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.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Snow!!  Okay, not a whole bunch, just a little dusting on the mountains around us.  We were down in Seward on Friday and Saturday, and when we got back there was snow on the mountains.  I know that I will regret this about two weeks in, but right now I'm hoping for a real Alaskan winter this year (last year was very mild).

We were in Seward, which is down on the south side of the Kenai Peninsula, at the invitation of one of the other senior missionary couples who are here as military liaison missionaries.  They took us and two other couples to a fishing resort that is reserved for military personnel and their guests.
We left the office at noon on Friday and carpooled down to Seward.  We arrived early enough to go to the Alaska Sealife Center and spend a couple of hours watching seals, sea lions, salmon and a variety of other fish and several species of sea birds.  There were also the usual "touch pools" where you could touch the sea anemone and starfish, etc.  We hung out together in the evening, swapping stories about growing up and listening to one of the elders recite cowboy poetry.

Sculpture out front of  the Sealife Center
A Horned Puffin.  Sister Taylor saw Tufted Puffins when we were out fishing but we were unable to get any pictures of them.

A Common Murre.  Sister Taylor saw some of these and some Marbled Murrelets out on the boat.

A couple of halibut and a couple of King Crab "in the wild" - so to speak.

Assorted ugly bottom fish.
Another ugly bottom fish.

Harbor Seals cavorting in their tank.

On Saturday, we got up at O-dark thirty, rode the shuttle down to the dock and took off for the open sea.  We sailed down Resurrection Bay and into the Gulf of Alaska for about 3 hours and then anchored and threw out the lines.  We were fishing in 250-280 feet of water.  There wasn't much action for a little bit and then things really picked up.  We fished for about three hours,  Sister Taylor and I caught two halibut each (the limit) and I also caught a Rock Fish, just about the ugliest fish ever.  Some of the others on the boat also caught a handful of silver salmon in addition to their halibut.

On the way back, the skipper took the time to show us some whales and porpoises.  Sister Taylor also had her binoculars out and saw several new birds, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Tufted Puffins, Murres and Marbled Murelettes.

Elder Taylor on the bow of the "Snowbird."

First fish - Rock Fish!
Ugly, huh?

Just so the grandkids don't forget what we look like.
Sister Taylor with her halibut.  Top side on your left, bottom on your right.

Elder Taylor with his big one.  26 lbs, about 35 inches, plus or minus.
The other one was about the size of Sister Taylor's.

That's it for this week!  See ya!

Monday, August 24, 2015

One thing bad about this blog is that once you post something, it's out there forever.  Generally not a problem, except when you're wrong!  The picture in the last post is not a Rock Ptarmigan, it is of a Spruce Grouse.  Just in case you were really concerned about accuracy in reporting, or just birds in general.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Good Sabbath to all!  We had a great day in the Bush Branch, me in the Branch President's Office and Sister Taylor at home on the phone with her leg up in the air.  More on that later.  

We started off this last week (actually starting the end of the week before) by making a trip to Fairbanks.  Sister Taylor had some medical things she wanted to take care of up there which required her presence. (You can only do so much over the phone.)  So, we made arrangements to drive up on Wednesday, spend Thursday with the missionaries, and drive back on Friday.  Fairbanks is 400 miles away, all by 2-lane road, so it takes 6-7 hours, depending on the traffic, which can be pretty clogged up with tour buses, motorhomes, fifth wheels and pickups pulling boats.  It is the tourist season and this is Alaska.  Of course, we also had to stop occasionally and take pictures, so it is basically a day-long trip.

In an effort to get the most out of the trip, we combined the medical stuff with several other errands.  We drove one vehicle up to Fairbanks, traded with some missionaries there and drove a different one back.  We delivered  a whole bunch of proselyting supplies - Books of Mormon, pamphlets, planners, etc., and housekeeping supplies - dishes, silverware, blankets, cleaning supplies, etc., etc., etc.  We delivered two new mattresses to a couple of elders who needed new beds.  We checked out a potential apartment (actually a small house) for the Zone Leaders to move into.  And... we delivered smiles, handshakes, hugs and goodies to all we could.  We were able to personally contact all but one companionships out of the 12 that are up there and we were able to talk with them on the phone.

Thursday was one busy day, but we still found some time to sight-see a little in the evening and on the way up and back.  On the way up, we took State Highway 3 that goes by the Denali State Park and Mt. McKinley (known to Alaskans simply as "Denali.")  We stopped at both the viewpoints and saw some some impressive mountains, but Sister Taylor and I disagree over whether or not we saw any of Denali itself so you can see that the viewing wasn't the greatest that day.  Lots of clouds around the mountain that is known for creating its own weather systems.  They say that only about 30 percent of tourists see Denali so I guess we fit right in.  Thursday evening we went to the Creamer's Field bird refuge on the edge of Fairbanks and did a little birding.  We saw lots of Sandhill Cranes, a Cackling Goose-Aleutian and a Greater White-Fronted Goose, two new ones for us.  

Friday we drove back to Anchorage on a different route.  We drove south on Highway 2 to Delta Junction, south to Glennallen on Highway 4 and then west on Highway 1 to Anchorage.  We would heartily recommend taking that route.  Very, very picturesque!

As you can see, the mountain in the middle of this display board is Denali.
You can also see how many clouds were obscuring the mountains that day.

Denali should actually be to the right of these mountains.  Pretty impressive by themselves, eh?

This is looking toward Ruth Glacier.  Denali is somewhere behind the clouds.

Just a continuation of the river valley in the foreground of the above picture and some more
of the mountains surrounding Denali.

This is a telephoto shot of what we believe to be the flank of Denali.  Too many clouds!!!
Sandhill Cranes at Creamer's Field.  Large flocks of cranes breed and nest there.
They had a Sandhill Crane Festival there just a couple of days after we left.

Cranes, cranes and more cranes.  Feeding, resting, flying.  All getting ready to migrate south.
Creamer's Field (part of a dairy farm) also has large flocks of small migratory birds that are there earlier in the summer.
Just a couple of the many magnificent mountains we saw on the way home.

The famous Alaska Oil Pipeline.  We traveled alongside it much of the way home.

The Matanuska Glacier.  It starts way up in those mountains and flows clear down to the highway.

This week was focused on transfers.  We had twelve new missionaries come out and only five go home.  As usual, transfer meeting was a spiritual feast.  As usual, our week was chock full trying to get all the busy work done that surrounds the coming and going of the missionaries.

Friday evening we were able to go out to dinner with, and spend some time getting to know, a senior missionary couple who are just finishing up their mission in the Juneau area, digitizing all manner of records for the genealogical archives.  Because Alaska didn't become a state until 1959, all the earlier records were just lumped together and this couple had the interesting job of going through everything from government records to village records to criminal records, including in some cases, criminal evidence.  They have many interesting and moving stories to tell.

Saturday evening, after our usual P-day activities of laundry, grocery shopping and apartment cleaning, we participated in a pot luck and hike with the other senior couples and two of the mission presidency and their wives.  We hiked about three and a half miles of the McHugh Creek Trail and then had a picnic dinner at the park area of the trailhead.  The most momentous thing that happened on the hike was Sister Taylor taking a fall on a steep downgrade and banging up her left knee.  As soon as everyone was sure that she was okay then the comments started about all the young missionaries with knee injuries she's been dealing with.  She is okay, but she's pretty stiff and sore, hobbling around the apartment today.  Hence the comment at the beginning of the post about her attending church via phone this morning.

This trail reminded Sister Taylor and I off home.  You could really smell the chlorophyll!

A Rock Ptarmigan - new one for us!

Sister Taylor can't be out in nature without taking a shot or two of the pretty wildflowers.

Yep.  That's us.  And this is after Sister Taylor fell so you can see that she will probably live.

Everyone have a great week!  We'll be back!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sorry for the delay in putting up a new post.  You have to concentrate on the work sometimes.  As I indicated in the last post, the first of the last two weeks we spent most of our time traveling to/from and attending zone conferences.  While the conferences were all great, we had the most extra-curricular fun traveling to and from the Soldotna conference, down on the Kenai Peninsula.  We drove down with Elder & Sister Weston, another senior missionary couple from the office.  Elder Weston is our vehicle coordinator and Sister Weston is the mission secretary.  We had a great time visiting with them as we traveled back and forth.  (About a 2.5 hour drive each way.)  Here are a few shots of the day.

Lots of beautiful countryside - fields of wild fireweed everywhere.
(Okay. As far as I know it's all wild.)

Sister Taylor  and Sister Weston in the fireweed.

The two of us standing in a different patch of quite tall fireweed near a lake.  The folk lore is that when the fireweed has bloomed all the way to the top winter is only six weeks away.  As I write this, the fireweed has bloomed all the way to the top and is finished.  We shall see if the lore is accurate.

Most of the peninsula we passed through was either mountain pass or flat forested land with the occasional river/marsh thrown in.  On this marsh we spotted a pair of Trumpeter Swans and a Red-necked Grebe with it's young.
(Both are below)

Driving back to Anchorage, after leaving the peninsula and turning up the Turnagain Arm,
we were greeted by this view and a whole group of swans on the marsh along the roadside.

There were actually about 10 swans in this group.  Quite a sight.

The next week, my sister Claudia and her husband Wes came to town from their home in Missouri.  They stayed part of the week with his Aunt and Uncle and spent the weekend with us.  We had a great time showing them around Anchorage, some of the Mat-Su Valley, and Hatcher Pass.  Wes is a serious birder of long-standing, so Friday we spent our day together at Potter Marsh, Westchester Lagoon and several other spots along the way where we could go birdwatching.  With his help and expertise we were able to identify six new birds and add them to our list.

We spent the entire day on Saturday going to the Reindeer Farm in Palmer and driving the length of Hatcher Pass to Willow and then back home.  On Sunday they attended the Bush Branch with us and then we went by the Lake Hood Seaplane base and watched a few float planes take off and land.

Claudia and Wes at Alaska Wild Berry Products, home of the 20-ft chocolate waterfall.
Elder Taylor and his sister, Claudia, at our picnic lunch in Palmer
just prior to going to the Reindeer Farm and Hatcher Pass.

Claudia feeding the reindeer.

Wes feeding the reindeer.

Sister Taylor with a friend at the Reindeer Farm.
She tried to share the gospel with him but he wasn't very receptive.

Elder Taylor at the Little Susitna River in Hatcher Pass.

A wee friend we found at the Independence Gold Mine.  An Arctic Ground Squirrel.
One of many we saw as we drove over the pass.

Wes & Claudia at the entrance to the Water Tunnel, Independence Gold Mine.

One of the many, many gorgeous views of Hatcher Pass.

The famous wild blueberry that grows in Hatcher Pass and is harvested and coveted by many in this area of Alaska.

We stopped for ice cream on the way back to Anchorage.  This is Sister Taylor's new motto!

On Monday the four of us went to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  In addition to a short program of dancing, we also were able to see a demonstration of Native Alaskan sport and tour some dwellings of the various different peoples.  It was really educational and fun as well.

A modern, yet traditional representation of the Raven, a prominent
figure in the culture and lore of the various Alaskan peoples.

Each dance was a story told by the various symbolic movements of the hands.

A story about a seal coming up for air, shaking his head and blinking his eyes to clear the water.

Ceremonial Mukluks worn by one of the dancers.

Ceremonial fans used by the dancers to add grace and emphasis to the hand movements.

The lead singer and drummer.  This man's home is on St. Lawrence Island.
He explained the dances and songs and told us how his people live.  

Below are two of the sport contests.  Both involved kicking a ball that was
suspended from different heights.

The various peoples of Alaska were represented by dwellings built around the Heritage Center's grounds.  This is a "Womens's House," of the Yupik/Cupik people, built mostly underground.

Claudia in a "Men's House," a communal living space.
This is a "Long House," built by the people of the southeast, around Juneau.  They are closely related to the Chinook and other peoples of the Pacific Northwest.  We felt almost at home around their totem poles and lodges, etc.

Claudia and Wes 

Sorry for the long dry spell.  Will try to get another post up soon.