Seward’s Folly

This is going to be a long post, so pull up a chair and grab a cup of tea.

You may have heard it said that everything is bigger in Texas.  And, it’s usually true.  However, when compared to Alaska, Texas doesn’t really hold a candle to the grandeur that Alaska possesses.  So:  an amendment.  Everything is bigger in Texas unless you’re comparing it to Alaska.

Anchorage

Mr. Cookie and I arrived in Anchorage exhausted.  It had been a long day of flying and we were ready to pass out.  TnT (mom an her then fiance, now husband) met us at the airport and we immediately returned to our hotel.  Mom promised us a great view upon waking and, oh man.  She was not kidding.

This was the view from our window!  Anchorage, as you can see, was largely built out, not up. While not necessarily a great use of space, this made for a beautifully unhindered view of the mountains and for that I was incredibly grateful.  Our whole trip was dominated by the enormity and beauty of the mountains.  It was awesome in the true sense of the word.

I’d been to Alaska once before (as a young pup) but it was so wonderful to see it again through Mr. Cookie’s eyes.  We had purposefully chosen to fly into Anchorage so that we could experience the road trip up to Fairbanks and we were so thankful that TnT were willing to make the trip twice in just a few short days.  Still, there was a lot in Anchorage to enjoy (including reindeer sausage).

We decided to go to the Anchorage Museum to get a feel for the history of Alaska.  They recently completed an expansion and while parts of the building were still closed off while new exhibits were worked on, we still got to see and learn a great deal.  Part of our reason for going was because mom’s husband (I need a better nickname for him) wanted to see the exhibit they had on Sydney Laurence, a famous Alaskan artist (and his favorite).  We were pleasantly surprised to see the museum had a lot more to offer.

We learned more about native wildlife:

We also got to see the ways a lot of natives used to live.  It is always fascinating to me how humans have adapted to extreme climates (particularly cold climates- I feel like for hot climates adapting simply means wearing less clothing).  Above all, it would seem the mantra of a native Alaskan would be to work with nature.  That means using the whole animal to feed, clothe, and protect you.  It means building your houses into a hill.  It means making smaller houses.  It means keeping babies close to you at all times.  And for all of these adaptations, it would seem that the native way of life was incredibly in tune with the Earth (big shocker, I know).

This is a gut parka

Traditional Eskimo fur coat and boots

Native Alaskan Garb

Do you see those woven garments down in the bottom of the picture?  Socks.  In fact, I believe the exhibit said that some of the oldest known examples of socks were found used by natives in cold climates.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We also learned about the athletic inclinations of early settlers (although I fear this may have just been an excuse to laugh at the poor womenfolk running in their dresses):

File this under “clothes you will never see Mrs. Cookie running in.”

We had hoped to see the Portage Glacier as well, but alas it has receded beyond sight from the visitor’s center and the paths we could have hiked to get to it were not yet cleared from the winter.  So, we satisfied ourselves with gazing at the lake it is leaving in its place (and, which, it would seem, we did not get a picture of)

Anchorage was incredibly interesting but after a couple days it was time to begin the long trek to Fairbanks.  Thankfully, the road trip there was stunning and our driver (Mom’s husband) was more than willing to make frequent stops for sightseeing.

Road Trip

On the road trip, we saw many many things that took our breath away.  Alaska is gorgeous.  It’s one of those places that amateur photograph simply can not do any justice.  Still, we tried.

We drove through some rather famous little cities and were sad NOT to meet local celebrities

We got some photos of our hosts shot against unbelievable backdrops:

And the boys decided to have a snowball throwing contest.

I think they’re trying to tell us something about their hands.  And how cold the snow was.  🙂

We also stopped off in a little village called Talkeetna, which seems to exist almost solely as a stopping point for mountain climbers before heading off to attempt Denali (or Mt. McKinley to you non natives).

Talkeetna

We were hoping to get a plane trip out to see Denali since she had been eluding us the whole trip, but the (very friendly) pilot told us he’d be happy to take us up, but the mountain was all “socked in” and we wouldn’t be able to see much more than we could see from the road (which was nothing at all).  We had to accept this and move on.  Sometimes I worry that Mr. Cookie will decide he’s bored with biking, running, squash, and now swimming and will decide to tackle mountain climbing.  I live in dread of the day, especially after hearing people talk about climbers dying or losing appendages in attempting this and other mountains.  *shudder*

Talkeetna

Even though Denali refused to show her face, it was a great road trip.

Fairbanks

Fairbanks is the city where TnT, my aunt, and all her children and their families live (or at least, in close vicinity).  It’s the city I visited back in my sophomore year of high school.  Mom’s husband has been working on building his own house all while holding down a full time job for years now.  This is the house we stayed at while in Fairbanks.  It’s not finished yet, but you can see what it will be like when it’s done and it is going to be lovely.  This is the house as you come up the driveway.  Eventually, there will be an entrance on the side and the door down at ground level now will be hidden by a skoocum deck (or so we were informed by Mom’s husband).  That’s good, since the ground level door goes into the basement but the new door will enter onto the main level.  And, who could say no to a deck?  There will also be a porch up where the rather frightening looking plywood now is perched.  That’s the master bedroom.

The inside will be just a lovely too.

The Eventual Kitchen

There are a lot more cabinets in the other room, but they can’t be installed until they get the floor in (which may be awhile, since choices are scarce in Fairbanks and the one they wanted is now discontinued).

The Living Room

The view from here is amazing.  The house is set up in the hills so you can see out to all the forests and mountains and down to the city as well.

A Partial View from the Window

TnT keep busy at their house, chopping wood (which Mr. Cookie was SO excited to help out with) and, in the summer, tending bees.  Mom gave me a little tour of the property one night while the men worked with heavy machinery and power tools.

Salmon nets

Empty Bee Hives

A Honeycomb

A Honey... Centrifuge?

Lifting Wood to be Chopped

Mr. Cookie Driving the Four-Wheeler

Unloading at the Woodpile

TnT allowed us to ride the four-wheeler down the road when Mr. Cookie was done helping (I just want to take this moment to say that he wanted to help and volunteered to do so).  It was my first time on a four-wheeler and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  🙂

We also had dinner with my aunt, the cousins, and their families but somehow we managed to get not a single picture.  How irritating!  But, we had a really good time.

TnT were scheduled to get married a week or two after we left (sadly, we could not extend our trip) so we set off for Pioneer Park where the nuptials were set to take place.  Pioneer Park is located in downtown Fairbanks and consists of historical cabins that have been moved to this area along with other, larger buildings.  In the summers, each cabin has a local craftsman or artist selling handcrafted goods.  There are also a couple of things to tour, such as a large Gold-Rush era steamboat.  TnT were to be wed in the small chapel in Pioneer Park.

The Chapel

Of course, it was not yet open for business when we were there but you are still welcome to walk around.

Bringing this behemoth of a post to a close, here are some pictures we took at the museum on UAF’s campus.  I was especially taken with the art exhibit.

Thankfully the only bear we saw

Wooly Mammoth Fossils

Native Salmon Traps

Do you see the beaded strap?  That’s a baby belt- it would have been used by natives to strap their babies onto their backs.

I want this

Totem

Artistic Commentary on the Native Drinking Problem

All right.  On a more positive note, I love this statue from downtown Fairbanks.  It was here last time too, and I think I took pictures of it then as well.  They recently built a beautiful new visitor center (the old one was right near this statue) and thankfully it is still within walking distance of this.

We really enjoyed our Alaska vacation.  We want to go back soon when it’s warmer and spend more time outdoors with family but this was also a great trip.  Mr. Cookie has a post up his sleeve about the pipeline so look for that in the next day or two.

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