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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

For our 10th anniversary Mountain Dad and I took a week long trip to the Frontier State - Alaska! It's been on my list of places to visit for a long time now, and it was great to go without the tots in tow, just to enjoy time together. My next several posts will be about all the wild places we went to see - enjoy!

 Driving south from Anchorage along the Scenic Seward Byway was one of the highlights of my Alaska adventure. Steep mountain slopes, circling Turnagain Arm Bay is the quintessential Alaska image. The Scenic Seward Byway is a beautiful drive that can also be experienced by rail. By car or by rail, the Kenai Peninsula should not be missed.

At Mile Marker 47 on the Seward Highway is nestled the 18 acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where we saw Wood Bison, Elk, Lynx, Great Horned Owl, Porcupine, Moose and Elk. One of the most interesting animals was the one winged Bald Eagle, Adonis, whose was brought to the center almost ten years ago with a bullet wound in its left wing. Being unable to survive in the wild, he now makes his home at the AWCC. 

One of my goals of the trip was to see a bear in the wild, and although the three bears in residence here are not exactly in the wild, they're also not in the zoo either. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is working on expanding with its new BEARS exhibit. An additional 30 acres and research/visitors center building will allow visitors to learn more about native bear species in North America.

The two mile loop had a great viewpoint Turnagain Arm and surrounding snow capped mountains. The loop can be driven or walked (we opted to drive because of the rain). The gift shop has several tourist trinkets and t-shirts with all proceeds going toward the center.

I thought the price was steep for what we saw $12.50 per adult, $35.00 max per car, but I also don't mind paying a little extra for a good cause.

Getting There: Head south from Anchorage on Scenic Seward Byway. Turn Right at mile 47 – look for the signs.
Price: $12.50 adults (12 and older), $9.00 kids age 4-12, Free for kids under 4, $35.00 total per car
Tips: Don't touch the electric fence. This route would be a fun bike run with kids, if they can handle the gravel road.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Leo Carrillo State Beach, California with

The sun, sand and sea are rare for me and my tots. We spend our days in the cool mountains of Utah most of the time, but once a year I find myself craving the sound of waves hitting the beach, salty sea air on my face and a long stretch of sand for me and my kids to play in.
And no summer vacation would be complete without friends to share it with. On this excursion to Leo Carrillo State Beach in California I met up with Jennifer Fontaine, blogger and editor at and her lovely daughter, V.  I'm a fan of her blog, a follower of hers on twitter and facebook, but actually meeting face to face - chasing our kids in the water and looking for hermit crabs - helped me realize that all those words on a screen actually came from a human being, a great one at that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Glassblowing at Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah

I wrote the following blog post for Sundance Mountain Resort about their awesome glass blowing program. If you ever have a chance to check these artists out, DO IT!

This article originally appeared at

Sundance's Recycling Glass Program by Susan Strayer

Beautiful colors mix in a molten sphere as artisans create fragile treasures to inspire and admire.Sundance Mountain Resort boasts one of the nation's only recycled glass workshops, where Mexican artisans Gustavo Calderón Sr. and Octavio Fidencio Flores mold and shape old bottles into new beautiful creations. This past week I spent some time chatting with them while admiring their work.
 Glassblowers 2
Speaking in their native Spanish, Gustavo explained how the furnace functioned. “We have three ovens here, one melts down old bottles at 2,000 to 2,300 degrees Farenheit. The finishing oven is used to heat the project while we work it, to keep its shape. The final electric oven finishes the glass, lowering the temperature slowly so the piece doesn't break.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Better than the Aquarium: Tide Pools at Carpinteria State Beach, CA

I have a thing for starfish. I find them beautiful and fascinating, even more so when I can see them in their natural environment. One of the coolest, mind-blowing experiences I've had this year was watching sea life in the tide pools at Carpinteria State Beach in Southern California. 

Maybe I find these animals so amazing because they are not part of my daily life. As a mountain mom, I grow tired of seeing deer, wild turkeys, blue jays and hummingbirds. They're always around. But sea stars, anemones, crabs and harbor seals? That's something to see.

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