April “Showers”

April 19, 2022

Fairbanks celebrates spring in many different ways—the theme of water runs through them all. We don’t usually have rain showers in April. That is fortunate because the combination of melting snow, freezing and thawing is quite treacherous for pedestrians and vehicles alike. Our three water related events are the geese to ponds on Creamer’s Field, the Nenana Ice Classic, and “Breakup.”

What the local news paper, the New Miner, calls the “goose watch” starts the end of March, beginning of April.  This year, the first geese arrived in Fairbanks on April 6th.

The first individual in the interior of Alaska (that would include Delta, Tok, Salcha, North Pole, Fox—any of the outlying communities) to spot the return of the geese to Fairbanks receives recognition for this sure sign of spring.  Creamer’s Field is prepped with grain for all the many migratory birds that arrive in the next few months. Pools of water that resemble lakes gather in Creamer’s Field and the birds feast and put on quite the show as they cover from their travels.  It is a wonder to behold—trumpeter swans, Canandian geese, and a variety of ducks.

Another event that begins mid-March and continues until “the Tripod tips” is the Nenana Ice Classic.  This tradition has run since 1917.  A large tripod is placed in the center of the Tanana River at Nenana.  Whoever guesses the minute  when the tripod will “tip” –i.e, the ice will break beneath it wins the jackpot.  This year even garnered the attention of HBO with the uniqueness of the event.  One of our guests, Dona Schneider created the artwork for the poster as shown below.

Break-up is a term locals use to describe that wonderful event—melting of the snow.  Whether this term is peculiar to Alaskans, or not I do not know; I have lived here since I was six.  For me, I consider a true sign that spring is here when the pussy willows show up.  Perhaps the combination of enough light and warm days make it fell more like spring is here to stay (regardless if a snowfall or two happens thereafter).


The Quest is On

February 6, 2022

 

The Yukon Quest starts today—sleds, dogs, and plenty of spectators on-line and in person.

This year’s event has definitely been redefined in order to make all “things” work—specifically, by reformatting the race.  Essentially, there four distinct races: two in Alaska, two in the Yukon in order to accommodate both mushers, rules and restrictions of both countries. 

Dog Team

Yukon Quest start-up

 

For those who compete in one race in each country, there is chance to win an additional $5000.  This rightly so earns the title of “quest”.  Can you imagine the logistics required—not only to cross borders, but navigate the preparation and execution of food drops, check-points, terrain and weather in both venues?  There are actually four different trails: today’s (Tok to Fairbanks); February 7th, (Circle to Fairbanks); February 19th, (Whitehorse to Pelly Crossing); and again on the 19th (Shipyards to Braeburn). 

Of course, the stakes (“purse” in musher’s language) are high–$35,000 per race!  However, when you consider the costs associated with the entire year to get to the point of actually doing the race, it doesn’t seem all that lavish.  There’s feed for all those dogs, booties, harnesses, straw, blankets, and all the appropriate gear for extreme weather conditions. 

Additionally, there are hazards on the trail.  Sadly, a local musher posted her horrifying experience of watching her dog team be trampled by a rouge moose.  She also stated that she herself feared for own own life but was rescued just in time.  It is not uncommon to encounter wildlife on the trail.  However, this particular year has been extremely hard due to heavy snowfall. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has posted multiple time about the dangers of encountering moose that are “stressed” because they are having difficulty navigating the heavy snow fall in search of food. 

This will definitely be an interesting year for the Quest and its participants. 
Keep an eye out for updates on-line.


The Great Escape

February 19, 2021

Not only are we the Last Frontier, we may be unarguably the last great escape.
Think about it; Alaska is the epitome of the great outdoors. Wild, unexplored open spaces. Endless miles of wilderness, untold rivers and streams, glaciers, mountains, and forests. Even the highways wind through hundreds of miles with often nary a passing car or two.
In a socially distanced world, where else would one go?
This time of year, we enjoy rugged dog sled races, spectacular aurora viewing, and beautiful ice carving.
You can experience dog mushing in a variety of ways. There are local individuals that frequent the Dog Musher’s Field on Farmer’s Loop Road who may be able to offer you a ride in one of their sleds. Alaskans are notorious for their friendliness and even if you choose to just watch the fun and activity, you will learn plenty.

Yukon Quest dogs

Dogs at the Yukon Quest


Another way to take part in dog mushing is to come for some of the bigger events—for example, the Yukon Quest or Iditarod are two of the most popular. Many people “follow” the team of their choice along parts of the trail by road systems so they can cheer them on. Plan your visit during these times. You can check with http://www.explorefairbanks.com for more specific information.
Yet another option is to book a tour to one of the local sled dog venues; there are many to choose from and you can again, check out the visitor’s center’s website to select a business that specializes in taking you to the great outdoors for the ride of your life.

Ice sculpture

Ice carving


If dogs are not your thing, the Ice Alaska International Ice Carving Competition just began this week. The ice park is at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, halfway between the downtown area and the University westside. Some people choose to come early and watch the making of the sculptures; others wait so they can enjoy the finished product of approximately 50 different ice carvings. Oh, and don’t forget to bring the family; there are ice slides, skating rinks, and great photo ops for everyone.

Aurora over Ballaine Lake

Aurora over Ballaine Lake


For many people from around the world, viewing the Northern Lights is on their bucket list. This time of year seems to be accommodating due to a little warmer weather, as well as the above mentioned options for daytime activity. Clear skies, higher aurora Kp levels (check out http://www.gi.alaska.edu/monitors/aurora-forecast for specific information) and low light interference make for great aurora viewing. If you choose not to ventures to hills, there are many “aurora chasers” who delight in seeking great viewing opportunities.
Go ahead and treat yourself to explore our Great Land.


Looking for Light

December 4, 2020

We just finished doing a little mid-winter window washing (Alaskans consider above zero temperatures to be quite warm this time of year!  Almost like Spring!) and removing the sheers that were blocking the sunlight.   I am definitely enjoying the extra light through the window.  It dawned on me –no pun intended- that I have been noticing the sunrises and sunsets so much more.  Not only because they occur at 10 am and 3 pm, but I really think it’s because of the contrast of darkness and light.  Those long winter nights can be very dark.

8 am moon light

This year particularly.

No one need say more.  The contrast of darkness and light, right and left, the over-riding fears of pandemic and presidential elections have been staggering. 

10 am Sunrise

The experience of light brings hope.  The sun will continue to rise, the aurora borealis will continue to shine, the seasons continue to change.  These constants are stabilizing. 

As we approach the Christmas season, let’s remember to give thanks for the blessings and freedoms we have.  We are the richest country in the world, in terms of liberty and light.  We do not need to cower in fear, but rise up in faith as we look to the Light of the World this Christmas season.  Enjoy the Light, partake of the Light, remember the Light, reflect on the Light, receive the Light, and as we do, we will enter the new year, with greater faith, hope and love in our hearts to face the year ahead as we readjust our focus.


Fabulous Fall

September 14, 2020

Top of Goldstream June

Fresh green of spring above Goldstream

Fall Colors

Fall colors above Goldstream

 

 

 

 

The changes are slow but seem all too fast.

The (practicing) yellow school buses rolling out down lanes lined with yellow tinged leaves on the trees.  Couples walking dogs while donning light jackets or sweaters.  The cool night air and reappearance of the moon and stars after a three-month hiatus. Crisp clear mornings as you breathe out with an almost visible breath.   Honking geese flood the skies and the sandhill cranes stock the grounds at Creamer’s Field.    Reports of snow on not-so-distant hills.  We check the lows for the overnight temperature to see if it really is time to pull the last of the garden produce or bring in the hanging baskets.

Rainbows

Sudden rainbow

We experienced record rains this summer, with resulting numerous rainbows, discussions of opening the Chena Lakes Flood Control dam, and preempted many canoe trips down the extremely high river.

Thankfully, some things do not change.  We can count on the seasons, the sunrise, moon and stars, and the beauty of the seasons.  This year, it seems the leaves are hanging on just a little bit longer.  Many more people are out and about enjoying the sun and warmth it provides.  Perhaps it all has to do with slowing down to notice?  I’m not sure, but the things we have taken for granted have definitely come to the forefront.

Sunlit tree

Sunlit tree


OPEN and Ready for Your Visit

June 2, 2020

Fairbanks is OPEN and there are plenty of things to do!

Here is a current short list for those considering a visit to Fairbanks, with plenty of fun (and mostly free!) things to do

 

Stroll through Creamer’s Field and enjoy the occasional wildlife and waterfowl

Take a bike and enjoy any one of many excellent bike trails in Fairbanks

Drive through our famous Hot Licks ice cream stand to cool off

Hot Licks Ice Cream

Enjoy specialty homemade ice cream

Borrow a canoe and paddle down river and partake of the scenery

Drive up Chena Hot Springs Road and hike Angel Creek or Granite Tors

Walk the Chena River walk along the downtown banks and check out some history

Saturdays and Wednesdays visit the Farmer’s Market on College Road

Check out the disc golf trail at UAF (discs are available at Sportsman’s Warehouse for $9)

Borrow a fishing rod and try your hand at the stocked Ballaine Lake or Chena Lakes location

Stroll through Pioneer Park and catch a glimpse of Fairbanks history.

Get tons of information, maps and suggestions at the Explore Fairbanks Visitor Center (June 15)

Learn about Alaska Native Culture at the Alaska Native Gift Shop (June 15)

Explore possibilities for hiking and state and national park sites at Alaska Public Land Information Center

Bear Outlook

Panoramic view from the Botanical Gardens

Enjoy carefully manicured and fragrant gardens at the Georgeson Botanical Gardens just up the hill.

Visit any one of our unique shops in Fairbanks—

Alaska Bowl Company

Alaska Raw Fur Company

The Knotty Shop

Santa Claus House

Drive 150 miles north to cross the Arctic Circle.

Sign up for Running Reindeer’s Ranch tour and walk with them.

Visit the Fountainhead Antique Car Museum on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

As restrictions lighten up, consider a staycation or traveling up to Fairbanks and enjoy our magnificent summers.


Pursue Your Passion

November 21, 2019

Recently I went to an open house sponsored by our local visitor’s center, entitled, “Winter Rocks!” As I talked to the twenty plus vendors there, I discovered they shared a common thread: they were pursuing their passion.

From ATV (all terrain vehicles) and snow machines to snowshoes and skis, each told me how they enjoyed what they now offer as a service what initially started as a hobby.

One individual provides sled dog rides with her purebred Canadian huskies. Her team of 6 dogs pulls 700 pounds with no effort. Another demonstrated her quick release short skis and quipped that no winter sport is enjoyable”unless the person is warm.” Yet another gentleman boasted of his very tall heated garage from which his snow machines enter and exit so his clients are comfortable beginning to end.

A high percentage of all the vendors offered variations of aurora viewing, tips, tours, and photo taking techniques.  Fairbanks has definitely grown into a “go-to” destination for aurora viewing and as such some have even named their business or tour “aurora chasers.” Such diligence requires staying up all night, driving long distances, and traveling to remote locations–definitely requiring a strong desire to catch that coveted sighting of the northern lights.

I’m sharing just a few shots of what winter is like –more what I enjoy about winter:  the beautiful pristine beauty of sunrise and sunset, the moose and the people as they pursue their passion.  Alpenglow behind trees

Pioneer Prrk Moon

Moon set over Pioneer Park

Moose next door

The moose next door


Geese, Tripods, and Green Grass–oh my!

April 17, 2019

Today’s post began with spotting a beaver paddling downstream on a clear-of-ice Chena River.  Mind you, this is the second week in April:  we are approaching spring well over a month early.   I must tell you this is really not the norm.

Geese feeding at Greamer's Field

geese landing at Creamer’s Field

While some are still catching glimpses of the northern lights during the darkest hours of night, others are scanning the sky in search for the first goose to fly into Fairbanks.  A ritual called the “goose watch” encourages anyone in the interior to call in when they first spy a goose overhead.  The local Fairbanks Daily News Miner provided a history of the dates which indicate a trend toward earlier and earlier sightings.  This year was the earliest sighting ever–March 30!

Residents have donned shorts and teeshirts, dug out their bikes, raked their partially thawed lawns, and all but sun-bathed.  Greenhouses posted opening dates in the newspaper –perhaps to avoid the calls about when starter plants will be available?  While walking today I found people fishing along the Chena.   No, not ice fishing–but in wide open waters.   Are we really being treated to such an early spring?

Yet another uniquely Alaskan event is the Nenana Ice Classic.  A tripod is secured to the ice in the middle of the Nenana River; tickets are sold for a specific time when the tripod will tip over into the river due to the melting of ice; the winners are those who guess closest to the actual time the tripod tips.  Proceeds from the tickets are given to both the community of Nenana and local Fairbanks charitable organizations.  Again, this was the earliest that the tripod went out, April 14th to be exact at 12:21 a.m.

tripod in front of Nenana Bridge

We are all about setting records–most daylight, least daylight–just about any “most extreme” that offers us a chance to boast.  I hope you have plans to visit the Great Land in the near future.


Daylight Dawn and Darkness

February 19, 2019

 

People in Fairbanks are all about aurora viewing, but experiencing daylight at five in the afternoon deserves some kind of celebration.  An excitement in the air, a sense of hope–even though it is still February I believe I felt the warm of the sunlight through the car windows while I was driving around town midday.

While people talk about all the darkness during winter, if there is sufficient snow, any light–day or night–reflecting off the snow makes a huge difference. If you are coming and renting a car–believe it or not–you will appreciate bringing sunglasses.  At night, with just a touch of moonlight, you can see well enough to walk the dog.  And even despite moonlight, you can still see some great northern lights.

 

Pink sunrise

Something about that quiet serenity of snow-laden trees that are tall, but lacey with silvery frost and glitter.  Those long hours of daylight are not too far off.


Did I Say Resilient?

December 6, 2018

I could not resist this meme because I think it personifies the attitude that Alaskans have.

It seems from our perspective up here that it is best to move on quickly–no matter what comes your way.  There simply is no time to retreat into self-pity.  We are survivors!

My family to Alaska in 1964,  immediately after the last “big one.”  (I think this qualifies me to truly be a pioneer of Alaska (another word is a sourdough, the opposite of which is cheechako, which means you are definitely new to Alaska).  We lived through the 1967 flood in Fairbanks which did take a very long time back then to recover.  We returned to our home across the street –there was 4 feet of water for a couple days–after just three days.  I was just ten, but I have vivid memories of the murkey water rolling into our yard and carrying away my pink Schwinn bike.

I’ve been interviewing people from Anchorage as they come to the inn to query how things fared for them during this earthquake.  Answers like, “just a little broken glass” or “no real damage” seem to be quite common.  I’m sure there are those with much more damage, but with no deaths or severe injuries, we are very thankful.