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, November 22, 2015

It may only be the middle of November where you are, with balmy temperatures, leaves still on the trees and the occasional Indian Summer day, but in Alaska - IT'S WINTER!  Over the last couple of weeks we have gone through a little cold spell here in Anchorage.  The average high temperature has been about 12 degrees - average low temperature about 0 degrees or a little less.  I don't think Anchorage had negative temperatures at all the last couple of winters and we've already had three or four nights that got down to -1, -2, -6!  We've had snow and ice and have been driving around in 4-wheel drive with studs for about a couple of weeks.  It has warmed up (to freezing!) over the last couple of days and we've gotten another 6-8 inches of snow.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  It reminds Sister Taylor and I of our childhood in Colorado and Idaho.  We're really enjoying things, so far at least.

First snowfall.  Looking out of our back bedroom window in the evening.

A little bit of snow on the hills, on the road, no real issues.

Then the cold spell hit.  It was so cold that the moisture condensed on the bare tree limbs.  From a distance it looked like it had snowed overnight.  And then when the wind blew, the frost falling off the trees made it look like it was snowing.

Ice crystals formed from moisture in the air.

Our apartment has dual-pane windows, but they are aluminum.  All the window sills are ruined due to the constant moisture.
It got so cold outside this last week that the moisture froze on the window frame.  It was plenty warm in the apartment, but the window frames were cold enough to form ice on the insides.

On Saturday it warmed up a bit and got really serious about snowing.  These next pictures are from our grocery shopping trip to Fred Meyer.  Hey, it was P-day.  We had to get groceries!



We've been pretty busy lately and haven't had a chance to get out much so Saturday, before we went grocery shopping, we decided to see what Potter Marsh looked like.  Guess what.  No birds, no critters of any kind but Sister Taylor & I.

No problems finding a parking place!
Apparently there had been at least one critter out there.  This is looking down from the boardwalk into the ice.  It must have been just soft enough at some point that the animal's feet sunk in a little, but not all the way.
Living most of our lives in a temperate climate, we had never seen these before we came to Anchorage.  They are small sweeper/plow/snow blowers that the city uses to clean/plow and clear their sidewalks and bike trails.  On our way back from Fred Meyer, we passed seven of the full-size plows and graders working the same street.  These Alaskans are serious about snow removal.

One day on our way into the mission office, we saw a mother moose and her yearling trotting along the sidewalk on Strawberry Rd., the street where the office is located.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw another adult female trimming the bushes along the front of the building.  Then when Sister Taylor was out and about later in the day, she saw this bull trimming things along a street just a quarter mile or so from the office.  Four in one day!  We haven't seen any moose since last spring/early summer, but they are coming back out now.






Today we had an interesting experience that a few of you will find interesting.  One of the sisters in Palmer called last night.  It turns out that she has been sick for a couple of weeks.  Sister Taylor was concerned that she might have pneumonia so we met her (& her companion, of course) at the Urgent Care Clinic in Wasilla this morning.  Wasilla is about an hour from here.  That made us miss our church meetings with the Bush Branch so we went to Sacrament Meeting in the Campbell Park Ward.  We were able to say hi to several folks that we got to know in that ward when we first got here.

After the meeting, as we were walking down the hallway, a man reached out and stopped us, saying something about having met us before.  We both thought that he was talking about here in Alaska until he touched my nametag and started talking about his first bishop being named Taylor in Corvallis, OR.  He was talking about Daddy, of course, and he said that I was the spitting image of him.  It was George Jarvi!  As soon as he told us who he was, we both recognized him.  We had a great, if short, visit with him.  He and his wife have recently returned from a mission in South Africa and he is currently serving in the bishopric of the Inlet View Ward.  He has lived in Alaska for eight years and is a chemical engineer.  

As we were talking with him, the the sister missionaries walked up to say hi and he started telling them about having danced with Sister Taylor at the stake dances when we were all young.  I think they got quite a kick out of that.  It may be a small world, but it is really a small world in the church.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

We have had a great adventure!  Last weekend we traveled with two other senior missionary couples to the northern-most town in the United States - Barrow, Alaska!  For those of you who knew this, and have been patiently waiting for this post, I apologize.  It has been a particularly busy week.

On our way home from the airport, Sister Taylor received a call from one of the other senior missionaries.  While we were gone, his wife had gotten quite sick.  We rushed over to their apartment and the sister ended up going to the Emergency Department and spending a couple of days in the hospital.  Due to this illness and other health issues they are going to have to go home so we have been scrambling the last few days trying to learn enough of their responsibilities that the mission won't fold.  It looks like I will be taking over the Financial Secretary's position and others in the office will be assuming various other duties.

Also, this week we had another earthquake.  They are happening all the time in Alaska, but you don't feel them all.  This one woke me up at about 5:30 on Thursday morning.  It was one good, hard shake and then we didn't feel anything else.  4.5 on the Richter Scale, centered about 40-50 miles north of here.

And now I'm sick.  I caught the head/chest cold that has been going through the missionaries like wildfire.  I started with a cough on Friday and I'm full into it now.  So far, Sister Taylor has been able to avoid it.  We'll cross our fingers.  Transfer week starting tomorrow.

So... on to The Adventure --
Last Friday, Oct. 30th, Sister Taylor and I and two other couples, the Westons and the Dunns, boarded a plane here in Anchorage and flew to Barrow.  Sister Taylor and Sister Weston started the whole thing, having decided that it would be a shame to spend 18 months in Alaska and not go to Barrow, the northern-most city in the U.S.  It was primarily a tourist trip, but while we were there we met with the elders and delivered them some supplies and goodies, as well.  We flew from Anchorage, stopped briefly in Prudhoe Bay, and arrived in Barrow at about 11:45 AM.  We were a little late because of de-icing procedures in both airports.

The runway in Prudhoe Bay.  The wind was blowing and drifting the snow so that the they had to continually work to keep the runways open,  That light at the far end of the runway is a sweeper coming toward us as we turned off the runway.

The sweeper as it drove past.

The terminal at Deadhorse Airport (Prudhoe Bay, Alaska)
We didn't disembark here, but those who did used a stairway and walked into that lighted doorway below the sign.

Sorry for the focus, but this is the building next to the terminal at Barrow.  Wiley Post and Will Rogers were killed in a plane crash near here.  The airport is named for them and there is a memorial in town.
The memorial to Wiley Post and Will Rogers.

Just like the old days.  This is the stairway we used to disembark and embark at the airport in Barrow.

video
                                                                 De-icing the plane

Once in Barrow, we got checked into our hotel, a small place a block from the airport, run by a sweet family named Grant.  He ran the hotel, she worked at the college and they had an 8-year old girl named Ellinor (her spelling) who was a surrogate grandchild for all us senior missionaries.  During our stay, we played games in the lobby (our rooms were pretty small) and she would join in with us.  She and our granddaughter Katie are going to be penpals.  They were a great family and were really accommodating and helpful.

Shortly after we arrived, we were greeted by the elders who are assigned to Barrow.  They live in the church building and walked a mile to come see us at the hotel.  They don't have a vehicle in Barrow and have to walk or be transported by members everywhere they want to go.  When it's cold, which it is all the time, walking is a challenge.  The wind always blows (there is nothing to stop it) and the wind chill is always significant.  One morning we got up and it was 2 degrees with a windchill which brought it down to -25 degrees!  The warmest it got while we were there was 18 degrees.  The windchill still brought it down below zero.

So the elders showed up to welcome us -- in beards!  Someone in the branch crocheted them for the elders to protect their faces from the wind.  I don't think they wear them often, but they did for us, of course.
Elders Fatani and Perkins
The Elders told us that the branch was so excited about having visitors that they were putting on a potluck dinner for us that evening.  Then they had another one for us after church on Sunday.  The branch, which includes, roughly, all of Alaska north of the Arctic Circle (as large as the state of Michigan) meets in a small building in Barrow and there are a handful of members calling in from outlying villages.  It consists primarily of Tongans who live there full-time, and whites from the Lower 48 who are there as teachers, medical personnel and borough (county) personnel.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, Barrow, Alaska

At the front door.

Elder Perkins, the Dunns, the Westons, us, Elder Fatani

President and Sister Nethercott.  He is the Branch President and his brother and family are members of the
Bush Branch that we are assigned to in Anchorage.

The Relief Society President, Pauline (something we couldn't pronounce) and her mother.  Pauline speaks perfect English.
Her mother speaks a little with a large accent.  

A feather apron.

This was during the dinner on Sunday afternoon.  Interesting mix of food types, everything from corned beef cooked in taro leaves to potato salad.  This room is their chapel and multi-purpose room.  Everyone just moves the tables and chairs in and out, depending on the need.  There were about 40-50 in attendance at Sacrament Meeting.
On Friday afternoon, after we got settled in the hotel, I walked over to the police department and met the chief, Travis Welch, who also happens to be the Elder's Quorum President in the branch.  He showed me around the station and we visited a little bit and then he drove me around Barrow for a short tour.  He confirmed that the potluck was on for that night and offered to come and pick us all up.  (As I said earlier, the church is about a mile from our hotel)  Then he drove us back to our hotel and offered to pick us all up on Saturday and give us the grand tour of the city.  So Saturday afternoon he was kind enough to drive us all around the city, telling us it's history and interesting points, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  And he drove us to church and back on Sunday.  He was a very nice guy and very generous with his time.  He really was the catalyst that made our trip so enjoyable.  And saved six old people from frostbite or cab fares.

Elder Taylor and Chief (President) Welch.  Yes, we did talk about beards on police officers!
Mine would have been nice up there.

The shoulder patch and coin of the North Slope Borough Police Department.  A present from the Chief.

One of the eye-opening experiences we had while in Barrow was a visit to the local grocery store.  Of course, everything for sale there has to be shipped in (when conditions allow) and consequently very expensive.  A few of the prices we saw in the store --







Wild, huh?  And the elders tell us that the milk is only good for a couple of days after you buy it.  We have enough trouble getting fresh stuff that lasts here in Anchorage.  I can't imagine what is must be like up there.

Barrow is a town of approx. 5000 people, about 60 percent of whom are Alaskan Native.  The other two main groups are whites and polynesians.  Although the town is only 2-3 miles across, there is not much walking done, at least in winter.  There are a lot of snow machines (known in the Lower 48 as snowmobiles), quads, personal vehicles and taxis.

Well, our trip lasted from Friday morning to Monday afternoon and, between our two phones and the camera, we took about 260 pictures/videos.  So here is just a sampling to give you an idea of what Barrow is like.


This was taken from the hotel lobby window about mid-morning.  Sunrise while we were there was at 11:08 AM and sunset was about 5:20 PM.  Toward the end of November the sun goes down and doesn't come up again until spring.

This is headed west out of town.  The road ends at a freshwater lake that is now frozen over.  You can see that there are no trees, bushes, etc.  Barrow is in the Arctic Desert.  There isn't even any grass in the summer, just tundra with a little moss growing here and there.  This is also a good example of the roads/streets.  There is no paving because of the tundra/permafrost.  They are just gravel and are all pretty rough.



A wide variety of architecture, from a very modern hospital and city hall... 

to geodesic domes...
to boxes with more boxes added on.  Note the upstairs addition.  Would you like to climb those stairs with no railing, or stand on that landing with no railing?  And that little window is the only one.

The wind was really blowing the snow around.  On Monday, Mrs. Grant couldn't go to work at the college because the drifted snow had obliterated the road.  She couldn't tell where to drive.

And a few of the other things we saw and did --

Note that most places on that signpost are a lot further away than the north pole.
This was a short block from our hotel.  We just about froze walking over there and back.

A whale bone arch overlooking the Arctic Ocean.

The skull and jaw bones of a bowhead whale, still hunted by the natives in the spring and fall for its blubber, meat and baleen.


Elder & Sister Taylor

Sisters Taylor (L) and Weston (R).  They were going to stick their feet into the ocean but chickened out at the last moment.  Instead they collected some gravel from the shore as a momento.  There is no sand, just little tiny pebbles under the snow.  The line of white across the water is the ice pack moving ever closer to Barrow.  Soon the ocean will be completely frozen over.  The darker patches in the blue are ice.
All in all, it was a great trip but we were happy to get back to our own beds and the comparatively tropical climate of Anchorage, where it is currently 30 degrees and snowing.    Ahhh, winter in the great Far North.