Posts filed under Nature

Where Chambers Street ends and Rockefeller Park Starts

Big City Life

Rockefeller Park and Bronze Statues

    Today we have been promised really hot temperatures, and they have issued a heat advisory, with temperatures up to 95, and the real fell up above 100. Im pretty sure we had days like this in Madison too, but maybe not as frequent. In Fairbanks and Alaska on the other hand, these things never happened. Instead we could hear about the air quality advisories on the radio while sipping coffee in the morning. Smoke from all wildfires which created this grey to yellow smoke that hovered over Fairbanks, sometimes for weeks, or air quality advisories in the wintertime because of pollutions that stayed atop the city for months. Now that I have lived here for a couple of weeks I am used to this heat and the heat advisories, or rather I know when to venture out and what to expect versus times when it's probably best to stay at home. One thing about New York that always surprise me when I do venture out are all these small parks spread across the city, and all the trees and bushes you can see where you least expect it.  The other day I took the train south, to Brooklyn Bridge. I got off, and followed Chambers Street towards the water on the west side of Manhattan. Once there I stumbled upon Rockefeller Park, that joins up with Hudson River Park if you continue north along the water. The first thing I noticed was this large bronze statue to the left of the stairs leading down into the park. As I continued towards it, I suddenly saw all of these other bronze statues scattered across the area. Statues of creatures, people, bankers and robbers, laborers and pilgrims, predators and prey. If you ever find yourself in New York City, I would definitely recommend this park, to find some shadow and to relax and enjoy all these sculptures. New York is such a large city with so many tourists, but you can still come across areas like Rockefeller Park that is close to empty. I guess I can compare it to when people visit National Parks. Most people stay on the road, in the car, and hardly anyone actually get off the road, and if they do few people hike more than 1 mile from the road system, or the most popular places. If it is off the beaten path, fewer people go there. 

Urban Parks and Urban Heat Islands

    Did you know that woodlands are cooler than urban areas? And that city parks can be as much as 5 F cooler than surrounding areas during the day, and even cooler during the evening and night time? The concept of buildings being hotter than say parks is often referred to as the Urban Heat Island. Dark non-reflective buildings absorb heat, and will re-release the heat throughout the day, making the surrounding area warmer. Vegetation cool the surrounding area through the evapotranspiration process, and hence a park with moist soil and a lot of vegetation will have a cooling effect. Of course the urban heat island concept is more complex than comparing dark and non-reflective buildings to vegetation, but overall the outcome is cooler parks, compared to surrounding buildings, as you can see in the temperature and vegetation map of New York below, from NASA. So, think about the cooling effect next time you walk in a large city and encounter a park.

Views along Chambers Street, Rockefeller Park, and Hudson River Park:

    Do you have a favorite park in the (any) city you always visit?

New York - First Impressions

New York City Life

    We have now lived in New York for more than one month, and actually spent a couple of weeks here together. It was kind of a whirlwind before we were able to actually settle down here. I worked almost up until the actual move, we then packed our pod, packed the car (read tried to fit everything else in the car), and cleaned the apartment in Madison before we eventually left. Once we arrived about a day later, we unpacked the car, and cleaned the new apartment, and then went to bed. It turned out that driving in New York City, as in driving in Manhattan, wasn't so hard after all (although, W drove, I didn't so what do I know). It was a lot harder to find a parking spot. We spent one full day in New York together, going to Target and Costco, and then at 8 in the morning the day after, I was sitting on a plane to Nome, Alaska. Once I got back W had already left to Boston, and then to Alaska. So, we really didn't even live together in the apartment up until now, these past two weeks!

Manhattan

    You can constantly hear the sirens from ambulances, firetrucks and police cars mixed in with people honking, but they do quiet down during nighttime. Many New Yorkers are intense and very forceful. Kind of as if they forgot that there are good humans out there in the world. People are yelling at each other in the streets, in the grocery stores, yeah about everywhere. I wonder if there is such a thing as a happy New Yorker sometimes. The two first strangers in New York I met was on my way to Alaska. First the driver to the airport, who said he hated New York and New Yorkers, how he didn't think it was diverse enough. On the plane between New York and Seattle the woman I sat next to was moving back to Seattle, leaving her husband (although not leaving leaving, just saying he can come if he wants but I am not staying) behind in New York. She said she hated New York and New Yorkers, said she was sorry for me who just moved there. 

East Harlem aka El Barrio, Spanish Harlem

    We live in East Harlem, or Spanish Harlem which it is also called along with El Barrio. East Harlem has a large population of Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics. Back in the day, 1800's and beginning of 1900's East Harlem was mostly an Italian neighborhood, and today has one of the most exclusive restaurants in the US, an Italian restaurant called Rao's. The closest we have gotten to Rao's, well except walking by the restaurant, was when we purchased their famous tomato sauce at our local grocery store. As you can imagine there is a wide range of cultures that are merging in East Harlem, and with that a wide range of interesting restaurants that we have to explore. We have a really nice apartment with a guest room and actually two bathrooms (well the technical term is one and a half). We live very close to the subway and it takes about 20 minutes for us to get to Brooklyn bridge with the subway. We have of course spent many many days in the apartment, but we have also been exploring the neighborhood some. Every day has been hot, well hot to me. We have had temperatures in the 80's and 90's ever since we moved in, and our AC units have been running a lot these past weeks. Now the temperature is finally dropping and we can actually leave the windows open to create a nice breeze through the apartment.

Central Park and community gardens

    During the weekends we have been doing chores around the house and then gone to central park to relax. Central Park is actually a National Historic Landmark and has been put on a tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This past weekend we went there and had a picnic in the afternoon sun. Central Park is my favorite part of Manhattan, of course who would have thought? Northern Central Park gets less touristy compared to southern Central Park (not too suprisingly). Other than Central Park there are a lot of other parks in Manhattan of course, and a ton of small community gardens that are run by the neighborhood communities and NYC parks. It is called Green Thumb and is the largest community gardening program in the US. The community gardens are run by residents in the area, and anyone can join a community garden. Of course, these gardens aren't open at all times, since they are run by the community, but you are mostly free to enter and look around if you happen to come across a garden that is open. We have one right by our apartment, which I will try to join!

Wilder pt. 2

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"Wilder than a brushfire burns deep inside the bramble
Baby, I think God made your soul born to ramble
Maybe you'll take to the far away places
Where life is gonna deal you a hand full of aces
But it doesn't really matter how great the spaces
We're chained, and when everything else changes our love will stay the same
We're chained, and when everything else goes away our love will still remain"

Flashback Friday

Getting Married, Again

    This past summer we got married, again. Well, this was more of a wedding celebration, a celebration where we were able to invite our friends and family on this side of the ocean, to the state that holds our hearts, Montana. Last Christmas we went skiing at a place called Homestake Lodge, outside Butte, MT. It was one of those places where you felt like you were in heaven, snow on the trees, newly groomed cross-country ski tracks and rolling hills and mountains. I happened to notice that the lodge also hosts wedding parties, and after some debating over where to have our wedding celebration, we decided to pick Homestake Lodge. 

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Homestake Lodge

    There are many wedding venues around Bozeman, Montana. I really wanted a place surrounded by mountains. We talked about renting a forest service cabin, but with all the additional logistics that a place like that would bring, and our limited budget we figured that we probably were better of with a place that had the amenities a social gathering like this would require. Paradise Valley is as it sounds like a very beautiful place, located between Bozeman and Gardiner. I have seen many different lodges around there, all beautiful and all very expensive to rent. Instead, we dialed down on Homestake Lodge in the mountain pass between Bozeman and Butte and right on the Continental Divide. Homestake Lodge itself is this beautiful rustic cabin that sits on top of a small hill overlooking the deep forest and the mountains surrounding it. We rented the whole place, which included a couple of cabins and one yurt. It was a great way to host a wedding celebration, having the option for a lot of people to stay at the lodge and surrounding cabins. Butte is only about 20 minutes away, so we had a few guests who went back there as the afternoon slowly transitioned into the late evening. It was my dream wedding, being surrounded by these mountains and the deep forest. 

We are a Fiery Couple   

    The morning of the wedding we found ourselves driving from Bozeman to Homestake Lodge through Homestake Pass. Smoke from wildfires across the state covered the pass and the mountains surrounding Bozeman. The smell of fire was in the air. In some sense, this is kind of ironic, because we both study fires, so of course our bond to each other would be tied during a fiery day like this. Every time we drive anywhere in this state I have this feeling of excitement and love in my heart, love for all this nature surrounding us that is also tying us together. We met once upon a time when I moved into the cabin across the driveway from W's cabin. Since then we have helped each other with fieldwork in our different systems. W has helped me in the deep forests of interior Alaska, and I have helped him in the deep forests of Yellowstone National Park. We have lived apart for several years to be able to pursue our PhDs, me in Alaska and him in Wisconsin until I was done with all my fieldwork and was able to join him in Wisconsin. 

Walking down the aisle

    In my dreams leading up to this wedding, everything was already planned, my mom and dad would be there. I would finally be able to show my parents one of the many places that now holds my heart. Life doesn't always turn out the way you expect them to, and mom passed away about 10 months before the wedding. She had been so excited and had already planned everything she wanted to do and see. My dad came alone, but instead of thinking about all the sadness surrounding the fact that my mom was not able to be there, we made this trip all about us. We drove together all the way from Madison WI, through Badlands National Park, through the Beartooth Pass, and through Yellowstone until we finally arrived in Bozeman a few days later. We camped along the way, and dad had not been sleeping in a tent since the 70's or 80's. And then at the wedding, my dad finally got to walk me down the aisle. 

Not your average kind of wedding

    We are not the average type of people, so our wedding was not the average kind. We chose for instance very untraditional music for the wedding. We walked down to Brandy Carlile's "We're Chained", had two of our poet friends marry us, and walked out to John Prine and Iris Dement "In Spite of Ourselves". Because we are not your average type of human. We have been shaped by our surroundings, W in the backcountry of Montana, and then the forests of Alaska, and me as a full-on city girl from central Stockholm with my heart in northern Sweden, and then the sharp turn to dry cabin life in Alaska. We don't blink or hesitate about camping along a frozen river at 20 below and get up and do a 20K ski race the next day. We see possibilities where others see problems. 

A Dream Wedding

    As the afternoon turned to evening the hazy air, created by the smoke from all the wildfires, developed a beautiful veil over our wedding venue. You could smell the fire in the air, but those fires were far away from where we were. The kids were playing and family and friends helped out to bring the dessert out to the pavilion where the homemade smoked pulled pork dinner had been served. W had spent days with his aunts' husband, smoking the pork on low heat. We moved between tables and talked to all of our friends we hadn't seen in a long time. 

A Couple of Post-Wedding Photos

    Before the darkness arrived and within the magic hour of sunset and light we went out and took some pictures of us with my dad. So that we could keep some memories from this wonderful day. We didn't hire any photographer but instead we took turns taking pictures of each other, and I think we did a good job!

The Yurt

    There were a couple of cabins at Homestake Lodge and many beds at the actual lodge, and then additionally we had the yurt. W and I decided to stay at the yurt because we would not mind using an outhouse, or the fact that the place had no running water, it would be just as in Alaska. Past midnight, in the dark summer night we found ourselves trekking back to our yurt. We managed to get one of the lanterns from the party because of course our headlamps were already in the yurt. We kind of knew how to get to the yurt, but since the lantern was not that bright, and we did have a bit to walk it was a bit of challenge. I instantly started thinking about this Swedish comedy where they are waiting for Santa to come. A Santa that they dropped off, a couple of km from the cabin, with a car. The guy was supposed to bring all the gifts on a sled back to the cabin, equipped with a sled, the bag of gifts and the lantern and a bottle of whiskey he slowly approached the cabin, and about two hours later (much later than what they had anticipated) he finally arrived. We finally arrived at our yurt and slept until sunrise, which was a few hours later...

The Morning After

The morning after the wedding we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise. I don't know if you have ever experienced a sunrise in a fire-prone environment with wildfires surrounding you, but the sunrises with the smoky veil are always out of this world. We woke up filled with beautiful memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Later that day we went on a short hike with some of our friends and later on camped by a lake, in the deep forests of Montana. 

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?