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April 29, 2005

More Snow

It was snowing yesterday, and it was snowing this morning, but around 6:30 when I was leaving work it was really snowing. Really really snowing. So I forewent my plan of watching a movie at a friend's apartment (he's out of town), grabbed some Thai food to go (heaven: red curry with tofu, all nice and warm in my bowl and in my tummy), and just came home. Now, the snow is back to a drizzle. Colorado spring. Gotta love it. Because, you know, what else can you do?

Posted by beth at 2:15 AM

April 28, 2005

Or...Is It Spring in Boulder?

It snowed today. A lovely morning gave way to a rainy afternoon which turned to a snow storm briefly around 6:30. Spring comes in stages to Boulder. Winter just doesn't give up all at once.

The good news is that *since* it's Boulder, it will (hopefully) soon be sunny again. Tomorrow would be nice.

Posted by beth at 4:52 AM

April 26, 2005

Spring in Boulder

Spring has sprung in Boulder! And I'm so glad. I just got back yesterday, and woke up this morning to flowers in bloom outside my window and green grasses all the way to work. Hooray! I am sooo glad! So very glad.

Posted by beth at 5:11 PM | Comments (1)

April 17, 2005

Flying

Ronn had offered to take me up in his plane. He loves to fly, and he loves company. He offered to take me along when he took Jacob back across the way to his mother.

Mikee was still working on his plane when we got to the airport.


[Mike's mechanic, Donny, and Mike.]

Mike's plane is skinny, seating one person up front and one in the back. Ronn's plane is wider, seating two up front and one (works best if that one has no legs) in back. Ronn's plane looks like this:


[Photo: Mike C.]

Oh, wait, that was last year.

Ronn's plane now looks like this:

Sorry the picture's so dark. I couldn't figure out how to lighten it.

We flew across the Kenai Peninsula, dropped Jacob off, and flew back. Almost all my pictures are from the flight back, when I was in the front seat next to Ronn.


[Ronn.]

We landed around 8 o'clock, and Mikee and I took off shortly after for Anchorage. The ride, as expected, was beautiful, and the sunset went on forever.

Posted by beth at 2:28 AM | Comments (2)

Spoiled in Seward

Sunday promised to be another beautiful day. As planned, Ronn and Jacob showed up with eggs and steaks and sausage and English muffins. Both were on cruise mode. Jacob broke a match carefully in half and went to work starting the fire again, a challenged that was posed the night before. That kid can start a fire. Ronn went to work on Dan's grill out on the deck, scrambling eggs and cheese and charring the meat (oops) and toasting muffins. Dennis and his wife Candy pulled in to drop off a gift from Tracker. "This must be yours," Dennis said, handing me a glove. I must not have kept as careful track of my things the night before as I had thought.

Dan-o drove up, again making a big entrance. He pulled in, and then backed up to maneuver exactly into his spot. As he pulled forward again, we broke into a chorus of incredulous and delighted yells. Dan had managed somehow to spear the melted garbage can onto the back of his truck and was pulling it forward with him. He couldn't've done it better if he'd planned. Good one, Dan-o. Okay, I know you had to be there, but it was amazingly funny, and I couldn't get to the camera in time before he pulled it off.

Soon we were feasting around the fire, out in the sunshine. And I managed to get bad pictures of the entire breakfast crowd.


[Dan-o and Jacob.]


[Chef Ronn.]


[Mikee C.]

It so happens that my friend Dave works for Kenai Fiords Tours, a cruise line in Seward. And it so happens that he was able to set me up on a cruise. So I spent four hours that afternoon whale watching.


[Harbor with cruise ships. Our ship is the third from the left.]


[Heading out towards open water.]

We were supposedly out to find gray whales, but most of the cruise was spent spotting other critters. The first call of wildlife spotted drew us onto the deck to watch Dall porpoises play in our bow wake. The shape of dolphins and with the coloring of orcase, these porpoises are among the fastest of all sea creatures. (How's that for a good nature-writing line?) We saw a humpback whale, too far away to get a good view of. The gray whales were mostly the same--saw the backs of three above the water's surface, but apparently gray whales aren't much for tricks or even showing their tales. Still, we ended up with a great tail-on view of two swimming away from our boat's bow, and one did flip its tail on the way down.

Next, our captain took us to check out some sea lions.

They were impressively loud and talkative.

Where the bay reaches open water, we came upon a pod of orcas. We were teased by watching multiple orcas playing close to another whale-watching group out a bit further than we were, while the orcas closer to us were being evasive. Eventually, a few whales gave us a little bit of a show. No big amazing breeching events, but we did get some good glimpses of a mother and her cub (cub?) cruising around near by...


[If only it were in focus.]

...and actually swim directly under our boat, as in I was sitting up against the rail of the bow and the whales surfaced right up against the boat and then dove under. Here's my picture of the mom.

Okay, shut up. These things happen quickly.

Sometimes, it was just nice to enjoy the view.


[Bear glacier.]

We also, on our way back to Seward, cruised along the steep slopes to find mountain goats ( = little white spots on the slopes), bald eagles soaring above the cliffs, and even a black bear ( = little black spot on the slope). As the crew said, we saw everything that day. Well, we saw a lot, anyway.


[I take pictures of them talking pictures of the white specks that are goats. I mean, come on... even with a zoom...]


[Self-portrait.]

There was also wildlife to be seen in the harbor upon our return.


[Harbor and bald eagle.]


[Two sea lions played inbetween docks.]


[Big bird eating big fish head.]

Ronn swung by to pick me up shortly after we docked at four, to take me to the airport where he and Mike had been working on Mike's plane. The day was not over yet.

Posted by beth at 1:45 AM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2005

Seward

Mikee is a friend of mine from Antarctica. I met him my first season down, at the end of my stay, and adored him, because it's impossible not to adore Mikee Cragen. He's a nice, warm, funny, and kooky guy, lots of fun to be around. I went north and he stayed south, spending the winter in McMurdo with other friends of mine, including Tad, Dave, Matt (the three musketeers from my first season down), Elizabeth, Lisa, and Kim. As it happened, Dave and Elizabeth and Mike and Lisa and Kim all happened to be in Christchurch after their winter when I was on my way down for my second season, and I got to know all of them a little bit better. Last summer, I did exactly what I'm doing now: stopped over in Anchorage and Seattle on my way back to Boulder after work in Fairbanks. I backpacked with Elizabeth and Dave in a park down off the Kenai Peninsula. I didn't put pictures in from that last year, so I'll put them in now. The area must have been called Katchemac, because that's what Dave called the first picture. All three were taken by Dave of Elizabeth and me.

We had to take a water taxi from Homer to get to the place, and stopped along the way (in the boat) to buy some fresh oysters. The trip didn't suck. It was funny, though--we took this taxi to go on this backpack and made it 45 minutes in to the lake in the picture and decided that looked like a great place to set up camp. So we did. We--okay, at least Dave and I--were feeling lazy and tired and unmotivated to do much besides laze around and have fun, so we built a campfire and didn't move. We met up with some other friends--Martha and another Dave and a friend of theirs--who joined us for the second night (we were really supposed to join them the day before, but missed them somehow), when we again built a campfire and stayed put. Apparently the glacier is really beautiful up close. Maybe next time.

Anyway. On our way back to Anchorage, we stopped in Seward to say hi to Mike, who was there working on a plane he had just bought. He liked the whole traveling after the ice thing, but what he really really (really) wanted to do was go back to Alaska and buy a plane and just be in Alaska and fly. Mike really loves Alaska (really really). He also really loves to fly. So he did it. He spent the whole summer pulling apart and then putting back together this plane with his friend Ronn, the high school shop teacher in Seward, and then flying, flying, and flying. He flew a lot. He named his plane (on Elizabeth, Dave, and my suggestion/encouragement/begging) Skeeter, or Ms. Skeeter, because of its ability to suck everything out of Mike. Money and time and blood and the like. Okay, probably not so much blood, but I imagine Mike's gotten a scrape her and there. There's more to the story, actually, and it's kind of funny, so ask me about it sometime if you think of it. So Dave and Elizabeth and I stopped by to say hi, because we knew the only way to see him would be to go to him, or his plane rather, and we ended up hanging out two nights with him and Ronn, who is the almost absolute greatest, and spent the day inbetween helping out with the plane. We learned about small planes and worked on patching it and priming it for painting. We even wore coveralls and face masks (nasty fumes). There are some nice pictures somewhere, but I think they were on Dave's camera. Elizabeth and I took a potty break after a few hours and went to the girls' locker room, where we were the only two girls in there 1) over twenty and 2) wearing coveralls OR face masks. Funny that. We took showers and talked, and talked and talked and talked. Yeah, we decided, the working on the plane thing was fun for a while, but we were done. They could work. We could chat. Even if we were surrounded by a constant flow of pre-teens getting ready for swim practice and teens getting ready for basketball.

So Ron and I go way back, and so do me and Mikee's plane, so I was looking forward to seeing both of them on Saturday. The drive to Seward was, of course, beautiful. It's along mountains and water, and there's not really a boring bit of it. In Seward, we headed to the grocery store to get something for dinner. Do you want to just grab something, or do you want to buy something to make...? Mike asked. I don't really feel like cooking, I said, do you? No, he said. Not at all. So we bought two bags of Tim's Cascade Potato Chips (two for one), a frozen pizza, and two things of ice cream (also two for one). And we headed to Ronn's to pick up Ronn's son, Jacob. Ronn himself was at prom. I shouldn't have already told you that he is a high school teacher, otherwise that line may have been a little more shocking. Yes, Ronn was at prom, chaperoning.

Mike told me as we pulled in to Ronn's drive that Jacob is really into killing animals. "Don't bring it up," Mike said, "just see how long it takes him to start talking about it." We walked across the yard past a plastic sheet with fish guts. "Looks like he's here," Mike said. We found Jacob inside playing a video game. "Oh, cool," said Mike, looking at the screen. "I didn't know there were actually any games that weren't hunt-em-down and shoot-em-up anymore." Jacob was cruising around through the woods in a jeep. "Can I drive?" Mike asked. Jacob handed over the controller. "How do I use it?" asked Mike, and Jacob took the controller back to demonstrate the buttons. "This one's forwards, and this one's reverse, and you turn with these arrows here." Mike reached for the controller. "And then this one gets you out of the car," Jacob continued, "and then press this one"--a rifle came up into view--"and then this"--the sight came on the screen, and Mike broke in. "I just want to drive he said," both of us disappointed. It turned out to be a Cabella's hunting game. Jacob told us enthusiastically that there is another Cabella's game in which he can kill more than just deer. Lions and tigers and bears, that sort of thing.

The sound of a chainsaw approached from the front. Turns out their friend Dan was headed over to pick up Jacob, too, and he was making his grand entrance. "Sounded like you rode in on a weed wacker," I said. We piled into oversized trucks and headed to Dan-o's cabin. Cabin, my ass. The cabin is spacious (not super-huge, by any means, but certainly comfortable) with running water and power, a stove and an over and overhead lights and a phone and all that jazz. The little house is beautiful. I guess all three of them--Dan, Ronn, and Mike--put in a significant amount of time on the place. Most importanly, it had a fire pit. Jacob was allowed one match to get the fire started. Within minutes, it seemed, the pit was aglow and the fire big. The pizza was in the oven, homemade beer from Mike's kegerator in our hands, and life was good. Dennis, the across-the-dirt-road neighbor, came over with his dog Tracker and warned me not to leave my shoes (or anything else) lying around outside. Tracker is a golden retriever. We brought the pizza out of the oven (keeping a careful eye on Tracker), refilled beer glasses, and life was still good. Until we noticed one of Ronn's garbage cans, which held wood, was too close to the fire and was melting. Dan immediately blamed Jacob. He dumped out the wood and moved the plastic can away from the fire. The damage wasn't extraodinary, but enough to have created a drooping hole in the side, so Dan cleverly stacked the garbage can between two others in hopes that Ronn would not notice the damage until he had the cans back at school, where he could blame the hole on the kids in his shop class. It was too much to resist, though, and when Ronn showed up from prom--still in his suit coat and dress pants--Dan had to spill the beans. "Oh, that's nothing," Ronn said, and went on to tell us stories from Seward High School.

Once it was sufficiently late and everyone was sufficiently tired, the gang took off. First, we talked of breakfast plans for the next morning. Ronn suggested we all go over to his house, but I proposed he get groceries on his way back over and make breakfast for us at Dan's. Lazy me. Somehow, he bought it. Ronn and Jacob went home, and Dan left his house to us while he went to attend to his fiance, who wasn't feeling well.

Mike and I couldn't resist. I mean, who can resist a hot tub. It was late, but there was a hot tub in the yard, and it was hot enough, so we jumped in for a soak. Turned to noodles, and then headed in to sleep.

Posted by beth at 12:27 AM

A Day as a Tourist in Anchorage

Saturday was my day. Mike was working until the evening, and then we'd head down to Seward, so I had a day to kill in Anchorage, and Dave had left me his truck for transportation. This turned out to be more exciting than anticipated. I had gotten directions to a breakfast joint from Mike and was happily (and hungrily) on my way. I didn't get very far very fast, though. Driving Dave's truck wasn't quite what I expected. After a couple stalls and a very slow and confusing trip across a busy road (oh geez, sorry Alaskans, I know you hate me, please don't hit me) thinking I must have the emergency break on, I pulled off onto a side road and fooled with settings until I concluded that the gas pedal was just much more demanding than I'd anticipated and that I had to press a lot farther and harder than I had. So I practiced around the neighborhood, struggling against the sticky shifter, until I was confident I could make it downtown intact. And I did. And I parked. I had breakfast, got my hair cut (just and inch or so), and walked around downtown with a tourist map. Talked for a stint with a white-haired man from Colorado who worked in the visitors' center there and who wore a shiny blue, gold-laced coat which looked like wizard wear. I made my way excitedly to the Experience Alaska Theater for two films--one on the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, and one on the beauty of Alaska. I was particularly excited about the earthquake one. I mean, with the word "experience" in the theater's title, it had to be something fun and shaky.

It was bad. It was really, really bad. It was probably made in 1965, and hasn't been changed since. The volume was way to loud and the narrator spoke in an accent that was both hard to understand and annoying. The earthquake motion in the room--the seats shaking side to side on their platform--came during the most interesting footage of the movie, which happened to be footage of the resulting tsunami. The Alaska IMAX, which I saw afterward, was not much better. The volume was too loud, the seats were too close to the screen, the movie was old, and I left feeling queesy. So, highly recommended. Go there and go crazy. Have fun.

Meeting up with Mikee was much nicer than either of those films. It was time to get out and experience Alaska myself. After meeting his parents (very, very nice people, from what I could tell in the few minutes we conversed), Mike and I headed in his newly-aquired suburban to Seward.

Posted by beth at 12:11 AM

April 15, 2005

Ice Friends

Anchorage. Both my buddies, Dave and Mike, were busy during the day, and I got in early in the afternoon, so I called our Alaska UNAVCO guy, Ben, to see if he wanted to meet about some photos I had taken for him of a site up by Toolik. Ben was great. He picked me up at the airport and brought me back to the UNAVCO office in Anchorage, where we chatted and looked at the photos I had brought back. When we were done, he took me to my hotel.

Dave had suggested I try Priceline to get a room in Anchorage for us to share. You can put in a price limit and one or to requirements and if a hotel accepts your bid, there you go. You've got a room. We put in $40 to stay at a three-star hotel, which was the nicest option. We ended up with a room at the Millenium. I was excited about the idea of staying in a somewhat upscale hotel, though I didn't (don't) know exactly what three stars imply. The lounge was lavish-looking, with dark wood and lots of dead animals pinned up on the walls. I was excited to see our room. Until I got my key card and started walking towards it. Do all hotels have a special skanky part for cheapskates like Dave and myself? I started down a less-lavish-looking hallway with tacky, well-used carpeting, and the hallway just kept going and me with it. Going. Going. Room 1049 was just about at the end of the maze (I hope) and was definately not worthy of the hundred-some-odd dollars they usually charge for a room. I can't imagine they'd put anyone but us internet gamblers in a room like this--at least I hope they wouldn't. The room was fine and all, but certainly not luxurious. The lighting was a poor yellow-orange and one of the bedspreads had holes in it. So, not exactly what I was hoping for, but then we were only paying $25 each ($40 plus taxes).

I took a nap. I read. I lounged, and relaxed. Around six, Dave arrived from Seward. Hooray Dave! We were both starving. We had gotten a call from our dear Elizabeth and Julie and Tad, other friends from the ice that happened to be convening in Milwakee, and played a little phone tag. Called them back, left a message, and then they called us back. We got to talk to all three of them, which was a treat since I hadn't talked to any of them since leaving New Zealand last month. When Dave and I got off the phone we swung into action. It was time for food.

We ate pizza at the Bear's Tooth, which was great, and talked about betting on whether Mike would show up. I've got good news and bad news, he'd told us before we left for dinner. The good news is I've sold my truck. The bad news is I need to take care of it now. So, so much for dinner with Dave and Mike. But dinner with Dave was great and drinks with Dave and Mike were still in order. We'd started talking about placing bets on whether Mike would join us for drinks even, at a place called Bernie's where Dave had ordered a beer and I was settling in for a night of fruity Martinis. Shortly into our second drink, Mike showed up, with his friend Sam in tow. Mike said he was halfway to the bar when Sam called and told him to pick him up, a worthwhile excuse for being late since it was great to meet Sam. In fact, I still owe Sam $20 for all the cosmos I drank. Sam, if you're out there, know that I'll getcha back.

It seemed like an early night, Mike having to work the next day and Dave having to get up early for a flight to Oregon, but it was probably after 1 AM by the time Dave and I got to sleep. He woke me in the morning for a hug goodbye and was on his way.

Posted by beth at 2:00 AM

Fairbanks

We arrived into Fairbanks at a decent hour, and I checked into the same hotel I'd stayed in before. This time, I had a downstairs room looking out onto the Chena river.

I lied on my bed and wrote:

I’m back in Fairbanks. It’s nice to be back, because that means I’m a step closer to home. Home being Boulder. I’m also a step closer to being in my growing-up home—even closer to that than Boulder, since I’ll stop off in the Seattle area to see my family and friends before heading for Colorado. If you’re a friend of mine in the Seattle area and would like to see me and are offended that I haven’t contacted you, don’t be. I haven’t contacted anybody yet, except my parents. I’m thinking barely one step ahead, so now my thoughts are just transitioning to my stop-over in Anchorage this weekend. E-mail me.

It’s also nice to be back in Fairbanks because it’s warmer than Toolik and it has hot showers. I just took one.
-----------

I probably meant to write more, but got distracted. the next day, I met up with Andrew and took care of last minute errands. I then dropped in on Steve McNutt, a volcano seismologist at UAF that I met several years ago, and ended up at his house for a relaxing glass of wine with him and his wife and their boys. It was a nice way to end the stint in Fairbanks.

Friday, I was off to Anchorage. Vacation time. I had booked a cheap room in a decent hotel for my friend Dave Haney and I, and the plan was to meet up with our friend Mike for dinner. I know both from the ice.

Posted by beth at 1:47 AM

April 14, 2005

Leaving Toolik--Back to Fairbanks

It was somewhat sad to leave on such a nice day, but it was also exciting--the drive back promised to be lovely, and I was looking forward to warmer weather. Sun on the north side of the Brooks Range and sun on the south side of the Brooks Range are both nice, but it's a lot warmer on the south side.

Before we left the station, the camp manager, Rich, gave me a present. I was so obviously impressed by the hard-bound, "Special Limited Edition" (so it said on the hard cover) Cabella's catalogue and its display of camo couches, acrylic bullet-filled toilet seats, and hunter action figures (5-point deer and ATV also available) that Rich gifted me my very own camo cap. Someone had left it in the sauna last season.


[I also got the standard Toolik Lake mug.]


[Rich. Camo hat not included.]


[Me, Andrew (a bit squinty-eyed), and Max]

We got our goods out of our dorm,

and hit the road.

Shortly after leaving, we stopped alongside the road to help Max pull down one of the instruments he had set up on a nearby bedrock outcrop. I mostly let them work, and I took pictures. I don't feel bad about it. There wasn't much to do.

Once we hit the road again, Max dropped his binoculars onto the front seat so they would be handy in case we saw any mountain sheep. As it turned out, we didn't need the binoculars. We spotted some on a bluff just alongside the road. They were pretty darn close to the ground, but seemed to prefer the more challenging footing of the rock.

Posted by beth at 11:58 PM

April 13, 2005

Toolik, Continued

Day One at Toolik was socked in and unproductive. We organized everything that needed to be organized and started in on a simple task which took us all day. The next day, I wrote this:

Another day at Toolik. The day was much nicer than yesterday, with sun and blue sky for most of the day, the mountains visible and crisp and clear and snowy white-blue. It did a lot for my morale. It did everything that could be done for my morale. I danced around a bit in the sunshine. Today is gonna be a good day. I have a good feeling for today. Things are going to get working.

I knew it was likely just wishful thinking, a warm-clear-weather beginning-of-the-day sort of attitude. But why damper it with that thought. I’d rather figure it was going to be a good day. And, in some sense, I was right. We got the GPS working by changing a parameter that we shouldn’t have had to change, after two expensive iridium phone calls to my supervisor, Jim, outside in the cold. (But sunny cold.) Then we tackled other tasks that didn’t work right away and then with some fussing did. We got the last one figured out just before supper time.


[Andrew and I test the equipment. His pants are the really thin kind that are good for keeping the bugs off in tropical weather. No long underwear underneath. Andrew's wierd.]

That night, I went for a walk just after the sun had finally dropped out of view. It was probably around 10 PM. I just wanted to check out the camp a bit, and see what the surrounding area was all about. I went down to the sauna building, which is on the lake, and enjoyed the quiet night and view.


[Panorama of camp]


[The sauna]


[My prints next to those of a mystery critter who was there before me]


[The GPS antenna, keeping company with the moon]

Posted by beth at 11:30 PM

April 11, 2005

Alaska, Part 2: Toolik Lake

On Sunday, Andrew and Max and I drove to Toolik Lake. Max is a technician for Jeff Freymueller, a geodesist up at UAF. Max came along to resurvey some sites for Jeff that he had surveyed last year to study tectonic motions. Andrew and I were headed to Toolik to change out a receiver up there and practice a few things that Andrew (and Lael) will be doing this summer.

Toolik Lake is north of the Brooks Range, the northernmost mountain range in Alaska, on the North Slope. The North Slope is the low-lying area between the Brooks Range and the Bering Sea. It is cold and snow-covered in the winter, and full of flowers and animal life in the summer. I have yet to see it in summer, but I have no doubt that it is incredible.

The road up to Toolik is the Haul Road, which is the road that runs along the pipeline all the way up to Prudoe Bay.

It's a rough road, but the scenery is nice.


[Evening sun in the Brooks]


[Pipeline in snowy valley]


[Winter on the North Slope]

I didn't have an internet connection up in Toolik, but I did jot a few thoughts down while I was up there. They go something like this:

It’s white, and smooth, and gentle, and cold. It’s very, very cold. It’s not very cold compared to colder, but it’s still cold. Very cold.

The hills (gentle, white, smooth) look empty, but are not. Likely within my distant view are lynx, wolves, caribou, wolverines, or foxes. There are tracks that look like dog tracks near the winter science hut, but since there are no dogs allowed we debated after dinner over what may have made them. Rich, the camp manager, saw small bird tracks today. We have to note any sightings of small birds or ground squirrels, he said, because the ecologists studying them want to know when the first ones appear. The birds come north over the divide and the squirrels come out of their winter burrows, where they’ve been hibernating for months. The ground squirrels spend two thirds of their lives sleeping, and their bodies reach temperatures below freezing--and then come back to near-normal body temperatures every two weeks or so, not by waking up to conciousness but by waking the mind and dreaming. So the current theory goes. This is the kind of thing that’s being learned here at the Toolik Lake Field Station.

Unlike in the Antarctic, there are delicate-looking brush reaching up out of the snow cover. There are land animals. And, unlike my Antarctic experience, here it is getting dark. It seems a special treat to see darkness in a place like this. The world here is still waking up, coming rapidly out of its dark winter. The sun sets around 9, and the sunset continues slowly and laboriously until around 11. Last night, for the first time ever, I saw the northern lights. The aurora borealis. I didn’t even stay to watch it long, my eyes dry and straining and my body shivering in the cold, but I saw it, and I was fascinated, and I hope to never forget it. And I hope to see more. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, a sci-fi shape-shifting, a glowing curving migrating display of light across the sky, arcing up over us from one horizon to the other. In Anchorage, the aurora is usually seen in the northern part of the sky, as it circles the poles, but this far north the lights curve high across the sky overhead, touching down behind.

Nutty to think my Antarctic friends who kept themselves down south are watching the nights get longer as quickly as the days are here, and are observing the aurora on the other side of the world. Hi, Antarctic friends. I hope you’re warm, and happy.

Posted by beth at 11:04 PM

April 10, 2005

Alaska, Part 1

Another trip to Alaska. Not that I’m complaining. Anymore. I am comfortable admitting that I was *not* excited about coming back to a cold place, nor was I excited about leaving the apartment I had moved into in Boulder just two weeks before. But, it’s my job, and besides, it’s Alaska, so even though I was complaining I’m not really allowed to complain.

I flew from Denver to Seattle to Fairbanks. It felt like a long day of travel. It was a long day of travel. I left my apartment at 8:30 AM and got to my hotel at probably 8 PM Alaska time, which is 10 PM Colorado time. I was greeted by moose.

They were fake, but they were kind of neat.

The next day, I drove in my rental car to University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF), and met up with Andrew Balser and Lael __, GIS specialists for the UAF Toolik Lake Field Station. I would be going with Andrew to Toolik Lake the following week, but was teaching a three-day, hands-on GPS class at the university first. We spent Tuesday setting up for the course and Tuesday night I went over to the house of Matt Nolan and Kristin Scott, who I worked with on McCall glacier (Brooks Range, Alaska) last summer. Alexandra, a student from Germany who is working with Matt this summer, was also there. We had a lovely dinner and reminisced and made silly jokes and talked about our favorite books and then Alex and I left (I was giving her a ride home) and we got stuck in the driveway. I knew that could happen. I realize that’s not a very strong statement, but I arrived in Fairbanks just for melt. But melt hadn’t really happened yet. Not yet yet. It was still in the fingers of winter, and there was snow on Matt and Kris’ road, and snow with big craters in their driveway. I slid just a little bit on the way there, on the road, and then made the mistake of parking in their driveway. It was a nice idea. Sort of. Except between the craters and the patches of ice and the patches along the sides of soft snow, I managed to get stuck in about three or four different places as Alex and Matt and I worked to get the rental car out. We ended up succeeding by having Matt strap his truck to mine and pulling me out of the driveway. He was a bit enthusiastic about it, too, since it was hard going at first, and we somehow ended up on his road with my car next to his, overlapping by half the car’s length, and about an inch away. Luckily, I made it out scratch-free, and, more importantly, I made it out. Alex and I were able to get home. Though she had no power, and spent the night freezing with five layers and her not-warm-enough sleeping bag and slept in class the next day, but that’s her story.

The class went from Wednesday through most of Friday, from 9:15-5, and each day I arrived back at my hotel exhausted and not wanting to do anything except lie on the bed. I had to struggle to motivate to eat. Luckily, there was a restaurant right next to my hotel, so I didn’t have to go far. They had both a restaurant and a pub, and I decided on the second night to try out the restaurant. As it turns out, it is a nice restaurant, but I didn’t realize that until I was already in so I was the only person in there in Carhartts, a fleece, and/or a t-shirt. i had the $19.99 dungenouss crab special, which I think was the cheapest entrée. And, it was good.

I was supposed to take pictures during the class, but I didn’t. I was too busy.

I was glad when the class was over. Andrew invited a few folks over for dinner on Friday, and I was very glad to be sitting on a deck having a beer and relaxing rather than teaching a class. Andrew has a very friendly, old dog and a very very friendly cat. I came out covered in animal hair, because I can’t very well resist friendly dogs and friendly cats. Woof woof. Meow.

Saturday, I slept in. Sleeping in is something close to heaven. Maybe heaven will consist of waking up exhausted and realizing I don’t have to be up yet and going back to sleep, over and over again. Then, I went with Matt and Alex (Kris had left for Denver) to Chena Hot Springs. We ate and drank and soaked and pruned and ate and drank some more. The hot springs were big. And hot. We drove back through a really long sunset—mmm, great time of year. Hour long sunsets. I was like a noodle when I got back to my hotel. Climbed into bed and slept hard.

Posted by beth at 10:59 PM