I am a birthday person. I like to celebrate them, I like to acknowledge their importance, and especially when it’s a milestone birthday, I like to do something special to mark the occasion. So one of the major reasons we are in Alaska this summer is because of my 50th birthday. We knew it would be expensive to come up here so we would have to work full time, and we knew it would involve some long travels days, but I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my birthday.
As part of my interview I requested several days off to celebrate, and Kelly and Bill did the same. Then Jo and Ben (traveling nurse friends of ours) worked their contracts so they would have a couple of months off during the time period. I am still blown away by them going to so much trouble, and not only did they make it to Alaska this summer to see us, but they made it to Glennallen for my birthday.
Everyone arrived at Northern Nights on Saturday, and since they had a travel day we cooked dinner for everyone. Well, I should say Lee cooked, as he made “Daddy’s Special Chicken”, which is pounded chicken pan fried in butter and garlic, and is absolutely delicious, but labor intensive. We had a wonderful time getting caught up, but I was itching to get on the road. After much deliberation we had decided on Valdez because Kelly and Bill hadn’t seen it yet, and we were all going on a glacier cruise the day of my birthday. Lee and I had scouted out campgrounds on an earlier trip and decided on the Valdez Glacier military campground (that takes non-military personnel) outside of town.
The next morning we were all up and packed and ready to go. We were the last ones ready, it takes awhile to pack up when you’ve been sitting for awhile, and as a last minute check we looked at our brake lights on the trailer. Well, they didn’t work, or rather they worked intermittently. Lee, Bill, and Ben then spent the next 4 hours completely rebuilding a new plug and cable, and replacing a fuse. Since it was a Saturday this was a lot harder than you would think, but they MacGuyvered it, and Kelly and Jo went to get us all Mexican food for a lunch break while we waited. Jo, Kelly, and I had a wonderful conversation while we waited, but it did take a long time, and I was really grateful that they all stayed to help. Finally around 3:30 we were on the road to Valdez with working lights and brakes!!
Originally we were going to walk Worthington Glacier, but since it was late we skipped it and just stopped to take a couple of pictures and stopped again in Keystone Canyon. Everyone loved the views though, and although it sprinkled some, the rain largely held off as we made our way down.
We made it to the campsite around 6:30, and after some discussion ended up getting two electric sites right across from each other. Rain was called for all weekend and it was chilly so we needed electric for heat since solar probably wouldn’t pull much in. Jo and Ben didn’t need electric, but the camp host was nice enough to allow them to double up with Kelly and Bill as long as they paid the dry camping rate.
The next day I took them around to see the interesting things in Valdez and by far the best was Dayville road where the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery is. We had seen it before , but not when the salmon were in, and the amount of fish was absolutely amazing. None of us had ever seen anything like that and although there were no bear, we did see some swans and eagles along the way. Plus the fish themselves were just cool.
We all found the fish hatchery itself fascinating. They have a “ladder system” inside that allows some of the fish to get back to the spawning area where the eggs are collected. The ladder setup allows them to rest in between levels. Then Jo and Ben spotted some seals out in the bay which was really neat as well.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Kelly and Bill surprised me with cake and candles because with the 4 hour time difference, we all decided my birthday actually started at 8pm!
It was a nice couple of days, and packed with firsts and great friends, which was a good thing. Because to be honest, turning 50 really struck me funny, and it caught me off guard. The last time I was bothered by an age change was when I turned 30, so it’s been awhile and I really didn’t expect it. That’s what is great about good friends though. They get it when you are off your game a little, and were kind enough to give me a little space. I’m honestly not sure I can verbalize what bugged me about it, other than it felt as if I had turned a corner and was looking downhill. And yes, I know I have lots of life left in me, many adventures ahead, and I am obviously blessed with the love of family and friends. Still, I was bummed a little, and I might as well say that out loud since I am 50 now 🙂
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