Nenana Ice Classic 2020

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Not surprisingly, even the 103 year old Nenana Ice Classic has seen some changes this year due to Covid-19.  Every year, since 1917, Alaskans have been betting on when the ice would go out on the Tanana River at the village of Nenana.

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The Ice Classic time schedule

The earliest the ice has gone out was last year, when the famed tripod tripped the clock at 12:21 am on April 14.  The latest the ice has gone out was on May 20, which has happened twice.

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As one can see from the above graph, 2019 was an anomaly for more than one reason.  The ice rarely goes out between midnight and 9am.

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Image from the Nenana Ice Cam on April 7.

As of April 6, ice thickness near the tripod was 32.5″.  Usually, all guesses/tickets must be in before April 6, but the deadline has been extended to April 10.  We usually buy the tickets at various venues that have the bright red Ice Classic Can on their counter, the filled out tickets are then dropped in the can.  This year, since so many businesses are closed, and people are urged to stay at home, guesses can be mailed to the Nenana Ice Classic directly.  Entries must be postmarked no later than April 10, 2020.  Each guess/ticket is $2.50.

I have never missed an Ice Classic since I moved to Fairbanks, and this year joined the stay at home club, and mailed in my guesses.  Last year’s jackpot was $311,652.


A foggy morning along the Naknek River

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The Yukon Fox

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Emmitt Peters crosses the Iditarod finish line in Nome in 1982.  He came in 4th place that year.  

Emmitt Peters, the Athabascan sled dog musher from Ruby, Alaska, passed away this past week.

Peters, known on the trail as “The Yukon Fox”, won the 1975 Iditarod as a rookie.  Not only did he win, but he shaved off six days from the previous record time.  To this day, The Yukon Fox remains the only musher to win the Iditarod as a rookie.

Peters was 79.


Alaskan Distancing

Saturday’s Lighter Side: 

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Courtesy of the snow bound folks in Valdez, Alaska 

 

I stopped by the grocery store on Friday morning, and was amazed at how many people wanted to encroach into my 6 foot bubble.  I wasn’t even in the TP aisle!  I wondered if people just don’t know what a six foot gap looks like.  Lo & behold, the fine folks in Valdez have had the same thought.

In all honesty, this is the only time of year in Alaska where one sees only 457 mosquitoes in a space of six feet.  Swatting season is just around the corner!

Stay safe & keep your distance.


Newtok School

Film Friday:

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After the blizzard

Camera: Widelux VI; Film: Kodak 35mm, Tri-X400 

 

 

 


Low Tide

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Looking out at Kvichak Bay

 


The draw of water

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Peter Pan Cannery on the Naknek

When in Naknek, I spent as much time as I could down by the water.  Hiking along the shore of the Naknek River was a favorite way to spend my off time.  The ice pack was solid enough to keep me from sinking too much in my mukluks, so I hiked as far as time allowed.

The hiking was peaceful, with the slow movement of ice down the river, and the constant flying of ducks, as they skimmed just above the water, their beating wings making small ripples on the glass like surface.

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Hiking along the Naknek River

 


South Naknek

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Heading across river

It was an overcast morning when we crossed over the Naknek River for South Naknek.  People were still using the ice road, but word was out that time was short.  It would turn out that businesses were in a rush to get heavy equipment across ASAP.

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Pressure ridge

The temperature had warmed up, but it was the tide that had the final word for the ice road.  High tides had been increasing substantially, as the higher water pushes up against the ice, these huge pressure ridges grew.  Some went right across the ice road, which limited access to anything without clearance.  I saw no Subarus crossing with us.

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An available home in S. Naknek

Of my time spent in the region, I enjoyed my day in South Naknek the most.  We picked up a couple of locals for guides, and we had an absolute blast exploring the southern side of the river.  We were welcomed by everyone we met, and had more than one offer to help us out if we wanted to move to the area.

I would love to come back to the region in the summer, but I can honestly say I’d want to spend my time on the south side of the Naknek River.  It’s a much more relaxed way of life here, and we were told that the huge influx of crowds to Naknek & King Salmon do not hit the southern side.  One can still meander down the river’s edge, fishing as you go, enjoying the solitude that Alaska is suppose to be about.

The canneries have all closed up shop in South Naknek.  The killing blow came when a road was built between King Salmon & Naknek.  It no longer made financial sense to process salmon from the southern side.  Grant Aviation still makes daily flights, weather permitting, to South Naknek, and they have a really nice airstrip.

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Driving across the Naknek River

The skies cleared well before noon, and we had absolutely beautiful weather as we traveled throughout South Naknek and the surrounding area.  The Alaska days were already getting longer, and the sun had regained some of the power that we had been missing during the winter months.

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Looking upstream

Now that Covid-19 has us all hunkered down, it’s hard not to wonder if I should have taken that job offer I had after one day in South Naknek.  Regardless, I can not wait for the rivers to open up, and for winter’s grip to be pried from the land.

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By the way, it was -24F at the cabin on Monday morning.  Not too hard to figure out why I’m getting a bit stir crazy, surrounded by nothing but snow.  At 4pm, the temp had risen to +26F: A fifty degree swing.  “Springtime” in Alaska.


Happy Seward’s Day


On the Lighter Side:

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Comic: The Far Side by Gary Larson