September 26, 2017

“If a story is in you…

Filed under: Aurora,Everyday Life,Wildlife — Susan Stevenson @ 10:54 am

… it has got to come out” – William Faulkner

How was your summer? My summer can best be described with a list of numbers:

  • 14 weeks
  • 12750 miles
  • 9 states
  • 4 provinces
  • 7 national parks
  • and 1 terabyte of photos

It is so nice to be back to my blog again, after so many months away. We have been back in Alaska since August 5th, and it has been marvelous.  Although we’re sorry to have missed most of our beautiful Alaskan summer, August was a lovely month, and as September winds down, I can say that it has been rather wonderful too.

Because we were gone all summer, we came home to a lot of catch-up household chores. We hired a young man to take care of lawn maintenance while we were gone, but that was only to mow the grass – not to do any extensive yard work. The bushes and wild grasses that surround our lawn were out of control, as expected. Steve had his work cut out for him, but it has been a very satisfying work, as he enjoys being out in the yard. It’s nice to spend the day in the fresh air and sunshine, and come in each night hungry and exhausted. I believe Steve solves a lot of the world’s problems while working in the yard. *grin*

End of season getaway

All work and no play isn’t good for anyone. A month after arriving home to Alaska, we towed the camper to Valdez for a week of fishing (rain), beautiful scenery (rain), and best of all – rainbows! We did have a few hours of sunshine here and there, and we took advantage of it by taking walks at the marina or going for scenic drives and getting out to explore on foot. It was gorgeous, and much-needed. And Steve caught four silver (coho) salmon which means the trip was a success.

rainbow and boats, Valdez AK

The fall foliage was spectacular both on the drive down and the drive back, but driving back was much more intense.  It was such a treat for the eyes!

We learned several years ago that the best time to visit Valdez is just after Labor Day, when tourist season officially comes to an end. Many summer-tourist businesses and some RV parks close down immediately, but several RV parks remain open another week or so.

We had the campground practically to ourselves. With a front row seat to the duck flats, we had magnificent views out all the living room windows throughout the day.

I still have photos to download and edit from our trip to Valdez, and perhaps I’ll share some more in a later blog post. Here is just a small sampling of images from the trip:

Rainbow over the dry dock storage lot, Valdez AK Sea Lion enjoying the rainbow in the bay Rainbow over the Bay, Valdez
Valdez Marina, Valdez AK Duck Flats view, Valdez AK Steve and one of his silver salmon catches
View of Duck Flats from camper Rainbow Mountain area, Richardson Hwy Rainbow Mountain area, Richardson Hwy

Welcome back, Aurora

By the end of August, we were seeing enough darkness for the stars to appear in the night sky once again. Not too long after, the first sighting of the aurora was reported. I was lucky to see it twice after that, both times from my front yard, but unfortunately both times the aurora was already starting to wane.

On the evening of August 31st, my friend Joyce and I took a drive to Birch Lake, between North Pole and Delta. The aurora forecast was good, but the night sky wasn’t cooperating. Thick clouds settled over most of Fairbanks and North Pole. In the few areas where the stars could be seen, the clouds moved in and out so quickly that by the time you got to a good viewing area, you were socked in. We decided to wait it out and hope for the best.

Birch Lake SunsetAurora at Birch LakeSunset brought cobalt blue skies, and an orange glow on the horizon. Unfortunately, the clouds were growing. Since we were already there, we stayed.  About an hour later we saw the first faint band of green above the trees.

Birch Lake Aurora - Aug 31/Sept 1 Birch Lake Aurora - Aug 31/Sept 1 Birch Lake Aurora - Aug 31/Sept 1


We were back in Alaska early enough to enjoy a little bit of our favorite season. Summer was in full swing. The yard and trees were green, the grass was lush, the raspberries were ripening, and the days were long.  We found it funny that we were chilly as the nights grew cooler. Apparently even a few months spent in 90F+ temps requires a period of re-acclimation. The low humidity was quite welcome.

I was happy to see the sandhill cranes were at Creamers Field, and visited several times to just sit and watch them. It’s quite relaxing. I especially love the sound of their bugle. When they fly over in a large group, the sound of their call is awe-inspiring.

The squirrel and the birds are still my friends, despite the fact that the feeders were empty all summer. I worried that they would find another place to dine. Fortunately, there is plenty for them to eat in the summer, so at least I know they didn’t starve.  Now that I’m back and providing sustenance, they are once again entertaining me with song and acrobatics.

A field of sunflowers is blooming at Chena Lakes Flood Project. Supposedly, this has been a regular thing for some time. I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it before now! The expanse of happy yellow flowers attracted many. What a treat!

Cranes at Creamers Field Creamers Field and Fence Crane Family at Creamers Field
Squirrel and Watermelon Grey Jay Sunflower Field - Chena Lakes Flood Plain

Raven is doing as well as can be expected for a senior dog. She’s got arthritis, and doesn’t move as quickly as she once did. We have a ramp for her to get in and out of the truck and camper. We recently started using a DIY lift assist sling to help her up the stairs at night. She can still climb on her own, but I’m sure it’s a little painful.

Her muzzle is much whiter, and her face is sprinkled with grey. She seems to still have her aural and visual abilities – a good thing. She enjoyed exploring new places with us – her first time outside of AK. She saw wildlife she’s never seen before, smelled new things, waded in warm rivers, napped in the mountain air, and guarded the RV. I hope she’ll still be with us on our next big adventure.


RV there yet? 

Because we were on the road for months, my plan (or rather, my hope) is to blog about our adventure in separate entries, so I can focus on each part of our trip individually. I think this might work:

  • AK-CANADA-USA:  Eight long days on the road
  • WI: Family time
  • MO: Family time 
  • CO: Great Sand Dunes NP, Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado Springs
  • WY: Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP
  • MT: Glacier NP
  • CANADA: Banff NP, Jasper NP… Home

(If I remember, I’ll come back here, after I write about each leg, and provide links.)

2018 Alaska Photographic Calendar

I am waiting for a print proof of my 2018 AK Calendar to come back and if all looks well, I’ll be announcing its availability!  Stay tuned…


  1. I’ve missed you during the summer, but I am chuffed you seem to have such a great time on the road! Can’t wait to read the details about each leg of your summer shenanigans. 😉


    Comment by Nina — September 30, 2017 @ 6:04 am

  2. Hi welcome back. Glad to see your all safe and sound even RAVEN. Was good to see that the lights are out and looking forward to a great winter of lights. WAITING FOR THE CALENDAR ALSO. SMILES. Looking forward also to your summer trip. Take care and once again glad everyone is safe and sound.


    Comment by Bruce Rufer — October 4, 2017 @ 10:32 am

  3. So great to read your blog! I’ve missed it so much.


    Comment by Kelly Kurtz — October 9, 2017 @ 7:11 pm

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