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A Summer in Alaska

As our 6-month Hawaii adventure in 2021 was coming to an end, we weren’t quite ready to return home to California. Travel was picking up and Oahu was getting increasingly busy with tourists again. Where else might we go that is remote, vast and awe-inspiring? Christian threw out the idea of going to Alaska. We looked at each other and knew that we had found our next destination: Alaska for the summer of 2021.

To make it happen, we applied the same formula as we did for Hawaii: find a local town with a charming vibe, a preschool for the kids and accommodation(s). Off I was researching and triangulating these three criteria. Three weeks later we had our plan in place: kick off our Alaska summer with a two-week RV trip followed by one month of remote work in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.

An epic RV trip … with highs and lows

Getting ready: Organizing an RV takeover and walkthrough during the kids’ nap time while the other adult is on work calls resulted in chaos and a somewhat irritable mama. I’m always overly optimistic when it comes to getting things done while having the kids in tow. Lesson learned πŸ™‚ We managed to get through a state of heightened emotions, fit in a big grocery shop and take off. The kids passed out as soon as we hit the road.

Endless, awe-inspiring nature and wildlife. Our trip stretched from Denali National Park to the Kenai Peninsula and after two-weeks on the road we really only scratched the surface of this phenomenal place. We are already dreaming of returning to the land of majestic mountains, ubiquitous glaciers, dense forests, glistering lakes, fast flowing rivers and endless roads.

A childhood dream come true. My home town of Zell am See, Austria, hosted sled dog races when the lake was frozen over in the winter. I remember the commotion and thrill of these events viscerally – breathing in the cold air, trying to make out fish under the frozen lake surface, and observing the barking sled dogs that were eagerly awaiting their departure. These memories came to mind as we were transported up to the Seward glacier by helicopter. We cuddled with baby huskies, experienced the joy of being pulled by the sled dogs and took turns steering the sled.

Lots and lots of rain: We knew that an ample amount of precipitation was part of the Alaskan experience and arrived with the right mindset and proper rain gear. While it was a bit cumbersome at times it wasn’t as bad as expected. Being able to explore no matter what the weather situation presented, allowed us to take advantage of the limited time we had.

A three-year old who boycotted sitting in her car seat. This one was unexpected. After our 2020 California RV trip we expected Lea to be an easygoing travel companion. It was a good reminder to never take anything for granted when it comes to kids. Each one of our family trips comes with its fair share of parenting challenges πŸ™‚ The solution was Christian sitting in the back with the kids and telling them stories. Turns out my husband is a creative and fun storyteller! The silver-lining: our family now has a tradition of telling made up stories. Plus, I got to drive the RV through the stunning Alaskan landscape (lucky me, I definitely got the long end of stick on that one). The downside: an exhausted Papa.

Our one-month stay in Homer – a rough and rugged, charming little town

Our hometown: Homer, the halibut fishing capital of the world, is a small city on Kachemak Bay, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. One of our go-to spots and my typical running route was the Homer Spit, a long strip of land with a harbor, shops, art galleries, seafood restaurants and beaches. Our afternoons (post work + school) were spent exploring the local beaches, hanging out at playgrounds or getting cozy in our home. We found charming restaurants for date nights (our favorite: a little oyster bar called The Broken Oar) and joined locals for a beer at spots like the Homer Brewing Co.

The local preschool. Not only were we lucky to get a spot for the kids at Girassol Learning Center for a month-long stay, but it turned out to be a fun and engaging environment for the kids with caring and loving teachers. Thank you Rosana for making us feel so welcome!

Mingling with brown bears. This experience makes the list of one of the most memorable experiences to date. With Sasquatch Alaska Adventure Co, we flew to the middle of the largest population concentration of brown bears in the world. Flying past glaciers and active and inactive volcanoes along the rugged coastlines of Katmai National Park and Lake Clark National Park, our small propeller plane landed on a strip of beach in the remote wilderness. We spent half a day in bear territory. The kids were excited but got tired pretty quickly from all the walking so Christian and I got a proper weight workout in (which is typically the case when we get these little ones out for hikes). At one point Lea got so tired that I took her back to the plane to rest – a decision that I soon regretted. I saw a brown bear slowly making its way towards the plane. It still seemed far away, though I was torn. Should I stay in the plane that stored our backpacks with snacks (likely not safe!) or walk back to the group that I saw 500 meters away in the distance (I didn’t have a bear spray on me)? I decided that a brown bear could easily smash a flimsy plane door and “walked” back to the group. Heart pumping, almost running, and not trying to freak out Lea, I made it back to the group. Turns out the guides had seen me from afar and didn’t deem the situation dangerous (which would have been helpful information to have πŸ˜‚). The flight back was as stunning as on the way there – incredible views of glaciers, volcanoes and the glistering water.

Deep-sea fishing. Being in the halibut capital of the world, we wouldn’t miss the opportunity to go deep-sea fishing. Christian and I spent the day with Bob’s Trophy Charter out at sea trying our best to catch some halibut. Turns out it’s not as easy at it looks. Reeling these big guys in is a true workout – and if you’re not able to pull it off by yourself you’re not allowed to keep the fish.

Cold plunges. Our last rental was right at the rough and rugged water of the Kachemak bay with views onto the snow capped mountains of the Kachemak State Park on the opposite side. The perfect spot to cold plunge. The water was (very) cold and reinvigorating – so was the setting.

Trying something new. I got inspired to explore some way to creatively express myself and signed up for guitar lessons at the local music shop, Moore Music. Four lessons in I could play Shallow (or what sounded like Shallow) and it made me quite happy πŸ™‚ While inspired to keep it up upon returning from Alaska, I failed to get a guitar so my limited skills quickly faded away. That said, it was absolutely worth the experience. It’s a mantra that I’m trying to embrace more generally in my life – being in the moment and enjoying an activity for its own sake without the need to reach a specific goal or threshold.

Alaska, thanks for hosting us. We will be back!