Ah, Memories of Autumns Past

We’re already missing summer around here.

Jack on his 4-wheeler in 2009But at least we have our memories.  Such as from a few years ago on a sensationally sunny day in early September when Jack and I took a 4-wheeler ride in the mountains around Chena Hot Springs.  Chena Hot Springs TrailThat year there were striking fall colors and luckily I captured a few images to warm my heart on cold winter days.  Hope you are all keeping warm.

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Of Squirrels & Moose Antlers

We’ve never heard of this before but there’s a squirrel around here who likes to scrape the tines off of moose antlers!

Tips of tines scraped off moose antlersSeveral times over the summer we heard a mysterious scraping sound coming from the area where Jack’s moose antlers are stored in the woods. We knew the resident squirrel was up to something and sure enough, when we inspected the antlers a few days ago, the tips were scraped off the tines!  Jack says he thinks it’s the squirrel sharpening his teeth and you can actually find a couple of references to this on the internet.  (Here is a link to a video of a squirrel sharpening its teeth on some other kind of antlers, in some other part of the country.  Our squirrel looks much different, smaller and more orange-red. It could be that the squirrel is getting some kind of nutrient from them too and in the video it almost looks like the squirrel is eating the bits of antler.)

Jack's moose antlers

Jack hopes to get a chance to replace the antlers this hunting season!

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2004, the worst smokey year in Fairbanks history!

2004 was the worst summer for smoke in Fairbanks EVER, at least as far as we’re concerned!

The smoke hung around for over 3 weeks.  It was rough.  Here are before and after photos from that summer:

Forest fire smoke in Fairbanks, Alaska - July 2004

I shouldn’t have been out taking photos in this stuff!  This is the Chena River and the 2 buildings are the Key Bank building and the Springhill Suites Hotel.

Forest Fire smoke in Fairbanks, Alaska - July 2004

Here is another one showing Springhill Suites, which was at the time very new.

Luckily, the past few days have been pretty clear and now we’ve had a downpour or two, so things are looking up for those of us who want the fires to go away!

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Smoke & Heat in Fairbanks, Alaska

It’s been an interesting summer so far in interior Alaska.  First we had snow and low temperatures until mid-May, and then we had about 3 weeks of 80 and 90 degree weather.  When you live somewhere that is cold and dry for 8 or 9 months of the year any heat you can get is like charging some inner battery.  So let’s just say we have adequately charged our batteries…life was great…until the smoke rolled in!  Right now we have well over a hundred fires burning throughout Alaska, some small and some large, some being fought near towns and some being left alone to burn.

Forest Fires in Alaska - July 1, 2013The University of Alaska has a sensational website showing where fires are burning in Alaska. Here is a screen shot from it taken July 1st.  The website, UAFSMOKE: Wildfire Smoke Prediction for Alaska, is in it’s experimental phase but when finished should be able to tell us when smoke is going to reach a given area around Fairbanks.  This is when Jack and I shut all our windows and turn on the air filters, so we’d love to know ahead of time.  (Sometimes though, like the other day, its 80 degrees out and our house is baking with us trapped inside.)

One of the fires that is plaguing us is Skinny’s Road fire, the yellow dot that is close to the upper right of the word Alaska on the map.  It’s about 20 miles away from us and on the other side of the Parks Highway.  But any of the ones in that general area could be causing the our smoke problems right now.  The crazy thing is, you can go to bed with a heavy smokey haze outside and wake up to a bright clear day because wind patterns are changing so much.  So Jack and I are constantly sniffing the air to decide when to close or open the windows.

The smoke affects certain people more than others and Jack is not greatly affected.  He even went out and chainsawed some logs last weekend with the mosquitoes and haze surrounding him.  A day off is a day off and you have to get something done.  But I have to stay inside because I feel a heaviness in my chest when the smoke gets bad, and if I breathe it in too long my sinuses and allergies act up too.  People with asthma and respiratory problems like COPD are in big trouble if they don’t get into a safer environment.  Just about everyone gets a headache if out in it for too long.

All in all, here at our house Jack and I have had only about 48 hours of dense dangerous smoke, so we are beyond thankful for that, considering how many are burning around us as you can see from the map.  Below is a photo from June 21st, 2010, late in the evening under the midnight sun during Solstice, looking southward down from a turnout on the Parks Highway onto the Tanana Valley where a fire smolders (on the left in the photo) and sends its wispy smoke westward (to the right). Click it for a larger image.

Forest fire in the Tanana Valley

Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July!

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Clean up time in Fairbanks

Snow was falling only 3 weeks ago and now we’re getting 70 and 80 degrees every day!  What a crazy spring we’ve had.

The snow is finally gone and what now occurs in Fairbanks, Alaska (as well as in many other northern areas I assume) is that the veil of white puffy stuff is lifted to show gobs and gobs of TRASH!

Yes, trash everywhere.  Wet cardboard boxes, broken pieces of Styrofoam,  and all forms of plastic like cups, bags, kitchen utensils, food containers of all sizes.  You name it, it’s out there.  Beer bottles and to-go cups.  It’s really sick.  But it’s also entertaining.  So a few years ago I decided to document this amazing array of trash on a website called www.trashoffairbanks.com.  Take a look if you are interested!  Here’s a sampling:

 

 

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Lady Moose Wanders Through

A lady moose visited us the other day, wandering through on her search for bigger and better twigs to nibble.  How an animal that size can sustain a pregnancy nibbling twigs, I have no idea.  But you can see that she is big in the belly and really is on a search for the best most tender nutritious twigs.  She makes her rounds daily I suspect, if our dog’s fear of going outside lately is any indication.

Moose and dogs are natural enemies since dog’s ancestors, wolves, are predators of moose.  You would never see our dog trying to take down a moose though (lol).  Somehow over the centuries the barking mechanism has taken over for the “try-to-eat” mechanism I guess.  You can find examples of the moose-dog feud on You Tube.

Pregnant Moose - Fairbanks, Alaska

Female moose with calves can be quite aggressive and believe it or not, violent.  There have been quite a few moose tramplings in Alaska over the years, mostly in Anchorage.  At least one man was killed by a moose protecting her calf in 1995.

So, this one doesn’t have a calf but it’s likely that her hormones have kicked in and she would probably not back down from a challenge.  I stayed up on the deck totally out of her reach.  When a person jogged by with their dog she was very attentive.

Alert Moose

As they ran by, she didn’t take her eyes off of them until they were out of sight.  And her ears were locked straight forward.  I’ve never seen a moose so obviously aware of every movement in its surroundings.

She might be tough, but look at those beautiful eyelashes!

Lady Moose

Lady Moose

Nice beard, too!  🙂

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