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2004 Susan L. Stevenson
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February 1, 2004

Yesterday (January 31st) was Mom and Dad's Anniversary. They would have been married 45 years if Dad was still alive. I know Mom must have really been missing him...

Look how beautiful they looked on their wedding day:

Mom and Dad Wedding Day

February... One month of 2004 already gone.

Our guests will be here anytime now. We're having Brian and Marcella over to watch the Super Bowl with us. Steve made a crock pot of moose stew, and I made another crock pot of regular beef stew. I also put together a veggie tray and dip, some chicken salad and crackers, and some cheese and crackers. Steve's putting together his spiced queso for tortilla chips as we speak. Brian and Marcella are bringing margaritas. We're going to pretend that it's a summer day and it's warm outside.

Last night we went to the Blue Loon with Brian and Marcella to see a comedy show. We had a fantastic time! The comedians were amateurs (except for the headliner) and some were very funny. Some were also pretty lame - but you gotta take the good with the bad. The headliner was hysterical and we talked about him all the way home. It's a nice feeling when your face hurts from laughing. I truly believe that 'laughter is the best medicine'.

There are a lot of events coming up in February here in Fairbanks. The Junior Yukon Quest and the Yukon Quest are the big events. There are also weekly lectures - which are free - given by the UAF Geophysical Institute and the University of Alaska Foundation. The topics this month include "Alaska's Wolves", "Viewing the Night Sky: Astronomy in Alaska", "Alaska's Largest Earthquakes", and "Lightning and Fire". They are held on Tuesday evenings and last about an hour. I'm hoping I'll be able to attend a few of them.

The Festival of Native Arts is being held from February 26 - 27th. There will be traditional dancing and singing. There will also be Native arts and crafts on display and for sale. It's being held up at the college, so I'm hoping to be able to stop in and see what's going on while I'm at work (since they are both work days for me). Of course, I'll have my camera.

Well, it's SUPER BOWL time! GO PATRIOTS!

Chena River Panorama

February 2, 2004

Brandon had shoulder surgery today. His ligaments had to be tightened. Both his shoulders have been injured since he joined the Marines. Becky was able to get a week off to take care of him. He'll be released from the hospital tomorrow. I spoke to him today - he's in intermittent pain, but heavily medicated. He'll be on convalescent leave for 30 days and undergoing physical therapy when he's able. They plan to correct the other shoulder at some point in the future.

Becky ETS's (gets out of the Marines) in two weeks. She's hoping to find a job on base. I know they'll be hurting when they lose her salary, but both Brandon and Becky have had enough. Brandon has about a year left on his tour.

We had a fantastic time yesterday eating, sipping margaritas and watching the game. Both pots of stew turned out fabulous. Yes, I even ate some moose meat. It actually wasn't too bad (tasted like roast beef; very tender cooked that way), but I still couldn't get over the fact that the species of animal that the meat came from, walks through my yard from time to time. I suppose if I was raised on moose meat, and caribou meat, and the other various game meat that is savored here in AK, perhaps I wouldn't have such a hesitancy in eating it. I don't eat very much red meat anyway - another contributing factor.

After my morning workout, I went in search of a shawl to wear to the Valentines Day Ball on the 14th. I'll be wearing mom's cape to keep me warm, but wanted a shawl to wear throughout the ball. My gown is plain black velvet and I wanted something to 'jazz it up' a bit. I ended up buying a finely crocheted black shawl with metallic thread running through it and a really pretty necklace. It will have to do.

After my little shopping spree, I took a drive along the river. It was one of those afternoons when I was content to be alone... driving... enjoying the sights...

The weather has warmed up considerably since last week. We reached a high of about 5 ABOVE zero today. The sun was shining and the snow glistened along the river. I pulled into the parking lot of the Carlson Center (our local arena) and took a short walk to the river's edge. It was so peaceful... I shot the photo above in panoramic mode. It is four photos stitched together. I hope it makes you feel like you were standing there with me.

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February 3, 2004

Another warm day today. I believe we reached 8 degrees. It's amazing how accustomed I've become to the weather. I didn't even have my coat buttoned today while waiting for the shuttle bus to take me to my office building. Tomorrow the weatherman is calling for temperatures in the low 20's. I hope this means that the end is near when it comes to frigid temperatures. But with the rise in temperature, comes the possibility of snow.

Snow removal up here is a major project. The snow doesn't melt until Spring. Which means that all the snow we have had since late October is still here. The snow plows come by and push the snow off the roads and onto the grassy areas. There are mounds of snow as high as 5-6 feet between the houses. Every few weeks, a bucket loader and a dump trunk will come through the neighborhood and scoop up tons of snow and carry it away. I don't know where they take it. Wherever it is, it's probably a ski resort now.

Alaska Range from Office Window

The range was very visible today. And the skies were a beautiful blue. I took this shot out the window while at work. Pretty impressive, isn't it? I don't know how I get any work done...

We had an FRG meeting tonight and we got to meet a new girl in the company (Ellie). She seems really nice. She and her husband just got here from Iowa a month ago. Their household goods haven't arrived yet, so they are using stuff from the Lending Closet (The Lending Closet is donated items - pots & pans, dishes, cribs, beds, TVs, etc. - that new soldiers and their families can borrow from while waiting for their belongings to be delivered.) Ellie is a Special Education Teacher and she'll be looking for work as soon as they get settled. I don't think she'll have a problem finding work here with her credentials. The school district up here is one of the biggest employers.

Steve will be attending the First Sergeant Academy at Fort Richardson (Anchorage) for three weeks beginning May 1st. If he's got weekends off from school, I might see if I can catch a flight down there and spend a weekend with him. Sometimes last minute hops from Fairbanks to Anchorage can be a bargain if you catch them right.

February 5, 2004

Snow out my upstairs windowIt snowed today. I love it when it snows. Not because we need anymore of the white stuff on the ground, but because fresh snow makes everything look so pretty and clean. Of course the downfall is that there's no way of telling what's underneath the coating of white stuff on the roads. There are still patches of ice throughout town and hiding them makes driving even more treacherous.

The photo above was taken from my upstairs window. The snow that you see sloping on the left hand side of the window is on the eave that is outside the window. The eave is a good foot below the window, so you can see that we have about 18 inches to two foot of snow on the roof.

Steve is in Anchorage tonight. He left the house at 4pm to catch a military flight to Fort Richardson. He's attending the PLDC (Primary Leadership Course) graduation of some of his soldiers. They have no idea that he's coming, so they'll be happy to see that he cared enough to come and watch the ceremony. It's now 8pm and I haven't heard from him yet. I'll feel better when he calls and lets me know he's arrived safely.

It is officially the weekend for me. The weeks fly by now that I'm working. We found out that Steve has block leave the first two weeks in July. So that's my target for bringing the kids up for a visit. We'd like to take the camper and drive down to the Kenai again. Perhaps we'll go to the Seward Military Resort. I'm particularly interested in the tour of Kenai Fjords National Park - and Steve is looking forward to doing some fishing.

It's nice to daydream about summer...

February 6, 2004

I read an interesting story in the Fairbanks News-Miner (our local paper) on Monday. It seems as if sperm whales have have learned to pluck sablefish hauled from the depths of the Gulf of Alaska right off the lines.

"They somehow just pick them off like grapes," said Sitka longliner Dick Curran, who has fished the gulf's deep waters for decades. "I don't know how they do it, and I don't know the depth. ... Sometimes you get the heads back, sometimes you just see lips, and sometimes they're just shredded."

"For sure they know the sound of hydraulics engaging--the whales definitely know that it's like ringing the dinner bell for them," said Linda Behnken, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association, which is coordinating the study.

Sperm whales are the largest toothed cetaceans, ranging more than 35 tons and 50 feet long. That's longer than a city bus and three times as heavy. Their body is about 40 percent head. Decimated worldwide by commercial whaling, the species is listed as endangered. Although biologists believe sperm whales have been recovering and are no longer in danger of extinction, no one knows how many frequent Alaska waters.

Tomorrow morning the plan is to get up early enough to go out to breakfast and then head over to the staging area for the Junior Yukon Quest. If we can find a place to park, and I can get near the mushers and teams, I'm going to look for Hilary Schwafel. She's the young lady running Jan's team. If I can find her (and see what she's wearing), I'll be able to catch her when they pass through Fort Wainwright. My plan is to head back to post and find a place along the river to set up my tripod and camera and get some photos. I hope luck is on my side.

Steve is back from Anchorage. He said that Mt. McKinley was visible from the plane window. Of course he didn't have his camera with him... bummer.

February 8, 2004

Bull moose nibbling
Trying to find some kind of greenery on the bare branches.

I had a very full day yesterday. Steve and I were up early and out the door by 9am - heading for the staging area for the Junior Yukon Quest. I took some photos of Jan's team and Hilary before the race started. So many in fact that I created an entire page highlighting the race: CLICK HERE TO VIEW MY JR. YUKON QUEST PHOTOS.

Bull moose in streetAs we were visiting with Jan, someone pointed out a huge bull moose who was standing on the other side of the river. Perhaps he was looking for a front row seat to the festivities. Since Steve and I had some time to spare before heading onto Post and getting situated at the river's edge, we went in search of the huge creature. Well we found him all right. In fact, we were sitting in the truck only about 10 feet from him. He was a big one - his head easily reached the rim of a basketball hoop that was in the yard he passed through. (Bull moose drop their antlers in the winter after the rut. If you look at the photo in the side column, you can see the 'circles' where one of his antlers was once attached to his head right above his eye.)

This guy actually looked up and down the street before crossing in front of us. The photo above gives you a general idea of how large he is with the house in the background. I would have loved to see the look on these neighbor's faces when they saw 'Bullwinkle' in their driveway.

We then hurried back to Post so I could get some more photos of the racers. Steve drove through some deep snow (even after I told him not to), and he got the truck stuck. So, while I stood on the river shooting photos, he was busy digging himself out and waiting for a friend to come tow him out of the ditch he drove into.

Junior Yukon Quest winnerThe view was beautiful, with the trees in the background and the pureness of the newly fallen snow. It was cold (-25), but I was prepared with my many layers of clothing. Across the river on the other side, one of the residents had a huge bonfire going near their back deck and were cheering on the teams as they passed by. It was definitely something worth witnessing. Next week is the big Yukon Quest - a one way trip to Whitehorse. I'd like to get some photos next weekend too - but this time maybe down at the starting gate.

Later yesterday evening, Steve went off to the Brigade Ball and my friend Susan picked me up and we headed out for a bite to eat. We decided on Brewsters (even though she had found a plastic bag in her soup the first time we ate there). Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we both came away with a doggy-bag to enjoy later.

Then it was off to the Herring Auditorium to see "The Vagina Monologues". This Benefit V-Day performance of Eve Ensler's award winning play was very thought-provoking. I laughed, I cried, I got angry. I felt proud to be a woman.

"V-Day is a global movement that helps anti-violence organizations throughout the world continue and expand their core work on the ground, while drawing public attention to the larger fight to stop worldwide violence (including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual slavery) against women and girls. V-Day exists for no other reason than to stop violence against women. In just five years, it has raised over $14 million and was named one of Worth magazine's "100 Best Charities" in 2001." (taken from the website above)

One performer - Sarah Duncan - had many of us in tears as she told the story of one woman who was raped and tortured at the hands of the Afghanistan military. Rape as a war crime is common in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Sarah's powerful performance made all of us sitting in the auditorium feel the pain and shame and fear and humility of the women she represented with her monologue.

I would recommend that every woman see this performance. However, there is some subject matter (lesbianism, sexual behavior, abuse, bodily functions, etc.), which may offend or embarrass people. Only you can make that judgment call.

February 9, 2004

I lost a day. These 4-day weekends always confuse me. I thought today was Sunday and not Monday. I did the same thing last weekend. I guess I need to stop spending my Sunday laying around doing absolutely nothing. Which is exactly how we spent yesterday.

Mama moose and babyToday, on the way back from the gym, I caught sight of mama moose and baby. They were along the main road nibbling on the branches of the trees. I made a U-turn, pulled my camera out of my purse and started shooting. The snow you see in the foreground is the huge berm that is pushed up on the side of the road from the snow shovel trucks. The moose were standing just beyond it. Although baby (behind mama) looks almost as big as mama, he/she is only about half her size. I will never tire of seeing these impressive creatures.

February 11, 2004

Alaska Smokejumper tower


With the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service in 1959, the BLM trained 16 smokejumpers in Missoula, Montana and flew them to Fairbanks, Alaska. They jumped 33 fires that year, basing operations in quonset huts at Ladd Air Force Base, now Fort Wainwright.

The Alaska Smokejumpers are still based at Fort Wainwright. They are NOT a military unit. The Alaska Smokejumpers are a branch of the Alaska Fire Service and the Bureau of Land Management. They protect federal, state and private lands in Alaska and the lower 48 states from the threat of wildfires. There are 65 Alaska Smokejumpers - a third of them are trained as EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians).

Alaska Smokejumpers suppress and control fires using power saws and pumps with hose, hand-tools and burning devices such as drip torches. They build firelines, mop up and monitor wildfires in accordance with fire management priorities and objectives. They prepare fire reports and determine the cause of fires. Protecting lands around native villages is a unique aspect of smokejumping in Alaska. Native communities often provide assistance to suppression efforts with equipment and supplies.

It is exciting to watch the Smokejumper aircraft take off and wonder where they heading and what fires they are fighting. I see this tall building on a regular basis and wanted to share a little information about the Alaska Smokejumpers with you.

February 12, 2004

Another week over (at least another work week!) It's also the last day of the week for Steve. He has a training holiday tomorrow and Monday he's off for President's Day. How wonderful that we BOTH have a long weekend!

Animated Northern LightsThis morning the Northern Lights were out again. I took three photos about 5 seconds apart. I used my photo imaging program to turn them into the animated image you see here.

The lights move a lot smoother than this, but I wanted to give you an idea of the way they 'dance' in the sky. They swirl and elongate - growing larger and then smaller, brighter and then dimmer. It's really an incredible sight to behold. I like this animation because you can see how they get brighter by the reflection in my living room window on the left hand side.

Then, on the way to work, I could see the sky turning a gorgeous pale orange as the sun Inside looking out at rangecame over the horizon behind the Alaska Range. I couldn't wait to get into my office and unpack my camera from my backpack. The photo to the right was taken from the hallway that connects the building I work in to another one. I love to stop at this window and look out at the range. In fact, in this photo, you can still see the shuttle bus that I take from the parking lot to my office.

Tomorrow, Steve and I have plans to go out to a late breakfast with Brian and Marcella. Marcella has to work tomorrow, so we've invited Brian to spend the day with us if he wants. Maybe we'll rent some movies.

Saturday night is our Valentines Day Ball. I have no idea how I'm going to wear my hair. It all depends on what it looks like when I take it out of my rollers. I've tried on my gown and shoes, etc. Everything looks OK. I still have to sew the frog closure on Mom's cape. And Steve had two buttons fall off his dress Blues that he asked me to sew on for him. (Does he think I'm "Suzy Homemaker"? *grin*) I'm joking... but I told him I'm using fishing line since he's always losing buttons.

Saturday morning is the start of the Yukon Quest. There are 31 teams racing this year. I'm planning on meeting a few online friends from my Alaska-Living group down at the river. I hope we can find each other! I'm going to take a few photos and then Steve and I are going to look for the place where our Ball is going to be held so we're not late. (It's hidden away off the main road, from what I understand.) I hope to have some photos of the race AND the Ball to post by Monday.

By the way... We reached a HIGH of 45 degrees on Tuesday! Today it reached the mid 20's. What this means is that more snow will be in the forecast. The intersections are a skating rink. I hate driving in this mess.

February 15, 2004

Steve and me at the military ball
Me and my handsome soldier!

Yesterday was the Yukon Quest! After having an early breakfast, Steve and I headed downtown to the staging area so I could get some photos of the dogs and the mushers. About 15 minutes before the start of the race, we walked over to the river to get a good vantage point for the start of the race. While we were down there, I ran into three friends from my Alaska Living group (Moe, Charles, and Georgeanne). The race started just about on time at 11am. Steve and I were standing right alongside the chute, where I was able to get a few good shots. There were so many people, so it was hard to dodge heads and get a clear shot, but I did my best. (MY YUKON QUEST 2004 WEBPAGE). As we were leaving the downtown area to head back onto Fort Wainwright to get some additional photos, I ran into my friend Marjorie, her husband Casey and their three girls.

I went to the river behind the MWR building again (just as I had for the Junior Quest). But this time I made Steve cross the river with me so I could get a better shot. Steve said he felt safe crossing the expanse of frozen river because the Fort Wainwright Firefighters and EMT's were there watching the race, and if we would have fallen through the ice, they would have saved us. (What a nut!) As we headed home to prepare for the Ball, we stopped briefly on the bridge and I grabbed a few more photos of the teams as they passed under the bridge.

As I was trying to tame my mop of hair into something 'formal' (hot rollers, curling iron, etc.), I noticed that the snow was falling heavily outside. It looked absolutely beautiful, but I worried about the havoc it would wreak on my hair. Fortunately it slowed down by the time we had to leave.

Steve and I had a pretty good time at the Ball. The food wasn't too bad (but certainly not worth the price of our tickets - as is usually the case), the liquor was extremely overpriced, and all the mumbo jumbo military stuff we had to sit through was boring and dragged on for ages it seems. But it was wonderful seeing my friends all dressed up in their finest, with their hair set, and wearing fancy jewelry. Playing Cinderella is always lots of fun to do once in a while.

Panorama of Chena river footbridge
This picture was taken standing on the Chena River during the Yukon Quest. I wanted to get a photo of the new footbridge.
February 16, 2004

Steve and I went ice skating today with Brian and Marcella! It was our first time skating in probably 20 or more years. I was petrified and held onto the rail for at least the first three or four laps around. Then gradually I got the courage to let go... (but it was always within reach!) After about 20 minutes, I got a little more confident, but still wasn't totally sure on my feet. It was a lot of fun and even though Steve fell twice, we both laughed a lot. Maybe next time, we'll both do much better. After skating, we grabbed a delicious lunch at The Cookie Jar and discussed the upcoming Arctic Man Competition which takes place from April 7th - 11th near Paxson (about 175 miles southeast of Fairbanks).

The Arctic Man is one of the world's toughest downhill ski races, and an exciting snowmobile race, all in one. The skier begins at a summit elevation of 5,800 feet and drops 1700 feet in less than two miles to the bottom of a narrow canyon where he meets up with his snowmobiling partner. The snowmobiler meets the skier, on the go, with a tow rope and pulls the skier 2 1/4 miles uphill at top speeds of up to 86 mph. The skier and the snowmobile then separate and the skier goes over the side of the second mountain and drops another 1200 feet to the finish line. Last year almost 13,000 spectators came from around the nation to enjoy this Alaskan event. The area the race is held, is some of the best snowmobile riding country in the world. The snowcapped peaks and beauty make this spring event one that you will treasure for a lifetime.

If it's possible to find a hotel/motel near the activities, we might opt for that and drive in. Our camper has been winterized and we didn't expect to take it out of storage until the end of April or beginning of May. Because the weather here in Alaska is unpredictable in April, it might be too cold to 'camp' in the back of the truck. We're also going to have to rent snowmachines in order to get out to the race finish line (not accessible by vehicle). The Gulkana Glacier creates a magnificent backdrop to Summit Lake and the festivities. We'll definitely be making a trip back to that area when the weather warms up and we can do some hiking and fishing.

February 19, 2004


Much love and prayers to my brother, Mike for a quick recovery from his surgery. My sister-in-law, Lisa emailed me and said that the surgeons are confident that they got all the cancer. After all that their family has gone through in the last few years, I pray that this nightmare is finally over.

Alaska Knowledge:

In Alaska today, there are five distinct groups of Alaska Natives. One group is the Athabascans.

The Athabascan Indians of interior Alaska and Canada faced harsher living conditions than their neighbors on the coast. Close relatives of the Navajos and Apaches, the Athabascans were accomplished hunters. They followed herds of caribou and moose, fished for salmon and other river fish, and gathered roots, berries, and edible plants. Their fringed and beaded skin garments were highly prized by other Natives and, along with furs and other items, were often traded with neighboring Tlingit, Yupik, and Inupiaq. Athabascans were divided into many different tribes with distinct dialects.

What a week... Sorry about the lapse in posting. There hasn't really been anything remarkable going on lately. Just working really hard on the redesign of the University website. Just when I started making headway, UAF changed the entire format. So everything I did up until last week is for nothing. I actually like the new format better. The colors are calmer and the site looks much more professional. HERE's the new format. HERE is an example of what the old format looked like. The bright yellow and blue colors were just too glaring in my opinion. I don't care how many times I have to do it. I get paid by the hour and I love doing design. It would be different if I had a job I hated.

Today we had the most gorgeous blue skies! Seeing the deep color was a treat for the eyes after days of gray. So... I decided to take the long way home. Actually, it was the REALLY long way home. I probably drove a good 5 miles out of my way. I was on a mission. I wanted to get a photograph of the old barn I've seen along Farmer's Loop Rd. on various excursions. I knew the blue skies would be a perfect backdrop for the weathered wood and the yellow bales of straw stored inside. I was right....

The Old barn framed

I wanted to thank those of you who have signed my GUESTBOOK. One of my guests has suggested that I interview Alaskans and post these interviews. I think it is a marvelous idea! If any of you have any ideas for questions that you'd like to have 'local' answers to, feel free to EMAIL me. I also intend to do some reading at the university library about the history of Fairbanks and interior Alaska. I'd like to be able to provide you with information about the state, the people, the wildlife, as well as other interesting tidbits.

FAMILY UPDATE: Becky is now officially a 'non-Marine'. She is taking a break before she looks for work. Brandon is still on convalescent leave since having his shoulder surgery. He won't be returning to work until the 13th of March. Chris got the job at Home Depot he applied for. He decided to take a last minute trip to Portland to visit a friend of his attending school out there. I believe he reports to work next week. I am still planning on bringing up the boys and Becky sometime during the first two weeks of July. Steve is taking the entire month off. My friend Donna is also hoping to come up in July. Although we'd have a full house (or camper), I'm actually hoping that all four of them can come up together. That way, we can plan a long camping adventure for everyone instead of taking two short ones to accommodate flight schedules. I love company and hope that more of my friends and family will make the trip up. I'm going to love having the summers off, that's for sure!

February 20, 2004

Alaska Knowledge:

Two more groups of Native Alaskans are the Inupiaqs and the Yupiks. The Inupiaqs settled along the north coast of Alaska and Canada, (where they are known as Inuits), and the Yupiks settled in Southwest Alaska. Both groups hunted, fished, and gathered the berries and roots that grew during the brief, cool summers. Inupiaq and Yupik hunters harpooned whales from small covered canoes called umiaks (Fig. A). Depending on their location, walrus, seals, and polar bears were also taken along with the caribou that migrated across the frozen tundra.

The Yupik Eskimos of Southwestern Alaska specialize in fine quality baskets, made of beach grasses. Basket weaving reflects a healthy and growing cultural tradition.

The carving of walrus ivory and the creation of imaginative spirit masks are also cornerstones of Yupik Eskimo art.

A relatively new craft is being produced by a cooperative Southwestern Eskimo knitters who transform luxurious musk ox wool (qiviut) into intricately patterned garments. Yupik Eskimos are well known for their beautiful dolls and miniature models depicting Eskimo lifestyles. Tiny kayaks, dog sleds and the like are painstakingly crafted of wood, ivory, skins and other available materials.

Fence rail and footbridge - Chena RiverI was up early and accomplishing what I had to on the first day of my 'weekend'. My friend LuAnn finally got her new digital camera delivered via UPS and wanted to go out shooting. So, after the gym, we took off for the river.

It was darn cold outside (-11 or so) and our fingers were numb in no time.

My photo excursion along the Chena River made me wonder about the importance of the river when Fairbanks was a young town back in the early 1900's. It's hard to believe that this city is only a little more than one hundred years old. So I did some research about the river and Fairbanks in the early days.

Taken from research on the Internet:

Fairbanks was founded in 1901 by E.T. Barnette. Barnette had outfitted himself and set out for Tanana Crossing (Tanacross) to trade with the Indians for fur and with the prospectors of the area. He believed that the proposed interior railroad would eventually go there, thus creating a potentially profitable site for a trading post. In his attempt to get up the Tanana River in the steamboat Lavelle Young, Barnette's passage was thwarted by Bates Rapids. Backtracking, the Lavelle Young attempted to bypass the rapids by going up Chena Slough. The attempt was unsuccessful; after repeatedly running aground in the shallow slough, Barnette, his wife, and all his supplies were put ashore at the place that would become Fairbanks. The Fairbanks location was merely a high cut bank where the goods could be easily unloaded.

Almost immediately Barnette's success and Fairbanks' future were fortuitously secured. Felix Pedro and Tom Gilmore had seen the smoke of the Lavelle Young from their prospect, 15 miles to the northwest. Hopeful of acquiring supplies, they went down to where the boat was off-loading.

The following summer, on July 28, 1902, Felix Pedro announced at Barnette's trading post that he had struck gold. The news was to be kept a secret until the others who had staked claims here could be notified, and to avoid a premature stampede. Although news of the strike had spread, the main stampede lay ahead. Barnette was in Seattle at the time, and by the time he arrived back in Fairbanks in September 1902, some 25 men were staking their 20 acre claims in the area of Pedro Creek.

On April 20, 1903, Judge James Wickersham wrote the following description of Fairbanks in his diary:

  • At this time there are three streets roughly staked out through the woods, parallel to the river. The site was covered with a fine body of spruce timber from 6 to 24 inches in diameter, which is now being cut and built up into houses. The Fairbanks hotel is a two story log house, and lodges 40 or 50 people. There are probably 500 people here-mostly in tents, but log houses are being constructed as rapidly as possible. Several men are sawing these logs into boards with the whip saw, and such hand made lumber sells for $200 to $250 per thousand feet.... The town is just now in its formation period--town lots are at a premium-jumping, staking, recording, building! It is a motley crowd too. Miners, sourdoughs, cheechacos, gamblers, Indians, Negroes, Japanese, dogs, prostitutes, music, drinking! It is rough but healthy & the beginning, I hope, of an American Dawson. (Referring to Dawson in Yukon Territory, Canada)

By June 1903, the main stampede was over and the disillusioned stampeders were gone. Building lots were selling for $10. The gold in the creeks was deeper than the Klondike and would require machinery to be brought in from outside, so the get-rich-quick miners left for easier diggings elsewhere.

I look at the river and I imagine what it must have been like to live here then.

February 21, 2004

Steve and I had a late lunch with some people from our online group ALASKA-LIVING. This online group represents a wide mixture of members who now call Alaska "home". Only a handful are military; the majority are people who came to Alaska of their own accord. Some came here with all of their worldly possessions in the back seat of their car and a few bucks to tide them over until they could find work and a place to live. Others came here to live after visiting and realizing that there is no place they'd rather spend their life than Alaska.

At the restaurant today we formally met Moe - a very nice and friendly gal who also happens to own the same camera I do, her husband Charles - a man who loves to talk and has great stories to tell about some of the things he has seen since their arrival in April of last year. Their three children came too. Charles, Moe and family came to Alaska from San Diego, CA. When I asked them "what brought you to AK?", they responded "San Diego". It is apparent that they prefer the lifestyle of Fairbanks over that of San Diego. Charles works for a locksmith company and Moe works at the elementary school part-time. They live in North Pole - about 10 miles from Fairbanks.

Georganne was also there. She brought her mom, her dad, and her gramma and two children. Georganne is a doula. Her father, George is a retired pilot and builds airplanes from kits. Her mom, Ella is a sweet woman who enjoyed talking about their drive up from Minnesota. Gramma wasn't very talkative, but I hope she enjoyed the company. (Georganne started in Oklahoma and met up with her parents in MN to continue the drive to AK).

Barbara also met us there. I believe that Barbara is a psychiatric nurse. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to Barbara, but hope we can chat a little more at the next meeting.

All in all, it was very nice to get to know some new people. I look forward to getting to know them a little better at future 'meet-ups'.

If the weather cooperates, Steve and I are taking a drive to Denali tomorrow. After talking to Charles and Moe about their many trips to the park, I more or less told Steve he needs to take me there tomorrow. We'll have to get on the road early if we want to make good use of the daylight. We're up to almost 9 hours of daylight now - which is fantastic! - but it will take us 2 hours to get down there and two hours to get back. If we don't get on the road early enough, we'll be driving home in the dark. That's not a good thing - especially with the roads still a bit iced over in places. If we DO get to go to the park, I can only hope that McKinley is visible. It's supposed to be partly cloudy.

February 22, 2004

On the way to Denali
Traveling the Parks Highway towards Denali

Denali Park Sign
Welcome to Denali National Park. We were the only ones there besides the Park Rangers and the hardy folks climbing and x-country skiing in the back-country.

Red fox along the river
When we arrived back in Fairbanks, we spotted this fox running along the Chena River. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.


What a fabulous day! Steve and I were on the road by 9am and on our way to Denali National Park. Denali is about 125 miles southwest of Fairbanks. The drive takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Fairbanks is in a 'bowl' and is surrounded by bluffs, which then grow taller - rolling out to the Alaska Range. The Parks Highway is the direct link from Fairbanks to Anchorage, and passes Denali.

The weather was fantastic. It was 15 degrees when we left Fairbanks. Within a few miles of the park entrance the temperature went from 12 to 41 in less than a mile! It was the strangest thing we had ever experienced. The sun was shining, the skies were a deep blue, the clouds were a billowy white. But unfortunately McKinley wasn't visible. Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) is usually shrouded by clouds (due to its own weather system) 60-65% of the time. You have a better chance of seeing it in the summer months, or the early morning hours. But even though the chances of seeing the majestic peak are slim, the drive down and into the park is worth it.

The Alaska Range is a regular sight on the horizon. But the drive towards Denali brings you closer to the range. Soon the peaks seen on the far horizon from Fairbanks are right there - in front of you. Soaring into the clouds; dusted with snow. Craggy cliffs and fir trees give the mountains great texture. It is a sight to behold.

The Alaska Railroad parallels the highway for the most part. When the mountains appear, the tracks wind along the edges of the range - crossing trestle bridges and going through tunnels. I certainly hope to take a train ride at least as far as Denali while we live here; perhaps all the way to Anchorage.

I took these two photos of trestle bridges today. Notice the frozen Nenana River.

Trestle and the Frozen River
Trestle and the Frozen River
Glacier Stream and Railroad
Glacier Stream and Railroad

February 25, 2004

I know this is a strange thing to post, but today's date was an event at one time in my life. Twenty-six years ago today, I married my first husband - the father of my sons. It is impossible to believe that I was ever an idealistic eighteen year old girl marrying her high-school sweetheart. The demise of the marriage was inevitable. The fact that I had two beautiful sons as a result of that marriage is my biggest blessing. Twenty six years has gone by in the blink of an eye.


I was late for work today. I got up on time. I got dressed on time. I even pulled out of the garage on time. And then, when I came around the corner (before even leaving the neighborhood), there was a roadblock. Not an accident. This roadblock was large, brown, and goofy looking. And there were two of them.

So I sat patiently (and managed to squeeze off a few photos) until they moved off the road and continued their little meander out of the middle of the street and into the side yard of my neighbor. Adequate grazing material is few and far between. This is the time of year that we are warned to keep our distance. When moose are hungry, they're angry. That's understandable - I know how I can act when I go without lunch.

I bought a book today. It's a city history book about Fairbanks. It's called "Fairbanks - A Gold Rush Town That Beat The Odds". I found it at Sam's Club here. I've already thumbed through it and can't wait to start reading it.

Last night I met some friends at a coffee shop near the University for some socialization. Five of us know each other; the sixth girl (Laura) is someone I only knew online. It was wonderful to finally get to meet her face to face. We met at 8pm and stayed till after 10. It was a relaxing evening of sipping Mocha Lattes and eating danish and talking 'girl talk'.

Laura and I talked a little more about camping in Denali Park. She suggested that we take the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake and camp. Wonder Lake is at the base of Mt. McKinley and is a tent-only campground. In fact, I discovered that Ansel Adams photographed McKinley from Wonder Lake. Wonder Lake is 85 miles into the park. The only way in is via shuttle bus. It's a 6 hour ride and there are only 28 campsites. Laura said that despite the mosquitos (AK's State Bird!), it's a breathtaking place to camp. I am really getting excited about the onset of spring and summer now.

March highlights several activities here in Fairbanks. The most notable is the World Ice Art Championship being held from March 3 - March 31. Marcella and I drove by the Festival Grounds and were allowed to drive in and take photos of the artists while they worked. The carving has just begun and there is a lot of work to be done before it opens to the public. Here's a sculpture in the kiddie play area depicting Hansel and Gretel, the gingerbread house, and the wicked witch. There are carved slides all over the kiddie area for the children to play on. It's going to be a sight to behold - especially when they turn the lights on at night to illuminate the sculptures.

Another 'interesting' entertainment event is Chatanika Days on March 13 and March 14. It's a winter festival with outhouse races and snowmachine tug-of-war in the historic gold mining town of Chatanika, which is 30 miles north of here. I think Steve and I might want to see what that's all about.

February 28, 2004

Jr. Fiddlers

Buffalo Dancer



Last night Steve and I attended the Annual Festival of Native Arts at UAF. The theme this year is "Many Drums, One Heart". This theme was chosen as a simple but effective way of tying together the Alaska Native groups through the drums used while singing songs for dancing. Written on the program cover: "The heartbeat of these drums recalls the common connections we have to the land and our diversity as Alaska Native peoples."

The first performance we watched were Jr. Fiddlers. They played 5 variations of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" but it was so cute to see such little children making music.

The Tlingit Native People
This is one of the Elders dancing during the ceremony. I loved the detail on her cape and the way the fringe swayed when she moved across the stage.

Tlingit dance while a young boy watches

We then watched an awesome dance performance by the Tlingit Haida of Anchorage. The Tlingit social organization is the most formal and structured of any Alaska Native nation where matrilineal descent determines group membership, inheritance of leadership, and wealth. They belong to either one of two matrilineal moieties, Raven and Eagle. The clans have been the most important units in Tlingit and Haida society because of ownership of houses, fishing grounds, canoes, crests, ceremonial clothes, as well as the shared traditions of dances, songs and stories, which are passed down from elders within the group. Some of these are not shared with members of other divisions. The stories tell the origins of the different groups, how and why they got their name, how they came to occupy their present location, why there is fresh water, as well as many other origin stories.

The Tlingit and Haida winter clan houses were designed to hold four to six families that also were an economic unit. The totem poles memorialized different events by clan members. The art of these totems had precise and standard principles of design such as form lines and ovoid shapes.

Potlatches are given for many purposes. They last for several days and involve the redistribution of vast wealth of the higher divisions of the clan. A clan, often by one individual, hosts them. During the potlatch, goods are distributed to guests who are usually members of other clans. Potlatches are typically held in honor of someone living, to honor and mourn for the deceased, to demonstrate one's right to a prestigious position, to remove a shameful incident, or to demonstrate wealth and prestige.

Buffalo Dancers (inter-tribal)
A Buffalo dancer. Notice his bear claw necklace.

I call her "Tiny Dancer". Her costume was laden with eagle feathers.