Tag Archives: Fairbanks

Autumn in the Interior

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.”
—Oscar Wilde


For those of you who find amusement in our quick to change seasons: This morning we saw our first HARD frost of the season. It wasn’t our first frost, mind you, just the first one that killed tomato plants and left a thick layer on our windshields.

Grunts in the dark

I went outside the cabin late on Friday night to appreciate the changing of the seasons. It happens fast up here in the Interior. The moon was already setting, and the sky was lit up with stars. It was the first night of the season where the stars absolutely jumped out at you, demanding your attention. This time of year, it is always more pronounced, since it has been quite some time since the stars commanded the northern sky. It has also been quite some time since we had a sky free of clouds.

We would be getting a frost overnight, so I was about to drag the few plants I have under the cabin overhang. The lettuce had flourished all summer, and I wasn’t ready to give it up. The tomatoes and peppers struggled however, with the cool, wet weather we had.

Just as I grabbed one of the pots, I heard a grunting sound coming from behind me. I spun around, but could see nothing. I went back in to get my headlamp, and when I turned it on, the grunting returned in earnest, but still I had no visual on the source. I had immediately thought “moose”, but the sounds were not moose-like. They were also coming from low in the willows and fireweed, too low for even a young calf, unless it was lying down.

My cell phone started to ring, so I went back into the cabin. It was a neighbor calling to tell me that there was some strange animal about. “It grunted at me!” I told the neighbor, that it was in my yard now, and that I had been grunted at too. No, I don’t think it’s a moose. Yes, it could be a bear, but it didn’t sound like a bear either. I’ve been huffed at several times by various bears, even growled at, but never grunted at in such a way. I assured the neighbor that when I pointed the light in its direction, the grunts seemed to be more excited than aggressive.

At midnight, the novelty of the grunts had worn off, and I hadn’t heard them around the cabin for a while, so I started to get ready to turn in. Then I heard a truck come speeding down my driveway. There were the sounds of a door being opened and shut, and then came a pounding at the cabin door. I can’t tell you how rare that scenario is for me. When it comes right down to it, I don’t have many neighbors, and most are too smart to just pound on someone’s door without calling out first, especially at midnight.

At the door was a man I had never seen before, which made me even more suspicious. “Are you missing a pig?”, he asked. No, I don’t own a pig. It seems there was a pig at the end of my driveway. The man was quite excited, claimed the pig stood taller than his knees, and was hairy. He wanted to know if any of my neighbors had pigs. I honestly didn’t know if any had pigs, but it was certainly possible.

So, it was a pig of all things. I was happy the mystery was solved, thanked the man, and started to close the door. He stopped me, then asked what I was going to do about the pig. I told him that I had no intention of poking around the dark woods at midnight looking for a lost pig, if that was what he was getting at. The man then turned away, obviously disgusted at my lack of immediate concern. I came out onto my deck to watch the truck speed out my drive in reverse.

After the sound of the truck died away, I could hear the pig grunting his way down a trail through the woods.

I have to admit, life is rarely a bore up here.

How’s it shaking?

Sensor monitor reading at University of Alaska

Interior Alaskans felt the Earth move a bit on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t a big earthquake, at only magnitude 4.6, but it was widely felt at 7:18am. It’s note worthy, mainly because it has been a couple of years since I felt one pass through.

On Sunday morning, Kaktovik, which is located on the Beaufort Sea coast, woke up to a 6.4 magnitude quake. It was the largest earthquake ever recorded on Alaska’s North Slope.

Earthquakes in Alaska are far from unusual. An earthquake is detected once every 15 minutes, on average, within the state. In 2014, Alaska set a record with over 40,000 shakes. Over the past five years, the Alaska Earthquake Center has reported over 150,000 earthquakes. Of those, 31 had a magnitude over 6.0. and four went over 7.0. Seventy-five percent of all earthquakes over 5.0 within the United States happen in Alaska.

The 7.9 magnitude quake, that hit us in 2002 when the Denali Fault ruptured, is the largest I have experience. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake was a magnitude 9.2, and it is still the second largest earthquake ever recorded anywhere on the globe.

Graph and stats credit: Alaska Earthquake Center

Alaska Highway Closed

Lower Post, British Columbia; Photo credit: CBC/Danni Carpenter

The Alaska Highway has been closed due to an aggressive fire just south of the Yukon border in British Columbia. The community of Lower Post, BC has been evacuated. The town of Watson Lake is taking in displaced residents and stranded travelers.

The fire, which is believed to have been started by lightening, is approximately 4000 hectares in size. There were 14 firefighters and an air tanker working the fire as of the last update. Heavy equipment is currently being used to protect the community of Lower Post. The fire is not contained, and the highway is expected to be closed for several days. The road is closed at KM 823 near Coal River to KM 968 near the Yukon border.

The Alaska Highway has also been closed at KM 133 near Wonowan, BC and KM 454 near Fort Nelson, as well as between Fort Nelson and the Laird River.

Travelers can still drive to/from the Yukon using the Stewart Cassiar Highway. It’s a route I highly recommend! Absolutely beautiful country, but the services are even more limited than on the Alcan. I once took the Cassiar while driving a ’73 VW Beetle, so don’t be discouraged, although I suggest bringing an extra five gallons of fuel.

We are in a wet, bubble up here in Alaska, so the news that the Alcan is closed due to fire, came as a bit of a surprise. We had an inch of rain at my place yesterday alone, and the high on Saturday was 55 degrees. Our normal high this time of year is in the low 70’s. Currently, August 2018 has seen 3.54″ of rain fall in Fairbanks, which stands at the 10th wettest August on record.

Alaska had 399,000 acres burn this fire season, which is lower than the past three years. The total is 40% lower than the median over the past two decades.

A Weasel Welcome Home

When I returned home from the fishing trip to Seward, I was putting the fish in the freezer, when I heard a rapid, chirp-like bark coming from where my feet were. I looked around, and finally spotted the blur of my neighbor, Mustela Nivalis.

The least weasel seemed to miss me, or else it was disappointed that it had to share the cabin again. Up until that point, even the trail camera was too slow to get a decent picture of the little carnivore, but now it was putting on a show. It followed me all over the place. From one side of the cabin to the other, the little weasel didn’t let me get out of it’s sight.

A dozen pictures of the weasel, and three videos later, I called it a night, and left the weasel still barking at me from under my freezer.

Risky Raspberries

The blueberry season this year in the Interior wasn’t anything to write home about. They were out there, but you had to work for them and cover some serious ground doing so.

The raspberries this year have been another story. They seem to be everywhere. There are plants around my cabin that I didn’t even know about, and they are loaded with berries. Anytime I want them, I just go outside the door and fill a bowl.

The raspberry patch in the photo I have known about, but the wasp nest came as a bit of a surprise, although it probably shouldn’t have. In the same area of the “yard” last year, wasps had completely encased an old bird feeder with their nest.
This summer has not been a “bee year”, as I have not had any issues on any job sites at all. I usually get chased down the extension ladder once or twice in a normal building season, but that has not happened this year. In an actual “bee year”, that has been known to happen several times a day.