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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

One month past the spring equinox... and it's snowing!  It has been snowing all day but this afternoon it has really started coming down.  The snow is starting to stick on the vegetation in spite of the fact that the temperature is now a couple of degrees above freezing and has been warmer than that all day.  Visibility while driving home varied from 100-150 yards.  Welcome to Alaska!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Okay.  First thing.  If you haven't checked the blog since last week, be sure and read beyond today's post.  On Tuesday we saw a moose up close and personal and posted a photo, etc. that day.

This week we don't have anything momentous to tell you about.  We have been busy off and on, going with missionaries to doctor's appointments, doing vehicle inspections, learning various office tasks, etc.  Sooo.....

We decided to share with you a few of the off-hand photos we have taken that show a little more about life here in Alaska.  First of all, never let it be said that Alaskans don't have a sense of humor.

We didn't go inside this store, but, since Alaska is such a tourist mecca, there are many stores that we have been in that are exactly that - tourist traps.  Especially if it purports to be selling anything even close to Native Alaskan.

As you can imagine, fur is very big in Alaska.  This store is called the "Fur Factory," and as you can see, it advertises the repair, cleaning and storage of all things fur.  Also including, apparently, fur bikinis for him and her.

And just across the street from the Fur Factory is the AK Alchemist Coffee shop where they serve (note the sign) Halibut Tacos, Salmon Quesadillas and Reindeer Tacos!  What more could you ask for?

And speaking of tourist traps, check this out --

Oh sure, if I was standing on a box, I'd be that tall, too.  Sister Taylor asked for this pose.  I'm not sure if there might not have been some deeper meaning or wish there. (She denies it.)

Although this winter has been very mild, there is evidence everywhere of the more usual winters.  The curbs and islands in the streets have all been gouged up and their corners scraped off by the snow plows.  The guardrails and fire hydrants all have wands on them so that the snow plows won't run into them.  The types that are on the guardrails I have seen before, but the fire hydrants are another thing.  They are usually several feet back from the curbs so I didn't make the connection.  I saw one of these the first day we were here and it prompted me to ask, "Surely that's not a radio antenna on that fire plug, is it?"  I was laughed at most heartily.


As Sister Taylor was establishing a list of doctors, dentists, clinics, and hospitals in each area where she could send the missionaries if they needed care, she came across some unique (to us) medical advertising.  Soldotna is on the Kenai Peninsula, fishing capital of the world. 

Here' a little something you don't see in most places in the western United States.  Home of a two time Olympic champion, no less!

And, for those of you have seen this series on television  -- the real, live Wild West Guns!  It is located directly west of us across Seward Highway.  Note on the marquee that Season 3 is coming!

One day, as Sister Taylor and I were out walking the trails, we saw this thing through the trees and couldn't figure out what it was.  When we got back to the car we drove over and found that it is a sculpture(?) piece of art(?) or whatever located in the front yard of the state Crime Lab.  The panels are all grey and look like steel until the light hits them just right and then they really light up.  And they change color depending on how the light hits them.  As usual, the pictures don't really do something like this justice.  Cool, huh?

Finally, two or three times, while out driving through one particular area on the east side of Anchorage, bordering on a wooded area, we have seen a beautiful bald eagle sitting on the top of a tree, hunting for his dinner.  Each time we saw him we were without our camera, and the phone cameras just wouldn't quite reach out far enough.  When we did drive through there with the camera in hand, he wasn't there.  Today we lucked out.  He was there and sitting on the top of a power pole.  He doesn't look quite so majestic and cool today because he was trying to maintain his dignity in a 30+ mph wind.  None the less, we can tell you that he is a very large, awesome-looking bird with beautiful white head and tail and he really looks neat when he is flying.

That's about it for this week.  Please know that we think of all of you often and that you are in our prayers every day.

Mom & Dad
Grandma & Grandpa
Sister & Elder Taylor

Monday, April 13, 2015

WooHoo!!! What fun!

Today we left the office at about 11:30 AM to go to an appointment with one of the Elders.  As we drove out of the lot, we were looking straight at a large moose who (which?) was ambling down Strawberry Road grazing on all the trees and bushes as it went along.  We hurriedly whipped out our phones and got some really good shots of it before we drove on.  Just couldn't wait until the weekend to share!

That's a 3 foot cyclone fence behind it.  Just to give you an idea how large they are.  Also, notice at what height the trees begin to have limbs.  When we came back, you could see bright white tips on the ends of all the bushes where it had taken off all the new growth.  Don't need to worry about trimming your plants in this country!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Monday this week we went up to Palmer for Family Home Evening with all the senior missionaries and members of the mission presidency.  We were hosted by Elder and Sister Saunders, who live between Palmer and Wasilla and have a lovely home with a magnificent view of the mountains.  Elder Saunders is quite the hunter and had a number of animal heads mounted in their family room from animals he has hunted all over the country.  He had a moose from eastern Canada, some pronghorn antelope, a bear skin from Washington, caribou and a few others.  The largest and most impressive was a bison (buffalo) that he shot in Colorado.  It was HUGE!

Wednesday the other senior missionaries had a combination birthday lunch for Sister Taylor and welcome lunch for a new couple recently transferred from Haines (near Skagway) to Anchorage.  We had pizza/salad/etc., and enjoyed getting to know the Westons.

Thursday was actually Sister Taylor's birthday.  To celebrate, the two of us went out to IHOP for breakfast and then went downtown to an Army/Navy Surplus (and much more) store where she had seen some excellent slippers she liked.  After buying those for her birthday we accompanied an Elder to the dentist's office. (Woohoo!)  We got back to the mission office at about noon and found that the others had bought Sister Taylor a birthday cake.  At the end of the day we went directly from the mission office to the movie theater and saw The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  All in all, a very enjoyable day.

After P-day chores on Saturday, we spent the afternoon at the Anchorage Museum.  Lots and lots of Alaskan history, from incredible artifacts and examples of Native Alaskan culture to the Russian possession, to the fir trade, to the development of the oil pipeline, the coming of statehood and the history of Anchorage.  We didn't take our camera in because we thought they wouldn't allow it (and then found out differently) but we do have a few shots taken with Sister Taylor's phone.

The main area of the first floor is the Alaska Gallery.  It has several display areas and rooms of various size and is just that - all about Alaska.  We saw some amazing artwork by school children, exhibits about the history of Anchorage, displays about statehood and the role of the Aleyska Oil Pipeline, and numerous displays about the native peoples of Alaska.  Of course, Alaska wouldn't be Alaska without all the wildlife, so there were a few of them around as well.


Various tools, implements and woven material

Fishing tools - spears, basket trap, hooks, etc., along with the snowshoes, of course.

A collection of rudimentary masks.  There were also many very fancy, well-made masks of later periods.

We saw many, many baskets of all sizes and ornamental designs.  These are all woven from grass and have very tiny cross-stitching for the decoration.   It reminded Sister Taylor of the Hmong embroidery she saw in Seattle several years ago.

As you can see by the drawing on the wall behind it, this is a dog blanket.  It is very
ornate and beautifully done with tiny, tiny buttonhole stitches done with tiny bone needles.

A closeup of the stitching on the dog blanket.

Of course, scrimshaw was very big throughout Alaskan history.  Both the native peoples and the sailors and merchants from  Russia and various European nations participated in the carving of the ivory and bone and in the marketing of it.

This is a "dress" parka, normally worn to potlatches and celebrations of one sort or another.
If you're confused, you are looking at the back.

These are ceremonial mukluks.  In the corner behind, and in the picture below,
are the everyday, real-thing, moose-hide mukluks.

Sons/Sons-in-law - if you look in the book "Wildwood Wisdom" that I gave you a few years ago, you will
find instructions on how to make these out of moose hocks.  Looking closely, you'll note that a tube of
hide has been stripped off the leg, turned inside out and then the bottom sewn closed.
The hair on the inside keeps your feet nice and toasty.

These are warm-weather mukluks.  They are made of fish skin and, according to  the placard,
are very durable.  We also saw, but were unable to photograph, several parkas made of
seal or sea lion intestine.  Waterproof and very light.  You could almost see through them.

There were lots of knives, spears, and clubs displayed, but I just had to take a picture of this little knife and its cool ivory/bone/antler/whatever sheath.  (The display didn't say what it was made of .)

 The second floor was devoted to  an amazing display of artifacts and information on the Alaskan Natives peoples.  The exhibits were encased in glass and the lighting was very subdued so we were not able to get many pictures, but Sister Taylor had to show you these.  They are women's "house pants."  Apparently the living quarters for these people were very warm (No, not igloos.) and the men wore loincloths and the women wore these "house pants."  No, they don't cover any more than you think.

The third floor was devoted to exhibits about Captain Cook, his voyages and what their impact was on Alaska.  Very interesting, but not much to photograph.

Navigation instruments of the period.

The fourth floor was a regular art gallery with an exhibit of a modern artist.  Not my "cup of tea."  Hence, no pictures.    None of these pictures really do justice to the museum.   It was awesome.  All in all, a good week.

We are gearing up for transfers this week.   The new elders and sisters come out and the old ones are returning home.   Kind of bittersweet, as we have grown attached to many of them already.   Also the Alaska Mission is roughly the size of the western US and covers almost 2,000 miles from north to south, so if any missionaries are transferred around the mission, chances are good we won't see them again until they go home.   

We will especially miss one of our Elders from downstairs.  Elders Bowen and Stephan were the first that we met in the mission.  They picked up our bags at the airport and took them to our apartment for us.  Later they moved in to the apartment below us and we are assigned to the same ward.  Elder Bowen is being transferred out and we will miss him.  We're glad to have Elder Stephan staying with us, at least until next transfer.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!!

Hope you all were able to enjoy General Conference.  We were able to watch/hear the morning sessions on our laptop, via the internet (it's easier than being at the church at 8:00 AM!)  Then we went down to the Stake Center for the afternoon sessions and the priesthood session.  Lots of good stuff from the brethren, as usual.  It is obvious that the family is on everyone's mind right now.

We have been busy this week, running hither and yon.  On Monday we had to be in Wasilla (about 40 miles NE of here) at 9:30 to get the studded tires on our truck changed to the summer tires.  After the tires were changed, the owner, a member of the church, had us follow her to their house out in the country to pickup some other tires for another mission vehicle.  By the time we got there we were driving on solid ice!  On summer tires, for crying out loud!  Their driveway was quite an adventure, but it all turned out okay.  Then we spent a couple of hours running other errands in that area - delivering mail, etc.

The rest of the week we kept pretty busy visiting sick elders and attending doctors appointments with them.  Sister Taylor usually goes in with them and I keep their companions company out in the waiting room.  One morning on the way to the office, we dropped by to check on a sick elder.  After leaving their apartment we spotted a couple of MOOSE foraging next to the road.  They were in a small park on the edge of a lake so we whipped into the parking lot and were able to park about 30 feet away from them and snap a couple of pictures with Sister Taylor's phone.  Actually, I think I counted 19.  She was pretty excited.  Unfortunately, they blend in with the trees really well, but we were able to get a couple of decent shots.  (In case you're not aware, you can click on any/all of the pictures in this blog and see a larger version.)

Sister Taylor and I have been trying to get some exercise by walking the trail system here in Anchorage.  There are over 200 miles of trails within the city of Anchorage, most of them paved.  We set ourselves a goal of walking the entire system in the next year and a half.  What do you think?  Will we make it?  We walked three different evenings this week.  We usually try to walk for at least 30 minutes but sometimes we get out there and it ends up being more like 60 minutes before we get back to the truck.

This is one end of the Campbell Creek Trail.  It is called University Park Lake and it is located on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage.  Although the trails are pretty clear, and we've been having weather in the 40s, it is still frozen over.  The ice is not very thick, though, and there are places where it is melting away.

For those who have never seen one, these are bear box garbage cans, designed to keep the bears out of the garbage.  You can see that it is right on the edge of the paved trail and right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  Each trailhead has signs warning people about bears and moose, with instructions on just what to do if you see or confront one.  You don't see those in Cowlitz County!

See the culverts under this trail overpass?  They are not for water.  Look below.

This is where "mushing trails" intersect with ski/walking trails.  The dog sleds go through the culverts and off into the woods on trails that are dedicated to, and restricted to, dog sleds.

They are serious about their trails.  They must spend more on maintaining their trails, with paving, bridges, overpasses, grooming for skis, etc., than all the parks departments in Cowlitz County combined.

Today, along with watching General Conference, we had a couple of the Elders over for Easter dinner.  Sister Taylor was determined that there not be any missionaries out there who didn't have somewhere to go for dinner today, so she contacted a couple of Elders who are assigned to a Young Single Adult ward and, sure enough, they didn't have a dinner appointment.  So we invited them over for dinner and also invited our bishop whose family is out of town.  She really outdid herself, fixing ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, green beans with bacon, deviled eggs, green salad and apple pie and coconut cream pie.  AND, she also bought a couple of Easter baskets for the Elders and filled them with goodies.  They were really pumped.  (She also made a basket for the Elders who live downstairs and left it on their doorknob last night.)

We had to kick the three brethren out the door after supper, though, because we had a baptism to attend.  We attended the baptism of a young Samoan man and it was very neat.  It was held in our building (it's a Stake Center) by one of the Samoan wards.  The man conducting the meeting spoke in English, the invocation was in Samoan, the baptism talk was in Samoan for the first two or three minutes and then the sister switched to English.  The baptism itself was done in Samoan and then the talk on the Holy Ghost was in English.  There was a musical number that was in English for the first verse and Samoan for the second verse, some additional comments in Samoan and the benediction was in English.  It was kind of hard to keep up, but it was cool!  There were about 45 members of the ward in attendance, at least 40 of whom were Samoan.  These people really love music,  When they sang the opening hymn they sang louder than our whole ward back home.  During the prelude music there were a number of people humming and singing along and even during the special music number, a man and women duet, there were several people humming and singing along, and not exactly softly, either.  It was awesome.

This was the other wildlife we saw this week.  Now that we're into breakup full swing, we're starting to see more birds, etc.  We're looking forward to seeing more of wild Alaska and sharing it with you.