Ultimate Alaska Experience

How many of you have seen a moose?

I mean up close? In my lifetime I’ve only seen four moose. This summer, I had the opportunity to see three in one week in Alaska.

The first moose that greeted us was in the Alaskan airport. Hunters report harvesting over 7,000 of Alaska’s estimated 175,000 moose each year. They are over 6 ft. tall and can weigh up to 1,600 lbs. That’s like a Clydesdale with horns.  I’ll tell you later in my story how close we came to a real live moose.

My son Matt and his wife Ashley live in Anchorage, Alaska and have been there for more than two years. My husband, Steve, and I decided to visit them this summer. Since we were coming, Matt and Ashley planned a special adventure into the wilderness on the Kenai Peninsula. To get to the peninsula We drove south four hours from Anchorage to Homer.

From Homer we took a water taxi across the Katchamak Bay and saw sea otters playing. The boat dropped us off on the beach for a two-mile, three-day hiking trip into China Poot Lake. There were no roads or people to be seen.

We started backpacking on a winding trail that was hard to see because of the overgrowth. The Ranger Station had a warning sign to be aware of bears. Matt and Ashley each carried bear spray and their dog, Chili, had a bear bell.  We saw numerous signs of bear scat with fresh blueberries.

bear scat

Each time we’d see one, I would ask my son,
“Is it warm Matt?” which meant he was checking how close the bear was to us. Most of it looked pretty fresh to me.

 After two hours we reached our cabin on the lake which was so quiet and peaceful. The next day we decided to hike straight up Poot Peak literally 45 degrees which was wet and slippery. I had to pull myself up by the roots next to the trail.

We continued to see bear signs on the trail. At one point where we stopped to look at the view, Matt  suddenly jumped up and raised his hands and yelled to make himself big to alert us that there might be a bear above him on the mountain. I jumped and yelled with my hands up too and then he listened and laughed and said it was a false alarm. I decided to go down the mountain right there.

On the way back to the cabin my husband and I hiked around China Poot Lake where an eagle soared above majestic mountains. Loons were calling to warn the eagle to stay away. It was my ultimate Alaska experience.

The next day we hiked out. We saw a black bear across Halibut Cove who quickly dove into the trees. But still no moose sighting. Four days later we took my son’s dog, Chili, for a walk in park in Anchorage.  A man on the trail alerted us that there was a female moose up ahead. I had heard that female moose were more dangerous especially if they have a calf. We cautiously crept in the woods looking for the moose.  My son pointed her out just 50 feet down the hill grazing on the leaves like a cow chewing her cud. She was definitely not fazed by us and continued eating while we took her picture. It was amazing.

The rest of our trip we saw many moose crossing signs and another cow with two calves walking by the highway but the most memorable moose was the one on the park trail.

Rocky Mountains

Climb Every Mountain

Mt Sneffels
Mt. Sneffels

Picture this scene from the end of the movie “The Sound of Music” where Maria and her family are hiking over the mountains of Austria and the Nuns are singing “Climb every mountain, search high and low, follow every by way, every path you know.” This song best describes who I am and what I’ve learned in life.

Having been born in the state of Colorado where there are 52 – 14,000 ft. peaks called “Fourteeners”.  It was inevitable that I climb at least one.

The first Fouteener I climbed was called Mt. Sneffels, which means Snow Fields in French. At the foot of the mountain, is a beautiful valley called Yankee Boy Basin where my parents used to take me and my brother and sister jeeping when we were young. When I was 22, and had just graduated from college and was looking for a job, I decided to climb Mt. Sneffels with two of my friends.

We had to be at the top by noon because lightning storms would come every afternoon. So we started hiking before sunrise and hiked for four straight hours up rocks called scree that moved every time you stepped on them making it difficult and unstable. As I hiked, I compared this to the difficulty of trying to find a job during a recession. One step forward and sliding two steps back. I graduated in Graphic Design and could only find two part-time jobs to afford to live on my own. My future and climbing up Mt. Sneffels seemed to be synonymous. Finally, we made it to the top and the view was unbelievable. It was a spiritual experience that gave me strength in my faith in God and encouraged me to keep going on with my career. Within a year, I landed a job at a newspaper where I met my husband. Two years later I found myself back in Yankee Boy Basin with my husband on our honeymoon. It was the future fulfillment of that Rocky Mountain high I had experienced from the top of Mt. Sneffels.

Mt Democrat 1999
Marc, Mike, Matt, Anne, Spice and Steve

The next pivotal mountain in my life was when I turned 40 and wanted to prove that I could still climb another Fourteener. By then, I had three sons and our dog, Spice, who I brought along to climb a mountain called Mt. Democrat. My oldest son, Matt, was a teenager and just starting high school, Marc was 11 and Mike was 5. Climbing Mt. Democrat with the boys was difficult because they complained, moved at a snail’s pace and I had to encourage them at each step to keep going even though my breath and energy were depleted. Climbing with them was like an introduction to what it would be like raising teenagers. When we finally got to what we THOUGHT was the top there was a huge snow field, and we still had several hundred yards to go. It was a false summit!  Just as we slowly trudged across the snow field, another family and their dog ran past us. The boys saw the challenge and raced after them. I wondered at their energy. Where did this come from? We were at the top  in no time and the view was magnificent. You could see one mountain range after another and my hopes and dreams for their future abounded. It was a feat that I kept near my heart each time my teenagers would challenge me.

After that, I usually climbed a mountain each summer on the anniversary of my father’s death, who had many lung diseases and to climb a mountain meant to be without any air and each step was painful. One year, I asked my husband to come along with me since it was our anniversary. What better way to spend an anniversary than climbing a mountain? It was a long hike of 6 miles to Mt. Belford. Once we reached the top, you could see another Fouteener just on the other side called Mt. Oxford. My husband said, “Hey Babe, let’s climb it too.” and prodded me to keep going even though I longed to lie down and rest. So after seeing his enthusiasm, I decided to hike up one more mountain. At one point on the trail, he took my hand and pulled me up this steep rocky face looking down a sheer cliff. After resting on the top of Mt. Oxford, I reflected that this was like our marriage when he had led me through uncertain times and I had to rely on him to keep going.

“Hey Babe, let’s climb it too.”Steve & Anne on top of Mt Oxford

Having climbed 12 Fourteeners, I’ve learned many life’s lessons and know that the difficulty of walking on unstable rocks are similar to getting through tough times like finding a job, raising teenagers or working through problems in marriage. But when you reach the top there’s always a magnificent view and you get an endorphin high knowing you’ve accomplished something so difficult. My mantra in life continues to be like the Nuns’ song in the Sound of Music, to climb every mountain, every day of your life, for as long as I live.


Your Brain on Typography -Ellen Lupton

AIGA of Richmond, Virginia, presented a mind blowing lecture by Ellen Lupton that opened my eyes to thinking about design differently. I expected more information about typography since she is an expert, but I was inspired to incorporate these creative ideas into my designs.

Vision is a process

Ellen explained that vision is a process inside us that triggers our brains to do something. How we perceive words, colors and design can be manipulated through our bodies and senses and evoke an emotion or behavior. For example, most people will tilt their heads up or lean their bodies forward to look up when they hear a topless woman is on the 10th floor. Designers employ design to amaze, delight, and manipulate the eye and mind through images, words and color.

runner-in-purple-colorsAnother example of visual manipulation,  was when Ellen asked us to visualize a guy running in purple tights and asked which way was he running? Most people would see him running left to right because that is the way we  read English. Japanese who read right to left, would see him running to the left.

The most compelling visual Ellen presented was the shower scene from the black and white movie Psycho. You didn’t have to see the color red to know there was blood or that it was a murder scene with the music screeching.  Music and color also communicate to our senses.

Affordance examples

Ellen gave some practical examples of affordance.  An affordance is often taken as a relation between an object or an environment and an organism, that affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action. For example, the sound you hear when you put a file in the trash can on your desktop is an affordance. Ellen explained that the design must be with intent to control a behavior as in user experience in relation to website design. We viewed an example of affordance in design from an episode of  Orange is the New Black. One of the prisoners made a lighter using what she had available out of a battery and aluminum foil.  Simply creative.

Ellen ended her lecture with illustrated  jokes and a fun personal story about a shark girdle.  Now picture that.

Ellen is a curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in

EllenLuptonlogoNew York City and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore.


Running Life’s Race

One of the first posters I designed in college (before computers) was a spoof on Jim Short’s You-CAN-take-it-with-you-posterBook of Running. The poster was similar to the cover of the running book with the same legs in motion drawn in pen and ink with a rainbow of colors behind them simulating running in heaven. The headline read, “You CAN take ’em with you!” As if the shoes were so great that you would keep running forever. They reached new heights in comfort and took you over life’s roughest roads.

After running a 10K for the first time, I reflected about the whole idea of running life’s roughest roads. Our trainer had us build our endurance weeks before by running hills. As in life– we have hills; getting through school, getting your first job, finding a spouse, giving birth. Once we get “over-the-hill,” life kind of coasts. I think you get a second wind once you’re over 50 and life feels like coasting. No more “getting” but giving it away and leaving stuff behind.

During the race, I laughed as I read the signs along the road. “Teresa will you marry me? If YES, keep running! Another said “Run Forest. Run!” In life we see signs  that graphically tell us which direction to go like arrows that point us in the way we need to run.  They are images like a wedding announcement or pregnancy test  with a plus or minus sign or a For Sale sign in front your house.  Words and letters communicate thoughts, evoke feelings and emotions, and behavior.  Many of the signs encouraged me to keep running just to see what lay ahead,  just as when I saw “SOLD” in front of our house, it made me want to see where my life would go.

Most of the road was bumpy with cobblestones and some holes. That’s when I had to look down and make sure I didn’t trip. In training, we were told to look straight ahead and anticipate what was ahead. Sometimes in life you can anticipate a bumpy road  like when you hear about cut backs at work and know you better start looking for another job. Other times, you can’t  see the hole when you get diagnosed with cancer. That’s when you get lifted up out of the hole with God’s strength.  About mile 5, I  was weary and wanting to walk then I heard a church group singing “Our God is an awesome God” I  jumped up and gave them high fives while they cheered me on. I kept going with enthusiasm looking ahead and singing with them. This gave me a boost to keep running to mile 6.

As I looked ahead, there was a sea of people of all colors of the rainbow running for miles. Metaphorically, we’re all in this race together.  We can share the road and lift each other up as we head to the finish.  I heard about a teenage girl running the Shamrock Marathon last year with her friend  who was quoted “Let’s finish this,”  before she ran the last mile then collapsed and died at the finish line. We all finish this race but it’s how you run the journey that matters, with selfless determination, joy and faith.

Anne at the Monument 10K Finish
Anne at the Monument 10K Finish