The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

Just A Brief Update January 16, 2016

Hello, all!  It’s really late, but for some reason I am in the mood to blog and it has been way too long, so here I am.  Things are pretty good at the moment.  After I returned from Alaska and got my Daughter J. married off, I went back to work at a place I had worked before, off and on for about 12 years now.  I was preparing to audition for Ardmore Little Theater’s Fiddler On the Roof and I ended up getting asked to Stage Manage, which for me is just as much fun as being in the cast.  It’s going to be a wonderful show, I can already tell.  The cast is a perfect mix of experienced and newbie, and everyone is really enthusiastic and cooperative.  For now.  I feel wretched and traitorous saying this, may ValJean forgive me, but I think Fiddler may end up topping Les Mis with regard to just the number of cast members, beauty of the sound produced, and the general experience of the production being one of a cohesive team being dedicated to a common high goal, which is creative excellence.  In short, this cast has got it goin’ on!

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It’s January 16 and my Christmas tree is still up.  Between work and the theater I am working 13 hours a day and I just haven’t been in the mood to mess with it.   Unfortunately the two squatters living in this house, who I just happened to give birth to, wouldn’t do any housework or take it upon themselves to UN-decorate the Christmas decorations without a gun to their heads.  Figuratively speaking, obviously. So I’m thinking maybe the tree will be down by Valentine’s Day.  That would definitely be a record for me.  Who knows, maybe I’ll feel like messing with it before then.

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Health and fitness-wise, life is … well, let’s just say I’m not working as hard on that as I have in the past.  I have tried to get my head together and it just doesn’t seem to be working.  I can’t afford to actually pay money for Weight Watchers right now, I can’t seem to manage to do low carb the right way (or stick with it longer than a few days), and exercise is lower on my priority list than gum surgery.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get back on the wagon.

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Anyway.  It is later than late and I work early tomorrow, so I wish good health and good blessings on each and every one.

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Until next time,

D.

 

 

 

 

Flashbacks November 2, 2015

Filed under: Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 11:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

Hello, all.  I wanted to go back and give a detailed description of the final days in Alaska so as to provide a bit of closure to the story.

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The last week or so that the lodge was open, the number of guests we had staying with us was reduced further each day.  From several hundred people at the beginning of the week, we were down to the two final buses carrying only about 80 or 90 people total.  They rolled out at 12:45 or so on Thursday the 17th.  All the employees lined up outside the main lodge building and waved as the buses left.  It was so strange! We had been there on opening day when we were all nervous and had no idea what the season would bring, and now we were saying farewell to the last guests of the season.  For better or worse, we had survived.  The minute they were away, we all cheered and hugged and high-fived.  It was a joyful moment, but if I remember correctly, I probably got a little teary-eyed too.  Less so than I had thought I would.  Which was good.

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After the guests had left, most of the various departments were having little goodbye parties.  At least we lucky Gift Shop Girls were.  Our managers had brought a ton of food and drinks, and after snagging some chairs from downstairs in the cafeteria, we all sat down and had our little smorgasbord.  Too soon it was time to go back to our rooms and finish packing.  Actually, some of my co-workers were already scheduled to leave that afternoon, but I was lucky I didn’t have to go until the next morning.  I had put off packing until the last possible minute, and besides, there was still another farewell party to go to, in the luggage barn.  They grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for us, and had a bit of a carnival.  Well, ok, there was a cotton candy machine, a popcorn machine, and a dunk tank.  But it was fun watching people try to dunk the managers who had been on their case all season.

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Finally it was time for the two employee buses to leave, and a majority of employees were ready to hit the road.  Several of my close friends were leaving on those buses, including Nattie B, who had gone on one of my first tours with me, the Devil’s Canyon Jet Boat tour.  Sadly, that turned out to be our only tour together.  Also leaving that day was Lori, the first fellow employee I met in Alaska.  We became acquainted while sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for the bus to come take us to our new summer home.  Many others that I wasn’t super close to, but had enjoyed working with, were also heading out.  It was an odd experience, such a mix of happy and sad.  It reminded me of graduation day, or the last day of camp.

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NOW it was time to get serious about packing.  I went back to my room and got started.  I think I had already washed all my laundry so I could bring everything home clean.  I had already shipped a couple of boxes of random unneeded stuff, and I STILL had one huge box of souvenirs and gifts I was planning to ship in Wasilla.  My travel plans, as you may remember, were to spend several days at the home of one of my new friends who was actually an Alaska resident, and do a little sightseeing and exploring freed from the limitations of Princess transportation.

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I am kind of a methodical packer.  I have to have everything as organized as possible, and I was also really concerned about the weight of my suitcases.  Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about it for a while, since I wouldn’t be flying out for almost a week.  I packed everything away, except for my theater posters.  Those I left up until I woke up Friday morning, and finally took them down after I was showered, dressed and ready to check out.  The checkout process was not as big a deal as I had been afraid it would be.  First we had to take all our linens, including our shower curtain, to the checkout station.  Then when we were completely packed and ready to leave and had made sure everything was clean, we were supposed to go fetch our checkout manager, who would then come check off the list to make sure we did everything right, and then were were supposed to be ready to vacate our room.  I was NOT looking forward to this, because I had two huge suitcases, a backpack, a tote bag, and two shipping boxes (one I was sending for my roommate) to deal with, and I wasn’t thrilled about having to drag all that stuff by myself to the place where I was going to have to wait for my friend’s mom who was coming to pick us both up.  Thankfully, my checkout person let me wait in my room, Lord love her.  That made the whole waiting thing SO much easier.

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Finally Natalie’s mom arrived and we loaded up with all haste and woohoooo! We were out of there.  Again, it was a very odd feeling, very mixed emotions.  Also nerves about staying in the home of strangers basically, for almost a week.

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I shouldn’t have worried.  Her family was perfectly welcoming and I enjoyed their home.  We did some running around town, saw local sights, and when we got home, I believe I celebrated returning to civilization by watching M*A*S*H on Netflix.

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On Sunday morning we got up and hit the road for a little trip down to Seward.  We were planning to visit the Sea Life Center and I was planning to take a day cruise and hopefully get to see some wildlife.  We stayed in Seward two nights and enjoyed the adventure.  It was a beautiful place, a tiny port town surrounded by little mountains.

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When we got home, we spent a day hanging out with Claire, one of our other Gift Shop co-workers, who also happened to live in the same town as Natalie- Wasilla.  We went to Hatcher Pass and a little restaurant that served some apparently quite famous corn fritters, which Claire had been looking forward to for days.

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The last day I spent in Alaska started early.  We rode with Nat’s dad into Anchorage and hung out in a coffee shop for a while, while he had his first meeting of the day.  Then he took us to the mall and we amused ourselves for several hours, shopping, eating lunch, and getting our nails done.  Finally her dad was done with work and he came and picked us up and took me to the airport.  It felt like we were cutting it a little close, but I made it with time to spare, and boarded my plane for home.   The adventure was finally over.  I don’t think I had really expected it would ever end.

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Here are some of the pictures from that week, as well as the video of my takeoff from Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.  If you listen closely, you can hear me crying.

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Until next time,

D.

 

Leaving On a Jet Plane…

Filed under: Alaska Summer,Looking Forward — DDKlingonGirl @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , ,

Hello, all!  I have been back at home again for five weeks.  I had promised to share the end of my Alaska adventures, and so this post will include some final images covering the State Fair and the last couple of days at the lodge. I wish I could really articulate how much the experience of living and working in Alaska meant to me. It was truly a dream come true.  Not every moment was dreamy, obviously.  It was occasionally very hard.  The self-critical part of me has a tendency to say it was all in my head, and that if I had somehow changed my outlook, my perspective, my attitude, it would have been thoroughly peachy.  I’m pretty sure that is not entirely true, and that I did the best I could with what I had at the time, and that I need to quit ragging on myself.  I’ll work on it.

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For now, though, I am home.  Back into old routines, old job, etc.  There are some new things. About three weeks after I got home, Daughter J. got married.  Definitely not something I fully embraced at the time, but she is happy.  I also was able to get new vehicles for myself and Daughter S.  Not new, new.  New to us.  Definitely the nicest, prettiest cars I’ve ever owned- an ’07 and an ’08.

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Another thing that will stay the same, obviously, is that I remain involved in my beloved Ardmore Little Theater.  A few days after I got home I attended closing night of “Harvey.”  The next show opens November 12, which is “Of Mice and Men.”  After a break for the holidays that will hopefully include working on the parade float and doing some caroling at the senior centers, the major musical of the season will be “Fiddler On the Roof.”  A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be Stage Manager for Fiddler, and I am super excited but very nervous.  It will only be my second time to SM and it is a huge cast and a classic favorite of many people.  It is important to me to help make it excellent. I am very much looking forward to stage managing again.

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So all in all, things are good and I am happy to be home with my family and friends.  I definitely miss my new friends I met in Alaska.  I don’t think I ever expected to meet people I would learn to love so much.  I will forever be thankful for the time I had there, and hopefully I will get to return someday, maybe even bringing some of my loved ones with me to share in the experience.

Until next time,

D.

 

Stalking the Northern Lights and Celebrating Christmas In August! September 2, 2015

(Originally begun 8/28/15)

Hello, all!  Alaska remains as awesome as ever.  The weather here has been in a weird pattern that has dropped the temperatures down a little colder than they normally are at this time of year.  It was only about 35 degrees when I woke up.  I didn’t have to work morning shift today, so I stayed up late last night and tried to see the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis.  I left my room at about 11:45, walked down to the lodge, and took a spot on the back deck that promised fairly prime viewing if the lights should appear.  At first I was one of only a few people out there, but within an hour or so, it was standing room only.  Unfortunately there were no big appearances, although the conditions were pretty good.  Or… it’s possible they took off and went crazy shortly after I decided I had only a few moments left before I was permanently frozen and decided to go back inside and beg Security for a ride back up to housing, which I was given and for which I was extremely thankful.  When I got back to my room, I tiptoed in, careful in the darkness, trying not to wake up my roommate who had had to work way overtime due to the power outage.  I had settled down in bed and was wondering if I would ever warm up, when I heard someone clomping up the porch and a key in the door and I thought “Dear God, who’s coming in here?!”  My heart was already pounding when I realized that it was Roomie herself, who had gotten off work, found the note I left her, and decided since she was off work so late, she might as well go try to check them out too!  Silly me.

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So anyway.  I did get a little glimpse, and I’m not giving up until I get to see some really pretty ones, but for now I have something else to share.  Remember in my last entry when I said I was going to talk about a strange but lovely surprise?  Well, it revolves around a tradition that takes place here at McKinley and apparently other National Parks.  It’s called Christmas In August.  It seems that somewhere, sometime long ago, there may or may not have been some people who were trapped by a freak blizzard in August in Yellowstone or some other National Park.  They decided to celebrate Christmas, either because it was the 25th, even though it was in August, or because they felt pretty sure they weren’t going to survive to see the real Christmas.  So they were singing Christmas carols and they were heard and saved by rescuers.  So it has become a tradition to celebrate Christmas in August in National Parks, and even though this lodge is actually within a State park, they decided some time ago to participate in the tradition.

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Which is a really long way of saying that over the last week I have enjoyed looking at beautiful Christmas trees, my fellow Gift Shop Girls and I built a “gingerbread” house (which was actually built from graham crackers) for a competition between all the departments, I received several gifts because I signed up for Secret Santa, AND… I helped organize Christmas caroling for the guests!

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We met in the training room and practiced, and then a couple of days later we met and walked down to the fire pits and sang a few songs, then walked through the gift shop singing, and into the Great Room of the main lobby for a few more.  I’d like to say I was brave and was the leader I was supposed to be, but there were a couple of other girls with much better voices and I let them sort of take over.  One of them started the songs for us and the other one did a bit of a solo on ‘O’ Holy Night.’  It was fairly unusual for me to actually get involved in something here, as I have been painfully shy most of this time, but when one of the managers visited the gift shop and mentioned the caroling that was planned and the lack of someone to help lead it, my dear co-workers assured the manager that I would be the perfect person for the job.  So I was sort of volunteered before I even knew about it, but of course I was happy to be part of it.

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We sang two nights in a row, the 24th and 25th, and on the final night one of the F&B (food and beverage) managers listened to us in the lobby and afterwards he said all the carolers could have free ice cream from the coffee bar! That was a pretty good reward for our showing off.  It was a really great time though.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love Christmas and I need absolutely NO excuse to sing!  Often in the gift shop, my co-workers and I would break out in song during the slow moments and while counting our register drawers before opening and after closing.  Such fun!

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So that is the story of why a bunch of vacationers walked into a lodge in Alaska in August and were greeted with Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, stuffed Santa dolls, and some fairly pitiful Christmas caroling. All my theater peeps had better watch out, I’m thinking, because it won’t be long before it will be time for us to do our caroling and the Christmas parade float again! I’m already all warmed up and ready to go.  Heh heh.

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Until next time,

D.

 

A Photo Walking Tour August 26, 2015

(Originally begun on 8/23)

Hello, all!  Things here in Alaska are still wonderful, and the wonderfulness quickly approaches an end.  One of the girls from the gift shop is leaving today, with three more leaving by the 31st of August.  It’s beginning to get pretty weird.

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BUT.  I still have time to share my adventures, and to write about all the things I see and do, so today I got up and took a walk through a part of the property I had never been through before.  Sure enough, it was a rewarding walk well worth the time.  The property is divided into two loops around which are situated the guest buildings.  The main lodge building houses a very few guest rooms, as well as the general manager’s home, the gift shop, the Mountain View dining room, and the Grizzly Bar.  Employee housing is above the upper loop, so that’s really the only one we ever have occasion to see, as we walk to and from work.  The lower loop I had never explored until today.

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Employee housing is out past T and the gift shop is G. That long road between is the one I am following in this entry.

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The weather is gorgeous.  The mountain is mostly out, and the guests are in ecstasy, posing proudly and taking pictures with that incredible sight in the background.  They are very lucky, as you might remember.  There is a thing here called the ‘30% Club’ because there is only about a 30% chance of viewing the entire mountain on any given day.  If you get to see it, you’re in the club.  A lot of people have visited here this summer wondering if the whole thing was a hoax, because believe it or not, there are days when you literally can’t tell there is even a mountain there.

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So as I mentioned before, it is a beautiful day and I only have so many of those left, and I want to be sure I don’t miss anything I will regret.  I took my shower, gathered my work clothes and all my other junk needed for the day, stuffed it all in my backpack, and set out on my walk.  The pictures I am going to be sharing here will include a sort of “photo walking tour” of the route I take to get to work, starting with the view from out my front door.

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Continuing on, I walk behind the housing and down through the maintenance buildings.  Behind the maintenance buildings is The Infamous Hell Hill.  This was the hill that I only take going to work.  I refuse to climb up it going back to the room afterward.  Yes, I am sure it would probably have benefitted me, but geez louise, that thing is steep and it feels like the chest wheezes it induces will last forever!

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I stopped halfway down and took another picture from the hill.  When I get to the bottom, I cross a little road where if you look back left there is more employee housing.  Then you have to choose to take either a rocky, rough little trail, or take a few extra steps on the pavement and go to the stop sign and turn the corner.  Before that though, I want to show you a picture of a very important spot in my experience here.  You can see it in the middle picture above, but I am about to show you another view of it.  When my friend was looking through my pictures of my walk this day, she was curious as to why I took a picture of something so seemingly random, but I am about to tell you the story.

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Looks pretty ordinary, doesn't it?

Looks pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?

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Well, I was going to tell you a much longer version of this story, but then I hit the wrong button and froze my screen and lost what I had done.  The point was, this was where I sat to catch my breath, the first day I was here, having walked up Hell Hill IN the rain, WITH a 20 pound box and a 5 pound purse, NOT knowing where I was going or how with any certainty I was to get back to my room.  This was where I sat and made probably the biggest mistake of this whole experience.  I sat there, drenched to the skin, huffing and wheezing and more or less in tears, and I told myself, “If I stay here and stick this out, it will be the hardest thing I have ever done.”  It was only much later that I regretfully realized what I should have said to myself in that moment:  “Wow.  That was really really hard, but I did it.  If I can do that, the rest of this thing should be a piece of cake!”

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Ah, well.  Lesson learned.  Moving on.

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Continuing down the hill toward the lodge.  Believe it or not, it is actually fall here.  The trees are changing colors and losing their leaves, and there are bright colored berries on some plants along the way.  My beloved fireweed has turned from beautiful bright pink blooms to spiky stalks of cottony fuzz, which apparently means winter is only a few weeks away.  So strange!  Anyway…

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This is the road down to the lodge, and a line of buses that were there one day when I went down for lunch. Some days there are a LOT of buses there at that time.  I am totally losing the thread of this entry, aren’t I?  Here are some of the images I captured on my walk around the lower loop on this beautiful day.

So those were some of the sights I enjoyed on my walk.  Here is a short clip of the water feature. Stay tuned for my next entry, where there is a strange but lovely surprise.

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Until next time,

D.

 

Come On, Ride This Train! (My Day On the Alaska Railroad) August 10, 2015

Hello, all!  Well, it is another day off today, and it is raining and cool, conditions which have not stopped me from getting out and having adventures on other days off, but which today I think I will avoid by staying in and writing about my last day off. Or…the one before that.  I’ve sort of lost track at this point.  Anyway, the adventure I will be sharing today is that of riding the Hurricane Turn Train.  This is a train that travels through the valley along the Susitna (I think) river and stops at Hurricane Gulch and then comes back.  It takes about six or seven hours, but it can be a fun day.

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I had been really antsy about wanting to ride the train since I first got here and most of the employees were gone on a train trip up to Denali Princess Lodge to be guinea pigs for the Denali employees to have a dry run at their service before they opened for guests. Since my mini-vacation plans for going to Denali fell through a while back, I finally gave up and decided that at least I could take a train ride out across the valley and back, even if it wasn’t the fancy, pretty train, and make a day of it and maybe even see some animals.  The train had an upper level observation deck that offered really great views, but I am getting ahead of myself.

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On this day, I was lucky enough that I was able to catch a ride to Talkeetna on a shuttle bus that almost didn’t go. Shuttles leave the lodge every hour, and sometimes there are no guests wanting to go at that time, and if that is the case, any employees who happened to need to go on that bus are … well, a little out of luck.  They have to wait an hour to see if any guests will want to go on the next bus.  So on this day, the bus I needed to catch turned out to be empty, but it was scheduled to be the next bus coming back from Talkeetna in an hour and a half.  So I rode to Talkeetna on an empty bus, and the driver, Polly, and I had a nice chat.  It was probably the most enjoyable shuttle ride I have taken, unless I had a friend with me.

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So Polly was able to drop me off at the Alaska Railroad depot in TKA and I went in and bought my ticket.  I was about an hour early, because I had been told by co-workers who had done this trip that it took a while for them to process the ticket.  (It didn’t seem to take all that long to me, but it wasn’t a very busy day.)  I got my ticket and then had time to kill, which was a good thing, because I had to find something for lunch.  On the other trains that go to Fairbanks and Anchorage and Whittier, they have dining service, and rather nice service at that.  For this train, you have to eat beforehand or bring something onboard with you.  They offered snacks for purchase and free water and coffee, but that was all.

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So I took a short walk to town and came across a little restaurant I had heard about called Latitude 62.  My friends had eaten here and enjoyed it, so I thought I would give it a try.  Also it was closest to the depot and I didnt want to risk missing my train.  It was part of a small lodge, and was very quaint and “country” and reminded me of some place that might be found in my dad’s hometown of Shamrock, TX.  They were playing really great old classic country on the radio, songs I hadn’t heard in years.

I ordered a French dip sandwich that was very good, with cole slaw on the side.  I had been trying to eat healthier for a while, and that sandwich made for an awesome cheat!  I also ordered a dessert to go, because the train ride was going to be an all day thing and I knew i would want something.  (At that time i didn’t yet know about the snacks onboard.)

Soooo good!

Soooo good!

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Finally it was time to head back and get ready to board.  After a restroom stop, I took my little dessert box and walked back to the depot, about a five-minute walk, and made a quick trip to the souvenir penny press.  I had spotted that in the depot earlier and I wanted to make a couple of pressed pennies for my kiddos.  (As a side note, the newer pennies with the shield on the back will not work in those presses.  Whatever metal they have in them just breaks instead of pressing out.  I didn’t have to learn this the hard way, thankfully.  There was a warning note on the machine not to use them.)

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After that I went to the boarding area, a little covered pavillion beside the tracks.  A small crowd was already gathering and the conductor was already giving his little talk.  There were only about 20 or 25 passengers total.  Many days, the train is almost full.  Another interesting note about this train- it is the only “flag stop” train left in North America.  You can stand along the tracks, wave a cloth or your arm or whatever, and they will stop and let you on.  For many of the people who live out in the woods, the train is the only way they can get to town and back.  Their homesteads aren’t accessible by road, but only by boating down the river, snow-machining down the frozen river in winter, flying in by small plane, or catching the train.

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Finally we boarded and the train pulled out.  It was a bit of a drizzly day, but it seemed a perfect day for a quiet ride on a train gazing out at the incredible vast, green country passing by.  My seat was facing backward, and as we began to move, if I could have shut out the voices of my fellow passengers and their crying babies, I could have almost imagined I was in a time machine, speeding backward through time.

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We saw places I had heard a bit about and was vaguely familiar with, like the old railroad ghost town of Curry.  Curry was once home to the fanciest hotel in the area, but changes in the railroad caused it to die out a little.  It could have survived as a tourist spot until the hotel caught fire and burned to the ground.  Now there is nothing there but some rusted relics and the memories of a few railroad men.

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As we continued on, we saw many more places and things.  No animals, unfortunately, although the engineer of the train saw several that he tried to let the conductor know about in time to point them out to us.  We were able to see a small family of Trumpeter swans, just barely sticking their heads out of the weeds.  But mostly there were beautiful views.  We stopped a couple of times so people could look out the open sides of the baggage car and down into the ravines where the king salmon were spawning in the river. I had hoped to get to see that, because it was so late in the season, and they were almost all gone.

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At one point the train was stopped and we could actually get off the train and walk around.  We were very close to a stream (or maybe it was part of the river) there and I was pretty sure I saw a few more salmon spawning.  Although it was an intimidating descent, we were able to get closer to the water by climbing down the river bank.  It was incredibly beautiful.

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Just before boarding the train again, I took a couple of close-up pictures of the plants.  My favorite, the beautiful fireweed, and some little mossy lichen-ish plants.  Then as the train continued back toward town, we stopped at a tiny place called Sherman, Alaska, which was really no more than a point on the railroad, but which has been the homestead of a family named Lovell for many years.  Mary Lovell, the mother of that family, wrote several books about their experiences as homesteaders, beginning in the early sixties.  She boards the train every so often and rides to town and back, visiting with passengers and selling her books.  I was privileged to meet this amazing woman and also bought one of her books, Journey to a Dream.  I plan to buy the other too, Suddenly It’s Spring, before I leave here.

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Finally the train returned to Talkeetna, and I had just missed the 7:30 shuttle back to the lodge, so I had to wait for the 9:00, and find something for supper.  I debated and hesitated before finally deciding on the Kahiltna Bistro.  I chose a table off by myself out on the deck, and even though the sun was going down, I wasn’t bothered by mosquitos, as I was worried I would be.  I was tickled that I got the yellow napkin roll out of several different colors the waitress had in her hand.  (I know, it’s the little things.  I am easily amused- what can I say?)  I ordered the Seafood Mac and Cheese, which had scallops and shrimp and some other kind of fish in it, garnished with some little purple herb that I asked what was, but never got an answer.  It was tasty though.  I sat there and dived into my new book and enjoyed myself until time to go catch the shuttle back to the lodge.

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All in all it was a very peaceful and pleasant day off.  As always when I am away from the lodge, when I saw all the houses and cabins off in the woods, the part of me that wishes I could stay here was awakened again.  I know I can’t right now, but this is just a wonderful, incredibly beautiful place, and I will do my best to live here for good someday.

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Until next time,

D.

PS- There was a family with some teenagers on the train and they had bought pizza from the Mile High Pizza Pie place before getting on the train.  During one of the stops I noticed one of them had scribbled something on the pizza box sitting on the table, and on closer inspection I realized it was a song lyric that I have always liked, that kind of sums up this whole summer pretty well.  I snapped a picture of it to remember the moment.

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right- I hope you have the time of your life.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right- I hope you have the time of your life.

 

This Day Went to the Dogs! August 2, 2015

Filed under: Alaska Summer — DDKlingonGirl @ 4:26 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Hello, all!  Greetings again from Alaska!  First off, let me give you this awesome piece of news:  the videos are uploaded!  I edited the last two posts to include the takeoff for the flight tour and the glacier landing and takeoff vids.  There now, aren’t you tickled? :)  Now then, I am hoping you are waiting to hear what super-fun adventure I’m going to share with you today.  So wait no longer- today’s post is going to be covering the Sun Dog Kennel Tour!

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First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the Iditarod sled dog race, it’s an amazing event.  I can’t even imagine the stamina and perseverance necessary to compete in this race, both for the humans and the dogs.  But make no mistake- in this race, the athletes are definitely the dogs.  They are highly skilled, precisely trained professional athletes who also happen to have a natural gift for and love of their sport.  Wow.  It’s the Doggie Olympics, basically.

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So on this particular day off, I boarded the Talkeetna shuttle, as so many days off begin.  The ride to TKA takes an hour or so, and is usually uneventful.  The first few trips on that shuttle when we got here way back in May, we saw a moose or two alongside the road, but I haven’t been lucky enough to see another one since then.  When I got to town, I went to the Kahiltna Bistro, which is where both the kennel tour and the fishing tours offered by this lodge originate. The same family owns the restaurant and operates both tours.  I checked in, had some time to kill before the tour, went walking, blew money on a pair of earrings for myself from one of the gift shops, and returned to wait for the tour.

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Finally it was time to start and they loaded us into a big black van.  (Yeah, I know that sounds like the beginning of a really bad-ending story, but it’s not.)  We took a short drive of less than five minutes to the kennel site.  Their yard and buildings were beautiful.  There were flowers hanging in pots and planted in garden beds and the first thing I thought was that I wished my mom could see them.  Unfortunately, genius me, I wasn’t quick enough to take any pictures for her.  During the short ride I was able to discover that my co-tourists were from… Denton, TX, less than an hour from where I live.  It is always fun up here when I run into someone so “close” to home, so to speak.

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The led us into a little building where they gave their presentations.  There were little seats all around the walls and the floor was painted with a map of the race with all its checkpoints.  They had sleds and equipment hanging overhead and on display in the floor.

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After a short orientation in which the tour guide told us a little bit about how the race worked, how they took care of the dogs, etc., they divided us into groups and led us out to the area where the dogs were kept.  Dozens of them, all with their own little houses.  As they walked down among the dogs, choosing the ones who were going to get to perform that day’s pulling demonstration, the dogs just went crazy.  It was obvious that they loved to work and once the ones who weren’t chosen realized it wasn’t their day, they settled down and looked completely dissatisfied.

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The demonstration consists of hitching up a full team of dogs to a modified vehicle like a small jeep.  Don’t worry- they didn’t have to pull its full weight.  They were helped along by the motor running, but they were still definitely doing a lot of pulling. The teams we had been divided into before were the groups we would ride with in the vehicle, because it only held about six people.  The teams were named for checkpoints in the race.  I didn’t take notes, (because basically I’m a goober) so I can’t tell you our team names.

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Each team took a short ride behind the dogs, the rest of the people riding in the van, keeping up with the dogs until the next stop.  At one point they stopped and let them go down into a creek and cool off.  They were so cute rolling in the water and drinking.  It was a fairly warm day, so I know they had to be hot.  Their tongues hang out to the side when they run.  It’s kind of funny.

 

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When we had all ridden behind the dogs, we returned to the kennel and they were unhitched and we were allowed to pet and praise them.  They all looked tired but happy.  Finally, the most anxiously awaited part of the tour arrived: the part where we got to hold and play with the puppies, to help “socialize” them.  They have to get used to being handled a lot during their training and by vets and judges during the races.  There were two different moms with puppies; one litter was 40 days old and one was only 3 days old.  So.  Stinkin.  Cute!!

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As soon as everyone had had a chance to hold the puppies, the tour was over.  We loaded back into the van and returned to the restaurant where we were dropped off.  I knew I wouldn’t have time to get back to the lodge in time for supper, so I went in search of a good place to eat.  My friend Natti B enjoys eating at a little place called WestRib.  She says they have the best burgers there, so I decided to give it a try.  A short (5-7 minute) walk through town, and I was there.  I chose a mushroom swiss burger with sweet potato fries.  (Looking at the pic now, they may have been regular fries.  I don’t remember.  I just remember I was hungry and they were good.  I ate every crumb.)

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It was super tasty, but unfortunately they took just a little too long, and I ended up missing the 7:30 shuttle and had to kill time waiting for the 9:00.  I ended up getting my second scoop of fireweed ice cream.  Still not really describable.  I feel almost certain it must taste like some other kind of berry that I’m just not familiar with, but I have no idea.  All I know is that I truly can’t describe the taste.

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Finally the shuttle came and I caught a ride back to the lodge.  I believe it was on this shuttle ride that I began amusing myself by composing my bus driver safety speech to the tune of Les Mis music.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I will post it here in its own post as soon as I do.  I know, there is no superlative adjective for nerdy.  Nerdiest?

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Anyway.  Thanks for reading me, and for coming along on my Alaskan journey.  Look for my next post soon, which will be about my ride on the Hurricane Turn train!

Until next time,

D.

Bonus Video: Huskies Howling

 

 
Shawn L. Bird

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