I thought I’d start this blog entry off with this photo of a male redpoll (males have red spots on their heads) perched on one of my feeders. I’ve been watching the birds at my feeders for years, and I noticed that when the sun is rising or setting they not only become a lot more active (and hungry), but they tend to turn toward the orange light, as if soaking up the warmth. They probably are absorbing the little bit of heat. I don’t know how they survive these cold winters. Or maybe they’re giving thanks for the lovely light and warmth. I know I do that in the winter!
Last week, I went for a scenic drive with friends Amanda and Melody. I mentioned Melody in my last blog entry, when we went exploring around Fairbanks, after meeting in person for the first time. As I wrote, she lives in Anchorage and came to Fairbanks to house-sit at a B&B, but to also spend time with her fiance, Jeff. Jeff lives here in Fairbanks, but plans to relocate to Anchorage as soon as he finds a job down there. I hope things work out for them soon, so they can get on with their life together.
We were itching for a change of scenery (cabin fever season), and decided to drive down to Delta Junction. Unfortunately, we woke to overcast skies and snow flurries, but that didn’t stop us. Even if we didn’t get any photos, we were all looking forward to hitting the highway.
The road wasn’t in the best shape, but I took my time driving. We weren’t really in a hurry anyway. Originally, we planned to drive to Black Rapid (or even further), but when we finally got to Delta, Steve called and told me that they were sanding the highway due to very icy conditions from the storm. We drove a little further down the highway to Bolio Lake and the Pipeline Viewing Area, before turning around and coming back toward Delta. At least in Delta there is cellphone service (and people) in case we ran into any trouble. Melody had never been down that way, so it was all new to her. Sure wish she could have seen the awesome mountains on the horizon, but low-hanging clouds made them invisible. Even Donnelly Dome couldn’t be seen.
We stopped at Birch Lake on the way down, to get some photos of the ice fishermen out on the frozen lake. I’m too nervous to drive out on the ice, even though it’s more than thick enough to support my car, so we stayed by the end of the lake and shot from there. A large pickup truck went around us and out on the frozen water, where ice fishing cabins were lined up, not too far from the shoreline.
After that, we pulled off just after crossing the bridge outside of Delta, so that Melody could get some photos of the pipeline spanning the Tanana River. Since we were so close to Rika’s Roadhouse, I drove onto the property to point out the huge log roadhouse, and to encourage Melody to make a return trip in the summer when the roadhouse is open and you can tour the outbuildings and enjoy some of the historic furniture and other items on display there. The cafe on the premises serves good desserts too. This time of year, though, it’s all closed up. You can read more about Rika’s here.
We saw our first of several moose after going through Delta. A cow moose was laying in the snow, as fresh flakes swirled around her and landed on her back, turning her fur a frosty white. But when I finally was able to turn around and come back to her for photos, she stood up and began to walk into the brush on the side of the road. She stopped, with her butt to us (their favorite pose, when a camera appears), but we continued to take pictures. It wasn’t until I cycled through the images in my viewfinder, that I noticed I caught the precise moment when she decided to make moose nuggets. In all my years of photographing moose, I have never caught one pooping. It’s almost as if she was telling us exactly how she felt about us bothering her during her nap!
We drove back into Delta, and took Jack Warren Road to Clearwater Lodge. After parking in the lot, we took a short walk down to the river. The water is crystal clear (hence the name Clearwater River) and was free-running. We could see the details of the river rocks through the shallow water. I wish I would have had a polarizing filter with me for even more detail.
On the way back from Clearwater River, we saw our second moose - a young bull. He was doing a number on some smaller birch and aspen trees along the road. The bark was peeled back and pale inner wood was exposed. At this time of year, foodstuff isn’t abundant. The moose can really tear up the bushes and trees.
All in all, the trip - while not one of my more memorable trips - did the job of getting us out in the fresh air, which is what it was intended for.
I had the opportunity to go aurora chasing with Amanda a couple of days ago, when we had a great forecast, and the skies erupted with color. The show was magnificent with thick bright bands arcing up from the horizon to directly overhead.
We decided to stop at the pipeline pullout on the Steese Hwy here in Fairbanks for a few photos, before continuing up the highway toward Cleary Summit and Chatanika. Instead of stopping at Cleary Summit, which is the more popular place to watch the lights, we continued a few more miles to the big pull out at mile 35.
Mile 35 is away from the lights enough to get some good photos, but there are power poles on one side of the road (we’re not fans of power poles in our photos). Nevertheless, if you want to get away from light pollution, the further up the highway you go, the better. The only negative is that there is no cellphone service out there, which is a consideration if you’re alone (and female). Kind of spooky in the dark!
The sky was absolutely gorgeous! It was a fabulous light show!
I took this photo from my front yard. The aurora wasn’t really bright, but I thought it would be neat to take a photo of the Alaska Flag in front of the northern lights:
WELL WISHES TO A DEAR FRIEND
My friend John is very ill, and good thoughts and prayers are welcome. I met John quite some time ago, when he commented on this blog. He became a regular reader (and commenter), and our friendship - while only an *online* friendship - grew even more special. We exchanged Christmas cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, and emails. I admire him and his wife Shirley who will be married 60 years in December. John will turn 80 in September.
Even while suffering from terrible arthritis in his hands, he would painstakingly type out short comments to this blog, to let me know he was reading. Of course I told him not to do that, and eventually the comments were replaced with periodic emails responding to my queries about his health.
About a week ago, I received an email from Shirley, letting me know he is a very sick man and wouldn’t be writing any longer. My heart hurts to know that he is ill, and I’ve sent messages to Shirley to pass along to him, and a card to cheer him.
According to a recent status update on his Facebook page (made by his daughter), his condition is not recoverable. Hospice and family are doing all they can to keep him comfortable. I am so sad to hear this.
It has been a joy and a privilege to know such a wonderful man, and I pray that when it is time for him to leave this earth, it is a peaceful and gentle transition, surrounded by all who love him so much. I will be beside him in spirit. Much love to you, John. Thank you for your friendship, care, and love - and thank you for touching my life.
Until next time…