Monday, March 27, 2017

From 80F to -20F in 11 Hours

Sometimes highlights just happen, they can't be planned because they can't be imagined. This was the case when we ended our stay in Hawaii with watching the sun set (top 3 pictures) from Waikiki Beach with hundreds of other tourists. We missed the sun setting the previous four nights for various reasons and didn't want to leave the island without watching this magical event.

After the sun set, we raced to the airport for a quick dinner before boarding a red eye flight to Anchorage. With little rest, we landed in our 50th state in the dark early morning hours. We loaded the rental car in the cold darkness and started driving to Denali National Park- the location for our hike in Alaska. I drove several hours while everyone rested with varying degrees of success. 

I was too excited to fall asleep while driving in complete darkness. I was busy picturing the end of our quest to hike in all 50 United States and how I couldn't think of a more epic way to finish than in winter in Alaska on a trail in Denali National Park. I was also flooded with memories of the other 49 states and the amazing times spent with my girls on the trails. 

Then it happened- the sun began illuminating the upper slopes of Denali, at 20,310 feet above sea level, it's the highest peak in North America. As the sun was working it's way down the mountainside, I drove by a viewing area (lower picture) to better observe Denali. After a quick u-turn, I pulled into the parking area. We were the only car in the lot that was covered by thick ice hidden under fresh snow. Everyone woke up to marvel at the beauty as I jumped out to snap a few pictures. 

It was and still is hard to comprehend that we watched the sunset from a beach in 80F weather and a mere 11 hours later, we were watching it rise 3,000 miles away in -20F weather. This might surprise some, but not me. If we could only go back to Alaska or Hawaii...we would all pick another trip to Alaska!

I'm not sure EPIC is a big enough word to describe our experience.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Complete Pineapple Experience

Dole Plantation
Wahiawa, HI

November 2016

Kellisa has always loved riding on a train and Laurel also shares the passion for riding the rails. We are always on the lookout for a train ride and found one at the Dole Plantation on Oahu.

The plantation was so much more than just a train ride. Who knew there was so much to learn about pineapples and how much fun could be had? The pineapple ice cream was out of this world! Both girls enjoyed the world's largest maze with eight secret stations. Laurel enjoyed getting a spray-on tattoo.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hale Nalu 1

Wai'anae, HI
November 2016

We booked our trip to Hawaii (state #49) for the beginning of Thanksgiving week at the end of September. With such late planning, I didn't have any options to use hotel points I earn while traveling for my job. In addition, I didn't really want to pay high hotel prices during a holiday week when all we really do is sleep and shower in our rooms. I also knew that Lisa would not want to spend her trip to Hawaii camping. 

I decided to give Airbnb a try and quickly found a nice looking duplex close to a beach, but far from Waikiki. It seemed like the best option available, so I booked. We were a little nervous when we struggled to find the place (confusing street numbers), but we called the owners who were able to direct us to the property. It was approximately 45 minutes from Waikiki Beach, but only a few houses from a beach.

When we walked down to the beach, we were the only ones on the sand for the entire afternoon. We are not exactly a beach family, but we found our own little paradise without any complaints. It was nice to step out the front door, walk two minutes and be all alone on a secluded beach. Maybe even more nice was the fact that we walked back and were able to hose off without every getting in a car or walking through a room. The duplex we rented is called Hale Nalu 1 and we would recommend the property if you are looking to get away from all the tourists and have your own private beach. 

March 25th

Cerebral Palsy is one of the things Kellisa has been diagnosed with in her early years. In fact, with hydrocephalus, it has the greatest impact on Kellisa's life. It's the reason her lower body is so weak and she can't walk. Her brain has the ability to tell her legs what to do and it's our understanding that this connection in kids like Kellisa is rare. We had a lot of hope in the early years that Kellisa would some day walk, even with equipment and/or assistance. 

Paul Gross, in the Pacific Northwest is going beyond his part to raise awareness and improve treatment options. 

Please check out the Cerebral Palsy Research Network.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Alyeska Resort

Girdwood, AK

November 24, 2016

We spent an amazing Thanksgiving evening at Alyeska Resort just outside of Anchorage, AK. The resort is a short drive down the beautiful Seward Highway. We didn't let the freezing cold prevent us from enjoying the scenery (mountains rising straight up from the frigid water) and riding the tramway for top of the world views. We saw a couple of moose grazing on the mountainside from inside the tram. Hot chocolate helped extend our visit along the walkways high on the mountain. 

We didn't plan ahead for Thanksgiving dinner and got lucky when there was a cancellation of a party of four at the 8pm sitting in the resort dining room. It was an all you can eat traditional Thanksgiving feast and after a few days of adventure in Alaska...we got our money's worth. We would have been OK with dinner from McDonald's (like we did for Thanksgiving 2010 in Las Vegas when we weren't willing to pay $65 for each kid when Laurel was a baby and Kellisa with her usual petite appetite), but it was nice to enjoy a fancy dinner for the holiday.