September 26, 2016

Denali Road Lottery 2016 – Moose Love

Filed under: Events,Interesting Things,Roadtrips,Wildlife — Susan Stevenson @ 4:00 pm

I was lucky to win a Denali Road Lottery pass this year, and was awarded Monday, Sept 19th as my day to drive in. After receiving confirmation of the win, we booked a campsite at Riley Creek Campground near the park entrance. We decided to spend two nights, so that we could have a leisurely day in the park. I invited my friend Joyce to go along with us on the drive, and she met us at the park Sunday afternoon and also camped for several days in her Winnebago. (You may remember Joyce’s vintage Winnebago from our week-long camping trip to Denali at the end of June)

SUNDAY – A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR A DRIVE

Steve and I loaded the camper on Saturday, and were ready to go before 10am on Sunday morning. We woke to overcast skies, and a weather report that called for snow flurries in the park, with a possibility of rain. Fortunately, the forecast looked great for Monday’s drive.

Fall colors are long gone in most of Fairbanks and North Pole, but as you head south on the Parks Hwy, there are pockets of brilliant foliage still glowing in the sunshine. And closer to Nenana (60 miles south), it looks like autumn has just arrived with gold and yellow-leafed aspens and birch thick on the hills.

Closer to the park, spruce trees are more plentiful, and the ground cover was already brown. It sprinkled rain, and the clouds were dark and brooding at times. But the reduced light, and the wet roads made for a beautiful view. I love going to the mountains! The photos below were taken along the Parks Hwy between North Pole and Denali National Park.

Parks Highway Scenery on the way to Denali Park Parks Highway Scenery on the way to Denali Park Parks Highway Scenery on the way to Denali Park
Parks Highway Scenery on the way to Denali Park Parks Highway Scenery on the way to Denali Park Nenana River Bridge, Parks Highway

This is one of the Alaska Railroad trestles along the Parks Hwy, on the way to Denali. I’ve never taken the train from Fairbanks to Denali, but have heard it’s a wonderful ride.
Alaska Train Trestle Bridge, Parks Hwy

AFTERNOON and EVENING DRIVES INTO THE PARK

Me and Steve: We were checked in and set up at Riley Creek Campground a little before 1pm.  We ate a quick lunch, and then took a drive into the park to mile 15. There were still pockets of yellow dotting the hillside, as well as along the road in places. And although most of the willow and birch brush was already brown, now and then there’d be an area where the leaves were more of a burnt umber. Under a grey sky, these brighter patches glowed in the diffused light.

Denali National Park Scenery Denali National Park Scenery Denali National Park Scenery

Within the first 15 miles of the park road, there is a several-mile stretch closed to hikers and other off-road activities. All visitors must stay on the road. This particular area gets quite a bit of activity during the moose rut. More often than not, September is the perfect time to view not only cow moose and calves, but also bulls. If you’re fortunate, you get to see this rutting behavior right before your eyes. Bulls spar for dominance, cows rebuff multiple bulls’ advances, and bulls dig holes and urinate in them to make puddles for wallowing. (The scent of a bull moose’s urine is thought to trigger estrus in cows)

Somewhere around mile 11, a line of cars was pulled off the road and people were using camera lenses and binoculars to zoom in on three moose far up the hill. Two bulls (one was much younger, as evident by the size of his antlers) were quite interested in a cow moose. They followed her for a short distance across the hill. When she stopped to browse the bushes, the large bull chased off the younger one. While he didn’t run away totally, he remained about 100 yards from the pair.

And then the big bull jumped up on the cow and…

I’ve never seen moose mate. I didn’t know whether to feel lucky for the experience, or look away! (As a photographer, and a very interested bystander, of course I couldn’t look away! And… yes, I had to snap a photo too.)

WARNING: The center photo below is of mating moose: 

Moose Pair and Young Bull Moose rut Courting Bull Moose

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September 12, 2016

Life with the Midnight Sun

Filed under: Events,Everyday Life,Interesting Things — Susan Stevenson @ 8:23 pm

Hello everyone! I just wanted you all to know I’m back in Alaska, after spending 6 weeks in Madison, WI with my sons, their wives/gals, and my brand new granddaughter, Juliet Rose! I am so happy I was able to spend the first few weeks of her life with her – bonding with her, singing to her, feeding and caring for her, and best of all cuddling her.

I apologize for my long absence. As you can imagine, my focus was not on blogging while I was away. However, I did begin blogging before I left at the end of July, but never published it. Here is that blog, highlighting summer in Alaska. I will be updating again as soon as I can. Bear with me, as I have been quite busy since returning home, and the Denali Road Lottery is this upcoming weekend – and I have a pass for Monday!

But for now I’ll relive some of my more enjoyable summer moments, even as golden leaves fall from the trees and carpet the lawn.

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SUMMER IN ALASKA

Once the snow melts, everyone is encouraged to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine, the green grass, the wildflowers, and the birds and wildlife. A favorite pastime of mine is visiting Creamers Field and walking the many trails. Especially when the swallows, cranes, ducks and geese are back in town.

Creamers Field – May 27, 2016

I was out running errands and had Raven with me, when I decided to stop at Creamers Field for a short walk with her. Cranes were in the fields, but still many more would come after my first sighting. The tree swallows swooped over our heads, as they are a familiar sight in the fields during the breeding season. They live in nest boxes, mounted all over the fields at Creamers, and it’s fun to watch them chase after mosquitoes making acrobatic twists and turns. I’m sure they were a little nervous about the human and dog walking in close proximity to their nesting box, as they shrieked at us while flying very close.

Sandhill Cranes at Creamers Field Creamers Barn Tree Swallow
Creamers Field and Plow Creamers Bridge Creamers Bridge
Sparrow Creamers Farmhouse Creamers Field

Pioneer Air Museum – Pioneer Park – Museum Day, May 28, 2016

Once a year, just before Memorial Day and the official start of tourism season, Fairbanks hosts Museum Day. The event, organized by the Tanana-Yukon Historical Society, started as a way to get Fairbanks’ small museums, natural history centers and national landmarks a local community showcase. Each year, all of the venues waive admission costs.

While I visit most of the museums throughout the year, Museum Day offers a chance to visit those I don’t often visit. For instance – the Air Museum. I’m not an airplane aficionado, but Steve is. And now that he’s retired, he can enjoy these special events with me.

Pioneer Air Museum Gazebo Entertainment at Pioneer Park Train and Bridge near Salmon Bake, Pioneer Park

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March 20, 2016

March Guests: Carla and Gordon’s Visit

Filed under: Aurora,Events,Interesting Things,Roadtrips — Susan Stevenson @ 11:36 am

(If you missed my blog update about Cyndi’s visit in the beginning of March, please check out this recent photo-heavy blog entry!)

A few days after Cyndi left Alaska, my friends Carla and Gordon – who live in Soldotna, AK – made the drive to Fairbanks. It’s Spring Break here in the Last Frontier, and they wanted to check out the Ice Park and better their chances for seeing the aurora.  Carla and Gordon stayed with us for four nights, and we/they kept very active while they were in town. They arrived on Saturday (March 12th) afternoon.

Carla and Gordon at Pipeline Viewing AreaAfter unloading their car, we took a drive out to the Pipeline viewing point on the Steese Hwy, before continuing up the road to dinner at Silver Gulch. Dinner was pretty good, as was the service. I’m glad we chose to go before the dinner rush, when service sometimes drops off and wait times become extremely long. It was nice to catch up with each other and fill our bellies with burgers and onion rings.

With cloudy skies, and not much chance of any aurora, we all went up to bed fairly early. Carla and Gordon grabbed long cat-naps in their vehicle throughout their drive from the Kenai Peninsula (about 500 miles and more than 9 hours – not allowing for stops. They make a LOT of stops). Even though I hadn’t made a long drive, I was exhausted and sleep came easy for me.

The next day (Sunday), Steve had to work (night shift) so he planned to sleep as late as possible. The plan was to go to the Ice Park during the day and again at night. As long as you have your hand stamped you can return as much as you like. By this time, the multi-block sculptures were carved and judged, and displayed under colored lights at night. Seeing them during the day and then again at night is really something special. You notice details at night, under the lights, that are missed when viewed during daylight hours.

But first – before the Ice Park – we stopped at Mushers Headquarters to watch some of the Limited North American Sled Dog Races. Just as we arrived, the snow started to fall.

Besides a few episodes of snow flurries, I don’t think we’ve had a substantial snowfall since Thanksgiving. What snow we did have up until now was ugly and dirty and full of tree debris and just not pretty at all. This fresh snow – big fluffy flakes – was gorgeous! There are some who probably weren’t very happy for this change in the weather, but honestly – I was thrilled to see new snow cover all the ugliness.  And I thought the falling snow made the races even more fun. I think it made the photos I took a lot prettier too.

Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race
Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race
Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race
Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race Limited North American Sled Dog Race

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