My beautiful mother passed away on October 10, 2019. She had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks with pneumonia and tragically she was too weak to fight it. We did get her home with the whole family including Dave’s sons Adam and Carl before she passed in peace. She was 91 years old.
Mom was born in rural Pennsylvania- it says Dunbar Township on her birth certificate – on April 7, 1928. She was the second youngest of 12 children born to Mary and John Kovac. Her parents immigrated some years earlier from somewhere in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. This region encompassed Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and the western part of Ukraine. My nephew Adam found this entry on Rusyn Americans that might help explain where they came from – we never knew exactly. Her mother died in childbirth when Mom was an infant and she never knew her father.
The story I heard recently was that when the Mother died the Father took off leaving the older children to fend for the younger. They were nearly separated but somehow the older sisters kept the family together. Mom lived with her older sister Mary when she got older helping her take care of her 2 nieces Edwina and Sandra and nephew Pete. We were very close to Mary, her husband (Uncle) Ed and our three cousins growing up. Apparently she moved for a while in her high school years to be at a better school but after graduation came back to live with Mary and Ed again. Mom worked in the different mining towns Uncle Ed worked at. I know she worked for a while at a general store in one of the towns and handled all the mail.
She had one serious boy friend during this period that I know of – a sailor named Murphy. I asked her once why she did not marry Murphy and she told me that she didn’t think he could provide for her in the manner she was looking for. Lucky me I guess! Mom was a quite a catch in my estimation!
Mom met Dad when Dad’s father – a mining engineer working for my uncle Ed – was invited with my father to watch a World Series broadcast on Uncle Ed’s new-fangled TV! I believe Dad was working for Goodyear in Ohio after separating from the Air Force. He would come home to visit his parents during that time. They were married in Grant Town on July 31, 1954.
After Mom and Dad were married she moved for a brief period of time to Dayton, Ohio where my Dad was working for Goodyear Aerospace on the early aspects of the space program. Shortly after they moved to Alamogordo New Mexico where I was born.
Dad switched jobs and started working on the Atlas rocket program with General Dynamics. They moved to San Diego for a short period of time where Rick was born before moving to Cocoa Beach in early 1957. Our family was part of the first wave of engineers and scientists to support the fledglings space program.
Mom took an interest early on in gardening. She was a member of the Garden Club – I remember going to the shows where she displayed her arrangements.
She loved being outside working hard in the Florida heat to tend her gardens around our house. She was a Cub Scout leader when we were younger. She enjoyed sailing with the family. However, when Dad learned to fly she was less enthusiastic about that! She was the best Mom you could hope for – always encouraging us to do new and different things and always being there when you needed her.
When we were growing up we would vacation most summers in Virginia with my Grandparents and in West Virginia with Aunt Mary and Uncle Ed. They had a farm in the mountains that we enjoyed visiting and meeting many of Mom’s many relatives. My Mom’s family now has hundreds of second and third cousins!
Mom grew up in Hollywood’s Golden era and I believe she dreamed of being a movie star. He favorite movie stars were Barbara Stanwick and Tyrone Powers. She was fascinated with stardom and was an avid fan of celebrity talk shows in the 60s and 70s.
They moved for a short period of time to the Los Angeles area in 1975 – the same time I went to college in nearby San Luis Obispo. Brother Dave was still in high school and was with them. I enjoyed going home on breaks and visiting them there. After they moved back they lived for more than a decade in a waterfront house near the golf course. When Dad retired in the early 1990s they moved back to the original family house which they had been renting.
After we left the house Mom and Dad started traveling. They made several trips to the Pacific Northwest when I lived there in the 1980s. They made a number of trips to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s and visited me twice when I lived in Germany in the late 1980s. During their second trip they traveled to Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit a Catholic site. They also traveled closer to home visiting the Canadian Maritimes on the East Coast and and a cruise to Alaska.
Slideshow of Mom & Dad’s Travels
Visit when I lived in Germany
Visit when I lived in Germany
Rhine River Germany
Copenhagen Denmark 1987
Visit to Germany 1989
Savannah, GA 2002
Savannah, GA 2002
Vancouver, British Columbia at World's Fair in 1986
Vancouver, British Columbia at World's Fair in 1986
Yellowstone Falls 1986.
Yellowstone Falls 1986.
Copenhagen Denmark 1987
Rotenberg Germany 1986
Rotenberg Germany 1986
Notre Dam - Paris, 1980s
Notre Dam - Paris, 1980's?
Cologne Germany 1987
Cologne Germany 1987
Avala Spain 1987
Avala Spain 1987
Germany in the late 80s when I lived there.
Taken in Germany during my stay there in the late 1980s.
Rhine Falls in Switzerland, 1989
Rhine Falls in Switzerland, 1989.
Mom kissing the Blaney Stone
Visit when I lived in Atlanta
In the late 80s and throughout the 90s Mom celebrated the birth of two grandsons Adam and Carl and Rick’s marriage to Myhra in 1997. We did a lot of things together as a family.
Mom’s extended family is very large. All but the two older sisters married and had at least 3 children if not more. Her sister Barbara passed when her children were young and the oldest sister Ann took care of her two children. Her older brother Michael also had a very large family. She kept up with them over the years and the house was full of pictures of relatives I had never met.
Mom was raised in the Catholic Church but stopped going when we were very young. She starting attending the church again in the mid-1980s. After she started back it became the center of her life until her death. She spent a lot of time with her church friends and was very active in dozens of church activities.
Dad passed in 2002 and Mom lived, with brother Rick’s help, in Cocoa Beach until 2014. In 2004 her house was severely damaged in a hurricane. Rick worked to rebuild as she spent time up north with her relatives. She spent all of her free time at Church or with various church friends. A woman named Claire Nicholson who was also very active in the church became very good friends with Mom.
In 2014 Mom suffered a serious fall and we decided it was best for her to move to Panama City where brother Dave could help her care for herself. She resisted the idea of a assisted living facility and successfully stayed in her house there until her passing. The past couple of years she had several women that helped her including Beth with whom she became very close to. I moved back to Cocoa Beach around the same time and visited Mom 2 or 3 times a year while she was there. I am grateful for those last years we had together.
In August my youngest nephew Carl got married in Ormond Beach Florida and Mom was able to attend. She looked beautiful and was able to attend the ceremony and reception. It turned out to be the last time the whole family was together – including Carl’s wife Kari’s family too! We were very, very grateful for that – a true gift.
Her funeral mass was attended by dozens of her church friends and the family including cousin Sandra. Her long time friend Clare was there and with the Franciscans said a special prayer for her. Her favorite choir director Phil played beautiful music during the service. It was a special moment for all. She rests in peace at Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Palm Bay Florida – just several miles south of Cocoa Beach.
Rest in peace Mom – thanks you for giving me life with Dad – thank you for always caring and the gifts you gave me. I will always love you and keep you in my thoughts along with Dad. You and Dad were the best part of me – I miss you both.
I retired last year – and what a year it was. It seemed like no sooner than I made the decision that it was going to her a very busy year indeed!
Lark Tongue’s in Aspic
The first thing I did was fulfill a lifelong dream of finally owning my own boat. I had been having a lot of fun with my kayak Serenity – but since my childhood I always wanted to have a power boat. I was never a priority before but I had dreams of spending my sunset years boating.
I named the boat after the seminal 1973 album of the same name by favorite band King Crimson. Somehow seemed to fit the idea of something I really didn’t need but wanted anyway. Or something like that 😎. We got out a lot in 2018 exploring as far north as Mosquito Lagoon and south as Sebastian. Our favorite thing to do is go out in the ocean from Port Canaveral for a swim!
I also added a new vehicle to the stable so I can pull the boat around and put it in the water. I picked up a sweet red Ford Ranger special EDGE edition with a step-side bed. It is a 2003 with low miles on it. It pulls the boat fine for Florida highways!
Steamboat and Fort Collins
I went to my favorite ski area Steamboat Springs in late February and drove to Fort Collins afterwards for a reunion with my old colleagues from Hewlett-Packard.
As usual these days I was really worried about the lack of snow. However, no sooner did I get there and the heavens opened up with dozens of inches of snow! I ended up skiing for all four days and seriously pinched a nerve in my back. But what fun I had!
One evening I made the trek to my favorite hot springs – Strawberry Park. It had been a couple of years since I was there last and the first time I had been there in many years when it was still day light. I was surprised at how much it had changed since I first started visiting there nearly 30 years ago!
After doing as much damage as I dared I limped my way over to Fort Collins for a long-awaited reunions with old friends. I stayed with Barry & Diane whom I had known since the mid-1980’s in Lake Stevens (Seattle). I saw all my old friends including Dan & Maggie Matheson whom I got to know very well in the early 1990s when Dan and I did many drive trips.
Barry hosted a get together one night and I met many old colleagues from Hewlett Packard when I lived in Fort Collins. Most I had not seen since I left the area in 1995. Many of the folks went back to my early days with HP in Lake Stevens. Barry and Diane were in Germany when I was there. All of us worked together at some point during my six years in Fort Collins.
I decided that I was going to return to Colorado in the Fall – driving this time – and visit all of my favorite mountain spots at the peak color season of September.
Jake and I left the beginning of September and spent a week with my Mom and Brother Dave in Panama City. From there we did 2 twelve+ hour days of driving to Fort Collins. I stayed there with good friends Barry and Diane for two weeks – working some of the days and then taking 6 days off to see the mountains. I ended up putting 5K miles on the truck. It drove well. The drive home was three 12+ hour days – ugh!
Independence Pass & Maroon Bells
Our first trip was to Aspen. Twenty-four years ago I went to the Maroon Bells outside Aspen the Fall before I moved back east. I always wanted to go back.
I started from the east – south of Breckenridge and went over Independence Pass. The drive was simply spectacular. Aspen was crowed beyond belief. Eventually I made my way to the Aspen Highlands ski area where you catch the shuttle to the parking area. The ride was miserable. The views – however – were still fabulous!
Another trip I never made when I lived in Colorado was Fall River road in the north side on the Park. This is a dirt road and gets pretty rough but nothing my truck couldn’t handle. The drive was very nice and the views once at the top on Trail Ridge Road were fabulous. The Park was absolutely jammed with people – it was unbelievable how crowded it was everywhere. The weather was postcard perfect.
My mast trip was back over to Steamboat to see what I looked like in the summertime. Bottom line is that it is quickly becoming very expensive but still has it’s charm when you get into the old parts of the town and area. The resort itself feels like a different place now with a bunch of new construction everywhere. Not as much charm there.
We did enjoy some time exploring the Rabbit Ear pass are between Fort Collins and Steamboat and the drive on the Poudre Canyon was very nice.
Many thanks again to my good friends Barry and Diane for letting me crash at their place for nearly two weeks! Barry and I got the opportunity to play together some and spend a lot of time talking about music and the glory days of Hewlett-Packard and living in Germany.
I drove home and shortly after that this happened:
After two years of near misses 2018 was a quiet one here for hurricanes. Unfortunately my brother Dave and Mom were not so lucky. If fact – of all the hurricanes our family has been through this was the worst. Dave’s house was damaged beyond repair. My Moms faired much better.
However, it was damaged badly and Panama City was seriously damaged. So Mom stayed with me in Cocoa Beach for about two months. It was hard in my little house with my job keeping me very busy – but the time flew past and then this happened.
On December 21, 2018 at 4:00PM I logged off my IBM account.
Thus ends a career started over 40 years ago when I started my first job as a Research Assistant at the University of Washington. From there to Boeing for about 4 years testing aircraft. I made the switch to high-tech in 1984 and worked for Hewlett-Packard for about 11 years. I lived in Germany working for HP and saw the world! Then my chance to retire at 50 as I sought my fortune with the 3D/Eye-VDS-Alventive – over 5 years in start-up mode. A short stint at small public company iManage. I then retooled at went back into product development as a Product Designer for 5 years at Autodesk before another retooling and finishing my career at IBM for nearly 9 years as a User Experience Designer and web-dude extraordinary.
Reflecting back I can’t say I enjoyed it all but I enjoyed most of it and that’s what matters. In the early years the opportunity to experience so much – which worked until it got tiring. I was able to significantly reinvent myself late in my career – which I am proud of mostly because I really enjoyed my last years back in the heart of design. I was able to discover what I am really passionate about – creativity. Not everyone gets that chance.
For my retirement celebration I went with long-friend Laura Zweigbaum on a cruise to Alaska. We set out from Vancouver, British Columbia on the Norwegian Jewel for 7 nights at sea followed by a 4 night land excursion.
We left Vancouver late in the day – the weather was very rainy and a bit on the dreary side. The next day was sent at sea crossing Queen Charlotte Sound before making our way into the inside passage and our first stop in Ketchikan. While overcast, it was not very rainy and our hopes improved for better weather for our first port.
Ketchikan is a harbor town on Reviillagigedo Inland – it can only be reached by air or water as there are no bridges to the mainland. The area is in a rain forrest that gets over 150 inches of rain a year with a record of just over 200 inches. They count on all this rain it seems and after 5 days with no rain they officially declare a drought and their water supplies start drying up!
We spent time walking around downtown and had two excursions.
The first was a tour to nearby Saxman Village. In the late 1800s, Tlingits from the old villages of Cape Fox and Tongass searched out the Saxman site as a place where they could build a school and a church. The site (just one square mile) was incorporated in 1929 and has a population of just over 400 today, mostly Native Alaskans.
The tour included a visit to their lodge decorated with totem carvings where the villagers performed some traditional dances and we learned about their people and history; viewing and learning about the many totem poles in their collection; and observing some carvers in action.
After the tour we headed back to Ketchikan and had an early lunch of Dungeness crab at Annabelle’s on Front Street. Very tasty!
Duck Boat Tour
After lunch we headed back to the dock, doing some shopping along the way and then boarding our afternoon excursion on the Ketchikan Duck Boat tour. The duck boat is an amphibious tour bus. We started with a tour of town by land and then headed to the harbor to take the plunge! Once wet we toured the harbor. Our capable tour guide (who was a drama major at school) kept us entertained and informed!
After the tour we spent some time visiting the shops on the waterfront. Ketchikan is unique as the first couple of streets closest to the water were actually built on piers!
The only downside to the day was I accidentally deleted some of the pictures from the earlier part of the day. We enjoyed a 80’s disco theater presentation that evening as the ship headed north for our next stop.
Inside Passage to Juneau
The next morning found us working our way up the inside passage to Juneau. This was the longest passage between ports and there were opportunities to observe some of the activity that morning before docking.
We arrived in Juneau before lunch with moderate temperatures and dry if not overcast skies. Our only excursion for the day was whale watching.
Whale Watching Tour
Our excursion was with Allen Marine Tours located about 10 miles north in Auke Bay were the ferry terminal was located. The tour was on a large three deck catamaran that allowed for good viewing. We headed out Into Stephens Passage and it wasn’t long before we spotted humpback whales.
We spent several hours a spotted many whales – many of them mother and calf that made the long trek from their birthing grounds near Hawaii to feed in the rich waters of Alaska in the summertime.
It is thought they give birth outside of the Alaska waters to avoid the deadly Orca whales which are known to prey on newborn humpbacks. We did not see any Orcas on the trip as it was too early to spot them in the inside passage.
A highlight was seeing a bald eagle perched on a large navigation buoy together with several Stellar sea lions. I learned the sea lion population has been on a severe decline in the last twenty years perhaps due to an overfishing of their main food source pollock. At one point there was some excitement as a male sea lion unsuccessfully tired to get a spot on the buoy as shown above.
After we returned from our Whale Watching excursion we toured Juneau’s tourist area and stopped by Tracy’s King Crab Shack for a very tasty king crab leg. Without a doubt the best meal of the trip!
We skipped dinner on board that evening but caught a good show that evening featuring acrobatics and some interesting light shows.
The next stop on our journey was supposed to be Skagway where we had booked two excursions. I woke up early the next morning to discover we were stopped outside of Skagway. We learned shortly that there was an issue with contamination of our berthing spot with spilled jet fuel. Instead we were to dock at the town of Haines slightly south of Skagway. This also meant that our excursions were cancelled which was perhaps a bigger disappointment.
Haines was much less touristy than our previous ports of call and set in a stunning location in Chilkoot Inlet. We toured the town by foot in the late morning and spent the afternoon back any the ship relaxing and enjoying the view.
The area around present-day Haines was called Dtehshuh or “end of the trail” by the Chilkat group of Tlingit. The area became more important in the 1800’s as a trading post and an army base was established in the early 1900’s. After the army post was disbanded a local group of veterans bought the barracks.
We departed late that evening and found ourselves early the next morning entering Glacier Bay National Park. We woke to the best weather of the trip so far – albeit a bit chilly – there was not a cloud in the sky.
We started up Sitakaday Narrows and as I started drinking my first cup of coffee I happened to be looking at the right spot on the port side of the ship to see a humpback whale breach! Shortly after that a group of park rangers from the visitors center near Point Gustavus came aboard. They boarded ‘on-the-move’ from a small tender that came along side as we headed north up the bay.
We took our time heading slowly north. The park rangers would come on PA system and tell us more about the bay and what we we seeing at the different locations. I was amazed at the incredible blue skies and brilliant white capped mountains.
We worked our way north to Tarr Inlet. Our destination were the two tidewater glaciers at the top of the inlet. A tidewater glacier is one whose terminus encounters seawater at least at high tide, if not at all tide levels. The Grand Pacific Glacier was the wider of the two straight to the north. The Margerie Glacier came in from the west on the left side of the ship. The two were strikingly different.
The Margerie Glacier was a brilliant blue-white. Rising 250 feet from the water with an additional 100 feet underwater you could not see. The overall width of the glacier is about 1 mile. We watched as large chunks would periodically fall off the face (glacier calving) and land in the water below. It was hard to gauge how large the chucks were but I would guess 30-50 foot high.
The Grand Pacific Glacier by contrast was as dark as the soil of the mountains themselves. This is from landslides and other geological activities that have occurred over time. It is about 2 miles wide at the terminus, averaging about 150 feet high at the ice face, up to 60 feet deep at the waterline.
The weather was fantastic the whole time we were cruising up and back throughout the morning and into the afternoon. It was so calm and the sky was brilliant blue without a trace of haze. I got fantastic mirror reflection shots and magnificent panoramas. As we got nearer to the entrance to the park the rangers boat appeared to gather their crew and head home for the day.
We saw marine life through out the trip – Steller Sea lions, otters and many different species of birds. It was on the cool side but as the morning progressed it warmed up nicely. A day to always remember!
We spent the rest of the day making our way through the Icy Striating and Cross Sound to emerge back in the Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Alaska.
Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier
We arrived in Yakutat Bay early the next morning. About 150 miles up the coast from the exit of the interior passage, it lies in the Gulf of Alaska and is home to the largest tidewater glacier in North America – the Hubbard Glacier.
As we enter the bay we start to see ice floating in the water. As we get closer to the glacier the scene becomes surreal – hard to tell water is water and what is ice. Again the sheer size of everything makes it hard to really appreciate how big it is.
It is 76 miles long,7 miles wide, and 600 feet tall at its terminal face (350 feet exposed above the waterline and 250 feet below the waterline). Ships are warned to stay back a safe distance as the ice calves blocks of ice the size of skyscrapers. Since much of it is underwater they can cause some serious action when they move.
We spent the morning observing the glacier and slowly made our way back to the Gulf of Alaska to make the crossing to Seward. By afternoon it was very overcast and rainy. Later in the afternoon we encountered a fairly large swell – enough to cause to boat to shift and rock a bit. I kept my eyes out for wildlife and did see some whales, dolphins and other marine animals including birds.
That evening was the finale from our acrobatic singers and dancers followed by an appearance from a lot of the crew including the captain.
Kenai Peninsula and Denali
I awoke the next morning to find us docked in Seward. This would be the end of the cruise and the start of our land tour to Denali with several stops along the way.
After loading up our coach, we drove a short distance to the town of Seward. Seward is an ice free harbor and plays an essential role in the distribution of goods throughout Alaska. The original dog sled runs of mail and goods in the Winter months originated from Seward to points north on what is known as the Iditarod Trail.
Alaska SeaLife Center
We visited the Alaska SeaLife Center with the time we had in Seward. There were many exhibits and areas that we used to study and observe marine life including Steller Sea lions, otters, marine birds and fish of all kinds. While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the Center is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state.
We observed as several researchers carefully measured the fat content of Steller Sea lions. The sea lions seems to be very happy to lie there and have the measurements made as long was a steady supply of fish nuggets were ready from the pail in the foreground!
It was back in the bus around lunch time and time to head north to our first overnight stop in Girdwood. We got to know our tour director Lisa and driver Mike a bit more. Lisa told us many stories about the areas we drove through and life in Alaska. She talked a lot about her personal experiences as a long term resident which was a nice touch.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
We stopped here in the afternoon after several hours of driving. The center is at the end of Turnagain Arm – a long tidal basin south of Anchorage. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care. AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals.
We stopped that evening at the Alyeska Ski Resort in the town of Girdwood southeast of Anchorage for the evening. This is a beautiful resort and had the nicest accommodations of any stop on the trip. We headed to town for diner before heading back and up the tram to the top of the mountain.
The view shows the tidal basin that runs south of Anchorage called Turnaround Arm. This area got its name in the elusive search for the Northwest passage. Periodically a tidal bore wave appears when conditions are right and surfers flock to ride the never ending wave.
I finally got a good hot tub soak at the ski resort! After a good night sleep and a leisurely breakfast we loaded up again the next morning for the final leg to Denali.
In Anchorage we went through Lake Hood Seaplane base – home to over 700 seaplanes which are so important for getting around in Alaska. From there we headed to the town of Wasilla to get some lunch and then made our first stop to see a Iditarod dog kennel.
This kennel is owned by four-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser and has been in operation since 1982. As I learned over the time we spent on our land tour – the Iditarod is a very big deal in Alaska and taken very seriously. Martin was no exception and his enthusiasm for the sport – and mainly the dogs – was touching for sure for this dog lover!
We got to meet the dogs and watch Martin exercise them using an ATV. And no – the dogs are not pulling the ATV! They use this technique as well as open runs to exercise the dogs when snow is not on the ground. It was noted that the dogs need at least 2 hours of hard exercise during the summer months to stay in shape.
At the end of the tour they brought in a litter of puppies only a couple of weeks old. Their eyes had just opened and they we still getting used to be alive much less man-handled by a bunch of tourists. But this two is good for the dogs to get them used to being handled and around people. I was taken at how friendly and loving these dogs were. It was no surprise however when you saw how devoted these handlers were to their dogs and the stories of how much they sacrifice to do what they so passionately care about.
At the end our tour guide Lisa got a picture of the group.
After that we loaded back up and headed north to our lodge for the next two nights. We stayed at the Denali Village Lodge near the park entrance. It was a nice resort with a picturesque main lodge, very expensive dining (like pretty much everywhere else) and a lot of places to rid yourself of cumbersome wads of cash 💰.
Even though it was around dinner time we still had about 6 hours of daylight left. Time for our next excursion!
Yanert Glacier by Helicopter
It was noted how we did not get to do our planned excursion in Skagway. So we opted instead to take a helicopter ride to a nearby glacier! The plan was to ride about 25 minutes out and land on the very large Yanert Glacier just east of Denali National Park.
We flew with TEMSCO. After putting some glacier boots on we loaded up with our pilot and one other passenger and headed easterly to the mountain range which held the glacier. The ride initially was over wooded areas before accessing the more monitions areas. We eventually landed and surveyed the alien landscape.
We saw some wildlife on the ride including Caribou and Dall sheep. We saw a beaver damn creating a high altitude lake. Eventually the terrain changed and we were in the heart of the mountain range. the views were breathtaking. Eventually we landed on the ice near a blue-white pool of water and got out for a look around.
The landscape reminded me of something I would have seen in a science fiction movie. Rivers of water carving channels in the ice only to plunge into a hole not to be see again. Bridges of ice that are prone to collapse if you walk on them. What an incredible experience it was.
After 15 minutes or so we got back in for the Long ride down the glacier. At one point there was no more ice and just a large flat river bed with meandering streams now that the main snow melt is over.
The whole trip was ever in the blink of an eye but the memories will hopefully remain for a while longer 😊. We got back to the lodge around 9:30 PM in time for a late dinner.
Denali National Park Tour
The next morning was an early one. We met at the lodge and packed on to a modified school bus that would take us on a 53 mile trek into the park. We picked up some other passengers at another resort and headed into the park. Our guide was also our bus driver and seemed to have a head full of knowledge about the park. He urged us to look for wildlife and call it out so we could stop and observe. He had a camera hooked up to TV monitors in the bus – a recreation of the days when the guide would setup spotting scopes to let their passengers get a good look. And yes – you could buy a copy of the video feed!
At several points along the route we had the opportunity to see the mountain.
Denali means ‘the great one’ in the local tongue. For many years the mountain itself was called Mt McKinley after our 25th president William McKinley. This was a gesture at the time to get his support for the area and in fact he never once even visited Alaska. Eventually the park was named Denali and then as soon as 2015 the name was finally changed officially back to Denali (over the objections of McKinley’s home state of Ohio).
We got our moneys worth and more with. double helping of great water (just like in Glacier Bay) and wildlife. Before we we barely in the park we saw a cow Moose with a 2 week old calf foraging around the building areas. Along the way we saw many Dall sheep, several groups of Caribou, and at the end two Snow White Grizzly Bears foraging the dried river banks for their favorite foods after a long winter’s hibernation.
The ride took us over some spectacular scenery. At one point named Poloychrome trail the road became very steep with shear rocky sides. Several of the passengers were having a obvious problem but were troopers and hung on tight. We made several stops to get photo ops and a chance to stretch our legs and look around. Even the box lunch we got was pretty good!
We finally reached our goal at mile 53 – the Tolkat River and visitor’s center. At this point we starched out legs for a while and then piled back in and went the same way out! As we neared a river we passed earlier we got reports of a sighting of two Grizzly bears nest one of the ranger’s cabins. Of the big five (Moose, Caribou, Bear, Sheep and Wolves) we scored 4 out of 5!
We got back to the lodge late in the afternoon. That evening we took in the ‘Cabin Evening’ – a dinner served by singing waiters who told the stories of the early days in Alaska. Fun was had by all. That evening I woke up around 1PM and actually confirmed it did eventually get dark outside. My next check at 4:30AM showed it to be mid morning already! Wild.
Train Ride South
We had a late start the next day and boarded the train around 12:30PM for the 4 hour trip to Talkeetna. We boarded at the Denali Park Headquarters and out tour bus followed us to p[ick us up at out destination.
We have lunch on the way down – very nice and super nice scenery as we ate. Before long we had arrived at our distentions and got back on the bus for a several hour ride to Anchorage. We were headed for the Hilton for several hours of rest before heading to the airport to catch the redeye back home.
Jake & I spent Christmas week with Mom and brother Dave & Fam in Panama City Beach. I got Mom a cedar glider for Christmas. Jake got to play with Bonnie and met Elly Mae for the first time.
Carl was able to make it home. He’s just a great young man & I am so proud of both him and his brother Adam. They both live in Seattle – Adam works as a analyst with HUD and Carl is an Engineer working on large machines that build composite aircraft parts.
Lisa cooked a great Christmas dinner (as always) and everyone enjoyed!
Scaly Mountian North Carolina & The Appalachian Mountains
Jake and I spent a week at Dave & Lisa’s cabin at Scaly Mountain in North Carolina. At the end of the trip, we drove to see my grandparent’s old house in Gate City VA.
North Carolina Sunset
North Carolina Sunset from Dave's Back Porch
Downtown Highlands NC
Birthday Dinner with Laura Zweigbaum at Wollfie's in Highlands NC = best Wiener Schnitzel west of Vienna!
Glen Falls North Carolina
Glen Falls North Carolina near Highlands
Jake contemplates crossing the stream on our hike in North Carolina
Glen Falls North Carolina near Highlands
Jake hiking in North Carolina
Ranger Falls North Carolina north of Highlands
Water Fall Dog
Jake on Ranger Falls North Carolina hike
Appalachian Mountains somewhere in Tennessee
Jake & Eddie in the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee
My grandparent's old home on Sue Street in Gate City VA. We used to visit every summer.
Gate City VA
Just down from my grandparent's house were the railroad tracks. I would put pennies on the track and them look for them the next day here.
Rest In Peace
My grandparent's graves in Weber City just south of Gate City. They retired to Gate City after my Grandfather's successful career as a mining engineer. He served in WWI in the Army Corps of Engineers. My grandmother taught schools in the mining camps they lived in while raising my father. Mom met Dad when my Uncle Ed (Mom's Brother-In-Law) invited Grand Dad and my Father to watch the World Series on their brand new television in the early 1950s. Grand Dad worked for my uncle Ed who ran different mines in West Virginia.
Highlights and impressions!
Best Weiner Schnitzel west of Vienna at Wolfgang’s in Highlands (I first ate here about 20 years ago – still a fixture in the Highlands).
Rain all day Monday – Laura brought it with her when she came 😉 charged the waterfalls and made for two great hikes to see them.
Jake loves to hike – does great on the trails!
Almost got lost on the trail on the way out on the second hike! Jake assured me everything would be just fine.
Asheville NC reminded me of a smaller version of Atlanta complete with bad traffic and a snarled up downtown. However – everyone I saw looked like an ad for REI! It does, however, boast to be the most friendly dog city in the South (or some such).
Beautiful drive to Gate City from the cabin. This must have been a similar route we traveled in the 60s but with no interstates. Gorgeous scenery!
Gate City and surrounding area seemed about the same as I remembered 50+ years ago except the cars were newer :-0
Hi – my name is Jacob but you can call me Jake! Dad told me I am 5 months old today. I was born on April 15, 2016 and for the first 4 1/2 months of my life I lived on a ranch in Florida. My Mom’s name is Ruby and my Dad’s name is Tried and True. What a weird name – but Dad told me that’s becuase my Dad is a tri-colored Tibetan Terrier which is pretty cool.
Not me! I am mostly black except for what my Dad calls my t-shirt, sneakers, Michael Jackson Glove and a dashing white cape. What in the world is a Michael Jackson glove? Very curious.
When I lived on the ranch I was with other dogs and these funny looking miniature horses. I lived outside and had lots to explore and other dogs to play with. When Dad brought me home I was like ‘Whoa – what in the world just happened!’ But it’s cool now because I really like living with Dad in our little house on the beach.
I’m still sort of getting used to my new life. Mostly I just hang with Dad. We take two long walks everyday and I get to go to the beach and that’s pretty cool. I love Dad rubbing on me and playing on the floor in the living room with my toys. There is some stuff I don’t like – loud noises and car rides top the list. But no matter what Dad is always there and is very patient while I grow up.
Dad says I am his new best friend. I like the sound of that! He told me that he has had a lot of best friends and of all of them I am most like Sammy. The big difference is that Sammy used to love riding in the car. I am getting a little more used to it – we’ll see.
So I am still trying to figure all of this out but mostly I really like living with Dad in our little house on the beach. I got this huge backyard to explore and Dad’s always there with me. Life is great!