Alaskan Adventures and More

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A day on the Train

In September I spent a day on the rails.  My trip took me from Anchorage north to a spot just above Talkeetna, where I switched trains and proceeded back along the same route.  This option is not available to regular passengers and having the inside track as a part-time employee for one of the cruise lines that manages some of the passenger cars, I got a behind the scenes of the workings in a section of the trip. The journey takes you to places only rail passengers see, as you follow some of the major roads, but also winding back and forth across those roads.

We didn’t see any moose or bear that day, but we did see some beautiful scenery, as well as various bird species.  The Rail Guides are there to share information about what you are seeing, as well as share personal experiences for those who have done the job for several seasons.  The dining room served breakfast and lunch while passengers enjoyed the sights, and the kitchen can be found preparing food for two cars at a time.  Bartenders are in the dome of each car and help keep your spirits up and your body hydrated!

All aboard!!  Let’s sit back and enjoy the trip…..

          (Be sure to hover or click on the picture for descriptions. And if you click on a picture it will bring up a slideshow option with larger pictures. Blurriness is caused because I was on a 45mph moving train.)



Fair time in Alaska!


The last week of August until Labor Day is always the Alaska State Fair in the Matanuska Valley. The fair draws people from all over the state, but particularly Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla and the smaller surrounding communities. I have fond memories of the County fair where I grew up in Georgia and entered sewing, craft and baking items on a regular basis.  Sometimes I took the fair book and planned what I would sew and craft for the following years entries.  Living in Alaska, we have burroughs instead of counties, so the fair is referred to as a state fair. Unlike those state fairs in the lower 48 where county fair entries are sometimes forwarded to the state level, Alaska’s State fairs stand alone.  Sometimes, if there are exceptional entries, the owner of that entry will allow the item to travel to other fair locations to be put on exhibit with their ribbons, but only judged at the original location.

Of course, there are also the midway, rides, entertainment and food to consider when visiting the fair!  Vendors also hock their wares to fair goers, and you’ll see the tie-dyed shirts, wax hands, and painted faces to go along with the giant stuffed animals that some lucky person has won. You’ll also see lines to purchase turkey legs, funnel cakes and all the fair foods that are only served once a year. What’s a fair without cream puffs, candied apples and cotton candy?

It was hard to choose photos for this post.  Hope you like the view from behind my camera lens! (Be sure to hover over the picture for a description)



Denali…..the Great One!

Alaskans were all a-flutter last week because of two events.  The official renaming of Mt. McKinley to it’s original name of Denali, and the Presidential visit.

Denali 17

The only thing I’ll say about the latter is that Obama is only the 10th sitting president to visit Alaska.  Meaning less than 25% of the American US Presidents have visited this state while holding office. The others don’t know what they missed!

When I first moved to Alaska I was made aware of the big debate over the name of North America’s tallest mountain. My first job in Alaska was telling visitors about the state while they were traveling by rail between Anchorage and Fairbanks, so I needed to know a bit of information about this chunk of rock (it is primarily made up of granite). Believe it or not, you will find that US maps label it as Mt. McKinley and Alaska state maps label it as Denali.  The word Denali (Dee-nal-ee) has several different but very similar spellings and pronunciations among the Alaska Native Tribes, and it comes from one of the Athabaskan tribes and translates as either The Great One, or The Tall One. Yep, that pretty much sums up this piece of property!  Up until this year, the elevation had been given as 20,320 feet; but the Geological Society has come up with new ways of measuring landscape and topography and now says it is 20,310 feet.  So with a new name comes a new measurement.

Denali is so large that it creates it’s own weather system surrounding the mountain, and is only viewable about 30% of the time. For kicks you will find pins, t-shirts and such with “I’m a member of the 30% club” written on them with a picture of Delani. For visitors to see this majestic mountain is on lots of folks bucket lists.  I have to admit that I am continually in awe of this beautiful mountain and her surrounding area and have been fortunate to see it quite often.  My daily commute affords me three locations in which I occasionally get a glimpse of her splendor.  Locals can be found saying “did you know the mountain is out today?”, meaning Denali was viewable at the time. You will find Alaskans calling it Denali, or simply the mountain. Over the several years that I’ve been here, I have seen Denali from Fairbanks looking south, from Anchorage looking northeast, from the Denali National Park road leading into the park lands and have been very fortunate to see it three time from the air, and what I would call an “up close and personal” visit.  Come on a journey through my camera lens as we explore the beauty of Denali……….



Kennecott Mine


July 4th weekend, my husband and I drove over to the old copper mining town of Kennecott, Alaska. Copper was discovered in 1900, with the US Geological Survey finding a sample of ore contained 70% copper along with silver and traces of gold.  There were a total of five mines in the area and the peak of the mining was in 1916, producing over $32.4 million of copper ore. Gradually the ore was depleted and the last miners left in November 1938, leaving it a ghost town.


The hospital was white washed, and the only white building in town; all others were painted red (the cheapest paint color).  In 1986 the area was designated as a National Historic Landmark and is overseen by the National Park Service.  Today it is open in the summers to tourist, hikers, ice climbers and residents of McCarthy (4 1/2 miles away). At the end of McCarthy Road, approximately 60 miles of unpaved gravel, visitors travel by footbridge to take shuttles to McCarthy and Kennecott.

We walked the length of the town after having lunch at the Kennecott Lodge.  Won’t you join me on the walking tour? Explore as we did and find your view thru my camera lens.  You can find a map and other information at: http://www.nps.gov/wrst/learn/historyculture/upload/Kennecott%20Mill%20Town%20Map.pdf.


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Georgia on my Mind

Continuing with the topic of family, the first 22 years of my life were spent in Georgia.

Family 11

I grew up in Fayetteville, my dad’s hometown and a wonderful community 18 miles south of Atlanta.  My brothers and I graduated from the same high school that our father had attended and graduated from. After high school, I attended college at ABAC (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College) in Tifton which was close to my dad’s cousins in south Georgia and whom I would often visit on weekends.  College is also where I met my husband Bo. He proposed at the church that I attended while growing up, and where we were married less than a year later.  The next two years were spent in Bo’s hometown of Darien, a coastal shrimping town, before he joined the Marine Corps and we moved away from our families in Georgia.

Family 10  One of my favorite wedding photos, showing the inside of the Fayetteville First United Methodist Church where our family worshipped during my childhood.

While growing up, we would spend Sunday afternoons at the home of my dads parents and enjoy an evening dinner with them followed by watching the Disney tv program. My grandfather also liked to watch The Lawrence Welk Show, which sometimes us kids would watch, but often times we would find something else to occupy that time. Sunday afternoons were often spent in Papa’s wood shop, as he was a great carpenter and often made furniture while he was away from his paying job near Atlanta. Gramma taught me to sew and crochet, and I would often watch her while she painted the Fayette County Courthouse or Starr’s Mill in oils. I was never able to duplicate her fried chicken or angel biscuits, and she did allow us to help while cooking and loved to share her knowledge of food.

Family 153 Generations, 1980, Fayetteville, GA.  Me with my dad Tom, and Gramma Nipper.

Other traditions I remember as a family were our Christmases together.  My moms parents would drive their camper from New Mexico to spend the holidays with us. Sometimes the camper would carry extra passengers in the way of our cousins and that would be a delightful surprise. It was always fun to have more family around during that festive time of year. Christmas Eve would be spent exchanging family gifts and we would rotate the location between our house and that of my aunt, uncle and cousin; and Christmas morning was reserved for Santa.

Family 8 Family 14

Sam & I with Santa in 1965.                                     Grandma Brown loved coming up with unique gifts and this is what she gave my dad in 1978!

Our family spent time together camping, attending my brothers sporting events, or visiting local places of interest. As kids my brothers and I could be found participating in scouts, church events, or generally having fun being happy in whatever interested us at the time.

Family was,  is,  and always will be important.   Cherish yours as I remember and cherish mine.

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Brown familyMarvin & Lois Brown with daughters Charlotte & Pauline

The topic for this blog strays from the usual Alaska theme.  I’ve been thinking about Family a lot lately.  It probably stems from the work I’ve been doing on a family reunion that is to take place in two months.  I had hoped that all 9 grandkids of my Brown grandparents (my mom’s side of the family) would be able to participate, but it’s looking like only a handful of us will be able to make the event. But that’s ok! We’ll still have tons of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in Albuquerque, where my grandparents made their home for around 60 years; and to attend the balloon fiesta, one of Grandma’s favorite events.

When I moved to Alaska in 2006, there were quite a few reasons for that life change.  Namely I had been wanting to leave southern California for a while and when the opportunity presented itself to come to Alaska to work for the summer I jumped at the chance. Deciding to stay in Alaska, I like to think I would make the same choice these many years later as I really enjoy where I live.  My only regret is not being able to spend time with family on a regular basis.  I have to factor in two full days of travel whenever I schedule a vacation or trip “outside” or to the lower 48. Thankfully I haven’t had to make any emergency trips to Georgia where my parents, brothers and their wives live; or to New Mexico where my daughters family resides.

Nipper siblings 2010Me with my younger brothers Sam & Harold (at Grandpa’s funeral in 2010)

Family dynamics have changed over the years, and that even includes mine.  Last month my family expanded by three.  We gained a wonderful daughter-in-law and her two beautiful little girls Emma and Anna when our son married his lady in a small ceremony in Texas.  They called us on a Wednesday evening and were married three days later!! We’re hoping to see them twice a year due to custody arrangements with the girls fathers here in Alaska. Unfortunately we don’t have much contact with our grandson who lives in Alaska, only a 6+ hour drive away.

Ty and Kayle 7.11.15  The happy newlyweds Ty & Kayla, July 2015, Texas

Emma and Anna party   Emma and Anna at their birthday party in Alaska (Emma turned 4 in July and Anna will be 1 in September)

My daughter in Albuquerque stays in regular contact, and I know on an almost daily basis what her two kids are involved in, be it Lucas’ adventures at daycare or soccer, or Amelia trying out her gymnastics skills in toddler class. I’m now realizing what my parents and grandparents went through being so far away from their grandkids and only seeing and visiting with them once or twice a year. In this age of social media and computer technology, it certainly beats waiting on letters sent by the postal service or those expensive long distance phone calls, hands down. (Although nothing can compare to seeing my grandmothers handwriting on an envelope waiting in the mail box! How I do miss that, and her.)

IMG_8104  Bethany, Will, Lucas, Amelia and I; November 2014, Taos, NM

Each family is different and unique, but all of them are surrounded in love.


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Kenai Fjords Day Cruise


The end of May I journeyed down to Seward to take a day cruise into the Kenai Fjords National Park.  The weather was perfect and the wildlife abundant. The trip from my home in Wasilla down to Seward was a pleasant three and a half hour drive. Unfortunately I had to make that same drive back home after the cruise.  If you ever get the chance to visit Alaska, I would highly recommend making the trip into an overnight (or even two night) excursion so that you have time to enjoy the town of Seward and the surrounding area.  There is plenty to do in the area as well as in town, and some fine accommodations as well. I have been trying to get back down to Seward this season, but as yet have been unsuccessful in that endeavor.

I chose to go on the 8-1/2 hour cruise with a stop at Fox Island for dinner. Although I have been on cruises of Kenai Fjords before, I had not been on this particular route. We saw stellar sea lions, sea otter, gray and humpback whales, eagles and numerous other birds.  Alalik glacier was perhaps the most magnificent of all the glaciers we viewed that day and waterfalls were observed at various locations as well. Our dinner stop included wild Alaskan salmon and prime rib, both delicious!  It was a great day.  Hope you enjoy the view from my camera!



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