And why are they not frozen? Because their hearts are warmed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Welcome to our blog! We hope you enjoy our travels and dialogues as we journey to Anchorage Alaska for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The fat lady has sung!

Well, it's all over now.  We returned from our mission on the 16th of September, bringing to a close the most incredible experience of our lives.  We were able to spend 19 wonderful months in service to the Lord, the young missionaries and the people of Alaska/Yukon.  We're home now, getting re-adjusted to "normal" life after spending about 3 weeks travelling around getting reacquainted with our kids and grandkids.

Our last post was clear back in July, so we'll finish off with a whole bunch of pictures from our last sightseeing excursion, a trip to Homer down on the Kenai Peninsula, and our trip home through the Yukon and Alaska's southeast.

We had been to different locations on the Kenai Peninsula a number of times over the last year and a half, but had never had the opportunity to travel to Homer, the city on the tip of the peninsula and jumping off place for Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Island chain.  As well as being famous for the fishing there, Homer is also well-known for it birds and other wildlife.  Consequently, we made arrangements to drive down on the last weekend in July, see the city and take a bird watching tour.  Here are a just a few of the photos from that trip.

Across the Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula - Mt. Redoubt, one of the most active volcanos in Alaska.

Just another little Russian Orthodox church.  We ran into them everywhere.

A house (?) we saw along the road.  How would you like to re-roof that thing?!

The Homer Spit - "Land's End," 

Along the waterfront on the Spit.  Interesting, eh?

You don't have to go far to see the birds and other wildlife.  Two Sandhill Cranes in somebody's yard.

A couple of young eagles on the lookout for dinner.  This shot and the two below were taken along the beach.

Raven with lunch.  Look closely at his feet and you'll see a small flounder/halibut-type fish.

And then off on the Birdwatching Cruise.  Sister Taylor checking her bird book for identification.

Three Pigeon Guillemots taking wing.  Cute red feet.

Horned Puffins

Tufted Puffin

In addition to lots of birds, we also saw some wildlife.
Cute pair of sea otters floating together and quite interested in our boat.
Sea Otters are born on the sea and never leave the water.  One of their tricks for staying put while sleeping - wrap themselves in seaweed that is anchored to the bottom.  Looks quite peaceful, don't you think?

And, of course, whales!

Many of you know that we had the opportunity to do more than just fly home at the end of our mission.  The Vehicle Coordinator offered to let us drive a car to Juneau that he needed transferred down there for the young missionaries, so we elected to make a trip out of it.  It gave us the opportunity to see some of the mission that we hadn't yet had the chance to see.

We drove from Anchorage to the border with Canada the first day and stayed in a place called "Buckshot Betty's."  Sounds like an adventure, doesn't it?   It was.

The "rooms" were small cabins out back of the restaurant.  They were just slightly bigger than the queen bed inside, but they did have their own bathroom so life wasn't too bad.

The next day we drove to Whitehorse, did a little sightseeing and took the two Elders assigned there out to dinner.

Driving to Whitehorse along the Alcan Highway, minding our own business, and what do we see?  Probably the best shot of an eagle we've ever had.  Fortunately, he waited patiently while we turned around, came back and snapped several shots.  He was still sitting there when we drove off.
Although the Alcan Highway has been much improved over the years, and is completely paved now, it is still pretty rough in spots.  This was taken between the border and Whitehorse.  We didn't start videoing until it started to smooth out, so you can just imagine the roller coaster ride it had been.

The Yukon River, which runs through Whitehorse and was a major route to the Klondike gold fields up north, is quite shallow, with lots of sandbars and shifting riverbed.  The best craft to haul people and things on the river?  A steam-powered, shallow-draft, sternwheel river boat.

The  church in Whitehorse.  It is built with cedar siding and metal roof.  A number of the LDS churches in Alaska, especially the older ones, are built quite differently than we are used to in the Lower 48.

After Whitehorse we drove to Skagway, again did a little sightseeing and then took the ferry to Juneau.

Beautiful country and wild mountains between Whitehorse and Skagway.

Skagway, for the benefit of the tourists, I'm sure, is maintained with the appearance of a turn-of-the-century town.  

The White Pass and Yukon Railroad, still operating, but now hauling tourists over the pass that it originally hauled gold minors and their gear over.

A standard steam engine of the period on the left.
The gizmo on the right is a snowplow that can clear 12 foot drifts off the rails!  The wheel on the front rotates, driven by its own steam engine.  The whole thing was then pushed by an engine (or two) like the one on the left.

When the miners first started trying to get to the Klondike, they had to haul all their gear from Skagway over the Chilkoot Pass into Canada.  The trail is straight up and the Mounties required that they have 1,000 lbs of gear to enter Canada!  When you are carrying everything on your back, that makes for many trips up and down that pass.

Our ferry from Skagway to Juneau.  Fast and comfortable.  A two hour ride instead of a 4-6 hour ride on the standard ferry.

We stayed the weekend in Juneau.  Sunday we were able to attend church with a pair of our sister missionaries.  Monday we did some sightseeing, went out to lunch with all the missionaries in Juneau and then turned the car over to the Zone Leaders in the evening.  We killed some time at the motel Monday evening and then boarded the Inside Passage ferry at 2:00 AM Tuesday.

As we drove into Juneau from the ferry terminal, we saw one of our church buildings.  Knowing that we'd probably be going there to church the next day, we drove into the lot to check it out.  As we went around back, this guy was wandering across the lot.  First, and only, adult black bear we saw in Alaska.

Just north of Juneau we found this Catholic chapel/retreat.  What a cool-looking building in an absolutely gorgeous setting!

Mendenhall Glacier.  Comes right down into Juneau's backyard.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time to hike out to the toe of the glacier and walk in the ice caves there.  The younger missionaries assigned to Juneau always made at least one P-day jaunt out to the caves and sent in some awesome pictures!

Nugget Falls.  Note the size of the people at the bottom and the presence of ice from the glacier floating in the water.

Sister Taylor with the Mendenhall Glacier to the left and Nugget Falls to the right.
No, no!  Not her left.  Your other left.

Our journey down the Inside Passage was incredibly scenic and relaxing, marred only by some damage to a propeller which cut our top speed from 17 knots to 11-12 kts.  The trip was to take 3 days and 5 hours, placing us in Bellingham, WA, at 8:00 AM on Friday.  The slower speed, however, caused us to miss some tides and generally slowed things down to the point that we didn't get in until 11:30 PM Friday.  We weren't able to pick up the rental car we had arranged for, so Amy came and picked us up in Bellingham, drove us to her house for the night and then drove us home the next day.

Our ferry was the MV Columbia, 418 feet long and 85 feet wide.  We had a small cabin with bunk beds.  The boat had a movie lounge, two lounges in the front where you could sit and look out at the scenery, a sun(?) deck on the stern, a cafeteria-style lunch counter and a very nice restaurant.  

We noticed that whenever the passage got a little close, a lookout would appear on the bow.  We didn't think it was going to fit through some of those channels!
Like this one... I couldn't believe we actually snaked our way through.
Just one of the many lighthouses we saw on the trip.  Most of them were Canadian.

We passed a few towns and fishing villages on the way.  This boat was coming out of a fog bank (hence the lights) behind us.

Well, that's it.  Although this blog has been primarily a travelogue, concentrating on the beauty and uniqueness of Alaska, we do want to remind you that our purpose in being there was to serve a full-time mission for the Lord.  We met many wonderful people, had many wonderful experiences and saw many evidences of the love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for each of us.  We testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today and that it may be found in its fullness in the Book of Mormon.  We encourage each of you to read or re-read it, practice the truths contained therein and let the gospel bless your lives.

Our love to all,

Elder & Sister Taylor

Alyeska Resort - Girdwood

McHugh Creek Trail - Anchorage
Kenai Peninsula - Fireweed!
Anchorage - Alaska Aces hockey game

Eagle River Conservation Center

Barrow - Chukchi Sea/Beaufort Sea/Arctic Ocean