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2015 Teklanika-Polychrome Bike

Every year after Spring Road Opening and before tour buses start running on May 20, the Denali Park Road is open to private vehicles to Teklanika, around mile 30. Normally private vehicles can only drive to the Savage River at mile 15. It is a spring ritual for us to drive to Teklanika and ride our bicycles to Polychrome Pass and back to Tek, about 31 miles. This ride includes Sable and Polychrome Passes, and a very personal experience in the Park. This year we had a beautiful bluebird day, marred only by brutal winds. We saw a sow with a cub by the East Fork of the Toklat, Dall sheep on Polychrome, caribou, fox, moose and an assortment of ground squirrels and ptarmigan. It was one of the hardest rides of my life because of the winds, but very rewarding in terms of the accomplishment and the relative solitude of the Park pre-tourist.

Young moose along the Denali Park Road

Bill cresting Sable Pass on the way back to Teklanika.

Mt McKinley

 

This guy walked right by me like I wasn’t even there. I was about 5 feet from him.

MORE PHOTOS HERE!

2014 Teklanika to Polychrome Bike Ride (Denali)

We had sun, clouds and wind, but it was beautiful and I wouldn't have waned to be anywhere else.

 

 

On Friday (May 16, 2014) Bill and I pedaled our way from the Teklanika rest area to Polychrome Pass in Denali National Park.  We had procrastinated our way down to the last four days that the Park Service allows private vehicles to drive into the Park past the Savage River Checkpoint.  Tour buses begin running on May 20, and as of that date until mid-September, private vehicles are restricted to the first 15 miles of the Park Road.  Teklanika is 30 miles into the Park, so we drove to the rest area and then biked from there over Sable Pass to Polychrome Pass.

 

 

 

Sign on Sable Pass confirming that you are not alone.

 

The ride is only 30 miles round trip.  It is the trek up and over Sable and Polychrome Passes that makes it a workout.  According to my Garmin, we had 2,862 feet elevation gain and 2,844 feet elevation loss.  Our minimum elevation was 2,655 feet at the start in Teklanika; the maximum was 3,900 feet at the top of Sable Pass, followed by a nice downhill to the East Fork Toklat River at 3,066 feet and up to Polychrome Pass at 3,695 feet.  Then turn around and head back to Teklanika.  Going west up Sable Pass into the Park is the brutal part; the road keeps going up and getting steeper and steeper for 8.5 miles.  But eastbound down Sable Pass makes it all worthwhile!

 

 

Dall sheep on Polychrome Pass

 

It was a fun trek.  The weather was about perfect, a combination of sunshine and clouds, almost hot in the sun, refreshing in the clouds.  It was quite windy on Sable Pass.  We had a picnic on top of Polychrome Pass before beginning our ride back to Teklanika.

Along with the natural beauty of the endless majestic landscape, saw moose, caribou, Dall sheep, ground varmints, Ptarmigan, a porcupine and an eagle.  Two years ago when we rode this route, we had a close encounter with a grizzly bear that wanted to share the road with us.  Fortunately, we encountered no grizzly bears on this year’s ride.  A bear encounter is off my bucket list.

 

 

Click here for more photos

 

They’re Back 2014!

I haven’t been very good at updating my website or blog, partly due to laziness and partly due to slow internet.  But the return of geese, signaling the end of a long winter, is hard to pass up making an entry about.  So, here are some photos from this morning at Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge in Fairbanks.

 

Looking for a good spot to land

 

A little muddy but plenty of grain to welcome our spring migrants.

 

This guy is a little dirty after his long trip north.

 

I only saw three swans, but they were in the front of the field.

 

There is more than one way for a goose to arrive in Fairbanks!

 

This goose is riding on top of the car belonging to a wildlife biologist at Alaska Fish and Game. Nice to see a guy that loves his job!

 

Welcome back!

2013 Fireweed Century Bicycle Ride

Last year Bill and I did the Fireweed half century (50-mile) bicycle ride.  Despite being a chilly, overcast day, with no fireweed in sight, the scenery along the Glenn Highway was beautiful, and the seed was planted in my brain to ride the century (100-mile) in 2013.   Last year we had signed up at the last minute, consequently we had to stay in Anchorage, about 2 hours away.  Accommodations along the Glenn Highway near the Sheep Mountain Lodge, where the Fireweed starts, are relatively scarce.  Sheep Mountain Lodge caters to returning race registrants, who usually book the following  year prior to leaving after the race.  Same with the Matanuska Lodge, about 11 miles from the start, where we managed to score a 2013 reservation by showing up immediately after the 2012 race and handing over our credit card.  Needless to say, we booked ahead for 2014.

My beautiful Trek rides like a dream!

 

I took my commitment to ride the century seriously, first by buying an awesome Trek Madone 4.6 and secondly, by hitting the road training as soon as the ice and snow were gone.  Of course, this winter hung around forever, getting my program off to a late start, thereby having to jump in at week three of the schedule, making my first long ride a 36-miler on May 24.  The Fireweed was July 13.  Although I had been riding my hybrid bike, as road conditions allowed, since April 20, I was concerned because I thought getting used to the new road bike was going to take me a while.  However, after a couple rides, I was in love with it, and every ride was a pleasure.  Bill also decided that he was going to try the century, also bought a new Trek, but did’t take training seriously.

Denali was distracting me on my ride through Broad Pass, almost causing me to run off the road.

 

We tried to make our long rides interesting by going different places and not riding the routes that we rode around home.  I enjoy riding along different sections of the Parks Highway, so we rode from Nenana several times and from Cantwell once.  Nenana was doable on a day trip from home, but required boarding the boys as we would be gone most of the day.  We rewarded ourselves following the long rides from Nenana with dinner at the Monderosa.  The Cantwell ride was my favorite.  Cantwell is 25 miles south of Denali Park, and the ride, that day it was 75 miles, took us through Broad Pass with incredibly clear and distracting views of Mt McKinley for about 12 miles.  The reward here was two  nights at the McKinley Village Lodge, pizza and beer at Prospector’s, ice cream at Denali Scoops and corn fritters at Alaska Fish & Chips.  Training can be really tough.

In at least some fairness to Bill, he had several equipment malfunctions (flat tires) that shortened some of his training rides.  On one ride, he had front and rear flats at the same time, and only one spare tube and CO2 cartridge.  On another he repaired a flat only to have it go flat again immediately afterward.  I can understand that, but he didn’t make up those critical long rides.

Since I had trained seriously and set goals for my ride, I was determined to ride the Fireweed solo and allow Bill to ride his own pace as well.  I told him upfront, and during all the training, that this was my plan, after all, this may be the only time I ride the century, and I wanted to see what I could do.  Despite Bill continually asking if we could ride together, this was my plan even at race start.  Although I was riding conservatively, because I had never pedaled 100 miles, Bill kept falling farther and farther behind, and despite my desire to ride my own pace, I waited for him at the checkpoints, then stopped and waited for him every 5-10 miles.  At the 50-mile checkpoint, Bill said that he might quit at the 75-mile checkpoint, as the heat was slowing him down.  At this point I realized that I had already sacrificed my race (ride), so I committed  myself to coaxing Bill to the finish line.  This was not a totally unselfish act, as I realized he deserved to finish the race, and even though I wasn’t going to ride my own race, I was going to finish 100 miles, and that wasn’t half bad.

Unlike the previous year, it was a beautiful, warm day, and the fireweed along the Glenn Hwy was bountiful and breathtaking.   All the scenery was amazing: glaciers, forests, lakes, fireweed.

A field of fireweed alongside the Sheep Mountain Lodge, where the race started and finished

Bill waiting to start the 100-mile ride.

Somewhere along the way...fireweed was everywhere!

The checkpoint volunteers were wonderful!

Bill cresting a hill along the route, this definitely wasn't a flat course.

Halfway!!!

It was a beautiful day and the scenery was stunning!!!

 

Hatcher Pass

Rainy days are good for something, like processing photos. In mid-July, on our way to the Fireweed bicycle race along the Glenn Hwy, we drove over Hatcher Pass, instead of continuing on the Parks Hwy, to avoid the traffic associated with driving through the Willow-Houston-Wasilla corridor. While the “short cut” took more time, it was traffic-free, incredibly stunning and well worth it. Next time, I want to hike and enjoy the scenery. But, for some reason, we are always in a rush.

I think it was around Parks Hwy mile 290 (just below the seemingly never-ending summer road construction in that area) where we turned onto the Fishhook-Willow Road to begin the 49-mile trek over Hatcher Pass, which traverses through the Talkeetna Mountains between Willow on the Parks Hwy and Palmer on the Glenn Hwy.  Like similar roads of this nature (Taylor Hwy, Denali Hwy) the road over Hatcher Pass is not maintained in the winter, beyond about 10-mile (the Independence Mine) from the Palmer side, and opens to traffic over the pass around July 4.

The photographer and hiker in me would like to explore this area more, and hopefully we will luck out and  have another beautiful day.

There’s gold “in them thar hills,” so it is probably in this creek, too. We saw a few signs warning people that claims were staked.

The sign on this bridge warns us not to pan for gold here.

Hatcher Pass is a paragliding and hang gliding playground as it is above tree line and there are limitless places to launch...almost always with an audience.

It is simply beautiful and worth the "detour."

Click here for a few more photos.

 

 

 

 

Getting out of Town

Sometime, no matter how much you like a place, you need to get away; especially after a long, cold, dark winter.  My sister conveniently lives in Gig Harbor WA, just South of Seattle, and April is a great time to visit her.  I was full of  hope for sunshine and warmth to soothe my aching psyche after the long winter, but that was not to be.  The beautiful 60 degree days that gifted the area the week before we arrived turned to grey, cool and rainy the day we arrived and stayed the entire week.  Weather is a relative thing, and it turned out better than Fairbanks where it snowed seven inches while we were away.

Despite the weather–a little liquid snow didn’t stop us–we had a fantastic time.  My sister and her husband are gracious hosts, and go all out to ensure we have everything we could possibly want.  They really don’t have to do that, how much better can it get than family, a clean house, no dog hair and food on demand?  I always feel at least somewhat guilty for having my sister run me all over the place, but….

There are malls everywhere in the SeaTac area, my sister knows all of them, and we visited a couple.  Furniture shopping, fine dining, running in shorts, the weekend in Seattle, zip lining and “The Jersey Boys,” were several other highlights.

 

Talkeetna Alaska

I have now been to Talkeetna twice.  Talkeetna sits at the end of the Talkeetna Spur Road about 14 miles north off the Parks Highway, roughly four hours south of Fairbanks and two hours north of Anchorage.  It is a funky little town, a blend of old and new, a base for  Mt McKinley climbing expeditions in the spring and Mt McKinley flightseeing in the summer as well as other tourist activities.  It is also a great place from which to view Mt McKinley, if you are fortunate enough to be there when the weather permits.  I’m pretty confident Talkeetna makes its own entertainment as well.  Usually when we pass the turnoff for Talkeetna we are going to Anchorage or returning home and always in a hurry.

Several years ago we spent a couple days there with some friends who were visiting, mainly so we could take a flightseeing tour with K2 Aviation.  The tour was a highlight, but we passed the town off as a funky place and said , “been there, done that!”  This year, a new attraction opened, Denali Zipline Tours, and Talkeetna was once again on our list of places to go.  We finally made it last weekend, combined with a trip to Denali Park.  This time we were by ourselves and had the time to explore a bit after the zipline. The zipline tour was fun, and I’d definitely do it again. The weather was perfect, allowing us magnificent views of Mt McKinley and the Alaska Range from the zipline platforms as well as from several other places in town,  including our room at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.  After the van deposited us at the tour office in downtown Talkeetna following the tour, we walked across the street to the Denali Brewing Company and had some of the best nachos I’ve ever had and an ice cold glass of Single Engine Red, a tasty red ale named to celebrate Talkeetna’s aviation history.  I hope I can find it in Fairbanks, if not, we’ll have to make a detour to Talkeetna for a growler or two when we’re headed to Anchorage!  I have to say, Alaska has some awesome breweries.

 

Welcome to Talkeetna!

 

Denali Brewing Company in downtown Talkeetna, Alaska

 

More Photos of Downtown Talkeetna

 

Fireweed 400 Bicycle Race Across Alaska

We are typically last-minute people; prior or long term planning just isn’t our thing.  With four Siberian huskies to consider, you think we would plan ahead.  Well, you would be wrong.  After a career in logistics and planning, I am now blissfully retired and planning is no longer an option.  All this is to preface that, at the last minute, we decided to enter the half-century field of the Fireweed 400 Bicycle Race Across Alaska, something that I had been craving to do for the past several years.  The race starts at the Sheep Mountain Lodge at mile 113.5 of the Glenn Highway. There isn’t much there and what few accommodations exist are booked about a year in advance, others camp on the airstrip at the Lodge.  I am not a camper.  Having made the decision to ride only 10 days before the race, the closest acceptable hotel was two hours away from the start in Anchorage, with Anchorage being six hours from Fairbanks, where we live; an inconvenience, but not a great one considering the opportunity to fulfill a dream.  As is our style, we departed Fairbanks late, arrived Anchorage late, had pizza and beer late, then got up early to make the two-hour trek to Sheep Mountain for the race, arriving just in time to get it all together to make it to the starting line.

The visual proof that we survived the Fireweed 400...and Bill is still smiling despite his crash!

 

It was all worth it. Despite weeks of rainy weather and overcast skies, it did not rain for the ride, and the scenery along the Glenn Highway was breathtaking.  I have felt better on bike rides, I think the all out last minute effort to make it to the start left me mentally, if not physically, fatigued.  But it was a great ride; note the use of the word “ride,” for us this was not a race.  The logistics and support were superb; I don’t think I have participated in a more finely tuned event.  Back at Sheep Mountain Lodge, at the end of the race, there was piping hot Papa Murphy’s pizza and an assortment of energy bars, real cookies and plenty of cold water for participants and supporters.

 

Spectacular views along the way included Sheep Mountain; the Chugach Mountains; several lakes; Eureka Summit, the highest point on the Glenn Highway and the Nelchina Glacier, just to mention a few.  The ride is a hilly one, with about 2300 feet elevation gain.  The ride went very smoothly, perhaps too smoothly, with us, the shoe always drops somewhere.  And it did.  About 100 yards before the finish, a guy was checking cyclists’ numbers so he could tell the finish line monitors who was coming.  We were told to wear our numbers on our right side, but the guy was on the left side of the road, so he couldn’t see them, and he yelled out for our numbers.  We were on a nice downhill to the finish, and had some speed.  I yelled out my number and kept going, Bill tried to turn around to see what he wanted and had a spectacular crash.  Classic Bill.  Fortunately he was able to get up and finish the ride, but was (and still is two weeks later), quite sore.  He does keep life interesting.

 

 

Clemmie: Jul 4 1999 – Jun 21 2012

Clemmie

It has been a sad week at HuskyHouse; on June 21 we lost our beautiful Clemmie to metastatic prostate cancer.  In February 2001 we adopted Clemmie from Animal Control, he had been a three-time loser that was in the both Anchorage and Fairbanks lockup within 30 days.  His insatiable love of life and freedom was infectious, we didn’t now his birthday so we set it at July 4th in honor of his quest for independence.  After all, it was that very independent streak that brought him to us. Clemmie fit in perfectly with J Clyde, our “first born” Siberian, and later ET, who was devoted to him.  He doted on the redheads and became “the enforcer.”  Clemmie has now joined Clyde on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, that happy place where all pain is gone, and he is catching him up on our life, ET  and the crazy redheads.  There wasn’t a day that Clemmie didn’t love us unconditionally and show his appreciation for being adopted, and vice versa.  I miss you so much, you sweet boy.  See you on the other side.


Winter Biking on Chena Lakes

Despite a colder than normal March, we have been enjoying riding our fat bikes, dreaming of riding in Denali Park and getting back on the road with our hybrid bikes.  The Denali Park Road has been cleared and on Friday, March 23, opened to vehicular traffic as far as the  Mountain Vista trailhead at mile 13.  Needless to say, I can’t wait to go, whether it is to run with the boys, ski, snowshoe or bike!

Last week we rode our bikes on the mulit-use trails at Chena Lakes in North Pole.  The trails were in great shape, flat and beautiful, and I hope to go back soon.

 

A trail through the woods at Chena Lakes

Sweet Pea taking a break on Chena Lakes

Bill riding on Chena Lakes

 

More photos of Chena Lakes

Sunday with Sweet Pea

Yesterday was one of those incredibly beautiful winter days when I just had to ride no matter how late I got started, sunset was about 6pm and I didn’t start until about 4pm.  I began riding at Pioneer Park and rode the bike bath into town, stopping to photograph Sweet Pea by two blocks of  beautiful Fairbanks ice waiting to be carved into art.  The Ice Alaska world ice art championships begin this week.  Closer to town, I stopped to photograph a bunch of crazy ducks that are overwintering on the Chena River in an area where warm water from the power plant prevents the river from freezing.  Many people have spoiled the ducks by feeding them, which has wildlife biologists in somewhat of a tizzy, because generation after generation of these ducks will overwinter here rather than do the normal thing which is to migrate.   You shouldn’t mess with mother nature.  I’m not getting into this argument, but couldn’t these ducks be the advanced beddown contingent?

Once in town, I crossed over the William Ransom Wood Centennial Bridge and descended onto the Chena River, where the Tired Iron Snowmachine races were wrapping up.  I had hoped the river would be good for riding, but the snowmachines had churned up the snow and it was too soft to ride without way too much effort to be fun.  So after about a mile I abandoned that idea, met with Bill who had come to join me, and we decided to ride on Fort Wainwright since we were on that side of town.  The riding on Ft Wainwright was on both a trail and the road, and was much more enjoyable than struggling through the soft snow on the river.

Sweet Pea leaning on two blocks of beautiful Fairbanks ice that are waiting to be carved into art

Crazy ducks; why would you overwinter in Fairbanks when you could just fly south?

The tired iron staging area on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks

Bill on the Ft Wainwright bike path

Chena River on Ft Wainwright

Along the end of the runway on Ft Wainwright looking toward the ski area

 

More photos of winter in Fairbanks

Fat Bike Mania

Okay, so I am really getting into this fat biking.  What planted the seed for my fat bike was my seeing a couple people biking on the Tanana River last winter.  So ever since I got my fat bike last month it has been my obsession to bike on the Tanana.  I have snowmachined on the river many times, but always seem to be traveling too fast to enjoy the scenery, besides, riding on a snowmachine and peddling are two entirely different experiences, almost like being in two entirely different places while in the same place.  I have skied and skijored on the river as well, but cannot travel as far under my own power as I can on a bike.  I tried biking on the river several times previously, but the snow had not set up enough primarily because it had been too cold for snowmachiners and mushers to run the river and “make” the trail.  After a failed attempt to peddle the river last week, I was complaining about it to a couple mushers who were trying to drag a trail with the same frustration.  Several days ago (Sunday) I was talking to some mushers and they told me that after a week of friendly weather and a lot of snowmachine traffic on the river, the trail has finally set!  The following day Sweet Pea (my fat bike) and I went for a ride on the river, and it was intoxicating, almost like the first time I rode my bike into Denali Park!   I was a bit time constrained, so I didn’t take my camera so that I wouldn’t be tempted to consume time taking pictures, and wouldn’t you know it, I saw four dog teams and  two moose on the river.  Yesterday, I convinced Bill to ride the river with me and he experienced the exhilaration I was still feeling.  Fortunately there are dog teams on the river every day, and this time I had my camera, not that I haven’t captured this scene many times before, but each time is unique and engaging, like poetry in motion.  I am so blessed to live in Alaska and experience the allure of such deeply personal adventures right out my door.

A snowmachiner, two skiers and Bill share the Tanana River

Bill rides his fat bike down a cut bank from the Tanana River onto a slough

A musher coming down the slough, no matter how many times I see this it is a treasured experience.

 

There are more photos in the following albums:  Biking on the Tanana River or Winter in Fairbanks

 

Fat Biking

Last year when I was out skiing on the Tanana River, a couple people on fat tire bikes passed me, immediately planting the seed in my mind that this is something I had to do.  The thought of peddling on the frozen, snow packed river was intoxicating.  Peddling would be a quiet alternative to snowmachining and a faster one to skiing, yet while I couldn’t travel as far as I could on a snowmachine, I could go farther than on skis, a happy compromise.  I love to ski, and especially enjoy skijoring with our Siberian huskies, but not only do I hate to wax skis, I am terrible at  selecting the right wax for conditions and more likely than not wind up flailing around with little or no traction. Waxing skis is a science that I have not mastered; binders, this wax first, then a little of that wax.  Anyway, as soon as spring arrived, I was back out on the road with my hybrid bike and had all but forgotten about the fat bike since winter was a couple months away, and who wants to think about snow in the summer…certainly not me!

Late November I went to Goldstream Sports, and there she was, the most beautiful fat bike I’d ever laid eyes on, a lime green 9-zero-7.  She was a bit pricey, so once again, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind, although I was already in biking withdrawal.  Biking year around has intrigued me, but I have to admit that despite enjoying other winter activities that require me to dress properly, I have not hit on the right combination of footwear to keep my feet warm on my bike once the weather starts to cool off, so the bike gets parked for the winter.  Christmas was coming, but would I have the audacity to put the 9-zero-7 on my list, had I been a good enough girl to ask for such a gift?

Shortly thereafter, Bill, my husband, wandered into Goldstream Sports and saw the fat bikes.  He came home with the news about the new fat tire bikes that are great for riding in the snow, so now that he also had the seed planted all I had to do was nurture it.   In January we test drove the bikes and a week later took them home.  My bike had been named Sweet Pea by an employee who owned her but was selling her because she didn’t have the time to ride. Sweet Pea is a fitting name, as she is a sweet ride.

The weather was a bit chilly in January, anywhere from 20 to 40 below, and after a few days grumbling about not being able to ride because it was cold, we bundled up and went out for a ride.  I have run and skied in the deep cold and know how to appropriately dress for those activities, but winter biking was new for me and I quickly discovered that I had overdressed.  I now have the solution and am quite comfortable except for my feet in extreme cold, and I know I will come upon the ultimate combination of layers as I continue to experiment.   I also quickly learned that proper tire inflation for the terrain correlates directly to how much effort you expend and therefore how much fun you have.  I now have a new winter activity that competes with running, skiing and snowmachining, and unfortunately the boys.  But I make sure the boys get their run at least every other day.

Fat biking is an incredibly fun activity, and with the proper tire inflation, Sweet Pea almost floats over the trails.

 

Heading out for a ride in the Goldstream Valley

This great trail runs through the woods alongside Sheep Creek

Documentation time, yes, this is Bill on his fat bike.

It was such an incredible day to be out on the trails

Happy day! Almost 4:30p and it is still light!

 

 

Fairbanks at 40 Below

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,

The white land locked tight as a drum,

The cold fear that follows and finds you,

The silence that bludgeons you dumb.

The snows that are older than history,

The woods where the weird shadows slant;

The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,

I’ve bade ’em good-by — but I can’t.

(Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon)

On the Tanana River; it may be cold and we may be tired of it, but it sure is pretty away from the ice fog. 2012-01-28 at 14-33-30

Ice fog on the Chena River at 40 below 2012-01-14 at 15-34-56

More photos of winter in Fairbanks

 

Santa, We’re Good Boys….

Clem and ET visit Santa at Cold Spot Feeds

 

Pelly and Dawson giving Santa an earful

A Trip to Civilization

In early December we went Outside  (outside of Alaska) to visit my sister in the Seattle area.  It is always nice to visit my sister and spend some time in civilization.  Of course, the definition of “civilization” differs for most people, for me it is virtually any place other than Fairbanks, where there are stores other than Fred Meyers, WallMart or Sears and there are decent restaurants.  Anchorage just barely qualifies, but Seattle is perfect; lots of Malls with a Nordstrom  in every one and awesome places to eat, plus a compact and diverse downtown and, of course, Pikes Place Market.  What is not to like…oh, yes, with civilization comes lots of people and traffic.  But I can handle that for a few days to partake of the benefits.

A little bit of civilization

It is so nice to see a store that is tastefully decorated, and of course has lots of goods to offer

A build your own yogurt place!

The Nirvana of civilization; an Apple store!

Costco, a place to buy large quantities of things you don't need

Mt Rainier, a peaceful view away from the hustle and bustle of civilization

Happy Solstice!

Today is my favorite day, tomorrow we will begin gaining daylight!  Total length of the day today:  3h 41m 26s.  We continue having the usual bizarre Fairbanks weather, one of the coldest Novembers on record and well on our way to one of the warmest Decembers on record.  This is a strange and wonderful place!

We recently returned from a week visiting my sister in Gig Harbor WA, aka civilization.  It is always nice to visit civilization (and of course my sister!), and it is always nice to come back home and reunite with the boys, who were in “camp” for the week.  Pelly and Dawson are again banned from Muttessori, so they had a play package to help burn some energy, while Clem and ET enjoyed socializing with the other “campers” at Muttessori.  All the boys were groomed and are so soft and beautiful.

 

The Boys

 

U.S. Naval Observatory
Astronomical Applications Department

 

Sun and Moon Data for One Day

The following information is provided for Fairbanks, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska (longitude W147.8, latitude N64.8):

        Wednesday
        21 December 2011      Alaska Standard Time           

                         SUN
        Begin civil twilight       9:32 a.m.                 
        Sunrise                   10:58 a.m.                 
        Sun transit               12:49 p.m.                 
        Sunset                     2:40 p.m.                 
        End civil twilight         4:06 p.m.                 

                         MOON
        Moonset                   12:26 p.m. on preceding day
        Moonrise                   7:07 a.m.                 
        Moon transit               9:57 a.m.                 
        Moonset                   12:37 p.m.                 
        Moonrise                   8:49 a.m. on following day

Phase of the Moon on 21 December:   waning crescent with 11% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

New Moon on 24 December 2011 at 9:07 a.m. Alaska Standard Time.

Winter is here….

Actually, winter has been here for a while; I think it is officially winter when the first significant snowfall stays on the ground. Daylight savings time is gone for another year. In Alaska it doesn’t matter whether we are on standard time or daylight savings time; summer is light and winter is mostly dark. I am glad I don’t live in Barrow where the sun doesn’t rise for two months.

I am happy when it snows, because winter can seem way longer than it is when there is not enough snow to ski or snowmachine, and I love running with the dogs because they are so happy when there is snow between their toes. They (not me) would rather it be 20 below than 20 above.

Just Clemmie and me out for a run in the snow

Bill with Pelly, Clem and Dawson on their morning constitutional on a snowy day

Out for a run with Dawson and Pelly

ET helping me do the dishes, he is very good at this

Pelly & Dawson with their Gatorade

Nothing gets the boys attention better than a cookie

It’s Been Three Years!

It was three years ago today that we brought home the redheads, Pelly and Dawson. I have threatened countless times to open the door and point them south toward Wasilla, where they came from, and probably will continue to do so, but I wouldn’t change a thing! Clemmie loves to play with them and takes his role as enforcer seriously. Although it took ET (my canine soulmate) over a year to accommodate to them, he now plays with them and he and Pelly instigate daily singing sessions. I could do with a lot less hair in the house and Jeep, but the six of us are a very happy family!

Bill and the reds a couple days after we brought them home

Bill with Dawson & Pelly (almost three months old)

Pelly (Sept 2011)

Dawson (Sept 2011)

A Cessna 180, a Camera and Ice Cream

I enjoy doing totally decadent off-the-wall things and yesterday I did just that.  Our down-the-hill neighbor, Don, is a snowbird, except he lives in Ft Lauderdale and flies his Cessna 180 to Fairbanks every summer.  I call him and his wife migrants, because they come with the birds and leave with the birds.  Don is very generous and Bill flies with him all the time; for Bill and Don, being airborne is the destination, it doesn’t matter where they go.  I need a destination and a purpose.  Don knows I love Denali, and with the autumn colors bursting forth across the landscape, he offered to fly us to Denali so I could take some photos.  I didn’t have to think twice about that, I was ready to go!   Besides, I’d been harboring the urge for a mint chocolate chip waffle cone for weeks, and here was the opportunity to fly to Denali and satisfy that craving.  I was ready in a virtual heartbeat.  It was a beautiful day, the flight was smooth, the foliage awesome and the ice cream satisfying.  Of course, in Alaska, where the airplane is just an extension of the automobile, this isn’t decadent; it’s just another day.

Climbing out of Denali Park heading home to Fairbanks

 

More photos of flying to Denali

Ketchikan

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Counting time on either end of our cruise on the MV Misty Fjord, we spent three days in Ketchikan trying to cram in everything we could.  We arrived the afternoon of August 2, an incredibly warm and sunny day in a city located in the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest.  Either we were very lucky or our timing was perfect, as it rained only one day during our visit.  Average annual precipitation in Ketchikan is over 165 inches, ranging from a  low of 6.43 inches in July to 20.29 inches in October.

Do you remember the politically infamous “Bridge to Nowhere?”  Well, Ketchikan is where it was proposed to be constructed, to connect Ketchikan (on Revillagigedo Island) to its airport 1/2 mile across the Tongass Narrows on Gravina Island.  The 2005 Highway Bill provided $223 million for the bridge, which would have allowed people to drive to the airport rather than take a ferry across the Narrows.  So, since there is no bridge from the airport to Ketchikan, we did the bag drag from the airport to the ferry, paid $5.00 each and rode the ferry across the Narrows to pick up the shuttle to our hotel.  Fortunately it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the short ferry ride.  Even though the ferry lends extra character to Ketchikan, a bridge sure would have been nice and time saving.

The airport ferry (left) crossing the busy Narrows back to Ketchikan

On the ferry bound for Ketchikan

Being from a place with limited choices (Fairbanks), food and shopping are always the mainstay of any trip.  Although the food in Ketchikan was good, it was nothing to rave about, but it is always nice to have different choices.  I didn’t do any shopping, except for the obligatory tee shirt or two.  Since Ketchikan is a cruise ship port, there are many, many shops, and a disproportionate  number of high end jewelry stores, which must do well or they wouldn’t be there.  I never thought about going on a cruise to buy jewelry.  But then, there is Alaska gold jewelry.  Keep in mind that most of these shops board up for the season as soon as the last tourist walks out the door, and their owners set up somewhere warm and sunny for the winter.

Looking at Creek Street, a boardwalk over Ketchikan Creek in what was the old "red light district."

Cruise ship passenger doing their thing down by the docks in Ketchikan. Ketchikan is the first (or last stop) in Alaska for many cruise ships.

When cruise ships dock, passengers seek alternatives to cruise ship food, so the seafood shacks where crowded.  To be fair about the food, Bill enjoyed his fresh seafood; I don’t enjoy seafood.  Ice cream is also a priority for me, I have to have a waffle cone of one of my favorite flavors.  Apparently ice cream was also a priority for the cruise ship people, as it was nearly combat to get get one in what seemed to be the only ice cream shop in town.

Not counting the MV Misty Fjord and the Misty Fjords cruise and kayaking, which will be addressed separately, the highlights of our Ketchikan stay were ziplining, a bicycle tour and even more kayaking.  The disappointment was that we didn’t have the time to do even more biking and kayaking in such a beautiful place.  There is only one main road in town, the Tongass HIghway, which runs about 31 miles from north to south on the island, with Ketchikan virtually in the middle.

One of 34 totem poles in Saxman Native Village, about 3 miles south of downtown Ketchikan. Ketchikan has the world's largest collection of standing totem poles.

As for ziplining, this was our first time, and I can say that I am now a fanatic.  There are two ziplines in Ketchikan, one at the north end and one at the south end, and we did them both.  The Southeast Exposure Ropes and Zipline Park on the north end was the first we tackled.  I conveniently placed myself in the rear of the group, so I could watch everyone go before I had to make the leap.  But the guide fooled me and started from the back of the line, so much for that strategy.  The first step (off the tower) was the hardest, but as soon as I was in the air I was hooked.  I have been searching for a word to describe it, and I think “liberating” fits best.  The ropes were also fun, a nice addition to the park, and, for me, required more nerve than the zipline.

Bill on the "practice run" at Southeast Exposure's Rope and Zipline Park

Bill on one of the ropes courses at Southeast Exposure's Ropes and Zipline Park

Having had so much fun on the ziplines, we did the other course the next day.  Alaska Canopy Adventures is on the south end of Ketchikan and offers two courses, Bear Creek and Eagle Creek; we did the latter.  The course is higher in the hills with some longer runs, has three hanging sky bridges and the view from the lines is amazing. Both this and the Ropes and Zipline Park were fun, and I would do them both again.  I think I am addicted.

Looking off a platform at Alaska Canopy Adventures' Eagle course

One of the hanging sky bridges on Alaska Canopy Adventures' Eagle course

On the evening before our departure for home, Kelvin, Bill and I went on one last magical kayak in the waters of Clover Pass, on the north end of the island.

An evening kayak in Clover Pass before heading back to reality

There Are More Photos In My Ketchikan and Ziplining Galleries


An Offer We Couldn’t Refuse

Several weeks ago a friend of ours (Kelvin) tempted us with a stateroom on the MV Misty Fjord for a five day cruise and kayak around the Misty Fjords National Monument in the Tongass National Forest by Ketchikan.  We talked with Kelvin on Friday, and on Saturday we arranged air travel to Ketchikan, kennel reservations for the boys, and hotel reservations in Ketchikan on either end of the cruise.  It was amazing that we could coordinate these arrangements on such short notice, while Kelvin pulled together the logistics ( kayaks, coordinating with the Captain, etc) on the Ketchikan end.  On Tuesday morning (Aug 2) we departed for Ketchikan to catch the cruise which was scheduled to depart the following day.  The only time we had been in Ketchikan was in June 1991, when our Alaska Marine Highway ferry docked for an hour or so.  The only things I remembered about Ketchikan were the rain, the totem pole park and having a drink in a bar somewhere.  Travel to Southeast Alaska is either by air or water, there are no roads connecting it to the rest of the state.  We have basically avoided traveling to the southeast because of the travel logistics and the rain.

Alaska Air is the only commercial carrier servicing Ketchikan, and there are two routings; one though Seattle and the other a milk run through Southeast Alaska.  We wanted to use miles and the only approved routing for a mileage award was the milk run.  So off we went: Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell and finally Ketchikan; it was eight hours,  but flying in Alaska is beautiful. It is 40 minutes from Fairbanks to Anchorage (change planes), 123 minutes from Anchorage to Juneau, 25 minutes from Juneau to Petersburg, 10 minutes from Petersburg to Wrangell and 23 minutes from Wrangell to Ketchikan.  From Anchorage to Juneau we flew at 34,000 feet, Juneau to Petersburg at 20,000 feet, Petersburg to Wrangell at a lofty 5,000 feet and Wrangell to Ketchikan we flew at 18,00 feet.  We had incredible weather both ways, and the panorama was well worth the time, even though it was spent mostly on the ground turning the 737-400 at small airports.

We had an awesome trip with incredible weather and enjoyed Ketchikan, the cruise, kayaking and ziplining.  More on all this in upcoming blogs.

On final approach into Ketchikan

The Wrangell airport terminal

Taking off from Wrangell

The airport terminal at Petersburg

Taking off from Petersburg

Mts McKinley and Foraker

The Road Less Traveled

I think I have taken that road less traveled most of my life; I prefer things that are off the beaten path and perhaps that is why I live in Alaska.  For me taking the road less traveled means two things:  first, in the most literal sense of taking one road when most people take the other, and second, in traveling that road by a lesser taken method.  For example, Triple Lakes Trail is the road less traveled because most visitors to Denali usually have time only to ride the bus into the park or to hike one of the short trails at the park entrance.  Second, while most visitors to Denali ride the bus into the park, I prefer to ride my bicycle.  I may not cover as much ground, but I savor every bit of it and become enveloped by it, breathing its scents, feeling its rhythm and stopping when I want.

My husband and I spend as much time as we can in Denali during our short summer, balancing our fun with summer chores and being with the boys (our four Siberian huskies).  We take the boys to the park for day trips, but if we stay overnight they must be boarded.  Out latest trip to Denali was last week, we hiked Triple Lakes Tail and biked a bit.  We had hoped to bike from Savage River to Teklanika and back, but ran out of time, managing only a couple relatively short bikes.  Despite forecasts for rainy weather, we never saw a drop!

The park rangers continue to improve the Triple Lakes Trail, there were about 20 of them working on three or four different parts of the trail, and pretty soon you won’t have to bushwhack across the ridge.  After carrying my Canon 7D over the eight miles last time I hiked the trail, I decided to buy a Canon S95 and give it a test.  I think the pictures are just as good, if not better in certain lighting (by eliminating the “me” factor), and it fit in my pocket where the DSLR is annoying to carry over that distance.  But I definitely missed the quick DSLR response and recovery, as well as the more powerful telephoto lens.

Here are a few photos, the rest are in my Triple Lakes and Denali galleries.

Bill contemplating floating an inflatable kayak down Riley Creek

The road less traveled

A view of two of the lakes from near the top of the trail

Fireweed along the park road

I was riding my bike around mile 15 of the park road when this guy came trotting down the center of the road

Just another beautiful day in paradise!

A Run in the Park

July 9th was a beautiful day  so we took the boys to Denali for a run.  These runs are special, something the whole family enjoys as opposed to the usual runs around home. It was sunny, warm and perfect; Utopian.  The boys enjoyed the attention from people who visited with them and photographed them, and of course, we enjoyed showing them off.

Magnificent Mt McKinley, a feast for the eyes

Me running with ET and Pelly

Bill running with Clem and Dawson

Bill with Clem, Pelly, Dawson and ET at the Mountain Vista trailhead

Bill showing off the boys for admiring fans