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Sunday, April 2nd - Happy Homecomings!! Joined at the Hip. :)

Steve's bootsI have been living on Cloud Nine ever since Steve stepped off the plane just after midnight early Wednesday morning. When I got to the airport, the terminal was full of passengers waiting to board the red eye flight out of Fairbanks. I took a seat and tried to contain my excitement; watching the minute hand on the clock move slower than molasses. A few more military spouses showed up. It was easy to pick them out of the crowd with their huge grins, perfectly styled hair and makeup, and outfits chosen especially for the day they would finally see their husbands after seven long months. I took extra time with my own hair and clothes, but I doubt Steve would have even cared what I looked like when he got off that plane.

We saw lights touch down on the runway, and two of the other wives yelled out "They've landed! They've landed!". I felt my stomach lurch and my heart pound in my chest, as my eyes filled with tears. Finally, the door to the ramp was thrown open and I stood up, looking down the long hall, waiting for the passengers to start coming out. I knew that Steve was in the 7th row, which meant that he'd be one of the first soldiers off the plane. When the passengers from First Class started coming up the ramp, I craned my neck looking for him. I knew he'd be doing the same thing.

SteveAnd then, there he was! The next few moments passed as if in a dream. I saw his face and a smile stretched from ear to ear. The smile was immediately replaced with tears of joy as he dropped his rucksack and took me in his arms. His eyes were also wet with happy tears and the rest of our surroundings disappeared as we held each other tightly.

A cheer went up, and then applause. And people started yelling out "Welcome home!" It was so surreal. I couldn't believe he was finally walking next to me, his arm draped over my shoulders, pulling me close as we made our way to baggage claim. Several people extended their hands in a handshake - thanking Steve for his service to our country. Others also welcomed him home. I must say that Fairbanks sure knows how to show support for the troops. How proud I was (and always am) to be married to an American soldier.

Steve sleeping with hubby dollThe first two days Steve was home, we slept a lot. My constant battle with insomnia, coupled with his severe jet lag, were the perfect reason to just curl up together and sleep until we were fully rested. We slept more than 14 hours the second day he was in town. It was wonderful. (I just had to put my Hubby Doll next to Steve while he was sleeping. He's going to kill me if he knows I posted this picture.)

On Friday, we decided to take a drive up the Steese Highway about 70 miles. We were both itching to get out and enjoy the beautiful landscape of Alaska. After months of not being able to take long, leisurely drives, Steve couldn't wait to hit the open road. We popped a few CDs in the player and took off into the sunshine. The roads were in great condition, and we stopped a few times to just take in our surroundings and breathe the fresh air (high 30s).

Steese Hwy
Steese Highway Steep Grade
Steese Hwy
Steese Highway
Lodge Shed
Steese Highway Lodge Shed
Cleary Summit
Cleary Summit
Moose
Pregnant Moose Cow
Moose
Pregnant Moose Cow
   

On Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to take a drive up to the top of Murphy Dome. We were both looking forward to being 'on top of the world' with a view in every direction. The weather was perfect - in the mid 40s when we started the drive, but dropping down to the mid 30s when we reached the summit. We decided to take a short walk along the snowmachine trail. We weren't the only ones out enjoying the warm weather (by Alaska standards). Snowmachiners were out in full force, and we met another couple strolling on the trail. I saw my first willow catkin of the season, which was a welcome surprise. Green Up should arrive in about a month.

On the way to Murphy Dome
On the way to Murphy Dome
Murphy Dome
Atop Murphy Dome
Murphy Dome
Murphy Dome
Murphy Dome White Mountains
View from Murphy Dome
Murphy Dome
View from Murphy Dome
Wilow Catkin
Willow Catkins
Murphy Dome radar
Murphy Dome Radar Facility
Murphy Dome
Murphy Dome
tors rock
Tors Rocks Murphy Dome
fox
Fox on Murphy Dome
Steve and me
The Lovebirds
Steve and Me
Steve and Me
Murphy Dome pano
Murphy Dome Panorama (800 pixels wide)
silhouette in snow
Silhouette
 

We went to breakfast this morning at The Cookie Jar. Afterward, we came home and relaxed - watching movies and savoring some beef and caribou stew that I had simmering in the crock pot all day. The sun was shining, so we decided to take Sedona out for a long walk along the ATV trails behind our house and through the woods. I hoped to see a moose, but the only sign of wildlife was a curious squirrel, who allowed me to snap a few photos before scampering higher into the trees. Steve enjoyed throwing snowballs at Sedona, who tried to catch them in her mouth. I think she likes having daddy home too.

squirrel
Curious Squirrel
sedona snowballs
Sedona playing catch with snowballs
sedona snowballs
SMUSH!
 

Now, I am sitting next to Steve on the sofa, as he watches a movie and I update this journal. Our legs are touching, and it's taken me quite a long time to get this much done, with all the cuddle and kiss breaks. They're my favorite interruption, so I'm not complaining at all. It's so nice to have the love of my life sitting right next to me, where I can reach out and touch him. We quite enjoy being joined at the hip and intend to savor every moment of this time together.

tulip bouquetSteve and I don't have anything planned for the rest of our time together, except for perhaps a long drive down to Black Rapids. I've always enjoyed driving the Richardson Highway - especially when the range is visible on the horizon. Besides that, we're just playing it by ear, and spending every moment together. In a little over 4 months this will all be over, and Steve will be home from Iraq for good. It can't come fast enough.

Before I end this entry, I wanted to send a public Thank You to our friends Carmen and Gip. They surprised us with a beautiful bouquet of tulips to celebrate Steve's homecoming and our upcoming anniversary on the 5th. Fourteen years.... and hopefully fifty more.

Friday, April 7th - 'Chilling out with the Love of my Life' and Another Road Trip

Today is a 'chill out' day. Steve is laying next to me on the sofa, while I sit cross-legged on the floor downloading photos and updating this journal. He's watching his "Band of Brothers" DVD collection (why he wants to watch war movies is beyond me - must be a guy thing. *grin*) It's OK though... I like having the opportunity to play catch up with my photographs, while still being able to reach out and hold his hand, or kiss his fingers, or flirt with him. I love that just being in the same room with him fills me with such love and joy.

Anniversary wishWednesday, we celebrated our 14th Wedding Anniversary. I made Steve a 'cyber' card and emailed it to him. It was fun to go looking through old photos and find one of us on our wedding day. I still remember how I felt that day. I never imagined I could love a man so much. And now, fourteen years later, I realize that what I felt then was only a fraction of the love I feel for him today. It just keeps getting better!

We enjoyed a light breakfast at home (cinnamon rolls from The Cookie Jar - YUM - and coffee) and Steve presented me with more gifts. He's been giving me gifts since he arrived last week - and I feel really special! Let's see if I remember everything... he gave me a a diamond solitaire ring for my right hand, a 4'x6' hand knotted wool & silk Turkish rug (we'll display it on a wall), a jar with lid - hand carved from Meerschaum, a Celtic wall cross (click here to see it) that he got on his stopover in Ireland (he also picked up a Guinness magnet and Guinness bottle opener), four decorative Native trivets (click here to see one of them) that he picked up during his stopover in Seattle, and a new fleece jacket with the logo of his army unit (he always remembers the practical too). I had already given him his new Craftsman stackable tool boxes which elicited a "Tim the Toolman" grunt of appreciation from him.

We decided to celebrate our special day with an afternoon movie and an early dinner. We saw the new movie, Inside Man with Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster - which we both enjoyed - and then dined at our favorite Italian restaurant here in Fairbanks - Gambardellas. It was delicious! We were home early enough to snuggle up and watch a DVD and then later snacked on strawberries and polished off a bottle of champagne. It was the perfect way to celebrate fourteen years of marriage. I'm so happy that we were able to be together.

Elliott Highway FairbanksYesterday, we decided to take another long drive. Instead of heading down towards Black Rapids on the Richardson Highway, we decided to drive the Elliott Highway towards Minto. We haven't driven that far since our first year here - when we took a trip to the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway (a.k.a. "The Haul Road"). The road passes over many rolling hills which get bigger and bigger as you approach the foothills of the White Mountains. At the split where the Elliott Highway merges with the Dalton Highway, we continued on the Elliott - our first time going in this direction. The road isn't paved, so it was a little slower going, but fortunately there was enough snowpack still on portions of the road to keep the bumps to a minimum. On the map at left, you can see our route on Highway 2. If you look at one of the photos I've posted above - taken from the top of Murphy Dome (click here to see it) - you'll see Sawtooth Mountain far off on the horizon. Yesterday, we drove even closer to this beautiful snow-covered mountain. The trip was amazing, and when we reached the "top of the world", we were awestruck. I would love to do it again when the arctic tundra is blooming with wildflowers.

Elliott Highway Elliott Highway Elliott Highway Elliott Highway
Elliott Highway Elliott Highway Elliott Highway Elliott Highway
Elliott Highway Elliott Highway
Elliott Highway Elliott Highway Elliott Highway

Study nature, love nature,
stay close to nature.
It will never fail you.


~ Frank Lloyd Wright~

Thursday, April 13th - Driving to Denali, A Special Birthday, Roadtrip to Chena Hot Springs

I'm sure you can see the underlying theme of Steve's R&R visit: Road Trips. I can't say enough how much we both enjoy taking long drives in the gorgeous Alaska countryside.

Denali Park MapWe read that the road into Denali National Park was open to mile 15 - Savage River (indicated by the light red square on the map at left). This is the news we look forward to every spring. Driving into Denali before the park opens for the tourism season - before the tour buses start running - is always an amazing experience. This year, the tourism season opens on May 20th. By the end of this week (hopefully) the road will be open to mile 29.5 (the yellow star on the map at left). I definitely plan to go back and drive in that far too.

Steve and I decided to make the drive on Sunday (4/9). We got up early, and a look out the window showed a dreary and overcast morning. Regardless, we decided to follow through with our plans. Here in Alaska, the weather can change within only a few miles; we were willing to take our chances.

Steve in SnowstormSnowy Drive Parks HighwayWe were a mere 10 miles outside of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway, when the slight snow flurries became large and heavy. The road quickly became snow covered, and slippery areas appeared almost immediately. The closer we got to Nenana (about 60 miles southwest of Fairbanks), the more discouraged we got. It didn't appear as if we'd be seeing any blue skies and beautiful scenery, and certainly not the mountain itself.

Mountains Coming into View - Parks HwyParks Highway Mountain ViewWhen we got through Nenana, we saw a bit of blue on the horizon. Was it possible? Could it be clear in the Denali area? We kept our hopes up as we drove on. And then the range came into view. It was still a good 20-30 miles in the distance, but we could see it. After driving more than 80 miles in snow and clouds, to say we were excited is an understatement.

Moose Cow and YearlingsAs always, we both scanned the horizon and the landscape on each side of the road. No matter how many times I see a moose (or a moose family), I am thrilled. They are just awesome creatures, even though some may say they have goofy faces. I think they're cute myself - especially the babies and yearlings. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw three long-legged figures nibbling on some birch trees. Steve was driving fast, but put on the brakes and made a U-turn so I could go back and get some photos.

As is usual, my view was mostly of moose bottoms, rather than pretty faces. I asked Steve to whistle - hoping the sound would at least get them to turn toward us. The shrill sound definitely got their attention, and all three turned in unison to see where it was coming from. While I still had a nice view of mom's rear, I at least got to see her lovely face as well. In about a month or so, if I'm lucky, I'll catch a glimpse of newborn calves.

Snow flurries started again as we got closer to the park entrance. We hoped this didn't cause the rangers to close the gate, and were happy to see that the gates stood wide open. It was still cloudy and visibility wasn't good at all, but we thought we'd make the most of the drive anyway. And then, about halfway to Savage River, the clouds thinned and blue skies peeked through. With every mile, the skies got clearer and bluer. It was simply awesome!

At Savage River, we got out of the truck and stood for a good fifteen minutes, just enjoying the peacefulness of our surroundings. We heard ptarmigans calling to each other, but even with the binoculars, Steve couldn't spot any. They're very adept at blending into the landscape with their pure white feathers. But I was pleasantly surprised to see one as we made our way back out of the park. He ran under bushes and flew across snowdrifts, making the task of photographing him much more difficult, but I managed to pull it off.

The drive home was under much clearer skies. As we drove through Nenana, I could see the tripod on the Tanana River. The tripod is erected for the Nenana Ice Classic. From the web: The `Nenana Ice Classic' is a betting lottery which began at Nenana, Alaska, back in 1917 and has been run annually ever since. In January each year the townspeople mount a tripod out on the frozen Tanana River which runs through the town. The tripod is secured firmly to the ice and a rope run from the tripod to a clock mechanism at the shore. When the ice breaks up in late April or early May, the tripod gives way, gets carried only a short distance, finally tripping the clock. The time is then recorded. The lottery organizers take bets from people all over the world, the winner being the person who can make the closest prediction of the actual date and time of breakup. (Last year 46 winners split $285,000)

On Monday, Steve had an appointment to talk to a career counselor. Although the point of R&R is to relax and have some downtime, with retirement imminent, Steve and I decided to set aside a few days so that he could talk to personnel in the ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program) office. He received a lot of informational handouts as well as important info about post-retirement employment. We're both very nervous about life after retirement, but there's no point in stressing out about it now. First we need to put this deployment behind us. Then we can focus on life after the army.


Happy Birthday DaddyYesterday (4/12) was my father's birthday. It's always a very melancholy day for me. If he were still alive, he'd be 72 years old. I imagine what life would be like with him still in it, and I get sad. I know he would have loved to visit Alaska - and I would have loved to have shown him around. I can't believe it's been almost 10 years since he left this world. While I don't dwell on his passing quite so much any longer, and most of my memories are indeed happy ones, there are still those moments when my eyes fill with tears because I miss him so much. I still 'talk' to him. I want to believe he is looking down on me and my family and playing the role of guardian angel. I feel his presence around me often and I savor those moments when memories of him pop into my mind.

Snow Buntings Chena Hot SpringsSnow Bunting Chena Hot SpringsWe took another drive yesterday. Our destination was Chena Hot Springs Resort. We've been out to the 'resort' many times, and we make the drive purely for relaxation and scenic purposes. Chena Hot Springs Rd. is usually a good drive to see moose. Yesterday wasn't a good day for wildlife sightings. Well, except for Snow Buntings - and there were lots of them!

Just as a test, I'm going to attempt to show a video I made here. I took my old Canon G2 with me because it has video capabilities. While we were driving to Chena Hot Springs, I shot short spurts of video with it. Then I merged them together into a longer movie. I have no idea how long it will take for this video to download. If you're on dialup, I'm going to assume it's going to be a lengthy wait. I apologize for that. I also apologize for the pure goofiness of this movie. I guess you could say that we've been totally 'drunk' on happiness at seeing each other again. (The quality isn't all that great either - sorry!)

More photos from Chena Hot Springs Resort:

Chena Hot Springs Chena Hot Springs Chena Hot Springs

I'm going to end this long entry on a couple of sad notes... We lost three Fort Wainwright soldiers in the last week. In addition, the local community lost a soldier who was from North Pole, AK and was in Iraq deployed from Hawaii. This makes 11 soldiers from our Stryker Brigade since they deployed last August. While I understand that many - too many - lives have been lost during this war, when it hits home like this it really rocks the community and brings forth all the fears we have as military families for our loved ones' well being. Please keep all of our troops in your thoughts and prayers.

Secondly... my visit with Steve comes to an end tomorrow. The past two weeks have just flown by. We had the best time together, and there were no adjustments whatsoever (except he took his side of the bed back!). It's as if Steve's always been here with me despite the seven month separation we just went through. Only about four months to go now and we'll be done with this deployment. We can't wait until it's over.

One more thing before I end this entry: Mom had her first round of chemotherapy yesterday. I haven't had the opportunity to talk to her or my sister-in-law yet, so I don't have any news on how she fared. I will update when I know more. Thank you for your continued thoughts, prayers, and healing vibes.

Wednesday, April 19th - Farewells, Easter Celebrations and Visions of Spring

I'm sorry it's been nearly a week since I updated this journal. I've sat down to do it twice over the last six days, and then found my attention being diverted, or my spare time being swept away. I've also been on a bit of a 'low' lately, as I try to adjust to not having Steve home any longer. The first few days were the hardest, but I'm doing much, much better today.

Steve is back at his FOB (Forward Operating Base) in Iraq. He called me twice as he was traveling and got online last night to let me know he had arrived. The poor guy is exhausted due to jet lag and not being able to sleep on the planes. He misses me too; I know that feeling all too well. The house is so quiet without him. *sigh*

Our farewell was heartbreaking, but my anguish was caused more by his sadness at having to return, than my own sadness at having to say goodbye. He knew what he was going back to. He knew there'd be no more sleeping late in the morning, or napping in the afternoon. No more lazing out in front of the television watching movies. No more scenic drives into glorious countryside. I, at least, get to stay here - where I am safe and surrounded by beautiful things and friendly, loving people. It is times like these that I am especially thankful for the freedoms we have as Americans.

Northern LightsI chose not to go with him to the gate. Instead we said our goodbyes in front of the airport. We wanted those final moments to be private. I also didn't want his last vision to be of me standing at the gate with tears streaming down my face. It was hard enough saying goodbye in the truck. And it was very depressing to come home to an empty house. There were memories of him all over. A few clothes in the laundry hamper. A glass in the sink. His hiking boots in the guestroom, where he left them when he put his uniform on for the trip back. We have less than four months now. I hope the time flies for both of us.

Just before heading to bed on the night he left, I glanced out the window and saw the lights dancing in the sky. They were in the sky the day he arrived too. A beautiful send off, but a bittersweet moment too.


Fairbanks is slowly but surely casting off her snowy winter coat and coming back to life. It's officially break-up and the sound of drip, drip, drip sets the background music each day. There's still a lot of snow out there - but it's mostly on the grassy areas. The well-traveled roads have been free of snow for weeks. Where there is snow, it's melting rapidly - leaving behind a slushy mess. While I used to be able to walk on top of the snow when out walking with Sedona, I now find my foot sinking sometimes as much as a foot into the wet mess. I'm glad my hiking boots are waterproof! To add to the difficulty in walking, there are still fairly slippery spots - especially early in the morning before the sun comes up and warms the air. The earlier we go out walking, the more apt I am to do the 'penguin shuffle' to keep from slipping and taking a fall.

The best part of all of this thawing is that the sun has been making regular appearances, and temperatures have warmed up into the 40s. While that probably sounds a bit chilly to some of you, for us it's definitely spring-like weather. With the warm weather, comes exercise! It's time to get rid of those winter pounds a lot of us have picked up. My friend Rachael and I started walking officially on Saturday - the day after Steve left. We walked 5 miles with the pups. I paid for it later that evening with sore, cramping muscles. I know I shouldn't have jumped into such a long walk so quickly, but I'm determined to get fit so I can do some hiking this summer. On Sunday - after Easter dinner - we walked more than 3 miles with the dogs. Rachael's out of town for a few weeks, but I've been sticking with a walking program, even though I'm only walking 2.5 miles alone. If I don't stick with it while she's gone, I'll be hurting all over again when she gets back.

The original plan for Easter was to book a reservation at one of the local restaurants hosting an Easter buffet. No one was interested in cooking, and Steve had just left two days prior, so I wasn't prepared to host dinner at my house either. Well, the early bird gets the worm, as they say, and we were not early birds. There wasn't a place in Fairbanks that wasn't already booked up. So I ran to the grocery store and managed to find a ham. Then I combed my cupboards for side dishes. It sure wasn't an all-out sumptuous feast of meticulously prepared side dishes. All I can say is thank goodness for the Jolly Green Giant and instant mashed potatoes!

Bunny NapkinsHubby DollsI had Rachael over, as well as Susan and her father-in-law, Butch. Rachael brought the veggies and Susan brought salad, bread, and an ice cream cake for dessert. Here in AK, there isn't much that's 'formal', and I certainly wasn't going to demand my dinner guests wear their Sunday best. But I did want dinner to be at least a little special, so I pulled out the table cloth and napkins and decided to at least set a pretty table. I even folded bunnies out of the napkins, which were a big hit! And of course, we had to include our 'husbands' at dinner too. I wish they could have been here in reality.

Spring FlowersAirborne eating flowersSusan also brought me a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers in various shades of pink and purple, yellow and white. They are absolutely gorgeous and really added a nice touch to the kitchen. It seems that my favorite feline Airborne thought they'd make a nice snack. I had a feeling she'd be on the table checking them out, so I grabbed my camera and walked softly into the kitchen. Nabbed in the act!


The geese have returned to Creamers Field. They're not there in great numbers yet, but more and more arrive each day. I took a drive over there today to get some photos. The fields are muddy and there are still piles of dirty snow everywhere. But the geese don't seem to mind at all.

It is such a joy to see the world coming back to life. Catkins have opened up at the tops of the trees, buds have appeared on the branches, and I even saw a hawk circling above me as I walked Sedona the other day. I remember last year around this time, when the dandelions bloomed. How thrilled I was to see yellow! I look forward to the arrival of color.

In closing, here are several more photos:

Tuesday, April 25th - Another Special Birthday, Drip Drip Drip, and a Trip to the Greenhouse

On Sunday (23rd), my eldest 'baby' turned 27 years old. How quickly time passes! I don't believe any mother forgets the day her firstborn is handed to her. While the birth of every child is a wonderful blessing and exciting moment, those first moments when you make the transition from carefree young woman, to mother are filled with such a myriad of emotions. Joy, love, and amazement... as well as fear and worry over all the responsibility that comes with caring for such a tiny and helpless being.

I made the graphic at left in celebration of Chris's birthday. I spent hours looking through old photo albums, even after I chose the ones I wanted to use here. I am so proud of both my sons, but looking at photos of them when they were little is always a bit melancholic. Happy Birthday, Christopher!

Leaf in puddleThe landscape in Fairbanks is getting a lot worse before it gets better. This is to be expected, but it doesn't mean we have to like it. The snow is melting quickly, and the ground is still too frozen to absorb all the water. So it stands on top of the ground in puddles and makes its way to runoff ditches in small streams. I need a drawbridge to get over the moat in my backyard. Wet ground means mud. And soupy mud is even worse. There's a reason that it is an Alaska custom to remove your shoes when you come into a house. Unless of course you want to be shampooing your carpet several times a week.

Droplet coming off roofSplashing waterA few days ago, I strapped on my camera backpack and went in search of photographs. I was desperate to shoot, and walked with Sedona through the woods for a while. Nothing caught my eye. I came home feeling more depressed than when I left the house. I stood in the yard and watched the water dripping off the roof and into the puddles below. And then I had one of those "A-HA!" moments and decided to shoot the water. It's not easy to stop action at just the right moment, and I shot about 40-50 frames to get a handful of clear and sharp photos.

One of the highlights over the last week was a trip to two of the local greenhouses. My friend Dianne and I first visited Holm Town Nursery. It was my first time there, and as soon as I walked in the door, I felt like I was back in FL again. The humidity levels were high - as they needed to be - and it was warm. So warm, that the employees were wearing shorts and t-shirts on the job. There's a cafe inside the nursery called Petunia's Cafe, named after the resident feline. While we didn't eat at the cafe, we will certainly go back in the future and sit for a while.

MintFrom there we drove to Plant Kingdom. This nursery didn't have the array of garden accessories that Holm Town Nursery had, but it had three separate greenhouses full of beautiful plants and flowers. The herb and vegetable greenhouse was a real treat with the many aromas of mint and basil and oregano. The best part of all was the fact that this nursery doesn't use man-made pesticides. Instead, they use nature's own pesticide - in the form of hundreds and hundreds of ladybugs. It's not uncommon to take a plant home and have one or two hitchhikers on it. I just had to take some photographs of all the colors to warm my spirits while waiting for Fairbanks to officially welcome spring.

Geranium Geranium Purple Flower African Daisy
Greenhouse Ladybug Ladybug Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot
to put a soul into.
~ Henry Ward Beecher~
Sunday, April 30th - More Birds, Puddles, Still Waiting for Spring, and Another Month Gone

I've been busy the last 5 days or so. So busy, that I barely have time to download photos - let alone update this journal. I'm going to blame it on the gorgeous weather we've been having. The mornings start out on the chilly side, but once the sun is up for a few hours, it's just beautiful. Beautiful at this time of year, means reaching temperatures in the 40s. And we've been doing that. I've seen some Fairbanksans rushing the season - wearing flip flops and capri pants, short sleeved shirts and t-shirts, and even shorts! Not me... I still feel that morning chill, and I'm quite content to wear at least a light fleece when I'm out walking.

Creamers FieldGoose coming in for a landing.Creamers Field is now abundant with birds. Besides the Canada Geese, there have been several pairs of swans. Also, a pair of cranes finally touched down a few days ago. There are probably more now. For all intents and purposes, "Cranes = Spring". But not for me. I want to see those tiny buds on the trees unfurl, before I believe it's spring! I want to see dandelions take over the lawn. And big fat bumblebees! And I want to hear more songbirds in the morning when I wake up. Here are some more photos of the waterfowl at Creamers Field:

Canada Goose Canada Goose Greater White-Fronted Goose Canada Goose
Swan Pair Sandhill Crane Pintail Duck Canada Goose
Greater White-Fronted Goose Swan Pair Swan Pair Swan

Snow continues to melt, and puddles continue to grow. Fortunately, the ground is beginning to thaw a little deeper each day, so the water is being absorbed a little bit faster. This doesn't mean that the mud has gone away - nor the huge lake sized puddles - but we're making progress. I don't have to mention that the shoes get kicked off at the door now so I don't end up with footprints of mud through my house.

puddle reflectionMooseI love the reflections in these puddles. I noticing reflections everywhere. Whether it's the blue sky and billowy clouds, or the mirror image of architecture, it's nice to see these duplicate images 'on the ground' rather than white stuff.

The other day, I drove all over town and here on Post, in search of interesting puddles to photograph. I didn't have to look very hard. I was surprised to come across a moose cow who was happily grazing on some birch twigs. She actually stood still for a minute or two - amongst the trees - and allowed me to snap a few photos.

FieldBirch HillThe path in the open field near my house (where I walk Sedona) is now obstructed by a small pond. There are still a few smaller piles of snow which need to melt, and these puddles (and mud) are everywhere. Needless to say, a walk isn't quite an 'even-paced' exercise routine at this time of year. I spend a lot of time dodging puddles, and gingerly making my way through the mud. Birch Hill still has several piles of snow on it. It certainly doesn't look anything like it did during the winter months. In a few weeks, we'll be able to climb it again - one heck of a glute and thigh workout. After a long winter, I think all of us feel a lot better getting some exercise. I know I do.

St Matthews Episcopal ChurchYesterday, I made my way to Pioneer Park (aka Alaskaland). On the way, I passed St Matthew's Episcopal Church. St. Matthew's was built in 1905. The church was built along with a new hospital--the first in Fairbanks--which began to admit patients in 1904. The church burned in 1947, and was replaced with the current simple, log building patterned after the original, but slightly larger. You can read more about St. Matthews HERE. The right hand column on that page, has some interesting facts about the church.

Pioneer Park Air MuseumI've been to Pioneer Park hundreds of times over the last three years. If you've been reading this journal, you've seen many photos from different times of the year. Yesterday, I went in search of puddles. They weren't hard to find, but I came upon other things to photograph as well. This plane stands outside the Pioneer Park Air Museum. While I have been to Pioneer Park hundreds of times, I have never gone into the museum. I think a visit is in order.

New Railroad Museum Pioneer Park, FairbanksAnother new museum which is opening at Pioneer Park is the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum. This also looks very interesting and definitely warrants a visit. Tanana Valley Railroad Engine #1 is the feature display in Pioneer Parks' newest facility. Assembled in 1899, Engine #1 is the oldest operating Steam Locomotive in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, and the oldest Gold Rush Era artifact in Fairbanks.

Although it's still the 'off season', the park was full of laughing and playing children and their parents, taking advantage of sunshine and playground equipment. Here are some more photos I took while wandering through Pioneer Park.

Pioneer Park, Fairbanks Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Me looking through the glass in a door reflected in a mirror inside the cabin
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Soon these shops will be open for business.
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
The lattice has last year's dead growth but will soon be replanted.
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks Denali Observation car ("Harding Car") — the rail car used by President Warren G. Harding during a visit to Alaska in 1923 to formally complete the Alaska Railroad.
Denali Observation Car
Harding Car
Denali Railcar - Selective Coloring Pioneer Park, Fairbanks

Tomorrow is May 1st. While normally I'm not one who is happy to see time rushing by, I am thrilled to be through another month and closer to having Steve home for good. It has been a very difficult month for the Fort Wainwright community. We lost four soldiers this month. Our most recent loss was PFC Raymond L. Henry, 21, from Anaheim CA. PFC Henry was a member of Charlie Co. 1-17 (nicknamed The Diablos). Steve was the 1SG of Charlie Co. for about a year and a half, after we arrived in Alaska. He had/has a bond with these soldiers, who he still calls "his boys". The loss of PFC Henry was the first for the 1-17, and being a soldier from Charlie Co, it touched Steve very deeply.

In addition to PFC Henry, our community is saddened over the loss of SPC. Kenneth D. Hess, 26, of Asheville NC, SPC Shawn R. Creighton, 21, of Windsor NC, and SPC Dustin J. Harris, 21, of Bangor ME. My condolences go out to their family and friends, and I continue to pray for all of our troops, that they may come home safely.

Go to MAY

© 2006 Susan L Stevenson