Summer Solstice

I'm in sunny San Diego this week, spending time with dear friends and soaking up the warmth. As I meet new folks here, I've noticed I have the tendency to proudly announce "I'm visiting from Alaska."  In response, one of the top questions I've received here in Southern California is this: "Don't you have 24 hours of sunlight up there?"

The answer? Yes and no. Juneau (where I call home) doesn't have the 24 hours of summer daylight like most people reference when bringing up Alaska stereotypes. Juneau is situated in Southeast Alaska, far south of the Arctic Circle. Today on the longest day of the year, Juneau will see 18 hours and 18 minutes of daylight.

Compare this to spots above the Arctic Circle, such as Barrow, Kotzebue, and Fort Yukon, which will receive 24 full hours of daylight today. That's a lot of sunshine! Starting tomorrow, days will become progressively shorter until December 21, the shortest day of the year. 

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Veggies Shortage

One of the quirks of living in a rainforest that's bordered by ocean on one side and ice fields on the other is that you learn quickly to rely on alternate modes of transportation - like the ferry system - for fresh veggies for your dinner table. 

This week, because of an electrical malfunction on the Alaska Marine Highway System's M/V Columbia, Juneau's largest grocery store found herself with empty fruit and vegetable stands.  Fortunately, the disrupted service is just temporary. 

This certainly isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened.  Juneauites usually experience a few shipping disruptions each winter because of inclement weather.  The photo below is an example from a few years ago, when I experienced a "veggies shortage" for the first time.  Thankfully, rainbow chard and raspberries will be back before we know it.

May Delight

I remember May like it was yesterday. And it was - by far - the best month of May of my life.  Maybe it was the fact that May 2015 was Juneau's driest May on record.  Or maybe it was because every single day held an adventure that stirred my soul.  Who knows why I loved May so much - but I sure know May loved me back tenfold.

Why was May 2015 so incredible?  Well, let's see.  It started out with a fun photo shoot at Eagle Beach with friends, Becky and Kerry.  Not long after, I bought a roadster hybrid bicycle and spent sunny evenings exploring North Douglas Island at sunset.  The Alaskan Brewing Co. rocked my socks off at their Spring Fling event, and the Sealaska Heritage Institute fixed the pit and hosted their grand opening of the Walter Soboleff CenterCinco de Mayo didn't disappoint either, especially since Juneau had weather reminiscent of South of the Border.

I spent a wonderful weekend in Anchorage, catching up with foodie/bestie Sharon, multi-talented blogger Gretchen, and my incredibly hospitable host Cyndi.  Cyndi is one of the best cooks I've ever had the pleasure of knowing - and that's saying a lot. 

Back in Juneau, I hiked with old friends (Denali the Dawg) and made new friends (Sarena's precious Momma, Maggie, visited Juneau from Fairbanks).  One of my closest confidants, Michelle, celebrated her 50th birthday, though she doesn't look a day over 32. 

I kayaked the golden hour with award-winning nature photographer, Daniel Buck and cherished an action-packed weekend at the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) event at Echo Cove. 

Temperatures were regularly in the high 70s, and I couldn't resist soaking up the sun.  I spent lots o' time in and around hawbaws (harbors) - like Auke Bay, Douglas, and Harris Harbors.  To round out the month,  I got my sealegs aboard the S/V Arcturus while sailing with Captain Louis Hoock of Alaska Adventure Sailing.  As for the ICE-ing on the cake, I took a TEMSCO helicopter up to the icy blue Mendenhall Glacier for a Sunday afternoon walkabout, a trip that never gets old.

Every summer has a story - and this has been mine.  Juneau in June is back to her rainforest self, yet adventure awaits around every corner.  If there's anything this month has taught me, it is this: I am ready - rain or shine.

Fun with Becky at Eagle Beach.

Kerry in my hands.

With two amazing women, Becky and Kerry.

Representin' the blue helmet on North Douglas Island.

North Douglas Boat Launch at sunset.

With the ever fabulous Gretchen.

Site of the Walter Soboleff Center.

Siesta with sassy Sarena.

Cheslea and Aileen rocking the sombreros.

Happy Cinco de Mayo from McKenzie and Candice (photobomb by Sonny Bunny).

Sharon in Anchorage with her tempura fried green tea ice cream.  Yummo!

With Cyndi, the hostest with the mostest.

A feast compliments of Cyndi.

Sunset somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau.

Denali the dawg.

Sarena and her sweet Momma, Maggie.

With Michelle on her 50th.

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Proof I'm not making up this temperature thing.

TEMSCO helicopter on Mendenhall Glacier.

Quenching my thirst with glacier water.

Auke Bay.

Harris Harbor.

Harris Harbor.

Cruise ships in the Gastineau Channel.

 Harris Harbor.

Harris Harbor.

At the helm of the S/V Arcturus.

At the bow of the S/V Arcturus.

Kayaking the Golden Hour

As the old adage goes, do one thing every day that scares you.  And that's pretty much how it began. 

What started as a “let’s stay close to shore” excursion quickly turned into my first, long distance, open water, channel crossing of North America’s longest and deepest fjord.

Juneau has been blessed with spectacular weather this month, so I jumped at the chance to join my friend and internationally acclaimed, award-winning nature photographer, Daniel Buck, on a kayaking trip north of Alaska’s capital city.

Initially, I just wanted to get a seal’s eye view of the spot I had camped at a few weeks earlier.  But as we paddled along the foreboding granite cliffs high above our 14 foot kayaks, the surge of adrenalin was unmistakable.  My mind encouraged me to “just go for it.”  And so it began.  Baby steps transformed into leaps of faith which led to an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime. 

We found ourselves leaving the protected cove and venturing out into open water.  Little did I know at the time, but our kayaks were cruising above the historic shipwreck site of the SS Princess Kathleen, a steamship that met her dark watery grave just 63 years prior.

Unfazed, we scanned the horizon for the jubilant exhale of humpback whales, occasionally spotting playful harbor porpoises close by.  With this remarkable encounter alone, my trepidation and fear of the unknown subsided.

As the waves catapulted us closer and closer to our wilderness destination, at one point with my rookie hand I felt the tide taking my kayak in one direction, the wind pulling me in another.  Powering through, we arrived at the shores of Shelter Island after an ambitious and arm-clinching paddle.  Completely worth it. 

Securing the boats above the tide-line, we scrambled along the rugged and rocky shore to gain a higher vantage point on the ocean landscape we had just traversed.  The first half of the journey was now complete, though it felt like a journey just beginning.

After some time exploring the island's unprotected eastern shores and doing a bit of beach-combing, we paddled back to the mainland, surrounded by God’s wonderland stretching as far as the eye can see.

As the sun set behind the majestic snow-capped peaks, the waters we had just conquered were bathed in the warm glow of the golden hour.  During a particularly Zen-like moment, I paused in the middle of the waterway, letting the silence of the world engulf me, comforted only by the presence of nature and the sound of the cerulean waves gently lapping the boat.

There, at sunset, as the small kayak gently rode the ocean swells, I had a revelation.  Growing up in Alabama, I lived an unexceptional life.  Now in Alaska, I am living a life without exception - a life where each day I do one thing that scares me, strengthens me, and fulfills me.  Where each day is nothing less than an epic adventure, all in America’s Last Frontier.

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Here's a big THANK YOU to Daniel for taking many of the photos above and sharing them with me so I can share them with you. 

Check out Daniel's other awe-inspiring photographs at Wilderness Peaks Gallery, Alaska's premiere fine art photography gallery.