Frequently Asked Questions about my trip:
1. You have a brother?! Yes, I have a brother. He is six years older than I and has lived in Alaska for more than 15 years (currently Valdez). He's a confirmed mountain man who splits his time between skiing (90%) and building log homes (10%). He's only had electricity for a couple of years, but is still without running water. Here's a picture of my sister, my brother, and me. And then a picture of some wood furniture my brother made for a local lodge. Then a picture taken on a walk from my brother's house. This scene is about 1/10th of a mile from his house. Who can claim such beautiful surroundings?!
2. What kind of woman would marry a man like that?! A very cool one. I just met Renee for the first time on this trip, but she's perfect for Derek. We are so happy to have her in our family. Although she has a "luxury home" (you know, one with running water, electricity, and wifi) in town, she's very comfortable at Derek's and plans to spend as much time up there as possible. She's a kind, fun, free-style woman who will be a great partner to my brother.
3. Did you see any bears? Yes! We were lucky to be pointed in the direction of a mama bear and her four cubs. We saw three or four of them over two trips. At one point, we were watching them from the road's edge that dropped down to the creek. I joked that there was probably a bear right there and we had no idea! How wise I was. How completely freaked out I was when that bear appeared.
4. Do people live in igloos? Uh, no. Most have regular houses; my brother is working on his cabin. But there is lots of ice. Although our first couple of days were rainy and we couldn't see anything because of the fog and clouds, when we finally did see them--WOWEE! So many glaciers. Glaciers we couldn't even see (except on maps) were at the tops of all the mountains. It was incredible.
5. What was the wedding like? Picture a granola/hippie wedding in the wilds of Alaska. That's it. It was outside on Derek's property, and all the guests were under tents (thanks rain) or next to the fire pit as the temperature didn't vary much from 50 degrees the entire time. Friends of the happy couple brought yummy food (even pesto with homegrown basil and homemade goat cheese from home-raised goats). Another friend performed the simple, but beautiful, ceremony. Dogs ran amok throughout the whole thing. It was very loose and easy and relaxed. Exactly what their wedding should be.
6. What did you get to see while there? Unfortunately not much. Of course the rain made sight-seeing impossible (unless you want to sightsee clouds) for the first couple of days. We did get to drive through Keystone Canyon multiple times, a canyon famed for ice climbing in the winter and for its many, many waterfalls during the summer. We stopped at Valdez Glacier and saw the water where my new nephew ice skated. I want to go back and kayak there. We saw lots of salmon and a cool little waterfall; Emily and I ran here one morning and then brought the kids back later. We also saw the Wrangell Mountains (from the car) and the Mat-su Valley during its early fall. Unbelievable.
7. How did the littles do? So very well. My Ollie and his little cousin (Lucy) were such great travelers. For the most part, they slept on planes and in the cars when we needed them to. They put up with incredibly long drives after incredibly long flights (probably better than I did). They adjusted to the time (a four-hour difference for my Ollie!) so well; my earliest morning was 6:30 Alaska time--a miracle if you know my boys. They started to fight only at the end, "No Lucy look out Ollie's window." But wow, they were great. Ollie even put up with near-constant licking from Billy.
8. What did Chuck and Rhett do? Chuck worked; Rhett schooled. When we found out the date of the wedding, we thought Chuck was going to be teaching at a brand new school. A teacher can't take off work the second week of school, especially a new teacher at new school. And Rhett had just started kindergarten. So they stayed here. They ate lots of pizza, celebrated Chuck's birthday, saw a magician, played, and played some more. Of course they were bummed to not come, but we still feel it was the right decision. I'd love to go back to Alaska and take the whole family, but I think that it should wait until the kids are old enough and strong enough to enjoy all the outdoor things Alaska has to offer. There's just so much driving up there that I don't think it's right for us now. But when we do go, I think we're going to rent an RV because that would just be awesome.