Daily-ish Blog 2021


I will recap the highlights of my stay here in Fairbanks, so check in periodically to see what I have been up to.

Aurora near Fairbanks
Aurora Borealis at Chena Lakes Recreation Area near North Pole. April 25, 2021 1:00 am.

October 8 – 11: A quick visit to Juneau before leaving Alaska.

Mendenhall Glacier is first seen when approaching for landing in the Juneau Airport. This picture I took from the glacier visitor center.
Public art in Juneau was outstanding. This is depiction of Raven and Eagle.
Old Town Juneau is a virtual ghost town when tourist season is over.
It rains well over 200 days a year, so this weather was not unexpected. The trams operate in all weather conditions during tourist season. Only one more day of operation before they close down for the year.
I rode the city bus over to Douglas Island and ate lunch. Then on the return I was happy to see this fountain/sculpture of a humpback whale.

September 29 – October 4: My son, Connor, flew up to spend my birthday with me.

Got to see the Northern Lights for a third time. It was a nice way to celebrate my birthday.
We drove to Valdez and were impressed with the views along the way. This is Thompson Pass, the last summit before dropping into Valdez.
A bald eagle roosts in a tree in Valdez.
This is a view we had while driving along the Glann Highway to our next stop — Sheep Mountain Lodge.
Matanuska Glacier river along the Glenn Highway.
Mount Denali over our shoulder as seen from the village of Talkeetna.
Mount Denali.
This day we were driving close to 400 miles, so opted not to drive into the park. The roads were coated in snow and ice and uninviting.

September 27: I got to eat authentic Eskimo food: Muktuk. Made from the blubber of a bowhead whale.

Muktuk was delicious. Served with salt on the side.

September 24: And winter arrives right on time for Alaska!

View from my apartment.

September 18: I took a short 3-mile walk at Creamer’s Field and took in the fall colors of Fairbanks.

The colors were great. The weather nice.

September 5 – 9: I was lucky enough to have a friend from California come visit. We worked with a loose itinerary. We were waitlisted for an Aurora Tour, but didn’t clear. So it was all spontaneous.

We visited Pioneer Park and took in the touristy sights before eating dinner at the Alaska Salmon Bake.
We visited Denali National Park and took in the fall colors.
We went on a mail run with Warbelows Air Service. The mail stops were in the villages of Central and Circle.
And we got to play with Santa’s reindeer at North Pole.

August 28: I had nothing planned for this weekend other than a quick trip to the Farmers Market. To my delight there was a marimba band playing.

Even though the temps were brisk, I’m certain these players worked up a sweat while playing. They rotated positions between songs, so everyone played a different instrument each time.

August 21: I walked around downtown Fairbanks in search of art, be it sculptures, quilts, statues, murals.

During WWII, Alaska Territory was vulnerable to invasion. The Alaska Territorial Guard was composed of men, women and children of ages ranging from 12 years to 80 years. The monitored activity along the vast coastline of the territory.
The post office fence has a variety of cutouts illustrating how mail has been delivered in Alaska.

August 14: I visited a local tourist attraction in Fairbanks. I boarded the Discovery III Riverboat and got a history lesson as we cruised down the Chena River to a recreated native village.

The Riverboat Discovery III is a true sternwheeler.

First attraction after starting our 3-hour cruise was a float plane takeoff and landing demonstration.

Conditions were very good for the takeoff and landing demo.

Before the boat docked, we paused in front of the native village and got a lesson on catching, prepping and smoking salmon.

Native families continue to set up fish camps outside their villages each summer. After catching the fish, they prep it, hang it to let it dry, then move it into the smokehouse. Once smoked it is stored in the cache sitting on stilts.

August 6-7: I took a road trip southeast of Fairbanks. I took my time and stopped at some of the tourist attractions. Just outside of Fairbanks is the town North Pole, where Christmas is celebrated year-round. His reindeer are nearby while he meets with his fans.

Santa poses with fans of all ages.

I also stopped at Delta Junction, which is the official end of the Alcan Highway.

The end of a 1,422 mile journey from the lower 48 to Alaska through Canada.

I stayed the night in a sweet B&B in Tok, then turned around and drove back to Delta Junction. While there I ate lunch and headed south on the Richardson Highway to Paxson. I could have driven on a gravel road to Denali National Park, but instead I turned around and headed back to Delta Junction. The scenery was amazing. I did stop at one place to view a series and beaver dams and a beaver lodge in the middle of their pond, but my highlight was that I saw a total of 5 moose!

This cow was nice enough to wait until I snapped this photo before walking into the thick brush.

July 31: Eilson Air Force Base hosted the Arctic Lightning Air Show on Saturday & Sunday. Each military branch was represented here in addition to the Civil Air Patrol and local businesses and non-profit groups. The highlight was The Blue Angels.

Blue Angels pilots are amazing.

July 24: This weekend was the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. I watched just a few of the events — Ear Pulling, Two-Feet High Kick, One-Foot High Kick, Ear Weight, Blanket Toss, and Knuckle Hop. Yes, these are not anything you will see in the regular Olympics. But, they once were training that prepared the natives for survival in the harsh weather conditions of Alaska. Additionally, native groups sang and danced.

The core strength required to participate in the Knuckle Hop event is amazing. The winner was determined by the distance hopped on knuckles & toes before collapsing.
The songs and dances are passed down from elders to the next generation. You’re never too young to start learning your traditions.

July 18: I flew back to Fairbanks to return to work. At the end of the day I caught a ride on an airplane that was delivering freight to Anvik, Alaska. The route we followed took us past a the highest peak in North America: Mound Denali.

This is a view of Denali that not many get to see in person. Time of this photo was 10:30PM. Land of the Midnight Sun!

July 17: Another train ride, but just for 2 hours to Whittier and Prince William Sound. And new friends for life from back east. She and I actually shared a history in Northern Nevada — working at Harrah’s Hotel/Casino in the 1970’s.

Heading south to Whittier along the Kenai Peninsula.

Once in Whittier I went on a 5-1/2-hour cruise, checking out 26 glaciers.

The glaciers were all different sizes and shapes and hues.

July 16: All Aboard! I took a 12+ hour train ride from Fairbanks to Anchorage on the Wilderness Explorer. This is a luxury rail card at the end of the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star. I met two lovely couples in the dining room section of the car. Of course, the scenery was great.

A first class rail car with dome ceiling and luxury dining downstairs.

I spent the next 2 night at this place. I cannot even begin to pronounce the name.

This is a hostel in Anchorage about 3 miles from the city center.

July 10: I went for a walk, first to Pioneer Park to visit the Pioneer Air Museum and learned a little bit about the early days of flying in this state. One of the more interesting pilots featured in this museum was that of Captain Marvel Crosson. They had it right when they made Captain Marvel a female in the Marvel Movies. In the 1920’s this Captain Marvel was the first female pilot of Alaska. She went on to compete in air races and unfortunately, met her demise in one.

One of the first passenger planes for Alaska Airlines.

After leaving the museum, I walked to downtown Fairbanks. Along the way I saw some log cabins, log church, and log library dating back to the early 1900’s. Then I hopped on a bus, donned my face mask and enjoyed my ride back home.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church has been in service since 1903.

July 4: Happy 4th of July to one and all. I think the fireworks celebration was last night. I heard some booms off in the distance but I was too tired to walk to the window and look. I’ve been working some long hours and so sleep is precious to me. Besides, with the 24 hours of daylight that we have here, the fireworks are mostly washed out. Already the days are getting shorter, so by the end of August, the light show of the Aurora will be visible once again.

The view from my apartment at 10:50pm. Not quite dark enough sky for fireworks.

June 28, 2021: I was gently reminded that haven’t contributed to this column in over a month. So, here is a recap of the past 4 weeks, or so.

June 28: Today I paid for a tour of the Large Animal Research Stations, LARS for short. This is part of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and has been open for about 40 years. The research station keeps Muskox and Reindeer year round. On occasion, they also have Caribou, but not now. It depends on how many animals they can support.

Fun Fact: Reindeer are indigenous to Northern Europe and so may only be kept in captivity in Alaska. Caribou are indigenous to Northern-most part of North America and therefore are allowed to roam free. Reindeer and Caribou are close cousins.

This is a resident bull Muskox. LARS has maybe 5 bulls in their facility.
A Reindeer cow and calf.

June 27: I walked through a wildlife refuge on the edge of Fairbanks. This is part of the bird migration route.

I don’t know the bird species, but they were fun to watch.

June 20: I walked to a nearby park with museums and interpretive trails. Then along the bike path that follows the Chena River.

In Pioneer Park they recreated a village from these early 20th Century cabins that once were businesses and residences in Fairbanks.

June 7: I stayed local and visited the Large Animal Research Farm at University of Alaska, Fairbanks. That is where they raise & study Muskox and Reindeer.

This muskox has lived here a long while. The underfur of the muskox is collected and spun into a yarn which makes for very toasty hats and scarves.

May 31: I drove south this day. I had read about an ice cave in a glacier and decided to check it out. I didn’t make it to the ice cave, but I did see some spectacular view of the Alaska Range.

Castner Creek is fed by melting snowpack. The ice cave is about a mile up this creek, and the creek runs through it.

May 23 – 24, 2021: I joined a tour bus to the Arctic Circle.

My left foot and hand are in the Arctic Circle, my right foot and hand are not, as indicated by the dotted line on the red carpet.

Then got a ride further north to Coldfoot Camp. The food was good. Accommodations were cozy and quaint. Scenery was beautiful.

The village of Wiseman has maybe 25 residents, chapel, a B&B, museum, and art studio.

Finally, I caught a flight back to Fairbanks.

There were 4 passengers on this flight. It took me 10 hours to get to Coldfoot and just over an hour to return to Fairbanks.

May 21, 2021: Sorry for not posting anything the past couple of weeks. I haven’t much to report. Last week I worked 6 days in a row, so Sunday I rested and did laundry and little else. Monday, I did drive around town and out of town. I drove out the Running Reindeer Ranch only to find out that I needed to schedule an appointment. Before turning back I snapped this photo of the Free Little Library at the entrance.

A Free Little Library at the entrance of Running Reindeer Ranch.


May 9, 2021: Yesterday was wonderful. I got off to a late start, but with the long days only getting longer, I had plenty of time to drive to Denali National Park from Fairbanks. If I were to drive non-stop it is a two-hour drive. But I decided to stop and read road markers and just take in the views at various pullouts along Highway 3. I started around 11:30 am and returned by 9:30 pm with plenty of daylight left. Just about 20 miles out of Fairbanks I made my first roadside stop and got a glimpse of Denali. As it turned out, that was my only view of the elusive mountain

Mount Denali as seen from a roadside stop just 20 miles from Fairbanks.

Along the way I enjoyed lunch at The Clear Sky Bar & Grill. I was the only customer when I arrived. By the time I left the place was filling up nicely. I drove deep into the park, onto a gravel road until I came to a closed gate. I was hoping to see Mount Denali, but it was another 10 miles away. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the views there, including watching 2 grizzly bears from a safe distance.


MAY 4, 2021: May the fourth be with you! I love this Star Wars reference. But this phrase (fourth, not force) gained notoriety in 1979 when the British Conservative party bought an ad praising Maggie Thatcher for winning the position of Prime Minister. They declared “May the fourth be with you” in big bold print.

And now back to me. I kept a low profile over the weekend. I filed my 2020 taxes and did laundry. Of course, I lost 1 sock in the process. Last week I had lost, then found a wayward sock in the laundry room. Then this time the may of that sock decided to go on its own adventure. Fingers crossed I find it again.

On the work front, I have a new skill – driving the forklift. I lift a pallet of freight, transfer it to a scale, then deposit elsewhere in the warehouse. Then back to the office and book the freight into the system. What fun!


APRIL 30, 2021: Hi! Thanks for checking in! I have been negligent on my posts, so I am going to recap the month of April now, and then hopefully I will add to this blog a couple of times a week.

After putting my belongings in storage and handing the keys to my car to my son, I boarded a plane to Fairbanks, via Seattle. Normally Fairbanks in April is nice, with mild climate. But not this year. It was -11 F when I landed. News reports stated that temps were 50 degrees below normal.

I am lucky enough to have arranged for a job that includes accommodation and transportation. I didn’t drive around much the first 2 weeks, as the roads were covered in snow and ice. I always like to explore local museums, so I have been to the 3 primary ones: University of Alaska Museum of the North, Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, and Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. Fun fact, one of the docents told me that the collection includes some of Bill Harrah’s cars once on display in a warehouse in Sparks, Nevada. They weren’t identified, so I don’t know which ones they were.

In hopes of seeing the northern lights, I drove to Chena Hot Springs Resort, but drove back because they had no hotel rooms available. On my return, a couple of moose crossed the road in front of me. They were camouflaged by trees by the time I got out of my car and got my iPhone camera ready for taking pics.

I finally got to see a sweet display of the northern lights at the Chena Lakes Recreation Area at 1 A.M. I’m not much of a night owl, so crawling into bed a 4 A.M. ensured that I spent a lazy day on Sunday. You can read more about this event soon.

One more thing, without going into details about my job here, I now have a new skill to add to my resume: forklift driver.