Bears, Bears, Everywhere!

To celebrate Fil’s birthday we planned to camp for the week leading up to his birthday on Friday, July 10th. At first, he wanted to camp down on the Kenai Peninsula but as we looked into campsites we realized that plan wouldn’t work too great for us. Bears are a real issue down there and all the campsites we were looking at not only noted that, but had policies that if a bear was sighted tent camping would be banned. If we were there we would have to pack up and leave. With Brock and Poppy in tow we just simply didn’t want to take that risk. We decided on another campground, not as far south as the Kenai that Fil has camped at a number of times, Montana Creek. At first it seemed like an excellent idea… Fil would still get the fishing in that he wanted, and we would have a little more to do as the creek isn’t as dangerous and there are trails in the area for light hiking. It was also a shorter drive (4.5 hours) so that was a bonus. Little did we know the trip would basically be a complete disaster.  Continue reading “Bears, Bears, Everywhere!”

Arctic Circle Camping

One thing on my summer bucket list was to camp in the Arctic Circle, and we crossed it off the list on July 4th. The Arctic Circle, at 66.5° N, crosses the state of Alaska with about one third of the state above the line. Right on the line is a roadside stop with a sign, and a small campground which was our final destination. We had no desire to drive any further, as this was already far enough. Plus, as evidenced by the last 190 miles of driving, there really is nothing up there. In the 190 miles from Fairbanks that we drove on the Elliott and then Dalton Highways, there was 1 rest stop with fuel and food– as in that was the only thing along the drive. Absolutely nothing up there. The thought of continuing another 300 miles on the Dalton Highway just to say we drove as far North as you can, although is somewhat appealing to my inner adventurer, it is just overall not a good idea for so many reasons.

Continue reading “Arctic Circle Camping”

King for A Day

As promised from my previous post, now I will tell you all about our wonderful four days at the King for A Day campground. Fil has camped in his tent here before, and it’s such a great campground. The sites back right up to the Klutina River. This time, since we were all going, Poppy included, we decided to rent one of the two cabins they have on site. Aside from the obvious, the cabin had running cold water, a mini fridge, microwave and toilet. There were 4 beds that we could roll our sleeping bags out on, a table and chairs, plus an outdoor cooktop. It was so much easier managing all the crazy in a cabin versus a tent.

For starters, there was a lot more mosquito free play space. 40% DEET is the perfume of Alaska and we all sprayed down multiple times a day plus carried a Thermacell- fuel powered mosquito repellant that clips on and is about the size of a walkie talkie. It was also just so easy to not have to worry what Poppy might do to tent walls. She was fine in the cabin and had no issues. She was so at home that she kept up the routine of sleeping with me. Typically she sleeps under the covers with me, so in the cabin she crawled into my sleeping bag with me. Classic Poppy. It was a huge relief to have the fridge and not have to worry about ice in the coolers, and an added bonus was that included in our rental was freezer space for our catch. Continue reading “King for A Day”

Driving the Richardson Highway

We have officially had our first big adventure as a family in Alaska! This past week we spent 4 days salmon fishing on the banks of the Klutina and Gulkana Rivers. Probably tomorrow I will publish a blog all about our camp adventure, but this trip required a special post just about the journey.

One fun thing about driving in Alaska is that you don’t need a gps. Just a map, and maybe The Milepost (mile by mile guide). To get to Copper Center we just had to hop on the Richardson in Fairbanks and drive south for 261 miles to the campground. It took around 5 hours. Continue reading “Driving the Richardson Highway”

Denali, round one

Denali National Park and Preserve, formerly Mount McKinley National Park, is about 2 hours from our house in Fairbanks, and we finally made it out there to explore over Memorial Day weekend. The drive is a straight shoot and was gorgeous. Deep, green valleys that extended for miles, crystal clear rivers and streams—some even still bound by ice, and just one little town. Driving in Alaska is always an adventure. For long trips we often take extra gas with us as towns and gas stations are sparse. We also carry emergency supplies and make sure no matter what our destination is, that we have on appropriate hiking boots and clothing just in case. On this drive we saw a few fox, squirrels, and a couple moose. Continue reading “Denali, round one”

We made it!

We did it. We survived one of the worst winters on record in Fairbanks. Brock isn’t completely convinced that it is over though since we STILL have snow on the ground at our house. In town it has been gone for weeks, save for a few lingering plow piles, but up at our place we still had quite a bit till about the 11th of May. The picture below was on my birthday, May 7th. In my 32 years I have never experienced a birthday like this.

Now, almost 2 weeks later, we have just one little ice pile remaining in the shade from the garage. I think it’s safe to say Winter is finally over! Time to start adventuring! Continue reading “We made it!”

No, no it won’t

Three weeks ago, in my last blog post, I asked if Winter would ever end. I am now convinced it will not. In a small victory, we did cross over 32 degrees after 110 consecutive days being below freezing. And frankly, much of that was even spent below 0. With the warmer temperatures the snow finally started to melt. Just a little bit. Just enough to leak into the house. It turns out that our roof has failed and needs to be completely replaced this summer once it is safe to do the work. A combination of old shingles and improper insulation has created a situation called a “hot roof”. Ice formed inside the roof, behind the insulation and started melting, and leaking its way around. For a few days we had 10 bowls placed around collecting the drops of water as they fell but then like always, it got colder. We dipped back below freezing and the water refroze and stopped leaking. We have emptied the buckets but are keeping the plastic covering our furniture until we know for sure the thaw is over.

Just as we started to feel that Spring would come soon Mother Nature slapped us back to reality and laughed as she reminded us that we live in Fairbanks and Spring will never come. Over three days she dropped 19 inches on us. And since it was warmer now, it was heavy snow instead of the easy to manage light  fluff we usually get. Brock loved it. The snow was finally sticky enough to make a snowman!

Continue reading “No, no it won’t”

Will Winter End?

November28th. That was the last time Fairbanks has seen a temperature above freezing, as recorded at the airport. It’s been 108 days and counting since we have been above freezing… that’s getting pretty close to 1/3rd of the year! I think everyone assumes Alaska is cold, but I don’t think you realize what that actually means until you live here.

For us, being below freezing has become normal. Yesterday it was +22 degrees while we were ice fishing so we opted not to use our shelter and just enjoy the warm weather. Never in my life did I think +22 degrees was warm, but that’s where I am at now. The National Weather Service has been keeping us up to date on what we are experiencing, just to rub it in and the facts are astounding. For this winter so far, (Dec-Feb.) the average temperature was -10.9 degrees which is more than 6 degrees below normal. It is the second coldest winter in the last 44 years. From December through February we did not reach 32 degrees, which hasn’t happened since 1999. 44 days had a low temperature of -25 degrees or colder, which is the most since 1976! And finally, with 34 straight days with a high of +5 degrees or colder, we had the 3rd longest streak ever, beat out by the winter of 1942-1943. It has been a winter for the books, and it’s nowhere near over. At this moment we have well over 3 feet of snow with more falling currently and the ice is THICK on lakes and rivers. Continue reading “Will Winter End?”

2020 Yukon Quest Sled Race

Thank God January is over! January was much colder than normal for Fairbanks, and the National Weather Service made a point of showcasing exactly how much colder it was with plenty of charts and graphs. This January set a record for the coldest high temperature ever recorded, 5 degrees. That’s right, the highest temperature recorded this January, 5 degrees, just happens to also be the lowest high temp ever. Our temperatures bottomed out at -43 which is nowhere near the coldest, but is pretty much expected. While the normal average is 1 degree, our average for the month was -14.2. It’s been chilly, but February is already showing to be quite a bit warmer, we may even reach 20 this weekend. We have not seen a temperature at or above freezing since Thanksgiving… so maybe we will cross that threshold this month.

February started off with a Fairbanks tradition, the 37th annual Yukon Quest dog sled race. We were at the starting line for the 1,000 mile race, and later in the afternoon there was a start for the shorter 300 mile race. The 1,000 mile race follows historic gold rush routes between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Canada. It is considered the most difficult sled dog race in the world living up to the vision of the creator who wanted “a race so rugged that only purists would participate”. The race follows frozen rivers, passes over mountains, through frigid wind and snow gusts and although we have gained a lot of sunlight hours back, still quite dark with fewer than 8 hours of light. Along the way veterinarians check the dogs at least 6 times and there are mandatory stop times to keep everyone safe. Depending on conditions, the race takes 9 to 14 days and not all teams make it. Already 2 teams have dropped out this year. Continue reading “2020 Yukon Quest Sled Race”

All the Holidays

Happy Everything! After Thanksgiving I immediately started the countdown to Winter Solstice… then Christmas, our anniversary, and New Year’s. Lots of holidays were celebrated this past month, and now that we are into the New Year, we have finally cleaned up from them all and are excited to get back to school and normal activities.

Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. In most parts of the United States it doesn’t mean much, but up here it is a big deal, and something we all look forward to because after the solstice we start gaining sunlight. This year, on the solstice our sunrise was at 10:58 AM and set less than 4 hours later at 2:40 PM. For comparison, in NY on that day the sunrise was at 7:16 AM and set 9 hours later at 4:32 PM. It has been 2 weeks since solstice and we have already gained back 27 minutes, so it is improving, slowly but surely.

Continue reading “All the Holidays”