Mar 24, 2013

Alaska State Troopers: Trooper Joel

A friend of a friend's little boy is battling leukemia. Cancer is horrible enough and a little kid having cancer seems the ultimate injustice. I want you to take a moment and read this incredible story of how our Alaska State Troopers brought a bit of brightness into a dark time:

Joel has wanted to be a police officer for more than 2 years. Last June, we were on a camping trip and an Alaska State Trooper stopped by our campsite. Joel was in awe. Adrianne told the trooper that Joel wanted to be a policeman, so he got out of the patrol car, walked up to my little boy, and presented him with a Junior State Trooper badge along with a AST pen and highlighter. Joel has been specific in his dream ever since. He wants to be a trooper. He loves that they’re heroes. He thinks they’re brave, strong, heroic, and on the hunt for villains. It has been his goal to become an Alaska State Trooper. Today, that became a reality.

Dave Eller, a former Wasilla Police Officer, who’s now an advisor with Edward Jones, contacted the Alaska State Troopers and asked Trooper Hayes, who beat cancer, if he would come and say hi to Joel. He shared Joel’s desire to be a trooper one day with Trooper Hayes. This amazing cancer survivor took the “come say hi to Joel” to a level we never imagined. Joel was hoping Trooper Hayes would come in his patrol car. Oh, how Joel was blown away. Not one, two, or three patrol cars came. Eight trooper vehicles pulled up to our house at 4pm. A dozen troopers came into our home. They all congratulated Joel on his bravery, courage, heroism, and integrity. They asked him if he wanted to become a trooper. Joel, overwhelmed with awe, simply shook his head yes. Trooper Hayes asked Joel to raise his right hand and administered the trooper oath. Joel began to smile, which is something we haven’t seen because of steroids in over 3 weeks. He nodded that he would vow to serve and protect the citizens of Alaska. With that, Trooper Hayes bestowed the honor of Junior Alaska State Trooper on my son. 

Then, they gave Joel a box. Joel opened it up. Inside, was a custom-made, Joel-sized trooper uniform, made special for my son. His eyes got so huge! Adrianne took him downstairs so he could suit up. He was so stoic during the whole thing. Once he was downstairs with Adrianne, he couldn’t stop smiling and talking during the outfitting. He came hobbling up the stairs holding Adrianne’s hand to steady him going up the stairs. He walked into the living room to applause. We took pictures. He smiled, he put his tough face on, he was in heaven. After the flag was presented, the outfit was on, the poster, signed by dozens of troopers, the hat covered in signatures, and the pictures, they told Joel he could come out to the street and sit in the driver’s seat of the patrol car. He was so excited. He went outside, headed to the car, got in the driver’s seat, invited his brothers in with him (Eric gladly accepted), and flipped on the emergency lights. With the lights on, we began to take more pictures. He got out, stood by the driver’s side wheel, and posed for more pictures. He thanked the troopers and they drove away.  

Today, Joel’s life was changed by the Alaska State Troopers. He came inside a different boy. He played, laughed, giggled, and had fun with his brothers. The steroids had no hold on him this evening. They couldn’t beat Trooper Shelton!

Adrianne and I talked tonight, after the boys were in bed. We’ve heard Joel say that he’d give up every single toy he’s been given in the past month if it would take the cancer away. I’m convinced that changed today. This, life-changing moment, could not be topped. It wouldn’t be worth giving up to take cancer away. I know, after watching my son today, that he would be willing to battle this vile illness over and over again to receive the honor he got today. He wouldn’t trade becoming a trooper for ANYTHING.
So many people look at something like cancer as being a horrible thing. They’re so right. However, there are some things in life that are so wonderful, so amazing, that you would do anything for the opportunity. That was today for Joel. His dream came true today.

On behalf of my son, Trooper Joel Shelton, I want to personally thank David Eller, Trooper Hayes, and the rest of the Alaska State Troopers. You changed my son’s life. You breathed joy into my sick son. You gifted him with something I could not: hope. I am forever in your debt and am gladly willing to be in said debt. My respect and admiration for your service to the people of Alaska has grown exponentially. You lay your lives on the line every day for us and today you put aside your time off to make a dream come true. Thank you. 
You can follow Joel's progress on Facebook here...

I realize it's popular to hate on authority, and especially police officers. Anchorage had several officer involved shootings last year and in every case people were claiming it was a power hungry cop looking to gun someone down.

But the men and women of law enforcement put their lives on the line for our safety and security. And the men and women of our Alaska State Troopers are some of the best people I've ever met. So the next time you're upset 'cause a cop pulled you over for speeding; stop whining and get over yourself. And when they come back to your window with your ticket, tell them thank you.

Mar 21, 2013

Eklutna Lake & Eagles

 We spent St. Patrick's Day geocaching in the Eklutna Lake area. It was a perfect winter day... No wind, temperatures in the upper 20's and clear blue skies.
The road up to the lake travels along a canyon carved out by the river. It's a long drop to the bottom, but the view is fantastic! Most people don't realize it's here, so here's a Google Map link to where you park to see it.
 This is one of three dams that has been built. I don't remember if it was built for power generation or flood control, but its long been abandoned.
 This is the view looking to the north across the Knik Arm. Our house is out there somewhere....

 This is looking across to the mountains of the Alaska Range in the distance.

 Looking across the frozen Eklutna Lake to the mountains of the Chugach Range.
 We found a total of 6 caches today, bringing our total caches found up to 806. Five of them were along the shores of Eklutna Lake.
 There was quite a few people enjoying the area today. Families were cross country skiing on the lake and riding snow machines. Elkutna Lake is also popular in the summer.

 Here you can see the remains of the second dam. A little further downstream is the third and current dam, an earthen & concrete dam. Eklutna Lake is impounded to allow water to flow down a tunnel to a power generation station. The Municipality of Anchorage also gets their drinking water from the lake.
 At some point some animal walked across this open area. It's weight compressed the snow and then the wind blew away the surrounding snow, leaving this little elevated track.
 Alaska in the winter can be stunning.
 On our way home we spotted this magnificent eagle in a tree. With any of the pictures you can click on them to see a bigger version.
 I only managed to grab a couple of shots before he took to the air. I had the camera on landscape mode and was just about to switch to action when he spread his wings. If I had been a little faster I could've gotten some amazing photos...
A little further down was an immature bald eagle. They don't get their distinctive white heads and tail fathers until they are three years old.

Mar 18, 2013

Great Northern Lights, Lousy Pictures

Saturday night we were coming home late and instead of pulling into our street, we went to the top of the hill near our home. There was a faint green glow on the horizon the quickly defined itself as the Northern Lights.

A quick check on my phone showed me were suppose to get some strong displays.

We ran home and got the camera and drove to a nearby open area. Overhead the lights were a beautiful green running and looping across the sky. But as my luck usually goes, by the time I got the camera set up, they had faded to a dim line you see in the first two pictures.
We set there for over an hour waiting for the lights to come back. It was about 10ยบ outside and I only had on a light jacket. I finally gave up and ran to get some gas.

 By the time we got back to the spot 20 minuets later, the sky was lit up. Most of the displays were overhead and to the south. I don't have the best camera set up, so my photos are not anywhere near as spectacular as being there.
 This was the view directly overhead. It was amazing.

 The bright spot towards the bottom was the sliver of moon that was visible.
 To get these shots, I set my camera shutter to stay open for a long time. The challenge is to hold is steady. I have a mini-tripod set up on the hood of the truck, but when the lights are overhead that set up doesn't always work.
The camera was moving in this shot. The white light is the moon and the yellow light is a yard light on a nearby building.

Mar 16, 2013

You're Doing It Wrong

I've spent the first little bit of my Saturday morning reading through the various posts on my Facebook feed and I feel lower than a dwarf snake's belly. Apparently I'm eating wrong, exercising wrong, praying wrong, giving to the wrong things, reading the Bible wrong, living wrong and raising my kids wrong. Except I don't have kids and apparently that's wrong too.
Maybe that's why Joel Osteen is so popular.... Sure he's annoying but at least he's encouraging.
You want to change someone's world? Tell them they are doing something right. Speak hope to them. There's enough voices telling them how horrible they are. And the loudest one is inside their head.

Mar 3, 2013

Another Beautiful Winter Day in Alaska at Matanuska Lake

We've had a fairly mild winter. We got some snow, but no where near as much as we got last year. We've had a few cold, windy spells which is typical.
But now that it's early March our thoughts turn to spring and then hopefully summer. The weather this weekend quickened those thoughts even more. It was gloriously sunny and warm.
 It was a perfect time to do some geocaching. The caches we were after are on the far side of Matanuska Lake. There's a trail that takes you around the lake, but since there's 5 feet of solid ice on the lake, it's easier to cut just straight across.
We weren't the only ones on the lake. There was plenty of families enjoying some ice fishing.

The valley is famous for it's winds, but there wasn't even a breeze blowing today.

Matansuka Lake is part of the Matanuska Lake State Recreation Area which contains 349 acres and multiple lakes. The lakes are located in depressions (old glacial crevasses) in between moraine ridges (eskers) formed by glaciers 30,000 years ago. The trails connect to the rest of the MatSu Greenbelt with over 30 miles of trails.

While on Matanuska Lake you'd never guess you are less than mile from two of Alaska's busiest highways and surrounded by a population of over 80,000 people.
 You are also surround by the mountains of the Chugach Range. Most prominent at 6,400 feet is Pioneer Peak.
 This weekend was also the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. For me, this marks the end of winter. Once the dogs head for Nome, I'm looking for spring to start springing. Winter is great, but after 6 months of it, I'm gettin' ready for summer.