Milk Bath

I’ve been trying to step outside my comfort zone a bit more with my photography because, well simply because I love stepping outside of my comfort zone. In life it’s outside those finely drawn lines of comfortable that I truly feel like I’m living. Most of the photos I set out to take are the result of an adventure of sorts.

These photos however, are WAY outside the lines of my comfort. They’re artsy. Something I am not. They make me feel vulnerable, If it weren’t for a particular TED Talk by Bene Brown there’s a good chance these would stay locked in a file on the abyss of my Surface Pro.

I hope you can appreciate them. I’m even open to some constructive criticism, although, go easy on me, this was my first venture into something so exposed (and I’m not just talking about the skin)
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Portage Pass

While the tiny town of Whittier, Alaska is only 60ish miles from downtown Anchorage, it requires a paid pass through the longest highway tunnel in North America. The 2.5 mile tunnel is a one way tunnel and shares its time with the Alaska Railroad, meaning traffic only flows one way at a time and is occasionally paused for the train to use the space as well.

I’ve not spent much time in this town, only having really explored it once a few years ago, Brian & I set out with Kratos to complete a short hike through Portage Pass that we’d been hearing so much about.Portage Pass - 1Portage Pass - 2Portage Pass - 3Portage Pass - 4Portage Pass - 6Portage Pass - 8Portage Pass - 9Portage Pass - 10Portage Pass - 11Portage Pass - 12Portage Pass - 13Portage Pass - 14Portage Pass - 15Portage Pass - 16Portage Pass - 17Portage Pass - 18Portage Pass - 19
After having trekked (and down and up and down again) this short trail, I can’t believe we haven’t spent more time on it’s dirt pathway to heaven. Hopefully we can make a trip up here again after the snow has fallen for another unique view, although I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the lake completely freezes over and we can walk straight up to Portage Glacier before we depart Alaska.

Final Farewell

It’s been a revolving door of friends and family the past few years but now that Heather & Chris are safely on a plane headed back to the lower 48 I can [with great sadness] say I’ve said my final farewell to my Alaskan visitors.

Even though I’ve tried to remember, I can’t honestly tell you the last time I saw my cousin Heather. One of us was probably in high school – although with us being 4 years apart I’m not sure which one of us that was.

The weather seemed to hold out for the most part (a rarity this time of year in Alaska and something that seemed to be even more rare this summer in particular) and I think it’s safe to say they had a pretty good trip and got to experience a good chunk of Alaska. They slept in a different bed almost every night, traveled several hundred miles and still managed to squeeze in some quality time with Brian & I, not to mention an impromptu camping trip. We’ll be stopping in to visit ya’ll in PA soon enough! xoxo.

Dip Netting

According to my calculations I’ve been a transient in Alaska for exactly 3 years and 25 days. It’s always been a known fact that my time here was (most likely) going to be cut off at some point or another, so I’ve tried my best to experience Alaska to the best of my ability. Despite all my adventures here it was this weekend that I firmly believe I became a tried and true Alaskan after dip netting the Copper River. (Don’t worry Montana, you’ll always have this girls heart) To fish this river one usually employs a boat to avoid having to navigate the steep cliffs and raging current, but wanting a true Alaskan experience, we chose a different route.

Brian’s Army buddy Scott flew in to town to visit his brother who was stationed at JBER just two days before. Brian is not known to be the most outright adventurous person, there is one person – other than myself – who can talk him into crazy adventures, it’s Scott. So when I learned that Scott was coming into town I knew to expect an adventure and got excited for his arrival.

The four of us took off for the little town of Chitina (pronounced ChitΒ·na by Alaskans) where we parked our vehicles, loaded up our gear onto our backs and took off down an old mining trail for our destination. About 5 rough and tumble miles down river Scott took us down an even gnarlier path through the tree to the cliffs directly above the river. Here we set up shop for the night and got to fishing.
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The boys made quick work of it and by morning we were already packing up and heading back down the trail; except this time we have about 70 lbs of fresh salmon fillets to add to the weight on our backs.

We had strategically taken two vehicles so that the boys could return to Anchorage and I could set out to explore one of the few unexplored (to me) , drive-able sections of Alaska. I made a quick trek into Wrangell – St. Elias National Park as well as explored the town of Valdez.Β Dipnetting - 14Dipnetting - 15Dipnetting - 16Dipnetting - 18Dipnetting - 19IMG_9788

Mi Familia

It’s not what we have in life but who we have in our life that matters. For me, that means ample fur-babies, a marvelous group of friends, and a giant but closely knit family.

As soon as they heard I was getting married and moving to Alaska my parents booked a pair of seats on a plane. Their main objective was to get to know their new son-in-law better but unfortunately life has a funny way of changing the best laid plans and Brian was deployed to South Korea a month before their visit. They still came up and let me show them around my new state of residence but hoped to return another time. It took two years, but they recently returned and brought my Uncle Wally – someone whom I never thought I’d ever get on a plane, let alone to Alaska – with them!

I picked them up from the airport at the wee hours of the morning and drove them home in a light drizzle. Our midnight sun was shrouded in rain clouds as we drove across Anchorage. Brian was already sleeping soundly by the time we made it through the door. My guests were also exhausted from multiple plane rides and a long day of travel. After a quick tour of our humble abode everyone promptly retired to their rooms for the night. I let them sleep in their first day and we spent the entire day touring JBER & the rest of Anchorage. We took plenty of time to hit up all the local tourist hot spots downtown and eat some locally sourced reindeer sausage.
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Day two we were up early and on the move north for Denali National Park. On our way we stopped at Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, toured around Talkeetna, and took photos from the South Denali Viewpoint along the Parks Highway.MiFamilia - 1MiFamilia - 2MiFamiliaCellPhone -6MiFamilia - 3MiFamilia - 6MiFamilia - 4MiFamiliaCellPhone -8MiFamiliaCellPhone -7MiFamilia - 5MiFamiliaCellPhone -9MiFamiliaCellPhone -10MiFamiliaCellPhone -13MiFamiliaCellPhone -12MiFamiliaCellPhone -11MiFamilia - 7MiFamilia - 8MiFamilia - 9MiFamilia - 10MiFamilia - 11MiFamilia - 12MiFamilia - 13MiFamilia - 14MiFamilia - 15MiFamilia - 16MiFamilia - 17MiFamilia - 18MiFamilia - 21MiFamilia - 19MiFamilia - 20BootsMiFamilia - 24MiFamilia - 23MiFamilia - 22

It was at our destination for the night, Glitter Gulch, that my travel companions got a real taste of the Midnight Sun. While their trip was a few days before Summer solstice, the night was a clear one that provided little darkness for ample amounts of sleep. We stayed up far later than we should have eating food, walking the shops, and taking in the local scenery.MiFamilia - 26MiFamilia - 27MiFamilia - 28MiFamilia - 29
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Our party was up to catch a 6 am bus into Denali NP on the third day. We took the park bus only as far as Eilson Visitor Center where we snacked on a light lunch. I had plans to take my family on a short hike through the tundra on the way home, but both spots I had scouted out had families of grizzlies within sight of the road. After encountering the 2nd set of momma griz and twins, along with the impending food coma that was taking over everyone, I was outvoted to stay on the bus for the remainder of the trek home and skip the march through the tundra. On our way out of the park we encountered yet another set of twins, this one of the moose variety. We dead headed back for Anchorage for a short nights sleep; another adventure awaited us tomorrow.MiFamilia - 25MiFamilia - 31MiFamilia - 33MiFamilia - 34MiFamilia - 35MiFamilia - 36MiFamilia - 37MiFamilia - 38MiFamilia - 39MiFamilia - 40MiFamilia - 41MiFamilia - 42MiFamilia - 43MiFamilia - 44MiFamilia - 45MiFamilia - 56MiFamilia - 57MiFamilia - 58MiFamilia - 59

Day four was another (not quite as) early wake up call and a long day of driving. By 11 am we had trekked three miles south of Anchorage to the tiny seaside town of Seward. Here we parked the rental and boarded the Tanaina. We’d hardly left the harbor when we encountered a small pod of humpback whales bubble feeding. After making our way to a small private island for a prime rib buffet and rock skipping competition we headed back out to sea for more wildlife viewing.MiFamilia - 60MiFamilia - 61MiFamilia - 62MiFamilia - 63MiFamilia - 64MiFamilia - 65MiFamilia - 66MiFamilia - 67MiFamilia - 68MiFamilia - 69MiFamilia - 70MiFamilia - 71MiFamilia - 72

Just when we landed back in harbor and my family thought they were done moving for the night, I loaded them back into the rental and hauled them 3 hours south to Homer for the night, but not before driving them through a torrential downpour, hailstorm, a bit of snow and the start of a forest fire.MiFamilia - 73MiFamilia - 74

I dropped everyone off at the hotel in Homer before Dad, myself, and Brian drove north to Anchor River for the midnight start of king salmon fishing. Brian caught his limit, Dad caught but lost his king and I caught Dad. (j/k, he really caught himself, but made me pull the hook out of his hand anyways. *insert gagging noise here*)
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Our fifth day was spent touring the Homer spit, day drinking at the Salty Dawg Saloon, and eventually making our way back to Anchorage, but not before stopping at a few of my favorite places along the way.MiFamilia - 76MiFamilia - 78MiFamilia - 79MiFamilia - 80MiFamilia - 81MiFamilia - 82MiFamilia - 83MiFamilia - 85MiFamilia - 86

Finally, on day six I let my family sleep in. It was the last full day of their vacation, so they deserved at least one day of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t about to let them have it. While mom and dad bonded with Bucket and Kratos, Brian and I took Uncle Wally and Tina to Matanuska Glacier for one last adventure.
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It also happened to be Father’s Day. When we returned home I treated my family to a little Alaskan surf and turf of NY strip and fresh Alaskan king crabs. I’ve also got to give a shout out to my cousins for helping pull off this surprise for their dad (my uncle) to make it a great Father’s Day for him as well.
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Before dropping them back onto a plane their last day, we took Kratos to Cabela’s so they could see him at his favorite spot, the giant fish tanks. I’ve been telling my family about his love of fish for the last year and I don’t think any of them believed me until they saw it with their own eyes.
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All in all we spent nearly 30 hours in the rental vehicle totaling almost 1,500 miles, 8 hours on a bus through Denali, and 6 hours on a boat touring the Resurrection Bay. I can’t say I’ll be shocked if my uncle decides to never visit me again, but at least I can say I showed him most of what is important to me in Alaska and know he’ll never have another trip anywhere else in the world quite like this again. Xoxo.
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My friend Steve and I met back in college @ DelVal. We were both in the Zoo Science program and fancied lacrosse. Since then he’s gone on to an impressive career as a keeper with the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and has been known to pick up a camera from time to time to document the animals he works with and around. His photos, which you can check out HERE, are a frequent reminder of a life and passion I’ve left behind. Seriously, you should stop what you’re reading and go check them out. He does great work and I can promise you they aren’t even in the same league as the photos you’re about to scroll down and see. Go!

Feeling inspired by Steve’s work, I found myself wandering about the tiny campus of the Alaska ZooΒ this afternoon. It was one of those overcast days where the sky couldn’t decide if she wanted to pour down on you or let the sun shine forth, so it stayed in a constant limbo all day. For me, that is the perfect kind of day for viewing wildlife and keeping the hoards of mosquitoes at bay. A few of my favorite shots:

Thanks for the inspiration Steve. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Municipality of Anchorage Greenhouse

Recently, at a park very near our house, I discovered a greenhouse owned by the Municipality of Anchorage. It’s free to the public and open 7 days a week. While I am here in early June taking in the beauty of all the flora grown inside, I look forward to coming here as a refuge from the cold during winter as well. It will also be neat to see what plants are in bloom throughout different times of year here too.FlowerpokieRJPBotanicalGarden-1RJPBotanicalGarden-2RJPBotanicalGarden-3RJPBotanicalGarden-4RJPBotanicalGarden-5RJPBotanicalGarden-6RJPBotanicalGarden-7RJPBotanicalGarden-8