Adam woke up bright and early to collect eggs from the chickens.
Amy put them into the blender with some other ingredients:
And made these delicious green pancakes:
Since Adam ate seven or eight of them, I requested the recipe:
This is what the sea stars looked like after Steve soaked them in isopropyl alcohol (to dry them out):
(Steve had all of the kids' bicycle helmets in the pile of things to leave in Alaska, but was still determined to bring these sea stars and shells home for Rachel in a big plastic tote full of sand. Luckily, he made room for both.)
Steve went to pick up the girls from their sleepover:
Our buyer finally came to purchase the trailer. It was a long process. One that required the patience of Job. . . or Steve. Robert was about 65-ish and had a list of about forty or fifty questions. And I think he asked them each at least two or three times. At one point, I told him that he could probably find all of his answers in the owner's manual. But he said he needed to get a "head start" on figuring things out. So I left the two of them alone before I said something rude.
I distracted myself by taking pictures of Kaleigh and Adam, who were joyfully soaking in every last minute of playing before we had to leave:
They also had to say goodbye to Nerf the cat. They affectionately spun him round and round and round:
I was back outside for the most painful part: watching Robert try to back up the trailer. The trailer was parked right in the middle of the driveway (for welding purposes), and it needed to be moved over to the side, since he was coming back later in the evening to pick it up. Robert had never driven with a trailer before, and watching him try to back up was agonizing. It took a good twenty minutes pulling forward and backing up over and over again, with Steve yelling which way to turn the wheel and Robert struggling to follow his directions.
And then we bid farewell to Jake and Amy's beautiful home:
Steve would like to build a sunroom like this onto the side of our garage. (Someday.)
With the trailer gone and a few extra thousand dollars in our bank account (hurray!) we were ready for the next segment of our trip.
We drove to Eklutna Lake and met up with Matt and Erica, who were already there with our girls. Matt had graciously invited us to join him and a few co-workers with their families for a day of kayaking and canoeing, since we hadn't been able to go in Seward. We were only a couple hours late.
Eklutna Lake gathers water from Eklutna Glacier, which supplies the drinking water for all of Anchorage. The sun was shining and the scenery was stunning. It was pinch-yourself-I-can't-believe-we're-actually-here-this-is-where-they-take-calendar-pictures stunning.
Ben and Rachel:
With Matt supervising from the distance:
I wish Matt had kept track of how many people he has taken canoeing in his lifetime; the number would be astounding. He is always so calm and accommodating, such a great teacher.
I was nervous about these four going out in the canoe together. Steve doesn't have the best track record of staying dry; Kaleigh and Adam aren't exactly known for sitting still and following directions.
But they made it back. Happy and dry.
We had such a wonderful time. I felt badly that we had arrived so late, but everyone still got their chance to go kayaking or canoeing, and I got some beautiful pictures. I told Steve it was a good thing it had been cold and rainy the week before or else I would be ready to move to Alaska. Yes, the two days after I bought my new wool clothes were sunny and warm.
Barrett and Adam:
With an unidentified object:
Barrett is such a cute boy. He almost made me miss the three-year old mischievous Adam. Almost.
And then we had to say goodbye to our fun Alaska cousins.
We drove through Wasilla (hometown of Sarah Palin) and on towards Talkeetna, which was on our list of places to visit because Steve loves Northern Exposure. (The fictional town of Cicely, Alaska from the show was patterned after Talkeetna.) Yes, I was shocked/confused when I first found out that Steve enjoyed Northern Exposure so much. (I was even more shocked when Steve wanted to name our only son Joel.) But thank goodness for Northern Exposure because Talkeetna is unique and definitely one of my favorite stops in Alaska.
Talkeetna began as a gold-rush town and became an important city during the construction of the Alaska Railroad. After World War I and the completion of the railroad, the population of Talkeetna declined, and it turned into a quiet town populated with backwoods hippies. As mountain climbing increased in popularity and visitors were drawn to Denali National Park in the 1980s, Talkeetna transformed into a town of hospitality workers and mountain guides. And there are still plenty of hippies.
Talkeetna remains a frontier community with no formal government structure, no police, no bank, and no taxes. We saw it referred to as "A Quiet Little Drinking Town, With a Climbing Problem". To get to Talkeetna, you drive on a road that dead ends in town.
Talkeetna has one of the best views of Mt. McKinley along the entire Parks Highway. (As you drive closer to Denali National Park the view of McKinley slowly disappears behind the other mountains in the Alaska Range). The three rivers that meet in Talkeetna: the Susnita, Chulitna, and Talkeetna, provide salmon and trout fishing throughout the summer.
And there is no shortage of quirky activities. Like the Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival, which is held in July. Bets are placed on numbered pieces of moose poop dropped from a helicopter onto a target. Talkeetna also hosts the Wilderness Woman Contest in December, where local females compete by hauling firewood, harnessing a sled dog team, and shooting a moose.
A few miles before we reached the town of Talkeetna, we pulled into the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, a four-star establishment. We used the restrooms and checked the rates ($400 per night. . . yikes!)
We walked out to the back patio and saw this breathtaking view of the Alaska Range. I believe that is Mt. Foraker on the left, Mt. Hunter in the middle, and Mt. McKinley on the right:
The second after these pictures were snapped Adam started yelling and squealed as he rolled down the hill. Rachel and Lucy were fighting and wouldn't follow directions; Kaleigh ran away from Steve. The hotel was high-class and so were the people sitting on the deck who were quietly admiring the stunning view. I was embarrassed and quickly corralled the kids back to our car. I frustratingly turned to Steve and told him I was worried we just walked away from a rare view of the mountain. Yes, we had. But at least we were lucky enough to enjoy it for a few minutes.
We drove into downtown Talkeetna and headed straight for the Roadhouse on Main Street. The Roadhouse was built in 1917 and still operates as a bunkhouse, much like it did almost a century ago. It's kind of hard to describe, and now I regret not taking pictures of the 80-year old man reading a book in his rocking chair or at least the wall of books that was behind him. Everything at the roadhouse was old; it was full of Alaska character and memorabilia.
We ordered Sweet Potato Corn Chowder, Hungarian Mushroom Soup, Mac & Cheese, and Vegetable Quiche.
Steve picked out this great spot on the patio, with a perfect view right down Main Street. There was a dog sitting in the middle of the road, barking right at the front door to the Roadhouse, making us think he was regularly fed there. Dreadlocked hippies walked barefooted right by us. Two girls stopped and asked if they could use some of our mosquito repellent. And then this old guy came and pulled up right next to our table and rolled down his window. It was weird. Of course Kaleigh had to ask him his name and he told her he was Santa Claus. That got all of the kids laughing, which is not what Steve wanted.
Steve told the kids to quit talking to him. And then he glared at him for a few minutes until the man finally drove away.
None of our food was especially good and we kind of wished we had eaten across the street at Mountain High Pizza Pie. We should have waited and gone to the Roadhouse for breakfast; they are famous for their gigantic cinnamon rolls.
We did not try the Mexican Moose:
We checked out at least a dozen different options (all of the lodging on Main Street was hostel-style with shared bathrooms) before we settled on these cabins at the Susitna River Lodge. The owner was very welcoming and kindly offered us the shoulder rate.
The two-story cabins were large and comfortable with a fully stocked kitchenette and good sheets. (We're kind of picky.) There were fire pits, free bike rentals, and even a charming park right across the street. We bathed the kids and put them to bed upstairs. It was absolutely wonderful to have so much space! We quickly headed back over to the front office to extend our stay for another night (or two), but they were fully booked.
Then I braved the mosquitos on the banks of the Susitna River to watch this sunset over Mt. Foraker: