Tag Archives: Fairbanks

F.E. Gold Camp

Chatanika, Alaska


F.E. Gold Camp

A friend of mine had a couple of relatives in town this past week. They had shown me around Buffalo, NY when I paid that city a visit recently, so I took a day off to return the favor. They wanted to see some places that were uniquely Interior Alaska, so we ventured out the Steese Highway to the little mining community of Chatanika.


Mining equipment around the Gold Camp

The Fairbanks Exploration Company, or the more commonly used, F.E. Company, was the big player in gold mining in the Fairbanks area in the first half of the 20th Century. Their largest gold camp was out in Chatanika, with workers mostly working the gold dredges. The F.E. Gold Camp was built in 1925, and it’s a beautiful 25 minute drive, or so, from Fairbanks to Chatanika over Cleary Summit.


Gold Camp restaurant and bar

In recent years, the Gold Camp has been run as a restaurant, bar and hotel. As of Sunday, it will be under new ownership. The current owners would not give me any information on the new owners or their plans for the historic camp.


The Gold Camp wood cookstove, which fed over 200 miners at a time.

Being the Fairbanks area, we were greeted upon arrival by the camp dog. After the obligatory ear scratching and tail wagging, we were able to get a nice tour of the camp from a woman whose father cooked for the miners on the giant wood cookstove back in the late 1940’s.


FE Gold Camp guest room

I’ve been out to the camp many times, but this was the first time I explored the upstairs. There are 8-10 guest rooms on the second floor of the main building, along with two restrooms. The complex also has an adjacent bunkhouse.


The Men’s room, two showers are in the back, on either side of the room.

Between 1926 and 1957, over $70 million worth of gold was removed by the F.E. Company. During that time span, the gold camp had a population larger than Fairbanks with over 10,000 residents.

The Gold Camp is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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!


Arctic Research aboard the RV Polarstern

UTQIAGVIK, Alaska


Recent paths of Arctic ice floes; Source credit: Thomas Krumpen, Alfred Wegener Institute; Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen

Researchers from around the globe have congregated on Alaska’s Arctic coast. They are planning a once in a generation expedition into the heart of one of the harshest environments on Earth: The Arctic.

It’s a 12 month, 17 nation, 300 scientist effort aboard the German ice breaker Polarstern, to document climate change in the Arctic. This coming autumn, the Polarstern will be positioned in a remote part of the Siberian Arctic, and then wait to be frozen in the ice. The research vessel will then flow with the floe; traveling with the ice as it moves across the Arctic Ocean.

Only twice has a transpolar drift happened successfully in history. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen did it first in 1893. Ten years ago, a small sailing ship named the Tara also completed a transpolar drift without the sea ice crushing its hull.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Science Foundation and universities from Alaska-Fairbanks to Oregon State to Dartmouth are involved. Most northern nations are playing a role, as well. Russia, China and Sweden have all committed ships and aircraft for resupply support. Japan and Switzerland have developed new research equipment especially for the expedition.

Unlike Antarctica, there is no land at the north pole to build a permanent research station. The RV Polarstern is the next best thing. At any one time, 60 people will be living and working on the ice breaker. Resupply will take place every 60 days, weather permitting. Researchers will also be swapped out during resupply runs.


Graph credit: National Snow & Ice Data Center

Time is running short for a expedition like this one. The key is to find old sea ice, 4-5 years old, and get locked into that. Since 1980, 95% of Arctic sea ice that is 4+ years old, has been lost. In the graph above, the lightest yellow is 1 year old ice, the dark purple 5+ years old.

It should be an interesting study, although researchers on board the ice breaker from December to February will not see the sun. They should see polar bears, however.

#MOSAiC


Moose Snorts


Moose out for a swim

I spent one day this week, out in the sun, finishing up a rope bridge that I was commissioned to build. The decking of the bridge had been completed last fall, and now I was back to add the rope-work for the “railings”.

I heard the moose munching on willows long before I saw it. They are not quiet eaters. A shrub or tree would move, but it took quite some time for the moose to show itself. Oddly enough, it was when I was out on the bridge weaving the manila rope into place that the moose reacted. It kept snorting at me.

At first, I was a bit offended, taking the snorts as commentary on my work. However, I came to the conclusion, that the moose simply did not like me hovering in the air, at a height allowing me to look down on the moose. As I continued to work, the snorts were then followed by hoof stomps and another snort. It really did not like me out there on the bridge. Eventually, the moose had enough of my bridge building, and I heard it splash about in the pond behind the house. It had gone for a swim. It was a warm 75F degrees, and I couldn’t blame it.

Unfortunately, the pictures are pretty poor, as I only had the cellphone with me on the job site, and I’m shooting into the sun on top of it. I watched it swim around, and splash about the pond for a good 15 minutes, before I had to force myself back to work.


A day in the life…

What an Alaskan does upon returning from a month long sabbatical:


The view from Murphy Dome in black & white

Spend the morning fixing a customer’s plumbing problem. Like most plumbing problems, the job took two trips for fittings. Like all seemingly easy jobs, the customer added two new problems upon arrival, which had previously “slipped their mind”.

Buy potting soil.

Order flooring for a job that is two weeks away.

Buy tomato, pepper and squash plants.

Set up rain barrels for customer. Repair barrels where customer broke fittings. Reinstall water pump for garden from their pond. Let out their dog and chase it around the yard for a few minutes. Scratch their cat, so it doesn’t feel left out.

Stop by post office for mail, and Fred Meyer for just a few groceries.

Load truck with tools & materials for the next day’s job.

Uncover 1 ton work truck, that has been parked all winter. Hook up battery tender.

Take phone call from customer that wants me to hang several bird feeders. I caution customer that bird feed, especially black sunflower seeds, attracts bears, which she has had several visit in the past. Bird feeder job remains in limbo, as no decision was made.

Remove door to Rover hut for the season.

Plant lettuce.

Unplug refrigerator to defrost, before restocking. Plug in the Rover’s fridge to substitute for the next 24 hours.

Hike out to back 400 pond with Leica to check out the nesting trumpeter swans. The sun is wrong for good pictures, but the reward of watching the swimming pair from the brush is still high.

Haul out deck chairs; put away snowshoes.

Drop window awning, because cabin was 86 degrees when you returned home this afternoon.

Plant sunflowers.

Crack open a beer and grill a chicken breast and zucchini.

Contemplate that tomorrow is really going to be a hectic day.


A Return to the ‘Banks


The backyard at midnight

After a month Outside, I recently returned home to Fairbanks. As much as I enjoyed my travels, its nice to be back in Alaska. The days are long once again, the trumpeter swans are back swimming in the pond, and a moose greeted me in the yard within 15 minutes of my return.


2019 Frozen Four

Key Bank Center: Buffalo, New York


Key Bank Center

The Frozen Four returned to Buffalo for the first time since 2003, when Minnesota beat New Hampshire for the title.

The Frozen Foursome has grown to a Frozen Six, but that has no ring to it, so I’m sticking with Frozen Foursome+. At any rate, we were excited to see the NCAA Championship tournament return to the hockey town in Western New York.


Alaska-Fairbanks jersey, American International, and the Pitch-Forks

The Duluth Bulldogs had their hands full with the Providence Friars on Thursday afternoon, in the first game. The game was scoreless after one period of play. Then Duluth’s Justin Richards put the Bulldogs in the lead in period two. But Josh Wilkins of the Friars quickly tied things up.


Opening puck drop; UMD-PC

Billy Exell of the Bulldogs would get the game winning goal at the halfway mark of the final period. Duluth would add two empty net goals, for a 4-1 win. It will be the third year in a row that Minnesota-Duluth will appear in the title game.

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Opening Face-off Denver vs UMass

In the late semi-final game, Denver University played the University of Massachusetts. It was the first ever visit for UMass to the Frozen Four, and Denver’s 17th appearance.

This would prove to be an interesting matchup, with a lot of emotional swings. Denver took the lead on a power play goal by Colin Staub, at the end of a 5 minute major penalty on UMass. Denver then took their own 5 minute major, right after a minor penalty, giving UMass a 5 on 3 advantage. The Minutemen would go on to score three goals before the major penalty was over. The third goal was just a beautiful shot by John Leonard. UMass would go into the first intermission up 3-1.

After the rush of the first period, there was no scoring at all in period two. It wasn’t until the halfway mark of the third frame, when the Pioneers’ Cole Guttman put the puck past the UMass goalie Filip Lindberg. Suddenly the momentum was with DU. Guttman again came up big with the tying goal, with just under 4 minutes to play.

We were on to overtime. The Frozen Foursome+ compared notes, and placed their bets.

The play in OT was back & forth. Both teams had chances to walk away with a win. Momentum came and went. The pace picked up. Tensions rose. The Curator’s stomach was in knots.
Then at the 15:18 mark, Marc Del Gaizo, rifled a shot on net, and the puck flew past DU’s Filip Larsson. UMass had a 4-3 OT victory over Denver, and would move on to face Duluth in the title game. UMass has some sharp-shooters on that team. They are fast, and play some great hockey as a unit. UMD will be facing a tough challenge, but UMD has been here before.

Should be a phenomenal final. I can’t wait for puck drop.


Final score 4-3 UMass. An empty arena, but the UMass band is still up in the rafters playing.


Breaking Up

The picture was taken the last day of March. I have never seen The Pond with as much bad ice this early. The open hole is from methane release, which caused the ice to thin just above the methane pocket.

The Nenana River has some open water already, downstream from the Ice Classic Tripod. The earliest the Tanana River has gone out is April 20. Short of an epic cold snap, that record will be broken in 2019.


Big Ice on the Block


“Kaktovik” – Polar bear on whale carcass, with raven looking on


“War Path”


“Hades’ Hound” – technically not a ‘big block’, but I’ve always had a soft spot for hellhounds

I have not been out to Ice Alaska of late, but with the warm temps, I’m sure most of the carvings are now stumps of ice sitting in puddles. In fact, the past two days have seen temps stay above freezing. That is the first time since recording began, that Fairbanks has seen consecutive days in March stay above 32F degrees.