Surrounding Mountains
Alaska Train

Hello there mister Alaska choo choo train.

I am extremely excited right now, and that’s a rare thing for me because some of my hobbies include pretending to be a troll who likes to sit in my cave in the dark. But let me tell you what I’m excited about. Apart from finally being able to blog about the annual Lost Lake run which raises money to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, I now know first hand that the last two years have seen tremendous advances in treating those with CF. In fact, the last two years have drawn closer to finding a cure than the previous sixty, combined. The reason I know this, is because someone that works for the CF Foundation was at the volunteer brunch the day after the race, and let us know what was going on.

Let me apologize up front because I have a lot to share, and to be quite honest I don’t have a game plan as far as keeping things organized. All I know is that it’s going to be a long post. Perhaps not as long as my blog post: To Homer We Go For A Wedding Take 2, but long nonetheless. Just a heads up.

*Edit. It’s longer.

I want to blog about Vanessa and I volunteering during the race. I want to blog about our camping trip. I want to blog about how I learned of all the advances in finding a cure for CF, and I want to share with you all about the time Vanessa and I hiked the 16 mile trail with Nathan in a baby carrier. He was 1 1/2 at the time, but still. It was tough!

So part of this blog post might be me rambling about something that has nothing to do with the Lost Lake run. For instance, us visiting the Sealife center in Seward would be a great example. It was rainy that day, but not the previous day. The next day was sunny and awesome. So it was almost like it was a rainy day sandwich. You know, smothered between two sunny days. You see how easy it is for me to get off track? Focus brain…focus.

I guess the best thing to do would be to start at the beginning and work my way forward from there. Oh, but that reminds me. I don’t want the power to go out, causing all of my eloquently laid out thoughts to vanish. I don’t trust auto save ever since the last debacle. Let me just go up here and click the ‘save draft’ button. Beautiful.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet, the Lost Lake run takes place in Seward. Or to be accurate, the race ends just outside of Seward at the Bear Creek volunteer fire department. And that’s where all the runners and walkers gather in the morning to get bused 17 miles (27 kilometers) out of Seward, to the Primrose campground where the actual race begins. The walkers start at 8:00 a.m. and the runners start at 10:00 a.m.

Instead of me trying to tell you all the details about the race, such as who started it or when it first began, or how much money it has raised for the CF Foundation, I highly encourage you to head over to the Lost Lake run website by clicking the following link: Lost Lake Run

I linked to the History & Organization page, and that should give you all the information you might want or need about the race. I’m truly impressed with how far above and beyond the team goes to let the runners truly know how much they’re appreciated.


Bird Point

Lunch time at Bird Point.

Now with all that being said, let me talk about our trip to Seward. We decided we were going to take a four day weekend, (we should do that every weekend) taking Thursday and Friday off. It’s only about 120 miles (193 kilometers) from Anchorage to Seward, and it’s a very nice drive. We definitely weren’t going to rush the trip. Mostly because there was no time crunch this time. The plan was to leave Thursday afternoon when we were done with Nathan’s treatment.

We would grab some food and a few camping supplies at the grocery store before leisurely making our way out of town. It was a beautiful and warm August day, but being that Seward is known for being perpetually rainy, I wasn’t holding my breath that the weather would stay the same once we arrived at our destination.

Surprisingly the trip was mostly uneventful. The only real highlight of the trip down, was stopping at Bird Point to take pictures of the Alaska Railroad train that was passing by. Well, that and eating some more of my cold 1/3 pound Angus burger I had purchased from the gas station before we left. Good stuff.

Below is a picture of the train from the viewing platform located at Bird Point. It’s a deceivingly long walk to get to that viewing platform, and one that is nearly unbearable if the child following you has short legs. Anyway, shortly after where these pictures were taken, the train runs under the road before emerging on the opposite side of the highway. It looks kind of silly, but the train is still traveling from right to left, it simply has an engine facing backwards.

Alaska Train

Alaska train says bye bye.

It’s also a cool spot to watch the bore tides. Consider the following. It’s my nifty HTML and CSS  blockquote of science.

Bird Point is a good place to watch the tidal bore on its twice-daily sweep of Turnagain Arm—the only location in the U.S. where bores occur regularly. The tidal bore typically shows up here two hours and 15 minutes after low tide in Anchorage. It can vary up to 30 minutes or more depending on wind speed and direction. Check the wind. If the wind is blowing from Portage, the bore will be larger but a bit late. Wind from Anchorage brings earlier, smaller bores.


Fast forward a couple hours and we were pulling into Seward. Pretty exciting stuff huh? Well not as exciting as me being excited about finding a camping spot so I could cook my spicy Italian sausages. Over an open fire nonetheless! And you know what else? The local grocery store had dry salami on sale! What a great night (I promise you there is no sarcasm here) Thursday was shaping up to be.

On top of that, Vanessa (being the packing queen) had packed all kinds of other great stuff, (in addition to stacking everything on the bread) including teriyaki SPAM ®™, corned beef, and an onion®. The menu for the kids however, would be moose dogs, potato salad, chips and dip. Oh you silly moose dogs…

Let me tell you though, at one point I was worried we might not even be able to find a spot. But rest assured, it was only because I’m stupid. See, we drove through town just doing a little observing to see how things had changed, because we hadn’t been there in years. Sure enough, there were a bunch of new modern looking buildings. What they had replaced, I couldn’t tell you though.

Eventually, we reached the city campground that’s conveniently located right next to the ocean. There was also a lovely bike path that meandered its way next to the campground. And located at the end of the campground, right next to the little skateboard area was a brand new park built just for the kids. Unfortunately, they would have to wait until later to play there.

We both thought this would be the place for us. I mean, it was a Thursday. There had to be something available right? Nope.

Apparently, some sort of wandering caravan figured they would take up the whole tenting area. The only reason Vanessa and I surmised this – and keep in mind, we’re no detectives – is that all the tents were exactly the same.  Every single spot, that wasn’t being used at the time, had a reserved ticket out front. And they all had that days date on them. Keep this date thing in mind, because it plays a big part of why I’m so stupid sometimes and I’ll explain why in just a few minutes.

No worries, though. There was another little campground right across the street. And that one actually had some spots that were covered by trees. So screw you campground by the beach. We don’t need your elitist “by the ocean” attitude.


Nathan being himself, with his shoes on the wrong feet as usual. (Actually, Mr Andrew, Nathan and Mommy were looking for striations in the rocks; scratches left on a rock from the process of being dragged down a mountain by a glacier, which was not the case here. The lines seen are from the natural shape of layers of slate. – Vanessa)

After snubbing our noses at the campground by the beach, we decided to check out that new area which seemed quite promising. Besides, it looked like it had better spots that would actually provide some privacy for us, and I really didn’t want to go back to Exit Glacier Road to find a place to camp. (No, he really did not! -Vanessa) Too little too late though, as it was the same story again. Every single camp spot had a reserved ticket hanging on the post.

Hang in there, I’m almost to the point where I reveal my stupidity to you all. Then, in a sudden moment of clarity, (a rare event) I remembered another campground that was just down the road and fairly close to the grocery store. A campground I had camped at many years ago with some friends, and I was pretty sure I knew where it was and I was also pretty sure it wasn’t a figment of my imagination. (Although *I* had my doubts – Vanessa) But first we would be stopping at that grocery store to pick up a few food items. Yes, the place with the dry Italian salami that was on sale.

Before I continue, I need to get something off my chest. Yes this is me rambling again, and getting off topic but I don’t care. See, I am rather unhappy (not a rare event) with the pricing plans of some of the campgrounds up here. You would think $10.00 per night for a basic camping spot with no electric hookups would be a fair price. And carrying a $10.00 bill makes sense to me. After all, the city needs to pay for the upkeep of the campgrounds. I get that. What I don’t get is why they decided that $14.00 would be a logical amount. Seriously?

More and more people these days don’t carry much cash on them unless they know before hand that whatever it is they are planning on doing requires cash only. And I’m thoroughly convinced whoever runs the campground knows that. So naturally, what most folks who don’t do much camping are going to be carrying, are 20’s if they’re even carrying cash at all. And you know what that means right? Who’s going to go back to town just to break a 20 and get the proper change? No one, unless they have problems.

That’s right, they will begrudgingly drop a 20 in the envelope and walk back to their campsite frustrated and muttering words under their breath that I can’t repeat here. Well played campground, well played.

State of Alaska: 1

Camper: 0


So with all that being said, I figured I would stay ahead of the game by getting the right amount of cash prior to setting up camp for the night. Needless to say, I caused a huge inconvenience for the cashier at the store by making her figure out how to give me the correct change for our purchases with a bunch of ones. I wasn’t going to let the campground fees get the best of me. Not this time. No way.

It should be noted that the campground I was thinking of was very close to the military campground, and a fact that Vanessa alerted me to no less than half a dozen times. (true, true! – Vanessa) But I knew there was a campground just of the main highway, and somewhere close. It only took me one wrong turn to find it too. Talk about a human GPS.

Once we finally managed to get to the campground, we quickly drove through, noting all the empty spots. It was looking like a win for us until we noticed all those reserved tickets hanging from the posts in front of every spot again. In the previous campgrounds, I had gotten out of the car and checked the dates on the reserved tickets, and like I said, they all had that days date on them. Something wasn’t right. How could every single spot be taken in every campground? Especially on a Thursday at the end of summer. (And with not tents or cars on the site. – Vanessa)

Something wasn’t adding up. And sure enough, after checking out a couple of the reserved tickets, it turns out they were expired. As in they had dates that went back more than a week. Then it happened. I figured it out. I’m stupid. It turns out that when you purchase a campsite for the night, the next day’s date is displayed on the ticket. (…As the check-out time – Vanessa)

Could it be that people are just lazy and don’t remove the tickets when they pack up and leave camp? Could it be that no one had camped in that spot for over a week? Could it be that we drove past a plethora of viable camping spots, thinking they were reserved when in reality someone just forgot to remove the dumb little piece of paper? I think that’s a very real possibility.

I could only hang my head in shame. If I had taken a closer look at the tickets in those prior two campgrounds, I’m sure we could have found a spot. But this campground was far better anyhow. It had plenty of trees, large camp spots, fire pits, and even a little playground for the kids.

After picking out a nice spot (there were [now] a lot to choose from) I drove back to the pay station with my smug attitude and $14.00 in cash. It was showtime. Or so I thought…

Immediately upon arriving at the pay station I noticed something I had failed to see earlier. Not only did the campground only charge $10.00 per site, (stop messing with me all you campgrounds and your weird pricing schemes) but right next to the big bulletin board stood this blue and grey machine. And it had electricity running to it. Are you tracking with me here?

That’s right, I could have paid with my debit card all along. How swell. So not only did I create an unneeded hassle for the checker at the grocery store, I wasted everyone’s time when I could have just popped in the old credit/debit card and paid the $10.00 for a night of camping. And that’s what happened.

Since I seem to lack the ability to bring anything to any sort of cohesive ending, nor do I seem capable of wrapping up the infinite amount of loose ends I create, I will simply say that I didn’t realize the train yard was perhaps a quarter of a mile away from our camping spot (and I’m being very liberal with that estimate), but let me tell you Vanessa sure noticed. And she let me know more than a few time that she didn’t appreciate those trains in the least.

I don’t quite know why the noise didn’t bother me. In fact I didn’t even realize there was a bunch of noise going on until she pointed it out to me. I have a hunch though. I’m thinking it might have something to do with my not so recently acquired ability to tune out loud obnoxious noises. So thanks to all the children in our home, I can now simply go on about my day as if nothing is happening, even if a moose was charging through our living room. And now for your viewing pleasure, I have included a clip of an owl hooting that Vanessa recorded while everyone else was asleep. It was dark, and you can’t see anything, but she really reinforces the fact that I wasn’t exaggerating about how annoyed she was with the trains.


Random Vehicle

This is the parking lot to the Sealife center, and here is a random vehicle just because. And yes, that is a cast on Nathan’s arm. He tried his best to jump onto the monkey bars at a local park but didn’t quite make it. He ended up with a hairline fracture around his elbow.

Let’s see, what can I say about that wonderfully dreary day in Seward. Let’s start with the animals. We visited the Sealife center (if you ever visit Alaska and go to Seward, make sure you go there) and the children absolutely loved it. They got to touch starfish, sea urchins, and various types of sea anemones in the touch tanks. There was really too much to talk about. So I will focus mainly on the two parts of the Sealife center that I feel we all enjoyed the most. And that would be the sea bird area and the sea lion pool. Oh yeah, and this dumb looking fish below.

Dumb Looking Fish

I think we startled this guy.

Touch Tank

Steller Sea Lion

I’m no birder, but it was pretty cool seeing the birds going about their day, doing bird things. Some of them were quite the accomplished divers too, which was easily seen when viewed from downstairs in a different area. Like I said, I’m no birder but I will try and rattle off some of the birds I remember seeing. Wait, no nevermind. I’ll just ask Vanessa what we saw.

Okay here goes. Here are the different types of birds for all you bird folk out there. Common murre, red legged kittiwake, horned puffin, tufted puffin, pigeon guillemot, king eider, and last but not least the oh so silly auklet. I’m not sure what type, sorry. But the coolest part of the whole thing was going downstairs to view the Steller sea lions swimming around as they made their way past the large glass viewing window. It’s hard to appreciate just how enormous sea lions can be until you are literally inches from them. From above the water, they don’t seem quite as big as when they are gracefully gliding past you underwater. And the big man on campus is a 1700 lb. (771 kilograms) behemoth of a sea lion named Woody. He’s not hard to miss that’s for sure.

Wow, I managed to sum that up quite nicely. Apart from the sea birds and the sea lions, the Sealife center had a peculiar (really weird to me) exhibit going on. It was about an ancient shark called the buzz saw shark or helicoprion. I don’t even know what to say about that strange animal, except it would be crazy if their actually was a creature that looked like what the artists’ renditions portray. I guess if there are hammer head sharks out there, then this thing might not be much of a stretch. I’ll put a link to the article that our newspaper did on it right here. And then below that I will post a short YouTube video on the shark if you’re interested.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I will try and paraphrase how the rest of the day went with brevity in mind. Rain rain, drizzle drizzle, lunch, children slept, car ride to Exit Glacier, rain rain, visitor center, learn about glaciers, pass by two people from Florida, rain rain. Then we got in our car and drove back to Seward. We had to kill time until 5:00 p.m. where we were supposed to go to the Windsong Lodge to find out where we would be staying for the weekend. Oh yeah, we got hot chocolate and went to a cool waterfall too.

Exit Glacier

This would be Exit Glacier. There is some sort of moraine going on there, but you will have to ask Vanessa about it because she’s up on all that stuff. (Down the center is a medial moraine, dirt that has been ground along as the glacier makes it’s way down the mountain, but specifically where two glaciers have joined side-by-side. Previous to joining, they would have been the lateral moraines, or ground dirt traveling on the sides of the, then singular, glaciers. It’s neat, you can see how the glacier travels left and right as it makes it’s way down. This whole view would have once been covered with glacier; all the way to where we are standing, and many, many miles past that to the ocean, to our left. – Vanessa)

We had some bad intel though, and it turns out we could have checked in anytime we wanted that day. But I don’t care, I like wasting valuable lounging around time by driving hither and thither, standing out in the rain while children play on the soaking wet playground stuff, and pretty much having no game plan what-so-ever. If there’s one thing I absolutely love, it’s not staying on schedule.

Visitor Center

Just an average rainy day in Seward at the Exit Glacier visitor center.

Anyway, being that it was Friday I had to go check and see if Safeway had five dollar Fridays going on. That seems to be my thing. Homer had it, so I figured Seward might know what’s up too. Well it turns out they did indeed have five dollar Fridays, but whatever they had on sale wasn’t anything I wanted. To be honest I don’t remember what it even might have been. I’m thinking chicken tenders, but I can’t say for sure. So I bought an 8 piece fried chicken thing and that was our Friday.

Saturday – Race Day

The big day. Our morning chores were done, and we were standing in the parking lot of the Bear Creek fire station bright and early (It was 10:00 a.m. but cut me a break, I worked nights for a lot of years) watching the buses loading up the runners to take them to the starting line. As soon as the last runner had left, it was time to set up the tables and start slicing up the oranges. If I hadn’t mentioned it yet, Vanessa and I were on hydration duty at the finish line. That means we were in charge of handing out water, Gatorade, and oranges to all the competitors (runners and walkers) as soon as they crossed the finish line.

Here’s how the orange slicing went down. Yes, this is a prime example of me making a big deal out of something that nobody cares about. But here’s the math. There were 6 large boxes of oranges, and each box contained approximately 88 oranges. That’s 528 oranges. Each orange was to be sliced into eights, meaning (if my calculator is correct) Vanessa and I sliced a total of 4,224 orange slices. Forget the fact that 750 people just ran 16 miles over a mountain, we chopped over 4000 slices of oranges!

Slicing Oranges

Yep, that’s me alright. As soon as I switched to that brand new knife, my efficiency rating went up a squillion-bajillion times.

But seriously, that’s nothing compared to what the competitors did, and I am very thankful for each of them and all the money they helped raise. I guess I should say I’m very happy I got to play a part, however small it was, in something like the Lost Lake run that’s so important to Vanessa and I.

After the oranges had been prepped, we started setting out the bottled water, and mixing up 5 gallon jugs of blue Gatorade. I don’t know what flavor it was, but I’m thinking ‘blue’. Vanessa chose a spot and parked herself by the corner of the table with all the bottled water (I’m not sure why she liked that spot so much). But it didn’t take me long to figure out I wasn’t permitted to stand in that general vicinity. That’s cool. I didn’t want to hand out water anyway, so I moseyed on over to the Gatorade table where it was apparent I would be working.

By the time the first runners started crossing the finish line, it was about 11:45 a.m. and I had a table stocked with cups of Gatorade and I was ready. Shortly after, the rush began in force as more and more tired and thirsty runners crossed the finish line. I was doing all I could to keep up for a solid 2 hours. But all in all, I think we managed pretty well. Every single bottle of water got drank that day.

Nathan and Gatorade

Nathan licking the powder left-overs off one of the five gallon containers of Gatorade.

Looking back, I really wish we would have set up a tent to cover the tables and provide some shade because it was pretty sunny that day. Oh sure, we were offered. But I can only blame myself. The organizer of the race asked us, or I should say he even encouraged us to set up a tent, but like an idiot I said “no, we’re fine.” Good call Andrew!

By about 3:30 all the runners and most of the walkers were done and accounted for. I didn’t get an accurate figure on how many people were still out, but I know that we hadn’t seen the red lantern yet. And it’s strange, because the year that Vanessa and I participated in the race, we didn’t see it then and in fact, we have never seen it period. So we don’t even know what it looks like. All I know is that it took us forever to finish the course, and we still didn’t see it then either.

Most of the volunteers couldn’t wait around all day for the last competitors to cross the finish line. The vast majority of racers had already been served hamburgers and beer from Moose’s Tooth. Come to think of it, that is probably a great motivator to finish the race as fast as possible. Unfortunately the few who were still out on the trail would have to miss out on the food and drink. By around 4:00 o’clock that afternoon, most of the volunteers had finished packing away the tents, chairs, and tables and were getting ready to head out. Some would stay however, to make sure no one got left out on the trail.

Lost Lake run 2013

Lost Lake Run Starting Line

Look at how much younger we look here! Anyway, this is the starting line right before we first embarked on our epic journey.

And now, I feel this would be the perfect time to share with everyone (in not so few words) about our experience completing the race. Okay, it was anything but a race for us, but that’s the word I’m going to use. First off, the course goes up a mountain until about mile 6 when it starts to level off. This section is really pretty, mostly because of the lack of any tall trees and the abundance of lakes dotting the landscape. This is also where literally all the racers caught up to, and passed us. Remember, they start 2 hours after the walkers.

Nathan and Vanessa

That’s Nathan at 1 1/2 years old, doing his first race.

Then for the next couple miles it stays relatively the same until the boy scout camp at the midway point of the race. I remember that area all to well. I was feeling good about myself after the first 8 miles and was enjoying the Gatorade they handed out to all the racers. The problem is that we stopped for a little while, and I really believe that was a mistake. Because right after the boy scout camp, there is a gradual incline that goes for what must have been another mile or two, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it and someone would need to call the rescue helicopter to haul me off that mountain.

Surrounding Mountains

Just a picture of the surrounding area during part of the race.

I don’t have the words to tell you how heavy my legs felt after taking that prior break. It was like something in my body shifted gears and was telling me to simply stop walking. (They call that ‘the wall’, Andrew. – Vanessa) But we kept up and eventually reached the top of that long incline. I like to call it a plateau of sorts. We were quite fortunate that it was a sunny day because once we reached the top of the plateau, we had the most beautiful view of Resurrection Bay and the city of Seward stretching out before us. Below is the picture of that area of the trail.

Top of the Plateau

Here’s the top of the plateau right before descending down the mountain again.

We all took a deep long breath. It was all down hill from here. And it should be mentioned that Vanessa and I traded Nathan back and forth every couple miles. We had to keep our heads down and just keep walking. The miles seemed to pass quicker and quicker the further along we got. But then our feet began to burn. The last three miles or so consisted of us finding any little creek or source of water to trudge through, just to cool the balls of our feet down.

Then it happened. We broke out of the woods and into the neighborhood that would lead us to the finish line. It had only taken us nearly 7 1/2 hours! It’s not like the runners could have driven down to Seward that morning, ran the race, ate their food, and drove back to Anchorage in a shorter amount of time than it took us just to walk that trail. But at least we weren’t last! Here’s a picture of the official time clock for the runners. Keep in mind you have to add 2 hours to that since the walkers begin 2 hours before the runners.

Lost Lake Run Finish Line

In conclusion, yes I’m actually bringing this blog post to a closing. Changing our clothes after the harrowing journey was over, was an adventure in itself. It’s amazing how quickly your body can become sore after a 16 mile trek. And that’s something I’m not sure I will do again.

So in conclusion, and to wrap this whole thing up. This race is very important to Vanessa and I, and I’m super proud of all the runners and walkers alike, especially the few with CF that ran the Lost Lake run.

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