Category Archives: Alaska

SS Nenana Day

Artwork: The SS Nenana

Saturday, August 17 is SS Nenana Day at Pioneer Park.

Friends of the old stern wheeler are throwing it a party to help with finances for her renovation. Celebrate the Last Lady of the River.


Alaska Wild Salmon Day

We have circled around once again to the day we officially celebrate the wild salmon here in Alaska. It can not be stressed enough how this aquatic migrator is vital to both Alaska’s economy and psyche.

Festivities can be found throughout Alaska today. Events include everything from catching & cleaning, to preparing our favorite fish. I’m sure you can even find some salmon poetry if you look for it.

So, grab that rod and get out on a river bank or climb over the gunwales and wet your line. The salmon are running.


Canoe Repair

Cracks in the hull, minus the moose hoof prints

Prior to heading out to the lake a couple of weeks ago, I had to do some repair work to the hull on my Old Town Discovery canoe. This past winter, I followed moose tracks over to where I had the canoe stored, and found that the moose tried to go through the canoe. I thought it was stored well enough on saw horses, but a moose does what it wants to, and I’m sure it looked like a snow covered log.

There were moose prints in the snow covering the canoe, but it must have realized that it wasn’t a log. If a moose had put all its weight on the Old Town, it would have gone through the hull. As it turned out, the moose only put a few cracks in it. To be fair, the canoe is at least 30 years old, so I have received my money’s worth, but I also like to squeeze every bit out of something I can.

So I decided to repair the hull.

Sanded hull

The first step was to get the canoe in the Rover Hut, then sand the entire hull.

Acetone the hull

I then cleaned the entire hull with acetone. Warning: Acetone should only be used in a well ventilated area**

After the cleaning, I cut alongside the cracks with a razor blade to allow the epoxy I was going to use to get down into the cracks. Then I cleaned the entire hull a second time with the acetone. Luckily, acetone dries extremely quickly.

G-Flex 650 Epoxy

After some internet searching, I found that the G-Flex epoxy was the best product out there to repair the Royalex of an Old Town canoe. I called their tech center to tell them my plan, and get any insight from them. They were incredibly helpful! I received the go ahead from them, and went back out to the Rover Hut. Side note: I did have some down time. The product is not sold in Fairbanks, so I ordered it from Amazon. They promptly sent me a box containing only the epoxy hardener, which is utterly useless by itself.

Filling the cracks with epoxy

Like most epoxies, G-Flex is a two part system. There is a resin Part A, and a hardener Part B. You mix equal parts of both together to get the working epoxy. I mixed up a small batch, and filled the large cracks. The next day, I flipped the canoe over to fill brush some epoxy over the cracks that had come close to coming all the way through the hull.

The hull completely coated in G-flex epoxy

Because of the canoe’s age, there was a fair amount of what I would describe as “spider-webbing”. A series of tiny cracks that had not gone through the hull, but had probably made it easier for the moose to cause the large ones. I wanted to coat the entire hull in the epoxy to at least buy me some time with the spider-webbing. Luckily, the G-Flex went on rather easy with a brush, and spread out in an even coat.

The epoxy can be top coated, although I have not done so. Krylon Fusion spray paint is said to work well on Royalex, but again, I have not attempted that.

The Discovery back on the water

The end result: The old canoe was back on the water, and glided just like it did when I bought it. No leaks, and the epoxy didn’t scare away the lake trout.


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.


“Gasoline on a Stick”

One reason the Shovel Creek Fire has been such a persistent pain for firefighters and locals alike, is that much of the forested area surrounding Murphy Dome is saturated with black spruce. The resins in the black spruce makes the trees highly flammable; once flames hit the boughs, the flames race up the tree with amazing ferocity and speed. A wildfire can double in size very quickly. That is why black spruce has earned the nick-name: “Gasoline on a Stick”.


A firefighting crew on Old Murphy Dome Road, fighting the Shovel Creek Fire; Photo credit: AKFireInfo

The past few days have been brutal, air quality-wise. Fairbanks was way past double the unhealthy level of particulates in the air, and the Murphy Dome area was way past triple on Wednesday. The smoke has been bad enough for my UPS driver to show up wearing a dust mask this week.
Rain is on everyone’s mind, but the forecast is for more lightning than rain drops this coming weekend.

This season, 1.28 million acres have been burned by wildfires. That’s one Rhode Island, every 10 days.

For the first time since records have been kept, NOAA analysis has the July-June (2018-2019) average temperature for the entire state of Alaska at above freezing.


Alaskan Heat Dome


A huge upper-level high pressure has parked itself over much of southern Alaska; Graphic credit: TropicalTidbits.com

Record breaking temps hit the southern part of Alaska on July 4th. A large high pressure dome has planted itself over the state, and is moving very slowly north and east. Several communities in the southern part of the state have seen all time record high temperature records broken. Fairbanks probably won’t be seeing any all time records broken, but we are going to see temps in the upper 80’s within a day or two as the high pressure moves into our area. Just what we need with all the fires around the area.

Broken records:

Anchorage Merrill Field: 90F
King Salmon: 89F
Kenai: 89F
Illiamna: 86F

These are all-time record highs for our coastal areas; The Anchorage Bowl had never recorded 90 degrees before. When one thinks of King Salmon, you picture wet, rainy, cool weather as you fish for salmon. The coast could be breaking records for the next 5-6 days, as the high pressure takes its time moving out of the area.


Fires from Space


The two main Fairbanks Fires as seen from space; Photo credit: NASA

NASA released a photo from one of their satellites the other day, showing the smoke from both the Shovel Creek and Nugget Creek fires. As of Monday morning, the Nugget Creek Fire had reached 6900 acres, and the Shovel Creek Fire at 10,000 acres, with zero percent containment.

Residents of 52 homes in two subdivisions have been told to evacuate, along with residents of 93 homes being told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Cabins and homes along the Chatanika River are also under threat. The area received .3″ of rain on Sunday evening, which isn’t much, but along with cooler temperatures, the firefighters were able to catch a small break. Hot, dry weather is back in the forecast, however.


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.


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!


Alaska: Catfish Capital of the U.S.

That’s catfished capital. My apologies.

It seems that Alaskans are looking for love in all the wrong places. Or, at least, we do it more per capita, than anyone else in the United States. All those dark, solitary, winter nights, alone in the cabin with an internet connection… What’s an Alaskan looking for love to do?

Stay offline, apparently.

Catfishing, for those not in the know, is basically the attempt to swindle via a faked romance. The Better Business Bureau reports that 1 out of 7 dating profiles online are frauds. Dating profiles are created, using stolen photos, in order to manufacture a “relationship” with the goal of cheating the lonely out of some hard earned cash.

Per capita, eight out of the top ten states to fall for catfishing are in the west, with Alaska leading the way in taking the bait, hook, line and sinker.


Catfishing by dollars lost

Luckily, for romance seekers in the Far North, Alaskans are not anywhere near the top in dollars lost. North Carolina leads the way here, with $47,886 lost per swindle. That’s a lot of chocolate.

According to the FBI, $323,952,461 was lost to catfishers in 2018 alone.

Some tips from the FBI:

Don’t send money to a person you have never met.
Keep conversations online for as long as possible. Once you text or call, you’ve given out personal information that can be used against you.
Be wary of giving any personal information out online. Most people do not really need to know your mother’s maiden name upon first meeting online.
And my favorite tip: If it seems to good to be true, you’re probably talking to a Catfish.

Graph Credit: HSI; stats from the FBI Internet Crime Center