Category Archives: Alaska

Happy Seward’s Day


Got Snow?

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Breaking trail with the snowshoes

Interior Alaska does.  

Fairbanks officially received 8.9″ of the white stuff from Sunday night to Monday afternoon.  That’s 13″ for the month of March, and more on the way for Wednesday.  It looks to be our snowiest March since 1991.

On the ground, we officially have 32″ of snow.  At the cabin, I have more than that, and in the hills above Fairbanks, there is certainly even more yet.

For the outdoor enthusiast, the snow is a boon for social distancing.  No staying inside, when one can find a trail, or make your own.


Mailbag Q&A

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Over the weekend, I was asked if I had been affected much by actions for the Coronavirus. 

Up until now, I’ve been affected only mildly.  I imagine that will change shortly.

I’ve had a project going lately, which has taken me out to a few remote Alaska villages.  I’ve basically been doing the two week on, two week off schedule, and the virus really hit the fan when I was out in the Naknek region.  I finished my assignment, came back to Fairbanks, and will not be going out again.  The project has been put on hiatus, although I suspect it has really been cancelled, at least for the foreseeable future.

I had a construction project already lined up for my return.  Materials were on site, the building empty, so I worked on that all week, and will finish probably today or tomorrow.  Like most people I know who work construction up here, I have no work projects currently on the horizon.

Normally, this is the time of year when I escape and go Outside, thus avoiding the Interior Alaska Breakup Season.  A group of us attend the Frozen Four hockey championships that take place every April, but this year they have been canceled.  When in the Lower 48, I would check in on my Dad, as well as other family & friends about now, but traveling anywhere is beyond a bad idea, so I’m staying in Alaska.  From up here, airplanes & airports seem like giant petri dishes, but to be honest, my greatest unease with travel right now is the thought that if I leave Alaska, I won’t be able to come back!  That’s enough to give any cabin-dweller the shivers.

The shelves at the local grocery stores & Costco are looking pretty sparse, but I’m well-stocked anyway.  It’s kind of an Alaskan thing, I suppose.  When you live at the end of the road, having enough food to get you through a patch of bad weather, or a closing of the Alaska Highway, or a barge losing its load coming up from Seattle, is just something we do.  Especially in the winter months.  I have a freezer stocked with salmon, rock fish, halibut and other Alaska morsels, so I’m good to go there.  I am a bit low on blueberries, but that’s par for the course this time of year.

A friend wanted me to stop by the other day on my way home from work.  I declined the invite, saying I should probably partake in some social distancing.  I was informed that this was hardly new for me, and the virus was just a convenient excuse.  I had to chuckle, because if left to my own devices, I can be a notorious hermit.  I have no problem retreating into my little world at the end of the road, and turning off the phone and computer.  In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, someone threatened to call out the dog sled teams to hunt for me, when I went off grid for barely a week.

I have books to read, letters to write, and LP’s to spin – inside; trails to walk, lakes to circle on snowshoes, and moose to try to capture on film – outside.

We can’t control the virus; all we can do is try our best not to catch it.  I hope, and fully expect, to see all of you on the other side of this.

I was reminded of an Inuit saying when revisiting the documentary “Noatak: Return to the Arctic”.

“I think over again
My small adventures
My fears
Those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach
And yet there is only one great thing
To live and see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.”

Best wishes from Alaska.


Vernal Equinox

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A young moose blocks my way to the job site on Wednesday; its twin was eating willows in the slough to the right.

Winter 2019-2020 seems to have dragged on forever.  We are finally turning the much anticipated corner into spring.  I understand, for some of you, briar & tick season leaves you feeling itchy over the upcoming season, but up here in the Far North, I’m more than ready for spring.  Without any hockey, we might as well melt the ice.

Spring officially arrives early this year.  We have not seen a spring this early on the calendar for 124 years. Looking at the snow still on the ground here in Fairbanks, only the warmer temps signal any sign of spring.

Here in Fairbanks, we have finally pushed over the 12 hour mark for daylight.  We gained 6 minutes, 44 seconds from yesterday.  That makes both the moose and I happy.


Kuskokwim Highway

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Breaking trail on the Kuskokwim River; Photo credit: KTOO

The ice road on the Kuskokwim River in southwestern Alaska has reached a record length this year: 355 miles.

The ice road generally starts to take shape, weather permitting, in January.  This year, for the first time, the village of Sleetmute is on the river ice-highway system.

On average, the ice road runs 200 miles long, or so.  With unpredictable air transportation, the ice road can be a boon for residents trying to reach medical care, or to just buy supplies mid-winter.

Ice thickness near Bethel was at 3-4 feet, but it dropped to approximately 2 feet thick near Sleetmute.  One 14 mile section was so rough that it had to be bulldozed prior to plowing.

Thanks to KTOO, Johnny Cash, Rebecca Wilmarth and Corey Nicholai for the video.


Alaska State Parks turn 50

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2020 is the 50th Anniversary of the Alaska State Parks system.  Events will be held at all state parks throughout the year.  The first one starts today down in Homer.

Check out the Alaska State Parks website for an event schedule.


Whole Lotta Shakin’

The Alaska Earthquake Center reported 50,289 earthquakes in the state of Alaska for 2019. That did not break the record that was set in 2018, but it’s enough for the year to come in second place.

In the video above, each frame is a day, in a time-lapse of 2019 earthquakes. Pretty amazing to see it in this form. Kudos to AEC.


PolarNOx at Poker Flat

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Rocket Launch at Poker Flat; Photo credit: NASA/Chris Perry

NASA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute teamed up with some scientists from Virginia Tech University to launch a sounding rocket over the weekend at the Poker Flat Research Range.

The Polar Night Nitric Oxide (PolarNOx) experiment saw a hang fire on the first night of their launch window, but the rocket was launched successfully on the second night.

The aurora borealis adds nitric oxide to the polar atmosphere, and levels increase in the winter months, but then dissipate in the summer months, with the increase of sunlight.  Nitric oxide will destroy ozone under certain conditions.  The sounding rocket was launched to collect data to better understand the build up of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide exists between 53 – 93 miles altitude, with its peak concentration between 62 – 68 miles altitude.  The sounding rocket rose to an apex of 161 miles above the earth’s surface, before coming back down to our very frozen Interior.

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The landing pad; Photo credit: Poker Flat Research Range

For those who were up in the early morning hours to witness the launch, the rocket was seen from all over the area.  I had planned on being out there, but I was forced to make a quick run to the border instead.  At least I saw a lot of caribou.


The mukluks hit the snow

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Toksook Bay, Alaska; Photo credit: U.S. Census

The U.S. Census starts its official count today, January 21, in Toksook Bay, Alaska.  Since 1960, the first census year after Alaska became a state, the census has started in Alaska.

With 80% of Alaska communities not on the road system, and with many villages without extensive internet service, the census starts early in Alaska.  Getting around remote Alaska is much easier when the ground is frozen.  Also, it is much more difficult to count people,  after many residents of Bush Alaska head out to their fish camps.

Thus the mid-winter start to the counting in Alaska.

I have a friend who was assigned to Toksook Bay as she works for the Census Bureau this season.  I hope she has a wonderful experience.  The first person interviewed by the Census is always a village elder.  That first village varies, with the Alaska Federation of Natives deciding which village will be initially enumerated.

Toksook Bay is a coastal village on the Bering Sea.

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This will be the 24th Census taken in the United States, with the first taking place in 1790.  The majority of the country will see census forms start to show up in March.


But, you’ll have to check the antlers…

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The moose is a better mascot

A rather cheeky response to Western Airlines.  This was probably a local advert; I spotted it at the Pioneer Air Museum.  It certainly would have been a hit in Alaska in the 1970’s.