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There is a small local museum on the second floor of the Co-Op Plaza Building in the heart of downtown Fairbanks. I believe that two museums combined forces, with the Community Museum embracing the once separate Dog Mushing Museum, which had fallen on hard times.
The 1962 Bombardier Ski-Doo is a powerhouse of snow, stomping fun. The four-cycle engine produces 7 whole horsepower, and offers a top speed of 15mph. Is that quicker than a horse-drawn sleigh? The little Ski-Doo last raced in the 2006 Tired-Iron Snowmachine Rally, which is an annual event here in Fairbanks.
Dog mushing is a major part of Interior Alaska’s identity, although recreational mushers are becoming a rare breed. Currently, around the same time frame in March as the Dog Derby of 1941, Fairbanks hosts the Open North American Championship dog sled races. The Open North American brings in mushers from around the globe.
The big race for Fairbanks is the Yukon Quest, which runs between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The 1000 mile race was first run in 1984. The start line alternates yearly between the two cities.
This Yukon style toboggan, circa 1920, is representative of the style used in the Interior Alaska woods. They traveled better than sleds with runners. The woodwork was obviously done by hand, and the sides, and back are made of moose hide. It was built, owned and operated by a famed local trapper.
The museum is full of photographs from all stages of Fairbanks’ history. From the gold rush days of its founding, to the Great Flood, and beyond.
During the tourist season, the film “Attla” has been shown on a weekly basis at the museum. George Attla was the iconic Alaskan dogsled racer. He dominated sprint races, with a career that spanned from 1958 to 2011, doing it all on one good leg. Mr Attla, originally from the village of Koyukuk, passed away in 2015.
On a separate, but related note: The PBS show, “Independent Lens” will be broadcasting an episode on George Attla on December 16. Check your local PBS station for showtimes.
It’s that time of year again. The aurora forecast from UAF’s Geophysical Institute is up and running again. A moderate aurora is being forecast for Thursday, with it being visible directly overhead for Fairbanks, weather permitting.
In Canada, Dawson City, Fort Nelson and Fort McMurray will find the northern lights directly overhead, assuming cloud cover doesn’t obscure viewing.
The aurora will be low on the horizon for Marquette, Michigan and Sundsvall, Sweden.
An equal, but opposite aurora will be taking place in the Southern Hemisphere, as well.
The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks puts out their geomagnetic forecast daily.
All images credit: UAF Geophysical Institute
Engine No. 1, the 120 year old steam engine, was making the rounds this Labor Day.
It was the final weekend of the season for the old locomotive. It now retires to the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum until next Memorial Weekend.
A special shoutout to FTVRR for all their hard work this summer.
Normally, we head down to Seward with the idea that we may get one day of fishing in with decent seas. This year, we went down knowing we had perfect weather for the entire time on the coast.
The second day out, we hit the silvers early and often outside of Resurrection Bay. Once we hit our limit there, we came into the Bay for the possibility of three more silvers each. The fishing within Resurrection Bay was considerably slower, but we did catch some cohos.
Since we were planning on being out on the water all day, we wrapped things up by going after rock fish. It took us a couple of stops to find them, but when we did, it was nonstop action. Rock fish are a blast to fish, and they are incredible eating too.
It was a great day out on the water, and I have a nicely stocked freezer as winter approaches.
Of the twelve months, September is my favorite in Interior Alaska. That holds true even though I know what lies just around the corner.
The length of days would be considered “normal” in the Outside world. Sunrise on the final day of August was 6:29am, with sunset coming in at 9:12pm, for a loss of 7 minutes from the day before.
Mornings carry a heavy dew, and there is a definite chill to the air. We have already seen several nights with a hard frost. A hike down any trail is likely to bring the scent of woodsmoke from a cabin or two. Finally, the scent comes from chimneys and not wildfires.
The change of colors has started
The sound of cranes and geese filled the air today, as they gather their flocks for the trip south. A bull moose showed himself this morning; his massive set of antlers now devoid of velvet. For the next two weeks, I expect he will make himself scarce.
Finishing preparations for the coming winter likely dominate thoughts, but one can not forget to get outside and enjoy the brilliance of this month of transformation.
As much as I love the long days of June, I revel in the colorful days of September.
The road to Seward had an unexpected gauntlet north of the town of Willow, Alaska. Severe winds had knocked over a power pole, and the resulting sparks set off a wildfire along the Parks Highway.
The winds were still howling when we went through. Firefighters were on the scene, but things didn’t look good. By the time we made it to Anchorage, we learned that the fire had made the jump, and both sides of the road had flames. The Parks had been closed to traffic behind us.
The high winds continued on the Kenai Peninsula, as we drove south on the Seward Highway. The Swan Lake Fire had been all but contained, but the winds gave it a breath of new life, which closed the Sterling Highway, and left the taste of burning spruce in all of our throats.
Once on the water, the smoke diminished some, but we didn’t really escape it until we were out in the Gulf of Alaska.
To date, Seward had seen 2.25″ of rain, which is unheard of. They normally see 64″ in a year. The town of Homer had been hit even harder still, with only 1.15″ of rain this season. Needless to say, the Kenai Peninsula is seeing drought conditions.
The fishing was good, and at times great. There was no rain in the foreseeable forecast, so no one had rain jackets. The temps were in the 70’s F, and we all ended up fishing in short sleeves. Out of all my trips to Alaska’s coast to fish, this one may have been the most surreal.
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.
The first step was to get the canoe in the Rover Hut, then sand the entire 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.
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.
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.
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 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.