Monday, September 12, 2011

Days 8, 9, and 10

 Cheney Lake
 View of Anchorage from Flattop Mountain
 View of the Kachemak Bay from the Homer Overlook
 Jesse Elmore with his Halibut
 Irish Lord Fish
Portage Glacier and Lake Below
Friday in Girdwood was probably the best day of all in terms of weather.  The sun was shining and lots of blue sky.  I left my little rented chalet and drove to Anchorage to meet with Jesse for our trip back down the Kenai Peninsula.  I was able to take some pictures around Anchorage and got some especially good shots around a park with a lake in it called Cheney Lake.  Autumn has already arrived in Alaska and the leaves are beginning to change colors.  The locals are dreading another long winter but it is inevitable.  They will probably have their first snow within the next 2-3 weeks (around the first of October) and it will not melt until around the first of May.  That is a long time with snow!  Jesse and I headed down the Seward Highway and spent the night with his parents.  When we arrived Jesse's dad and brother (Mike) were making final preparations to leave on a moose and bear hunting trip up in the Tok area (east - central Alaska).  It took them about 10 hours to get to their hunting grounds and they plan to stay there for 2 weeks.  On Saturday morning, we wished them luck and watched them pull away in a big Ford F350 diesel pulling an 20+ foot trailer with two 8 wheeled ATV's in which they would drive the last 15 miles back off of the road to their camp.  Talk about remote!! After waving goodbye, Jesse and I headed south to his Uncle Dave's house where we helped him hook his boat and trailer to his truck and continued south to Homer, Alaska.  Homer is on the southern-most tip of the peninsula on the Kachemak Bay.  Another absolutely stunning scene unfolded as we pulled off at the overlook and saw the little town and the bay and the mountains all around.  The pictures just cannot do it justice.  After buying bait and preparing the boat, we launched and headed out in the bay looking for the famous Alaskan halibut.  Halibut are bottom dwellers and are known to frequent the depths.  It is not unusual to fish for them in 100 - 300 feet of water or more.  A simple hunk of herring on a huge hook taken to the bottom by a pound of lead was the rig.  Fishing was slow.  Dave was not a fishing guide but fished a lot.  He said we would just have to try different spots until we found the fish.  We caught little, in fact Jesse, my gracious host was the only person to boat fish.  He reeled up one decent sized halibut but also caught 2 sharks and an Irish Lord fish (see my pictures - it is the ugly one with the big mouth).  I caught nothing but felt lots of bites and nibbles.  It was still a magnificent trip.  I hope to have the opportunity to do it again. We spent the night at the Elmores and went to church with them on Sunday morning before Jesse and I headed back to Anchorage.  On the way to Anchorage we stopped by the Portage Glacier for some photo ops.  There were still huge hunks of ice in the lake at the foot of the glacier.  We also spotted a bunch of spawned out salmon in a stream nearby.  The fish are just in the last hours of life after expending their energy swimming upstream to spawn.  Once the task is complete they die.  Many had already done so making the area reek of dead fish. Still, it was cool to see! Sunday night we cooked some of the halibut (my absolute favorite fish to eat!)   Monday morning we got up and ate at Snow City Cafe.  It was a wonderful breakfast place.  I had eggs benedict over salmon cakes.  It was real good!  As I write this I am waiting to go to the airport to board my plane and head back home.  I dread the long overnight flight but am really looking forward to seeing my family again.  The Alaskan Adventure was wonderful but cannot compare to one hug from Lenore, Anna and Lizzy.  There is nothing better than that!  I can't wait to see Sam later this month too.  I really miss that boy!  Thank you for reading my blog and keeping up with my adventure.  Thanks also to the Northeast Church of Christ whose elders and members made this possible by granting me the opportunity to make this happen.  I can't imagine working for a better group of people! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 7 - In Alaska

The rain finally gave up today.  It was a very nice sunny day with temperatures in the 60's.  The day started out with writing but I was anxious to get out and see the sights.  I was able to ride the tram today that goes from the Alyeska Ski Resort here in Girdwood to the top of the mountain.  My chalet is in the lower level of a couple's home.  The lady of the house, Laura works at the Resort and was kind enough to get  me an employee's ticket to ride the tram (Thank you Laura!).  The sights were breath taking (as was the hike on up to the top of the mountain!).  I was able to take some great pictures of the mountains surrounding Girdwood and the Turnagain arm.  Some of the mountains had snow covered peaks already.  They will start getting regular snow here soon. When I came 'down from the mountain' I was thrilled to catch a little of the first NFL game of the season.  The Packers beat the Saints.  I didn't get to see much of it but it is good to be in football season again.  I had to leave because I had dinner plans to eat with Roger and Erin Full.  The Fulls moved to Anchorage from Cincinnati 6 years ago.  Since then they have added Levi, now an active, outgoing, precious little 2 year old boy.  We had pizza and caught up on each other's life.  It was really great to see them.  On the way back to Girdwood from their house I saw my first moose!  It was so exciting!  I saw him in a little field off of the highway.  I did a turn around as quickly as possible and pulled into a little parking area near where the moose was.  I was able to take several pictures of the young bull and a video of him raking a little tree with his (relatively) small horns.  After leaving him I also saw a wild sheep on the side of a sheer cliff over the road.  There was a place to pull off near it as well.  I got some pictures and moved on.  When I turned onto the road leading up into Girdwood, I saw several cars stopped at the side of the road. As I began to pass I saw what had happened.  One of the cars had hit a young moose.  It was lying in the road, trying to get up but its broken legs would not allow it.  The mother moose was standing there by it as if to try to help.  The car only had minor damage and the man driving was not injured - a lucky thing because alot of drivers are killed in moose-car accidents.  Moose are just the right (wrong?) height that when a car hits their legs they fall into the windshield often killing a driver. He asked me to call the authorities which I did. A crowd assembled but the female moose stayed right by her stricken young. The young moose was able to drag itself off of the road in a scene that could only be described as horrible and pitiful.  Eventually, a state trooper came to make a report for the driver and call charities to come and get the moose.  Charities process the animal and supply the meat to food banks and homeless shelters.  It was amazing to be so close to those massive animals. God's creation continues to amaze!  Tomorrow I plan to go with Jesse Elmore back down to Kenai.  We hope to do some fishing along the way and then go to Homer and go after halibut in the ocean on Saturday. Should be fun!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 6 In Alaska

It was another rainy day.  I guess God really did want me to get some writing done.  I worked on a chapter of my book throughout the morning and made some progress.  Writing for me is slow work but rewarding.  I am looking forward to hearing what some of you think of it when you read it.  It is rough right now but I believe there is value in it.  I wrote into the afternoon hours and finally decided to get ready and drive to Anchorage for food.  While on the way I called Rachel Elmore and she and her husband invited me over for dinner.  Taco Salad never tasted better than at Rachel and Jesse's with moose burger for the meat!  We then went out for some ice cream before returning to Girdwood.  I still hope for better weather soon.  Tomorrow night I have plans to eat with Roger and Erin Full, former members at Northeast who moved to Anchorage several years ago.  I look forward to seeing what they have been up to! More news tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 5

The word of the day was RAIN.  It has rained all day and rained hard.  The little stream near the house where I am staying is swelling.  I decided today would be a good day to get some writing done.  So I spent most of the morning working on my book.  I was able to finish chapter two and come up with some good ideas for chapter 3.  I am posting the finished chapters on a website associated with the Windows Live family of internet services called Skydrive.  I will let you know how you can get to them when I figure it out.  I ate and then decided to go out and brave the rain and see what I could find.  I took a drive up a near by road called Crow Creek Road.  There is an old mine up there that I thought might be interesting.  It was a very bad road with lots of pot holes but I could see that there were a lot of trails that went off of the road.  One trail was relatively short (about 1.8 miles) and had a hand tram that crossed a gorge.  I thought that might make for some good pictures so I braved a fairly heavy rain and took off down the trail.  The trail was muddy, exeedingly so in some places but others had made their way before me and found ways around the worst of it.  I slipped and slid down to the edge of the gorge where I could hear the roaring of water below.  I made my way down the trail to the tram.  Once there I saw the first and only people I saw on the trail the whole time.  Three adventurous young people had jogged down from the other side of the gorge to try the tram as well.  After they finished I had my time.  The tram carriage was a steel mesh cage suspended from a heavy cable that stretched between two terminals.  A heavy rope was stretched between the terminals as well and looped around a series of pulleys so that one length went high over the carrier and one lower one passed right through the carriage.  You moved between the two terminals by pulling the rope which moved the carriage in the direction you were pulling.  The pull was heavy and I admit having to take several breaks - mostly on the way back - to catch my breath and rest my aching muscles (yes, I said aching not aging!).  After taking some pictures from high above the raging, rain swollen stream below, I returned the tram and and made my way along the muddy trail (uphill this time) back to the car.  I drove part of the way toward the Portage Glacier but realizing that the rain was getting worse and visibility was near zero, I decided to turn around and call it a night.  Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day for weather and pictures.  Maybe I'll catch a fish?  I plan to finish another chapter tomorrow as well.  Check back then!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 4

Today was another rainy one.  The wet stuff fell off and on all day.  But it was still a great day.  I started off by checking the creek that runs through Girdwood - Glacier Creek - to see if it was fishable.  It was!  I actually saw a trout at the side of the stream.  It wanted nothing to do with the spinner I tried to get beside it but it was definitely there.  I only fished a short time there, caught nothing and got very wet in so doing.  So I decided to go to Anchorage to get some food for my dinners.  I stopped by Walmart and a sporting goods store to pick up some things for fishing.  While in Anchorage, Rachel Elmore called and asked me if I wanted to go with her and Jesse to the Alaska State fair.  I couldn't turn that opportunity down.  The fair is in a town about 40 miles north of Anchorage.  It was no larger than the Fairfield County fair I grew up going to in Ohio  but it was engaging.  I snacked on some salmon quesadillas and Rachel and Jesse found Reindeer hot dogs.  Food is always the best thing at the fair.  We also saw a logging show.  It was entertaining but what was interesting is that the lady who was the emcee was Tina from Survivor Panama.  I thought she looked familiar but never would have made the connection.  On my way back to Girdwood I stopped at Bird Creek.  It is a much smaller water way than the Kenai River but still similar in make up and color and very swift.  The water was very murky and I caught nothing.  I met to locals as they walked downstream toward the mouth of the river.  They advised me not to waste my time walking on upstream, they had been there and caught nothing and they encountered rough conditions.  Their language was a bit salty but they were nice so I took their advice.  I put the fishing rod up and decided to make the hike up to the top of Bird Ridge.  The trail was rated moderate to difficult so I was not sure that I would make it to the top before turning back but I did.  There were some panoramic views of the Turnagain Arm and the mountains that surround it.  Of course the pictures can't do it justice but you will get the idea.  I'm sure it would have been even more beautiful on a clear, sunny day but that was not to be.  I am not yet sure what I am going to do tomorrow.  I'm in improvising mode for sure.  Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Days 2 and 3

Day 2 - Started out early.  Due to my lack of adjustment to the time zone, I woke up at 5:17am.  That is 9:17am back home but here the sun didn't come up for about another hour.  I was able to do my quiet time and do some reading on my book.  I edited a little on what was already written but nothing significant as far as new progress yet.  When I turned on my TV to get some news, I was thrilled to see that ESPN was carrying the Ohio State v. Akron game.  It was the first of many firsts for me on this trip but I have never watched football at 8:00am before.  I was also happy to see that the Buckeyes put to rest some of my fears for the team this year.  They beat a team they were supposed to beat for sure but they did so with some authority.  I was impressed with some of the new players.  I truly wish them the best.  Jesse Elmore came near the end of the game and we left for the Kenai Peninsula.  The mountains of Alaska are truly remarkable and the scenes on the drive south were outstanding.  It was an overcast day and the clouds hung in the mountains making photography difficult.  I plan to make that drive again on another day and I hope for some better opporunities.  Jesse and I stopped in a little town called Soldotna for some supplies and then to his dad's house for a boat.  The Bill Elmore house is a veritable paradise for boys.  He and his wife Teresa raised four boys in Alaska teaching them to hunt and fish like a local.  His house is home to numerous vehicles, snow mobiles, ATV's, and campers.  The decor of the home is 'hunting lodge' like.  I loved it but know that Teresa Elmore must be one remarkable woman. Jesse and I got the boat and took it a ramp on the Kenai river.  The lower Kenai is broad with pines and birch lining both banks of the river.  The water was greenish and swift.  The water was ice cold.  It flows from moutain rains and glacier run off so you can imagine it would be.  We were fishing for silver salmon as they are called here in Alaska.  They are known as coho salmon in other places.  The rig we used was a large weight with an 18 inch leader trailing from it.  The leader had a chartreuse spinner that could slide up and down between the hook and the weight.  The large hook was tipped with an egg sac which was a bright yellow thin mesh square packed with fish eggs (very stinky!), gathered at the top and then impaled on the hook.  The hook had a loop of line that could be drawn tight around the sac to hold it firmly to the hook.  The rig was cast from the rear of the anchored boat and left to spin in the current.  Ideally, fish swimming upstream would smell the eggs and be drawn to the brightly colored bait.  We had some nibbles and strikes but caught nothing.  We only saw one boat catch a couple of fish.  I would have loved to known what they were using but could not see.  I was able to photograph some eagles, both Bald and Golden, feeding along the stream.  We also saw some caribou in a marshy area near where we put the boat in and I took pictures of them as well.  We spent the night at Bill and Teresa's house.  Dinner was great and the hospitality was terrific!

Day 3 - Sunday began as all of my Sundays begin with church services.  We attended services at the Soldotna Church of Christ.  You never know what you are going to find in small town Churches of Christ.  They can be close loving healthy congregations full of passion for growth both spiritual and numerical but it can also be a bastion of sectarian mire bound up in ferreting out anyone who disagrees with them.  Refreshingly, Soldonta was much more like the former.  They had a loving spirit and a heart for people.  The minister there, Tony Cloud, is an African American minister working with a nearly all white congregation.  Not an arrangement I have ever seen though I am sure it exists in other places.  Tony seems to do a great job of preaching and teaching and spreading God's love.   For lunch after church we had moose!  It was awesome.  I have never eaten moose before.  The lean meat was dark and only slightly gamey but with great flavor and tender throughout.  Jesse drove me back to Girdwood after lunch but we do have plans to return to Kenai next Saturday.  We hope to go to Homer and go fishing for Halibut on a boat his uncle owns.  Pray for good weather so we can make that happen. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Great Alaska Adventure Begins

Day 1 - I'm calling this day 1 because yesterday was a travel day.  After a long day and long flight, I had a meal with Rachel Elmore and got checked into my lodging in Girdwood.  I stayed up as late as I could which was only 9:00 here.  It was still light out.  Of course at home it was 1:00am and I had gotten up at 5:30am.  I slept as long as I could but the clock only read 5:15am when I could sleep no longer.  I had quiet time, made coffee and worked a little on my book.  Hopefully, I'll have much more to say about that later.  Then I was thrilled to find that ESPN was carrying the Ohio State v. Akron game.  Wow, football at 8:00am!  Cool!!  I have plans to go with Jesse Elmore and do some fishing later today.  I did not have the chance to take pictures yet but I hope to soon. 

My reflections on Alaska so far.
 - Obviously it is beautiful.  There are places where the mountains rise right up at the water's edge.  The tide was going out in the Turnagain Arm as I made my way from Anchorage to Girdwood leaving a lot of mud and bare places but still it is beautiful.
  - There is so much to see.  I wanted to take a walk and take pictures today but I knew Jesse was coming and I needed to be ready.  Still that allowed me to watch at least the first half of the Buckeyes game!
   - It has been overcast the whole time I have been here so I am wanting to take pictures when the sun is out.  There will be so much to photograph!  I can't wait to get started. 
   - The fishing is reputed to be legendary here so I am real excited to get going with that as well.
   - It is expensive here!  I went to a small grocery store here in Girdwood and bought 2 pounds of coffee (1 regular and 1 decaf), creamer, Splenda, and a 12 pack of diet 7-Up.  I was astonished when the girl at checkout said, "That will be $43.31!"  REALLY?  Yep.  All shopping will be done in Anchorage from here on. 

So keep up with me.  I don't know if I can blog again tonight but if I can, I will give a fishing report.  Be watching!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Ice crystals form on the limbs and twigs of trees in a forest.  A beatiful blue sky adds the back drop as the light from the sun makes the ice shimmer adding the appearance of movement, of welcome.  Walking in a perfect blanket of virgin snow through a woodland of ice encrusted trees leads the imagination to picture a crystal palace that nature has built just for you. 
Cool refreshing air in the lungs
Birds singing
A winter paradise

"For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands" Psalm 92:4

More freezing rain
Ice builds on burdened limbs
Twigs, branches and trees lay broken on the snowy forest floor.  Their jagged ends betray their violent demise. Once proud limbs carrying buds and leaves and fruit skyward are now litter on the once white snowy carpet.  Once vibrant with life now icons of death, food for insects, marked for decay.

"They were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant but be afraid" Romans 11:20

Decay enriches the soil
New life leaps from places where once decaying mounds of old trees and leaves lay.  New trees and branches take the places of the old ones and carry buds and leaves and fruit skyward.
A creator smiles
Life from death
"It is good"

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

A beautiful garden
Only love
Only happiness
A man and a woman wearing only the worth bestowed by intimacy with their creator.  Walking daily with God.  All needs lovingly met by His presence. 
No sickness
No dying
No pain
God wipes away all tears.

"To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life"
Revelation 21:6

A serpent
A lie
A bite
Forbidden fruit shared. Realization of corruption, of sin, of betrayal.  Shame felt for the first time.  Awareness of nakedness, awareness of distance of a gulf between the man and woman and their creator.  "Why are you hiding?", "The woman did it!"  "The serpent did it!"

"He will crush your head and you will strike His heel" Genesis 3:15

Shepherds in a field
A starry night
A light
An angel
A Savior?
A small stable.  A small town.  The creator of the universe, God, Yaweh enters flesh and then enters the world.  Mary, Joseph, Could this be the one to save Israel, the one to save the world, to save all of mankind for all time? Ministry, miracles, kindness to the poor, confrontation to the self-righteous.  Disciples, teaching, loving.  A final supper, the washing of feet, a prayer in the garden.  Betrayal, accusations, "Crucify him!".  A hill, a cross, nails, screams, suspended between earth and sky. "Father, why have you forsaken me?", "It is finished." Death. Burial in a borrowed tomb.
A new dawn
A stone rolled away
"Why do you seek the living among the dead?"
He lives!!
Salvation to all who receive him.
A creator smiles
Life from death
"It is good!"

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

A young life
A night on the town
Friends all around
"What's this?" "Try it." "Just one won't hurt you." A drink, a smoke. Guilt, shame. More drinks, more smokes, "Here try this."  More guilt, more shame but no turning back now. Parties, sex, new friends, new things to try, "It doesn't get any better than this!"  Lies, deception, "who called the police?" Have you been drinking or taking drugs?"  More lies, "Blow into this," "Fill this cup."  Exposed, guilty, conviction, jail, probation.  Parents broken'hearted, loved ones disappointed and angry, old friends surprised, talking, shaking their heads.

"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit...He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 34:18, 147:3

An old friend
A true friend
Late night discussions
"Come to Church with me." A sermon, a scripture, the words of Jesus "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  God loves you, God wants to forgive you, no matter what you've done.  He died for you and promises heaven for those who will confess their sins and give themselves to Him. The gift of grace laid out inviting, forgiveness availed.  A heart touched, tears flow, surrender. A silent prayer, "God, I can't do this alone.  I need your forgiveness, I need you to put my life together again."  Sins washed away in water, rejoicing.  A fresh start with God at your side, awareness that even at your worst, he never left you.  He was always there, loving, pleading, protecting and calling you home.
New life
A destination
A creator smiles
Life from death
"It is good"

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me." Revelation 3:20