December 31, 2013

AK Adventures | Denali National Park

And I've saved the best AK Adventure for last...

Home to Denali, or Mount McKinley, aka North America's tallest peak, Denali National Park is much more than just a mountain. At six million acres of wild land, the park is bisected by just one ribbon of road that allows travelers to enjoy the view as the relatively low-elevation taiga forest gives way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. 
The park was established in 1917 as a game refuge and after several years, a name change and a boundary enlargement of 4 millions acres, today the park exemplifies interior Alaska's character as one of the world's last great frontiers, its wilderness largely unspoiled and full of diversity.

Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await in Denali National Park. So, without further ado, I'll let the beauty do the talking...

Denali's landscapes are big and wide, and sometimes full of silence. They are rich in pattern and process. Wildlife saunters, sings, spars, seduces, and survives in Denali's landscapes. And no matter the season you visit or how far into the park you step, the beauty and vastness of this Alaskan icon quickly gives you an appreciation for the magic Mother Nature can create.

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December 29, 2013

Do You Have a Home Emergency Plan?

Toronto faced some pretty serious weather this past week. After two days and 30mm of freezing rain, the city was covered in a thick layer of ice. Days before Christmas, ice built up on branches and wires in record thickness, and across the city trees fell, taking down hundreds of power and telephone wires, and leaving some in the cold. Thousands of residents were without power, all on the first official day of winter. Couldn't ask for worse timing for a storm like this. And while our neck of the woods only lost water for a few hours, my father-in-law was one of the unlucky ones, remaining without power for almost 120 hours.

The fact that an emergency situation such as this could happen so close to home was a huge eye opener and really got me thinking about emergency planning and preparedness. And while you hope it never happens to you, knowing what to do is an important part of being prepared. Creating an emergency plan takes only 20 minutes of your time and is the difference between acting to keep your family safe in an emergency. Keep the plan in a safe location and review it annually with your family. 

Some things to think about when developing a plan:
✔️ Safe exits from home and neighbourhood
✔️ Meeting places to reunite with family 
✔️ Contact persons close-by and out-of-town
✔️ Health and insurance information
✔️ Places for your pet to stay
✔️ Special needs
✔️ Risks in your region
✔️ Location of your fire extinguisher, water valve, electrical panel, gas valve and floor drain

In an emergency, you will also need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water and ideally should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. Here are some items to include in your home emergency kit:

  1. Water (at least 2L per person per day)
  2. Non-perishable food items (such as energy bars or canned food, plus a manual can opener!)
  3. Flashlight with extra batteries
  4. First aid kit
  5. Spare house and car keys
  6. Important documents (such as contact numbers and copy of emergency plan)
  7. Candles and lighter 
  8. Extra blankets 
  9. Battery powered radio (plus extra batteries)

Extras for the home:
  1. Pet food
  2. Baby formula
  3. Medications

And in case of evacuation, extras for your vehicle:
  1. Antifreeze
  2. Windshield washer fluid
  3. Road maps
  4. Tow rope
  5. Jumper cables
  6. Road flares
  7. Ice scraper
  8. Seatbelt cutter

Do you have a family emergency plan/kit?

A huge THANK YOU to all of the out-of-town and -province hydro workers who scarified their Christmases in order to help the families of Toronto be able to celebrate theirs.


December 28, 2013


Around Christmas time last year, my girlfriend paid us a visit to AK. We were all sitting in the living room of our apartment, being all festive and drinking rum and egg nog, when we felt a slight vibration. "Welcome to Alaska", I said, "you just witnessed your first earth........". But, before I could even finish the word, the entire 2-story, 8-apartment complex started shaking, more than slightly, and definitely more than we were used to. 

Now, before I go any further with this story, I must tell you that my biggest fear in the world is a building collapsing. I honestly have no idea where it came from, it truly is irrational and in a sense more of a phobia (but apparently one that remains unnamed). Feel free to call me a crazy person. Anyways, I'm sure you can imagine how terrified I was when the entire building started moving side to side.

The sway of the building felt like we were on a ride, having a hard time getting our balance. We heard cupboards banging and Steve's teammates in the apartments next door were screaming like they were on a roller coaster. Me? I was ready to make a run for the bathtub (because I've heard that's the safe place to go). But instead, I was glued to the floor with only a look of sheer panic on my face. My husband and girlfriend would probably tell you I was exaggerating, but to me, my worst fear was becoming a reality.

Seconds later, the swaying finally stopped. The building was still standing, but for almost an hour after, my heart was still racing at marathon speed. I had just faced my fear, whether it was intentional or not.

It turns out the earthquake was a 5.8 on the scale. And while that by far isn't the largest AK has seen, the good jolt came from the fact that the epicentre was only around 10 miles from our place. Thank goodness for engineers that know what they're doing in earthquake territory.  I think I will put my faith in them, earthquake territory or not, a little more.

What is your biggest fear? Have you ever faced it?


December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday filled with love, laughs and good food.

Merry Christmas!


The Wards

AK Adventures | 26 Glaciers

In summer 2012, Steve's mom, sister and grandma decided to take a trip up to visit us. It was a week filled with lots of adventure, including a Phillip's 26 Glacier Cruise

The 26 Glacier Cruise departs from Whittier, AK and traverses 145 miles through the pristine passageways of Alaska's Prince William Sound. As I've mentioned in previous AK Adventures, I love the Sound. Not only is it gorgeous, it is one of the few places left in the world where a concentration of glaciers can be found in such abundance.

During this 5-hour cruise, we explored the serenity of Esther Passage, viewed majestic alpine and tidewater glaciers and Alaskan wildlife, such as stellar sea lions, sea otters, kittiwakes and bald eagles, all while traveling in luxurious comfort aboard the Klondike Express, the fastest catamaran in Alaska. We cruised face to face with towering masses of ice, so close that you could see their incredible blue hues and hear them move. To witness these massive walls of ice was truly an unforgettable experience.

Despite the rain (after all, they were on an adventure with Steve and Marla, the rain was inevitable and therefore planned for), it was an unforgettable day spent with family viewing ancient ice, curious wildlife, and the majestic scenery of Alaska.

Past adventures:

Coming up next: Denali National Park


Looking for a fun blog to sponsor? The past few months have been huge for the growth of this little blog! Up until now, all I have done is button swaps, and while I've enjoyed making many new friends this way, I'd like to start offering sponsorships options that come with more features so that I can help grow your blog even moreI am super excited to announce that this month I am rolling out three different sponsorship options for t.o. & fro.  Running from only $3 to $8, I am keeping them incredibly affordable. Thank you for supporting t.o. & fro and I look forward to working with you soon.

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December 19, 2013

AK Adventures | Marine Highway to Valdez

Alaska is a big place, with over 650,000 square miles of rugged wilderness, scenic beauty and abundant wildlife, and traveling in the great state can present some unique challenges as well as opportunities. Unlike the 'lower 48', many of the communities are not accessible by a land based road system, making the primary means of travel to them by air or sea. The Alaska Marine Highway makes up a large part of the 'highway system' and is a route so special it has been designated a National Scenic Byway and an All American Road, the only marine route with this designation. Whether your interest is in secluded coves for kayaking, hiking trails or camping, the Alaska Marine Highway is the perfect way to experience Alaska's diverse and scenic coastline.
Nestled between glacier-capped mountains and the Prince William Sound, Whittier is a focal point for marine activity.  In June 2012, we decided to experience the Alaska Marine Highway with a trip from Whittier, across Prince William Sound, to Valdez, AK.

When we boarded the Aurora in Whittier, it was a beautiful day - the sun was shining, and despite the snow still on the mountains, it was tshirt weather. Our kind of cruise.  The sights were beautiful as we passed through Prince William Sound and the Chugach Mountains. We saw bald eagles, harbour seals and stellar sea lions galore. However, towards the end of our 5 hour and 45 minute cruising time, the weather started to change. We knew the sunny skies were too good to be true. With our destination of Valdez in sight, the rain started to come down... and didn't stop. Once we docked, we took shelter at a local pub for a pint and pizza, hoping the rain would pass. But again, the rain did. not. stop. (On a side note, rain kind of became Steve and I's thing in Alaska. Any time there was an adventure planned, it rained. Our friends could always count on rain when we were around.

With no end in sight to the rain, we decided to find a place to stay for the night. Knowing we wanted to camp, despite the rain, Steve called the local camp ground (we liked to be spontaneous and fly by the seat of our pants). Well, apparently that 14 feet of snow we got in Anchorage just a few months prior was more like 30 feet in Valdez and therefore still hadn't disappeared... there was still at least 5 feet on the ground the man at the camp ground told Steve. We were shit out of luck. And so we drove, and drove some more, until the snow disappeared, but the rain persisted.  The only times we stopped were to watch a mama moose trying to teach her calf how to cross a flowing stream and to take a quick shot with the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, a pipeline carrying oil from Prudhoe Bay south to Valdez. That night we ended up driving almost 3 hours, half way home, and stopping at the camp site we stayed at the weekend before. Not only was it still raining, but were we at each other's throats... Driving any further was not an option. So, we decided to blow up the air mattress in the back of the truck and fall asleep to the sound of raindrops on the roof. Our fun-filled three-day weekend in Valdez quickly turned into one night.

The weekend may not have been as successful as we had hoped, but like all of our other AK adventures, it was one filled with beauty and awe, and some good memories for the books.

Past adventures:

Coming up next: 26 Glaciers

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December 18, 2013

Got a secret, can you keep it?

One of these things is not like the other...

This holiday season I took part in my first blogger Secret Santa Gift Exchange. A big thanks to Kym for organizing this fantastic holiday tradition. 

My Secret Santa was Emilie from Daily Emilie, and she was spot on with her gift choice, a lens mug! With a love of photography, and of coffee, this gift was perfect for me. What a fun way to enjoy my morning coffee. Thanks Emilie!

Did you participate in a gift exchange this year? What did you give or receive?


December 17, 2013

AK Adventures | Driving the Glenn Highway

During our first year in Alaska we had gone back and forth about buying our own vehicle. While Steve's team supplied us with one for the time being, it wasn't the ideal vehicle for driving in winter or taking on adventures. So, in May 2012 we finally decided to stop talking and just do it. To break in the new wheels, we decided to take it for a weekend drive along the Glenn Highway.

Along the way, the Glenn Highway takes in some of the most spectacular vistas you will ever see - the Matanuska River, Matanuska Glacier, the most dramatic glacier you can see along the Alaska road system, and the surrounding towering mountain ranges. We were constantly pulling over to the side of the highway to stop and awe over the many ever-changing views. The expanse of the river, glacier and surrounding towering mountains really put into perspective how large this state is.

We ended the night at the Little Nelchina River State Campground, a campground that is no longer maintained but was a perfect spot for us to set up the tent and fall asleep to the sound of the flowing Little Nelchina River.

On the way home, we couldn't pass by the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK without stopping. I don't think I need to mention my love of musk ox and connection with this place anymore than I already have on this blog.

Another great adventure in the books.

Past adventures:

Coming up next: Alaska Marine Highway

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