Constant State of Transition – A Quick Note

I am on a plane yet again flying north back to Alaska (River too). Work – the doggies are in need of me. While I am not thrilled to be leaving Shaun, I am ready to see mountains, my ‘Alaska family’ as I refer to the Gardners and a couple of other very close people I am lucky enough to have in my life. This year started off in a state of transition and shows no signs of stopping that trend. My name as a ‘Dog Trainer’ has spread and I continue to be able to make travel and work..well, work. In only a few weeks, I will be flying back to the East Coast for more dogs and to spend time with Shaun.

My time is rather largely shared between Alaska and the East Coast. This is both awesome and exhausting depending on how much sleep I’ve had. I continue to find people in all sorts of places to share things like rock climbing, a festival or just a cup of coffee. Occasionally the stars (I mean schedules here..) align for people whom are very dear to me and we can get together. Recently I had a very short but still sweet visit with Lorien. Sadly my siblings and I have been unable to make it work – but I am hoping in the coming months that will be rectified.

The main thing I’ve come to realize is the difficulty of writing on the blog, returning phone calls, emails and such when one is in a constant state of transition. If I haven’t been quick to respond or you feel ignored, I am sorry and hope that one might understand that is it quite unlikely a personal thing. I will say for those who may need to get a hold of me for whatever reason – a text saying ‘Need to talk’ will get you a callback faster than an email or voicemail will.

The constant change of time zones, climate, driving style (east coast verses Alaska is a VERY different set of challenges), personalities of the people I’m around (in the Gardner house I can say fuck anytime of the day, in my relatives space not so much), and even worse – food option challenges, tends to leave me a little discombobulated. I wouldn’t trade it for staying in one place in the least, but I cannot say it is easy or leaves energy for other things at times. All in the trials of being a Wanderer.

I hope to add more content soon (but I’ve said that a few times before..).

~J

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Trip to Montreal CAN ~ Element Sisters

As many of you know, I have a group of 3 women whom I often call my ‘Element Sisters’ (but am not related to them in any fashion) that I met at my Philosophy 1 Tracker class in 2012. Between the 4 of us, we live all over North America. Linda (Water Sister) lives in Quebec Canada. She has a beautiful home on Mohawk lands that we converged at for some much-needed Sister time!

I drove to Maine the end of March in the Black Dragon with the River Rat where I stayed with Tracy (Earth Sister) and her husband Carl along with their animals. River charmed everyone – even the Gizzy the stand-offish little cat. After resting for a day or two, Tracy and I repacked the Black Dragon, did everything we could to ensure that River would make it across the Canadian border and off we went! The drive should have only been about 7 hours. We managed to make it well over 10…Our intense conversation kept taking us down the wrong roads – even though Tracy knew the area well. We found Jesus Christ on a very hilly back road in Maine. Scared many a logger and managed to not attract the police. The border took awhile, River passed with flying colors though. My Dragon was taken apart because clearly we are drug dealers… The border guards finally dismissed us and shook their heads with many a french word about our characters.

We made it to Linda’s house late in the night after entirely too much coffee and sugar. The first 24 hours was spent catching up and unwinding. Linda’s impressive man of a son brought us dinner even! River charmed the girls who had yet to meet her and one of Linda’s dogs. The other was not interested in making friends and just glared like a cute gremlin at her.

Moon Hidden in the Blue

Moon Hidden in the Blue

Even though Linda lives outside of Montreal, woods and wetlands surround her with beauty. We headed out for an afternoon walk the next day (or was it day 2..I cannot remember) – fresh air and some actual movement were needed after hours upon hours of talking, laughing, crying, cooking and just plain enjoying each others company.

Linda showing us her Sit Spot

Linda showing us her backyard

Afsoon & Tracy carefully examining a special place in Linda’s woods with much seriousness.

Tracy  & Afsoon in careful consideration of Sit Spot

Tracy & Afsoon in careful consideration of Sit Spot

Walking around enjoying the beautiful day – it was a crisp and bright day. The temperature was perfect for moving around in the snow with the sun shining down. Afsoon was bundled up to keep her California blood warm and more importantly the baby that will be joining us later this summer! The rest of us were dressed similarly to ward off the colds we were fighting.

Tracy, Afsoon & Linda wandering the old railroad trail.

Tracy, Afsoon & Linda wandering the old railroad trail.

Sumac – the Rhus typhina variety – also known as Staghorn Sumac grows everywhere on the land! Many people think of it as a scrub bush – good for nothing. But you can do many tasty and even medicinal things with it. Obviously be sure you know which type of Sumac you have before eating it though – there are a few poisonous types in places.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Closeup of Sumac Berries. Personally I find it a very pretty plant and would like to try some of many drinks made from it someday. I’ve bought it as a ‘spice’ which is used in many ethnic dishes around the world (though the type of Sumac varies) and even salads.

Closeup of Sumac

Closeup of Sumac Berries

Linda has much knowledge of her local botany and shared much of it – which I think most of us have forgotten as no one had a notebook! Though plenty of information was shared over the weekend, the main goal was to relax, soak in each others company and discuss the important parts of our lives and futures.

Tracy and Linda discussing the botany

Tracy and Linda discussing the botany

Ask anyone who has had the misfortune of being in the 4’s presence – we LAUGH. A lot. Like as in most of the students at the classes the 4 of us have attended with, don’t know our names, just ‘the loud laughing women’ – particularly Tracy. In fact I just say ‘the one with the loudest laugh’ and people who cannot pick her out of line up instantly ‘know’ who I am talking about..(We love you Tracy). Linda likes to say she is the ‘quiet’ one…But actually not. In fact, she is more often the instigator… If someone is actually ‘quiet’ in the group, it’s probably me. Afsoon..well she gets shit done. She makes it happen. And gods help you if you think your going to stand in her way (she is a Lawyer after all..). I think I can speak for the group on this one; we love it when Afsoon decides to take matters into her own hands and marches her cute little butt up to the poor unsuspecting soul who is about to have a serious reality check. It’s as Trace would say ‘FREAKING AWESOME MAN’!

As someone who never really had the whole ‘girl’ time thing – most of my female friends are pretty tomboy like myself – I am beyond grateful for these 3 wonderful women in my life. It is as much a mystery to us as it is to the rest of the Tracker community that we meet and how such a powerfully intense, deep and loving friendship sprung from such radically different people. But is exactly what we need.

Carhartt colors! Afsoon borrowed a pair of Carhartts as she hasn’t learned where to find such things in LA – but the rest of us proudly sport the very comfortable and useful pants – the men’s ones no less! We had the rainbow of Carhartt colors almost complete – clearly we should be getting free pants with our advertisements here!

Carhartt Color Wheel

Carhartt Color Wheel

Spring ‘breakup’ was only days away. But for this walk things were still fairly frozen and picturesque.

Frozen Marshland

Frozen Marshland

Nothing like trying to take ‘selfies’ of 4 people at once…It was pretty painful, and many less than ideal shots had. This was one of the ‘better’ ones. All of us were sporting Smartwool hats! Another place we should be getting free gear from me thinks…

Four Elements!

Four Elements!

Air, Water & Earth! Looking adorable together.

Afsoon, Linda & Tracy

Afsoon, Linda & Tracy

Beautiful even with the goofy grins!

Air & Earth (Afsoon & Tracy)

Air & Earth (Afsoon & Tracy)

Tracy was the photographer here – she said something rather funny and got this ridiculous shot!

Water & Fire in Hysterics

Water & Fire in Hysterics

Without even trying, Linda and I had the opposite color combo going on.

Water & Fire (Linda & Joannie)

Water & Fire (Linda & Joannie)

Probably my favorite shot of the landscape. The whimsical Phragmites in the breeze against the ever-blue sky.

Beautiful Phragmites

Beautiful Phragmites

We had towel fights in the kitchen. Revelations over pancakes. Shopping spree in Montreal at the Market. Amazing Chocolate at Coaco 70 – also in Montreal. Tea 2 and 3 times a day. Delicious food that we all whipped up. And of course, much laughter.

I wrote this post for you 3 – Tracy, Linda & Afsoon! Hope you enjoy ♥

You find your people on the Journey ~ J

Back from Belize – an update

To say that I have been busy is, well… an understatement to say the least. I arrived back to the states from Belize a week ago today (Fri 21st). In many ways it feels like the Belize trip itself was much longer than a week, and that I am still ‘adjusting’ to being stateside. I surprised even myself with how quickly I adjusted to ‘not being in the states’. It was almost too easy. I no sooner hit American turf than I was already plotting another overseas trips this Fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love being back and with some of my people… but a part of me seems to be ceaselessly wanting to wander, never satisfied unless another adventure is on the horizon.

squinting in the Belize brightness

Squinting in the Belize brightness

Belize was amazing. The class with WildernessFusion was amazing. The People are simply beyond amazing (both many locals I met and my classmates). I can’t say I ever thought I would visit Belize; it’s not that I didn’t want to, it simply wasn’t on the top 10 list, or even top 20. But man did I have a great time. I’m ready to go back and explore all the things I didn’t get to see. We stayed at a wonderful eco-lodge called Cotton Tree Lodge: what a great way to rest between adventures, and for those who are a little less inclined to ‘just go’ on their own, a fun and safe way to see the sights and experience some of the local flavor. I’m not going to get into the details of the trip, class or even attempt pictures of everything yet – I have 980 to sort through first…! I’m not purposely being a tease, I just want to update and forewarn. I only have bad iPhone photos for this post!

After my serene trip to Belize, I arrived in DC late in the evening, Shaun picked me up from the airport and we headed to the hotel where Kathy & Dave Gardner were waiting along with my River!

River waiting for me at the hotel...

River waiting for me at the hotel…

Kathy & Dave were in town for some work related things, and to join in on the fun of the ‘Shamrock Festival’. We had no idea what to expect, but it looked fun! River got to come last-minute since her and I were missing each other terribly. Saturday we dropped River off (much to her chagrin) at a Petsmart to day-board – possibly overnight so she was safe and cared for while the 4 of us were at Shamrock Fest.

To say the festival was… interesting is probably not doing it justice. It was a little more party and a little less festival than I was hoping for. But we still had fun. The noise and crowds were a little over stimulating after Belize, but I managed well enough! The 4 of us wandered about, often splitting up and then finding each other. It was very cool to be share the crazy with Kathy and Dave and see them have fun regardless of the years that separate us.

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest!

They even had an EDM dance tent which is where Shaun and I spent most of our time after the draw of the bands wore off (and Shaun had enough to drink to tell the “tall people” to get in the back’ so he could see…)

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun headed back to Ocean City, MD on Sunday, while River and I stayed with Kathy and Dave that evening. The next day Dave, River and I toured around DC while Kathy took care of some work stuff. It was a lot of fun to walk around Monument Mall with Dave, talking about history of the various sites, the government system (which I will readily admit, I know very little about even though I’ve been told/read books about it). River earned many an ‘ohhh!’ and ‘look at the cute puppy!’ For the areas posted ‘no dogs’ I put her in my backpack (this is after all the best view point for her to see the various national parks I take her to).

She was also really into the squirrels…I made this image macro of the picture I took of her in the car right after yet another furry tailed-rat had dashed right in front of her (but due to her being leashed – no chase ensured). She wore this grin for quite a while!

River Meme

River Meme

For a late lunch/early dinner we met at McCormick’s which is just a damn tasty place to eat! After much-needed catching up, it was time for me to do last-minute car stuff with Dave’s help before hitting the road with River in the Black Dragon.

Dinner at McCormick's!

Dinner at McCormick’s with my Alaska family!

As you can see from our color pallet and choice of patterns..we look rather family like here. Kathy LOVES teal (I do too, maybe just not quite as much as she) and Dave often sports a plaid shirt (they are undeniably comfortable and dashing), so me in plaid teal pretty much tied everyone together in this picture (clearly I should have been in the middle to get the optimum effect). I always have a great time with these guys, and for some reason they do with me as well ♥

River totally zonked

River totally zonked

The last few days River and I have been chilling in Ocean City MD at my family’s rental. Shaun hangs out with us after work and often feeds me and buys me coffee (coffee is the important detail here..). I am mostly just adjusting to not being on ‘Belize Time’ which is something that doesn’t exist in this country. Also the weather changes from hot and humid Belize jungle to blustery Northeasters on the coastline has been a couple of days of uncomfortable. A few days from now I head north to Maine to meet up with Tracy and then we head to Quebec, Canada to Linda’s place where Afsoon will meet us. Element Sisters reunited! The plan is that River goes with me every step of the way.

I head back towards DC with a few stops along the way in early April, and then back to Alaska by April 14th. River too. Once back in AK we stay put for a while as I have work to attended to, Dogs to train, money to be made if I think I want to go on another trip any time soon.

Dave took this great pic with his phone of River & I in DC right outside the Lincoln Memorial! It was a windy and chilly day – my leather cap is all I could find instead of my warm wool knit, so I kept my hair down to help keep me warm (which is why the rather dramatic style going on there..). But it made for a very photogenic picture with my black leather jacket and little black & tan dog – whose ‘tan’ markings are such a shade of red that they just about match my red hair 😉

River & I in DC

River & I in DC

~ Always on a Journey  – Joannie & River.

 

Late Winter Schedule – Where I will be at

Wow. 31 days of January over and done with, now into February and I don’t have much to show for it with writing yet. I did take pictures though. Many pictures… In Short, I was busy with work, dogs, cooking, showing Shaun around Alaska – during possibly the worst stretch of weather in a while..more dogs and travel plans.

*detailed date by date events are at the end*

As many know, I have been in Alaska since Dec 31st, I am due to fly out to DC in a couple of days. Originally I was supposed to go to Utah for a few days to visit with a fellow classmate and friend – but sadly that fell through. Once in DC, I will pickup my car (Black Dragon!) from my wonderful Aunt Cathy and family, who have been amazing with letting me park my car, drop me off and pick me up when possible at the airport – and has even extended that kindness to a few close friends in need. After some rest, I drive south to Tennessee with a stop off in Johnson City to see my long time bestie Lorien! Then on to the Farm to see the family. River will stay in Alaska with Kathy & Dave and the Beagles. She will probably sulk and give me the paw of ‘screw you’ for a while, but I will have the peace of mind that she is very well cared for.

After about week in Tennessee, I will start heading north – hopefully see a few friends along the way and end up in Maine to see two of my Element Sisters Linda & Tracy (Tracy’s husband Carl too). I have an overdue promise to get together with everyone that I am quite excited about. * I will NOT be on the Eastern Shore of Maryland along the drive North. Which brings us to – the end of March, where I’ll be in New York with my Wilderness Fusion Healing 1 class! Early March has me making my way back down to Maryland, see my favorite snarky cousin Lucy, family and Shaun; before heading back into DC to fly out to Belize!!! I’m going to Belize with Wilderness Fusion – a last-minute class I was able to get into, that will be almost a week in Punta Gorda. Very excited. Once back from Belize, I will be in DC for a few days for fun stuff like the Shamrock festival with Shaun, Kathy & Dave, probably some museums and who knows what else! Sometime after that I will head back to Alaska since I will need to see my Rivers (and make more money..).

I know, I’ve left a LOT out. But this is the overview. Actual dates of everything as best as I can estimate are as follows:

Feb 11th – Arrive DC.

Feb 12th – Arrive Johnson City TN, with Lorien.

Feb 13th – Arrive in TN at Farm.

Feb 20th ish – Begin driving North to Maine. Hopefully with a stop in NJ for sleeping & visit.

Feb 22nd to 27th – Maine.

Feb 28th – Drive to New York for Class.

March 1st through 3rd – Healing 1 Class in New York.

March 4th  till the 14th – Maryland.

March 14th – DC to fly out early the 15th for Belize.

March 16th till 21st – Belize with Wilderness Fusion class.

March 21st to 23rd – DC Fun.

End of March – tentative back to Alaska.

Going to be a great and rather hectic next couple of months. On the off chance that the East Coast has a wicked snow storm or two, I am hoping many of my Jersey Peeps will allow me to park my car should it come to that (New York too!). I have in my driving ability and the Black Dragon to make it to Maine, even in snow – but other drivers on the damned East Coast – I do not have so much faith in…

Home is the Journey ~ J

Shaun’s Visit to Alaska

As some of you know, I’ve a guy in Maryland – Shaun, whom I’ve been spending time with whenever I am on the East Coast. I met him during my short living stint in Princess Anne, MD in the Summer of 2013. I had major doubts that I’d see more of him when I ended up moving on from Maryland. Due to my WildernessFusion classes however, I would be on the East Coast every 3 months for the next year. Deciding to see where it might go, I made my trips a little long so I could stay in Maryland before/after class.

My September visit went well, along with December’s. I extended an invitation to Shaun to visit me in Alaska in late December after I got back from my West Coast trip over the Holidays. Flights in late winter/early spring are cheap (not many people want to see Alaska in the messy month of January…). I truly didn’t think he would take me up on it — not soon at least, more like next year or even more likely ~never. Imagine my surprise when I booked a mid January flight for him! He was able to get 10 days off work and experience Alaska in the winter – complete with the Chinook Winds that brought the temps up to a balmy 36 degrees most of the time. Shaun was a little nervous of freezing to death initially, and thought it humorous that the Eastern Seaboard was having a mini ice age while we were above freezing most of his stay.

I picked him up from the airport and promptly bombarded him with the dogs. Kathy & Dave wonderfully opened their home to him and everyone enjoyed getting to know each other. There was however an adjustment period for Shaun for the trials of living with Beagles – he missed lunch a few times due to leaving his sandwich where the four-leggeds could reach. I helped him find a decent pair of boots at REI — on sale even — the second day. I don’t think he took the damn things off the whole 10 days.

Within the first 24 hours we had a nice sunset – albeit around 4pm but still beautiful.

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

Dave took us shooting at the range in Chugiak. Shaun thoroughly enjoyed the automatics and the bird rifles where you shoot the clay targets launched into the air.

Shaun geared up for shooting

Shaun geared up for shooting

Dave is a wonderful teacher and very knowledgeable about most anything gun related (or just most anything). Both he and Shaun had a good time going over the different guns. I took photos mostly.

Shaun trying out a Revolver

Shaun trying out a revolver

I did shoot a few rounds, but the AR-15 was way too long for me and I couldn’t hold proper form with it… According to Shaun, it’s ‘fucking awesome’ that I shoot guns. Bows are more my style, but guns are good too once in a while.

Dave overseeing me using an auto-rifle

Dave overseeing me using an AR-15

Back to the automatic! Note how much better his form is than mine… Damn hard being a small person sometimes.

Shaun with the AR 15

Shaun with the AR-15

While the guys were getting the skeet-shooting thing set up, I was taking pictures (surprise ,surprise). The mountains came out for a few minutes while the sun set. Great view and a good day.

Sun on the Mountains

Sun on the Mountains

By the end we were a tad cold as it was around 20 with a wind chill. Shaun managed to actually hit the freaking clay targets. Never even shot this type of gun before, but hits the moving targets more times than not. I hit nothing…

Dave giving Shaun a rundown on the skeet shooting rife

Dave giving Shaun a rundown on the skeet shooting rife

The next few days were mostly cloudy and not particularly pretty. One afternoon Shaun and I took a few dogs to Powerline Trail which is at the base of Flattop. The setting sun lit up our grey snowy world for a few glorious minutes.

Sunset view from Flattop Base

Sunset view from Flattop Base

With the Sun below the mountain peaks the world became every shade of grey with black and white as the ‘colors’.

Back & White peaks

Black & White peaks

With the warmer temps from the Chinook Winds, the snow was slushy and one would sink beyond the knee if one stepped off the packed trail. It was a good workout, made pretty by the Moon showing her light now and then.

Moon over Powerline Rd trail

Moon over Powerline Rd trail

Even more crappy weather a few days later meant very little hiking was had. The warmer winds melted all the snow and it turned everything into a slick, ice-coated mess. Even going into town was more than we wanted to deal with some days. Dave’s company had some Aces Hockey tickets that weren’t claimed. Shaun and I experienced our first Hockey game – with Alaskan Amber Beer. It was more fun than I thought I’d have, they really do slam each other against the walls and get into fistfights!

I introduced Shaun to Anchorage Sushi – lets just say we ate a lot, A LOT —  along with some of the bars in downtown. Bars in Anchorage are a tad different from what they are in Maryland, particularly the run-of-the-mill tourist ones. Shaun had a great time and I enjoyed getting back to some of my old haunts. Sadly, the scene in Anchorage for dancing has greatly deteriorated and not much was found.

The wildlife was showing up in style for Shaun’s visit. Moose, Eagles, Owls hooting and of course the Lynx. We saw 4(!!!) crossing the road — Kathy was green with envy. Before everything turned completely slushy, Shaun and I took a couple of dogs to the Conner’s Bog dog park. Shaun was pretty close to decent sized moose. River collected snowballs in her fur – poor thing could barely walk by the end.

The weather often concealed the views, but beautiful Sunsets were still happening.

Breath taking Sunset from the driveway!

Breathtaking Sunset from the driveway!

We made big plans to go to Fairbanks – and more importantly the Chena Hot springs outside of Fairbanks. Originally, Kathy & Dave were coming along with all the dogs. I’m not sure who was more horrified by the prospect of 4 adults and 4 dogs in the same 4-Runner for 800 miles of driving – Dave or Shaun. The weather turned nasty and plans had to be cancelled, much to their dismay. Later in the week, Shaun and I decided to drive up without the dogs for two nights. River was not pleased…

Headed to Fairbanks!

Headed to Fairbanks!

We started out in rain that lasted up until the Valley. Then the skies cleared in places and sunlight was had!

Sunlight on Snowy peaks

Sunlight on Snowy peaks

The road to Fairbanks is a pretty quiet place, only a few stops along the way to gas up or get snacks. In the winter, the number of people out gets close to zero for most of the drive. Sadly I had forgotten the cable to plug in a phone for music… no CDs this day and age in the 4-Runner, and you lose the radio stations (the ones worth listening to anyway) pretty quick. It was a rather quiet drive. Probably a testament to our early-stage relationship that after 800 miles (round trip) in silence or conversation, we weren’t sick of each other!

Pines in the snow

Pines in the snow

The clouds came back, creating a black and white view of the landscape.

Right outside of Cantwell, we spotted a small group of Caribou! I was driving, leaving Shaun to scramble for the camera or phone or whatever might capture the Caribou as they trotted away.

Caribou!

Caribou!

One young buck got separated from the group and went back the way he came, snorting and tail up in the air.

Caribou Tail

Caribou Tail

Shaun had a great time snapping photos, including candid shots of me driving…

Me driving

Me driving

Winding through the snowy hills.

Winding through Hills

Winding through Hills

We stopped at a few lookout areas to get photos and stretch our legs. Shaun’s plaid shirt camos him right in with the hills.

Shaun blending in

Shaun blending in

It was still Chinook weather, a balmy 30 degrees with a breeze.

Joannie looking out

Joannie looking out

King of the selfies took this ‘acceptable’ shot of us – as I think of it!

Together on the AK Hwy

Together on the AK Hwy

Being a solar energy type of guy, Shaun really enjoyed seeing the various Wind Turbines and other green energy that Alaska has and continues to grow.

Wind Mills

Wind Mills

About an hour from Fairbanks, the sun was officially setting, lighting up our otherwise grey world with bright colors.

Sunset outside of Fairbanks

Sunset outside of Fairbanks

Every few minutes the detail of the colors changed — Nature’s slide show.

Pink Clouds

Pink Clouds

Another random photo of me – the setting sunlight giving my rather pasty face color!

Candid Driver

Candid Driver

Sunset selfie on a smartphone.

Sunset Selfie!

Sunset Selfie!

After getting a quick dinner in Fairbanks, we made it to Chena that evening, more than ready for a hot soak. I cannot describe the feeling of being in a large outdoor hot-spring pool in Alaska during winter, other than ‘blissful’. We soaked for a good hour or so before stumbling out in a daze of overheated goodness. The hot springs tend to really take it out of you. Sadly there was too much low cloud cover to see the Northern Lights in the valley where the Chena resort is, but our time spent wasn’t hindered in the least. We had gingerale and hard cider to kick back with while watching Game of Thrones.  The next day – after sleeping in, another long soak!

Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs

Even with the low clouds it is a beautiful way to soak the aches out.

Shaun disappearing into the Steam

Shaun disappearing into the steam

The large outdoor pool is more like a large pond. When the steam blows over it, you cannot see the rock walls or even the buildings sometimes; it leaves one feeling like they are in another world.

Soaking

Soaking

Shaun had never been in such a place and was pretty enchanted with it.

Happy Smile

Happy Smile

He had a pretty hard time not smiling the entire soak.

Selfie attempt 1

Selfie Attempt 1

We had my Olympus Tough Camera — which is apparently hot-spring proof and not just water-proof!

Selfie attempt 2

Selfie Attempt 2

A better self shot picture! Having the whole place to ourselves most of the time was awesome, but also meant that any couple shots were left up to us to take…

Contrast Shot

Contrast Shot

The camera has a few different settings, including a high contrast one. I gave Shaun the camera, and like most boys with a new toy – he got a little carried away…

Underwater Selfie

Underwater Selfie

Of course when you give your guy the camera – the random shots of you happen…

Underwater shot of me..

Underwater shot of me..

My response of course was this.

Classic Joannie

Classic Joannie

Shaun had a LOT of fun with the whole underwater photographing thing.

Getting Hot

Getting Hot

He got this rather interesting one of me out of the water but as seen from underwater.

J on the rocks

J on the rocks

Towards the end, we were pinking up quite well. Not wanting to be too hot spring-drunk (its a thing, trust me) for the drive back, we decided to do the geothermal tour before driving. Chena Hot Springs is run only on their geothermal and generator energy. No power lines or anything of the sort go out to the Chena Valley. All the food has to be trucked in unless they can grow it. The history of the place is pretty interesting – having had many types of owners and managers – including the State at one point. The owners hope to one day run the resort completely on green energy and be able to supply most of the food they serve themselves. For now, it is a smaller supplemental project with promise.

Being the only two people on the current tour of the geothermal energy, Shaun got to ask many detailed questions of the operations and how the various steps worked. He got a few photos with his phone, like the one below. It was very interesting to me, but sadly I understood very little of the way the various machines worked. I also enjoyed seeing Shaun light up at the different types of green energy and how it works.

Greenhouse at Chena

Greenhouse at Chena

After the tour, we meandered around the resort, checking out the various tourist attractions – which include an ice museum, sled dog kennels, a small Reindeer herd and cross-country ski trails!

Then it was back on the road, bad weather was supposed to move in that night. Shaun helped drive the first leg as the roads were still in good condition. Around the halfway point the clouds had caught up and were dumping snow/sleet. When the 4-Runner hit ice and slid all the way across the highway it became my turn to drive. Shaun handled the ice impressively and we escaped without damaging the Gardners’ car! The rest of the drive was slow, very slow going. What radio we did have in places reported the highway being shut down behind us and ordered all none-essential personnel to get off the road.

Made it back in the wee hours of the morning — in one piece but strung out. Most of the snow was gone in Anchorage, but ice was coating the roads and driveways. The rain/sleet washed all the gravel and sand from the driveway and I had a heck of time getting all the way to the house. Shaun enjoys telling this story – I seem to have made an impression on him while handling the 4-Runner sliding backwards down the steep driveway and road, once resulting in doing a 180 spin – controlled I might add. Two bags of sand and 4 attempts had us parked in the driveway. We basically slept the next day away and only went out to get this photo during a small cloud break.

Sunset Rainbow

Sunset Rainbow

A day or two to recover and to let the roads clear; I took Shaun, Pete & River out to Portage Glacier with stops along the beautiful Seward Highway. It was very windy along the Turnagain Arm, but sunny in spots. The Sun was beyond bright and beams of light danced on the choppy water.Sun on the Water

Sun on the Water

The Seward highway is a beautiful drive – summer or winter. Mountains, water, jagged rock face, big sky feel that makes any sort of sun/moon activity even more enhanced. The wind often whips through, funneled by the mountains on both sites. This particular day it was blowing at around 50mph and brought the temps to about zero in windchill terms.

Sun-kissed landscape

Sun-kissed landscape

Beluga Point is one of my favorite spots.

Shaun on Beluga Point

Shaun on Beluga Point

At Beluga point we climbed about on the rocks, almost got blown off a few times during the process but the view was well worth it! It was a interesting challenge to keep the camera steady enough while maintaining my balance to get a nice shot.

Braced and taking shots

Braced on Beluga Point

Within the valley where Portage Glacier is, the air was calm. We were the only people around which meant Pete & River got to run free. The Glacier is receding and not terribly impressive – but still a gorgeous area.

Portage Glacier

Portage Glacier Entry

Portage Glacier has been receding for the last 20+ years, you can barely make it out in between the mountains, and chunks of it float out into the water. It is still a pretty stop along Seward.

Mossy Carpet

Mossy Carpet

After Pete almost fell in the water, we went for a short walk around the park. Mossy carpets and trees were everywhere – only visible in January since all the snow had melted. The dogs had a great time romping about and the silence of the park was wonderful.

River on the trail

River on the trail

Shaun had a great time seeing what Alaska looks like without snow.

Shaun looking more like a woodsman

Shaun looking more like a woodsman

Green gems hidden in the woods.

Moss Evergreen

Moss Evergreen

We walked to the Freestone ponds, which are gravel pits that Girdwood uses. The icy blue water turns ordinary gravel pits into blue enchanted ponds…

Freestone Ponds

Freestone Ponds

I looked for pretty rocks (something I am sorta known for) and snapped pictures. Shaun was a good sport and posed for me.

Shaun by the Pond

Shaun by the Pond

Pete quickly had Shaun throwing a stick for him, even though we tried to keep him out of the frigid water, Pete insisted on swimming for his stick. I love this shot of the them – a man and his 4-legged friend.

Pete retrieving

Pete retrieving

River was not to be left behind, and splashed through many of the shallows.

River exploring

River exploring

I love the blues and teals of the water here. I could stare at it – possibly forever.

Glacier Blue Water

Glacier Blue Water

I looked over at one point and saw Pete as he appeared to be standing on the water – he was perched on a rock just under the surface.

Pete walking on water

Pete walking on water

Closeup of Shaun.

Portrait

Portrait

The Sunset on our way back was absolutely breathtaking! The high peaks are volcanoes that aren’t always visible from the Turnagain Arm.

Mountains & Volcanoes in fading light

Mountains & Volcanoes in fading light

I drove up along Potter Marsh Rd so as to get the best view. As the Sun sunk lower, we had a few minutes of intense orange and yellow light, looking like a streak of fire.

Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky

Overall, the trip was fantastic. I never did get tired of having Shaun stay – something I tend to have a problem with in terms of people in my personal space. I wish the weather had been a little less messy – more clear skies and Northern Lights – but I figure if Shaun can have an awesome time during terrible Chinook Winds weather, he’ll love it if he comes in the Summer! Hopefully he will experience the Midnight Sun soon.

Smiles

Smiles

Having a long distance relationship that spans 4 times zones isn’t easy, but while its working – we have fun. Strangely enough, Shaun is only the second person who has come out to see me in Alaska – even though I offer it to many people. His willingness to just ‘do it’ was a pretty big turning point in how I viewed our relationship (fun when I am in town – to ‘real’). I don’t get to have very many people who like me grumpy first thing in the morning – let lone find it endearing while giving me coffee.

It’s all about the People you meet along the Journey, and if you never go, you’ll never meet them ~ J

How does River survive the cold?

So upon my FB status of ‘negative temps’ in Anchorage and how River and I arrived back in the state, a few people were curious as to just how River is able to join me in the outdoor adventures of cold and occasionally sub-zero Alaska. Well, see, her being a Long-Haired Dachshund really, really helps! Her Short-Haired cousins DO NOT LIKE THE COLD. If you end up with a ‘naked’ Dachshund as I tend to call them, for the love of all, get it a SWEATER, a heating pad too if you live somewhere cold. And be warned, they will steal your blankets.

Due to her coat, River is able to handle temps down into the teens without much help from me for a quick potty walk – I usually only bundle her up for weather 20+ if we are going to be outside for a long time/romping in the snow. She gets a jacket if it’s a cold/freezing rain as well – which was common in Seattle’s winters.  The jacket also helps with the snowball clumps that stick to her fur. If it is below say 15 degrees F, She will get ‘layers’ if we are going to be out for a while.

The Evolution of ‘Bundling River Up’.

River had a basic ‘winter coat’ that I brought with me from Tennessee in the winter of 2011 when she finally joined me in Alaska – Below you can see how short her fur-coat was the first few months!

River's 1st 'warm coat' 2011

River’s first ‘warm coat’ – 2011

Below: River in the early days of ‘layers’ with one of her training – demo dog shirts.

River in Layers 2011

River in layers – 2011

By the next year, I had found a new jacket and coat on sale for her- the coat was a bit too big so I improvised with safety pins. It was quite eye-catching, if I say so myself! River had also grown a much thicker fur coat – which helped immensely

River in her new and improved 'layers' 2012

River in her new and improved ‘layers’ – 2012

Her jacket hoody up – makes me think of a gnome.

River in her jacket 'hoody' 2012

River in her jacket ‘hoodie’ – 2012

When it isn’t cold enough to warrant both layers, she sports her hoodie.

River in just her Jacket 2012

River in just her jacket – 2012

River’s newest jacket/base layer is the best fitting one yet – probably because it cost the most… Roughwear is well worth it if you have need of such things. Finding jackets long enough in the torso, deep enough in the chest and short enough in the leg cuffs for a Dachshund is no laughing matter. River wore just this one while we were in Taos, NM with temps of -4 F. She did just fine during our hikes as did the late Rosie who also had one.

River's newest jacket - 2013

River’s newest jacket – 2013

River has a great time adventuring with me regardless of the weather; this summer it looks like I will have to find her a life jacket for the boat we are going to be on in the Gulf of Alaska. My baby seal 🙂

Below: an epic shot of my Super Rat flying over the snow. Ears up, tail out, paws stretched!

River flying over the snow - 2011

River flying over the snow – 2011

Hey, if my Mini Dachshund can tough out the cold, you can too!

~ J

Fall Travels & Update

Well, looks like time is moving faster yet again. I’m basically fully recovered from my surgery and doing well. Only time will tell (I’m told to expect about 6 months before I can know for sure) if the procedure helped significantly. But either way I am glad to have it behind me!
River is also fully recovered from her digestion/liver issues that she experienced while I was laid up.

My last week and a half in Alaska was busy and good. There were many Moose to be seen, great sunsets and strange weather. Usually by Halloween there is plenty of snow on the ground and at the very least its cold. This year it was a balmy 40 degrees and lots of rain/wind. The prolonged Autumn weather meant I caught the tail end of the Fall color! I snapped the picture below with my iPhone before the wind storm blew all the leaves away.

Last of the Autumn Colors

Last of the Autumn Colors

River originally was going to stay in Alaska with the Gardners so I didn’t further stress her system out, but she was doing so well and made herself quite clear that she wanted to go with me on my visit to the East Coast for a few weeks. She has been bouncing around and is her usual overly social self. I arrived in D.C Friday evening (1st) – and have been staying at my family’s rental that is empty at the moment in Ocean City – River and I are enjoying the space and quiet for the time being. We visit family and friends in the area, walk to beach and sometimes the boardwalk. The first couple of days in Maryland were a little warm for the both of us with the warm front that had come in…But the windy, rainy and damp days are back so there is less panting on the beach now.

Below: More photos from my iPhone of the world’s cutest Dachshund. She really attracts all kinds of people to pet her wherever we go…

River on the Beach - Ocean City, MD

River on the Beach – Ocean City, MD

Another day on the beach – River enjoys romping across the sand like a rocket weasel shot out of a cannon. She also finds stinky fish to roll in… Which I do not enjoy.

The Sand Rat

The Sand Rat in Flight

My time in Maryland may not makes sense to a lot of people, but having the space to process some things from the last few weeks is quite valuable to me. As is spending time with my Cousin Lucy in the snippets of time we get and friend Shaun. I also have a lot of ‘homework’ to do for my healing class and some other group activities that I need to focus on now that my head is clear (or as clear as it is going to get) from the medications.

My Travel plans have changed around quite a bit since I last wrote things up. Pretty much what happens when I try to plan things more than 1-2 months in advanced… Sadly I will not be going to New Zealand over the Christmas Holidays with Carleigh as planned – she needed to cancel. As expected I’m more than a little bummed but I still plan to go, just closer to the off-season so that the tickets are cheaper! I am putting money & supplies aside just for this trip. If there is anyone who interested in meeting up/tagging along for something like this write to me. I have committed to my good Friend Linda to cheer her up during the Holiday season – since NZ was just too expensive for 10 days in Dec, we are going to adventure around on the West Coast, maybe catch a Show in Vancouver or something equally awesome.

My Fall dates are as follows:

Oct 8th – 31st  ~ Alaska for work & Surgery.

Nov 1st – 20th ~ Ocean City, MD for fun/alone time.

Nov 20th – Dec 5th ~ Alaska for work.

Dec 5th ~ fly back to East Coast to prepare for class.

Dec 7th – 9th ~ NY for Healing 1 class.

Dec 10th – unknown ~ East Coast for a week or two before joining a friend for some West Coast Adventures.

Jan 1st – 15th ~ Alaska for work.

Be well ~ Joannie & River.