Tag Archives: Alaska

Alaska Musings Episode 4

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Alaska Fall 2

September 6, 2008 Sourdough Tales

1. We have been living here 6 months now and just discovered recently that we can see the Knik Glacier from most anywhere around Palmer and Wasilla. I asked the question why that valley always had snow even though it appears to be a lower elevation than Pioneer’s Peak & voila! the glacier appeared right before our eyes. It’s about 25 miles up the Knik River from our house to the glacier. We hope to take a tour up to it next summer.

2. In case you haven’t heard Sarah Palin is the Republican VP Nominee. She is from Wasilla. She used to be a Council Member and Mayor of Wasilla. I work for the City of Wasilla. You can’t imagine the world-wide notoriety this place is getting now. Our website went from having 25k to over 500k hits per day since August 29th.

3. The trees are changing colors rather quick and are quite dramatic. And, it all started this week. Last week there were no golds or yellows anywhere. I’m guessing since we have cottonwood and birch trees that we won’t see many reds. Right now though the bright contrasts between the greens and the yellow hues are fantastic.

4. Football season is almost over. Yep, it is only 8 weeks long due to the fact the kids can’t play on frozen ground or in the snow. So, by the end of September they even complete the championship games with all their playoffs. Basketball up here is big though and, of course, hockey.

5. The days are getting shorter by large leaps of 5 and 6 minutes each day. I can finally leave my master bedroom curtains open all the time and have darkness before 10 p.m. and as late as 6:30 a.m. The shortest day here in the Palmer area is 5 hours 18 minutes sometime around December 20th – from around 10:15 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. But, with the predawn and dusk light we have a little over 7 hours of actual light.

6. Neighbors help each other up here a LOT. Employees don’t feel entitled to their jobs – they come to work on time and put in a full days’ worth of work without someone monitoring them. What novel concepts! It is so refreshing and delightful. I am amazed by both of these aspects of Alaskan life on a weekly basis.

7. More and more windmills are popping up around the valley with the cost of fuel oil and energy going up. We’ve learned that windmills only need 8 mph winds to work but shutdown in 50 mph winds or higher. And, the Chinooks coming down off the glacier during the winter get speeds upwards of and over category 1 hurricanes.

8. Gas has finally dropped down to $4.19 per gallon this week. We had a significant lag behind the rest of the country when prices started to drop. So much so that the State is having an investigation into why. I think we have two refineries in the state but am not up on them to say much more.

9. The State fair was awesome. It wasn’t any bigger than some of the larger county fairs I have been to. But, it did have different activities. There was the midway with all the rides and carnival games. There were the many vendors of food. There were the buildings full of crafts, foods, and animals on display. What was different were the multitude of vendors selling their wares. Everything from windmills to chainsaw carvings. And, the veggies were much, much bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. They had lumberjack demos, concert after concert, fireworks 3 of the 11 days, yarn spinning demos, political booths, and so much more. The Alaska State Troopers wrote over 1,700 traffic tickets around the event. We were lucky that we live just around the corner from the fair. We only had to step outside each night to see the fireworks.

10. The permanent fund dividend or PFD is a whopping $3,269 per Alaskan – man, woman and child. $1,200 of it is a fuel cost payment to help folks pay their bills this winter. And, wouldn’t you know it, we aren’t eligible yet. In fact, we won’t be eligible until calendar year 2010. That’s right we won’t be getting the $6,538 this year. You have to live here for one full year and then you are eligible the next calendar year. So, since we didn’t move up here until the end of February we won’t have been here a year until February of 2009 making 2010 the next calendar year. Bummer.

January 4, 2009

Boy! Am I behind in these (over 2 months now! for shame). Well, blame it on the audit, the state conferences, the holidays and the 20+ degrees below zero that we have been in for a week now. Anyway, I’m back! So, here goes:

1. I know I’ve mentioned before how big the ravens are. But, I didn’t appreciate that fact until I went back to Georgia over the Christmas holidays. I grew up thinking that crows were big birds. Ha! It would take 4 crows (2 side-by-side with another 2 on their shoulders) to equal the size of a raven. It’s a BIG bird. They are everywhere and vocal. They cluck like turkeys and imitate other birds. I’m fascinated by them.

2. At -23° even our 5-star energy rated home has ice around the bottoms of our windows. The snow froze to some extent where the sun shines on it. And, there’s hoar frost on everything. It’s pretty. Emlee still hates to wear her boots but they do keep her feet from freezing.

3. The sun is now low on the horizon each day now. And, it is behind Pioneer’s Peak most of the day when it’s up. So, we don’t get direct sunlight at our house until after noon. But, we are now gaining daylight at a rapid pace just as we lost it this fall. Daylight starts creeping in around 8:30 a.m. though the sun doesn’t come up until just after 10 a.m. And, it is dark by 5 p.m. with the sun setting just before 4 p.m.

4. Gary is learning the adventures of using a snowblower. The first time he ran it the wind was blowing and he got covered from head to toe in snow. Since then he has learned to wear a raincoat over his jacket. And, with the snow over a foot deep Miss Emlee has to have snowtrails made for her in the backyard. She is only 14 inches high.

5. Everyone should get the man in their life (husband, father, brother, whomever) a wireless weather station that uploads data to Weather Underground. If I had only known one would bring so much joy I would have bought my husband one long before now. He is just tickled to death that the temperature outside is off the scale which I think goes down to minus 21 degrees.

6. Most of you know that I wear skirts, dresses or skirt suites to work most days. I have several long skirts with wool that are just fine for these cold days. But, I don’t have enough of them to wear day in and day out. So, I’ve resorted to wearing tights. Pantyhose don’t cut it at -23°. I also have some kicking snow boots that I wear until I get to the office. Those pretty shoes that most women love to wear will kill your ass if you try to walk in the snow and ice here.

7. My staff are trying to save me from myself. So far they have given me gloves, a scarf and warm footie things as well as tons of advice. They call me crazy when I walk in each morning with only a sweater on over my clothes. They don’t seem to notice that I am carrying my heavy coat which I put on when I leave. Why would I put a coat on when going from my kitchen into my heated garage? My Trailblazer is warm and it’s only a 50 ft. walk to the building from where I park. Going home though is a different story.

8. When it’s friggin cold outside like it is now and you sit in your automobile waiting for it to warm up before you head home from work the windows on the inside frost over from the condensation in your breath. I don’t mean fog over, I mean frost over. Ice. I try to go out at lunch to warm my Trailblazer up so that it doesn’t sit for 10 hours in below zero temps.

9. Our vehicles are filthy. It hasn’t warmed up above zero since the last snowfall and mud from sanding of the roads covered our vehicles. The nearest carwash is about 3 miles away but I wouldn’t chance my vehicle freezing up on the drive back home. So, we wait with dirty cars until the temps at least stay above zero for a few days.

10. When there’s lots of snow on the ground and the wind is blowing at near hurricane strength you end up with a ground snow storm blowing sideways. It isn’t snowing – the snow is so dry that the wind is picking it up off the ground. It can get near whiteout conditions as you drive by the lakes.

More Winter Wonderland 007

 

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A is for Alaska

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As part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge [April 2016} here is my first submission.

This will be one of my last musings about our time in Alaska. Enjoy!

06/15/08

On my way to work one day last week what did I happen to see but a 1969 orange Dodge Charger with “01” on its side and a Confederate flag on its roof.  The only thing wrong with this picture being as I am from Georgia is that the car was wearing Alaska plates.

The name of the subdivision we live is “Majestic Hills”.  The vision it evokes does not match the flat potato field reality for which the houses are built. Maybe it is a testament to the fabulous view we have of the Chugach Mountains.

The Chief of Police where I work is a friend of mine. I asked her the other day about the plus 10 mph law that Georgia has on its books for state highways of speeds posted at 55 mph and above. She said that Alaska has no such law and that you could get a ticket for going even 1 mile over the speed limit. But, she said that it usually isn’t worth their time to even turn around for someone doing less than 10 miles over the speed limit as there are so many out there doing 15.

Another conversation with the Chief revealed that the Alaska State Troopers, who are the main law enforcement agency here have 10 new deputized troopers cutting their teeth here in the valley. So, she said they will be writing up tickets for the least little infraction and that the valley is ripe for them. LOL

In the farmer’s field down from our house I saw over 400 Canadian geese resting for several days before they migrated northward. This is a popular field for all manner of migrating bird. This week we have over 70 Sandhill cranes. At first I thought they were trumpeter geese, then turkeys until I stopped and got a good look at them. We watched them fly over our house yesterday. It was neat.

The largest of the varieties of mosquitoes are out and about up here. They are so big and so slow that if one bites you then you sat there and let it. I have never seen such big mosquitoes in my life. They are rather comical. Now, the ones that sneak up on you and bite you are the real tiny ones.

Anchorage has now surpassed Seattle in the number of coffee spots and Seattle is the home of Starbucks! There are coffee shops and coffee drive-thru shacks EVERYWHERE up here. Those and chiropractors are on every corner.

We ventured up to Hatcher’s Pass late Sunday afternoon. It is about 17 miles north of Palmer. The higher up we got into the mountains the more snow was still on the ground as much as 1 to 2 feet deep. And, it’s JUNE!

The Wal-Mart $4 prescription drug program is so popular here that for all new prescriptions there is at least 24-hour wait. For refills it is 48 hours. Geesh. The local grocery store pharmacy such as Carr’s closes at 7 pm and doesn’t reopen until 9 am. How inconvenient.

Bread, crackers, cookies and the like take forever to go stale or mold. We had a loaf of bread that we finished off today that took us 3 weeks to eat and it was still ‘fresh’.

There are cracks in the roadway that buckle up during the winter freeze called ‘frost jacks’. One near our house would knock the front end of your call out of alignment should you hit it going more than 40 mph during the winter. Now, it has flattened out to where you almost don’t know it’s there.

 

7/29/08

Not one, not two but three or more. Many more. That’s how many children most households here in the valley seem to have. It is nothing unusual to see families with six or more kidlets. I’m guessing there’s not much else to do on long, cold winter nights. 😉

Wildflowers everywhere! It is so beautiful here in the ‘summer’. There are wildflowers all along the roadside, up the hillside and across the fields. The colors are so vivid and spectacular – purples, reds, yellows, whites and more. I never knew daisies grew wild.

This summer is cooler than usual. In a typical year there are 15 or more days above 70 with that peaking right about now. Yet, we have only had 2 to date. In fact a record cold high temp was set on July 17th along with a record rainfall the same day. Global warming my ass.

We drove Hatcher’s Pass from Palmer to Willow on July 20th. There is still snow up in the mountains. And, we were only at 3,885 ft!

What zoo doesn’t have monkeys or some kind of primate? The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage had no monkeys at all. No gorillas, no chimpanzees, no orangutans.  But, it does have many animals I have not seen before – snow leopards, wolverines, etc.

The morning of July 24th brought us a smattering of new snow on the tops of the mountains. Most folks were quick to say that there was no way this was STD. Summer Termination Dust is usually seen about the middle of October.

Bear sightings are everywhere up here on a daily basis though we haven’t seen on yet. Unfortunately, grizzlies have mauled two people so far this summer. One was a young lady in Anchorage riding her bike in a marathon that startled a mother bear protecting her cubs. The other lady was worker at a lodge down on the Kenai. Both will recover.

Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! I sent away for my passport renewal thinking it would be Christmas if I was lucky before I got it back based on last year’s horror stories only to get it in less than 2 weeks! What are the odds of that happening? Alaska rules!!!!

On July 26th we drove north on the Glenn Highway for about 100 miles up to Eureka Summit. The scenery was spectacular. We had wanted to walk down to the Matanuska Glacier but it was pouring down rain and we weren’t prepared to get wet. You can see this glacier from the highway. It is 24 miles long and between 2 and 4 miles wide.

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Alaska Musings, Episode 3

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Hot Air Balloon 041108

April 16, 2008

Just like washing your car in the summertime causes it to rain in Savannah, washing the caked on mud from the road that results from the sanding during Snow Season in Alaska causes it to snow.

The snow here is powder dry, especially right after if falls. So, when the wind blows the snow off the roof at the Post Office, it comes crashing down into your face when you get out of your car – even when you have parked on the other side of the parking lot.

On a bright sunny day one tiny cloud can still snow its little heart out. Of course if you can’t see that cloud because you are driving under it then it’s rather confusing.

When you go to shovel the snow in your driveway after you have driven through it you can’t. It has now frozen solid. What a pain. And, this little ‘ice chunker (chucker?)’ just doesn’t cut it. So, what does one do? You’ve still got to get into and out of your garage. Bummer.

There are special brushes to get the snow & ice off of your car. They, like snow tires, are a ‘seasonal’ item. So, when a late ‘season’ snowfall occurs those brushes are almost impossible to find. I found one at Schucks Auto Parts, but they had to dig one out of a box in the back to find the other one I wanted.

Hot air balloons are especially pretty against a snowy mountain.

Gas goes up here in five cent increments. It just jumped up to $3.61.

Teenagers up here want to work and earn money. I have a high school senior for my housekeeper until she graduates. She works real hard and does a great job.

May 2, 2008

It can rain, then snow, rain again, and then have sunshine all in the same day.

There are one gazillion Canadian geese roosting in the farmer’s field up the road from my house. I’ve never seen so many geese in my life. They have been here for about a week now.

I had 12 inches of snow on Friday and only have 14 inches of dog. I had to shovel a path for her in the yard so she could go potty.

Snow terrifies our cats. Their eyes were as wide as saucers when I let them out on the porch to check it out. Retreating back into the house was their first choice.

There is a bald eagle living or at least passing by near our house. I saw it fly over last week. Guess I need to watch my dog closer. Don’t need her to become an eagle snack.

Wearing sandals to work is just like getting your car washed. Both cause snow to fall in the spring.

It’s a seagull invasion!  That may sound strange given that we are somewhat inland.  But, we are not that far from Cook Inlet – maybe 30 or so miles.

It’s not as hard as I thought it would be to go to bed and sleep in the daylight. Today’s sunrise is at 5:48 a.m. Nothing unusual about that. Sunset is at 10:08 p.m. though which means daylight until after 11. But, I am thinking about buying some black-out curtains for the bedrooms anyway.

Gas prices are jumping about $0.10 per week. It went up to $3.81 yesterday. Groceries have risen 30%.

The Alaska Railroad engines are beautiful until you are stuck waiting for them to fill up the cars behind them with rock from the quarry near your house. I’ve learned my way around enough that I have been able to get around the wait. It is over a 5 mile drive around though AND you don’t know you need to go the other way until you are right up on the track. Grrrrrrrr.

May 14, 2008

When the sand whips into a small funnel cloud on the ground we call them ‘dirt devils’. Well, here in Alaska we have ‘snow devils’ since the snow is so dry that the slightest wind picks it up. Interesting to watch. Wish I’d had my camera handy. Maybe this coming winter.

Alaska DOT gets in as much roadway repair and construction as it can once things thaw out. I got caught behind the striping trucks on my way to work yesterday. For at least two miles 30 other drivers and I crept along at 5 to 8 mph before we could get around the darned things.

The trees up here bud out and open their leaves all in two days. One day you can see for miles through the bare woods and the next it’s all green with leaves. Weirdest thing.

The Canadian geese are all gone. And, the day after they left the farmers started planting their fields.

Even with super insulated reservoirs the water in them freezes a good bit in the winter. The movement of the ice up and down, as the tanks empty and refill, abrades and bangs up the inside. Just thought you could use this in a trivia contest.

The boroughs in Alaska which are like counties have Mayors instead of Commission Chairmen. Cities have Mayors too which is confusing to me. And, the elected city Mayors are administrators with no power unless to break a tie vote.

Where I live in Palmer, AK we have glacial silt storms. They are like sand storms but silt is fine like baby powder. The clouds form as the wind comes down over the mountains and picks up the silt. They are miles across and up to 2 miles high. It’s an odd thing to see from afar and even more odd to be in it.

I giggle each time I hear someone use the phrase ‘back in the day’. They of course means years ago.  It is just a saying that I haven’t grown up hearing and I find it funny. Back in the day I walked 50 miles in the snow just to get to the mailbox. Hahahahaha!

This is the only place I have ever lived that the specified current temperature is said as above or below zero. Most places just mention zero if the temperature is below. Here if it is 30 degrees outside they say it is 30 above.

 

Pre-Sourdough Tales

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CND in AK

Alaska was a wonderland that I never imagined as I was growing up that I’d ever get to see. We really loved living there the 3 years that we were blessed to stay. So, are you ready for some more of my observations?

• When the wind blows all day for 2 days you get sand in your hair.
• There are no billboards along the highway. Don’t know why it took me so long to notice.
• Folks put on shorts and sundresses on the first day of spring even though it is still only in the 30’s.
• Mt. McKinley is known as Denali or Tolika to the Alaska Natives. It has its own weather system.
• The only “bugs” I have seen since I came up here are spiders. And, not very many of them.

• There hasn’t been a case of rabies here in over 50 years. Rabies shots are good for 3 years. There are no raccoons or skunks here to pass it along. The arctic fox does tend to have it, but it is WAY up north of here.
• The animals up here don’t have to worry about heartworms unless they travel to the lower 48.
• Both ravens and magpies have an extensive vocal range. They can be tamed and taught to talk.
• Every public high school around here has an indoor swimming pool that is available to the public.
• There is a large Russian immigrant population in Wasilla, and they just about all live off of Knik-Goose Bay Road or as more popularly known as KGB Road. I find that highly ironic and funny.

• The RV’s are starting to show up everywhere now (April). The RV park at the end of our road already has about a half dozen parking there already.
• Snowmobiles are known as Snow machines, Snow-Gos or Sleds here. No one calls them mobiles. That was a term for the ones used back in the 1980’s before shock absorbers, etc.
• Never lower the window of your car thinking you can then push the wall of snow off your car. Instead, it falls in your lap. I laughed at myself for being so stupid.
• The rear windshield wiper isn’t very effective even with washer fluid and a defroster. I need a snow brush to get the snow off all of my windows before I drive.
• Never leave home when it is snowing without a pair of snow boots. I have my heavy coat, gloves & scarf in my Trailblazer but not my snow boots. Had to get a spare set to leave in the truck at all times.

• Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive really could be a problem on a highway if you skid because you can’t regain control without the ability to steer. Good thing my TB is rear-wheel drive.
• Even without the sun shining the glare off the snow is really bright – enough for my lens to darken.
• Women (a lot of them it seems) in Alaska drool over a quad-cab pickup. It is one of the more popular models being driven around here.
• Snow machines are typically purchased in pairs.
• Alaska residents can get discounts on most tours and/or tour packages during April before the tourists really arrive. These discount tickets once purchased don’t have to be used immediately. Instead, they can be used anytime during the season. Nice perk.

• The snow is so dry that it stuck to our dog’s fur and wouldn’t come off with a towel. It packed into her fur the more I tried.

There will be more in a future post!

Missing Alaska

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GlennHwy

Snow! Yay! We had a dusting of snow when we got up bright & early on this fine Saturday. Why am I so excited? I live in Augusta, GA. We don’t get snow here. Having lived in the great state of Alaska for 3 years I thoroughly miss the snow we had there.

Speaking of Alaska there were a number of things this southern gal learned during our short stay there. And, yes, it was by choice. We didn’t move because of work, the military, or anything like that. We wanted to live & experience Alaska. Anyway, here are some of the things I learned when we first moved up there the end of February 2008.

• Lizards freeze. There were at least 2 dead, frozen lizards with our household goods.
• You can’t use your debit/credit card to buy gas station in the winter time at the pump.
• You cannot turn on any of your electronic items for at least 4 to 6 hours after the delivery people leave when they have been shipped long distance in the winter.
• There ain’t enough hairspray in all Alaska to hold your hair in any style when the wind blows off the mountains like it has today. Does Bozo the Clown bring any pictures to mind?
• Almost everyone owns a gun and has gone hunting, even our governor and the mayor for whom I worked, both ladies at the time.
• Almost everyone has gone fishing.
• Almost everyone owns a snow machine (not snowmobile) or ATV.
• Besides snakes, there are no lizards or roaches up here. Someone said no fleas, but I’m not sure I believe that yet.
• It seemed that I was the only one that owned, much less wore, pantyhose or skirts/dresses. Most women wear pants or pantsuits. Those that do wear a skirt go barelegged (yes, in the freezing cold & snow) or tights. Quite a few wear sandals in the winter.
• I’ve only seen one man in a tie and only one in a business suit. Most wear khaki-type pants, jeans or other pants, not slacks. The beard ratio seems to be about 50/50. All have had their teeth from what I could tell. LOL
• There are no billboards or other advertisements along the roadways – anywhere.
• Porcupines are very common though I haven’t seen one yet. So are wolverines but I hope I don’t see one up close.

And, that was just in the first 2 weeks! I may bore you with more of these in a future blog. When I first jotted them down & shared them with relatives and close friends I called them Sourdough Tales. I wasn’t a sourdough at the time though. It takes a full year of living in Alaska and then staying after winter to earn that title.