Sorry for the delay in getting February posted.
I've been spending the last few days enjoying the wonderful sunshine
and warm weather (above zero) we've been having.
I took advantage of the weather on Thursday, and spent some time
with Shawna and her beautiful babies, Courtney and Collin. We went
to lunch at Hot Tamales (wonderful Mexican food) and discovered
that kids always eat free there - a very pleasant surprise.
there we drove to Pioneer Park because I wanted to take some photos
of her kids. As with most children, the car ride put them both to
sleep! They did wake up when we got to the park, but I only took
a few photos. I much prefer shooting kid portraits in the spring
and summer, when the weather is warm, and they can spend some time
playing. That way they forget I'm there, and the photographs are
much more candid.
We did a lap around Gold Rush Town, and Courtney kept her eyes
open for the miniature train. She didn't know that it doesn't run
in the winter time, but remembered riding it a few months back during
a special event. She is now officially hooked on trains. Here are
a few more photos I took while we were at Pioneer Park:
Courtney (almost 3)
Shawna, Courtney, Collin
Collin (16 months)
Courtney and her doll
I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness
for what he is, and respect for what he may become."
~ Louis Pasteur ~
After our visit to Pioneer Park, we drove around town running a
few errands. Shawna asked me to point out the Ice Park to her. As
you may remember, the World Ice Art Championships take place every
year in March. It is one of my favorite times of the year, and I
love to see what gorgeous ice sculptures are created. This year,
it will open to the public on February 27th.
Shawna's never been to the ice park, despite living here in AK
for several years. Her family is moving to Georgia in March (I'm
going to miss her!), and she'd like to take the kids this year,
so they can see the pretty sculptures and play in the kiddie park.
I drove to the park, and much to my surprise, there are already
some kiddie slides up! Now I'm really excited!
The first photo shows the man-made O'Grady Pond behind the park.
(I took the following info from the Ice
Ice Alaska typically harvests over 4.1 million pounds
of ice from the pond. Fairbanks's exceptionally clear, thick ice
has won the name "The Arctic Diamond" and is a favorite
medium for ice sculptors. Ice has been shipped to nearby communities
such as Anchorage and Nenana, and as far away as Seattle, Pittsburgh,
the Bahamas and Israel.
If you'd like to see the sculptures via the web, check out the
webcams that should be up and operating during this year's event.
Make sure you check during the day and the evening, so you can appreciate
the colored lights. You can find links to the webcams on the site
I linked above. You'll also be able to view still photos of the
sculptures (in addition to the ones I'm sure to be posting!) on
This morning, the Junior Yukon Quest was supposed to take off from
downtown on the Chena River. Unfortunately, the race was postponed
until 2008 due to a limited number of entrants. According to Junior
Race Committee Chair, Donna Olesen, "This year saw a large
number of our perennial mushers turn 18 and graduate to adult racing.
As one of the primary goals of the race, we were excited for these
mushers. However, it left us with a gap in our population."
I know that many people are disappointed (myself included), but
we keep our hopes up that 2008 will be a wonderful year for the
The Yukon Quest will start on February 10th, on First Avenue in
downtown Whitehorse, Canada and end on the frozen Chena River here
in Fairbanks about two weeks later. The start of the race alternates
from year to year; in 2008, we'll see the mushers taking off from
downtown Fairbanks again. If you'd like to follow the Yukon Quest,
you can visit the website at http://www.yukonquest.com.
There, you'll be able to leave messages of encouragement to the
mushers, follow their race times and read about and see photos taken
along the way. I'd love to travel with them! I do plan to be at
the finish line when they begin arriving in Fairbanks in a few weeks.
Tomorrow, we're watching the Superbowl here at home. We'll be having
James and Rachael over to help us eat lots of fattening food as
we watch the Colts and the Bears go head to head. I don't have a
favorite for this game, so let the best team win!
February 8th - Chickadees and a Video Slide Show
I'm happy to report that the chickadees have found
the bird feeder I have in the backyard and are making frequent visits
to the banquet of sunflower seeds and suet provided. I hope they'll
continue to visit, and tell all their friends as well. Their presence
makes me long even more for spring, warmer temps, and color!
Enjoying the sunflower seeds
Where are you going?
You brought back a friend!
I spent a few hours yesterday, sorting through some photos and
creating a video slide show of some of my favorite landscapes. I
added music to the video, and choosing the right song to play in
the background started out to be a difficult task, until I listened
to the song "Everything" by Lifehouse.
I've posted a portion of the lyrics to the song below. I am so
thankful to God for giving me the gift of sight, and the ability
to appreciate and capture such awesome splendor with my camera.
No matter how down I feel, I only have to turn my eyes to the wonders
around me and my spirits are lifted. I hope you enjoy the slide
show. If you'd like to share it with anyone else, feel free. Here
is the direct link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMYWesu8U8Y
Alaska Through My Eyes
If you're on dialup, it may take some time to load. Press
the little play button under the video to watch it here on
Find Me Here, Speak To Me
I want to feel you, I need to hear you
You are the light, That's leading me
To the place where I find peace again.
You are the strength, that keeps me walking.
You are the hope, that keeps me trusting.
You are the light to my soul.
You are my purpose...you're everything.
How can I stand here with you and not be moved
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
You calm the storms, and you give me rest.
You hold me in your hands, you won't let me fall.
You steal my heart, and you take my breath away.
Would you take me in? Take me deeper now?
Cause you're all I want, You're all I need
You're all I want your all I need
You're everything, everything.
How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
February 18th - Scenic Drive to Bolio Lake
belated Valentines Day to you all! I hope you had a day full of
love. Steve and I don't put a lot of emphasis on these 'Hallmark
Holidays'; we have many Valentines Days during the year. However,
I was pleasantly surprised when he came home with a dozen roses
in his possession. He assured me that he got a good deal on them,
because he knows I don't like spending lots of money on something
that's going to die soon. I bought him a bag of chocolate peppermint
hearts and a card. The best gift exchanged - a tradition on Valentines
Day and on our Anniversary - is a love letter to each other. They
are worth more than any store-bought card.
The past week has been mostly spent on trying to get my photo gallery
updated, with information about purchasing my photo prints. There
are still many photos I have to go through, and some other things
(web design stuff) I need to look into about setting up a 'shopping
cart' on my site.
On top of all of this, Sedona has been sick on and off for the
past week. She's developed a sensitive stomach as she's gotten older,
and I had to change her food twice. I now have her on a very 'gastro
friendly' lamb and rice diet, but she still has bouts of vomiting.
I love my girl to pieces - she's like a child to me!- but cleaning
up after her has become so frustrating. (I'm the designated 'clean
up after the pets' person in this household). I really wish I knew
what her problem was. I'm going to ask the vet when she goes in
for her shots at the end of the month. Maybe she needs dog antacids?
Steve has a four day weekend in honor of Presidents Day. We spent
Friday doing some much necessary errands and then grabbed some lunch.
From there, Steve suggested a trip to Sam's Club for a few odds
and ends. Anyone I know who has a membership to Sam's or Costco
never leaves the store with only the items they went in
for! True to form, we left with much more than we planned for. Much,
much more. We finally got the new home computer we so desperately
needed. The one we've been using is 7 years old (we custom built
it back then) and has been updated and reformatted several times.
It's more economical these days to just buy a new system, rather
than put money into upgrading an old one. The new system is still
it the box downstairs, and Steve is chomping at the bit to get it
set up. I told him he needs to wait until I get this journal updated,
and I work on a few photos I took yesterday.
Yesterday, we took a scenic drive down to Bolio Lake near Fort
Greely. It's about 270 miles roundtrip, and we left the house a
little after 8am. We stopped to grab a bagel and coffee at Sunrise
Bagel before getting on the Richardson Highway.
The sun was a bright orange ball as it came up over the range,
but then the cloud cover blew in and everything turned white and
washed out. This wasn't exactly the best situation for shooting
scenic photographs, but we decided to continue on anyway, and hope
for some clearing skies eventually. They didn't show up until we
were on our way back.
The highlight of the day was seeing five moose. One moose was in
someone's front yard, nibbling on birch twigs, while the dog of
the house stood on the porch barking his head off. At one point,
the dog even lunged for the moose, but quickly did a full speed
backward run when the moose took a step in his direction. It was
comical, and yet frightening; I really didn't want to see the dog
get hurt. Fortunately, he didn't.
We stopped off at the Clearwater River - one of Steve's favorite
places to go salmon fishing in late summer. By the time the salmon
get there, they've already mutated into ugly looking creatures with
a hooked nose and beat up flesh after their 450 mile swim inland.
Steve doesn't eat that salmon, but he has turned it into jerky a
few times. After tasting fresh salmon right from the ocean, he won't
settle for anything less.
The Clearwater River is crystal clear - hence the name - and is
free running in winter. The water was a gorgeous blue, which stood
out against the snow covered banks and spruce trees. We couldn't
get into the campground due to deep snow, but we did pull into the
cafe at the end of the road, and I traipsed off to the riverbank
on foot to take a few photos.
Bolio Lake, near Fort Greely, was frozen solid and skies were gray.
The sun was merely a glowing white spot in the sky, and everything
was a flat black and white and gray in color. The trees along the
road that leads to the lake, are still black and broken from the
wildfires two years ago. We didn't expect to see any wildlife, as
there doesn't appear to be much brush worth chomping on. We were
quite surprised to come upon a resting moose in the midst of the
On the way back to North Pole, we pulled off at Birch Lake and
drove to the boat ramp. We continued down the ramp in the truck
and drove out over the ice to the ice fishing shacks lined up across
the lake. On the way back to the ramp, we veered off to watch individuals
fishing. One man took a huge auger to the ice to drill the hole
he would be dropping his line through. The sun was high overhead
and not conducive to good photographs, but I snapped a few frames
to share with you anyway.
When we arrived home, we heated up some leftovers and settled in
front of the television to watch some DVDs we had rented at Blockbuster.
It was the perfect lazy way to end a day of driving. Today is another
lazy day, and since Steve is also off tomorrow, I expect tomorrow
will play out pretty much the same.
Here are some photos I took yesterday on our drive:
The Ice Park opens up on the 27th, and I hope to drive through
one or two more times before opening day. I'm also planning to have
lunch with some new gal pals I've made over the last month or so,
as well as with Rachael.
Rachael and James got their orders for their PCS (Permanent Change
of Station) to Fort Bliss, TX. The movers will be coming on the
6th and the 7th, and they will leave Alaska on the 13th to begin
their journey to the next chapter in their life. While I am accustomed
to the many goodbyes a military family has to endure, this goodbye
truly breaks my heart. Rachael is a very special woman, and is very
dear to me. Together we've been through so much together. I love
her like a sister, and I hate to see her go. She will be missed
so very much.
February 25th - COLD, COLD, and more COLD!
took this photo a few days back, but since then it has gone down
to -50F in some parts of North Pole. How lucky we are to actually
have thermometers that even read temperatures that low without exploding
or something. This morning it was -41F when I woke up.
We had an incident with our boiler/furnace a few days ago. As in
NO HEAT! When I woke up, I knew immediately that the house temperature
was down because my nose was frozen and even though I had a sheet,
a thermal blanket, and a quilt over me, I was cold. I jumped out
of bed, and one glace at the the thermostat in the bedroom told
me that my worst fear had come true - our heat wasn't working! It
was 57F upstairs and 56F downstairs. I called Steve at work, but
he couldn't hear his cell phone because he was in a basement. Finally,
an hour later (and two degrees colder), he came home and found the
number for the company who installed the unit. They managed to talk
him through checking valves and gauges and buttons, etc. to get
it up and running again. Apparently the valve which lets fresh water
into the system was closed and the water levels had dropped so low
that the system turned itself off. It took several hours, but the
house finally returned to normal. Thank goodness it was something
hung up another grouping of photos in my living room. I had to take
this photo from an angle so I wouldn't get the glare of the flash
on the glass. I like the mix of black and white matts with the frames
turned for horizontal and vertical photos. I took the photos of
the Dall sheep and the arctic ground squirrel when we did our drive
into Denali during the road lottery weekend. The fox photograph
was taken when we went into Denali by bus, with my SIL Diane back
I took a photograph of the large poster size prints I have in my
stairwell. There's still plenty of space to fill in the stairwell,
and I plan to hang the larger prints there, since the space is so
expansive. The wall space goes clear up to the roof line, and the
view from the top of the stairs gives a good vantage point to view
larger prints. I have a lot of wall space up on the second floor
to fill, and need to get the guestroom set up (with photos hung)
before warm weather comes and I start to have some house guests.
been checking out the ice park periodically to see how far they're
coming with the carving. With only a few days left before it opens
to the public, and such cold temperatures, the sculptors have been
having a hard time working. When it's too cold out, the ice fractures.
This makes things very difficult for the carvers. Hopefully it will
warm up a little bit this weekend so they can try to catch up.
Here are a few more photos I took last week.
For more information
about Ice Alaska, please visit the website here:
There will be webcams set up eventually
so that you can view the sculptures from the warmth of your
I had lunch with the same group of gals I met with a few weeks
ago. It was nice to enjoy some warm conversation on such a cold
day. Soon, we'll be losing two from our group when Rachael and Shawna
move away. I do hope that the others and I will continue to meet
periodically for lunch and coffee.
After lunch, besides my visit to the ice park, I decided to drive
around Fairbanks and take photos of whatever caught my fancy. I
was in one of those moods, and since I was in town with meeting
the gals I took advantage of it.
The first photograph is of the Chena River near Pioneer Park. The
water there isn't frozen solid because the power plant up the road
dumps hot water into the river which is used to cool down the equipment.
There is always a mist coming off the river there, which is absolutely
beautiful - especially on a sunny day with blue skies.
In Pioneer Park, there are many shops housed in old log cabins.
One of them is an ice cream shop. It's only open in the summer months.
I thought the frost on the sign was humorous. The third photo is
also of the ice cream shop, but I took it because of the Sun Halo
in the sky behind the building. Halos are caused by sunlight reflecting
off of ice crystals in the atmosphere. At -35F, I bet there were
ice crystals in the air!
The last photo is of the Tanana Chief riverboat frozen in place
in the river. The Tanana Chief is a replica of the old riverboats
that plied the waterways of Alaska's Interior in the years between
1865 and 1955. The original Tanana Chief was built in Unalaska in
1898 and served as a passenger and trade boat, becoming the first
sternwheeler to navigate the Tanana and Chena Rivers in 1898. During
the tourist season, you can take a scenic cruise, a dinner cruise,
or host your wedding on the Tanana Chief.
Today, Steve and I were supposed to have brunch with Rachael and
James. We were going to try the Pump House, rather than Pikes this
week. Rachael and James had eaten there on Valentines Day weekend,
and said it was very good. Our reservations were for noon.
They had to cancel. James was taken to the emergency room a few
days ago in severe pain. The doctors discovered he has a kidney
stone. They gave him pain meds to help him get through the pain,
but they make him very drowsy. He was afraid he'd fall asleep in
his breakfast, so we decided to postpone breakfast until another
Since we were both up and dressed, we decided to take a drive to
Chena Lakes Recreation Area to watch the North Pole Championship
Dog Sled Races. The races took place yesterday and today. With temperatures
at -40F this morning, I wasn't sure if they were going to race,
but when we got there we saw the dog boxes and mushers setting up.
By this time it had warmed up to -25F.
I wrapped a scarf around my face, pulled on my gloves and a pair
of mittens and walked down to the lake to get a good vantage point
of the teams. After watching the 4-dog sleds race, we decided to
call it a morning. Our feet were starting to get cold despite our
heavy boots, and my eyelashes were frozen from my breath. My camera
wasn't performing very well at that temperature either. But I was
glad to have seen what I did. And standing out in the sunshine was
good for my soul too - even though it wasn't very good for my frozen
After the races, we enjoyed a hearty lunch at The Pagoda. The hot
tea hit the spot, as did the Won-Ton soup. By the time we got home,
the clouds had rolled in - obliterating the beautiful blue skies
and making everything look dreary. There's actually a chance of
snow tonight (less than an inch). And tomorrow promises to be a
cloudy day. After I take my furkids to see the vet for their rabies
and booster shots, I think it will be a good day to just be lazy.