Tag Archives: history

You cannot pass

Private Bridge


Wet & Green

The ridge line above Blueberry Lake

This summer, Fairbanks has seen its 7th wettest since 1925. With 12.6″ of rain recorded as of last Friday, climatologists tell us that we are on a new trend. The typical summer rainfall is now 30% higher than in the 1920’s-1930’s. Juneau also saw its 6th wettest summer in 96 years. That’s saying something about our very wet capital city.

Fairbanks also had 19 days with thunder, which tied a record. We were 3.6 degrees warmer than average, which puts 2020 in the Top Ten, since recording began. Much of the change came in the rise of nightly low temperatures, due to the rain and cloud cover.

Officially, Fairbanks had a growing season of 130 days in 2020. That ties us for the 7th longest. Since 1950, the growing season in Fairbanks has increased by 16 days.

Wildfires burned a total of 181,000 acres in Alaska for the season so far. That is the lowest total since 2002. For one season, at least, wildfire crews did not have to worry about hotshotting into the Alaskan Bush. They have more than enough on their plate, as it is, in 2020.


Worthington Glacier

Hiking up to Worthington Glacier

When we were camping at Blueberry Lake earlier this summer, we spent a rare sunny day hiking up to Worthington Glacier.

Melt water flowing out from the glacier

Worthington Glacier is located in Thompson Pass at Milepost 29 of the Richardson Highway. It’s a typical small valley glacier, approximately 4 miles long, and sits at an elevation of 3800 feet.

Looking up at the glacier face

In normal years, the glacier is one of the most visited recreation areas on the Richardson, but this year we were the only ones hiking out at the glacier, while a few people hung out at the viewing area.

Fresh glacial melt

Worthington Glacier is retreating, although not quite as fast as other glaciers in Alaska. Thompson Pass is the snowiest area in the state of Alaska. On average, the pass gets 500 inches of snow every winter. It holds the state records of 974″ of snow in a year (81 feet!), and the most snow in a single day at 62 inches.

Worthington Glacier’s valley

Still, Worthington is in retreat. In the late 1990’s, the glacier extended to the pond in the picture above. In the last 20 years, Worthington has retreated a quarter of a mile, in spite of the tremendous snowfall in the area.


Ness Church Cemetery

Litchfield, Minnesota


The White Stuff

Eielson Visitor Center; Photo credit: Denali National Park

Denali National Park saw snow on Friday morning. I was just recently out to the Eielson Visitor Center with visiting family members, so the pictures definitely grabbed my attention.

Fairbanks did not see snow, only 6/10 of an inch of rain.

On Saturday morning, Anchorage dropped below 40F for the first time this season. (The season started August 1) It was the first time since 1961 that Anchorage dropped below 40F before Fairbanks did. By Sunday morning, the natural order had returned to normal, when Fairbanks officially dropped to 34F and Anchorage stayed at 40F.

The (Park) road to Eielson; Photo credit: Denali National Park

I have seen snow fall in every month of the year in Alaska. Both July & August snowfalls took place when I was hiking in Denali.

The average date for the first snowfall in Fairbanks is September 30. We have seen snow in late August, and the latest first snowfall is Halloween. The average first snowfall of an inch or more is October 6.

I am not remotely ready for winter, mentally or physically. Alaska remains indifferent to my level of preparation.


Toad River, British Columbia

Film Friday:

The Toad River Lodge

Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X 400


The Iron Trail

Keystone Canyon; Valdez, Alaska

Railroad tunnel, circa 1905-06

Today, the Richardson Highway runs through Keystone Canyon, en route to Valdez. Back in the early territorial days of Alaska, people traveled this route on the Valdez Trail from coastal Valdez to Interior Alaska.

In 1905, nine separate entities were competing to build a railroad through Keystone to the copper mines of Kennecott. This tunnel, which is accessed off of the Richardson, is all that is left of the proposed railroad.

A gunfight erupted between opposing factions, work ceased in 1906, and the hand cut tunnel was never finished.

The tunnel still offers a decent view

When we were recently camping down by Valdez, we stopped by to explore the old tunnel. Graffiti covers many of the rocks, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the effort it would have taken to cut through this rock wall in 1905-06 with hand tools.

There is both a silent film, and a novel titled “The Iron Trail”, based on this era of Alaska’s history.


Calorie Counting in Katmai

The countdown to Fat Bear Week has begun. The annual chubathon in Katmai National Park between the Park’s largest bears is just around the corner.

Will Holly retain her title as the bulkiest of Katmai? The brackets will begin at the end of the month.


Back to Exit

Exit Glacier; Seward, Alaska

On what has become an annual visit, I swung by Exit Glacier with some visitors last week. The picture was taken from where the foot of the glacier stood in 2010.


Will Rogers & Wiley Post

Barrow0915_men.jpg

Will Rogers & Wiley Post in Alaska

In August of 1935, Will Rogers and his pilot, Wiley Post, flew throughout the then Territory of Alaska.  Post, a well known aviator, would fly the Lockheed Orion-Explorer, while Rogers pounded out newspaper columns on his typewriter.

They left Fairbanks on August 15 for Barrow.  Encountering terrible weather, they managed to find a break in the fog, and landed their floatplane on the waters of Walakpa Bay, and asked some Inupiat hunters where they were.

“15 miles from Barrow.”

Post & Rogers returned to the plane, and took off.  At an altitude of approximately 50 feet, the engine died, and the plane nosed-dived into the lagoon.  The engine was driven back into the cabin, and crushed Post.  Rogers was thrown from the plane.  Both men appeared to die instantly.

rogers_plane_crash

The wrecked Lockheed after the crash

Will Rogers was easily the most recognized and beloved celebrity at the time of his death.  His columns were read by an estimated 40 million people, and syndicated in over 600 newspapers.

Post was a famed aviator, and the two men had planned on flying across the Bering Sea to Siberia after their stops in Alaska.  A Trans-Siberian flight on to Moscow was also part of the agenda.

IMG_3040.jpeg

Memorial to Rogers & Post at the Pioneer Air Museum

Two metal crosses were constructed to honor both Post and Rogers.

IMG_3044

The crosses were deemed too heavy to transport by air from Fairbanks to the crash site near the Walakpa River, and approximately 11 miles from the community of Barrow.

IMG_3043.jpeg

The crosses are displayed at the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks.

108516391

A marker and monument that stand near the crash site