Anchorage: Best Eateries and Parks

Travel in Alaska, in our opinion, should ALWAYS include the Interior. The scenery is breathtaking and the grandeur almost impossible to comprehend. Should you find yourself passing through Anchorage during your trip, we’d offer these as our top picks for places to eat and relax.



Breakfast: Snow City Cafe downtown. We love the food, the vibe, the fun of this local Anchorage breakfast/brunch/lunch hangout. And French toast to die for . . .

Sandwiches: Middle Way Cafe. Another great local, fresh and fun place to gather with friends. Vegetarian and health-conscious friendly.

Pizza: Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. Local pizza legend was made here, with pies that are simply the best. No really, the best. One of the top rated pizzeria’s in the country!

Fast Food: The Arctic Roadrunner Local Burgerman. Another legend in Anchorage, this one since way back in ’64. Burgers, fries, the works . . .

Dinner: Glacier Brewhouse. A very favorite of ours – super popular, delicious Alaska dining!




Hiking: Flattop Mountain. This is the most climbed peak in Alaska. An overlook at the trailhead offers a great view of Anchorage and the surrounding scenery.

Open Spaces/Fields: Kincaid Park. Located in west Anchorage, this park is a great place to take a picnic and ball or frisbee. Enjoy the incredible views: Denali, the Alaska Range, Cook Inlet, Fire Island and jets landing at the airport.

Most Interesting View: Point Woronzof Park. Great place to watch the sunset, view wildlife, and have a 747 take off just above your head!

Enjoy Anchorage!

Weekend 6/17


Fireweed covers much of Alaska’s subalpine region in the summer. When we lived in Glennallen, we enjoyed its culinary uses that include fireweed jelly, honey and syrup. Most importantly, we learned that the passing of time unfolds with fireweed: when the top of the summer flowers on the 3-5 foot stalks bloom and begin to die, fall is on its way. While in summer fireweed flaunts a stunning display of purple that covers the roadside, in autumn the green leaves and stems turn into a blazing fusion of red and gold, a brilliant finale before the starkness of winter. A little Friday Alaska trivia . . .


Wishing you a brilliant, beautiful weekend!

~Steven and Natalie

John Muir’s Alaska

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

Travels in Alaska by John Muir, 1915


River view from the Copper River Valley (6/14/2016)

An amazing, untouched display of God’s creation . . .

~Steven and Natalie






It’s 20 below and there’s a goat in the back of our SUV.

And it’s snowing.

And we’ve pulled over on a snowbanked shoulder of another sparsely-traveled road in rural Alaska.

Did I mention the goat? In the back of our SUV?

There’s a saying in Alaska that there are two kinds of drivers: 1) the one who’s in the ditch and 2) the one who’s going to be in the ditch. We are helping the former. The culprits of this mishap continue to stand in the middle of the road, casually licking salt from the pavement – two moose. They were rather busy at the moment that the car came around the curve and had no intention of moving. Hence, a driver finds himself in the ditch and we are trying to help dig him out. We, meaning my husband. I’m still in the the SUV with the kids. And the goat.

Why you might ask is there a goat in our SUV? Simple – because we are driving 145 miles to drop her off at a farm in the hopes that she will one day give us goat’s milk. Yes, these are the things we do in rural Alaska because it’s winter, and it’s entertainment. You’ve heard of cabin fever, right?

Looking back at this day in 2007, I remember feeling frustrated with our morning. We’d gotten the goat into a kennel and put her in the back of our SUV; we’d wrangled our young children into the car with snacks and books and CD’s and Dramamine for the 4-hour drive; we’d loaded ourselves along with the required emergency bag of blankets, snow gear, a shovel, fix-the-car things. I was tired before we started.

Sometimes I feel like I’m only able to do what must be done for that one day, ticking off an endless to-do list, certain that I’m really not making a difference. I want to move mountains! But I feel stymied, just like I did that day on the snowbanked road. I want to move forward to the next thing, fulfill my purpose, catch a vision, but I find myself stuck.

Stuck– to remain in a static position; fail to progress

Here’s the thing: God is right there in the midst of our stuck places; our little kids, long drives, tiresome job, to-do list covered stuck places. In fact, it is often in our most persistent stuck places that He shows up to lead us on to the next thing. The stuck place is a place for listening and learning and leaning. Don’t waste it! Recognize it.




Being stuck requires us to use sensitive ears and inquisitive eyes, perceiving how He might lead if we listen well and are willing to follow. Unsticking is one of His specialties and I believe He takes pleasure in leading us out of our mundane confinement, to a vision that we cannot conceive in and of ourselves.

So we listen and watch. Following His lead, we dip into the pools of faith, then float the rivers of possibility, finally sailing the oceans of God-offered opportunity. He is pleased when we commit to following however and wherever He takes us. He loves to unstick us.

Feeling stuck? Be still. Observe. Contemplate. Take note. Then allow Him to dig you out of that snowbank, tow you back onto the road, propel you forward in new vision and purpose.

Even if there is a goat in your SUV.









It was a normal Wednesday night at our north-Anchorage Costco.

As I rolled my cart through massive shelves stacked with kayaks and multivitamins, I made a remarkable discovery. As I listened, I heard what seemed like every tribe, every language and every nation of the world represented right there in Costco.

The world had arrived!

Native Alaskan







Middle Eastern

Eastern European

Who else?


Our town is the second most diverse city in the US, boasting 3 of the top 5 most diverse high schools and 19 of the 20 most diverse middle schools in America.

By the way, I had started my day with breakfast at The International House of Pancakes, where I’d eaten with a new friend from Switzerland and our waitress sure had a strong British accent…





There is something deep within us that wants to be brave.

It was bravery, mixed with a lot of faith and a little naivete that brought us to rural Alaska 11 years ago, wide-eyed as we pulled up with our two very young children in front of our new home: a 1970’s trailer in our new rural one-moose hometown; bravery when I watched our couch being passed through a window because that trailer’s door was not quite wide enough; bravery that made us stay when told that this jacked-up trailer might just roll off its concrete blocks if we had a good shake from a new-to-us typical earthquake. Something deep within us was brave.

What is it that seems to die in us little by little as we age, making us retreat into our comfortable, controlled existence, dipping only the tips of our toes in the waters of trust instead of jumping full into the deep pools of faith: faith that God is big enough, trustworthy enough, and has enough resources to carry us on the journey He’s planned from our comfortable existence to audacious vitality?


Christ calls us to be brave in following Him into the unknown, to follow without looking back and often without seeing forward; to step in a toe, then a foot, and then to dive, all in without hesitation. He calls us to be brave as He was, to do hard things as He did, and in doing so to grow closer to Him in genuine trust and worship.

Following without question, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, taking each step on this journey of faith . . .

Being brave.


Our Story – Part 2



Part 2 – from Steven

Twelve years later, I question if I still have the faith we had back at the very beginning. Possibly with a little more youth on our side, back then we were a little more willing to lay it all on the line.

Could it be that we were willing to trust God more . . . then?

I had been in the business world up to this point. Over ten years in sales and management working my way along, making advancements when I could, and when the day came for me to walk away and enter full-time ministry – I did. Now that I look back, I still question how we did it. Life still moved forward even though we were in the process of dramatic change.  I guess this is where we learned the concept of trust.

So one step at a time we trusted God to provide for our every need and steer us to the direction he led.

Lead he did, all the way to the Far North. For this couple born and raised in the Deep South, the process of raising a family in the vast expanse of Alaska has been quite an adventure. From collapsed septic systems, to – 45 F, to unexpected health challenges, it has been a journey . . .

A 12-year journey that God has directed every step of the way . . .

A 12-year journey that I have gotten to take with the girl I’ve loved since 10th grade . . .



Making Your Alaska Road Trip Fabulous: Top 10 things to take along


Are you planning a road trip to Alaska? We’ve put together some hints, learned after our years of traveling the state. We hope it helps you to have a great trip! As always, if you have questions, use the comment section or our contact form.

  1. Passport: If you are driving to AK, you’ll need your passport in order to cross the border from the US into Canada and then again into Alaska. Don’t forget it – being detained at the border is NOT a relaxing way to start your trip!
  1. Extra Spending Money: Prices in Alaska can be from 25% – 35% higher than the Lower 48 depending on where you are and the time of year. Be prepared to spend a little extra on necessities like gas and food.
  1. Water and Snacks: Driving throughout much of Alaska will remind you there are still undeveloped, untouched places in the US. If you are traveling before Memorial Day, all of those towns you see on your map may or may not have stops that are open for business. So gas up at every opportunity and be sure to have enough provisions in case you find yourself hungry, thirsty and running low on petrol.
  1. Spare Tire: Again, much of Alaska is open road and the nearest garage could be many, many miles away. Bring a spare along and the tools and know-how needed to complete the job.
  1. Layers of Clothing: What will the weather be like in Alaska during your summer trip? Easy answer: from 20F-85F. Your best bet for dressing no matter what the activity, is layers. Then you can take off and put back on, keeping comfortable no matter which way the weather turns. Note: It is almost always cold on the water, so if you plan on a sightseeing day cruise, dress for it! Fleeces, jackets, rain gear, and hats are a must to have on hand.
  1. Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer, Wipes: Most Alaska sightseeing stops will have facilities, a large majority of the outhouse variety. In many parts of Alaska, there will be a substantial distance between these stops. Best to be prepared for emergency stops – enough said!
  1. Bear Spray: If your plans include hiking or camping and you will not be carrying a firearm, bear spray will offer some peace of mind should you startle one of our large resident furry friends. Make noise whenever you are in secluded, wooded areas and know what to do should you encounter a bear.
  1. The Milepost: This magazine will take you mile by mile through Alaska using the road system – a must for road trippers. It offers information on every stop: small towns, campgrounds, eating establishments, fill-ups, parks, overlooks – literally everything you need to know. A new Milepost is published each year and even we residents try to keep a semi-updated copy for our own explorations through the state.
  1. Bug Spray: Yes, the rumors you’ve heard are true: Alaska mosquitoes swarm by the millions each summer and are pretty doggone angry after being dormant all winter. If you plan to hike or camp it is especially important to prepare for the buggy onslaught. Buy deet and use it, or you may miss out on some of the state’s most beautiful places in your swatting/scratching misery.
  1. Camera: Why are you on this road trip? To come face to face with Alaska, of course! We have lived here 11 years and still take hundreds of pictures every year. Words cannot adequately describe the wonders you will see that are only discovered in Alaska. The wildlife and scenery will without question take your breath away. Don’t miss a minute of it: SIM cards and camera batteries will have you ready to aim and shoot – everyone is a photographer in Alaska!

Happy Travels!!!


Chopstick Refresh

You never know what might happen in a day. God has often rejuvenated me when I didn’t even realize how much I needed it. Such was the case on this particular July day in rural Alaska, back in 2010. Our family had been caring for and feeding volunteer teams since the beginning of June, and simply put: we were giving out.

Enter Chinese Christian Church. The group, composed of two leaders and quite a few teens, were all working in the evenings at the Wrangell Mountain Bible Conference. They invited us to join them in their volunteer cabin for an authentic Chinese lunch . . .

Arriving at the Blue Mountain cabin around noon, we crowded into the small kitchen/eating area, greeted by the most incredible smells. Helen was manning the stove, all four gas burners on high. “Come over here, Natalie. I’m going to teach you how to make chicken soup noodles.”  I eagerly wound my way through the teens to stand beside Helen as she began to unpack the essential ingredients: giant dried mushrooms, crisp Chinese cabbage, authentic Chinese ramen noodles.

“It’s not Chinese cooking if you don’t use your chopsticks,” she said as she expertly demonstrated the technique for stirring the cooking noodles with large wooden chopsticks. She asked one of the girls to pour tea into the 12 small Chinese cups that matched the Chinese bowls she said they brought as a gift for us. The tea was jasmine green, loose leaves, water poured over. And then we sat down to eat. We feasted on delicious chicken soup noodles, tried several new condiments and fruits, and drank the fragrant tea.

During lunch the teens gave us lessons in Chinese culture. We sang songs, talked about the Bible conference and laughed . . . a lot! Words cannot adequately describe how it felt to be so cared for and included. And what a joy to see our newly-adopted son enjoying his birth culture, as his brother and sister participated right along with him.




God sent us the renewal we needed without us even needing to ask.

This time with our friends reminds me that one day, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  We will all be there together – what a diverse, breathtaking, joyous day that will be for believers!

As the group walked us out, Helen proclaimed, “Next I’m going to teach you how to make stir fry!”

And she did.


We all have gifts. What gifts might you offer in service to others? Comments are welcomed!


Our Story – Part 1


It may not seem important, but God can use anyone’s story . . . this is ours.


Part 1 – from Natalie

Steven always begins our “How We Were Called to the Mission Field” talk with this: “We were the people in the back row at the mission conference.” And though I would never publicly argue with him, I always have a skeptical look on my face when he says that. Really, Steven? I actually don’t remember us even going to a mission conference, much less staying long enough to receive a call.

Steven and I were high school sweethearts – no, really we were 3rd grade schoolmates who had a little “beef” with each other. In our elementary school cafeteria on a certain momentous day in our 3rd grade lives, some lucky student had a bull sticker on the bottom of his or her lunch tray. That favored scholar would earn the prestigious prize of a genuine plastic blow-up Buddy Bull.

That person was not me. However, when I realized that my much admired classmate Steven Hall had in fact won it, I promptly marched up to him and demanded the coveted-of-all-third-graders bull. He turned me down flat – hoof, horn and saddle. And since this little jilted cafeteria scene practically mandated it, he married me 14 years later.




The bull was nowhere to be found.

We settled into the routine life of newlyweds. He played golf. I shopped and had lunch with my friends. We went to supper club on Saturday night and church every Sunday morning. We helped out with the junior high youth group and I joined a Circle (Presbyterian for women’s monthly Bible study).  We hosted parties; we attended parties. And then our friends began to settle down and start families. So we decided it was our turn.

We had two children, a girl and a boy, 22 months apart and life was good.

And then we hit the wall. A wall built of stones so immovable, that all of our parenting preparedness, every book we’d read on childcare and every pediatric expert we consulted left us with paralyzing doubt and uncertainty.

God had our attention now.

While we faced what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles that included doctors and therapists and long nights and no sleep and tears and hours of whimpering why, there were no real answers – only more doctors and supplementary insurance and an ocean of weeping and experimental therapies and possible diets.

And then we were at the end of ourselves.

It’s funny how when everything looks hopeless from our very limited vantage point, we just then begin to slowly take a step back and try to gain our bearings in a different context. God can and does that for His glory, to get our attention, to change our perspective, to REFOCUS our lives.

When we come to the end of ourselves, we may well discover the very starting point of all that He is . . .


(To be continued – Pt. 2 from Steven)