Monday, November 6, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 from the Sapps

Merry Christmas from Todd and Jennifer!
This photo was taken on a cruise in Prince William Sound, near Whittier, Alaska in August
Merry Christmas!  Todd and I hope you are doing well and loving life!  It was a busy year for of traveling, working, projects, and time with friends and family.  We're so thankful to have each other and we're thankful for each of you.  God is good.  Happy New Year!
Celebrating Jennifer's 40th birthday in January at the Ice Castles in Stillwater, MN 
The new year brought new joys as we watched our grandson grow...

Easter brought us to Bowdon, ND to visit friends Pauline and Larry (and help provide music for church)

We planted blueberry bushes and apple trees at the farm up north in the spring.
We celebrated our 9th anniversary on May 3rd.

On June 11th, Jennifer's mom and dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary!

We had a family reunion to help Bob and Linda celebrate

We had professional family photos taken too!

Todd and Jennifer Sapp

Our grandson, Jax turned one on June 17th!

What a joyful little boy!

We enjoyed having nieces and nephews visit our home in Becker during the summer.

In July we went to Alaska!

Todd will forever be Blueberry Pancake King!

Todd completed a major project this summer:  taking apart, fixing, and putting back together his tractor!

Fall Fun:  We're crazy about this little guy - and we're not lion!!
May your Christmas be full of lefse, rosettes, and all things that make you happy!

God Bless You!
Love, Todd and Jennifer

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Todd and I met in June of 2007 at a picnic hosted by our pastor's family in Becker.  Todd plopped a chair down beside me and we began to talk.  We talked about travel.  We both mentioned that one place we'd like to see someday is Alaska.  So, our first conversation was about Alaska!

Todd and I were married in May of 2008.  We chose not to go to Alaska for our honeymoon because we knew we would only make such a trip once in a lifetime and we wanted more time to plan.  So, we went to Banff and Jasper, Alberta, Canada instead.  The scenery there was gorgeous and I highly recommend it!

As Todd and I spoke about our Alaska plans, we decided we would drive our truck and camper to Alaska and spend about a month in Alaska and then drive back.  But, when we began looking at the magnitude of such a trip (and time off for Todd), we realized such a trip would have to wait until he was retired.

As time went by, we began to realize there would be lots of benefits to taking the trip earlier rather than waiting for Todd's retirement.  So, we decided to break the trip up into two shorter trips (of about two weeks each).  We decided to fly there, then rent cars and stay at airbnb homes.  We chose to do the Inside Passage of Alaska (using the Marine Ferry System to get around) the summer of 2016 and then go up to Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, and the Kenai Peninsula the summer of 2017.  Both trips began on July 21st and went until August 4th or 6th. 

Many people have asked us why we did not take a cruise to Alaska.  One of the main reasons is because Todd and I love to delve deep into the everyday culture of where we are traveling.  As Todd says, "We like to hang with the locals."  We like to ask questions and get a feel for what life is really like in each town we visit.  We like to make our own schedule and see things in our own timing.  We know people who have gone on Alaskan cruises and have loved every minute of it.  So, we are not opposed to the idea, it just wasn't for us.  We saw cruise ships in many of the places we visited, so catering to the cruise ship schedules is actually a part of the Alaskan culture in many towns.

People also often ask us which trip we liked better.  We simply can't answer that because we loved them both!  The trips were really quite different, but both amazing in their own ways.  During The Inside Passage Trip we went from town to town using the Marine Ferry System, a slow-moving barge-like ship that many of the locals use to get from place to place.  We got a new rental car in each town we visited.  Because we changed locations so much, we limited our luggage to two small suitcases and two small shoulder bags.  We ate out for most of our meals.  During the Anchorage trip we had the same rental car the entire two weeks and we put a LOT of miles on that rental car.  We had two large suitcases and two backpacks along.  Once we arrived in Anchorage, we obtained a cooler, a portable grill, a pan for cooking, and groceries for preparing our own meals the majority of the trip.  Both trips had amazing scenery, friendly people, and wonderful adventures!

For The Inside Passage Trip we flew into Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, then we ferried to Ketchikan, Alaska, then to Petersburg, Alaska, then we flew to Juneau, Alaska, then ferried to Skagway, Alaska, and then took a train and a bus to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.  We flew home from there.

For the Anchorage Trip, we flew into Anchorage, and then drove our rental car to Wasilla, Palmer, Hatcher's Pass, Denali National Park (Healy), Fairbanks, North Pole, Valdez, Glenallen, Nikiski, Kenai, Homer, Seward, Hope, and Whittier.  We flew home from Anchorage.

We stayed in airbnb homes in Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks, and Nikiski.  We stayed in hotels in Petersburg, Skagway, and Healy.  We stayed with friends in Wasilla, Valdez, and Whitehorse.

Both trips had glaciers and waterfalls and wildlife.  We were thankful we packed our rain jackets for both trips.  There was a "fishing culture" everywhere and everyone was very "bear aware."  Most of the people were go-out-of-their-way friendly.  They loved Alaska and they wanted everyone visiting to love Alaska too.

Enjoy this virtual trip of Alaska.

Stop Number One:  Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.

Glaciers we saw while flying between Vancouver and Prince Rupert, Canada.

Prince Rupert had a small airport on an island.  We had to take a bus and a ferry to get to the main part of town.  

An old-growth forest in Butze Rapids Park.  

We toured the historic North Pacific Cannery in nearby Prince Edward.  

Seafood Platter at Smile's Seafood Cafe, in the part of Prince Rupert called Cow Bay. 

Their yummy food made us smile!

This beautiful airbnb home was hosted by a kind woman named Fernanda who was originally from Portugal.

Stop Number Two:  Ketchikan, Alaska
Marine Ferry Highway System

Enjoying our first ferry ride.  Each ferry had food service, long couches, outside decks, and big picture windows.  
Our first foggy view of Ketchikan was of their marina.  
Our airbnb host, Jodie, was a fascinating woman who raised her family while doing commercial fishing with her husband.
She had so many fascinating stories to tell us about fishing and whales, and sharks, and bears, and life on the ocean.
We completely enjoyed our time with her in Ketchikan.  
The beautiful view out our window in Ketchikan.
Ketchikan has a tunnel right down the middle of a major street.  
We heard a lot about the Tlinget culture while in Ketchikan.  This is a clan house at the Totem Bight State Historical Park.
We went to a museum that had totem poles that were between 130 and 185 years old!
The Tlinget culture is celebrated along the Inside Passage - some schools even offer Tlinget language classes.
Creek Street in Ketchikan.
Seals, exploring the waters under Creek Street.
The salmon were running while we were in Alaska.  These were in a river at Ward Lake Park.
Cool seaweed that had washed up at Rotary Park.  
Beautiful artwork displayed at one of the grocery stores in Ketchikan.
Stop Number Three:  Petersburg, Alaska
Our private sleeping room on the overnight ferry from Ketchikan to Petersburg
Here is Todd enjoying some fresh air and coffee while riding the ferry.
It was fascinating watching the ferry maneuver the Wrangell Narrows during our trip to Petersburg.
Beautiful Petersburg with the tide in.
We ate lunch at Inga's Galley - a food truck that had seating under a tent.  There is only one restaurant in town where you can order off a menu and be served at a table - a Chinese Restaurant near the ferry terminal.  
Everyone in Petersburg wore rubber boots...even ladies in dresses!
For a souvenir, I bought a keychain of brown rubber boots with the word Alaska on it.  
Petersburg is all about fishing.  Inside these domes are individual tents.  People come from all over to spend their summers fishing for big commercial fishing companies.  Many stay in these tent communities when not on the fishing boats.  
Petersburg is known for it's Scandinavian culture.  At one point, only people with Scandinavian heritage were allowed to move into Petersburg.  Now anyone is welcome.  We saw rosemaling on many houses.  There was a Sons of Norway building and a replica of a Vikings ship near the marina.  Many streets have Scandinavian names.  
Pretty fawn in a yard in Petersburg.
Lovely reflection

Stop Number Four:  Juneau, Alaska
We flew from Petersburg to Juneau.
Pretty much every Alaskan town has a runway for air travel.   

Juneau was a bustling town with museums, shops, and lots of cruise ship activity.  

Our airbnb home was on Douglas Island.
This was the view from our airbnb home.  We could see Mount Roberts and the cruise ships coming into Juneau.  
Juneau is on a hill.  There are numerous long, narrow staircases on the hill. 
We went to the new Alaska State Museum.  It was very well done. 
My favorite item was the pen that Eisenhower used to sign Alaska into Statehood in 1959.
In Alaska, we tried to drive every road possible.  While driving north, we stopped at a shrine for Saint Therese.
There was a very peaceful walking path on the way to the stone building built in the 1930s.  

An old boat motor washed up along the path to the shrine for Saint Therese.
We thought this photo was artistic and cool!  I even printed an enlargement for Todd. 
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau.  We hiked up close to the waterfall.  
Mendenhall Glacier from a different angle later in the day.  
We took the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of Mount Roberts.
Hiking on Mount Roberts
A wounded eagle being cared for by the Raptor Society.  We were only a foot away!
We saw quite a few eagles out in the wild, especially in Juneau.  

Grizzly Bear on the left.  Black Bear on the right.  My hand in the middle.
If we saw fresh tracks in the dirt, we turned around and quit our hike early. 
One of many cruise ships docked in Juneau.
Exploring the grounds where an old mining community used to be (on Douglas Island).
There were artifacts to be found all along the trail.  
Last Chance Mining Company along the Perseverance Trail.
We went inside these buildings and hiked the trail.  
A waterfall along Perseverance Trail in Juneau
We visited the historic home of former Judge Wickersham.  I enjoyed playing his daughter's piano. 
We hiked along some paths in Douglas.  Mendenhall Glacier is behind me.  

Stop Number Five:  Skagway, Alaska
Todd was thrilled to get to visit the Engine Room during our ferry ride to Skagway.
The two motors were 3500 horsepower each.  The engine room man enjoyed talking to Todd.  
The ferry from Juneau to Skagway was our last one.  Amazing scenery!

From the ferry we saw the small town of Haines, Alaska.  I read the book entitled, If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende during this Alaska trip.  The book made me want to visit Haines.  At least we saw it from afar.  

The scenery around Skagway was beautiful!

Skagway, Alaska

This historic Arctic Brotherhood Hall is now the visitor's center.
It is made of thousands of little pieces of driftwood.
Outside of Skagway was an old cemetery filled with gravestones from the time of the Gold Rush.  
Waterfall at the end of a hike outside of Skagway, Alaska

Our train ride and bus ride to Whitehorse, Yukon
Getting ready to start our historic White Pass train ride!
Can you see our reflection?

Into a tunnel...

Lovely scenery along the train route...

More lovely scenery...

We arrived in Fraser, stopped at Canadian Customs and then continued to the second leg of our journey
- the bus ride to Whitehorse, Yukon!
The train depot and bus terminal (and bathrooms) in Fraser...

Stop Number Six:  Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
The Yukon River is a fast-moving, beautiful river that runs beside the town of Whitehorse.  

A copper nugget taken right from the ground.

My friend, Tanya and her family hosted us while we were in Whitehorse.
Tanya and I traveled together in the Up With People program in 1995.  

Tanya's house with our rental car in front, and Tanya's camper we slept in on the side.  

Historic S.S. Klondike.  She could float in 40 inches of water fully-loaded.  She could carry 450 ton. 
She had two 500 horse steam-engines on her to run the wheel.  

Historic S.S. Klondike.  From Dawson City to Whitehorse, against the current of the Yukon River, she burned 144 cords of wood and it took five days.  Going with the current, she burned 40 cords of wood and only took a day and a half.  
We took an excellent tour of the Yukon Brewing Company.  
People in Alaska and Yukon love their salmon!
We went to a salmon ladder in Whitehorse and enjoyed the artwork along the walkway.

Whitehorse at 11:00 pm.  Still light enough to mow the lawn if one wanted to!
World's Largest Weathervane at the Transportation Museum near the airport in Whitehorse
Our favorite restaurant in Whitehorse (Klondike Rib and Salmon) - we went here twice!  
Beautiful Miles Canyon near Whitehorse

We enjoyed hiking along Miles Canyon.  What a perfect thing to do on the last day of our trip.
Todd and Jennifer = travel companions forever!

Trip Number Two:  Stop Number One: 
Anchorage, Wasilla and Palmer
We flew into Anchorage and then got our Ford Hybrid rental car. 
After a quick reunion with my friend Wendy, whom we'll see in Valdez, our first stop was Anchorage's Cabella's store.  

Bear magnet to help one hunt bear.  Bear spray to help one get away from bear!
Palmer is known for it's giant vegetables and for being the location of the state fair.
Record-Breaking Vegetables!
Downtown Palmer
Playing piano at the Palmer Colony House museum
Palmer, Alaska
We went to a reindeer farm and got to feed the reindeer right out of our hands!
At the reindeer farm in Palmer
We stayed at the home of our friend Kathleen at the beginning and end of our trip.
Kathleen and Todd were classmates in Bertha, Minnesota. 
Kathleen had beautiful huskies!
Kathleen's house in Wasilla
This huskie was so gentle and sweet that even I wanted to pet him!

Stop Number Two:  Talkeetna and Denali National Park
Talkeetna was a very touristy town where many people begin their Denali adventures
(flight seeing, mountain climbing, glacier walking, etc.)
Enjoying grilled hotdogs at a picnic table in downtown Talkeetna, Alaska with historic Nagley's Store in the background.  
Denali National Park is behind us - those lower cloud formations are actually mountains!
Driving north from Talkeetna up to Healy, Alaska
We were thankful for the sunshine here because our time at Denali was mostly rainy and foggy.
We took a ten hour round trip bus ride into Denali National Park.
moose at Denali

mountain goats at Denali

grizzly bear at Denali

owl at Denali

ground squirrel at Denali

wolf at Denali

reindeer/caribou at Denali
rugged roads at Denali
It was a foggy, rainy day at Denali, so this was our view from the Visitor's Center!
Nearing the end of our bumpy, wet, ten-hour bus ride!

Stop Number Three:  Fairbanks and North Pole, Alaska
The fireweed was beautiful!

Scenery along our drive from Denali to Fairbanks (The Alaska Highway)
The dog-mushers museum on the second floor of a downtown mall in Fairbanks
Downtown Fairbanks
Arch of reindeer and moose antlers in downtown Fairbanks
Live music at Pioneer Park along the river in Fairbanks
morning rush hour in Fairbanks...ha ha ha!
North Pole Elementary School

North Pole Post Office:  many letters are sent here every year - for Santa!

North Pole, Alaska

First Baptist Church, North Pole, Alaska

Stop Number Four:  Glenallen and Valdez, Alaska
Playing piano at the Roadhouse Museum.
To make the roadhouse fancier, the owners would hang fabric on the walls to cover up the wood.
Fire codes stop them from having fabric hung now - but we saw it in the historic photos.  

Cooking eggs over our portable burner at the rest stop in Glenallen, Alaska

The oil pipeline followed the Richardson Highway much of the drive to Valdez

We can never see too many glaciers!
And there were a lot on the road to Valdez!

Driving the road from Glenallen to Valdez (The Richardson Highway)

Beautiful spot along the Richardson Highway

Grilling salmon on the side of the road during our travel day to Valdez

Lovely scenery on the Richardson Highway

We grilled burgers and then had a picnic beside Worthington Glacier, just outside of Valdez.

My friend, Wendy lives in Valdez.  We stayed with her and her family for a few days.
Wendy and I traveled together in the Up With People organization in 1995.

We had to travel over Thompson Pass to get to Valdez.  At times it was a complete white-out!

A thirsty moose was one of our first sights in Valdez!

Wendy and her family took us backroading using a truck and ATV to this beautiful waterfall! 

Wendy and Oly Clubb with boys Lucas, Levi, and Isaac.

Just Moosin' Around at another museum!

Musk Ox impressions by Todd!

Valdez has a beautiful marina!
Valdez has lovely waterfalls 

Sea lions were drawn to the salmon fish ladder when the tide was out.

The coldest it ever got was crossing over Thompson Pass as we left Valdez!
Stop Number Five:  Nikiski, Alaska
We saw The Matanuksa Glacier near Palmer, on our way to Nikiski

Scenery near Girdwood during our drive to Nikiski
Driving on the Kenai Peninsula, toward Nikiski

Captain Cook State Park on the Cook Inlet north of Nikiski

Nikiski has a Tesoro Plant along it's main road.  The road parallels Cook Inlet

We stayed in Nikiski for an entire week.
We traveled to our destination each day and then came home to Nikiski at the end of each day.  

Our airbnb home in Nikiski was a coffee shop!
We had a room at the back.  
 Stop Number Six:  Kenai and Soldotna, Alaska
We were warned a few different times to stay away from these plants!
If you touch them, you will get painful sores under your skin!
We were on the Kenai Peninsula during Dip Netting season in July.
Alaskan locals are permitted to use these giant dip nets for fishing during this season.

Fly fishing was very popular on the Kenai River.
Twice we saw a bear very near the fishermen.  He was fishing too!  It didn't bother the men!

Fresh tracks from a black bear.  We cut our hike short after we found this.

There's nothing better than fresh-caught salmon!
Our airbnb host gave us this slab of salmon to grill on our portable grill.

Wild strawberries, also a gift from our Nikiski airbnb hosts.
Soldotna Fish Walks

Look closely and you'll see fishermen all along the shore!
I love the color of the water on the Kenai River!

We attended the Soldotna Farmer's Market.
There was a live band and food wagons and craft booths.
I especially enjoyed spotting rubber boots - just like in Petersburg!
The town of Kenai had a museum with the biggest stove we'd ever seen!

Todd wished he could ship this home!

We saw moose in the early mornings.
Stop Number Seven:  Homer, Alaska
Homer Alaska, Halibut Fishing Capital of the World!
Beautiful Homer
Homer, Alaska

We drove up the hill in Homer.  You can see the Homer Spit behind us.

The Salty Dawg Saloon is a historic building along the Homer Spit.
Around 1900, it served as the headquarters for the Cook Inlet Coal Fields Company.

Stop Number Eight: Ninilchik and Hope  
This Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik was built in 1901 
Hope, Alaska (northern part of the Kenai Peninsula)
Hope Elementary School:  Home of the Huskies!

Stop Number Eight:  Seward, Alaska
Seward had murals all over town
We went on a cruise of the Kenai Fjords
This was our cruise ship

We stopped on fox Island for a salmon meal
Sea Lion Rookery 
Enjoying our wet and rainy cruise - hooray for rain jackets!
This playful otter entertained us for a long time!
Exit Glacier, just outside of Seward
"Hey, Todd, take a selfie with me!"  "Okay!"
"That's better!"
One last photo of Exit Glacier
A pretty seal at the Seward Sea Life Aquarium
Many people in Alaska had their own greenhouses to grow vegetables.
The growing season is Alaska is very short.
Some people's greenhouses were bigger than their homes!

Stop Number Nine:  Whittier, Alaska on The Prince William Sound
The sun came out on our way to Whittier!
One must drive through a tunnel to get to Whittier.  People drove IN on the hour and OUT on the half hour.
The tunnel is three miles long and one can only go 25 miles per hour.
Through the dark tunnel...
The hotel and marine gas station in Whittier
Our cruise ship is behind us
Beautiful scene on the Prince William Sound
Icebergs and glaciers on Prince William Sound
Enjoying our cruise through College Fjord
The hosts of the cruise had signs we could hold up for future Christmas card photos!
Look closely and you'll see little white birds, called black-legged kittiwakes.

Stop Number Ten:  Hatcher's Pass

Exploring Hatcher Pass

The Matanuska Valley is behind us

An old generator at the gold mine

Independence Mine State Historical Park

Little Susitna River along Hatcher's Pass
Typical Alaskan sight - a homemade boat on top of a falling-apart vehicle!
Typical Alaskan sight - rows of mailboxes (many falling apart) 
We drove over 3,000 miles!
Anchorage airport has some artistic benches...
We enjoyed the snow-capped mountains as we left Alaska.

We arrived back in Minnesota in time for a beautiful sunset...welcoming us home!