September 18, 2018
Runners on the trail
The golden fall foliage is here, with leaves still clinging on, much like our experience here the last few weeks. With each passing day, the temperature drops down a little, and the daylight hours dwindle. The Equinox Marathon was just yesterday and as I watched the runners and walkers, I pondered the many diverse paths taken at this time of year. Alaskans are either scurrying to wrap up those projects left procrastinated all summer, setting goals to start or finish school or embark on new ventures, or selling household goods and home to head south.
My sister and brother-in-law just left after forty years of raising their family, then packing up a myriad of memories, selling their home, and leaving for the lower ’48. This path down the road is just one of the trails routinely traveled; many come back after a few years (discovering the “madness” of traffic, population and general restrictions taken quite for granted in the rest of the United States), while others leave “for good”, only returning to visit friends or families during a brief stay. It feels like the end of an era. . .
My daughter and son-in-law had a housewarming, inviting close family over to visit and munch while playing games and enjoying each other’s company. They are definitely into the “nesting” mode, setting up their half dry cabin to prepare for the winter months ahead. For those who don’t know, a “half dry cabin” means there is a barrel that holds water to allow for running water in a sink and a shower; the commode is, yes—you guessed it, the outhouse. Their trail entails quite a social schedule, with both of them working and lots of outside interests and close-knit communities.
My husband and I are the “let’s get this done before the snow falls” scurrying mode. How can we both be in denial that the the “w” word is just around the corner, and yes, we need that fence at that property installed, and the footings for concrete aren’t done, and who needs to prepare the garden beds for winter? With this weekend’s successful fishing trip to Chitina, smoking of salmon takes the front burner. All too much demands attention within our brief window of opportunity to bring closure to fall.
Yes, we are all headed down the trail. Whether it’s closure on a season of life or just the beginning of a new adventure, the turning of leaves reminds us of the changing seasons and times of our lives. It particularly reminds me of the faithfulness of the Creator of it all.
May 13, 2018
Finally, after many false starts at summer, we have GREEN.
Perhaps it feels a bit late due to plans for a wedding on our front lawn at the end of May. Any other year, this would be totally doable. However, the two foot piles of snow we shoveled off roofs, just barely a month ago have not yet melted, despite yesterday’s 70 degree temps.
But yesterday it happened. Those tiny buds finally burst out on the birch trees, lending a slight tinge of that marvelous new growth green to our rather drab “break-up” landscape. For all you cheechakos out there (cheechakos is another Alaskan word for newbies), “break-up” refers to the melting away of snow, dawning of either mud or rain boots, and very dingy looking snowbanks.
Considering we had early morning snow twice last week, this is great news. “Cold” weather even prevented the first day’s opening of the Farmer’s Market by one week. Officially, I have visited all the local greenhouses I’m aware of at least once so far. Not that I’m in a hurry; I just needed to see splashes of vibrant color on green stalks with leaves. Somehow, all the events of last weekend collided with amazing speed to wake me up to the fact that summer has arrived: Graduation at the University of Alaska as well as local highschools, Clean-up Day, and I’m not sure what else!
We are looking forward to those Thursday night Music in the Garden at the Georgeson Botanical; the Midnight Sun Run, lazy canoe trips down the Chena to visit local restaurants, and a myriad of other “got-to-do’s” while the weather is fine. With the eighteen hours plus daylight, things are definitely looking up.
March 3, 2018
Fairbanks is up to 10 hours of brilliant sunlight a day and climbing upwards toward that time of year when the sun never seems to set. In the meantime, we are already in that anxious to get moving attitude. Here is a line-up of some of the many local options for things that locals like to do.
If you are a dog fan, this is your month! Whether you enjoy mushing, skijoring, or watching either, races abound. Trial runs for the Limited North American the first weekend, then the Open North American the following weekend at the Dog Musher’s Field on Farmer’s Loop Road.
Do you enjoy exploring Native culture? Festival of Native Arts provides many dance groups from around the state, as well as one of the best selections of native crafts brought to directly from the bush. Visit the Davis Concert Hall this weekend at the University of Alaska.
Still looking to see the Northern Lights? If the skies clear, this can be a great month. If not, you can visit the downtown Two Street Gallery for local artists renditions of what the lights look like from an artistic perspective is.
Tail feathers of ice sculpture
Visit the George Horner Ice Park with ice sculptures and ice slides on Phillips Field Road from now until the end of March.
You definitely don’t have to look far to find a wide variety of things to do in Fairbanks!
January 13, 2018
Police barricading entry to parking lots
The scene down College Road this morning looked surreal; flashing lights, packed parking lots, and people lined up outside the building. This was just 10:30 a.m. the day Sam’s Club in Fairbanks re-opened after the announcement that they would be closing the store in two weeks. Police cars blocked off entrances, cars were diverted to back entrances to avoid any crashes, and assure that people were not stealing carts from other businesses to “get to the goods” inside.
Shoppers in line to buy out Sam’s Club
I learned later that the meats (verified gone by 2 pm) were marked 50% off, and everything else in the store was going for 25% off. The lines of people outside that circled around the building (at -13 below temperatures I might add) were waiting for carts. Inside the lines were backed down aisles that weren’t that crowded even on Black Friday. Later at 5 pm, my daughter tried going with hopes of fewer crowds, only to be turned away at the door, with the explanation being that the clerks needed to be able to check-out the existing customers before 8 pm closing time.
To understand the impact the closure of such a large box store that locals have been dependent on for 20 years is difficult unless you realize how few options exist in the interior. The first question when ordering on-line is “how much is the shipping?” Many private and corporate sites won’t even discuss shipping to Alaska.
The economic trickle down was evident in a conversation I had with a 30 year resident in Healy, Alaska, 250 miles south near Denali Park. He had come to town to pick up a script from the Sam’s Club pharmacy. His answer to the closure was to simply transfer the prescription to the newly opened pharmacy in Healy and not make the trip to town. The outlying villages, so dependent upon “bush mail” a term that refers to transportation of goods to supply villages with groceries, will need to look for other more expensive options for their needs.
Some are talking about coaxing Costco into a store here in the interior. As Alaskans, we will definitely find alternatives. Maybe a long road trip to Anchorage for some; for others, it could include lots of on-line shopping. But definitely some thinking out of the box about suppliers is in order, which doesn’t seem to be out of the norm for Alaskans.
December 30, 2017
We often get asked what it’s like in the winter. Particularly this time of year, there is concern over the lack of light. Questions like how do you stand it being dark all day? Does the sun come up? What do you do? If you can’t see, how can you drive anywhere? Here are different views of the setting sun and rising moon from the same location at 3 in the afternoon.
Setting winter sun
Rising moon at 3
Winter, December in particular, is all about light. The Northern lights, Christmas trees with lights, the city sidewalks lit up, the moonlight at mid-day, and, of course, that brilliant sun right on the horizon, shining so brightly that one needs sunglasses to drive. As we come into New Year’s Eve, there are fireworks at the University. (Conversely, we don’t have much for fireworks for the fourth of July—there is just too much light to enjoy any large fireworks display)
Alaska is a land of extremes, and this excess is truly loved. We revel in the seemingly endless days of summer sun, and are awed by the long, long nights of northern lights. Summers seem to compel us to excess of activity, and the winter drives us inside to seek warmth, with perhaps the opposite effect, slowing us down somewhat.
As we move slowly toward more than just our limited three hours and forty minutes of actual sunrise to sunset, more and more visitors come to view the lights—the aurora borealis, that mystical, ethereal appearance in the sky that either spans the sky expansively, or evades illusively, coming and going as though through some whimsical algorithm. If you are planning a visit, please ‘view the best spots to see the Northern Lights‘, our printable aurora fact sheet, and visit our blog for more Alaska and aurora facts.
November 30, 2017
Now that we actually have snow and cold, we can offer the star-struck skies and awe-inspiring aurora viewing to those who travel from around the world to see this wonder.
Pieces of advice.
Check the best spots for Aurora viewing.
Don’t waste your sleep if it is snowing outside and clouds are low-lying. If it’s not clear, you won’t be able to see the northern lights. Look for stars; if you can see a few, then perhaps it’s worth losing sleep to stay awake and chance that skies will clear enough to see the lights.
Check the aurora forecasts—most notably, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has a website with forecasts nightly and even weekly. The website is http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast. According to their website, these are the recommended sites around Fairbanks for getting away from city lights:
- Chena Lakes Recreation Area
- Ester, Wickersham, and Murphy Domes
- Haystack Mountain
- Some turnouts along the Elliot, Steese, and Parks Highways
- Cleary Summit
If you are interested in taking pictures, (and need a little help like I do with photography skills), you might enjoy my new favorite app—aptly named “Aurora.” It will automatically adjust the settings on your phone to help you capture the faint glows in that faraway sky.
Additionally, there are many tour guides who offer to drive you to different locations where you can enjoy the warmth of their vehicle (not to mention not worry about unknown road conditions) and wait for the aurora to show up.
Even though I have lived here for fifty plus years, it is still amazing to see the aurora shimmer across the sky.
September 23, 2017
Maybe Facebook isn’t your thing (too many cute puppies and baby pictures) but it seems my friends in Alaska are posting lots of wildlife: dead or alive.
While fall can mean the changing of seasons, and time to hurry and wrap up all those things on the to-do list you’ve been putting off, for some, there is a different call of the wild: the hunt.
Yes, it is hunting season. One of my North Slope guests was sharing with me the good news that her village had just harvested their first whale for the season. This apparently is great reason for rejoicing in the village as it will be shared by all. Some other guests hire guides to take them out to parts unknown to see their trophy. My brother-in-law posted “Clear Creek or bust” on his facebook page before heading north to Fairbanks to hunt a moose. And even my newest niece posted her “prize” catch of a moose.
My husband isn’t fond of hunting for moose, but he made two trips to Chitina to try to catch some red salmon. Two trips, because the first was a total bust: he and a couple of fellow employees got skunked and came back empty handed. (Water was too high, they claimed.) The second time was slightly more successful with a few fish, but he certainly didn’t limit out. Wouldn’t you know, a cheechako friend (that’s Alaskan for a newcomer) just posted on FB today that he and a couple other guys netted (no pun intended) 60 red salmon!
Fall moose crossing road
Then there are those who post other kinds of pictures of wildlife, like my brother; a picture of “traffic”–a moose crossing the road on the way to work. Or the same niece with pictures of dahl sheep in Denali Park. Fall is holding on tenaciously–fortunately for those who hunt. And those of us who procrastinate. Beautiful yellows on the birch trees that line the roadways. We are enjoying no frost here yet; very unusual for the third week in September, as we usually experience frost by the Equinox run.
H auling equipment
U nknown parts
N ot knowing what
T rials and tribulations await