Friday, May 30, 2014

My Six Months In The Last Frontier

I am having a secret love affair...

 with the state of Alaska. 

Six years ago United Military Travel provided me with a one way ticket into Cordova, Alaska that left me there for six months.
Needless to say, I have not been the same since.

When I first expressed my desire to temporarily move to Alaska with my friends and family I got the reaction I was expecting; "you want to do what!", "Allison...hunny, by yourself?" "Why?", "haha, you're funny."  I will admit that I have been known (more times than not) to come up with crazy travel ideas and not stick to them, so when I actually booked the airfare my family took me seriously.  It gave me a sense of freedom and from that moment on I was "hooked on a feeling". 

You may be asking yourself: What would a girl like me do in the great state of Alaska for six months all by herself?  

I signed up to be a fisheries technician with Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, aka PWSAC, for their egg take season.  

The time finally came and I said my goodbyes to friends and family and took off on my one way ticket not knowing what the future held for me.  What I did know that is that I had chosen the coldest state in the US to live.....second thoughts started entering my mind at that point!

After ten hours of flying I arrived at the Cordova airport.  It was seriously the size of the bottom floor of my house back home.  
*A little side note about Cordova is that there are NO roads that lead into the town - you can arrive only by boat or plane.  

With that being said, you can imagine trying to get into town from the airport may be a bit difficult.  No one had informed me that taxis do not operate out of this airport and that I needed to arrange my own transportation.  So please picture this: a petite, sun kissed, dirty blonde girl standing outside of this airport shivering with all her luggage looking lost.  Pathetic right?  I was internally pleading with each person that passed by me for a ride until a man approached me saying he would give me a lift into town.  I know what you are thinking, "don't get into cars with strangers in a strange place."  But one thing about traveling, especially by yourself, is that you have to allow yourself to be a little more trusting of others otherwise you will probably remain stuck at airports for hours on end.  Turns out this man was the mayor of Cordova and he delivered me safely with all my limbs en tact!  

Entering Cordova:

First thing was first - FOOD!  My first dining experience was at the Reluctant Fisherman Inn and ordered the halibut dinner.  My mouth is watering right now - if only I could teleport myself back I would order five more! What a gem of a place, the service was great and the people super friendly.  

*When traveling alone you have to get used to dining out by yourself because only you can make the experience a good one!  

I only had one night in "town" until I flew out to the salmon hatchery I was going to live at for the six months so I settled into my room above the Salvation Army and went to bed. 

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From here on out I am going to describe my experience in photos because there are no hotels or places to eat on San Juan Island - it is remote and can only be reached by float plane or boat. 
 This is where I lived...

These planes may be cute but for folks who are cursed with motion sickness....beware!!!

This is before I got sick...

My new home, Port San Juan

Second day there and already catching my own halibut!

LingCod - scary looking but delicious!

Humpbacks and Eagles were a daily sight

My fishing buddies

The lake above the hatchery

Dear God, I miss salmon berries!

Salmon are anadromous meaning that they migrate up river from the sea to spawn.  Here, they are approaching our fresh water source, also the fresh water source where they were born, to begin the spawning process.  
Only they never get a chance to...

They "migrate" up our canal to get electroshocked and then carried into the egg take room so we can extract their eggs and milk to fertilize ourselves.  

Don't worry, this is not an inhuman process - Salmon die after mating anyways.  

The egg/milk mixture getting ready to be taken into the incubation room.

Milk and eggs being activated before being loaded into an incubator.

- - - - - - Enough about work - - - - - -

Arlington Glacier

Fresh bear meat!

Fishing :) 

Matt's halibut

We were spoiled with the sunrises... 

and sunsets...

Off on our great adventure to the abandoned copper town

The boys bringing home dinner!

The usual...

I busted my chin open on a Crisco can and had to get flown into Cordova for 8 stitches....thats my luck!

The reason for my love affair...

Its getting colder...

Meet Matt, the best snow fort builder in Alaska!

Our departure...

Goodbye Alaska...

When I think about my time in Alaska just a smile crosses my face and I never try to describe it because no one can understand, expect for the people I shared it with. 
 For anyone who has visited The Last Frontier shares a common bond with others who have done the same.  Its like an unofficial club where everyone understands each other just by saying "I have been there too".
 We all are blessed with an unfaltering sense of accomplishment that lasts a lifetime.

- Join the club - 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

California - The Golden State - Part 3 of 3 - Santa Cruz

- - - - - I Left My Heart In California - - - - -

Out of all the cities and towns in California, Santa Cruz was our "dream" town to call home.  It offers us the soft, salty ocean breeze that we crave, the lifestyle that we live, the mediterranean climate, the outdoor activities we partake in, and the lifestyle mentality that we like.  You may ask, "why not just move there then?"  We have asked ourselves the same thing but it all comes down to the fact that the cost of living over there is much more expensive then the East Coast.  But who knows, maybe down the road we can finally call ourselves Californians.

One of the best things about Santa Cruz is its location, it is perfectly situated in the Monterey Bay in between San Francisco and Monterey. 

 Meaning, the marine life is out of this world get to view the migrating whales from shore or sea, watch the sea lions folic everyday, and if you love dolphins this place is the mecca for them!  

The town itself is I guess is considered a "college town" because of the University of California at Santa Cruz but because of that the town offers a ton of fun, and funky shops, restaurants, and also exercise trails that hug the coast.  There really is never a lack of anything to do in Santa Cruz.

The view along the walking trail

One of the best breaks on a small day

Sunset from the balcony of our hotel

We stayed at the Sea and Sand Inn where all the rooms are ocean front

And you have to visit the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

This is a great website to search for all Military discounts in the Santa Cruz area too :) 

 This post concludes my travels on California, I would love to hear from you if you want to pick my brain about anything or give you more information about UMT.  You can contact United Military Travel here or call them 866-582-9579 :) 

Friday, May 23, 2014

California - The Golden State - Part 2 of 3 Big Sur and Yosemite

- - - - - I left My Heart In California - - - - -

Just a recap from my post on Wednesday - The Golden State Part 1 
* I am detailing mine and Josh's crazy and out of the ordinary adventures through central and northern Cali.  
* We camped everywhere we went and basically lived out of our rental car
* United Military Travel booked our airfare and car rental

Big Sur, California
The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea

Before I get into our adventures I have to give my unsolicited advice on what we learned that our research left out.
1. Big Sur is LONG - getting from the northern point to southern point takes longer than you think.  I would quote you a time but it all depends on how you navigate Highway 1.  
2. Highway 1 is scary.... and beautiful at the same time.  It curves, spirals, and spoons the Pacific at an elevation of 400 +/-  feet above sea level so be prepared for breath taking views and knuckle clenching turns.
3. Make sure you get gas BEFORE you enter Big Sur because the only two gas stations charge almost double than what the national average is.
4.  You cannot camp in any of the state parks so check this website before determining where you will camp. 

Our first destination was Tree Bones Resort where they offer campsites, yurts or a "human nest" for accommodations.  They are a premier "glamping" resort, meaning they offer a luxury form of camping by blending the natural experience of outdoor camping with luxurious amenities. 

The resort itself is completely sustainable, leaving no foot print on the world by using solar power for all their energy needs, the food they feed their guest they raise and harvest themselves, and the water they filter and recycle on site. 

It may sound rustic but when you offer a sushi bar and a five star restaurant with a swimming pool over looking the Pacific Ocean you begin to move into the luxurious realm.  Instead of staying in one of the yurts or human nests we camped at one of their campsites on a bluff above the Pacific where we could see and hear sea lions talking day and night and view the sunsets from the comfort of our own tent.  The weather was perfect, especially for camping because of the constant wind off the ocean and the slightly overcast sky.  Yes, Treebones is a magical place and if we moved to California, I would work at there.  

This is our experience...

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Like I mentioned earlier you cannot camp in just any of the state parks in Big Sur so instead of driving around aimlessly (like me) trying to find a campsite near dusk - reference this website. Because what we ended up doing is driving Treebones, the very most southern point of Big Sur, back to Andrew Molera State Park which is right when you enter Big Sur from the north.  Again, please reference my unsolicited advice above...Hwy 1 is not an easy drive so if we had a chance to do it over we would obviously camp in Andrew Molera first then work our way south....not the other way around.  
Regardless of how long it took for us to arrive where we wanted to be, we had the most AMAZING time ever!  Our friends that we stayed with on the hippie commune in Napa came down and joined the fun. 
Check out our fun below!

Places to eat in Big Sur: some are on the side of the road and some are hard to find but this list has them all!
If you decide to visit Big Sur please feel free to contact me - I love sharing my knowledge of here!

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Yosemite National Park

Trying to come up with an opening line I realize that Yosemite is actually the very FIRST national park that I have been to.  Which at first stunned me but then when I think about it, I probably feel that I have been to more because I know so much about each of them.  The United States really does offer some of the most amazing parks in the entire world.  Makes me realize that I still have so much to see!  
Josh and I went to Yosemite in October and majority of the waterfalls did not have flowing water so we suggest going in the summer time.  
Also, all the hoopla about the Hantavirus in Yosemite - take heed to it by not staying in cabins they provide but you are more than safe to camp in your own tents.  
Also, stop by a grocery store before you enter the park because the few that are there charge so much for simple things!  But they are good for camping items and gifts.  

Here is our adventure: 

My only advice when hiking is stay on the designated trail....DO NOT CREATE YOUR OWN SHORT CUTS....

We did and this is what we found on the way back down...

Also, do not be like my dodo husband and hike in flip flops :) 

Our super car!

Our home for 3 days :) 

This is how we literally made all of our food

This photo had no real relevance but its my fav :) 

The North Face

Tunnel vision

Fishing :) 

Back view of the North Face

Monkey Man

The pine cones there are gigantic!  We brought this one home to his mom who puts it out for fall decoration!

Sweet little chipmunk! 

Redwoods galor

Sorry for all the photos, I just felt that in order to describe Yosemite our story needed to be told in pictures.  There is a ton to do for the nature lover!