On every trip West, as I look down on Seattle's familiar water, Rainier and the Olympics in the background, I feel my lungs expand with fresh air. I'm coming into my country - the Pacific NorthWest is the gateway to Alaska. Seattle means a great time with Kris, Tsion, Janet, Tom, Emma and Ben - good times with good friends. I didn't try to do too much and that makes everyone happier.
After a restful, fun overnight we then board the plane to fly north up the coast. I crane my neck past my kids to seek out familiar landmarks on the gorgeous coastline. This flight I saw Lituya Bay clearly - I have great memories of exploring it on our crazy honeymoon sailing adventure. The mountain are high and white - and go on as far as I can see. As the hours pass the terrain becomes more and more familiar until it's like the palm of my hand. Over Prince William Sound, up Turnagain Arm, the Chugach Range! My heart lands back in my chest with a thump (even though I wasn't aware until now it was missing): I'm Home.
Many times the approach up the valleys I know so well, the wide turn over Fire Island and the final descent over Kincaid park brings me to tears. This flight I was too busy with the kids to cry, but I was glowing with joy. (In part simply to near the end of the flights with Sam!).
We had full flights, but thankfully my seat partners on both flights were patient - good thing because Sam was on fire. The boy fell asleep at hour 5 of the 5 1/2 hr flight. And I was happy for that much! Travelling with a one and a half yr old is such a workout. I plan on writing a "Travelling with Children" blog sometime with the lessons I've learned and tips that work for me, which hopefully will help others.
But this entry is about our trip in Alaska. In one word: Awesome (Natty's new favorite descriptor). Good times with family and great hiking. I wanted to do a hike every day and I almost made it. Sunday we did Williwaw Lakes (turns out it's 14 miles. Longer than I planned on, but gorgeous every step and we saw a magnificent bull moose at a comfortable viewing distance which was icing on the cake).
Monday, Christina, Sharyl and I did Crow Pass! Which we used to do every year, but which I haven't done since I got married I think. That is appalling. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. So it had to be done. The river was very high and very cold (of course. It was a glacier 15 minutes before we stepped into it - but it always shocks me just how cold cold can be). Unfortunately I did something wrong with my food intake and got miserably ill so it took us 9 hrs - much longer than we'd hoped for. But I was intensely happy to do it - even sick as a dog I was happy I was there.
On Tuesday I took a rest day. Walked with Jana and again with Christina and the boys. The kids had such a great time together. There was a lot of good cousin time... which is one of the major points of the trip.
Wednesday we took Natalie and Mom to Whittier so Thurs, Fri and Sat it was just Sam and I. Sunday Murray came - back in CT he had been battling Lyme Disease all week and, as if that wasn't enough, had been swamped at work. He was as miserable as I have ever known him to be. I felt terrible for him. (but not terrible enough to leave Alaska to come home! He did have the option not to come though.) We met him at the airport and flew to Cordova together. Had a fabulous visit there - slept on the Nerka in the harbor, breakfast at the Coho, fish tacos at Baja Taco...just like old times.
The the real traveling began. Back to Anchorage, then to Portland, overnight in Eugene, continue on to see Dad and Connie at their new place in Sutherlin- That was terrific. Back up to Eugene and in the car at 4:30 am to drive to Portland.
Where we proceeded to miss our flight. Crazy. First time ever. We both read the ticket wrong. Or something. Anyway, we were eating breakfast when our plan boarded and we missed it. Deep breath. Rally, Team Buttner!
Turns out we had perfect, one day family vacation. We both had friends in Portland whom it would have been fun to call, but we were tapped out and needed some family time. We went to Saturday Market, rented bikes, stopped by Powell's Books, chilled in the hotel room - it turned into such a good thing.
The next morning more hilarity happened. Turns out the flight was overbooked and there was only one seat available. Murray took Sam on and Natty and I were rerouted through Dallas. Yuck. But they offered us travel vouchers so that took the sting out of the wound. (And Murray even pointed out that it was our mistake in the first place, so they really didn't need to give us vouchers, but they did anyway. How nice! I was so kicking him behind the counter). The plane pulled out, Natty and I sadly waved goodbye then headed off for a cup of coffee and our new gate. 5 minutes down the concourse, Murray calls and says someone on the flight is sick and they're pulling back into the gate! Not to revel in someone else's misfortune, but I was really hoping we could get on. And sure enough, 2 people got off, and when the ticket agent saw us there, she said we could get on instead - woohoo! And we should keep the checks. (Because it turns out, they had given us checks, not travel vouchers.) So we got home together and made money on the trip.
And the best part for me? Murray sat with Sam.