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, June 26, 2016

Last weekend we had a great visit from my older brother, Ralph and his wife, Dixie.  While they were here we showed them around Anchorage a little, introducing them at the Mission Office, traipsing through some of the tourist shops and taking them by the most important place in town, the temple.

We also went on a couple of special outings -- On Friday we went on a wildlife cruise out of Seward on Resurrection Bay.   First, the cruise took us to Fox Island for a baked Salmon/Prime Rib buffet lunch.

Docked at Fox Island - the boat on which we traveled, the Nunatak.
Ralph and Dixie aboard the boat.  The bishop never gets to take a day off.

Bear Glacier, located on the north side of Resurrection Bay.  Those are large icebergs on the left that have calved off the glacier.

The highlight of the cruise was this humpback whale.  We saw several, it's just that this one was feeding all around our boat and wasn't in any hurry to leave.  We learned to watch the seagulls to find where he was going to surface.  The whale "herds" the fish toward the surface where he/she scoops up a mouthful.  Just before the whale blows and grabs his mouthful, they swoop down in a big feeding frenzy.  In this picture he is coming directly toward the boat.

This is the more common view.  He is arching his back as he sinks back down below the surface.  Hence the name, "Humpback Whale."  Tiny little dorsal fin, for such a large creature. 

And here's a view you don't normally see, those are the whale's nostrils through which he spouts, or blows a fountain of moisture as he breaks the surface.  His head is to the left in this picture.

In addition to whales, we also saw a number of birds, some of which were new to us, including three different kinds of Cormorants like this one. 

A Horned Puffin.  Sister Taylor has seen them before, but I hadn't.

And Tufted Puffins, another new one for me.  Those white feathers on their heads are quite long and floppy.
Common Murres (along with seagulls, of course)

In addition to whales and birds, we also saw sea lions.

And this big daddy sea lion.

At one point where we were quite close to shore, we saw this mountain goat.

On Saturday, we took Ralph and Dixie to the Reindeer Farm and Hatcher Pass.  We've posted quite a few pictures of both in the past so here are a few snapshots of the Taylors.  But, in case we haven't told you before, the "reindeer" farm also has elk and a bison named Dolly.

Dolly, raised with a moose, doesn't know she is a bison.  She also really likes people and loves to play.
Unfortunately, she is huge and her play could seriously injure you.

No, not reindeer, moose antlers.

Hatcher Pass and the Independence Gold Mine.

At the entrance to the mine.  Even though it was kind of a cool, blustery day (that is snow piled right there at the entrance) the temperature still dropped 20-30 degrees by the time you reached that yellow diamond just inside.

We've shown you most of the scenery already, so I didn't include many photos of the countryside.  We did, however, really enjoy Ralph and Dixie's time with us.   In addition to showing them some of Alaska, we spent quite a bit of time comparing our missions and the general senior missionary experience.  It was great!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Our son, Jonathon, came to visit us here in Alaska over the Memorial Day weekend.  We had a great visit and managed to do a couple of fun activities, as well.  The first thing we did, of course, was to visit the local Barnes & Noble Bookstore so that Jonathon could get himself some new movies and books on CD.  Those of you who know JT will know that a Barnes & Noble trip is the highlight of any vacation for him!

The next day we took Jonathon to the office to meet the other senior missionaries.  While we were there we had a moose visit the parking lot to trim the trees and bushes.  This is not an uncommon occurrence.  It was a little difficult getting both JT and the moose in a photo, but we managed.

Sister Taylor has wanted to take a floatplane trip since we got here and Jonathon loves to fly in small planes so it seemed like just the right thing to do.  We contacted one of the local "flightseeing" companies and scheduled a trip!

On Friday afternoon we went down to the Lake Hood Seaplane base (next to the International Airport) and climbed aboard.  We were going to schedule our trip in the morning, but there was a TFR in effect, a Temporary Flight Restriction, because Pres. Obama was landing at the nearby airbase for refueling on his way back from Japan.  It is really unusual to see the skies over Anchorage clear of any and all airplanes!

We left shortly after 2:00 PM.  We flew east into the Chugach Mountains, flying up the Eagle River Valley and over the top to the Colony and George Glaciers.  They combine and terminate at Lake George.  After carefully finding an area free of ice from the glacier, the pilot landed on Lake George not too far from the toe of the glacier.  The lake was a little choppy from the wind coming down off the glaciers so the landing and take-off were quite bumpy!  Jonathon loved it!

After our visit to the lake, we flew on to the Knik Glacier, which is one of the largest in this area.  It is 25 miles long, 5 miles wide at the mouth.  (Knik is pronounced with the k at the beginning, k-nik)  We then followed the Knik River Valley (where we rode the ATVs a few weeks ago) back down to the Glenn Highway and basically followed it back to Anchorage.  Our pilot was a great guy who originally came to this area when he was posted to the Elmendorf Air Force Base years ago.  He was a wealth of information about the area and we very much enjoyed his company.  We each had a headset with microphone so we were able to listen to and talk with him and each other and listen to the other planes/tower/etc.

At the Regal Air docks.  The plane you are looking at is a DeHaviland Beaver, the "bush" plane.  We flew in the Cessna 206 behind it.  The young man standing on the wing strut is fueling it for the next flight.  We asked for the Cessna because it was smaller, closer to the type of planes that Sister Taylor flew in as a youngster.  And we got to go alone instead of with 3-4 other passengers.  
A portion of the Lake Hood Seaplane Base.  Our pilot told us that there are 1,000 planes here, 1,000 planes at Merrill Field and who knows how many planes on small lakes, etc., all around the area.  Flying is THE mode of transportation in Alaska!  Below is another view of the base.   The International Airport is on the far side.

The Eagle River Valley.  We turned right, flew up to the end and then up and over into the tops of the Chugach Mountains.
Tops of the mountains.

Not mountains peaking up through the clouds - mountains peaking up through the snow and ice.

The Colony Glacier coming around the big hump in the middle from the left and the George Glacier coming around from the right.  The dark strips are called the moraine and that's where they join.  All the soil and rock scraped up by the glacier (and ground into silt) as it advances makes the dark color. 
Lake George from above.  Looks fairly clear, right?
Lake George and the "toe" of the glacier from straight on.  A little more ice visible on the lake.

Bumpy ride!  Woohoo!!

A cool looking iceberg about the size of a house or a little larger.  See that dark spot in the middle.  Look below.

Look closely.  It's a hole through the berg.

The Knik Glacier.  There is no way to show the depth and ruggedness of all those crevasses.
There is no way to cross this glacier on the surface.  It is just impassable by foot or snowmachine!

See how blue those pools are?  Glacial ice absorbs all of the light spectrum except blue.
The deeper into the ice you go, the more blue is reflected back for you to see.

The "toe" of the Knik Glacier and the beginning of the Knik River.
When I went on the ATV ride, we had lunch  just to the right of this picture before heading back.
Looking up the Knik River Valley.  The glacier is at the top left and the river flows down the far side against the mountains.  This valley was created by the combined forces of ice, flood and silt/gravel/rock.  
Looking down the Knik River Valley toward the Palmer Hay Flats and, if you could see that far,
but you can't in this picture, the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet.

As we flew along the valley on our way back to Anchorage, the pilot tried to find some wildlife for us to see.  We saw a couple of moose feeding down on the flats and, if you look real close in the lower right quarter of the picture, you can see a couple of white spots on the cliff which are Dall sheep.

Landing at the seaplane base.

The intrepid explorers.

On Saturday, we went to Palmer for lunch and an ATV ride at the invitation of Pres. and Sister LaVoie.  Pres. LaVoie has a six-wheeled Polaris Ranger.  We were able to get all three of us inside, thanks to Jonathon's having lost so much weight over the past several months.  We drove one of the ATV trails alongside the highway for a short distance and then drove around a large gravel/rock area, letting Jonathon take over the driving for a bit.  It was lots of fun.

Sorry, just the two of us, Sister Taylor was the photographer.

Jonathon went home on Sunday night, flying out at about midnight.  (I'm sure that Pete just loved being at the airport in Portland at 4:30 AM!)  We are looking forward to being with them and the rest of the family soon.  Our mission is winding down and we will be returning home from Alaska in September.

But, in the mean time, we will continue to work hard for the Lord, doing our best to take good care of the junior missionaries while we can, and we are looking forward to Ralph & Dixie's visit later this week!!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Three weeks ago we had the opportunity to travel to Valdez.  That's Val-DEEZ, not Val-dez, just in case you didn't know.  Valdez is located on an inlet of Prince William Sound directly east of Anchorage and is only 118 miles away.  That is 45 minutes by plane but, if you have to drive it is 300 miles and takes 5 1/2 to 6 hours.  Of course, that's what we did.  We made the trip with another senior missionary couple, the Mayhues.  While we were there we delivered proselyting supplies to the missionaries, attended a baptism they had scheduled and took them out to dinner afterward.  We attended church with them on Sunday and then made our way back to Anchorage.

The drive to Valdez is really beautiful.  From Anchorage you drive up Alaska Highway 1, the Glenn Highway, through Palmer and along the Matanuska River until you pass the Matanuska Glacier, which comes down quite close to the highway.  You continue along to Glenallen and then turn south on Alaska Highway 4.  All along the way there are beautiful mountains, lake and rivers.  For the first part of Highway 4, you drive alongside the Copper River, famous, of course for the salmon that are caught in its lower reaches.  Just before you get to Valdez you drive through Thompson Pass.  It is incredibly beautiful, topping out at about 7,000 feet.  There are a number of waterfalls as you come out of the pass and down to Valdez.

Valdez's claim to fame is that the Alaska Oil Pipeline ends there.  There is a big depot and port on one side of the bay and that's where the oil is transferred to tankers. (remember the Exxon Valdez?)   It is very picturesque, surrounded by mountains, but the only things to do there are work in the oil industry and fish.  There is some tourism, but even that mostly revolves around fishing.  The town was rebuilt in its current location after it was completely demolished by the earthquake of 1964 (and the subsequent tsunami) that destroyed much of Anchorage.  The epicenter of the quake was near Valdez.  It registered 9.2 on the Richter scale, lasted four minutes and was the largest earthquake ever in recorded North America.

Anyway... Here are a whole bunch of pictures.  Of course, none of the pictures of the mountains do them any justice.

Above and below - just two of the big waterfalls, HorseTail and Bridal Veil, along the roadside.  If you look carefully in the lower right corner of the above photo you will see Sisters Taylor and Mayhue.  Just to give you an idea of the size of these waterfalls.

A panorama shot from the waterfront in Valdez across the bay to the oil depot.   Frequently there are humpback whales that feed in this area we were told.   Unfortunately they were fasting this Sunday.

The oil depot across the bay.
A 360 video of the Valdez area taken from the old townsite.  The new Valdez is on the right of the bay in this video.  The oil depot is on the left.

There is some tourism.  This is one of the local tour companies.  I liked their attitude about Valdez and Switzerland.

Okay, that's just a little taste of the incredible beauty of the drive to, and surrounding Valdez.  But you know, of course, that we don't do anything these days without keeping an eye out for the birds.  This trip we were lucky enough to add three new ones to our list!

Hoary Redpoll - flitting around in the bushes outside our motel window.

Surf Scoter - not exactly an attractive bird.  There was a whole flock of them on the bay

Harlequin Duck - this one is a very attractive bird.  Quite colorful.

Harlequin male and female

This "waterfowl" was moored just outside our motel window, too.
U.S Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur, which Sis. Taylor tells me means candle or light in French.  The young man who was baptized while we were there is a Coast Guardsman stationed here in Valdez.

Of course, we've seen lots of eagles during our stay in Alaska, but here's another one.

And a couple of moose along the highway just outside of town.