someday to continue
 discovering the trails and rivers and glaciers that time didn’t permit us to explore this time around.  Although we did see quite a bit of wildlife, the good stuff requires more time for going much deeper into the National Parks and wilderness.

At the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center

As we made our way back to the airport we spent our final hours in the city of Anchorage.  That is where we discovered a bike trail that beckons us back.   Time didn’t permit us to bike it, but we did walk a piece of it and got a few  photos.  http://anchoragecoastaltrail.com/




We shared one last meal together at The 49th State Brewing Company, overlooking this great city from rooftop seating….brrrr, the sun was shining but a chill was in the air.

In closing, our time shared with you wouldn’t be complete without at least one “crazy tourist” moment too.    


For so long we only talked about Alaska…..NOW, she will forever be in our hearts!   
Thanks for sharing this most amazing journey with us.
God Is So Incredibly Good. 
Crystal
#Steimling25

A DAY OF GLACIERS AND GOD’S PROMISES

A DAY OF GLACIERS AND GOD’S PROMISES
I wasn’t sure I’d get to post again before our return….but after a day like today, making time to write about it and share pictures is an absolute must!   Just when we think the day before can’t possibly be outdone with wonder and amazement, it is!  Each day bringing with it inspiration that reaches us in places and ways we never dreamed possible.  

Aialik Glacier





5 hours of grand and breathtaking beauty, meeting new people (we met another couple from Conshohocken, PA who was also there celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary) and allowing just another piece of this place to find a special place in our hearts.   
As we headed back to port, it began to rain a little—but no one seemed to even mind.  As Rick and I reflected on 25 years together, and our promise of FOREVER to each other, God gave us this. 
To the next 25 years…..God’s gift, A promise!

Being one of only two people on board to capture this on camera, we received it as God’s blessing and promise to us as we look to the next 25 years.  Sometimes you find the most unexpected gifts, in the most unexpected places.     

As evening drew near,  we warmed our hearts by the fire and savored the contentment in our souls. 

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O     LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.                             1 Chronicles 29:11 



ALASKA……you’ve been so good to us!  

I still have a few treasures tucked away for Saturday…..stay tuned. 
  
Crystal

LOFTY MOUNTAINS GRANDEUR—HOW GREAT THOU ART!

Seward, AK 
Yesterday we said farewell to Denali and our stay at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.  On our way out of town we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at a super warm and inviting cafe.   As we placed our order the owner of the shop asked us if we were from Pennsylvania.  (Uh I have to admit, I was a little freaked out by her accuracy), but  having been from Springfield, Deleware county herself, I guess she knows a Pennsylvanian when she hears one—-even in Alaska.   Her cafe proved to be one of my favorite food stops so far.   So warm, so inviting, and delicious too.     
Flying Squirrel Cafe (note the cool table) 


Onward towards Wasilla and Palmer, we would stop and spend the evening with dear friends Justin and Gina Jones (picture on FB this morning).  We were blessed by their wonderful Alaskan hospitality and pampered with a lavish meal of fresh salmon, moose burgers, and the finest wild Alaskan blueberry milkshakes ever made. 
Today, we were up with the sun and on our way south towards the seaside community of Seward.  Our 2 hour drive held spectacular views as we passed between the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm and the jutting peaks of the Chugach Mountains.  

One of the overlooks on our hike. 

Hiking up Mt Marathon was rather gruelling and strenuous, but getting a birds eye view of the surpassing beauty in this place, coupled with being able to say we hiked this mountain (for all its history and story), makes for 2 really satisfied souls, and some really great “25 year celebration” memories.  http://www.alaska.org/detail/mount-marathon-trail
Along the trail to the top of the mountain

                    The nearness of God has revived our hearts and refreshed our spirits.  There is still much to be experienced and shared with you in our remaining 2 days, but my final two blog posts will more than likely be completed and shared upon our return to the lower 48.  This has been more than a vacation,  more than a celebration…..it has been a once in a lifetime trip that has been exceedingly, abunduntly more than we could’ve ever imagined.                                   

When I think of all the sights we saw today in light of
1 Corinthians 2:9 that says, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those  who love him”,  I can’t help meditating on His Greatness…..His Sovereignty!

Scenic View on our way to Seward
                                                       CRYSTAL  


Down by the Pier
Taking a much needed rest by the falls on our hike 

THE SPIRIT OF ALASKA

THE SPIRIT OF ALASKA 
(MAJESTIC, TOUGH, HUMBLE, RUGGED, STEADY, PURE)
Scenic drive thru Denali National Park 

Amidst the incredibly vast space and beauty, one doesn’t have to be present for very long to begin understanding the magnificence of the Alaskan Spirit.  I purchased a souvenier book of photography and poetry that captures the essence of the Last Frontier, called “The Spirit Of Alaska“.   We’ve taken a lot of great pictures, but time nor season will permit us to even come close to capturing all of the greatness and spirit (hence, one of the reasons I bought the book).   

Yesterday, we visited TALKEETNA, a census designated population of 876…. and the place where every climber seeking to reach the summit of Denali is required to check in for permits and orientations (at the ranger station).  As we observed the locals and talked with shop owners, we got another glimpse into the spirit of Alaska. A hard working, fierce and steady people who thrive on the pure and simple.  Interestingly, one of the shop owners I met was from West Chester, PA (small world afterall).  She has been in Talkeetna for 15 years now, living off the grid.  When I asked her what brought her here she simply stated, “looking for change”.   Her harsh yet rare beauty embodied the “spirit of Alaska”.   

Just as with every small, quaint place (can’t even call it a town by definition) there is always a great eatery to be found.  We enjoyed some of the best pizza ever, and that’s saying a lot.  In our 25 years of marriage, we’ve been a lot of places and have eaten a lot of pizza. 


Our quotes of the day:
“Living here is like a perpetual state of camping” — crystal
“Lord, grant us a trophy-moose sighting today” —rick

*******

Well, we didn’t see a moose yesterday, but we sure did today.

A 2 hour foot hike thru Savage River Loop

(posted on FB so I won’t repost here).  We were up early to make our way into DENALI NATIONAL PARK.  Nothing could have prepared us for what met our human eye.  I think I now know what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, “THE HEAVENS (and the mountains–our paraphrase) DECLARE THE GLORY OF THE LORD!!  
We were in total awe surrounded by massive and majestic mountains.   We never were able to see MT. DENALI, (formerly Mt. McKinley) which means “the great one”, or “the high one”.  It is said that only about 30% of people visiting Mt. Denali actually get to see her as she is usually obscured by clouds….which she so happens to produce.  Should we be blessed with a clear day tomorrow, we may get to see her from our lodge room window before checkout.  

Quote of the day:
“DENALI IS “OUR” DISNEY” —Rick and Crystal 

Baked Alaska for dessert @ the lodge after a long and beautiful day!



Looking forward to uncovering more of the “spirit of Alaska” as our journey continues.     #Steimling25  

  

THE AURORA, THE STATE FAIR, AND HATCHER PASS SUMMIT

After 2 successful flights totaling 3815 air miles, through 4 time zones and a dazzling display of the Aurora , we safely arrived at our ” bucket list” destination.   Our first full day in ALASKA proved to be everything magnificent and majestic.

First Stop Up:  Lakefront Lodge- set on the shore of Lake Spenard next to Lake Hood with the majestic Chugach Mountains behind.  Here we enjoyed some much needed rest, a good breakfast of reindeer sausage omelette and some amazing black coffee.  One of our favorite things about this quaint spot was our neighbors’ driveways—- docks, and their cars—- float planes.  (yes we watched about 4 of them take off during the hour we sat for breakfast).  

Next it was off to the Alaska State Fair.    Being on the Top 5 Best State Fairs in America List, we sure didn’t want to be this close and not participate.   Though the growing season in the 49th state is short, the 18 hours of daily sunshine from June to August makes for some seriously monstrous fruits and vegetables.  (Rick will post his prize winning pumpkin picture at some point)
So many highlights,but our favorites were the Timberjack Show and Caribou steaks. We enjoyed lunch and rode the ferris wheel with some of the locals.  

Our favorite quote of the day:   “The Alaskan bearded man is my favorite species”, said by a woman at the 2016 Alaskan beard contest.  (Yes, you heard me right. Only in Alaska—-haha).  Hey for the record, there were some pretty amazing beards.  Althoug I’m a girl who prefers the clean shaven look, even I know a good thing when I see it.  Afterall the one I chose as my favorite ended up winning the grand prize. 
A few more fun facts before moving onto our final destination of day one:
Alaskans do creme puffs right.
Clean cars at the fair are the exception, not the rule.

Our first full day came to a close, driving the breathtakingly beautiful and scenic Hatcher Pass.   New meaning was given to those sweet lyrics,  for purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plain!  America the Beautiful…. Somehow I know this is only the beginning….a very small piece of the vastness that awaits us.

Another good nights sleep and we are rested and refreshed…..let’s see what day #2 has in store.   THANKS FOR COMING ALONG.

Crystal  (#Steimling25)

ALASKA ….T – 14 DAYS

I don’t know too many people who announce their plans to run away.  However, in exactly 14 days we are doing just that, running away to ALASKA….THE LAST FRONTIER  (at least for a little while).
As a couple, we have talked about and dreamed about this day for so long.  The reality of it coming to pass is really awe-inspiring.   We look forward to sharing bits and pieces of our journey with you (via this blog) in both pictures and writing.   We invite you to join in our adventure, follow along, and maybe, just maybe, be inspired too.                    
                                                                                                                  CRYSTAL


“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world”. John Muir

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