Moving Around

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Winter Colors

Yes, it’s been a long time since I added a blog post here.! Since I returned from Alaska, life has been generous with adventures. Thinking it would take forever to sell my house, I put it on the market before I left in July. As our trip was winding down in Alaska, I received an offer on the house. It was one of those moments of being caught between something you want, and feelings of ambivalence about getting it! Coming home from my long journey I was prepared to feel sad about letting go of a house that had so graciously received me when I retired and came home to North Carolina. There were a few moments of that sadness but for the most part I felt relieved that the house I loved would continue “under new management”; and be cared for by younger and stronger hands.


There were genuine moments of anxiety for sure: where was I going to live? How would I get sorted out and packed? What would stay and what would go to Alleghany Cares? As I began journeying through those questions, the person renting the house across the road from me decided to move. It felt like there was a huge arrow coming out of the clouds pointing to that lovely little cottage. Less than half the size of my house, it is the perfect space for Bella, Pumpkin and me. On the day I was considering the finances of replacing my loveseat with a sleeper sofa, a friend came to me and said, “You couldn’t use a queen sized sleeper sofa could you?” And so it went; at each turn of the road in making this next life transition, things came together. Friends came from Fayetteville, Wilmington, and Florida to help. When I was too tired to move they shooed me off to bed and continued working. Other friends, who are Bella’s “other parents” took her for a week so I could get settled. Transitions are hard! This one seemed particularly hard. But as I write this blog, I can see that even in the midst of what seemed like a solitary journey, I was surrounded by the care of community.


We are “more or less” settled now and our lives continue much as before here on Ivy Lane. We have everything we need, just less of it! It is freeing. Moving around has not been fun, but it has been a lesson (once again) in God’s provision through community. Praying for the grace to remember this, I only hope that I can offer that gift to others.


On another note – I am reading a book written during WWII by the grandfather of my friend Blair Both. The Rev. John S. Bunting, D.D. was the rector of The Church of the Ascension in St. Louis, Missouri when he preached the sermons in this book which is called, Christ in War Time. His words about how to live in the midst of uncertain times are so apropos for our own times. This morning I read these words which have stayed with me today: “Love refreshes, restores and calms – makes us deliberate and gets results that endure. Selfishness makes us rush and hurry and rudely jostle people, and wears down our nervous reserve. A loving heart always has time, because it has given its time to the need of another heart. Therefore love is quietness, and quietness is God.” Quoted by Dr. Bunting in this particular sermon, these words are actually from another of his books called The Secret of a Quiet Mind (p.18).  I have lots more to say about Christ in War Time, but not today.


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Walking with Bella yesterday morning and as we got almost to the end of Parkway Lane, she nearly pulled the leash out of my hand as she ran forward. The deer love to hang out in the grassy area there so I dug in my feet and looked for deer. I couldn’t see any which didn’t mean they were not there! As we walked forward I was startled to see these three duckies waddling around in the pine trees. If they were aiming for the ponds that are in the area, they missed by several hundred yards! I would say that they were on the hunt for something:

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Bella and I also went to our favorite place yesterday: Glade Pond. It is at mile marker 230 on the Parkway and just about a mile from the house.

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We found Michaelmas Daisies in bloom.

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Michaelmas Daisies usually bloom around St.Michael and All Angel’s Day or September 29. The day is kept as a Minor Feast Day in most liturgical churches although during the Middle Ages it was a Holy Day of Obligation. Having been a member of St. Michael and All Angel’s Episcopal Church in Anniston, AL during the 1970’s I came to love this day and the festival celebration we always had at the end of September. A turning point of sorts is what it felt like; from summer’s light filled days to the softer light of fall moving into shorter, less frenetic days.  Even in the coming darkness we could trust that St. Michael, the great Archangel would defend us and keep us safe.  Michaelmas Daisies are comforting and beautiful reminders of God’s presence for me.



Bill's book

“Most” people who meet me think I am a pretty nice person; but I always tell people that my brother, Charles W. Honaker (Bill) is nicer! He really is! We are all that is left of our “family of origin”. Our parents and our older brother, Tom, are dead and have left us as the matriarch and patriarch of the family. Sometimes that feels like a heavy responsibility to me, but Bill and his wife Bobbie (who I have known since I was 13) shoulder that responsibility the way they have walked through their 50+ years of marriage – with faith and joy.


Bill served two tours of duty in Vietnam and in 2014 he wrote a book about that experience: The Dead Were Mine. It is a well written account of his service and work in Vietnam. Serving in the Army as  a Non Commissioned Officer in Graves Registration meant that he and those who served with him, searched to find and recover the remains of those who died in battle. These are soldiers who performed those duties with reverence as a sacred trust. Once a fallen soldier’s remains were recovered, they were never left unaccompanied as they were returned to the US and to their families.  As an Episcopal priest I had the honor of  accompanying the dead at funerals where I presided. From the moment the casket or urn was received into the church, it was my honor to “shepherd” that person’s remains until they were buried, praying every step of the way. Most of the mortuary people I worked with knew that I took that responsibility seriously and always waited for me before they moved the remains. My experience is only a small picture of how those in Graves Registration maintained “vigil” with those who were recovered from the field of battle.


The first time I ever heard my brother talk about his experience in Vietnam was when our dad was dying. During that week we were often up at night together staying with daddy. I’m not sure how it happened but one night Bill began to tell me about the work he did during those two tours of the war. It was, for me, a tender time of getting to know Bill again. The experiences he shared were sobering. I do wonder now why it took so long for me to ask him about Vietnam. Part of it is, as Bill writes in the Preface to the book, an assumption that he would not want to talk about those experiences. But part of it too is my own feelings about war…in part formed by my participation in a generation that had grown to believe that the Vietnam war was not our war to fight.  I am a pacifist who possesses a heart which is incredibly tender towards humanity. I hold on to Jesus’  teaching on the Sermon on the Mount as a hopeful guide for our lives. These things do not interfere with my respect for those who serve in the military…or for those who disagree with my point of view. Reality teaches me that we need to have both sides of any question represented as we make decisions and especially decisions about war. Killing others, even when it is justified, leaves a residue of pain in our hearts and soul. The Vietnam War left us with thousands of scarred people; so many of them live on the streets of our cities.  Those who served our country in Vietnam have not received either the gratitude or the services they deserved over the intervening years.


Watching The Vietnam War by Ken Burns on PBS over the past week  hasn’t been easy. My hope is that this documentary will exorcise some of the demons of silence that have surrounded this war. I wonder, with hope in my heart, if we can begin to understand this war, with all of its intentions for good and its enormous sacrifices as a part of the history we own as less than perfect humans. The misjudgments and hubris by those in charge should never stand in our way of thanking those who fought, and those who died in Vietnam.


The Dead Were Mine gives a picture of the Vietnam War that most of us would probably rather forget. But we need this book to remember that as my brother says, “there is a cost involved” in the freedom we cherish for ourselves and for others.

Satisfying Saturday!

Yesterday and today are the first days since I returned from Alaska that I have felt completely well and settled! Speeding through time zones is not good for your body! Working through the upper respiratory stuff I brought home and the “tummy troubles” of traveling have taken longer than I wanted. Yesterday I went out to lunch and got some errands done. I sold my car before I went on this trip in July and so I rented a car when I got home until I can find another Subaru Forester. Yesterday my wonderful neighbor offered me one of her cars to use so I got to take the rental back!

Working in the yard for a bit today gave me such a good feeling of being back home and then I made soup:

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More of a vegetable stew, it is a “clean out the refrigerator” special! Can’t wait to have some for dinner!

My friend Ruth Gillis and her daughter in law Cathy Gillis came up last weekend to visit. Cathy is a native Alaskan who lives in Anchorage with her husband John and 2 boys. She had just finished taking Riley, their oldest to school at the Culinary Institute of America in NY and came down to visit Ruth and John, Sr. in Fayetteville, NC.  Cathy and I don’t see each other often but when we do, we revel in it! She is a fiber guru who has a business called Wooly Workshop. Teaching others to work with fiber – spinning and weaving beautiful things is one of her passions. You can find her at We got out my “Little Peggy” spinning wheel and while the 3 of us talked non stop about all sorts of things she helped me “get going” again on spinning.  And so I have been spinning on my “girl”:

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She showed me how to ply the wool I was spinning so I would come out with a “weightier” yarn to knit with.  So I have been spinning and have almost finished the fiber bundle I started when she was here. I have plied some of it but needed a Knitty Knotty to wind it on.  Wooden ones can be a bit pricey but Cathy told me I could find instructions for making one out of PVC pipe on the internet. Yesterday at the local hardware, I bought the necessary supplies to make my knitty knotty for $5.48! And today with my trusty hacksaw, I produced this:

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Coming soon is a picture of the skein of wool wound on this lovely instrument! In the meanwhile, it has been a very satisfying Saturday.

Leaving Alaska


Spur and Redoubt volcanoes

September 11, 2017  Sixty-two days ago today we left the mountains of North Carolina on an adventure that not one of our group of four could anticipate. Being exceedingly nice to each other lasted through the first week. We said “please” and “thank you” and kept the car reasonably clean and neat. Somewhere along the line we settled into a “nesting pattern” in the car. Debbie and Fred were in in charge of navigation…Debbie in the front seat and Fred in the back seat. Pat and I rotated driving and sometimes I drove from the backseat which wasn’t too popular with Pat! Otherwise I nested in the backseat doing my little research projects and knitting. I knitted 2 washcloths, 1 hat and part of a sweater during the trip. Researching where to stay was a task we all took on from time to time. We made reservations and sent Fred in to close the deal. Fred is extremely good at getting deals!


We could not have made this trip without the support of the Life Savers Company. We went through 2 big bags of Life Savers (like you buy at Walmart) and some individual rolls. Our other passion was Mambas and Dollar Store has the best deal on them! Your life will not be changed by Mambas but if you are ever on a long trip, they may keep you from getting grumpy.  At one point we had probably no less than 2 dozen packages of Mambas in the car. Each package of Mambas has 24 individually wrapped pieces in it.  Between the little cellophane wrappers that Life Savers come in and the little papers that each Mamba is wrapped in, “please” and “thank you” had a better chance than “neat and clean”.


Aida, the saloon waitress! Papa coming down the steps 

In case you and yours are contemplating a two month trip with 3 of your closest friends, here is some advice and some reality: Contemplate flexibility and prepare for difficult moments; learn how to take deep breaths and let go of some expectations. But by all means GO, because the surprises of God’s grace, and the beauty of being in the moment will outweigh those moments when you just wish you’d stayed home. Lovely moments when you can’t imagine being anywhere else will abound.


Kenai Airport

September 12, 2017 Leaving Alaska today has been hard. Alaska and its wild beauty are part of that; leaving Jill, Jeremy and Aida adds considerable pain, and of course this is the end of our adventure. I do look forward to being home and seeing Bella and Pumpkin, and at the same time I will miss the adventure of traveling. After 2 months of getting up each morning and wondering what new sights will meet me, it may be hard to adjust. This trip has taught me some new skills in observing the beauty around me – using not just my eyes, but all my senses to appreciate my surroundings.


I am so grateful to my traveling companions for teaching me so much and putting up with my quirks. Yes, dear friends we all have quirks…sometime I will write a blog about that! I will continue to write at this blog spot. After all what is life but a journey. We can give that journey the space it needs to be appreciated or we can just live in a kind of unaware way. I hope to be as conscious about the rest of this life’s journey as I have been this journey. I’ll share that with you.


Back where we started 66 days before! Tired but happy.

September 14, 2017 Home now with some sleep to help me think better. Blair and Inza brought Bella to the house and they are staying a few days to help me get settled. There would not have been a trip without Blair and Inza taking care of Bella and my local cat sitter, Kathy Harrer, taking care of Pumpkin. Both Bella and Pumpkin are well and slept as close as they could get to me last night, Bella on the floor beside the bed and Pumpkin under my arm, purring away. Pat and Fred are home and resting, Debbie is back with her beloved, Betty, who picked us up yesterday at the airport.


Mt. Spur in the evening light

Lots of changes in my life while I was gone, but those can wait for another blog on another day.

Homer and The Spit


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The land in the middle of the photo is The Spit – we stayed at the end of it!

Narrowing down to the last week of our wandering adventure, we travelled once again, this time heading south down the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is a 60’s sort of town with lots of character, hotels and restaurants. Eating at the Cosmic Kitchen was our first experience in Homer. It was wonderful food, and definitely a local favorite! Pat, Fred, Debbie and their family have visited Homer many times, so this was an informed choice!

Just south of Homer is the 4.5 mile spit of land known simply as “The Spit”. At the end of this curved spit is Land’s End, a hotel which also has condos to rent. Pat and Fred, Jill and Aida, Debbie and I stayed in one of the condos with windows facing out onto Cook’s Bay where it enters into the larger waters of the Kachemak Bay. Across from our home at the end of The Spit were the snowy, glacier riddled Kenai Mountains which come down the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula curving slightly to form the Bay around Homer. Behind those mountains lies the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean. Homer and The Spit are ringed with mountains including the volcanos of the Aleutians and Alaska range on the western side of Cook’s Bay that I wrote about last time. The waters of this area vary in color from a pale teal green to a icy blue depending on the light. Amazingly beautiful, this area attracts artists, writers and poets who seek to capture the light, the water, the mountains and the animal life of this area.

Kenai Mountains and glaciers across the bay from our condo

Each day we watched the parade of fishing boats go out in the morning and returning in the evening. They were undoubtedly catching some halibut, which is a delicious dense, white fish.  One day a huge cruise ship came by our windows headed into Cook’s Bay; another day a barge coming from Cook’s Bay slipped around the end of the Peninsula and into the Gulf of Alaska. Otters dove for clams and floated on their backs in front of us showing no signs of shyness as we watched them.

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We gathered some of the beautiful rocks from Bishop’s Beach. Rocks smoothed by the tides they are speckled, red, green, grey, amber and the glittery black sandstone called “whacky rock”. Picking up more rocks than we could ever bring back, the joy of finding special ones never seemed to wane. We visited some of the shops in town seeing the beautiful art work of both Native and Anglo Alaskans. Beautifully carved ivories and local gems made into beautiful jewelry.

Left to right: Jill and Aida, Debbie Aida and Pat, Debbie and Aida

We played games with Aida and visited with each other, and watched some of the US Open. It was hard for me to take my eyes off of the surrounding beauty. Deep blue mountains streaked with snow and pale blue glaciers slipping between them as they ease into the teal colored waters of the sea; and with each shadow of a cloud or movement of the sun, the colors changed. Other than our Blue Ridge Mountains that surround us in Sparta, NC, this is the most beautiful place I have ever visited.

Leaving Homer on Friday, the weather finally cleared and we could see Mt. Augustine and Redoubt on the way back up the peninsula:

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Redoubt Volcano

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Augustine Volcano

And I have continued to work on the 12 days of Alaska song and this is one option:

12 glaciers melting

11 people fishing

10 Ravens raving

9 Otters frolicking

8 boats a’ leaving

7 Mosquitoes buzzing

6 Moose are eating

5 kinds of Salmon

4 volcanos

3 other fish

2 native flowers and

1 state bird…the Ptarmigan!


Go ahead you know you want to sing it!

Sea, Lakes and Rivers

September 6, 2017 001The North Road – Kenai Peninsula

Being in this land of lakes, rivers, seas and mountains means that time outdoors is spent in one of those venues. Walking on the beach watching otters floating on their backs and seeing snow covered mountains in the background; then taking time to look for moose or caribou around the lakes and marshes – all of this is a part of amazing Alaska!  Driving south along the Kenai Peninsula today we watched as the waters of the Cook Inlet grew wider. The confluence of the Kenai River with the water of Cook Inlet is just one of the places where ice blue glacial river water swells the Inlet. The Knik Arm and Kasilof River add glacial water from Denali and the Kenai Mountains to the Inlet which flows into the Gulf of Alaska at Homer where it is around 12 miles wide  Two thirds of Alaska’s population surround the Cook Inlet which is 180 miles long from Anchorage to Homer. Most people live in the Anchorage area and in communities along the Kenai Peninsula rather than the more remote west side of the Inlet.


The Cook Inlet is named for Captain James Cook who visited and explored the Inlet in 1778 as a part of the search for the Northwest Passage. Two parties searched the Inlet at different times both thinking that the Knik Arm might lead to the Northwest Passage. When the second party found that the Knik was only a river they too had to turn around and sail out. The upper part of the Inlet around Anchorage was appropriately named Turnagain Arm for these attempts. The early explorers of the inlet were the Dena’ina, the first people of Alaska. In the 18th century Russian fur traders settled in regions along the inlet. In Ninilchik today we stopped to see the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord built in 1901. Its picturesque setting on a high bluff above the Inlet with the original site of the old village  below connected by steep paths along the bluff seemed surreal in this Alaskan landscape. The cemetery was distinctive with white Orthodox crosses dotted along overgrown graves; flowers growing among the weeds like distant memories trying to surface.

Ninilchik – Russian Orthodox Church and old village

In Homer we are staying on The Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile long piece of land that juts out into the Kachemak Bay. Land’s End is the name of the place we are staying, an apt name for this little bit of land surrounded by water. Ferries, barges, fishing boats, water taxies, and even a cruise ship have entertained along with the sea otters on this rainy afternoon.

The Cook Inlet contains large oil and gas deposits including several off shore fields. Platforms dot the inlet as well as oil and gas pipelines running under and around the inlet. Most of these gas lines go to Kenai where there is a large LNG plant and to Anchorage where it is used domestically. These “platforms” are “reality checks” amid the enormous beauty of the Alaskan landscape.

Oil Rig – Mt. Illamna 

Today we saw three of the four volcanoes on the more remote western side of the Cook Inlet: Spurr Mountain at 11,070 feet, Redoubt Mountain at 10,197 feet and Illamna Mountain at 10,016 feet. Sun was shining directly on Spurr this morning when we took a drive down to the beach at Nikiski to see the oil platform. Then as we started to Homer the sun came out over Redoubt for just a few minutes and finally over Illamna which stayed visible until we got into the rain further south.

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Devil’s Club – DO NOT TOUCH – Very Prickly

Yesterday I came up with a few little things to remember to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas. I don’t have 12 things (yet) but I do have 5 days worth.  So here goes: 5 Kinds of Salmon: which you can remember by looking at the fingers of your hand. The thumb is Chum or Dog Salmon, the pointer finger is Sockeye or Red Salmon, the next finger – the tallest is King or Chinook Salmon, the ring finger is Silver or Coho Salmon and the little finger is Pink or Humpy Salmon: 5 kinds of Salmon! 4 Volcanoes: Spurr, Redoubt, Illamna, and Augustine. 3 Other Fish: Halibut, Rockfish and Trout. 2 Native Flowers: Forget-me-not (State Flower) and Fireweed; and 1 State Bird: The Ptarmigan.


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Describing Alaska is not easy. Fred and Pat, and Debbie have all been here many times to visit Jill, Jeremy and Aida. I am a “first timer” to this wild and wonderful land. It must be easier to put all of this vast expanse of beauty and wildness in perspective after visiting several times. But my traveling companions seem to be as “speechless” as I am when it comes to describing Alaska’s features. Seeing so much of the “lower 48” on the way here has helped to make my Alaskan experience less startling. Perhaps it’s the long journey that makes this feel a bit like visiting a different country! Anchorage was so familiar: a city with all the same stores, road construction and traffic that we have at home. In our travels outside of Anchorage I have seen the marshes, tundra and snowy wonder of Alaska’s “wild side”. The lush green forests so thick and dark standing by water so blue from the glaciers that it looks like pale tinted ice; huge mountains growing out of the sea; evergreens covering their bases changing to a lighter green vegetation halfway up before giving in to the black volcanic rock. This Alaska along with the ever present snow covered mountains is the physical picture I will remember.


Alaska is more than physical beauty; the people that inhabit this state come in an abundant variety as well. They are adventurers from the “lower 48” who have come here to find work, solitude, freedom and adventure; and those, like Jill, who have come to serve our “first people”.  Talking to people who have migrated here from other places tells me that Alaskans feel a kind of “kinship” with each other. Neighbors become family and as the year progresses into dark and cold days and the importance of these relationships becomes essential for existence. In the spring and summer everyone lives outdoors, planting flowers, catching fish, hunting and enjoying community activities.


Just as people came to Alaska to mine the gold found here; they also eventually came to mine the “black gold”. The discovery of the Swanson River Oil Field on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in 1957 is believed by many to be a key factor in the establishment of Alaskan statehood. Vast oil and natural gas resources both in “on shore” and “off shore” drilling stand alongside the beauty and the poverty found in Alaska. A yearly allowance to residents from the oil companies does little to resolve the poverty found among the native populations. Shipping costs for food and basic goods, added to their prices, makes the cost of living here high creating another burden. This is the vast “other side” of Alaska – the poverty and pain that is situated next to the wealth accumulated from oil and natural resources.

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Veronica’s where we had lunch – built in 1918

The Native population of Alaska is, as I have written before, a huge collection of Nations, Tribes and Clans spread across this state that is 5 times bigger than Texas. Yesterday we went to the Kenai Visitor’s Center and Museum. When the Russians came to the Kenai Peninsula in the late 18th century they encountered the Kenai Indians. They “Russianized” their tribal name to Kenaitze (Ke – night – ze). In 1971 the Kenaitze were recognized as a sovereign Indian nation. Over the years the Kenaitze have worked to understand their unique identity as Dena’ina (De – nina), first people of Alaska. There are 5 different dialects in their language, which is spoken with interspersed “ch” sounds, somewhat like the tongue clicks of some African dialects. Sixteen hundred Kenaitze live on the Kenai Peninsula. Seeking to understand more about their heritage and language, they believe that their ancestors speak to them, encouraging them in this work. Teaching the Kenaitze language to their children is a priority for the members of the tribe as they assure them that being an “Indian” is no longer a bad thing. “The best thing we tell people is that we are still here.”

The influence of the Russians who came here is clearly seen in the Russian Orthodox Church built in 1894. The Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church stands close to the bluff where the waters of the Cook Inlet come ashore. Hoping to see the icons in the Church we had lunch across the road where and learned that the Church is closed for 2 weeks. Veronica’s, where we had lunch is in the Oskolkof / Dolchok House built in 1918; it is built from hand hewn logs and illustrates the buildings of the early community of Kenai

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Saw my second moose yesterday when a young (2 year old) female walked out of the lake in front of our cabin and strolled along the shore for about 30 minutes or so!

Kenai Peninsula


The train trip from Denali to Anchorage was uneventful. Most of the jokes our train guide told we had already heard on the trip to Denali! We were still feeling the joy of our day with “the mountain” so we were able to enjoy the ride. Arriving in Anchorage in the late afternoon we started our trip to Seward. Stopping in Girdwood we had a healthy dinner at Subway and then went to a favorite nearby shop for some Dreyer’s ice cream. So here’s the line-up of flavors for this stop: 1 waffle cone with Glacier; 1 dish of chocolate, a dish with Glacier and Alaskan Blueberry, a dish with Black Cherry and Glacier, a dish with Alaskan Wildberry and Huckleberry, and a dish with Alaskan Wildberry and Chocolate. So those of you who know us can guess who had what! Remember, Pat and Fred’s daughter Jill and her 4 (almost 5) year old daughter Aida were part of the group.

Our tummy’s were full and happy and then we headed to Seward. Jill pulled her car off the road as we started onto the Kenai Peninsula and Pat pulled off behind her, I thought we had another car issue. It seems that there is a tradition for those traveling onto the peninsula for the first time. So I was escorted up to the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign for a picture. Even though it was cloudy and raining, the evening light was just enough to see some of the beauty of the amazing Kenai Mountains. Around Moose Pass the light faded to dark with a drizzle of rain. About 9:30 pm we drove into Seward and to the house where we were staying. We slept well, in spite of the gusty winds occasionally driving rain into our windows. Even though we have had quite a few rainy days, each one seems to bring a treasure. We saw a beautiful rainbow as we drove along Turnagain Bay:

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Magical sunlight pouring out of the clouds in Seward made a journey across the bay toward our house on the hill.

Down the hill from our house was St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. On the National Register of Historic Places, St. Peter’s was built in 1904. A Dutch artist Jan Van Emple painted a scene of the resurrection on the reredos (wall behind the altar) in the 1920’s. A picture of that painting is here. 

This painting of the resurrection is remarkable because it is set against the Seward Bay and includes both Anglo and Native American adults and children. I wish I knew more about the artist and the painting.

Hoping the church was unlocked so we could see the painting we stopped there on our way out of town. A sign announcing the time of Sunday services was outside, but we were unable to get inside.

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St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Seward, AK

Driving across the Kenai Peninsula, seeing the dark beauty of the mountains formed by volcanic action against the brilliant greens of the trees, was a journey I will never forget. The name Kenai in Athabascan means “flat land”. Once you leave the steep mountains of the central peninsula the land flattens out as it approaches Cook inlet where the Kenai River empties into a rocky seashore. Conoco Phillips operates a huge liquified natural gas facility and pipeline in Kenai which exports its product via tankers. The facility has been in operation for 50 years.

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Marathon Mountain in Seward – every year a race up the mountain is held!

Staying in a cabin on Daniel’s Lake we are only a few miles from where Jill, Aida and Jeremy live. Yesterday all the girls went for a spa day at a favorite place nearby. Our masseuse, Dawn, gently worked out the travel kinks in each of us. The rest of us waited our turn playing games and resting.

Aida and Oma (Pat) playing “the penny game”

Our lovely day ended with my first “moose sighting”! A female and two young, but mostly grown calves were grazing near the highway. We carefully approached and Jill took these pictures.

Momma and the kids eating dinner!

Today the sun is out and who knows what adventures await us!


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Before sunrise this morning three women were seen slipping out of their rooms at the Princess Lodge in Denali, AK dressed in warm clothing. They made their way to the Lodge House to get coffee and then boarded a bus which took them to the Visitor’s Center just outside of Denali National Park. There, with 20 other warmly dressed people, they boarded another bus. Chris, a forty something male employee of the Park Service drove this bus headed in a generally west, but slightly northern direction.  Some 12 1/2 hours later they returned to the Princess Lodge with tales of having seen snow covered mountains several miles high! They bragged that they had seen bears and bear cubs, caribou shedding the velvet on their antlers, Dall sheep grazing on the mountains, a moose running down the road, and a fox. Who were these mysterious women? Whoever they are, they have become members of the 30% club! Only 30% of the people who take the trip they did actually get to see “The Highest One – Denali”. Most of the time the people who take this wildlife excursion only get to see the clouds that cover this mountain.


What a trip Debbie, Pat and I had today! Our trip was 184 miles out and back into the Denali wilderness; every time we thought it couldn’t get better, it did. We saw two 6 month old bear cubs chasing their mom through the berry bushes. Mom was in her hyperphagic cycle, eating as much as she can to store up for the winter months.  Wanting to nurse the babies were pestering their mom, who swatted at them telling them she wanted some space. On another hill we saw a momma bear sitting up and nursing her two cubs. All the bears we saw were Grizzlies. The day started with some grey clouds on the horizon, but soon the clouds were gone and we had a bright blue sky and sunshine to help with the chill. Yellow leaves and red ground cover were signs of fall; in another couple of weeks snow will start falling.

Fall Colors, Denali and surrounding mountains, Glacier bed

Denali first presented herself today with clouds over her midsection and her top peeking out. At Panorama Point the “great mountain” was fully visible in all her snowy glory. She remained beautifully present until we started back later in the day. Denali presented her shadowy self just briefly before veiling with clouds. I felt extremely honored to be able to see Denali on my first trip to the Alaska range. I understand the sacred significance of this mountain to the Athabascan first people. Denali reveals herself in a way that God’s grace comes into our lives: unexpectedly, with joy and holy surprise!

Denali 153

Late Afternoon Denali

We spent 2 hours of our wilderness experience with a US Forest Ranger named Doris. She joined us about 20 miles from the end of the trip in. Doris took us on a couple of short hikes as she talked about gold mining in the Denali National Park. In the 1905 gold rush miners found gold in the rivers and creeks near Denali. Gold miners came down the river from Fairbanks to make their fortune in gold. Only a few of those who came were able to find work in the mines and even fewer became rich from the gold. One of the miners who came and stayed was a woman named Fannie Quigley. Fannie came to work the streams for gold and met a man named Joe Quigley. They staked a claim and began to mine the gold and other minerals and metals from the area. Homesteading in a log cabin they existed on what they could mine, grow or hunt . At the site of their original log home they dug into the ground behind them to provide a cold space for storing food. They dug back below the surface to the permafrost layer which provided a “natural” freezer to store food in.. After Joe had a mining accident and came home from a long stay in the hospital, he and Fannie decided to get a divorce. They sold their mine and Joe went to Seattle where he married one of the nurses who took care of him after his accident. Fannie built her “retirement home” with her share of the sale of the mine. We were able to visit this little 3 room house where Fannie died at age 72. She laid down to rest after chopping the wood to cook her dinner.

Ranger Doris, Fannie Quigley’s retirement home, Fannie Quigley

We were able to clearly see the Muldrow Glacier  which comes down the south side of Denali. It forms the major approach for those who want to climb the 20,310 feet of Denali’s south peak. As it comes off the mountain it’s melt forms the McKinley River.


McKinley Express

Riding the train to Denali from Anchorage was a relaxing treat. Getting to see the carved, evergreen covered mountains from the relaxing luxury of a glass covered observation car is such fun. An eight hour train ride gave us an opportunity to visit with others riding the train. Many of them are from places other than Alaska, but some are Alaskans who are enjoying a vacation away from their usual routine. The young woman employed by the train company to narrate our ride was Alaskan and gave us lots of local “gossip” as we travelled along. On a rail bridge that is over 700 feet high I looked down at the Chulitna River underneath the bridge feeling a moment of” suspended anxiety as our guide assured us that the 100 year old bridge was safe!


Tomorrow we are headed back to Anchorage on the train and then to Seward, AK.