Monday, December 29, 2008

Water at -40 degrees

I promised to show what boiling water does when it hits -40 degrees. Well here is a video of my wife throwing a pot of boiling water in the air. Tried to dump it from the sun room but the window was frozen

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Solstice Celebration

I hope you all had a Great Christmas. My wife and I did. She got presents I can’t mention here and she gave me presents I can’t mention here. (To rest your wondering minds there was no underage action, just naughty presents). It was just a bunch of stuff from Skinny Dicks.

Right now it is 0 degrees F with snow flurries. We had snow just about every day this week. I estimate we got between 6 and 8 inches this week. And today we are going to get 3 hours and 47 minutes of daylight. We gained 2 minutes of day light today.

Last Saturday we went to the winter solstice in Fairbanks. By rough estimation there was more than a 1000 brave souls but I would estimate less than 3000 people in attendance. Not much considering the population of the North Star Borough is close to 100,000. However if you look at it from another direction there was between 1000 to 3000 stupid people standing in -5 degree weather looking at fire works.

Pictures of the event can be seen here. Click on the picture to make it bigger

This is short, but next week I will talk about gardening in the Interior, it is a totally new experience and a challenge

Friday, December 19, 2008

This and That in Interior Alaska

Today is December 19th 2008. Big day tomorrow in Fairbanks. We will be celebrating the winter equinox downtown complete with caroling,
Events include
Window Decorating Competition
Gingerbread Man Chase
Rudolph the Real Reindeer
Fireworks over the Chena River

This sounds almost as exciting as the mother daughter look alike contest I attended in Nenana during their Ice Classic. More on this exciting event in a later post.

My wife and I plan on attending tomorrow nights event, and hopefully I can take some meaningful pictures for a future post. The most important thing is the fireworks. Reminds me of when I first arrived here. I was listening to the radio and the announcer was all excited that she was going to the lower 48 during the 4th of July. And for the first time, she would see fire works on the Fourth of July when it is dark! Without that pesky sun being in the way.

One thing I would like to discuss is the animal life here in the Interior during the winter.

During the summer this place is bountiful with wild life, especially the birds. I used to drive 50 miles to Grand Island, Nebraska, just to see some Sand Hill Cranes. Here all I have to do is look across the river and see them grazing in the grass.

From our home in the winter, the only wild life we see are moose, chickadee (see picture), ravens, and once in a while the occasional resident squirrel, Rocky. I am sure there is more out there, for I do see the occasional rabbit, in their winter coat, run across the road.

Now in the summer, we have seen from our home, porcupine, coyote, fox, ducks, Great Horned Owls, mink, otter, beaver and the winter residents.

One other animal we get here starting in December through March is tourist. Yep you heard me right tourist! This year we expect about 7000 visitors from Japan. This started in 2004 and has increased every year since then. Japan Airlines (JAL) fly’s a direct flight from Japan to Fairbanks. The reason is the tourist comes here to see the Northern Lights.

Starting in December to March, we get little cloud cover which makes viewing of the Northern Lights ideal. Here is a good post on why the Japanese are fascinated with the lights and why it is just starting to take off. This article was written in 2007.

Oh one more thing, by the official count at the airport we have 28.2 inches of snow, 6” below normal. And right now it is -10 degrees. And we received a moderate snow fall in the past 7 days. Monday, I tried to capture our snow fall. If you look at this picture you can see in the background the white in the atmosphere, which is our snow. It comes down as a single or two or three flakes combined together. Very fine snow.

Well that’s about it for now. Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas. Looks like a lot of you will have a white Christmas in the lower 48 with all that snow, ice and wind. Better up here where you are all welcomed

The Misses and I will be having dinner at Two Rivers Lodge


Friday, December 12, 2008

December in The Interior

Thought I would start out with a picture from our back door. This looks down to our garden, and then down the Chena River. Right now It is a - 4 degrees F with snow flurries. We have received about 8 inches of new snow this past week. And unlike New Orleans, whose snow has melted, ours will stay here till April, giving us plenty of opportunity to play.

Thought I would discuss what surprised us about December here.

When we first arrived in North Pole 5 1/2 years ago, we noticed that a lot of people still had their outside Christmas decorations up. Well we thought maybe a lot of rednecks had come here to escape the south. That September, we were sitting in the Badger Den talking to this gentleman, when he said he had to leave to go put his Christmas decorations up.

I asked him why so early. His reply, I would rather do it in 50 degree weather than in December when it could be -30 degree F. Good point!! This probably helps explain why people leave them up year round, cause you really cant take them down till it warms up in April. Plus we are at the North Pole where it is Christmas 24/7.

Our first Christmas here we noticed that there were no Christmas tree sales on every corner like there was in Omaha. In fact, I learned of only one organization that sold trees, and that is the
Kiwanis Club, who sell their trees at the fairgrounds, inside!

To get you in the Christmas spirit I have posted a video at the end of this post, of our home at this time of year. Please ignore my heavy breathing.

The picture on the left was taken about two weeks ago, same shot of the first picture above, however here the sun is up. Notice the hills in the background are lit by the sun, but the trees below it are in the shadows. This was taken at about two in the afternoon.

What I am trying to show here is the sun does not rise very high in the sky during the day during the winter. This leads me to our next major event here in December, winter solstice.

This will occur on December 21. Why is this important here, means we will start getting longer days of day light. That day will be our shortest day of day light. The sun will rise at 10:59 and set at 2:40 PM. To celebrate this, the city of Fairbanks plans a celebration, just like they do for the summer solstice. Celebration

Reading the link above, I did not know that the sun is actually closer to the earth at this time than it is during the summer. The reason it is colder is because of the tilt of the earths axis. Never stop learning.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pike Fishing on The Black River

Hello all, to day it is 14 degrees F. What a difference from earlier this week when it was a -29 degrees. That is over a 40 degree difference. Like going from 30 to 70 degrees. Wow! We have received about 2 or 3 inches of snow this past week and more coming. We have about 10 inches on the ground now but need more! Going to move the snow machines to the house to get them ready for riding.

There have been some postings concerning Alaska becoming crowded. I am concerned about that too, but if you look on the positive side, there is one person per square mile here in Alaska. Now if you take out the population and land mass south of the Alaskan Range, I would suspect that that density is reduced to about 1/4 of a person per square mile.

One of my most favorable experiences here in Alaska is when we went to the Black River to fish for pike. There were eight of us and three boats. My boats gas tank capacity is 25 gallons so we put in a spare tank of 40 gallons and 4 fifty gallon barrels in the front. Got home with about 30 gallons to spare.

The trip was to drive from here in North Pole to Circle . and put in at the Yukon.

Circle is on the Yukon River, and is where we launched our boats. There is a link at the bottom of this write up that shows pictures of our trip and a view of Circle.

You will see a picture of a motel or lodge that was being built. What a stupid idea. Circle has a population of about 100 people , and the only reason people come there is to launch their boats to get out of there. Any way construction was stopped due to lack of funding.

So we got on the Yukon and navigated down stream past Fort Yukon and went up the Porcupine River to the Black River. Stayed for eight days. Out of contact with the world for those days.

Good food. good company, and the beer was good too.

Interesting thing is the only animal we saw was the mink, which is in the slide show. We did have critter alarms but the only thing that set them off was me at 2 in the morning. When I did set them off no one got up. So much for them!!

As you look at the pictures remember it is July and the sun is up 24/7.

Here is the link Pike fishing

You need to click on the pictures to change them.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Yukon Quest

Today is the day after Thanksgiving, I wish you all a belated Happy Thanksgiving. We got about an inch of snow over the week and it has warmed up to 7 degrees today!!! When my wife and I came here, we expected to see dog teams and dog sled races, but we did not expect to have one of the most challenging dog sled races come right by our home. No it is not the Iditarod but the Yukon Quest.

The Yukon Quest is considered to be more challenging than the Iditarod. The Quest goes for 1000 miles from Fairbanks to Whitehorse in the Yukon one year and the next year it is from Whitehorse to Fairbanks. Next year, February 14th, 2009, they will race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

One of the reasons the Quest is considered more challenging is that the Iditarod starts next year on March 8th in Willow, AK. while the Quest starts February 14th. In February here in the Interior, we are still averaging temperatures well below zero. In fact last year, if I remember correctly (see video at bottom), it was about -20 degrees. (At these temperatures you have to drink your beer in less than 30 minutes or it freezes). In March the temperature manages to stay above zero most of the time, so the weather is what makes the Quest race more challenging.

The Quest does not commemorate any particular event like the Iditarod (in 1925 the trail was used to transport diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska). The Quest trail follows old gold prospectors trails and is named after the Yukon River for which most of the race occurs on.

The years that the race starts in Fairbanks, people gather on the river for, what else, parties. Our first year here our next door neighbors had a party where we wore Hawaiian garb. Leis, flowered shirts were the norm. Of course we wore them over coats. Then as the teams came by, usually one team every two minutes, they were handed cookies. Last year we went to our friends about two miles down river and handed sloppy Joes. It was so cold they had wooden pallets to stand on so your feet wouldn't get to cold.

The basic route the race takes when it starts in Fairbanks is to North Pole via the Chena River. Then on to Chena Hot Springs, Central, Circle where they get on the Yukon and on to Whitehorse. When they start in Whitehorse, it is just the reverse. For more information on the race route and on the race go to this link.Yukon Quest Here is a video of last years Quest as it goes by our friends home. At the very end, one person is handing the musher sloppy-joe sandwich. You may need to download the video to see play without stopping.
There was a request on an earlier post to video the water flashing to vapor, will do when it gets cold enough. This will probably be in January 2009.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Well today it is a -20 degrees F. Nice winter day, with about 8 inches of snow here. If you follow the weather here you will see that the wizards of weather give a temperature range of about 10 degrees. The reason for that is it is colder here by the river, while in the hills they can be 10 to 20 degrees warmer. So the weather persons cover all their bases.

One of the things I found interesting here was the difference in the spruce trees. There is the White Spruce, which grows around my home (see picture), and the Black Spruce. Both are different species of trees.

The black spruce grows on the north side of the hills, in areas where the perma-frost is close to the surface and in boggy areas. As you drive north toward the arctic circle it becomes the only tree visible. The reason is that the black spruce has shallower roots than the white spruce, so it can tolerate perma frost better. Hence, why it grows on the north side of the hills, (perma frost is more prevalent there).

A good read on black spruce can be found here.

My home is surrounded by white spruce. These trees grow to heights in excess of 60 feet and are very prevalent here in the Interior. The picture I took this morning shows them outside our front window. Notice the snow in the trees. On an earlier post I discussed the lack of wind, the snow will remain in the trees till it melts or a slight breeze comes and blows it out. Then it is like having another snow fall.

Because of the large amount of trees, forest fires are of a concern. Our second summer here, there was so many forest fires in north Alaska that the smoke filled our valley and we could barely see the river from our home. And the river is about 60 ft from our home.

One program they have here in Alaska is called Fire Wise. This program has a inspector from the Bureau of Forestry come out and inspect your property to determine what you need to do to minimize your house from being destroyed by forest fires. (people in CA take note) They look at the distance from the home the trees are, the spacing of trees, water supply, etc. I had to cut down 14 trees to come in compliance and they PAID ME over 800 dollars to do so. Plus my friends who helped got to take the wood for heating!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

11/14/08 update

Winter in the Interior of Alaska

The Interior buzzes during the Summer, but come labor day, the tourist continue the flight out to get back to work, get home for school, or avoid the winter. I will discuss in this update about winter in the Interior. If you want to know how it is south of the Alaskan Range just go to Omaha, Ne during one of their winter storms. It is the same, wet snow, wind, cold, etc. Just don't dump your kids while you are there.

Here in North Pole the highest wind I have seen is about 10 mph, but go 20 miles away and it can get up to 20 or 30 mph. With the lack of wind it allows snow to stay in the trees all winter. Gives the place a Christmas card look all winter.

With no wind and low humidity, the snow falls straight down and it comes down as one or two flakes combined together. As a reference point, 16 inches of snow here is equal to one inch of water. Snow this dry means you can't make a snow man much less form a snow ball, but it is great for snow machining (snow mobiles for you in the lower 48).

Normally our snow starts in early October, but starts staying on the ground around the middle of October. Then it stays till early April. So we have white from October till April, on the roads, in the trees, etc.

Our temperatures in December, January, February on average are about -20 degrees. Some times they get down to -40 or -50, which is cold. One interesting thing to do when it gets this cold is to boil water in a pan then go out side and throw it in the air. The water vaporizes in the air!!!

So what do we do during the winter. Snow machine to moose camps, about a 60 mile trip. Of course there are frequent stops to have a beer or some other beverage. Then we can ski, go to the Badger Den, ice fish, snow machine to Fairbanks. Some people have dog teams and dog sled on the trails around this area.

Now when it gets down to -40 or -50 or lower, school is still on. In fact, they may only cancel school if it gets above 32 degrees. The reason is the snow will melt, get on the roads, and freeze during the night making driving hazardous in the morning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Alaska - Surprises

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Alaska - Surprises in Alaska

This a short read on why my wife and I moved to Alaska, and what we found different in Alaska compared to the lower 48. This is not about Alaska scenery or Alaska wild life. But about the different life styles in Alaska. Plus I have installed an appropriate game at the bottom of this blog

In 2002, my wife and I decided to retire in 2003. We never even thought of Alaska to move to. Question was where we to move if we wanted to move from our home in Omaha, Nebraska. Since I have no roots, moved on average, every five years, lived in California, Louisiana, Japan, Hawaii, Idaho, Connecticut, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Massachusetts , Nebraska, I had no problem in saying lets move. My wife had no problem in deciding to move either. She came over from England in 1997 to marry me so she was easy to relocate. I thought I might have a hard time to convince her to move to Alaska.

The next decision was where to move to. Since we were retiring and I lived where my mom and dad wanted me to live or where my job took me, I decided to list the attributes I wanted for where we were to move. The attributes were: low humidity, cool summers, snow that stays on the ground all winter and no wind.

The place we found that captured all these qualities was North Pole, Alaska. A 6000 mile relocation. That excited us, we were eager to see the views, animals, northern lights etc, but what we didn't expect is that living in Alaska is much different than living in the lower 48.

First off Alaska is a big, big state. Alaska would stretch, if laid over a map of the US, from the east coast to the west coast if the islands were added. Its population is about one person per square mile. Now it is essentially divided into two parts by the Alaskan Range. South of the Alaskan Range is where more than half the population lives, which includes Anchorage, and the state capitol Juneau, Alaska. This area is about 20% or less of the land mass of Alaska.

North of the Alaskan Range is what is called the Interiorof Alaska and contains the town of Fairbanks and North Pole. This has the other half of the states population and over 80% of the land mass. This is such a lopsided distribution of population to land mass, that there are some people in the Interior who advocate a separate state or a separate country.

We bought our home in North Pole on the banks of the Chena River in November of 2002 and came here for 10 days in late January of 2003. I had a sense that this was going to be a completely different life style when one morning I was drinking coffee and looking down the river, which was completely frozen, and saw a dog sled team come up the river.

I also noticed at this time that -40 degrees Fahrenheit is the same as -40 degrees Centigrade.

In June of 2003 we made the move to Alaska. The only person we new was our real estate agent and our neighbor who we met on our first visit here. So we were starting from scratch not realizing the experience we were about to obtain. Here are some of the differences

Road System

We had a struggle learning the way to identify the highways here in Alaska. Though they are numbered, there is no interstate here, the local people call them by their noun names. Highways such as The Steese, Dalton, Elliot, Richardson, etc are the terms used to identify the main roads. Not highway 2, 4, 6 etc.

You can be traveling north on the Steese and suddenly you are on the Dalton Highway. Appears, that right after the town of Fox, Alaska, the Steese makes a sharp right and heads east towards the town of Circle, Alaska. The Elliot goes north for about 70 miles and then turns into the Dalton highway, which continues up to Purdoe Bay. Dalton highway is also known as the Haul Road, mainly of gravel, except for a few miles of paved road across the Yukon.

Another surprise we had was that most of the villages in Alaska you can not get to them by automobile. The only way you can get to these villages is by airplane, boat, or in the winter, snow machine, or dog sled. For instance you can't drive to Nome or Barrow. Even though they have pictures of trucks and cars in these towns, they are very low mileage.

Another oddity about Alaska is the state capitol is the only capitol you can't drive to. Its either by plane or boat. The capitol Juneau is cut off from the world by glaciers. There has been talk of moving it but two things stand in the way, cost, both the cost of moving it and the loss of revenue to Juneau. The second concern about moving is where, both Fairbanks and Anchorage have valid reasons for wanting the capitol in their town.


Because of the vastness of Alaska, providing electricity to every household is monetary prohibited. Even people who live close to large towns or villages do not receive power from electric utilities. In this case these people go without or rely on portable generators for power.

In most of the villages they rely on diesel generators. In order to get diesel to these villages, they must barge the oil up the river in the summer before the rivers freeze over.

The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, which serves 53 small villages in the state, says that in 2008 cost of electricity is going from $14 million last year to $26 million this year.

A review of the village of Galena in 2004, shows that Galena pays about 28 cents per kilowatt hour. That was when oil was at about 30 dollars a barrel. They are currently looking at placing a nuclear reactor in the village which could drop the cost to around 5 cents per kilowatt hour.


I have fished all my life, but found the fishing regulations here quite interesting. For example, on the Chitina River, where there are many fish wheels, the annual limit is 30 for a household of one or 60 for a household of two. For each additional person in the household you may increase the limit by 10. Now if you request it, you may receive a permit for taking an annual limit of 200 salmon for a household of one or 500 for a household of two or more. There is no special requirement for getting this permit, just ask for it.

A fish wheel is usually operated all during the fish run by several different people all taking turns during the fish run. Usually the turn lasts a week, which is enough time to get the limit. In some cases the limit is reached in two or three days and in other cases the limit may not be reached in the week allowed, which sends the operator home with much less.

Another fishing regulation we found interesting is called proxy fishing. This is a special license issued to a person allowing them to fish for another person, besides themselves. The person they fish for must be over 65, or legally blind or 70% disabled. This law also allows a person to hunt for another with the same requirements. The reason for this law is to allow the elderly or disabled, to obtain subsistence fish and meat in which they would not otherwise be able to obtain.


After a few days here we noticed a lot of people drove their pick up trucks with large plastic containers in the back. After a few inquires we found out that most people who don't live in the towns but out in the woods, don't have running water. They live in what is called dry cabins. They must come into town to fill the containers with water at coin operated watering stations or they go to a town called Fox, just north of Fairbanks, and fill up at a spring there.

For showers they can go to some of the laundry mats that have coin operated showers. Another practice we heard of, from a lady in the Rotary who lived in a dry cabin, is to get up early in the morning and go to the health club, work out, and then shower.

In dry cabins people usually keep one or five gallon jugs around for drinking and cleaning.

9:03 AM