Ah More Rain…

We had the wettest summer on record.  I guess it was better for lots of people then the smokey summers we often have due to wild land fires.  Even though it was wet, I still was able to keep busy enough to neglect my poor blog.  I just got back from a major trip but was working on this post before I left.  So guess I’ll finish this then work on that trip report.

Puppy/girl love!  Maari is growing so fast.  She’s about 5 months old and over 46 lbs.  She’s a stubborn pup, though very smart.

a girl and her dog

Ugh, I know, my house is a bit of a mess.  But hammers and cookbooks really CAN live together on the same shelf.  Right?

big puppy

The view of the Alaska Range from Fairbanks.

alaska range

Angry, Young, and Poor (concert, festival, funky, local lurve)angry young and poor2

Fairbanks actually has a lot of belly dancers.

angry young and poor

Worlds largest slip and slide?

giant slip and slide

Olivia got to skate in the Golden Days Parade with her roller derby group.  She was sooo excited when a couple of girls asked to take their picture with her!  What a confidence boost that was.  She said she felt famous.

me and olivia

ba olivia

Her coach, Bad Lady is a hoot.  Photobomb!

Olivia and Bad Lady

Fairbanks Cold’n Heart Junior Derby (playing on Fairbanks’ tag of “Golden Heart” of Alaska). Jr roller girls

skating in the parade

rust princess rides again

Finally got the canoe out on our maiden voyage.  It took Olivia and I a while to get it up on top of the old Rust Princess.  Sooo glad I kept that ol’ hoopdie.  I wouldn’t want to scratch up my new Pretty Princess and we are NOT graceful loading or unloading yet.

We tried out our new Tanana Lakes park.  Since our rivers were in flood stage almost all summer, I didn’t feel confident enough to go on the river.

canoing olivia

We got a bit wet but managed to get off the water by the time the rain started.

canoeing in the rain

Eating lots of caribou that my friend Susan sent us from Kavik River Camp. 

raw caribou

caribou dinner

It’s so tender and delicious.  I really hate commercial meat.


double rainbow

early morning sky

Some of the flooding we have been dealing with.




My friend Lulu came up to play.  It’s always so much fun getting together with her.

me and lulu

My son Jordan turned 16!  That was weird.  He doesn’t like his picture taken and doesn’t like me mentioning him online but come on, I have to brag a bit.  Yes at 16 he has a beard and is over 6’1″.


Yes, his hair is longer than mine.


But he let me braid it.  All he wanted to do for his birthday is go shooting and go to dinner with our family friends.


Does Olivia look concerned?  Heeheee.


Yes he needs a bigger gun.


They are both pretty good shots.

Olivia and target
I finally got the time to site in my new 30-06 and new scope.  Yay, bring on the hunt!



Aw my sweet, sweet baby boy.  Where did you go?

Born in Kalispell, Montana at 9 lbs. 2 oz.

Had to bring in my porch flowers occasionally so they didn’t drown!  There is not room in this cabin for porch flowers inside!

new plants

We tried hooking Maari up to Olivia.  She (both shes) loved it!  We are going to get her a harness and try skijoring this winter.



On a random note, the book editor I talked to a couple of months called me again.  I was too scared to answer.  How’s that for lame?

I just got back from Valdez and the Women’s Silver Salmon Derby.  On the way back I went over Hacher’s Pass to Talkeetna.  I did my first zipline and had sooo darn much fun.  But I’ll post about that soon (yea soon).

Take care dear friends and be awesome to one another.


Is Spring Really Here?

Last year we had the spring that never sprung.  It was cold and wet and nasty until finally, summer was here…then gone.  Our warmth passes so quickly.  I love winter, obviously, or I wouldn’t be able to live here.  But when it starts to warm up, it’s such a time of excitement and expectation.  It’s almost heartbreaking when it doesn’t happen as it is supposed to such as last year.  This year, it seems like Mother Nature is apologizing for last year as we are already in breakup.  The snow is melting, the sun is out, life is good!

I know it’s been a long while since I posted anything.  Mostly I have been hibernating so there’s been little of interest to write about.  I’ll try to catch you up with a few pictures.

Christmas came and went fairly quietly except for the kids got their first guns.  They are just little .22s.

Of course, there was always nights of chasing the auroras.

One of my aurora photos was used on a Denver station news program.  I was pretty excited.

We did a bit of entertaining and a lot of cooking.

Olivia’s very first home made cinnamon, raisin, yeast bread.

I also taught her how to make home made chicken noodle soup, with home made noodles.

Worked at Checkpoint Mile 101 for the Yukon Quest again.  This was my 5th year working there.  Needless to say, I love it.  I ended up staying an extra night and day after everyone left, just putting wood in the stove and playing my fiddle.  I’m going to plan on doing this every year as it was so peaceful and restful after all the commotion and lack of sleep that working there during the Quest brings.  I didn’t write about it this year but you can look back over the years in this blog to see some stories if you care to.

I did take some video of the two passes I have to cross coming home from the checkpoint.  The roads were actually very good even though in the videos, you can see they were icy.  Last year three of our members got stuck or left the road while trying to get out to the checkpoint.

12 Mile Summit

Cleary Summit

Did a bit of henna here and there.

I love doing bellies the most!

Of course, winter is a time to go visit friends, hang out, have fun, drink some beer, etc.

Here’s my Solstice centerpiece, complete with Yule Log.

While Olivia was working on her roller derby skills.

I got to hang out with pretty mushers in tuxs for the Bunny Boots and Bids fundraiser and Wine Tasting.

And of course, practiced and played my fiddle.

I don’t think I posted this video yet.  It’s how I have to unfreeze the drain.  Living in a dry cabin, having to haul all our water, makes us really conserve.  Of course, if you are only using tiny bits of water here and there through out the day, and it’s -40 outside, the water freezes before it clears the drain.  We have a grey water system which means that the water just goes straight from the kitchen sink to the gravel pad that the cabin sits on.  I have had to do this a couple of times each winter.  It’s not really a big deal but yea, at that cold of temperatures, one’s lungs do not want to inhales so you end up breathing very noisily as you can hear in this video lol.

So, onto the upcoming summer!  I have a camping, float trip down the Delta Clearwater planned for the kids and I.  I have a trip up to visit my friend Susan in Kavik River Camp planned for later in the summer.  I have a zipline adventure trip down near Talkeetna planned with my friend Lori.  And I want to take my kids back packing in the back country for the first time.  I have taken them camping lots of times but never into the back country.  There be bears out there you know.  Backpacking has almost always been my special solo adventures.  I keep them for myself.  But maybe my kids would like them for themselves as well.  Of course, you can’t forget my annual Fowl Adventure.  Chickenstock Music Festival then a visit to my friends’ Wayne and Scarlett who live off the Yukon River.  Can’t wait to see them!

Until next time my dearies.  I’ll be here.

Yukon Quest 2013

Welcome to my trip report of the 30th running of the Yukon Quest, the Toughest Race on Earth.   It’s a long one so get a cup of coffee, throw another log on the fire and sit a spell.  I have the honor of working at Mile 101 Checkpoint, named due to it being located at mile 101 of the Steese Highway.  You can right click pictures and open them in a new tab or window for a better view.  I really enjoy comments and the opportunity to get to know who is reading my blog so please feel free to leave some.

The route started in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada this year and ended in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Next year it will start in Fairbanks and end in Whitehorse.  There is a 36 hour mandatory layover in Dawson City, the halfway point.  This is the only point in which the mushers can have help with their teams (other then veterinarian care).

Yukon Quest map

This map is not quite accurate. Mile 101 is actually between Eagle Summit and Rosebud.

The very first Quest had 26 entrants, 3 of which were women.  20 finished.  On this, the 30th running, there were 26 entrants, 3 of which were women, and 20 teams finished.  Pretty neat huh?  In the 30 years of the race, there have only been a bit over 300 people who have run it.  It’s a pretty exclusive list.  About a third of those entering, do not finish at all.  It’s not called the toughest race on earth for nothing, although this was a pretty mild year.

The course follows the route of the historic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, mail delivery, and transportation routes between Fairbanks, Dawson City, and Whitehorse.

The route runs on frozen rivers, over four mountain ranges, and through isolated northern villages. Racers cover 1,016 miles (1,635 km) or more. Temperatures commonly drop as low as −60 °F (−51 °C), and winds can reach 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) at higher elevations. Sonny Lindner won the inaugural race in 1984 from a field of 26 teams. The fastest run took place in 2010, when Hans Gatt finished after 9 days and 26 minutes. The 2012 competition had the closest one-two finish, as Hugh Neff beat Allen Moore by twenty-six seconds.

In 2005, Lance Mackey became the first Yukon Quest rookie to win the race, a feat that was repeated by 2011’s champion, Dallas Seavey. In 2007, Mackey became the first to win both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a feat he repeated the following year. The longest race time was in 1988, when Ty Halvorson took 20 days, 8 hours, and 29 minutes to finish. In 2000, Aliy Zirkle became the first woman to win the race [her husband Allen Moore was this year’s champion], in 10 days, 22 hours, and 57 minutes.”


Here’s my trip report from last year:

February, You Were a Tricky Wench

Yukon Quest 2011

Yukon Quest 2010

In 2009, I had the honor of handling for my friend Wayne Hall.

Adventures in Handling

The Spell of the Yukon 

“I wanted the gold, and I sought it; I scabbled and mucked like a slave. Was it famine or scurvy – I fought it; I hurled my youth into a grave. I wanted the gold, and I got it –Came ourt with a fortune last fall, Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it, And somehow the gold isn’t all.  No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)It’s the cussedest land that I know, From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it, To the deep, deathlike valleys below. Some say God was tired when He made it; Some say it’s a fine land to shun; Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it, For no land on earth – and I’m one.”

Mile 101 CrewPhoto by Julien Schroder

This is our starting crew.  A few  members had to go back during the week due to work obligations.  But it was nice to have everyone there at the start.

“For all you sled dog and musher fans out there! Our film from the start of the Yukon Quest 2013 which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. 26 fearless mushers and their faithful dogs on a 1000 mile adventure from Canada to Alaska. We love covering this race, we hope this video goes some way to capturing the heart and soul of this event and the incredible Yukon.

‘Dirty Paws’
Of Monsters and Men”

I got to the checkpoint on Saturday.  I’m glad I didn’t attempt it on Friday because 3 of our crew who did, ended up in either the ditch or a snow drift.  Once again, the DOT guys helped us out.  I had brought them cookies.

Then it was time to get to work.

wood burning stove
Piia collects wood for some of the other cabins.

Travis installs lights.Travis hangs some lights.

Peter, our Checkpoint Manager.Peter, our Checkpoint Manager

Drop bagsDrop bags are ready for mushers.  These are bags previously packed and sent out by the mushers.  They contain dog and people food, extra gear, parts and pieces, socks, gloves, batteries, etc.  They are put in alphabetical order.


Icicles, it was a warm year.

Kerry BarnsOne of our trail breakers, Kerry.

Comm ShackThe other trail breaker Dave, Julienne our Communications Guru, and Travis, one of our yard guys.

Lukas and Piia kill some time.

“You come to get rich (damned good reason); You feel like an exile at first; You hate it like hell for a season, And then you are worse than the worst. It grips you like some kinds of sinning; It twists you from foe to a friend; It seems it’s been since the beginning; It seems it will be to the end.  I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow, That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim; I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow, In crimson and gold, and grow dim,Till the moon set the pearly peeks gleaming, And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop; And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming, With the peace o’ the world piled on top.”

Pink MountainsI love our pink hills.

LucasLukas, keeps the fires in all the wood stoves going as well as doing what ever else needs to be done.  He is Peter’s son and has been coming to work at the checkpoint for years.  He’s pretty handy to have around and a great Farkle player.

Pretty skyWe normally have some very interesting skies at least once while there.

Jullien working on the chainsaw. Julienne doubles as chainsaw mechanic.

Kevin Abnett and GinnyKevin Abnett is our normal Communications Manager.  He came to help get us set up then had to go back to work.  He brought his fun girl friend Ginny for us all to meet.  Good luck you two.  You make such a cute couple and it’s nice to have your cheerful happiness around.

“Hugh Neff arrived five minutes ahead of Allen Moore at Mile 101 and left four minutes after him.
Interview by Emily Schwing (KUAC Fairbanks)
Video by B. Dannenhauer, M. Grosch, P. Kamper and S. King”

Hugh NeffHugh Neff, first into the checkpoint.  He only sat there about 2 minutes total and finished eating standing up on his way out the door after he saw that Allen was going on through.

Emily Schwing from KUACEmily Schwing, Reporter for KUAC.  She’s a regular here at the checkpoint.  Piia updating the leaderboard.

Mark Sass, Mike Ellis, Joe Brent’s dad , Mark Sass.  Mike Ellis and Joe Krueger (another part time yard guy).

Solitary HandlerBeing a handler can be lonely business if you are doing it alone.  Their job is to meet the musher when s/he comes into the checkpoint, direct them to where the straw, hot water for dog food, drop bags, and dog parking is if the checkpoint personnel doesn’t tell them.  They cheer their musher on and pick up after them when they leave.  All the straw has to be picked up as well as any drop bags left.  They also care for any dogs the musher drops.

Brent Sass and Jake BerkowitzBrent Sass and Jake Berkowitz being interviewed, all while eating our famous bacon and eggs.

“Brent Sass lends a hand to fellow competitor, Jake Berkowitz to help get his team over the infamous Eagle Summit in the 2013 Yukon Quest.”

“A Go-Pro Camera view of Brent Sass helping Jake Berkowitz to bring Jake’s team up the final stretch of Eagle Summit. We are posting this simply for the ‘high five’. The camaraderie between mushers is rarely better shown than here.
Go-Pro footage by Kerry Barnes (Mile 101 trailbreaker).”

“Brent Sass and Jake Berkowitz arrive at Mile 101 and talk about their climb up Eagle Summit and the final miles of the race into Fairbanks.
Video by B. Dannenhauer, Michael Grosch, Peter Kamper and Sui King.”

IMG_5487The view out of the Comm Shack window.


We have a generator to run the lights in the cook shack, another one to run the comm shack and a final one down at the checkers’ cabin to run the lights where the incoming trail enters the area and the checker checks in the mushers.  Occasionally they would run out of gas or be off while the guys performed maintenance on them.  No problem though as we would just fire up the Coleman lantern.  It lent a nice ambiance lol.

“Darin Lee and Cody Strathe help each other to bring their teams up the steep northern slope of Eagle Summit on their way to Checkpoint Mile 101. The weather on the summit is rarely as nice as it was on that day. The sound has been muted because of loud wind noise.yil
Video B. Dannenhauer, M. Grosch, P. Kamper, S. Kings”

IMG_5509One gets rest where and when one is able!

IMG_5510We have a sleeping cabin for the mushers but this one didn’t want to walk all the way down the hill when he really just was planning on a short nap.  Besides, as he said, if he had an actual bed, he’d be out cold.  These guys get very little sleep.

20 minute napThe bottle of “101” next to my head was completely coincidental hahah.  Yes, I also have a bed in the back room but I was waiting on a musher who had just come in.  They get checked in, take care of their dogs, come in and eat, then take a nap themselves.  I feed them then as well as once again before they leave if they have the time.  If they only get a two hour nap, so do I.  The one above was 45 minutes.  Any longer then that and I would have laid down in my bed.


Abbie West arrives in Mile 101, talks about Eagle Summit, her team, her hopes for next year’s race and past the last great hurdle: How to get her dogs past her kennel along the YQ trail in Fairbanks to the finish without a dog team strike.
Video by B. Dannenhauer, M.Grosch, P. Kamper and Sui Kings.

When a musher enters a checkpoint, they sign in on the clipboard.  Their arrival time in entered next to their name.  The Checker (Piia) supervises this as well as checks off that all mandatory gear is in the musher’s sled bag.

The following items must be presented to the checker before checking in at each checkpoint:

 1.  Proper cold weather sleeping bag.
 2.  Hand ax with an overall length of at least twenty-two (22) inches/56 centimeters.
 3.  One pair of snowshoes with bindings, with an area of approximately two hundred and fifty (250) square inches/1612 square centimeters each.
 4.  Veterinary records (loss will incur a five hundred dollar ($500) fine.)  The veterinary book must be returned to a Race Judge upon completion of the race or when withdrawing for any reason.
 5.  Any promotional material that YQI has asked the driver to carry…
6.  Functional cooker
7. Eight (8) booties for each dog, either in the sled or in use and in the sled, are required when a driver signs out of each checkpoint.

Abbie West

Abbie using our hammer to break the ice off of the clasps of her boots.


IMG_5532My friend Jodi Bailey.  She got to spend some time with us while waiting for her husband Dan Kaduce to get over the summit.

IMG_5549We had a break in between mushers that was long enough for us to make a run up the road to the Summit and watch the next musher come over.

Drive to Eagle SummitThe Eagle Summit weather station.

Emergency shelterThis is an emergency shelter off the road up Eagle Summit.  The road is often closed in the winter due to drifting across the road.

Eagle SummitThere is a musher coming over the saddle.  Right click and open in a new window for a larger view.

Wolf tracksEvery year many people see hundreds of caribou that come through here.  I never see more then 3 or 4 at a time.  I assume by these wolf tracks that they ran off to a new area when they were being hunted.  That’s a pretty big paw print.  This is the same pack that Dyane Bergen talks about being chase by in her video below.

Carribou tracksThe hill side is covered with caribou tracks!

Gee haw bunny boots

Mile 101

Mile 101 HalibutMake sure to tell Ivory Jacks thanks for sponsoring us with bacon, eggs, and halibut.

Veggies, oh how I love thee!Kerry brought some veggies which I threw in a pan to fry up with some butter.  Yum.  Asparagus, red, yellow, orange peppers, jalapeno, onion, a lemon, a clove of garlic…  After a week of no fresh veggies, this was a real treat.  Next year I’ll bring some myself, a lot more though.  This little panfull didn’t go far hahaha.

sky lanternsI buy sky lanterns by the case.  We have started a tradition of lighting them off on the anniversary of Justin’s passing.  I had a couple left over and I think I’ll bring some every year.  I know we wont have as still of a night every year but we can try.  They are beautiful as they float away, a wishing light in the sky.

Northern LightsWe also got quite the light show!

I put my pictures together so you get a bit of a time lapse.

Northern Lights

“Dyane Bergen reaches the finish line in Fairbanks to claim the red lantern award. 26 mushers started the 1600 km/ 1000 mile trek and 20 teams pulled through to the finish. Congratulations Dyane !
Video by B.Dannenhauer, M.Grosch, P. Kamper and S.King”

Fiddle caseI brought my fabric glue with me so I could put my newest volunteer patch on my fiddle case before I even got it home.  I can hardly wait till I have no more room!  Next year will be my 5th year up there.  I’m looking forward to it and trying to think of something special to do while there.  Do you have any ideas?  Come on, I know I have some very creative followers.

“The summer – no sweeter was ever; The sunshiny woods all athrill; The grayling aleap in the river, The bighorn asleep on the hill. The strong life that never knows harness; The wilds where the caribou call; The freshness, the freedom, the farness –O God! how I’m stuck on it all. The winter! the brightness that blinds you, the white land locked tight as a drum, The cold fear that follows and finds you, The silence that bludgeons you dumb. The snows that are older than history, The woods where the weird shadows slant; The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery, I’ve bade’em good-by  – but I can’t.” 

LeaderboardThis is the final leader board.  It keeps track of which musher came in when, with how many dogs, and when he left and with how many dogs he left with.  Then it shows what time he reached the next checkpoint and the finish line.  Of course I could not pass up a big empty spot on the dry erase board without decorating it with a bit of henna type design.

“This is the ‘live’ version of the Yukon Quest Finish Banquet including sponsor recognition, all awards and musher talk. Enjoy…, you will find a lot of stories and humor in this 2 1/2 hour audio.
PS: No, …. you don’t want the video version. It would take us a day to upload it from where we are.
Until 2014: Happy Trails from all of us at the Yukon Quest!”

“A video/slideshow of the 30th running of the Yukon Quest that captures the mushers, dogs, handlers, volunteers, sponsors, vets and directors that made it all possible.”

“There’s a land where the mountains are nameless, And the rivers all run God knows where; There are lives that are erring and aimless; And deaths that just hang by a hair; There are hardships that nobody reckons; There are valleys unpeopled and still; There’s a land – oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back – and I will.  They’re making my money diminish; I’m sick of the taste of champgne. Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish, I’ll pike to the Yukon again. I’ll fight – and you bet it’s no sham-fight; It’s hell! – but I’ve been there before; And it’s better than this by a damsite –So me for the Yukon once more. There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting; It’s luring me on as of old; Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting, So much as just finding the gold. It’s the great, broad land ‘way up yonder. It’s the forests where silence has lease; It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, It’s the stillness that fills me with peace. ”                                         R. Service

Steese HighwayThen all of a sudden, it was over for another year.  This is always a bit of a melancholy time for me.  I love it so much out there and have such a good time.  The lack of showers and sleep quickly fade into vague memory while the friends and camaraderie, as well as the stark, extreme wilderness remain sharp and clear.

CarribouI did see a few caribou grazing down in a valley so peacefully.

OverflowThis is overflow.  It occurs when the weight of the ice on top of the water grows so heavy it sinks.  Liquid water then flows over the top of the ice and the top layer freezes too.  Rinse, repeat.  This is what mushers often have to go through on the trail.  It doesn’t show very well in the picture but the ice is really a beautiful sage green.

Steese HighwayThe drive home was uneventful though I did stop and take a few pictures of the lovely sky and scenery.  I take my time when I have the opportunity to “commune with nature”.  I also pulled my fiddle out at a lovely little pull out.  I play the best when by myself.  It was too cold to play for long but it was certainly good for my soul.

Thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it.

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

Bring on Summer (in other words, quit snowing already!)

Yesterday, Cinco de Mayo it snowed most of the day.  Yes, May 5th.  It was a warm 38 here at the cabin so it didn’t stick but did get a bit of a build up for a while.  I took a few video clips throughout the day and put them together here.

Cinco de Mayo Snow

Wow who knew it costs $60 for a video upgrade to be able to embed that directly here in my blog?  So yea, follow the link to my Youtube channel lol.

Since I was up at midnight and noticing that it was still a bit light out I took a screen shot from one of the webcams in town (too lazy to get my camera out and mess with downloading and uploading.)  It’s says 1:04 am but it was really 12:04 am (camera doesn’t do daylight savings time).  You can really tell by looking out on the hill in the back ground.

Sunrise is at 4:59 AM AKDT and sunset it 10:39 PM AKDT.

Length Of Visible Light: 20h 29m

Length of Day 17h 39m

Tomorrow will be 7m 2s longer.

We are gaining light at a crazy speed and will continue to do so until Summer Solstice which occurs on June 21st this year.

So, what are your Solstice Plans this year?  We normally attend the Midnight Sun Baseball game.   When you live in a world with such a variance of light and dark, it’s common to celebrate our uniqueness.  There are lots of parties, festivals, bon fires, and picnics for Summer Solstice.  For Winter Solstice, the celebrations tend to indoor revelries with good friends, good food, and good cocktails as it is too cold to party outdoors (for most people lol).


In the entire baseball world, there is no team that has more natural a promotion than the Alaska Goldpanners and their celebrated Midnight Sun Game.

Since the Goldpanners are the farthest north baseball club on the face of the earth, where in summer the sun rarely stops shining, the team annually takes advantage of its unique geographic location by staging the patented Midnight Sun Baseball Game.

With Fairbanks a mere 160 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the sun is just beginning to set in the north as the game gets under way and, at its conclusion some three hours later, the sun begins to rise again – also in the north.

It is a phenomenon ever so rare.

Each June 20, 21, 22, each equal in time as the longest day of the year (with a full 24 hours of daylight in the vast Tanana Valley), the Panners begin their widely acclaimed contest at 10:30 p.m. The game continues straight through the hour of midnight and often lasts as late as 2 a.m.

Never once has artificial lighting been used for this unique event, and never has the game been postponed or delayed because of darkness.

The “high noon at midnight” classic, as best can be determined, originated in Fairbanks in 1906. Every year since it has become a ritual to play the game on the solstice.

The tradition was adopted by the Panners in 1960, their first season of operation. Through 1962, the Panners met the North of the Range All-Stars but, since 1963, a different opponent – usually from out of state – has been invited each year to participate in the symbolic event.

2006 MSG
In the entire baseball world, there is no team that has more natural a promotion than the Alaska Goldpanners and their celebrated Midnight Sun Game.

Since the Goldpanners are the farthest north baseball club on the face of the earth, where in summer the sun rarely stops shining, the team annually takes advantage of its unique geographic location by staging the patented Midnight Sun Baseball Game.

With Fairbanks a mere 160 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the sun is just beginning to set in the north as the game gets under way and, at its conclusion some three hours later, the sun begins to rise again – also in the north.

It is a phenomenon ever so rare.

Each June 20, 21, 22, each equal in time as the longest day of the year (with a full 24 hours of daylight in the vast Tanana Valley), the Panners begin their widely acclaimed contest at 10:30 p.m. The game continues straight through the hour of midnight and often lasts as late as 2 a.m.

Never once has artificial lighting been used for this unique event, and never has the game been postponed or delayed because of darkness.

The “high noon at midnight” classic, as best can be determined, originated in Fairbanks in 1906. Every year since it has become a ritual to play the game on the solstice.

Brooks Range Trip, ANWR.

A few years ago I went up to do some hiking in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).  I wanted to be sure to get out there before any oil wells were put in.  I had put together a trip report that was hosted on my old site which I have since taken down.  So, I thought I would repost it here.  It was a most excellent trip.

For those of you who are fans of the History Channels Ice Road Truckers, this is the road they drive on here in Alaska.

This post is long and picture intensive.  It took me most of the day to load it.  I hope it is enjoyed by many!

The Brooks Range and the Dalton Highway, Alaska.

August 2006

A Unique Gateway to the Far North

The Dalton Highway stretches 414 miles across northern Alaska from Livengood (84 miles north of Fairbanks) to Deadhorse and the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay. Built during construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in the 1970s, this mostly gravel highway travels through rolling, forested hills, across the Yukon River and Arctic Circle, through the rugged Brooks Range, and over the North Slope to the Arctic Ocean. Along most of its length, you’ll see no restaurants, no gift shops, no service stations – just forest, tundra, and mountains from horizon to horizon, crossed by a double ribbon of road and pipe.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages a swath of public lands along the highway from the Yukon River to the north side of the Brooks Range. Within the Dalton Corridor, BLM maintains campgrounds, rest areas, interpretive panels and a visitor center.
BLM Alaska Dalton Highway Guide Main Page

Haul Road or Highway?

During its early years, most Alaskans referred to the highway simply as the “Haul Road,” because of its heavy use by tractor-trailer rigs hauling supplies and equipment to the North Slope for oil development. In 1981 the highway was named after engineer James B. Dalton, who was involved in early oil exploration efforts on the North Slope. Public access remained limited until 1994, when it became possible to drive all the way to Deadhorse.

Today, the Dalton Highway beckons adventurous souls to explore a still-wild and mysterious frontier. Respect this harsh land and appreciate the opportunity to visit a special part of our world.

We ended up following a tour bus for quite a while. It was just too rough to pass.

The Yukon River Bridge is wooden, and built on an incline.  I think it is a 6% grade.

Built for Black Gold

In 1969, oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope. Excitement was high at the prospect of new money to fuel Alaska’s boom-and-bust economy. The nation was in the throes of an energy crisis and pushed for an 800-mile long pipeline. But first, Native land claims had to be settled, permits granted, environmental safeguards designed, and a road built to get workers and supplies north to the oilfield.

When finally approved, construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was run like a wartime project—money was no object and time was of the essence. The weather conditions, terrain, and the immensity of the project were all extreme. Engineers overcame permafrost, mountain ranges, and the relentless flow of the Yukon River in the process. Incredibly, the haul road was completed in just five months and the pipeline in three years (1974-77). The previously remote Arctic was changed forever.

Yukon River (MP 56)

The mighty Yukon River winds nearly 2,000 miles (3,200km) from Canada to the Bering Sea. Athabascan people first traveled this river in birchbark canoes. During the gold rush, wood-fired sternwheelers ferried gold seekers and supplies for trading posts. Today, Yukon River residents use motorboats in summer and snowmachines in winter to travel this natural highway.

Pipeline Quick Facts

¤  The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was designed and constructed to move oil from the North Slope of Alaska to the northern most ice- free port- Valdez, Alaska.

¤  Length: 800 miles.

¤  Diameter: 48 inches.

¤  Crosses three mountain ranges and over 800 rivers and streams.

¤  Cost to build: $8 billion in 1977, largest privately funded construction project at that time.

¤  Construction began on March 27, 1975 and was completed on May 31, 1977.

¤  First oil moved through the pipeline on June 20, 1977.

¤  Over 14 billion barrels have moved through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

¤  First tanker to carry crude oil from Valdez: ARCO Juneau, August 1, 1977.

¤  Tankers loaded at Valdez: 16,781 through March 2001.

¤  Storage tanks in Valdez- 18 with total storage capacity of 9.1 million barrels total.

¤  The mission of Alyeska’s Ship Escort Response Vessel System is to safely escort tankers through Prince William Sound.

Pipeline Facts

Specially designed vertical supports were placed in drilled holes or driven into the ground. In warm permafrost and other areas where heat might cause undesirable thawing, the supports contain two each, 2-inch pipes called “heat pipes,” containing anhydrous ammonia, which vaporizes below ground, rises and condenses above-ground, removing ground heat whenever the ground temperature exceeds the temperature of the air. Heat is transferred through the walls of the heat pipes to aluminum radiators atop the pipes.

Pipeline Engineering

The hiway must be closed when an airplane is landing on this strip, a wide spot in the road.

The pipeline zig zags to allow for expansion.

Arctic Circle Wayside (MP 115)

The Arctic Circle is an imaginary line at latitude 66° 33’ North, where the sun stays above the horizon for one full day on summer solstice (June 21), and below the horizon for one full day on winter solstice (December 21).

We got a certificate at the Coldfoot Arctic Interagency Visitor’s Center for crossing the Arctic Circle.

Alaska’s Record Fire Year

2004 was Alaska’s biggest fire year since records began. Hot, dry, windy weather fanned the flames over 6.7 million acres, an area the size of Massachusetts. Similar conditions returned in 2005, the 3rd biggest year with over 4.4 million acres (1,780,617 ha) burned. Between Hess Creek and Coldfoot fields of bright pink fireweed, an early colonizer of burned areas, lead the way for regrowth that will eventually feed much more wildlife.

Grayling Lake Wayside (MP 150)

An ancient glacier carved this U-shaped valley and left a shallow lake. Moose feed on the nutrient-rich aquatic plants in summer. Charcoal, stone scrapers, and other artifacts found nearby indicate that Native hunters used this lookout for thousands of years.

Coldfoot (MP 175)

The original gold rush town of Coldfoot was located on the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River near the mouth of Slate Creek. It got its name in 1900 when early prospectors reportedly got “cold feet” and left before winter set in.

They have the wonderful Arctic Interagency Visitor’s Center. From here you can also check out Bear Resistant Food Containers (BRFC) at no charge for trips into the Brooks Range.

Yes, it was rainy…

While stopping at Coldfoot to eat I looked out the window of the cafe/gas station and noticed this family on motorcycles. I realized right away that they were the ones who were featured recently in our news paper. Mom, dad, and the two kids had traveled from South America and were almost to their goal of Prudhoe Bay. I immediately went out to meet them. It was exciting. They were actually just hoping to make this last couple of hundred miles before the bikes were totally worn out. The mom had lost her top gear and the dad was having problems with his bike too but I forgot what he said they were. The kids were funny.

Next Services 240 miles.

Know Before You Go!

Traveling this farthest-north road involves real risks and challenges.

Services are available at only a few places along the Dalton Highway, so proper planning is essential. There are no public services at Department of Transportation maintenance stations or Alyeska Pipeline Service pump stations.
Medical Facilities. There are no public emergency medical facilities along the Elliott or Dalton Highways. In a critical emergency, contact the state troopers by calling 911 or use a CB radio (channel 19).
Banking. There are no banks along the highway. The only ATM machine is located in Deadhorse. Most services accept major credit cards.
Repairs. Tire and repair services are available only at Yukon Crossing, Coldfoot and Deadhorse.
Groceries. There are no full-service grocery stores along the highway. Snack food and cafes are available at Yukon Crossing, Five Mile, Coldfoot and Deadhorse.

Water clear enough to see the rocks at the bottom of a river is actually kind of rare up here as the water is normally full of glacial silt, giving it a milky look.

Farthest North Spruce (MP 235)

As you approach the headwaters of the Dietrich River, trees grow scarce until they disappear altogether. This last tall spruce, approximately 273 years old, was killed by a vandal in 2004.

Atigun Pass (MP 244)

You cross the Continental Divide at Atigun Pass (elev. 4,739ft). Rivers south of here flow into the Pacific Ocean or Bering Sea, while rivers to the north flow into the Arctic Ocean. Watch for Dall sheep, which are often on the road or on nearby slopes. Storms can dump snow here even in June and July. This is just the beginning. I didn’t get any good pictures going OVER Atigun Pass as I was too busy either driving, or holding on…

Galbraith Lake (MP 275)

This is all that remains of a large glacial lake that once occupied the entire Atigun Valley. Just downstream from the bridge is the spectacular Atigun Gorge and the western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This is where we made our base camp. There is a small BLM primitive camp area and a gravel airstrip. Gailbrath Lake is in the background. Life’s necessity is in the foreground.

Eh, he’s not a morning person.

Neither am I.

Colors abound!!!!

Gates of the Arctic National Park is just a 2-3 hour hike over that hill. Our goal was to hike in ANWR so we didn’t have time to go there also though that would have been really unique, to hike in the two largest national parks in the world, on the same day.

Atigun River Gorge and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR!

Atigun Pass

Sukakpak Mountain (MP 203)

A massive wall rising to 4,459 feet (1,338 m) that glows in the afternoon sun, Sukakpak Mountain is an awe-inspiring sight. Peculiar ice-cored mounds known as palsen punctuate the ground at the mountain’s base. “Sukakpak” is an Inupiat Eskimo word meaning “marten deadfall.” Seen from the north, the mountain resembles a carefully balanced log used to trap marten.

Finger Mountain Wayside (MP 98)

The largest tor in the surrounding area.

The windshield had been cracked by a wreck the previous owner had, but we got this pretty big rock hole for a souvenir of our trip.

Oh it was a muddy, slippery, pot holed, washboard trip!

Exploring the Northern Landscape

The Boreal Forest

Livengood to Coldfoot (MP 0-175)

A cold, dry climate and sporadic permafrost dictate what grows here. Those scraggly spruce trees may be more than a century old! Lightning-caused wildfires benefit wildlife by recycling nutrients into the soil and creating new sources of food and shelter. The largest forest ecosystem in the world, the boreal forest circles the northern hemisphere.

The Brooks Range

Coldfoot to Galbraith Lake (MP 175-275)

Steep, rocky slopes and glacier-carved valleys dominate this rugged landscape. Extending over 700 miles (1120 km) from east to west, the Brooks Range creates a formidable barrier across the Arctic for plants, birds, and weather systems.

The North Slope

Galbraith Lake to Last Chance

(MP 275-355)

This far north, the sun never sets between May 10 and August 2, and never rises between November 18 and January 23. Only tough, ground-hugging plants can survive the frozen ground, frigid temperatures, icy winds, and weak sunlight.

The Coastal Plain

Last Chance to the Arctic Ocean

(MP 355-414)

Annual precipitation is only about 5 inches (13 cm) but underlying permafrost seals the ground. Water remains on the surface in vast wetlands where protein-rich sedges and huge populations of insects thrive, providing a banquet for migratory birds and other wildlife.

How cold does it get in winter?

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the United States was -80°F/-62°C at Prospect Camp, 39 miles (62 km) south of Coldfoot in 1971. Winter temperatures in Interior and Arctic Alaska commonly range between -20°F/-29°C and -40°F/-40°C, or colder.

Most of the land you see from the Dalton Highway is federal public land, a legacy for future generations. These areas are so unique that Congress established special designations which honor their special values to the nation and the world.

Utility Corridor

In 1971 after oil was discovered on the North Slope, the Utility Corridor was established to protect the route of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The Corridor’s boundaries vary from less than a mile to nearly 12 miles from the pipeline. While the corridor’s primary function is the transportation of energy resources, the Bureau of Land Management encourages recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, gold panning, and canoeing on these lands.

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

Much of the Brooks Range west of the Dalton Highway lies within one of the premier wilderness areas in the National Park System. Forester and conservationist Robert Marshall explored the area in the 1930s. Impressed by two massive peaks flanking the North Fork of the Koyukuk River, he called them the “Gates of the Arctic.” Encompassing 8.4 million acres, the park and preserve protect primeval landscapes, their flora and fauna, and the culture and traditions of Native people.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

Bordering the Utility Corridor near Atigun Canyon, this refuge extends east across the Brooks Range and North Slope to Canada. It offers extraordinary wilderness, recreation, and wildlife values. The Porcupine Caribou Herd (named for the Porcupine River on the herd’s migration route), polar bears, muskoxen, and snow geese depend on its unspoiled environment. Pioneer Alaska conservationists Margaret and Olaus Murie traveled the region by dog team and canoe, and were instrumental in gaining refuge status for the area.

Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge

Located west of the Finger Mountain area and slightly larger than the state of Delaware, this refuge protects large wetland areas that are critical to nesting waterfowl and other wildlife. These resources provide sustenance for the people of the Koyukuk River valley.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge

Encompassing an area larger than Vermont and Connecticut combined, this refuge protects a vast complex of lakes and rivers in the Yukon watershed upstream from the Dalton Highway. Wildlife, especially migratory birds such as ducks, geese, and songbirds, thrive in these wetlands and support the hunting and gathering tradition of Yukon River villages.

Dry cabins

Since they are so common here in the Interior, I thought I would share the ones in our newspaper.   Actually, there aren’t that many today.  Normally there are more.

Log cabin for rent. 2 bdr + loft, Electricity + toyo heat on 2 Acre lot. $600/m + dep. …

Cozy 16×16 w/loft + great H2O. 3.2 mi Gilmore Trl. $600 w/ $400 dep + utils. No dogs/smok.

Dry cabins available $450/month. Utilities are not included.Free highspeed internet.More information at http://www.greencabinsalaska.com or call 455-4500.

Avail 04/01! Peaceful, Private loft style dry cabin, inc a beautiful sauna & newly constructed, never used outhouse.  Private campfire ring & bbq pit, DSL Wi-Fi, $600/m 1st, last, sec dep. Pet on app.

12X16 dry log cabin w/porch in Fox, $450 + sec. dep. elect. fuel propane. Absolutely Alaskan Real Estate Services, …

1 mi to UAF. Like New, 16×20, 2 story, clean, spacious. Carpet, quality kitchen, very warm, no H2O.  $600 + util. No pets. Avail. 5/1
Cozy 288sf furn. cabin on Chena Ridge. Ideal for 1, WATER, septic heat, elec, all incld. No smk/pets $600+
12×16 Dry Log Cabin, covered porch, 2349 #2 Steese in Fox, $450 elec & fuel, Absolutely Alaskan Real Estate …

Dry cabin w/ loft & access to shower in Chena Marina, close to bus route. $400/m + util.
Dry, near UAF $450. New win /lam flr/monitor 2575 Wecota, Dakota Cab #1
New 2bd carport, outhouse, carry water. NO SMOKING inside or outside! Farmers Loop, $600/mo.
1 mi to UAF. Like New, 16×20, 2 story, clean, spacious. Carpet, quality kitchen, very warm, no H2O. Must …

Water, water, everywhere.

A friend of mine just told me what she was paying to get her water from a local laundry mat.  She thought the Water Wagon was just for bulk water.  So, I thought I would make a post about how we get our water and snapped some photos when we went to get water this week.

While you can take showers at the laundry mats in town, they are expensive.  Also, I just don’t like showering in a place that the general public also showers.  I would do it if I needed to but my own little shower set up works quite well.

25 cents filled up the 4 jugs we brought.

Or you can go a short distance from town to the Fox Spring.  It’s free.  The state regularly tests it.  This picture is a few years old.  Now the structure is enclosed on 3 sides instead of just covered.

Look out, I’m back online.

Well, getting internet even the small distance I am from town, proved to be quite a pissy deal.  It ended up costing $300 to get started.  But, here I am, happy to be back.   I have only one piece of advice, GCI does not know their ass from a whole in the ground.

The cabin is coming along nicely now.  I’m still working on it and still sending more stuff that the kids “had to have” to storage.  By the time it warms up enough to have bon fire parties out in the the yard, I’ll have it fixed up enough to want to present it to the general public lol.

Here’s the kitchen, with the “water heater” on the stove.  It actually heats up enough for showers or dishes in just a few minutes so not as unhandy as I originally thought it would be.  Hmmm, that little window shelf sure wants to stay cluttered.  It’s just too handy.  I have several crystals hanging in my window that throws a million beautiful rainbows over the living room every afternoon.

The outhouse has been updated with a lamp, clock radio, hand sanitizer, drawers, and Christmas lights on the outside.  I had the plunger put out there for a conversation piece and though I have removed it now, it still gives me a giggle.  Now, I just need to find some blue foam to replace the foam rubber seat that’s in there.  Actually, the temperatures are warm enough now to be able to just use the regular seat, but it still would mean a cold ass awakening every time one sat down.

My Easter munchkins.

Last week it warmed up enough for almost all the snow to melt, then yesterday, it snowed several inches.  It’s melting again and breakup is officially here.  In a week or so, green should be showing up on the mountain I look out at from my front window.  A few nights ago I sat here in my living room and watched a nice display of the northern lights.  I wish I knew how to take pictures of them.  But I’ll get it figured out by next winter for sure.