Updated: May 7, 2007
©2004 Susan L. Stevenson - All photos are copyright protected
|Wednesday, September 1 - A new month and falling leaves|
At other times, they wildly fly
~Elsie N. Brady
It is hard to believe that it is already September. With the arrival of September comes my anticipation for the appearance of the Northern Lights. I checked last year's journal and I saw the lights for the first time on September 18th. They were a fairly regular occurrence after that. I also took note that our first snowfall was on September 26th last year. I believe it melted by the next day, so it wasn't truly our first 'laying' snowfall. But it was the first time Steve and I had seen snow in many years and we were like little kids. I don't know if my excitement this year will be as pronounced. I wasn't working last year at this time, so the fact that I didn't have to leave the house was a good thing.
I completed Donna Blasor-Bernhardt's book, "Waltz With Me Alaska", this morning. I only had three chapters left, so I decided to dilly dally a bit before getting ready for work. Halfway through my morning read, I had tears streaming down my face. Her story is just so amazing. The love she shared with her husband, Dick was so special and it came across in her writing. What a great story of love, fortitude, and determination as well as "family".
Steve left for the field this afternoon. He'll be gone until late September 10th. I'm hopeful that the time will pass quickly. I'm thinking about taking a drive to Chena Hot Springs this weekend (or on Labor Day). I'd like to go exploring up there now that the leaves are changing so quickly. I just hope the smoke blows away. We had a little rain today and that helped...
|Friday, September 3 - Long walks on a sunny day|
What a beautiful day I woke up to! The skies were blue, fluffy white clouds were floating above, and there wasn't one bit of smoke in the air! I suppose this is Mother Nature's way of taunting us with one last gorgeous day before our temperatures plummet tonight. (We are expecting our first frost and have been warned to bring in our plants)
I was up, dressed in my workout clothes and off for the gym by 8am. I was terribly disappointed to discover that the gym was closed! After finally getting motivated to go workout alone, and I couldn't get in! So, I did the next best thing. I went home, loaded Sedona into my car, and drove down to the Outdoor Rec Center. I parked my car, leashed up Sedona and we took off walking. The morning air was brisk, and I even had to pull my hands up into the sleeves of my fleece jacket to warm them. I walked the paved bike trail for two miles and then turned around and headed back to the car. Along the way, I detoured onto a gravel road which wound through the woods and to the campground here on Post. By the time Sedona and I circled back, we had walked more than 5 miles.
|Sunday, September 5 - Autumn drives and the brilliance of nature|
I woke to a cold, but sunny, morning yesterday. I took the time to put on a silk undershirt beneath my regular shirt to combat the nip in the air. I also threw my fleece headband and chenille glove liners in the truck - along with a packed lunch and of course my camera. I picked up Shawna and Courtney at 10am and we began the drive to Chena Hot Springs.
The colors of the leaves were very vivid in the sunlight. We crossed over many rivers and streams and the reflections of the brilliant yellow and orange leaves of the birch trees was awe inspiring. I pulled over at a turn out, in order to take a few photos of one of these beautiful reflections and caught sight of a moose cow crossing in the stream below the road. The scene was awash in autumn color - to include the deep chocolate brown of her coat. She knew I was there and watching her. I could see her ears swivel towards me as I snapped some photos.
When we reached one of the BLM campgrounds, we pulled into it and took a short walk down to the river, admiring the view of the rushing water and the tall rocky outcroppings. The beaver lodge I remember from last year is still there, but I didn't see any signs of the inhabitants. It was much colder there than it was when we left Fairbanks, a taste of things to come.
We stopped again at the Angel Rocks Trailhead to stretch our legs. There were quite a few cars parked there - hikers who were taking advantage of the sunny day and lack of smoke. I hope that Steve and I can go back and hike the trail before winter comes. The views from the top are just wonderful.
This is the last official weekend for tourists here in Alaska. The Princess Tour Buses were in abundance up at the resort and tourists were taking advantage of the hot springs. The summer flowers were still blooming in the containers placed all over the grounds and they were a welcome sight. Shawna put Courtney in her stroller and we took off walking and exploring. We came upon a nature trail and even though there were signs posted on a tree at the beginning of the trail warning of bears, we continued. We made a lot of noise as we walked along the path admiring the colorful leaves and the brook which paralleled the trail. We didn't see any sign of bears or bear scat, and enjoyed our walk. About a mile into our walk, we turned and retraced our steps.
We ate our picnic lunches on the tailgate of the truck before heading back to Fairbanks. Again, we pulled off the road and stopped a few times so that I could take some photos of the lovely fall foliage. Here are some of my favorite photos:
|Tuesday, September 7 - Sunsets and Mothers|
|Saturday, September 11 - Reunions and Remembrances and Ramblings|
Steve came home late last night. As always, I was thrilled to have him home with me again. It was late when he arrived, and I had already dozed off, but I quickly got my second wind when he crawled into bed next to me and I felt the familiar warmth of him as he curled around me. We lay awake whispering in the dark for more than an hour. I hadn't heard from him the entire time he was gone. We don't have a cell phone any longer, so there were no periodic conversations to connect us over the past 10 days. These separations and subsequent reunions only reaffirm the strength and the depth of our love. At the risk of sounding cliché - Steve is truly my soulmate and each day that I share my life with him is a blessing.
It was cold out again this morning. My morning walk with Sedona reveals ice crystals on the foliage and grass, and tiny white ice formations beneath my feet on the dirt path. I notice this icy coating and think to myself, "I have to remember to bring my camera out and photograph this". And then the next day I walk again - without my camera. This morning, I remembered.
We made our way along the path that leads to the woods behind my house. I stopped a few times to take photos of the red leaves on the wild rosebushes. Their color is masked by small ice formations, which make them seem almost stuck in some cold suspended animation.
As Sedona sniffed at the ground and low bushes, I happened to notice a dark shape almost totally obscured by the weeds lining the run-off ditch that runs parallel to the path. The shape moved and revealed itself to be a cow moose - followed by her calf. They stood only 25-30 feet from me, watching me intently. I kept my eye on the mama's ears. If they were to flatten, I'd be quickly turning on my heel and getting out of there! I took a few photos and then hurried home to grab my zoom lens.
Steve met me at the back door and I hurriedly explained my rush to grab my zoom. He followed me out the door and I was happy to see the moose were still where I saw them last. I kept my distance, but Steve (being the brave hunter he believes himself to be *grin*) approached her, with Sedona in tow. He finally kept his distance when he was only a mere 20 feet from her. I was prepared to watch a stomping in progress...
I can not believe that three years have passed since the horror of September 11th. Steve and I watched a few of the remembrance specials on the news channels this morning and wiped tears from our eyes. Even though three years have passed, the emotions associated with that day - and since that day - are still in the forefront of our minds. I suppose that as long as I have a husband and a child in the military, I will not be able to let those memories fade to dark recesses, only to be resurrected on anniversary dates. Each and every day I am reminded of the loss of life - not only on that day, but on the days since then. I weep when the local new channel shows the photos of our young military members who have died in combat each day. Such young men and women. Most of them, my son's age. I feel the pain and anguish and loss as if they were my own children.
Knowing that next year at this time, my husband will be in a war-torn country, fighting the war on terrorism, compounds the sadness and sorrow I feel when I see the vibrant young faces of men and women who have lost their lives; many before ever experiencing true love, or parenthood, or marriage, or travel, or career goals. Innocent lives - much like those who died on 9-11, and those who died - and continue to die - at the hands of terrorists all over the world. Why does the concept of world peace have to be so seemingly unattainable?
|Monday, September 13 - Exploring the White Mountains National Rec Area|
After spending a fairly lazy Saturday together, Steve and I looked forward to taking a long, relaxing drive. So yesterday, we decided to drive up the Steese Hwy - which leads into the White Mountains National Rec Area. The wildfire smoke had settled back over Fairbanks and the surrounding area, which put a damper on things, but still we continued. We were hoping that our drive would take us away from it. No such luck...
We were shocked by the devastation caused by the fire. It was sad to pull off the road at a small pond where Steve had fished last year at this time, and be surrounded by charred and blackened trees - instead of the brilliant gold foliage we remembered. At several places along the highway, you could see where the fire had jumped the road. Dark splotches of dead trees went off in both directions for as far as the eye could see. Needless to say, wildlife was nonexistent.
We stopped at milemarker 57 (Davidson Ditch) and turned onto a dirt road which led into the rec area. As we climbed higher in elevation, the air cleared and the skies became blue again. From our perch at the top of a hill, we could see the mountains rolling off into the distance, faint blue layers obscured by haze and smoke. It was very surreal.
When we reached the Prindle Campground, we stopped for a little while so that Steve could do some fishing and I could do some shooting. The stream that ran through the area was shallow, but Steve managed to pull a few grayling (catch and release) from the deeper pools. I even saw icicles hanging from some low-hanging branches!
After an hour or so, we made our way back to the highway and continued north to another campground we had remembered stopping at last year. Again, Steve tossed in a line as I wandered through the nearby wooded area with my camera. It was a beautiful day, despite the haze on the horizon.
|Friday, September 17 - Preparing for Winter|
I want to apologize to any of you who visited my journal over the last several days and were greeted with boxes with red X's in them. My photos are hosted by a company called Photobucket - and there was a major disk crash which made all of the photos "disappear". Fortunately, it was a temporary problem and should be repaired now.
Steve has a four-day weekend. And we intend to make the most of it. Today, we took the camper in to be winterized. We were going to do it ourselves, and even bought the antifreeze to flush through the water system. But after running into all kinds of problems trying to figure out how to bypass the hot water heater (it was our first time attempting this) and having a lack of adequate tools at our disposal, we finally relented and called the local RV shop. Luck was on our side as the shop had just changed hands and was offering a $59 special to do the winterization (which includes a warranty on the service). It was a small price to pay to eliminate the hassle. We'll be picking it up tomorrow.
After that, we dropped my car off at Sam's Club to have my studded tires put on. Yep, you read that right. It's officially 'snow tire season'. In fact we had snow flurries this morning! Big, fat white flakes of snow fell, but didn't stick anywhere. Still - it was a bit depressing. I can't believe we're facing our second winter here already. At least we know what to expect.
Now the only thing left is to have our oil and fluids changed to cold weather weights. Oh, and Steve needs new snow tires. But I don't want to think about that yet. I can't believe the price of tires for his truck...
Tomorrow, I'm visiting my friend Jan DeNapoli (the musher) and meeting another gal from my Alaska Living group named Heather. Heather is now living at Jan's place and working as the dog handler. She used to live in Anchorage, so this will be my first time meeting her. I'm looking forward to it. Also, my friend Ron is up from Kenai. (Ron is the army vet who took Steve and I to a few beautiful spots when we passed through his area in June) We're all meeting up at Jan's for a small get-together of sorts. Of course my camera is going with me and I'll be photographing the dogs again.
Sunday, Steve wants to drive down to Montana Creek for some fishing (the Silvers have been running good down there). It's about a four hour drive from here, but through some awesome countryside. If anything, I hope to get some more fall foliage shots - or even some snow shots in the higher elevations. Steve also wants to take a road trip on Monday, since he's off. We're planning to drive down past Delta Junction on the Richardson and perhaps all the way to Paxson. The Alaska Range is incredible from that area - as long as the air is clear enough for it to be seen. So, if all goes well, I'll be taking a ton of photos and sharing some with you all.
Tonight, however, we're being lazy. We rented a few movies and we're staying in where it's nice and warm. It's currently 37 degrees here. Brrrr!
|Monday, September 20 - Weekend Update.... Visits and long drives|
My visit with Jan DeNapoli on Saturday was fun. In addition to seeing Ron again, I saw Georganne, got to meet Heather (and her adorable daughter), met Peter - also a handler who just got back to Two Rivers after working in Kodiak for a while, and met Brendan, another musher who lives in the area. And of course, I got jumped on, licked, and totally dirtied up by Jan's dogs. It's always a given that I'll be washing my entire ensemble when I return from a visit to Jan's. But it's worth it!
The sun was shining so brightly that the orange and gold leaves on the birch and aspen trees looked almost fluorescent. I think I drove all the way to Jan's with my mouth hanging open in awe. I wasn't able to pull over and take any photos, but I shall carry those snapshots in my head for a very long time. What a beautiful season Fall is!
Here are a few photos I shot at Jan's place:
Yesterday, instead of driving to Montana Creek - which is in the direction of Anchorage - Steve and I decided instead to drive in the other direction and head to Paxson. There's nothing necessarily IN Paxson, but it is the gateway town to the Denali Highway (Click here to read about this scenic highway). The Denali Highway runs 135 miles from Paxson on the Richardson Highway to Cantwell on the Parks Highway. Cantwell is very close to the entrance to Denali National Park. Our plan was to drive on the Denali Hwy about 30 miles and then turn around and head back to Fairbanks. The total mileage for this trip was more than 400 miles. We were gone all day, but it was a much needed trip into the wilderness.
I took so many photographs, but many times my camera never came up to my eye because I didn't want to obstruct the awe-inspiring views with a piece of equipment. I am easily affected by beautiful scenery and at those moments, I give thanks to God for giving me sight. Yesterday was one of those days when I was pushed to the point of tears on more than one occasion. How can anyone live with such grandeur around them and take it for granted? So many people (all over the country and world) are surrounded by astounding beauty and go through their day without even giving it a second thought. I will never understand that; especially after spending an entire day in the wilderness, with peacefulness and brilliant colors and wildlife. How can you NOT notice?
I have quite a few photographs I want to share. But I'm going to post only thumbnails, so I don't overwhelm my dial-up readers. If you want to see the photo enlarged, click on the thumbnail and it will open up in a new window.
|Friday, September 24 - A dusting of snow as the trees shed their leaves|
The weatherman has been calling for snow all week. It's starting to seem a lot like the "boy who cried wolf". So far, the snow has not come as predicted - at least not here in Fairbanks. It has, however fallen in the higher elevations (above 1000 feet). Fairbanks sits at about 450'.
This morning, I noticed what appeared to be a dusting of snow on the roof outside the bedroom window. Or perhaps it was only a thick layer of frost? There wasn't any of the white stuff on any of the streets, but it was on the dirt path where I take Sedona for her morning walk.
I made it to the gym this morning - a necessity since it had been more than a week since I had been there. I took my camera with me in the event there was a nice sunrise or the range was visible. When I came out of the gym and began driving home, I looked toward the horizon and saw an amazing sight. The range was out in all its glory; the angle of the sun emphasized every crag and peak beautifully. I decided to drive to the top of Birch Hill for a bird's eye view.
Not far into my climb up the steep and switchback road, I encountered snow. It was only a light dusting and only seemed to cling to the dirt of the road, but it was snow nonetheless. I have to admit I was excited to see it. I wonder if, in a few months, I will be questioning my joy? Nah!
I stood at the top of Birch Hill for a while - looking out at the range and watching the sun paint the crags and hills with its warm rays. It was chilly, but my heart was warm. I so love living here....
|Sunday, September 26 - Insomnia|
I haven't been sleeping well. On Friday night, I fell asleep at 10pm and woke up at 2am. I stayed up all day... and all night. I finally went to bed last night at 2am - 24 hours later. I thought for sure I'd sleep in. But no... I was up this morning at 5:00. In three days, I have managed to get 8 hours sleep.
A friend of mine (thanks, Nikki) reminded me that at this time last year I was struggling with insomnia too. So I went online and researched "seasonal insomnia" to see if there is such a thing. Apparently seasonal insomnia is a very real symptom of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In most cases though, people tend to sleep more. Only 10% of sufferers actually have a problem getting enough sleep. I've decided to re-start my nightly dose of melatonin. I haven't taken it since last winter. It works pretty well for me, but I also experience the one side effect I dislike the most - nightmares. It's a pretty tough choice to make: Exhaustion from lack of sleep vs. nightmares. If that doesn't work, I'm going to try Valerian. I have some of that in my medicine cabinet too. The only thing that bothers me about the S.A.D. diagnosis is the symptom of depression. I'm not depressed. Tired maybe, but certainly not depressed. We truly are intrinsically affected by the sun and the moon. How amazing that the number of hours of darkness in a day can affect moods, sleep patterns, eating habits, and energy levels.
Steve went fishing this morning. He left at 5am, in the middle of a pretty nasty rainstorm. I was concerned about the condition of the roads down past Delta Junction, which is where he was headed. We don't have cell phones any longer. Although they do work here in Fairbanks and in some outlying areas in the vicinity, they don't always work when you're between towns or in remote areas. We do have a CB radio though (thanks to my brother, Steve) and that brings us a degree of security when we're on long drives.
Steve returned home at a little past 1pm - bearing three good size silver (coho) salmon. Three's the limit, or he would have continued fishing all day.
I spent the day being lazy, although I did take a very long walk with Sedona this morning. My body was warm wearing Steve's thick fleece jacket, but my hands were frozen and I had to pull them up into my sleeves from time to time to warm them. I carried my camera and hoped to see my moose friend and her calf, but no such luck. I did stop to watch a squirrel carry mouthfuls of plant material to her nest in the trees.
The ground is littered with a thick covering of leaves. The trees are growing more and more bare as each day passes. Strong winds easily strip the golden leaves from the branches and they fall to the ground where they add a splash of yellow to the already brown mottled leaves of last week. I don't like to say that it is growing ugly outside - I believe that all of nature is beautiful... but it is. Everything is becoming a muddy color. Where the landscape was heavy with orange and amber hues, brown is creeping in. This is the time of the year when even those who hate snow, wish for it. The snow will make it beautiful again. Snow will hide the dull brown landscape and make it pure and bright.
I took a few photos while out on my walk this morning. Again, I'm going to post them in thumbnail form so that the page will load faster. I've been experiencing problems with Photobucket again, so if the images don't load (or you see red x's), please try to refresh the page. If that still doesn't work, I apologize.
|Tuesday, September 28 - Snow and Treacherous Driving|
This morning, however, was a different story. Although the snow had stopped with no severe accumulation, some of the roads were a skating rink. I drove a good 20mph under the speed limit. And I wasn't the only one. Even big, burly guys in their 'monster trucks' were taking it easy. This is the one thing I don't like about winter. I don't mind the cold. I don't mind the snow. I can even deal with the darkness. But driving on slippery and dangerous roads stresses me out. I'm glad my long day of work is over. Fortunately, this afternoon when I left work, the roads were back to normal.
Tonight, I took Sedona for her walk and a very aggressive red squirrel began screeching at us. This is usual behavior. At times they even throw things out of the trees at us. Plant matter, pinecones, seeds - you name it, they toss it down. I'm inclined to believe that there's either a nest or a food cache hidden nearby.
But tonight, the squirrel wasn't satisfied with just screaming
at us. He gathered all his courage and actually raced down the tree
to the lowest branch and stood looking almost directly into my eyes
as he yelled and screamed. Perhaps it was a female defending her nest?
Whatever the reasoning was, I was glad to have the opportunity to photograph
her from such a close distance.
|Wednesday, September 29 - Glorious Sunrise|
|I have missed the winter
sunrises and sunsets more than anything. During the warmer months of spring
and summer, I am usually asleep when these colorful salutations occur.
But in the winter, my day is already underway when the morning sun breaks
My morning walk with Sedona was lit by moonlight. The moon is almost full. I watched our shadows move together on the sidewalk. The same light that lit our way, turned the trees into black creatures. We didn't venture into the woods as we usually do. There were too many shadows in there and my imagination was running wild.
On the way to work, I watched the sky turn a pale orange. I looked for a good place to pull over so I could take a few photos. The orange soon became pink. I decided to alter my route and stop by the Chena River. A light mist was coming off of the water and it added to the peaceful scene.
Later, as I rode the shuttle bus from the parking lot to my office building, the skies became a blinding orange-yellow as the sun finally cleared the horizon. I couldn't find it in my heart to go to my office. Instead I took off on foot toward an overlook, where I watched the sun move upward in the sky. There is so much spendor in a sunrise!
What an incredible way to welcome another day... (Click thumbnails to view enlargement)
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"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything."
~ Muhammad Ali ~