Tag Archives: moose

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.


Caribou Crossing

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Driving out to the border, the wildlife viewing was excellent as usual.  I spotted several moose, flocks of grouse, and quite a few caribou.  I stopped for these three caribou to cross in front of me, and watched them make their way down the roadway slope to a frozen creek below.

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One solo caribou earlier in the day, had a harder time of it.  The snow was over belly deep, and I watched the animal from a long distance, as it determinably struggled to reach the road.  Once it did, it saw me coming, and I could feel its deflation, and hear its sigh of disgust.

The caribou went  across the road, considered hopping into the snow there, but then turned to clop down the frozen pavement.  I slowed down to a crawl, but still caught up with it.  The caribou looked me over as I came to a stop, then resigned to its fate, it crossed back to the side of the road it came from, and went back into the snow.  This caribou was stressed enough, so I didn’t  take its picture, I just drove on, with the caribou buried well past its haunches in powder.

In my rear view mirror, I could see another truck coming up, and so did the caribou.  I think it planned on coming back out onto the road once I left, but now it snowplowed its way back to the treeline where it came from when I first saw it.

No doubt, there are too many people in Alaska for that caribou’s liking.  Can’t say that I entirely blame it either.


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.


Fairbanks Community & Mushing Museum

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There is a small local museum on the second floor of the Co-Op Plaza Building in the heart of downtown Fairbanks.  I believe that two museums combined forces, with the Community Museum embracing the once separate Dog Mushing Museum, which had fallen on hard times.

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The 1962 Bombardier Ski-Doo is a powerhouse of snow, stomping fun.  The four-cycle engine produces 7 whole horsepower, and offers a top speed of 15mph.  Is that quicker than a horse-drawn sleigh?  The little Ski-Doo last raced in the 2006 Tired-Iron Snowmachine Rally, which is an annual event here in Fairbanks.

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Dog mushing is a major part of Interior Alaska’s identity, although recreational mushers are becoming a rare breed.  Currently, around the same time frame in March as the Dog Derby of 1941, Fairbanks hosts the Open North American Championship dog sled races.  The Open North American brings in mushers from around the globe.

 

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The big race for Fairbanks is the Yukon Quest, which runs between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  The 1000 mile race was first run in 1984.  The start line alternates yearly between the two cities.

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This Yukon style toboggan, circa 1920, is representative of the style used in the Interior Alaska woods.  They traveled better than sleds with runners.  The woodwork was obviously done by hand, and the sides, and back are made of moose hide.  It was built, owned and operated by a famed local trapper.

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The museum is full of photographs from all stages of Fairbanks’ history.  From the gold rush days of its founding, to the Great Flood, and beyond.

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During the tourist season, the film “Attla” has been shown on a weekly basis at the museum.  George Attla was the iconic Alaskan dogsled racer.  He dominated sprint races, with a career that spanned from 1958 to 2011, doing it all on one good leg.  Mr Attla, originally from the village of Koyukuk, passed away in 2015.

On a separate, but related note:  The PBS show, “Independent Lens” will be broadcasting an episode on George Attla on December 16.  Check your local PBS station for showtimes.


#OptOutside 2019

Just think: No lines, no fighting over the last extra large, no pushing or shoving, or trying to find a parking spot.

Opt to go Outside and explore. Every trail leads to an adventure.

If you happen to be in or near Baraboo, Wisconsin, The Leopoldo Center is holding crane viewing events this weekend.


Unexpected Selfies

The Rover Dash: I must be going downhill

When I sent in the film from the Billy-Clack, I had one roll of 120 black & white film that I could not remember when I had shot it. Somehow, a roll of film had been forgotten in a pack pocket during one of my travels. It sat around for a bit more, as I waited to get some more 120 used up.

The roll does have some history to it, and it has been a while. It’s from the last time The Rover was down in the Lower 48. Probably right after I swapped out the motor, because there are a few shots of San Antonio.

There was also a shot of some young punk, riding alongside me in the Land Rover, taking a picture of himself as he stuck out his tongue at the camera. He also took this shot of the Rover dash, probably scared at how fast we were moving.

I must have been concentrating on traffic, because I do not remember him sticking his tongue out at me or the camera.

Camera: Agfa Clack (not the Billy-Clack); Film: Kodak 120 TMax 100; Photographer: Minnesota “Moose” Matthew


Curatores Gignentia

The beaver at midnight

When I first set up the Beaver Cam, I was expecting some photos right away, but the Beav had other ideas. It didn’t come by the cam until I was out of town fishing. It does have an extensive area from which to fell his lumber, so I didn’t get too concerned.

That Pesky Rabbit; or Curatores Gignentia in Latin

The first week the Beaver Cam was up, I had 442 pictures of this rabbit. I’ve been asked, “How can you be sure it’s the same rabbit?” Because I waded through 442 pictures of the goofy thing hoping for a picture of the beaver.

The Bunny Hop

The funny thing about rabbits, is that they tend to twitch this way, and then twitch that way for endless hours of viewing entertainment. They may hop a foot or two, but then they go back to twitching. There were a lot of pictures where the only noticeable difference between shots was the placement of one ear or the other.

The rabbit returns to twitching

The second week the cam was up, when I was out of town chasing cohos, the beaver did stop by for a couple of dozen shots. I was grateful, although they were interspersed between 502 pictures of my favorite rabbit. When I finally took the cam down due to concern it may be carried off with a tree, I had close to 1000 pictures of Bugs, and 40 of the beaver.

Oh, and four pictures of Moose Legs:

Moose Legs, just to spice things up


September!

Fireweed gone to seed

Of the twelve months, September is my favorite in Interior Alaska. That holds true even though I know what lies just around the corner.

The length of days would be considered “normal” in the Outside world. Sunrise on the final day of August was 6:29am, with sunset coming in at 9:12pm, for a loss of 7 minutes from the day before.

Mornings carry a heavy dew, and there is a definite chill to the air. We have already seen several nights with a hard frost. A hike down any trail is likely to bring the scent of woodsmoke from a cabin or two. Finally, the scent comes from chimneys and not wildfires.

The change of colors has started

The sound of cranes and geese filled the air today, as they gather their flocks for the trip south. A bull moose showed himself this morning; his massive set of antlers now devoid of velvet. For the next two weeks, I expect he will make himself scarce.

Finishing preparations for the coming winter likely dominate thoughts, but one can not forget to get outside and enjoy the brilliance of this month of transformation.

As much as I love the long days of June, I revel in the colorful days of September.


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.