2/28/04 - Alaskan Winter Trip, Day 2
This was the view from the hotel room when we woke up. (Actually, it was a little while after we woke up that the sun came out enough for a picture...)
The cars and snowmobiles drove on the frozen river.
Then Jill and I started our adventure. Snowmachining (as they call it - not "_mobiling") outside Fairbanks was the opening act.
Tony gives Jill some last minute advice. (Check out his hat - beaver skin... His wife made it, using a bowling ball as a head-model. It was the only thing shaped like his noggin, evidently.) Plug for Tony: "If you're going to ride a snowmachine, ride a Polaris."
We went on several trails, winding through sections of birches (as pictured), black spruces, etc.
We stopped along one trail as mushers went by.
Tony took us to an area where there was 4' of fresh powder. There were no tracks at all when we got there. Underneath was a lake and marsh/bog land. (Jill DID make this turn to avoid me...)
You can see some of the tracks behind Jill. By the time we left, the whole area was covered with our tracks.
Tony and I each spilled, playing around. Jill never fell, but did manage to get stuck in an exceptionally soft area when we first started learning to veer from Tony's path.
As we left the clearing, a bull moose stood up about a hundred yards away.
By the time we got there, it had already pranced a hundred yards towards the treeline.
We hit an access road for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In the straightaways, we got the snowmobiles to top 70 mph. (No kidding...) It really felt like a video game at Dave and Busters or something...
(I have a great picture of Tony and Jill by the Pipeline, but, alas, it is not digital. I have not completlely made the transition to digital, so I brought both cameras and swtiched between them often.)
Then we met the dogs of "Paws for Adventure". (Unfortunately, this is the only picture of Chris [behind the sled], a displaced Wisconsinite/Wisconsonian/Wisconsiner. We spent much of the day with Chris - very nice guy! (I have no pictures of Leslie, the proprietor. Crap.)
Can you find the 14 doghouses in the picture?
...and yes, Bill, we were not 'the lead dog,' but the scenery DID change!
(This would be a spruce-lined trail, as I mentioned earlier.)
It was hysterical watching them eat the snow beside the trail to cool off as they ran - especially Lou, the dog on the back left.
Chris took a couple of pictures of us - one of the sled...
...and one with the entire ten-dog team.
The dogs were very friendly - even the one named Cujo. They had 28 dogs in all, plus 4 borrowed from a friend.
I'll dwell for a second here. Feel free to move on...
Mushers are apparently quite sensitive about how they treat the dogs. Evidently, ASPCA/PETA must be on mushers' cases or something, because neither Jill nor I ever said anything to prompt it, however we were told about how well they treat their dogs on multiple occassions.
The thing is, they pride themselves on their treatment of their dogs. They know the exact fat %, protein content, etcetera of their dog food. (We heard these exact sentiments echoed in Anchorage by the race announcer.) To Leslie and Chris' credit, the dogs all looked in perfect shape, were very friendly (never scared of me - which I tend to do, even to the largest dogs [Ask the Johnston's 70 lb chow/sheppard mix "Jackie", the Griffiths 30lb cocker spaniel "Bailey", or Carol Purdy's 125lb full-bred German Sheppard "Shatten".]), and were all quite eager to hit the trails!
(Leslie and Chris, if you read this, maybe it is because I live so far south, but I've never heard anyone say that mushers treat their dogs cruelly. If I ever do, trust that they'll hear my side of it. If dachshunds could survive in arctic temperatures, I'd let you puppy-sit any day!)
Sorry if your clothes smell like husky, Kevin and Mike! (We couldn't resist petting them all.)
Cujo poses where you can see his blue eyes.
We headed with John (no pictures of him, either - I suck!) over to The Heavy Horse Farm, where he had his own 17 dogs, one of whom recently had a pup.
John took us on a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
We went on trails by his home - on the gorgeous hills around Fairbanks.
We pose in front of the horses/sleigh. Notice the smoke on the far right from our campfire.
John dropped us off afterwards at Santa's House in North Pole, AK. Jill does the obligatory cheesy pose...
Of course, I did it, too!
Me petting the reindeer. (I think I heard it sing "Mooooooon Riverrrrr.")
LeRoy Tourism Rule #1 - if there is a sign or a prop, use it.
(I am still a little surprised that there wasn't a sign with a face-cutout...)
Santa's House was quaint and not at all cheesy. Notice the paintings all over the outside.
We caught a cab the 14 miles from North Pole to Fairbanks. The cabby was nice enough to trespass onto the not-yet-opened Fairbanks Ice Carving Fairgrounds. Those blocks are quite blue - and probably 4' by 4' by 8' or larger.
The entrance this year was a 30+ foot tall ice lighthouse.
That night, Chris picked us up again and took us to Two Rivers Lodge - 20 miles outside Fairbanks. More crab. Actually, this crab was much sweeter than the previous night's.
Then back to Chris' place to go mushing again. Since it was dark, I don't have pictures of that, but just after midnight, I reckon, what we thought was a long, thin cloud stretching across the sky started getting lighter and moving. Soon it was rolling into balls and getting bright, then stretching out, curling and disappating into nothing. The yellow-green lights danced for an hour or so in all.
**Click here to see someone else's aurora pictures, which look exactly like what Jill and I saw.**
This is the only shot of the lights that came close to turning out. I will post a link to a separate page with actual pictures taken from Fairbanks on 2-28pm/2-29am. So, as I said, it is now after midnight, and techincally the next day. However, I haven't slept, so it is really the same biological day, if you will. (Or in Radiant terms, it is the same 'business day.') Therefore, we continue...
By now, it was time was colder outside. (The airport thermometer the next morning read -4F.)
Chris provided us with an arctic onesy and warmer gloves/hats.
(I never thought I would see Jill's hands and head inside beaver. You always think it will happen to someone else.)
(Jill poses outside on a snowdrift.)
Jill in front of a sign. (Read LeRoy Tourism Rule #1.)
It was 3am when we got back to the hotel.
What a day! ...one of the fullest in me/Jill's life.
2/28/04 - Alaskan Winter Trip, Day 2