Monthly Archives: June 2019
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
Ogdensburg, New York
Originally to be called the Ogdensburg State Asylum for the Insane, the name was officially changed to the St. Lawrence State Hospital before the first patient was admitted in 1890. The 950 acre parcel of land along the Saint Lawrence River was bought by the State of New York for $90,500 in 1887.
By the 1940’s, the hospital had become a “city within a city”. Food for the over 2000 residents came from poultry, dairy and vegetable farms within the grounds. The hospital had its own police & fire departments, post office and telephone system. There was also carpentry, plumbing and paint shops, a tailor shop, theater, community store, and the hospital had its own nursing school.
The St Lawrence Hospital closed in 1983.
When I was in Ogdensburg, my tour guide drove me through the hospital grounds. The massive stone buildings are all in various state of disrepair. I cringed at the sight of open roofs, knowing the damage that is being done internally to these wonderful buildings. As a contractor, I realize the effort and craftsmanship that went into their construction over 130 years ago. It’s just a shame that the city of Ogdensburg could not get the State of New York to do something constructive with the site.
Ogdensburg, New York
When I was in Ogdensburg this past spring, I was lucky enough to get a private, guided tour of the Frederic Remington Art Museum. The main building of the museum was built in 1810 by David Parish. Remington’s wife Eva, lived in the residence after the artist’s death. Eva died in 1918, and the museum was founded in 1923.
Today, the FRAM houses a large and comprehensive collection of Remington’s work, which includes paintings, sculptures and sketches, as well as many personal belongings.
Born in 1861, Remington was 11 when his family moved to Ogdensburg. He briefly attended Yale University’s art school, but left to tend his ailing father, who died a year later. At 19, Remington made his first trip Out West, to Montana. It was from this trip that Harper’s Weekly published Remington’s first work: a sketch the he had made on wrapping paper and sent back East. A career was launched, ever so humbly.
Here is just a very small sampling of Remington’s art on display at the FRAM:
This work just jumps out at me, due to the expression of the horse. Amazing detail here.
The plaster model of The Stampede had been sent to the Roman Bronze Works just prior to Remington’s untimely death. One of Remington’s final works, he did not live to see it cast into bronze.
Remington became a war correspondent during the Spanish-American War, and was around for the assault on San Juan Hill. What Remington witnessed during that brief war greatly affected him upon his return. His painting The Scream of Shrapnel at San Juan Hill depicts the terror of the unseen during war. It’s quite the visual.
The writer Stephen Crane was also alongside Remington as a correspondent in Cuba. He would return to publish Wounds in the Rain on his war experience. Oddly enough, Crane’s celebrated work The Red Badge of Courage was published in 1895, before he had experienced war first hand.
In all Remington created 22 bronze sculptures, and over 3000 paintings and drawings. Remington also authored eight books. Frederic Remington died on 26 December 1909 from peritonitis after an emergency appendectomy. He was 48.
The Frederic Remington Art Museum is well worth the time to visit if you are in upstate New York. In all honesty, the area is well worth visiting anyway, so take in a visit to the FRAM as you explore the Saint Lawrence River country.