Visiting Juneau, AK

The most important thing you can do when planning a trip to SE Alaska is planning around the weather. You don’t want it to be miserably raining sideways the entire time you are up there. I have gone twice in the late spring which was great timing, but summer is pretty fantastic also. I’m crossing my fingers for great weather this third time! Here’s a little info on the trips I have taken to Juneau that will hopefully inspire one of your own!

Alaska Folk Fest (beginning of April)

My first trip up was during the Alaska Folk fest, the flight set the stage with most everyone flying with a stringed instrument in tow

The festival is a community event, where anyone can get their 15 min of fame up on stage at Centennial Hall. While primarily is a music fest, I did take a fun clogging class. The festival pour out into every hotel and house with jam sessions of fiddles, banjos, guitars, mandolins and any other folksy instrument. People primarily come from all over Alaska & the Pacific Northwest. There’s a headlining band that the festival flies in, but what I think is truly special is the community participation.

 

Here’s a jam session that happened at the beach while I was there with Lindsay’s friends. This video perfectly captures that weekend.

Its just the best, every bar is filled with live and amazing folk music. I was so happy I brought my violin to play in the fun.

jamjam sesh

 

Herring Season=Whales! (end of April/beginning of May)

SE Alaska is on a lot of whale’s migratory path, I planned my next trip around when the herring fish were hatched and running. The whales, sea otters and eagles were all out and about to munch of all the schools of fish. It was the must amazing nature experience. Lindsay and I went out kayaking at Echo Cove while sea otters swam around us, eagles swooped down to catch lunch and humpback whales bubble fed in the distance.

The next day we hiked out to a dry forest service cabin at Camping Cove and a whale just hung out with us the entire time we were there. Swimming back and florth every couple minutes you could hear it blow while it circled the cove. The ladies we went with are from Juneau and had never had such an incredible whale experience, it was incredible to watch this guy feed for hours. I was amazingly lucky to have experienced that.

whale

Lindsay is a great photographer and you can check out all her incredible adventures in AK and around the rest of the world here.

Other Juneau things

The summer is apparently magical time to go on a charted boat tour, fishing trip or helicopter ride and I’ve heard al of these are just the best.

The Mendenhall Glacier is pretty awe inspiring and a big tourist attraction in town.

Flight details, if you are flying into Alaska, you will want to be on the right side of the plane on your way up and the left side on your way down. Its the prettiest plan ride to get to the the British Columbian coast, snow topped mountains and small Alaskan and Canadian islands dotting the ocean

I may have more to update after this trip, but I’ve been so lucky to have so many great trips up there and such a great local guide!

 

North, to Alaska!

Today, I am flying up to my favorite city in the world, Juneau, Alaska to embark on a Mountainous adventure.  After living in Juneau for 8 years, Lindsay is moving to Colorado and I’m helping her move by road tripping through the ALCAN Highway in the Canadian Rockies. I’m super excited. For the full effect, play this song while reading this.

Today’s post is dedicated to Juneau, Alaska and things I have learned about the funny town through Lindsay’s eye and my exaggeration. These are loose facts. Tomorrow’s will be my trip suggestions if you ever make it up to Juneau.

  • Juneau is really far south, go look at a map and compare how far Juneau is from Seattle and then from Anchorage. Anchorage is even not as far north as you would expect.
  • Juneau isn’t as cold as you would think. The past couple winters, they have had hardly enough snow to keep their entire ski hill (Eaglecrest) open.
  • Southeast Alaska has mandatory footwear. Or at least that would you would think if you went there. Everyone is wearing yellow & brown Xtratuf rubber boots. Seriously, people wear them on their wedding day, out hiking, to work. Everywhere. The last trip I went up, I bought some Xtratufs as a sort of practical souvenir and have been stopped in the lower 48 by real Alaskans asking me where I am from. These are my adventure staple now, rubber boots come in handy way more than I would have expected, they make you feel invincible and amazing.
xtratufsThis is what the entryway of a party in SE AK looks like. This is from my first trip. xtratuf adventureMy Xtratuf’s first adventure! xtratufMy boots were super helpful at a bachelorette party in Utah last summer even!
  • Bears are a real thing in Juneau, the last time I was up there, I was sleeping soundly, but Lindsay heard garbage cans being kicked around, got up to check it out and shortly after saw an older guy walking down the street (downtown Juneau) with a shotgun.
  • Speaking of bears, here’s my favorite news story Lindsay has shared with me. (A bear crashed into a kids birthday party (nobody was hurt)
  • It is gorgeous. The town is set right on the water surrounded by mountains. All the houses are set up on the hill and have a great view of the water as they are nestled in the mountains. Its just perfect. Also, I am the luckiest traveler and its sunshine, rainbows, Northern Lights and cresting whales when I go up there.
  • Northern Lights- they don’t come out in Juneau often. Its either cloudy or not far enough north to see them. Lindsay had lived in Juneau for almost 2 years and suffered through two winters of sideways rain and saw them the first time when I visited. It was really neat!
  • Juneau has a strange seasonal population. I’m sure you have all heard about Alaskan cruises, well, a third of the downtown is full of shops for cruise goers full of ‘Alaskan Fur’, ‘Alaskan Diamonds’ and other funny shops. Those exact same shops exist in every other town that the cruises stop in and are not open during the rest of the year. There’s a bunch of people that show up to work in the town during the cruise season.
  • Juneau is the capitol of Alaska and a lot of the jobs in the town depend on the fact that its the capitol. Legislators who largely live in Anchorage live in Juneau seasonally and rent prices in town swing to match with whatever living stipend the politicians are.
  • Juneau is politically very liberal town while the rest of AK is generally conservative. When Sarah Palin was governor, she didn’t live in the governors mansion in Juneau which was a political snub to Juneau. The locals were largely happy that she stayed in Anchorage.
  • The sense of community in Juneau is like none other. There’s no road out and you really depend on your neighbors, reusing goods and reallocating through second hand shops because there’s no real other option.
  • Alaskans call the rest of the US the ‘lower 48′. Hawaiians call it the ‘mainland’.
  • Here’s another classic SE Alaskan Folk song: Lady of the Chilkoot.

I think that’s all my anecdotes for today!

Foodie Friday: Smoothie

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I love making smoothies for my son Wyatt. He loves them and since he isn’t that great at eating fresh fruits and vegetables this is a good way to sneak many of them into his diet. I am also able to sneak a few more good things into my picky husband’s diet too 😉

Smoothie’s in my house greatly depend on what we have around the house but generally this is what we have and what I use.

Recipe:

Follow this order and the blender tends to blend things appropriately.

6-8 large ice cubes
1 banana (I won’t eat bananas except in smoothies)
Large handful of spinach leaves (I buy Popeye’s bagged spinach)
Medium handful of blue berries (I have frozen bag in the freezer at all times)
2-3 halves of frozen peaches (I skinned and pitted and froze peaches last summer)
4 Cuties/Clementines or 2 regular oranges
Then I pour in whole milk because they’re mostly for Wyatt but you could add 1%,
I probably pour in a cup. If the blender won’t blend I add more milk.

Can you imagine all the vitamins you’re getting in this??!!

I just bought frozen strawberries that I plan to add next time. This summer I’m going to try to freeze more of my own fruit, maybe blackberries and raspberries?

When I think about this, Wyatt drinks over 1/3 of this recipe so he gets 1/3 banana, 1/3 cup of spinach, 1 half of a peach, 1/4 cup of blueberries, over 1 Cutie. That definitely hits the fruit mark and helps get us closer to the vegetable one.

Sometimes I make banana and spinach smoothies. They are green and actually really tasty too. Ice and milk is all you add to those.

Lentil Curry

My Salt Lake friends have a ‘friends vacation’ that is become annual tradition and really fun. We find a rentable home (this year it was an old schoolhouse) for 15-20 people within a 4 hour drive, so most of Utah is on the table, Wyoming & Southern Idaho. Once we find a pretty inexpensive place, we spread the word to every friend group and when you RSVP dictates if you get a bed or you are foraging for a couch/quiet floor space. Between last year and this year, only 7 people went on both trips so it’s a fun way to get to know acquaintances better or make new friends. Only a certain type of adventurous person will go to a random place with no agenda and few people they know well, so people generally mesh well and are lighthearted. It’s great. Last year we spent a lot of time at Capitol Reef National Park & this year it turned into a 4 square fest in the attached gym with some Nintendo, yoga and Lava Hot Springs. With so many people, you can usually find one, two or 15 people that want to do the same thing you are doing.

My friend Steph & I plan, buy and coordinate all the meals. The New Years risotto was actually first made for the friends vacation group and this year I found an easier dish to make to scale that was a delicious hit!

Lentil Curry

Serves 15
4 lbs sweet potatoes, cubed
3 large onions, copped
2 lbs cauliflower, copped
1 lb eggplant, chopped
4 cups lentils, rinsed
3 cans (28 oz) diced tomatoes
3 cans (13 oz) coconut milk
8 tbs curry powder

Serves 4
1 lb sweet potatoes, cubed
1 large onions, copped
1 head cauliflower, copped
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (13 oz) coconut milk
2 tbs curry powder

In a large pot, Sauté the onions over oil for a minute, add curry and stir until onions are coated with spice. Depending on your preference, you can add fresh or ground ginger, garlic, spicy curry powder, turmeric or cumin at this point.

Add sweet potatoes & stir until coated. Continue with the rest of the veggies & lentils. Most hearty vegetables would work in this curry, the sweet potatoes are essential for flavor but you can get creative here. You can also add cooked chicken at this point if you want more protein.

Add the can of coconut milk & diced tomatoes, including the juice. Stir it in. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 30 min or until potatoes & lentils are tender.

Serve over rice, with naan or by itself & enjoy!

Not All Butter is Created Equally

I didn’t realize this until recently, but there’s a cult following of Kerry Gold Butter. This stuff is really amazing. It costs more than regular butter, so we only use it for finishing steaks or on steamed veggies ( veggies are they still healthy if they are dripping in butter?). There is a real incredible difference in this butter. I could eat it plain, but I don’t want to have a heart attack tomorrow.

Tom once saw it in someone’s cart at Costco, but we can’t find it ANYWHERE at our Costco. Its our sasquatch. I think it was an illusion and he didn’t actually see it.