Friday, November 2, 2012

Kortsalos' escape to Alaska

Last week was an amazing holiday week

On Monday night we were at the Fairbanks airport, anxiously waiting for our visitors to arrive. It was the kind of thing you won’t believe before you see it with your own eyes. Finally the plane landed and tired but relieved looking travelers walked out. For Piia’s mum, dad and two brothers Jari and Marko the trip had been long but now they were really here, in Alaska!!

We loaded their luggage on the back of Scott and Kerry’s truck that they offered to lend us for this week so we could all fit in the same car. We headed home with take-away pizzas and many stories to tell. For our opinion the cabin was pretty warm when we arrived there, but the guests didn’t seem to think the same way, so we fired up the stove.

While waiting for more heat we opened presents that we got from Finland: chocolate, rye bread and woolen socks among others. That’s basically what you need to survive Alaskan winter, at least for Piia. 

It was already late so soon we went to bed, guests to upstairs and hosts to the guest cabin. The night was clear and bright.

On Tuesday morning the cabin was already warming when hosts got back to the cabin.  

For breakfast we tasted traditional bagels with cream cheese and drank coffee and tea to keep us warm. Then we spent the sunny day getting to know the animals and the property. Our visitors had many ideas and pieces of advice about living in a cabin. Piia listened to them as she was fixing the fire her dad managed to put out... Julien, Piia and Piia’s dad went also to the forest to get some big trunks for fire, Piia’s mum made bread rolls and Jari and Marko joked about the outhouse. Which developed to be the ultimate joke for the whole week. And gave us good laughs! 

Alaskan ale!

Checking out the barn animals 

 So many jokes out of outhouse...

Jari also wanted to take a shower at the laundromat, the others decided to hang in there. For lunch we had some potato-carrott-beet –dish that surprised everybody, mainly because Piia used to burn even water when cooking, and now it seemed she was able to be useful in kitchen.

In evening we helped Scott to move their stoves in their cabin and he offered us some Alaskan beer and cider for taste. Then we did the barn chores and again Piia surprised her folks by milking the does. Piia’s dad tried as well and knew the tricks right away. The others settled for saying “wows” and wanted to see rooster Owen to attack Julien while gathering eggs. 

For dinner we had mum’s rolls and Piia’s cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and we celebrated mum and dad’s birthday at the same time. You don’t get to celebrate getting older in Alaska so often, uh?

"Paljon onnea vaan, bon anniversaire..."

On Wednesday morning the guests were up pretty early and the cabin was warmn despite the chilly -29 degrees outside. Some beers were already being tasted when we got to the cabin though... So we were all excited to go for a road trip and see the mountains. 

We headed first to Fairbanks to have some breakfast at Sam’s Sourdough CafĂ© that serves big pancake meals for morning hunger. We had our portions with bacon and eggs, some syrup and butter. Stomachs were totally full when we headed to southeast along Richardson Highway towards the nice landscapes.

Along the way we saw the large army reserves that amazed our Finnish visitors. And since the day was clear and sunny, we saw glances of the mountains early, and stopped to photograph in several places. 

Gold rush sign along the Delta River

The best stop was near Delta Junction, at the crossing of Delta and Tanana Rivers. In the stream there were dozens of salmons ready to kick the bucket after tiring spawning, and seeing this was amazing for Piia’s dad since he has seen it only in documents and never really thought he could see it in live. Piia’s mum tried to even catch one with her bare hands, but the salmons were still a bit too fast. Marko enjoyed photographing bald eagles that were capturing the salmons as an easy snack. It was amazing for them to see all that just a few meters away from a road. So the trip was better than they expected already from the beginning!

The pipeline has Federal Security control!

 Catching salmon

Bald eagles in Marko's camera

We drove along the road until the Summit Lake, and stopped for pictures once in a while. The view was breathtaking, with the clear sky and snowy Alaska Range mountains.

 The pipeline

Almost the whole family in Alaska <3

 Followind Delta river

 Who would have believed!

Nobody was hungry at any point but we still had some bread buns so we had the energy to drive back home. On the way back we saw couple of moose and caribou herd. What else would you wish for? Well, an army helicopter maybe...

 Marko taking pics of sunset

In Delta we stopped for beers in Stakehouse, where Julien and Piia had been before several times. The travel back was full of laughter and jokes, and even though he didn’t understand the language, it was a funny ride for Julien as well.  

At home we had some goat halloum cheese and salad for dinner and Julien offered Chartreuse from France. Nice night and everybody enjoyed the day!

On Thursday people slept longer, or at least everyone except Marko was having morning nap around nine o’clock. We didn’t have big plans for the day, since it was too cold weather for hiking, at least for Finnish visitors. So we went for a walk with dogs and made some fire wood. 

For lunch Piia proved that food made out of beans can be very delicious, meaning chili with rice. 

In afternoon we drove to the Chena Hot Springs to have a hot bath, and shower as well. Water was hot and air was chilly, so it was perfect for soaking. 

Chena Hot Springs

Something for the fast beating heart

At the resort they had also old machines and rusty vehicles that Piia’s dad was excited to check and even try. Like a small kid on a Polaris!

At the end of the day we had dinner with Scott, Kerry and girls in their cabin. The night was full of speeches with praises of Alaska, Alaskan way of life and many thank yous, and many bottles of wine. The dinner included soup from the garden, Irish soda bread and potato pie. How delicious! For dessert Kerry had made chocolate cake and we enjoyed that with lots and lots of questions for the hosts about their life and Alaska in general. I think we all learned a lot about Alaska, and Scott and Kerry learned Finnish people have many wonderings. Fair trade and very nice evening again!

We spent Friday in town, guests wanted to shop and use as many inside toilets that was possible. We visited our work place SNAP and introduced our work and coworkers to Piia’s family. Then we had an American lunch in Pizzahut buffet and did some shopping. 

We also made Piia’s dad happy by visiting a local fire station. Very friendly crew of firefighters showed us their cars, tools and work in general. We really appreciated that!

The American weapon culture intimidated our visitors a little, all the way from the guns you can get from your grocery store to the signs people have outside their properties, that culture differs a lot from Europe. So again something to tell back in Finland. 

Finally all the presents were bought and we headed home, and spent the night playing cards and laughing. Julien offered us some of his grandfather’s 20-year-old fruit alcohol and since that we didn’t have so many language barriers. We stayed up late and enjoyed the last night together.

 Card game called "winking" that we played with our dad when we were little :D

On Saturday it was time to pack and also get energy for the long journey back home, so guests took some naps during the day. For lunch we had Piia’s homemade Karelian pies.

Piia helped Kerry with a dog team so Piia’s family saw what mushing (still with ATV) is all about. 

And we also got some trick or treat Halloween visitors in our cabin. Since Scott and folks had a Halloween party that night, we did the chores before going to town. 

Finally it was time to head to Fairbanks, first to Walmart for last souvenir shopping, then to SNAP to have quick shower and also see Julien’s work that he introduced us. Then suddenly, after a really fast week, we were again at the airport, now saying goodbyes. 

It was heartbreaking and sad but we had amazing memories from this week we spent together in Alaska, wasting Piia’s dad’s money, laughing and getting once-in-a-lifetime experiences. For Piia it was important to share remote Alaska and show a life here to her family. Experiences are meant to be shared, and the best thing is to share them with the people you love. 

Thank you mum, dad, Jari and Marko, for coming here and visiting us! We miss you!

1 comment:

  1. Oi ihana! Tuli ihan tippa linssiin kun kuvitteli ihan mukava viikko teillä on ollut ja miten upeaa on varmasti ollut saada perhe sinne! Oli varmasti hieno kokemus kaikille! Haleja sinne! Terkuin Liisa & katras