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Riding the Alaska Railroad is a dream come true for many a tourist and resident alike. It stays a dream for countless others who only venture to Alaska with their mind’s eye. We get to live that dream on a daily basis. And some days are more dreamy than others.

This was just such a day.

A vivid rainbow greeted us at the depot. So close it looked like we could reach up and touch it.

Portage Train Depot is right on the highway, near the Placer river, at sea level. We loaded up onto car A, the double decker with full glass viewing panels. We had quite the vantage point. We also had a Chugach USFS ranger as our guide for the trip. He had interesting local lore, history and flora & fauna information for us.

Off-loading rafts.

Sitting on the train while they off-load rafts on the Placer River, watching my kids unaware. Talking to their friends, sharing snacks, playing games. There may or may not have been some musical chairs with these assigned seats. They are in their element. The simple pleasures of life.

…what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.

Marianne Wiggins

We rode from Portage to Grandview past Spencer, Bartlet and Trail glaciers. From the train station we traveled through marsh and flat lands, into cottonwood forests and gained more elevation until we were in hemlock and spruce forests. It’s cloudy with a little rain every now and then. Once in a while the sun pokes it’s rays through the fog and illuminates a mountainside. Glorious.

Just a little past Grandview Whistle Stop we topped out at 1061′ elevation where we stopped to gaze at Trail glacier. We stopped to see Snow White falls, named for its seven drops, the source of the Placer River.

Snow White Falls

We had a short stop at Grandview so we could hike up to a couple if vantage points. One to see the train and another to see a waterfall. We enjoyed the remaining flowers and berries and mushrooms growing along the trail.

We rode through 5 tunnels and over one trestle 104′ above the raging river below.

We saw snow drops, rock slides and a lake full of ice floes.

We passed over sheer rock walls, roaring rapids and glacial erratic in kettle ponds.

We learned about T-Bone Clark and Alaska Nellie and back country road houses.

The kids were amazed that the telegraph and telephone poles were still standing with some insulators in place.

Trains tap into some deep American collective memory.

Dana Frank

Best of all we got to experience some of Alaska’s rugged beauty with our friends. Memories for a lifetime.

#akadventure #homeschool #experience #akrr #learningisfun

Thing 2 has been interested in kayaking for several years now. I bought him a starter kayak about 4 years ago I think. We don’t often use it but every once in a while a kayaking opportunity arises and we must go!

We’ve been kayaking to Cain’s Head out of Seward, across Kachemak Bay out of Homer and on Arc Lake and Stormy Lake. Once again we had the opportunity to kayak to Cain’s Head with IDEA for our beginning the year field trip.

We booked a cabin for the night before at Miller’s Landing. It’s a quaint little Alaska campground. It started out as a family homestead and the campsites are named after people. There’s a Wes and a Janet among others. I don’t recommend “Matt” as he’s a muddy mess with lots of tree roots!

Our cabin was a “tree” cabin, Alder, and sleeps 4. Me, my teens and one extra: Thing 2’s buddy, since it was his birthday trip and all. Trips like this are always the best because our friends are with us.

Staying over the night before is important, a 7:30am roll call on the beach with a two and half hour drive before isn’t very fun! So overnight it was.

We managed to get to the beach on time and started out paddling at 8 am.

Our crew on the beach.

The weather wasn’t awful but it wasn’t stellar either. Overcast and light to moderate rain all day. We had a brief moment of partly cloudy skies then the rain returned. But we managed to stay mostly dry with good rain gear. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.~ old Norwegian saying.

Five miles out to the North Beach access. A nice uneventful paddle. Lots of birds and jumping silvers. We saw a jellyfish waiting to make our landing.

All that’s left of the Army’s dock at the North Beach site.

Then a two mile hike up to Fort McGilvray. An altitude gain of 650′, a “moderate” hike on the difficulty scale.

A scenic vantage point along the trail. The Seussical trees bordering a wetland.

We saw so many berries on our way up. Thing 1 was taking photos every other step. Moss, mushrooms, flowers, berries, her boyfriend, me…. Trees and rocks and … Everything.

Me and my girl on the Fort Trail.

We made it to the top and a quick walk through the Fort and then lunch break. Thing 2 discovered that he forgot to pack his lunch in so we all shared a bit of our lunches to help him out.

While eating lunch he spotted a porcupine up in the top of a tree above us. Strange creatures porcupines. Stellar Jays we’re fussing at us the whole time. We were in their space.

Then we started our descent. The trip back is always quicker. Too quick to pick all the berries I saw. I hate walking past berries and not picking them.

Safe to say that we’re all pretty tired at this point. Five miles kayaking, 4 miles hiking. Now another 5 miles back. Oy vey

Settled into our kayaks, ready as we’ll ever be.

All the muscles fussed at us on the way back. Even those we didn’t know we had. But by 3:03 pm we were back on the beach at Miller’s Landing.

These children decided they deserved ice cream after their efforts. We headed into Seward for ice cream and coffee for the Moms. There were still some congratulatory posters and banners up for Lydia Jacoby which was cool to experience.

Looking forward to the next kayaking adventure! But maybe not so far next time? Maybe.





The first thing I’ve learned is that kids are amazing. They can do much more than we often give them credit for. My kiddos did great on their first hike into the cabin. Even Little Bit with her tiny self did well. She probably had the most trouble with trip hazards because she just can’t see them with the grass that is as tall as she is. Being the smallest and shortest legs, she was also the slowest which was to be expected. She did get a free ride a few times, up the bluff, through the worst part of the bogs, and over the most difficult terrain. But carrying a 30+ pound pack and a 20+ pound kid is hard work! When we made it through the rough parts, down she went and back to walking herself. She’ll be a resilient Alaska woman one of these days, probably the best of all 3 of us.



Thing 1 and Thing 2 were great. They had found some walking sticks on the beach that they used to go in and out with. They came in pretty handy too, wish I had one! Each of us had a pack (except Little Bit) in which our clothes, water and food was packed. Thing 1 and Thing 2 were carrying their clothes and some extra water bottles, stuff like that. Dean’s pack was the heaviest, probably 60 pounds at least, carrying in most of our water and food. Mine had water, clothes, emergency supplies, and I was packing the heat on my hip. (Thankfully we didn’t need it, but you just never know, always be prepared!) We packed in 4 gallons of water, which we used 3 of, and there was an additional 10 gallons of water at the cabin that we used to wash and clean up with. 5 people use a lot of water even when trying to conserve it!



The return trip was much easier since our packs were not nearly as heavy, we only had dirty laundry and misc things to pack out. Lighter loads make for better hiking! And it was easier to carry Little Bit with lighter packs. I can see where a front pack or at least my rebozo would have been a good idea to tie that child on so I could carry her all the way in. But then again, she needs to learn to do this on her own. Thing 1 and Thing 2 took turns walking with Little Bit and holding her hand. That seemed to help her keep her pace up and gave them something helpful to do. Thing 2 was actually the most helpful. It was so cute watching him pick her up and carry her over the mud holes. He’s going to make a good Alaska Man, a gentleman and capable of doing anything. A great combination!


I have hopes of going in on 4 wheelers next trip. The trail is drying out nicely and hopefully, if it stays that way (no big rains) we can ride in and carry some extra stuff in. I need to change out Dad’s cookware, most of what is left at the cabin now is aluminum (Linda had requested I bring in Dad’s cast iron for her back in April, so there’s not much left to cook in) and I don’t use aluminum. I need to find a skillet, and a few baking pans to take out and leave there so we can actually cook a full meal with out using one pot to do so! πŸ˜‰



I also want to get Dad’s big moose rack back into the cabin. Hopefully we can get that done before his memorial in July. Definitely need to pack that rack in on a wheeler. Much to heavy and difficult to pack in on your back!



Well, we just spent a magical weekend at my Dad’s cabin.


The hike into the cabin was something out of a bad dream… climbing a huge bluff, Devil’s clubs, swarming mosquitoes, murky swap water, blisters and trip hazards. It took us about an hour and a half but we made it. With three little kids, my friend and I hiked into the cabin without getting lost (that’s due to the awesome navigational skills of my friend Dean by the way) and survived the better part of three days. And, the best part, we all loved it!



I’ve got cabin fever, and I don’t mean that I want out of the cabin, I want to get back to the cabin! It is so peaceful out there. Otherworldly. The cares of this world are left behind and you enter a different reality.



I had a great deal of apprehension about my emotional reaction to taking my kids out for the first time and spending Father’s Day out there. Once we were close to the cabin and I could actually recognize the trail, I could hear Dean and the kids up ahead calling out β€œwe can see the roof!!” and β€œthere it is!” (I was bringing up the rear of this caravan) I started to break down. I slowed down, and even stopped for a few minutes. I could hear them yelling for me to hurry up so they could go inside, since they were waiting for me before going in. I told them to go on in without me and I sat down on the bench behind the cabin and had a good cry. Dean came over and took my pack in and I sat out there letting the tears flow. I regret not bringing my kids to my Dad. If I could turn back time… I would have worked harder to find a way to bring them to him. I have to give my kids their Grandpa through his legacy now. His cabin, that is his life achievement, his pride and joy and he is everywhere out there.



Admittedly we were very tired by the time we made it to the cabin. After a brief rest, some major exploring by the kiddos, we managed to cook some super over an Alaska bar-b-Que grill (a 55 gallon drum converted to a trash incinerator (this one used only for grilling)). My first home-cooked cabin meal!



Due to our late arrival, bedtime was somewhat delayed… we made it to the cabin around 10 pm. But remember, still very bright outside, like say, 4 pm Central Time. Sleep was easy that night even with the daylight. because everyone was exhausted. My Dad’s cabin has a loft bedroom above the sun-room, equipped with a skylight, it is bright up there in the summer time! It was cozy with me and three kiddos in his essentially double bed. There were feet everywhere! Because you know, kids can’t sleep in the normal position, they were upside down, sideways and in-between… and mosquitoes lots of mosquitoes..




We killed at least a million mosquitoes that night. Dad has this handy little tennis racket looking thing that zaps them when you hit them. We had fun playing mosquito tennis, until I broke it. We had to resort to bug spray and mosquito coils so we could sleep. All was not lost however, the racket was fixed the next day and we were back into the swing of things…. We have decided we need at least 3 more of those things!



Our first Sabbath at the cabin was quiet and restful. The kids explored again. They checked out the swing first, and the outhouse then off to the sauna and the garden and old outhouse. They looked in every nook and cranny in the cabin it seemed. We had an afternoon Torah reading time in the sun-room. It was pretty awesome. We killed more mosquitoes, consider it a good deed done for all of mankind. πŸ˜‰



The rhubarb out there is amazing! Since there’s so much of it, we harvested a little and found a recipe in Dad’s stash for rhubarb crumble. I made a batch for dessert. There was something very gratifying to harvest and bake that rhubarb into my very first dessert at the cabin. I think my Dad would have enjoyed it, that is, if he would have let me make it in the first place. Dad was a bit of a kitchen hog, especially in his own cabin. We didn’t want to take too much (because we have to make rhubarb wine with the rest of it) but we brought in a bag of rhubarb so we can have some more home-made Alaska goodness here at the apartment. Oh, and we killed more mosquitoes. Do you know how annoying it is to be baking and having to wipe mosquitoes off of your brow? You get flour everywhere, and make a general mess of yourself. Which remember, in a waterless cabin you can’t just go shower.



Since the cabin was left unintentionally unkempt, we did have some tidying up to do. We swept the floors, washed dishes, washed windows in the sun-room and did a general clean-sweep inside. Even though Dad’s good friends Mike and Tami caught and removed two squirrels that had gotten in and tore up the place (and cleaned up their major messes prior to our visit), I still had a bit of a mess from those two squirrels, their poop: their calling cards were everywhere! And let me tell ya, it’s not nearly as interesting as moose nuggets… Before we headed back on Sunday, I stripped the bed and packed the linens to bring into town to wash, freshened up the pillows and blankets outside, and killed millions more of mosquitoes.



Spending time out there on Father’s Day was healing. Everywhere I looked I saw my Father. From his old hats and jackets hanging behind the wood stove (which still smell like him), to his initials carved in the table and garden gate. To his craftsmanship, knowing that his two hands built that cabin, peeled those logs, made everything that was visible, he is everywhere out there. His friends have made a sign and hung on the garden fence, which is very touching and comforting at the same time. Knowing that they come out every time they are at their own cabins and check on Dad’s place, take care of it, weed the garden, remembering him, all of that means a great deal to me. Dad’s true friends are still honoring his memory by their actions and deeds.
I notice.
And it comforts me.
My Dad was loved by many.



Sunday morning kids planted some of the seeds that Dad had bought for the garden right before his death. They put some of the salad bar in (raised bed for greens and radishes) and planted the row right next to the salad bar with some cucumbers. Tami has some plants for the rest of the garden so we left the rest un-planted. We watered the strawberries and raspberries too.



Late Sunday morning we packed it all up and headed out. Thankfully our trek only took us half an hour this time. Something about being rested and starting the day made for a faster hike than the one into the cabin. Oh yeah, and our packs didn’t weigh a hundred pounds collectively either. I imagine that helped a lot. We killed more mosquitoes on our way out.



Once we hit the beach, it was high tide. We hung out and let the kids play for a while. They found more agate, lots of mud and fun silt/clay to create with. I was walking and beach-combing when I discovered the unfortunate truth about the mud pits hidden beneath the sand out on that beach. Like quicksand, you are stuck before you even know it. Thankfully my buddy was there to pull me out! Nasty, slimy, silty, sandy mud in your boots is not a good sensation. Think of Quickcrete, poured into my mud boots. Yeah, it sets up like concrete too. Nothing like having to go wash your boots, inside and out, and your feet in the cold inlet waters of Alaska. Killed more mosquitoes, they seemed to have followed me down off of the bluff.



Finally home. Boy were we tired! The kids were hungry of course, go figure. But all I wanted was to take a nap. Now it’s time for bed and I’m wide awake. Ah well, good for writing!



While I was walking the beach I had some time to reflect and count my blessings. I have so much to be thankful for. Had a nice walk and talk with my Abba, thanking Him for all he has given me: my children, being here in Alaska, the beauty surrounding me & the ability to be in it, the wonderful faithful friends that he has brought to my life over the years and the new ones, my family (I miss my Mom and my Seester), and the life I had with my Dad. I’m thankful for each and every one, every moment, all the good memories. It was a good Father’s Day, a very healing one.
And a lot less mosquitoes!!! HalleluYah!