Saturday, September 1, 2007

River Update and fall colors in our Valley

So, this is what the river looks like now. It has dropped dramatically in the last few weeks. Oh the changes that are near! In a way it makes me sad, but in another way it makes me appreciate the changes here in Alaska. They are so dramatic and drastic that it almost makes you excited to partake in them. So my dear brother Dan and sister Sherry (who will be here in September), I wonder what adventures are ahead for us during your visit! Click here for pictures of previous 'river update' pictures.
This is what I see each day when I drive over the hill to our house. The fall colors are just beginning to come out. Again, this will change so rapidly in the next few weeks. Don't be surprised if the next update is without leaves and that could be as soon as 2 weeks from now! Glad that wood is chopped and the woodshed is FULL! Have a wonderful fall!

A final sunset for the week...

Well, words don't seem enough to express the week Marsha and I had, all topped off by this sunset on the way home. This could serve as my 'river update' but because you can't see the river too well, I will post an update with links to the previous river posts.

WOW! I can't believe I live here!

More local highlights...Alyeska Tram, Girdwood

We jumped on the Alyeska Ski Area Tram. It was a gorgeous day in the Turnagain Arm.
Just at the top of the tram the paragliders leave the land and float over the Turnagain Arm. Only $175 to tandem glide...Curtis?
Here are the ski runs offered here at Alyeska...notice there are 5 double black diamonds...Caleb?
Okay, Marsha and I weren't expecting this sign. We have many avalanches and so you must watch for unexploded artillery. Below is the gun used to shoot down the avalanches. Interesting.

Local highlights...Iditarod Headquarters

We decided to do a little local sight seeing in the Valley. We went to the Musk Ox Farm but I didn't get any good pictures. Next time. Here are some pictures of the Iditarod dogs and puppies. We did take a ride around with the dogs pulling us in a cart (not quite the same as in the winter!)
Beth and the puppies...always!

Trying to take a picture backwards while we were going around the curves! Beth and Marsha seemed to be enjoying the ride!

A little bit more wildlife from Seward...

Some little sea otters just floating along in the sunlight!
This picture just cracks me up! Doesn't it look like these Stellar Sea Lions are smiling? I just love it.
The King of the Bay!

The most amazing glacier calving EVER!

Okay, this is the Aialik Glacier out of Seward. It is huge and amazing and wonderful and WOW! Here we are coming up to it. Soon we would be standing in the boat at the foot of the glacier watching the most amazing calving I have ever seen. Even some of the staff on the boat had never seen anything like it. If you look at these pictures closely you should be able to see a large crack that just falls. I have video of this section and I wish so badly I could figure out how to upload the video but because it was done on my camera and have not been able to get it on my blog. I will keep working on that!

Orcas and Belugas!

A whole pod of Orcas.
Hard to see, but this is a Beluga whale in the Turnagain Arm on our way home from Seward. We saw many of them, but boy are they hard to photograph!

Humpback alert again!

We saw a total of three humpback whale on our cruise of the bay. It is always a thrill to see whale and my friend Marsha was especially thrilled to see whale on her trip. In fact, she saw these humpback, the orcas and belugas that will be in the next blog post.

Birds of Resurrection Bay

After our trip to Denali and Fairbanks, we were home just long enough to get a good night's sleep and then headed to Seward and a cruise of Resurrection Bay. Here is a Cormorant with babies on the nest.
This is a new bird for me. This is Red-Faced Cormorant with babies. It was exciting for me to see this bird.

And of course the resident favorite, Tufted Puffin!

The Creamery and Alaska Pipeline

Here is what is left of the fireweed. Around here we watch the fireweed closely. It blooms from the bottom up and when the blooms are near the top we know summer is just about over. After they bloom, they turn to seed. So, you can see SUMMER IS OVER!!
It was the Sandhill Crane Festival at the Creamery in Fairbanks. There were thousands of cranes in the fields.

This is one of the viewing points of the Alaska Pipeline as it works its way from the top of the state at Prudheo Bay to Valdez.

Riverboat Discovery

While riding in the tour boat, we got to stop and watch lots of 'Alaskan' happenings. One of these was a float plane taking off and landing beside the riverboat.
Another thing we did was stop and talk with Susan Butcher's husband who raises sled dogs. Susan Butcher was one of Alaska's favorite women, the first to win the Iditarod. She died last year of cancer. It was a treat to get to listen to her husband explain what they do with the dogs and to get some great pictures of him and his dogs. It was interesting how the riverboat tours did this. They pulled up next to these things and had microphones set up so that the guests could speak into the microphone and all the passengers on the riverboat could hear what was being said. Pretty cool.
Here they are getting ready to run the dogs. It is summer so they run them with a 4-wheeler.
After the dogs work, they play! As soon as they unhooked them from the run, the ran into the river.
Another really neat part of the riverboat cruise was the confluence of these two rivers. Taken from the Riverboat Discovery website: Nuchalawoya, an Athabascan Indian term for the "wedding of the rivers." The marriage of the clear waters of the Chena River and the silt laden Tanana River creates this unique demarcation line.

Fairbanks, AK

We arrived the next morning, after a beautiful drive from Denali to Fairbanks. What a cute city. I was very impressed with Fairbanks (in the summer! LOL)
We had to make a stop at North Pole, AK to see Santa's house. Even did some Christmas shopping!!
The University of Alaska at Fairbanks is blessed with an amazing museum. Although we didn't have time to go through it on this visit, it will be first on my list for the next trip.

While in Fairbanks, we took the Discovery Riverboat for a nice look at the Alaskan culture and life in Fairbanks. Here is a working fish wheel.

The end of our Denali trip...

We saw this nice rainbow in Denali.
We saw this double rainbow in Fairbanks. We actually saw MANY rainbows on the trip, but I only got good pictures of these two.
On the bus ride back someone else spotted this grizzly eating the soapberries.

This final picture is the moose and bear warning sign at the start of the trail Marsha and I walked just outside the visitor's center in Denali. Needless to say, the 'bear fear' I have was too great and we only walked the little loop!