Adventures below zero

Instead of traveling across country for a stressful trip we didn’t really want to take, my husband opted for a staycation the week of Thanksgiving. The temps happened to drop at the same time, but we didn’t let it slow us down. We started our staycation off with a beer tasting at The UAF Pub Annual 40 Below Beer Tasting. Most people know we have also been casually house shopping, since it’s winter and the market is not really ‘hopping.’ But surprisingly, we came across a house we decided to look at with our realtor that we loved.

Mid staycation, we took a couple of days and ventured off to try some of our wedding presents out, which included some great camping gear. I also got a great Osprey backpack at an REI garage sale that needed testing. So the 3.3 mile trek to the Angel Creek Lower Cabin was the perfect opportunity. We left the trailhead at a hovering 0 F and arrived at the cabin at -18 F. The cabin was 0 inside and we finally got the wood stove to warm us up to well into the 80s.

We tested out of camping meals, ate snacks, drank cocoa, and played games. I taught my husband how to play rummy and by the end of the night, he had beat me at my own game. The clear skies showed us no aurora, sadly, but there were more stars than I can even describe. I can tell you, we slept like crap on the platforms and I blame my toss and turn husband for that.

We awoke and make pancakes on the wood stove, enjoys eggs out of a bag, and tea in our camp cups. We packed out bags, refilled the wood box, and played a game of rummy before hitting the trail to trek out. As we headed out, we took in the crisp and quiet air while peering across the frozen creek. We set up the camera to snap a photo of us – our first cabin trip together. Somehow we managed to layer just right and stay warm the whole time. The trails were in good shape for needing only hiking boots, but weren’t ski ready yet – which would have allowed us to pull more gear behind us and less backpack on us. We enjoyed the sun peering onto Angel Rocks as we headed back. The trees and dead plants have frozen crystals and snow that had remained untouched. Over two days, the cold air kept away any signs of wildlife – not even a bird. We reached the trail head excited to enjoy our sandwiches for lunch. Much a great way to spend two days of our staycation!

spent a relaxing Thanksgiving making one dish to take over to a friends house and had a true Friends-giving, as they call it. We were, however, truly thankful for the friendships. We enjoyed great food, and pie (which of course is its own category), wine, and games before retiring for the night.

As staycation came to an end, we ended up making an offer on the house we looked at and fell in love with. We are now in escrow! Look at us – adulting and shit. Had we not opted for a staycation, we may not have found our soon to be home!

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Wedding Planning in a Small Town: Fairbanks, Alaska

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to plan a wedding in a small town? Combine that with being in a state that might as well be considered a small town, and you’ve got Alaska. Narrow it down even more and you’ve got Fairbanks, Alaska.

Many people consider Alaska to be an amazing spot for a destination wedding. I would absolutely agree with you. We are SO excited to share our state and our town with our family and friends. But what brides who do no live in Alaska often end up doing is getting married in the very over-priced wedding destination known as Anchorage, Alaska. When we began looking around the state to decide where we wanted to get married, we couldn’t believe how much places charged for services.

We definitely wanted to be able to plan our wedding in our own comfy town but are definitely discovering the challenges of a small town. Here’s a few of our fun adventures.

  1. Most vendors come by word of mouth. Many people do not have websites (which I consider to make you a legitimate business and a very good, low-cost business investment) and depend on either word of mouth or social media (aka Facebook) for their incoming business.  This can also mean more legwork to find services you need.
  2. There aren’t a lot of options for each type of service. This often translates to “we don’t have to act professional or do that great of a job.”
  3. Response time is relative. Meaning many people in the wedding industry here also function on Alaska time. If you don’t know what Alaska time is, we are far behind and far slower than the rest of … well, anywhere. It typically doesn’t bother me much, but I feel like when you’re running a business, you shouldn’t be functioning on Alaska time.
  4. What’s a contract? Sometimes, it’s your job to make sure a vendor contract is in place. Many people are a little too “go with the flow.”
  5. You have to ASK. Things you think would come normal with working with a venue, may not. So you have to ask (“can we do a tasting, do you have a portfolio, can we have a tour…”. Its much like the contracts.
  6. Some people you will contact or work with are just..quirky. I feel like that doesn’t need a lot more explanation.
  7. Plan to have some meetings off the beaten path. Many vendors have shops out of their homes and their homes might just be in some sketchy places off the beaten path. Living here as long as we have, we are accustomed to this, but we occasionally giggle when we pull up somewhere and think “can you imagine if we didn’t live here?”
  8. Traveling is inevitable. Not everything I’ve needed has been in Fairbanks and the “big city” calls for some things like wedding and bridesmaid dresses.

Now for the things we appreciate (I might still be debating if the tradeoff is worth it):

  1. The quirky people (not the flakey) are indeed quirky but often wonderful at what they do and care about giving you great work.
  2. You can negotiate anything and everything.
  3. They are just as flexible with us. Sometimes weather doesn’t permit us making it out to a meeting to sign a contract, and they aren’t going to give away our date because of it.
  4. The people we work with are Alaskan and show it. They care about us and our special day because that’s how Alaskans are.
  5. We get to share our home with our friends and family! What is greater than that? It became a determining factor for us when we chose where we were going to get married. As weird and quirky as Fairbanks is, and as much of a pain it continues to be in planning a wedding, it is a our and we get to share that! Even the “rustic…” (when I say that, its kind of a stretch) feel of our venue truly is not just Alaskan – but very Fairbanksan and really, I just love it.

 

We’re Engaged!

That’s right, you read the title correctly. I am finally engaged! But really, I shouldn’t say finally because the timing is just right. So often we use finally in our sentences as if to say “its taken forever and my patience is running out…” for life hands us everything in the its correct timing. My upcoming posts will explain more (wink wink).

So… the engagement! Oh my! Oh my! How did he pop the question? After recently graduating from USC with my Master of Social Work (MSW), my partner took me out for a nice dinner at Lavelle’s. At dinner, he gave me a present to celebrate my success in graduating. I opened it and it was a beautiful stemless wine glass with an etched sea otter. He said “I combined your two favorite things – wine and sea otters.” As I went to put it back in the box, he said “wait, there’s more. Keep digging in the box.” So I pulled out tons of newspaper and found a small, round, plastic case maybe half an inch thick. I picked it up and it held… a beautiful ring! I looked up at Scott and said, with tearful eyes, “what is this?!” and he of course said “will you marry me?” Of course, of course! The ring is a beautiful gold band that belonged to his great grandmother. I admire it everyday. It is so beautiful, simple and fitting to me and to us as a couple!

Now we are around 2 1/2 months into our engagement and busy busy planning for our summer 2016 Alaska wedding. It is so exciting! We have much of the big things done, which is exciting. But planning a wedding in the small town of Fairbanks, Alaska? Talk about crazy! But planning our wedding has been fun and I’ll share more as we go – which includes where I do and don’t recommend going if you, too, want to plan your wedding in our small little town in Alaska.

K-Christina EPIC Alaska Road Trip 2014

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Well, the summer here in Alaska is flying by. In fact, its been the rainiest summer (I am pretty sure ever) in Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula is surely enjoying all of what should be our weather. BUT, last month I got to enjoy 2 weeks with my wonderful best friend Kristina, who came from Ohio to explore Alaska with me. How wonderful it that – I didn’t have to leave the state to have such an incredible trip? I got to show off what I call my backyard. That is something you’ll learn about Alaskans. We call this great land – the Last Frontier – our backyard. I can’t wait to find time to share the adventures, and give some advice on where to go for all of you fellow travelers planning trips to Alaska in the future. But for now, here’s a video to give you a glimpse into our AMAZING trip. The quality is a bit low – since it is set up for mobile devices.

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Cycling in Denali National Park

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I have been so busy getting ready for Alaska summer, prepping my garden to plant my starters and now working on grad school applications that I just now have time to breathe and share with you all this ridiculous bike trip I recently took.

 

It started as two. I saw some great pictures of my friend biking in Denali and wondered why I hadn’t done it. So I convinced my friend do it with me. We set a date for a long day trip down to Denali, which is only two hours away. I sent out an email to the LOL all-female biking group I’m in and the Fairbanks Cycling Club to see if anyone else wanted to join us. I ended up coordinating an entire trip down, carpooling and all, and we ended up with 9 people total. My friend said my detailed emails were so ridiculous and helpful, I should always be the one coordinating trips like this.

 

We all met up at 7:00am in the local grocery store parking lot. Bathroom breaks, coffee-fixes, going over the plan for the drive down, etc… and we were off. We managed to make it to the visitor’s center at the Denali Entrance around 10:15am, regrouped, got our passes and went over the plan to meet at Teklanika campground at 29.1 mile on the Park Rd. We chose the last day you chose drive in to Teklanika without a campground pass. We also managed to choose the only day in the past 2 weeks that it was sunny and warm. We would likely be doing this true Alaskan-style – which we did.

 

We regrouped at Teklanika Campground at 29.1 mile. The plan was to hit the Park Rd and ride over Sable Pass and crest Polychrome Pass and stop at the overlook for lunch, then head back. Roundtrip it was approximately 34 miles. I just finished a Triathlon and was training for another, had been cycling quite a bit, but this would still end up being the toughest ride I had ever done. It ended up raining, snowing, hailing and did I mention I love going really fast downhill? The catch is, I love doing it on pavement, not dirt and gravel. That was a little unnerving for me but once I got comfortable, it wasn’t so bad.

 

I did this ride on my 2014 Specialized Arial hybrid. 34 miles in the rain and mud was probably equivalent to 60 miles on my road bike. Some of the musts on my pack list included TWO extra tubes, travel pump, patch kit, plenty of layers prepared for rain, snow and wind (the passes are definitely windy), snacks, extra water, and a camera. My funny story on layers is that I was a layer short for wind pants. I had two layers on, but should have brought an extra wind layer – my cross-country ski pants would have been idea. I ended up borrowing a very stylish blue pair from a friend in the group for the windy ride back down Polychrome Pass. It made for some laughs and a hilarious picture-op.

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Denali is a most awe-inspiring place to be. It is peaceful; it is overwhelming larger than you, and even when it’s snowing with no sign of big Denali in sight, it is still one of the most beautiful places in the world to be. We saw one grizzly, caribou, and plenty of birds. I’m pretty sure the Ptarmigan were laughing at me when I was chugging up Sable Pass on the way back.

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If you are a cyclist, make sure Denali, any part of it, is on your to-do list. I’m still debating on if I’ll do it again on days that are beautiful, sunny and clear. The adventurous possibilities are really endless. Biking the Denali Highway and biking Anchorage to Seward are also on my list. This was the toughest ride for me to date and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. We did it Alaska style – rough and tough. You might want to check the weather first.

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 #fearless2014

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