The second building in the picture is the George C. Thomas Memorial Library, which was built in 1909. The log building was home to the Fairbanks public library until 1977, and it was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. The building still stands today.
It’s the time of year where we all watch the rivers up here. Break-up in Fairbanks has lost the drama it had in the early days, before the flood control tamed the Chena River. There was a time when the Cushman Street bridge was rebuilt every year after the ice took it out.
Elsewhere across Alaska, the shifting ice still packs a punch. The ice jam in the above photo has caused flooding 90 miles upstream. Tanana, Alaska has experienced minor flooding from this. Communities all along the Yukon, from Eagle to Buckland have experienced severe flooding.
The Kobuk River has been added to the flood stage list. An ice jam could bring flooding from Kobuk to Ambler if the ice doesn’t break up soon.
In Fairbanks, we saw our first 80F degree day this season on Friday. It broke a record for not just the high temp of the day, but also broke a record for the highest low temperature for the day. It was the earliest 60F degree low on record for Fairbanks. It was certainly noticeable when I went out in the morning.
With the warmer weather and midnight sun comes the arrival of another summer anomaly: The Tourist. In March and April, we shared the roads with new tour bus drivers, who were learning how to drive while sharing Alaska tidbits over the bus loudspeaker.
Last week, I spotted the first full tour bus in Fairbanks. The bus had traveled the Parks Highway from Denali National Park. The swans, geese and cranes have been here for a few weeks, and now the tourists join the gaggle.
To add insult to injury, for those of us who are accustomed to seeing moose along the roadside, Sunday was National Tourist Day. Where did that celebration come from? Or, is that day, considered a warning? Time to prepare for the inevitable sudden stops for wildlife viewing.
As much as I love having them around, they are still just a moose! Alaska Tip: Pull off the roadway completely before stopping to gawk. The resident behind you will appreciate the effort.
There is a lot of snow on the ground still. Anywhere from 12-18″ of depth, but the 50F degrees this past weekend has put the melt on. Lots of sun right now too:
Length of day: 16 hrs, 53 mins
Length of visible light: 19 hrs, 17 mins
Today will be 6 mins and 59 secs longer than yesterday.
The beavers have open water in front of their lodge, which happens for two reasons. Their swimming back and forth helps to keep the ice thinner, but there is also a methane release point in the same location, which helps to do the same thing. In fact, the circles of diminished ice in the background, are also methane pockets.
My visit to the Gila Wilderness and its cliff dwellings happened early on in the Original Beetle Roadtrip. In many ways it was in the Gila, that a 24 year old Aldo Leopold found his footing. As someone who really enjoyed Leopold’s writing, it was only a matter of time for me to visit the wilderness he proposed and the very first Federally recognized wilderness in the United States.
I found a nice place to camp in the national forest, driving the Beetle across a stream to limit my neighbors, and from that campsite, I explored the Gila.
Theodore Roosevelt designated the cliff dwellings a national monument in 1907. The monument is 533 acres, and had just over 41,000 visitors in 2016. To me, there seemed to be almost that many people there when I visited. It became a challenge to get a picture taken without a person in the frame, but I worked at it.
The dwellings are located in an absolutely beautiful part of New Mexico. It was easy for me to see why the Mogollon people settled here, and I wondered why they abandoned it years later.
Hiking the trail early in the morning, I was lucky enough to come across a black bear on its morning excursion. Later in the day, I met up with a couple who had seen a mountain lion. I was not at all surprised by either in this beautiful, rugged terrain.
The above is one of the earliest known published images of the Chaco Canyon area. The artwork is by Richard Kern from his exploration of the area with the military’s reconnaissance of the Four Corners country, led by J.H. Simpson, in 1849. The account of the expedition was published in 1851.
I first visited Chaco Canyon during The Beetle Roadtrip. I spent an entire month exploring New Mexico, and Chaco was among the favorites. The southwest, in general, is so vastly different than the Far North, and I find the country fascinating.
Chaco is an International Dark Sky Park, and the sky was truly brilliant at night. It was here and in the Grand Canyon that I spent the most time looking up at the Milky Way. It is highly unusual for me to be able to sit outside and watch the stars move across the sky, while in shorts and a t-shirt.
Starting around 900 AD, Chaco Canyon became a major culture center for Ancestral Puebloans, and a hub for ceremony and trade. Pueblo Bonito, the largest of the “Great Houses”, had at least 650 rooms. Its massive walls were 3 feet thick.
The petroglyphs throughout the area are absolutely astounding. I could have spent the entire month exploring Chaco Canyon alone, if left to my own devices.
The park itself is just over 33,000 areas, and it saw 39,000 visitors in 2011.