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2004 Susan L. Stevenson - All photos are copyright protected
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November 3 - Elections and a New Month

Again, time has gotten away from me... Well, it's a new day and the elections are finally over. I'm glad. I was really getting fed up with the late night recorded phone calls from all the different parties. Finally, some peace and quiet!

Steve and I were very lazy this past weekend. We stayed in all day on Saturday, but Sunday I made him take me out to breakfast. I was tired of being a hermit. After breakfast, we took a drive around Birch Hill. The snow has been coming down on a daily basis and accumulating nicely. The hill will be open for tubing soon - for that I'm excited.

We also drove by the golf course so I could get some photos of the snow and the trees, etc. The sun was still low on the horizon, despite the fact that it was nearly 11:30am. I took this photo and converted it to B&W because I thought it suited the shot better.

 Mid-Morning SunThe snow makes everything looks so incredibly beautiful. I much prefer winter to late fall - when the leaves are brown and dead and the trees look like bony old skeletons. The snow brings a brightness to the world - and a coldness too!

Yesterday, we dipped to 1F, but with the wind chill, they said it felt like -10F. It felt a lot colder to me when I walked Sedona last night! Time to break out the parka and put away my 'pretty' coat. My feet were cold too, so I guess the boots are going to be a regular fixture on my feet.

The good news is that we're going 'home' for Christmas! We're leaving 12/28 and we won't be back until 1/8. I found a place to kennel Sedona, bought our tickets, and now we're good to go. My family better understand that they aren't getting any presents. WE'RE the presents! Airline tickets set us back $1531.00! It's expensive to get out of Alaska!

Saturday, November 6 - Making new friends & getting more snow

Over the past few days, we've been getting more and more snow. The flakes are small and very fine, but they're definitely adding to the accumulation. The more snow we get, the better tubing is going to be - and I'm very excited about getting out to the tubing hill next week or so.

Yesterday, I met an online friend for coffee. Karen and I came to know each other in the Alaska Living group. It is always a thrill for me to meet new people here - especially 'locals'. Karen has lived here for 30 years.

I had a wonderful time (thank you, Karen!) sipping my mocha grande and chatting. She is very easy to talk to - and as talkative as I am - and we shared much laughter, stories, and information. I tried to give her some good information about buying a digital camera (she's got the photography bug now), and she gave me some great information about the Hospice Progam here in Fairbanks. It's an all volunteer program and they're always looking for people who want to help the sick and dying - whether it's in performing errands, or just providing companionship. I look forward to seeing Karen again soon...

I later picked up my friend LuAnn and we went off shooting. It was very cold outside and I made the mistake of not wearing long underwear bottoms. My legs were burning in the cold. My upper body was nice and toasty, as I did make sure to wear my silk undershirt under my sweater. We didn't stay out in the elements too long, but did get some pretty snow shots. I converted them all to B&W - since that was the general color scheme of the landscape anyway.

Cabins in the SnowCabins in the Snow

This was taken on the grounds of the Alaska Salmon Bake - located in Pioneer Park (which used to be called Alaskaland). It certainly looks a lot different in the winter than it does in the summer. It's a virtual snow-covered ghost town now.

Meandering RiverMeandering River

The Chena River runs through Fairbanks. We stopped to take photos behind the Carlson Center - our local arena. The river here obviously isn't frozen yet, although in other locations throughout town, the ice is nearly all the way across now. (It's still not thick enough to walk on though)

The GazeboThe Gazebo

This gazebo is also located on the grounds of Pioneer Park. There are summer concerts from this gazebo, and I've seen people get married on it too. During the winter, it's pretty much ignored - although it will be lit up with Christmas lights.

S.S.NenanaS.S. Nenana Riverboat

The SS Nenana is the last of a dying breed, a wooden hulled sternwheeler steamer. At 237 ft. long, 42 ft. wide and 22,000 square feet of deck space, with a draw of just six inches, she is the second largest wooden vessel in the world today. From 1933 - 1952, this 500-ton ship traveled the Yukon River carrying passengers and freight to villages. The five-deck Nenana made the 774-mile voyage from Nenana to Marshall, Alaska, every two weeks during her five-month season, traveling 24 hours a day. In the early fall or in poor weather when it was dark, a huge searchlight mounted on the steamship made forward progress possible.

Sunday, November 7 - Light Pillars
Light PillarsThis early morning photo (5am) shows light pillars shooting out of the street lamps on my street. These pillars of light are caused by tiny ice crystals, often called "diamond dust," which are floating in the air. They reflect light from the streetlights and headlights, creating what looks like a light aimed at the sky.

You're more likely to see light pillars when the sky is relatively clear because the air will be colder than on a cloudy night. Because the light rays forming pillars are reflected, they take on the color of the incident light.

At various times throughout winter, this phenomena occurs. The stronger the light, the taller and brighter the pillar. It's eerie, but beautiful too.

Tuesday, November 9 - Lunch Dates with a Beautiful Baby and Mommy

Yesterday, I had lunch with my friend Shawna - and of course I got to see beautiful baby Courtney again. Courtney is going to be 8 months old soon and she is as precious as can be! I wish that Brandon & Becky would hurry up and give me a grandchild so I can snuggle and cuddle a little one again (OK... maybe they need to wait until they get settled in their lives 'after the Marines').

I picked Shawna up at noon and we went to The Cookie Jar for lunch. I got my usual - a Monte Cristo sandwich. It was delicious as always. I love that you can still get a fresh salad with your meal there. I crave salads all the time, and many of the 'sit down but fast food' restaurants have either wilted salads, or charge extra for them - especially on the lunch menu. The Cookie Jar has always come through for me; I've never had a bad meal there.

After lunch, I had to run some errands and Shawna and Courtney went with me. First we stopped by the river so I could get some photos of Courtney with some scenic background. It was very cold and Courtney was not happy about that at all. But later, after my errands, we went back to Shawna's house and I took some more photos. She was in much better spirits in her nice, toasty warm house.

Wednesday, November 10 - A Surprise Delivery!

Yesterday, when I got home from work, I found a door tag hanging on the front door from FedEx. The card wouldn't allow me to give permission to FedEx to leave the delivery even if I wasn't home. Therefore I had to go to FedEx to pick it up. This wasn't a problem, but really piqued my curiosity. Today, at work, I went online and tracked the delivery to see where it had come from. It originated in Fullerton, CA. That was perplexing as I don't know anyone in Fullerton, CA. All during my work day I thought about the item and the clock couldn't move fast enough for me. Finally, at 2:30pm, I was free! The FedEx office is only 5 minutes from work, so I was there in no time. Imagine my surprise when the clerk came out of the back room with a huge box addressed to me! On the outside of the box, it said "Wine Country Gift Baskets".

The clerk said, "Looks like someone got a wine basket!" I know I was grinning from ear to ear (as anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely LOVE wine!). And then I managed to get a look at the shipping label and I saw that it was from my dear friend, Michele. I can't begin to express the warmth that came over my heart. Michele has been my longest friend. We grew up together on a street in Philadelphia - in a time when it was common for the 'village to raise the children'. In a time when summer days were spent riding bikes miles and miles from home with no worries about abductions or the horrible crimes of the modern day world. In a time of lemonade stands, and Kick the Can, and building forts, and balancing on the rails of the tracks near our house. In a time of penny candy, and 25¢ milkshakes, and 10¢ ice cream bars from the Good Humor truck. In a time when best friends were cherished above all else.

And then we grew up and our lives went off in separate directions. But no matter where we went, or what was going on in our lives, we still managed to remain connected to one another. Sometimes it was snail mail sent across the miles a few times a year. Sometimes it was a phone call. Sometimes we even managed to work a visit into our lives. But always, we remained connected - even if weeks, months, and years passed between our communications.

I fully expect that Michele and I will always be friends. It has already been more than 30 years. I hope we are both blessed with another 30. I love you, Michele! Steve and I thank you so very much!

Monday, November 15 - Moose Encounters, More Snow and Spending time with Friends

Again, time has slipped away quickly. And yet, it seems like just yesterday that I updated this journal. But how in the world did five days slip by?

Let's try and do an overview of the last 5 days....

Steve had a soldier get separated from his two hunting buddies on Friday night. They were bow hunting for caribou up on the "Haul Rd." - better known as the "Dalton Highway". This area is desolate and there are no facilities for miles and miles. The day quickly went from sunny and 7 degrees above zero to white out conditions when a storm rolled in. The winds caused a windchill of minus 25-30F.

The soldier who became separated knew immediately that he had to prepare himself for a long night in the elements and dug himself a snowcave into a large snowdrift, where he spent the night. Fortunately he had hand warmers and placed them in his boots and held them in his hands. The next day, he walked out of the woodline and was met by search crews who had been looking for him since he disappeared. A medical evaluation revealed no injury whatsoever. How lucky he was... it could have easily turned into a tragic accident.

On Saturday, Steve and I joined several of our friends from the Alaska Living group at a potluck gathering at the home of Moe and Charles - wonderful folks who just bought a house in North Pole. Moe made home-made tortillas and browned up some beef and put out the necessary fixings for tacos. Steve made some moose chili for the gathering, which was a real hit. I had the pleasure of meeting two new people: John - one of the hiking organizers for the Fairbanks Hiking Club, and Katie - a Geologist/Environmental Specialist from Anchorage who was here in Fairbanks on business. My friend, LuAnn was also able to attend with her husband and children. Also in attendance were Georganne, her husband Justin and her daughter, and of course Moe and Charles' children. We had a fabulous time talking about life in Alaska, hiking, camping, and making tentative plans for a women's only backcountry hiking/camping trip into Denali as well as a family camping trip next summer.

I think we are lostWhile out running errands before the potluck, Steve and I came across two moose trotting down the road behind our local Sam's Club. I haven't seen moose in a while, and was thrilled to see them. I managed to snap a few photos. I like the photo at left because it looks like they are lost and trying to figure out which way to go. As you can see, we're pretty deep in snow now. Oh, how I love winter in Alaska!

Yesterday, in the early afternoon, I took Sedona for a walk through the woods near my house. The sun was shining and the skies were a beautiful blue. It was just a gorgeous afternoon. The temperature was hovering at around 9F above zero. With the sun shining, it felt much warmer. As is customary, I had my camera with me during our walk.

I snapped several photos and was admiring the 'fairy dust' - as I call it - the sparkles in the snow under the sunlight or moonlight. The sun was fairly low on the horizon, which is where it pretty much stays in the winter. We're down to about 6 hours or less of daylight now. The sun rises above the horizon, moves upward just a bit as it travels across the sky, and then sets. We don't get the traditional arc of sunlight from one horizon to the other and the sun is no longer directly overhead.

As I was trudging through the snow and laughing at Sedona making her way through chest-high drifts, I was periodically shielding my eyes against the glare being cast by the sun and the snow so that I could see into the distance. All of a sudden, my shielded eyes revealed a huge cow moose standing only twenty feet from me, in the brush, nibbling on twigs. The sight of her hot breath snorting from her nostrils, against the sunlit sky was surreal and actually quite incredible, but all thoughts of catching a photo left my brain, when she turned and faced me directly. We stared at each other for a split second and then I decided it would be best if I turned tail and ran. Sedona thought it was a good idea as well, and she kept pace with me as I stumbled through brush, deep snowdrifts, between slender trees and over deadfall.

I managed to take a tumble into a huge snowdrift, remembering to keep my camera safe. (My priorities may be a little skewed, I admit). I looked over my shoulder and she was nowhere to be found. I imagined her hiding in the bushes snickering at the crazy human who couldn't keep steady on her feet. By the time I got home, I was sweating profusely (adrenaline will keep you warm, even if long underwear does not). I was also in the beginnings of an asthma attack from the surprise and the sprint. And of course, I was covered in snow. Steve heard me stumble in the back door and of course asked me what was wrong. When he was able to understand my story and ascertain that I was no worse for the wear, he began to laugh at me. That's my loving, supportive husband for you! *grin*

Last night (Sunday), Steve and I were invited to dinner at Brian and Marcella's place. Four others attended as well; two people we already know, and two new people. It's always great to meet new people. We had a wonderful time eating delicious food and sharing good conversation and many laughs. We're tentatively planning to go tubing next weekend, when the hill opens.

Photos taken over the last few days:

Snowy LandscapeThis is the path I regularly walk with Sedona. In the winter, I enjoy the solitude and the beauty of the white snow, the dark spruce trees, and the occasional encounter with wildlife. These woods are very important to me... they are a place I go when I want to think or meditate. How can anyone NOT feel calm when surrounded by such incredible beauty?

Fairy DustIn this photo, you can see the 'fairy dust' on the snow under the setting sun. This photo was taken at a frozen lake on Fort Wainwright that Steve fishes in during the warmer months. It was 3pm when I shot this - and the sun is on its final path down below the horizon. I thought it was strange that the snow on the lake is smooth and even, and yet there are drifts ringing the lake, on the shoreline, which are varied in size and rippled.

Thursday, November 18 - Frosty Fairbanks

On Tuesday morning, when I woke for work, my glance out the window revealed that hoar frost had come to Fairbanks. Every twig, stick, limb, and branch was coated in a gorgeous frostiness. The effect on the landscape is absolutely breathtaking. Achingly so. There have been moments that I literally feel tears prick at the corners of my eyes because of the beauty of it all. The last thing I wanted to do was go to work. Instead, I wanted to jump in my car and drive all over the city snapping photos. Of course, that would have to wait a few hours - as it is still pitch dark at 7am. In fact, it is still pitch dark at 8am. When the skies are clear, a slice of orange can be seen on the horizon at 8am - the beginning light of a sunrise that can take an hour to occur. My photo shoot would have to wait until I left work. And there was no guarantee it would still be light enough to capture the surreal landscape with my camera. Sunset occurs around 3:30pm now. The sky retains the low illumination of dusk, but not enough for any decent photos. And the low light casts a blue tint over everything... an accurate reproduction of what the eye sees, but not very interesting from a photographic standpoint. It looked like Tuesday wasn't going to turn into any kind of a photography day.

I ended up leaving work early, after all. Poor Steve came home after P.T. with a 24-hour bug, which took him to bed for an all day & night sleep. I wanted to get home and give him the TLC he needed. Just outside my neighborhood, there is a wooded area with a few four-wheeler paths cut through it. I stopped on the side of the road to take a photo.

Frosted WorldAll that's missing from this photo is a horse-drawn sleigh and a pile of warm lap blankets. It looks so Christmaslike with all the frost and snow covering everything.

And then after a carriage ride through Narnia it would be nice to come home to a log cabin with a huge stone fireplace and a roaring fire...

... and hot cocoa with whipped cream, or apple cider and pie.

Nice daydreams on a winter day!

Yesterday, I left work a little before 3pm and was privy to yet another incredible Alaska sunset. I drove up to one of the overlooks at UAF to watch the sun explode between the clouds as it made its way down to the horizon. I stayed for a little while, shooting some photos and watching the sky ripple with orange clouds. And then I noticed the sun painting the frost cloaked trees a brilliant orange-pink. I decided to head to Creamer's Field (the migratory bird refuge) for some additional photos. The results:

This was taken from an overlook near the cross-country trails at University of Alaska Fairbanks. These beautiful sunsets (and the sunrises) must be Mother Nature's way of pacifying us for the short hours of daylight.
Winter at Creamers Field The peacefulness of Creamer's Field without a mark in the snow. Off in the distance I could see a woman skijoring with her dog. There were three other vehicles in the parking lot. The occupants were reading, enjoying the view, and sleeping. I ventured out in the cold to shoot. It was worth it.
Sunday, November 21 - More Winter Scenery and a Holiday Ball

On Friday morning, I was feeling a little blue. I don't know if my mood was due to the lack of daylight, the fact that I haven't made it to the gym in some time, or just a regular 'down' day. I almost made the decision to stay in and do nothing, but realized that doing nothing wouldn't help me to get out of my funk. So I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera and went in search of the sun. The sky was already becoming tinged with pink and orange; I hoped for a beautiful sunrise.

Peaceful MorningStand tallI drove to the golf course here on post. There are wide open, unadulterated spaces at the golf course. It's a wonderful place to be when the sky changes color. I'm so glad I went.


Last night was the Holiday Ball. Steve and I had a fabulous time. I was thrilled to have both the Spivey's and the Trujillo's at our table. It was also great seeing other friends all dressed up for a formal evening. The food was good, the company was fabulous, and the dancing was romantic. Steve and I slow danced quite a bit - as did most of the others. The lights were turned down nice and low and they even had bubbles from time to time. Here are a few photos:

Me and Steve

Me and Steve

Ken & LuAnn

James & Rachael

Stephen & Susan
Friday, November 26 - Thanksgiving with Friends

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! I hope you had a wonderful day surrounded by good people, good food, and lots of love. I am thankful for so many things - and the wonderful friends I have made here in Alaska are one of them.

Steve and I had Thanksgiving dinner with Brian and Marcella. Also in attendance were another couple, Jillian and Edwin, and Amy - who is staying with Brian and Marcella temporarily. Steve and I brought over a spiral ham and some green beans. Marcella made a turkey and other vegetables. Jillian brought some delicious flan and pumpkin bread - as well as dinner rolls. In addition, we snacked on veggies and dip, fruit, hummus, and more.

Before we sat down to dinner, we all went out into the woods behind the house and Brian cut down their Christmas tree. They didn't want a huge one, so the 4' tree they chose will be just right when it's all decorated up. Then we sat down to gorge ourselves on all the delicious food. By the time we were through eating, we were all leaning way back in our chairs wishing we were wearing looser clothes. We finished up the evening playing a few rousing games of Spades and Poker. We had a great evening filled with a lot of laughter.

Setting Out Dinner

After Dinner Cards

Brian & Marcella
Tuesday, November 30 - Playing catch-up and the last day of a month

(Playing catch - up after a few days of non posting) On Black Friday, Steve and I stayed home and were absolutely lazy. I fully intended to put our tree up, but I had so much work to do on my Christmas cards, I spent the entire day with them. Sitting in a computer chair and printing, printing, printing, really did a number on my back. We went out later this weekend and bought a new computer chair with lumbar support.

Saturday was spent much the same way - doing nothing but watching movies, working on Christmas cards and being lazy. By Sunday morning, I was feeling like a hermit and told Steve we needed to get out of the house or I'd go insane. We headed to breakfast by 9:30am. The restaurant (our regular breakfast hangout) was packed with early Sunday diners. I love it when it's like that because there are always so many locals there in large groups. And we always manage to get a booth seated near a huge table of older folks who loudly debate current events, the newest RV's on the market, hunting, fishing, or other things Alaskan. We enjoy eavesdropping on their spirited conversations. Some are such characters and the early morning banter brings a smile to our faces.

We ran a few errands after breakfast and then headed to Pioneer Park where they were having a craft bazaar and also had sleigh rides and dogsled rides being offered. By the time we got to the park it was not even 11am and snow was starting to fall. It seemed a lot colder and I was glad to be wearing my long underwear - although even the extra layer wasn't adequate in keeping us very warm. Thank goodness the craft bazaar was indoors; it gave us a chance to warm up. We saw some interesting Alaskan - made goodies... edible, wearable, and displayable. The baby mukluks were adorable! There were quite a few artists there too - selling wood carvings, paintings, photographs, notecards, etc.

After perusing the goodies, Steve and I took a stroll through the pioneer town which was all done up in Christmas lights and looked very festive. We were the only ones wandering around back there, which made for some nice warm hand-holding and flirtation. It was so beautiful to be walking in the snow, looking at old log cabins all lit up with lights, and totally alone.

By this time the dogteams were getting ready to go with a passenger aboard. We watched the woman take the trip around the park on the sled and when she came back, she obviously had a frozen face. It must have been pretty cold being pulled through the snow by some spirited Alaskan huskies. We weren't dressed warmly enough to brave the elements, so I settled for snapping a few photos instead. Someday, I'd like to take a ride.... that would be so much fun!


Yesterday, I drove to North Pole to have my cards postmarked. All of you who are on my holiday card list, make note of the cancellation. It should say North Pole Alaska on it. I like to have my cards postmarked from there this time of year - a little something special.

I took Shawna and Courtney with me for the company. And of course, no visit with Courtney passes without some photos. She is growing by leaps and bounds and everytime I see her, she is doing something new. Now she is walking! At 8 months old, yet. We stopped by the Santa Claus House to visit with Donner and Blitzen (the resident reindeer). I caught a classic shot of Courtney conspiring with Blitzen.