Palmer Hay Flats

Last weekend we spent a day hiking in the Palmer Hay Flats. We started by hiking this new trail. I was excited to try it out as I’ve heard lots of great things.

The length and terrain are almost perfect for small kids. The trail is all boardwalk that starts out wood and then switches over to grates about halfway through. The boardwalk is pretty narrow so it can be tricky for unsteady toddlers. Lillian had no problem but Hazel struggled a little and kept tripping once we got to the grated part. We just put her in the carrier for that portion. At the end of the short trail is a nice platform (can’t wait to take the girls here for weekday picnics). We jumped off and explored the area for quite a while. The girls loved it.

After we finished, we weren’t ready to head home. We decided to drive a couple of miles down the road to another trail. We hiked this short trail around Reflections Lake. Lillian loved climbing up the viewing platform and then pointing out different birds to us. And of course the lake is always a mess hit.

It felt so good to get outside and explore. It did start raining while we were at Reflections but it didn’t bother us one bit. We’re used to that up here. Also, we spotted a few moose so that was an added bonus.

xo,
Briana

**I just want to mention for anyone coming up for the wedding, either of these hikes would be great to do while you’re here. They don’t offer a huge WOW factor (zero incline, you’re not scaling mountains) but they’re short, beautiful, easy, and super close to the wedding location. If you’re in the Palmer/Wasilla area and just looking to get outside for a couple of hours, I would highly recommend them, especially if you have small children or aren’t an avid hiker. Click on the links ↑ for directions and more info. 

Matanuska Glacier

One of my favorite places to visit here in Alaska is the Matanuska Glacier. This place is breathtaking. It makes me feel free and happy and alive and so small. I feel like I’m in another world. It’s hard to explain, but it’s amazing.

If you’re a local and have not been, go. At mile 101 of the Glenn Highway is the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site. This is a great place to stop and view the glacier from afar. You’re able to see how far back it goes (not entirely) and get an idea of just how large it is, 4 miles wide and 27 miles long. However, it does not offer direct access to the glacier. At mile 102 you will come to a road that will lead you to Glacier Park, which offers access to the glacier by foot.

Every time we visit, our hike out to the glacier is so different. It melts so much between visits, it’s shocking and a little eery. The girls really enjoyed this visit. Last time we were on the glacier Hazel was just a baby, so it was exciting to see her walk on it during this trip. Lillian had fun using her hiking poles and thought she was pretty cool every time someone passed us and mentioned them. Some of the pictures I took on this trip are some of my all time favorites. There’s one of Lillian crying that is classic. I can’t even remember what happened, that’s just our normal. There’s also one of Hazel being tossed in the air that I love. We did that last year with Lillian, so it’s fun to have one of each of them like that. And the one of them sitting together and smiling at the camera is priceless… because that never happens. ♥

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This place is beautiful. I can’t wait for our next visit.

xo,
Briana

 

 

Gone Fishin’

It’s that time of year here in AK… fishing season! Blake and I like to get out as much as we can each summer. A couple good trips will fill our freezers with enough halibut and salmon for the year. However, the girls haven’t done a lot of fishing with us, mostly because a lot of the fishing we do is on open water or along fast-moving rivers or streams. It’s just too dangerous for them. Yesterday we went out on a mission to change that.

We headed out to a nice little lake about 10 minutes from home, Beach Lake. This lake is perfect for fishing with little kids. There’s a nice size dock with plenty of room for them to run around. The water is clean, shallow, and warm. Also, it’s stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The girls had a great time throwing their lines in the water. Lillian is getting so good at casting. It took her awhile to get the hang of using a bobber. She’s used to casting and then reeling her line in right away. We had to explain to her 853 times that you need to leave your line in the water and wait for your bobber to go under. Hazel enjoyed hanging her pole off of the dock. She was so proud of herself and thought she was really accomplishing something, haha. It was fun to watch them get so into it.

We only had one minor meltdown and of course it involved life jackets. Lillian put hers on and went about her day. But Hazel, holy hell. She threw a fit for a solid ten minutes (yes, that’s minor) before she realized it wasn’t coming off no matter how loud or long she screamed. Once she finally gave in, we gave her a couple snacks and a La Croix and she was fine for the rest of the day.

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Forget what I said above. I just remembered that there were two meltdowns. Lillian got a sliver as we were packing up to leave. It’s a miracle her finger didn’t fall off.

We didn’t catch anything but we had great weather, no one fell in the water, and the girls got some good casting practice in. That’s a win in our book.

Until next time,
Briana

Road Trip!

Last month we headed out on a little weekend road trip. We’ve explored a lot of this state, but mostly in the summer time and mostly south of where we live. And by a lot, I mean as much as we possibly can with small children, a limited road system, and no private plane or boat. For something different we decided to head north and explore some of Interior Alaska.

Day 1: We left the house at 7am and drove almost nonstop for 7 hours, until finally arriving at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Chena is a popular winter destination located about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. I will say, it’s not the fanciest place I’ve ever been, but it’s definitely very Alaskan. The main attractions are hot springs rock lake, the ice museum, and the northern lights. There were people staying from all over the world, all hoping to see the northern lights.

Our favorite attraction was the pool. After grabbing a bite to eat at the resort restaurant, we headed to the pool and spent the rest of the day there. The girls had a blast! Lillian found a friend and was swimming all over the place in her Puddle Jumper. Hazel just chilled out in her floatie with a cute little smile on her face. They weren’t able to sit in the hot springs but could sit in the outdoor hot tub. Pretty cool stuff when you’re one and two years old. ;)

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Day 2: The next morning Lillian and I went to the pool. Again. After we checked out of our room, we took a tour through the ice museum. The ice museum was interesting. Unfortunately, the girls were getting hungry and tired so we kinda rushed through it.

On to The North Pole. I mean, North Pole. North Pole, Alaska. I have been dying to visit North Pole, ideally around Christmas time but I’ll take what I can get. North Pole is a little town south of Fairbanks, where it’s Christmas year-round. We had lunch at a restaurant featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, visited the famous Santa Claus House, and stopped to take pictures in front of the ‘Welcome to North Pole’ sign. There’s not a ton to do in North Pole, but it’s one of those “go there just to say you’ve been there” type places. Personally, I thought it was great. The street lights look like candy canes. How cute is that?

Next up, Skinny Dicks Halfway Inn. Oh my gosh, I feel dumb even typing that. It was a highlight for Blake, so I guess I better mention it. Just like I’ve been dying to visit North Pole, he’s been dying to have a beer at Skinny Dicks. Our first summer in Alaska he and his buddies actually planned an entire motorcycle trip around Skinny Dicks. They ended up running into snow near Denali National Park and had to turn around and head home. He’s been bummed out about that trip for three years. Seriously, three years. He finally got his wish. He and my brother had a beer in the bar and browsed the gift shop. The girls and I had a snack in the car and stretched our legs. Good stuff.

Our last stop on Day 2 was our rental house in Healy. Blake found a nice little place with a great view. We spent the rest of the night eating and watching Netflix. The perfect way to end a busy day.

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Day 3: We had planned to head right home, maybe stopping for lunch along the way. However, we woke up to beautiful weather and decided that we might as well take a drive through Denali National Park. The park entrance is only a short drive from Healy, in the direction we were headed. How could we not? We’ve been through the park a few times, but only in the summer and fall when it’s pretty crowded. It was a treat to be one of the only vehicles on the park road. The highlight (maybe of the entire trip) was when a small herd of caribou crossed the road right in front of our vehicle. Blake spotted them a long way out and could tell that they were looking for a place to cross. So we sat and waited and sure enough, they crossed… right in front of us! Very exciting.

When we reached the turnaround point of the road we got out to take a short hike. There are few things in life Lillian loves more than hiking. She’s such a little explorer. She’s always leading the way and sprinting down the trail. At one point she wanted to go down by some water. Of course, Uncle volunteered to take her down. The rest of us stayed on the trail and watched. When they got back she said, “Mom, it’s pretty dangerous down there. You gotta stay here. You can’t go down there. It’s too dangerous for you.” Ooooook, Lillian. Got it. ;)

On the drive home we had bluebird views of Denali, maybe the clearest I’ve ever seen. It was breathtaking. We did make one last stop in Trapper Creek for lunch before heading home.

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IMG_4788Traveling with kids is an adventure in itself. The girls are pretty good travelers, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about how they’d handle all the driving, sleeping in weird places, and getting in and out of their car seats so much. They did so great! I packed a ton of food and books to keep them entertained. We didn’t even have to bust out an electronic device until the last half hour from Chena and from home. Proud mama right here! Towards the end of the trip Lillian was actually excited to get back in the car because that meant we were headed to a new and exciting place. When we buckled them in after our final stop for lunch she said, “Where we going now guys?!?!” We felt bad telling her that we were headed home.

Until next time,
Briana

p.s. I did a quick calculation and we traveled about 850 miles in 3 days. Not bad.

 

Camping | Seward Waterfront Park

Last weekend we went on our first camping trip of the season. We’ve been eager to get out after a long 9 month hiatus. This trip was worth the wait.

We’ve never camped in Seward before because 1) we normally prefer more secluded/rustic camping and 2) Waterfront Park is first come first serve and always fills up fast. We hoped that if we headed to Seward before tourist season we could get a waterfront site offering views of Resurrection Bay that would trump almost all the rustic/secluded camping we’ve ever done. Our plan worked. We pulled into the park late Friday afternoon and had our choice of waterfront sites. Although, it did fill up hours after we arrived. Pretty sure everyone had the same idea we did.

We spent the rest of the day and night setting up, eating, throwing rocks, picking dandelions, and relaxing around the campfire. All the flowers in the pictures are dandelions. Lillian kept saying, “Mom, look at these beautiful daffodils I picked for you. Wanna smell them?!” and Hazel’s nose and mouth were yellow the entire trip from huffing them. Kids are the best.

Bedtime was a little shaky. It usually takes a couple of weeks to figure out what sleep arrangements work best in the camper. Also, IT’S SO LIGHT OUT!! But we all slept in until 9 the next morning, so it wasn’t that bad.

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IMG_6770On Saturday morning we woke up to gorgeous weather. We had breakfast outside and then went for a walk. Just a short walk down the bike path from our campsite was a great playground. It was nice to sit in the sun with Blake, enjoy a cup of coffee, and watch the girls run around the playground. They had so much fun.

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In the afternoon we went for a drive out to Exit Glacier located in Kenai Fjords National Park. We didn’t do any hiking or glacier exploring. The main reason for the drive was so Hazel could nap in the truck as we wanted her to take a good nap after the night before. When she woke up we headed back to town to get gelato at Sweet Darlings. Lillian was so excited to pick out her own flavor. She went with strawberry and it’s all she could talk about for at least an hour. Hazie Girl and I shared the pistachio. It’s the best!

That night was another relaxing one around the fire, yelling at Lillian to stay close. She is so outgoing and social and wants to be best friends with everyone she sees. She’ll run up to random kids and hug them and introduce herself. One dad hanging by the water with his son said she told them “I’m Lillian, on vacation from Eagle River.” Luckily all of our neighbors and passersby were so nice. There were plenty of kids and dogs that didn’t mind her company.

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Casting lesson - proud dad!

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Major Fail: Forgot the roasting sticks. ↓

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Before heading home on Sunday we had breakfast, walked the beach, picked more dandelions, and then made a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center. It was the first time we’ve ever been there. The touch tanks were a hit with Hazel and both of the girls (and Blake, too) loved watching the seals and sea lions.

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On the way home, Lillian thanked both Blake and I multiple times for taking her camping. That made all the planning, packing, setting up, lack of sleep, taking down, and unpacking worth it. And although Hazel can’t verbally express her gratitude, she did sleep most of the way home, which is like the best ‘thank you’ we could ask for.

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xo,
Briana

 

Homer For The Fourth

This year we spent the 4th of July weekend in Homer. We’ve been to Homer a handful of times. Whenever we fish/camp/clam down that way we always do it out of Ninilchik and try to spend at least a day in Homer. We’ve never actually spent a significant amount of time there, so we were really looking forward to this trip.

Since it’s a pretty long drive, we decided it would be best to drive over halfway and spend the first night in Kasilof. We spent the night at Crooked Creek RV Park. It was late when we arrived. We quickly set up everything and then headed to bed. The next morning we woke up and went fishing along Crooked Creek, which was a short walk from the campground. As always, Lillian enjoyed playing in the water while everyone else fished.

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After not much luck in the fishing department, we loaded up and headed to Homer. It was a gorgeous day. We stopped at a lookout right before town and took some pictures. Hazel was napping, again, but I woke her up and forced her to be in the pictures with us. Mean mom right here.

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We made our way to the Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile strip of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay, and set up shop at Heritage RV Park. The rest of the day was spent walking up and down the boardwalk, going in and out of little shops, checking out boats in the harbor, and chasing birds. The girls and I ended each day with ice cream (Alaskans, Frosty Bear Ice Cream Parlor is where it’s at). Blake may or may not have ended each day with a Duck Fart in the Salty Dawg Saloon. ;) When in Rome…

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The next day was the 4th of July. We woke up (to rain) and dressed the girls in festive little outfits that had to be worn over animal print Cuddl Duds, because… Alaska. They looked ridiculous. We spent a lot of the day snuggling in the camper. Lillian and I headed to the beach while Hazel napped. After nap time we went fishing, then out for pizza on the boardwalk. Glamping at its finest.

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On Sunday we drove to town for breakfast. When we got back to The Spit it was time to pack up and head home. I panicked a little when I realized we were leaving and hadn’t taken Hazel down to put her feet in the sand. It was her first time on a beach at the ocean and these milestones shall not go undocumented. Also, it was a good opportunity for Lillian to run off some energy before the long ride home.

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We had a fun weekend. Camping right on The Spit was such a cool experience. But it was kinda weird spending the 4th of July with 5 layers of clothes on and no fireworks. Fireworks in July in Alaska are pretty pointless. We’ll just have to make up for it on New Year’s Eve.

Until Next Time,
Briana

Memorial Day Weekend

We spent the weekend camping. We headed north and camped along Petersville Road, hoping to get some up-close views of Denali. Alas, the clouds moved in as soon as we got there, and in true Alaska form, they stuck around all weekend.

This was our first camping trip with the girls, so Blake and I were a little nervous going into it. I was worried it would be a disaster and that we’d never want to do it again. Thankfully, they were happy little campers. The only hiccup was Hazel waking up every morning around 6, because it was so light out. I’ll be making blackout curtains before our next trip.

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We spent some time at Peters Creek one day. Lillian loved throwing rocks in the water and did not want to leave. Hazel napped most of the time, until Lilly woke her up for a picture.

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Uncle Willy and Dani were along for the adventure. They offered to watch the girls for a bit, allowing Blake and I to do some exploring on the 4wheeler. Petersville Road is an old mining road. The pavement ends about 10 miles in, we camped around mile 15, and took the 4wheeler all the way out to mile 32. This is where the Petersville State Recreational Mining Area begins, an area set aside by the state for citizens to pan and mine for gold. The scenery was beautiful. Hopefully we can make it back on a clear weekend.

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It rained a little on our last night, but that didn’t stop Lilly. She ran around and jumped in puddle after puddle of mud.

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IMG_7849(1)We had so much fun exploring and enjoying the outdoors. Our first camping trip of the season was definitely a success.

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This weekend we are headed to Portage Valley. But first, blackout curtains. I can’t sew, so they won’t be anything fancy. Hopefully they’ll work a little better than the black garbage bags we were using. Here come the Griswolds! ;)

Until next time,
Briana

 

 

Alaskan Adventure | Clamping

Last June, when Lillian was just 2 weeks old, we went on a weekend clamping (clamming/camping) trip on the Cook Inlet with a bunch of our friends. Yes, we are those parents… but even with a newborn we had such a fun time. We couldn’t wait to do it again!

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When the season rolled around this year, we checked the tides and booked a weekend stay at our favorite campground. The place we stay at is the best. The owners are so nice, very laid back, AND they have cabins for rent. This is the perfect campground for people with small children. We bring Lillian’s pack’n’play and she can nap, stay dry if necessary, keep warm, and go to bed at a normal time, while everyone else hangs out all day and night by the campfire.

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The beach we went clamming on last year was actually closed for clamming this year due to a significant decline in the abundance of clams. We were forced to clam on a different beach, which turned out to be a total bust. We got clams, but nothing close to our limit. Blake and I aren’t big fans of eating them, so we weren’t heartbroken that we didn’t have bags and bags of clams to take home and fill our freezer.

Lillian had a great time running on the beach and playing in the water and sand. I knew she would love it and couldn’t wait for her to get out there! And yes, this is how we dress for the beach in June. ↓ Jealous? Doubt it.

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Lillian loved carrying around the clams once we got back to the campground. I know they look disgusting, but they are actually pretty tasty if you clean and cook them right. We had them for dinner that night!

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We had such a fun weekend of clamping and can’t wait to do it again next year! This is definitely going to be a yearly ‘thing’.

In other news, we are so excited for our month of visitors! My parents and little brother arrive on Friday. We have a lot of fun things planned. I’m hoping the weather cooperates. When they leave, we have a two day break and then Blake’s parents arrive. It should be a fun and busy month full of many more Alaskan Adventures!! ;)

xoxo,
Briana

Alaskan Adventure | Iditarod & Fur Rondy

A couple weeks ago we checked two items off of our ‘Alaska Bucket List’. The Iditarod and the Fur Rondy winter festival!

On the first Saturday in March we headed into Anchorage for the ceremonial start of the 42nd Iditarod sled dog race. The “Last Great Race On Earth”. It’s a 1000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome. The whole thing blows my mind. I cannot believe people are willing and able to do this race. It is CRAZY to me!

We had such a great time cheering on all the mushers and sled dog teams as they started on their journey. The streets of Anchorage were packed with fans and spectators from all over the world. I’m so glad we were able to experience this awesome event.

The winner finished early this morning in 8 days and 13 hours. The musher in second place (the musher we were cheering for) finished just two minutes later. So close!

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After all the teams were off, we spent the rest of the day enjoying the Fur Rondy festival. As I’ve mentioned before, Fur Rondy is a 10 day winter festival held in Anchorage. There are tons of events going on throughout the festival. It’s a lot of fun {and fur} for the whole family.

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One of the main events of the festival is the Running of the Reindeer. It’s like the Running of the Bulls in Spain, but with an Alaskan twist… Reindeer! Blake and a couple of his buddies participated in the event. Of course he made his way through hundreds of people to be at the front of the starting line. I’m sure anyone that knows Blake is super surprised. I was busy video taping so I didn’t get any pictures. But I did search the internet far and wide to find some pictures of Blake.

Note: Everyone dresses in crazy costumes to do the race. That’s why Blake looks so amazing in all these pictures. ;)

We had a lot of fun enjoying this Alaskan celebration. We are already looking forward to next year.

IMG_4571(1)Until next time,
Briana

Alaskan Adventure | Fishing Prince William Sound

In August Blake and I were  invited to go on an overnight fishing trip in the Prince William Sound. Our friends have a big ocean boat and they were nice enough to ask us to go out with them for the weekend. Do we have the best friends ever or what?! I was a little lot nervous about leaving Lillian, though I knew she would be in great hands. After days of being persuaded (and Blake begging), I decided it would be a healthy and much-needed break.

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Best. Decision. Ever. We left early on a Saturday morning and drove to Whittier, where we docked the boat and got on the water. From there, we headed out to the middle of nowhere to find some fish. And find them we did! We caught tons of silver salmon and a few cod-fish. We also dropped some prawn pots, Deadliest Catch style. :)

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Day 1 – first fish of the day

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Day 1 – pulling pots is tough work

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Day 1 - a few of the silvers we caught

Day 1 – a few of the silvers we caught

We had such a fun day fishing, chatting, enjoying some adult beverages, and relaxing on the water. At sunset we dropped the anchor in a nice little bay, made some dinner, had a few more adult beverages, and eventually headed to bed. We woke up early Sunday morning and did it all over again!

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Day 2 – waking up to a beautiful view

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Day 2 – one of the many glaciers in Prince William Sound

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I can definitely say that this was the best time I have had since moving to Alaska. Easily. We were surrounded by the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The weather was gorgeous. The company was great! The mountains were blue. The fish were biting. Good times all around.

We cannot thank our friends enough for taking us with them. We made great memories that will last a lifetime! I am still smiling and laughing about some of the stuff that happened on that boat.