Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thunderbird Falls & Eklutna Lake

 Ooops, did I really forget all about this post in the making? FAIL!  Sorry, folks. As always, I have been a subpar blogger. Anywaaaaay....this mini excursion took place a couple months back in the early days of summer. We wanted a short easy hike with a rewarding endpoint (not too much to ask, right?). We took a friend's two thumbs up hiking Thunderbird Falls, just ten minutes away from the casa.

One thing we have to get used to here in AK is the parking fee required for...well...EVERYWHERE! Downtown parking is NOT free. Even the parking garage for the mall....and they don't offer validation! (Oh, Salt Lake City Gateway Mall, how I miss you!) Anywho. All Trailhead parking lots require a $5 fee. So come prepared.

The trail itself is well-maintained, and well-used.  The first 500 yards or so is a moderately steep incline, and then the trail levels out. Hiking sticks are nice on the way back down.
Towards the end, the trail forks with one way leading to the viewing deck for the falls, and the other winds down into the gorge.  We chose to see the falls first...

This picture is a sure indication that Missus Och is in desperate need of photography lessons...or a new bigger lens, perhaps? Or both? This is Thunderbird Falls as seen from the viewing deck.

We plopped down on the deck benches and enjoyed a nice little lunch. 

Goofed off a bit...

Then headed down into the secondary trail, which was much steeper. The kids did fine, though, and they sped down, eager to get to the water below.

This is about the best view you can get of the falls from the gorge below, unless you climb over some pretty slick rocks. Mister D and Sophia were begging to go until I explained that an unexpected tumble into that icy water below may not be deadly (It was pretty shallow), but the walk back to the parking lot would  be a miserable and wet one. 

It took us about an hour and a half with the hike and the lunch. We still had some energy left, so we decided to check out Eklutna Lake.

The sign as we entered the recreation ground. Lots of bears around!

Look at that view. There is a great multi-use trail that follows the perimeter of the lake.  At the other end, which is about 8? miles down is a glacier and another spectacular waterfall.  We were short on time as we still had church that night, so we just decided to let the kids run around at the beach.

This looks like a great camping spot for the fam next time around. Maybe even a little kayaking adventure later on. But for now, since summer is clearly over, it'll have to wait. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Have Kids, Will Travel...with all Sorts of Fun Goodies!

If this fam isn't on vacation, then it is a given that this Missus is in the midst of planning the next one! Having three kiddos is a non-issue with us...we are travel nuts! And yours truly is an even bigger planning and organizing nut! Our countdown to the next trip is slowly trickling down...two more months and we are jet-setting across the world to the Philippines!

The last time I set foot in my homeland was in early 2001. TEN YEARS AGO! My hubby and my girls have never met anyone outside of my immediate family (Dylan was born there, but flew stateside early and therefore, does not remember much). So this is a HUGE trip. This is also the longest airplane trip ever! 23 hours and 45 minutes, to be exact. ANC-SEA-INC-MNL.

Keeping the girls occupied/entertained/well-behaved throughout the journey is the big goal here...I have accumulated a list of our travel must-haves and thought I could share for you mommas out there interested in having a peaceful trek anywhere.

1.  Trunki suitcase

These are so stinkin' cute. They come in all sorts of colors and even animal themes. The girls love to hop on and get pulled along the long route to the terminal gates (it is stable so long as you're not trying to run and catch the flight). We get a lot of approving looks and comments, and my attention-hoarding girls love it. They fit under the seat for in-flight storage. (I store one of them in front of me, pull it out slightly mid-flight and use it as a step stool/foot rest of sorts...yeah, my stubby little legs do not comfortably reach the airplane floor. Double duty for petite mommies!)

2.  Trunki boostapack

Isn't this genius? A kid backpack that transforms into a booster seat. Wow, why didn't I think of that? We have not used this yet. Actually, it is currently only available in the UK. But lucky me, I have peeps who love me in the land of high tea and scones, and they are gracious enough to ship a couple my way just in time for the trip! Uber excited!

3.  Ipod touch

Yes, it is a bit extravagant. But Oh-Em-Gee, these things are the biggest and most worthy investments we have made in the name of quiet travel time. No lost game cartridges, app sharing (no need to purchase games twice so both girls can play at the same time), and a load of cheap games to choose from! (To read more about the virtues of the iPod touch for kids, CLICK HERE). Educational apps by Duck Duck Moose (depicted above), Leapfrog, PBS are all to be  had! And let's not forget Angry girls are so much better at it than I am.

4. Loud Enough Earphones
These are specifically made for children, with a selection of silicone ear buds ranging from small to really really really small. If they can fit in my tiny girls' ears without complaint, then it would probably fit in any little kid's ears.  They come in a small variety of colors, and a nifty little case to avoid annoying tangles. Best thing? Not only are the ear buds kid-sized, the volume is limited to a safe decibel level to avoid damage to those teeny tiny eardrums. 

5. Pipe Cleaners

Cheap, lightweight, with endless possibilities! If you are lacking on the creative side like I am, it might do you some good browsing some creations online just to get ideas to keep the children engaged.  On a flight to VA, there were a pair of rowdy boys who have just about had enough of sitting in one place. The fighting, screaming, and crying began. Sophia whipped up a bouquet of pipe cleaner flowers and handed them over to the little hellions, and all was quiet once more. My little girl received many many silent thank you's from the rest of the aggravated cabin!

6. Think-ets
This is our first time putting this nifty idea to use.  It comes in a tin container the size of an Altoid can, and filled with random little trinkets. You can play memory games...give the kids a brief glance, secret away a couple items, and ask which ones are missing.  OR, you can play a storytelling game by laying out four or five items and have them make a story incorporating those trinkets. Lots of possibilities. Also comes with multiple game suggestions.

7.  Mouse in a Box
My girls love tiny little toys, and this just takes the prize in cuteness! Each mouse fits in a matchbox-sized "bed". These are one of the "prizes" I wrap up in cheap gift wrap when the girls need something new they've never played with.

8. Bizu Animal Bracelets

These adorable little beaded animals transform into bracelets. A four-pack comes with the beads, elastic bracelets and a threader.  The girls love to mix and match the beads. I have the loose beads, and materials in a Ziploc baggie. 

9.  Lalaloopsy 
Another pocket-sized pretty toy. Polly Pockets, Zoobles, Littlest Pet Shops are also other options. For boys, Lego men, tiny Transformers are alternatives.

10. Wet Ones/Boogie Wipes

For wiping down germy fold-down trays and armrests, sticky hands and faces, and snotty noses (Boogie Wipes). 

When armed with the right supplies, a near 24-hour plane ride, with a pair of restless girls, could actually be fun! (Or so I hope)

Emergencies/Disasters & the Issue of Preparedness

As I bemoan the passing of our short, hoodie-laced, AK summer, the yellowed and already-brittle leaves fluttering to the ground are screaming, "GET READY!" For bone-aching cold, long dark nights, and the occasional extreme winter weather fiasco.  And, with the smattering of natural disasters slash emergencies occurring around the world back-to-back lately, I figure we can all use a little reminding.

I've written many a post about this subject (well, maybe one or two), but this is an issue I take very seriously.  There are those who smirk and blow me off whenever I stand on this particular soapbox and foot stomp the virtues of emergency preparedness (ahem, this finger is pointing at you, little sis), but really, try to get over my know-it-all tone here, and just accept and heed the following advice, please:


I am a naturally paranoid/neurotic person. Therefore, gathering supplies to get us fab five plus glorified rat through a freak natural/terrorist/biological event is a no-brainer definite to-do. But all you calm and collected folk need not ignore this sermoning. If in the least worrisome event power goes out in your house, you can easily grab that flashlight, then even that is a step in the right direction.

First step: consider the possibilities! Power outages can happen anywhere. Then think about what you lose with that....running, heated air...internet...means of food preparation...Don't forget to take your geographical location into consideration. Is your area prone to hurricanes? Tornadoes? Blizzards? Earthquakes? Tsunamis? If you are residing in the U.S., you can visit this link CLICK HERE and it'll tell you the most naturally occurring disasters in your area.

Next, gather what supplies you may need for those possible events. The same link I provided above, when clicking to go to its homepage, can provide you with those necessities.  You can go on a crazy preparedness shopping spree if you wish, or buy a couple of things here and there and slowly stock up!

Even I have some supplies that are still in the to-buy list. But, here is what Fam Och has so far:

 ---we have a big Daddy one, and cheap $1 ones the kids can play with
-Battery-powered Lantern
-Crank-generated cell phone recharger
-Crank-generated radio
-Portable toilet tripod with sealable/biodegradable yucky bags
-Water bottles with filters
-Water purification tablets
-Jetboil system (portable propane fueled stove)
-Waterproof matches
-Duct Tape

Each member of the fam has their own 72-hour backpack. In the case we need to evacuate, we have everything we need for the first three days to sustain ourselves.  The Mister has all the above in his gigantic rucksack, plus what we all have packed:

-N-95 mask
-Small first aid kit
-Space/Emergency blanket
-Waterproof matches
-Wet wipes
-Hand sanitizer
-Water packets to last 72 hrs.
  ---MRE's, the kids also have snacks like fruit strips, granola bars, etc.
-Warm or Cold weather clothing
-Activity packs (coloring books, crayons, stickers)

The Mister and I both have thumb drives with scanned copies of our important documents like birth certificates, insurance paperwork, passports, etc.). The children also have emergency contact information in their packs. Olivia, our little miss allergy, has a set of her Epi-Pen in her backpack and another set in mine...and let's not forget the Benadryl. The kids know who to contact (we have a designated out-of-state person to call) in case we need to find each other.

Do you think I'm crazy yet? Maybe so. But let me tell you what....when you hear of a big winter squall coming through my area and see news reports of people panic-buying and emptying store shelves of water bottles and the like? I won't be one of them.  I will be in my home, calm, and just waiting for all of it to pass.  My kids will be comfortable and safe, warm, clean, and fed. And if ever there is a call to evacuate, there will be no frantic running around grabbing what we can get a hold of and forgetting the most important things...Nope, we all just head for our backpacks, grab the kids, dog, and go.

So let me ask you....are you prepared? It sure doesn't hurt to be.