It Was A Hot One

Steve has been working around the clock lately, in town and out of town.  He was thankfully able to take the 4th of July off, so we packed up the trailer and headed out to our newly acquired property.  We were looking forward to getting away from Anchorage and all the Pongo-frightening, firework mayhem that comes with the 4th of July.

The day before we headed up, we had our driveway improved: cleared of brush, leveled and a circular drive built around the dry cabin for easy in and out of the trailer.  There’s a lot of dirt right now but that just means more planting fun!

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What is so nice about spending time at the property is Pongo gets to romp and roam (within eye-sight).  He loves it and all the ball playing that comes with having more space.

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What we weren’t expecting though was the HEAT.  I LOVE the heat but unfortunately, my boys don’t tolerate it very well.

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There was a lot of shade seeking…

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…and trips to the creek to cool off.

DSC_0047 DSC_0044 DSC_0054 DSC_0059 DSC_0062We were lucky enough to have Mt. McKinley out in its majestic glory two out of our three days up at the property.

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We had an amazing time, and Pongo and I feel very fortunate to have some Papa time before he gets really busy again!

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A New Year

It’s always in the back of my mind: I need to blog!  But lately, life has gotten in the way and not always in a bad way.  Here’s a brief overview of what our little family has been up to the past 2 months.

November

In early November, Steve and I spent 6 relaxing days enjoying the sun, warmth and beach of Oahu, Hawaii.  It was heaven!

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IMG_0628While Mama and Papa were basking in the sun, Pongo enjoyed spending time with his beloved Miss Sue.

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November also brought with it the dreaded ice that we always seem to get every winter.  It is impossible to do anything outside because it’s slick as snot and deadly!  When cabin fever made us all crazy, we braved the ice for a few moments of play outside….Pongo, in the booties he loathes.

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December

December finally brought some much needed snow but unfortunately, that did not protect Pongo from the ice it covered.  The cone of shame came out, once again, to keep the boy from licking a badly cut and infected paw pad.

IMG_0723We are finally on the mend from that wound but are now on the lookout for some booties that will cover-up all his pads, not irritate his dew claw and STAY ON (suggestions are always welcome).

December also means Christmas.  While Pongo does not understand the meaning of Christmas, he sure does understand that when the tree and stockings come out, presents are soon to follow!

DSC_0250 DSC_0256I have never seen a dog so excited when it comes time to open presents.  I would even call it manic!  He was all over the place: ripping open his presents, trying to sneak by Papa, the present gate-keeper, to grab at any present he could get his mouth on.  It’s often more fun to watch him in his frenzy than to open the gifts ourselves.

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Here’s Puna watching the madness from her safe place.

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Pongo’s least favorite gift.

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The Christmas photo-bomb.

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And after it is all over, we have one pooped boy!

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January

Each year when January comes around, resolutions are to be made; things I want to see happen and goals I want to accomplish.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to post at least one blog a month.  And by saying this “out loud,” I am hoping it will keep me accountable.  I would love to and will try to post more but right now, I’m trying to keep an attainable goal.  Baby steps, right?!?

Happy New Year and wishing everyone a safe and wonderful 2014!

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Grandview

Why did he have to be right on this one?  I chose the shortest train ride available, on Saturday, to take my visiting parents on.  Steve was conflicted about leaving Pongo in the car, in Portage our departure depot to Grandview because “something could happen” that would delay us.  It was a four hour train ride out and back.  I assured him Pongo would be fine-in the hundred or so train rides I was on while serving and tour guiding for Princess Tours, we only were delayed a couple of times.  Everything was going to be fine.

We left Portage and made our way up to Spencer Glacier, our first stop.  The views were gorgeous despite the less than ideal weather.

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We dropped off about half the train load at Spencer Glacier and continued onward to Grandview.  All of a sudden we slowed to a crawl.  We overhear talk on the radio that there’s a black bear up ahead.  We plaster ourselves against the windows in hopes of catching a glimpse of the bear.  The train continues to creep around a corner and then stops.

Cue bear…

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DSC_0189 DSC_0186 DSC_0225We sit for quite awhile watching the bear and snapping pictures.  I thought, “How nice of them to give us so much time to bear watch.”  Steve then made the comment, “Something’s wrong.”  I retorted with, “No, nothing’s wrong.  They are just giving the tourists the ultimate Alaska experience.”

Cue conductor…

“Well, folks I’m going to be completely honest with you, and this has never happened before…we’ve run out of fuel.”

WHAT?!?  How can you run out of fuel? Ooohhhh…someone is going to be in big trouble for not doing his/her job!

We sit for awhile, continuing to watch the bear who is giving us quite the show while the railroad figures out what to do.  Their first idea was to drop one of the cars so our car could be pulled up to Grandview but they decided they didn’t have enough power with just one engine to do that.  So, back to Spencer Glacier we coasted.

Once we returned to Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, we were told we had a couple hours to walk around while the railroad sent an engine from Anchorage.  Our directive was to be back by 5:00 PM.  I really hoped that they could get an engine to us quickly-our boy was sitting in the car, waiting for us!

We unloaded and began the 1.3 mile hike to Spencer Lake.  As we were walking we all realized that it felt good to get out, stretch our legs and walk to an absolutely gorgeous lake with front seat views of Spencer Glacier.

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Fortunately, the railroad was able to get an engine to us quickly and we were on our way to Portage.  We ended up being only an hour late and Pongo was just fine.  And even though we didn’t make it to our final destination, we all agreed that things worked out for the best as we were able to experience an amazing piece of Alaska.

Winding Down and Gearing Up

If you listen closely enough, you may be able to hear the wails of a grieving school counselor.  Summer is coming to a close.  I can’t complain though because we were blessed with a summer like there’s been no other: sun and temperatures in the 70s, sometimes 80s.  And not just one or two days but day, after day, after day.  It was spectacular!

Besides celebrating an amazing summer, Steve and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary at the beginning of August.  To ring in our ten year anniversary, we thought it would be fun to pack up the camper, along with Pongo and hit the road for a 750 mile trip to Haines, Alaska and the Southeast State Fair.

We took our time getting to Haines, which is something very different for us because driving the Al-Can for us always seems to be a hurried death march with deadlines to meet.  Taking our time meant we could stop and explore places we had never explored, like Dezadeash Lake in the Yukon Territory.

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Pongo was more than happy to get out, stretch his legs and cool off with a swim in the lake.

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After a two and a half day journey, we finally made it to Haines, a.k.a Dog City.  We weren’t anticipating everybody in Southeast Alaska attending the state fair.  But, that appeared to be the case and low and behold, so did their dogs.  Why not bring your dog when it’s just a short ferry ride from where you live?

We camped at the Haines Hitch Up RV Park, which is a well-run and well-maintained RV Park but hell for a D.I.N.O.S.  Our space was right in front of the dog walk area, with no option to move.

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It was a test of patience managing our dog, who needs a very wide berth of space and clueless people who don’t understand, or maybe even know, that there are some dogs who need space.  I think Pongo probably gained about 5 pounds with all the treats we used to distract him while dogs walked by!

We tried to get out as much as possible-trying to find areas where Pongo could get out and play without running into other dogs.  This was very difficult as the population of Haines probably doubled in the two-legged population and positively tripled in the four-legged population because of the state fair.DSC_0079 DSC_0074 DSC_0082 DSC_0070

While down in Haines, we were also on the hunt for bears.  Haines has a lot of bears and Steve ran across two last year, while working on a job.  I wanted so desperately to see a bear (from the truck) and every day we would drive the route where Steve saw his two bears.

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Did we ever see a bear?  Nope.  And along with that, we didn’t see a single piece of wildlife the whole ten days we were out!  I was so disappointed!  Despite the lack of wildlife, we had a wonderful time camping and exploring Alaska, while celebrating ten incredible years together.

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Our extremely peaceful campsite, in comparison to our site in Haines, at the Sourdough Campground in Tok, Alaska.

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Pongo’s first taste of raspberries.

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Matanuska Glacier

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Now, it’s time to get back into school mode and get ourselves prepared for the Nose Work 2 trial coming up in September.  We’re hitting the nose work practice hard in order to redeem ourselves from the Nose Work 2 trial last May.  Pongo will by-pass the buttered wheat toast this time!

A Quiltmaker’s Gift

“Is there anything you want?” my Mom asks, as we walk through a quilt shop during our Seattle visit in May.

That is a dangerous question to be asking as we are surrounded by hundreds of beautiful fabrics.  Ideas start racing through my head and there it is…a quilt for the camper!

We’ve been using an alternative down comforter with a duvet the past two seasons.  I’ve come to realize what a pain-in-the-you-know-what it is to have to wash it every time we return from a trip because we have a very hairy dog, who insists he has to sleep on the 48×78 bed with Mama and Papa.  Having something easy to throw in the wash and place back on the bed would be heavenly!

Mom asks what kind of pattern I might like and what kind of color palettes I’m interested in. Now, the Libra comes out in me: I’m overwhelmed with all the decisions and the hundreds of fabrics to choose from.  I know I want to stick with oranges to match the pillow covers we already have but besides that, I have NO idea.  After looking around, it hit me that I knew exactly what I wanted.  I pulled up a picture on my phone and showed Mom; she laughed out loud but didn’t seem too surprised.  It was a picture of the quilt she had made for the upcoming Friends of Pets Quilt Auction in October.

IMG_0200This pattern was perfect!  Now, I only needed to find material in the color scheme I wanted for the trailer.  After spending several hours in the quilt shop, I think I had found material that would come together to make a fun and visually interesting quilt for the trailer.

I love that my Mom was willing to put the pedal to the metal in order to get the quilt done before Steve and I head out for our next trip to Haines.  She completed it in record time and when I opened the box that arrived yesterday, my heart filled with love and joy.  I knew a lot of love and hard work was put into this beautiful quilt.

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                                  Many, many thanks to my creative and generous Mom                                    because every Airstream needs a Cattle Dog quilt!

Summer Time!

Talk to any Alaskan and it’s bound to come up: the amazing weather we’ve been experiencing.  We went from this on May 17th…37 degrees and SNOWING!

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And, I’m not complaining one bit!  Summer has gotten off to a busy but incredible start!

It’s kind of bittersweet though that I am writing about our splendid summer on Summer Solstice, which arrived at 9:04 PM (Alaska Daylight Time) today but here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to since my last blog on May 5th (gulp!):

Immediately after school let out, I headed down to Seattle for a week.  I met my parents there and like always, we had to keep them busy.  So we worked on a few house projects (installed a shower and re-did a front porch) at my in-laws’ house.  It wasn’t all work and no play though.  We took some time to explore the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit which was absolutely breathtaking!

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Steve then came down to Seattle for a day and a half to visit his family before we jetted off to Las Vegas.  He attended a conference, while I sat by the pool catching up on my leisurely reading.

IMG_0075All of this travel and transition was tough on Pongo but thankfully, he was in good hands as Miss Sue was staying with him.  He was one lucky boy as she sure knows how to comfort him and dish out the love!

IMG_0070 IMG_0080Since we’ve returned, we’ve been out enjoying the heat and sunshine.

Dock-Jumping At Big Lake

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I think someone is finally pooped after an hour and a half of playing in the water!

IMG_0103Happy Summer Solstice!

Portage Valley

I am loving this thing called Spring Break!  It’s been so nice to have some free time to get out and enjoy the sunshine and beautiful state we live in.  Pongo and I drove down along the Turnagain Arm to spend some time snowshoeing in Portage Valley today.

Turnagain Arm

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Portage Valley

The aftermath of an avalanche that swept across Portage Glacier Road.

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Snowshoe hare prints

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I had one happy dog on my hands today!

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DSC02909Someone didn’t want to cooperate in having his picture taken…

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And at the end of the day, I had one pooped boy ready for a nap.

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Come Rain or Come Shine

Last Wednesday, we packed up our Airstream and a 28 foot RV rental and headed down to the Kenai with my parents and Uncle in hopes of finding some sun and some fish.  I had this trip planned out months ago: we would spend two nights at the Russian River, two nights in Kasilof and one night at Williwaw campground.

I have always avoided the Russian River Campground because of the crazy stories you hear about the bears.  They haze people fishing in hopes of a free meal and are often seen roaming the campground.  That’s a little too close for comfort for me but we decided to take the plunge, along with lots of bear spray, and give the campground a try. The last time I was there, 16 years ago, it was gravel roads and pretty primitive camping. We were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the campground was and all the improvements they have made: asphalt campsites, nice restroom facilities, bear-proof food containers at every site, and a beautiful boardwalk down by the river that had numerous access points along the river.  We were also blessed with 2 days of sun and hot, yes I said hot, weather.

Unfortunately, the fishing wasn’t so great on the Russian River by our campground so we dropped Dad and Uncle Art off at the Russian River Ferry to try their luck there.

While they were fishing at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers, Mom, Steve, Pongo and I went to explore Skilak Lake Road.  It was so hot (trust me, I’m not complaining!) that we decided to stop and let Pongo cool off in a lake by the road.

We still had a couple hours to kill before we needed to pick up the fishermen, so we hiked up Bear Mountain, a 1.6 mile hike roundtrip.  It was a beautiful hike with spectacular views!

Here’s Pongo completely pooped after his swimming and hiking adventures; he isn’t too pleased Mama is taking his picture.

Dad and Uncle Art had absolutely no luck snagging salmon at the Russian River Ferry; they didn’t give up though and tried again the next morning, before we headed down to Kasilof. After 3 hours of fishing the Kenai River off of Skilak Lake Road, they came back with 3 beautiful Red Salmon (unfortunately, I don’t have a picture).

We traveled the hour down to Kasilof, after Dad and Uncle Art’s successful fishing excursion, where we spent two nights at Kasilof RV Park.  It was our home base for Halibut fishing and touring around Homer.  The rain decided to return, after two and a half days of gorgeousness, and it never stopped.  Dad and Uncle Art went on a full-day Halibut charter and shipped back to Nebraska 40 pounds of Halibut they caught.

And while they were out fishing, Mom, Steve, Pongo and I traipsed around Homer.

We ate brunch at one of Steve’s favorite eateries in Homer, the Duncan House Diner. They really know how to do breakfast!

Our last stop of the five day trip was at Williwaw Campground, just outside of Portage.  We walked the trails during the brief break in the rain and played a lot of dominoes when it was really coming down.

Overall, come rain or come shine, we had a fabulous family trip! 

Beauty and The Beast

After a long night of managing Pongo’s restlessness because of fireworks going off around us, I woke up to grey skies and 50 degrees…again.  I was tired and a little bit weather cranky but knew Audra was going to be waiting for us at the Gold Mint Trailhead.  So, I packed up the car and made the venture to Hatcher Pass.  As we drove further North and further from Anchorage, blue skies started to peek in-between the grey.  I started feeling hopeful that we may actually get to hike in some decent weather.  By the time we arrived at the trailhead, the sun was shining and it was absolutely gorgeous!  I can’t believe I even thought about not going…I wouldn’t have missed this hike for anything.

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Greta and Phoebe

Audra and the girls

Cooling-Off

Pongo showing me he really doesn’t like having his picture taken.

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My attempt to get a picture with Pongo–he was having none of that.

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Success!  I got Pongo to sit still for the 10 seconds it took to shoot this photo.

The BEAST

I’m not too sure what jumped out and got Pongo: a rock, a log, an animal he found in the brush?  I didn’t hear him yelp or cry and he wasn’t acting any different until we got home. He was walking a little funny and I thought he was just tired and sore.  But as I was brushing him out, I came across this nasty beast that took 2 staples and a week’s worth of antibiotics to tame.

Our poor boy is now having to wear the donut-of-shame.
And is having a hard time getting comfortable.

I’m sure though he has absolutely no regrets about running, jumping and zipping around having the time of his life.

Savage River

What Steve and I are slowly realizing is that there aren’t many more weekends available to get out and camp.  Summer is quickly flying by and before we know it, our trailer will need to be Winterized and put back into storage (sigh).  Alaska’s camping season is so darn short, and we are trying our best to make the most out of the time we have to enjoy our trailer and explore the great outdoors.

This past weekend Steve and I went camping in Denali National Park at the Savage River Campground, with some friends of ours and their two girls.  We left Friday evening, after Steve got off of work, for the four and a half hour drive up North.  We hit rush hour.  We hit construction.  We drove through a torrential downpour that had the possibilities of hail but thankfully the storm did not release it’s full fury on us.  We were really pushing it as check-in at Riley Creek Mercantile is no later than 11:00 PM.  We pulled in at 10:30 PM to this beautiful scene.

After we checked-in, we had another 13 miles to drive to reach Savage River Campground.  We found the last two spots available, set-up, got the girls to bed, and poured a much needed drink after the stress of driving.  I am always amazed by the differences in light as you travel through Alaska; the farther North you go, the lighter it stays.  This picture was taken around 1:00 AM (with no flash).

It ended up being a late night for all of us, especially Pongo who had spent all day at daycare while Mama prepared the trailer and food for our trip.  He was overly tired and beyond CRAZY!

The next day we explored down by the Savage River.

Here’s Steve photo-bombing Jenn and Matt’s family photo (don’t worry-I got the perfect Christmas card photo for them, minus my goofy husband).

We knew that it might be a little difficult for Pongo when we made reservations, as there are some pretty strict rules pet owners must follow when bringing their pets into the park: dogs are not allowed on any of the trails.  You can walk your pets around the campground loops and along the road.  He adapted though and enjoyed the places he could go.

Walking along the main park road, which was heaven…no other dogs for miles.

Pongo enjoyed using the well more than his bowl.

What we found was most of the A campsites (for RVs and tents between 30-40′) at Savage River were uneven and you had to do some leveling.  Our campsite 32A had some pretty incredible views and had some great sun exposure, when it was shining.

We were excited to see our campground host living in an Airstream.

A sight-seeing plane taking off near the park entrance.

As always, the weekend went by way too fast but it was great to get out with friends who we hadn’t seen for awhile.   We will definitely be visiting Savage River Campground again next year to do some more exploring.