Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Turn Around Don't Drown

High today: 63
Low today: 51

A few years ago the Turn Around Don't Drown slogan began, with the purpose of teaching the public to stay off of flooded roads. I'm almost 100% sure that my former roommate, Al, was the one who found it, but most importantly, found the song called 'Turn Around Don't Drown' that was recorded and posted online for a little bit as part of the program. We laughed about it for a long time because the song is ridiculous and funny and we even threatened to sing it at a talent show, but really, the slogan does its job because I, and anyone who was around me when we found this song will never forget it. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because Ed had this awesome sign sent to him today randomly.. just so happens to be on a big day of crazy flooding in the Interior. It has been raining so much the last three days.. more than I remember total last summer. There has been over 3 inches of rain in some spots, where annual precipitation amounts are around 10-15 inches. A significant amount, don't ya think? I blame myself for saying that I was not going to do certain things like watch movies with anyone, or organize my life, or stay inside for a prolonged time other than sleeping until it rained, because why waste a sunny day??

Sooooo... today I got to experience my first flood! You'd think growing up in the 'Burgh by the three rivers I would have seen a flood or two but only ever saw them on the news mainly from ice jams. Ed and I went south on the Richardson to the Tanana and Salcha Rivers to find a bit of "excess water" to say the least. The Tanana was spilling over its banks and rising as we were standing there. According to everyone, they had never seen the river rise so rapidly from rain water. The Tanana was pretty wild.. what is normally a braided, fairly calm river was raging with 2 to 3 foot waves. I didn't get any good pictures of the waves but here is a video of the fast-moving Tanana.
videoThere's a road under this somewhere..
And the color accent on my camera can still make it look peaceful...
Wait a minute... the rescue crew is under water too?!! This wasn't actually flow from the river, but just a huge pool of water from all of the rainfall.
The Salcha got very wide, too. Last time I was here it was all frozen.. and a good 15 feet away if not more!!
But remember kids, turn around don't drown!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Building a Cabin

High today: 69
Low today: 55

Dan has been building a cabin this summer. The foundation took forever but now he is getting walls up. Now all he needs is a roof and will be set. His cabin is not far from mine and it will be nice having another nearby neighbor! Here's him and Ben showing off their drills.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

To the Weather Nerds

Had to share this one.. thanks Al for pointing it out! Original websiteHere's another one, straight off of SPC! Tell me what is wrong with this graphic..

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bear fight!!

High today: 60
Low today: 44

This morning I got to go to "basic bear training", a class designed mainly for people who will be working out in the field in bear country. It was super informative and I got to shoot a 12-gauge again, woohoo! The tinge of redneck in me enjoyed it.. and now I have an awesome poster for my door. Rarrrrrrr!
These are my running buddies Matthew and Karen. We went on a 10 mile run today and ended at the hot springs for a soak. It was good motivation to end there! They are quite fun people.. our runs always involve some adventure or another, typically with jumping in rivers or through sprinklers it seems! Note the pretty field of fireweed in the background. The pictures I took without a flash were showing up blurry because of the poor lightning when we were heading home.Our first stop before the hot springs was to the restaurant to fill our very hungry tummies. I had heard about a martini they made that has something in it that swirls around like the aurora borealis. Of course I had to get one. Isn't it pretty?? I was swirling it to make the liquid move around. Ahhh the joys of chemistry and different liquid densities!

Pictures from Dawson

I went to Dawson City for the musical festival. It rained a ton so I don't have a lot of pictures but here are some from the drive back to Fairbanks.
will post more later...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday Rosalie!

My eldest niece, Rosalie, turned 4 today! How time flies. Here's a picture of her and her friend... Rosalie is on the left. What a cute age!

Monday, July 14, 2008

And I Present.. Master Bourne!

Special shoutout to Stefanie for passing her Master's defense today! It's bittersweet since it's great that she passed and is moving onto bigger and better things but so bitter because this means we have little time left with her. Stefanie has been an awesome friend to me the last 7 months, has been there for me during my crappiest times in Fairbanks and I'm really going to miss her once she leaves. We totally connected from day one, feeding our silliness off of each other and maybe it's an east coast bond that we have too. It really sucks getting to know someone and then having to separate. But I guess that is part of life. I understand why people don't move far away and stay near their roots and their good friends. It's not easy just pulling away when you are sacrificing all of those relationships and bonds. The cool thing is, I'll be doing research related to what she did hers on, so it will be like she's always there, sending temperature inversion vibes my way.. yea I know we're nerds. And even better, she'll be in DC in January when I head back east so we will be able to meet up again. Glad we still have another month! Congrats Master Bourne!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From Kantishna or BUST!

Temps: 50ish to 75ish
Mileage: 91
Elevation climb: > 11,000 ft
Flat tires: 0
Rain showers: 0

We made it!!!!

This weekend my friend Debbie and I finally went ahead with attempting to bike all 90 miles of the Denali Park Rd. from the end of the road at Kantishna all the way back to our campsite at the entrance of the park. This is my fourth time biking any of the park road, but I have never done the whole thing or ever biked more than 62 miles at a time anywhere. The trip was kind of last minute, since a week and a half ago panic set in that we were losing daylight and it would be best to do the trip with maximum daylight so riding through the night was more enjoyable.

Debbie and I took the 7am camper bus into the park.Along the way, we picked up a big group of Fairbanks friends who were doing a hiking/packrafting trip the same day. See Dea's blog for awesome pictures. (Sorry Dea for not getting you in the pic!) They got off about 30 miles in to start their adventure.Holy cow!! The mountain was out!! Unfortunately we were still on the bus at this point. I still have to hold onto my dream of holding my bike up in front of this sucker with it fully visible. But I still felt soooo lucky to see it.. first time seeing it well in the park.

On our way to Kantishna, our bus had mandatory stops at Eielson (mile 66) and Wonder Lake (mile 84) so we had a lot of time to toot around.
By the time we got to Eielson the mountain was already becoming obscured in clouds.Moose tracks, anyone?
Finally! Phew.. that was a long bus ride. We made it to Kantishna and got rolling around 2:30 after being attacked by some serious mosquitoes. They were almost Brooks Range intensity mosquitoes. We were glad to get a move on.
By Reflection Pond, where the famous pictures of Denali are taken. Too bad the mountain was completely hidden by this point.

Ok, so story time. I started going into "la-la" land like I normally do biking.. and all of a sudden a brown thing is up ahead on the road. Debbie points it out as the caribou is quickly trotting towards us.. I would call it a bit of a gallop instead of a "trot", he was coming STRAIGHT FOR US! We immediately got off our bikes and are thinking, "oh my goodness, what the crap is this caribou doing??!" I have never ever had a caribou walk TOWARDS me, they are skiddish animals and normally run away. So, we began yelling at the caribou and holding up our bikes trying to look bigger, and it finally reacted to us and stopped dead in its tracks when it was a distance of 10 feet away... stared at us bobbing its head side to side to check us out, and then bolted the other way. Then, it continues on doing its thing right on the road. THAT was a cool experience. We were shocked for a few seconds and weren't sure whether to ride by or wait for him to move. Two buses full of tourists came by and blocked the road right by the caribou so we were behind them waiting to go. Here is a picture of him from farther away after we scared him the other way. If only I had a video camera taping the original encounter it would have been priceless.
Josh took the 11am camper bus and got to us around mile 75. The first 20-something miles were brutally slow. It took us almost an hour to get the 6 miles from Kantishna to Wonder Lake. I thought it was flat but instead it was all uphill, and we were getting adjusted to our bikes at the beginning so there was some stop and go, but still.. 6 miles in an hour?! It was going to be a long, long day.
It took us a lot of time to get to Eielson Visitors Center. I was a bit worried at our slow pace and was hoping that things would speed up, which they did.

Here the mountain lies, if it were out. Near Stony Dome (mile 28 for us), we were warned by several vehicular travelers that there was a big grizz on the side of the road. Sure enough, the sucker was ~30 feet away on our left, luckily there were two buses stopped alongside the bus warning us of the location. The big grizz was minding his own business just chowing down on some brush. Thank goodness the bear didn't have cubs and was minding his own business. We VERY slowly and quietly rode by him and then bolted the hell out of there. I almost stopped to take a picture but was too nerved and decided it was better to get out of there before he noticed us.

At one point of the ride, another biker (Alex) was riding alongside us and I got to talking to him. He works in the park and was just going for a leisurely ride. What a great life! He rode with us for awhile until a ride came to haul him back to camp... he did his undergrad in PA (small world) but is getting his Master's now in Vancouver. He is interested in biking the Denali Highway (different road!) that I am planning later this summer so maybe we'll meet again.

Below is ascending Polychrome Pass, by far one of the best overlooks in the park. I like riding this section because there is a massive fast downhill after the awesome overlook. The road just weaves in and out of the mountains with a cliff on one side. And this was the farthest I went in on my first bike ride and trip in Denali.. I guess it's a bit sentimental like anything from my first summer in Anchorage and first summer in Fairbanks.
Josh had to bail out at Polychrome and took the camper bus back to camp, but Debbie stuck with me through the next half of the ride. This girl is AMAZING. She was hurting from mile 45 onward but still completed it. A serious trooper! She totally gets an endurance award and patience award for putting up with my plan of riding the entire way all at once.
At mile 68 for us we stopped by the Sanctuary campground to see if the other Fairbanksians were back from their adventure, and they were. They had just gotten back to their camp a half hour before we did and were chowing down on some delicious Mountain House.
The sun began to go down but this was by far the greatest weather I ever had biking the park road. We encountered some good winds through some areas but by the end most places were calm and the sky was clear enough that it never did get dark enough for a headlamp. The temperature was perfect and there was not one drop of rain the entire time!! I don't ever expect it to be this nice again.Mile 70-something and still going!!
Right before our 75-mile mark, there was a serious population of rabbits and I felt like Moses parting the red sea of bunnies. Left.. right.. 10 at a time.. it was hysterical! I was getting pretty goofy at this hour of night and the bunnies were making me laugh. Had a close call or two.. that would have sucked to hit a bunny and go flying off your bike. But really, I was in a very good mood the entire ride. Because mountains + bikes + good weather makes a perfect day. Someone recently suggested that I should put a weather station on my bike and just start riding and be a mobile weather station. I think its brilliant and it would be the perfect job. You could see the world and meet lots of interesting people along the way.

Mile 80 of our trip I began struggling for the first time, but it was not a physical struggle. I was beginning to nod off on my bike!!! I have never ever almost fallen asleep riding before. It didn't happen once or twice but 10 or so times. Either I was too comfortable riding at that point, or maybe too warm under my extra layer that I put on for the last screaming downhill of the road.. but it was like being in an 8am class and trying furiously to stay awake. So strange. Once we started on the last leg which is all downhill and the cold wind was screaming through my jackets then I woke up. :-)
Nearly 12 hours later including many stops and roadblocks along the way, mile 90. Who wants to go 10 more for 100?!!

Hands down, best Denali trip on record. Here is a map of our trip, bear with me because I took a picture of the map and drew the line and dots in with Paint. The green dot on the left is where we started, the red where we ended. The purple-ish dot is where we had our caribou encounter and the brown is where the grizz was.
Huge thanks to Debbie and Josh for being up to the challenge and helping to make my dream of riding the park road become possible this summer! To Debbie for putting up with me and being way less cranky than she deserved to be, and to Josh for making that really nice fire for my cold feet. :-)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Alaskan Storms!

High today: 78
Low today: 54

Woohoo! Here are the scary black clouds that Fairbanks never sees, but the fun part was after these suckers passed through. :-D Second day in a row of a decent tstorm. There was a close strike of lightning just at the end of my street. Here is a map of daily lightning strikes by BLM. I love this thing, it is live lightning data. As you can see, contrary to popular belief, AK actually gets a lot of thunderstorms.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Row Row Row Your Boat

High today: 84
Low today: 50

Celebrated the 4th on the 3rd by spending the entire day on the water. First kayaking at Chena Lakes then canoeing the Chena River!
Some people weren't so fortunate as to stay in their canoes. ;)Happy Independence Day! Now go set off some fireworks for me because we can't see any!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What We Do On Weeknights

It's summertime.

And that means a few things.

1. BBQ. Delicious.. we are getting good at making skewers. If only the sticks would stop catching on fire... you are supposed to soak them in water but we keep forgetting.2. Friends. Well, friends are all year long but the endless nights and no classes make people a little more willing to come out of their holes. Or maybe it's the BBQ that brings the friends.. it works out in any case.3. BEAUTIFUL WEATHER! The tasty smell of AK is still in the air, my nose has not been numbed to it yet and hope it never does. The air is fresh and crisp and unpolluted. The lungs enjoy air like this.
4. Cruisin' down the Chena working on our farmer's tans. Because we can.