Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy 5 Months!

The stats:

Weight: 17lb, 6 oz - 61st %ile
Length (estimated): 27inches - 81st%ile

Sleep Update: Day 2

The good news: Did not nurse to sleep, but instead a combination of ocean wave sounds, cuddling, patting, and shhh-ing

The good news: Minimum of tears, only slight frustration. (Tears and frustration from him, not me - haha.)

The good news: Rolled to tummy on his own

The good news: Slept 7 hours!!! 8pm-3am (new record!) No wakeups at all!

The bad news: Subsequently threw a party at 3am.  Would not even nurse back to sleep while laying next to me.  I put him back in his crib at about 4 to take a break from trying to get him down, and laid on the futon, listening to him talk and sing to himself quite happily.

The good news: At 4:27am I woke up to a quiet room.  He had put himself to sleep cuddling with a fleece blanket and his AF Football lovey.

The bad news: woke up again at 5:15.  But I was happy to nurse him and then get up for work.

So... mostly awesome.  I am trying really hard not to let the 3am party diminish the massive amount of good that happened last night... but it's difficult.  This list helps.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sleep Log

So, we are going through a transition time - although, really, when is it *not* a transition time for an infant? Andrew is in the thick of developing rolling over skills.  He rolls back to front almost immediately upon being put down.  He has only rolled front to back twice, but we know he can do it.

On top of the rolling, he seems to be in the process of dropping his third nap - some days he wants it, other days he doesn't.  So night sleep is affected because his day sleep is a bit inconsistent.

Add to that the fact that we are in Indian Summer right now, and it's not cooling off at night the way it had been.  We have a choice to either leave the window shut and let the room get too hot, or open the window, render the humidifier useless, and end up with stuffy noses.  The dry air makes *my* nose stuffy, so I can't imagine what it does to his little nostrils.

So yesterday was a two nap day, and he got tired early, around 6:45.  He got, like, upset tired, which is several stages beyond the place we usually like to be at bedtime.  So I immediately responded with the bedtime routine, and upon nursing, he dropped off to sleep within about 5 minutes.  I put him in his crib at about 7:10, and he was so out that he didn't even need the plug to get resettled.  After an hour or so, he got restless and called for help.  I gave him some saline for his nose, and resettled him with plug and lovey, and he went to sleep, but only for one more cycle.

So I put him down on his tummy.  I know - shock and horror.  But he went to sleep immediately, after a few pats on the back.  I had hoped that this would allow him to sleep all the way through the first shift, but Travis reported that he still woke up twice, and mommy reinforcements were called at 12:30a.  Now, that seems a little early, but think about the fact that he went to bed 45 mins-1hr early, and it's actually right on time.

Andrew came to bed with me in the futon and nursed back to sleep.  At 1:45a or so he stirred, and rolled himself over onto his tummy.  I patted his back until he drifted off.  He woke to nurse again at 3:30a (again, right on time), but had an extremely hard time resettling.  I put more saline in his nose, because he seemed congested, and then tried to nurse him back down, but he was still restless.  So I helped him roll to his tummy, and he drifted off immediately.

I think we're going to stick with the tummy sleeping, now that he can roll over, in the hopes that it helps him transition through sleep cycles more gracefully and maybe not have so many resettles that require a parent.  I have a hunch that the early wakeups were a combination of the weird two-nap schedule and just not being used to being on his tummy.  The fact that he was rolling himself over (or trying to) later in the night indicates to me that that is his preference.

So we'll see how we go.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spearhead Mountain

So, I have a lot of blogs.  I have this blog for our day-to-day comings and goings, but then there's the travel blog and the hiking blog...  I'm not quite sure if I should try to consolidate all of these in to one master blog (this one), but for now, until I decide, I'll just cross post our hike this weekend here.

Andrew had done 2 nights of camping prior to this one, but we still hadn't been successful at getting the gumption for a hike afterward.  We took advantage of the fact that it is now fall, kids are back in school, and therefore the close-in dispersed camping is much easier to come by.  We camped at an established dispersed campsite along Guanella Pass Road on the banks of Geneva Creek.

Camp next to Geneva Creek

Daddy cookin', Andrew rollin'

Andrew put himself to sleep by hanging onto the zipper pull on the tent door.

Happy camping family

It's Cold!
In the morning we proceeded to the Threemile Creek trailhead early.  It was pretty chilly, and Andrew was bundled up.  We did a long sleeved onesie as base layer, then a fleece sleeper, thick socks over that, cotton newborn mittens (need to get some fleece ones!) and his fleece hat with the earflaps.  Then we draped a fleece blanket over him once he was in the carrier.  It was his first outing in the Deuter frame backpack carrier, and he did great!  He fell asleep a couple times and fussed when he was hungry, but mostly he seemed to enjoy the scenery.  

The fall colors were in full splendor - we walked through several groves of glowing golden aspens.

Once we reached the base of Spearhead's summit cone, we determined (as expected) that the final push was a little too steep and bushwhack-y to bring the baby up.  So Travis ran up to the summit while I waited with Andrew around 10800 and ate lunch.  I was contemplating saying that the hike had been enough for me, I didn't need the summit, when Travis came back and declared "best summit register ever!!!" and told me I HAD to go.  So Andrew stayed with daddy while I made my summit push.  I was very slow, but I made it. And indeed it was worth it.

Waiting for daddy.

First of all, the summit register was in an old food jar of some kind.  The register itself was a small pocket notebook labelled "Woolworth's. 19c."  Classic!  The first page showed it had been placed in 1976.  There were very few entries (maybe 15 or so?) between then and now.  

Then, on page 3, appeared the name of Gerry Roach.  As in THE Gerry Roach - authority on all things Colorado Mountaineering, author of some of our favorite books, 12th American to summit Mt. Everest, 2nd person to complete the seven summits (highest peak on every continent), international mountaineering icon... Gerry Roach.  His summit log was dated October 8, 1983... just a few short months after he summitted Everest.  A-MAZING.  We have signed the same summit register as Gerry Roach.

It was just a beautiful day and a really fun hike.  It was "only" an 11er, but it was a challenge (I was SO sore the next day), and it was really great to stand on top of something again.


This story starts a long time ago when we found a good airfare to Anchorage.  We thought, well heck, we can find *something* to do in Alaska for a long weekend, so we went ahead and booked it.  Several weeks later, Travis was researching ideas for the trip, particularly visiting Denali, and read about 'Road Lottery Weekend'.

There is only one road cut into the vast wilderness of Denali National Park, 92.6 miles long.  Denali employs a shuttle-bus system to limit impact -- the road is dirt, after all.  So most of the time, private vehicles can only travel the first 15 miles of the road, which are paved.  To travel beyond that, you are required to buy a ticket for the shuttle bus where you take your seat along with every other tourist.  During the last weekend of the season, however, just before battening down the hatches for the winter, they hold what is called 'Road Lottery' where they open the road to 400 private vehicles each day, for four days.  In order to be one of the lucky few, you have to obtain a permit through the lottery system.

And then Travis realized that the ONE weekend per year was precisely the weekend we were scheduled to be in Alaska!  Pure luck.  Now we needed to obtain a permit.....   and this is where we took luck into our own hands and decided to make this happen.  We knew they handed out a fixed 1600 permits.  Our research showed that typically 10,000-11,000 people apply for a permit each year, such that about 1 in 7 entries gets a permit.  Further, the rules state that only one entry can be made per person (a $10 non-refundable fee is due at time of entry), but the permits are fully transferrable, only requiring a note to be transferred to someone else.  A quick calculation (accompanied by some nifty Matlab plots) showed that 6 entries would give us approximately a 70% chance of winning one permit.  While 70% is far from a sure thing, it seemed acceptable.  So we entered both of ourselves, my parents, and Travis's parents.  We were going to call it good at 6, but at the last minute, Travis decided to submit an entry for Andrew and bump our chances to 75%.  And then we sat back and waited until mid-July for the results to be posted.

Plot of  odds of winning a road lottery permit vs. number of entries submitted

On the day the results were posted, July 12, Travis quickly scanned the winners names.  He almost panicked when he could not find any of us on the list.  Then he spotted Andrew!  Of our 7 entries, the only one to win a permit was Andrew!  Crazy.  Statistics works!  In total, they received 11,024 for 2011, of which 80% come from Alaska.  So overall, we spent $70 on permit entries, and then $25 for the permit itself, bringing the total cost to $95.  Meanwhile, a few searches of Craigslist Alaska showed that these permits can go for up to $200-$300.....   can you say stat arb?  (And beyond the $10 entry fee, and the $25 permit fee, you also pay a $25 park entry fee, but given that we knew we'd be visiting Shenandoah, Yellowstone, and Denali over the course of a month, we purchased an annual Parks Pass instead.)

So on Thursday after a short-ish day of work, we headed to the airport to catch our plan to Seattle, and on to Anchorage.  As I went up to the counter to request a stroller tag, I heard one gate agent mutter to the other, "Man, we're going to need DB's!"  (DBs = Denied Boarding, aka volunteers, aka bumps).  So I sent Travis up quickly to enquire, and just as quickly, it seemed, all three of us were bumped to the following day!  Any day's a good day to get paid.

Since we are Denver-based, they did not provide a hotel room.  But we live a heckuva long way from the airport, and as it turned out, we had planned to use an award night (through Marriott Megabonus) in Anchorage that night.  It would expire at the end of September, and we would not have many other opportunities to use it.  So we canceled our night at the Fairfield Inn Anchorage, and rebooked into the Spring Hill Suites Denver Airport.  We left the car in the parking lot at the airport, and just took the shuttle to the hotel.

After a nice dinner at Village Inn (with free pie!), we returned to the hotel to turn in. As I was putting Andrew down, I realized that we only had 3 diapers left.  (We normally use cloth, but switch to disposables on travel days, so when they are gone, they are really gone.)  Since we had left the car in the Pikes Peak lot, someone needed to walk to the store... which was 2 miles away.  As Travis had some work to get done, the task fell to me, and I struck out.  It was quite a hike, but I made it to the store and back in just over an hour and a half.

On Friday, we made our way to Anchorage via Seattle, arriving at about 3:30pm.  On final approach, we saw two massive mountains out in the distance which would turn out to be 20,000+ ft Denali and 17,000+ ft Mt. Foraker to its west.  Spectacular!  Our bag (with the extra diapers) was waiting for us at the baggage office, and after a stop at the grocery store to self-cater the majority of the rest of our trip, we headed north.  The traffic out of Anchorage on a Friday evening was awful -- there may not be many people who live in Alaska, but the few that are there all seem to live in Anchorage! We had intermittent views of Denali and the surrounding peaks as we drove through the long dusk.  The fall colors were just about at their peak, and the drive was just lovely.

We arrived at the Denali Mountain Morning Hostel just after 9pm.  Our lodging for the weekend was a tiny cabin along the banks of Carlos Creek, a tributary of the Nenana River.  The cabin had a full bed with a twin top bunk and just enough additional room to turn around.  As the temperature was dropping into the 20's at night, the small electric heater made the room cozy.  It was quite charming.  The hostel had a main house, which was a larger cabin with a big full kitchen and common space.  Many of the guests were there for the road lottery as well - this was the last weekend that the hostel would be open until next spring.  One couple gave us their impressive wildlife viewing tally from the first day of the lottery.

Our cabin: High Water

The view from our cabin

Cabin interior, and boys in bunks
The next morning, we got going early, but not too early.  We went to pick up our (Andrew's) permit and we were disappointed that they didn't check his ID, which we had brought.  We hit the road just before 9am and we returned just after 9:30pm.  The wildlife tally on the day was 8 grizzly bears, 11 moose, 3 caribou, 4 things that may have been either moose or caribou (too far away to tell), 11 sheep, 1 wolf, 1 arctic ground squirrel, and 12 ptarmigans - and yes, I kept a count on the backside of our park map so that I could keep track.

Andrew with his permit
Denali: "The High One"

This is the sign where the road access becomes restricted.  We drove right by.

Andrew was dressed for the brisk weather
Line of cars stopped to look at a bear

Arctic ground squirrel

Nursing with a view of Denali

Glacial riverbed

Polychrome Mountain

Wolf.  He was lame in one leg.  He ran across the road just feet from Travis.

The end of the road at Kantishna Mine.  92.6 miles

This big bull crossed the road right behind our car

Happy Andrew with Moose behind

At the Visitor's Center

After walking down the road in front of a line of cars, this grizzly ambled off into the sunset
There was a set of three bears that began about 120 yards from the road.  As they foraged, they got closer... and closer... until they crossed the road a couple cars in front of us.  

This bull moose was following this cow around making mating calls all afternoon.  She was completely ignoring him.


Dall Sheep
The next day, we drove back into the park along the beginning of the road, hoping for some more photo ops, and visiting the front-country visitor's center.

On our way back south, we stopped at Denali Viewpoint North in Denali State Park, for some beautiful views of the peak.  This meant we had views of Denali all three days that we were around.
From "Denali Viewpoint North" in Denali State Park

Fall colors
On the return, we stopped in the town of Talkeetna, the headquarters and departure point for Denali mountaineering expeditions (most climbers get to the base of Denali on a ski-plane which lands on a glacier), where we toured the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum.  They had displays on the history of the town, the Alaska Railroad, and Climbing Denali.

On our way back to Anchorage, we stopped to meet up with Aaron, a childhood friend of Travis's, and his fiancee Melissa, who we had moved to Alaska three months ago.  (Three weeks ago, while on our trip to Ohio, Aaron's mom saw us at Grandma's funeral and told us that he was living in Alaska.  She somewhat randomly, and with a laugh, added -- 'if you're ever there, look him up!'  People really shouldn't say stuff like that to us.......)  We went out for dinner, and then had a nap at their place before catching the 12:40am red-eye back to Seattle.  It was rather surreal to have dinner in Alaska with a friend who grew up a mile down the road -- and a real treat to learn about life in Alaska from the 'locals'.  Thanks, guys -- and best of luck!

Travis's Notes:

It's pretty seldom that you hear me say something like this, but Denali Road Lottery was one of the coolest things I've done.  Denali National Park is really unlike any other in America.  It is essentially a North American safari that, oh by the way, has the highest point on the continent in the background!  Now I'm sure that Denali is cool even if you see it from the shuttle buses, but there seems to be something special about driving your own car, setting your own schedule....  it's a park that inspires freedom and adventure, and I just have trouble getting that feeling from a tour bus.

Oddly enough, Denali reminded me most of the national park that we visited in Chile -- the one that we're still not quite sure what it was!  The taiga / tundra landscape just goes for miles, with a narrow ribbon of dirt road snaking off into the horizon.  Nowhere in the Lower 48 has the same feeling of vastness, of untrammeled ground.  It's truly amazing.   Of course, in Chile we were virtually the only one's there, and here we had 399 other cars on the road, but the scenery, vastness, vegetation, and mountains were similar.

While we really don't like to refer to any trip as 'once in a lifetime', we really thought that the challenges of a.) being in Alaska, b.) being in Alaska on the precise weekend of road lottery, and c.) obtaining a permit might just render this a 'one-of' type of trip.  Of course, we hadn't even exited the park yet when we were already planning our return so that Andrew can experience it (and remember it) too!

A few tips for future reference:
1.  I had read that you should take a pair of binoculars for each adult.  We debated just taking our own, but borrowed Terry's at the last minute, and are glad we did.  Thanks!
2.  92.6 miles is a long way..... and it's just as far out as it is in!  The speedlimit is 35 mph, but if you drive that fast, you'll either shake your car apart or miss the best sites.  Bottom line:  plan to be there all day.
3.  Don't take view of Denali for granted.  Denali is hidden in clouds 70% of the time in summer and 60% in the fall.  (I'm not really sure how those stats are calculated -- it's sort of like what does 50% chance of rain mean?)  Anyway, we got lucky and saw partial or full views on each of our three days.  But the first day, we didn't realize how rare the unobstructed views were and didn't take many pictures.  Bottom line:  If you've got a view, take a picture....  it might be gone in 5 minutes.
4.  Stay near the park for Road Lottery.  The hostel was 13 miles away, which was fine.  But considering that you've got 184 miles of driving in the park, alone, you don't want to drive very far to get there.
5.  Take food and water -- that should be obvious.  There isn't much (read: anything) out there.  Better yet, stock up in Anchorage.
6.  Don't ask someone who's primary camera is an I-pad to take your picture, especially if you have a DSLR camera.....  they have no concept of a what a viewfinder is, and will almost surely cut-off your head or your feet -- or the bottom of the sign that says 'end of the road, 92.6 miles'.
7.  400 cars really isn't that many over the course of a 92.6 mile road. The eager beavers pick up their permits at 6AM and others (those with kiddos) start at 9AM.  That disperses the crowd.  We didn't really feel like we were part of a caravan, at least most of the time.  And given that you are scanning literally 10's of square miles for wildlife, having the extra cars (and eyeballs!) really makes it easier.  Usually about 10-20 cars would stop for most wildlife viewings, and it tends to be the same people so you build a little camaraderie along the way