May 22, 2013
May 11, 2013
May 3, 2013
Here it is May, and there is still more than a foot of snow in my yard. Over the last two weeks, we have had snow flurries just about every other day. It’s awful, and we’re all pretty much tired of it. Today, however, the sun is shining, there are puddles and mud, and the remaining snow is melting rather quickly.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged. This might be the longest I have gone without writing, and I apologize. I have been super busy with portrait work, newborn sessions, maternity sessions, and recently - photographing the local belly dancers and troupes. The Spring Recital is on Saturday night, and I am the official photographer. Two weekends in a row, I set up my backdrop and lights and took formal portraits. I don’t think they’ve ever had formal portraits offered, and many people are happy about having images of themselves in full costume in dance pose. I will also be photographing the show itself, which will keep me extremely busy for the next couple of weeks too.
OVERNIGHT in VALDEZ
As I wrote in my last blog entry, my friend Amanda and I made a spur of the moment decision to drive to Valdez for one night. That was a first for me, as it’s about a 7 hour (350 mi) drive to Valdez. We left around 7am on Friday morning (April 19th) and the weather was absolutely beautiful! The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue, the mountains were *out*, and there were only a few other vehicles on the road.
We didn’t stop too many time in the beginning part of the trip, as we’ve driven to Paxson so many times, we have plenty of photos of the gorgeous landscape along the way. Also, with all the snow covering the landscape, everything was more like a lunar landscape. The shining sun reflected off the bright white snow, making it absolutely necessary for Amanda and I to wear sunglasses (something neither of us do on a regular basis).
The Wrangell Mountains appeared on the horizon south of Paxson. Down the Richardson Hwy south of Glennallen, there’s a wonderful scenic overlook of the mountains with a beautiful lake in the foreground. I’ve never seen it frozen, so that was different. I think I much prefer it when the water is open, and especially when it’s reflective. But nevertheless, it was a gorgeous view and a good stop to stretch our legs.
I anticipated the appearance of Worthington Glacier, but was a little disappointed to see that the glacier was covered with many feet of snow, hiding the beautiful turquoise ice below. Snowmachine tracks snaked up the front of the glacier, further marring the otherwise pristine landscape.
We came upon one of those electric traffic signs warning of stopped or slow traffic ahead. It was then that we remembered hearing about the weekend “Mountain Man Hill Climb” taking place at Thompson Pass. As we approached the area where the snowmachiners would climb the snow-covered mountains, there was a little more traffic and vehicles were parked on both sides of the road. We stopped for a few minutes, and watched. The hill - or rather mountain - they were climbing was HUGE! And steep. I don’t know how they did it, without flipping over backwards. On the way home the next day, we stopped to watch for about 45 minutes, and took some photos of the competition too.
One of the coolest things we saw was frozen Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone Canyon. I have photographed these falls so many times - but always in the summer or fall, when the water is flowing strongly. To see them stopped in action - frozen in time - was not only breathtakingly beautiful, but also a bit hard to believe. How can such fast water freeze like that? Horsetail falls, just down the highway, was also frozen.
My car gets great gas mileage, and splitting the fuel expense with a girlfriend made this trip quite affordable for us both. We didn’t book a hotel room in advance, but I did call the Valdez Best Western the day before to ask them if they anticipated having some rooms available, and they assured me that we could probably get a room without any problems. I didn’t want to book one in advance and risk losing the money if something happened and we changed our mind about going, or worse - broke down somewhere. We were able to get a room at the military and off-season rate for $90/night. Certainly not cheap, but no where near as high as summer rates (more than double that).
We unpacked the car, and then took a walk around the harbor taking photos of the immense piles of snow. It was amazing! In some areas, the snow was nearly 12′ high, with tunneled walkways between the piles. Quite a few shops and businesses, which are usually only open in the summer months, were barely identifiable under the huge snow drifts.
We drove over to Allison Point, across the bay from the harbor, to look for eagles. The snow was so deep along the roadway, that we couldn’t even see the water! The parking lot near the hatchery wasn’t plowed out, so we couldn’t even get a good view of the many seagulls that hang out in that area. It was so unreal! I knew Valdez had a lot of snow accumulation in the winter, but seeing it was incredible.
We were really hoping for a beautiful sunset over the harbor, but the sun wasn’t in the right place for reflections, and the water was a little rough from the wind blowing. We were both so chilled to the bone, and it was in the high 30s. Brrrr! Amazing what a little humidity (and cold air blowing down from the mountains and off the water) can do.
Because we’re bargain travelers, we made a trip to the local Carrs store and picked up some microwave meals to eat in the room. We watched a little TV and fell asleep rather quickly. At 5:15am, I heard Amanda pull open the curtains to check the weather. Since we missed a good sunset, we were hoping for a beautiful sunrise.
We were up and out of the room in less than 15 minutes. We only had to walk a short distance to the harbor. The water was like glass in the dim morning light. We could see the sky growing brighter behind the mountains ringing the harbor. We snapped a few photos and waited for those first rays of light to spill over the craggy mountain tops.
It was a beautiful sunrise, although a bit subdued in color. The water, however, was amazing. Each boat was reflected back perfectly, as if perched on a mirror. And then the day slowly came alive with the sound of boat engines, cars passing, and people talking. We were starving.
Our room included a continental breakfast, and we piled paper plates high with bagels and cream cheese, pastries, sausage, fruit. All I cared about was filling my tall coffee mug. Check out was at 11am, and it was still early (not even 7am). We drove around town some more, taking photos, looking for eagles, and enjoying what was going to be yet another gorgeous day. Finally, it was time to load up the car and start back to North Pole.
We stopped again to photograph the frozen falls, and when we got to the area just past Thompson Pass, both sides of the highway were lined with vehicles for the Hill Climb. We got there just in time to watch Matt Smelcer climb all the way to the top of the mountain in about 1min 43 sec. Amazing! His wife and daughters were watching, and when he came down the hill, he gave them all a hug. His wife told us he’s been competing in these kinds of sports since he was a kid.
The rest of the drive was under sunny skies. With good conversation, and frequent stops for photos and leg-stretching, it passed much more quickly than I anticipated. We were home by 7pm.
I’m so glad we did it! I look forward to going back in August and in September with Steve.
DENALI - MILE 30
On April 23rd, Steve was off from work, and it was announced that the Denali Park Road was open to mile 30. Excited, we decided to drive down for the day. The drive was a bust in the wildlife department (we saw NOTHING!), but the scenery was beautiful as always. We didn’t leave the house until after noon, but made good time getting to the park. We were home before 8pm.
The park is still white with snow. There were a few areas that are thawing, and some dirt was showing. The park road was a real mess in some places, slick with mud and slushy snow. My car is still a mess, as I haven’t taken it to the car wash (nor will I, as we are in a very slow breakup season).
The day after we drove to the park, it snowed. From what I understand, the park had another 8″ of accumulation, which necessitated the closing of the road again. The snow continued for several more days, much to everyone’s disappointment, and I don’t think the road has reopened to mile 30 yet. I’m glad we went when we did. I do plan to go back as soon as the road opens that far again.
CYMBAL SALAAM 2013
I wanted to share a few photos of the beautiful dancers who will be entertaining the community on Saturday night at this years Belly Dance Recital. Their costumes are colorful, beautiful, sassy, and fun. If you’re local, I hope you’ll come out and see this fabulous show. Tickets are $15, $10 for military/student/children. Children under 5 free. The recital will be at the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts Theater in Pioneer Park.
CRITTERS IN THE YARD
We have voles. Lots of voles. I’ve watched them scamper across the top of the snow, chasing each other. I’ve seen their tiny heads come out of a snow tunnel under the bird feeders, snatch some seeds, and disappear. It’s like “Whack a Mole” in my back yard.
I’ve also seen bunny tracks - but no bunnies (snowshoe hares). No squirrels either, nor tracks.
We’ve got the usual birds: chickadees and redpolls mostly, with a few woodpeckers here and there.
The other day, Steve tossed a slice of stale bread into the yard for the birds. I’ve seen a few chickadees investigate and do a little pecking. But they’re not as excited about the bread as the voles are.
These are photos of red-backed voles, taking advantage of the buffet of food in our yard.
Until next time…