Monday, July 9, 2012

Adam and Aubrey's ring ceremony with Pres. Olsen
Another trip to Denali, this time with Richard and JoDel.
A mama grizzly bear and her cub.
The same mama bear with her twin cubs.
Fourth of July slip & slide in Nenana.
Wearing plastic bags over your clothes makes you slide further.
This is Elijah, Emily, and Cory, all Branch members and great friends.
On the train getting ready to try our hand at panning gold.
Gold Dredge #8 just outside of Fairbanks is an old gold mining machine.
The bridge over the Yukon River with the pipeline along the side and continuing out in front.
A view of the Yukon River.
We made it to the Arctic Circle.

It's been an eventful week.  Richard and JoDel (my brother and sister-in-law) arrived just after midnight early Monday morning.  Of course, it was still light and the sun was just setting.  They told us that when they left Minneapolis (a crazy leg of their trip) that it got lighter and lighter as they flew North.  We were delighted to have them come share our mission for about a week.  

Monday we showed them around a little and then they helped us prepare for the ring ceremony and small reception for Adam and Aubrey.  Jim even "gave away the bride."  Richard and JoDel helped prepare the food and set up for the reception.  It was amazing how things fell into place just in time.  It was nice that more friends were able to come and be part of the celebration.  Originally they were going to get married on July 2.  I think that they were very pleased with the outcome.

Tuesday we had planned to go to Denali National Park.  It was supposed to be great weather, but it poured rain on us the whole 100 miles to get there.  We were blessed that the rain stopped and the sun came out.  We took a bus into Eielson, an 8 hour round trip, hoping to see the mountain and some wildlife.  We did see a caribou and the tips of Mt. McKinley above the clouds.  I was beginning to feel disappointed that we had not seen more wildlife.  However, we soon began to see grizzly bears.  In all we saw three mother bears with two yearling cubs each, a mother bear with 3-year-old twins, and a big male bear.  Some of the bears were very close to the bus, and it was fun to watch the cubs play and wrestle with each other.  Our driver said it was the best bear day she had had in seven years. 

Wednesday was July 4th.  We drove to Nenana to watch the town play in all kinds of races.  There were bike races, egg carrying races, egg toss contests, pie eating contests, three-legged races, gunny sack races, soda pop scrambles, and a sawdust scramble loaded with $200 in coins.  It was a great small-town celebration.  After the festivities, the Verhagen family invited all of us to their home for a barbeque.  We had a wonderful time and Richard and JoDel felt right at home.   There were about 15 to 20 of the young single adults from the branch there.  After dinner they set up a huge plastic tarp in the yard and turned on the hose for a slip & slide.  They all put on plastic bags over their clothes and even soaped themselves down to slide longer.  It was fun to watch.  We really enjoyed the fun.

Thursday we got tickets to visit the Gold Dredge #8 which is a national historic site and to try our hand at panning for gold.  One of the young people offered to get us discount tickets which was very thoughtful.  Each of us found a small amount of gold in our pokes.  They guarantee that you will find gold--at least a little.  That evening we had our institute class and served the pulled pork left over from the wedding.  That made the food preparations much easier.  Richard and JoDel attended class and helped us out again.

Friday we drove to see the Yukon River and as far as the Arctic Circle on the Dalton highway.  Jim had wanted to see the Yukon River before we leave Alaska, so it worked out well for all of us.  It was quite the road trip, but beautiful.

Saturday we visited some more sites in Fairbanks and ended up taking Richard and JoDel to the airport in the evening.  I don't think they ever got used to the light, but I guess we don't either.  It was a wonderful week.  We have come to appreciate how much we love all of our family.  Each one has a special part in our lives.  We are so grateful for the blessings we enjoy because of our family and great friends.  Thank you for being part of our lives.

JoAnn and Jim