Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First Update from AK

So I said I was going to keep a blog, let you all know how the trip up went, and stay in touch... it's been what, 3 1/2 months since we got here?!? Yikes, I need to get this going!

Our trip up was great. After a few very hectic days before we left of finishing packing and cleaning, we hit the road. Justin, the dogs, and I hit the road July 1st around noon hauling a 12 foot trailer behind the Forester. That didn't last long - it wasn't but 30 miles or so down the road we decided that the load was too much for the Subaru - so we ditched the trailer and packed all of our stuff into a U-box in Grand Island, NE. From there, they shipped our stuff up and we had a much more relaxing, white-knuckle-free drive the rest of the way. And that was possibly the best decision we ever made. It was so nice to not have a trailer on many of the winding and steep roads through the Rockies. After passing through Rocky Mountain National Park, Teton national park, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Banff National Park in British Columbia, Canada, we made the rest of the haul north and west to Alaska. Our only regret was not having enough music on our ipod or on CD's... not too many radio stations in the Yukon territory. None, to be exact. But the drive was great, no regrets. We had a great time camping each night the way up and taking in the scenery along the way. 

We arrived into Anchorage late evening Friday the 8th. We were sore, tired, cranky, and needed a shower. We got a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in town then got a hotel and crashed. The next day we were able to get into our apartment and started to get settled. That night our friends threw a "Welcome to Alaska" banquet of smoked salmon, halibut, salmon fillets, and tons of other yummies. We probably had salmon smell coming out of our pores. I started work that Monday, and Justin began his job hunt. My new clinic is great, very challenging, and I am rewarded nearly every day. My colleagues are very talented and brilliant PT's - I will have much to learn! Justin found a job at SGS Environmental, and is working in a lab setting very similar to his work in Omaha. He seems to like it quite a bit, and looks forward to learning more about the type of work that is specific to Alaska.

We absolutely love it up here. It has been quite a transition, but it still feels surreal. I'm not sure if it has truly sunk in to either of us that this is home yet. We are still in the process of making our apartment a home. We just got an entertainment center this past weekend, our TV is no longer sitting on the floor. The daylight is definitely starting to decrease - the sun is coming up around 8:30 and sets around 7. It's not too bad, I try to make sure I get out over my lunch break to enjoy a bit of daylight each day. Izzy and Hondo seem to have no problem adjusting, Izzy has even trimmed down and is looking pretty lean from going up and down 2 flights of stairs every time we go outside! Justin is becoming quite the Alaskan - he has been biking to work nearly every day. He will probably continue once the snow comes as well, he got studded snow tires for the mountain bike! :) We have seen tons of moose, some were even a bit too close. Justin and I have each had some close encounters while riding along the paths through town. They are magnificent animals, I just don't want to piss off a bull moose right now during rutting or get between a cow and her baby!

For those of you who do not have Facebook, here is a link to the album that we posted. It's only a few of the hundreds of pics we took on the way up, but you'll get the idea. 

We will continue to keep you updated and share our adventures with you. We also hope to hear back from our friends back in Omaha and elsewhere, so keep in touch!

Erin, Justin, Izzy and Hondo

Saturday, April 10, 2010



Here is the link to our wedding webpage - enjoy!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Time passes quickly

Holy crap - it was January when I wrote the last post. And now April already? Where did the last three months go?

Well, Justin and I have transitioned back to urban life, and have consistently and continuously thought of our return back to Alaska. We started registering for the wedding, and of course REI had to be one of our registeries! Looking ahead to the summer's schedule, many weekends are full with trips for weddings and planning are not going to allow for camping and hiking. Bummer. I finally finished my scrapbook on the Alaska, and am really happy with the result. I have gone through it over and over again, looking at the same pictures each time, but remember each moment and how great a time we had up north. More often than not, we have a specific playlist going of our favorite AK songs.... I've been stalking our friends in Anchorage just to keep up with what's going on. Pretty sure I want to compete in the Susitna 100 at some point. I could ski 100 miles, it'd be fun!!

This clinical rotation has gone by fast. Some days drag on due to a slow schedule at the clinic, but I've learned a lot. I can't believe I only have 8 days left at Midlands, and then 5 days in aquatics. I still have to finish up my in-service project to present next week and then my online portfolio, but hey - no problem. I'm only supposed to be working on my scholarly project, planning a wedding, and training for race season. (I've made Justin run a 5K with me in Denver next week, a 20K on my birthday, and hopefully the Black Squirrel Tri the morning before Amanda's wedding!)

As for wedding planning, I am so glad that I didn't try to do this during school. I completely loose track of time looking at pictures online for ideas for centerpieces, shoes, and bouquets. It is starting to come together, but the more I get done, the more I realize there is left to do. I have had a couple dress fittings and I am absolutely in love with my dress. It couldn't be more perfect. Now to find the perfect shoes... This past weekend was completely packed full of wedding planning, and the end of the night consisted of me with a glass of tequila and limes. The countdown is 156 days and counting... and so much more to do!

Just a quick note tonight, but it's been too long to not have something posted. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back to Reality

My adjustment back to Omaha has been a hard one. It was a good thing we drove back from my family Christmas in Cedar Falls back to Omaha at night, because the views lacking mountains and instead copious fields of corn would have been too much all too soon. I do miss the beautiful scenery of Alaska that the Midwest can't quite provide. Driving around in Omaha during traffic the next day was also overwhelming - 4 lanes of traffic each way after not driving for a couple months made me on edge! But I don't want everyone to think that coming back to Omaha was all horrible. It really hit me when we got to my apartment door. I got a little teary-eyed, and then started crying after I walked in and saw the Christmas tree that Robin and Hilary had put up for when I got home. I absolutely love being at home with Justin and the dogs, I missed them soooo much when I was gone.
When I first came back, the 20' above zero here was quite balmy compared to the -20' I'd been used to. It took me a couple days before I even wore a coat outside! And the other strange transition: wearing sunglasses again. :) One more thing that's nice about being back in the lower 48 - cheap groceries and much better produce!
Over the past couple of weeks in seeing lots of family and friends I've been asked about my experience in the northern latitudes. Every time, and it never fails, I get a giant smile across my face and I start talking about how awesome Alaska was. The next question is usually, "Do you want to go back?" My response, "Someday". Justin and I dream of going back, but it's just not in the cards for right away after graduation and with the wedding. The job offer from the clinic I was at in Fairbanks is very appealing, so I hope they will hold out for a year!
I've started my next clinical at a small out-patient facility here in Omaha. It is actually pretty close to our apartment, so the short commute is refreshing. I've started to pick up in my patient load, which is nice, but I'm still a student: paying tuition to work. The 16 weeks will go by fast, and graduation will be here before I know it. And then boards - yikes!
Justin and I are starting more of the planning for the wedding! September seems like a long way off, but we are realizing we have so much left to do! We have most of the big decisions and ideas out of the way, so now it's time to take care of all the little details! It is very exciting, and so far we are loving all of it! We'll keep you posted...

Thanks for reading everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Illumination from the Constellations

I went out for a ski tonight and it turned out to be pretty amazing. I decided to try out the groomed trails on the UAF campus where parts of the trail system are illuminated. I set out, and after no more than 20 feet or so, realized that the groomed trails are slightly different from the open field that I had been used to for skiing. For those of you who are not familiar with xc skiing, some trails are "plowed and packed" in a way that makes the trail pretty smooth. If you classic/Nordic ski, then there are two runners for a track on the side of the trail, with the middle open for skate skiing. So with my fresh kick wax and groomed trails, I set off - and pretty fast!! It was great, I got up to some pretty good speeds in a few of the hills. But then I started to get a little too comfortable and at the bottom of one hill, the trail curved off to the right, and down I went. No biggie though: got up, brushed off the snow, and went on my way.

So the first part of the trails are illuminated just off campus, and then some of the trails extend into the Boreal Forest. Smith Lake is frozen over, and the trail passes that park with some trails passing over the thick ice but then the lighted trails end. I turned on my headlamp and started up the hill through the thick spuce and birch trees. The condensation from my breath was freezing quickly and just creating a white cloud in front of my face, so I turned off the headlamp to see if I could still see the tracks in front of me. To my suprise, it wasn't too bad. At first I was a little nervous and then regretted not bringing along my bear spray - I imagined a bear or moose coming out of the trees ahead of me. I'm 24 years old and sometimes the dark still plays tricks on me! Anyway, at the top of the hill, the trees clear and the trail opens up to a large field. I stopped abruptly in my ski tracks to take it all in. Tonight there were the clearest skies I have seen in a long time, and constellations glittered the sky. Over the tree line the pink glow of the city lights peaked above the taller trees, but really the only light was coming from the stars and reflecting off the open field of untouched snow. I really wish I could have captured it on camera for all of you, but my camera is just not cut out for that. I skied around the field, twice, in a big loop (still groomed tracks). There were also some trails extending off even further, but decided to attempt them later - with more daylight. So yet again I have been amazed at the beauty of this place. It is going to be so hard to leave...

So as I skied back to the lighted trails, and passed through some of the shorter loops at the main area of trails. Seeing the signs for "Midnight Express" and "Big Whizzy", I declined to adventure there as I really wasn't sure how these trails got their names.... :/

So we've had some abnormally warm weather (sometimes getting into the teens!). And also some humidity - which apparently is VERY strange for the Interior this time of year. A couple weeks ago at skiing in -30' weather created some ice formation on my face, and even with higher temps now, the humidity blessed my eyelashes with more of the white stuff. My self portrait with the thermometer didn't get all of my hand in the picture, but that's a thumbs-up for above 0' temperatures!

I continued along the trail and decided that I should head back, after all I'd been out for over an hour and a half, and even with layered clothes and hot-hands in my boots, I knew I shouldn't be out much more than that. I had been skiing with my iPod, but after seeing all the stars and bright snow, I had turned it off to not distract me. I got going at a pretty good pace but soon froze in my tracks when I hear this loud, grumbling engine rev up to the left of me. A take a look and it is a GIANT satellite that is turning directions for whatever reason. I'm sure it is part of the Geophysical Institute at UAF, but it scarred the crap out of me. I was not expecting that at all, but after I got my bearings, I started off again. Not 100 ft from my last startle, all of the sudden the trail lights go out. I froze for a moment, not seeing a thing, then remembered that I had the headlamp on. Phew! So now I know they shut the trail lights off at 9 pm.... good to know.

So it turned out to be a great night out with the skis, and I'm pretty bummed I won't be shipping the skis back to Omaha. I inquired about shipping them home, and it costs a bit more than I expected. Not sure it's worth it. But maybe I'll buy a new pair later, even though these used, heavy skis from Play It Again Sports turned out to be a great investment!

Monday, December 7, 2009

As my time comes to a close...

Choosing Fairbanks, AK for my 20 week clinical rotation was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It has been such a great adventure. I have been able to see and do so many things, meet some very interesting people, see some of the most beautiful views on Earth, and taken a new appreciation to life.

I have 2 weeks left here, and my departure is going to be bittersweet. I am very much excited to come home and be with my family and see friends, but Alaska has become a second home. A small piece of my heart will stay here when I leave. I have come to really enjoy working with the staff here in the Rehab department, and I have been offered to come back and work here. Justin and I have discussed the situation, and would both love to live here, we'll just have to see how things go in the next couple months with Justin's work at the lab, my graduation, and the wedding. :D

I've been trying to decide how I would describe my time here in Alaska, and I just can't find the right words to give it justice. The land is beautiful, the people are wonderful - often bizarre! and it definitely has it's extremes! A couple weeks ago I went cross country skiing at -38' F. If you would have told me a year ago that I'd be enjoying outdoor activities at such extreme temperatures, I would have laughed - hard. The weather really isn't that far off from an elongated cold, windy winter in the Midwest, but the hours of daylight sure gets to ya. Today, we had less than 5 hours of daylight. We are only about 2 weeks from the solstice, so the days shouldn't get much shorter. I was able to see a bit of the sun today outside of one my patient's windows. I actually thanked them for having their blinds open. Although I don't see much of the sun on days that I work (sunrise after 10 and sets just after 3), it sure does create some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I have seen the Aurora once while I've been here, and hope to get a colorful show before I leave - we'll have to see. And just for reference if you ever spend time in the winter at this latitude, you need to have about 5x the amount of vitamin D in your diet. I learned the hard way, increased my dosage, and have learned to appreciate the darkness. You can have quite a bit of fun with a headlamp and a full moon reflecting off all the snow!

On the work side of things - the culture and society of Alaska has made the job as a physical therapist slightly different from what it would be "outside" (what everyone up here calls the lower 48). I have worked with a patient who was riding his bike to work and hit a moose - needless to say, he was pretty banged up. I have written a goal for a 65 year old woman to be able to walk a mile over uneven ground while carrying her heavy rifle so she could hunt for her food for winter. Patients who are healing from shoulder surgery often have to chop wood to heat their cabins. A young man we saw in the hospital was hit by a snow machine (snow mobile) and broke his leg (some of the craziest x-rays I have ever seen) and after the bones didn't heal - had to have his leg amputated. This wouldn't be such a big deal, but he lives in an Arctic village, and we had to make sure he could walk the 50 feet with crutches and ice grips to get to his out-house. On that note, I learned what a "honey bucket" is. Although it sounds nice initially, it is not. Think of a make-shift commode in your house that you use when it's -60' and you can't even go outside to the outhouse!!

Just as a few more randoms about Alaska... Alaskan Amber is one of the best beers I've had in my life. You have to plug in your car for 4-5 months out of the year so that you can start it in the morning. The roads aren't plowed for the most part - just drive over the snow until it is packed then throw down some gravel into the intersections. Getting dressed to go outside is quite the task. The most beautiful drive (picture above) I have ever taken is between Los Anchorage (big city!) and Fairbanks along Denali Park and through Bison Gulch - glacier blue streams and rivers wind along the highway with beautiful mountain slopes on either side. Puffins are the funniest birds to watch - they eat so much food that they can't fly and just paddle over the water really fast to escape getting run over by boats! And the glaciers are really melting, and I'm glad that I was lucky enough to play on a few of them, because at this rate they won't be around much longer.

So as I start packing and preparing for my departure, I think back to the last 5 months and the time when Justin was able to be here with me. It has been such a wonderful experience, and I can't wait for the next chance that I have to come back.