Friday, August 28, 2009

Clam Digging

Cody and I with our clams (and Shelby and Mason wishing they had caught these ones)!

In all the excitement of the animals I forgot to mention that last week right before I started my runs I was able to go back to Ninilchik where I went Halibut fishing and this time we went Clam Digging. At first I knew it was going to be another long day and I just wanted to sleep and relax but I was so happy I went. I learned what to look for how to best make the beginning dig and then how to try to catch them before they get away. We got a lot of young clams but about 25 bigger ones and enough that we made clam chowder once we got home. It was so fun, I love all these new experiences and all my Alaskan friends that share with me what they love to do!

Helping eachother spot and dig - sometimes it takes teamwork!

And sometimes we race to see who can get their clam first!

But you made need some help from friends too if you get a hold of one real deep and can't pull your arm back out!

Just make sure you kiss your first clam you catch to keep your luck going!

Alaska Wildlife Center

I learned that a moose has 4 stomachs!

I love seeing animals up here in Alaska - and yes I probably see just as many moose around town here in Anchorage than I do out in the real "wilderness!" But yesterday we headed down about an hour south to visit the Alaska Wildlife Center where they have a bunch of animals - most of which were orphaned at a young age and brought to the center and since they weren't raised in the wild and really taught how to survive they will have to stay here as well. But of course they have lots of land and it's great to showcase a lot of our animals that we have around the state!

Besides moose I have seen black bear out in the wild from the train by some of the rivers!

Elk are only on one island up here - much more common is the Caribou I just couldn't get a good shot of them because they are too far away. We also have the Black tailed sitka deer but that's down in the south east part of Alaska!

The Bison were at once hunted to extinction but have been reintroduced to the state and now we have five major herds!

And these guys the Musk Ox are very funny looking but also a part of our important animal population. The hair that grows just under their belly is called Quiviut which is suppossed to be extremely soft and very warm (only the natives can harvest and sell it!)

And then the ever notable Brown Bear (Grizzly Bear), this guy Hugo came right up to the gate to say hello. The Grizzly and the Brown bear are the same species a basic separation are that most brown bear live closer to the coast and grizzly's are more inland. But either way they were all really fun to see and learn more about!

What a Beautiful Day!

When your day starts at 4:30am I'll have to admit it's a bit difficult to get excited about going to work, but by 5:30am when the Alaska mountain range is visible from Anchorage your mood quickly lifts and you feel truly blessed to be awake and in a beautiful land.

Then as the sun emerges and you travel through the back country viewing glaciers and some of the color change of fall you again are in awe of the scenic masterpieces that surround you!

And finally after you drop off your guests and you travel along the train while watching an amazing sunset (again with the Alaska range in the background - and this is NOT a normal occurance) you know that you have just truly witnessed a BEAUTIFUL DAY!
The best part is that there were two beautiful clear days right in between about a week and a half of some clouds and rain - but just like my last post sometimes the weather is so similar to our own lifes, it's after we weather the storms that we appreciate the beauty around us. Unfortunately pictures will never do it justice but I'll still try to share the portraits of Alaska that I just love!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Singing in the Rain

Most of my posts are about my recent adventures wherever I may be and as I was looking over things the other day I realized is not a complete representation of my life. I am so blessed and grateful for the many opportunities and experiences that I have been able to have in my life in the past few years and they have definitely shaped me and helped me to grow. However my life is not ALWAYS exciting and wonderful and carefree and those closest to me know that I still have rough days and struggle with "figuring out the rest of my life" and there are days that I get frustrated and want to punch people in the face.

My life can be just like the weather here in Alaska, sunny for hours with a clear view or it can be covered in clouds and rain where you can't see anything in the distance. I don't normally share my struggles or my frustrations with everyone (especially not on my blog), but that's not because I'm trying to play up this amazing carefree life but because I find that when I focus on the negative it doesn't make me any happier - granted I don't pretend that they're not there I just try my best to take them for what they are and ask for help from those closest to me when needed and at times just try to sing in the rain. Focusing on the best things in my life which usually include my family, friends, and faith are what keep me going everyday - they make the good times that much better and the hard times that much easier. A Sweedish proverb says "Shared sorrow is half the sorrow, and shared joy is double the joy!" I completely agree so thank you for all those who build me up and constantly support me.

Now don't think I'm undergoing this massive hard time right now either my life is pretty enjoyable, but with the good comes the bad and I'm really just living life the best I can and hopefully it's the relationships I form and the knowledge that I gain that with be the defining factors of a life well lived!

Glaciers and Kayaking

My last few days of my week off I was still determined to go out and see Alaska even though the weather wasn't great. A few of my friends from work and I headed over to Portage Glacier and their visitor center there. We then went on about a five mile hike up to Byron Glacier and although the top was all covered in fog we still got a decent sighting and luckily the rain didn't start until we almost got back to the car.

Mary, Me, and Amy Lou at the Bryon Glacier

Then we headed over to the town of Whittier (you have to drive through a 2.5 mile tunnel that is only one lane - and it's a dual road/railroad tunnel so on the half hour you can come into town and on the hour you can leave town it's pretty crazy). The Prince William Sound was also covered in clouds - it kind of reminded me our Milford Sound in New Zealand - and we got in our sea kayaks and toured around for about 3 hours. The water was beautiful we saw a few sea otters, salmon, bald eagles, and a ton of gulls that nest by this waterfall. Our guides were really nice and it was so fun even in the rain.

RCT Employees, the waterfall, and Amy Lou and I in our tandem Kayak on the Prince William Sound!

Of course I do love to play tourist so we went to downtown Anchorage to ride the trolley, my friend Jody is a local and she gives the tours. It was her last day and her 585th tour of the summer (man I'm glad I don't have to repeat the same train leg three times a day at least I get a bit more variation). Then of course we completed the day with the traditional picture cut-out but really we had such a good time!

Trolley Time with Stephanie, Luke, Jody, and Me!

I catch bigger fish than Luke in real life too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Salmon Are A Girl's Best Friend!

So needless to say I LOVE FISHING - it was something I enjoyed doing with my dad growing up, back then I loved catching fish but not eating them - really I probably just liked being out on the boat on our beautiful Washington lakes drinking cherry coke and eating twislers! However this summer I have been able to fish for both Halibut and Salmon, and it has been a blast especially because the fish flock here to Alaska!

I kept a pink salmon to try - but check out the gum boots it was finally time that I got my own now I can make it through all that glacial silt to get those fish!

Last Saturday we went down to a town called Hope - so beautiful and the pink salmon were coming in like crazy (seriously I probably reeled in 20 fish for the 50 casts I did - and at one point we tried to catch them with our hands). Now we only kept two to eat the next day apparently the pink salmon or humpy as they're called because the males develop a hump on their backs aren't the best tasting fish and they don't freeze and keep real well. But it was so fun to even just catch and release, and of course it's all about who you're with too!

Our Fishing Group - and realy some of my favorites! Back: Me, Luke, and Emily

Front: Stephanie, Weston, Tyler, Marilyn, Cohan, and Cody

Cody had the best fishing outfit - flannel shirt, fishing vest, and camo waiters!

Marilyn actually caught one in her hands but it slipped out before we could get a picture - so cool though and I'll definitely back that story anyday!

The male pink salmon have a humpback so they are called "humpy" we only kept two but they were fun to catch, although the females would start releasing their eggs on the shore because they thought they were going to dry so we tried to put as many back in the water as we could!

Then just yesterday I went to Jim's Creek up by the Knik Glacier where I learned to ride a dirk bike and we fished for Silver Salmon. We got there just about 30 min after things had really died down but we tried to wait for the next run. The people we were fishing by were so nice and we were all joking that it's when you're not paying attention - so I started into my tour guide speech for my friend Tyler about the Chugach Mountains and Pioneer Peak and then this guy jumped on my line. I was so excited I screamed then tried to back up and reel and everyone just started laughing because of my sudden change in topic and then I was laughing but praying I wouldn't lose the fish and finally I got him up on shore (silver's are fighters that's for sure). But I was soooooo excited to finally get a real salmon I want to freeze it and take it home but I don't know how it'll do and in the excitement I didn't even get a picture with Tyler but THANK YOU so much for taking me fishing and showing me all the great spots - couldn't have done it without you!

My First Silver Salmon - so proud, he really just jumped on my line!

Thanks again Tyler!

The View From My Office Window

In all the excitement of my adventures off the train I haven't talked a lot about my work up here - and boy do I work hard too! I work for Royal Celebrity Tours part of the Royal Carribean family and we are the land portion of a two part cruise, so you either fly in and start inland and head to the ship or you start on the ship in Vancouver, BC and then travel through the interior of Alaska (Note - if you ever plan this trip I reccommend starting on land first, it's a long vacation and there is a lot to see that way you can rest and relax once your on board)!

My view for most of the day giving commentarty to the guests!
(I do actually have a head set so I can talk even if I'm eating downstairs)

So the company has many jobs the three main ones I deal with are (1) motorcoach drivers - they stay with their group the entire time, so nice because no luggage gets lost and they take such good care of you (2) Tour Directors - also with their group the entire time giving some commentary and answering questions as they travel, setting up excursions for their guests, making sure hotel accomadations run smoothly, and reccommend places to eat etc. and finally (3) Rail Crew - this is us we get to "host" guests for 1 and sometimes up to 3 legs of the land portion. It's a nice break from traveling by motorcoach and it's so beautiful with the windows even if it takes longer! We have 4 legs total from Seward up to Fairbanks = 470 miles, we only run to Seward and back however on Fridays then the other days we run N-S between Anchorage and Fairbanks so a 12 hour day with guests (3 groups for 3 meals = 4 hours each) and then a 14 hour day for us with prep work and clean up!

The bar area - it gets a little crowded at times!

Now on the train we have 4 positions (1) Host Guide - this is ME! I give commentary as we travel, help to seat people downstairs and help bus tables to get people down quickly (we have up to 80 people and only 36 seats downstairs), try to spot wildlife we pass - let them know as we approach any nests, answer questions, clean bathrooms, help guests use our elevator, take guests pictures, adjust the heating and air conditioning, sell items from the gift shop, and sometimes help deliver drinks. Basically I do anything to ensure that our guests have a good time. Their Tour Directors do come on board but we try to let them relax a bit while we host them as well. (2) Bartender - there is only one so 80 guests and they make all the specialty drinks, espresso's, smoothies, etc. It is crazy busy right at the start so I try to help when I can and we just ask people to be patient as we work as fast as "trainly" possible - oh yeah we have to deliver drinks on a moving train, most of us can do 6-8 and so far NO major spills! (3) Server - we have two for our dining room downstairs and they have about 2 hours of a constant rush getting drinks, food, and checks only to turn a table over as fast as possible and do it again. Then clean up and rolling silverware and restock - like I said we work hard! (4) Cooks - we also have two on board so they prepare all our food - they do a lot of prep work to help them out and we only have about 6 items on each menu so that is very helpful but they are master's in the kitchen and they have to help run dishes at the same time. Really everyone helps anyone else when they can and I have a pretty amazing crew - not a lot of drama at all this summer!

Our tables downstairs with exceptional meals - some say better than the ship!

Some of our crew out on the vestibule when we didn't have guests!

Ok well this is long enough -that's the basics of my job and it keeps me really busy, luckily on the train we only work 4 days on and every other week an extra 5th day and then we get time off so I've been able to have a lot of fun. And really the best part is the view from my office window - it has been an exceptional summer and I really don't get tired of my job the view is different from the spring until all the snow melted and now into the middle of summer and we are even starting to see some color change in the trees so I'm so excited for fall! This last week too we had an exceptional sighting of Mt. McKinley from the rail so here are just a few pictures of what I get to enjoy all summer long! I am truly blessed!
Mt. McKinley (Denali) from the East 20,320 ft.
The Chulitna River and passing over Hurrican Gultch - 296 ft. in the air!
Fireweed all over, it blooms bottom to top and then winter is almost here!
Random cabin up in the broad pass area!
Beautiful clear water at Indian Creek

Unfortunately the camera can't ever do the mountain justice it's just something you have to see for yourself and it was truly beautiful that day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Fun and Friends!

This summer has truly been beautiful up here and I can't be more grateful for all the great weather, extra sunlight, AMAZING friends that I've met, and all the fun things I've done as well. I usually work 4 or 5 days a week so I try to use my time off to be productive and still go on some great adventures. So here are just a few of the things I've been up too.
Watching summer baseball games with work friends!
Fishing for Salmon - we didn't keep anything this day!

Shooting guns - all kinds it was great!

And learning how to ride a dirt bike - I only stalled it once and only almost killed us once, but not bad for my first time - of course next time I might prefer something a bit smaller!

All of these things of course done in an absolutely breathtaking place!