Coffee of Kentucky

Within the past six months, I have traveled to Kentucky twice! My boyfriend’s (Peter’s) brother and sister-in-law (Matt and Becca) live there and his other sister (and my friend), Anna, goes to school there. I first flew out over Spring Break to see Anna at school and then I went again in August with Peter to visit. The majority of BOTH trips consisted mainly of going to coffee shops; and, honestly, I was more than okay with that. Anyway, here is my miniature guide to coffee of Kentucky (well, at least Lexington).

(1) Coffee Times I was lucky enough to get to Coffee Times on both of my trips to Kentucky. It’s located in a little strip-mall not too far from Matt and Becca’s house. It has a really relaxed vibe and the makeshift furniture makes it feel homey in a way. They hadIMG_0434 a wide variety of both drinks and snacks, which is always nice, because I know sometimes coffee places can be lacking on the food selection. They have an option to get either pita or veggies with a variety of dipping options including hummus, spinach dip, and beer cheese! Attached to the sitting area/bar of the coffee shop, they have a little store where you can buy TONS of different coffees or little knick-knacks. They had a wide array of COFFEE MUGS (I may or may not own upward of twenty mugs), which were fun to stroll through. Both times I went there I think I had tea—Chai the first time and a London Fog the second, but from trying Peter and Anna’s coffee I can attest that it is also delicious! If you’re in Lexington, I definitely recommend you stop by; but, don’t count on there being available seating right away!

(2) Chocolate Holler Chocolate Holler is a chocolate and coffee bar that I also had the opportunity to visit twice! One of the things that first stood out to me was the exceptional customer service. Both times I was in Chocolate Holler, the barista at the register was IMG_0431friendly and asked whether we were from the area, how we enjoyed Lexington, and just continued a general conversation. They also had board games and puzzles over in the corner for people to enjoy, which was always a plus with me! I liked the idea that they were really putting forward an environment that said, “Hey, come study, play games, hang out. Take your time!” When you first walked in, they had a “pay it forward” board, where you could donate a cup of coffee and then write something like, “for someone who had a bad day” and then post it on the board. If someone came in and looked at the board, they could pull that note and get a free drink! Such a cool idea! The first time I went I tried a Rose Latte, which was not my favorite (more of the combination than the coffee itself though). The second time I had a Snickerdoodle hot chocolate with espresso that was just perfect! Swing by their location in Lexington and maybe you could even get a free drink!

(3) Daily Offerings Daily Offerings has two locations in the Lexington area. The first one is the roastery, which is located in downtown Lexington. The newer location had just opened up in a shopping center called “The Venue.” Both locations have a very open, airyIMG_0433 feel with lots of windows that allow the sunshine to pour in. They are also animal friendly, which is great for Peter’s brother and sister-in-law who have the most lovable Golden Doodle in the world! The new location has a massive garage door that opens up to an outdoor courtyard area; but, sadly, it was raining when we were there. I really enjoyed taking some time to do work at both locations on my two trips. I’ve tried a variety of drinks, from iced lattes to chai teas and thus far I have not been disappointed. They too have a decent food selection, including a daily quiche that I tried. The only caution would be that they didn’t seem to have a ton of food in the store, so if you’re hungry, GO FOR IT! Daily Offerings is also a family owned business and they view it as “not just as a means to support our family, but also as an avenue to share our blessings.” SO encouraging! Stop by either (or both) of their locations as soon as you can!

(4) North Lime Coffee & Donuts This was my last coffee shop stop on my most recent trip to Lexington. Becca and I spent the morning there chatting and then Peter and Matt IMG_0432joined us a little while later. North Lime has locations in both Lexington and Louisville. They are known for not only their coffee, but also their delicious DONUTS! The donuts are made fresh each day, and whatever is out on display is what they still have for purchase. I tried their carrot cake donut, which I think might have just been a seasonal thing, but either way was absolutely delicious. In Lexington, they get all of their coffee from Nate’s Coffee Roaster. I tried a latte and then also a London Fog. For the London Fog they double-checked it was good, because they don’t often make them. Customer service points right there for sure! The shop itself has a decent amount of seating (although it was still kind of difficult to find someplace to sit). There is definitely more of a family-friendly vibe, with lots of families coming in and out with small children. I would say that if you are looking for somewhere low-key to study, this probably won’t be the place for you. However, if you want to chat with a friend and want some delicious (albeit, not the healthiest) breakfast, definitely swing by North Lime Coffee and Donuts.

If you like coffee, traveling, or find yourself in Kentucky, make sure to check out some (or all) of these amazing coffee shops! Comment if you know of any other good coffee shops in the Lexington area we should check out on our next trip.

OCNJ: Early Morning Boardwalk Guide

In mid-August, Peter and I celebrated our two-year anniversary by going down the shore to Ocean City, NJ. We live in New Jersey, so this wasn’t a super far trip, but it was great being able to get away for the day and not spend hundreds of dollars doing so. As many of you know, I am absolutely NOT a beach person. However, the appeal of Ocean City, for me, comes mostly from its boardwalk. Since Peter enjoys the beach, I thought this would be a nice compromise and just a generally fun way to spend the day!

Our plan was to meet at his aunt’s house the night before because she lives about 15 minutes from Ocean City and then head to the beach in the morning for sunrise. After sunrise, we didn’t have much of a plan. I had found a blog post about coffee shops in Ocean City, but that was the extent of the planning we did beforehand.

Sunrises, Bikes, and Breakfasts

The morning of, we struggled to wake-up and get dressed, but we managed. We found a IMG_0236parking spot a couple blocks out from the boardwalk on one of the free-parking streets and then, as we walked closer to the boardwalk, we passed about six or seven closer spots! We for some reason over-estimated how crowded the beach would be at 5:45 in the morning. We walked out to the beach with our blanket and found a place to put it on one of the jetties. Straight out over the water, we could see the sun come up and if we looked slightly more to the left we could see Atlantic City in the distance. We sat there for a while enjoying God’s beautiful. Then we strolled back to the boardwalk, feeling as though we had all the time in the world to enjoy this peaceful morning.

On our drive over I had found a place for breakfast that was actually on the bay side of Ocean City. It was called Dockside Kitchen. We wanted to rent bikes before Dockside Kitchen opened at seven though because that was going to be our main form of transportation for the day. There turned out to be a bike rental place, Oves Restaurant & Bike Rental, on the same street that we parked. When we wandered back there from the beach, it looked like the guy was just starting to put some bikes out. I told Peter to go and ask what time he opened. When he asked him he responded, “I can open now if you want me to.” Perfect! We got our bikes—I picked out a pretty yellow one, and then we were off!

By the time we pulled up to Dockside Kitchen and parked our bikes, the clock had just IMG_0296turned to 7:00! Again, perfect timing! There was nobody standing out front at the hostess stand though, so we just waited until one of the girls walked towards the front and saw us. Apparently, the hostess never showed up, so she took it upon herself to seat us. We had the pick of the dock and chose a table right overlooking the water. It was slightly chilly, but I would also rather be cold than hot. The restaurant was not just known for its view and food, but they also had a really good coffee bar! I was definitely pleased with the meal and the coffee, which I desperately needed if I was going to survive being up so early.

Coffee Shops

Not surprisingly, we made several coffee shop stops in our time riding up and down the boardwalk. We probably would’ve stopped at an excessive amount of coffee shops no matter what, but the fact that we woke up before the sun made that desire for espresso even stronger!

Our first stop was Ocean City Coffee Company. They had two locations on the boardwalk and were the one place on our list that Peter had heard the most about. We went to the first location that we came upon. The wall was covered in different canisters of various coffees. They had a window in the back where you could see into where they roasted the coffee. There were a couple of places to sit, most of which were full. Overall, they had a nice atmosphere and the coffee was good too! I went with a dirty chai—so a chai latte with a couple of shots of espresso. When we finished drinking our coffees, which didn’t take long at all, we hopped back on our bikes and went to see what was up next!

The second coffee stop (not back-to-back, we did do some other things in between) was at a little hut that was attached to an arcade. I actually almost rode past it and Peter had to call me back and repoint out the sign reading Locals, showing me that this was, in fact, IMG_0295the place. By this point in the morning we both felt thoroughly dehydrated, so instead of making that worse with coffee, we opted to go for smoothies! They were good and despite having the sound of arcade games behind us, the place’s design and set-up had us feeling as though we were right on the beach at a little smoothie shack!

Our final coffee stop of the day (four total if you count Dockside Kitchen, which I do!) was Positively 4th Café & Coffee. It was located a couple blocks off of the boardwalk—actually really close to where we parked our car! It was a good last location for us to check out because it was a little after noon and we could no longer ride bikes on the boardwalk. We got lattes and a hummus platter to share. The place was really quirky. There were two main rooms. We opted to sit in the smaller back room where there was a bit more privacy and it had a fan that was blowing directly on us. The only downside of the place was the lack of air conditioning. They had a couple guitars hanging on the walls, which said, “not for sale, but feel free to play.” It was definitely a place set up with the intention of people hanging out for a while and relaxing.

Our OCNJ coffee mission was a success and made a lot easier with the help this article from “I Love Ocean City New Jersey.” We finished the day checking off four out of the six recommended places.

Miscellaneous Entertainment

As I mentioned earlier, drinking coffee wasn’t the ONLY thing we did all day.

We played mini golf at Tee-Time Golf. I had fond memories of playing the same course when we would come to Ocean City as a family growing up, so it was fun being back! The course had a loose theme of childhood stories and nursery rhymes. If you’ve ever been to OCNJ you would probably recognize the “old woman who lives in the shoe” hole, which is the most visible from the boardwalk. I ended up winning the game by one stroke if we added up just the scores. If we did it the “correct” way and based scores on how far we were from par, Peter and I tied, which was less exciting. I preferred adding it the way that I won (shocking, right?)!

We stopped in a couple of classic boardwalk shops. They were those stores with all the cheesy signs and other stuff that anyone with a beach house doesn’t need, but probably wants and will end up buying. Despite not having the intention of buying anything, it IMG_4370was fun to just walk around and see what different things we could find.

The other shop we went into ended up being less window-shopping and more actually shopping. It was a little boutique store called Sand & Stitch. We had ridden past it a couple times before it opened and I pointed it out every time saying, “That looks cute, we should maybe check it out later!” By the time it actually opened we almost had to go in. I saw a couple things I liked but didn’t know if I would ever actually wear. Peter encouraged me to have fun and try on things if I really wanted to. I think that was a statement he came to regret, considering within 15 minutes he had an armful of clothes I had handed him to carry until I made my way back to the fitting room. I ended up only buying a pair of jean shorts, but it was a fun outing. Later, when we went to return our bikes, the guy working there made a joke that “it was a good thing we didn’t get baskets, or I’d probably have triple the bags.” He probably wasn’t wrong.

I was so tempted by the sound of Pacman right behind me when we were drinking our smoothies in the arcade, that eventually I gave in and decided to play a round… or two. Peter and I decided to play a couple of other games while we were at it. We played two rounds of basketball, which I surprisingly lost—I guess after seven years of not playing my skills started wearing off a bit. Then, we headed over to Skeeball where I came out victorious! We ended up with a handful of tickets that we gave to a couple of families that had young kids. I didn’t need any more junk in my room and it definitely made the kids happy!

Final Thoughts

When we decided we were ready to leave, we looked at the clock and it was only about 1:00 PM! The sun was at its peak and it was just starting to get really hot and crowded on the boardwalk. We had spent seven hours in Ocean City that morning and were still able to get home at a reasonable time to take a nap and then enjoy the evening. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend our anniversary! For anyone who loves the boardwalk, but isn’t a fan of the beach and the crowds, I definitely recommend spending a morning in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Niagara Falls: Away from the Crowds

Niagara Falls is a beautiful place, but I would be lying to say it hasn’t been tainted by the flashy, gimmicky attractions that surround the natural wonder. Last summer, my boyfriend and I planned a road trip from New Jersey up to Niagara Falls through Saratoga Springs, NY and Charleston Lake, Ontario. We wanted to find a balance between the touristy aspect of the falls and seeing the natural un-tainted beauty of it.

We found the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass, $65 to experience all of Niagara’s “natural wonders and attractions.” Between that and discovering Niagara Glen, we found the perfect balance to really appreciate the falls. Overall, I thought the package was completely worth it and I really enjoyed the experiences! We were only in the falls for two full days, but I feel like we did everything we wanted to do and were included in our pass. It gave us about a 10% discount over buying each ticket individually, so that was an added bonus because we got to experience things we wouldn’t necessarily otherwise purchase. I’m going to give a quick summary of everything we did and some of our initial impressions.

One of the highlights of the pass was our access to the bus line. The line had two stops about a quarter mile from our Hostel and then could take you to any of the major attractions of the falls. It was 2-day WEGO Bus Access. It was so convenient and nice that we didn’t have to worry too much about getting from one place to another, we had my car, but parking would have been so much and walking would just take a lot of unnecessary time.

Hornblower Niagara Cruises This is basically the equivalent of the Maid of the Mist, IMG_7616except on the Canadian side. The big difference was that we wore red ponchos while the American side wore blue ponchos instead. It was crowded, but worth it, as you really got a first-hand look of the Horseshoe Falls. The mist turned into a straight downpour the closer we got to the falls. This was one of the first things we did, so we definitely opted to move from the touristy to the natural.

Whirlpool Aero Car This was our second stop and it was a really cool and unique experience. It was an aero car that traveled over the whirlpools. It was designed by Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo and opened in 1916. The length of the cable is 3,5000 feet. The river actually makes a ninety-degree turn, so that’s how they can manage setting it up without crossing international borders. Except for about three seconds, we do technically cross the border, which is technically illegal, but it’s okay! Other than the crowds of people, it was a really enjoyable experience and I would definitely recommend trying it out.IMG_7632

Butterfly Conservatory Okay, so I’m terrified of birds, right? And I THOUGHT it was just birds, but apparently, it’s anything that has wings and flaps, so that’s including butterflies. We were walking through and I was doing okay until one flew near me, then I freaked out! It was to the point that I was hanging onto Peter’s arm so tightly and looked so terrified that people actually started laughing at me. As far as the process and how the took care of the butterflies, it was really fascinating. There were 180 meters of pathways and up to 45 different species of butterflies! I felt kind of bad for Peter making him leave, but I think he was mostly just amused by my terror.

Floral Show House This was one of our last stops on our two-day Niagara Falls tour. We stopped by before we headed to our final anniversary date dinner. It was absolutely gorgeous and incredible the different things they could create out of flowers. We both said that we would love to go back with someone who actually knows more about flowers because we were just kind of like, “that’s pretty,” but that’s all we knew. Personally, my favorite part was the birdhouses that were on the outside groups of the IMG_7463show house. They were absolutely gorgeous houses and I liked to pick out which one I would want to live in one day! The whole time we were making fun of my grandmother going, “These flowers are so gorgeous, why don’t MY flowers ever look like that?!”

Niagara Glen So this part of our exploration of Niagara Falls was actually not included in our package, but probably one of my favorites! Niagara Glen consists of 4 km (2.5 miles) of hiking paths and trails that explore the Carolinian Forest and at parts go directly along the Niagara River and the Niagara River Whirlpools. It was insane how beautiful it was and while some people were paying lots of money to take a touristy boat ride down to the rapids, we were able to walk right there and experience the natural beauty.


Mexico Missions: Intentional Timing

June 7, 2017

This morning I decided to slightly alter my morning routine and wake-up earlier in hopes of getting in some morning journaling time. It was really refreshing to start my day off like that. Our breakfast was once again bacon and eggs. When I finished eating I grabbed my notebook and went out onto the balcony to keep writing.

The worksite today was slightly more cramped than it usually was since we already had most of our walls up. Once we unloaded the majority of our materials I got right to work with measurements. I had the manual with the information on what we were going to need, so I just got to work. The main material we needed was the wood for exterior and interior doors, as well as one more window. When that was done I hopped around, hammering some nails, and painting the home a vibrant green color. Everyone was ebbing and flowing around one another ensuring that everyone would get done.

Once we got the walls up, there was a lot of climbing around that had to be done. I felt like a child as we climbed all over the interior walls hammering various pieces of the home together. For painting, we had to climb to reach the top of the wall as well. At first, I tried climbing onto Drew, but since we so often had to re-fill paint we concluded that climbing on the rafters would be safer and more productive. The most climbing I had to do was at the end when I had to hold the outside of the rafters while Drew and his tall, lanky, self stood on a paint box in the middle of the house and hammered them in.

When we were done with the day’s work the final product was surreal. First off, we had an actual house—four walls, a floor, and even part of a roof. The second thing that was surreal to me was the idea that SEVEN people would be living in a house smaller than my bedroom at home. Chris was saying that even though there are seven family members, there would most likely be more relatives and community members that eventually more or less just moved in. They were so excited about this little box and it is something that we are able to give them through the power and grace of God. God has a very special plan for this family and by his grace, we get to be a part of it which is really, really amazing.

We got back to the orphanage later than usual and were all pretty hungry. While we waited for dinner to be served, Joe, Katie, Alex, and I began a game of Dutch Blitz. It ended until after dinner when all my brand new cards started blowing away. Dinner was empanadas—some with chicken, others with just cheese, and both delicious. As soon as we finished dinner we ran down the stairs to go get dessert round one at the ice cream store. I got one scoop of coconut and another scoop of cookies and cream. When we got back it was about time for chapel. Joe and I got everyone in the room to put their elbow on the arm of the person next to them. By the time we were ready to start worship everyone was doubled over in laughter.

Worship was really powerful. Everyone knew the words to the first two songs and I just really felt God’s presence within the group. We sang, “Indescribable” followed by “Lord I Need You.” Following worship, we had a chance to talk about how we saw God in each other, which was really cool and encouraging. My word of the day was intentional. I felt as though I had been more intentional today with my time. We were also at the point of the trip where the end was very much in sight. That meant that every moment we spent here, whether it be with each other or with the family at the worksite, had to be intentional and ultimately God-focused.

After we finished, Joe, Katie, Alex, and I finished up our Dutch Blitz game (which I won!). When the game was over I decided to go and take some quiet time before bed. I journaled a bit and then just let my mind wander under I drifted to sleep.

My Great Alaskan Adventure: MacLaren Wilderness Center and Backcountry

June 25, 2016

When we arrived at MacLaren Wilderness Lodge we received our room assignments and went to claim beds. My room consisted of me, Mackenzie, Edie, and Morgan- a great group even though, honestly, no combination of girls would be bad because I already loved everyone like a dysfunctional little family. After we unpacked and I stealthily stole the kettle corn, Kristen came in to see if anyone wanted to workout with her and Josh. Edie and I reluctantly agreed because up until that point the trip consisted of mostly just sitting. We ran up a massive hill (it’s almost as if we were in the mountains… oh wait) and did a mix of exercises before running back down. During our cool-down we had a randomly deep conversation about religion. I was designated the “sassy trouble-maker” of the group to which I replied, “impossible, I’m a good catholic girl,” motioning to the Kairos cross around my neck. Josh then asked me about my faith and I learned that he too was a Christian and seemed to have a strong basis of belief. This was a conversation that I hope to get further into at a later part of the trip.

By the time we returned to the group it was almost time for dinner. It was a “real meal” because we got to choose off of a menu and did not have to cook or clean-up afterwards, which was a nice change of pace. I sat with Morgan, Edie, Ethan, Leah, and Rory. I ordered a bacon-cheese burger and it was exactly what I needed. After dinner we gathered to play Cards Against Humanity. I won with about five black cards when the game ended. The game revealed that Edie, Breezy, Ethan, and I were the four most morbid people on the trip, which was honestly kind of what I expected. The game ended when Kristen came in to give us the run-down for the following day- we were going into backcountry for a night and had to re-pack our packs. After she finished talking to us, I left to begin packing Cheaper by the Dozen since there were twelve of us on the trip. After it ended Josh sent us to bed where I thought I’d just instantly pass out, but my room ended up staying up and talking until almost 1:00 AM.

June 26, 2016

Waking up in a “normal bed” this morning was incredibly refreshing in comparison to waking up mummified in my sleeping bag. Breakfast continued the good morning because we had once again a “real meal” and I was able to get a ham and cheese omelet with tomatoes, hash browns, and coffee. After breakfast I was able to take some time for myself and journal, which was incredibly important for my mental sanity. In order for me to keep up high-energy, I first needed to take time for myself.

That night we would be camping in the backcountry and we had to take a boat to the location in two shifts. I was on the second shift, so the girls minus Laura and Ann went for a walk to a nearby bridge with a great view while I sat on the bridge (sorry Dad!) and wrote. The boat ride was amazing and I could not stop smiling. Our campsite was on this breath-taking plain with the river to one side and snow-capped mountains to our other.

Once we had fully unpacked we grabbed our water-bottles and cameras then set off to hike a giant rock. This was our first active activity of the trip, which was a nice adrenaline release, The beginning of the hike was relatively flat, although we did have to jump a couple of rivers. Josh continued to show us his “tracking skills” from footprints that he has demonstrated earlier at lunch. He had dramatized the demonstration, but he was still surprisingly accurate in guess whose footprints were whose. Our guide for the excursion, Matt, was incredibly knowledgeable and entertained us during the flat part of the hike. The steep part was only about twenty minutes and the view at the top was probably one of the best of the entire trip. We took some pictures on these huge rocks and then climbed to the other side to take pictures of the glaciers and snow-covered mountains. I was terrified Ethan was going to die as he climbed further and further out onto the cliff, but he didn’t. Then the girls did really bad yoga while everyone else laughed and took pictures. Before we walked back down Josh had us take a few moments to just take in our surroundings and think. The walk down was quicker because we just bushwhacked and slid down the rock. Josh and Kristen talked to me about what it would take to be a rustic leader. They each individually told me they thought I could handle it and said they would write me recommendations- assuming I could stay out of trouble. Josh and I then talked more about faith and it was comforting to know that there was someone out here who had a similar a faith and similar beliefs as me out here. Right before we arrived back at camp, Kristin showed us how to clean water with a water pump.

When we arrived back at the camp we settled in for a relaxing evening. We played an incredibly frustrating game of Uno for at least two hours. Finally, dinner arrived with Matt, ending the game and probably saving a lot of our friendships. The dinner was lasagna and delicious warm bread and butter. After dinner we all just sat around the campfire and talked until about 10:30 P.M. We then moved into my tent for a dance pater. Even though we didn’t really dance much, it was still a fun time and we all spent the time doubled over in laughter. Once Kristin and Josh kicked everyone out of our tent, Edie, Leah, and I stayed about for probably at least another three hours talking, singing, and annoying the guys in the tent next to us.

It’s crazy to think that we’re already over a third of the way done the trip. I feel like the last two days has brought us all so much closer as a group. I am looking forward to the end to see where the trip takes us but I know it will be hard to say goodbye to everyone. I’m just going to take it all one day at a time.

***Oh, we also had an outhouse with no door and an amazing view, her name was Allison.

June 27, 2016

I made the first boat back to camp this morning that left around 8:00 A.M. Back at MacLaren Lodge there was an accident with an engine while trying to fix the big boat. Since the big boat was still broken, Matt had to take four river trips to get all of us and our stuff back instead of only three. Breezy, Jack, Kristin, and myself froze on the first ride. The warm breakfast followed by a hot shower made it slightly better; however, during breakfast I realized I had lost my wallet. I was sure it was not in my bag and most likely back at the mercantile shop in Denali. After I showered, I took the opportunity to FaceTime Dad and Zack quickly just to check in before Zack left for Costa Rica. I had time to journal too which was great because I was able to take some me time and relax. Overall I am very happy with my dedication to journaling throughout the trip so far.

My Great Alaskan Adventure: Denali

img_7682June 23, 2016

Today, instead of writing about my eight hour bus tour through Denali National Park, I listed interesting information and facts that our bus driver Bear told us.

Bear: we are pretty sure he got his name because he fought a bear and won, but we don’t know for sure

Denali Wildlife Sightings: moose, seagulls, hare, doll sheep (from really far away on a mountain), ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), caribou, more birds (there was this really annoying group of people on the back of our bus that liked to yell for Bear to stop every time he saw a soaring bird- every. time.)

Time of Departure: 7:00 AM

Park is six million acres.

We were park of the 33% club- the 33% of people that were actually able to see Mt. McKinley (Denali) because normally it was too cloudy.

Mt. McKinley has been reported by pilots from over four hundred miles away.

Teklanika Campground- last ground site that you can drive to in the park with a minimum three night stay.

Stop #1L Teklanika (8:20 AM)

Igloo Forest- spruce trees

Sub-arctic climate- can snow at any time.

Igloo Canyon Campsite elevation- 2940

2006: Found evidence of dinosaurs and some areas have so many dinosaur tracks they are called “dance floors.”

Sable Mountain has no off-road hiking because of wild-life protection.

Stop #2: Toklat (10:02 AM)

There are twenty-five species of mosquitos in Alaska, but only one amphibian- the tree frog- and no snakes other than people who have pets.

After our bus tour we went back to the campsite and began making camp-site enchiladas that were absolutely delicious. The night consisted of lots of different games- Mafia, BS, slaps, spoons, and others. The night was eventful because Morgan, Leah, Breezy, and I had to move camp and re-setup our tent. Once the boys finally left us alone and our tent was moved, we quickly fell asleep.

June 24, 2016

This morning Kristen started shaking our tent telling us not to leave because there was a giant moose and we would probably die. I wanted to look out of the tent window, but Breezy was still asleep and see was on the window side. It was okay though because the moose was still sleeping behind the bathroom. Right before we left the camp the moose and one of its babies crossed the road and we got some great photos!

We did a mix of busing and walking to reach where we would see a dog sledding demonstration. Even though I openly admit I am not a dog (or animal) person, the Alaskan Huskies were pretty adorable and the lighting at the sight was also pretty great for pictures. The most interesting fact about the sled dogs was that each litter had a theme for their names. For example, the volcanic litter had names like Lava and Ash. The demonstration itself was cool because we could learn how during the winter the dogs really served as “warriors to wilderness” and helped things run smoothly at Denali- the only park in the system that used sled dogs. We also learned the difference between the Denali dogs that were bred for strength and the Iditarod dogs that were bred for speed.

We then quickly stopped at the camp-site’s convenience store for snacks before we embarked on a bus-ride essentially to the middle of nowhere. The bus-ride included a couple food, photo, and bathroom stops where we received our first “potty bags,” a part of the “leave no trace” mentality. The highlight of the bus ride was our dance party when “DJ Logan” played middle-school hits like “Tik Tok” and “Dynamite”- songs that sent me right back to awkward, sweaty, Lawrence Middle School dances.

My Great Alaskan Adventure: Anchorage


June 21, 2016

Today the long-awaited day arrived for my departure to Anchorage, Alaska. We departed for Newark airport around 5:30 a.m. so I could catch my first flight to Houston, Texas at 9:25 a.m. I spent my time playing killer Sudoku and eagerly awaiting another soft blue t-shirt to join me at my gate; however, when it came time to board I was still on my own. The first portion of the flight I do not remember much of as I was asleep in my window seat. Next to me sat an older man with a kind face who I could not help but notice was also social media savvy- checking both his Facebook and Instagram before we departed. The rest of the flight was marked with writing, reading Tuesdays with Morrie (trying desperately not to fly through the book, but nevertheless finding myself sucked into Mitch Albom’s pages as I had recently done with his Five People You Meet in Heaven), and occasionally getting lost in my own thoughts because planes typically give individuals a unique opportunity to do just that.

Flight two from Houston to my final destination of Anchorage was going to to be the killer- seven hours. I still had not met any other rustic students and had a momentary freakout that when I showed up everyone else was going to be best friends and I was going to be the “new kid” who was going to get bullied out of the state of Alaska. Clearly my freakout was entirely illogical. I finished reading Tuesdays With Morrie (STRONGLY recommend) and was trying to hold off from starting my next (and last!) book until at least hour five.

The first three hours of flight two were uneventful as I watched Star Wars: Episode IV (because the proper order is (IV, V, VI, I, II, III, and now VII) until I decided it would be fun to spill water down the front of myself. I popped open my brand new water bottle and all the water began spraying out the top because the straw got suction-cupped to the bottom. Thank goodness that my quick-dry jacket was actually quick to dry and water-resistant! It was a struggle to get napkins though because the flight attendant was too busy fawning over the “unaccompanied minors” sitting next to me and bringing them free food. I was staying positive though because of the beautiful mountain views outside my window.

With two and a half hours to go I would say we’re in the final stretch, but that’s kind of idealistic because that’s a pretty long stretch. My quick-dry shirt did in fact dry quickly and now is ready to once again be worn. While it was drying I started watching Dead Pool because Matt recommended it awhile back. Thoughts- it’s really good but also makes me want to vomit and pass-out at the same time.

Around seven o’clock we finally landed in Anchorage and I went to try to find both my bag and the other Rustic staff. At first I couldn’t find either and I began to panic until I finally caught a glimpse of the purple rustic shirts I had seen on SnapChat. The staff member came over to me and introduced himself as RJ from New York. He said we were waiting for one other girl- Julia, who I later found out liked to go by Breezy- and then Josh (another staff member) would pick up RJ, Breezy, Leah, and myself.

When we reached the hostel we’d be in for the night we met the third staff-member, Kristen, and another student named Logan. Breezy, Leah, and I went up to the girls’ room, but everyone was asleep and no one was very welcoming. We went back downstairs and got to know Josh and Logan over some not great, but very welcome pasta. Soon after, I showered and got ready for bed. It was around 10:00 PM  in Anchorage and 2:00 AM at home in Lawrenceville. I had already fallen in love with the state, the city’s fresh air and the spectacular landscapes.

June 22, 2016

Today I lost my favorite pen, but I guess that’s okay because I’m in Alaska and it’s completely and utterly beautiful.

Since it’s bright all the time here and there’s a four hour time difference, I woke up relatively early this morning. Leah, Breezy, and I were ironically the first ones downstairs at the hostel so we hung out, talked, and played a bit of chess before the rest of the group came down and breakfast began.

Today we journeyed to Denali National Park and it was about a eight hour ride total, but that included a break at a convenience store similar to Wal-Mart as well as a lunch break and some other scenic spot and gas breaks. The most exciting part of the trip was my idea to purchase a group mascot that took the form of a ram named Randolph Jr. Laura and I were incredibly happy with our purchase and so was the rest of our group.

When we arrived at camp in Denali National Park we set up tents and began unloading bags and making dinner. Our dinner was rice, chicken, and veggies which was delicious and once again very much needed. After a quick orientation we began packing the van with “smelly stuff” to avoid bears and other scary animals. Overall the day was a good start to my adventure in Alaska and I have high hopes for the rest of my trip.