Wednesday, June 1, 2005
O the green things growing, the
green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of the green things growing!
I should like to live, whether I smile or grieve,
Just to watch the happy life of my green things growing.
~ Dinah Maria Mulock Craik ~
Finally, it is May. And this mean that green-up
will be here very soon. We're so close to seeing leaves sprout
on the trees. There are buds everywhere, and they have a green
tinge to them. They just haven't opened yet to release the
tiny baby leaves that will cast a gorgeous pure color over
the landscape. Everything still looks so brown.
The weather has been so beautiful! Yesterday
we had temperatures well above 70F. Steve and I took Sedona
for a long early morning walk. I felt my lungs start to close
up from the pollen in the air. Ah... spring. The beauty of
rebirth and the start of allergy season.
The Chena River is now completely thawed, but
there are still huge 'icebergs' coming downstream from places
further upriver. There has been some concern over the flooding
up river. When it warms up quickly, large pieces of ice break
free and then dam the river, much like a beaver would with
logs. It's definitely interesting to stand downtown on the
pedestrian bridge watching ice float beneath you. Especially
when it's so warm out that you only need to wear a tank top.
The One Lane Bridge
The Pedestrian Bridge and Ice Floes
The Beaver Pond is almost thawed
Steve is leaving very early on Tuesday morning
for JRTC. He'll be gone until the end of the month. I work
until May 19th, so I'll be occupied with that. My friend Rachael's
birthday is Tuesday. And she graduates from college on the
15th. Susan Spivey and I will be taking her out to celebrate
- and we're also hoping to go out to dinner after the graduation
ceremony. We're also planning to take a trip into Denali on
the 13th. We're trying to keep busy so the time will pass
more quickly. This month long separation will be a good 'trial
run' for many wives. But a month is only a month. I have no
idea how we're going to fare when they leave us for a year.
I still can't imagine not having Steve by my side for such
a long period of time. He is such a huge part of me. We are
such a huge part of each other. Enough sad stuff...
Last year, green-up arrived on May 7th. I hope
it arrives faster this year. I want to get some real spring
May 4 - Green-Up and the arrival of Cranes
Slowly but surely, we're getting green. Small leaves have appeared
on the trees. Looking out across the expanse of rolling hills
around Fairbanks shows a green hue. The mud puddles have dried
up and the snow is only found in large piles that the snowplows
More geese arrive at Creamers Field all the time. And yesterday,
I saw two pairs of sandhill cranes. The seagulls have arrived,
and so have the swallows. The weather is beautiful, despite
the brief - and much needed - sprinkles of rain we've had over
the last few days.
I've been out shooting almost every day. Something always catches
Steve left for JRTC early yesterday morning (2am). I got up
and drove him into work, so I could have his truck home with
me in case I needed it. I haven't been sleeping well without
him in bed next to me. Even cuddling the furkids (Sedona and
Airborne) doesn't make things any better. I'm staying as busy
as I can while he's gone. It helps the days pass more quickly.
I hate that we have to be apart. I'd much rather be out exploring
and enjoying the gorgeous weather together. But such is life
in the military.
I only have two weeks left of work before my contract year
is over. I'm ready to be laid off. I want to spend as much time
with Steve as I can before he leaves in August. Time is moving
much too quickly, and I don't like it.
May 7 - SPRING has SPRUNG! Robins, Babies, Moose, and Good Friends!
Where to begin? The past few days have been a whirlwind. I'll
tell you one way to get through a long absence from your husband:
stay busy! The weather has been absolutely gorgeous, which just
adds to the beauty around us here in Fairbanks. How lovely to
finally know that winter is truly GONE!
I have been a 'shooting' fool with my camera. After so many
months of black and white and gray snow photos, it is a delight
to look through my lens and see colors, and textures, and creatures!
A few days ago, I entertained myself watching Airborne (my
furry feline), 'attacking' a kamikaze robin who kept flying
into our living room window. If not for the glass between the
two, that robin would have become a playtoy for my furry girl.
Airborne sat perched on the windowsill, just waiting for the
bird to do his dive bomb into the window. She'd jump up and
swat at him - thinking he was within reach. I, of course, grabbed
Arch enemies? Or playful friends?
Yesterday, I met two friends (Shawna and April) and their babies
(Courtney and Connor) for lunch and then we took a stroll along
the nature trail at Creamers Field. It was a gloriously sunny
day and both babies were in great spirits. The pond was full
of water and ducks and seagulls played and splashed. Although
the vegetation is still shades of brown, the trees are finally
full of leaves the size of squirrel's ears. I went crazy with
my camera - soaking in the glorious beauty around me - wanting
to preserve the memories forever.
After spending the afternoon with friends and babies, I headed
back on post and decided to explore the beaver pond. Instead
of finding beavers, I stumbled upon lots and lots of Alaska
Wood Frogs and Mourning Cloak Butterflies. I was perfectly happy
April and Connor
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
|Wetlands at Creamers
|The Beaver Pond
- no more ice! (See photo from May 1st entry above)
Today, Susan picked up Rachael and I and we went out to breakfast.
We then headed downtown to the AK Railroad Station for the open
house. We took a short ride on the train, toured a few cars
- to include the First Class cars (very nice!) - and saw the
engine. We got little RR pins for riding the train.
We then headed over to Gold Dredge #8 on Goldstream Rd. They
were also having an open house today and it was free admission
and free gold panning. We had a blast panning for gold and all
of us found gold! Susan got a little less than $4 worth of flakes
and bought a necklace to display her find in. Rachael and I
found $4.50 worth of gold (but didn't buy a necklace). It was
back-breaking work to be sluicing around the water, but I was
excited to see the shiny stuff in the bottom of the pan at the
The highlight of the day? Seeing a young bull moose enjoying
a man-made pond along the highway. He didn't even run away as
traffic stopped to photograph him. I will never grow tired of
seeing such awesome creatures!
Each friend represents
a world in us, a world possibly not born until they
arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world
~ Anais Nin ~
I am so blessed
to have both Rachael and Susan in my life - especially
as we are getting ready to face such a long deployment.
There is never a
dull moment when we are together and the laughter comes
Whether out panning
for gold, or spending an afternoon watching 'chick flicks',
it is good to know that I have women such as Susan and
Rachael in my life, standing beside me all the way.
I know that they
will keep me sane! Not that sanity is necessarily a
good thing! :)
Look at this handsome fellow! This
is the second time I've seen a male out and about. Before
I leave Alaska, I want to see a full grown bull moose
with a huge rack of antlers.
The three of us are off to dinner and then onward to see Romeo
and Juliet at the local auditorium. Tomorrow, is Mother's
Day and we intend to spend it watching every season of Friends
and chilling out.
May 10 - The green of spring and late sunsets
The weekend has passed quickly. I got to talk to Steve a few
times as well - which really lifted my spirits. He's doing well,
but said the heat and humidity in LA are oppressive. And there
are wolf spiders too. (EWWW!)
I've been enjoying long walks with Sedona in the evening. I
walked with Rachael last week, and last night, I walked with
Susan. It's so nice to have such long hours of daylight. Sunsets
at 11pm take some getting used to though. Nevertheless - the
long days are rejuvenating to the soul.
I still haven't gotten my new camera. I hope it comes today.
I'd love to have it in time for Rachael's graduation. I'm not
a patient person when it comes to new camera equipment. Having
something shipped to AK takes forever sometimes.
I wanted to share a few spring photos with you.
Some more signs of spring. The tiny
buds of leaves are now unfurling and growing quickly. Dandelions
have also made their appearance.
May 14 - A new camera! Long walks, a drive to Denali, and lots
biggest news here at my house is the arrival of my new camera.
I upgraded to the Canon
EOS 20D. In addition, I invested in a new
- and really GOOD - zoom lens. I want to be able to photograph
wildlife, and photography has become such an integral part of
who I am, I just felt like I was worth good equipment. My passion
for photography will be a huge part of what keeps me sane while
Steve is deployed. There it is - with the new lens at left.
The lens has an image stabilizer in it to compensate for shake.
It's a really heavy lens, so shake will happen - unless I use
a tripod. Not all shots are conducive to tripod usage... for
instance, shooting soaring eagles. When I've got to pan, I'll
have to hold the camera and lens. I spent a pretty penny on
this equipment - and as conservative as I am when it comes to
spending, it took a lot for me to make this jump. But now that
it's here, and I've held it in my hands, and used it - I am
The first place I stopped was Creamers Field to see how the
lens worked when photographing the cranes. I wasn't happy with
the results. The sun was directly overhead, which is lousy for
photography, and I wasn't quite sure about all the settings
on the camera yet. So, instead, I drove to the top of Birch
Hill to see how close I could bring in my surroundings with
the new lens. I was impressed with the detail when I zoomed
in on the river and the houses far below. I also checked out
the White Mountains from my vantage point. When I got home,
I took Sedona for a walk and practiced some shots on the local
vegetation (using the new camera, but not the new lens). Here
are some photos from that excursion:
||Standing atop Birch
Hill, on a clear day, you can see out to the White Mountains
in the distance. As you can see by the photo at left, the
landscape is lush and green with leaves. Spring is such
a wonderful time of renewal here in interior Alaska.
||Although the dandelion
is the bane of gardeners all over the world, to me it is
the first blast of color after a long, monochromatic winter.
I allow the dandelions to bloom across my lawn for as long
as I can - an expanse of true wildflowers that signify the
arrival of spring.
||Baby leaves unfurl among
new catkins. Vegetation grows quickly in the long hours
of sunlight. Currently we are close to 18 hours of daylight!
Last night, the sun painted the sky orange and yellow at
11pm. It's rejuvenating to both the plants and to us!
I made another visit to Creamers Field. This time I was prepared
with a strap for my big lens, my backpack neatly packed, and
my good walking shoes on. A storm was threatening to roll in,
but I was welcoming the rain. We're going to need rain in order
to keep the wildfires down this year. The last thing we want
is a summer like last year. Only a few small droplets fell -
not enough to thwart my mission to wander the nature trails.
I wanted to see how the camera did under partly cloudy skies.
Here is my favorite shot of the day:
I love the texture in the sky in this
shot - as well as the reflection in the wetland pond below.
I wandered the wetland trail to the pond, and then decided
to explore the boardwalk trail through the Boreal Forest. They
are repairing the boardwalk, so you can't go all the way on
it, but I walked as far as I could - taking photos along the
way. It was peaceful and I was alone. Even the mosquitoes were
practically nonexistent. What a beautiful way to end a work
This boardwalk leads through the
boreal forest at Creamers Field.
In North America, the boreal ecoregion
extends from Alaska to Newfoundland, bordering the tundra
to the north and touching the Great Lakes to the south.
Characteristic of the boreal are
innumerable water bodies: bogs, fens, marshes, shallow
lakes, rivers and wetlands, mixed in among the forest
and holding a vast amount of water. The winters are long
and severe while summers are short though often warm.
Approximately 85 species of North
American breeding birds select or construct a cavity for
their nest. Populations of many of these species have
declined in recent times as harvesting forests early in
the life-cycle to avoid the "dead and dying"
look and removing trees if they look deceased or dying
in urban forest settings have eliminated many cavity nesting
These dead and dying trees (snags) provided the substrate
for nests in the past.
Creamers Field has many man-made
nesting boxes on the grounds.
Range: Breeds from Alaska, Manitoba
to Mexico, winters primarily in western U.S. but in all
Notes: handsome favorite of birders,
pair for life, as many as 4 broods, male sings at night,
female builds nest.
The White-crowned Sparrow occurs
in most boreal forest habitats, particularly those with
sparse trees and dense shrubs.
During the breeding season in the
far north, males tend to arrive 2-3 weeks before females.
The breeding range extends throughout most of mainland
Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories and across northern
Canada east to Nova Scotia, and southward throughout British
Columbia to spotty localities among the western states.
Wetlands, like rainforests, produce
huge amounts of food as plants, leaves, and stems break
down in the water.
Wetlands often function like natural
sponges, storing water and slowly releasing it. Trees
and other wetland vegetation help slow floodwaters. This
combined action, storage and slowing, can lower flood
levels and reduce the water's potential to erode.
Yesterday, I drove to Denali with Rachael and her sister, Anna
- who is in town visiting from Washington state. The mountain
was out in all her glory (I'm batting 1000 and she has been
out every time we've visited the park!). In addition to awesome
vistas, we saw moose, a mama grizzly and her two cubs, lots
of ptarmigans (males and females), sheep, and caribou. It was
a day of wildlife, that's for sure. On our way back to Fairbanks,
we stopped at the Monderosa for burgers. It was a long, but
The ptarmigan is the Alaska state
bird. The bird at top left is a male Willow Ptarmigan.
The bird above could be a male or female ptarmigan (grouse).
In the winter, the willow ptarmigan is pure white to blend
in with the snow. In the summer, it turns a mottled brown
to blend in with the rocks and ground.
At top left is the Teklanika River.
Only a few weeks ago, when Steve and I drove to Denali,
the entire valley was frozen over. Look
at this photo I took on April 17th. You can see how
frozen everything still is. When spring comes to Alaska,
thaw occurs quickly.
The moose at left, had a calf who
was foraging deeper in the trees. She's very light colored
- not the usual dark brown, I've been seeing.
In a little while, I'm heading off to Murphy Dome with Susan
Spivey. We're going to go walking. I'm hoping it's a clear view
from up there. Of course, I'm taking my camera.
May 17 - Murphy Dome and a Friend's Graduation
What a weekend I had. Keeping busy helps the time to pass more
quickly, but tires me out too. I'm getting too old for all this
Later on Saturday afternoon, I picked up Susan Spivey and we
headed off to Murphy Dome. We both had our cameras and I was
looking forward to showing her the magnificent views from the
dome. She had never been there before, but she fell in love
with the views and plans to go back with her husband when he
comes back from JRTC - perhaps for a picnic. It's truly gorgeous
'on top of the world', and I wasn't disappointed to see that
99.9% of the snow is gone. There are still pockets of the white
stuff on the shady side of the tors rocks and down in the gully
where the path travels, but that didn't deter us from walking
to the first outcropping.
Along the way, Susan suddenly pointed out that there were pinkish
purple wildflowers dotting the landscape! I was thrilled to
see the first wildflowers of the season. In addition, I found
little white and yellow flowers growing too. The catkins were
huge and bushy and made the shrubs look like they had fur on
their branches. The walk was easy going, although we had to
skirt some really muddy places by short-cutting across some
muskeg. Muskeg is spongy and mushy under the feet. It's disconcerting
to feel the 'earth move' as you walk. Moss was plentiful and
from time to time I saw small red berries. Salmonberries, perhaps?
The walk back, however, was steadily uphill. We rested quite
a bit! On with the photos:
I look forward to going back to the top of the dome with
Steve when he gets home. It is one of the most peaceful
places in the world - a place where you can really clear
your head and enjoy the silence.
On Sunday, Rachael graduated from UAF. Her sister, Anna, Susan,
and I attended the ceremony. It lasted a long time and the seats
weren't the most comfortable, but the ceremony was nice. I enjoyed
seeing the various headdresses worn by some of the graduates
- instead of the traditional cap. Alaska is a very ethnically
diverse state, with a large population of Native Alaskans/Eskimos.
The university brings in a diverse group of students from all
over the world, to include Samoa, Russia, Asia and more. Seeing
the graduates display their pride for their heritage was lovely.
The ceremony began with a group of Native Alaskan children
as they made their way down the center aisle banging on a drum
and chanting. Then, school by school, the graduates went up
and received their diplomas. After speeches and PhD recognition,
the balloons finally fell from the ceiling and everyone was
released. Unfortunately, the weather was nasty - rainy and cold.
I had to put off the graduation photos until a sunny day arrived
- which luckily was yesterday (Monday). We went to Creamers
Field for the photo shoot.
Rachael getting her diploma
May 22 - Work ends for summer, new blossoms, & keeping busy
I apologize for not updating. I have been so busy this week!
My last day of work was Thursday, and I had a lot to finish
up before I left for the summer. It's wonderful to be free,
and I look forward to spending as much time with Steve as I
The days are growing longer and longer at a very quick pace.
Sunrise today was at 4:02am and sunrise will not occur until
11:35pm. Even the hours on both sides of those times are fairly
bright - a dusk and dawn of sorts. The early sunrise has been
waking me and I've found my sleep schedule is changing again.
Over the past week, I've been up at 5am. Most nights, I've stayed
up until nearly midnight - but I do have periods of drowsiness
over the course of the day. Maybe it's time to work a nap into
I've been walking regularly with Rachael and Susan. Although
my legs and shins get a little sore, I feel great getting out
and moving. We take our furkids with us (my Sedona and her black
lab, Stryker), which is always an adventure - especially when
they sense wildlife. Yesterday, Rachael and I had a fox cross
our path - not once, but twice! I wish I would have had my camera.
Yesterday there was a post-wide yard sale here on Wainwright.
Rachael and I hit the sales at 8am, finding a few bargains here
and there. There weren't any *wow* bargains, but it was good
to get out walking. Later last evening, the three of us had
a 'chick flick' night at Rachael's. We've got one more movie
to watch today.
I've been lucky to talk to Steve almost everyday. Our conversations
are short - but short is better than nothing. He's scheduled
to be home on the 28th. To say I miss him is an understatement.
The house is so quiet without him, and I miss being spoiled.
:-) He says it's very hot down in LA, and he looks forward to
coming home to more temperate weather. I'd like to hike Angel
Rocks trail this weekend, depending on what time he gets home
and if he feels up to it. But if he's only in the mood to relax
and do nothing, that will be just fine too.
The weather here has been a bit dismal lately. It's still cool
in the morning (it's currently 45F), which is wonderful for
sleeping, but it's also been raining on and off the past week
or so. I miss the 70 and 80F temps we had the week before last.
The cooler temperatures have at least kept the mosquitos at
bay - but I'll put up with the pesky buggers if the sun would
A few photos depicting springtime in Fairbanks:
New growth is appearing everywhere.
It is wonderful to watch the landscape come back to life
as the weather warms. Every day I discover something new.
New colors, new textures, new surprises. It is a beautiful
time of year in Alaska.
May 24 - More Botanicals and Missing my Husband
Only four more days and I'll see Steve again. I cannot wait!
These last few days are the most exciting as butterflies flit
around in my stomach in anticipation of our reunion. I have
missed him terribly.
Rachael's husband, James, came home early this morning. Susan's
husband was due to come home today, and is probably home as
I type this. But I have to wait until Saturday. It can't get
here fast enough.
I took Sedona out for a walk this morning and took more photos
of the surrounding vegetation. I noticed while I was out shopping
today that the wild roses are blooming in some areas. Not so
on the path behind the house - at least not yet. In time. I
predict we'll have blooms by the end of the week.
<-- A close-up view
of a common wildflower.
have an extreme fear of insects of all kinds. But somehow,
when I'm looking through my lens at them, they don't seem
This bee was making her way from
dandelion to dandelion, as I got closer and closer for
It wasn't until I looked at the
photograph, that I saw all of the pollen stuck to her
face and body. If bees could sneeze, this one would surely
be having a fit.
I found this tidbit of information
on line regarding the bumblebee:
All the fairly large bumblebees
seen flying in early spring, are overwintered queens busy
feeding and searching for nesting sites after their long
hibernation. Bumblebees are generally quite docile and
non-aggressive, and go about their business with little
attention to human activity, even when this is close to
the nesting site.
No wonder she didn't mind having
her picture taken.
May 25th - Sharing a Photograph
A butterfly lights beside
us like a sunbeam
And for a brief moment its glory and beauty
belong to our world,
but then it flies on again.;
And though we wish it could have stayed,
We feel so lucky to have seen it.
~ author unknown ~
May 30th - Memorial Day, Remember our Fallen Heroes
we have of freedom, all we use or know - This our fathers
bought for us long and long ago.
~Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue, 1899~
I know it's been awhile since I've updated.
My darling husband is home! He landed on Saturday afternoon,
and since then, I have been more preoccupied with spending
time with him, than to worry about being on the computer.
I have missed him over this month and it is so wonderful to
have him with me again!
Fairbanks is awash in the colors of spring!
The Alaska Wild Rose (aka Prickly Rose) has finally bloomed
and lines the dirt path behind my house - adding a splash
of pink to the green bushes. In various spots throughout the
woods, the bluebells are also blooming. And I saw what I think
are daisies blooming alongside a road. (I'm going back to
It is the birthing month for moose, and while
walking yesterday, I came upon two sets of hoofprints in the
dirt. One huge set and one tiny set. I would love to see a
cow moose and a newborn, but certainly don't want to run the
risk of upsetting mama. I try to make a lot of noise when
I'm in the woods, so that she knows I'm there. But a new mother
is not exactly predictable.
With the arrival of spring and soon summer,
the mosquitoes are out in full force. That's a bane of living
in Alaska that I can certainly live without. The smell of
DEET is nauseating, but it at least saves me from becoming
one huge welt.
Steve and I had plans to leave on Thursday morning
for a trip to Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean. Yesterday, we
discovered that he blew a seal on his wheel. Now the trip
might be off, depending on how long it takes for the repair
to be made. I'm a believer in 'things happen for a reason'.
If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. Besides - it's
still cold up there. I'm not so sure I'm in the mood to go
back to wearing winter gear - not when I'm still basking in
the warmth of spring! We can always do it in a few weeks or
so. Hopefully, Steve will be able to get additional leave
in August, before he deploys. We'd like to cruise the Inner
Passage too. So many things we want to do, and so little time
left to do it in. Bummer. On with some photos...