Alaska trip

As a kick off to my paternity leave, we visited our good friend, Bonnie, in Copper Center Alaska.  After working many years for Princess, she is the GM in charge of the Copper Center Princess Wilderness Lodge, which is a lovely hotel in the middle of copper center. 

Where is Copper Center?  It’s about 4 hours Northeast of Anchorage on the copper river of the Copper River Salmon fame.  Worthy of note, is that salmon can be branded "Copper River" if it was fished out of any river out of the Copper River Valley.  The actual copper river itself is a muddy, silty arterial river that is near impossible to fish in because the salmon can’t even see the bait.   The Copper River can only be fished by permitted natives using a fishwheel or by netting.

What is there to do there? 

1.  Visit our very good friend Bonnie at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge.  Clearly, the jewel of the Copper Valley… and the finest restaurant within a 25 mile radius…

2.  Visit the Wrangell St. Elias National Park – the largest National Park.  (6 times the size of Yellowstone).  Caleb got his National Park Passport there along with his first stamp.  Not a bad place to start off…

3.  Visit the Kennecott Copper Mill – Amazing ghost town where they mined a mind-boggling amount of copper during a time that the nation was going through a copper frenzy electrifying the country.  Take a look at the picture of the mill… We were given a tour through it.   When I first set foot in this 14-story building that’s a whisper away from crumbling, I wondered if Alaska has any form of liability law at all?  It seems like the kind of state where if you’re killed, most jurist would think you’ve brought it on yourself with smug indifference…  Perhaps not our parenting highlight to take our two baby children through all 14 stories of this monster mill.

4. Go to church.  LDS Church is the same everywhere  (with some distinct local flavors stronger in some places than others)… We visited a branch in Glennallen about 25 miles away from Copper Center.  There were about 25 members in the congregation.  Two missionaries and a high counselor spoke at the meeting.  All gave wonderful talks.  One excerpt that stuck with me:  Obedience is the price, Faith is the power, Love is the motive, The Spirit is the key, and Christ is the reason.

5.  Go to the second finest restaurant in the Copper Valley – the Tonsina Lodge.  On the 3rd night in Copper Center, Bonnie took us to the second finest restaurant in Copper Valley.  It was about an hour away.  When we drove up, we got a taste of small town life, as Bonnie warned us that the guy hanging out by the door was an employee they just let go last week.  Like most restaurants in the area, it was a bar with some seating.  They all seemed to know Bonnie, and when we walked into the table section of the establishment, a few people entered into the kitchen and said, "We’d better turn on the frier and the broiler… "  I’m absolutely convinced that this was indeed the second nicest place in the Copper Valley, but it did not assuage my nervousness – My kids were in a bar, the ex-employee seemed to be hovering next to our rental car, and what did it say about the quality of the food, if the oven has to be turned on when a customer arrives?  It ended up that the ex-employee was friendly and the food was fine.  We got a little bit of Alaska culture and had a glimpse of what it means to be social when you live out in about as remote solitude as it gets.

6. See the wildlife.  Although it wasn’t a bonanza of wildlife, we did get to see a moose, mountain goats, and bald eagle.  No bears…

7.  Gold panning.  Caleb could not stop talking about finding gold!  As luck would have it, Bonnie hooked us up with a jet boat tour where they took us to an outdoor prospecting exhibit where we had a chance to pan for gold.  After 5 minutes of swishing around some dirt, Caleb’s gold fever quickly waned.  Fortunately, our tour guide found a few flakes and put them in a little clear envelope for Caleb.  Caleb seemed uneasy for a while, because it was unclear if he was supposed to give it back.  It ended up that he got to keep it.  Furthermore, they had a raffle to give away a bronzed spike from the Kennecott railroad.  Caleb won.  Made out like a bandit..

All in all, a lovely trip to Alaska.  A big thanks to Bonnie for letting us come up and visit disrupting her busy schedule.  We are all so proud of the success she is finding in Copper Center.


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Caleb’s 4th Birthday

Last week, we celebrated Caleb’s 4th Birthday.  This is the first year where Caleb was old enough to make significant birthday decisions.

1.  Invitation List:

Instead inviting Tenille and my friends, Caleb got to create the invite list and invite 9 of his friends from church, playgroup, neighbors, etc.  Tenille and I had some concerns about being able to return all the kids back to their parents without significant injury…  We recruited my mother, my grandmother, our friends – Kay and Emi, as well as Kay’s mother in law – Cindy.  The kid duty recruitment paid off, and there were no significant injuries to report.  A few tears shed due to sharing incidents and homesickness, but not injuries.

2.  Food:

Caleb chose his favorite foods:  Chicken nuggets and hot dogs… He likes to eat just the hot dog without the bun.  His guests, however, did get a hot dog bun if they opted for one.

3.  Gift:

In the Hyun home, we get choose our own present for our birthday.  We stopped by a game store one day, and Caleb had his mind set on getting a Praying Mantis kit for his birthday.  This was a bug kit, where you order Praying Mantis eggs, and watch them hatch and grow in a small netted-cube, praying that they do not escape and make a nest in our bed… After some reverse-psychology/jedi-mind-trick, we were able to talk him down to a butterfly kit.  $20 for a netted-cube… then we found out we have to pay another $10 for the caterpillar eggs… This bug company is making a killing…

What did not change was the puppet show.  We have been putting on a puppet show for Caleb’s Birthday every year.  Usually, it’s fairly elaborate, but this year Tenille talked me down to putting on a show of a story that all kids already know, like the Three Little Pigs.  I sat down to plunk down the script for this well-worn children’s classic, but I just couldn’t let good enough alone. The script took a major detour and started with the third (brick) pig… Her brothers were just eaten by the wolf.  She goes on a quest with her good friend zebra (dictated by our puppet selection) to find Dr. Tiger, who can hopefully extract her brothers from the wolf.  I won’t spoil the ending in case we’re able to sell the major motion picture rights to the story…  The fun part this year about the puppet show was that we made a nice puppet stage (like in Sound of Music).  It was made from a PVC Pipe frame and draped with King and Queen size sheets from Value Village, and it even had a nice red curtain that opened and closed.  After the puppet show, all the kids got to make their own puppets out of lunch sacks and break them in using the puppet theater.  That was pretty fun.  Admittedly, most of the shows were about one puppet eating another puppet… 

During arrival time, and departure time, we also played some lawn games – Duck Duck Goose, Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, etc.  The games eventually ended in a herd of children chasing each other randomly around the lawn.  They might need a few more years to fully grasp the concept…

Tenille made a fun cupcake cake in the shape of a pig which the kids enjoyed.  Caleb got a mountain of toys, and all the guests seemed to have enjoyed the party.  All in all, a pretty good party as we made the transition from adult party to little boy party.

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