Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Lilacs

 I was a little disappointed this spring when our lilac bush out back barely bloomed. It got a few blossoms here and there but it was all in all pretty sad compared to the Minnesota lilac bushes I'm used to seeing. Since it was our first spring here I wasn't sure what to expect but I thought maybe this was just another plant not really cut out for cool Alaskan weather.

About a week ago, I noticed that the lilac tree had a few blossoms on it. What a sweet, unexpected surprise! Now it's blooming like crazy and oddly enough fall colors are in full swing as well. I like this photo because it shows a lilac bloom with the brown and yellow leaves on the very same tree. It's unusual but I'll take it as one last sweet reminder of warm weather before winter sets in.

I ran across a recipe for lilac scones over at Kitchen Vignettes recently. Though all the blooms hadn't opened fully, C.O. and I decided to harvest a cup full of lilacs to try out this recipe. Since it had frosted the night before we were nervous the flowers wouldn't last another day. Turns out we were wrong. It's three days later and the lilac bush looks prettier than ever. 

I'm curious what will happen next year with my seasonally confused lilac bush.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Whittier is a Little Weird

This spring C.O. found a job working for a fish processing plant in Kenai. Summer is a time of abundant fish around here so the plant operates around the clock. Which meant C.O. had to work a crazy amount of hours. Honestly, we hardly saw him this summer. He worked 7 days a week, 12-16 hour days.

A few times, C.O. even had to travel for work. His skills were needed on a boat anchored near Whittier, about a two and a half hour drive from Soldotna. Before his second trip to Whittier, I figured we would drive him down so we could spend at least a couple hours together as a family. It also gave the kids and I a chance to explore a new part of Alaska.

I hate to be so blunt and possibly offensive to the residents of Whittier, but it's true, this town is just plain weird. There's a book about Whittier that calls it "the strangest town in Alaska." So, it's not just me folks.

The first odd thing about Whittier is the tunnel. The only road to Whittier passes through a two mile long tunnel which is wide enough for a single lane of traffic. People plan their comings and goings based on the time traffic is scheduled to go their direction. Before the year 2000, travelers had to drive their car on a train that would then bring vehicles through the tunnel. So, it's a little more convenient today than it was 13 years ago.

The Rudstrom station wagon waiting to drive through the second longest tunnel in North America.

Glaciers peek out along the highway as you drive toward Whittier. 
This one can be seen as you wait to enter the tunnel.

We made a big deal to the kids about how an entire mountain was over our head as we were driving along.

As soon as we arrived in town we drove straight to the docks to drop C.O. off. C.O. boarded the tender that took him two hours beyond Whittier to the Portage Bay, the barge in need of some repairs.

Now the kids and I were on our own . . . again . . . like it was nearly every single day this summer. (Can you tell yet that I was weary of C.O.'s work schedule?)

We walked around the tiny town to see what Whittier had to offer. It's a small place, a half a day is all you need to see it all, unless you sign up for a cruise or kayak tour of the harbor. Other than the scenery being spectacular, Whittier also has an interesting history with it's roll in WWII. If you care to read more about go here and here.

The strangest thing about this fishing town is that 90% of the population lives in one apartment building. That's right, this building houses the police officer, the drug dealer, the mayor, the school teachers, the preacher, and most everyone else. I thought the dynamics of a small village could be tough. Imagine living here.

Whittier is only a couple hour drive from Anchorage so quite  a few people come down to do some fishing and tour buses stop in daily during the summer months.

After one night in town, it was back through the tunnel to start the drive home. A day later C.O. was able to catch a ride with in a semi-truck full of fish totes back to the plant in Kenai.

Now that summer is done, he's working a regular schedule and we're very happy to have him back.