My First Camping Experience …..Ever

Looking back towards the parking lot, it’s way past the creek

So, I went camping for the first time a couple weeks ago. I’ve never camped in my life. The closest thing I’ve come to camping, is sleeping in a tent in my backyard as a kid. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I’d be sleeping in the middle of the mountains in bear country IN ALASKA, like what? Me. I hate my hands being dirty. I cant go more than a day without showering. Yet here I am, hiking miles back to a lake, peeing behind rocks, and summiting a 6,000 foot mountain. I LOVED it. I’d do it again any day. I’m sure you want to know all about my journey, don’t worry, I got all the details below.

I drove out to Hatcher’s Pass (my new fav place), about an hour drive from my house. I paid $5 and parked in the Reed Lakes parking lot – which I only recommend if you have a vehicle that sits high off the ground – those bumps are no joke. I loaded my 40lb pack on my back and began the hike back to the lakes. It started out as a pretty maintained path, mostly dirt and mostly flat. After about a mile, you start to climb up. It’s not a hard climb, but walking up any elevation is definitely tougher when you’re carrying weight. Conveniently enough, there were switchbacks most of the way up until you hit the boulder field. The boulder field was exactly what you imagine – huge rocks that have fallen from the mountains. You can see where people have walked or jumped from rock to rock, because the boulders have a lighter colored, almost sanded down side. Once past the boulders, you start your final ascent up. Reed lakes consists of lower reed lake and upper reed lake. I camped at upper reed lake, making my hike a tad bit longer than the usual hiker to the lower lake.

Lower Reed Lake
Me heading back down from Upper Reed Lake

Reed lakes is beautiful. Clear, teal colored water, that comes straight from the glaciers. The greenest grass/moss surrounding the water, and the pointiest, tallest mountains everywhere you look. I set up tent pretty close to the water. The tricky part was finding flat land with no bumps or rocks. (Sleeping on rocky ground isn’t the most comfortable thing)

Upper Reed Lake

So, what do you need to camp you ask? Well, aside from setting up my tent, I have a self inflating sleeping pad. I laid this out and waited a few minutes for it to inflate. On top of that is your sleeping bag. I purchased a synthetic filled, 20 degree bag from North Face, called the Cat’s Meow. I slept amazingly. The pad was comfortable and I didn’t get cold at all, I actually woke up hot during the night. In addition to that, you’ll need to pack your meals. I made a PB&J for lunch the following day, beef jerky, cheese, protein bars, and candy for snacks (knowing I would be hiking up a big mountain), and dehydrated meals for dinner and breakfast. My boyfriend bought a Jetboil, which boils water in literally two minutes. Surprising enough, the dehydrated meals were good. I’m not sure if it was the long hike that made them good or if they really are that good, but I couldn’t complain. Make sure you pack your camping spork for your meals!

Aside from food, you’ll need other clothes (depending on how long you’re camping), toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, and chapstick just to name a few. Okay, enough about packing – back to business.

The next morning we got up and began to hike Lynx Peak. It was unlike any mountain I’ve climbed – all rock. I literally climbed up rocks to summit. From the top, you could see for miles. Just below the peak, was the bomber glacier. It’s called that because in the 50s, a bomber plane flew into the mountain, falling into the glacier and killing the passengers. The plane has been preserved by the ice. Recently, with global warming raising temperatures in Alaska, the plane has surfaced more than ever before. Historians and scientists have flown to retrieve any artifacts. Also near the bomber is the “bomber hut”, a little cabin that you can sleep in for free on a first come, first serve basis. The views from the peak are endless. I’m always reminded how big the world is and how tiny all my problems are when I’m sitting on the top.

From Lynx Peak, the bomber is down below in the middle area
Zoomed in on the bomber
From Lynx Peak
From Lynx Peak

To get down, you have to use your feet as skis and ski down the tiny rocks. That was the scariest thing to me, just because you feel like you’re going to fall at any moment. Once back down, I tore down camp and began the long journey back to the car. Of course my trip ended in a stop at Wendys before traveling home. Food never tasted so good.

If you’ve never gone camping, I would encourage you to go. Being alone in nature, with no distractions or technology, is the best feeling. Your busy world is forced into peace. You can dream the biggest dreams. You experience God on a new level. You realize just how large, yet small the world is. Lastly, you gain an appreciation for life itself. I’ll never look at life the same.

Just on up the path is Upper Reed Lake. Straight ahead is Lynx Peak.
Just another one from the top because I thought you’d want to see another picture of me 🙂
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Blueberry Pickin’

Eeeek this post has me excited! I love experiencing new things! You guessed it, I went blueberry pickin’! Alaska is home to many berries that literally grow everywhere. There are blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, watermelon berries, crowberries, salmonberries, lingonberries, and Russian berries – just to name a few. There’s no berry patches or farms where you have to pay for the berries – no, if you can pick em, you can keep em! I’ve never seen berry bushes on the side of the mountain that you can pick and eat. It’s such a cool thing to experience and soak in. 10/10 would recommend if you travel to Alaska over the summer.

As I already mentioned, there are plenty of places to go picking, as they seemingly grow everywhere. I went to Hatcher’s Pass, which is quite frankly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s out in what Alaskans call “the valley” (Wasilla and Palmer). Every hue of green you can imagine, crystal clear bright blue waters rushing down streams full of smooth rocks, and vibrant purple fireweed lining the road. It’s magnificent, not to mention HUGE. If mountain climbing is your thing, there’s big mountains for you to tackle. If camping is your thing, there are huts in various places of the park for you to stay in for free (first come, first serve). If mining for gold excites you, you can mine in the river or go check out the old mine in Independence Mine State Park. And of course, if picking blueberries is your thing, there’s plenty of those there too.

We turned onto Arch Angel road, which is pretty smooth for the first mile or so before getting rocky. I wouldn’t recommend driving too far past the bridge if you have a low setting car. After parking, we headed down the Reed Lakes trailhead. About a half mile or so down the trail, we decided to take a left – through the bushes/trees/tall grass. It’s Alaska, there aren’t super defined trails anyways. Once we took a left, we dropped down into a small valley area, where a man was already picking. We started feeling disappointed because the bushes were pretty much bare, aside from the crowberries, which were in abundance. The man explained we may have better luck climbing up the hill a bit, so we did. We hiked up a pretty steep hillside and found SO MANY bushes. It looked like no one had even touched the hillside (probably because of the incline). We didn’t bring any special tools, just a bucket to put the berries in! We collected around 10 cups of berries – yummy treats coming soon! My hands were pretty much purple by the time we were done from the berry juice.

If you come to Alaska in the summer – specifically the end of July/beginning of August – make sure you go blueberry pickin’!

SAFETY ALERT: As fun as picking berries is, please make sure you do your research before eating ANY berries. All of the berries I listed above are safe to eat. However, ALL white berries in Alaska are poisonous and can lead to serious health issues, even death. If you take your kids, please make sure you watch exactly what they are picking! And, as usual, take bear spray – bears love eating blueberries too!

Changing Seasons

Penguin Peak Trail

Well, summer is slowly coming to an end in Alaska. I’d say there’s a very small window for “fall” weather, then it jumps right into winter. Along with that comes less sunlight. Even now, with each day, we are losing sunlight. The sun used to be up well past midnight, but now it’s setting at 10:30pm. Some locals are freaking out about it too. “OMG we are losing so much sun” – as if it hasn’t been like this since forever. I’ll admit, I’ve thought it a couple times too. In essence, we are fearing the darkness – why? For some, it’s probably because they don’t like change. For others, they associate danger/crime with darkness. For me, I’m just sad I can’t be out hiking super late. This concept of darkness got me thinking. Y’all know I’m a girl of faith, so everything comes back to that for me. How often do we fear the next season?

Fireweed Field (see the almost non existent trail, that’s how most trails are)

If you’ve grown up or are familiar with church, then I’m sure you’ve heard about seasons of drought and prosperity. It tends to be a cycle. When you’re in a drought, you hold tight to knowing the rain (blessing) is coming. When you’re in the rain, you know a drought must be in the foreseeable future. Why do we put so much pressure on the next season? It takes away from the current season. Everything is about preparation. The bears are prepping for hibernation, the plants are prepping by losing their fruits, people are prepping by hunting and fishing – storing as much meat as they can before winter. So what preparation are you doing in your current season? I firmly believe that God won’t take us to the next season without preparing us for it. If you’re asking yourself why you keep going through something repeatedly, maybe there’s a lesson you need to learn before you’re ready to move on. Just like amusement park rides, when you’re shorter, you’re limited to certain rides for your safety. But as you grow, you’re ready for the bigger, more intense rides. Can I be as bold to say that if you lack preparation you lack growth? You’re simply stagnant. If the bears didn’t prepare for hibernation – put in the work before the winter – they’d die. If the people (especially those in villages) didn’t hunt and fish – put in the work before winter – their families would starve. You see where I’m getting at? Don’t become lazy and rely on last season’s goods to get you out of your current season.

New seasons should bring excitement. As sad as it is that we are losing sunlight, I am so excited for winter. My goal this year is to learn how to ski and start backcountry skiing — honestly can’t wait! I’ll probably look like Bambi fresh out of his mom’s womb, but hey, practice makes perfect?

I don’t know what season you’re in. I don’t know if you’re experiencing pain or going through a season of emptiness. I also don’t know if you’re in a season of adventure or a new beginning. However, I’ve experienced all of those at different times. I’m thankful for the seasons. Looking back over my life, It’s honestly amazing to see what I’ve been through. Situations that seemed so enormous at the time, now seem so small. Now that I’m ahead, I can see the stepping stones with each season. It’s like an “Ah-ha” moment where it clicked and I finally realized why God allowed me to go through different things. Isn’t it crazy how we can get so focused and caught up on the immediate situation? Imagine sitting in traffic, I’m talking bad, stopped on the highway type traffic. You can’t see what’s ahead, but all you know is that you’re late for your coffee date and it seems like absolutely know one is moving. What you can’t see is the horrible, life threatening accident that’s a mile ahead. Responders are trying to save someone’s life and here you are worried about your coffee. Life is too short to get consumed by a situation or a season.

I’ve never been a negative person per say, but I have been someone who holds grudges and will cut you off real quick if you cross me. Lately I’ve embraced a new season of positivity. I’m constantly looking for something to be positive about and I have to say it has given me a new breath of life. I wasted so much energy before with being mad at people. It is so light to simply enjoy life and the season I’m in. I’ve challenged myself the past couple of months to truly grow in areas of my life that need attention. Specifically not worrying about everything and gaining self confidence.

So I ask you, what areas of your life need some attention? What season have you been stagnant in and why? Is it fear? Laziness? From birth we’ve been taught to fear the darkness, but I challenge you to face the darkness (or hidden things in your life) and choose to let it not only grow you right now, but to accelerate you into the next season of your life.

Side note- I’ll be soaking in all the sun I can in the next month. Pictures to come. As always, you have a cheerleader in Alaska rooting for you! Keep kicking life’s butt and never stop growing. Much love.

Penguin Peak Trail

My everyday life

Man, it feels like forever since the last time I wrote. My life has been busy lately. Between juggling my two jobs, friends visiting, maintaining a clean home, and finding time to eat every now and then, I’ve neglected to write — so sorry! I don’t have any cool pictures to add to this, but hopefully you can get an idea in your head of what everyday life in Alaska is like.

I work two jobs, not because I have to, but because I chose to. My first job is with the State. I’m around politics all day – sounds fun right? It has it’s perks. My second job I picked up for two reasons 1) I have student loans that I’ve made a goal I want to pay off this year and 2) gear to do anything outdoors is expensive, so why not work someplace where I get a discount on gear? I joined the North Face team a couple of months ago. I’ve realized retail is not my dream job, but I have really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and learning about different products that can set you up for success out in the mountains. As for my loans, my checks go toward my loan and occasionally some gear. At the end of the day, I’m making payments twice and triple the amount I was paying monthly before – woo hoo! Honestly can’t wait for that thing to be gone — freedom!

Aside from working A LOT, I still go to the gym at least five times a week and try to maintain a healthy diet. I haven’t been hiking in a while, mainly due to the weather here. It’s been raining quite a bit. I’m not complaining though. We have been dealing with wildfires real bad this year. I’m talking neighborhoods have been evacuated type wildfires. Nobody has been hurt to my knowledge, but the smoke definitely affects your breathing/health. I can attest. What started out as a sore throat, led to a serious summer cold — no bueno.

Tourist season has been in full swing here. Downtown is always poppin – shops are full, restaurants have wait times, streets have no parking, and the number of languages I hear while walking down the street is no longer just English. People from literally all over the world travel to Alaska to see just a glimpse of the last frontier. While all the excursions and cruises are fun, part of me aches knowing they are missing what Alaska is all about.

Alaska is the State with no limits. There are some trails, but the fun really sinks in when you get off the trail and start your own journey. That moment you see a moose out with it’s babes, or the moment you have a too close for comfort encounter with a bear – ALWAYS carry bear spray. Taking so many pictures your phone storage is full and most importantly, making memories that will last a lifetime. This State is breathtaking. It contains endless opportunities for sports and recreational activities. From biking, skiing, climbing, kayaking, to running, hiking, and fishing – if you enjoy nature, you’d love it here. Summer time has been like entering a whole new world. I now understand when people say they came up for the summer, fell in love, and ended up staying 25 years. There is absolutely NO place in the world like Alaska in the summer. Here I am already looking forward to winter too! This is home. I love it here.

As a side note, I hope you know you are always welcome to come visit! Summer is definitely more expensive to travel, so book flights early. The shoulder season is September, although keep in mind that most places close on September 15th. However, don’t shy away from coming in the winter! There’s not as much stuff to do, but the exploring is still endless. You can cross country ski, walk the trails, climb the mountains, snowboard, bike (with fat tires), take a bush plane over Denali, just to name a few! You may just want to pack a few extra layers. (Wool base layers are a must)

I hope to see some more familiar faces up here! Don’t be intimidated! Alaska is a HUGE state (way bigger than Texas I’ll add) with a very small population and only one road that doesn’t even cover a quarter of the State. The locals have been here forever and will welcome you in with open arms. Can’t say I’ve had a rude encounter with anyone here. If you’ve never been, I challenge you to make it a life goal. You won’t regret it!

Until next time, which I promise will be this week, stay kicking life’s butt! Live everyday like it’s your last. Push yourself. Don’t sweat little things. Quit worrying. Prioritize you. Do the thing you’ve always wanted to. Lastly, if you’re ever feeling alone, please know you have someone. I’m just a text/call/message away! I love hearing from you! Sincerely, your KC girl living in an AK world. Much love.

(Couldn’t sign off without showing you a couple of pics!) Ran into this guy coming down from Wolverine.
Crossed this creek coming down from Little O’Malley Peak. The power lines in the back is Powerline Pass – you can actually hike/bike this from Anchorage to Indian.

Road Work

Ever get frustrated when you see a road work sign on the highway? Me too. It’s an immediate sigh of “great, this is going to take forever”. I don’t think about the fact that one day it will be a brand new road, free of holes or bumps that could damage my car. No, all I can think about is the fact that it’s slowing me down from where I need to go. Fixing a damaged road is a long process. It’s detailed. Each part is thought through and nothing is rushed. The workers safety is the top priority, if the work is rushed, things could be missed or someone could get hurt. Ultimately, if the road doesn’t get fixed, it will continue to warp and break until it is unusable.

Cool story Nicole, but why am I reading about road work? To be honest, this doesn’t have much to do with Alaska. Sure, in the summer there is road work everywhere. In the winter the ground freezes and when it thaws out, it inevitably breaks and cracks in many areas. Thus resulting in road work signs on almost every road. However, I didn’t write this to talk about actual road construction. It hit me today that road work is often a picture of our lives. Over time I’ll begin telling you my story, piece by piece. But today I want to focus on road work.

Let me rephrase this and ask, ever get frustrated when something goes wrong in your life? I do. Seems like when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong. I catch myself having these debates with God like “really, you really gunna let something else happen to me”, as if He’s not watching me. Of course my debates turn into one sided yelling matches in which I get frustrated at my circumstances, ultimately blaming God for allowing the things to happen to me. Surely I’m not the only one? I’ve realized lately that life is going to happen whether I want it to or not. This world is full of sin and as much as I try to have some perfectly planned life, there will be seasons of construction. Times to rebuild and repair. My life right now is road work.

(actual photo of the November earth quake damage)

While I’m getting annoyed at God for allowing these “holes” and “breaks” in my life, He’s telling me to slow down and let Him, the Master of healing, fix my brokenness. I’ve recently experienced more than I wish anyone to ever have to go through. Life has not been easy. My road has many, many cracks and holes in it. But at the same time, this season has been so real and full of growth. It has honestly been like an out of body experience. I can see how God is at work. He’s shown me exactly the things I’ve needed to see in order to move forward. I’ve been sitting in the front row watching Him not only heal my brokenness, but teaching me lessons about different areas of life. He’s such a gentle, yet all-knowing and all-powerful God. When I was alone, He was with me. When I was worried, He was my peace. When I was scared, He was my confidence. When I was lost, He was my way. When I was hurting, He was my comfort. He carried me when my road was too rough to walk on. 

I went through a period where I lost essentially everyone I thought cared about me. The church I grew up in, my safe place, was no longer safe. I felt alone, I felt judged, I felt shamed. Here Christians are called to be like Jesus, yet they were the very ones disowning me- the people I served alongside with were the ones now bashing my name. It was a hard season. I wanted to think the best of people and tell myself that the gossip wasn’t happening, but I knew in my heart it was. Honestly, I wasn’t even doing anything wrong, but people were on the outside assuming things. I’d just like to insert this – even if I was sinning or did some horrific thing, turning your back on someone is not the answer. Jesus never turned his back on people. In fact, he hung out with sinners and loved them regardless of their actions. Going through a tough season alone is the worst, but beyond that, I’ve had to battle being angry with the church. I’ve had to accept that people will fail and will mess up. I can’t blame God for the actions of people that choose to go to church. Ultimately, they are the ones who will answer for their actions before God.

*Be cautious who you talk to. Be cautious how you talk. Don’t use prayer requests as a channel for gossip. Telling someone to pray for so-and-so and giving every detail (or every detail YOU think is there) is gossip*

A common excuse I ran into was “I just don’t know how to talk to her”. Here’s the deal. Yes, I’m introverted and yes I’m a private person. But that does not mean I don’t have feelings. Not one person asked me how I was doing. Not one person put aside their own assumptions and opinions and checked on me and my heart. I’m not saying this for your pity – trust me, God got me through that valley and I’m better now. I’m saying this as a warning. I guarantee you will know someone who will go through something that you never have and never will experience. Please, please don’t ignore that person simply because you don’t know how to talk to them. They are human. They were created just like you. Ask them how they are. Go out of your way to check on their heart. It makes a huge difference. We weren’t meant to do life alone. Especially if you identify yourself as a Christ-follower. You were called to be a friend. You were called to love people.

Lastly, please do a reality check. You are a sinner. I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian or how many hours a day you spend praying, you are still a sinner. Stop pointing fingers at other people. The Bible talks about removing the log out of your own eye before trying to remove the stick out of someone else’s. Go look in the mirror. What logs do you have in your own life that need removed? Spend more time focusing on the Word and getting your life right before trying to play Jesus in someone else’s.

For my own healing, I’d just like to say that I forgive you. If you’re one of the people that A) were absent when I needed you or B) bashed my name or gossiped about my situation – I forgive you. Don’t expect me to be your friend right now, but Jesus still loves you and I forgive you for hurting me.

I know I got a little sidetracked, but it’s been on my heart and I feel like some people need to hear the harsh truth. Ultimately, no matter what you’ve been through or done in your life, your road is not too broken for God. Let Him place a road work sign up and begin repairs. Prepare yourself, it’s not a quick fix or a pretty one, but trust that He knows what He’s doing. Pay attention to the lessons He has for you. There are places and people He needs you to reach, but you can’t get there with a ripped up road. He’s doing a new thing in you. He’s expanding your life and equipping you for the very purpose He has within you.

As always, you have a friend in Alaska who’s cheering you on. I pray you enjoy the process and appreciate the journey. I believe the best is yet to come!

INDEPENDENCE Day 2019

I want to start off by saying, I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday!! Family- I missed you!

My normal Fourth of July holiday in Kansas is full of food, backyard games, and fireworks with my family. My first Fourth of July in Alaska looked a little different. Not because fireworks are illegal, because they usually aren’t. However, this year with our wildfire problems, all fireworks were banned. Obviously my whole family isn’t in Alaska, so that piece was missing….and all the yummy food (haha). My Fourth of July was spent celebrating with good ol sweat and the great outdoors.

My day started with sleeping in (praise Him), then heading to the trailhead of South Suicide Peak. Don’t ask me why it’s called that, because nobody here seems to know (I have a few guesses though). This was a 8 mile round trip with 5,000 feet of elevation gain, didn’t seem so bad. However, once you add a world-record 90 degree temperature day in the mix, it definitely heats things up. Nonetheless, my group of four made the trip to the mountain. It was long. It was hot. Honestly I wanted to give up numerous times. I think I had like 5 second winds that really gave me a solid push to keep going. About 3 miles in there was a lake made from the runoff melted snow/ice. You better believe I jumped right in! By far the coldest water I have ever been in, but it was so refreshing to not be sitting in my own sweat for once.

That water gave me the energy to make the final (hour long) push to the summit. The final push consisted of an off-the-trail, straight up push through the grassy side of the mountain. Once through the grass, you hit the rocks – boulders, pebbles, rocks of all sizes. It was now time to “scramble” as it’s called. Jumping and balancing on rocks as you continue to climb upward. Important to note, if you ever go mountain climbing – make sure your footing is solid before taking a step. Some rocks appear sturdy, but once you apply pressure, they slide right from under you, often giving you a mini heart-attack.

The final push up included a rest in the shade for dinner, in which we all ran out of water. (Imagine me trying not to panic, knowing. I had 4 miles to get my butt back to the car) Thankfully there was some snow near the top that hadn’t melted yet. Snow honestly isn’t the best thing to eat/drink, but in the moment, I saw either die from dehydration or die from bacteria – I took my chances with the bacteria. At least I’d be able to admit myself to the hospital weeks later, as opposed to becoming bear food on the side of a mountain. (I may be exaggerating, but you see my mental battle)

From the top I was yet again mind blown from the views. The mountains seem to go on forever. To make a long story short, we made it back to the car in one piece. Our adventure was 7 hours in total, we burned 4,000 calories, and were extremely smelly – not to mention my shoulders looked like they came from a lobster.

Every year on Independence Day, people post how thankful they are for those who have fought for our freedom – and trust me, I am humbled and honored that people would choose to give their life so that I could freely go hiking in Alaska. I pray that God continues to bless their families and this Country.

Independence is something that we all have here in America. I’ve had the opportunity to travel outside of the US and can say that not everyone has independence like us. I think a lot of Americans take for granted their independence. I’d like to take that a step further and say a lot of people are afraid of their independence. I know I have been guilty of this. Being afraid of being alone or being afraid of doing things alone.

Moving to Alaska, though I did know one person, was very much an independent thing for me to do. Once I got here, I had to learn to go eat by myself, go to the movies by myself, go hiking by myself, etc. At first these were intimidating things. I guess it came down to 1) fear of what people thought and 2) me just plain not liking myself enough to want to hangout with myself. Sad, I know. I think it’s true for a lot of people if they’d actually admit it though.

I’ve found so much freedom in doing things independently. Making choices for myself and embracing things that I enjoy doing. I’ve allowed myself to open up, meet strangers, and experience cultures. I’ve always known I’m an introvert, but I’ve recently discovered how much of an extrovert I actually am. I equally need my alone time to my socializing time. I need time to express myself, whether that’s through art, dancing, exploring, etc.

Stepping out and becoming an independent person is not easy. It takes guts. The first step is the hardest. Once you get yourself out there and realize you aren’t the only one doing things alone, it suddenly becomes normal. I’m a firm believer in being the same person whether you are alone, one-on-one, or in a crowd. I can honestly say that I am most confident when I’m alone. I walk with my head held high because I’ve taken time to get to know myself and I like who I am. Yes, I have things I don’t like as well, which I am working on, but I’m finally at a place where I can talk about myself in a positive light. I can’t remember a time where a group of people impacted my life, but I can remember several times where individuals impacted my life. There are people who’s actions have impacted my life and they may never know that simply the confidence they walked in encouraged me to love my flaws.

This Independence Day I celebrated not only my physical freedom, but the freedom of being me. I’m Nicole- an imperfect, competitive, adventure seeking, lover of stories, woman with a big heart who walks in confidence knowing that my smile alone can impact someone’s day. Independence Day may be over, but I encourage you (especially females reading this), get out there and embrace your independence. Moms, take time for yourself. Wives, love yourself as much as you love that man. Single ladies, learn as much as you can about yourself, make decisions for YOU, and live with no regrets! Whoever is reading this, never forget how beautiful you are. You were created on purpose, with purpose, and for a purpose. You may not have it yet, but fake it til you make it, and WERK that confidence walk. Go do something by yourself this week and see just how freeing it really is! As always, you have a cheerleader in Alaska encouraging you to be the best you. Be sure to send me a message and let me know what new thing you tried or activity you did by yourself this week!

FOE

If you know me even a little bit, you’ll quickly realize that family is a huge deal to me. I’m one of those people that keeps her circle very small. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE learning about people and I’m always down for a good social event. However, I don’t let too many people see ALL my dark secrets, flaws, and how mushy/emotional I really am. Lucky for my family, they have no choice but to be in my circle and see my mess 🙂

Let me formally introduce you to my family. My little brother, Jacob – we are six years apart, my momma Missy, and my pops David. Together, we make up the Dice Family. Some days I wish a camera crew followed us around, our lives are nothing short of entertaining. From my dad hiding honey buns in couches, my brother’s dog literally flying out of the window, my mom calling coffee shop management because the store refused to give her hot coffee at 10PM, to me always trying new food/adventures and making my family join me (even if they’re scared haha).

We aren’t perfect. We’ve had some very dark days. Some storms we thought for sure would take us out, BUT GOD. From life threatening illnesses, suicide and depression, to poverty and addiction – we’ve experienced lows. Faith and love held us together. I’m thankful for my people and wouldn’t trade them for anything!

These three have supported me since day one. No matter what, they have been in my corner. Softball games, graduations, to heartbreak – they’ve always been my safe space.

It’s only right that I start with my not-so-little brother. Jacob just graduated high school and plans to attend college in the fall to study ministry and business. He’s crazy smart, has the biggest heart, and is a beast at football. We’ve always had a good relationship, but these last four years have been such a joy to watch him grow into the man he is today. (Wow, honestly tearing up just typing this)

When Jacob entered high school he joined the football team. To be honest, he wasn’t very good (sorry bud haha). Mom and I went to every game and cheered as though his team was the best team to ever play football – even though we usually walked away with an L. Nonetheless, Jacob worked his tail off. He went to every extra workout coach had and gave his all at practice. He went from barely playing varsity junior year to starting senior year on varsity AND being team captain — WHAT THE WHAT?! He ended up getting multiple scholarships for football and got selected to play in the Shrine Bowl – where only the best players in Kansas go! I love this story. I love it because it describes my brother perfectly. Jacob is faithful in everything he does. He goes above and beyond always, never for special treatment, but because that’s his character. He’s honest, humble, and selfless. He’s a world changer. I’m thankful I get a front row seat to watch his journey unfold! (Love you bro!)

Next is my beautiful momma. She’s my hero. Growing up we bumped heads, usually because I thought I knew better than her, now she’s my best friend (and I’ve realized her wisdom far surpasses mine). She’s the BEST listener. I’m so thankful I can tell her anything without fear of judgement or shame throwing. Don’t get me wrong, she always tells me the truth, but she makes sure I know how deep her love is for me. She’s taught me that holding your tongue isn’t a sign of weakness, but silent strength. I’ve always been very blunt and had no problem confronting whatever issue was caused by whomever. However, immediately addressing issues wasn’t always the best solution. She’s taught me that “haters will hate” – so let them. What’s important is MY truth. Not everyone needs to know or deserves to know what MY truth is. That’s between me and God.

*cue tears* When I told my mom I had decided to move to Alaska, she was obviously devastated. She didn’t want her baby girl living so far away. She did what she always does, went straight to her prayer closet. After a few days she came to peace that this was what needed to happen. She told me that she wasn’t going to let me drive all that way alone and that she would be joining me. Honestly, the five days of driving through the United States was the best thing that could’ve happened to us.

We stopped at different landmarks and stayed in Yellowstone National Park for three days. No cell service, just her and I and the open road. From the blizzard driving condition to near death by flying owl, we shared many laughs and some tears.

I wouldn’t trade that week for anything. My mom is truly remarkable. I hope that one day I can be even half the woman she is. She leaves an impact on everyone she meets through her unconditional love and kindness. She IS changing the world everyday. (Mom, thanks for being the best and sacrificing so much for me!)

Last, but certainly not least, is my dad. Growing up I was always a daddy’s girl. I’d go dig holes and climb on roofs with my dad at work. I wasn’t afraid of a little dirt! As I got older, we grew apart – mainly due to me being a teenager and being super hormonal . Now that I’m an adult, we have a good relationship. My dad is like me, or I’m like my dad – he has a small circle too. He’s a ride or die type of friend. If you’re in his circle, he has your back for life. I’m thankful for that.

Ever know someone that the strangest stuff happens to?? That’d be my dad haha. The weirdest things always seem to happen to him – makes for really good laughs. He’s always up to something. Life with my dad keeps you on your toes, that’s for sure. My dad has always been a hard worker. Even with a bad back, he labors himself to provide. He’s taught me to work hard in everything I do, whether sports or a job, your work ethic is a part of your character and it speaks volumes. My dad has a big heart. If he ever saw someone getting bullied, better believe he’d be the one to speak up and make it right.

My dad is a bold person, very blunt and doesn’t really have a filter. However, when it comes to heights, he’s not as bold. One summer my family went to Branson, MO, and I had saw a billboard for ziplining. Ziplining was something I always wanted to do, so naturally I asked my dad if we could go. He said yes (but I don’t think he really knew what he was getting into). It was the coolest thing to experience. My dad definitely faced a fear that day and learned his daughter is a bit too adventurous for his liking. Aside from heights, it takes a lot to scare my dad. He’s not afraid of confrontation. He’s taught me to always stand up for myself, to always be myself, and to face fears head on. He’s been an example of someone who never gives up, even when life throws you curveballs. I pray I’ll always be a woman of strength, courage, confidence, and boldness — and to work hard in everything I do. (Dad, I love you!)

So, there you have it, my people. Sorry for the long post and for not showing you any cool pictures of Alaska, but I want you to know me! & to know me, you have to know my family! They’ve been here for every step of my journey called life and will continue to be here until my journey ends.

 

I’ll leave you with this, whether you have blood-family, or friends you call family – always cherish your circle. Support them, love them, and encourage them. If you don’t have anyone, please know that I’m here! You weren’t meant to do life alone! I may be thousand of miles away, but YOU have someone in Alaska who is cheering YOU on! Never stop spreading love and always be a light in the darkness!

My New Found Respect for Salmon Fishing

It’s currently salmon season here in Alaska. Like a true Alaskan, I figured I better give it go. I grew up fishing with my dad — so that gives me a leg up right? Wrong. Salmon fishing is no joke! My arms and back are currently sore. (Yeah yeah, go ahead and laugh) I’ll definitely be adding more arm/back days to my workout routine. What’s the scoop you ask? Here’s my story below.

My day began at 3:30AM. I got up, somehow managed to throw my clothes on and pack my backpack for my day. My friends picked me up at 4AM and we began the 2 hour road trip to the Russian River. The Russian River is located in Cooper Landing on the Kenai peninsula.

Anchorage to Cooper Landing *note that Homer is the farthest South you can drive in Alaska)

There are several small access points to the river that are a “enter at your own risk” type of thing. The current on this river is no joke. People have died just trying to catch some fish for dinner. We chose to pay for parking and enter at the Russian River campground. Fully equipped with bathrooms — glorified port-o-potties. If you’ve never seen one in a park, they are lightless single stalls, with a toilet seat that literally enters into a giant hole in the ground. The smell is terrible, but hey at least you get a good squat workout in while you go — couldn’t pay me to touch that toilet seat!

After parking, you must purchase a ferry ticket to catch a ride to the other side of the river. It’s $11 if you’re a resident and runs from 6AM to 11PM. Once across, you can enter the river immediately, or hike down/up stream to find your lucky fishing spot.

The hike has it’s views. Kenai is currently dealing with wildfires, that’s why it looks hazy

**Highly recommend full body waders. These allow you to go fish anywhere, otherwise you’ll be stuck near the ferry dock, aka combat zone. You see, not everyone knows how to fish…there’s a technique… During busy hours you’re standing shoulder to shoulder and you don’t want to end up next to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Chances are you’ll be leaving with a free body piercing 🙂

You can see how many people line up to fish

We hiked about 5 minutes upstream then entered the water. Again, that current is no joke. I have some meat on my bones and I struggled walking in some areas. Be careful and if you’re not a good swimmer, wear a life jacket.

The method: it’s a lot like fly fishing. You don’t actually cast your line, rather you keep the same length and flip your wrist with each “flossing” of the line. I’d say you are throwing the line back out every 5 seconds – major workout, especially if you have a heavy pole. 10 feet is a good length to keep the line and you don’t use bait. Salmon sit on the bottom of the river opening and closing their mouths. You want to strategically time it just right to floss your hook across their mouth as they close it. If you snag the fish anywhere on their body other than the mouth, you have to throw it back in the water. Salmon are fighters. The moment you snag them, they take off swimming. Boy they are fast too! Plant your feet and let the fish tire out a bit before reeling in. The best way I found is to reel and slowly walk back towards shore. Get that fish out of the water if you can. Don’t be surprised if you catch one with hooks already in it’s body – salmon will do everything they can to get off your line.

Here’s the brutal part — once you catch the fish, you have to hit its head to kill it. The river then has cleaning stations where you can clean your salmon and fillet it before heading home. Simply throw the carcass in the river when you’re done! (Bears will eat the heads)

Two cleaning stations on the river

Right now the limit is 9 salmon per person. It really is hit or miss if you catch any. Over time you’ll get good at spotting the schools of fish and perfect the flossing method. Some people are only there a few hours and others are there all day. We started fishing around 8AM and left at 4PM with four fish between the three of us.

So, I know you all want to plan a trip to Alaska to try your hand at Salmon fishing right?? Here’s a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Wear layers – the water comes from the melted snow – it’s cold!!
  • Bring sunglasses and hat to protect yourself from flying hooks
  • Bring sunscreen – the reflection from the water will burn your face
  • Bring bear spray – if you’re lucky you’ll see a bear eating salmon from the river!
  • Bring snacks – you’ll get hungry
  • Bug spray is a must!! Mosquitoes here are HUGE
  • Cash only for the ferry and parking
  • Of course, don’t forget your fishing gear!

Salmon fishing is fun, but it’s eye opening as well. Many people fish and hunt in the summer to stock up and provide food for their families in the winter. Not to mention salmon is expensive if you order at a restaurant, save yourself some money and cook your own. There’s nothing better than fresh caught salmon, so so good!!

There are plenty of places that will rent you gear and some will even take you out on the water to fish. If you’re ever in town in the summer – make sure to add fishing to your bucket list!

What Mountain Climbing Has Taught Me.

Within a month of moving to Alaska, I was introduced to mountain climbing. Keep in mind when I moved, it was the heart of winter….so don’t picture a green, dry, flower covered hillside. One word, SNOW. And lots of it. I have never climbed a mountain before and honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. If you google “Flattop Mountain” it should pop up on your browser as the most iconic, tourist hike in Alaska. A.k.a, EVERYBODY does it, but not everybody does it in the winter. I thought, how bad could it be right? It’s just hiking. (Silly me didn’t think about the height of the mountain and that there’s no elevator or stairs to get there!)

It was as clear as the skies could be on a winter day. My boyfriend and I were the only ones, in what seemed like, miles of the trail. We drove up, parked, and began the ascent. Let me tell you, walking in snow is not easy. For my Kansas folk- I’m not talking about a couple inches. I’m talking about feet of snow. I remember walking on the trail to the base of the mountain and seeing just the tip of the back of a bench that was completely under snow. (I’m literally walking on top of 3+ feet of packed snow, hoping there was a trail under all of that). We hike for what seems like hours to the top. Near the top, each step was unknown. Some steps would bring the snow up to my waist, others were on complete ice and oddly sturdy. I’m sure I looked like an animal, because the top required you to use both hands and feet to climb up. Honestly, the final ascent pushed me harder than I expected. I didn’t realize that mountain climbing took so much mental strength. I’ve been through a lot in my life – situations that have brought me to my breaking point, but nothing prepared me for mountain climbing. Your body is exhausted. You’ve been pushed physically to as far as your brain thinks you can go. Your brain is telling you to stop. So here I am, talking to myself out loud on the side of this mountain, telling myself to keep moving. I may or may not have also been singing Finding Nemo’s “Just keep swimming” song out loud. (Hey, I was making it to the top one way or another)

Halfway Up Flattop for the First Time!

I eventually made it to the top — I might have shed a couple tears getting up, but I made it. The reward was the view I received by making it to the top. There’s something about the unknown that excites me. You see, Flattop has been in Alaska forever. I’m not the first to climb it and I wont be the last. What’s remarkable to me, is that on any given day, is a different view. The seasons change, the snow melts, the clouds disappear, a sheep may appear, the ocean tide may be out, etc. I was the only one to see that specific view on that day at that time. It’s mind blowing. As I look around, soaking in what is honestly hard to put in words, I’m reminded of the creativity and wisdom of my God.

Summitting Flattop for the First Time!

I’ve grown up in church and I have a relationship with Jesus. I’m sure many of you have heard the story of Creation (if not, just go to Genesis). You see, to me that is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. I know some pretty creative people. People that can draw and paint perfect images, but knowing that my God “sketched” the universe into existence out of nothing is incredible. I’ve attended youth camps, revivals, and I’ve experienced the love of God before — but there is absolutely nothing like standing on the mountain, alone, hearing only the wind, and being reminded of God’s faithfulness in that still, small voice. I’ve experienced God in a way I never thought possible. He’s delicate, yet strong. He’s creative, yet intentional. Everything He does is full of purpose. He sees the big picture, beyond the now.

Summitting Flattop for the Third Time! (May or May Not Have Almost Lost the Flag)

Climbing to me, allows me to see the big picture. It reminds me that my purpose is bigger than the now. It reminds me that it’s okay to be delicate sometimes and to show emotions. It’s okay to be a strong, independent woman. It reminds me to live life intentionally. Smiling at people, saying hello to strangers, asking people questions to really dig into what makes them who they are. It reminds me that if God can create all this beauty out of nothing, than who says He can’t create something beautiful out of me?! Life is a journey. There’s going to be rocky, snowy, steep situations sometimes. What’s your reaction to the circumstances in your life? I could have easily turned around and decided it was too difficult to complete. What if Jesus said that on the cross?

Mountain climbing has taught me to embrace and live life to the fullest. If I’m being honest, I was a person who let insecurity and fear guide my life. I was afraid of failing people, so instead I pushed them out and never let them see ME or my emotions. Here I am now: a confident, independent, emotionally healthy, strong, determined, passionate, personable, and a woman who allows people to see me for who I am.

Summitting Flattop for the Third Time!

All because I chose to climb.

Do All Crazy People Really Move to Alaska??

I’m sure most of you, if not all of you, have heard that all fugitives and crazy people flee to Alaska for safety/freedom. Honestly, that’s not entirely true. We do have law enforcement here and it is still part of the United States…..eventually you’d get caught. However, I have experienced my fair share of crazy people. I don’t believe they are individuals who “flee” here, more so they are individuals who have lived here a long time and never fully adapted to the lack of sunlight in the winter. (Yes, that is a thing). I live in Anchorage, which is very close to the ocean, so we don’t have complete darkness. In the winter there is about 4-5 hours of sunlight.

Taken on February 6th at 3:55PM

Most people stay inside during the winter and, well, if you’ve never met someone who hasn’t had much vitamin D….it definitely affects your brain. Sunlight and vitamin D have been found to aid in your cognitive function of your brain, boost mood, and increase energy. Pro tip- take vitamin D if you plan on staying in Alaska during the winter months!

When I first moved here, I was without a job for about a month and a half – needless to say, I spent quite a bit of time at home. During that time period, I discovered that my “quiet” neighborhood was not so quiet after all. I have 3 neighbors, as I live in a 4-plex condo in the heart of Anchorage.

My condo in Anchorage

After returning home from grocery shopping one day, I found my elderly neighborhood hanging out of her window talking on the phone. At first I thought nothing of it, she must just be trying to enjoy the cool air? Being the observer that I am, I began to listen to what she was saying. I quickly realized she was not enjoying the cool air, she was in fact talking about me. More specifically, she was calling the police and telling them to have me removed because I don’t live there. Now on edge, I began to walk up the stairs to my apartment. My neighbor had now moved to her front door, almost completely naked, and was yelling at me, questioning if I paid rent and what my name was. I calmly answered her questions, moved inside, locked the door, and called my boyfriend who was at work. He advised I call the police and stay inside. This was my first interaction with my neighbor.

The month and a half goes by and I began my new job. I was headed home from work one day and my boyfriend started blowing up my phone with pictures….pictures of a sidewalk covered in pills…..full trash bags thrown in the yard…and old rugs tossed down the stairs. Bizarre. When I got home, I called the police out of concern. For all I knew she was refusing to take a life saving medication.

To make a long story short, about a month later, she was admitted into a psychiatric hospital to receive treatment. She’s doing much better now.

Do “crazy” people live in Alaska? Yes. Do they live in every other state too? Yes. Your psychological health can be affected by a number of things, including diet, exercise, relationships, and even culture. I’d say the stereotype of crazy people fleeing to Alaska isn’t true. Speaking on experience, I have no idea how one moves to this beautiful state and doesn’t want to be a better person. Every single day I am reminded of how big God is and how truly remarkable our planet is. Don’t let the stereotype that crazy people live here scare you from visiting!

Taken in Denali National Park
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