Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It may only be a paragraph, but the state of Wisconsin has seen fit to publish my writing. There was a strict word limit, so I compressed some thoughts and ended up sounding like F Scott Fitzgerald. If you pick up the "Wisconsin's Great Lakes" calendar, look for me in December.

Monday, June 22, 2015

For Grandpa’s final night in Alaska, we headed out to Palmer to have dinner at the Ale House. The food was very good, and the old, long rectangular building was very interesting. It reminded me of the rusty mills or train stations that scatter themselves throughout small town Wisconsin, usually sitting dusty and quiet in the hopes of opening again.

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As is often the case, Henry wasn’t terribly interested in waiting at the table, so we walked laps around the building in the bright sunlight. After climbing on boulders in the parking lot and running around the outdoor concert stage, we soon ended up back inside chomping on fries and a hamburger.

The side of the building has a back door accompanied by a long sloping ramp for deliveries. Given that this is Alaska, the ramp is iron and textured for safe footing in the winter. Well, while running around after dinner on our way to the car Henry caught his toe and went face first into the iron grate. I have never heard such screaming, but not to worry – his face was uninjured because his hands took the entire brunt of the fall.

His knees were scuffed and his hands looked downright ugly, but after calming down he allowed mommy to rinse his hands and bandage them up. He took it well and settled down for the hour long ride home.

He didn’t like it, but he stood still back at home as we cleaned the wounds, applied antibiotics, and finally bandaged him for bedtime.

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By next morning he was eager to keep the bandages on as long as possible because they were neat. He also couldn’t be slowed down from sharing his story. “I fell on a cheese grater.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The St Elizabeth’s summer hike club is in full swing, so I jumped at it on my Friday off. The rain was pretty steady, so Becky stayed at home with a tired Piper while Henry and I layered up our heavy duty gear and headed for the Eagle River Nature Center. The turnout was better than expected – about 6 moms, a plethora of kids, and Henry and Daddy. I knew a few of the ladies, but ultimately was just happy to hang out with a smiling Henry and his tightly zipped Muddy Buddy.


I think we hiked a little over a mile, but it’s probably more accurate to state that we spent almost 2 hours tramping along the trail, stopping often to climb logs and take pictures. There was some fussiness at the end in some corners of our group, though I am happy to report that Henry remained stoically focused on getting to the warmth of the visitors center in spite of being tired.

He beamed and chewed on a fruit snack. “Daddy, I powered through.”

Yes, you sure did.

The highlight was when I plopped Henry into the tree stump and then told him he looked like a tailgunner or tank operator.


Piper felt better by the next morning, which makes it all the wiser that she was kept home. A 50 degrees constant rain wouldn’t have helped her.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Becky went up to Talkeetna with Grandpa, Randy, and Kelly to enjoy the 70 degree weather, so I took that Saturday with the kids and loaded them up for a hike to Symphony Lake. It’s a beautiful view and even though it is far enough up the mountain to be above the treeline, it’s actually a very flat trail. It’s a great walk for a pre-schooler.


Piper loves getting in the pack, looking around from a new height, and babbling away. Henry made it a point to wave at all the hikers that passed us by, telling them that we were “enjoying the beautiful view.”

We hiked about a mile in before taking a break to spread out on the tundra and give Piper a bottle. Henry was very curious about the blueberry and bog berry bushes, along with chasing around little spiders. Piper happily dozed off after whistling down a full bottle.


Awake and filled with food, Piper bleated loudly along the trail, while Henry was beyond happy that he was able to fling his banana peel into the woods. He asserted that we must return soon and check on them.

We were all a bit tired by the time we made it back to the 4Runner, having put in a little over 2 miles. In Alaska you must embrace the summer days. The skies were blue, sunny, and light for a little over 19 hours (dusk follows for 5 hours). We’ll catch up on sleep in the winter.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

It involved some rushing around and a fair amount of driving, but the Memorial Day weekend trip down to Homer was a success. Grandpa Barnes arrived Thursday night after a long day of changing planes, only to be thrown into a 4 hour drive the next morning. He didn’t complain and before we knew it we all were eating lunch in Soldotna, having left Anchorage early enough to miss the holiday traffic. I needed to return sooner than the rest of the group for work, so I drove separately, though Henry was happy to ride shotgun in the Ranger.

I answered innumerable questions about trucks, fishing, trains, Chicago, and where I camped when I was younger. Henry in turn told me eerily similar stories about the things he did “Back when he was in high school.” I’d call shenanigans, but I know I’d only get asked what that word means.


The weather in Homer was warmer and clearer than usual, though we did have our required moments of rain. The Time Bandit crab boat was moored in town, we walked up and down the spit, paused for some ice cream, and just enjoyed mixing in with the holiday crowds. Also, Henry went in the hot tub at least 6 times. I am quite sure he will refer to this trip as the “hot tub trip” from now on. Piper found the water very pleasant, but the bubbles were a bridge too far – she lasted about 5 minutes.


Fishing on Sunday was just a blast. Our group was large enough such that we opted to reserve the whole boat – a discount and the freedom to tailor the trip to the fishing the group preferred. The King Salmon fishing was a bit slow, but the fish were big and each us of eventually marked our licenses in pen, “Kachemak Bay – King – 5/24“. 6 Kings in the box and off we motored for Halibut.

As always, the last chicken (smaller Halibut) is the hardest to catch, but the fishing was fast and the Halibut were very good sized prior to that. The crew worked very hard to get us good fishing, limits, and funny chatter in between.

Grandpa pulled up a 30 lb Halibut as well as a nice King. Everyone shivered as the breeze cut over the ocean water, looking at the small town of Anchor Point’s cabins and homes along the shoreline.  After a long day on the water we ended up cooking brats on the grill, whistling down some cold Alaskan beers, and eventually laying in the hot tub as Henry squealed in turning on the water jets.


We took quite a few trips to the Homer playground, enjoyed some campfires on the spit, watched Henry enjoy collecting shells and coal on the beach, and missed the traffic by arriving a day early and leaving a day late.

Grandpa will head back to Wisconsin with a full box of Halibut and all of our clothing smelled like campfire. A perfect trip.