Matanuska Valley and Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Flashback Friday

Palmer, Alaska

    If you drive south from Fairbanks, past Talkeetna, and past Wasilla you get to a place called Palmer. We went there the first time my mom and dad came to visit us in Alaska. It was late August, or maybe even September when we went for this long roadtrip. W and I had bought tickets to see Avett Brothers at the annual Alaska State Fair that late summer. My parents stayed at a motel across from the fairground, and they could hear the music play in the late summer evening. Those summer nights were colorful and warm, mosquitos were out but not a real problem. No smoke in the air for once, and everyone were in such a happy mood. Afterwards W and I drove towards a camping spot outside of Palmer and camped for the evening. 

Views from the drive south:

Palmer, Alaska:

Culture

    You could think that there really isn't that much to do in Palmer, but there are quite a few things to do around there. Since we are all interested in culture, and my mom used to work at a large open air museum in Sweden (Skansen), we went to the Colony House Museum. The house is showing its appearance during the 30's and 40's. It is always interesting to see how people lived, especially in a landscape as Alaska, with the long dark and cold winter months, and short summers. The Colony House came to life during the depression and the big investment in New Deal by Roosevelt in the 30's. I have mentioned "Civilian Conservation Corps" (CCC) earlier, which also was a part of Roosevelt's New Deal. The "Resettlement Administration" (RA) was part of Roosevelt's New Deal, and about 200 families were relocated from the Midwest to the Matanuska Valley. The reason they chose families from the Midwest to be relocated to Alaska, was because that area experience a similar climate to the Matanuska Valley. Not too surprisingly, many of the families that were relocated had Scandinavian ancestry.

Musk Ox Farm

    While you are around Palmer you can also visit the Musk Ox Farm. There they use sustainable agricultural practices to produce qiviut. They focus on public education and also provide some income opportunities for Alaska Natives. Muskox can be seen roaming free along some coastal areas in Alaska. There is also a small herd of Muskox that roam along the border of Sweden and Norway (if that wild herd still exist, I can't find any updated information about them), but then there is also the Muskox centre in Härjedalen where they breed Muskox, with one of the main purposes to increase the genetic variation in the wild herd. That wild herd on the border between Sweden and Norway started of with a population of about 5 individuals 1971, At most the herd had about 30 individuals, in the 80's, but since then that number has decreased to about 11, so they have suffered some inbreeding problem unfortunately, something that is common in small populations of animals. 

Mat-Su Valley

    Palmer and the Musk Ox farm are situated in the Matanuska Valley, just south of the Talkeetna Mountains. To the east and south of Palmer you have the Chugach Mountains. As you can imagine this area is extremely beautiful with these large mountains surrounding the area. To the left of the Matanuska Valley is the Susitna valley, and the whole area is often called the Mat-Su Valley. The whole area in southern Alaska is covered by glaciers, it is quite spectacular to think about, since these glaciers most likely will disappear in the near future, and many of them have retreated significantly or just disappeared. If you are interested in seeing how many glaciers there are in Alaska you can see a map from Alaska State Library, which list 667 individual glaciers in Alaska. The Mat-Su Valley, although dark winter nights, is the most productive area in Alaska, and the area experiences less cold weather compared to for instance Fairbanks and the Tanana Valley. This area is part of the Southern Cordillera region and was glaciated during the Pleistocene (compared to the area around Fairbanks and Interior Alaska, which mostly was unglaciated), and is the reason why there are so many glaciers in southern part of Alaska. 

Matanuska Glacier

    Out of all of these 667 glaciers in Alaska, Matanuska glacier is one of the few glaciers you can actually drive all the way to the foot of the glacier. The access point is privately owned and charges a small amount of money to be able to drive all the way to the glacier. Well it seems like this small amount that used to be 25-30$ per person has gotten a pretty steep increase in the last few years. Apparently you now have to pay 100$ fee, for a guided tour. Which is in some way understandable. This is a glacier and while many of the visitors are following the guidelines and are sticking to the detailed path to walk on, others are running around the glacier like small kids, jumping crevasses and climbing ice towers with sandals. 

 Standing on the Matanuska Glacier

Standing on the Matanuska Glacier

Glenn Highway

    Of course you can see the views of the glacier by driving the scenic Glenn Highway, and visit the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation site. I have visited the Matanuska glacier twice, but we never went on any extreme outings out there on the ice. But the views, and the feeling of being on the ice like that is out of this world. 

    Have you visited any glaciers?

We are Moving - To New York City

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New York City

The Big Move

Being a Swede in the US

NYC

    Last year we took a trip to NYC. We wanted to check out the city, but W also went for a workshop and I renewed my passport. Because as a Swede in the US there are only so many places you can renew your Swedish passport, and NYC is one on a list of two, yeah a total list of two places in all of the US where swedes can renew their Swedish passport, New York and Washington DC. There are mobile passport centers each year, but they usually get booked several months in advance. Last time I renewed my passport I timed it with a trip to Sweden, because flying to NYC or Washington DC from Fairbanks, AK, is equally expensive to flying all the way to Sweden, if you include cost of hotels etc. 

Fall in New York City

    While W was busy with his workshop I explored the city some more. I have never liked New York City unfortunately, but now I will have 2 years to learn to love the city. We are excited about exploring the city and finding our new favorite spots. During the time there this last fall I walked on average 9 miles per day. I am not much of a subway person, but maybe that will change once we move there. It's not the first time I have been to New York though, I was there when I was 6 years old, well if that even counts, but I have strong memories from that trip. I went there again when I was about 20 years or so, but I only spent a couple of hours in the city, and that didn't really add any positive vibe of the city. 

Central Park

    The best part about Manhattan is Central Park. While exploring the city through google maps I have learned that there are a lot of green spaces around New York city and all of the city's different neighborhoods. Even walking around as I did this past fall, I found a lot more green space (as in trees) than what I was expecting. The favorite green space and probably one of the places I will hang out around the most is Central Park. While I was walking around there, there were definitely some places where I was the only one around, which is suprising since NYC is a pretty big city. It could also have something to do with the rainy weather during that specific day...

How do you Move to NYC?

    The last couple of weeks we have been scratching our heads trying to figure out what the best way to move really is. How are we going to move? I think we have settled on shipping our larger furniture, like the bed and bookshelves with a pod. That seems to be the most reasonable way, but we will see if we change our mind before the move actually happen. We are planning on going to NYC at the end of May with a smaller load of our stuff, and store that in a storage area outside the city. When we make the big move a couple of weeks later we hope that we will have a lot less stuff of course. 

Where in NYC are we going to Live?

    Well, that is a pretty easy question, but the details are more complicated. We are going to focus on Manhattan, and the area around and north of Columbia University. There are plenty of neighborhoods up there, Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Harlem, and Sugar Hill. North of that we have Hudson Heights, Fort George and Inwood. Those places look pretty nice, but they are unfortunately a little bit to far north. There are plenty of parks around there though, which would make that area ideal. We have screened the internet on how to get an apartment in New York, and Manhattan is of course to no ones surprise the most expensive place to be. While New York City is one of the most expensive US cities to live in, it is does not have the highest rent. Can you guess what city in the US have the highest rent? I'll give you the answer at the end of this post. Due to travel time to work we have to be around that area, unless we want to commute for more than 1 hr. The northern part of Manhattan have fewer skyscrapers, and fewer tourists, and I think we can find a nice place around there. In addition to actually finding a place you have to be careful about the ads you see online, there are many scams, and many people use false or stolen images to bait you and then tell you the place isn't available any longer, but then they say: here is another place, which more often is not a great place at all. You read stories about bedbugs, high crime areas and everything in between. Some people hire brokers, yeah brokers that charge 10-20% of the annual rent as a a fee you will never ever see again, in order for them to find a place. Some people pay 3000$/month for a studio apartment. We hope that we can get by without a broker, and still find a decent place. Time will tell. 

    What's your favorite place in New York? Have you spent some time at the northern part of Manhattan? So what city in the US have the highest rent? Well it is not too surprising but it is San Fransisco, CA. At least if you are comparing the median rent for 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.

Denali Adventures - Spring edition

Flashback Friday

Into the Mountains

    Last year around this time we ventured out into the wild, into Denali National Park. We have been there so many times together before, but this time was the first time we were there together again. It was also the first time none of us still lived in Alaska. As we drove south towards the Alaska Range, my heart skipped a beat, as it always tend to do when I see those large mountains. We were listening to some bluegrass music, which is something we tend to do a lot. While driving in more remote areas we usually hook up the phone to the car radio, so we get access to offline playlists, because in Alaska you tend to loose both cellservice and radioservice. It's a common theme for anyone driving these roads. Sun was shining and spring was in the air, even though snow usually stay put on the ground until the end of April, sometimes even into May.

Silence and solitude

    We were so lucky with the weather, blue sky, well semi blue sky, but what else do you need with views like these? Our friend lives right outside the park and let us use her cabin, while she was up in Fairbanks. How lucky is she, with these mountains in her backyard. It is a different life in Alaska, it's slower, but more intense. You focus on completely different things compared to people who live in larger cities. It's a different lifestyle. It's silent, around this time you could hear the water, drip, drop, drip, drop, slowly falling down the side of the cabin. Every now and then you can hear and see the moose walking by the cabin. I have had friends who have spent hours in the outhouse, because they have been trapped by a moose blocking the way back to their cabin. I know our friend outside Denali have had Lynx at her doorstep. But I love that lifestyle, and I miss it. Imagine opening up your door to this landscape. 

Mountains

    The first day we spent a few hours in the park. Mostly driving around and some short hiking. The snow was soft and we quickly sank in, knee deep in our boots. Spring was definitely here. The winds felt warm in my face, or maybe that was just the combination with the sun, or maybe just me being in my euphoria stage, the way I get when I see these mountains. It's incredible how small we are, how small we are against these large mountains. You can see so far but yet so short. There is a wide open space out there, that is still wild. When we got hungry we drove out of the park, to this fancy restaurant that is open during the off season, and serve great local food, for the few people that live around here. I know many people who drive all the way from Fairbanks down there, just to go to this restaurant, that's about a 2 hr drive. We were lucky, we didn't have to wait too long, and we enjoyed a nice dinner before we drove back to that little cabin in the foothills of the mountains again. As the darkness fell over the cabin we played Bananagram, until we both were too tired to continue. 

Skiing

    The next morning I woke up early, as I always tend to do. I went out and got some pictures of the mountains, and the sunrise. Those mountains, how can you not be mesmerized by them? After breakfast we packed our skis and drove back into the park. As we started skiing we saw some stretches with open water, now that is a clear sign of spring up north. We had to rethink our ski trip due to the open water, but found a safer way to cross down stream, and before we knew it we were on our way into the mountains. We continued skiing towards the mountains. It was only us, not a single other person could be seen out there. This is a common theme in Alaska, even in the summertime you can find places with no other person. Alaska is so large, so open and so wild. As in many other National Parks in the US, few people actually leave their car and venture out into the wild like we do. As we continued through the shrubs we even spotted a ptarmigan, or two. Those sneaky little birds are so beautiful, but hard to get a good picture off, so I'll leave you with one below and you can play the game "spot the bird" for a while. 

The Beauty of Denali

    Time passes so fast when you are having fun. But we can't stay forever in the park, and I managed to snap some photos of Denali, who finally decided to peak out of her clouds. She's tricky like that, she's large enough to create her own weather pattern, and seem to show herself on her own terms. Often times in the summertime people wait and wait to be able to see her, and finally miss their opportunity due to all those clouds she produces. Imagine flying all the way to Alaska and not seeing Denali. It happens more often than what you might think. 

Are you going out into the mountains around this time of year?

In The Rearview Mirror 2017 pt. 4

Flashback Friday

October

    October arrived, more work of course. We had friends over for a Swedish dinner party, filled with snaps, meatballs and good company. Gorgeous sunsets by the lake and the terrace. At the end of October we went to New York. I explored all of Central Park and managed to do about 9 miles walking per day on average. We saw Columbia University and a lot of other pretty places in the city. After that we went to Princeton, New Jersey. I fell in love with that small town. What a place. Like England on steroids, in the middle of nowhere, or so it felt. Fall colors had already arrived and I saw some great art at the art museum.

November

    November came and with that more fall. Fall has become a sad season for me, since my mom died in November 2016. This November our cat Olive got sick, and we though she just had a cold or something. We took her to the vet, and brought her home after some antibiotic shots. A week later we were there again, because she was breathing weird. That's when they noticed the water in the chest cavity, which apparently equals to "she will die". And she did, about three days later at a different vet, she stopped breathing while they were putting the catheter in after we decided to put her down. She died on her own terms. She was only about 8 years and had cancer in all of her stomach, so there wasn't anything we could do. 

December

    December and yet another Christmas. This year we did not venture out to Bozeman, instead we stayed in Madison. I baked, a lot. So much saffron in this house. I had been a bit sad about the lack of snow and thought that this would be the first Christmas in the US without snow. But on Christmas Eve I woke up to snow falling on the ground! Later that morning we went to Natural Bridge State Park and explored it all by ourselves. Apparently no one else go hiking on Christmas Eve. We celebrated christmas both on Christmas Eve, the Swedish tradition, and on Christmas Day, W's tradition. We even managed to have a fire outside, which was great. I always forgot how nice it is to have a fire outside, especially when it's cold.