November 19, 2015

Catching up on Blogging

Filed under: Aurora, Everyday Life — Susan Stevenson @ 3:15 pm

We were so busy this summer with guests, that I fell way behind on my blogging. I’m going to attempt to catch up with this blog entry.

I realized as I was going back on some of my entries (mostly about the kids’ visits), that I missed posting about our gorgeous fall season here in Alaska. While it is fleeting, it is also a favorite of mine. The leaf color changes are so vibrant and gorgeous, even if the entire season only lasts a matter of weeks.

Here are some of my favorite photos taken during our glorious fall season:

Chena Lakes in Autumn Chena Lakes in Autumn Chena Lakes in Autumn

This pano really shows the beautiful foliage along the Chena River:

Chena River at Chena Lakes


At the end of September, my friend Joyce and I visited Denali Park. The road was open to mile 30, and we took full advantage of the opportunity. It’s a good thing we did, because only four days later Interior Alaska was dumped on with a foot of snow and there were widespread power outages. We lost our power for 16 hours, but many lost their power for nearly a week. Fortunately, it wasn’t super cold outside, so most people were able to avoid pipes freezing. But it was certainly uncomfortable to live without running water (our well pump runs on electricity), and to throw out food that didn’t survive. Since then, Steve and I invested in a portable heater that runs on propane, and plan to install a transfer switch to our electric panel, so we can run a generator if need be.

Back to our trip to Denali: Seeing Denali on the horizon as we drove down the Parks Hwy is always a good sign. It means the mountain will probably be *out* in the park too.

Denali from Tanana Valley Overlook, Parks Hwy

The sun was shining on us all day, and it was a beautiful drive. We parked at mile 30 and continued walking down to the Teklanika Bridge. We were a little worried about running into bears that were gorging themselves on whatever they could find in preparation for hibernation, but didn’t even see tracks. We did see moose though.

Ice building up on Otto Lake in Healy Otto Lake in Healy Seeing the mountain in Denali Park
Catkins Flying in Denali Park Pond Freezing in Denali Park Spruce Grouse in Denali Park
Teklanika River Pano Denali Park Cow Moose and calf Bull Moose pursuing a cow moose and her calf
Bull Moose Cow Moose and her calf Awesome Sunset looked like fire in the sky!

As the sun went down, it lit up the neatest clouds that were being pulled up in the wind. It looked like fur, or fire. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It was pretty amazing! Here’s a pano of the scene:

Fiery sunset, Denali Park

Moonrise behind a mountain in Denali Park


Fresh September SnowOn September 28th, the heavy snow fell on already rotten trees, causing them to fall onto power lines throughout the area. This was the major cause of the power outage. We had several trees bending over under the weight, so I went out with a baseball bat and beat against some of them to knock the snow out of them (sorry trees!). It helped, and I’m sure prevented one or two of them from falling on our power lines. We did lose one birch tree in the front yard, but it fell into the wooded area, away from the house thankfully.

Our little snow family, to include RavenOnce the snow stopped, the sun came out and blue skies provided a gorgeous backdrop to the snow-coated landscape. If not for the fact that we were without power, I’d have been thrilled with the gorgeous snowfall. Making lemonade from lemons, I did build myself a little family of snowmen - to include Raven.


October 25, 2015

Kayla’s Sept Visit - Homer and Seward Revisited

Filed under: Family, Travel, Wildlife — Susan Stevenson @ 7:37 pm

In late August/early September, Steve’s daughter Kayla visited Alaska. This was her second trip - but her first trip was during the winter months, so we were able to do much more with her this time. Kayla opted to visit without the boys, as she had just started a new job, and needed a little R&R to recharge her batteries and relax. The boys were kept busy with their dad and grandparents, and we were all able to FaceTime with them on a daily basis while she was here.

As we did when Brandon and Becky visited, we had Kayla fly into Anchorage. Instead of camping on the military base, Steve and I decided to camp in Willow and enjoy a drive up to Hatcher Pass while we were in the area.

We were surprised at how much the colors were already changing, especially in the Broad Pass area south of Denali Park. It was misty and foggy, which really enhanced the colors, but we also knew that autumn was going to come early, and that was a little sad. Our summer is already so short!

These photos were taken near Broad Pass on the Parks Highway:

Fall Colors at Broad Pass, Parks Hwy Fall Colors at Broad Pass, Parks Hwy Fall Colors at Broad Pass, Parks Hwy

After setting up the camper and taking Raven for a walk, we drove up to Hatcher Pass, taking the back way up Willow Fishhook Road. The road on that side of the pass is very bumpy and washboard, so it took us a lot longer than we anticipated, but the views were beautiful. We stopped to stretch our legs at Summit Lake (there are quite a few Summit Lakes in Alaska), and I was thrilled to see a patch of fireweed still blooming, as the plants had gone to seed everywhere else.

Summit Lake, Hatcher Pass:
Summit Lake, Hatcher Pass

These photos were taken on the drive to the top of the pass. We came down the paved road into Wasilla, and drove back to Willow from there. It was a little further in miles, but faster than tackling the bumpy road again.

Hatcher Pass Road - Willow Side Hatcher Pass Road - Willow Side Summit Lake, Hatcher Pass
Hang Gliding over Hatcher Pass Hatcher Pass Cabins Hatcher Pass Cabins
View from Hatcher Pass Hatcher Pass View Pano Coming down from Hatcher Pass toward Wasilla


The next morning, Steve and I met a friend Doug and his wife for breakfast in Wasilla before heading to JBER (military base) and setting up camp there. Kayla’s flight came in around dinner time, and we stopped to grab a bite to eat after picking her up. She was jet-lagged as she had been traveling all day (and from the East Coast, which is 4 hours ahead of us), so we didn’t stay up too late once we got back to the camper.

The next morning, we had breakfast and then started the drive to Homer, stopping along the way to take photos and stretch our legs. It was a beautiful day for driving, and the mountains were gorgeous. Kayla and I even saw beluga whales in Turnagain Arm! We weren’t able to pull over for photos, but just seeing them was a thrill for both of us!

We stopped at the Bird Point rest stop to stretch our legs and grab a few photos. I love this photo of Steve and his daughter:

Kayla and Steve at Bird Point


October 14, 2015

Aurora Season - Off to a GREAT Start!

Filed under: Aurora — Susan Stevenson @ 9:15 am

There is so much I haven’t written about due to being so busy during the summer with family visiting. While I still need to catch up and write about Steve’s daughter Kayla and her visit to AK in late August/early September, I also wanted to write about what a wonderful aurora season we’ve had already this year!

The lights began showing themselves in August, with the first display taking place on August 17th. In August we still have fairly long days (the sky lightens around 4:30am and darkens a little after 11pm). This leaves a relatively narrow window for seeing the aurora, and the sky doesn’t have that complete blackness that we are accustomed to in fall and winter. But as long as the stars are visible, we have a good chance of seeing the aurora too. August is usually our rainiest month, so even if the aurora forecast is good, we’re often under cloud cover. That can be really depressing - especially when the data is good - knowing that above the thick clouds, the sky is turning colors.

But on August 17th (very early in the day - a little after midnight), despite partly cloudy skies, the aurora shone brightly. The colors were more muted, as the night sky was more of a cobalt blue and not a deep dark blue or black. But still… it was so beautiful! And so exciting!

I took this group of photos from my driveway and my road:

First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season
First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season
First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season
First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season First Aurora of the season