It is 10:30pm and Liam and I are sitting in the Anchorage, AK airport waiting 3 hours for the first leg of our long journey home. This trip really has proven how our "Big Year" is more about the journey than the destination so to speak. We knew money would be tight but didn't expect to push it to $2.30 left! Am I crazy for bringing my 10 year old son to Alaska without plenty of money? Probably, but if we waited until we had plenty of money we would never go anywhere. I am good at getting us into tight spots far from home with little cash! When we went to Arizona earlier this year we had $7 left on our last day. When we stopped for a few minutes at the preserve in Patagonia they told us since we were only there briefly we didn't have to pay our $5 entrance fee. I paid anyway since it helps everything we love. $2 left. Luckily I made some calls and closed a sale and had plenty of cash to make it back to the airport. I was hoping to close another deal on this trip and stay a few more days to squeeze in a trip to Kodiak, AK but no luck this time and we are getting out by the skin of our teeth.
If I knew it would have been this tight I would have come anyway. Maybe I would have tried to be more frugal the first day though!
The trip was amazing mostly due to the people we met and even the ones we didn't meet but just spoke to on the phone. We have asked for any assistance in finding birds that anyone may have to offer and Alaska came through with the most generous birders we have met yet! Gary Lyon an amazing artist from Homer contacted us and gave us all kinds of great info and contacts. And when we got to Homer, AK he even took us out on his boat for a few hours! He also posted on the local birding forum that we would be here and another local called us 2 days in a row with tips on Northern Hawk Owl and Trumpeter Swan which both paid off. Thanks again, Katie! When I called up Dave (I won't butcher his last name here) who has the highest list count for Alaska, he talked to me as if I were a friend of his and couldn't have been more helpful. It doesn't end there! The jewel of Homer, AK, the "Alaska Islands & Oceans Visitor Center was closed both days we were in Homer. It was open today but when we got there at 10am on our way out of town we found it didn't open until noon. We were bummed and didn't think we could wait that long. As we were walking away through the parking lot a gentleman working outside chatted to us and when he heard we were from the Midwest and had to return he made us go back in with him so he could see if someone from USFWS would give us a tour! There was an extremely kind individual who would. Her name was Carla Stanley. She gave us a fabulous tour even though she was very busy with work. Amazingly, it turned out she was a birder who was also the artist for the May birding festival! And to top it off we met the festival coordinator by chance as well, Christina Whiting who was super friendly also. Everyone we met treated us like long time friends and neighbors! This kind of experience for Liam and I is the real reward for doing a "Big Year"! We can not stress enough how great a time you would have at the 2012 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival if you can make it.
Please take some time to check out our new friends in Homer, AK