May 23, 2016

Wonderful to be Home!

Filed under: Everyday Life,Roadtrips,Wildlife — Susan Stevenson @ 1:08 pm

(I’m taking a break from blogging about our April trip, to blog about Alaska.  You can read about our Philadelphia visit here.  I’ll post about our Washington DC visit next)

We have been busy since we returned home. We came home to a very early “Green Up” (record breaking, from what I understand), and a lot of pollen (causing much pain and suffering to those who have allergies). The snow was totally gone, as was the large number of swans that passed through on their spring migration. Everything I hoped to come home to, had already occurred. That theme seemed to follow us throughout our travels, as we were also late for the cherry blossoms in DC and the tulips in OR.

The first two weeks after we returned home were spent in recovery mode. Both Steve and I were exhausted from a month on the road, despite the wonderful time we had. And Steve had to go back to work for one day before officially being retired, so even though he hadn’t worked in a month, he didn’t feel *done* yet. Therefore, the first two weeks truly felt like a relaxing celebration of this next chapter in our lives.

Steve tended to necessary yard work, while I caught up on business and house chores. I’m still adjusting to having him here all the time. I know he is still adjusting to trying to find things to occupy his time. We have plenty we can take care of around here, but no formal list to follow. We both tend to become distracted so lists are good. In time…

We were home in time to take advantage of the Denali Park Road being open to mile 30 (Teklanika). With only a week left before the shuttle buses started running (and we could only drive to mile 15 at that time), I wanted to go into the park at least twice.

Mother’s Day was the perfect day to take that first drive with Steve (and Raven). With sunshine and spring-like warmth enveloping us, the beauty of the mountains and the joy of seeing wildlife refreshed our souls. It was so good to be home!

Green Up along the Parks Highway Looking out on the Tanana Valley from the Parks Hwy Clouds north of Denali Park
Mountains and Spruce Moose cow and yearling Beautiful Denali Park Landscape
Savage River Valley Denali Landscape Caribou on a Hill
Denali Park Pano Denali Park Rd Pano Kettle Pond
Denali Park View Denali Park


My friend Angie visited Fairbanks for a few days earlier this month. Angie lives in Anchorage and tries to make a trip to Denali Park and this area several times a year. We met up at Creamers Field and took a nice stroll on the Farm Trail. We didn’t see many geese or cranes, and only saw a few swallows. But the walk was nice, as was the conversation.

I then took Angie to see the osprey nests. There are two that I visit from time to time, but this one is the easiest one to see and photograph (zoom lens). Ospreys have been returning to these nests every year to raise their young and fish in the Chena River.

Osprey Pair in nest

We took a scenic drive around the outskirts of Fairbanks, mostly in search of wildlife, but also to just enjoy the scenery. I stopped at the LARS (Large Animal Research Station) to see if the Musk Ox were in the upper pasture, but they were too far away to see well or photograph.  So, on the way back to Angie’s car, I stopped to see if there were any baby reindeer in the pens near the gardens. What a sweet surprise to see several new little babies among the new mamas! A sign posted explained that these were first time mothers and cautioned about getting any closer or disturbing them. So cute!

Reindeer Calf


A few days later, I returned to Denali Park with Amanda. I was looking forward to spending the afternoon with her, as I missed hanging out with her while we were traveling. I was also happy for this little roadtrip because Amanda and her family are leaving Alaska. They have been talking about moving back to the southeast (Alabama), so they can be close to family. And Amanda’s daughter Ashley just had a baby boy in April – making Amanda and Brian first time grandparents. So of course they want to be close to their grandson, who is currently in Nashville where the family is stationed with the Army.  They sold their house in record time, and all of a sudden the clock started ticking. They will be driving out of Alaska next weekend. I am going to miss her!

Amanda and I couldn’t leave until after 1pm, as she had to work, but I wasn’t upset about that. The animals tend to be more active later in the day. I didn’t take many landscape photos. In fact, I didn’t take many photos at all. We saw a half dozen moose, small groups of caribou, and then finally… a grizzly bear!

The bear was wandering down the riverbank along the Savage River – adjacent to the trail.  Amanda and I had just set off walking on the trail, when we heard someone from across the river yell to us “BEAR!”. We stopped and scanned the trail ahead, seeing nothing. Then I caught movement from ahead, down on the gravel next to the river. It was a good size bear, and s/he was hard at work digging up roots and turning over rocks.

We decided to cross the bridge to the larger rest area, for a more unobstructed view of the bear. Being on the other side of the river also gave us an extra sense of security (although that bear could have been on us in less than 30 seconds if s/he really wanted to).  We stayed to watch for about 30 minutes before starting for home, as it was already near 7pm. I included a photo of the bear at a distance taken at 100mm. The close photos of the bear were shot at 400mm, and cropped. I wanted to include the distance photo so you can see that we were being careful.

Unfortunately, the mountain wasn’t out for us, although we did have warm sunshine, with gusting wind at times. It was a great day spent with a good friend, and I’m so glad we could hang out together.  These are the days that become happy memories.

Moose in Denali Park Moose in Denali Park Caribou in Denali Park
Grizzly Bear in Denali Park smelling the air Grizzly in Denali Park knows we're there We were at a distance using a zoom lens


All play and no work makes Susan a lazy photographer! *grin* After a month away from portrait work, I was excited about Jeremy’s First Birthday photo session with cake smash. For those who haven’t heard of a cake smash, basically it’s celebrating a baby’s birthday with a tiny cake that you let the baby eat… with his hands. Of course the result is messy, but can also be quite cute, especially as babies delight in the tactile experience. It was a fun afternoon with Jeremy. He is such a sweet little boy.

Last week, Amanda’s youngest daughter graduated from North Pole High School. I attended the ceremony and snapped a bunch of photographs for the family. I love the way the graduates entered the auditorium in pairs. Under the balloon arch, they had to strike a pose for the photographer. Some of the graduates were quite creative with their poses. Lilly looked adorable. It was a wonderful event to share with my dear friend’s family. Good luck to Lillian as she begins this next chapter in her life!

Jeremy's First Birthday Baby Feet Jeremy's First Birthday Cake Smash
Congratulations Lillian - Class of 2016! Lillian and parents Brian and Amanda Lillian - Class of 2016


I just purchased an airline ticket to get me to Madison in time for Juliet’s birth in mid August. I bought a one way ticket, and will wait and purchase my return ticket after Juliet comes and the family is settled. I can’t wait to meet her!

I applied for the Denali Road Lottery yesterday – one chance for me, and one for Steve. Now that he’s retired he can go to the park with me if we win a pass. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re lucky this year. If we are, we’ll camp down in the park area and take Raven with us too. It will be a wonderful way to end the summer season.

It’s that time of year again – camping season. Steve booked a dip-netting trip to Chitina in June, and plans to go to Valdez as usual in August. The week after he goes dip netting, I’m going camping with my friend Joyce in her new-to-her vintage 1973 Winnebago Brave motorhome. We’re camping at Teklanika Campground in Denali Park, and plan to take the shuttle bus in to various parts of the park to do some wildlife viewing and hiking. There aren’t any hookups at Teklanika, but staying in a hard-sided motorhome with heat and a soft place to sleep is going to be so much more comfortable than tenting it. And I always enjoy Joyce’s company. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time…


  1. I love reading your words…..makes me miss it, but so happy others are enjoying the wonderfulness of it all!


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    I miss you girlfriend! I miss chatting with you! I hope we can get together again after you return to the US and we’re more mobile. 😀


    Comment by Lacey — May 23, 2016 @ 11:50 pm

  2. Susan, I think your friend Amanda may live in the same area as I do. At least some of her family does. They are the people who told us about an Alaska photographer (you).


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Amanda lives here in North Pole right now. Her family is actually in South Carolina (mom and brother, etc). Her married daughter and grandson are in Nashville. You know how it is with military families. We end up all over the country. 😀 Amanda and her husband are moving to Alabama because he was offered a job down there (and it’s closer to all of her family).


    Comment by Rejeana Thomas — May 24, 2016 @ 6:19 am

  3. So glad to have you back! Also glad you had a great trip “outside”… And Congratulations to Steve on his retirement…I,m still working part time..not ready to be home all day with my Stephen..he is happy puttering around, and I still need people. Am currently driving a School van for special needs kids, and enjoying it..only about 4 hrs per day..but I get out, and feel I am still doing something worthwhile! Enjoy your summer..looking forward to your blogs..


    Comment by — May 24, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment