In this fifth week of our Epic Alaskan Road Trip we finished exploring Denali National Park, celebrated a birthday in Anchorage, and got to see what life is like in Houston Alaska. If you are just joining this road trip story, be sure to check out Week 1, 2, 3, and 4!
Wednesday, May 29th – Denali to Houston
We have another day to explore Denali National Park. The park offers a bus tour on a converted school bus, it is the only way back into the park past mile 15 in the summer. We considered doing this tour, but then decided against it when we discovered it was 6 hours long. Maybe when the kids are older and excited about a 6 hour long bus ride. Instead, we went to the visitor center, gift shop, sled dog kennels, and drove around in our personal tour vehicle – our Honda pilot.
The visitor center was really cool, there were a large variety of interactive displays that the kids really enjoyed. We also stopped by the gift shop and picked up a cool vintage-looking print and some fun animal magnets for the kids. We ate our lunch in the RV and then left the RV in the large parking lot there while we explored the park.
After lunch, we went to the sled dog kennels in Denali National Park. We parked and then followed the wooded path to the kennels. The woods are very thick and hidden about 20 feet off the path was a moose, lying down and watching us walk by. We were hoping it wasn’t the aggressive moose that we had heard about – the one that likes to charge people on trails – I don’t think it was because this moose seemed to want to hide. As we got closer to the kennels, we saw another moose, it was moving fast, but not towards us. We decided to name Jessica our official scout because she has an eye for spotting wildlife – she saw both the moose and had to point them out to us.
The sled dog kennel experience was a total win. They have some very well behaved dogs that you can pet and they were very friendly. I’m not really a dog person, but I couldn’t help falling in love with the sweet sled dogs. There was also a sled-dog demonstration – a ranger explains all about the sled dogs and the dogs pull a cart around a track. It was really interesting. We learned that there are some areas of the park that they do not want machinery or vehicles driving through, and so the sled dogs are vital for carrying supplies back into the park. We also learned that the dogs use their tails to cover up their faces to keep warm while curled up sleeping – cuteness!
After a bit more exploring and driving through the park, we left and drove south towards Houston, Alaska where Matt would be preaching on Sunday. We stopped along the way at a turn-out spot and I made dinner. We arrived at the church around 9:00. The pastor and his wife met with us and fed us all some snacks at their house, which was on the church property.
Thursday, May 30th – Houston to Anchorage
Today is our oldest child, Jessica’s birthday. While on the road, we try to make birthdays special by letting our kids decide what type of day that will be. Jessica wanted to go out for a birthday dinner and do some shopping, we decided that Anchorage would be the best option. We left around lunchtime and the hour drive from Houston to Anchorage was very scenic. The area south of Wasilla is very pretty.
We went to a bookstore and Kohls and Jessica picked out her birthday presents. After shopping, we went to Benihana’s for a fun dinner (they offer a free birthday meal if you sign up online). It was entertaining and delicious.
After dinner we did a scenic drive just outside Anchorage to let our food settle before we had birthday ice cream cake. We saw two moose very close to the road. We do a lot of scenic drives in our tow vehicle, it is able to go places the RV is not. I think if you live in an RV, you have to like to drive (or ride in my case) and we do. The kids do too, as long as the drive is kept interesting with stops at a park or for a snack.
Back at the RV we had super-yummo cookie dough ice cream cake and Jessica and Olivia watched a late-night movie with us.
Friday, May 31st – Houston
This small town of Houston Alaska is what I had pictured in my mind when I thought of us coming to Alaska. It is rugged, and I imagine that life here in the winter is difficult. The pastor and his wife are pretty tough, although they would downplay this and consider themselves normal by Alaska’s standards. We enjoyed listening to their stories of hunting adventures and were amazed by the ginormous woodpile outside their house for winter heating.
The church is having a garage sale today and tomorrow. We don’t really do garage sales very much any more because of our limited space. The younger three really wanted to go check it out and so I took them. We found some doll clothes and some pretty doilies to use for the Barbie family that live in the RV with us.
Today the pastor took us on a short walk through the woods, it was cool and a little scary. These old cars were swallowed up by the wilderness. I think he said there used to be a mining camp here.
We had heard the stories of the notorious Alaskan mosquitos and up until this point, we had seen mosquitos, and while they were bigger than the ones in Indiana, they hadn’t bothered us that much. In this thickly wooded place of Houston, Alaska the mosquitos were fierce. We put on bug spray (or dope as they call it here) when we went outside and they just swarmed around us but didn’t really bite when we kept moving.
Somehow, the mosquitos found a way into the RV. Even if we were diligent to open our door and enter/exit quickly, they still managed to find a way. They struck us at night, those little jerks. I’m a pretty sound sleeper, but a mosquito buzzing in my ear is enough to wake me up. Our poor kids were waking up with bites on their faces, hands, and feet. I was getting bites through my clothes! Crazy. Anyway, we ended up spraying on bugspray before bed, to prevent more bites, it helped a little bit.
Saturday, June 1st – Houston to Wasilla
Today we made a quick trip over to the town of Wasilla to run some errands. We stopped at Lowes to pick up some beadboard to fix up the dresser at the foot of our youngest’s bunk. We also picked up a cute rug to replace the one that has lost its luster after 7 people have wiped their shoes on it for 3 years.
We also made a trip to Walmart to pick up some groceries.
Sunday, June 2nd – Houston
Today Matt preached at Hilltop Assembly of God in Houston, where we have been parked. It was a good service, the people were open to ministry at the altars after the preaching.
There was a pitch-in meal after the service. The congregation brought some delicious food, including moose, elk, salmon, and homemade bread. We had a great time talking with the people, and hearing about their life in Alaska.
Later in the evening, we gave the pastor and his wife a tour of the RV, it is always fun for us to show people our tiny home for the first time. We had a nice visit.
Monday, June 3rd – Houston to Wasilla
Matt helped the pastor pick up a load of garage sale stuff today while the kids and I did schoolwork. We are almost done with our school work for the year, and it feels like a milestone because this will be the first time since we’ve been on the road that we will be able to take a summer break. The first two school years on the road we ended up just doing school year-round. It was difficult to learn how to schedule school time on the road. We have settled into this life and I would say that our kids are able to work in all sorts of situations.
After school we drove to Wasilla to visit Newcomb Park. It had been sunny all day and it started to get cloudy right as we were leaving the RV. We were hopeful as we left because it looked sunny towards Wasilla. When we got to the park, we noticed there was a little beach there for swimming or fishing. It was maybe 60 degrees outside, but there were kids running around in their swimsuits and people wading in the water. I would say these particular Alaskans had a different definition of swimming weather than me.
After the park, we drove to Three Bears Alaska to pick up a couple of things. It was an interesting store, there were groceries, camping and hunting gear and household items. They also had some stuffed animals on display.
When we got back to the RV, the pastor stopped by for a visit and then gave the kids (and Matt and I) a music lesson. He taught us some chords on the piano, and helped the kids to learn to play together in time. We have a keyboard, two ukeleles, two guitars, and a tiny tamborine on board the RV, the pastor gave us some music to work on together, I am looking forward to hearing us all improve and learn more.
Tuesday, June 4th – Houston to Anchorage
Today we said our goodbyes to the pastor and his wife and prepared to move our RV south to Anchorage for the night. We stopped by Millers Market on the way out of Houston and had some lunch and ice cream – yum!
We drove to Cabela in Anchorage for a boondocking spot for the night. The kids always enjoy walking around Cabela, there are so many stuffed animals and interesting things to see. Hannah and Sophia were really excited about the large fish in the aquarium.
Tonight we met a lovely lady and her two daughters. Matt gets to talk to all sorts of people when he calls churches, and this lady is a book-keeper at a church in Anchorage. We had a connection with her in that she knew some of our friends in Iowa. Anyway, she invited us over to her lovely home with amazing views for pizza. We had a great visit and Sophia really enjoyed playing with her tiny dog.
After dinner we went back to our boondocking spot for the night. We are very excited for tomorrow because we are going down into the Kenai Pennisula. We have heard so many things about this area being the most beautiful part of Alaska. Next week I will tell you all about our Kenai Pennisula adventures!
Read next: Week 6: Anchorage to Kenai and back
Thank you for reading this week’s post about our Epic Road Trip to Alaska! If you would like to know more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org