Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Fox

I had seen where a critter had broken through some screening on a porch out at the lake cabin, and promptly jumped down the steps to go check it out. When I looked up, I caught sight of a fox running down the boardwalk towards me.

It was black. And red. A beautiful mix. I came to a halt to admire the fox’s coloring. The fox froze too. Then I said, “You have to be the most beautiful fox I’ve seen today.” I swear, it blushed, but it was only one side of its face. The red side. It was like looking at a springer spaniel, but with large swaths of both colors, equally mixed across the body. And with a pointy nose, ears, and a great bushy tail that was tipped in white.

We watched each other for a moment, when a red squirrel, who apparently could not stand the tension, chattered noisily at the fox’s right. The fox instinctively pounced at the sound, but the squirrel was already off and running under the boardwalk. The fox then pounced to its left, where the squirrel had run, only to suddenly come up short, remembering that I was standing in front of it.

In what looked like a moment of pure exasperation, the fox pounced forward, and then ran right down the boardwalk, straight at me. I back peddled up one step, but then stood my ground. I could not out maneuver it anyway.

At the steps, the fox hopped off the boardwalk, and looked up at me. It really was an absolutely stunning animal. We stood looking at each other, mere feet apart. I had brought two film cameras, and I had the cell phone, but all three were sitting inside the cabin. I knew I should have waited a day before I thought about work.

I slowly edged my way up to the landing and reached the door; the fox had its eyes on me the entire time. As soon as I opened the door, the fox thought better of our proximity, and trotted off into the woods. It did not run off; it trotted. Totally composed, with its head held high, and its tail straight out behind it in defiance.

Photo above: A red and black fox from Unalaska, who claims to have never left the island, nor visited the lake cabin.


Bear with me

Some blog housekeeping:

Upon my return from the lake, I found that WordPress has finally forced me to use their new editor. I have avoided it, ignored it, and found loopholes around it for months now. The demons finally got me when I had my back turned while trout fishing. I hate the new editor and I hate it with a passion. I simply do not have the free time to learn the ins and outs in the summer months. Things could be interesting in the meantime.

To further add to my frustration, my internet connection seems to have slowed to a torturous crawl when I was away. My provider sent me an email today admitting that it seemed slow, but that there were no lines down.

I thought that a bit obvious, since I have service, just slower than postal service. That part of the equation may take a while, as we live in our own time zone up here.

Hopefully, I will continue to just bull my way through it until I get it all figured out, before I’m forced to use a newer editor, but if I get cranky and disappear for days at a time, don’t be surprised, and don’t send out a search party. I’ve either gone back to the lake, or gone back to my typewriter.

Cheers from Alaska


The waning of summer

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Fairbanks daylight; Graph by @AlaskaWX

Civil twilight ended on Sunday morning in Fairbanks. Monday was the first time since May 16th, that we have not experienced civil twilight at night. All night.  Basically, during civil twilight, the sun is just below the horizon, which allows for most outdoor activities to take place without artificial lights. As if to punctuate that fact, when I returned home from the working-fishing trip, my security light came on for the first time in months.

Sigh.

Fairbanks community wood pile

I needed one more truckload of firewood to put me over the top for the coming burning season, so I went the easy route and picked one up. The wood has now been hauled, split and stacked. It’s a good feeling to have all those BTU’s piled up outside the cabin. I’m ready for a cold winter, but if we have a mild one like last year, I’ll have quite a bit left over.

Fireweed past bloom

 

Fireweed is our unofficial harbinger of darkness. The plant blooms from the bottom to the top. When we reach the peak of the fireweed blossom, like we have right now, residents of Interior Alaska feel a natural sense of apprehension. Summer is nearing its end; winter is close at hand.

What about autumn in the Interior? It’s beautiful, and to be honest, September is my favorite month up here. With a little luck, autumn could last a good 3-4 days.


A break for the lake

Heading out in a loaded canoe

I took several days “off” last week to head out to a local lake at a client’s request. They wanted me to check the place out, and see if it needs any work, and I wanted to wet a line or two and try for some trout.

Before I made even a dozen paddle strokes from the landing, I had an eagle flying overhead. It was high enough, and the sun bright enough, that I wasn’t sure if it was a golden eagle, or an immature bald eagle, but that didn’t seem to matter anyway. I was just happy to be out on the water, in a newly repaired canoe, away from cell phones, email and texts.

“When will you be back in town?”

My answer: “I have no idea. When the fish stop biting, I guess.”


Apollo 11: Splashdown


Navy Seals from the USS Hornet (in background) approach the Apollo 11 capsule after splashdown; Photo credit: NASA

After a successful moonwalk EVA, the crew of Apollo 11 returned to Earth on 24 July 1969, eight days after launching from Cape Kennedy.

Splashdown occurred 812 miles from Hawaii, and only 12 miles from where the USS Hornet was stationed, waiting to recover the crew.

The mission duration was officially 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds from launch.

The three man Apollo 11 crew was scrubbed, disinfected and remained in quarantine for 21 days after their return.

Commander Neil Armstrong passed away on 25 August 2012. Fellow Apollo 11 astronauts, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin were front & center for many of the 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Michael Collins’ book: Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys, is one of the very best written by an astronaut.


Maybe just a tad anti-social…


The little creek that started it all…

Flashback to 22 July 1902


Pedro Creek: Looking upstream

Felice Pedroni left his small mountain village of Trignano, Italy in 1881. Upon landing in New York City, as a fresh immigrant, he changed his name to Felix Pedro. Pedro was 23 years old at the time.

From New York, he worked his way across the United States, eventually finding himself in Washington state. From there, Pedro migrated to the Yukon Territory. By 1898, Pedro was working the Forty-Mile Mining District in Alaska. He supposedly struck it big on Lost Creek with his partner, Tom Gilmore. Unfortunately, the creek retained the name “Lost Creek” for a reason. Gilmore & Pedro had to abandon the claim after its discovery, due to running out of provisions. They did mark the spot, but spent the next three years trying to find it again. They never did.


Felice Pedroni, aka Felix Pedro

As it often happens throughout history, the city of Fairbanks got its start due to happenstance, coincidence and a dose of pure luck.

Two things happened that drove the city’s founding. First: The banker, swindler and first mayor of Fairbanks, Elbridge Truman Barnette, booked passage on the sternwheeler Lavelle Young from St Michael, AK in August 1901. After hitting the shallows of Bates Rapids on the Tanana River, E.T. Barnette convince the Lavelle Young’s Captain Adams to try a shortcut up the Chena River. Well, everyone knows what they say about shortcuts. The sternwheeler ran into sandbars only 6 miles from the mouth of the Chena, and the Captain refused to go any further. Barnette, his wife Isabelle, his employees and all his cargo, were unceremoniously dropped off on the south bank of the river.

Captain Adams later was quoted as saying, “We left Barnette furious. His wife was weeping on the bank.”


Looking downstream on Pedro Creek

Second: Re-enter Felix Pedro and Tom Gilmore. The two miners were prospecting in the area, when they saw the smoke rising from what turned out to be the Lavelle Young. They came across Barnette and his predicament and promptly bought a year’s worth of supplies. Barnette could do little with winter closing in on him, so he built a log building that he named “Barnette’s Cache” and decided to stick it out until spring breakup.

On 22 July 1902, Pedro & Gilmore discovered gold in a small, unnamed creek north of Barnette’s Cache. The Fairbanks Gold Rush was on.

Barnette promptly gave up any idea of leaving the area. He named the new community “Chena City”, and by autumn, he was elected the recorder for the new mining district. Judge Wickersham, who had been appointed to the territory by President William McKinley, suggested renaming the community Fairbanks, after the up & coming Senator Charles Fairbanks of Indiana. Barnette agreed to do so, thinking it could gain favor for the town.

During the winter of 1902-03, as many as 1000 new miners came to Fairbanks from all over the globe. They were quickly disappointed to find that one could not mine the frozen creeks during an Interior Alaskan winter. Temperatures were regularly recorded in the -50F range that winter. Barnette made a fortune with his trading post monopoly, and by 1908, Fairbanks was the largest city in Alaska.


Felix Pedro Monument; Steese Hwy, Alaska

Felix Pedro died of what was believed to be a heart attack in 1910. He was 52. His partner at the time doubted the cause of death, believing that Pedro’s wife had poisoned him. Pedro’s body was shipped to San Francisco, and buried there. In 1972, Italy wanted Pedro back, so his body was exhumed, and reburied in Fanano. Before reburial however, an autopsy was performed, and hair samples concluded that Pedro, had indeed, been poisoned.

This past weekend, the city of Fairbanks celebrated Golden Days, the annual event recognizing Fairbanks’ golden start. The celebration is marked by parades, street fairs, a Felix Pedro look a like contest, and the running of the historic steam locomotive No.1. It fact, this year was No.1’s 120th birthday.

Today, a monument to Felix Pedro can be found along the Steese Highway north of Fairbanks. Across the highway is Pedro’s original mining claim on the creek that now carries his name. The claim is owned & operated by the Pioneers of Alaska, Igloos #4 & 8. It is open to the public; anyone can pan for gold in Pedro Creek.


Jay Hammond Day


Former Alaskan Governor Jay Hammond in front of a section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline

July 21 is Jay Hammond Day in Alaska. Hammond, a popular figure in Alaska, served as governor between 1974 – 1982.

Hammond, born in Troy, NY, was a Marine fighter pilot in WWII, flying for the Black Sheep Squadron in China. He moved to Alaska after the war, and continued his flying as a bush pilot. Hammond entered state politics in 1959.

Governor Hammond died at his homestead on Lake Clark in 2005. Alaska could use the Bush Rat Governor right about now.


Apollo 11: Day 4


Image credit: NASA


Apollo 11: Day 3


Image taken on the third day of Apollo 11’s flight. Earth seen from 162,400 nautical miles away; Africa, with the Sahara Desert, is quite clear. Image credit: LPI

Aldrin: “Houston, Apollo 11. We’ve got the continent of Africa right facing toward us right now, and of course, everything’s getting smaller and smaller as time goes on. The Mediterranean is completely clear. The Sun looks like it’s about to set around Madagascar. The equatorial belt of Africa stands out quite clearly. We’re seeing a dark green or a muddy colored green, compared to the sandier colors of the southern tip of Africa and, of course, the Sahara northern coast of Africa. There’s a rather remarkable cloud that appears in the vicinity of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s just about to go into the sunset now. It is casting quite a large shadow. It’s isolated. There don’t seem to be any other clouds. The band of clouds near the tropical convergent clouds down around the equator clearly separate the clockwise and the counter-clockwise cloud formations. Over.”

This was the final day of preparations for the lunar landing scheduled for the following day. The spacecraft approached the moon, and went behind it, putting Apollo 11 in a blackout with Earth. The crew used that time to prepare for their first lunar orbit insertion maneuver: To position themselves to orbit the moon.