Have you seen Melanie?


Update, June 5.

I’m so sad. I didn’t know Melanie personally. But I do know that at this point, the outlook is not good.  She was reported as being a very private person, as many mushers are.  After all, being a musher often means a life lived alone.  But it is evident to me that she has many friends and supporters.  The mushing community alone has been pulling out all the stops.  The first few days, my Facebook page was plastered with information sharing.  Now it is more centralized in one place, a Facebook page made just for the clearing house of information.  I think it is also a place for us sad people to go and to see how many people are truly caring about this individual.  As someone who likes to go out into the wilderness alone as well, it does help the state of my heart to see this.

KTNA.org, a community station out of Talkeetna and Alaska Dispatch seem to be following this story more closely than the larger stations and publications are able to.  I was told that staffing was one of the factors that contributed to that.   Here is the latest update.


The Greening.

Yes spring has sprung.  The snow is gone, the trees are green, the mosquitos are out, and it no longer gets all the way dark at night.

May. 25, 2011

Sun Rise  3:54 AM AKDT

Sun Set  11:44 PM AKDT

Moon 2:46 AM AKDT 2:40 PM AKDT

Length Of Visible Light 24h 00m

Length of Day 19h 50m

Tomorrow will be 6m 43s longer.

In May of each year I watch the hills for signs of spring.  First we have breakup where the snow melts and mud prevails.  The days get longer and one must pay attention to the clock on the wall instead of the clock of your body or you will be eating dinner at 11:00 pm.  Such is the power of the sun after a long, dark winter.  Then one day I say to myself “Do the hills have a green tinge on them or is it just my imagination?”  Three days later, the Birch tree buds pop and this is what it looks like.  This is my 8th spring here and it still amazes me how quickly the greening happens.  The long hours of sun really do a sweet trick.

I took this out my front door.

 This picture was taken right before midnight. Rainbows in my living room.  This is as the sun hits one of my crystals.  I have several hanging so as to get rainbows at other times of the day as well.

I took a picture of this bunny from my kitchen window.  We often throw out crusts of bread and other goodies to attract them and birds into plain viewing site.  This one was almost finished changing from his winter white to his summer grey.


Flowery henna is in the air. 


We had our first forest fire to start off our fire season.  While it was technically near me, it wasn’t near enough to be dangerous.  From the spot my friend Lori and I found to take photos of it, is only about 10 minutes from my house.

It ended up burning about 900 acres.  Luckily no structures burned.  I have a lot of friends that live in this area.  These pictures are much clearer if you right-click and open in a new window.


The orange glow from the sun shining through the thick smoke was really a lovely color.



 Finding this private landing strip was a real boon.  We could actually see some distance without being blocked in by trees.  We were two of several who found this handy location. 

There were two fixed wing aircraft, one dumping water and one dumping retardant, and one helicopter.  This area still had snow 8 or 9 days previous to the start of the fire so that really helped.  But it was hot and windy and that of course, is not a good thing.  They were able to cut fire lines around 60% of it but had to have ground crews and smoke jumpers go in for the remaining 40%.  




Clucking Blossom is an annual festival of music and art that is totally free.  This year it was pretty small with only a few tables.  When I went it was really hot out so the crowds were small as well. 




I love our Farmer’s Market.  Here a boy is using a draw knife to peel willows to be used as decorations and in custom furniture.

The kids and I went for a little drive before returning home the other day.  We found a road up to a radio tower on top of one of the hills we view from home.  I didn’t even realize this was up there but when I mentioned it on Facebook another friend of mine reminded me that there used to be a ski resort up here.

This is an old tower, now laying on the ground.


I thought this turned out to be a pretty cool picture.  It was pretty hazy but you can still see The Alaska Range, of which Mt. McKinley is part. Fairbanks and the Tanana River Valley.

 Hidden a bit off the road was an old quanset.  Thanks to my friend Kara and her cool pictures of abandoned mines and buildings, I thought I would give it a try and go explore it a bit. 


It was collapsed, I assume by too heavy of a snow load.  It didn’t look to have been burned but I know fire can weaken metal too.  Here you can see the ribs bent over.

Across the road there was this pit, dug  by hand and at one time, covered with a roof.  Looks like an old root cellar.

While we were driving up this road, my 9 year old daughter was really enjoying it and commenting how beautiful and cool it was.  We were just returning home from town where it had been hot and sweaty and the road was so shaded and intimate.  She said “This is a dream road, like a dream home, but a road!”

I took these photos from the top of my drive way.  You can see where the main ski slope was even though it is now full of new growth trees as well as the tower we visited.


Well my little petunias, that is all for now.  We have a busy month planned for June.  If you remember my post last year “A Fowl Adventure” you can look forward to more of the same, only better.  Camping, Chickenstock, a visit to my friends in Eagle, a zombie walk, Bare Naked Lady concert, the Midnight Sun Run (my first 10K!) Solstice, etc will surely keep us busy.  Now, if I could only remember the combination to the storage so I could get our camping and back packing gear out…

Song of Myself, I, II, VI & LII…

Song of Myself, I, II, VI & LII

by Walt Whitman


I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil,
this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.


Houses and rooms are full of perfumes…. the shelves
are crowded with perfumes,

I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume…. it has no taste
of the distillation…. it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever…. I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, and buzzed whispers…. loveroot, silkthread,
crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration…. the beating of my heart….
the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore
and darkcolored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice…. words loosed
to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses…. a few embraces…. reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along
the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health…. the full-noon trill…. the song of me
rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned
the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun…. there are
millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand…. nor
look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres
in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.


A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any
more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.
Or I guess if is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of
the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive then the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Unfortunately, the photographer was more concerned with getting a picture of me then the phenomenal beauty of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).



Breakup is the season between winter and summer that the majority of the world calls spring.  April is my least favorite month in many respects.  The snow is melting, it’s muddy, nothing has begun to green up yet, it’s dreary, there are fewer northern light visible, and normally we have more wind.  But the wind does help dry things up.  The temperatures are getting into the 50’s.  It’s already light until late at night.  So, Alaska in its ugliest month is still very promising.  While it’s not QUITE spring, it assures one’s spirit that spring is indeed on its way.  Get ready.

Apr. 26, 2011

Sun Rise is at 5:36 am and Sun Set is 10:04 pm.

Civil Twilight 4:29 AM AKDT 11:12 PM AKDT
Length Of Visible Light 18h 42m
Length of Day 16h 27m
Tomorrow will be 7m 0s longer. 

 The Bears are Waking.

You can right click these pictures to open them in a new window and larger size.

 Photo by Susan’s camera lol.

Denali National Park has one road into the park.  It is 90 miles long.  For the majority of the year, personal vehicles are not allowed past mile 15, Savage River.  In the shoulder seasons, it is open to mile 30, Teklanika River.  The remainder of the year only park busses are allowed to drive the road.  My friend Susan and I decided to take a little road trip and go into the park since the road is now open to mile 30.  It’s only 2-2.5 hour drive.   We discussed how lucky we were to live so close to such awesome scenery.  Park Road Map PDF large

“Where is my picinic basket?”

Here’s some video of the bear.  Admittedly, it’s terrible and shaky as I couldn’t see through the viewfinder due to the sun shining on it and I tried to set it down to stabalize it but then couldn’t find the darn bear.

While “The Mountain” wasn’t out, it was still a beautiful day.

This shows how deep the snow was that covered the road.  They were still clearing it on up the road passed Mile 30.


I just love mountains hiding in the mist.

Teklanika River, Mile 30.

Susan, photographer extrodannair.  Make sure to check out her blog, linked on the sidebar.


In the first couple of miles there is a denning wolf pack so you can not go off the road here.

The Rest of the Story…er, Month.

We’ve had a busy month, hence the lack of blog posts.

I only have two kids but I am glad that Jordan has such a good friend as Chris.  They spend a lot of time together.






Can you find the Easter egg in these snowballs?

This picture was taken April 24 at 10:46 pm.  It’s now about that light at midnight.

 First little squirrel out my kitchen window munching on a bread heel.


Mushing and World Ice Art Championship pictures will have to wait.  Thos may be nice cool photos to post this summer when it is hot.  I want to get this posted and my internet is running slower than dial-up recently.  My kids are going to spend some time this summer with their dad and grandmother down in the -48 so I am planning a lot of back packing and camping trips.   Have a great day.

March is my favorite month.

I’ve been teaching myself all winter how to photograph the northern lights. It is difficult. Once you finally think you have the correct (manual) settings for your camera, then you have to wait for the lights to come out to test your theory.  Test, adjust, rinse, repeat.  Tonight we had a geophysical storm from a solar flare and the sky exploded with light. I even was able to get some pinks. Unfortunately after about half an hour, my fingers start to freeze up and I accidentally pushed some button/s while moving the camera and changed 2 of the 3 main settings. So these are the only ones that showed up well enough to bother with.

I think this one was my favorite as it just looks so explosive.   Wish I had been able to set it up better.

That’s the crescent moon in the tree line.

None of these have been enhanced at all. I’ve only resized them and slapped my name on the corner. Enjoy.

The remainder of these pictures are so out-of-order as far as a time line goes, there isn’t one.

We had a nice bonfire at my friend Jan and Eric’s.  It’s kind of strange not saying “Jan’s” but since they have been together for over a year and have the wedding day set, I guess it is time to include him.  Lol he is worthy of inclusion!  It was a beautiful day for a party.

The kids love going out there because Eric gives them rides.  They were really happy to see other kids there.

Eric did a huge cajon shrimp boil with shrimp, sausages, potatoes, and corn on the cob.  We also had some indoor goodies.

I was honored to participate in a nurse in at the Alaska Club where a mamma had been asked to leave for breastfeeding.  The life guard, manager, and general manager all told her to leave.  When the resulting uproar went public, the President assured us that breastfeeding was indeed allowed in his facilities in accordance to Alaska state law and as another health benefit to his members and future members.  They pride themselves in being a family friendly facility…  He will let us know by the end of the month what type of employee education will be put in place.  They obviously need one.  We had about 50 people show up so consider it a success.

My kids were really excited to get to have dinner with Lisa, especially my daughter.

We had a really strange February.  Normally Fairbanks doesn’t have much wind.  Sometimes we get a bit in the spring but it’s not spring yet!  Several trees got blown over, power was out all over, drifts blew over the roads.  It was a mess.  50 mph winds and gusts harder than that, really made me wish I had a generator.

Our normal snowfall for this month is 6″.  We got a bit over 25″.  I don’t mind as that just means more mushing in warm temperatures.

This was the snowfall for one night, almost 11″.


Right now I am following the Iditarod like an obsessed person.  It’s so exciting.  I so wish Lance could win this year making him the only musher to ever win 5 times in a row.  But he was down to 12 dogs pretty early in the race, before the halfway point, so it doesn’t look promising.  But if there ever was a musher to over come adversity and land on top, it would be him.  So now I am going to publish this blog then go back to my updates…  http://www.iditarod.com

Have a great day!

Yukon Quest 2011!

Well my dear followers, we have once again seen another Quest completed.  If you’ve read my blog you may remember that the Yukon Quest is our “other” 1000 mile sled dog race; The Toughest Race on Earth.  As it is very near and dear to my heart, I’ve posted about it before.

This summer most of the regular crew all went up to Mile 101 to hang out and get some work done on the place in 4th of July and Mile 101.

Yukon Quest 2010 which was also working at Mile 101.

In 2009 I got to handle for Wayne and Scarlett Hall from Whitehorse to Fairbanks in Yukon Quest, Adventures in Handling.

Here is a video taken a few years ago of Mile 101 Checkpoint so you can see inside some of the cabins.

This year, since they mushers were coming from Whitehorse (odd numbered years), by the time they got to our checkpoint on the US side, they are semi spread out.  This let us get much more sleep then the frenzy of last year when they came from Fairbanks.  As one of the two cooks, I was just tickled pink when two separate mushers mentioned the bacon and eggs they got with us.  Our traditional meals, bacon, eggs, and halibut are donated to use by our local watering hole, Ivory Jacks.

To see pictures better, may I suggest right clicking and opening them in a new tab.

Yes I was feeling a bit whimsical for my trip, my grand adventure.  Carol Falchetta and I decided to caravan up to the checkpoint.  We were going to head up on Saturday, Feb. 12th but due to the extreme quickness of the first part of the race, we decided to head up on Friday.

My frosty Toyota
Carol and Rollie
Going up and the road is getting more snow packed.
On our way up 12 Mile Summit, we stopped to talk to Snowplow Man. He tells us the road is still open and he will be back soon on another pass.

Due to the snow berm in the middle of the road from the snow plow’s first pass, two vehicles coming down 12 Mile Summit was on our side of the road.  They ran Carol off the side of the road and just kept driving, assholes.  I can only hope they were out of state hunters.  At this point the wind was blowing pretty strongly and the snow was blowing pretty sidewaysly.

She wasn’t far off the road but she was really stuck. Once off the road, it’s just soft snow to sink axle deep in.

Here’s a video I took, sitting there with my flashers on. You can see the wind is pretty hard.

There was not much we could do so we decided to just wait for Snow Plow Man to show back up.  It was very comforting to know that big ass truck would return.  This wasn’t the last time we were thankful for DOT and we weren’t the only ones.  They spent the night being heros!

He gets her out very handily.

So you would think we would be right back on the road huh?  unfortunately when we started to drive off, I realized I had a flat on my right front tire.  I am so thankful that it happened there while sitting and not while driving a windy, mountain, snow covered road.  Just the day before a friend pointed out that a tire looked a bit low so before leaving I checked all of them and added the necessary air.  After just a few feet I knew what it was so I pulled up right in front of the snow plow.  No way was I going to let him leave hahaha.  (Not that he would or did!)  I jumped out, looked at my flat, worded to him through the window “I have a flat!”  He worded back “I know!”  He rolled down his window and told me of a pullout just a few feet behind him and to pull into there and he would call for help.  So I limped into the pull out and he pulled in beside me.  By this time, the wind was howling and in full blizzard mode.  Because of this, Carol couldn’t see that I was not behind her.  It was seriously down to a few feet of visibility by now.

Snow Plow Man told me to stay in my car as he had called his buddy who had his heavy winter gear to change my tire for me.  Yes, you heard right, “change it FOR me!”  My regular readers know that I know how to change a tire…but they had the big jack which was handy.  All in all I sat and waited for a bit but the DOT guys never left me alone.  For not being a wimpy girl, this was still comforting to me.

My heros, Travis and another one who I didn’t get the name of.
A young Trooper checks in on us.

The tire got changed and they took the tire with them to their shop to fix it.  They told me I could pick it up on my way back so I wouldn’t have to run with out a spare.  Do they rock or what?  I promised them a 12 pack on my return.  More to that story later.  I was once again, on my way.  The next 20 miles were eerie.  With the snow and wind blowing a tempest like the deranged breath of Mother Nature and the solitude of the road, it was a bit surreal.  After I got off the mountain a bit, it started to ease.  By the time I pulled into the checkpoint, Eric, trailblazer extrodanairre, had just plugged in his truck so it would start, to come look for me.  Carol felt terrible that she lost me.  She had pulled over for 45 minutes then went on to notify the people at the checkpoint.  I didn’t mind, as seriously, one could not see in that blizzard and by then she was closer to the checkpoint.

That first night was a bit bare as none of the food had shown up yet so we were left with what we had brought with us.  The following night however, made up for it.  The rest of the crew showed up and Eric made his traditional cajon shrimp boil and we all ate, drank, and were merry!  Good times shared with good friends and good food, who could ask for a better time?

Peter, Greg, Lucas, Jan.

Kevin, Sterling, Eric, and Kelly.

Kate and Joe

I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of Mike.  He was probably out working on something.

Here is a great little video taken by Peter Kamper, our Checkpoint Manager and videographer.

“Mile 101 is the most remote checkpoint of the YQ trail. It is connected the outside world via ham radio and satellite internet connections. Power comes from generators the crew brings up to the mostly abandoned cabins. Often the checkpoint, laying between two mountain passes is cut off from the rest of the road system due to blowing snow and severe weather conditions.
Video Peter Kamper”

People ask me about the trail markers going over Eagle Summit.  A lot of thought and hard work are put into these.  This is an amusing spoof on the subject done by Eric a few years ago.  Hey, I think it’s a great idea.

Brent Sass’ handlers decided to come out and spend the night with us, since we are the most fun…

Steve (most commonly known as “the guy with the blow up doll” OR “the guy with Cheetos in his ears, speaking in a Japanese accent to “the control tower”.
Inside the Comm Shack, Sterling, Carol, Kevin.
Kevin, HAM Radio operator and technical guru.

The following day it was time to get some work done.

Joe, hard at work.

Jan and I followed Eric up the trail towards Eagle Summit on a secret mission, placing a big box of pink flamingos along the trail.

Looking down from Eagle Summit.  Eric took Jan and I down on his snow machine.  While he said I didn’t, I THOUGHT I screamed all the way down.  I can not imagine getting up that with a team of dogs.

Unrelenting, austere, beauty. These two pictures are much better appreciated at full size.

Box o flamingos, trail markers, cliff (I mean trail).

Me, installing a flamingo on a tripod. Photo by JanDenapoli.

Me and Jan, flamingoists!

Photo by Jan Denapoli.

It was great fun but it IS frosty work! Photos by Jan Denapoli.

It took us two days to put out all the flamingos.  Then we also caught some eggs outside of the cook shack.  

DOT guys brought my plugged tire to me.  How is that for service!  We had been using everyone’s personal generators to run the cook and comm shacks since we had yet to get the big one from the Quest.  I think we blew 3 or 4 of them.  So, there was no plugging in of cars and they had frozen up.  Jan had to work on Monday and Carol needed to move on to Circle/Central to get pictures of the team/s as they came in but no one was going anywhere.  It was about -40 or colder.  So while they were there, they also jumped off several vehicles.

Comm Shack
Incoming trail
The big generator FINALLY arrived.
Cook shack
Weather report
Drop bags


Race Marshal Hans Oettli and Head Veterinarian Alan Hallman

Josh Cadzow and crew

Sebastian Schnuelle trying to eat while being interviewed.

Here’s a video of Sab going over Eagle Summit (which is right before our checkpoint).

Step, step, rest, step, step, burning lungs, step, rest.

Happy handlers!

Dallas Seavey

Kate and Wesley Schaefer, awesome people.  They brought us 10 pizzas, cookies, cough drops and oranges, just because they are coolness!

Brent Sass and Kelly Kamper

Kelly Griffin

Allen Moore and Joe

Hans Gatt


We had a long break between mushers so some of us decided to see if the showers in Central were in working order and to have a cheeseburger.  They weren’t, but it was a nice break anyways.

Got snow?


We took a detour to check out Circle Hot Springs.  It’s been closed for years but people still use it.  But not recently it appears as it was snowed over.



That night I went down to the lower cabin for a while to visit with Mike and Joe and to share in some of the “101” while we waited for the next team to come in.  They are the checkers who check the mushers in.  Both of these guys are fun to visit with.  They have lots of stories to share.

Mike can sit on his bed there and look out the window to see teams come in.  We had a “doorbell” installed about 1/2 mile down the trail that would beep us on our radios when they passed that point, but it wasn’t full proof.

Jodi Bailey and her handler.

Jodi feeding her team.

Mike Ellis’ beautiful team of Siberians resting in the sunshine.  While the sun at this time of year doesn’t offer much heat, it’s better than the alternative!

Mike Ellis.  Poor thing had an upset stomach since food from a previous stop so bacon and eggs where not a real good choice for him.  I offered him some yogurt but it was frozen so still not appealing to a touchy stomach.  And yet, here he is smiling for the camera.


Dave Dalton and Jodi Bailey.  In the background is a sweet Vet named Annette who spent quite a while with us waiting for teams to come in.  Also in the far background is Sue Ellis, so much energetic fun from that girl!  She’s the type of person that people like me just want to be around.

We still had a few teams out on the trail when it was time for me to leave.  I had been away from my kids for week (and they were out of school all that time.)  The second set of snowmachiners showed up and went and got our flamingos for us.  It looked like they had fun.  They were all smiling anyways.

I wanted to wait and see Jodi off down the trail towards home but I wanted to get back over 12 Mile Summit before dark more.  So I left for my solitary trip home.


I made it home just fine though.

The finish banquet was awesome.  Thank you to Jan for buying my ticket.  I wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise.

Funny that this is image 101 on my camera.

Jan and Eric.

Annette, Jodi, and Donna

Sorry these pictures are not very good.  I didn’t want to get up and get in other seated people’s way to get better pictures.  I also didn’t get pictures of everyone.  In no particular order other than how they came out on my computer…

Hugh Neff

Kyla Durham, Brent Sass’s handler and runner of his puppy team.  11th place.

Dave Dalton 9th place.

Allen Moore 6th place.

Kelley Griffin, 5th place.

Dallas Seavey 1st place, finishing in 10 days, 11 hours, 53 minutes!

Among the top awards bestowed at the banquet was the inaugural Silver Legacy Award, named after its first recipient — Silver, the lead dog for Fairbanks musher Brent Sass. The award will recognize dogs for “incredible deeds and feats of bravery and (honor),” according to race officials.

In 2006, during a storm on Eagle Summit, Silver was instrumental in assisting a musher in trouble and helping another team over the pass. This year, Silver performed double duty on American Summit. With Hans Gatt and his team in trouble, Sass hitched Gatt’s team to his sled and let Silver pull both teams over the pass.


Here is the video of that, taken by Brent.  In his words, knarly!

“After coming across a near-hypothermic Hans Gatt during a storm, Brent Sass lashed their teams together in order to make it over American Summit. Thanks to his lead dog, Silver, they made it safely over and into Eagle checkpoint.”

Veterinarian’s Choice, Mike and Sue Ellis.

Sportsmanship Award (chosen by racers), Tie: Mike Ellis, Allen Moore, and Brent Sass.

Well folks time to wrap this up already.  I did want to say at some point in this post that being at Mile 101 is a bit like being on the front lines of the Quest.  Certainly we are witness to what can and does happen occasional on Eagle Summit.  While there are stories worthy of a good storyteller that comes from that, they are not my stories to tell.  It is an honor to be keeper of these stories and I take that responsibility to heart.  The position I hold for this blog is to simply not share in the exhaustion, heart break, and plain old bad luck met by some of the mushers.  But some of those stories ARE out there, told by the people who need to tell them such as Sab’s Yukon Quest Recap and the CKRW interview of Hans Gatt, both very worthy of a listen.

I want to also thank my friend Morgan and her kids for keeping my children in a home they are familiar with while I was gone.  I couldn’t have done this without you guys!  I hope you enjoyed my story and look forward to any comments you may leave.


Ice, Ice Baby!

At least it’s not on the roads this time.

It’s on my window!


My computer desk is right next to the big living room windows.  I was often chilly while sitting here so beefed up the insulating factor of the window.

Behind the drape I have a quilted curtain.

Behind that, I have a piece of styrofoam board in the window.  Yea, doesn’t look too attractive from the outside but I don’t really care.

Behind that the ice is building up a bit.

So, thought I’d take some pictures of my new load of heating fuel arriving.  It’s surely a happy day now!

I knocked the new snow load off the roof for him or it would have hit him in the face and might have been enough to knock the ladder down.  But it dumps onto the top of the tank so he had to clear it off.

Nice out today.

Bye fuel truck.

I’m so sick of doing it myself!  Here’s a video of me filling the tank using jugs.  It’s a pain in the ass for sure.

And just because I have Buddy Tabor’s song, Get Up Dogs, going through my mind a lot lately, I thought I would share it with you.  It’s one of my favorites.

(Runners = sled runners).  I simply love this song. He’s not actually singing to his dogs but to himself.

Get up dogs
You aint tired
With the spirit of this race
We can set this trail on fire
You were born unto the race
The dogs are just the same
You were made for the winners circle
It runs inside your veins

The days of alcohol
It never ruled your mind
You were born a free man
You never were that kind
People watch you cause you stand up proud and tall
That aint all

Get up dogs
You aint tired
The spirit of this race
We can set this trail on fire
You were born unto the race
Your dogs are just the same
You were made for the winners circle
It runs inside your veins

In summer time it’s hot
The bugs are in your face
Your mind is on your fishing
But your heart is in the race
When the seasons change
The snow will set you free
It’s the call of the wild
It’s the only way to be

Get up dogs
You aint tired
With the spirit of this race
We can set this trail on fire
You were born unto the race
The dogs are just the same
You were made for the winners circle
It runs inside your veins

As the snow disappears beneath your sled
You’ve lost all track of time
As nature’s rhythm pounds from a drum
Somewhere in the back of your mind
The elders sing, the people dance
And you go round and round
Into the dream the runners scream
As they slide across the ground

Get up dogs
You aint tired
With the spirit of this race
We can set this trail on fire
You were born unto the race
Your dogs are just the same
You were made for the winners circle
It runs inside your veins

And on that note, I’ll say goodbye for now.  Have a wonderful day my friends!


2010 in Review

I started this blog on January 18, 2010 so it is just about a year old.  Wordpress sent me this handy dandy review and I thought it was interesting.

It made me want to share it and to thank all the people who read these stories.  I don’t know what it is that makes us want people to read what we write, but we do, so thanks.  It makes me feel good.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 36 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 669 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 176mb. That’s about 2 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was November 4th with 135 views. The most popular post that day was Toasting on the Tundra.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were community.history.com, forums.outdoorsdirectory.com, facebook.com, city-data.com, and tripadvisor.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for beet harvest, living waterless in fairbanks ak, alaska, snow covered highway, and dry cabin.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Toasting on the Tundra November 2010


A Fowl Adventure June 2010


Brooks Range Trip, ANWR. April 2010


Cloud 9 Doula Services January 2010


Beet Harvest July 2010

7 Years in Tibet?

Happy Alaska Anniversary To Us.

How about 7 years in Alaska?  As of Christmas Eve, we have been here for 7 years.  This is the home of my heart that I had spent my life searching for.  I am glad I finally found it as I was getting tired of moving around and wanted to provide a bit of stability for my children who were 2 and 5 at the time.  Now at 9 and 12, I consider them Alaskans even though they were born elsewhere.  Luckily I got them here early enough in life to be effective lol.  I spent my childhood moving around quite a bit.  No, my dad wasn’t military (by then), he did have the heart of a gypsy.  While there are advantages to having been raised this way, such as being able to fit into any type of group fairly quickly, being able to make friends easily, and knowing a lot about the different areas of my country, it is exhausting not to mention expensive.  I don’t know how my parents did it so often.


If you notice, it has been almost a month since my last blog post.  I normally try to make at least one post every two weeks.  I don’t know what it is, maybe the holidays, but I have not felt like writing as of late.  There have been plenty of things to write about and plenty of pictures to share.  When doing something I often think to myself, “oh, I should put this in the blog” but then it just seemed like too much trouble.  I seem to be in a waiting state of mind.  I don’t like it.  I feel very melancholy.  Maybe it is cabin fever of which I’ve never really been affected by.  I LIKE hunkering down in my cabin and being a homebody.  Maybe, maybe, maybe a lot of things.  Oh well, I know I will snap out of it.  I think I just have to wait a while longer for it to happen.  I definitely feel like it is just a waiting period.  Perhaps if I begin writing again, it will help.  I know I get a lot of enjoyment from sharing my blog and the few comments I get.


We have two main holidays to celebrate in December.  Of course we have Christmas, but to Alaskans, Solstice is a wonderful day!  Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the turning point to our long dark.  Now the days will start getting longer.  There are Solstice parties and downtown festivities as well as fireworks on the Chena River.  Here is a time-lapse video shot on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus around the Winter Solstice last year.  It shows how the sun barely peeks over our horizon before setting again.  Photos by Todd Paris, UAF Marketing and Communications.

Sunrise was at 10:58 AM and sunset was at 2:40 PM giving us 3h 41m of day.  The day following day was only 9 seconds longer but by the time it is going full speed, we will be gaining 7 minutes of daylight a day.  It really adds up quickly.  We will get our light back before we get our heat back.

To add to the excitement that is Solstice, we also had a full lunar eclipse.


Speaking of heat, I recently had some problems with my heating system.  Here’s a quick picture of me going out to change the tank filter at -30F.  I was not successful that night as the filter was frozen on.  When I lost the snow load off the roof during that last warm snap, it all landed on the tank and the filter.  I had already chopped it off the tank so I could have access to pour in fuel but never did anything about the filter.  Now I know….   I was told to take a hammer to it to break it loose but was afraid to hammer it too much as things tend to break in those temperatures.  It warmed up quite a bit the following day and my cousin came over to show me how hard I could hammer on it hahaha.

So, since I couldn’t get the heater working that night, after several attempts, I brought the kids’ mattresses into the living room (to keep us off the floor which is very cold), closed off the bedroom, and turned on the oven.  They spent the evening drinking hot chocolate and watching movies quite comfortably from bed.

It took me three trips to town, lots of frustration, and no few expletives but I got it going.  I still need to replace a brass fitting that was broken during it all.  Right now heating fuel is still dripping into a jug I am using to catch it with.  I am catching it and pouring back in but it is a hassle.  I need to go buy a flaring tool and new fitting tomorrow.  I’m kind of putting it off as I don’t know how successful flaring copper tubing will be at these temperatures.  If a brass fitting can tear like play doh, I’m not sure how copper will behave.  As it is now, I can deal with it.  If I totally mess it up, I’m a bit screwed.  At least now I know how to change a filter, how to bleed the lines, how to reset the float, and that the guys at The Woodway shop are generous with their information and talked me through a lot of this process!

Chatanika Lodge

Earlier this month we had a visit from a friend of a friend.  Carol and Kathy are from Australia and came up to see the northern lights.  While they were here, we took a day trip out to Chatanika.  The snow plows were taking a break there so I thought we would take a few pictures with them so you can see how massive this machinery really is.

Chatanika used to be a busy gold mining town, 28 miles north of Fairbanks on the other side of the Cleary Summit. At least 70 million dollars in gold was taken out between 1926 and 1957. Today Chatanika is a ‘gold camp resort’ on the Steese Highway and a lodge with a very big derelict gold dredge across the way.

Chatanika Lodge was established in the late 1930’s as a trading post to serve the needs of miners and trappers traveling to and from the rich gold fields and trap lines in the Circle mining district near Central, Alaska. The lodge is located across from the second largest stacker dredge that operated from the early 1920’s until 1962. When the dredge was in operation, there were many families living in Chatanika. It was a booming town with people traveling back and forth to Fairbanks for supplies.

It’s papered with bills from people all over the world and filled with Alaskana.  It’s also very decorated for Christmas.

When taking out of state visitors there, I ask to see “the dredge video” and then in the summer you can walk across the road and with just a short hike, see the actual gold dredge from the video.

Yes, my 12 year old son is taller than I am.


Christmas was very low key this year.  When I brought the turkey in from the porch to thaw, the kids saw and it and said they did not want turkey.  We are still full of turkey from Thanksgiving.  So I put it back out in the chest to keep it frozen for some future date.  We ended up going to see a movie in town (Gulliver’s Travels) instead of having a big Christmas dinner.  Then we hauled some more fuel, dropped off some bread to my Aunt in town, and went to visit a neighbor and toast her birthday with her.  I think we all enjoyed it more.  I know I did.

You can’t live so close to North Pole without going to see Santa.  Even if it did mean waiting for 2 hours…  Olivia might not want to do this next year so I’m getting it while I can!

Olivia’s plate of cheese and crackers for Santa and oranges for the reindeer.  Notice the bread rising on the counter.  She left a space in the middle of the plate for a fresh slice of bread to be placed once they were done, which would be after her bedtime.  We figured he had enough cookies.

Well that seems to be all I can think of right now.  I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas.

Snowy Drive Around Fairbanks

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to mount my camera to my dash without leaving sticky on either one.  I finally found a strip of double sided mounting tape in the back of a junk drawer and the lightbulb went off in my head.  So here is the test run.  It’s just a simple trip into town to go to lunch with friends and then to the gym but shows a bit of Fairbanks for those who are interested.  Keep in mind that Fairbanks is pretty spread out for the population we have.

I uploaded it to Vimeo since it was a bit too long for Youtube.

Snowy Drive Around Fairbanks