Experiencing Alaska Month by Month
Updated: April 27, 2005
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2003 Susan L. Stevenson - All photos are copyright protected

October 1, 2003

Leaf-strewn path

It's hard to believe that it's October already. On the 15th, we will have been here in Alaska for 4 months. FOUR months! I feel like we just got here yesterday.

The colorful leaves are practically gone. Now everything is brown. I never knew there were so many shades of brown. From the deep black-like shades to the lighter tans. And some of the yellow shade is still showing through on some of the leaves, but it is mottled now with the spots of dying foliage.

The path where I walk Sedona is strewn with leaves. They whisper when the wind blows even slightly. When the wind is stronger, they swirl around my feet and blow out of the uppermost branches like large brown snowflakes. The trees are almost completely bare and the few leaves which do remain are sparse. I enjoy seeing these changes. It has been years since I've witnessed the change of seasons and I notice every little thing.

The weather today is warm again. The Army is holding their Brigade Games this week. It's almost like a friendly Olympic competition for the soldiers. There are all kinds of ballgames going on. There are boxing matches, distance runs, and more. There will also be an ironman competition. It's a regular thing here and is a terrific way for the troops to let off some energy and have a good time with their fellow soldiers. Steve isn't playing any games. He's hoping to catch up on some work, but also intends to watch his guys compete and offer some cheers from the sidelines.

October 2, 2003

This was the Alaska sunrise I awoke to this morning.


Moose Sightings!

Mama Moose and Baby
Mama looks after baby while he eats.
Mama and Baby
You are all getting too close!

My friend Susan picked me up for some company while she ran a few errands and then we stopped at the craft store to get some paintbrushes so we could paint the resin Christmas Moose we each bought the other day. As is customary, we both had our cameras with us. Just as we were on the final stretch to our neighborhood, I caught a glimpse of a moose grazing on the approach strip to the airport. "Make a U-turn!", I yelled. "I know a way to get down there!" It was the same dirt road I had driven when I saw the foxes for the first time. We drove to within about 20 yards of the grazing moose and began taking photos, when all of a sudden a bigger moose came out of the reeds behind him. That's when we realized we were shooting a baby and mama wasn't very far behind.

We shot a few more photos and noticed a car approaching us from the opposite direction. We needed to move to give the driver room to pass and also wondered what the moose would do when the other car approached. They came towards us and soon were standing only about 20 feet from us! Out of the jeep we jumped again... shutters clicking. What a great way to end an afternoon... Close Encounters of the Moose Kind!

October 5, 2003

Susan Stephen Steve Susan
Susan, Stephen, Steve, Susan
(How weird is that?!)


Today, Steve and I got together with Susan and Stephen Spivey and went to the movies to see the Denzel Washington movie, "Out of Time". I really enjoyed the show and it was the first time for Steve and I going to the theater since arriving here in June. We are regular theater goers, but the movie selection over the past couple of months has left a lot to be desired. I'm sure we'll be attending more frequently in the winter.

After the movie, we grabbed a bite to eat at Brewsters. We had seen commercials advertising Brewsters and thought we'd try it out. It's a sports bar/restaurant. The food was OK until Susan pulled a huge piece of plastic out of her mouth (it was in her soup!). The manager apologized profusely and explained that someone had inadvertently left a plastic bag in the soup pot! EWWWW! Needless to say, the entire meal was comped which surprised all of us. I can understand Susan getting her meal for free, but for them to comp the four of us was really going overboard with trying to maintain customer satisfaction. Will we go back? I don't know. These things happen. At least the management was more than generous with us.

Pioneer Park Ghost TownOnce we finished our late lunch/early dinner, we had some time to kill before the hockey game so we went to Pioneer Park to wander. The shops are closed for the winter and the windows are boarded up. But the park itself is always open, so we wandered the streets and snapped pictures of this virtual ghost town.
Ducks on the ChenaThere were a few families with children enjoying themselves on the playground equipment, but other than that - we were pretty much alone. Walking further along the path towards the river, I heard some commotion. A gaggle of ducks was splashing and feeding by the boat launch as a few people tossed bread and Rice Chex into the water. I couldn't resist taking a few photos of these noisy birds.
The BuffaloesThe hockey game was amusing to say the least. Most of the team had never played ice hockey before, and quite a few of the members could barely stay upright on their skates. This all resulted in quite a lot of comedy as the guys slipped and fell with no provocation from other players. A few goals were scored nevertheless, which of course had the stands erupting in loud cheers.

October 7, 2003

Happy 20th Birthday

Sunlight through the leaves
Sunlight through the leaves

Today is my baby's birthday! I can't believe he is 20 years old already. I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. And now he is no longer the child who wore navy blue "footie" pajamas and found his way into my bed in the middle of the night. He is no longer the little boy who colored with me at the kitchen table. He is no longer the toddler who discovered that he could create artistic masterpieces on all the bathroom fixtures using my reddest nail polish.

Where did that little boy go? The boy who used to dance with me in the middle of the afternoon, now dances with his wife in his own living room. The boy who used to build models at the tiny desk in his bedroom, now rebuilds real cars in the driveway at his house. It's hard to believe.... Twenty years seems like such a long time, and yet it is merely a few chapters in the book of life. *BIG SIGH* Brandon, I want you to know how incredibly proud of you I am and how much I love you today and always....

The weather here in Fairbanks is becoming "seasonable" again. As I type this the local temp is showing 48 degrees, but it doesn't feel that warm to me. Today it was fairly comfortable. I had a few errands to run and didn't need my fleece afterall (I was wearing a sweater top though). But this morning, my hands were like ice by the time I got back from walking the dog.

I took Sedona for a long walk this evening and took my camera with me. I don't ever want to be caught without it in the event I run into something interesting while I'm out and about. No such luck tonight. I did shoot a few photos of the lingering autumn leaves. They seem to be hanging on for dear life as winter approaches.

The birch trees are quickly losing their outer bark. The thin sheets look and feel like paper. Some information about the birch tree that I found online: "The Indian called this birch the "wigwam tree". He used sheets of its bark as covering for his home and his means of travel -- his wigwam and his canoe. He used it to make all sorts of baskets, buckets, mokuks, trays and other utensils for gathering, cooking and storing his food such as berries, maple sugar, fish, meat, pemmican and wild rice. He used it to kindle fires and for torches. His moose caller was made of birch bark. The records of his tribe and its rituals were kept on white sheets of birch bark parchment." It's a very interesting looking tree...

October 8, 2003


Moose in my Backyard!

Just stopping by...I took Sedona out for her early morning walk (it was about 7am) as is customary. I decided to stick to the cement path, rather than walk the dirt path since I tracked mud into the house yesterday and didn't want to have to deal with that again. On our way back to the house, I could see something moving in the distance. At first it looked like someone out walking their dog because I could see several legs. They were still too far away to see them clearly. As I got closer, I blinked my eyes in amazement. It was a moose!

I quickly ran back to the house with Sedona and put her inside, grabbing my camera on the way out. I walked along the bike path (which parallels the dirt path) until I was able to see the moose casually eating leaves from the trees. He was about 15 feet from me, but we were separated by some heavy brush and small trees and a fairly steep incline. As he moved further up the path, I followed along. I tried to take photos, but he was moving fairly quickly (and I was shaking like a leaf - out of excitement and also fear since I wasn't sure where mama was)

Standing in my yard, I continued to watch him until he turned and started approaching me - climbing down the steep incline which separated us. I began backing towards the house, my heart pounding. I had the foresight to switch my digital camera to video mode. The video shows the moose minding his own business in my yard, then a jogger comes down the path and she startles the moose, who starts to run towards ME. Needless to say, I panic and the camera swings up to nothing but trees and sky. Then the moose goes back to minding his own business again when the jogger takes off in the other direction. You can view the video HERE.

October 9, 2003

Friendly Geese
Friendly Geese


Last night I attended another Wives Coffee at a local bakery. The coffee was great and the desserts were quite good and reasonably priced. After the meeting, my friend Maria and I went to Gottschalks (a department store here in Fairbanks) for their Midnight Madness Sale. You see, yesterday was the day that the residents of Alaska received their PFD money (Permanent Fund Dividend). The PFD is a yearly dividend paid out to ALL residents of AK. Every man, woman and child received about 1100.00 this year. In the past, it has been more than 2000/pp. The regulations for collecting are up for interpretation. There are some who think the military should NOT be qualified to collect, and some who think that we should be eligible because we pump revenue into the economy and physically reside here. You have to be here for a full year before you can even apply. Because of the PFD, this is the time of year when the local businesses run their "sales", "PFD specials" and other events for the purpose of encouraging AK residents to part with their dividend income.

MoonscapeAfter doing a little bit of shopping (I browsed, but bought nothing), we headed home. The moon and the clouds in the sky presented an amazing sight and I wished I would have had my camera with me. I hurried home and grabbed both my camera and my tripod to get photos of the rolling clouds and full moon. It was a perfect Halloween moon... eerie but beautiful at the same time.

This morning I had plans to meet my friend Susan and take a drive to North Pole. North Pole is about 12 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The main attraction in North Pole is the Santa Claus house which is a gift shop with - you guessed it- Christmas ornaments and other holiday gifts. North Pole is also a popular destination for letters to Santa. Volunteers answer these letters which find their way to the town, and many are posted inside the shop. They make for some entertaining reading. One letter said, "Dear Santa... for Christmas the only thing I want is for the deck on the back of the house to be finished being built. Mommy said we can get a puppy as soon as Daddy builds it." Out of the mouths of babes...

Park FootbridgeI got a few little items and fell in love with a statue (Alaskan made) of a musher and dogs. I think I'll go back and get it one day soon as a gift to myself and a reminder of our time here in Alaska. I took a few photos of some of the interesting Santa dolls and toys and ornaments. My friend Susan even sat on Santa's lap and I took a photo of that comical endeavor for her. After browsing the shop, we grabbed a bite to eat at The Elf's Den and then drove around exploring the town of North Pole. We came upon this lovely footbridge at the North Pole city park and stopped to take some photos. After that, we were surprised to discover a pond full of ducks and geese - which also warranted a stop. It was a lovely day, despite the overcast skies and the chill in the air. Now I'm looking forward to Christmas and can't wait to go back to the shop and pick up a few more things.

October 11, 2003


Steve and I went out to breakfast this morning and then stopped at the Alaska Feed Store on a whim. I had seen an ad in the newspaper last weekend advertising their dog booties. Because I fully intend to take Sedona out for walks in the winter, I knew I wanted to invest in a pair for her and at least get her used to wearing them.

How humiliatingThe booties come in all sizes, but our pooch is a small. They have Velcro bands which wrap around the top to keep them tight on the feet. I had to pick out a pair of brown camouflage material to match her hair (if she's going to wear booties, she needs to make a fashion statement).

As you can see in the photo at left, she was having a hard time getting used to walking in the things. She kept holding her feet up in the air and did a lot of "high-stepping" around the living room. You can see just how happy she appears in this photo (Yeah, right!). After Steve and I were done rolling on the floor laughing, we took them off of her feet. She tried grabbing them out of Steve's hand - wanting to tear them to pieces! Poor thing... but we have no choice. When the weather gets to below zero, the snow and ice and cold pavement can hurt the pads on her feet. And she can get iceballs between her toes, which surely isn't a comfortable thing.

Pastel SunsetLast night we had another pastel sunset. The sunsets last forever it seems. I've never seen sunsets with these pale pink and blues before, so it's always a treat to photograph them.

The temperatures dropped last night. As I write this, it is 32 degrees outside. It was in the high 20's when we went to breakfast this morning, and a fine snow was falling. The snow was sticking to some of the vegetation, but not to the streets. Our front steps were a bit icy and I was careful not to fall. That's my biggest fear - falling on the ice. One of the soldiers in Steve's company has a wife who fell just after arriving here last winter. She ended up breaking her arm clear through the upper bone. I don't want to be a statistic like that.

October 12, 2003

We started the day with a beautiful snowfall! The flakes were large and came down hard. Of course, I dressed quickly and grabbed my camera. But now... it is gone; melted away... It's hard to believe that only a few hours ago, Fairbanks was a winter wonderland. I did manage to get a few photos. I liked the way the colorful pansies on the side of my house looked when the snow covered them.

I watched the neighborhood children take their sleds down the small hill behind our houses. They attempted to build a snowman, but the snow wasn't sticky enough. Now it is gone... only a memory. We are being teased, I think.

October 16, 2003

Happy Birthday to my brother Marc!

Winter has definitely arrived. Although almost all of the snow is gone, the vehicles are covered with frost when we wake each morning. The dead leaves on the trail behind our house, and all over our yard, are in a state of suspended animation. They seem to have been frozen in that brown state just prior to total disintegration. That's a little odd to see. The few memories I have of winter back in PA bring to mind the crunchy brown leaves between the two seasons which crumbled in my hands and underfoot. Will the brown, but intact, leaves be there even after several feet of snow fall on them - to be discovered in the spring?

Path through woodsThe power company crew has chopped down the majority of trees and tall bushes which lined the bike path behind our house. I suspect it is for the purpose of clearing any obstruction to the power lines. I imagine that when ice storms hit, the branches snap easily and could easily take out the wires. It looks like a wasteland back there now. Steve and I took Sedona for a walk this evening after they cleared a huge portion. The soil was freshly turned and without any human tracks. But there were several moose tracks in the dark dirt. We continued walking along the desolate path until we reached the Chena River. I noticed the beginning of thin ice forming along the shoreline there.

We veered off the path to enter the woods which are still intact (I'm glad there are still trees SOMEWHERE!). The trees are almost entirely bare now - a few leaves here and there hanging on even though they are already dead. The moose frequent this area. So do the foxes, which haven't made their appearance lately. (I was able to get distant photos of them in August, but they've been quite elusive lately). I am curious as to whether or not they are arctic foxes. I'm doing research to try and discover if arctic foxes live in this area. If they are indeed arctic foxes, their coats will soon turn white. That would be a wonderful thing to see! I was told to look out for snowshoe hares this winter too. Snowshoe hares are huge and have really large feet. I am really hoping to spot (and photograph) some of those too.

We had an FRG (Family Readiness Group) meeting the night before last and there was a guest speaker who talked to us about winter driving and winter clothing. I turned to my friend Susan and said, "Looks like I'm not leaving the house this winter!". This guy had me so paranoid about driving in the brutal weather, I think I'll just stay in until spring! He told a horror story about a poor family who died when their car broke down on the side of the road and they weren't found for two days. He also stressed having an emergency kit in the car - which not only includes the typical stuff (like sand or kitty litter for traction, fan belts, flares, etc.) but also includes a winter weight sleeping bag, a second set of winter clothes, containers for water, a heating device to melt snow, matches, granola bars, etc. The horror stories about frostbite were also enough to make me plan on hibernating. Basically, you should always have enough warm clothing (and layers of clothing) to be prepared for possibly having to walk in the elements for an hour. Here in Fairbanks and on post, you have a good chance of finding a business or house close by if you break down, but the stretch between here and other outlying towns has miles of absolute nothingness. Being stranded along there would be deadly unless someone came upon you or you were prepared for the cold. Scary thing...

The lights appeared last night about 9pm and of course, I had to run out and get photos! This shot was taken from my yard looking towards the other houses in our neighborhood. Last night was the first time I had ever seen purple fringes, but I didn't get any great shots where the purples show up really clear. I'll have the entire winter to get shots of colorful lights. The lights were quite active and danced all over the sky. It was incredible!

October 19, 2003



Where has the weekend gone?! It is just before 9am here in Fairbanks and Steve is still sound asleep. I've been up for awhile and I'm finally enjoying my first cup of coffee (it tastes so much better when Steve makes it for me ;o)).

Friday I had brunch with some girls from my Yahoo group. (Marjorie and her daughter, Tina and her daughter, Crystal and her daughter, Nina and her son, LuAnn, and Susan Spivey) We met at Denny's and some of us enjoyed breakfast, while others enjoyed lunch. I had my typical artery-clogging "Moons over my Hammy" egg sandwich with greasy homefries! YUM! I don't go to Denny's that often, but when I do, I'm sure to really splurge on food that shouldn't even be in the food pyramid.

Friday night, Steve and I were invited over to Berta & Nick Amico's house in North Pole. It was a nice gathering of all the 1SG's and their wives for an informal dinner and drinks. We had a good time and the wine flowed freely. Steve was on his best behavior so that I could enjoy a glass or two of wine (we always decide ahead of time who's going to be acting as designated driver). I had a wonderful time socializing with the gals: Berta, Maria, Maxine, Cathy, and Nancy.

**Nancy, Maxine, Berta, Cathy, Maria, Me**

Yesterday it snowed lightly most of the day, but we didn't have any accumulation. I'm getting antsy and can't wait till it finally comes down and stays down! It's cold outside, but it's a dry cold so it's definitely still bearable. I know that doesn't make sense to some of you, but it's true. I vaguely remember those bitter winter days in PA and this isn't like that. Of course, I've only been exposed to temperatures in the teens so far. I suppose I might be singing a different tune when it's in the negatives.

Still Sunday....

Ice on the Chena RiverSteve and I went to the movies today to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I watched almost the entire movie from between my fingers. I don't know why I think I'm going to be less scared by peeking, but I do it anyway. There were several parts of the movie that made me jump! It was quite gory at times, and not usually the type of movie I like to see, but Steve and I were both curious as to whether it would scare us as much as the original did back in the 70's. That answer to that would be a BIG yes. I was glad when it was over...

After the movie, and before heading to Food Factory for lunch (Food Factory is like an Applebees or a Bennigans), Steve took me downtown so I could take photos of the Chena River from the new footbridge. The river has ice floating through it now and the edges are freezing quickly. I'm not sure when the river will freeze solid, but I'm sure it will look amazing when it does. I am really looking forward to getting the first snow that sticks. Once that happens and the temperatures remain consistently low, Fairbanks will stay white until spring.

October 21, 2003

Ice crystals on twig
Ice crystals on a twig
(hoar frost)

Ice in the Chena RiverThe weather channel says it's in the 20's but I think their thermometer is WRONG!

Steve woke me at 5:30am so I could take him to work. He'll be in the field until Friday doing some Arctic Warfare Training. I think this means he'll be skiing. *smile* By taking him into work, his truck could stay here at the house instead of in a parking lot somewhere. On the way home from dropping him off, light snow flurries started to fall and blow all over the roads. That's another reason I was glad to have his truck at my disposal. I feel much safer driving it in inclement weather.

Later on this morning, I picked up my friend LuAnn and we took a drive to North Pole. She has never been to the Santa Claus House and I wanted to get out and do something. I took her by the footbridge that Susan Spivey and I had discovered. The creek is now starting to freeze over. What a big difference in only two short weeks! When we got back to Fairbanks, we stopped to take photos at the Chena River. It was SO COLD! We watched the ice flow downstream. Ice makes a lot of noise when it moves. Some creaking; some squeaking... sometimes it even seems to sing. It was so amazingly beautiful and we almost didn't mind standing and shivering as we snapped photo after photo. The trees are dusted with white now, making our surroundings look like a black and white photo. What a winter wonderland!

October 22, 2003

Icy branches
Icy branches

What a great day I had today! Susan came and picked me up and we headed over to Marjorie's house for a little dessert get-together. She made awesome cookies and had delicious coffee brewing - which was the best thing of all because I didn't have mine this morning (we ran out of creamer so I drank instant cocoa instead). When she told us she had coffee, I made a beeline for the pot! LuAnn was there. So was Nina. Also two new gals were there - friends of Mo's. It's always great to meet new people and we were quite the chatty bunch.

When we left there, I took Susan down to the boat launch at Glass Park, so she could get some shots of the ice-covered trees and the freezing river. The sun was out today and the brightness coupled with the gorgeous blue sky made the scene look totally different than it did yesterday when LuAnn and I visited. Of course I took a few shots.

Tomorrow, we're meeting at MO's house at 10:45am and a car full of gals and little ones will be following me and a few other gals in our truck. We're taking a drive up Chena Hot Springs Rd. for some sightseeing and some photography. I'm hoping the weather cooperates and the roads are clear and safe. I'm also hoping the sun is out again - but not too bright that it obscures the details of the ice and snow.

I'm sure I'll have more photos to post tomorrow....

Valley Panorama

October 23, 2003

Snow clad spruce
Snow covered spruce

What a beautiful and COLD day! It didn't start out so beautiful; I had insomnia last night and I've been up since about 4am. I tried to fall back to sleep, but it just wouldn't happen. I think I really missed having Steve in bed to cuddle into. I had a hard time getting warm last night, despite turning the heat up to 70 on the second floor. (We have thermostats on each floor and usually you don't even have to turn the heat on upstairs because the heat from the lower level rises pretty well.) I lay there for about an hour and then gave up on getting any more rest. At 5:30am I was sitting up in bed, watching the morning news, drinking a huge mug of coffee with vanilla nut creamer and eating a slice of cheesecake that I brought home from MO's house yesterday. Yum! I certainly woke up after that. The combination of caffeine and sugar would have been enough to jump-start Steve's truck.

I dressed warmly, grabbed my camera gear and headed over to pick up Susan and then LuAnn. Marjorie and Nina would be following in Nina's "Mom Van" because they had their children with them and needed the car seats. I had decided last night to take them down the Parks Highway 20 or 30 miles. I thought it would be nice to stop in Ester to get a few shots of the gold camp (which is closed for the season until mid-May). I also wanted to stop by the studio of a local jewelry artisan - Judie Gumm.

Susan, LuAnn and I wandered into her studio and I was amazed by her beautiful designs. She makes necklaces, earrings, pins, zipper pulls, etc. All of her jewelry reflects the special things found in Alaska. She had an incredible sterling silver pin of a dog musher connected by a chain to several dogs. I tried to find it on her website, but there's no photo. I'm sure Steve won't have any problem finding it when I send him up there after "hinting" as to what I might like for my birthday or Christmas *wink*.

Ester Coca Cola Machine
Coke Machine in Ester
Looks like Narnia
Looks like a C.S. Lewis novel!
As MO said, "Narnia"

We continued further up the highway, stopping a few times to take some photos of the ice-coated trees. The truck drivers who passed us were surely wondering what five women were doing out in the middle of nowhere equipped with cameras. My hands were numb, but I couldn't stop shooting. I know I'm going to have to be more cognizant of keeping my hands warm as the temperatures go lower or I'm going to risk getting frostbite. You can't very well shoot photos with frostbitten fingers.

Getting back into town, we stopped at Food Factory for lunch. After I took LuAnn home and was heading back to our neighborhood to take Susan home, I decided at the last minute to take a drive up Birch Hill. I got as far as the ski lodge and stopped. The road was slippery there and then we realized why. They're making snow in preparation for the November 7th opening of the hills.

I've never skied before and I'm not real thrilled about doing it. I'd like to keep my feet firmly on the ground without careening at 50 mph down a slippery slope. I'm hoping Steve is willing to do some cross-country skiing with me. If he's not, I suppose I'll have to grab Susan and go. I can imagine what it will be like for us trying to manage poles AND camera bags! I'm glad I have several 'fanny packs'; that is going to be the only way to manage. Susan would like to do some regular figure skating. She might call it figure skating but I'll be happy to stay upright and look relatively "normal" while making my way around the rink.

We also found out today that the gym is offering blocks of time for workouts for wives only and will be offering aerobics classes. (For FREE!) Anything to try and battle the winter weight gain that hits a large percentage of Alaskans.

October 24, 2003

Birch Hill Ski AreaSteve got back from the field around 4pm and I picked him up at the company and brought him home. It was so wonderful to see him again. I miss him so much when he's gone.

We had to take his truck out to get gas, since I had drained the tank on my various excursions while he was gone. The sun was setting and the sky was a deep cobalt color. I had my camera and tripod with me (they go everywhere with me) and I asked him if he'd take me closer to the airfield so I could get a shot of our ski hill here on post.

They've been making snow on Birch Hill in preparation for opening day on November 7th. The blowers have been going constantly. Steve took me down to the golf course so I could get an unobstructed shot of it. It looks almost like a landing strip for extra-terrestials.

The days are growing much shorter now. Sunset is at 6pm and sunrise isn't until 9am. It's strange to wake up at 8am and it's still pitch dark outside. Daylight Savings Time will help a bit, but it will be getting darker even earlier now. They are predicting low temperatures next week of 2 degrees. BRRRR! I am now wearing my Columbia jacket, fleece gloves and a hat when I'm out for any length of time.

Also... I found out from a fellow group member that the ice crystals I've been photographing is a phenomenon called "Hoars Frost". Neat stuff...

October 25, 2003

Chena River Reflection

Today was a very lazy day for us. We slept in until 8am and when we got up it was still pitch black outside. We both decided we were going to just stay in all day and watch television and be lazy. Later this afternoon, the snow began to fall! At about 8:30pm, Steve asked me if I wanted to go for a walk through the woods. Although it was after sunset, the sky had an orange glow in it because of the streetlights and the reflection off of the snow. I took my tripod with me (Steve said it would be a good weapon if we came across some angry moose... yeah, right...) so I could get some shots even though the lighting was so bad. The orange glow of the sky made all of my photos come out with an orange tint to them - reminiscent of an old time sepia tinge. Rather interesting....

October 26, 2003

Visit to Birch Hill Cemetery

It has been snowing on and off all day. The city is tinged with a light bluish-white color, as if the sky has fallen along with the flakes. Or perhaps it is a soft gray. Not exactly white. Snow is only white when the sun is high, and the sun hasn't shown its face today.

Steve and I went to the theater to see Mystic River. We enjoyed the movie and would recommend it highly. According to the website, it is described...

Mystic River explores the interwoven history of three men, the terrible events that tainted their boyhood and shaped their futures, and the irrevocable choices they are ultimately forced to make. Individually, these characters must come to terms with their own personal demons, struggling with issues that bring an alarming momentum into the mix.

Sean Penn does a marvelous job playing a man whose daughter is murdered. The scene when he discovers that the police have found his daughter's body is heart-wrenching to say the least. I don't think any parent sitting in the theater didn't feel the awful pain he portrayed. (Many a tissue was pulled from a pocket or purse). I was able to 'break the case' before the end of the movie, but thought that Clint Eastwood did a brilliant job.

After the movie, we had a light dinner at the Dog Sled Saloon in the Captain Bartlett Inn. Snow was falling much heavier by the time we finished our meal and with Daylight Savings Time, the light was quickly fading even though it was only a little after 4pm. We decided to take a drive along Farmer's Loop Road to admire the snowy countryside. It was then that I decided I'd like to visit the Birch Hill Cemetery and take some photographs.

I know that a lot of people aren't too fond of being in cemeteries. And I know a few others might take issue with my interest in taking photos in cemeteries. But despite the sadness of cemeteries, they are also places of peace. I read the names on the headstones and I try to imagine what life was like for that person. I see the flowers on the graves, or the gifts left behind and I wonder about the families and friends who come to mourn their loss. The empty shell beneath the dirt is not the person who once was. It is but the vessel which housed the blood and the bone of a living being. The soul of the departed is free; soaring above...

The purity of the snow as it gathered on the headstones, the crosses and the trees made my visit to the cemetery a very beautiful but solemn experience. The section of the cemetery set aside for babies and children touched me deeply. I couldn't help but wipe tears from my eyes as I took in the sight of toys and dolls and even small items of clothing, placed lovingly by parents whose arms are empty. I gave thanks to God for my two beautiful sons.

I felt it only fitting that I take my photos in black and white. Two colors. Two choices. Life and death. I did take some creative license with the photo taken at the grave of a Veteran. I wanted the colors of our flag to shine bright in memoriam to the men and women who have lost their lives while serving or after serving our country.

October 27, 2003

Susan in winter gear
Ready for a snowball fight

The snow continued to fall last night. Light flakes, but an accumulation all the same. It is so beautiful! I know I say that a lot, but I can't help it. When I got up this morning (about 5:30am), Steve was busy scraping the snow from his truck before leaving for work. I took the photo at left from an upstairs window. The snow is hard packed from the traffic in our neighborhood and extremely slippery.

Steve took his truck in to have an Autostart installed on it. Basically it allows him to start the truck from the warmth of our house, instead of having to throw on a coat and actually go out in the cold. (We certainly COULDN'T have that, could we?). Because his truck would be in the shop, he had to come home and get my car to get back to work. He says that driving my car on the icy roads is like riding on an ice cube. It was all over the road. Now he's talking about replacing my all-weather tires with studded tires. Just one more expense incurred by moving to a frigid climate. My car did pass it's emissions testing today, so that's one less thing to worry about. Now he's got to get me some AK tags.

I took the dog for a long walk in the woods today. I also went into the neighborhood behind me. I got a chance to wear my new winter boots. They are rated for temperatures as low as negative 65 degrees. My feet stayed nice and toasty while we were out walking. I didn't wear a hat and I carried my gloves. Despite the snow, the temperatures are still in the high 20's so I didn't really need to wear them. It made it a lot easier to snap photos.

The baseball field behind our neighborhood looks like a ghost town now that the snow is blanketing the diamond. I couldn't resist snapping a photo and showing you all that it is indeed the end of the baseball season here in Alaska.

October 29, 2003

Moose in Yard
Morning visitor

A spectacular sunrise brought in another Alaska morning. I took this photo from my upstairs window. I quickly threw on some clothes and my boots, coat, gloves, etc. and grabbed Sedona to go for her morning walk. Of course my camera went with me. I shot a few more photos of the sunrise from the open field near my house. Sedona and I took our time walking in the silent morning. I started back and, as I got closer to my house, I saw a moose grazing in my yard! I was a little paranoid. She was standing very close to my house and I had to get in the back door. I also didn't know how Sedona would react to this huge creature. Well she acted as I expected when we got to within 20 yards of the moose: the hair on her back stood straight up, she stopped dead in her tracks, and then a low guttural growl came forth. Now I was really worried. The moose turned and looked right at us. She was going to do one of two things... either move away from us or attack my own personal Cujo. She did nothing. I got closer (I had to in order to get into my house). Still nothing. But she never let us out of her sight. I made it to the back door, put Sedona inside and went back outside to snap more photos of her. I didn't get into her space and after a few minutes she seemed to ignore me. All of a sudden she started a low grunting, but she didn't seem to be directing it at me. Nevertheless, I kept my distance and put a tree between us. Then I heard it! A low response... almost like a small bleat that you would hear from a lamb. I looked towards where the sound was coming from and saw a baby moose standing on the other side of the fence which surrounds Fort Wainwright. Obviously mama had found her way through one of the openings in the fence and her baby didn't. The baby was crying for mama as she continued to graze. Mama answered her baby's calls from time to time. A few minutes later, mama climbed the hill towards the fence and she lowered her head until she and her baby were eye to eye. It was an amazing sight to see! Mama turned and continued down the path, as baby paralleled her on the other side of the fence. There is another break in the fence about 20 yards or so down the fence line so I am confident they were united again. What a wonderful thing to experience!

October 31, 2003


Through the trees to the pond

Yesterday was a very full day for me. My friend Susan came and picked me up (I really need to get studded tires if I don't want to be a hermit all winter). We decided to drive around the area looking for photo ops since the sun was shining and the skies were blue. It was also a fairly temperate day - high 20's/low 30's - which feels pretty balmy after a week of teens and below. (Never thought I'd say that!)

We made our way back to Birch Hill Cemetery. Susan wanted to check it out after reading about my visit last weekend. It sure had a different "mood" on a sunny day as compared to the way it felt during that snowfall on Sunday. The birch trees looked nice against the bright blue skies.

We left the cemetery and headed to Skyline Dr. off of Farmer's Loop Rd. The view when you reach the summit (Summit Dr.) is breathtaking on a clear day and, even with the haze in the distance we got some great views of Fairbanks below.

Next our trip took us to the frozen pond near UAF campus. Steve and I had noticed kids ice skating on it last weekend. Both Susan and I expressed our wish to ice skate, but also our apprehension at skating on a pond. How could it be solid enough after only a short amount of time? We walked out on the ice, but after seeing some spots where the snow had been wiped away and you could see through the ice to the pond below, we started feeling a little panicked and made our way back to stable ground.

We continued on our way through UAF campus with a stop at the lookout to see if we could see McKinley. We could see the peaks very faintly on the horizon; but the haze had pretty much obliterated the mountains. No photo opportunity there... On we continued. Our next stop was at the airport. Actually, we were on the back end of the airport where the air cargo companies and air tour companies are located. We snapped photos of some of the frozen ponds and streams as the sun began to set. We were passed by a musher training her dogs by having them tow a four-wheeler. There were about 6 dogs in the team and they were running their hearts out. Unfortunately, but the time we turned the jeep around to get a photo, she had taken off into the woods with the team. Bummer!

Later last evening, Steve and I attended a "Hail and Farewell" and met up with Susan and Stephen, and Nancy and Scott. After the ceremony, the six of us went to Food Factory for a late dinner and great conversation.

This morning it is raining - which is a BAD thing. The roads are an ice skating rink. They have canceled school all over Fairbanks and on post. Looks like I'll be staying in today. At least it's the weekend.

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