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July 29, 2016

Update Post 2 - Alaska!

This summer our big adventure was a huge family trip to Alaska with some of my husband's side of the family!  His stepdad lived there for 14 years, and still has three siblings there with many of their children and families.  We have been planning this for a long time, and I was both excited and nervous for this trip!

The nerves were mainly for two reasons - and both involved the travel itself.  First of all, this would be our first major trip with our daughter since her T1 diagnosis and her first plane ride ever!  And it wasn't just one plane ride, it was three planes each way for a total of over 12 hours of travel - and a 4 hour time change to have to deal with all while managing the blood sugar of a 2 year old.  What was I thinking?  On top of this, I have awful issues with motion sickness and so while I don't mind flying, it often makes me queasy and then I am useless in helping with a restless toddler and it's all up to my husband.  So in all honesty, I was very anxious and terrified about getting to Alaska, but I knew if we could make it through that, we would have a great time!

As usual, my daughter is a rockstar and continues to amaze me on a daily basis.  She was a total boss on the planes, and the only problem we had at all involved my motion sickness on the way home.  Here's a picture of her being a total airplane rockstar:

Total Airplane Rockstar.
  Now onto the trip!  I'm going to share the highlights here - and there were SO many of those that I'm really going to have to cut it down to the ultimate highlights.  For a more comprehensive version of Alaska 2016, please come over and see my 45 minute photo presentation. =)

We stayed in Juneau for 8 days at the Shrine of St. Therese.  It was an amazing cabin, surrounded by nature and peace and quiet!  The views were amazing and it was an extremely affordable option for a vacation if you have 10 or more in your group.

Our Retreat Cabin at the Shrine
Our view from our porch!
Alaska is known for glaciers, and so of course we went to see the Mendenhall Glacier while in Juneau.  It was both amazing to see a glacier for the first time, and to hear about how much it has changed over time.  It has definitely receded over the last 20 years quite a bit, but it was incredible none the less!
The Mendenhall Glacier
Much of our group also did a hike out near the glacier while we were there (the hubs went and I stayed back with the little one for this).  Hubs got some super awesome up close pics of the waterfall near the glacier.

We also spent some time in downtown Juneau.  Juneau is a really neat city.  They have a device called the TRAM, that takes you up a mountain for views of the whole bay and city, and hiking and shopping!
The Tram
View of downtown Juneau from the Tram
Also fun in downtown were visiting the historic Red Dog Saloon, eating king crab at Tracy's, and getting some fun and unique souveniers!
BIL and I at Red Dog Saloon
Downtown Juneau
 The highlight of our tourist experience was most definitely going whale watching!  My sister in law was one of the main planners for the trip, and so she asked around and got us an amazing experience taking a private whale watching tour!  It was wonderful to have a boat to ourselves, and even more amazing to see what we saw!  We had an exceptionally amazing whale watching experience, even getting to see a group of whales do something called "bubble net feeding." It is extremely rare and only happens with humpbacks in Alaska - and we got to see it TWICE!  We also had a whale come about 20 feet from our boat - it was completely awe inspiring and such an experience!

Now, that was the highlight of the tourist experience of our trip, but the BEST thing about Alaska was family.  Our family is very large and spread out, and so having so many of us together for 10 days was amazingly fun.  Watching our daughter play with her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparent was a memory I will cherish forever.  Here are some of the highlights of family in Juneau:

These two girls.  Man I love them!  One of our daily rituals was to go and get coffee everyday at a local place called "The Grind."  I don't normally even drink coffee, but I loved being a part of their special travel ritual.  They have taken me on as one of their own, and I am so grateful for both of them in my life.

I said for the entire trip in Juneau that I felt like an "insider tourist" because we were spending time with all of the family that live there and getting the insider scoop on what to do and when to do it.  To all of our family in Juneau, I thank you for an amazing experience of your home.  Thank you for your kindness and generosity.  Every night we had a full cabin of people laughing, sharing food, stories, and happiness.  One of my husband's cousins brought out his boat for us to fish with for the entire week - my husband caught two halibut that we brought home!  My brother in laws had an incredible experience boating up the Taku river.  Our whale watching experience was on the recommendation of family.  Basically, everywhere we turned we were surrounded by kind and generous family, and that made our trip feel much more authentic than it ever would have without that personal connection.  I know we will go back to Juneau someday, and I hope that all of our Juneau family know that we have lots of room in Pennsylvania to return the favor!  =)

Family Love

 So overall, it was a great 10 days and my heart is so very full of new experiences and family.  I will remember this trip forever, and am so glad we did it!  I also now know that my toddler rocks on airplanes, and that we are capable of managing her T1 on the road!  (We even made a T1 friend in Juneau - more on that in another post later!)  Summer vacation was awesome!

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