Sunday, December 23, 2012


When John and Holly visited us in September, there were a couple of pairs of swans on the lake below the RV park.  They had quite a thrill watching them posture and argue and add a regal air to the scenery.

About a month after they left, I noticed a bunch of swans out on the lake one morning.  It was still dark out at that point, but I made sure to grab my camera and get out there to get some pictures.  I didn't realize when I started how many swans there were!  They were starting to move when I got there so I'm glad I got there when I did!  There were at least 50 swans and maybe even more on the other lake.  It was an unbelievable experience!


2012 Weather in Review

I've decided that I'm never going to get caught up on blogging the way I'd like to, but if I don't do SOMETHING, the situation is just going to continue to get worse.  For this post I've been collecting evidence and data for a while now.  Most of you southerners (meaning everyone in the lower 48) will really like this post.  I'm going to complain about the weather.  Ya'll know it doesn't happen often, so you might as well bookmark this one so you can find it back again later.

I'll start with this past summer since I'm still in "catching up" mode.  It was cold.  It was wet.  It was frequently both at the same time.  I confess I didn't keep track carefully enough to be certain, but I do think we had snow every month this year.  When I say we had snow, that doesn't mean we had inches and inches.  We didn't even get it under our feet.  But that is Victory Peak in the front, Anthracite in the back and both of them had a dusting more times than I care to admit.  And if they had snow, it means that it sure wasn't 60 degrees a couple hundred feet below.  This picture is from early July.

According to this news article it wasn't just our imagination:  
But we did get some really pretty rainbows!  And in this case we even had a double!  Pretty stuff!

Not every day was cold.  There were a few warm ones as noted below.  For some of you, this doesn't even qualify as warm but for me, anything over 70 is a waste of degrees and by the point noted for the record, I'm thinking about air conditioning.  That said, I wouldn't have minded a few more days closer to that 70 mark.  

The really surprising thing about the weather this year was that it just kept going!  We had record snowfall last winter which then melted off in rain this past spring, then more rain this summer, hurricanes this fall and a cold, almost snowless winter so far!  Here's a news article about the back to back hurricanes: 

The result of all that water was falling rocks, flooding, landslides and roads collapsing.  Long Lake had a number of slides and people's cars hit by rocks.  The plow trucks stayed busy all summer keeping the roads clear of rocks.

Yes, that's a roof out in the middle of the river. 

 This slide was particularly interesting.

It occurred just days after they put up this sign.  Maybe they shouldn't have put the sign there.  Too tempting for the slide to occur once they did that!  ;)  They have new signs now in addition to these.  They say, "Lane edge drops next 21 miles."  Those are our roads they are talking about.  They don't normally do much road construction through the winter, but the roads have gotten so bad in spots that they are digging up parts of the road to fix where it has washed out underneath.  It sounds like they'll start working on permanent repairs this coming summer which will make the trip in to town take longer, but it will be well worth it in the long run!

Apparently we used up our quota of precipitation for the year already though because after the three hurricanes early this fall, we pretty much stopped having any precipitation worth measuring.  It just got cold.  Which was somewhat fun when the lakes froze.  Hard.  With no snow.  That means you can see down, down, down.  That was just plain COOOOOOOOL!!!  It was so much more fun to look down through the ice than to skate!  We didn't figure out that you could really go out on the lakes until the day before I left for NY so I really didn't get a lot of pictures.  Apparently we could have been out there for a while though, because they were driving on it within days of my leaving!  We do have a little snow now, but not enough to even go snow machining!  We could use a LOT more, both for ground insulation and for snow machine fun!

Evelynn just cracks me up!  :)

Despite the wet summer, we didn't miss out on too much gorgeousness!  I'll leave you with a few lovely shots and promise to come back with tons more scenic shots next time!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Denali and Denali Highway

This is another one of those posts where the pictures speak volumes!  Longtime friends John and Holly Phillips came from NY to see Alaska in celebration of John's 70th birthday and 30 years of marriage.  We were blessed to be able to hang out with them for a few days and catch up on life sprinkled with a few tears and plenty of laughter!  They had a list of things they wanted to do including seeing Denali.  Denali is more often not visible than it is visible, especially the way the weather had been this summer and fall.   Interestingly enough, park rangers draw the view of Denali from the visitor center twice each day during the summer.  I don't know why, but it perfectly illustrates the point:  Denali drawings 2011-August-7pm.jpg  So when there came a sunny break between rain systems, we made plans to GO!  Denali is like a ghost when you drive in toward it the first time.  You catch a glimpse, but aren't sure what you saw.  Could that have been it?  So you look intently again, but you can't see it.  Then all of a sudden there it is again!  Finally you come to a point where there is no mistake.  There it is, dominating the horizon.  If you click on the pictures, it will take you to a larger view of them.  I've tried to optimize the photos to get good clarity yet not take forever to download.  Trust me.  It will be worth the view!

We had never been this close to Denali before, so we didn't know the best viewing spots.  We'd been as far as the lake spot above once before, but turned back as we didn't have time to continue on.  We'd heard that the Princess Lodges often had fantastic views so we pulled off to check it out:

They did have good views, but not as fabulous as we had hoped.

Then just a little way down the road there was a pullout with a great view.  By that point the clouds were starting to come in from the next weather system and Denali was already disappearing from view again!

We did manage to stay ahead of the storm and had an absolutely gorgeous day for travel.  At one point we went past this...  Well...  Ummm...  This thing.  But completely gorgeous all around it.

We stayed overnight just inside the park and made a quick stop at the visitor's center the next day.  Some kids never grow up.  John is standard issue Alaskan.  I kept telling him he fit right in!  Probably half the guys over 50 in Alaska can all be described as not that tall, wiry, bearded, grey haired or greying, a bit hard of hearing, etc.  I'll have to have Sandy Lee fill me in on the rest.  I started a "standard Alaskan" list but hers was much better than mine!

The views heading out of the park were as spectacular as they had been going in!

We had decided to head across the Denali Highway which isn't nearly as civilized as the drive had been the previous day.  If you think we are in the middle of nowhere, you're wrong.  We live on the edge of nowhere. The Denali Highway is in the middle of nowhere!  And it is dirt.  More than 100 miles of dirt!  According to Wikipedia:  The highway is now little used and poorly maintained, and closed to all traffic from October to mid-May each year. Only the easternmost 21.3 miles (34.3 km) and westernmost 2.6 miles (4.2 km) are paved; whether the remainder should be paved as well is a continual source of debate. Washboarding and extreme dust are common, the recommended speed limit is 30 mph.  But gorgeous!!!

And despite what Wikipedia says, it is remarkably well traveled!  Well, it certainly is during hunting season anyway! It was caribou hunting season so there were tons of RVs and campers along the whole 100+ miles.  I didn't want to ruin the view in the next picture, so I tried to keep the arrow minimal, but it points to a long line of RVs parked along the side of the road hunting.  Oh, and the dust is also quite visible.  But the scenery is well worth the drive!

And we passed at least three Princess buses flying along that road!

What a spectacular place to camp, I mean hunt!

By the end of that day the clouds were catching up with us and before long we headed into snow!  Typical fall weather in Alaska - you can go from gorgeous sunshine and warm to snow all in one day!  :)  Thanks for coming along with us!

Morning commute

Morning commute