Our first full day of the land tour in Fairbanks, Alaska was via the paddleboat, Discovery. About a two hour trip up and down and around the Chena River provided shoreline views of life, the way it is now, and the way it was in the early years of the gold rush exploration in the Yukon territories. Gold mining, adventuring across untouched wilderness areas, homesteading, salmon fishing, and hunting caribou and moose were just a few of the reasons that brought thousands into these upper regions giving the state of Alaska its symbolic fame and iconic name, “The Last Frontier.” The town of Fairbanks now has about 100,000 inhabitants, second in size to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
The instructional guided tour on this pristine river allowed us a glimpse into the culture, history and habitation of native Alaskans, the Iditarod sled dog races, the wildlife, game and environment preserved along the banks of the river and coastal waters.
On the Chena River, as seen from the paddleboat, Discovery 1.
A group of caribou in protected preserve, along the Chena River.
An Iditarod sled dog team in training along the Chena River. The competing sled dog teams are a mix of Alaskan Husky, for their ability to withstand the extreme cold, and pull weight, and the Greyhound breed, for their speed. Bred together these dogs know two things well; to pull weight and run fast. Mushing is a word used in training and competing with these sled dog teams. Sled dog teams are not only used for the races, but also for a means of transportation to carry people in the bush country commuting to work, and also their children to school. During the dogs’ training in warmer weather they use ATVs (all terrain vehicles) to train them as is the case in this picture as they prepared the dogs to give a demonstration for us on the paddleboat during our excursion.
After a workout the dog sled team is let off their tethers to go cool off in the river.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
Looking down over Fairbanks, Alaska, July 13, 2016, Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson
What one can see beneath the wing and blades of a turboprop plane may be fleeting, a passing moment hurried by, and I did not want to miss it. This picture is out of focus, with no description or knowledge of what we were looking at, but it is the moment captured that counts. It’s as if time and motion slowed, and one sees things from a bird’s-eye view, even if a very high one. The unusual way propellers look as if slowing their speed while looking down from the plane window gave me just enough time to get this quick shot looking down onto Fairbanks, Alaska. We took this one hour flight to Fairbanks from Anchorage, Alaska on a De Havilland Dash 8-400 turboprop on July 13th.
There have not been many times when I have ridden on a turboprop plane, but this was one time when at least I had a camera to use for this picture. I had my Nikon stuffed away in a tote bag under the seat, but for some quick shots at something I wanted to capture, I used my Amazon Fire tablet camera, or my smart phone camera, both devices more handy and accessible at the time. Although there are editing options for both it is hard to focus on things when moving at high rates of speed. Of course this picture does not look like we flew at a high rate of speed when one can see what looks like the slowing of propeller blades that couldn’t keep up. It makes it look as if hardly moving at all. So, when I saw how this picture came out I thought it unique and worth sharing. It was day one of our recent trip and cruise to Alaska. I will share some of my favorite photos with descriptions and stories in the next several weeks, and my perspective on a very vast, wonderful place to visit with history that dates back to the beginning of its discovery and exploration, and its famous Denali Peak (formerly Mount McKinley, largest peak in the U.S.) the ice glaciers, caribou, Iditarod sled dog teams, gold rush, and much more, seen while on this journey.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
We were nineteen years old fifty years ago today (July 16) when we were married in Kansas City, Mo. We stood at the church altar exchanging our vows, pledging our love, and devotion to one another, feeling as if ready in some ways, yet somewhat apprehensive about what life might bring. Two weeks later, Wayne went to his appointment at his draft board to hear their decision.
It was 1966 and the draft was in effect for the Vietnam war in southeast Asia, which meant that all males, eighteen to twenty-five could be called up to serve. They all had to carry their draft cards with the status, age and identification current and listed, registered and ready. Those who refused to serve were arrested, or dodged service and ran off to Canada. Hundreds more protested in open street demonstrations and things became violent. If they were in college, or enrolled in one by the time they were drafted they were required to keep a GPA of 3.00 or better to be in an exempt status.
Our prayers, faith and an acceptance letter from the college where Wayne was enrolled that fall exempted him from serving, so it was California, “Ready or Not, Here We Come,” and we headed off to school and new jobs in Los Angeles.
Four years later in 1970 we headed back to Kansas City after our daughter’s birth and his graduation. Our second daughter was born before we moved out to Colorado, which was like coming back home for me. Though we met and married in Kansas City while living there neither of us were originally from Missouri. He was from Kentucky, and I, from Colorado.
Life during those fifty years threw us some curves; tough times that challenged our faith, and what seemed at times like ‘Mission Impossible’ assignments. But, we got through them, and grew stronger through the experience because we have a friend in Jesus, who’s always there, always forgives, and wipes away every heartache and tear. We learned to rise above difficult situations, not give up and overcome those obstacles, or mountains in our path in order to climb to this point in life, today. Whether we will make it beyond our fiftieth, God only knows, but we will be together, until death do us part, rich or poor. Our moments here on earth are temporary, fragile and unpredictable, but those with Him are eternal.
At the time of this posting Wayne and I will be in Alaska seeing some beautiful country and embarking on an Alaskan cruise enjoying this moment in our lives, celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. And when I return I will have photos and stories to share of our journey.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
Looking out over ‘Purple Mountains Majesty’ in the Colorado Rockies. This photo was taken during the very early hours of sunrise of the majestic Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. Photo credit: T. Wayne Johnson
Let the mountains rejoice,
let them cry out, Glory to the One
who set us upon
the earth with all like wondrous kind.
Lift up His name, let Glory reign,
and bless all who honor Him with voice,
and with their promised inheritance gain
their eternal place, like an eternal flame
that burns forever, always bright
and with the Father, all blessings claimed.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
Today is Independence Day in the U.S. If you are an American and have sung and know the words to the song, America the Beautiful, then you might remember the phrase that goes like this, “purple mountains majesties.” I have used this photo for today’s post to honor our national holiday. Happy birthday, America, and may it always be one that is the land of the free, and the brave, and above all, one that honors its creator, Father God. Happy 4th of July to all Americans, today. JEJ
“Look! There’s an ax. It’s just what we need,” my husband said. The long wood handled ax with its red steel blade was one of the featured sale items in the window of the hardware store on Elkhorn Ave., main street in Estes Park.
“Yes. It looks like a heavy-duty one, and a good buy.” I replied.
We bought the ax. We knew we would put it to good use on our newly purchased mountain property. There were a lot of trees to thin out, and we needed firewood.
When we got to The Stanley Hotel we grabbed up our bags and went to go check in. Then I remembered.
“Wait! We need to cover up the ax in the back of the car. It’s too exposed and someone will think…we don’t want someone calling the police on us.” I said.
I went back to the car, opened up the hatch back of our red Ford Escort Wagon and covered the ax with an old blanket.
This was the start to our weekend at The Stanley twenty-five years ago when we had a reservation to celebrate the weekend of our 25th wedding anniversary. We had a second floor balcony room that opened up to the veranda outside overlooking the magnificent Rockies encircling Estes Park. Beautiful and serene.
When we bought the ax we didn’t know that The Stanley Hotel was used for the inspiration of Stephen King’s horror story in his book, and movie, The Shining. Until we discovered all the copies of his book in the gift shop there, and vaguely remembered the story. The Stanley is also considered to be one of the most haunted hotels known. We didn’t know that either, or believed it. Until we heard sounds during the night like one banging pots and pans on old, creaky pipes. There was little sleep that night. Ghost story events are a regular form of entertainment at The Stanley.
The hotel sits atop a steep grade, in the mountains facing east, overlooking the town of Estes Park, Colorado. It is designated a national historic site, a mammoth four-story structure with the inside furnished in antique, heavy, ornate furniture in old world period pieces. It is located just six miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and remains still one of the most popular and expensive hotels in Colorado.
Our daughters wanted to grant us another ‘memorable’ night at The Stanley, this time for our 50th wedding anniversary we are celebrating this month. So, once again we were guests, in a king size suite, a gift from our girls, after having celebrated with friends and family at a surprise anniversary party. I guess our girls wanted to keep the tradition going, though it is not our wish to repeat it a third time in another twenty-five years, if we’re still around.
As popular and expensive as The Stanley hotel is we could not understand why there were no screens on the high windows up on the fourth floor in our room this time. They had been cut out. Literally. The room was beautifully furnished, but, the balcony off of that floor is completely inaccessible by doors so tightly secured one cannot use them to step out for some invigorating mountain air, or for any other needed escape. It was hot, and there was no air conditioning in the room, so we opened up the windows and just pulled the shears together, and hoped for a good night’s rest after a long drive up through RMNP.
Whether the hotel’s popularity dates back to its founding and opening in 1909, named for F.O. Stanley who came into town on his ‘Steamer,’ or is due to its long rich history of story lore and fame, it has hosted many a traveler and tourists, and then maybe those, who walk the dark hallways, and balconies, unseen.
For information and history related to The Stanley Hotel you can find it here: http://www.stanleyhotel.com/accommodations
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
Trail Ridge Road – Rocky Mountain National Park (June 2016)
The drive up Trail Ridge Road in RMNP is paved clear to the summit. The meandering, steep climb winds through forested thick stands of Ponderosa, Lodge Pole pine, Douglas fir, Juniper, and Spruce. Snowfalls, blizzards and drifts can make the drive treacherous any month of the year when a storm front moves in. I have been up on Trail Ridge Road in July in the middle of an unexpected snowstorm and blizzard that was not forecasted. The gates positioned at halfway and three-quarters way up are then closed to all traffic, except for snow plows.
About three thirds of the way up is the last major overlook with a paved path leading out away from the road about a quarter-mile to a viewing platform of loose rock, boulders, and tundra. The tree line is below the ridge here and one can look down and over to peaks stretching for miles beyond, into the horizon. The Alpine Visitors’ Center is located at the top of Trail Ridge Road at an elevation of 12,000+ feet. Longs Peak at 14,000+ ft. sits in the middle of the mountain range, viewable from this vantage point.
We parked, walked the path out to the viewing platform and waited for the sun to make its slow descent over the peaks. It was dusk and the chipmunks and marmots played and scampered about on the rocks and tundra beyond the overlook viewing platform. It was another hour before we could get these pictures at about 8:30 to 8:45 p.m. During that time we watched the clouds dissipate, form again, change and move. It is an amazing sight to see the way the clouds change in the process with colder misty ones forming below the viewing point. We took a number of pictures during our wait. These are only a few of our favorites.
For more information on Trail Ridge Road and Rocky Mountain National Park, you can find it here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_Ridge_Road
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
When we were walking the trail one day with our dog I spotted these little geese families. We watched them first trot along in the high grass, across our path to the lake with all the babies’ in tow, their little heads barely seen above the grass. and then they quickly hurried over to the water and jumped in. Between the larger geese, leading and bringing up the rear the babies swam between. By the middle of spring there is a lot of new life and babies born to birds and game of all kinds. It was a touching sight to watch them, and I was so glad I had my camera. There were also little duck families that we saw on another day when I did not have my camera, so I have begun to take it along more regularly now when we walk so I don’t miss shots like this. As you can see, I have used the same photo for my blog header image as well.
While watching the geese and ducks I thought about the way parents of any species will fiercely protect and watch over their young, lead, and direct them through their young life, so they know how to be watchful of prey, to protect themselves when grown.
It is also the way our heavenly father watches over us with a much greater sense of protectiveness and direction, hoping that we will follow after Him, his leading, and know how to live in a way that assures us a safe, trusting pathway in life. In Proverbs 13:1 of the Old Testament bible, it says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction.” Male or female, we all need that kind of leading which gives us the tools and instruction to live our lives in safety and harmony with others.
I was very fortunate to have an earthly father who led by example and taught us how to apply those biblical principles to our own life. But, it is my heavenly father who gives me eternal life, and the best of everything I can ever hope for, or expect. It is the Father’s way.
If you are a father, I wish you a Happy Father’s day, and the blessings and peace that only the Heavenly Father can give.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)