A few months ago when I thought about how me might spend our first anniversary, I figured we would maybe go out to a nice dinner to celebrate, perhaps even escape to a bed and breakfast in the mountains for a weekend. Never did I think that we would get to celebrate in the biggest way possible, out in the great big estate of Alaska. Turns out, that was the absolute perfect way to celebrate the big day.
We considered beginning our anniversary with a 15 mile hike, but instead decided to indulge in sleeping in, since there are only so many more mornings we can enjoy this simple pleasure. So after a relaxed morning and a hearty breakfast, we set off towards the Chena Hot Springs about an hour outside of Fairbanks.
The drive was gorgeous, winding through valleys surrounded by spruce-filled mountains and meandering rivers. As cell phone reception diminished within the first few miles, we were able to just focus on each other and this beautiful land we were exploring.
Finally we reached the end of the road – the hot springs.
The entire resort was lovely. Secluded, but bustling with uniquely Alaskan activities – flight-seeing, dog-sled tours, ice museum, and Aurora watching, just to name a few. Beautiful flowers peeked out from every imaginable container.
I had never been to a hot springs before and it was quite a treat. Having just flown in from 90 degree heat a few days before, I was chilled to the bone by the cool Alaskan air with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. So climbing in the steaming water felt like a bear hug, warming me from the inside out. There’s something surreal and so relaxing about sitting in a warm natural pool with a cold mountain breeze blowing around you.
Since the average temperature of the springs is a little over 100 degrees, I spent most of the time lounging on a chilled rock with my feet submerged in the hot springs so as not to overheat our little one. Still so very enjoyable.
After a long, hard day spent relaxing at the hot springs, it was time to feed our appetites. Originally we had planned to head back to Fairbanks for dinner. I’d brought a nice dress for the occasion, we’d picked out a recommended restaurant. But in typical Andrew and Courtney fashion, our plans changed at the last minute and we decided to dine at Chena – no fancy clothes, no fancy plans, we didn’t even have our wedding rings! But it was delightful and perfectly our style.
Besides, you can’t go wrong with fresh made creamy smoked salmon pasta.
After dinner we toured the world renowned ice museum.
Where I warmed up by the fire place.
And used the icy outhouse.
And for a mere $600 we could stay a night in this cold Christmas-themed room.
We decided to pass.
Having our fill of the hot springs and cold ice, we headed back to Fairbanks. The sunset drive was indescribably gorgeous. One of the magical things about Alaska is that the brilliant twilight sunset time, that breathtaking light that most of us barely manage to catch a glimpse of on our drive home from work, lasts for hours up here. It creates the most stunning colors cast across the sky and landscape, giving the appearance of a watercolor painting.
But our anniversary wasn’t over yet! Because back at the hotel it was time to dig into the dessert that had traveled over 4,000 miles for this special day – the top to our wedding cake.
Yes, despite Andrew’s protestatations, I somehow managed to get that frozen chunk of sugary goodness past airport security and lugged it all the way across the country to enjoy this first anniversary tradition.
Being the kind husband that he is, Andrew waited to tell me that the cake had become a little dry. And of course, nothing goes better with wedding cake than a nice mug of beer.
Cheers to the most wonderful Alaskan anniversary and many more adventurous years to come!