Nov 27, 2012

Joshua Tree, Route 66 & Mojave

Since it's cold in Alaska, we decided to try and find someplace warm.... We flew into Palm Springs and grabbed a rental car. The next morning we made the long drive from Palm Springs to Las Vegas via Joshua Tree National Park & the Mojave National Preserve. Here's the map link of our route.

It made for a long day of driving. Our goal was to hit Primm, Nevada at dark (4:40 PM) so we didn't miss anything. We managed to stay on schedule. There wasn't a lot of gas or food stops, so we started with a full tank and a cooler with lunch stuff in it.

All we did was just drive through the parks. You could easily spend two or three days exploring each park. There's a ton of hiking trails and camping areas. It was a little hard to not stop and check everything out, but we just didn't have the time. Maybe on another trip...

Here's the pictures:

Here's a more detailed narrative from a Trip Report I did for Trip Advisor:
We flew into Palm Springs on the day after Thanksgiving and picked up the rental car. Our destination was Las Vegas, but flights into Palm Springs was cheaper and the rental car was cheaper. We stopped by Grill-A-Burger and had a great dinner. Well worth the stop. We ran down the street to Costco and got some traveling supplies for the drive.
For our hotel we choose the Best Western Date Tree in Indio. It's an older property, but it was very nice and the staff was great. Oh, and the breakfast the next day was perfect.
We got up early, ate and swung by the nearby Food 4 Less. We brought a collapsible cooler since it looked like food stops between there and Las Vegas were few.
We headed down I-10 to the turn off to the southern access for Joshua Tree National Park. The drive through the desert was great. We stopped briefly at the visitors center. We would have loved to do some hiking, but we had a lot of driving ahead of us. We did take time to do the trip over to Key's View. It was amazing. We saw a bobcat about half way in.
We made a short stop at Skull Rock. Again, we would have loved to do some hiking... We'll have to get back sometime. We came out of the park at 29 Palms and headed towards Amboy.
Coming over the mountains we pulled over at a gravel pit that was being used as as shooting range to eat our lunch. The view of the valley to the north was the perfect back drop.
At Amboy we stopped briefly at Roys and took a picture of the Route 66 markings on the road. We drove briefly down Route 66 and turned on Kelbaker Road headed towards Mojave National Preserve. Again, driving through the desert was so nice coming from the cold of Alaska.
We stopped at the Kelso Depot and took a quick look at the displays upstairs. At the advice of the park ranger, at Cima we took the Morning Star Mine Road.
Our plan was to hit Primm, NV before dark and we got there just in time. We knew we'd be seeing the road from Primm to Las Vegas in the daytime on the way home a week later.
We stopped at Buffalo Bills in Primm and ate at Ms. Ashley's Buffet. It was not at all worth the price and we were severely disappointed.
After dinner and playing a few slots, we headed on into Vegas. It was a long day of driving... about 8 hours all together. But we loved it.

Nov 22, 2012

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

On 25 September 1789, Elias Boudinot of Burlington, New Jersey, introduced in the United States House of Representatives a resolution "That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness."

Here is the proclamation issued by President Washington:

[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be--That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington


Nov 13, 2012


A while back I read about a new candy on the market called Unreal. The candy makers goal was to make a sweet treat that wasn't quite so bad for you.  Their story is here and is pretty amazing....

My curiosity was piqued. I'm always down for some sugary goodness and if it's something that doesn't leave you racked with guilt, all the better. But alas, being in Alaska, sometimes it takes a while for certain products to make their way here, if you can get them at all. So for the last few weeks I've watched the shelves at Fred Meyer, Target & Walgreens; all reputed to carried the product. And lo & behold, my diligence was rewarded the other night at Target.

 The candy comes in five varieties and is packaged in individual bars or in larger bags. It's priced comparably to regular candy, which was a surprise considering it's made with better quality ingredients. I bought one of each of the five kinds to give a taste test to. Here's my reviews:

 This is their version of Snickers. It was good. It had the full flavor of the peanuts and replicated the fluffy nougat of Snickers well. It only has 200 calories a bar compared to Snicker's 280. But the bar is slightly smaller than a Snickers, so that's part of the equation too. It only has 17 grams of sugar, compared to Snicker's 30 grams. And it carries 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. 
Bottom line: I'll choose this over a Snickers.
 This is their version of a Milky Way. Milky Way is one of my favorite candy bars, and this one was just a good. The nougat was denser than the Snickers one, just like in a real Milky Way. Of the five types of Unreal Candies, this was the one I liked the most. It carries 19 grams of sugar instead of Milky Way's 35 grams and 5 grams of fiber, which is more than you'd find in an apple.
Here's their version of peanut M&M's. These were also very good. Again, the package is smaller than M&M's, so you save some calories there. But most studies show that regardless of the serving size, we'll eat the entire portion of something put before us. So by starting with a smaller serving size it's possible to eat less and still feel satisfied. This bag has 200 calories with 16 grams of sugar, which is less sugar than you'll find in an orange. I'd also buy these again.
And here are their version of regular M&M's. These were my least favorite. If you've ever had imitation, generic M&M's you know that funky taste they have. I've noticed that taste in M&M's I've gotten in Canada, so maybe it's the real sugar they use instead of the high fructose corn syrup. This bag carries 200 calories, instead of 230 in M&M's. They've got 19 grams of sugar compared to 30 grams in the real thing.
Oh, and they also had a slight dark chocolate taste...
And finally their version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. These were my second least favorite. I'm not sure what I didn't like about these... Well, it's not that I didn't like them, they just weren't as good as the others. I'd probably buy them again, but only if they didn't have the others. They've got almost the same calories as a Reese's Cup, but they've got half the sugar and three times the fiber.

So if you can find these in your local store, give them a try. I think you'll like them. I think it's important to show stores that we'd like to have better options in the food we buy. Good tasting food doesn't have to be bad for you and we need to support innovators like the ones at Unreal.

Oh, and if you didn't click the link to read the story of how Unreal came about, you should. It begins with a 13 year old who realized his bag of Halloween candy wasn't good for him...

Nov 10, 2012

Last Winter's Snow

I was going through the pictures on my iPhone and realized I had quite a few showing the vasts amounts of snow that we got last winter. So far this year we've only had an inch or so that quickly blew away.

I love this view of the snow on the trees. Usually the wind blows so much in the Valley that this doesn't happen.
The wife hiding in the trees.
The bridge across the Wasilla Creek on the Palmer Hay Flats.
Near the UAF Experiment Farm off of the Glenn Highway
A moose calf walking through the parking lot at work
Our deck after a snowfall.
The snow berm that built up from me shoveling the driveway.
The morning sunrise through the trees off of our deck.
The Old Glenn Highway bridge over the Matanuska River
I believe this is Matanuska Peak.
Ice along the Matanuska River

Snow along the Little Susitna River.
Looking up into Hatcher's Pass
Standing at the Scout Ridge Overlook looking out over the Palmer Hay Flats and the Chugiak Mountains beyond.

Nov 6, 2012

Johnson Lake Loop

Another hike that I like is the Johnson Lake Loop in the UAF Experiment Farm portion of the MatSu Greenbelt trails. The hike winds up being a couple of miles and is easy walking.

For more info on the Matsu Greenbelt Trails and to download maps, visit their website here...

To access the trail, park at Kerttula Hall. To the north of the building you'll see the trail head sign and map. The first part of your journey will be going through the farm's working area. Please stay out of the barns and avoid any moving equipment.

Here are the pictures (you can click on them to enlarge):

The Chugiak Mountains to the South
This picture was taken a week before the one above. Notice how much the grass greened up in a week.
This fields are part of the University of Alaska Experiment Farm.
They actively work these fields, so stay on the paths.
Pioneer Peak in the distance.
Some of the trail is through the woods.

Nov 3, 2012

MatSu College Trails from Snodgrass Hall

Another one of my favorite walking trails is in the MatSu Greenbelt Trail System. The MatSu Greenbelt includes the Crevasse Moraine trails, the MatSu College trails, the UAF Experiment Farm trails and the Matanuska Lake State Recreation Area trails. All together there is 33 miles to explore. You can see the complete map and more info at the MatSu Greenbelt Trails site.

There's a great little walk that's less than a mile long that starts on the back side of Snodgrass Hall at the MatSu College. To get there take Trunk Road from the Glenn Highway or the Palmer/Wasilla Highway. Turn onto College Way and then take your first right on Musgrove Road. The road wraps it's way around the back side of the buildings. Keep going until you can't go anymore.

The trail goes through an area that was once an arboretum. There's been a lot of other trees grow up, but you can still spot the various non-native trees that were planted. The Frontiersman did an article a while ago on the area.  It's less than a mile round trip to the Observation Deck that looks out over Okenson Pond with Lazy Mountain beyond that. The trail is level and easy to walk on.

These pictures were taken in late October. We've had freezing temperatures by this point, but no snow. This is the perfect time of year because there's no mosquitoes out. It's cold, but you don't have to bury yourself in layers to stay warm.

Here are the pictures:
 The new parking area at the trail head behind Snodgrass Hall.
 A close up of the map at the trail head. There's a QR code that you can scan with your smart phone to bring up the map.

  All the leaves are off the trees.
 These sign posts mark every major trail intersection and really help with finding your way around.
 The trail winding through the trees.
 And winding...

 The beginning of the arboretum. These trees here are Siberian Larch. They look like an evergreen tree, but they lose their needles in the fall like a deciduous tree loses it's leaves.
 The back half of a squirrel. He was moving around too fast to get a good shot.
 I'm not sure what type of tree this is. It's not the black or white spruce we normally have in this area.
 A close up of the tree's trunk.
 A pine tree. Can you tell which way the wind consistently blows?
 The nice level trails in this section are perfect for easy walking.

 Our destination for today. The Observation Deck.
 These trails were once part of a nature trail system the college supported. Along the way are these small posts. At one point they all head signs on them telling you what their significance was.
 The trail continues past the Observation Deck.
 The view from the deck. That's Lazy Mountain in the distance.
 Also from the deck a good view of Matanuska Peak.
 A close up of Matanuska Peak.
 A close up of Lazy Mountain.
 Look from the front of the deck towards the back onto the trail.
 More pine trees.
 The trees here almost made a tunnel. It looks like an area from a Tolkien book.

 A close up of the pine branch. These are not native to Alaska.
 The tree tunnel part of the trail.
 Further evidence of that this was once called the Matanuska Community College Nature Trail. The skunk is kinda cute. The numbers you see carved on the sign mark certain areas. I wonder if someone at the college still has the key to what each number was.