Friday, July 3, 2009

Bikers, Hitchhikers, and Campers, Oh My!

What an exciting week for the Moose Nugget household!
Monday started as a typical Monday in our household. J got home from work in the morning and the usual conversation over coffee took place:
J: "What do you wanna do?"
Me: "I dunno. What do you wanna do?"
This conversation continued until Beans, in a bored state, decided to dismantle the house. This is also a regular part of our Monday routine. Meanwhile, Little Nugget really didn't care what we were gonna do for the day, as long as her milk source was nearby.

We decided to be tourists in our own town, and took a short trip to Rika's Roadhouse in Delta. Roadhouses used to be set up all over the Last Frontier, as boarding houses for travellers and miners. And patrons complained about the high Alaska prices back then, where bed, breakfast and a bath could cost you a whopping $2.
We did a meander through the collection of boarding houses, barn, main house, and gift shop. Then, because Beans was wining and pretty much threatening to demolish the rest of the museums if we didn't feed her RIGHT NOW, we wandered to the acclaimed restaurant.
Maybe our timing was bad. The "acclaimed" restaurant was devoid of human life AND food. I ended up bribing Beans with S-O-D-A... and that allowed us to finish our tour, which was worth the bribe.
* In fairness to the park, we did get to the restaurant close to closing time! I am assured that the food is great during the earlier business hours!*

I say it was worth the bribe, because we ended up meeting a really neat fellow, John Slade (check him out at John is a guy from the UK, bicycling through Alaska. Pretty much, "Just because", as one of the things to do on his list of things before, as he said, he "settles down, whatever that means." He started his journey in Prudhoe Bay, and having made it into Delta, was checking out the Roadhouse scenery for a good place to set up camp for the night. After a short chat in the park, J and I convinced him that he would find better food and amenities a little closer to our own stomping grounds, and sent him in the direction of Green Acres, an RV park in Delta Junction. He mentioned needing a few supplies, including bike tires. J and I headed home for a few things and to hit up a couple of our bicycling friends, then circled back around to the RV park to drop off supplies and kidnap our new friend for dinner at the drive-in. We (literally) put him in the back of our Subaru Wagon, and had a nice dinner with great company. After asking him a million and one questions, we reluctantly loaded him back into the Subaru and gave him a lift to his camp.
Seriously, folks. This is one interesting guy, so check out his blog. He's also making some pretty good time!
John, we are thinking about you and tracking you on your blog, and Beans (the older of the girls) is still asking where her friend, "Bike" is! Be safe out there! I hope you are getting better weather.


Meanwhile, the rest of our week proved to be equally adventurous.
After our late evening at the drive-in, we got packed up and ready for our first family camping trip. Tuesday morning started with a bunch of cranky, tired girls (me included), but everyone's attitudes improved after the hour long ride to Birch Lake.
On arrival to the Air Force campground, we were a little less than impressed with our dirty cabin. This was quickly remedied by Tika, the new camp manager, who insisted we take one of the rental boats out while she had the cabin cleaned for us.
Boating with the girls initially seemed a bit intimidating, especially given the mood of Beans. I had visions of tantrums and of her flinging herself overboard, but we decided to give it a go. The ride around the lake was great. Beans' only lack of cooperation was in the initial getting on the boat. Once she realized she was going to be okay, she snuggled close and was content to watch the scenery.
Along the way, we saw a young bull moose grazing in the many water lilies. He was as curious as we were, and when we got a little too close, he really started giving us the old moose evil eye. We backed off and continued our boating tour of the lake. When we ran out of snacks, Beans was ready to head back, so we docked the boat and headed back to the cabin to set up house.

Birch Lake is really family friendly. There is a great playground, and a nice beach for the kids to play on. Little Nugget slept contentedly on shore while Beans and I played. The water was cold but Beans didn't care, and after a couple hours of being soaked and sandy, I had to drag her back to the cabin to dry off and get into warmer clothes.
Friends of ours arrived for a cookout as the day started to cool. We made another trip to the lake shore so Beans and her friend could play in the water (and another change of clothes), then back to the cabin to start a campfire and roast hot dogs, heat some baked beans, and of course, make S'mores.
I should add that it would have been better to bring our own wood to camp. While the staff sells a "bundle" of firewood for $5, the "bundle" is ridiculously small. It cost $10 to cook dinner, and we ran out of fire before we had finished making S'mores.

Our evening ended late, and after we sent our friends on their way, we got tucked into sleeping bags for some sleep.
Um, THAT did not go so great, for the record. The cabin was cold (mental note: next time rent one of the cabins with a wood stove!), Beans was overly excited, Little Nugget was less than thrilled with the sleeping bag idea, and J kept stealing the top sleeping bag, leaving me and Little Nugget in the cold night air. Next time, I am sleeping in my own bag.
We all woke up cranky, and with not nearly enough sleep. Anyone with any experience with a toddler knows that this means our day was quickly going to a hot place in a hand-basket.

We decided to cut the trip short (deciding not to camp another night), but took advantage of the "no refunds" policy by staying late into the day.
We rented a boat for an hour, which was quickly dubbed "The $15 nap", since both girls fell fast asleep. J and I took a leisurely troll around the lake a couple times, and when our hour was up, reluctantly woke the girls to head back to camp.
Our second campfire was more successful. J used some charcoal, then some scavenged wood. Our fire lasted well into the afternoon, allowing us to cook our lake trout and potatoes, and giving us enough fire to pop popcorn, make S'mores, and even enough fire to put my percolator in the embers and make campfire coffee. It was a perfect afternoon, and we nearly reconsidered our decision to head home, but as we were discussing the option of staying, we remembered the lack of sleep we had the night before and decided to clean up camp and go home.

All in all, we loved our stay at Birch Lake. I can say that it would have been a better bargain to rent a camper from the base and stay in a camper site instead. Or even (gasp!) camping in a tent. That also would have made it feel a bit more like camping instead of renting a hotel room that didn't have running water. But for camping with VERY small children, it was a good time, and definitely something we are already planning to do again.

Side Note: My fear of bears was completely ridiculous in this particular place. Even I have never heard of bears that want to be around jet skis, boats, and screaming kids. While I am still not brave enough to camp in a tent with kids, if I were, this would be an easy, most likey bear-free place to do it.


It was nice to sleep in our own bed Wednesday night, as well as getting everyone into bed at a decent hour. Thursday, everyone woke with improved moods, and we set to cleaning the house and getting all the camping gear cleaned up and put away.
Our week ended with mosquito bites covered in calamine lotion, a clean house, and looking forward to our coming week.

The weekend plans are pretty tame. I'll be getting the house ready for J's dad and brother to come for a visit. As the day approaches, I am getting excited about showing off Alaska to a couple of tourists. *snicker*
Seriously, I am so glad to finally live somewhere exciting to show off. I'll be spending the week making some campsite reservations and planning a few day trips for us while they are in town. There will also be lots of cleaning and baking, and raiding a friend's garden for some fresh rhubarb so I can bake a few of my father-in-law's favorite treats.
Pops and The Other J, if you are reading, I can't wait to see you guys! Safe travels as you head this way, and don't forget to look out of the windows on the plane. The flight over Canada and the Alaskan Tundra looks like it's right off Discovery Channel!
And bring jackets! While I tell tales of outdoor fun, this ain't Texas or Alabama, y'all! Evenings are still dropping inthe 40s, and a few places we might check out could be even colder than that!

Also, we will soon be meeting new friends, as the new principal comes to town. I've been e-chatting with his wife (another hippie homeschoolin' momma) for a few months now and eagerly awaiting their arrival sometime this coming week!

Hoping to get in here and give y'all some updates, and with my brother-in-law's computer genius, I might actually figure out how to get some pictures on here for you, too. Might be a couple weeks before an update, since between visitors and summer activities, we are bound to be pretty busy.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!