Posts filed under Alaska

Where No Roads Lead To, Nome

Flashback Friday

There is No Place Like Nome!

    We spent about 2 days in New York before I was on my way to one of my favorite states of all time, Alaska. I had managed to get a short-term job as a field tech, and who in the world would ever say no to a free trip to Alaska? Alaska is one of the most expensive states in the US, along with states like New York, California, and Hawaii. This can partially be explained by the distance to Alaska from the contiguous US, it is far away, and shipping of food cost thereafter. If it is not local, the quality of food is not always that great. On the other hand, Alaska is one of the states that are tax exempt, not that it makes it any cheaper. We landed in Anchortown on July 2nd and had a day to shop for supplies and some food. After some more glacier spotting, we finally landed in Nome on July 3rd. They say that there is no place like Nome! Nome is not even on the road system,  so the only way to get there is by plane. And in Nome, everything is expensive, very expensive.

4th of July Parade

    4th of July was suppose to be our first field day, but who in their right mind would miss a 4th of July celebration in Nome of all places? Not me. I am not familiar with how the 4th of July is celebrated in other states, other than Alaska. But in Alaska I've always gone to a 4th of July Parade, those parades reminds me of nothing else in this world. One year I saw a pig dressed up as Miss Piggy, with a blonde wig. Because in Alaska anything and everything is possible.

Miss Piggy - Ester, Alaska, 4th of July Parade 2014

Nome's 4th of July Parade

    As far as I know, anyone can partake in the parade, and you can (as far as I understand) dress up however you want to! All the participants of the parade also throw out candy for all the bystanders, the kids are always running around collecting all of candies. It is a bit unclear to me why they are always throwing out candy, is that an Alaskan thing, os the parade built around throwing candy, or is that something that has been added on at a later stage? I too secretly hung on to some of that candy this year.

    Have you ever been to a 4th of July Parade?

Posted on September 7, 2018 and filed under Alaska, Flashback Friday.

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.2

Flashback Friday

DAY 1, 05/21/16: Fairbanks to Lake Creek Campground - 369 miles

    Day 1 on our road trip we drove east, towards Delta Junction, Tok, and eventually into Canada. Fairbanks is an epicenter of the Boreal Forest. Deep forest consisting of mostly the fire-prone Black Spruce, but also the abundant White Spruce, Birch, Alder, and other deciduous tree species. As you drive east on the Richardson highway, you also drive along the Tanana River. It always makes me think about Paul Simons song "Diamonds on the soles of her shoes", in which he sings: 

"He's a poor boy
Empty as a pocket
Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose
Sing ta na na
Ta na na na"

    After you leave the deep forest behind you, the mountains move in closer, at the same rate as the braided stream comes closer to the road, and you are during many miles driving through the mountains, well if you can see them. Eventually, the mountains move away again, and you are left with more of a boggy wetland landscape with dead standing spruce and large mountains in the backdrop.

Crossing into Canada

    About 6:30 in the evening we got closer to the Canadian border, and eventually our campsite. With the midnight sun above us we didn't see any sign of a late evening.  The border crossing into Canada was smooth, they asked about our trip and where we were headed. Then the rhetorical question about fruit and alcohol, oh, and weapons. The only thing we could potentially classify as a weapon was the bear spray. The border crossing agent welcomed us and we continued into one of the most remote areas of our trip, the Yukon Territory (YT). The Yukon Territory has a very low population, only 36,000 people live here, in an area that is almost 3.5 times the size of New York State, which makes their slogan "larger than life" even more fitting. 

White River Lake Creek Campground

    Once you get into Canada and the Yukon we are back into deep forest and mountains for real. Mountains everywhere, just like Alaska. We finally arrived at a completely empty campground later that evening. It seems as everyone had disappeared after the border crossing. We got the tent up, had dinner and then went for a short walk along the river.  Later that evening rain that had been following us all day picked up and we fell asleep with the rain pounding on the tent. 

Day 1 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage

  • US: Jacks service Delta Junction, AK, 99.5 miles. Gas mileage: 23.6 miles/gallon
  • US: youngs chevron milepost 1314 Alaska highway, AK, 109.2 Miles. Gas mileage: 26.25 miles/gallon
  • Canada: Fas gas beaver creek 1202 Alaska highway YT, 110.7 Miles. Gas mileage: 25.33 miles/gallon
  • Total about 319.4 miles + 49.6 miles from gas station to campground
  • Campground: Lake Creek Campground

DAY 2 05/22/16: Lake Creek Campground to Wolf Creek Campground, 241 miles

    The next morning we woke up early, it was still raining. At many of the campgrounds in Canada, they provided free firewood, unheard of in the US. Priority number one: coffee, priority number two: get a fire started, so we could get warm, and also try to dry our tent out before continuing. There is nothing worse than a wet tent. 

Summer is the season, for roadwork

    We continued through Canada, the Yukon, and the deep forests, mountains, and abundance of water. Never in my life had I expected Canada to be such an eye-opener. Here I had lived in Alaska for about 7 years and thought that nothing will ever top this. Well, I was of course wrong. With the northern region of North America being underlain by permafrost and the harsh winters, summertime not only means tourist season but also roadwork season. It is not uncommon to have to wait half an hour for a pilot car to guide you through the roadworks.

Hey Bear

    About 8:30AM we spot a car standing still by the side of the road. As we approached we could see the reason why. A grizzly, not only any grizzly, a mama grizzly with two bear cubs. Two bear cubs that can't have been more than a few days old. They even had issues with their coordination, and it was pure joy seeing them play with each other and loose their balance from time to time. Mama bear was of course patiently watching nearby.

Mountains

    The mountains disappeared and appeared as we continued driving through Canada. It's hard to fathom how large Canada is, if you thought Alaska with its wilderness was big, that is nothing compared to Candaland. When you think it can not get any more incredible it can, and it will. Again, and again, and again. We stopped at a rest stop by the Kluane River. Oh my, what a treat for the eyes. Those mountains are just right there, in front of you, and sometimes it gets hard to understand how mighty they actually are. 

Wolf Creek Campground

    We finally arrived at Wolf Creek Campground, after about 241 miles of driving. In comparison to the previous campground, this one was a bit more crowded, as in there were other people than us there. Of course it was still raining. I had been dealing with an early rainy field season, but also rain, rain and rain the past couple of years in the field so I guess I had been hardened a bit. W had not. When the rain finally stopped we put our tent up and tried to dry our sleeping bags that had gotten damp earlier. We even had a fire before going to bed after another late dinner. 

Day 2 trip Details - Gas, Camping, and gas mileage

  • Canada: Petro express Haines Junction, YT 135.9 miles from Lake Creek campground. Gas mileage 31.66 miles/gallon
  • Total driving on day 2, about  135.9 + 105 miles from the gas station to campground (240.9 miles).
  • The grand total of the whole trip: 609.9 miles
  • Campground: Wolf Creek Campground

The Ultimate Roadtrip pt.1

IMG_9443.jpg

Flashback Friday

Two Years ago

    It has now been two years since I packed up all my belongings and took the car south, from Alaska, and into the lower 48. Well, I didn't drive all by myself, which was nice, considering that I think we ended up with about 4500 miles or so (7200km). People in Alaska generally call the rest of the US the lower 48, or just straight the US. They say that many people go to Alaska to disappear because you easily can. Alaska is larger than any other state in the US, and it is impossible to see all incredible places in one short trip. 

The Last Frontier

    There is a reason why Alaska is often referred to as the Last Frontier. With only one road going north and south from Fairbanks. The road north eventually turn into a gravel road, and once you hit Atigun pass, it's just you, you and the 18-wheelers. There are many villages in Alaska that have a road system, but a road system that does not connect to any of the major road systems in Alaska. Which mean that the only way to get there is by plane. 

Tundra, Mountains and deep Forests

    I have often wondered why I fit in so well in Alaska, and I am pretty sure one of the reasons are the fact that the vegetation in the interior of Alaska is almost exactly the same as in Sweden. In Fairbanks, you are in the boreal forest, the same boreal forest that covers almost all of Sweden. There are some differences though, I am pretty sure there is no black spruce in Sweden, and the dominant Scots Pine in Sweden (or at least in the boreal forest I connect to over there) is non-existent in Alaska. Then we have the ocean, or rather the lack of ocean in interior Alaska. That is a big difference, and I think I missed the ocean and water in first year or so in Fairbanks.

Packing the Car

    W always talk about this when the move from Alaska to Wisconsin comes up. And lately, he's been pretty forceful about packing up our home in Madison, in preparation for the big move to New York. W flew to Fairbanks a couple of days before we had planned to leave, and as he describes it, nothing was packed. I on the other hand, still believe that some things were packed, while other items such as bedding and clothes you wear were not. I can admit that I probably had not packed as much as I should have, that on top of some things that needed to get done in the lab before I left, made for some stressful last days at the cabin. But we packed the car and departed on May 21st. 

The typical Alaskan Weather

    The weather in Alaska is always changing, and one day it might be rainy and cloudy and the 40's, while the next is full on sun, accompanied with smoke from wildfires that fills your lungs, along with mosquitos from hell. The day we departed was cloudy, and Alaska did not let me leave on her best behavior. I would have wanted a clear blue sky while driving east through the mountains. But, there would be no lack of mountain views on this trip, especially since we also had half of Canada to drive through.

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?