Sunday, May 27, 2007

Camping at Mt Prindle

I decided to try to do a small car-camping trip with all of us (Sonja + me + dogs), Saturday night of memorial day weekend. Since I have never been to Mt Prindle, I thought this might be a good opportunity to check out that area. The area is about 60 miles from Fairbanks on the Steese Highway (which is visible on the lower section of this satellite image on google maps), then one takes a 7 mile road northward along the US Creek to get to Nome Creek, which runs somewhat parallel to the highway. There is a dirt road both east and west along the Nome Creek. The Mt Prindle campground is on the east end of it, another 4 miles along the road.

We did things in Fairbanks in the morning (Lulu's bakery for a late breakfast, Farmer's market where we saw Keith and Susan, and Fred's), then Sonja took a nap at home, and only afterwards did we pack up the car and go.

And even then it was not without stops - first to inflate the rear tire which was again very low, like in the beginning of the week; then at Martin's office to water the seedlings I have in the windowsill there (and run on the grass in front of the institute and smell the flowering trees in the parking lot), and lastly at Fox at the spring to get water into the 5 gallon jug I brought with, since this was going to be car camping.

We then went out of town on Steese, past Chatanika, and everyone was very happy when we stopped about 4 miles in on the dirt road already at an overlook. It was warm though the wind was almost howling. Both Sonja and the dogs loved to stretch their legs there. The dogs almost too much so - they ran off, but did come back after some time.

We continued to Mt Prindle campground, where we took one of the sites in the official campground run by the BLM, for $6. After some dinner of (cold, already-boiled) pasta that I brought along, we went bushwhacking a bit with Sonja in pajamas on my back, and also ended up checking out the extensive overflow in the valley. The campground itself must have also had some serious overflow, because even now some ice reamins in places. Then it was way past Sonja's bedtime and we tried going to bed. That proved to be difficult, perhaps because it was so light. Eventually though, Sonja did fall asleep.

In the morning we changed the tire on the car, which was completely flat by that point, I had some breakfast while Sonja seemed to be on a hunger strike, and then we tried to find the trail to Mt Prindle, which one of our neighbors described as being over there by the parking area. Over there, there was a lot of overflow undercut by a running creek, and I decided to head downvalley instead of trying my luck crossing that overflow (in somewhat slippery running shoes with Sonja in my arms, while attached to two dogs that pullled a lot). That was a lot of fun. Sonja kept trying to decide whether she wanted to touch the overflow ice (or "snow", as she called it), the dogs, by thattime free since we were no longer in the campground, were chasing each other, the sun was shining, the birds were humming... After about an hour we came back to the car, and I was going to drive us to the next trail, to explore it.

At that next trail, a porcupine was crossing the road. Well, there went that idea to go on a walk with the dogs, I really did not want to deal with having to pull out porcupine quills. Instead, I shot a couple pictures. It is pretty difficult to get a head shot of the guy - due to being a porcupine, it turns to face away from you no matter from which angle you approach it.

Overall also, it was the first time I saw a porcupine for more than a couple seconds. It is a rather curious ceature, that half with the quills attaches to a regular furry half in a way that looks rather abnormal.

We drove until I saw the next trail heading up the hill, but when I asked Sonja if she wanted to go on a walk with the dogs, she said no, so we didn't go. Within a couple minutes of that, she was fast asleep. We did stop momentarily at another overlook, but since the dogs seemed to be tired and not wanting to just run around, I looked one last time back at the Mt Prindle massif, admired the wildflowers, and we headed home.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Twelve Queens in the Greenhouse

The buzzing is persistent, and really makes me and others wonder about the wasps this year. Yesterday, the local radio had a newsreport how the Cooperative Extension Service is fielding calls about the wasps, and that most of the wasps out this time of the year are the queens, looking for nest sites. If the summer is hot and dry, it might be another bad summer for the yellowjackets.

At home, I killed at least five wasps two days ago. At the garden, the plastic greenhouse blew over sometime between Monday and Wesdnesday. With the help of MK, a garden-neighbor, we righted it up, and by the time I was leaving two hours later, there were at least twelve wasps in it, since I left the zipper window open. Well, I doubt we'll get twelve nests in there, but it still surprised me how many there were. I also dug in the sides of the greenhouse and the beaver-cut logs that were holding it down, hopefully it should be set and not blow over unless we get a hurricane here.

With Sonja and the doggies, we went to the top of Ester Dome yesterday for a walk, the first in three days for the dogs. They had a ton of fun. A lot of chasing going on. Sometimes Mica reciprocated and chased Saphira, too. With Sonja, we looked at flowers up there: a nice white flower called Narcissus Anemone, based on this picture, a yellow flower that was possibly Tundra Rose based on this picture, a flower that might be described as indian paint brush, but in blue, and scruffier; and some rock flowers. I will try to get a flower book, it is ridiculous that I can't even name the few flowers we get here. The bugs were bad up at the top, so I made Sonja sit in the Chariot for the most part.

In case Martin reads this: we will have a share of a CSA this year. Just so that you know, we'll be eating a lot of fresh, locally grown veggies this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pictures from Twin Bears Mountain

The strawberries are blooming! Two and a half weeks after the trees got green, here is a picture of the wild strawberries blooming by the community garden, taken Monday.

Here are some pictures from this saturday's trip, thanks to Dorte! Sonja feeding me crackers...

... and then the trip participants (except for Dorte, who is taking the picture, and the seven dogs we had between the three of us adults), also in their respective carriages. May be the Chariot company could give us some new products to do them advertisement :)

The location of Twin Bears Mountain is somewhere around here: 64.903163,-146.686707, from google maps. That image, view from the satellite the summer when we had large forest fires (the smoke from the Chena Dome fire is visible on that image, if you follow the smoke in the northeasterly direction, you can see the fires) reminds me that the last several summers always had something particular associated with them. Either smoke. Or wasps, like last year.

The wasps are around again this year, making me wonder if they will be bad again this year. Based on Dermot Cole's column from today, Tuesday, May 22, they are not only on my mind:

LATEST BUZZ: That persistent humming sound you hear may mean that we are in for another big invasion of yellowjackets.

Reader Manuela Schmoll of North Pole wrote to offer this advice:

“Sunday night I saw a wasp starting to build a nest on our front porch and I was reminded how bad the wasp problem was last year. I think your column may be a good place to remind people about that and let them know that now is the time to try to kill off the queens and remove any nests that are being started before the queens can lay eggs and the wasp population multiplies. It is best to destroy the queens and not just the nest, since the queen will just go somewhere else and start fresh.”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Visit to the Caribou and Twin Bears Mountain trip

Today we visited the caribou at the experimental farm for a few minutes this morning. We watched the caribou babies that we last saw some two weeks ago. They were quite a bit bigger now. In addition, a train came by (the track is on the other side of the street from the farm), so we also watched a train from real close by. Perhaps too close, I think Sonja didn't enjoy it as much as she does normally when she hears the "hoo hoooo" of the locomotive. Still, anytime she does hear the "hoo hooo", she says the word for train: vlak.

Yesterday, Saturday, we went hiking on the Compeau trail, which is closed to 4 wheeler traffic during breakup, defined as April 15 thru June 5. With Dorte and Kasper (who is exactly 4 months younger than Sonja), an Kerry and Eve (similar age to Kasper), we pushed our three Chariots through some nasty mud (due to 4 wheelers messing it up) on the access trail before we got into the part that was closed during breakup to all but hiking. That trail goes up and up and up. It goes to the top of Twin Bears Mountain, probably 2.5 miles one way from the parking lot. At the top, some breeze provided respite from the bugs, which are definitely out (at least in that region, in town, they are still ok). The dogs had fun, the moms and kids also.

Afterwards, with Dorte and Kasper we went to Chena Hot Springs. Both Sonja and Kasper enjoyed the hot springs tremendously. Sonja had a huge smile on her face the whole time while we were in water. We tried to eat dinner at the hot springs (two weeks ago we went to Angel creek lodge instead, which was a mistake), but the kids were tired, so both Dorte and I got doggie bags and left for home. Overall, Saturday was a busy day for Sonja. Especially since on the way home we also saw two moose right next to the yak farm - first time in more than a month that we saw moose. At least the "moose poop" piles will hopefully make more sense to her once again.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Martin in Greenland, first Bun on the Run, snow on Ester Dome, Sonja's brithday, etc

Well, the last ten days have been busy. Martin left for Greenland Monday a week ago, travelling via East Coast. By Sunday night, he made it into their camp, somewhere east of Ilulissat, overlooking the glacier. But then it sounded like right after the helicopter dropped them off, the weather got very windy for several days (60 knot winds, so imagine standing on top of a car that's going at 70 mph).
Matt came up for a visit of Fairadise, as he calls it, at the end of the week, and even noticed that Bun on the Run, the local bakery trailer that is open during the summer, had its opening day Friday. He was going to buy out all of their cinnamon rolls, but then I think he relented from that. He was very nice and dropped off one of them by my office - thanks Matt!
That evening, we went to eat at Anne and Don's. Excellent polenta. Sonja was not too impressed though, so we left around 8:30. Still, while there, Sonja had fun watching the dogs (red dogs instead of the black ones at our house) and cat, and also the squirrel outside.
Saturday morning we went with Sonja and the dogs to the top of Ester Dome so that the dogs would get a walk. We left the car in between the two peaks, and then followed the marathon trail to the turnaround point. Dogs had a lot of fun. Sonja fell asleep on my back. It started snowing. Snowed more and more. Sonja woke up, unhappy. I think she was happy when we finally got back to the car.
Sunday morning we went on a Frog Walk at creamer's field, but since it froze during the night, we didn't really see that many frogs. Still, coming back from a little loop out there on the refuge, Sonja had a lot of fun telling me to sit on this bench, and that bench. We also watched the cranes and ducks there.
Moving onto this past week, it was Sonja's second birthday. I brought a cake to daycare and we opened the gift that aunt and uncle and cousins send, but otherwise we will have a proper celebration when Martin comes back in mid June. Perhaps it was the shot that she received at the doctor's office, but she did remind me of terrible two's that evening.
Wednesday evening we went walking on the university trails with the chariot. I was pleasantly surprised that she was willing to sit in it, it made it nicer that way (when she wants to be out, we don't get anywhere, and the dogs get bored). We might try to do the same thing tonight.

Overall, Fairbanks is now, two weeks after the leaves on the trees started coming out, is very nicely green, and grass is starting to turn green also. Oh no!, as Sonja would say - I don't know why she says Oh no! any time I mention how nice it is to have green trees. More later... hopefully.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What happens in daycare

So, this is what happens sometimes to Sonja's hair in daycare:

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dogs, and Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs

Here is our hill just starting to green up, on Friday, the second day when the trees were green.

Next, a few pictures of Sonja: playing wth the woodpecker, and laughing her head off:

Next, a few pics of Sonja with Mica...

And, second to last, picture from today's hike from Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs. 9 miles altogether. The dogs had a blast. Sonja enjoyed it too, though the ridge was a bit windy for her, and towards the end the hike was getting too long for her, and she itched to walk again like in the beginning of the hike. The conditions were ok - Saturday it rained in town but snowed up at the ridsgeline, so there were a couple inches of fresh snow everywhere. Once at Chena Hot Springs, we soaked in the pool, an activity enjoyed by all involved.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Leaves are out on the trees!

This morning, driving to work, we noticed that the leaves are coming out on the trees. Yay! I'll have to take a picture of it. It is wonderful to see the green color.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Sunday trip to Nenana

On Sunday, we took a short trip to Nenana. While it was not Sonja's first trip in a small plane (she went to Atqasuk with me last year), it was the first time she flew in a small plane with Martin as the pilot. Sonja was very excited to be at the airport, where we could see a bunch of small planes landing and taking off.

On the way to Nenana, we saw some birds, probably geese, migrating north.

At Nenana, we walked to town and to the river, but were two days too late - the ice underneath the Nenana tripod had apparently given way the previous Friday, thus ending this year's Nenana Ice Classic guessing game where people try to guess the time the tripod falls in. Both on the way to Nenana and on the way back, Sonja fell asleep in the airplane.

Moose from the air, pretty close to Fairbanks.

This evening I went to see David Sedaris, an author who sometimes appears on This American Life (heard on our local NPR station, though it is done by Public Radio International). Funny guy. I can recommend hearing him talk.

On to other things, I think by the end of this week the whole town will be green, the trees seem to be really close to greening up.