Getting back in the swing of things…

Being able to finally getting time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write a few words on this blog feels pretty dang good!  I knew before we parked our camper at home (our primary residence thats not on wheels🙂 that our first few weeks were going to be a little hectic, and boy was I ever right! We have not had more than a day or two at most to just sit back and take it all in that we are actually “home”.

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It honestly feels kind of weird being back in our hometown after being gone for so long. One thing you get used to on the road is not bumping into people you know everywhere you go. You can run your errands in your pjs as you rock your bed hair if you want and not have a care in the world because you most likely will not see the same face twice. Here, not so much as I quickly remembered. Note to self, at least brush your hair when going to the grocery store because you WILL see at least one person you know and they WILL stop you to catch up, especially on days when you look the worst! LOL

The best thing about being back is being in driving distance to our family! We have been taking advantage of being home and catching up with our loved ones. We finally were able to see our niece and nephew play their first year of t-ball! Watching 4-5 year olds hitting and catching soft balls is so entertaining and extremely cute! This is one thing that I have truly missed, is being there for times like these and they sure do love having us back!

But now that we are slowly getting the major to do’s marked off our list, I am hoping to have more days like today where i can sit back and take a few moments to let you know whats going on. In the next few weeks I will be writing about the rest of our trip from central California all the way to crossing into North Carolina territory again as well as our wedding coming up on June 11th! So stay tuned!

 

Hey you Guyyys!!

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In 1985 Steven Spielberg possibly came out with one of the greatest films of all time! (At least in my books) I was always thrilled to sit with a bowl of popcorn and watch ‘The Goonies’ with my sisters. As a child it put us in adventure mode, who doesn’t want to find treasure! But now as a young adult, adventure still is a fascination, and finding out that the Goondocks home was still standing, well we just had to check it out!

As we left Washington I was SO excited to get to Astoria! On the few hour drive there I could not stop saying how excited I was, and as we kept inching closer my inner child was anxious to come out!  The drive across the bridge put instant butterflies in my tummy and i was on full alert to spot the house on the hill! We drove through the busy little town and parked the truck a few blocks down the road from the house. Doing research before we came, we knew that our chance of getting up close to the home would be very slim but we walked up the road and snapped a few pictures from afar. We did end up getting up the gravel road a bit, enough to get a glimpse of the front of the home but didn’t want to disturb the owners so we headed back down before we caught anyones attention. Just the site of the home brings back childhood memories and we were lucky enough to be that close to such an iconic piece of our generation.

We decided after viewing the Goondocks that we wanted to explore around town. It seemed like such a neat little place. (I say little but in-fact it was quite large!) We ran into a local who told us about the sea lions down on the docks (below the goonies house) who have taken over part of the docks and that the town has tried multiple times to “shew” them away but have not been successful. We went down there and watched them for about a half hour, jumping on and off the docks, growling at each other if one tried to take their spot. I could see how they could be a nuisance but for us just visiting, they were pretty dang cool! The closest we have been to a sea lion, and to see them in their natural habitat and not in an aquarium was just too awesome!

We hopped on the local trolley that took us up and down through town, for $2 you can get an all day pass to hop on and off as you please! We ventured off to the Maritime Museum and The Riverwalk Inn and stood in line at the “The Bowpicker Fish & Chips (best place to eat in Astoria according to Trip Advisor) a local told us that if theres a line outside then you know its open. (Its a seasonal food truck, or should i say boat!) Best tuna we have had, and was completely worth the hour wait. After we filled our bellies we hopped back on the trolly and headed to the truck to drive down the Oregon Coast. Highway 1 is such a beautiful drive twisting and turning alongside the ocean. We even stopped and walked to a sea cave and walked along a few of the beaches which was really awesome! Oregon has so much to offer! Beautiful coastline , tons of history for movie buffs, a beef jerky outlet (of course we stocked up), and home of Tilamook cheese!

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Olympic National Park, WA

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As we crossed over the Canadian border back into US territory, we gave a sigh of relief. It was so nice to be back in the states! Canada is very beautiful especially British Columbia but we were happy to see cheaper fuel prices and miles per hour vs the kilometers that they have posted.

Our first arrangement was hoping on a small ferry to get to Port Townsend, WA where we could begin our drive on highway 101 around Olympic National Park. The ferry saved us a 3 and a half hour drive and having to drive through Seattle so it was a win win!

We drove about an hour and decided to set up at a campground in Port Angeles to fill up on water, dump our tanks and most importantly take showers before we drove down the road any further. We stayed one night which was very productive, Lucas fixed a few things on the camper and tinkered with the truck as I reorganized a few things inside the camper and meal prepped for the next few days. Its always nice to stop at a campground and get things situated.

We spent 2 and a half days driving the Olympic National Park loop visiting Hoh Rain Forest, walking among moss covered trees in the Hall of Mosses , eating a picnic lunch at Lake Crescent which is a beautiful crystal blue transparent lake, ate dinner at Slaters Diner, a awesome little retro diner in the town of Raymond and Lexi even got out and explored a little with us! IMG_2655

 

We can now add Washington to our top favorite states, everything you look at is SO green, from the grass, the evergreens, even the trunks of the trees and rocks on the ground are covered in green moss! We already have plans to travel back and visit Mount Rainer and the North Cascades National Parks.

Onto Lifes Next Adventure!

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10 Days ago our journey in Alaska came to an end. As we packed up the remaining items in the camper we were a little sad to leave such a beautiful, welcoming state. Alaska will always hold a special place in our hearts, as will all the people and friends we met who made our experience there much more memorable and fun!
For now as we say farewell to America’s largest state, we hit the road once more to explore some new territory! The next few weeks we are making our way down the west coast, slowly heading for North Carolina for our upcoming wedding in June.
A few days before we took off from Alaska we were talking to a fellow diesel enthusiast by the name of Josh Blair off of “907 Diesel” Facebook group. He was looking for a group to travel the Alcan (Alaskan Highway) with as he made his way to the lower 48. People have always said it is better to travel with a other travelers than by yourself in case something happened during the commute down. A few days went by and we never heard from him… Long story short we ended up staying at the same Walmart as he did that same night in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory! From that day on both rigs stuck together, with Josh’s Dodge Cummins being the lead rig and us following. He was pulling a good size trailer loaded down with sporting goods and photography stuff. His payload was about double ours so he was suffering a little with fuel mileage but the stops for fuel was a good break anyways.
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We put in (4) 10hr days while cruising with Josh before making it to the lower 48 plus the previous 12hr drive day before we met up at Walmart. Now folks let me tell everyone right now you’ve never met a funnier or a nicer guy than the one we were traveling with. He has his iPhone on a dash mount and takes videos while he’s cruising but pays complete attention to driving and on the road. Every stop we would ask each other questions about the other persons truck and calculate fuel mileage. He was consistently getting about 10.5-12 depending on how mountainous the terrain was and how often we hit cities with stop & go traffic. We were getting just a hair better at 13.5 to 15mpg but had a lighter load than him. Both rigs in general were some of the best trucks made and proved that with the long haul down the Alcan and other roads we had to take coming down. We hope to stay in contact with him as he is moving to Tennessee which is only one state over from us in North Carolina when we’re not on the road. Josh if your reading this blog THANKS for all the help and advise!
The new-to-us truck camper we bought before we left Alaska seemed to be having several issues while going down the Alcan. First issue we noticed is the roof started leaking up by the bed and front window area when it rained! To fix this we grabbed some “flex seal” and waterproofing duct tape from Home Depot which seemed to fix it for now.🙂 Next major issue we had was our “black water” tank (septic) apparently had developed a crack from the camper bouncing up and down. We opened the door at a rest area and saw the blue chemicals we put in to break down debris in the tank was all over the floor of the camper!!! Next chance we got we had to empty our black tank and stop using it (still haven’t fixed it yet). After that the final issue we had towards the tail-end of our drive to the lower 48 was the front window by our bed completely SHATTERED while we were driving. It must have been broken for several hours before we noticed because the entire camper front to back was soaked with ice/rain mix and there was glass EVERYWHERE. At first we tried bunji-cording a tarp over the window area which nearly flew off while driving (didn’t even make it 5 miles down the road). Second thing we tried was Cynthia’s idea and ended up working quite nicely was to barricade the front window area with our couch cushions, pillows, sleeping bags, etc (basically anything & everything we could find). That got us to Home Depot just over the Canadian border crossing thank God there was a Home Depot in Bellingham, Washington! We ran inside with just a few minutes before closing time, scouring the aisles for something that would suffice till we got back to North Carolina. We had not one but two guys running around helping us look for something that would put up to 60+mph winds. We checked out Lexan, Plexiglass, Plywood, sheets of metal but nothing was close enough in size or not sturdy enough to work. Plywood was heavy and i had no way to cut it to size. FINALLY we ran across double insulated thick plastic pieces that i could cut with a razor knife. We got some Loctite ultimate adhesive and a tube of silicon for waterproofing and laid it to it. This is still our fix and seems to be working flawlessly and in our opinion works better than the single pane window that we had in it.
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Although Canada is very beautiful, with great scenery, tons of wildlife, Northern lights and a gem of a hot spring that we found! We are glad to be back in the states were fuel is more affordable and the roads are a little bit more maintained. Our camper definitely felt the wrath of the Alcan but is doing just fine for now. We will see how it handles Washington, Oregon and California next!🙂
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Our trip to The Magic Bus from Into the Wild!

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Before arriving in Alaska May of last year, we discovered the movie “Into the Wild” based on the travels of  Christopher McCandless and his need for adventure; which landed him in Alaska and to his death on Bus 142 off Stampede Trail. Ironically before we left for our adventure to Alaska we landed jobs at Denali Tundra Tours which do Argo tours down Stampede trail about 7 miles, the same trail where he met his untimely death out in the backcountry.

Working on Stampede trail during the summer we met dozens of hikers from around the world who came to Alaska soley to make the trek out to the Magic Bus (one of the many names given to it throughout the years.) If you google how to make it out to the bus you will find that frankly there is not a lot of information out there on making a trip to the bus. No website on trail conditions or river depths and on the physical trail you will find little to no trail markers. But with time and diligence you can find coordinates, information on crossing the rivers and typical trail conditions in summer and winter seasons. Yes it takes time to do research and make a plan but its a dangerous and intense hike (40 miles round trip crossing two major rivers) so throughly planning your route is a must!

One of the most common issues from the individuals that would stop and ask about the trail was their lack of research. Most of them would pull up in rental cars or motorhomes and assumed you could drive straight to the bus, which is not the case at all. Another common misconception was that they were not aware of how dangerous the Teklanika River crossing really was in the summer time due to the glacial melt off.  From our experience this summer we decided to plan our hike to Bus 142 during the winter months since both rivers usually freeze over and it would make the crossings much safer.

Prior to making the drive to Healy this winter, we spent a few weeks planning out our hike in detail.We wanted to make sure we had all the appropriate gear necessary to make the trip safely and comfortably.

Our initial plan:

-Stay the night at the trailhead and wake up at 5am and make the 20 mile hike to the bus

-Stay one night at the bus

-Wake up early and hike the 20 miles back out

Our plan “worked” for us but if we had to do it all over again our plan would look more like this:

-Stay the night at the trailhead and wake up early to start the hike

-Hike to the Teklanika river which is halfway (10 miles) and set up camp

-Wake up early the next morning and finish the last 10 miles to the bus

-Stay the night at the bus

-Wake up at early and hike to the Teklanika and set up camp

-Wake up early and hike out to the truck

This just goes to show that even doing research, you still need to accept that things might not go as planned. For us 20 miles sounded like no biggie because we are used to hiking  but it was exhausting and we totally should have broken it down into multiple days. Carrying almost 40 pounds of winter gear weighed us down and made the hike slower than anticipated. Other issues that came up for us is that winter boots SUCK for hiking! They are not made to hike 20 miles in a day so needless to say our feet were very sore. Make sure you have good rubber on your feet. Another problem we faced was that batteries tend to not want to work in single digit temps. (Gps, steripen, flashlights, camera etc.) We fixed this by keeping the batteries to these items close to our body which worked. We also brought a solar lantern, manual compass, and other water sources that did not need batteries to sterilize water just in case. Also water freezes so you must insulate your water bottles while hiking and while you sleep (we put our water bottles in clean wool socks while hiking and at night we stuck them in our sleeping bags with us so our body heat would keep them from freezing.)

Overall trail conditions were great, both rivers were crossable (the Savage was not fully frozen but we found a safe place to cross, and the Teklanika was frozen over enough to get there and back safely.) After we crossed the Tek we were greeted by a beautiful red fox which let us observe him and he even showed off a little bit by stretching and yawning as we took pictures of him. We were both in awe of how calm he was and amazed that he did not scurry away. As the night closed in on us we finally made it to the bus, which was such an amazing sight as we both were ready to be off our feet. We cranked up a fire in the wood stove that was still in the bus and we made us some Mountain House dinners! Which after such a long hike, tasted like a gourmet dinner! The rest of the night we read through the journals on the bus of other travelers and their adventure out there and how the hike and inspiration of Christopher McCandless changed their aspect on life. We made our mark among the rest of the messages people leave on the bus walls. We are now one of the many explorers that found our way to Bus 142, although we probably all had different reasons of making the trip, we all leave with the same sense of fulfillment just as Christopher did once long ago.

 

 

Kenai Fjords National Park

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The last time we ventured to Seward, Ak to hike into Kenai Fjords National Park our plans ended up changing as we became engaged and ultimately ran out of time to go on all the hikes we wanted.One thing I’ve come to note while traveling is that plans change, but thats ok its all part of the adventure!

We finally found the time to make it back and finish our plans of hiking to Exit Glacier in the park.  The road is closed off to traffic for the winter time but thankfully we were allowed to take our snow machine past the gates and save us an 8 mile hike to the campground we were staying in. The campground was like a ghost town! But who wants to camp in winter time? I guess we are the only crazies who felt the urge to set up camp on top of 2 feet of snow!

Our original plan (this time) was to hike the Harding Icefield Trail which was about 8 miles roundtrip that would bring you about 3,500 feet above the valley with an awesome view of the glacier and the Icefield (the trail starts out about 900-1000 feet elevation). We attempted the climb but as we hiked about halfway up the trail (around 1.5-2 miles), we were abruptly halted by 4 feet of snow that swallowed you every time you took your next step and a cliff that looked to have had a small avalanche and seemed unstable to walk further along the trail. Lucas made the tough call to turn back around, so we took in the amazing views, snapped a few selfies and headed back down the trail to attempt another smaller hike that gave us some great views of the side of glacier.

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During our 3 day/2 night trip in the park we ended up hiking 4 trails total, all were very rewarding in their own ways and each came with their challenges. Although we know that the views would be completely different in the summer months, our experience of Kenai Fjords National park in the winter was amazing. We did not run into a single soul while we were camping or hiking and having the whole park to yourself was so peaceful. It was really neat to see how much the glacier has changed over the years and see how large it used to be versus where it lies now. (They have markers all through the park showing where the end of the glacier stopped through out the years.)

Kenai Fjords National Park is one park not to miss. One more marked in our National Park Passport book! Still a bunch more to go, but it will not be the last time we visit this amazing park. So…Until Next time….

 

Home for the Holidays!!

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I never once pictured myself being “that family member” who flies home for the holidays. But theres a first time for everything, right?

We have been on the road for 8 months, and we were way passed due to go home and see our family! So we bought round trip plane tickets home and headed out of Alaska for 3 weeks.

For me, it was my first time flying commercially so i was a little nervous to say the least. Thankfully Lucas has had a little experience flying and was there to hold my hand. We decide to fly “red eye” as they call it (we left at midnight Alaska time), thinking we would be able to catch some ZZZ’s but that was not the case at all!  Our first leg of the flight was from Anchorage to Seattle, WA (about a 4 hour flight or so) not a bad flight at all except for the guy that sat next to Lucas talked to him the entire flight so needless to say sleep was not an option on that flight. The second flight from Seattle to Dallas, TX was also about 3-4 hours and we were hopeful to get some sleep on this flight, except the guy that sat next to Lucas snored very loudly the entire time! So here we are about 8 hours into the trip and not one wink of sleep😦 As we sat and waited on the flight to depart from Dallas to Atlanta, GA we were dragging along like zombies! As we touched down in Atlanta we were greeted by my older sister, her husband and their three kids who were holding a handmade sign that read “Future Mr. & Mrs. Freimuth.” It was so good to see them after 8 long months of being apart!

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When we left Alaska it was a constant 20 degrees during the day with about 6-8 inches of snow! What a surprise to land in Atlanta, GA to 70 degrees and sunny weather! A complete opposite climate change, but with the warmth came a lot of rain. So much, that it ended up flooding a lot of areas in Franklin and surrounding counties (definitely not the Decembers I grew up to.)

A few days after we got settled in Max (Lucas’ brother), Nichole (Max’s girlfriend), Lucas and I all decided to go out and surprise Lucas’ parents with a nice Christmas tree! We picked out a really nice full 7 foot tall tree for Lucas’ family and a HUGE 9.5 foot tree for my older sister and her family. We decorated her tree first and had a heck of a time putting the star on top (i was on Lucas’ shoulders using a knife to cut the top off so the star would fit). We then decorated the smaller tree with Max and Nichole at his parents house and happened to put so many decorations on the tree you could barely see the green on the tree!🙂 Lucas’ parents were flying in to Atlanta on December 23rd from the Bahamas (where their boat was harbored at the time). Getting to the airport so close to Christmas was a mad house and the traffic was bumper to bumper most of the time in Atlanta. We had them fooled in thinking we didn’t get a tree yet and they were stressing about trying to find a tree this close to Christmas!

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A Christmas Eve tradition for Lucas’ family is to travel over to Waynesville and visit his fathers side of the family. You can count on great company and killer food every year like clockwork. Most all of his fathers relatives gather over there including his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. Later that evening we went to my side of the family and spent Christmas Eve with my two sisters and their children.

Christmas began with eating breakfast with Lucas’ family (his mom’s famous breakfast casserole!) After eating that awesome breakfast we began opening presents, even at 26 years old we felt like little kids again! We all opened presents slowly throughout most of the day savoring the moment and taking it all in.

The only time we left town besides going over to Wanyesville was to visit my Mom, her husband Mickey and my brother in Virginia. We spent a weekend up there visiting and doing our Christmas with them, Mom,my niece Tinley and nephew Silas even made Lucas a  birthday cake for his 26 birthday, he was totally surprised🙂

 

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December is a  pretty big month for us, with Christmas, our Anniversary, Lucas Birthday and bringing in the New Year. We had a very eventful few weeks home, and we saw a lot of family while we were there! All of our siblings, parents, our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, niece, nephews and our friends! But thats exactly what the holidays are about…. friends and family!

The three weeks we were in Franklin seemed to go by so fast! And as sad as we are to leave our family and friends once more, we are exciting to head back to Alaska and finish out our year up north!

The Proposal in Seward Ak

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On November 20th we set out to explore Seward Alaska! With it only being 2 and a half hours away (on a clear, non wintery day) we were shocked at ourselves for not venturing out sooner to check this place out.

Me, being the planner in the relationship, wrote out our weekend plans while Lucas packed the jeep accordingly. Our plans, on paper, consisted of us Jeep camping the first night once we arrived (sleeping in the jeep) then hiking to Exit Glacier Saturday morning and set up tent somewhere for the evening, and Sunday visit the highly talked about Alaska Sea Life Center. But…. Plans change!

Our two and a half hour drive there was halted by icy/snow covered roads only allowing us to drive around 35mph, turing the drive into a 4 hour drive, not too bad but once it gets dark here in Alaska the environment changes drastically. (Temperatures drop, its not just a dark dark but a pitch black dark which makes it hard to see farther than 50 ft in front of you and makes it hard to spot Moose and other critters that like to cross the roads at night time) needless to say its no fun to drive at night up here.

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We did end up laying our sleeping bags out in the back of the jeep and settled in for the night once we arrived. Luckily we have very warm sleeping bags because temperatures that night got down to about 15degrees or so but we slept like we were kings (and queens)

The next morning we arose just before the sun came up. We packed up the jeep and headed into town to get our morning go-go juice (aka coffee!). When we came out of the gas station we realized it might just be an awesome morning to see the sunrise (we hardly ever get up that early to even think about seeing it) so we drove around till we found ourselves looking at Resurrection Bay. We got out and walked along the snow covered beach and watched as the sun slowly made its way up above the mountains.

I had the brilliant idea of writing “Happy Birthday Grandpa” in the snowy beach (but it was more like carving into hard packed snow) and as it was taking longer than originally thought, Lucas had a more brilliant idea than mine…. He complained of his hands being cold and said he needed to go get warmer gloves out of the jeep. ” I will only be another minute or so.” I said as I frantically tried to carve another few letters, while I see him running in the distance to the jeep . As I finish up and snap a couple pictures for my grandpa, I hear Lucas yelling across the beach “come over here, lets take a selfie of us and the sunrise.” So I run over to him, and wait patiently as he sets the camera up on a log and runs over to me, I wrap my arms around him and hold him tightly, a few seconds later he lets go of my tight grip (more like having to push me off him) and gets down on one knee. I was in total shock and was not expecting him to have that up his sleeve. To be in a loss of words would be a understatement at that moment. All I could get out was “really?” and “YES!” I am pretty sure as I began to cry, my tears were instantly forming icicles, it was so cold but that moment was absolutely perfect in every way. I could not stop staring at the ring he put on my finger.

The rest of the day we went around town acting like the tourists we were, and our plans changed from walking on the glacier and tent camping to calling everyone to tell them the exciting news and renting a hotel room and relax the night away in the pool and hot tubs. I was totally fine with that!

We did however get to go to the Alaska Sea Life Center, which was absolutely amazing! Seals, Sea Lions, Puffins, Octopus, Salmon and they even had interaction tanks where you could reach your hand in and feel the different organisms that were in there. The aquarium far passed our expectations and we left with more knowledge about the sea life in Alaska than we could ever had hope to learn. It was really awesome to see all those animals up close and personal and just as happy as they could be.

Our weekend in Seward was amazing in every way, our only wish is that we had more time to spend there. In the near future we have plans to return to Seward and go to the Kenai Fjords National Park and hike Exit glacier, but until next time….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The anticipated drive to Homer Alaska

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Living right in-between Kenai and Homer Alaska has given us plenty to do to keep us occupied so far. Having the option to drive to either one on a given day gives us a great 40 minute drive along the side skirts of Cook’s Inlet on the Sterling Highway which gives us a great view of the Ocean.

We ventured down to Homer a few different times so far. It is absolutely beautiful! There is a hill you drive up right before you cross over into the town. As you hit the top of hill you are welcomed by a fantastic view of the Homer Spit (a 4.5 mile long piece of land that spurs out into the Kachemak Bay) with a breathtaking line of a snow covered mountain range in the background. The drive is worth that initial view alone.

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One of the things on our Alaska list of things to do was to see Beluga whales. Although they were pretty far out we did end up spotting them at the end of the Spit earlier in November. We both were in awe at how large they were even from that far away. We endured the cold and stood out there for the a couple hours and watched as the jumped out of the sea water and dove back under as though they were giving us our own private show.

Another first that we crossed off our list was to go Ice Skating! What a great thing to get out of the house and do! We both were all smiles the whole time. It was like a circus act trying to balance on the blades, but we made it work and actually were getting pretty good at it before they closed up for the day. All the younger kids were so cute, skating circles around us and pushing chairs across the floor to help with their balance while on the slippery floor.

Homer is such a wonderful town if you ever get the time to make the drive. There are plenty of things to do for a full day trip or if you have a few days to spare, you would still have no shortage of things to do to keep you busy. I have a feeling we will be spending a lot of time down in Homer this winter. IMG_4993

 

Settling in Ninilchik, Alaska

A couple weeks ago we made the transition from our travel trailer into a house for the winter time. We searched on craigslist for a cabin to rent for the winter months but were not having any luck as they were way out of our budget we had set. So, we put out an in search of post on there and within a week  found an awesome family that has allowed us to housesit there home while they travel for the winter time down to Arizona.

We have finally moved in and are making ourselves at home here in Ninilchik, Alaska, the oldest settlement on the Kenai Peninsula. Ninilchik is halfway between Homer, Ak and Soldotna, Ak which is about 35-40 minutes either way. Which is a big change from where we were in Denali (4 hours from Anchorage and 2 hours from Fairbanks) a lot closer drive for things to do and grocery shopping.

 

Its a fairly small town with about 800-900 year round people, but has tons of history and character! And our favorite part, tons of atv and snowmobile trails right in our backyard! Needless to say I think we will have plenty to keep us occupied for the winter time.

Historic Russian Orthodox Church
Historic Russian Village of Ninilchik