Jill and John Travel to Ketchikan, Alaska, for Lola's and Jefferson's Birthdays

April 9th through the 16th, 2008

Written by John

When we had been home from our mission about 10 days, and John was having trouble adapting to the post-mission life, and had caught a cold, the first one in over two years, we packed our bags again and flew to Ketchikan, Alaska, where our daughter Joy, her husband, and their two children live. Lola was going to have her first birthday on April 10th, then Jefferson was turning three on the 13th. Just like our own sons, Jordan and Jansen, who had their birthdays just a week apart, but Jansen's first, though two years younger, Jefferson had a hard time allowing Lola to have her birthday celebration first. It's one of those things he'll probably never get over!

We arrived about 5:00 PM on Wednesday the 9th, and Joy came and picked us up after we rode across on the ferry. The airport is on an island separate from Ketchikan, so you either ferry or swim. It isn't very far, but it was a bit cold for swimming this time of year. Since Ketchikan is the rainiest city of the 50 states, it's a good bet that it'll be raining at any particular time, and such was the case when we arrived, when we returned, and for most of the week. That's okay because they have beautiful forests as a result.

Since Lola's birthday was on Thursday, Joy was busy making Lola's birthday cake. Joy is an expert at making cakes, and does it a lot, sometimes even making a little side money at it. So it wouldn't do to have anything but the best cake for Lola's first birthday.

Joy has a tradition that on a child's first birthday they get a huge portion of the cake on their high chair tray to do whatever they want to with it. Jill asked where the tradition got started, and Joy was surprised at the question, being of the opinion that it was in our family all the time she was growing up. We decided that she probably had seen a picture of her older sister, Julie, with a cake on her tray at her first birthday, but that was only for the picture and maybe the candles. I think it was that particular cake whose top half slid off on the floor after the picture was taken. But, of course, Joy's cakes wouldn't do that. Anyway, the tradition is real now in Joy's family. So here Lola is daintily fondling her cake, but that didn't last for long. As soon as she realized she had full control of this huge yummy morsel, her hands quickly made their way half-way through the cake.  

John made a video of the candle-blowing-out and Happy Birthday before the cake was bisected.  Click on the picture here to see the video.

On Friday night we were invited over to Jessie and Sarah's for dinner. Sarah is Joy's cousin who followed Joy up to Alaska several years ago, and now lives there with her husband and two children, Maya and Sophie. They made a nice lasagna dinner, and Joy made bread sticks. It was a yummy dinner and we had a good time with them.

On Saturday the 12th Joy's band was scheduled to play for the community dance at the Coast Guard facility. The band's name is Paddy's Leather Breeches and they have a variety of instruments. They make a nice sound. Joy is really getting into fiddling these days.  

Part of the activity that night was a birthday celebration for the kids, who had a great NOISY time.

Click on the picture of the band to see a video of one of their songs. In addition to their instruments, you will also hear lots of noise from the children whooping it up as well.

Jefferson and Lola got out on the dance floor as well, but Lola had a hard time keeping on her feet since she had just learned to walk on her birthday, three days before.

Jessie, Sarah, Maya and Sophie also came to the dance. Here Lola is reaching over to Sophie to give her a kiss. She must think she's cute just like all the adults do.

You might get the idea that the required dress for the dance was black tops, but, there were lots of other colors as well beyond these three. Joy said, when Jill asked her what the dance dress was, that it was "Alaskan," which apparently means anything goes.

Here are Jessie, Sarah and Jill keeping their eye on either the band or the children. Or maybe both.

On Sunday we all attended church at the Ketchikan Ward building. We had been there ten years ago and still remember the unique all-cedar construction of the chapel. Attending there is like being in a giant cedar chest! Joy and Jefferson are coming out after the meetings. You can sort of see the cedar exterior. It's like that all around. The interior is also almost all cedar except for some classroom areas. Here Joy is letting Lola explore a little in the cultural hall.

Then after church was of course time to celebrate Jefferson's birthday. Finally it was here! Joy made a train cake for Jefferson, at his request. This shot doesn't show the train details very well, but it's the best picture Jill could get under the emergency conditions that existed at the time. You see, the weight of the train on one side caused the cake to crack down the middle and it was rapidly falling apart. I had to hold it together for the pictures and the Happy Birthday. Chris said that drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, so we'll have to eat the cake first. But Joy just separated the train from the lower portion, and we were able to eat the regular meal first. Jefferson had requested hot dogs for his birthday meal, so that's what we had. We also had some brats to augment the simple hot dogs, and Joy had made some whole-wheat buns. So Jefferson is three now, and was happy about his birthday celebration.

I was feeling quite a bit better from my cold by Monday the 14th, so I decided to take a walk up the hill. Ketchikan is an island with steep sides going down to the ocean. And only about a quarter mile from Joy and Chris' home was a dense forest and a nice hiking trail through it. I enjoyed getting out and getting some exercise for a change. At the end of the trail were stairs coming back down to the road, where I got this shot of the rock Ketchikan is built on.

As I was walking along the path through the forest I found a great view of the city and area below. This view is looking to the north. The airport is on the other island on the right side of the picture. Joy and Chris' home is somewhere in the foreground, but I couldn't place it exactly. Joy used to give tours to tourists coming in from the cruise ships and said that the portion of the city that is mostly flat now used to be under water, and they gradually built the city out into the ocean.

This is a beautiful view from the hiking trail looking to the south. Downtown Ketchikan is off the picture on the left. You can barely see the area where the cruise ships dock. The sea plane in the bottom right had just landed.

As I was walking back on the road I saw a bald eagle land in this tree about 100 yards away. Alaska has lots of wildlife readily visible, and eagles are one of these that can be seen right in town, as shown here.

On Tuesday Joy suggested we go on a picnic at Ward Lake, a few miles to the north of Ketchikan. It is a beautiful area. When we arrived it was fairly warm and calm. We hiked the two or three miles around the lake, enjoying the trees and moss and the lake and rivers along the way. I couldn't believe the size of the trees, with trunks up to 10 feet in diameter! When we got back to the starting point I built a fire to roast hot dogs (left over from Sunday). By then it was getting cold and windy, so we didn't stay too long after the fire died down. While on the side of the lake from which this picture was taken we saw an eagle who appeared to be trying to steal a meal from a loon. He dove quite a few times toward the lake, then took off with apparently nothing in his claws. I tried to get a video of all this, but it didn't turn out very good. Sorry!

Then on Wednesday morning we had to wake Joy, Jefferson and Lola early to take us to the airport. The reason we all had to make the trip was because Chris was in California taking an air brakes class. We had heard about lots of stranded travelers over the past week, but fortunately we weren't among them and our flights were right on schedule. We had a good time visiting Joy and her family and hope we can get back up there again before long. Maybe next time in the drier season (do they have such a thing?).