A Walk to Remember: Tongass

We were disappointed to wake up to a rainy and overcast day on the morning we were supposed to hike in Tongass National Forest to see Mendenhall Glacier. It wasn’t long before we learned that it’s almost always raining in Juneau, Alaska because it’s located in a temperate rain forest – the largest in the northern hemisphere. Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, over 17 million acres in the area (almost the entire Alaska Panhandle) has been set aside as the nation’s largest national forest. Walking through Tongass is like visiting another world.
tongass national forest

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Visiting the North Pole

I went to the North Pole. Santa has been living in Alaska my entire life and I had no idea.

I should preface this post by saying that I LOVE Santa. When I was a kid, I was encouraged to leave cookies for Santa and was always so excited when he would leave me a note in return. Some years, he would leave one of the cookies behind with a perfectly shaped bite taken out of it; this filled me with a wonder beyond my wildest imagination. Fast forward thirty plus years and you have a grown woman in Alaska who sees “North Pole” on the map. How could I have missed this? When my friend told me that not only did the North Pole truly exist but Santa was there with his reindeer, I had to go.

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Two Minnesotans Meet Angel Rocks

One of the hardest parts of vacation for me is being away from my little dog, but he’s having his own adventure with his new best friend – the house sitter. When she arrived, he greeted her with an enthusiasm and zeal that he reserves for those he truly loves, I knew he would be in great hands. After a quick check to make sure their vacation was off on the right foot, we headed into the Alaskan wilderness to find an adventure of our own.

angel rocks fairbanks

The Angel Rocks

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The Alaskan Adventure Beings

And just like that – we opened our eyes and were in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Well, not exactly… it actually took nearly 11 hours of traveling and included two flights through four time zones. But this morning after a great night’s sleep, that is a distant memory. We have woken up in the northernmost city in North America and are ready to start our adventure.
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The Secret Garden

“I said to myself, ‘This is really ugly. Somebody ought to build a garden here.’ So I said, ‘I’ll do it’ …and I did.” – Amir Dialameh

Amir Dialameh was hiking the trails in Griffith Park in 1971 after a major brush fire ravaged the area when he decided to start a garden.
desert garden

He obtained permission and then spent years working alone, clearing approximately 200 carbonized tree stumps with a pick and shovel carried from home.
desert garden

He could be found working in the garden nearly every day for up to eight hours at a time terracing the slopes, building stairs and adding benches.
desert garden

Amir had challenges along the way. People stole plants, demolished saplings, he was once beaten and robbed, and two major brush fires damaged the garden. But those incidents didn’t keep him away and he patiently restored the losses.desert garden

Volunteers began helping maintain Amir’s Garden in the late 70s and continue to do so after Amir’s unexpected death in 2003. Amir once said, “There are so many problems, so many pressures. All people do is complain. They need to get away from that.” Amir’s Garden is just the place people could do that; under his care, it became a five-acre oasis in the city.

desert tree

“…what you need first and foremost here is shade,” Dialameh explained in 1989. “That’s why I planted trees like the jacaranda. In ten years, this place will be covered with their branches.”