On Wednesday the 16th we went down to Soldotna and Kenai. Left at 5:00 AM and drove 3 hours. Went to a doctor's appointment with a sister missionary, nursed 4-5 sick elders (cold bug going around like wildfire) drove back almost 4 hours due to the construction and a few minutes spent stopped at a place called Summit Lake. We took a couple of pictures of the autumn colors on the mountainside and then spotted a solitary loon down on the lake. We took a couple of long-distance pics and were able to identify it as a Common Loon, a new one for us. As we started to drive off, Linda saw what she thought was a group of loons a little further down the lake. We bailed out and took some more pictures and discovered several female Common Merganser ducks, another new one for us! Whoopee! Two for one and we weren't even looking for birds. Most of the birds have packed up and left for the winter. There are still a few around, but only a few.
So it was only a 12 hour day. And Sister Taylor caught the cold and was down for a couple of days herself.
This last week we made our third trip to Fairbanks. Our vehicle coordinator needed some winter tires swapped between Anchorage and Fairbanks, so we hauled sixteen up, brought fifteen back and Sister Taylor nursed a bunch of sickies while we were up there. Yes, the bad cold that is going around hit the Fairbanks Zone with a vengeance. Among other missionaries, there were three sisters there who were like death warmed over. Bad, bad shape. Now the cold has started in Anchorage and next week is transfer week! It'll be all over the state by the end of the week. They'd probably spread it into Canada as well, but I don't think any missionaries are being moved in or out of Whitehorse this time so maybe Canada will be lucky and miss out on this one.
We were quite fortunate this trip. The sky was absolutely clear on both days and we got some good shots of Mt. McKinley aka Denali. I think we've told you before that everyone up here calls it by its Native Alaskan name - Denali. Now the President has made the change official but I don't know when it will be/has been change(d). They say that the mountain is so big that it creates it own weather systems. Consequently, it is generally shrouded in clouds to one degree or another. The estimate is that less than 30 percent of the tourists actually get to see the mountain. I guess we are now either part of the 30 percent or we're no longer tourists.
|On our earlier trip it was quite overcast and we didn't know that the mountain tends to |
peek out occasionally as you are driving north. This looks close but is actually 40 miles away.
|There are two official viewpoints along the highway. This is a shot from the southern-most one.|
Even though the day was clear as a bell, there was still a little haze between us and the mountain.
|Seeing Denali was super, but there were mountains, mountains and more mountains all along the way.|
We only took about a bucket-full of pictures. Fantastic views, fantastic country.
|While we were in Fairbanks, we ran across this little store front. Only in Alaska!|
|What we didn't realize was that there are great views of Denali coming back from Fairbanks, as well.|
|And just for drill, we stopped in at the viewpoint on our way back and found that the air was even clearer than the day before. Great view of the mountain.|
|And while we were at the viewpoint - yes, we spotted another new bird - a Gray Jay.|
Another one for the list.
Yesterday we were privileged to attend the baptism of a young sister that had been taught by the Elders who live downstairs. We hosted one of the lessons in our apartment when one of their other fellowshippers had to cancel and we were glad to have the opportunity to be there for her baptism. As occasionally happens with those things, some of the folks on the program weren't able to be there. When we arrived, at five minutes before the hour, Sister Taylor was asked to give the talk on the Holy Ghost. She did a great job.
Today we attended the Bush Branch, as usual. The Branch President has asked for everyone to send in a picture and a short bio so that a book can be put together that will help the members of the branch know each other a little bit better. Right now people only know each other by the sound of their voice. It'll be nice to be able to put a face to the voice. This is the picture we sent in.
They put some of the pictures up on the bulletin board outside the Branch President's office along with this map of members' locations around the state. Each pin represents one or more families or individuals in that village. Pretty big Branch, huh? Covers an area the same size as one stretching from the Canadian border to the south end of Nevada and from the Pacific Ocean to the eastern borders of Wyoming/Colorado. And that's not including the Aleutian Islands. You can see that we have members out there, too. Can you imagine home/visit teaching someone three states away from you? And can you say, "I can see Russia from my house."?
|Sorry the picture isn't clearer. I was taking it with my cell phone through plexiglass.|
This evening we'll be having the sister missionaries over who are also assigned to the branch. We'll be attending a Branch Missionary meeting via Video Conferencing. There will be branch missionaries from all over the state attending. Don't you just love technology? You can't even go to the Alaskan Bush to hide from your calling!