Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maria and Bill visit Alaska!

My sister, Maria, and brother-in-law, Bill, came to visit me for a week! Neither of them had been here before, so I had a great time showing them Alaska in March (one of my favorite months!). They came this time of year so they might be able to get a glimpse of the aurora, but go figure, the 5 nights they were here, the aurora did not show its face! The night before they got here it was out, but no luck during the visit. They will just have to come back and visit again in the spring or fall! :-D

First stop - World Ice Art Championships! It was the first day Fairbanks hit 40 degrees in a long time, but we still had a blast at the ice park. In fact, the warm temperatures made the ice slides VERY fast!
We were also hosting Flat Maralee, one of our cousins in PA, for the week. She got to see some really neat things that Pennsylvania doesn't have!
The ice sculptures, as always, were spectacular! The detail on some of the sculptures had many spectators wondering, "how did they do that?"

For Maria and Bill's first full day, we went down to the Castner creek, where we were attempting to get back to the glacier, knowing it was snow covered, and knowing that we would not be able to get up on the glacier without skis/shoeshoes or proper gear. I forgot the snowshoes, so it became a slight slog. Once we found some old ski tracks from some folks who were out there for a mountaineering class last weekend, we were able to walk on top of their tracks and not have such a hard time. But we still fell in at times...
The scenery though, on a clear day, was spectacular and we all enjoyed the 40 degree temps and warm sunshine. It was just good to be out, and to have buddies to hang out with mid-week, while everyone else was at work!

Cana enjoyed getting out too, though her 120 lbs of dog was not so great at staying on top of rotting snow. Needless to say, she got her workout for the day!
The next day, we headed down the Parks Highway to Denali National Park. On the way, we stopped by the Nenana tripod for the Nenana Ice Classic.

They had just opened the Denali Park Road to mile 15, and we just so happened to have another clear day in the mountains!
To our pleasant surprise, Denali was showing her face.
A jumping photo for good old times...
Maria and Bill tried their skills at snowshoeing, near the Savage River.
Then we headed back to Fairbanks for some family fun with our cousins and ice cold beers at Silver Gulch.
The next day was pretty relaxed, and another crystal clear March day in Fairbanks. Maria tried out skiing for the first time ever in her near 30 years of life. And Bill tried it again, the first time since he was young. Here's a photo of Maria and Brian skiing along the Skarland trail in Fairbanks.
Bill got confident pretty quickly on the hills and began zooming ahead!
Our last big adventure was out to Tolovana Hot Springs for an overnight trip. This was my third trip out to Tolovana, and first time going in the spring when there was plentiful snow and daylight. The trail was pretty rough for first-timer snowmachiners, but Maria and Bill survived and really enjoyed the water and cabin experience at the hot springs!

After getting back to Fairbanks and getting some grub at Ivory Jack's, we headed home to hang out before Maria and Bill had to head back to Pittsburgh. On the way to the airport, we made one final Fairbanks-stop at the Water Wagon... one of the many true Fairbanksian locales.
It was great to have them and I look forward to my summer visitors coming in the next few months!