Exploring Alaska: The Arboretum & the Catholic Shrine

Before I dive into my Alaskan explorations, let me first apologise for the confusion surrounding a post I accidentally published this afternoon. The post on travelling to Jamaica was in the early stage of development and nowhere near ready for publishing. For those of you who asked about it, yes, I will still publish it later on. And thank you for all the likes and comments on a post that wasn’t even done, haha—including this Twitter convo regarding it!

That said, let me now continue with my Alaskan adventures following our ocean kayaking at Kayaker’s Beach.

By the time Tristan and I had racked the kayak and started our trek back through the woods, hunger was starting to creep in. Still, we wanted to make two stops before heading back to town. The first was an arboretum we had passed (flowers in Alaska???) and the second was a shrine for a Catholic saint.

Jensen-Olson Arboretum

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As many of you know, I am terrible at growing flowers. I can kill even an air plant. My talents at taking care of living things are best reserved for animals. Plants do not fare well with me. However, Tristan knew his mother would love to see pictures of the flowers, and I knew my readers whose green thumbs put my brown ones to shame would enjoy them, too. Here is some of what we saw at the arboretum.

Naturally, these represent the very best of the flowers we came across, but there were many that weren’t holding up so well. Tristan and I suspect that aside from Alaska’s climate, the arboretum’s proximity to the ocean may play some part in the death of some of the flowers.

Once we had our fill of flowers, we signed the guest book, left a small donation and then went back out to the Jeep. There was a trail close to the parking lot, but we were way too hungry and tired to add that to our already packed itinerary. I bet it was beautiful up there though!

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Saint Therese Shrine

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Neither Tristan nor myself is religious. However, we did both attend Catholic school, and for this and other reasons, visiting a Catholic shrine made the list. There was an aesthetic pull, as well, as Tristan had been told the chapel itself was beautiful. And so, we started the short trail to the chapel. As with most things in Alaska, the ocean was never too far away.

Saint Therese

As we approached the chapel, we came across these cards explaing who Therese was and why she was canonised as a saint.

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The Chapel

The chapel was not far away from these. Whatever our religious views, there was no denying its beauty. Some people ventured inside, but we did not. I’m not a fan of churches and Tristan at the time didn’t realise entry was permitted.

Artwork and Abortions

Beyond the church were paths leading to religious artwork.

Along the way we passed a shrine to the “Victims of Abortion”. There were so many other (and better!) ways that could have been phrased. As it is, it sounds self-righteous. Why not a shrine to those lives lost to abortions—or something like that?

19 Saint Therese Shrine Alaska Victims of AbortionAs a result, my first thought upon seeing it was, “Where is the neighbouring shrine to the victims of pedophilia at the hands of priests?”

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

The Best of Nature

Beyond the self-righteous shrine was at least some beauty: the ocean. It reminded me of a church in my childhood in Hanover, Jamaica. It was by the sea, and often I would escape the boredom of the sermon to walk to the beach and watch the waves crash against the shore.

On the way back from the ocean view, I came across a rather interesting tree. Trees often give great lessons in perseverance, when you see them growing on rock and loose soil. This one fascinated me because you could see where it had been chopped down once, before growing along the ground and then extending upwards again. It was massive!

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Gift Hunting

As my grandmother is Catholic, I decided that her gift was best bought here. We went looking for the gift shop and were surprised to find no one inside. The church essentially trusted you to take the item and pay the correct price. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all humankind could truly be trusted in such a way? What a better life we all would live!

Naturally, this portion of our trip doesn’t rank very high in points for adventure, but it was beautiful, nonetheless. I hope you enjoyed this as much as we did.

PS:—Am I the only one annoyed or offended by the abortion shrine? In 2018, is it really still necessary to shame people for their personal decisions? I have never met a mother who terminated her pregnancy without grief. It was a decision that was difficult and made with the best interest of both herself and the baby in mind. I resent the sentiment that these women should be shamed. I really do.

Cost breakdown for this trip:

  • Round trip from Atlanta to Alaska: $711.61
  • Round trip from Las Vegas to Alaska: $579.80 (Tristan paid for his flight)
  • Airbnb Booking: $317.99
  • Turo Car Rental: ~$347.35 (Tristan paid for the car rental)

Thus, the entire trip cost me $1,029.60 and cost Tristan $927.15. Together, we shared a total cost of $1,956.75. This was our most expensive trip to date and worth every penny!

19 thoughts on “Exploring Alaska: The Arboretum & the Catholic Shrine

  1. The scenery is beautiful there, but, personally, I would skip the Abortion Shrine, preferring to pray privately for the little ones and their mothers. Yes, there needs to be a shrine to the survivors of sexual abuse, at the hands of clergy.

    1. I’m glad we can agree on that! I was wowed by the place and its beauty before I saw that shrine. No one wants to feel judged when contemplating turning their lives over to God, so I think that shrine does more harm than good.

      Thanks for dropping by! 😊

  2. wow – I am humbled and lost by words – this is such amazing, powerful, detailed and organized taking through a deep adventure and journey, well done!!

  3. More incredible photos: you’re really making me want to visit Alaska! I think I’ll skip the shrine though, I’m afraid that I’ll spontaneously combust if I touch any blessed items. And yes, all the hatred towards women who do things that old white men don’t like (abortion included) needs to go away. Now. That’s why I first stopped going to church: too many angry sermons about women not obeying “the word of God.”

    1. Funny you should say that about combusting. That’s what Tristan asked me. He said, are you sure you want to come with me? Are you sure you won’t spontaneously combust? Okay, you walk ahead in case there’s a random flash of lightning or something 😂 The angry sermons and the devaluing of women definitely had a lot to do with why I was turned off by Christianity and religion in general.

      Alaska truly is beautiful. I hope you get to see it, soon!

      1. Haha, I always joke about getting hit by lightning or bursting into flames upon entering a church.

        I know I’ll get to visit Alaska someday, it’s just a matter of time 😉

      2. I’m sure you will. And if not, I get the feeling Canada isn’t too far off in terms of climate and topography. They are neighbours after all 🙂

  4. I am torn about the shrine. I think it is sometimes helpful for those who did have an abortion but were very conflicted about it to have a place to take their pain. However, I don’t think it should be dedicated to the victims of abortion if that means just the babies. I had students who were fine with their decisions and those who grieved deeply.

    1. The word “victim” to describe the aborted babies makes the mom the perpetrator. At least, that’s how I think of it. The Catholic Church is anti-abortion so I’m pretty sure that wasn’t there to console anyone, since no member of their congregation should have had one. 🙁 Not even birth control is allowed by Catholics. No pills or condoms.

      The girls I knew who were fine with the decision turned out to be not so fine afterwards. There was one cousin of my ex who went through hell and high water to get it done, even though it was illegal. It bothered her so much afterwards that she immediately got pregnant again on purpose and dropped out of college to take care of the baby. Her family was stunned and so were we. My boyfriend at the time had gone with her for moral support, so I don’t think anyone was as stunned as him.

      My other friends who made peace with it and were happy with the decision were stilk sad that it had to be done, or were worried about the shame society would heap at their feet. Many of them never told anyone else. I was only told because they knew I wouldn’t judge them for it and wouldn’t share the secret. That’s a sad position to be in. It’s one thing to have a secret because of privacy and quite another because you feel ashamed. =/

      1. Good point about the trouble with the word “victim.” I too had a friend who went to Mexico for an abortion, married the father and immediately had another baby. She was too ashamed to let her family know she had been sexually active! Needless to say, that marriage didn’t last. There are Catholic ministries to help grieving women which are not shaming or condemning.

      2. All the way to Mexico? Goodness! Imagine how much better her life would have been if her parents didn’t make it impossible for her to be honest with them—or at the very least, make her feel that way.

        I’m glad to hear some Catholic branches are doing better. My school tried to take a very unbiased approach. They taught us all the birth control methods, but also explained that it was against Catholic principles. The biology teacher also taught us the “rhythm method” as the blind-spot. She didn’t think a woman should give up complete control of her body to nature, even though she was also Catholic. I always found it interesting that she chose to teach the pure sciences.

        My school also took in the teen mothers from other schools as transfers, so they could “start over”. I think it was sort of some hidden exchange program, because a few of our girls went missing too, and we naturally assumed they were transferred due to pregnancies that were meant to be kept hush-hush.

      3. That would make a wonderful short story about “exchange” girls. And to think this was in the recent past. Here they just stay in school.

      4. I don’t think you’re allowed to stay in school in Jamaica once they realise you’re pregnant. There’s a different school for pregnant girls and young mothers. I don’t know much about it, but I’ve met one or two girls who attended it. Naturally, they weren’t too keen on discussing it, so I didn’t push.

        The more posh schools like mine though don’t want their students associated with that, so they have that little underground exchange programme. You are quietly excused from school. Have the baby in secret and then go back to another school for the next school year.

        You’re right though! That would make an interesting short story. 🤔

      5. Well in these instances it not just unwed, but teenage pregnancy. That still carries a pretty heavy stigma in Jamaica. I don’t think people make much of a fuss about being unwed. Jamaican men seem to prefer to test your fertility before offering you a ring, in many instances. I’ve heard a lot of Jamaican guys say they would never marry a woman who hadn’t “given” them a child.

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