Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chena Hot Springs Bike Classic

High today: 56
Low today: 49

Went on my first "road ride" ever today. Well, I guess second, because the first was "Pedal Pittsburgh" when I was 10 years old or so. But that was a long time ago. Debbie decided to do the CHSBC with me last minute (or maybe she had been planning for awhile but didn't tell me til the night before? :-) ) so I had an extra shove to wake up early in the pouring rain to do this ride. Without her coming over for breakfast, I would have said screw it and curled into a ball in my nice dry bed and stayed there for 4 more hours. The rain was actually refreshing except for the cold feet part, where we just reminded ourselves, "HOT SPRINGS! HOT SPRINGS!" to stay motivated, as the hot springs was the end point of the ride.
(Thanks Debbie for the pics!)
I'm really glad I decided to do this ride, as I was able to make some 20/30-something cycling friends and FINALLY found another female mountain biker in Fairbanks who raced competitively at one point. Finally.. where have you people been?! Why has it taken me so long to find you?? Here I was beginning to believe that younger mountain bikers did not exist in Fairbanks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!

High today: 81 (heat waveeee!)
Low today: 56

Today was the longest day of the year, putting us at 21 hours and 49 minutes of sunlight. We have had 24 hours of daylight for awhile now. Tonight was the annual Midnight Sun Run 10k. It is a HUGE event in Fairbanks, with over 3500 runners and walkers this year. People all line up along the streets, basically a giant block party... spraying hoses, sprinklers and water guns at the runners. I even scored a Flavor-ice popsicle during the race.. it was kind of difficult to eat/drink running. :-) Every year there is a costume contest too, which I didn't enter this year or last, but running with a silly hat is that much more fun than not. Some quotes from the spectators include, "What are you, a devil in disguise?" (my response)"No! I'm a lobster!"... "Don't be crabby!"... "Look at the lobster!"... "Go lobster GO!".. "LOOK a crab!!". So entertaining.. Stef got a picture of Ted, Dan and I after the race as we went to join up with the others for festivities.
Just for reference, this is what it looked like at 2:50am... the last pic is Stef's too.Happy Solstice!

Alaskan Bachelorette Party

Laura and Dave are getting married soon so the girls drove on down to the mountains to camp out for a very awesome bachelorette party. As you can see.. spongebob squarepants stickers and sweatbands were happily displayed by the bride during a game that the bridesmaids prepared.A woman came over to our campsite all excited about a porcupine. Stef gives a thumbs up by the jagged little creature. We had a lot of other pesky little wildlife come around to the campsite. Sadly, they are used to people at the car camping sites.
Two goofballs run excitedly down the road in search of Denali.There she is... never gets old!
There were two bull moose on the side of the road also. My pictures didn't come out very well since the lighting was bad but Stef's came out a lot better.
Franziska was swimming in the sleeping bag that she borrowed!
Next morning we had another beautiful day, perfect for some wandering around. This would have been perfect weather to bike the park road!!Deanna looks down from her rock throne.Photographer Stef doing her thing.On the way out of the park, a wolf was spotted so everyone went looking for it! Those wolves are so skiddish that he was out of the picture before we even got out of the car. Saturday was such a crystal clear day, but unfortunately I had to get back to Fairbanks to work our booth at the solstice fair.. boo! But it's alright, some time in the mountains is better than no time in the mountains! Until next time...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

There's No Place Like Nome?

Highs in Nome: 41-62
Lows in Nome: 31-41

That's all I can say. I feel like this blog entry should be separated into "the planned trip" and "the unplanned trip". Why? Because this one was more than special in many ways.

All I knew before this trip was that I was going to be out in the field maintaining weather stations on the Seward Peninsula and that there would be some hiking involved.

We flew into Nome Thursday morning and organized ourselves by getting everything we needed to be out in the field for three days. Hungry for some $20 pears or some Tang mix?? Nope, me either! Some of the food prices were outrageous.. $9 for a bottle of cranberry juice.. but some of it was actually cheaper than it is in Fairbanks.. like peaches and nectarines among other fresh fruits. I forgot to check the price of milk. For some reason, the gas prices are not comparatively expensive there either.. it was $4.29 which I think is less than Fairbanks, though I haven't noticed the price lately.
The weather was absolutely spectacular for the first three days, not what I expected. Nome was not what I expected either. It's like a higher-class Barrow with more happening. Neat small town. First we headed to Council, east of Nome, where we have two weather stations nearby. The drive out there was spectacular and totally not what I expected. I guess the reality is that I had no expectations on this trip which really is the way to go. Council is basically a "summer vacation" spot for the people of Nome. You can only access it by crossing the river, which was fluctuating greatly with the snow-melt runoff. We canoed across. What I figured out rather quickly was that this trip was turning into a backpacking trip with a mission and different destinations. We saw a lot of bear prints on the way up to Blueberry hill. It was very quiet in this area and where the station was. We met a man named Dan and his son Edward in Council, whom Bob knew from previous trips. He welcomed us into his house for a beer. I love chatting with old-timer Alaskans.. and even not-so-old-timers. They are such interesting people and lead such different lives from the typical US culture.Outhouse with a skylight!

Below was my favorite location up on Skookum Pass. It was at the top of the mountain with awesome views.
Then I found a new function on my camera. It grabs one color in the frame and only displays that color. How COOL! I was uber-excited about it and went artsy-fartsy with some pictures.
There were still massive towers of snow along the roads in some areas. What do you mean it's summer solstice??!
We camped on the beach that night. And no, I did not do the polar bear dive. If I had a warm place to sleep and a buddy to persuade I would have at least thought about it. ;)

Saturday we headed up north to Kougarok, basically a label on the map that used to be an old mining town. The entire sky was covered in lenticular clouds the entire drive there. That should have been our first sign that the weather would turn bad within 12 hours. Here's the old Cushman St. bridge before the two lane one was put in.
This was an intense day of backpacking (being that I had no idea we were going to be technically backpacking), making our way to two stations quite a ways from the road in the midst of unwelcoming tussocks and swampiness. It was a ton of fun though.. I was able to get my backpacking itch slightly out this day.

After a very long day we headed back and set up camp only to have the weather turn sour. It rained most of the night and we woke up to what would be the next several days' weather.
We tried to fly out Sunday, but our flight got canceled due to fog even though the visibility wasn't that bad and the ceiling couldn't have been that low. We tried again for Mon. morning but the fog kept getting worse and worse until we were under a quarter mile to half mile visibility for most of the day. We keep getting pushed back on flights, which in total were 9 canceled flights in a row. So you can imagine the people waiting to get out and get in. The situation sounds bad but it really wasn't bad at all for the three of us. I got completely hooked up with some housing and transportation from my colleagues up here so we were in good shape. The whole packing, checking in, finding out the flight was canceled, grabbing the checked luggage again, unpacking, and then doing it all over again twice a day started to get old though. I think I gained a great deal of upper arm strength through the process!!
We become very entertained by the little things, like double diffusion in a root beer float.
This was the scene in Nome for a solid 40-some hours.Here's an old gold dredge that is now sitting on FAA land.

We made the most of our extra time and even went to the community barn dance, a part of the Midnight Sun Festival in Nome.Wednesday was spent by actually doing some work that was going to be postponed until the trip in August (yes, we are all planning on going back in Aug!! Hopefully in nice weather!!) Jessie got out on an early flight but Bob and I were still in Nome until that night. We went out to their station at Guy Rowe (east of Nome) to take the station out. It had constantly been being wrecked by bears, so the instruments were taken down last summer and we went to retrieve the poles and batteries. We saw a mama fox and her little one.. the baby went running away when we got out of the truck. On the way home our hungry stomachs were looking for a place and ended us at the Safety Roadhouse, the last checkpoint of the Iditarod along the Council Rd. Since we weren't carrying cash we couldn't eat there, but we met Tom and Pam, who work there. They were awesome to talk to and we actually had lunch in town with Pam who was headed that way. Lots of good stories and I look forward to hearing more in August.. we promised them we would come back to visit.
So in a nutshell, our 4 day trip turned into an 8 day trip. Nome was a hoot. But boy, am I glad to be home!
And I was welcomed home by my pumpkin plants sprouting, woohoo!