Winter’s Embrace

Yes I love even the winter.

We love it here because it forges a toughness, an ability to survive and, most importantly, it forms a bond of friendship and camaraderie among us that I believe is stronger than anywhere else in the world.

This state is special, in an unforgiving, brutal cold and dark sort of way. As my friend once said, “summer is the beautiful lie that Fairbanks tells us,” and we suffer through the winters to hear that lie once again.

I’m not sure if I posted this one yet.

#1 Chicken! #2, 25 Anniversary of the Quest, #3, 2009, I handled for Wayne Hall, the Quest started in Whitehorse so we stayed at Sebastian Schnuelle’s place. He won that year, and my patch is signed by him. #4, 5, and 6 are for years 2010, 11, 12, Volunteer patches. I thought my fiddle case was a perfect place to put them.

We do have a shower but it is a “grey water system”.  That means the drain is just a straight piece of pvc that empties out onto the gravel pad under the cabin.  It gets a bit chilly.  Now we put a lid over it.

Thanksgiving was a nice holiday shared with friends.  Above is dates wrapped in bacon.  It’s my new favorite special treat.

Of course, we’ve had some Northern Lights.

Sorry, there is just too much noise in these pictures.   My friend Jan has since loaned me her Nikon D200 so now I will be learning how to use that.  For the last month or so though, we have not had any lights and have had lots of over cast.  No worries dear friends, they will come.  Bring on March!

A bit of simple henna.

We had a cold snap.

The forecast above was saying -78 with wind chill, -58 without.  The one below says either -62 or -82.  I forget what it said and can’t see it well enough to tell at this point hahaha.  Sucks getting old sometimes.  Either way, we didn’t get these temps though it did get to -50 around here.  We hung a blanket over the door for a few days because there was just so much cold coming off of it.

I tried making some salmon jerky.  Next time I’ll cut it into strips but I wanted some bigger pieces.

We got 2 foot of snow at one fall.  That was fun.

Christmas in the cabin was really good.  This was probably the best Christmas we’ve had in years.  Life is getting better again.  Oh yes, we also rescued a cat from the shelter.  This is the first time I’ve ever had a cat.  Her name is Angel.  She is a female orange tabby which I have found is pretty rare.

Olivia’s plate for Santa and her note explaining about how it’s much more balanced then cookies and milk. Celery, smoked salmon, cheese, and a brownie along with some cool, fresh water.

We had Christmas dinner at friends.  While I love my friends and so do my kids, we probably wont do this again.  It just felt weird not having leftovers to raid later that night or the next day.

Angel got a box for Christmas.

We don’t have fireworks for 4th of July as it is light all night in the summer.  We have our big display for New Years.  Our tradition is to have a car picknick.  We splurg on a few extra yummy goodies for our picknick.

Wow, finally got to the post office to find a gift from my sister Cheryl Wolfe and brother in law, Mike Kuhlmann. They are gardners and chefs! I can’t stress enough how good this box smelled as we were opening it! Whole Tarragon, Whole Mediterranean Oregano, Bell Pepper, Stevia, Paprika, Lynda-Leta Chipotle Pickled Garlic, Sprigs of Rosemary, Corn Relish, and a sage smudge stick. Oh now, what to cook, what to cook? Thank you so much you two!

Anyways, that’s about it so far for winter.  We’re just plugging along.


February, You Were a Tricky Wench!

Yes my dear readers, I know it is now half way through My Favorite Month of March, but I have either not been inspired to write or when I was, life has just been too busy.  So onward we go and I’ll try to catch you up.

After a bitterly cold January, February actually wasn’t that bad.  The -40 and colder at my house made me long for my cozy little waterless cabin.  It did get to -50 but then my temperature gauge broke so I don’t know exactly just HOW cold it got.  Being on the river means that we are often colder than the surrounding hills due to inversion.  Trying to keep water and septic fluid in those temperatures is exhausting, and expensive.  I’m still paying on my electric bill as are many in the area.  Heat traces on water lines still don’t keep the water pumps themselves or even the septic lift pump from freezing.  This is my 9th winter here in the magic land and by far my most difficult in many aspects.  It’s ok though.  Not once did I ever consider moving to warmer climes.  I am still in love with the Interior and awed at our extremes.

As always, working on the Yukon Quest was one of the highlights of my winter.  So here are some pictures from that.

While I didn’t have a flat in a blizzard like last year, my tires were very much on my mind.  I was very thankful for the studded snow tires my friends Jan and Eric helped me get as I journeyed 100 miles up the Steese Highway.

Steese Highway

Steese Highway

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon Quest

Checkpoint Manager Peter Kamper and his son Lucas who kept the fires burning in all the cabins.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestThis is the couch that is normally in the cook shack.  They took it out to give us more room and it made a nice conversation piece as well as a place for the checkers to sit.  The checkers spend long hours waiting for mushers to come into the check point and to check them out before they leave.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon Quest, northern lights, aurora borealis

We did get a very nice aurora show.  I didn’t bring my tripod so here is a picture from my camera sitting on a bale of straw.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestCheckers waiting for mushers to come in.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestBrent Sass coming in.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestI know most of the mushers running the Quest but some of the rookies I still do not know.  Sometimes it is difficult to tell who is the musher and who are the handlers. This year all that one needed to do was look at their boots.  If their boots were covered over in frozen ice, they were a musher.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestBrent Sass of Wild and Free Mushing. Brent is known for being a pretty cheerful guy.  Even tired, this guy is happy.  He’s just one of those people who is fun to have in the cookshack.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestAllen Moore of Skunk’s Place Kennel, being interviewed by the media.  I don’t know him well but he seems to be a really nice guy.  He’s married to Aliy Zirkle who is the only women so far to win the Yukon Quest.  She also just got second place in the Iditarod.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestEveryone knows Hugh Neff, this years Quest champion.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon Quest

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon Quest, Lance MackeyLance Mackey cutting off the frozen bottom portion of his pants.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestBrent’s interview.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestAbby West of Cosmic Canines. 

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestSonny Lindner, who I must admit I do not know much about.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon Quest Sue Ellis, wife to Mike Ellis who ran the Quest.  They have Team Tsuga Racing Siberians.  Sue’s just about the nicest person I’ve ever met at the checkpoint.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestMy friend Scott Chesney of Loco Lobo Photography. 

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestIs this a future leader that came to visit?  We’ll see.  It sure was nice to have some puppy love.

Mile 101 Checkpoint, Yukon QuestWe had some amazing sunsets and sunrises.

Josh Cadzow, Yukon Quest, 2012Doug Grilliot, YQ300 Race Marshall and Josh Cadzow, winner of this year’s Yukon Quest 300.

Yukon Quest, 2012Norweigian Joar Leifseth Ulsom, what a cutie!  He was racing for Team Racing Beringia, a distance learning program.

Yukon Quest, 2012The always awesome Sebastian Schnuelle, of Blue Kennels.  He was not racing this year.  Instead, he was the “Armchair Musher on the Trail” for both the Quest and the Iditarod.

Yukon Quest, 2012Race Manager for the Beringia Team.  Yea, sleep is hard to come by, especially with 3 teams.

Yukon Quest, 2012My German friend Sui and his “Goat Team”.

Yukon Quest, 2012Jimmy Lebling and my friend Jan Denapoli-Cosmuto.  Jimmy was running Jan’s dogs in the Yukon Quest 300.

Yukon Quest, 2012Did I mention that our checkers are the most dedicated people!

Yukon Quest, 2012Me, Jan, and Eric.

All in all it was a very nice race.  The mushers had a lot less heartbreak and difficulties from the area this year.  That makes me happy.

Now on to the rest of the month.  We have been having awesome magnetic storms producing some magnificent aurora shows.   Unfortunately I have been missing most of them since taking myself off of Facebook and having access to the Aurora Notifications page.  But I still am able to track them on our Geophysical Institute Page.

Auroras 2012, AlaskaJan, Eric, and I, along with my daughter Olivia and another friend set up an arctic oven tent out on one of the ponds we normally drive dog teams to.  Wow that was an awkward sentence.  I was using one of Jan’s cameras because she has a wide-angle lens.  Well of course, most of my shots did not turn out as well as I would have liked but here is one so you can see the setting.

Auroras 2012, Alaska, arctic oven

We had fun playing with light drawing while waiting for more auroras to show up.  This is Olivia and I, walking like Egyptians.

Me throwing a lightning bolt.  Ok ok, I know Batman doesn’t normally have lightning bolts at his disposal but I’m assuming Alfred came up with a contraption to harness all the electromagnetics in the air.

Home made chicken noodle soup has been a favorite this winter.  Ever wonder what cabin fever looks like?  Well, this pretty much sums it up.  Yes, we are crazy in Alaska.  What would you expect to happen with a swimsuit, feather boa, and fur boots at -45.  And with that, I am going on a diet.  Last year I cut out Cokes from my diet and lost 20 lbs.  I ran all winter long, some weeks every day but at least 3 days a week.  I didn’t lose any more than that first 20 lbs.  So now, I will diet.  I’m not a “dieter”.  But then again, I was never a runner before either and thoroughly enjoyed that.  I refuse to end up a fat old lady!