Monthly Archives: June 2019

Iowa Pacific


Iowa Pacific in Milwaukee en route to Saint Paul


Dry Weather = Wildfires


Map of current wildfires across the state of Alaska; Map credit: blm.gov

The negative side effect of warm, dry weather in Alaska is that wildfires are bound to be close at hand. Interior residents were quickly reminded of that over the Solstice Weekend, when the area saw an unusually high level of lightning strikes. There are currently 341 wildfires in the state, with 17 of them being actively fought.


The Shovel Creek Fire viewed from Murphy Dome; Photo credit: Alaska Fire Information

We have several fires around the Fairbanks area, with two on peoples’ radar, but one is getting most of the attention and resources. The Shovel Creek Fire was started by lightning on the Solstice, and is located 3 miles north of Murphy Dome, and a mile south of the Chatanika River. It’s close to my neck of the woods, and I often hike Murphy Dome.


The current view climbing Murphy Dome Road; Photo credit: Alaska Fire Info

Unfortunately, all residents are discouraged from hiking Murphy Dome, as the peak is being used as a base camp for the fire suppression. Saturday the fire was at 200 acres, on Monday 400, and tonight it is estimated to be just under 1000 acres with zero percent contained. 170 fire fighting personnel, including smoke jumpers, dozer operators and support are working the Shovel Creek Fire. At the moment, 6 subdivisions are on alert to be ready to evacuate in case the fire grows and moved up the valley. To be honest, I don’t think any Alaskan who lives out towards the end of the road, are not ready to get a move on when we are in fire season. I will say that the Fairbanks North Star Borough has done a good job of keeping residents informed.

Warm, dry weather is going to continue in the Interior, with mid to upper 80’s in the forecast for this weekend.


Chicago Union Station


Union Station in Chicago

Chicago Union Station opened in 1925, and is the second building on the site to carry the name. It is the fourth busiest rail terminal in the U.S., serving 140,000 passengers every weekday on average. Union Station has ten tracks coming into it from the north, and 14 from the south.


The Great Hall

Union Station’s headhouse covers an entire city block, with the Great Hall at its center. The Great Hall’s atrium stands 110 feet high, and is capped by a vaulted skylight. The entire Union Station takes up close to ten Chicago city blocks, the vast majority of it underground.

For some reason, I’ve been finding myself in New York State recently, and an easy way to travel from New York to the Twin Cities has been to hop aboard Amtrak. Once again I joined the Lake Shore Limited passengers in Syracuse, NY and transferred in Chicago, where I boarded the Empire Builder to Saint Paul, MN. That particular Am-trek takes around 23 hours of total travel time.

Unlike all other stations that serve Amtrak, every train either originates, or terminates at Chicago Union Station. There is no thru traffic on Amtrak in Chicago.


Amtrak mural at Chicago Union Station


Another view: St Lawrence State Hospital


Abandoned administration building


Katmai Bear Cam 2019


Popeye, also known as Bear #634, Photo credit: Katmai National Park

The Bear Cam is back up & running at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. The National Park Service has teamed up once again with explore.org to offer bear viewing in your living room.

The sockeyes started to come in last week, and the brown bears arrived right after that. There were 15-20 bears in sight when I last looked at the cam.

Link to the Bear cam:

https://explore.org/livecams/brown-bears/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls


Happy Summer Solstice!


The Midnight Sun Game at Growden Memorial Park; photo credit: Explore Fairbanks

The Midnight Sun Baseball Game has been played on every summer solstice in Fairbanks since 1906. The game starts at 10:30pm, and has never been played under artificial lights.

On a separate weather note: Fairbanks saw it’s first 80F degree day of the year on Thursday, June 20. That’s 10 days later than the average for the first 80. We’ve been dry and quite sunny, with temps basically running in the 70’s up until the Big Eight-Zero finally arrived.

The warmest Summer Solstice on record in Fairbanks happened on 21 June 1991, when the official airport thermometer hit 94F.

Have a great Solstice!


Best of all possible worlds

State Theater
Ithaca, New York


Ithaca’s State Theater

I had one final side excursion before climbing aboard Amtrak for the rail trip to Saint Paul. The Curator and I joined Doug & Cindy in Ithaca for a Kris Kristofferson concert.


The stage from the balcony

Ithaca, which sits alongside Cayuga Lake, is the home of Cornell University. The State Theater is next to the Ithaca Commons. The theater building was built in 1915, as the Ithaca Security Company auto garage and dealership.

The building was bought, with the idea of renovating it into a theater. The State Theater opened with a vaudeville act on December 6, 1928. At its peak, Ithaca had seventeen grand theaters downtown. Today, the State Theater is the last remaining cinema and vaudeville palace in Ithaca. The theater is a beautiful venue for a concert. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.


Kris Kristofferson & The Strangers

Kristofferson is one of the most prolific song writers out there today. I must admit, I never expected to see him play live. He was backed by Merle Haggard’s old band The Strangers, which included two of Merle’s sons: Ben & Noel. The 1600 seat theater was the perfect setting for the laid back and intimate concert put on by the 82 year old Kristofferson.

It was a good show. Kristofferson was in fine form, and after a bit of a tentative start, he relaxed with an audience that obviously adored the man. It didn’t take long for him to mix some things up and joke with the audience, although he was pure business, hitting song after song, for a 29 song set. Kristofferson is a masterful storyteller, and every song is a compelling tale on life.

The Strangers were a great addition. I thought Ben Haggard on guitar and vocals was an incredible artist. He’s be worth seeing in his own right. A good concert, and an unexpected surprise to the trip.