It’s been awhile since I have posted anything, and we are now in 24-hour sunlight here in Barrow, so I am missing the light displays we had this winter. The northern lights don’t always make a substantial showing up this way, but this year, they put on a show that wasn’t half bad.
Of course, being a grumpy old bastard, I’m not always keen to drive out of the light pollution here in town to take pics in the freezing cold, and it doesn’t help that my camera these days isn’t great for night pics, but my gal, Moni, is still blessed with joy when she sees them, and she is always happy to drag me out onto ‘cake-eater road’ where we can take these pictures and I can grumble about the whole thing here in this gigantic run-on sentence.
Yeah, that’s just how I roll!
Often as not, I am glad that Moni makes me go out and take pictures with her, but I’ll be damned if my fingers don’t stay mad sometimes for hours. Hot chocolate helps.
In any event, we gots pics!
I took mine with my phone, so they aren’t the greatest, but some of these are kinda cool.
I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I need a cuteness break, right about now.
So, I’m going to post some pics of these little birds we get here over the summer. they usually arrive in April or May, and it seems like they disappear with the first few snows of the Fall, so usually by October. I’m told they are called “snow buntings.” I don’t think these critters are really all that unusual. I probably saw plenty of snow buntings when I lived in the lower 48, but I sure notice them a lot more now. Their arrival is a welcome sign that what counts as Spring here is actually starting to happen. I hear them singing first in the Spring often without actually seeing any for a couple weeks. Finally, the numbers get large enough to enjoy the sites.
Love these little guys!
I took these pics over the last couple summers. (Click to embiggen!)
One of the first things I did when I moved to Barrow was walk out onto the tundra with my little Backberry phone and try to get some pictures of a snowy owl that stayed out behind the college here. He would stare at me as I approached and then fly away just as I was almost in range for a decent photo, only to land a hundred feet or so away and stare calmly at me as I repeated my efforts. I almost got some decent pics of that guy. All day, I almost got them.
There was something the way that owl just watched me approach. It was a forgone conclusion. It wasn’t going to get THAT close, so he was in no hurry to fly away. He took off just as I was about to get close enough for a decent pic, and he went just far enough to re-establish his own comfort zone, and incidentally to tempt me to engage in one more round of effort.
These days, I have an actual camera. I’m still a bit clumsy with a lens, but my camera is smart enough to compensate for some of my photo-foolishness, and the result is a (hopefully) passable batch of owlitations. Most of them were taken the summer before last. This year, there just didn’t seem to be enough hot lemming action to draw a big owly crowd. Anyway, …owls!
I had already booked a work-related flight to Fairbanks when Covid19 began spreading through the U.S. I remember talking about it with Moni in the days before I flew, and especially the night before I was to go. We seriously talked about cancelling the trip, but I thought it best to follow through with my plans. By the time the plane hit ground the next day, pubic sentiment had shifted from something along the lines of “maybe wear a mask, wash your hands a lot, and avoid crowds” to something more like “don’t go out at all, definitely wear a mask, and start shutting down the businesses. By the time I left Fairbanks 3 days later, the University was all but closed and restaurants were take-out only. Touching people, even to shake hands, was not done. Needless to say, I didn’t get much done. I felt pretty relieved to get home safely.
And then there was a period when we were all just locked down and travel wasn’t really an option.
I felt this.
I felt it in my teeth.
And in my stomach.
I had already scheduled a visit with an oral surgeon. He was to take the remains of 2 molars out the right side of my mouth, hopefully before the botched cap on my left side fell out and left me on a solid yogurt diet.
As the time of Covid stretched on, and people began to realize this wasn’t ending any time soon, I started to think about flying south to get my teeth done after all. With the help of her sister (a nurse), Moni had the safety precautions down to a science, and we started making limited forays out of the arctic. I still cringe at the thought of leaving the state, but with a little planning, I feel like we can get down to Anchorage and get what needs doing done. We can even venture pout of our room a bit, in which case we figure it’s best to keep going right out of town.
One good thing about Alaska, some of the best things about it take you well away from other people.
Still got one last procedure before I can sink my teeth into a proper steak. I would prefer to hunker down completely for the next few months, but I may need to risk one more trip. In the meantime, it occurs to me that I haven’t done a proper poto-gallery in awhile. So, here are a few pictures from recent travels. This of course includes a few drives around town, and maybe a few from before the pandemic. Anyway, …pics!
(Click the pics to embiggen them. You know you wanna!)
I know! Most of y’all will get a few more of these, but no so, those of us up here in Barrow. Our last sunset was yesterday. I’m told we can expect to be overrun by vampires any moment. We hear about that every year, actually, but this being 2020 and all, it seems like it actually might happen this time.
Anyway, I was flying up from Anchorage yesterday, caught a couple pictures of the sunset as the plane came in for a landing. Turns out, my nephew, Danielito, was filming the sunset on the ground, and he caught my plane coming in.
Well we started this New Year by correcting an egregious crime. See, my gal, Moni, hadn’t been able to eat much on Thanksgiving. This didn’t stop her from making a great turkey dinner for myself and several of our friends. (Her first time cooking a turkey.) It just prevented her from enjoying it herself.
…which was an egregious crime!
We corrected that crime tonight. Moni made an even better turkey for New Year’s Eve dinner, and this time she got to eat her share of it. Afterwards, we went on down to the fireworks display for the town. That’s the thing about Barrow. Fireworks aren’t that cool here in July, so we do our fireworks on January 1st, right in the midst of polar midnight. This being the modern age, it didn’t happen without some electronic record of it, so both Moni and I froze our hands for the sake of ontology. It was worth, I think. I got some pictures and Moni caught the whole thing on video.
Presented for your enjoyment…
(Click to embiggen)
Fireworks 2020 3 I lost count
It was delicious (Another pic from Moni)
Fireworks 2020 4
(Moni took this one too) Our Spirit animals had a meal as well.
Fireworks 2020 5
Fireworks 2020 6?
Moni took this. (Why this lovely happy woman is with my cranky butt, I will never know.)
I have papers to grade. So, I guess summer is really over.
I was planning to take it easy this summer, but it didn’t exactly work out that way. A move across town took up a lot more time than Moni and I expected. Our trip to Valdez is still the highlight of the season for me, but I also made it down to Montana on a work-related trip and down again to Fairbanks to help put on the Motif Film Festival. When I wasn’t traveling or taking boxes upstairs, I was busy working on class materials and whatnot. Suffice to say, it was an interesting summer.
One of the most interesting things about this particular summer is just how long the sea ice seemed to remain intact, and how long much of it stuck around shore. It seems like this last winter got started late (snow didn’t start sticking here in Barrow until well into October), so I suppose it’s fitting in some sense that the remnants of that winter would linger a bit. It certainly made for some beautiful views. Few sites compare to the midnight sun shining down on an entire ocean served on the rocks, so to speak.
Yeah, people do swim in this stuff, usually just for a minute or two, just long enough to say they did it.
Other people do this.
(Click to embiggen.)
Looks like I tweaked this pic a lot, but I really didn’t tweak it much
Okay, this might not be sea ice
A touch of yellow
The cloud here steals the show.
Hadda zoom a bit for this one
Clear and peaceful evening
This little guy really wanted me off his beach
A little sea life in the fog there.
…and the world gets diagonal
An ice bow, some sea ice, and an annoying little blue dot.
Sorry, for the poor quality of this video, and in particular for my very shaky hand.
Between her new job and our move into a new apartment, my girlfriend and I haven’t had much of a chance to to travel together this summer. We did manage to sneak out for a week or so in mid June. What we decided to do this time was a quick road trip from Anchorage to Valdez. Of course, getting to Anchorage required a little flying time, but that’s old hat. We had to make a couple purchases for the new place, so that meant staying a couple days in the vicinity of Anchorage, so we found a lovely bed and breakfast in Palmer. After that, we hit the road!
Not literally, of course. I ain’t got nothin’ against the highway.
Anyway, the trip was about a 5 hour drive, but we made plenty of stops. We traveled along the Matanuska river for quite some time, made a brief stop a bit south of Glenallen, then headed off toward Valdez. To say that we found a number of beautiful sites along the way would be putting it mildly.
Valdez itself was absolutely wonderful. I hit a couple museums (The Whitney Museum and the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive) and we hung out at the docks for a time. We ate at the Fat Mermaid a couple of times and made stops at Mike’s Palace and Fu Kung. …suffice to say that we were well fed. We also ran into the folks from Sweet Cheeks Bakery, run by the parents of a coworker, but we didn’t get back in time to get our cinnamon buns. Still, …all of Alaska is just one small village! You just can’t travel through this state without finding connections to the people you meet. Eventually, we bought tickets on a tour boat, which of course meant that I got sick (yes I took some meds), but mostly that was just amazing. I almost never opt for a paid tour, but I’m very glad I did this time.
On the last day as Moni and I were strolling around downtown getting ready to say goodbye to the place, a random guy came out of Mike’s Palace and asked us if we lived in the area. The answer was ‘no’, of course, and then he proceeded to tell us that he had lived here himself once, 30 years ago. I cringed inside as he launched into his efforts to tell me about the good old days. A few minutes later I felt a twinge of sadness as he left us with tales of bar fights between Okies and Texan (oil workers) spilling out of the Palace and onto the street. Apparently, the police had once been disarmed so as to enable the fight to continue. Additional stories involved a pair of Korean prostitutes who paid him extra for a pizza every night so as to have a place to stay. Just how much of this was true, I have no idea, but the stories were a good deal more entertaining than I had anticipated. I found myself wishing we’d run into him before lunch rather than after and on the verge of leaving. Still, a few more eagle pics and off we went.
Hell, even the shopping we did back in Anchorage before boarding the plane back home went well.
I wish every vacation was this cool.
(You may click to embiggen!)
Ruins from Old Valdez
Mountains in the Background
On the Wing
Factory across the water
Snow Goose BnB
The chunks of ice on top got there when they were thrown up out of the water as the ice broke apart.
This juvenile whale was playing around the boat for about half an hour. …his mom was not amused.
St. Innocent, Russian Orthodox Church in Anchorage (Moni really wanted to see this one)
Random Waterfall empties into the sea
Yep, lotsa bunnies too!
Looks Kinda Smug for a guy that lives on the scraps tossed out by fisherman!
When you look into the scenery, sometimes the scenery looks back at you.
Are these guys ever not angry?
Water will fall
Mountains over trees
This, I’m told, is an oyster catcher.
Well hello there!
Almost an island of sorts
That mountain was framed!
Horse Tail Falls
Lotta little ice
Moni likes to stop and take pictures of the road.
Big chunk of ice
Closest I could find to street art
Random roadster (Anchorage)
Columbia Glacier has the blues!
Couldn’t get over the color of the water
You otter sea the mountains!
Abandoned structure along the Matanuska
Athabascan footwear (Copper River Heritage Center)