Halloween Weekend 2015 & The Palmer Reindeer Farm

Considering Thanksgiving has already come and gone, it’s probably time I get the Halloween recap done, eh? We had a few errands we wanted to run in the “big city”, so we decided to spend Halloween weekend in Anchorage this year. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s about four hours of drive time to get up there from Homer. We headed up on Friday afternoon amid a beautiful snowfall. While we’ve had an occasional snowfall here or there, this was the first real accumulation of the season. By the time we were getting closer to Soldotna, it was quite pretty to see everything covered in a fresh coat of white. As we passed through Cooper Landing, we spotted six bald eagles and a couple of vultures within a short span. Needless to say, we’re still loving the frequent wildlife sightings up here. It was also neat to see the early winter mountains. It was like looking at black and white photographs; almost surreal.

We arrived in Anchorage around 5:30pm, and ran our first errand – picking up our double stroller. After scoping out the options, I had decided on purchasing our stroller from a “local”small business called Alaska Baby Rentals. Somehow Anchorage still feels local to Homer. Perhaps since we’re a bit isolated up here; despite the massive size of Alaska, anything within the state feels local. In addition to selling equipment (at a discount for Alaska residents!) they also rent out a ton of kid gear for visitors. They have everything from the standard options of car seats, pack n’ plays, and strollers, to more adventurous gear like hiking child carriers, etc. If you’re ever planning a trip to Alaska with a little one in tow, definitely check them out. (Considering we only have a few posts up so far, and about as many visitors it’s probably obvious, but worth saying nonetheless: we’re not being perked to say that.)

After grabbing a bite to eat, we headed to the hotel to settle in for the night.  Of course, we soon discovered that while I had packed up her travel bed to bring along, somehow it hadn’t made its way to the vehicle. Womp womp. Looks like we’d be no-sleeping…I mean co-sleeping for the weekend. 😉 (While co-sleeping used to be much easier when Little B was younger, none of us seem to get any sleep now that she’s a toddler.) After 18 months and several trips with Little B under our belts, we are still very much adjusting to traveling with a small child. Papa B & I are generally pretty low-maintenance, light packers. Pre-baby, we frequently shared one carry-on sized piece of luggage for a trip. Adding a child to the mix means there’s no such thing as traveling lightly. Now we’re filling up a large suitcase for a short weekend adventure and still somehow forgetting something every. single. time. Ha!

On Saturday morning, we were up and on the road to Palmer by 8:30am to check out the final weekend of the Fall Festival at the Reindeer Farm.  This farm was featured on an episode of Dirty Jobs back in the day. The one perk of none of us sleeping well was that it was easy to get up and at ‘em. 😀 It was another pretty drive watching the sun rise over the winter wonderland. We ran a couple of errands on our way up, and arrived shortly after 10am. With the sun new in the sky, it was cold. One forgets how chilly 26 degrees feels when you’re used to 40’s. I had packed plenty of layers for Little B so she was toasty warm, but Papa B and I could have used an extra layer or two (like gloves for Papa B). It was a vivid reminder of why Homer has earned the nickname of the “banana belt” of the Kenai Peninsula.

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Other than the cold, the festival was fun. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the number of activities available, including pony rides, wagon rides, a hay bale maze, face painting, a picture booth for family photos, etc. Although Little B was a bit small for things like the pony rides, she loved the opportunity to see reindeer, elk, & bison up close, as well as hold a bunny and play in the huge grain “sandbox” they had set up for the kids.

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After checking out the main area festivities, we waited our turn to ride the tractor-pulled wagon out to the hay maze portion of the farm. Upon arrival at our destination, Little B quickly spotted the reindeer “ride”. It was a four wheeler pulling a train of “reindeer” made from plastic drums attached to moving dollies…simple design, we may have to build something similar to pull behind The Beast.

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She wanted to ride, but Papa B and I were both confident she would change her mind as soon as she sat down. Sure enough, she wasn’t too happy after Papa B set her in her reindeer cart. Soon Papa B had squeezed himself into the ride and Little B was contentedly sitting on his lap waiting for the ride to start.

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After a few times around the circle, her time was up. This time, she was decidedly not happy about having to get out. Little turkey!

Since the cold temperatures and lack of sleep were making us all feel a bit cranky, we made our way back to the truck, checking out the animals again on our way out.

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We spent Saturday afternoon doing our stock up run at Sam’s Club. Since we’re not sure if we’ll be back up before Baby B joins us in a few months, we made a point to really stock up on things we go through regularly. Temperatures were supposed to drop below freezing again that night, so we hastily tried our best to pack the produce and perishables into coolers to prevent damaging things that couldn’t handle the freezing temps. We also did a few quick internet searches as to whether or not it would ruin our honey, maple syrup, etc if it froze. Bulk grocery trips take a bit more planning these days. We also actually remembered to use our Fuel Saver Rewards we’ve been accumulating at Safeway down in Homer. We don’t have any gas stations that accept the reward points near us, so we were thrilled to finally cash in the 50 cents off per gallon we’d accumulated. I think we saved $12.50 off of the cost of our fill up; woot! It was also the first time we’d purchased sub-$1 gasoline in a long time.

That evening, I had booked us a room at the Alyeska Resort. Since the summer tourists are long gone, and ski season has yet to hit full swing, the rates were reasonable and it put us 30 minutes closer to home on Sunday morning. The hotel was nice (a bit fancier than we are used to), and we would definitely consider staying there again on future trips. I hadn’t realized when I booked the room, though, that Alyeska does a Halloween concert every year, where people ride the train down from Anchorage in costume and spend the night partying. Of course, we were put in a room right off the elevator. It was like our college days of working as RA’s in the dorms all over again, listening to the drunks drag themselves to their rooms in the wee morning hours. I think Papa B and I are both completely comfortable admitting we’re are too old for that stuff these days. 🙂 Little B also had a rough night. She was coming down with a cold, and woke up every 45 minutes to an hour all night long.

In the morning, we headed down to the salt water pool. It was Little B’s first experience in a swimming pool, and weren’t sure it would go over well since bath time isn’t always her favorite activity. Although she was a bit unsure at first, she ended up loving it. By the end, she was splashing around and feeling much more comfortable. We definitely need to add the local pool to our list of activities this winter.

Despite the lack of quality sleep, it was a fun (albeit busy) weekend. Even though it’s a long haul up to Anchorage, the views for much of the drive make it a treat. It’s been fun watching the seasons change in this beautiful place. Here’s one last picture Papa B took during a quick stop in Cooper Landing on our drive home. As far as Cooper Landing scenery goes this is about as dull as it gets, but it’s where we were able to pull off the road for a few moments:

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