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100th post!!!

As I suspected, Google images not only offers one graphic to illustrate one’s 100th post, but indeed has an entire selection.  They are all here.

I liked this one the most, because it promotes Internet drinking, perhaps the best use of the Internet:

Saw a great presentation today about how to leverage social media for businesses… with the auxiliary result of a kick-in-the-butt to blog again.

In the meantime, check out this Tumblr blog – pretty much sums up the state of social media, to my mind at least:

Old People Writing on Chain Restaurants’ Facebook Pages

http://oldpeoplefacebook.tumblr.com/

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The solstice has passed.  Daylight is creeping back.  The new year is almost here.

Tunnel, Coastal Trail, Anchorage
Tunnel, Coastal Trail, Anchorage

2011 has been a pretty good and eventful year, with some big highs (graduating from planning school, moving to Alaska, meeting someone awesome) and a couple lows (mainly, driving my car into a ditch and expensively ruining it).

And reflecting on that (highs and lows) got me thinking about Alaska itself, a place with some pretty serious extremes:  extreme light in the summer and darkness in the winter, extreme cold, extreme distance within its borders and from everything else, and a variety of living things (human and otherwise) that adapt to live in these extremes.  I’m already adapting some coping strategies – vitamin D supplements and a “happy” light!

Things are pretty good right now, but I feel worn out by the end of this year.  Working a lot, eating a lot, missing the sun a lot, woefully behind on things I want to do and keep up with regularly (like this blog).  So call it a resolution if you like, I’d like to focus on achieving better balance in 2012.

Bike Rack, Coastal Trail, Anchorage

Bike Rack, Coastal Trail, Anchorage

At work, this means continuing to be mindful of time management among projects, and to make some time to keep up with those things which languish without good maintenance.  It also means taking some time off work regularly, planning a few awesome vacations (whether or not I actually leave the city limits).

Along with keeping some boundaries around work and play, I would like to balance my time with more hours for photography, blogging, and general creative activity.

It also means balancing “inside” and “outside” time – taking more walks, in all weather … well, most weather.  Maybe learning a new winter activity.

And finally, better balancing my relations with others.  Making sure to spend some quality time alone, more quality time with J, to make time for new friends, and of course to make time to keep up with old friends (even if they are far away).

In general, I’d like to be more intentional about my time and how I use it, so I can stop feeling like I’m constantly fighting against the feeling that it slips away. I’d also like to have a better balance in terms of health – eat better, move better, exist better.

I won’t elaborate on the many profound thoughts one can find on the subject of balance,  but here’s a nice one:

Order is not pressure which is imposed on society from without, but an equilibrium which is set up from within. ~ Adam Cummings

Happy New Year!

Night Falls on the Park Strip, Anchorage

Night Falls on the Park Strip, Anchorage

Well, I’ve done what’s somewhat difficult to do given that I live in Anchorage … I’ve travelled even further northward!  I’m in Fairbanks for the next couple days to attend the Alaska – American Planning Association conference.

Looking forward to learning more about planning in Alaska, about why there are so many gun and ammo shops around downtown, and what this place looks like in the daylight!  It was already dark when the plane landed around 5PM, and will probably stay that way for the foreseeable future.

I decided not to bring the camera on this trip (and can hopefully head up to Fairbanks again in warmer – or colder – weather!) but will post some thoughts after I return!

Happy November, everyone.  I’m hoping it’s a happy one.

It’s actually dark at night, the leaves are browning and yellowing on the trees, and the snow marches down the mountains toward the city.  Must be autumn.

September was a silent month on the blog but a busy month in real life – and October, though busy and starting stressful, will not be similarly silent.  Which is to say, I’ll post soon.

And November is conference month!  I’ll be in Fairbanks for the APA Alaska Chapter festivities, and heading to Baltimore to throw down some wholesale produce distribution knowledge with the Society of American City and Regional Planning Historians (SACRPH).  And in the meantime, frantically tying together the loose ends in my life to make way for some new threads.

Last Warm Days on the Coastal Trail

Last Warm Days on the Coastal Trail

Autumn Along the Seward Highway
Autumn Along the Seward Highway

 

Better bottle this early morning sunlight soon...

Better bottle this early morning sunlight soon...

Spoiler alert:  we made it!

Start:  Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, Canada

End:  Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Miles:  542 mi

TOTAL TRIP STATS:  3,700 miles / 6 days / avg. ~ 610 miles a day, or 12 hours of driving

Highlights:  Seeing a grizzly bear and two cubs on the road right before the U.S. border … we couldn’t stop because we were in a line of construction.  Those things sure are big!  Arriving back in the U.S. after five days!  Cheap(er) gas prices, with no need for litre and dollar-amount conversion.  Seeing not one but TWO brochures for Chicken, Alaska – and stopping to take a photo of the sign at the start of the highway up to it.  Meeting a couple from Washington and seeing a moose through binoculars.  Crazy wind and mountain views all along the highway to Anchorage.  Driving through a winding mountain pass, with a road sort of tacked onto the side like it would fall off with a little shake.  Stopping to observe a glacial stream (and learning a thing or two about property ownership in Alaska… turns out even on public roads, the land itself is owned to the centerline by the parcel owners…)  Knowing this was finally, finally the last day of driving – and being able to make the push through.  Returning to multi-lane highways between Palmer and Eagle River.  Driving into civilization.  Seeing the big “Anchorage Welcomes You” sign.  Stopping.  Sleeping.  Not driving anymore.

Lowlights:  Road quality, although it actually wasn’t as bad as we had heard.  The roads outside Whitehorse were almost worse, as (unlike most other times we’d driven) it had not been previously raining, so the dust kicked up in all its dusty glory.  Getting to our motel room at 1 AM after unloading all my stuff and realizing there was no way we would get a good night’s sleep on my empty floor.

I haven’t gotten the Google map to work properly since I posted it on Day 2, but in the interim they seem to have updated the route to include that last bit of bad road between Whitehorse and Beaver Creek – before, Google directions would not even register that segment as a passable road! (And to be fair, some of it was pretty bad… full dust and gravel and major potholes).  Here is a link to the overall route map, starting from the Chicago area (and not including the drive from Ithaca to Buffalo to Hilliard to Indiana).  And here is the total route from Ithaca, about 4,500 miles.

Construction dog outside Beaver Creek - it has a jacket!!!

Construction dog outside Beaver Creek - it has a jacket!!!

Welcome to Alaska (I should have gotten a better photo!)

Welcome to Alaska (I should have gotten a better photo!)

Finally, the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway

Finally, the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway

Boreal forest and mountains (Wrangell-Elias??)

Boreal forest and mountains (Wrangell-Elias??)

Chicken, Boundary, and Eagle

Chicken, Boundary, and Eagle

Mom observing the moose

Mom observing the moose

Pond along the Highway

Pond along the Highway

Serious mountain situation

Serious mountain situation

There's a glacier in there somewhere

There's a glacier in there somewhere

Brought some of the Alaska Highway with us.  Car needs a wash!

Brought some of the Alaska Highway with us. Car needs a wash!

Start:  Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada (10AM)

End:  Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, Canada (11PM)

Miles:  602

Our best (most efficient) driving day, I think.  We didn’t do as many miles, but that was due more to the road than us.  Part of what this day feel great was that we were actually on the Alaska Highway by mid-afternoon – felt so much closer to our goal, and really started to realize how far we had already come.  The trip felt a lot more manageable being two days, not six.  And when we reached our stopping point for the night, we knew that the next night would be in my apartment in Anchorage!  (but actually ended up being a motel because it was so late and I had no furniture or anything there).

Highlights:  Seeing a herd of 80-100 wood bison on the ride of the road.  Driving into the Yukon Territory and realizing we’d pay less for gas, and as it turns out would actually have roadside bathrooms (BC doesn’t).  Watson Lake, where we were practically overrun by RVs but saw two Northwest Territory license plates, as well as the Sign Post Forest (it’s worth a look – none of the sites I found about it, including the one above, give sufficient indication of how freaking big this thing is).  Stopping in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, with not one but TWO McDonalds.  Mount Logan (or was it Mount Hubbard?) in the distance.  Kluane Lake and its accompanying park – really, really amazing.  Looked like another world.  Taking a “glamor shot” of the Subaru (covered in highway dust) in front of the mountains and the lake.  The Talbot Arm Motel, where we stopped for the night, with its logo of a grizzled old gold miner or something.  Splitting a bottle of wine to celebrate (early) our trip – “house” wine, Sawmill Creek, from Ontario.

Lowlight:  As always, we put in a lot of hours that day, and didn’t get to stop as often as we might have.  Being in the car for 12 hours a day was also really beginning to wear on me, and probably Mom as well, as if my legs were just stitching themselves to the seats.  We tried to make semi-frequent stops on the side of the road to walk around, to look at the amazing scenery, and because there was really no one on the road, so it would be easy to just stop on the side of the road anyway.  More mosquitoes, though still not as bad as in Regina.

We had one more (extremely long) day of driving left, but we’re almost there!

Wood bison (including many babies!), BC

Wood bison (including many babies!), BC

Yukon Territory welcome sign, Yukon

Yukon Territory welcome sign, Yukon (also note major discrepancy in translation)

 

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Walking through Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

Walking through Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Northwest Territory plate, Watson Lake, Yukon

Northwest Territory plate, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway, Yukon

 

Mom at Mile 1000 (1610 km) of the Al-Can Highway

Mom at Mile 1000 (1610 km) of the Al-Can Highway

Coyote at rest stop, Yukon
Coyote at rest stop, Yukon

 

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

 

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

 

Subaru Glamor Shot, Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Subaru Glamor Shot, Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

PS – if you can to go to Kluane Lake, do it.  I would go back.

The next few posts (Days 4-6, and anything about Seward or Flattop) will be more retrospective, as they happened a couple weeks ago now.  I’m catching up to the end of the trip, then will be more “forward” thinking after that!

Start:  Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada (9AM)

End:  Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada (11PM)

Miles:  692

On Day 3 we stopped about 50 miles short of where we should have, in Whitecourt, a small town basically made of motels.  The Alaska Highway motel was not as desirable as I had hoped (that’s what I get for picking based on name alone) but we got on our way and saw what began to be the really awesome part of the drive.  Also of note:  it was still (twi)light around 10:30PM when we stopped at the motel, despite some clouds.  We were clearly pretty far north, and it didn’t really hit us until then.

This might have been my favorite day of the drive, overall – mostly for the evening ride from Fort Nelson to our ending point, the Northern Rockies Lodge along breathtaking Muncho Lake, a long and skinny blue lake stuck among some really tall mountains.  I wish I had gotten a photo of it at night (again, not fully dark out) but the morning ones will have to do.  Also, the Northern Rockies Lodge was basically like staying in that hotel in Twin Peaks – it was a big log cabin, with each of the rooms having log walls (if on exterior walls) and a huge great room/morning dining area with windows overlooking the lake.  NRL is owned by a (Swiss?) couple, and the husband is a bushpilot (flies those small sea planes etc) who will fly guests to lodges and remote places for day tours.  If I had the time and inclination, I would most definitely go back there – driving in and out of it was great.

Highlights:  Leaving Alberta finally, although we did get to see some more lovely prairies, the start of the northern woods with its short-ish dense evergreens.  Awesome little rest stop with birches and bear-proof trash containers.  Entering British Columbia and, shortly after, passing through Dawson Creek – MILE ZERO OF THE ALASKA HIGHWAY sign.  Going past a place called Wonowon.  The Fort Nelson hotel and its Tiki lounge/ballroom area.  The drive between Fort Nelson and Muncho Lake.  Really feeling like we’re in the far north.  SEEING MOOSE!!!  AND BLACK BEARS!!!  And one sheep.  Plugging my phone charger into a log (with an electrical outlet).  Muncho Lake, which has a stupid name but is just beautiful.

Lowlights:  Not listening to the Garmin (that somehow knew about a road closure that had just happened that week) and driving west anyway, only to hit an abrupt “Road Closed” sign with a mound of dirt that redirected us onto a gravel farm road and back the way we came.  Apparently, some washouts/flooding nearby.  Hitting a miles-long backup of construction around Taylor/Fort St. John where there was single-lane traffic to get across the end of a mountain pass and major bridge – no detours here, folks.  Paying about $6/gallon ($1.40/litre) because of BC towns’ remote location and high taxes.  Also, worrying about where to get gas and where we were going to stop – luckily, a woman at the front desk of the Fort Nelson Hotel was kind enough to call ahead to what ended up being a super awesome place to stay (see above).

The next day we headed into the Yukon, officially, and ended up with a similarly spectacular (but very different looking) lakeside view on Day 5.  More to come.  For now, some photos.

Nice Rest Stop, Alberta, Canada

Nice Rest Stop, Alberta, Canada

 

Black Bear, Alberta, Canada

Black Bear, Alberta, Canada

Mountains, British Columbia?

Mountains, 8PM, British Columbia?

Moose in the Mist, British Columbia (wish it wasn't so blurry!)

Moose in the Mist, British Columbia, 10PM (wish it wasn't so blurry!)

Mist and Trees and Mountains, 10PM, British Columbia

Mist and Trees and Mountains, 10PM, British Columbia

Northern Rockies Lodge (seaplane dock), Muncho Lake, British Columbia

Northern Rockies Lodge (seaplane dock), Muncho Lake, British Columbia

 

Upstairs hall, Northern Rockies Lodge

Upstairs hall, Northern Rockies Lodge

It’s already (past) bedtime, but I’ll post tomorrow.  For now, some fun stats from the trip:

Miles:  ~ 4,000 from Columbus, OH to Anchorage, AK (and more like 4,500 if you count the Ithaca leg)

Days:  7 (counting the Columbus – Chicago leg)

License Plates (Places):  49

Mom and I counted the states and provinces’ license plates we saw on the way, starting from Chicago.  We got 40 states in all, and 10 (of 13) provinces!

US STATES (in order we saw them)
In US:  IL, IN, WI, MI, NV, NY, OH, IA, MN, ND, ME, PA, OK, WY, TX, OR

AK – first saw on bridge at International Falls – Fort Frances!

In Canada (and Alaska):  FL, NM, NE, AZ, MT, MS, VA, ID, CO, NC, WA, CA, UT, MO, WV, GA, KY, SD, HI, TN, AR, NJ, VT
(Also saw several U.S. Government plates in Anchorage)

Did not see Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina

CANADIAN PROVINCES
MB (Manitoba), ON (Ontario), SK (Saskatchewan), BC (British Columbia), NB (New Brunswick), AB (Alberta), NS (Nova Scotia), QC (Quebec), YT (Yukon Territory), NT (Northwest Territory)

Did not see Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, or Prince Edward Island

Animals:  Mom has the sheet with the final counts, but we saw one or more of:  moose, grizzly bear, black bear, wood bison, domesticated bison, reindeer, mule deer, white-tailed deer, fox, coyote, Arctic hare, blackbird, raven, various other birds, ducks, trumpeter swan, mosquito (ugh), prairie dog, possibly otter, and one sheep.

Mountains:  Chugach range, Wrangell range, the ones in Kluane National Park, northern Rockies, (from far away) Mt. Hubbard, Mt. Logan (the tallest point in Canada), and the beginning of the Aleutian chain.  Probably others too – very lovely but after a while they all looked the same!

Glaciers:  Portage, Exit Glacier, and a third one I can’t remember the name of north of Anchorage.  Hiked up to Exit, not close enough to touch

Sarah Palin cardboard cutouts:  yes.  These exist.

More to come.

Drove Mom to the airport this evening (Ted Stevens Airport!) and drove back alone in the rain to the apartment.  Lonely at the moment, but the time had to come, and things will be okay.  It’s always weird when you’re really, finally in a new place and it’s up to you to take the next step.  Been there.

The rain clouds that rolled in this afternoon have at least made it like an actual night here!  Kinda nice to see the orange high-pressure sodium lights of city parking lots and streets again.  Probably won’t be quite as nice when that’s most of what you see in the winter.

Catching up on things with this computer, and doesn’t feel like 12:45 but I should get to bed.  Blogging will recommence for seriously this week – starting with Day 4 of our epic trip, and catching up to now.

So many photos to sort through.  Here is one.

Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway, Yukon

And here is another (of Anchorage)

Anchorage and Cook Inlet, 10:30PM, from Flattop Trail

Anchorage and Cook Inlet, 10:30PM, from Flattop Trail

Good night!

Greetings readers,

My mom and I arrived safely in Anchorage around midnight (while the sun was still at twilight stage) last night!  The last few days’ drive have been long but AMAZING, and I will be posting photos and summaries retrospectively in the next few days when I have Internet access hooked up.

Summary:  We drove through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory, saw 34 states and 9 provinces’ license plates, and saw the following animals (I have a count of totals elsewhere) – moose, wood bison, regular bison in a pasture, mule deer, arctic hare, coyote, grizzly bear (mama grizzly and two cubs!), black bear, ducks, swans, possibly a loon, a lot of ravens, and fifty billion mosquitoes (that is an accurate count).  We drove through mountain passes, boreal forest, past beautiful lakes with mountains rising right from the shore, and past rivers and glaciers.  We saw the tallest point in Canada (Mt. Logan) and went north of the 60th parallel.  We saw the roadsign pointing to Chicken, Alaska (too far out of our way, but I am TOTALLY going back).  And we took glamor shots of the Subaru in front of mountains, with the wheels covered in dust from the Alaska Highway.  Good times, 3700 miles.

Starting work on Monday!  Excited and overloaded at the same time!

Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park, Yukon

Herd of Wood Bison, British Columbia (before Watson Lake, YT)

Herd of Wood Bison, British Columbia (before Watson Lake, YT)