Alaskan Mini-Vacations

It has been a busy fall. Between building the yurt, finishing up the farming season, and starting the school year, there shouldn’t be much time for anything else. However, the last two weeks have also seen two multi-day road trips in Alaska. First, Evan and I drove to Kasilof, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula for a friend’s wedding. With Evan being a member of the wedding party, we arrived on a Thursday and made it a long weekend. The following week, I made my way up to Fairbanks to conduct a bit of research for my thesis work. Both trips–even though they were for non-recreation purposes–provided some unexpected, yet welcomed respite from our busy schedules.

We are not yet finished with our yurt, but it is getting there. We have been sleeping here for about a week, and so far it is more like glorified camping than anything else. We don’t have any heat source aside from an electric blanket for the nighttime, the electricity we do have is provided by an extension cord running from our friends’ place, and we have been cooking all of our food on a camp stove. Its okay for now, but I’m very much looking forward to a cozy yurt with a wood stove and a whole roof. While it would have been nice to have as much time over the past two weeks to work on the yurt, I think some forced time away from the process has been very necessary.

I’ve been to the Kenai before, but every other time I’ve visited the more touristy destinations of Homer and Seward. Both Seward and Homer are great, but it was good to see another place. The wedding we attended was standard, but we were treated to a lovely stay at the groom’s childhood home and spent a great day at a lesser known Alaska State Park: Captain Cook State Recreation Area.

We spent several hours rock hopping on the beach and beach-combing for rocks and great driftwood. Evan discovered that the beaches of Kenai are covered in perfect skipping stones. Those rocks skipped like saucers over the choppy ocean waves! Moki had a fantastic time scaling boulders and chasing sticks into the cold, salty ocean. Finally, we enjoyed a simple picnic overlooking the Cook Inlet and great views of the snow-capped volcanoes across the inlet. It was lovely!

When Evan went off to complete some of his groomsmen duties, I explored the Old Kenai Town site. It boasts one of the oldest Russian Orthodox churches in the state, the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church. It was built in 1894, and has been in continuous use since then. I enjoyed a decaf latte and delicious brownie from Veronica’s Café which is housed in a log cabin that was built in 1918 by a Native family in the area. It was a nice way to spend a quiet afternoon, seemingly care free.

The following week I headed to Fairbanks to work on some research for my Masters Thesis. I had only been to Fairbanks once beforeand that trip wasn’t the most well thought out. This one went a bit smoother. Also, it’s much more comfortable to have one person and her dog in an Outback than five adults in a Prius for the six hour drive!

I left very late on Wednesday and ended up spending the night camped out in the back of the Subaru (maybe not Glamping, but its pretty swanky back there!), and continued the gorgeous drive in the morning. The leaves have started to change up there and I pulled into the Tanana Valley as the fog was lifting from the sunny, rolling hills. It was a refreshing scene to wake up to after spending the previous few days in constant cold rain.

I spent the rest of that day at North Pole Pioneer Produce Farm in North Pole, Alaska. I had arranged an interview with the farmer there and had agreed to a work trade in exchange for the interview. The interview was informative and perfect for my thesis and the work was nice–we got to harvest Brussel Sprouts! I LOVE Brussel Sprouts, and they are still a couple weeks out down here in Palmer. Jen, the farmer there was amazingly generous and offered up some good hiking spots around North Pole for Moki and I to scope out.

I especially enjoyed the bizarre-ness of the city of North Pole itself. The town was named in the sixties after the nearby army base was established. Apparently it was named North Pole as a sort of ploy to attract international toy manufacturers. I dont think that plan ever worked, but the name stuck. Now, all of the light posts in the town look like candy canes. The main street is aptly named Santa Claus Lane, and the jolly old man himself is the lucky namesake to such lovely places as Santa’s Fireworks and Santa’s Senior Center. Even all of the utility poles in the town are candy cane striped! I also got to see the North Pole, which is displayed in a park. I think my favorite street was Blitzen Rd. (the other reindeer, mistletoe and snowmen were also used for street names!). Perhaps living in the North Pole would be a little weird–especially with the Christmas themed street flags that are up year-round; but it is a great stop for tourists and passerby–especially those that love the cheesiness of the holiday season.

While Jen’s farm is in North Pole, she doesn’t harken to any Christmas themes in her production. She is a focused farmer with gorgeous produce and seemingly very satisfied customers. It was super cool to have the opportunity to work with her and help her drop off goods to the local food co-op and other customers. After a delicious grilled meal of freshly caught salmon, freshly picked potatoes and freshly picked beans, I spent the night in an open air tent, enjoying the crisp Tanana Valley night under three sleeping bags.

The following day in Fairbanks brought me to Calypso Educational Farm and Ecology Center. They were hosting their inaugural First Friday Event with displays of interns work as well as demonstrations from the local Folk School.  I got to try out a traditional lathe, and I really enjoyed observing the blacksmith work the metal at the blacksmithing booth. This farm is very cool, and I’m looking forward to learning much more about it in the not so distant future! I was meant to interview the farmer there, but the event was busier than expected, so interviewing was kind of out of the question.

I ended up driving home to Palmer that evening, and made it just past Denali National Park before the sun set and my busy schedule beckoned a quick nap in a rest stop. After finally making it home, I found it nice to wake up in our yurt, on our own furniture surrounded by all of our goods under one (even if not wholly complete) roof.

It’s great that even short jaunts just out of bounds of our normal routes can provide much needed respite from our sometimes too hectic lives. I’m looking forward to more opportunities like these in the coming months–who knows where the road may bring us?

Until next time fellow Farmgirls,

How do you find peace while staying close to home?

Sending you peace and love,

Alex, The Rural Farmgirl

P.S. I’m working on getting pictures up, but the internet has not been cooperating with me!

  1. Tina says:

    you travel to such spectacular places! I would love to see some pics from your travels and of your yurt

  2. Penny Perry says:

    My sister and I visited Alaska 7 years ago and stopped in that area. It was nice to reminisce through your trip to Cooks Inlet.

  3. Joan says:

    Oh my yes hope the internet cooperates with posting the pictures – your words are great but I’m such a visual person. God Bless

  4. Diann says:

    I view the Sierra Nevada Mtns. from my home on "the flats". And often, though unfortunately not so much this summer because of fires, I escape to the glorious mountains. I’m still a genuine flatlander, but I learned to climb rocks many years ago and the high mountains still beckon me to them. The air is fresher, sweeter "up yonder". Thanks for your lovely stories.

  5. alex says:

    Alaska is a beautiful place and I’ve always wanted to visit. I can’t wait for the pictures.

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