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Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Sunday, May 1

O the green things growing, the green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of the green things growing!
I should like to live, whether I smile or grieve,
Just to watch the happy life of my green things growing.

~ Dinah Maria Mulock Craik ~

Finally, it is May. And this mean that green-up will be here very soon. We're so close to seeing leaves sprout on the trees. There are buds everywhere, and they have a green tinge to them. They just haven't opened yet to release the tiny baby leaves that will cast a gorgeous pure color over the landscape. Everything still looks so brown.

The weather has been so beautiful! Yesterday we had temperatures well above 70F. Steve and I took Sedona for a long early morning walk. I felt my lungs start to close up from the pollen in the air. Ah... spring. The beauty of rebirth and the start of allergy season.

The Chena River is now completely thawed, but there are still huge 'icebergs' coming downstream from places further upriver. There has been some concern over the flooding up river. When it warms up quickly, large pieces of ice break free and then dam the river, much like a beaver would with logs. It's definitely interesting to stand downtown on the pedestrian bridge watching ice float beneath you. Especially when it's so warm out that you only need to wear a tank top.

One Lane Bridge Fort Wainwright
The One Lane Bridge
Pedestrian Bridge Downtown Fairbanks
The Pedestrian Bridge and Ice Floes
Beaver Pond Panoramic Fort Wainwright
The Beaver Pond is almost thawed

Steve is leaving very early on Tuesday morning for JRTC. He'll be gone until the end of the month. I work until May 19th, so I'll be occupied with that. My friend Rachael's birthday is Tuesday. And she graduates from college on the 15th. Susan Spivey and I will be taking her out to celebrate - and we're also hoping to go out to dinner after the graduation ceremony. We're also planning to take a trip into Denali on the 13th. We're trying to keep busy so the time will pass more quickly. This month long separation will be a good 'trial run' for many wives. But a month is only a month. I have no idea how we're going to fare when they leave us for a year. I still can't imagine not having Steve by my side for such a long period of time. He is such a huge part of me. We are such a huge part of each other. Enough sad stuff...

Last year, green-up arrived on May 7th. I hope it arrives faster this year. I want to get some real spring photos!

Wednesday, May 4 - Green-Up and the arrival of Cranes

Slowly but surely, we're getting green. Small leaves have appeared on the trees. Looking out across the expanse of rolling hills around Fairbanks shows a green hue. The mud puddles have dried up and the snow is only found in large piles that the snowplows had built.

More geese arrive at Creamers Field all the time. And yesterday, I saw two pairs of sandhill cranes. The seagulls have arrived, and so have the swallows. The weather is beautiful, despite the brief - and much needed - sprinkles of rain we've had over the last few days.

I've been out shooting almost every day. Something always catches my eye.

Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes
Red Catkins
Storm Brewing over Creamers Field
Creamers Field Panorama with Rainclouds

Steve left for JRTC early yesterday morning (2am). I got up and drove him into work, so I could have his truck home with me in case I needed it. I haven't been sleeping well without him in bed next to me. Even cuddling the furkids (Sedona and Airborne) doesn't make things any better. I'm staying as busy as I can while he's gone. It helps the days pass more quickly. I hate that we have to be apart. I'd much rather be out exploring and enjoying the gorgeous weather together. But such is life in the military.

I only have two weeks left of work before my contract year is over. I'm ready to be laid off. I want to spend as much time with Steve as I can before he leaves in August. Time is moving much too quickly, and I don't like it.

Saturday, May 7 - SPRING has SPRUNG! Robins, Babies, Moose, and Good Friends!

Where to begin? The past few days have been a whirlwind. I'll tell you one way to get through a long absence from your husband: stay busy! The weather has been absolutely gorgeous, which just adds to the beauty around us here in Fairbanks. How lovely to finally know that winter is truly GONE!

I have been a 'shooting' fool with my camera. After so many months of black and white and gray snow photos, it is a delight to look through my lens and see colors, and textures, and creatures!

A few days ago, I entertained myself watching Airborne (my furry feline), 'attacking' a kamikaze robin who kept flying into our living room window. If not for the glass between the two, that robin would have become a playtoy for my furry girl. Airborne sat perched on the windowsill, just waiting for the bird to do his dive bomb into the window. She'd jump up and swat at him - thinking he was within reach. I, of course, grabbed my camera.

Robin and Airborne
Kamikaze Robin

Arch enemies? Or playful friends?

Yesterday, I met two friends (Shawna and April) and their babies (Courtney and Connor) for lunch and then we took a stroll along the nature trail at Creamers Field. It was a gloriously sunny day and both babies were in great spirits. The pond was full of water and ducks and seagulls played and splashed. Although the vegetation is still shades of brown, the trees are finally full of leaves the size of squirrel's ears. I went crazy with my camera - soaking in the glorious beauty around me - wanting to preserve the memories forever.

After spending the afternoon with friends and babies, I headed back on post and decided to explore the beaver pond. Instead of finding beavers, I stumbled upon lots and lots of Alaska Wood Frogs and Mourning Cloak Butterflies. I was perfectly happy with that.

Mommies and Kids in Pond
Courtney and Shawna
Bench at Creamers Field
April and Connor
April and Connor
Wetlands Trail Bridge
Wetlands Trail
AK Wood Frog
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Wetlands at Creamers Field
Creamers Field Wetland Pond
The Beaver Pond - no more ice! (See photo from May 1st entry above)
Beaver Pond Pano

Today, Susan picked up Rachael and I and we went out to breakfast. We then headed downtown to the AK Railroad Station for the open house. We took a short ride on the train, toured a few cars - to include the First Class cars (very nice!) - and saw the engine. We got little RR pins for riding the train.

We then headed over to Gold Dredge #8 on Goldstream Rd. They were also having an open house today and it was free admission and free gold panning. We had a blast panning for gold and all of us found gold! Susan got a little less than $4 worth of flakes and bought a necklace to display her find in. Rachael and I found $4.50 worth of gold (but didn't buy a necklace). It was back-breaking work to be sluicing around the water, but I was excited to see the shiny stuff in the bottom of the pan at the end.

The highlight of the day? Seeing a young bull moose enjoying a man-made pond along the highway. He didn't even run away as traffic stopped to photograph him. I will never grow tired of seeing such awesome creatures!

Rachael and Susan

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
~ Anais Nin ~

I am so blessed to have both Rachael and Susan in my life - especially as we are getting ready to face such a long deployment.

There is never a dull moment when we are together and the laughter comes easily.

Whether out panning for gold, or spending an afternoon watching 'chick flicks', it is good to know that I have women such as Susan and Rachael in my life, standing beside me all the way.

I know that they will keep me sane! Not that sanity is necessarily a good thing! :)

Young Bull Moose

 

Look at this handsome fellow! This is the second time I've seen a male out and about. Before I leave Alaska, I want to see a full grown bull moose with a huge rack of antlers.

The three of us are off to dinner and then onward to see Romeo and Juliet at the local auditorium. Tomorrow, is Mother's Day and we intend to spend it watching every season of Friends and chilling out.

Tuesday, May 10 - The green of spring and late sunsets

The weekend has passed quickly. I got to talk to Steve a few times as well - which really lifted my spirits. He's doing well, but said the heat and humidity in LA are oppressive. And there are wolf spiders too. (EWWW!)

I've been enjoying long walks with Sedona in the evening. I walked with Rachael last week, and last night, I walked with Susan. It's so nice to have such long hours of daylight. Sunsets at 11pm take some getting used to though. Nevertheless - the long days are rejuvenating to the soul.

I still haven't gotten my new camera. I hope it comes today. I'd love to have it in time for Rachael's graduation. I'm not a patient person when it comes to new camera equipment. Having something shipped to AK takes forever sometimes.

I wanted to share a few spring photos with you.

Sunlit Catkins Unfurling Leaves
Some more signs of spring. The tiny buds of leaves are now unfurling and growing quickly. Dandelions have also made their appearance.
Saturday, May 14 - A new camera! Long walks, a drive to Denali, and lots of photos!

My new cameraThe biggest news here at my house is the arrival of my new camera. I upgraded to the Canon EOS 20D. In addition, I invested in a new - and really GOOD - zoom lens. I want to be able to photograph wildlife, and photography has become such an integral part of who I am, I just felt like I was worth good equipment. My passion for photography will be a huge part of what keeps me sane while Steve is deployed. There it is - with the new lens at left. The lens has an image stabilizer in it to compensate for shake. It's a really heavy lens, so shake will happen - unless I use a tripod. Not all shots are conducive to tripod usage... for instance, shooting soaring eagles. When I've got to pan, I'll have to hold the camera and lens. I spent a pretty penny on this equipment - and as conservative as I am when it comes to spending, it took a lot for me to make this jump. But now that it's here, and I've held it in my hands, and used it - I am ecstatic!

The first place I stopped was Creamers Field to see how the lens worked when photographing the cranes. I wasn't happy with the results. The sun was directly overhead, which is lousy for photography, and I wasn't quite sure about all the settings on the camera yet. So, instead, I drove to the top of Birch Hill to see how close I could bring in my surroundings with the new lens. I was impressed with the detail when I zoomed in on the river and the houses far below. I also checked out the White Mountains from my vantage point. When I got home, I took Sedona for a walk and practiced some shots on the local vegetation (using the new camera, but not the new lens). Here are some photos from that excursion:

Standing atop Birch Hill, on a clear day, you can see out to the White Mountains in the distance. As you can see by the photo at left, the landscape is lush and green with leaves. Spring is such a wonderful time of renewal here in interior Alaska.
Dandelion - First color of Spring Although the dandelion is the bane of gardeners all over the world, to me it is the first blast of color after a long, monochromatic winter. I allow the dandelions to bloom across my lawn for as long as I can - an expanse of true wildflowers that signify the arrival of spring.
Baby leaves and catkins Baby leaves unfurl among new catkins. Vegetation grows quickly in the long hours of sunlight. Currently we are close to 18 hours of daylight! Last night, the sun painted the sky orange and yellow at 11pm. It's rejuvenating to both the plants and to us!

I made another visit to Creamers Field. This time I was prepared with a strap for my big lens, my backpack neatly packed, and my good walking shoes on. A storm was threatening to roll in, but I was welcoming the rain. We're going to need rain in order to keep the wildfires down this year. The last thing we want is a summer like last year. Only a few small droplets fell - not enough to thwart my mission to wander the nature trails. I wanted to see how the camera did under partly cloudy skies. Here is my favorite shot of the day:

Storm clouds over the wetland pond
I love the texture in the sky in this shot - as well as the reflection in the wetland pond below.

I wandered the wetland trail to the pond, and then decided to explore the boardwalk trail through the Boreal Forest. They are repairing the boardwalk, so you can't go all the way on it, but I walked as far as I could - taking photos along the way. It was peaceful and I was alone. Even the mosquitoes were practically nonexistent. What a beautiful way to end a work day.

Into the boreal forest

This boardwalk leads through the boreal forest at Creamers Field.

In North America, the boreal ecoregion extends from Alaska to Newfoundland, bordering the tundra to the north and touching the Great Lakes to the south.

Characteristic of the boreal are innumerable water bodies: bogs, fens, marshes, shallow lakes, rivers and wetlands, mixed in among the forest and holding a vast amount of water. The winters are long and severe while summers are short though often warm.

 

Nesting box and wetland pond

Approximately 85 species of North American breeding birds select or construct a cavity for their nest. Populations of many of these species have declined in recent times as harvesting forests early in the life-cycle to avoid the "dead and dying" look and removing trees if they look deceased or dying in urban forest settings have eliminated many cavity nesting opportunities.
These dead and dying trees (snags) provided the substrate for nests in the past.

Creamers Field has many man-made nesting boxes on the grounds.

White crowned Sparrow

Range: Breeds from Alaska, Manitoba to Mexico, winters primarily in western U.S. but in all 50 states.

Notes: handsome favorite of birders, pair for life, as many as 4 broods, male sings at night, female builds nest.

The White-crowned Sparrow occurs in most boreal forest habitats, particularly those with sparse trees and dense shrubs.

During the breeding season in the far north, males tend to arrive 2-3 weeks before females. The breeding range extends throughout most of mainland Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories and across northern Canada east to Nova Scotia, and southward throughout British Columbia to spotty localities among the western states.

 

Wetlands, like rainforests, produce huge amounts of food as plants, leaves, and stems break down in the water.

Wetlands often function like natural sponges, storing water and slowly releasing it. Trees and other wetland vegetation help slow floodwaters. This combined action, storage and slowing, can lower flood levels and reduce the water's potential to erode.

 

Yesterday, I drove to Denali with Rachael and her sister, Anna - who is in town visiting from Washington state. The mountain was out in all her glory (I'm batting 1000 and she has been out every time we've visited the park!). In addition to awesome vistas, we saw moose, a mama grizzly and her two cubs, lots of ptarmigans (males and females), sheep, and caribou. It was a day of wildlife, that's for sure. On our way back to Fairbanks, we stopped at the Monderosa for burgers. It was a long, but wonderful day.

The ptarmigan is the Alaska state bird. The bird at top left is a male Willow Ptarmigan. The bird above could be a male or female ptarmigan (grouse). In the winter, the willow ptarmigan is pure white to blend in with the snow. In the summer, it turns a mottled brown to blend in with the rocks and ground.

Savage River Denali
Teklanika River Thawed

Mt. McKinley - Denali

At top left is the Teklanika River. Only a few weeks ago, when Steve and I drove to Denali, the entire valley was frozen over. Look at this photo I took on April 17th. You can see how frozen everything still is. When spring comes to Alaska, thaw occurs quickly.

The moose at left, had a calf who was foraging deeper in the trees. She's very light colored - not the usual dark brown, I've been seeing.

In a little while, I'm heading off to Murphy Dome with Susan Spivey. We're going to go walking. I'm hoping it's a clear view from up there. Of course, I'm taking my camera.

Tuesday, May 17 - Murphy Dome and a Friend's Graduation

What a weekend I had. Keeping busy helps the time to pass more quickly, but tires me out too. I'm getting too old for all this jet-setting. *grin*

Later on Saturday afternoon, I picked up Susan Spivey and we headed off to Murphy Dome. We both had our cameras and I was looking forward to showing her the magnificent views from the dome. She had never been there before, but she fell in love with the views and plans to go back with her husband when he comes back from JRTC - perhaps for a picnic. It's truly gorgeous 'on top of the world', and I wasn't disappointed to see that 99.9% of the snow is gone. There are still pockets of the white stuff on the shady side of the tors rocks and down in the gully where the path travels, but that didn't deter us from walking to the first outcropping.

Along the way, Susan suddenly pointed out that there were pinkish purple wildflowers dotting the landscape! I was thrilled to see the first wildflowers of the season. In addition, I found little white and yellow flowers growing too. The catkins were huge and bushy and made the shrubs look like they had fur on their branches. The walk was easy going, although we had to skirt some really muddy places by short-cutting across some muskeg. Muskeg is spongy and mushy under the feet. It's disconcerting to feel the 'earth move' as you walk. Moss was plentiful and from time to time I saw small red berries. Salmonberries, perhaps? The walk back, however, was steadily uphill. We rested quite a bit! On with the photos:

Wooly Lousewort
Wooly Lousewort
Murphy Dome Path
Cloudberry
Cloudberry

I look forward to going back to the top of the dome with Steve when he gets home. It is one of the most peaceful places in the world - a place where you can really clear your head and enjoy the silence.
Tors Rocks and Rolling Landscape
Tors Rocks and Clouds

On Sunday, Rachael graduated from UAF. Her sister, Anna, Susan, and I attended the ceremony. It lasted a long time and the seats weren't the most comfortable, but the ceremony was nice. I enjoyed seeing the various headdresses worn by some of the graduates - instead of the traditional cap. Alaska is a very ethnically diverse state, with a large population of Native Alaskans/Eskimos. The university brings in a diverse group of students from all over the world, to include Samoa, Russia, Asia and more. Seeing the graduates display their pride for their heritage was lovely.

The ceremony began with a group of Native Alaskan children as they made their way down the center aisle banging on a drum and chanting. Then, school by school, the graduates went up and received their diplomas. After speeches and PhD recognition, the balloons finally fell from the ceiling and everyone was released. Unfortunately, the weather was nasty - rainy and cold. I had to put off the graduation photos until a sunny day arrived - which luckily was yesterday (Monday). We went to Creamers Field for the photo shoot.

Rachael Getting Diploma
Rachael getting her diploma
Beautiful Headdresses
Beautiful Headdresses
Rachael Graduation
Rachael and Anna
Rachael and Anna
Sunday, May 22 - Work ends for summer, new blossoms, & keeping busy

I apologize for not updating. I have been so busy this week! My last day of work was Thursday, and I had a lot to finish up before I left for the summer. It's wonderful to be free, and I look forward to spending as much time with Steve as I can.

The days are growing longer and longer at a very quick pace. Sunrise today was at 4:02am and sunrise will not occur until 11:35pm. Even the hours on both sides of those times are fairly bright - a dusk and dawn of sorts. The early sunrise has been waking me and I've found my sleep schedule is changing again. Over the past week, I've been up at 5am. Most nights, I've stayed up until nearly midnight - but I do have periods of drowsiness over the course of the day. Maybe it's time to work a nap into my routine.

I've been walking regularly with Rachael and Susan. Although my legs and shins get a little sore, I feel great getting out and moving. We take our furkids with us (my Sedona and her black lab, Stryker), which is always an adventure - especially when they sense wildlife. Yesterday, Rachael and I had a fox cross our path - not once, but twice! I wish I would have had my camera.

Yesterday there was a post-wide yard sale here on Wainwright. Rachael and I hit the sales at 8am, finding a few bargains here and there. There weren't any *wow* bargains, but it was good to get out walking. Later last evening, the three of us had a 'chick flick' night at Rachael's. We've got one more movie to watch today.

I've been lucky to talk to Steve almost everyday. Our conversations are short - but short is better than nothing. He's scheduled to be home on the 28th. To say I miss him is an understatement. The house is so quiet without him, and I miss being spoiled. :-) He says it's very hot down in LA, and he looks forward to coming home to more temperate weather. I'd like to hike Angel Rocks trail this weekend, depending on what time he gets home and if he feels up to it. But if he's only in the mood to relax and do nothing, that will be just fine too.

The weather here has been a bit dismal lately. It's still cool in the morning (it's currently 45F), which is wonderful for sleeping, but it's also been raining on and off the past week or so. I miss the 70 and 80F temps we had the week before last. The cooler temperatures have at least kept the mosquitos at bay - but I'll put up with the pesky buggers if the sun would just shine.

A few photos depicting springtime in Fairbanks:

Chokecherry Blossoms Chokecherry Berries
Raindrops on Leaves Blossoms
New pine growth
New growth is appearing everywhere. It is wonderful to watch the landscape come back to life as the weather warms. Every day I discover something new. New colors, new textures, new surprises. It is a beautiful time of year in Alaska.
Tuesday, May 24 - More Botanicals and Missing my Husband

Only four more days and I'll see Steve again. I cannot wait! These last few days are the most exciting as butterflies flit around in my stomach in anticipation of our reunion. I have missed him terribly.

Rachael's husband, James, came home early this morning. Susan's husband was due to come home today, and is probably home as I type this. But I have to wait until Saturday. It can't get here fast enough.

I took Sedona out for a walk this morning and took more photos of the surrounding vegetation. I noticed while I was out shopping today that the wild roses are blooming in some areas. Not so on the path behind the house - at least not yet. In time. I predict we'll have blooms by the end of the week.

Starry Bursts

<-- A close-up view of a common wildflower.

I have an extreme fear of insects of all kinds. But somehow, when I'm looking through my lens at them, they don't seem as menacing.

This bee was making her way from dandelion to dandelion, as I got closer and closer for a photograph.

It wasn't until I looked at the photograph, that I saw all of the pollen stuck to her face and body. If bees could sneeze, this one would surely be having a fit.

I found this tidbit of information on line regarding the bumblebee:

All the fairly large bumblebees seen flying in early spring, are overwintered queens busy feeding and searching for nesting sites after their long hibernation. Bumblebees are generally quite docile and non-aggressive, and go about their business with little attention to human activity, even when this is close to the nesting site.

No wonder she didn't mind having her picture taken.

Wednesday, May 25th - Sharing a Photograph

A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam
And for a brief moment its glory and beauty
belong to our world,
but then it flies on again.;
And though we wish it could have stayed,
We feel so lucky to have seen it.
~ author unknown ~

Monday, May 30th - Memorial Day, Remember our Fallen Heroes
All we have of freedom, all we use or know - This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.
~Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue, 1899~

I know it's been awhile since I've updated. My darling husband is home! He landed on Saturday afternoon, and since then, I have been more preoccupied with spending time with him, than to worry about being on the computer. I have missed him over this month and it is so wonderful to have him with me again!

Fairbanks is awash in the colors of spring! The Alaska Wild Rose (aka Prickly Rose) has finally bloomed and lines the dirt path behind my house - adding a splash of pink to the green bushes. In various spots throughout the woods, the bluebells are also blooming. And I saw what I think are daisies blooming alongside a road. (I'm going back to find them).

It is the birthing month for moose, and while walking yesterday, I came upon two sets of hoofprints in the dirt. One huge set and one tiny set. I would love to see a cow moose and a newborn, but certainly don't want to run the risk of upsetting mama. I try to make a lot of noise when I'm in the woods, so that she knows I'm there. But a new mother is not exactly predictable.

With the arrival of spring and soon summer, the mosquitoes are out in full force. That's a bane of living in Alaska that I can certainly live without. The smell of DEET is nauseating, but it at least saves me from becoming one huge welt.

Steve and I had plans to leave on Thursday morning for a trip to Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean. Yesterday, we discovered that he blew a seal on his wheel. Now the trip might be off, depending on how long it takes for the repair to be made. I'm a believer in 'things happen for a reason'. If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. Besides - it's still cold up there. I'm not so sure I'm in the mood to go back to wearing winter gear - not when I'm still basking in the warmth of spring! We can always do it in a few weeks or so. Hopefully, Steve will be able to get additional leave in August, before he deploys. We'd like to cruise the Inner Passage too. So many things we want to do, and so little time left to do it in. Bummer. On with some photos...

Alaska Wild Rose
Alaska Wild Roses
Metamorphosis of butterflies and moths is one of the mysteries of Nature. The ability of these insects to change from the crawling caterpillar to the flying adult is almost magical.
Many people are so awe inspired by the metamorphosis that they believe that butterflies and moths could never have evolved over millions of years without a God behind it.
Winter is many months of the year
But now at last Maytime is here;
And birds sing from a leafy screen
In the trees and hedgerow freshly green;
And the wood-anemone is out in the shade,
With its blushing petals which too soon fade;
Once more the bracken is unfurling there,
And bluebells gently perfume the damp air.

~Veronica Ann Twells, Maytime
~
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
Alaska Wild Bluebells