Did I mention that our board meetings during those four days in Alaska were held in a tent? Yep, a tent. In the Lovejoy's backyard, next to a lake. It was so perfectly Lifelines and I'm pretty sure that most of the team felt right at home even if it was cold enough to require a space heater in the tent during our meetings! Not only did we meet in a tent, but to round out the Alaska experience we also slept in campers...and it was light out until midnight (crazy)! We got a lot done during those meetings and yet we honestly could have met for weeks with plenty to do (sounds like we need another meeting in Alaska)!:) In between meetings we were able to get out and enjoy Alaska (because you can't coop up Lifelines staff for very long...even in a tent)! So on our second day in Alaska we explored Independence Mine...one of the largest abandoned mines in Alaska.
It was really cool to see all of the abandoned buildings and equipment and to realize that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have survived there very well!
And to be with some really cool friends like the Lovejoys. And after a few more meetings we got to head out again- this time to try a little bit of Alaska salmon fishing.
And this is Noah, the Lovejoy's second oldest son, and my little fishing buddy for the day!
And I caught two salmon!! They were the biggest fish I have ever caught (not that that's really saying a ton), but I swear they did look bigger in person!
And once all of our meetings were done we had a few days of vacation...in Alaska...while our children were safe with Nonnie & Grampy in Maine!! And on our first day off Joe and I hiked a mountain near Anchorage. The hike didn't exactly go the way I had planned. We ended up taking a different trail than the one I had read about...which meant it was twice as long and a lot more challenging. It was also foggy and raining. And I was soaked. And I knew that I wouldn't even be able to see anything from the top, much less be able to take pictures, but I know how much my husband loves to get to the peak of a mountain so I trugged on in the cold Alaskan rain. And then just when we where finally nearing the peak I stumbled across a young woman who was hurt. She was covered in mud and her knee was bleeding and it quickly became clear that getting up to hike down the mountain with her brother and sister anytime soon. And that's when my incredible husband (the EMT, firefighter, wilderness first responder, and outdoor ministry risk management director)took over. He checked her out and thankfully realized that her only injury appeared to be her knee (good news of course except that she wasn't going to be able to hike miles down the mountain). She had been coming down the peak and slipped (everything was very slick because of the rain), and rolled a bit before coming to a stop. She was very lucky. And we "happened" to be the first people to stumble upon her. From there Joe made contact with rescue services, found a good place for the helicopter to land, helped her get back up to the peak, and coordinated everything on our end for her helicopter rescue on the peak of the mountain! He even helped carry her to the helicopter. I wish I had taken a picture of that, but I felt like it might be a little too intrusive to take a picture of her being carried away. Truth be told my husband was amazing. He is the guy you want around in this situation, no doubt about it. And he loved it (once we knew that she would be okay of course)...in fact he said it was one of the best afternoons! And after the helicopter safely took off the weather even cleared just a bit enough to offer us a few views and a few pictures! We were up on that peak for a while so please understand if I look a little wet and cold! And while that might have been one of Joe's perfect days I think that I can safely say that our next day of vacation was my favorite (Joe thought it was pretty amazing too)! We went on a 6 hour glacier cruise with our friends the Kidds and the Litchfields. Even I wondered if we would get bored being on the boat for 6 hours, but it was incredible! The only bummer is that it was once again cold and rainy and foggy (that was pretty much our weather, though, every day we were in Alaska). Because of that I wasn't able to take my camera out very often and I didn't get any wildlife pictures, but I did manage these few.
Once again we were cold and wet, but it was well worth it because we saw all kinds of wildlife (and we got great views because most of the other people on the boat chose to stay inside). We saw a bald eagle (very close), sea otters (the most adorable sea animal ever), seals, seal lions, whales, and puffins! We also had a couple of amazing encounters with black and white dolphins that swam right along side us playing in the wake of the boat- so cool! But maybe the most incredible was watching a pod of killer whales also swimming right near our boat (including a sweet little baby). But what really took my breath away was when one of the whales took a leap totally out of the water and flipped over in the air. AMAZING!! Joe had been joking for days that he wanted to see a whale leap out of the water, but we never ever thought we would actually see it! And shortly after our killer whale encounter we made it to an incredible tidewater glacier. And these pictures just don't do it justice. This glacier was huge. We were able to get fairly close to the glacier on the boat. We were really hoping we would get to witness the glacier calving (breaking off into the ocean)...in fact as we waited there our friend John prayed for it. And then it happened (a few times actually)...we heard a loud crack, waited a few seconds, and then watched as HUGE chunks of the glacier broke off and crashed into the ocean! Joe said it was one of the most amazing things he has ever seen in nature and I think I agree!
Wet, cold, and wind blown it was still incredible! If you ever go to Alaska please go on this glacier cruise out of Seward! And that night we stayed at a sweet, modern, little B&B in Seward so that we could enjoy these incredible views again the next morning... And the next day, after walking along the Seward coast, we spent the morning on an Alaskan sled dog tour.
We learned all about the Iditarod, and toured the kennels, and met the dogs. And we got to meet the hold the puppies! And after all of that we got to ride on a summer sled pulled by a team of dogs. As we were getting ready to go every dog in the place was crazy excited and barking- they really love to run!
It is amazing how powerful these dogs are.
Here's a picture of us on the sled (taken by our guide, so please forgive that it's out of focus)! And after our sled dog tour we decided to hike into Exit Glacier. That night we headed back to Anchorage and we spent our last afternoon at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We didn't see any grizzly bears that week in the wild so we decided for the next best thing...which I will say was incredible. Unlike a regular zoo at this conservation center we got really close to the bears.
This is actually how close we were...I was not using a zoom lens here...we were VERY close to these bears (and I'll admit that at times, when the bear looked me in the eye, I was a little nervous)!
And while we were there there was a crew doing a little photography shoot of the bears for some publication on Alaska...I was quite nervous for this photographer as the bear seemed to take a special interest in his camera! Pretty cool. And watching this giant bear stand up on his legs once again took my breath away (without the fences there I'm pretty sure I would have wet myself)!:)
And that was our trip to Alaska! Some work mixed in with a lot of rain, breath taking mountains, good friends, and some incredible experiences. We left feeling rather tired (the time change combined with the midnight sun messed us up a bit), but good. I don't know if we'll every make it back to Alaska or not, but I am so grateful to have experienced this amazing piece of creation.