April 11, 2014

Upcoming Adventures!

Filed under: Everyday Life — Susan Stevenson @ 7:11 pm

It is so nice to sit here and look out on my snow-covered yard, bathed in bright sunshine, as the chickadees flit back and forth to my bird feeders. A few days ago we had snow - and a good bit of it too. I believe some folks saw as much as 5″ of accumulation. We had about 3″ here at our house. It certainly was not welcome, although it’s not unusual. The “April Showers” that bring May flowers in the lower 48, are April snow showers here in Alaska.

Fortunately I didn’t have any appointments, because from what I read there were quite a few fender benders and ditch divers. Apparently the snow covered up ice below - formed when snow melted with our 30s weather and then re-froze during the night.

Steve and I finalized our summer travels, and then I continued with scheduling fall and winter travels. The big trip this year will be to Yosemite, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Cannon Beach, and other locations in Northern California and Oregon. We’ll be traveling with Steve’s sister Julie and her partner France. Julie is retiring this summer - after more than 30 years with the same employer. We’re excited and happy for her as she makes the transition to a life of more leisure. Knowing Julie, she will continue to stay busy.

Although Steve and I have seen all 50 of our beautiful United States, there are still places we haven’t visited, and Yosemite is one of them. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see with my own eyes, a place I have seen so many gorgeous photos of. Our main concern at this time is that Yosemite Falls won’t have as strong a runoff this year, as there hasn’t been much snow in Northern California. I guess we’ll see when we get there in June. (Our next goal will be to see all of our National Parks)

Steve and I enjoyed the beautiful redwoods when we visited Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP on our way to Alaska more than 10 years ago. We also drove through a gorgeous grove of redwoods the last time we visited Julie and France, while en route to the CA coast. These tall trees are absolutely amazing, especially as we have become accustomed to our perma-frost stunted trees of Alaska. I am so very excited!

Steve and I stayed in Cannon Beach en route to AK back in 2003. We spent a week camping along the coast, and two nights there. I remember how beautiful the big *rocks* on the beach were. And the sunsets… gorgeous! When we booked our lodging, we discovered we will be there during the Sandcastle Contest. Perfect timing, and also exciting - especially as we only get to see ice sculptures here. We’re also planning a jet boat ride on the Rogue River while staying in Gold Beach, as well as a day trip out to San Francisco while enjoying some downtime at their place in Sacramento. I can’t wait!!!

Our summer travels here in Alaska will also be full and exciting. We’ll be re-visiting Haines this summer for a few days. The last time we went to Haines, we took the ferry to Skagway and came home via the Top of the Road Hwy. This time, we’re just going down and back, but we plan to take one of the guided trips to Juneau for the day. We’ve never been to Juneau, and I look forward to checking it out. I’m hoping to see a lot of bears while in Haines, and of course Steve plans to do some fishing.

At the end of July, I’m planning another “Girl’s Trip” to Homer for a long weekend. Amanda, Lacey, Tracy and I plan to drive all the way to Homer on a Friday (550 miles!) and then all the way back to Fairbanks on Monday. It’s going to be long days of driving, but we’ll have two full days in Homer to enjoy ourselves. Maybe we’ll do some kayaking while we’re there. Or perhaps we’ll visit Seldovia. We’ll see… I love my trips with my gal pals.

In August, we’ll go to Valdez once or twice. We haven’t decided yet if we’ll return for a second time at the end of August. Last year we canceled that second trip as we had more than enough fish and decided to take care of *end of summer* chores around the house instead.

But what I’m really looking forward to is September! My friend Amanda and I booked a polar bear expedition to Kaktovik! We booked this tour. It’s a one day trip; traveling up and back from Fairbanks. Friends of ours took the trip last year and came back with the most awesome photos. Steve can’t go this year, due to his work schedule, but if Amanda and I have a good trip, I’m sure he’ll go back with me in a year or two. Seeing polar bears in the wild has been on my bucket list forever. I can not wait!

I also booked airline tickets to see my boys and their ladies this December. I usually go every year around Christmas, but didn’t go last year, as Chris came to Alaska in September (and introduced me to his lovely fiancee Kimberly: unofficial at this time, but definitely in future plans). Because of his visit, and a very heavy schedule, I just couldn’t find the time to get down there.

Because Steve turns the big 6-0 this year (Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that!), I wanted to be here for his birthday on December 8th, and he wanted me here to celebrate too. Since my birthday is December 14th, we’ll celebrate both our birthdays on his special day, and I’ll fly out the next day.

While I was looking at return dates and comparing the costs (which are ridiculous in the week preceding Christmas), Steve told me that it was OK if I stayed in WI and celebrated Christmas with the kids.  I felt terrible about not being here with him for the holiday, but Christmas is rather low key at our house - and he knows that I miss my kids a lot, especially on Christmas Day. Flying out a few days after Christmas also saves us $500 in airfare.

I’ll be home early on New Years Eve - just in time to bring in 2015 with my husband. I am so thankful to him for being so loving - knowing how much this means to me. I haven’t spent Christmas with my kids since 2005, when Steve was deployed to Iraq. Of course the kids are thrilled, although disappointed that Steve can’t join us.

I can’t believe the rest of the year is already planned out, but this is fairly typical for us. We like to have everything scheduled and booked by the end of April, so that all that’s left to do is get excited about traveling. It’s going to be a good year.


Last week, Steve and I (and Raven) decided to take advantage of the sunshine and mid 30s temp and go for a walk on the nature trail at Chena Lakes Rec Area. I love this trail in all seasons. In the summer, the green canopy and mossy undergrowth is beautiful and lush. In the fall, the birch trees turn a brilliant yellow and gold, and bright red mushrooms pop up on the forest floor. And in the winter… the bare birch and cottonwood trees glow in the light, as the snow below crunches beneath your boots.

In the winter, the trails are used by x-country skiers and the occasional skijorer and dog. As things start to melt, the snow becomes a bit too slushy to enjoy a walk in the woods. We timed our visit perfectly, as it was still cold enough to keep the snow firm, but warm enough to only need fleece jackets. We did put Raven’s booties on her, as we didn’t want her winter-chapped paw pads to hurt.

It was a beautiful walk in the woods, and with every turn in the path, we were rewarded with a feast for the eyes: tall white birch trees, a beautiful blue sky beyond, and animal tracks criss-crossing the snow. Now and then a squirrel would scold us from the top of a spruce tree, and Raven would bound through the drifts in pursuit. Of course the squirrels were safe at the top, while Raven hopped and shrieked with frustration.

I just had to add this quote to this photo of Steve and Raven walking on the trail:
Steve and Raven on the Nature Trail

Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area
Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area
Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area
Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area Nature Trail, Chena Lakes Rec Area

Shadow Love:

Steve and Me - our shadows

Family Feet:

Family feet: Me, Steve and Raven

Raven and Me:

Raven and Me on the Chena Lakes Nature Trail


I had the honor to photograph the most adorable family of boys last weekend. Two and a half year old Carson was a little shy at first, but soon warmed up to me. Seven month old twins Kade and Kallen were so cute, I wanted to blow raspberries on their beautiful little faces! It was a good session and I enjoyed getting a baby fix. Hopefully, if my sons are blessed, I’ll someday have grandchildren to get this fix from.  In the meantime, it’s awesome to have these opportunities to not only create memories for families, but to spend time with these precious little ones.

Twins Kade and Kallen:
Twins Kade and Kallen

It took several *takes* to get this shot. But what fun! I made the tie and bow ties the boys are wearing.
Carson and his baby brothers

Here’s an outtake from our session. I like this one just as much because it’s so true to life. Carson decided he didn’t want to be propped up on his elbows anymore, and when he lowered himself, the babies just rolled off of him. They can’t sit up on their own yet. It was so funny!

Trying to get the shot set up!

Carson reads to his baby brothers Thing 1 and Thing 2. Such cuties!
Carson reads the Cat in the Hat to his brothers

If you’re local (Fairbanks, North Pole, Eielson, Fort Wainwright) and would like information about having family or children’s portraits taken, email me at susan@susanstevenson.com for more information.

Enjoy your spring (or fall - if you’re in the southern hemisphere)!

Until next time…

April 8, 2014

Protected: Private to Aleana: Family Portraits

Filed under: Proofs — Susan Stevenson @ 7:23 pm

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April 1, 2014

Hello April!

Filed under: Aurora, Everyday Life, Roadtrips — Susan Stevenson @ 8:31 pm

Can you believe it’s April already? While I’m not happy about how quickly time is passing, it is exciting to know that soon summer will be upon us, and that means GREEN! I created quarterly desktop wallpapers, and posted them on FB on my photography page. I neglected to share them here, and I apologize for that. Now that it’s April, it’s time to switch to the next calendar. If you’re interested in using these quarterly calendars, you can find them here:


The images are 1366 x 768, which should work fine for most computer monitors - to include the new wider screens. To use them, right click on the images and save them to your computer. Then, open the image, right click again, and choose “Set as Desktop Background”. (Here’s the link to JAN - MARCH, if you want to see it.)


Last week, my friend Amanda and I were itching for a scenic drive. We’ve been lucky in that the weather has been absolutely gorgeous the last week or so. With sunshine, blue skies, and relatively warm temps (30s for the most part, with some warmer days), it was time to hit the open road.

We decided to drive down the Richardson Hwy to Paxson. Paxson is about 175 miles south and there’s not much there now. The Paxson Lodge recently closed and honestly, it needed to be closed as it had fallen into disrepair. I do hope that someone with a vision (and money and the willingness to work hard) comes along and fixes the place up, because it’s in a great location at the beginning of the Denali Highway. The Denali Highway crosses the state from Paxson to Cantwell - 135 miles of some of the most scenic landscape in Alaska. Nevertheless, Paxson is a good place to turn around if you’re just taking a day-trip.

We stopped at the usual places. Photography would have been better if there would have been at least a few clouds in the sky, in my opinion, but the Alaska Range was absolutely gorgeous and we were thrilled to get close to the mountains.

One of our first stops was Bolio Lake. Bolio Lake is actually on military land - the Donnelly Training Area. Nearby Fort Greely is a US Army launch site for anti-ballistic missiles located approximately 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks. It is also the home of the Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC), as Fort Greely is one of the coldest areas in Alaska, and can accommodate cold, extreme cold, or temperate weather tests depending on the season.

The lake is still frozen, and the ice is still thick enough to keep the ice fishing shacks on it. I’ve read that the ice can be more than 3′ thick on the lakes here. Even the edges of the lake are still frozen at this time, despite the warmth.

I love this view of Bolio Lake. I remember the first time I saw it almost 10 years ago, when Steve and I took a 30-day camping trip around the state. I think my mouth dropped open when we crested the hill and saw this before us. I still feel the same way.

Bolio Lake, near Fort Greely

Here are a few more photos from our drive. The mountains were so gorgeous on the horizon, and cheered me immensely. It was good to see running water in the rivers and streams too, even though they are still topped with ice and snow in places.

Alaska Range Alaska Range and Delta River Alaska Range and Delta River
Richardson Hwy Black Rapids Glacier Area Layers of ice and snow on the Gulkana River

The river has frozen, cracked, thawed and re-frozen several times, it appears. I love the pattern of the cracked ice under the smooth top layer of ice. This photo was taken down past Rainbow Mountain. I love the turquoise color!

Bolio Lake, near Fort Greely