I’m working a little backwards as I try to catch up with blogging. Things are going to be a lot busier over the next few months, as I get my calendars ordered and shipped. I’ve also been photographing Class of 2015 Seniors, which also puts me on a time crunch, as the yearbook editors need the photos submitted quite soon.
We’ve had temperatures in the 20s, and it’s downright chilly in the morning hours. Sometimes, it warms up into the 30s during the day, but for the most part we’ve been hovering around freezing. There is still snow covering the grass around our house, but our driveway is patchy, and the roads nearby (except for our road) are pretty much devoid of any snow at all. Unfortunately there are some icy patches, and that makes for some slow going at times. Such is winter in interior Alaska.
The aurora has been active, when we have clear skies. Lately, it seems clouds have been hovering over my part of town, so even when the various webcams show starry skies, a walk outside shows nothing but clouds. Honestly though… the thought of going out in the cold hasn’t been very appealing to me, nor have the late hours (or rather early hours).
I’ve been sleeping rather well lately, which is a bit surprising. Usually, as we lose light, I find myself suffering from insomnia. S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real concern up here, and I’ve already boosted my Vitamin D intake with supplements. I’ve found that Vit D is a great way to alleviate some of the symptoms of SAD. While some people feel like they want to sleep all the time, I tend to go in the opposite direction and find I can’t sleep. So far, I’m not having any issues. But we still have a little more than 11 hours of visible light as we head toward our shortest day of the year on Winter Solstice. We’re losing almost 7 minutes of light a day.
DENALI ROAD LOTTERY - SEPT 13th
My friend Angie, who lives in Anchorage, won two passes for the Denali Road Lottery this year. The Road Lottery takes place over a four day weekend. Each day for those four days, 400 private vehicles are permitted to drive the park road all the way to the end. These passes are coveted, and you have to apply for a chance to win in May. They announce the winners in June so that folks who live outside AK can make travel arrangements, if they haven’t already. Angie invited me to accompany her on Saturday. She had passes for Saturday and Sunday, but I couldn’t go in on Sunday, as I needed to prepare for our Polar Bear trip (which ended up being canceled and rescheduled for the following week.)
Angie made plans to drive up to the park on Friday, and I decided to do the same. I booked a room at the Nord Haven Hotel in Healy. It was my first time staying there, but it came recommended by friends who have stayed there over Lottery Weekend. The price wasn’t bad either at only $95/night (including taxes). The room was neat and clean, and had a small dorm size fridge. But it was also very warm. Even with the thermostat turned to the OFF position, it was like a sauna in my room.
I don’t do well with heat - especially when it’s time to sleep. Unfortunately, I was on the first floor, and wasn’t comfortable having my window open while I slept. The next time I stay at the Nord Haven, I will request a 2nd floor room. The bed was extremely firm, but amazingly I didn’t wake up with a back ache. For the price, I can’t complain. Complimentary coffee and tea is available in the lobby, and the staff was quite friendly and efficient.
I met up with Angie, so we could check in at the Visitor Center and pick up the placards for her windshield. We made arrangements to meet at 6am the next morning to start our drive. The two photos here were taken on the park road on Friday early evening. The light was fading fast, but the trees still glowed with their autumn foliage even at dusk.
Since I had such a hard time sleeping, I tossed and turned most of the night. I was thankful that I wasn’t the one driving, because I could barely open my eyes when my alarm went off at 5:15am. I stopped in at the local gas station to fill my big coffee mug with STRONG coffee. I needed it!
Angie was staying at the nearby Denali Lakeview Inn. I’ve stayed there before. It’s also well kept and includes a nicely stocked fridge with breakfast foods such as muffins, juice, fruit, bagels, cereal, etc. The price is higher to reflect this. I think Angie paid about $115/night - which is still reasonable during lottery weekend.
I left my car there, and we loaded all our gear up for the drive ahead of us. It was still dark when we reached the gate at Savage River. After a quick talk with a ranger, we were on our way. Only a few miles later, the underside of the clouds turned bright orange-red-pink as the sun began to rise.
It was a pretty good day for wildlife sightings. We saw bears, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, a pair of swans, and an arctic ground squirrel. One grizzly was very close to the road, and then crossed the road only about 20 yards from me (and others)! It was quite exciting, and s/he was a beauty - nice and fat and healthy looking.