Husky House

Posts Tagged ‘Fairbanks’

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


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):

        21 December 2011      Alaska Standard Time           

        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.                 

        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.

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

Open North American Sprint Races

On Sunday I went to the third and final day of the sprint races, first at the starting line downtown and then at Creamer’s Field to watch the teams as they exit the trails and head back to town.  The weather was perfect for viewing, and I basked in the sun as I waited for the first team to emerge from the woods.  This is a great race for spectators as there are many good viewing points and it is over in one to two hours.   You can read  more about the race here.

Mushers prepare for the start of the Open North American on Second Street in downtown Fairbanks

Is it race time yet?

The fur auction on Second Street is part of the weekend festivities for the ONA

A musher leaves the starting line of the ONA in downtown Fairbanks

A musher leaves the woods at Creamer's Field headed for the downtown finish of the ONA

March Madness Alaska Style

There is more than one kind of March Madness, and the one I am talking about is not at all associated with college hoops, rather the wonderful March weather and our  mad attempt to cram in all sorts of outdoor activities in the snow.  Sure you can do these activities all winter, but not under the brilliant sunshine and relative warmth and comfort of March.  Snowmachining: perfect.  Skiing: perfect.  Skijoring: perfect. Running: perfect.  As I grow somewhat wiser with age, or perhaps just lackadaisical, I am becoming a fair weather person.  For a long time I would run despite the winter weather; 40, 50, 60 below, bring it on, it was a challenge I relished, and there was plenty of it during our days at Eielson AFB.  Twenty years later, 20 below is my cut-off for daily running, but I will run every other day, no matter what, for the welfare of the boys (as well as our sanity), they must get out.  I am not so foolhardy as to believe that winter is over, but I am enjoying every day while this wonderful weather lasts. So when March arrives, and the severest weather is behind us for another season, we rejoice with jubilant madness and play!

Some major March events around Fairbanks include the Limited and Open North American Sleddog Races, the World Ice Art Championships and Nenana Days, when the ice classic tripod is planted in the ice on the Tanana River.

On Sunday we rode our snowmachines down the Tanana River and into the Rosie Creek area.  It was lots of fun and we found a powder meadow to play in with Bill’s Crossfire 800.  The Crossfire is so powerful it virtually floats on powder with very little effort, easily conquering terrain where I wouldn’t venture with my Arctic Cat 500.

Bill enjoying a powder meadow on his Arctic Cat Crossfire 800

Monday Bill and I skied at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, and the trails were groomed to perfection.  Speaking of Creamer’s Field, in another month the first migratory Canada goose will touch down, signifying (hopefully) the end of another long winter.

Bill enjoying a March ski at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge

I'm pretty sure I did that move (on the lower sign) when I was skijoring with Pelly and ET at North Star Golf Course yesterday

The next couple days were reserved for quality time with the boys, and on Tuesday we took them running at the University.  On Wednesday we skijored with them at North Star Golf Course and today we ran with them at home.  The skijoring was phenomenal, the boys amazing.  I never know what to expect when I hook up the boys and get behind them on my skis.  I had Pelly and ET; Pelly (like Clem) is a workhorse and ET is a slacker, often affectionately called lazybones.  Bill had Clem and Dawson.  To say the boys were ready to roll is an understatement.  It was all we could do to hold them back while we got into our skis, which took much longer than it should have because of this multitasking.  Since the golf course is primarily used by the Alaska Skijor and Pulk Association , the overabundance of scents drove the boys crazy, hyping them more than they already were.  Clem and Dawson claimed the first victory, dragging Bill full speed across the parking lot and launching him into the first bush at the trailhead.  At this point, I could no longer hold back my duo and off we went full speed down the trail.  While they respond well to Gee and Haw (right and left), “Whoa” is often not an option.  I can honestly say I have never skied this fast, and I have never seen ET run with such gusto.  It was a “kill mommy”  moment, but an absolutely beautiful site.  About three quarters of a mile down the trail, still going warp speed, Pelly stopped on a dime to “answer the call” and there was no way I could stop, so over the top I went, landing with a thud (see the sign above).  Eventually, after we each collected ourselves, Bill and I joined up on the trail.  We had a great time, and I can’t wait to do it again, hopefully minus the thud.

There are more photos in my Winter 2010-2011 album in my gallery.

Both Creamer’s Field and North Star Golf Course are meticulously groomed by volunteers from the Alaska Skijor and Pulk Association.


Here are some snow statistics from our local newspaper:

As of 3 p.m., Monday, 18.5 inches of snow had fallen at the airport since 11:30 a.m. Sunday.  I measured 21 inches at our house.

This is the 6th greatest 2-day snowfall since record keeping began in 1904.

It is the 2nd greatest 24-hour snowfall.

It is the 8th greatest daily snowfall.

It is the most snow from one storm in 25 years.

We usually get about 2 inches of snow at a time.

The storm pushed February’s snow total to 22 inches, more than 3 times the normal average (7.1 inches) for the month.

Before Sunday, only 33 inches of snow had fallen at the airport, which is about 24 inches below normal for that date.  The season total is now 51.5 inches, only 7.3 inches below average.

Our neighbor clearing snow at the top of his driveway


We finally had a respectable snowfall, and by that I mean about 21 inches at our house; the lower 48 has been stealing our snowfall this year.  This amount (at one time) is unusual for Fairbanks, we normally get our snowfall several inches at a time.  Well, with snow comes shoveling, and in this case, lots of it, we even called the snowblower into action.  Fortunately our snow is light and fluffy, not that heavy, wet, concrete-like east coast stuff.  It started snowing on Sunday, and I shoveled the driveway twice, removing about 3 inches each time, and by Monday morning we had another 15 inches on the driveway.  The boys were ecstatic, when I opened the garage door Monday morning to take them for their walk, they stared at the drift in front of the door looking for a way around it, then jumped right in.  Despite their joy over romping in the new snow, the boys were terrified to discover that it had desecrated their sacred pooping grounds.

Bill operating the snow blower

It took us about 3 hours to shovel the driveway and deck, and then shovel a path to the satellite antennas and shovel the snow from in front of them.  The antennas are just below the deck, and when we push snow off the deck, it falls in front of them; there must have been at least 5 feet of snow blocking the antennas.  After that, we were ready for a break, but it was not to be.  As soon as we got in the house, our neighbor called.  Her husband, Paul, had decided to drive his snowmachine to the shop and got stuck in a drift on the Tanana River, and asked if we would take our snowmachines and help him out (Paul has a heart condition).  The wind was gusting and the river was a virtual whiteout, it was no surprise that he was stuck.   There is never hesitation to help a friend in need, especially under these conditions, so we set about digging out our machines.  My machine would not start, so I stayed behind.  Just as Bill was getting ready to go, I looked up from trying to start my machine, and I saw four Siberian Huskies running full speed up the driveway, going for a romp.  The garage door was up and the wind blew open the door from the garage to the house.  So, while Bill went to help Paul, I went to round up the huskies.

After I returned with the boys, I went back to work on trying to start my Arctic Cat, and after about half an hour I was tired and quit.  I was  walking back to the house when Bill called my cell:  he, too, was stuck!  He had turned toward a small island to avoid overflow and got stuck on some dead trees that washed up during previous breakups.  He walked off the river to a nearby house and called me to pick him up.  He never made it to Paul.  Luckily a couple snowmachiners had stopped to help Paul.  They got him out, he went about  50 feet and got stuck again.  The guys had already taken off, so Paul started walking through the deep snow towards the Chena River, and another rider came along and offered to help, giving Paul a ride up the river to his son’s house.  Both machines remained on the river overnight.  We dug out Bill’s machine on Tuesday, and Paul had a friend help him extricate his.  Bill got stuck one more time on his way home, as he was coming up over a snow berm from the trail to our road.  I have never been happier that my machine would not start!

Digging out Bill's machine on the Tanana River; it is stuck between two washed up trees.

Bill's machine stuck in the snow berm coming onto our road.

There are more photos in my Mobile Me gallery

Skiing the Tanana River

Super Bowl Sunday,what better day for a girl to grab her skis and head off down the Tanana River.  It was sunny, peaceful, beautiful and quiet.  On a normal Sunday, the parking area at the river launch is crowded with vehicles and snowmachine trailers, but this was Super Bowl Sunday, and all the testosterone was lounging in front of a TV somewhere.  Beautiful!  It was an interesting outing, and although most of what little traffic I encountered on the river was female, it was varied.  There were a couple other skiers, several skijorers, two bikers with a dog running along, two snowmachines and a dog team.

When they are running, dog teams are quiet, and they can sneak up on you.  I was merrily skiing along when all of a sudden I heard a dog panting behind me, and by the time I turned to look, the lead dogs of a dog team where at my side.  This is the closest I have been to a dog team running full speed, and the closest I have been to being run over by a team.  I yelled “sorry!” to the guy, thinking I had somehow been in his way, but as I watched him zip off down the river, I thought, “what was he thinking?”  As you can see in the photos, the river is wide and there was ample room for him to pass me at a safe distance.  I didn’t even have the opportunity to take a photo!

Skiing on the Tanana River on a beautiful day

Just another beautiful day in paradise

At the end of my shadow is a skijorer

This looks like fun!

Yukon Quest

Continuing with my recreation of lost posts….

Since the Yukon Quest starts February 5 in Whitehorse, Yukon, it is a good choice for today’s recreation.  This 1000-mile sled dog race is Alaska’s “other” race, the Iditarod being the more well known sled dog race.  In odd years the Quest starts in Whitehorse and finishes in Fairbanks and in even years it starts in Fairbanks and finishes in Whitehorse.  On Saturday, 25 hard core mushers will harness their 14 huskies in Whitehorse and begin the arduous and often dangerous 9-16 day trek to Fairbanks.  Overflow ice, jumble ice, moose, and severe cold are just a few of the natural dangers along the trail.  Then there are the self imposed dangers such as sleep deprivation and inadequate planning.  There are mechanical dangers associated with the sled or other equipment.  There are the unknowns of running in the darkness, losing the trail.  And most important, there’s dog care.  The dogs come first, the mushers feed and care for the dogs before themselves, no matter how cold or tired they are.  There are no hotels along the way, although there are shelter and food at the checkpoints.  The trail crosses four mountain ranges and passes through isolated and beautiful country, often with the northern lights dancing overhead.

Pelly and Dawson, two of our Siberian huskies, are named after Quest checkpoints, Pelly Crossing and Dawson City.  We are proud sponsors of the Yukon Quest.

2010 Yukon Quest start in Fairbanks

Rookie Abbie West on her way to Whitehorse, she placed 9th.

Four-time Yukon Quest and Iditarod champion Lance Mackey greets fans as he begins his trek to Whithorse (2010)

Eventual third place finisher Hugh Neff wearing the Husky House bib (Fairbanks 2010)

Husky House banner in Fairbanks (2009)

Skiing a New Trail

With freshly waxed skis in tow, we headed out yesterday to ski a new trail.  We didn’t know anything about the trail, except where it was, so we left the boys home so we could scout it to see if it was fitting for them and us together (skijoring).  I am not good at picking the best kick wax for conditions, and yesterday was no exception. That is why I liked my skate skis without wax, I could manage to push my way through all conditions.  We choose the Madshus backcountry touring skis, which considering the wrong kick wax, worked as good as anything.  The trail was a mushing trail and despite the November ice storm and relative lack of snow, was hard packed but in great condition.  In retrospect, I think we should have taken the trail to the immediate right, but we stayed on the main trail, which paralleled the Parks Highway and went up and down, but mostly up on the outbound, and for the most part, stayed out of sight of the highway.  I believe where we turned around was opposite the Parks Monument.  I can now say that I have both biked and skied up that long hill.  The terrain was not bad, but without the proper wax, it was a slip and slide (not glide) experience.  It reminded me of kayaking upstream; paddle for all you are worth for what seems like forever, then turn around and ride the current downstream in what seems like only minutes.  Despite that, I enjoyed the afternoon and the trail and I would do it again, hopefully with better grip.  I am undecided  about skijoring the dogs on the trail, there’s a lot of downhill and dogs love to run downhill, and there are no brakes on skis!  It was a beautiful day, and after skiing, we drove out to the Parks Monument to view Mt McKinley at sunset.

Bill skiing on the new trail

One of the few relatively flat sections of the trail as it follows along the Parks Highway

Mt McKinley at sunset from the Parks Monument

Skiing at Last!

Today I finally rounded up all my gear (really had to hunt for the boots) and went skiing at Creamer’s Field solo, just me, no boys.  I always need at least one solo outing before hooking up the boys.  I decided to use Bill’s skate skis instead of mine, since his had not been used since they were waxed several years ago and mine are in dire need of waxing.  We have about 4 inches of new powder on the trails on top of crud from the warm weather earlier in the week.  I was excited to be out and ready to skate!   However, my first few attempts at gliding told me this was going to be a workout, the skis had NO glide.  About half way around the front field I saw a skier and a skijorer going the opposite direction on a parallel trail in the woods and decided to follow in their tracks.  It was so much easier than breaking trail, and I think I had finally abraded  enough of the accumulated grime from the skis that I started to get some glide and even  managed to skate a bit, not pretty, but functional.  All the skis are  in the back of the Jeep to take to get cleaned and waxed before my next go.   Despite that, I had a great time, thoroughly enjoyed the solitude and beauty of winter and can’t wait to ski again.

ET update:   ET is much better, the Rimadyl and antibiotics are doing their job on his broken toenail and he is no longer limping. He was prancing with his tail high on his walk this morning  and playing with the other boys.  It’s so good to see him back to normal.

Skijor signs at Creamer's Field

Trail through the woods at Creamer's Field

Snow covered bridge at Creamer's Field

Christmas Eve

I hate to admit it, but I spent the afternoon riding around with Bill and the boys (and waiting in the Jeep) while Bill finished his Christmas shopping, instead of wrapping gifts.  There’s something about knowing nothing will be open tomorrow that makes me need that last minute fix.  Reminds me of an old PP&M song called “Yuppies in the Sky,”  where the yuppies are out trying to spend money, credit cards at the ready, but no stores are open.  However, after being out in the last minute crush, I am happy to say that I am looking forward to staying home tomorrow!  While I was waiting for Bill I took a couple photos.

Second Street in Fairbanks 3:22 pm Christmas Eve.

A Raven scavenging some Taco Bell