Such winter fun!

The end of January marks the start of winter fun here on the Kenai Peninsula.  And it all starts with the Kenai Peninsula Winter games which means ice slides! 

I seriously live for this time of year.  I think I love the ice slides more then the kids do.  They are seriously awesome.  This year the slides weren’t as crazy as the year’s past but they were perfect for the kids.  I think because we haven’t gotten very much snow the snow hill they build them on just wasn’t as tall so the slides weren’t as steep and were slower than normal.  Last year they were really ridiculous because we had gotten so much snow by the time they built them they were so steep and REALLY fast.  They actually hurt to go down and one of the organizers made a remark last year about how uncharacteristically fast the slides were.  But this year I think they were perfect.  I went down them as much as the kids.  I used the kids as a front I pretended I had to follow Wes around to keep him from falling going up the stairs so I just followed him down the slide.  Gretchen wasn’t too scared to go down by herself (well she was at first but got over it)

and Wes was also able to go down himself and he of course didn’t need any prompting. 

It had been so warm here and day before the event the temperature dropped from 25 to -18 degrees, of course.  So we were out there in 0 degree weather but the kids were having so much fun they didn’t get cold.  I didn’t expect to be there long but they went up and down the slides for at least an hour.

Ice tunnel:

Through the ice…

Watch out Steve!

Taking a break

riding the dog sled

And Auntie D would be proud, Gretchen really wanted to watch the hockey games after going down the slides.  She remembers doing it last year and so she started asking to go in, I didn’t want to stay but the kids really were into watching the game. 

And why are BOTH kids sucking thier thumbs?

The games we watched were coed little kid leagues and Gretchen had a good time pointing out the girls with their pink helmets.  We ended up staying for the fireworks which is something we didn’t do last year.  The wonderful thing about these fireworks is you can watch them from your car. 

Our kids have never seen fireworks before and that’s partly because the oppurtunities never fit with our schedule and partly because Gretchen can’t even watch a parade because of the noise so I doubted she could handle fireworks.  And honestly I was scared (and still a bit am) when I was little of fireworks simply because of the noise (wish me good luck with Houston thunderstorms and Gretchen…I’m already prepared to let her in our bed at night for these).  So being able to watch them in our car was awesome, one because of the cold and the other was to shield the noise.

I don’t think Gretchen knew quite what to expect because when the first one went off she just leaned forward and said “WHOA”  hehe.  It was quite cute.  Halfway though I opened up my window so they could hear the real noise just so they know it’s not a quiet affair.  They loved them.  The green one’s were Wesley’s favorites and the sparkly ones were Gretchen’s favorites.  Dada’s favorites were the noise popping ones and I said my favorites were the “sneakers” the ones that you don’t see going up they just explode in mid-air.  And after I said that, the sneakers became Gretchen’s favorites too. 

The ice sculptures this year are awesome.  There  seem to be more around town then years past and they are some pretty intense designs.  My favorite is the one outside of the rec center which is a cowboy and a donkey on a trek.  It’s really cool, I do not have a picture and I need to get one.  It has to be like 20 feet tall, it’s crazy big. 

**Update…I did get a picture, it took that long to get this posted due to the hacker attacks…

And the Soldotna visitor center has a moose with a saddle on it I NEED to get the kids there to get a picture, it’s so cute. 

**Another update, I got a pic of this too at a later date, after I wrote this.  We did the whole circuit, got the moose pick, revisted the ice slides, and got the cowboy pic above.

And this is the bear outside of Fred Meyer, they didn’t have a sculpture last year, but I made the kids pose in front the morning we went to the Kenai Peninsula winter games on the way into grocery shop, it’s like -18 degrees out, my fingers froze before I could even take the picture but they were troopers and Gretchen’s face says it all.  I will miss my Alaska accustomed kids. 

Then I had the opportunity to ride a snow machine for the first time.  Finally!  Like everything else it was an adventure.  I’ll tell you it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.  I’ve never ridden any type of machinery you control the speed with your hands so I thought it would be hard.  I was also worried about the machine rolling on me and other weird stuff.  But I didn’t even get close to any potential.  I wasn’t out to do try anything fancy, and you all know me, I’m way conservative.  I went as fast as I was comfortable, I’m not a speed demon, I really don’t think I got over 20, which is pretty sad, I know but I had a great time.  To me the roads were the most scary because as you rode along it caused the machine to jump around and obviously it was pretty hard to make quick turns or stops. 

I went with a friend of mine from work, another girl, just the two of us (this is the one we’ve been clamming with and took us up the mud ridden trails of Caribou hills last summer, what I would consider a real Alaska Wild Girl) And we’re all travelling along until she takes a turn onto an unridden trail (the awesome thing about Alaska is there are snow machine trails everywhere, we left right from her house and could probably ride up to the interior if we wanted) and I followed and the machine started to slide, I panicked let off the gas which was the worst thing to do and got the machine stuck.  So the two of us girls muscled the machine out and around and when we finally got in unstuck we were exhausted so she shut off my machine while we laid in the snow and rested for a few minutes.  It was a beautiful day, so warm it was really nice.  Well my machine wouldn’t start again when we were ready to ride.  She tried it and tried it and tried it.  We didn’t have any tow straps so we I got on the back of her snow machine to ride back to her house to get some and that’s when things got interesting.  Riding on the back of a snow machine is a completely different experience.  And riding on the back of a snow machine of a real Alaska Wild Girl adds another level.  Since we had a purpose she was going and twice as fast as when I went riding on my own.  It’s really scary in the back, you can’t really see what’s going on, you can’t anticipate the bumps and I just had this vision of her hitting a bump me flying through the air at 40+ miles an hour airborne for a minute before I landed in a crumpled heap of some snow bank.  She on the other hand got a bit of enjoyment out of my petrified yelps and intermident tightening of my grip on her waist. 

It turned out she was able to switch out the spark plugs on my machine and we got going again.  I can’t say that I went any faster after my experience.  It would have been awesome to have done that more, not real easy with the kids, but I probably would have been dead weight for people who want to ride for the thrill.  I classify myself as more of a “Sunday snow machine driver”  I like to look around and enjoy the scenery.  Which is not the same as the wuss category.  I would have been more than willing to attempt the spot I got stuck again if I wasn’t worried the machine would break down again.  And oh man, was I sore the next day.  I don’t know if it was from pulling my machine out or just in general riding but I was very slow to get going the next morning and I dragged all day. 

The first weekend in February was the Tustemena 200 dog sled race.  It’s a race that starts in clam gulch about 30 minutes from our house and is an Iditarod qualifier race.  It’s a quick on, only 200 miles.  The mushers start at 11am on Saturday and get back around 6pm on Sunday.  We went to it once before, before Wes was born.  When we went the last time it was 0 degrees out and we didn’t last very long.  This time it was about 25-30 degrees and it felt awesome!  I was able to take pictures without my fingers freezing and we weren’t worried about the kids.  Most of the mushers weren’t even wearing hats which was a lot different then last time when they were bundled to the max.  The kids had a good time we pulled them around in the sled.  Gretchen was like 18 months the last time so it was fun to see her watch as a child who actually could understand what was going on. 

 

In the afternoon Wes woke up from his nap he started talking about the “dog party” he went to that morning, it was funny, that’s what he thought it was, a dog party.  It was really noisy there, tons of dogs.  I took a few videos just to capture the noise.  They got bored after a bit because it’s a staggered start and not quite so exciting and they found a little snow hill to sled down. 

Here’s a picture of the winner, Mitch Seavy, starting the race. 

I took a picture of him simply because we’ve been to his kennel.  The first winter we were here we took a dog sled ride at Mitch Seavy’s kennel which is actually in Sterling, not to far from the house.  He also runs dog sled rides in the summer for the tourists in Seward, but I wanted a non-tourist ride so we went right to his place, saw the dogs and rode from there.  His son, Dallas Seavy, won the Iditarod last year, I think the youngest musher on record to win.  And there is a T100 they run at the same time as the T200 for younger mushers and Conway Seavy, another son won that this year too.  But I just happened to get this shot and he was the one who won. 

As we were leaving Gretchen saw this big snow mound and wanted to climb it and Steve egged her on, honestly I didn’t believe she could climb it by herself but she could.  It was Wes who needed help up because of course he needs to do whatever Gretchen does.  And that was her favorite part of the race, climbing that mound. 

I just can’t tell you how awesome it is to do things when it’s only 20-30 degrees out.  Outdoor events are just some much more enjoyable, it’s crazy.  And then on Sunday (Feb 3rd) it got REALLY warm….what the heck is this crap?

47 degrees?  Holy cow, I don’t know what the deal is with this winter, and it rained, of course, on top of our beautiful fresh snow.  It really needs to quit doing that.

And Gretchen wanted to re-take the picture in front of the ice bear at Fred Meyer when it was warmer…

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