MILES AND MILES OF MEMORIES

As I sat in bed this morning watching a bald eagle perched atop a telephone pole out my RV window, I began to reflect on this summer’s journey.

I thought about our campsite on the beach where we started this grand adventure in the Florida Keys and Thing 2’s face when he found the conch shell. I thought about the time spent visiting our family in Indiana and the joy of watching our boys interact with their cousins. I thought about winding through the whimsical creative madness of House on the Rock just outside of Madison. I thought about Thing 1 playing piano at the International Music Camp in North Dakota and how too quickly he is growing up. I thought about crossing the border into Canadadriving the “Alcan” with our friends, and thousands of miles later spending cozy afternoons in the RV while the rain fell in Alaska.

I thought about the memories we had made and wondered about the memories yet to come.

As my thoughts began to settle, I was overcome with a deep gratitude. Grateful for the memories and grateful that you came along with us. Your suggestions helped more than you know, and it was so fun to share the adventure with you. Thank you.

Now let’s #GoRVing one more week in Alaska before I collapse into a pile of sentimentality!

From Homer, we headed to Seward in hopes of catching a sunny day to take in a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park tidewater glaciers and the possibility of seeing a glacier calve. The tour is a bit on the pricey side for a family of four (baby is free), so we wanted to make sure it would be a clear day. According to the forecast, the following day would be the only clear day during the upcoming week.

The drive to Seward was beautiful, but who am I kidding? Every drive seems to be dripping with beauty here in Alaska.

That evening we got to the campground just in time. It was a busy weekend in Seward and nearly every campsite was full. But our site up on the hill was perfect.

One of the best parts of RVing is all the different “backyards” we get to experience. Our backyard on Resurrection Bay was breathtaking. We had a blast watching the otters play not far from the shore.

Seward was named after Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward. He was the man who arranged the acquisition of Alaska from the Russians in 1867.  The town was established in 1903, and for such a small town there is much to do. We started with a walk from the campground to the charming downtown area.

Unfortunately, the forecast had changed by the following day so we opted not to take the boat tour. Instead, we decided to take a hike. Seward is the front door to Kenai Fjords National Park and Exit Glacier would be the perfect place for a family day hike.

The only area of the national park accessible by road is Exit Glacier.

We hiked up to the edge of the glacier and explored the rocky outwash plain.

Exit Glacier flows from the Harding Icefield along with almost 40 other glaciers. It is the only glacier that could be easily reached by foot. Exit Glacier was named after the first recorded party of mountaineers who explored Harding Icefield and then descended or “exited” by the way Exit Glacier.

The rain kept coming. We decide to hold off on the boat tour for another day, grab our raincoats, and head for the Alaska SeaLife Center as suggested by the Go RVing fans.

On our way, we passed the starting point for the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The Iditarod is one of 16 National Historic Trails, the only one in Alaska, and commemorates the partnership between men and dogs during America’s final gold rush boom.

The Alaska SeaLife Center was a short walk from our campground and a great place to pass a drizzly afternoon.

The SeaLife Center is committed to wildlife research, rehabilitation, and education. We learned a lot and had fun in the process.

It never cleared up enough while we were in Seward to justify the price of the boat tour. Since winter is on our heels, we decided to move on but we weren’t ready to give up on seeing glaciers calve quite yet.

We headed over to Williwah National Forest Campground, as recommended by a Go RVing fan, in hopes of catching a clear day for a glacier tour out of Whittier.

To get to Whittier, we drove through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The single lane tunnel is used by eastbound and westbound traffic, as well as the Alaska Railroad. It’s the longest combined highway and rail tunnel in North America.

As it turned out, it was a gorgeous day in Whittier and perfect for a boat tour to explore part of Prince William Sound and, fingers crossed, we would see a glacier calve.

On our way out to the glaciers, we passed snow-covered mountains and waterfalls cascading down the rocky faces.

Then we got to the glaciers and were wowed by their jagged beauty. Harbor seals floated on chunks of ice and waterfalls flowed from craggy palisades.

We parked in front of each of the two glaciers for about 30 minutes listening for sounds of activity. The ice floating around us snapped and crackled like Rice Krispies cereal. We heard what sounded like distant thunder and saw some small chunks of ice break away from the glacier.

As fate would have it, when the boat turned to leave we heard a ferocious booming crash and looking back from the bow of the boat we saw the last bits of ice lingering in the air like billows of smoke as a huge chunk of glacier had plummeted into the water!

On our way home from Whittier, we stopped near Portage Lake to hike the Byron Glacier Trail.

Don’t worry; we didn’t let Thing 2 walk into the ice tunnel as he explored the moraine left by the receding glaciers.

Thing 2 has been diligently reading about gold panning and there was no way we could leave Alaska without allowing him to put his research into action at Crow Creek Mine.

He didn’t find much more than a few flecks, but that didn’t stop the “gold fever.”

Back in Anchorage we met up with our friends after a few days apart. What a joy it has been to travel with them but the time had come, sadly, to say our goodbyes this misty morning. They needed to get down to Texas and we wanted to hang out just a little longer in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. We were so grateful to have them with us as we faced the “unknowns” of the Alaska Highway. They will be missed but we know our paths will cross in the future.

With not much time left before we leave Alaska, we stopped in Palmer for a few days to soak up the beauty. A friend from the Internet (oh, how we love the Internet!) had suggested this free place to camp.

It was a perfect setting to relax for a few days and do some catching up on work before we cross over into Canada later this week where our Internet connection will be spotty at best.

It was also close to the Alaska State Fair!

The Alaska State Fair is often listed as one of the top state fairs in the country. I have to say we agree. We saw everything from racing pigs to a Dutch oven cook-off to giant cabbages.

Everyone enjoyed watching the jousting demo from the guys on the History Channel’s “Full Metal Jousting” reality show.

Palmer is also home to the Musk Ox Farm, and a trip to Alaska wouldn’t be complete without getting up close and personal with these prehistoric looking members of the bovine family.

The Musk Ox Farm was established in 1964 as a project to help the Native people of Alaska and dwindling musk ox population. Each year the qiviut, i.e. hair, is combed from the musk ox and spun into yarn that is said to be warmer, softer, and stronger than wool. The Native women knit this yarn into various garments to sell, and use the money to provide for their families.

Our favorite part was petting the baby musk oxen that came running to the fence as soon as we stopped. They seemed to enjoy the attention too.

Goodbye little musk ox!

We may have driven almost 8,000 miles since we left Key West, but as I reflected this morning, the summer has not been about the miles, it’s been about the memories.

If you have followed along on this adventure with us, we sincerely thank you. We hope you have enjoyed it. Our family has sure enjoyed sharing it with you. We also hope that you’ve been inspired – inspired to take the time to create memories with your family and friends. It doesn’t matter if you are parked on BLM land in the wilds of Alaska or at your local campground. Memories can be made anywhere. It’s sitting around campfires. It’s having a meal around the picnic table. It’s taking a hike through the woods together. It’s playing a game in the RV. It’s sharing stories and laughter. Those are the things that make memories. Your AWAY may be at the lake in your town or in the remote desert of Nevada. No matter what, it’s yours to find!

Have you ever found a cool, free spot to #GoRVing? What is your AWAY?