Monday, July 30, 2012

Alaska Journal Part 4: Scenic Ski Resort Girdwood

Welcome to the Alaska Journal! 

We moved on south to scenic Girdwood after visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Museum in Anchorage. Girdwood is a ski resort, but very low key. It is a bustling center in winter, but nothing like the commercial resorts in Colorado. What a welcome break after the traffic and city hub-bub of Anchorage.

When looking back at our journey through just this small bit of Alaska, I would award the gold medal to Girdwood for its small town, warm and friendly hospitality.  Our stay at Bud and Carol's B & B certainly colored our view of the area. The B&B was a comfortable base for our excursions, and Carol was such a wonderful hostess. 

Tram destination 2000 feet above the ski resort.

Famous for winter sports, this area is still popular in the off-season for its hiking trails and fishing, The fabulous scenery and the view from Mt. Alyeska amazed me. 

Tram to the mountain holds 60 people.

We took the five minute ride in the tram from the Mt. Alyeska Resort 2000 feet up to the ski area. The driver dropped us off at the station which included an upscale restaurant, yes, really, a cafeteria, a gift shop (of course), and a para-sailing business. Folks actually jump off this mountain with nothing but a parasail. Professional divers harness the very brave to them for a thrilling ride and view of the area. No, I didn't gather up enough courage to attempt such a feat, but oh my, what an amazing experience, once the heart stops pounding wildly in the chest, to enjoy the peace and quiet and thrill of sailing through the air among the mountains. Wow...

Hotel Alyeska

View from the top

Of course you have to make a snowball in July!

Delicious, enormous cinnamon roll at the Bake shop.
After the mountain high excursion, we explored Girdwood and its shops. The gal at the Bake Shop was deservedly proud of the gorgeous begonia baskets adorning her establishment. She talked with us about the growing and care of the plants since we had a greenhouse and garden center business. Really enjoyed the tasty treats at the Bake Shop, but the flowers were the eye-candy we really ate up!

Gorgeous hanging baskets overflowing with color.

If we ever return to Alaska, Girdwood will definitely merit another look-see. The drive from Anchorage to Girdwood is worth the price of a plane ticket let alone interacting with the friendly folks of Girdwood. 

Catch up with previous editions of the Alaska Journal:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza: Early Release for Bad Behavior

Welcome to the Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza.  Come back every Wednesday to discover more books for your summer reading pleasure!

Author Kevin Hopson has generously offered a copy of the e-book to the winner of a random drawing. Please comment to enter your name in the contest.  
Winner selected on Friday at 9 p.m EDST.

Most incarcerated men dream of being free one day, but death row inmate Jake Evans feels differently. With prisoners suspiciously being dragged from their cells, only to return in anguish, Jake wants no part of the outside world. However, when Jake’s name is eventually called, he is left with no choice. What do the perpetrators want with him, and can he escape the fate others have already met?


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Jenn
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Kevin Hopson has done it yet again, wonderful and engaging writing that draws you into the story.

Why are death row inmates being pulled out of their cells and taken away? Why are they in so much pain when they are brought back to the cell? These questions will only be answered by reading this story. I will not give anything away, but I will tell you this is one of the best prison short stories I have ever read. This story will surprise and shock you in such a way it will stay with you and never be forgotten.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alaska Journal Part 3: Alaska Native Heritage Center

Welcome back to the Alaska Journal. This pleasant moose surprised us as we turned into the Alaska Native Heritage Center and Museum in the Anchorage area. She was just happy to munch the plants while we took her picture alongside the road.

The Native Center is an amazing place. It is well worth the entrance fee. We spent about five hours here absorbing all we could about the lives of the Alaskan natives. Allow me to share some of our visit with you.

There are eleven distinct native cultures in Alaska and eleven different native languages. This museum honors the first Alaskans by telling the stories of the diverse groups based on five culture groupings. I was surprised to learn that many of the cultures are related to native people who live in the lower 48 states.

In this map, each color designates a distinct native people's region. The Center's speakers, dancers, and interpreters come from all the different groups and were well-versed in their cultures.  I am happy to say they are very proud of their heritage.

The native dances tell a story and were full of driving drum beats and energy. They reminded me of watching the Hawaiian dancers.

With no written language, the totem poles tell a story through their beautiful works of art. Not every group makes them.

A tour guide walked us around the many exhibitss on the grounds. These homes and artifacts helped us understand how people can live in such a harsh environment and thrive. This group built homes dug into the ground for warmth and safety. 
The Athabascan people built strong log homes. The structure to the left is a cache for keeping their food safe from critters.

My husband stands by the cow parsnips so you see how tall these plants are. They grow everywhere and are edible before they reach maturity. This stalky plant can also cause skin rashes. 

This is the skeleton of a whale. Can you imagine hunting and killing a whale having only spears and a canoe?  The people used every part of the whale.

The jaw bones of a whale.  The native Alaskans erected these to identify the entrance to their community because farther north there are no trees, so there are no landmarks.
John Baker,  the first native Alaskan Iditarod champion since 1976, had his sled dogs at the center. Baker is the 2011 winner. 
                           I couldn't resist placing this photo of the darling puppy here. Snow white coat. I'd  name her Snowflake.

These delicate spring flowers (mind you we visited here June 30) graced the path curving around the displays.
 If you missed  Parts 1 and 2 Click the links below.

Part 1: Wasilla/Palmer and Mat-Su Region 

Part 2:  Denali National Park

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza: Missing, Assumed Dead

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza
Welcome to the Blurbs Bonanza appearing every Wednesday this summer!
My book blurb for Sunshine Boulevard  appears today on Marva Dasef's blog
Drop by to leave a comment. 
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.

When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.

En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.

Review (from Amazon):
**** Fast Paced Mystery

This review is from: Missing, Assumed Dead (Kindle Edition)
Missing Assumed Dead by Marva Dasef

In this fast paced mystery suspense, Kam McBride is summoned to a small town in Eastern Oregon to settle probate on a property of a distant relative she wasn't aware existed, until now.

Kam agrees to go to Eastern Oregon only to appease her mother's wishes of obtaining any family photographs, or family documents, but when Kam arrives in the hot and dusty town, things get a lot more complicated as she delves into what really happened to her long lost relative, Salvadore Vasco, seven years prior.

As she slowly uncovers the town's layered secrets, with the help of a hunky sheriff deputy, and her life is threatened more than once, Kam realizes she's stumbled onto a much deeper mystery than she bargained for.

Ms. Dasef's harrowing action scenes and interesting characters drew me in to the end of this tight mystery, and there are some fascinating twists, which add to the flavor of this story. I felt the intimacy scenes were a little rushed, but that's the romantic in me, and sometimes Kam's character was a little too hard headed for her own good, but thankfully Mitch was able to gently steer her in the right direction. Occasionally, I was distracted by the `he said, she did this' passages, but all in all, Missing Assumed Dead is a solid and unique mystery, with great action and atmosphere, and interesting secondary characters. As an Oregonian, I definitely enjoyed this read and would recommend it for all mystery suspense enthusiasts.

S. Durham


Monday, July 16, 2012

Alaska Journal Part 2: Denali National Park

It was a leisurely four hour drive north from Wasilla to the Denali National Park and Preserve. We traveled the highway surrounded by gorgeous scenery except for the dumpy businesses along the side of the road. Noticing the lack of gas stations and thus, not many potty breaks, on our journey, we arrived early in the evening. You may remember Alaska enjoys 22 hours of sunlight this time of year, so we could still sightsee till 2 a.m.!! But we didn't. I was excited to actually be here in this magical place. I have heard so much about Denali Park all my life and Mt. McKinley (or Denali as the Athabascan natives named it.) 

I will tell you up front we are not part of the 30% who actually see McKinley. Oh yes, it is there all the time...hard to move mountains...but it's so high it's usually shrouded by clouds. Only on clear, sunny days will the cloud curtain disappear for a glimpse. The tourist area outside of Denali Park has beautiful blue T-shirts in all the souvenir shops which brag that the person wearing the shirt is one of the lucky 30%. I couldn't buy one of the cute shirts because I couldn't walk around with a lie on my chest!

This amazing stained glass wall is high on the wall of the Wilderness Access Center. We purchased our tickets here for the three hour ride on green school buses into the park. There are longer tours on the shuttle buses and even more opportunities to purchase a ticket for narrated rides. But we figured there is only one road that all the buses drive, so we took the less expensive shuttle. And, frankly, we didn't want the longer tours. Come on people, it is a school bus for Pete's sake. No comfy tour buses allowed because they are too heavy for the one road in and out of the park, so even the narrated pricey tours were in bus...!!

TIP: There is no food in the park other than at the Visitors Center. So visitors must bring food and drinks on the bus..and consume them in the picnic tables for outdoor picnics due to trash and bears...!!! Before we left Wasilla, we shopped for lunch supplies at Walmart and carried them in a styrofoam cooler. We packed our lunches in the morning which saved us a LOT of money for meals.

We had a fantastic tour driver. He shared interesting tidbits and was alert for wildlife spottings, however, he depended on passengers to discover the animals too since the road through the park is not exactly a nice, paved two lane. It's more like a path in some areas, especially around Polychrome Dome. I had to hide my eyes at times and hold my breath while he negotiated the narrow road. Thank goodness they have some rules about who gets the right of way when the buses meet.There is no room for two buses on much of the tour. A thrill ride I'd say.

I am sharing photos of the sights we saw along the way. Hope you enjoy them.

This picture shows you how thick the clouds were, so no sightings of Mt. McKinley

What are these? Caribou. Do you know the difference between reindeer and caribou? Reindeer can fly!

So glad we found a camera with a 24x telephoto lens. Perfect for getting closer to the animals from the safety of the bus!!

Polychrome Dome--Notice the different colors of rock here. See that tiny road in the upper 1/3 of the picture? So glad our driver had 31 years of driving experience in Denali tours!!!

Yes, another mountain picture. I have a million of them!

Mama bear and two cubs. The bears were this tan color in the park. I was looking for black or brown. Surprised when I finally spotted these sweet things.

Dall sheep. They are only little white specks on the side of the mountain. Thank goodness for our powerful zoom.
Grand Denali Lodge--what a view from here.
 It poured rain the next morning, but we forged on in our plastic ponchos to see the demonstration of the sled dogs. Amazing animals. These are actual working dogs who patrol the park during the snowy winter conditions keeping the tradition of dog sledding alive.

Sled dog and puppy.

Look at this wildlife my DH captured in the lens. Oh, alright, it's really your trusty reporter. I just wanted to have proof that I actually was there in this fabulous park. 

TIP: If you are USA resident, pay $10. at the age of 62 and you have a lifetime pass to ALL the national parks. You better believe we plan to use this gift on future forays.

We spent the rainy day in the display areas in the park studying all the interesting information. We took in an informative movie and ranger talk, snacks in the park cafeteria, and shopping in the gift shop. Actually the rainy day turned into a welcome opportunity to learn so much about Alaska and Denali National Park.

Every time we visit a national park, I want to thank the people who had the vision to set aside these areas for future generations. In this crazy, fast-paced world of technology, I pray the mountains and lakes, the moose, bears, sheep, and eagles will still be there for my grandchildren and future generations to see and experience the awe I felt being in Denali. We must be the caretakers to preserve this blessed land.

You need not go all the way to Alaska to experience national parks. Make it a point to find a national park, lakeshore, forest, etc near you this summer.

In case you missed it, you can read about Alaska Journal Part 1: Wasilla/Palmer and Mat-Su Region in an earlier post. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza: Glancing Through the Glimmer

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza
Welcome to the first Bodacious Blurb in the Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza.  Come back every Wednesday to discover more books for your summer reading pleasure!

Author Pat McDermott has generously offered a copy of the e-book to the winner of a random drawing. Please comment to enter your name in the contest.  
Winner selected on Friday at 9 p.m EDST.

In the modern Kingdom of Ireland, few mortals believe in the fairy folk. Without that belief, the fairies are dying. Finvarra, the King of the Fairies, would rather dance than worry—but he must have a mortal dancing partner.

When Janet Gleason’s grandfather becomes the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, the sixteen-year-old orphan must leave Boston and her friends behind. Janet is lonely in Dublin and unused to her grandparents’ stuffy social life. An invitation to a royal ball terrifies her. She can’t even waltz and dreads embarrassment. Finvarra’s fairy witch overhears her fervent wish to learn to dance.

Seventeen-year-old Prince Liam Boru loathes the idea of escorting another spoiled American girl to a ball. In fact, he detests most of his royal duties. He dresses down to move through Dublin unnoticed and finds himself on his royal backside when Janet crashes into him. Intrigued, he asks to see her again, and she willingly agrees. Unaware of each other’s identities, they arrange to meet. When they do, the fairies steal Janet away.

Liam’s attempts to find her trigger a series of frustrating misadventures. Can he and Janet outwit a treacherous fairy king who’s been hoodwinking mortals for centuries?

Catch me on Thursday afternoon, July 12 on the Muse It Up Publishing Blog...Let me know what frightens you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza (BBB) Begins July 11 and Muse Contest

Be here every Wednesday this summer to discover new authors and books!

All you have to do is visit the participating authors websites/blogs

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza Begins Wednesday, July 11

                                                     Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza

Better not miss the Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza kicking off on Wednesday, July 11 and every Wednesday this summer. New authors, new books, and Giveaways!! Exciting, amazing, delightful, and all the best adjectives to describe the books appearing here. See the list of authors below.

Bodacious Blurb Bonanza
Date Author  Book
7/11 Pat McDermott Glancing Through the Glimmer
7/18 Marva Dasef Missing, Assumed Dead
7/25 Kevin Hopson Early Release for Bad Behavior
8/1 Joselyn Vaughn Warden's Lantern
8/8 J.Q.Rose Sunshine Boulevard
8/15 Tess Grant Trajectories
8/22 W.S. Gager Mitch Malone Series
8/29 Pat McDermott The Band of Roses

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America

Americans love cars. 
There is nothing like the design, the power, the speed, the comfort, the smell, of automobiles. They are art in action. 
The huge attendance at the Hot Rod Power Tour 2012 in Muskegon, Michigan attests to the appreciation of cars in Americans' lives. Let's celebrate the birthday of America with this short movie from the Hot Rod Power Tour stop.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Alaska Journal--To Be Continued

Fuschia and geraniums in Anchorage Park
Hello Readers,

I had big plans to write up our journey through the towns and byways of Alaska as we traveled this past week. However....I forgot how exhausting touring is! And I forgot what a shutter bug I am. I took hundreds of photos because each vista or Main St or wildlife was thrilling and I thought I had to capture it. It will take some time to cull through all the images, and I do not want to bore you with hundreds of them!!

I WILL begin putting together the Journal when I return home, so look for the blogs next week.

On Wednesdays, beginning July 11, the Bodacious Blurbs Bonanza begins. Please stop in every Wednesday to discover new books and authors for your summer reading. 

Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July!!