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Alaska

Here are some pics that Stamps and Liz took while up in the frozen north. It makes me cold just looking at them.

 

2004

 
Get out of the way, kiddies! You're never too old to sit on Santa Roland's lap and get free candy! Just one of the many benefits of going to Alaska, which is just a short trip from the North Pole, during Christmas time.
This trip we had my sister join us so she could point out the moose in the backyard.
A moose spotted the fake flowers in the neighbor's yard and made a beeline over to sniff them. It seemed very disappointed to discover they weren't real.
Yet another advantage of going to Alaska: chocolate waterfalls.
Here's a shot of my sis on the slopes, overlooking Anchorage, Cook Inlet, and the Alaskan Range beyond.
The snowboarding in Alaska is choice...
but you have to watch out for the trees!

2003

 

It was 9 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived in Anchorage. The sky was black, and everything else was covered in snow and ice. The entire town consisted of various sizes of igloos, and polar bears roamed freely on the streets. Okay, they had normal houses, not igloos, but the rest of that is true (except for the polar bear part). Here's the view during the daytime from my father-in-law's house. Nice yard, eh?

 

Guaranteed white Christmas

Anyone up for a picnic? Obviously it's late fall in Alaska.

 

Picnic Table

After stuffing ourselves with several good meals and lounging around in warm houses, we went out and braved the elements. Here, you can see the ice in the ocean. Not much like the beaches in Hawaii. The mountains in the background are on the Kenai Peninsula, across the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet.

 

Swimming anyone?

Alaska has really big chipmunks. Actually, it's a moose. I was hoping it would attack the land cruiser so I could see if the stories were true about the moose winning when a moose and a car collide, but it just kind of sauntered around. We saw some fresh moose tracks and where one had eaten tree bark when we went snow shoeing, but unfortunately they didn't attack us either.... Next time I plan to bring Snoopy and stick some tree bark on his mukluks to see if that attracts them.

 

Fortunately, it didn't smell the pizza we had in the car.

When we went snowshoeing, I was told we were hiking to a glacier. Turns out we hiked into an ice cave. In the picture at right, the white and blue ice in the upper right is Byron Glacier, and the alluvial fan of ice to the lower left is remains of an avalanche. The ice cave pictured at the base of the mountain is about 3 to 4 meters in height at the mouth. I took one look at that and thought DANGER! DANGER! But, apparently Liz and Roland thought, "Ooooo, pretty!" because they made a beeline for the cave.

 

DANGER!  DANGER!

Here's Liz luring me into the cave while Roland heads in. Notice the snowshoes. They got me a few meters in and then said they were going to check out the back of the cave. Since it looked like the cave ended just over a large pile of fallen chunks of ice, I said I would wait there at the cave mouth and look at the rocks.

 

Come on! Tastes like chicken...

Here's a picture Roland took of Liz and me standing just inside the cave mouth.

After they had been gone for several minutes, I started to wonder what was taking them so long. I couldn't hear them, so I finally decided to remove my snowshoes and go find them. To my dismay, on the other side of the large pile of ice was a shaft to the left that proceeded directly into the darkness of rock and ice. I pulled out my flashlight, but it could not penetrate the darkness of the cave to what lay ahead; only more darkness. I didn't want to call out because I feared the instability of the ice, and I didn't want to go in any farther because I was already about 25 meters into the cave. But, they had been gone a long time, and I didn't know if they had a light or not. So, with my snow shovel in one hand to dig them out and my flashlight in the other hand, I slowly stumbled forward over bare rocks. The cave continued straight ahead for about another 20-25 meters in complete darkness, loose rocks at my feet and ice forming the rounded walls and ceiling of the tunnel. I was starting to wonder if there would be a story in the Anchorage newspaper the next day about the disappearance of three hikers.

 

Before picture

Finally, I started to see dim sunlight on the rocks ahead. The narrow passage widened, and turned upwards on a steep angle. Looking up over jagged boulders and loose debris of rock and ice, I could see an opening high above me. The cave continued approximately 75 or so meters up the side of the mountain. I could see bright white snow outside at the top and the wind blowing snow by the mouth of the cave. This contrasted with the blackness of the rocks as I climbed up towards the opening. After climbing a short distance, I could hear rocks falling above and the voices of Liz and Roland. Thankfully, they weren't dead. As I climbed up to them, they took pictures of the icicle at the right. They had tried to climb out of the opening above, but the ice was too difficult to climb at the top, so they were climbing back down. Prior to climbing up to the top, they had explored yet another fork of the cave that went even further down.

 

kiddo took this pic of Roland looking down.

I thought to myself I was safe because I was with two Alaskans, and they were experienced in this sort of thing and knew what they were doing...until Roland told me as we were still climbing down, "This is cool! I've never been in one of these before!"

Of course, before fleeing to the cave entrance, I had to have Liz take a picture of me with my sunglasses and Hawaii hat on. It really looks like I'm in Hawaii in the picture, doesn't it? Especially holding that snow shovel.

Of course, because I'm still alive to make this page, you can assume we climbed out of the cave alive. I kept wondering if we would have made it to the top of cave if we would come out in a different world, like in the movies.

 

kiddo took this pic looking up along the cave.

Okay, this isn't the best looking outline in the world, but here's a zoom in and rough outline of the cave to give you somewhat of idea of what I tried to describe above. Doesn't it just make you want to go in yourself? Notice the sculpted cave walls of ice in the above pictures; these caves are formed by streams that flow through the ice during the summer months. Warning: this is not an endorsement to go exploring ice caves, especially during the summer months when the ice is melting.

 

Rough outline of cave

Because of the short winter days, it was dark when we went snowboarding, but that didn't stop us. I know it looks like I'm standing still, but I'm actually going about 30 miles an hour in this picture down a steep slope. Ignore the buildings in the background.

I keep telling Liz we need to move up there so we can snowboard to work and get a really nice tan, but she keeps saying something about our jobs being where we are now or whatever.

 

I just look fat in this picture because I'm wearing 10 layers of clothes.

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