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Saturday, September 2nd - Rest Peacefully, Mommy
Last night (September 1st), at 9:10pm ET, Mom closed her eyes, smiled, and left this world.

While I am thankful that she is no longer suffering, there is a huge hole in my heart.

It's not easy to say goodbye to the woman who gave life to me and stood beside me unconditionally - even when I know there were times I disappointed her. But isn't that what mothering is all about?

Mom was my biggest cheerleader, always encouraging me when I felt like giving up, telling me over and over again that I could do anything I set my mind to. When I was a single parent, raising my boys, hearing her say "I am so proud of you and the job you're doing!" kept me focused and made me work even harder.

After my dad died in 1996, Mom mourned for a year, and then decided to go on living. And live she did! She became known as the 'one person welcome committee' at the local senior center - encouraging other widows and widowers to get out and LIVE!

She made hundreds of new friends, and according to them, her presence in a room was brighter than any lightbulb. She started dancing again - something she and my father did a lot of - and giggled like a schoolgirl when she told me how the men would line up for a chance to dance with her. Who can blame them? Mom was beautiful, had an amazing sense of humor, and the ability to bring a smile to the face of everyone she came in contact with.

Even in death, Mom is thinking of others. In her last wishes, she specified that her body be donated to science in the hopes that she can help with the research of cancer. Because she carries the genetic mutation MSH2 (a mutation which predisposes a person to various cancers - to include colon, bladder, kidney, prostate, and brain ), she felt even more strongly about donating her body. If using her body for research can help just one person beat this terrible disease, than some good will have come out of her passing.

I know that in time, this constant flow of tears will lessen, and I will focus on all of the happy memories I have of my mother. But, right now I feel like the hole in my heart will never close. Rest well, Mom. I love you always.

Wednesday, September 6th - Weekend Getaways and Memories of Mom

Steve and I spent the weekend in Valdez. It was a trip we decided to make at the spur of the moment when I came home from Philadelphia last week. It was a much-needed getaway for both of us. We both felt like the walls were closing in around us, and I was in such a funk that I knew I had to get outside, in nature, with beauty surrounding me. We loaded up the camper and left early Friday morning for Valdez - a 360 mile drive.

The seasonal colors are an amazing tapestry of brilliance now. The aspens and birch are golden and yellow. The fireweed leaves are a deep magenta; small bushes and large areas of tundra ground cover are bright red and deep burgundy. The weather could have been a little better, as we made our way south on the Richardson Highway. We had intermittent rain, and low hanging clouds for a good portion of the drive. But the muted light only enhanced the colors of the landscape. It was just what I needed.

We got to Valdez a little after 3pm. We set up the camper and decided to have dinner at one of the local restaurants rather than cooking. After dinner, I decided to take Sedona for a walk on the Duck Point Trail, and Steve decided to drive over to Allison Point to catch some silver salmon.

It took me about an hour to walk the trail - mostly because I stopped frequently to take photos. When I got back to the trail head, I saw Steve standing there. I knew immediately that Mom was gone. Steve had received word in a voicemail on his cell phone, while he was stuck in traffic in an area with no signal. My first reaction to the news was incredible relief, and then sorrow settled over me. While I am relieved that Mom is no longer suffering, the finality of her death is a blow to my heart.

Steve asked me if I wanted to come home to Fairbanks. I opted not to. There was nothing we could do here, and I knew that it would be several days or even a week before we could organize Mom's memorial. So we stayed in Valdez until Monday morning, as originally planned. Over the course of the weekend, many phone calls were exchanged with family members. I offered to write Mom's obituary, and since I had my laptop with me, I was able to work from the camper. I also completed the slide show presentation that I started when I was in Philadelphia.

This is the presentation that will be showing at Mom's Celebration of Life and Memorial Dance scheduled for September 11th. (If you're on dial up, you may have to wait a while for the video to load completely before hitting the play button. If you still have a hard time viewing it, you can go HERE and watch it from the YouTube site directly.)

I collected the photos I used in the slide show from boxes and photo albums I found at Mom's house. Since I didn't have a scanner at my disposal, I took photos of the pictures and then edited them for size and clarity. It was very time consuming, but a true labor of love.

Steve and I are flying back to Philadelphia on Friday morning and will be home again on Thursday night. My sons and my daughter-in-law will be driving in from Madison, WI on Saturday and staying until Wednesday morning. It will be good to see them again, but of course not under these circumstances. Mom was loved by so many. She will be sorely missed.

Thursday, September 7th - Remembering Mom on her Birthday & Heading to Philly

Today would have been Mom's 68th birthday. I would have called her and sang "Happy Birthday" to her and asked her what celebration plans she had. Perhaps she would have gone out to dinner with my brother Steve and SIL Diane. Or maybe they would have cooked for her at home. She loved Diane's chicken dishes and raved about them constantly. Perhaps she would have spent her birthday dancing the night away with her friends. Or maybe she would have gone out with her friend, Donald, to a nice dinner and a movie. Whatever she chose to do, you can bet she wouldn't have spent her birthday alone. I hope that today, in heaven, she is laughing and dancing with my dad, all four of my grandparents, my dad's sister and brother (Aunt Marie and Uncle Walt), and her sister (Aunt Gloria).

Steve and I have a 6am flight out of Fairbanks tomorrow. YIKES! We have to get up at 3am and will be heading to the airport at 4am. Hopefully we'll have enough time to get a cup of coffee before we have to board the plane. This "no liquids" restriction is awful! We won't get into Philadelphia until nearly 11pm. I am so thankful for my dear friend Rachael. She will be keeping an eye on the house, looking after Airborne, and then picking us up at the airport when we return next Thursday. She's the greatest!

We'll be staying at Mom's house while we're in Philly. Sometime Saturday, my sons Chris and Brandon and my daughter-in-law Becky will arrive. They'll also be staying at Mom's house with me and Steve. Even though the circumstances are sad, it's going to be wonderful to see my kids again. Steve hasn't seen Brandon since Christmas 2002 because of their separate deployments to Iraq. Steve's looking forward to the visit as much as I am. I know Mom would be happy that we're all together again. I just wish that she was there too.

I have a lot of photos to share from Steve's and my trip to Valdez this past weekend. It was a wonderful weekend - considering - and the fall colors are nearly at their peak here in Alaska. I'll share them when we return home from Philadelphia.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent emails and signed my guest book, expressing your much appreciated condolences for my loss. My mother was an absolutely awesome woman and our goal is to celebrate her life and remember her in the way that she wanted us to. I look forward to Monday (Sept 11th), and the opportunity to remember her with the rest of my family, and to meet the many people who loved her as I did.

Until next time...

Friday, September 15th - Remembering Mom

Steve and I arrived back in Alaska late last night. We had a long and grueling day of travel, and it's so good to be home again. Sleeping in our own bed last night was heavenly! Many thanks to my good friend Rachael for picking us up at the airport and looking after Airborne while we were gone.

We arrived in Philadelphia near midnight on Friday night (8th). My brother Steve picked us up at the airport and took us directly to Mom's house. Almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow, we were fast asleep. I was glad to put the long day of traveling behind us.

The next morning we planned to go to breakfast, but that didn't happen. We slept well past the targeted 9am wake-up and decided instead to grab some coffee and sort through some of Mom's stuff (she was known for being quite the 'collector'), before heading to my brother's house for brunch.

My cousins Janice and Lynda (Mom's sister - Aunt Sylvia's daughters) brought over several trays of lunch meat and rolls for the family - a generous gesture which was most appreciated! They stayed and visited for a long while, and many laughs were shared - as well as memories of our youth. Janice and Lynda slept over our house many times in the summer months, and Mom would take us all to the neighborhood pool, the local library, and on long walks to the shopping center. They loved coming to our house, and loved our mother very much. It was fun (and bittersweet) to talk about our childhood and remember all those things about Mom that brought us great joy and laughter.

Mom had a huge collection of butterfly pins. Butterflies were her favorite. My brother and SIL had gathered up all of her jewelry and sorted out the butterfly pins. As friends and family came by the house to visit and express their condolences, we asked them to choose a butterfly pin. Our only request was that they wear it to the Memorial Dance. And they did - as did our husbands and sons. A butterfly pin makes a great tie tack - especially when the sentiment behind the pin honors such an amazing woman.

My sons arrived in Philadelphia late Saturday night, after a 14-hour drive from Madison, Wisconsin. It was so wonderful to see them! They drove straight to Steve and Diane's place, where we all visited with each other before heading back to Mom's house for some much needed sleep.

On Sunday, after spending a few hours sorting through Mom's stuff, we headed back to my brother's place for a late breakfast. Steve (my husband) and Dee prepared eggs and bacon and toast and pancakes for the lot of us. It was delicious, and we enjoyed socializing some more. Chris and I worked on the video slide show I created, and he (with his technical wizardry) converted the file to DVD, so that we didn't have to use my laptop at the memorial. That made things a lot easier.

Steve and I took my brother and his family, as well as my kids, to Carrabbas for dinner on Sunday night. Carrabbas was a favorite restaurant of Steve's and mine when we lived in Florida. There isn't one in Alaska, so we always make sure to eat there at least once when we visit PA. We had a marvelous time, enjoyed a few cocktails, and gorged ourselves on delicious food. The company is what made the dinner memorable. Enjoying good food, surrounded by those we love, is always an added bonus.

Mom's Celebration of Life/Memorial Dance on Monday, was a huge success! We had everything set up in less than an hour - moving like ants on a mission - and guests started arriving a full 30 minutes before the 1pm start. The band (Peter Thomas Trio) was excellent, and the dance floor was full almost immediately. I'd estimate that more than 200 people showed up, and every single one of them had nothing but wonderful things to say about my mother. But my favorite thing to hear was, "You must be Flossy's daughter. You look just like her and have her beautiful smile." I never got tired of hearing that; my mother was a gorgeous woman.

I was asked to dance the final dance by an 'older' gentleman, who was reported to be one of the best dancers in the crowd. I am embarrassed to say that I could not keep up with him. At one point (after apologizing for stepping on his feet a hundred times), he said to me "You can be sure that your mother is NOT smiling down on you right now, with the way you are dancing!". I laughed out loud, and agreed whole-heartedly. I know my mother was probably laughing at me during that fiasco!

The next day, my husband, my boys, and my daughter-in-law, got started on the huge job of clearing out Mom's basement. They came across so many treasures (old photos and books) and stopped many times to read. But they also came across things that were of no use to us, and they were bagged up to be taken to Goodwill or donated to various organizations in town. While they worked on the basement, I decided to tackle the main bathroom. We have to ready the house for sale, and there are a lot of cosmetic improvements that need to be made before it's ready to go on the market.

I chose the bathroom because it was the smallest room in the house, but it needed the most work. After re-caulking the tub, stripping the wallpaper, sanding and priming the walls, and applying a fresh coat of paint to the walls, the bathroom looks so much better. I only wish I lived closer; I would have made these improvements to the bathroom while Mom was still alive and could appreciate it. There is much more work to be done, but unfortunately - unless I make another trip to Philly in the near future - that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of my brothers. I'm confident that all three of them will pool their resources and work hard to get the job done.

Steve and I won the Denali Road Lottery for this Sunday. We're leaving tomorrow, towing the camper down to the park, and camping overnight both Saturday night and Sunday night. We plan to get as early start as we can on Sunday morning, since the drive into Wonder Lake took us about 12 hours when we took the shuttle, and I know we'll be stopping a lot more than we did on the bus. The autumn leaves are at their peak now, and I'm really excited! I hope to not only get beautiful shots of the incredible landscape, but perhaps we'll be lucky enough to see some wildlife again. My goal has always been to see a bull moose with a full rack, surrounded by autumn splendor. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Sunday will be my lucky day. A wolf encounter would be awesome too.

I still have a lot of photos to share with you all. I have quite a few from our trip to Valdez over Labor Day weekend, a few from my trip to Philadelphia, and I'll be adding some from our Denali Park trip this weekend. I am so thankful for my photography. It has become more than just a hobby for me. It has been just the therapy I need to ease my mind and soothe my soul. It's been a rough year...

Thank you to all of you who have sent emails and made guest book entries expressing your condolences over the loss of my mother. I have felt your compassion as strongly as if we were standing face to face, and it is much appreciated.

Life is raw material. We are artisans.
We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful,
or debase it into ugliness.
It's in our hands.
~ Cathy Better ~

Wednesday, September 20th - Playing 'catch-up'

Rachael rosesLife has been busy since I arrived back in Alaska on Thursday night. We spent Friday loading up the camper and preparing for our camping trip to Denali Park. I picked up Sedona from the kennel; she was very happy to be home with us again. On Thursday night, when we got home, we found a bouquet of roses and a sympathy card from Rachael and James waiting on the counter. On Friday we got a beautiful flower arrangement from my dear Alaska friends, Gip and Carmen. Thank you all for thinking of me during this sad time. The flowers are beautiful and a definite mood lifter. The photo above (at right) is Gip and Carmen's arrangement on the table in our camper. Since it was delivered on Friday afternoon, we wanted to have time to enjoy them, so they went with us on our trip. It seems that Airborne likes rose leaves. We came home to find several on the table beneath the bouquet. Silly cat.

I have photos to share from our weekend in Valdez, as well as photos from my trip to Philadelphia for Mom's Memorial. It was so wonderful seeing my sons and DIL again. We've made tentative plans to bring them up next summer if we're settled in our own place by then. Chris has been here before, but Brandon and Becky haven't. I know they'd love it.

I also have a lot of photos to share from our drive into Denali Park. It was a wonderful drive, despite the rain and mist when we got closer to Wonder Lake - which is at mile 85 on the Park Road. The mountain wasn't out, which was a disappointment, but we saw quite a bit of wildlife. We saw 9 grizzly bears, 29 dall sheep, 1 caribou, and 5 wolves. We also saw a ptarmigan and countless arctic ground squirrels. The mountain did make an appearance as we drove back to Fairbanks yesterday morning, which was a nice surprise.

Courtney and CollinBefore spending Labor Day weekend in Valdez, I had the opportunity to have lunch with my friend Shawna and her two beautiful babies, Courtney and Collin. As always, I enjoyed photographing her children as they played on the slides at Pioneer Park. Spending time with Shawna and her children allowed me to think about other things - a much needed respite. The weather was sunny and warm - an added advantage.

I think it will be better for my dialup readers, if I split my photo-heavy posts from Valdez and Denali into two linked pages. But first, I'd like to share some photos that I took while I was in town for Mom's Memorial Dance. While it was a sad occasion, it was also the celebration that Mom wanted.

I shed a lot of tears while I was in Philadelphia in August, and fortunately I only felt the urge to shed tears at Mom's Memorial Dance on only a few occasions. Mom was loved by so many people and it was a pleasure to hear them talk so highly of her, even though their words sometimes made tears prick at my eyes.

Here are some photos of my sons and daughter-in-law, as well as my brother Steve, sister-in-law Diane and their children, Rachel and Sean:

All of us at dinner

Diane and DIL, Becky

Brian (boyfriend) and Rachel

The motley crew

Even more out of control

Brother Steve

My son, Brandon

My son, Chris

Steve and the *kids*

Me and the *kids*

Mom's Memorial Dance

Peter Thomas Trio

To read about our adventure in Valdez - and to view photos - CLICK HERE.

To read about our adventure driving the Denali Park Road - and to view photos - CLICK HERE.

Today, Rachael and I took a drive down to Paxson, and then onto the Denali Highway until the pavement ran out (about mile 15). We were in search of wildlife and autumn colors. The autumn colors were still very pretty, but wildlife was very elusive. The only thing we saw - and we're thrilled about it! - was a bald eagle sitting low on a branch. It was a 425 mile day, but we made it back to Fairbanks before 4pm. We got an early start (before 7am), and the day just flew by. You're going to have to wait until my next update to see the photos I took today. I'm too exhausted to download them and choose which ones I want to share.

By the way... the local weather forecasters are predicting snow for Saturday night. While this is not unusual, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to summer and fall. Let's hope that we have a few more weeks of seasonal weather before snow blankets the area. On a positive note: the Northern Lights have made several appearances. I am definitely looking forward to photographing them again. Cold and snow can hold off a bit longer though!

Wednesday, September 27th - Day by day...

There have been good days and bad days over the last week. I realized that I have been filling my moments with activity - walking, roadtrips, shopping, etc. - so as to avoid having any 'down time'. At the same time, I sometimes feel like a ticking time bomb, ready to dissolve into tears at the drop of a hat. When things are quiet, or when I'm alone, I feel such overwhelming sadness. I've been suffering from insomnia again, but I usually start having sleep problems this time of year anyway.

I've been successful in keeping my feelings in check with my friends and even with my husband, but sometimes I just want to shout out loudly, "WHY?" Sometimes I just want to rant and rave and sob uncontrollably at the unfairness of it all. But I continue to fill my days with distractions. I know that I need to let go - to really grieve. And I have no doubt that I will in time. But right now, with so many other 'worries' in my life (Steve's retirement and finding a home), I feel like I need to push my grief aside until I feel safe enough to fall apart.

I know that what I am feeling is normal. I know that how I am dealing with my grief is not unusual. I know that it will be a while before the feelings of sadness lessen and the happy memories of Mom are more frequent. I just miss her so much. I miss the cards she'd send me for no reason at all - addressed with her beautiful calligraphy. I miss the newspaper clippings she'd forward to me from time to time, with notes jotted on them, or happy faces drawn all over them. I really miss the phone calls.

I miss the late night phone calls from Mom, when she would get home from a dance. She'd get in at 2am, but it was only 10pm here in Alaska. Steve was deployed, and she knew I'd still be up. Our chats would sometimes last hours. She'd tell me about the men she danced with, and the funny things that happened. We'd giggle together like schoolgirls.

When her cancer came back, she called me often to complain, and sometimes cry. She felt bullied by the doctors at times, and didn't want to do some of the things they suggested. I was always in her corner, validating her feelings, doing research for her, assuring her that I'd stand behind any decision she made regarding her health and her body.

I may not have been close to Mom geographically, but we had a wonderful bond of love, friendship and respect. I loved that we were at the stage in our lives when the "mom/daughter" relationship had become "woman/woman". And yet, she was still my mother when I needed her to be - as I was always her daughter. There is so much emptiness in my heart.

It helps to talk to my brother and my sister-in-law, Diane. Diane (Dee) is also having a hard time processing her grief. She may have been a daughter by marriage, but she was truly my mother's daughter in heart. She and my brother cared for my mother, in their home, for many months. Anyone who has ever been a caregiver knows what changes this brings to the entire family. And now that Mom is gone, Dee feels somewhat lost. I imagine it's the same feeling you get when your kids leave home and you begin empty-nesting. On one hand, you're relieved that the responsibility is no longer there, but you feel some semblance of 'uselessness' too. I am glad that she and I have the friendship we have, and that we can talk about our mutual feelings of grief. And, again, I want to say "Thank you" to Steve and Dee for putting their life on hold while they took such good care of Mom. They had an awesome relationship with my mother, and I know she is smiling down on them from heaven.

I've done a lot of reading about the aftershocks of death - and the impact it has on the survivors. There are outside issues that can cause stress within the family after someone passes. Death can bring out the absolute worse in some people. Anger, greed, and guilt can rear their ugly heads. This isn't something unique to my family; I have several friends who have recently lost loved ones and see this occurring in their family. This has taught me one thing: If possible, I will disburse my possessions before I die, rather than subject my heirs to such aggravation. Better yet - there won't be anything to leave, because I intend to live a full and happy life! That's an even better lesson to take away from this. (I've already received one email from a family member who informed me that another family member misunderstood this paragraph and thought I was targeting them. I'm glad we had the opportunity to clear the air. "The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth". Thank you for contacting me directly with your concerns, rather than allowing them to escalate. I appreciate that.)


Last Wednesday, Rachael and I took my car on a drive to Paxson. It was a lovely day for a drive, and we really enjoyed ourselves. Best of all, it was great to get my Caliber on the open road again. I really love the great mileage I get with her - especially with the price of gas (which is higher here than in most parts of the Lower 48). I wrote about our drive a little bit in my last entry, and promised I'd share some photos with you.

I'm really glad we went when we did; there are more leaves on the ground than there are on the trees now. While the weather here has been absolutely gorgeous in the afternoon (sunny with temps in the high 50s), the mornings are brisk and I can see my breath when I take Sedona out for her walk. I don't mind, actually. The air smells fresh and clean - like winter is coming. I think we may have time for one or two more road trips before the weather keeps us close to home. I'd like to go back to Denali one more time and drive into Teklanika before snow closes the park road.

Alaska Range and autumn colors

Gulkana Glacier reflection

Silver salmon (coho) making their way upstream

Donnelly Dome

Rainbow Mountains

Rachael's lab, Stryker

Tangle Lakes Wayside campground

Autumn reflection

Our biggest thrill came when we saw a juvenile bald eagle perched on a branch on the side of the Denali Highway. I stopped the car and we got out to shoot some photos. He stood still and let us shoot frame after frame. We hoped he was still there when we came back that way, but he was gone. What a treat to see an eagle - especially for Rachael, who had never seen one so close before. Other than ptarmigans and ground squirrels, the eagle was our only wildlife sighting. I'm not complaining.

I've read in other local blogs that the northern lights have been fairly active around Fairbanks. Unfortunately, the major activity seems to take place in the middle of the night, when I'm usually asleep.

However, the night before last, I woke at 2am and couldn't go back to sleep. I lay in bed as my mind went a mile a minute, wishing I could doze off again. Finally, I got out of bed and headed downstairs to the living room, to watch some TV in the hopes it would make me drowsy. I don't know why I decided to step outside on the back porch, but I'm glad I did. I saw a green band of light dancing above the houses nearby. It wasn't as bright as some of the light shows I've seen, but it was indeed the northern lights.

When the lights appear in the middle of the night, I don't usually waste time throwing on street clothes. Especially if it's not the middle of winter. I pulled my bathrobe around me, threw on my hiking boots, grabbed my camera and tripod, and took off for the yard. I wouldn't have won any fashion awards, but I was bound and determined to get photos of my first aurora sighting this season. I managed to get take several photos before they faded and disappeared.

I took my camera with me, when Sedona and I went for our walk yesterday morning. I hoped to see some moose, but no luck there. Instead, I snapped a few photos of the quickly dying leaves and plants.

There seem to be a lot more rose hips than I remember seeing last year. Rose hips are very nutritious - they have especially high concentrations of vitamin C as well as iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A. I've seen a few articles about how to harvest rose hips and make things such as rose hip jellies and jams, potpourri, and skin treatments. I read that rose hip seed oil helps to regenerate skin cells, and helps to fade age spots and reduce the signs of aging. Now that's something I think I might research!

Yesterday, Steve and I spent a few hours driving around neighboring areas, as we begin our journey towards home ownership in Alaska. It's amazing how many nice areas there are just 'off the beaten path', but still close enough to town for shopping, dining out, the movies, etc. The only concern I have (since I don't drive a truck), is winter driving - particularly on unpaved and fairly steep inclines.

We're both very fond of treed lots - preferably tall birch and aspens. And we'd prefer at least an acre of land at the minimum. Our dream home would be a log home, but it seems that they are bought up as soon as they hit the market. We're still keeping our eyes open, and our fingers crossed, that one will come onto the market that is within our price range, and has the features we both want. Even if we don't get a log home, we've seen some beautiful homes out there that I know we can both be happy in. My wish list includes lots of windows (thermal of course!) that let in a lot of light. All Steve seems to care about is a big garage (heated preferably) and room to park our camper - and later our 4-wheelers, snowmachines, and boat. Did I mention that Steve loves to dream?

On the way home from our exploratory drive, the sun colored the sky with shades of orange and yellow and uplit the clouds. It was a lovely end to a nice afternoon. We stopped at the Chena River so I could capture the colors. With winter comes beautiful sunsets. I look forward to more.

Saturday, September 30th - One Last Trip to the Park, Snow comes to Fairbanks!

I want to start this entry by wishing my life-long friend, Michele, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Michele and I grew up together in Philadelphia, and I know we both have lots of great memories from our childhood. By my calculations, Michele and I have known each other nearly 40 years! WOW! Where did the time go? Thinking of you, Michele, on your special day. Have the best.

On Thursday, Rachael and I took what was probably our last trip to Denali Park. The park road stays open (to mile 30) until snow closes it, and the local weather forecast was calling for snow this weekend. We got on the road early, stopping at our favorite corner drive-through for bagels. It's about 125 miles to the park, and we made good time. The road was practically deserted, which is normal after tourist season ends. No more RVs to get stuck behind, no more people traffic in 'Denali Village' (the stretch of highway just outside the park, where the hotels and shops are located), and not too many vehicles on the road at all. The hotels and shops are now boarded up for the winter. It's like a ghost town.

As always, our goal was to spot wildlife. Seeing just one moose, or bear, or wolf, or fox makes us feel that our road trip was a success. Of course, the scenery is an added perk.

Shortly after entering the park, there's a stretch of road with 'moose rutting' signs posted. It's mating season, and moose activity has been observed in these areas. Because of this, you must take photos or observe wildlife from the road only. Rachael and I kept our eyes peeled for the always elusive bull moose. And then we saw one! He was a young bull, but he had a lovely rack. He was making his way deeper into the brush, so we stopped the car and started snapping photos before he disappeared completely. He wasn't looking in our direction, so I yelled out "Hey moosey, moosey, moosey!" and he turned to look at us. What a treat!

We didn't see any other wildlife for the rest of our trip in or out of the park. The mountain came out for about 30 minutes, but she was shrouded in light clouds and only faintly visible. Not long after, the heavy clouds enveloped her and she was gone. I wasn't able to get any decent photos. Now I'll have to wait until spring, when I venture back to the park again. The autumn colors are just about gone now. There are still some yellow leaves clinging to the birch bushes, but the tundra that used to be a brighter red is now a dull russet color. There are the occasional pockets of color, but autumn has truly peaked and is on its way out. The mountain tops are dusted with snow now, like icing on a cake. Just beautiful.

Yesterday morning, we woke to rain. It was a miserable way to start the day. I don't mind rain too much, but yesterday - coupled with a much cooler temperature - it made me feel 'blah'. Steve had an early work day, which was nice. He was upstairs on the computer, while I busied myself with house chores. All of a sudden he came bounding down the stairs yelling out, "Honey - it's snowing!"

Indeed it was! Thick, fluffy flakes of the white stuff were drifting from the sky. It's not unusual to get snow in September. We usually get a few snow showers at this time of year, but generally the snow doesn't stick around. A first snow on September 29th is late, from my 'four winters' experience living in Fairbanks. The weatherman is calling for warming temperatures next week, so it will surely melt. But what a visible reminder that winter is indeed just around the corner! It's already apparent by the shortened daylight. The long hours of darkness bother me much more than the snow and cold. I'm not looking forward to the short days.

I pieced together several short video clips that I took of Sedona in the yard while it was snowing, along with a few still shots. If you click on the little play button under the video (as opposed to the BIG play button in the center of the clip), you can view the video here on my website. If it doesn't work for you, clicking on the big button will take you to the YouTube website where you can view it. If you're on dial up it might take a while to load. It's only a minute long, so it's not too big a file.

Steve and I have been perusing the website in search of a home. Our dream is to have a log cabin on some acreage, but it seems that they are bought up as soon as they hit the market. On the other hand, a new modern home would be nice too. The only preference we have is that we don't have neighbors breathing down our neck. After living in apartments/townhouses for the past 6 years, we'd like some room to spread out. I'd like the extra land so I can possibly add a few more furkids to our family. While Steve's not exactly thrilled about getting more dogs, I'd like to adopt a few huskies and learn how to skijor. Who knows? Maybe someday I'll even learn how to mush! The goal is to be in a house by Christmas. I hope it happens.

Go To October

© 2006 Susan L Stevenson