Saturday, January 22, 2005


The long return

Well, we're all back finally. It was so nice to finally take off my safety glasses once I got off the oil fields, it's a little to controlling up there for me, really good to be out from underneath their thumb. Shane and I were up at 5am yesterday and pulled in at 12:30 last night. I'm beat. The drive was 14 hours, we had a bit of vehicle trouble so the top speed seemed to be 40-45 mph. SLOW. The drive back was totally worth it though. Another partly cloudy day but wow, talk about animals, I bet we saw a couple hundred caribou, fifty or so moose (compared to 10 on the drive up) and some odd ones like a fox and a porcupine (at the time we thought it was a beaver). I was most excited about the musk ox though. I hadn't seen them in the wild before yesterday. They're pretty cool. Just like your typical tourist I went crunching across the snow to get closer with my camera. Didn't get more than 50 yards away though, not to fear, I guess all the more reason to bring the super telephoto up with me on the next trip. Anyway, they were really cool. I picked up a long strand of musk ox hair off the ground but of course I've already lost it. Check out the big fellas though:
Musk Ox

So, we saw the musk ox probably about 40 miles south of Deahorse and Prudhoe. The absolute highlight of the trip though is this guy:
Porcupine in Atigun Pass

It was so funny, we were coming up through the North side of Atigun Pass and were in the avalanche zone when off to the left we saw this little black creature. At the time we were convinced it was a beaver of all animals but instant replay makes it look like a porcupine. Still, it was way way up in Atigun pass, right where I'd seen some sheep on an earlier hiking trip a couple years back. No place for a porucpine that's for sure. ... That's why I bring the camera with me, so I can catch odd ball things like this porcupine up where it totally didn't belong. So, that had us laughing up to the top of Atigun but then there was the scary drive down on the south side of the divide. We made it though and the road was actually good but boy was it tense cutting through all of the avalanche paths. Probably better to drive it when it's dark out...

So, south of the pass Shane thought he saw a huge moose. We stopped the truck and went up to check it out. Talk about cool, an older moose and another moose were mixing it up a bit like the old guy was teaching the younger one some moves for beating other bulls to get the ladies. So, we listened to the clunk of their racks and watched from the road. Pretty neat though.

The sun was setting (it was like 2ish) so that was nice, too. I just love the Brooks Range, the mountains are so incredibly rugged and barren. You can see that a little right here:
Sunset in the brooks range
We saw tons of caribou all day long north of the brooks range but we ended up also seeing a couple of herds south of it. That was neat. So, here's one that was hanging out right in the road down a few miles from the moose.
Brooks Range Caribou

So, pretty neat to see all the animals. The problem was we kept seeing moose all the way down the road to Fairbanks at night so it was an extra vigilant trip. There's been a lot of snow this winter so maybe they're hanging out closer to the road. Who knows. It sure is good to be back though!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


The Sun's here again

Well, the picture doesn't come close to doing it justice but the sun's started coming up again. I don't think it comes up completely over the horizon yet but it's making for some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets: rich reds, yellows, pinks, and purples like you wouldn't believe, everything is bathed in pink and it totally makes the snow awesome.
Here's a picture from this morning. We were still driving to the site when it was looking the best but you can still catch a little of the flavor:

K209 Sunrise


A small sampling

Well, mainly it was to cold for pictures (didn't want to take my gloves off to set up the tripod / dig out the camera) but the aurora has been incredible up here pretty much every night. The highlight was probably Sunday night when a ribbon went from horizon to horizon and flared out to all kinds of interesting stuff at either horizon. Not quite as nice as it was last night but it was still okay until the clouds came out.
Aurora over the lake


The coldest day ever

Well, no frost bite but the coldest I've ever been was this past Saturday. We went to lake L9817 again and it was a Haglund and snowmachine trip. The Haglund was packed and so I started out driving a snowmachine. Well, the temperature was -36F. About a quarter mile from the start my snowmachine perhaps permanently died. So, I ended up hopping on the back of Mike's snowmachine and was in for a cold ride. The snow machines topped out at 30 mph which on the National Weather Service's updated wind chill chart is -75 F! A new personal record (nothing to be real proud of though)! Well, no frost bite but boy did that cold creep through everything, I couldn't get away from it. It wouldn't have been as bad if I'd been driving but I was a bit more exposed and unable to move much. To add to it the driver in the Haglund took a couple wrong turns and added several miles to the trip out. So, I was freezing by the time I got out there. I burned so many calories that I ate lunch as soon as we got out there because I was already starving. So, what does the coldest day look like you ask? Well, you can't really tell from this picture but I can see out of a little slit between my hats and my face mask.

Pure Cold


The strangest Trip Part 1

Well, sorry I've been slack keeping up with the posts on this trip, it's been a long strange one and I've been pretty beat in the evenings but I'll try to catch you all up since I'll be returning Friday.
Well, we started the trip in Alpine, remember that place? Well, it was just as lame as before. The bright side: I got my own room this time. One of many downsides: I was right next door to the designated smoking room for the whole facility.
So, a big emphasis up here is safety, to an insane degree. Up there safety glasses are required when you're outside with sometimes disastrous results, it's hard to see when you fog up like this every couple minutes (how's this for a horrible picture):

foggy me
It also leads to some amusing signs (there's an obsession up here with using handrails when on stairs):

... inside the dairy section of the fridge:

Milk Warning


Happy Birthday

I'll be back Friday but happy birthday a day late.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Another day at the office.

So, we mostly got the snow machines running yesterday and then got out and up to the Imnavait B site, a site my boss started once upon a time back when he was just working on his PhD. It was a balmy -25 out, compared to -50s in Fairbanks. And... just a little wind. Scary to say but I didn't notice the cold at all. So, we got the batteries fixed up at the site. Your picture of the day is Atsushi cleaning the ice off the solar panel. They actually got rain up here last Sunday! That put a nice crust on everything. The aurora was going crazy last night, one of the best displays I've ever seen but... no pictures, sorry.

ice removal

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


The First Day North

So, it took forever, we were waiting for the weather to upgrade from suicidal
trip to just crazy. There were whiteout conditions all along the dalton from
Prudhoe to the Yukon River. So, finally we left Fairbanks Tuesday morning. The
temperature: -44. Brr! However, up at Sag River DOT camp it's -18! Warm spell.

Here's one of my favorite signs in the state, it's just outside Livengood at the
start of the Dalton Highway:

Dalton Sign

It was a beautiful drive up, nothing like the previous days. However, it was
freezing cold. It took forever to warm the truck up. I didn't go by myself on
the drive, a Japanese exchange student named Atsushi came with me. He's going to
drive back with Ken so that Ken doesn't drive the road by himself. However, Ken
wasn't with us because he had to run back to his house one last time. So, hoping
Ken would catch up we took our time driving north taking pictures here and there
so the sign and the arctic circle of course but the amazing part of the day was
that sunrise and sunset were about three hours each. So, the sky was gorgeous.
Here's a tree I saw at Gobbler's Knob (is that a great name or what) somewhere north of the Arctic Circle:

Tree at Gobbler's Knob
So, we get to coldfoot and it's warmed up to -40 but it's a little breezy. BRRR!!
! Ken caught up and passed us when we were gassing up. Towing the snow machine
trailer meant that I couldn't go Fairbanks to Coldfoot on a single tank of gas (
240 miles). I wonder how much the temperature affected our fuel efficency, too.
Anyway, we left coldfoot and a half hour or so before Atigun Ken decided to take
a break. Atsushi and I went ahead. The aurora was dancing like crazy, a real
treat even with the super sunset. So, Atsushi and I decided to wait for Ken. So,
while looking for the next pullout we ended up in the avalanche do not stop area
of Atigun pass. So, through the pass we went. Boy, sketch central. Pretty
nervous going through there, lots of drifts all over not deep ones just enough
to get a little nervous. Plus there was truck traffic from the other direction.
Well, after a tense half hour we got through it to the other side. At the first
pull out outside the avalanche zone we waited for Ken. Here's a couple shots of
the aurora at the pull out.



The road coming down north of the pass was a little drifty but the bonus on the
weather was that it was 15-20 degrees warmer than the other side. So, we're now
in Sag River, 360 miles up the road from Fairbanks (in 13 hours) and about 120 from Deadhorse
and Prudhoe. Tomorrow the work begins and then we'll be staying in Deadhorse.
Catch you all later.

Friday, January 07, 2005



Well, as you may know, I'm headed up north this weekend. Twas supposed to be tomorrow but we're bagging it for the day, it's just to nasty. Kind of a follow up to the Christmasy NWS map from a couple weeks back check out this one:
DOT Road conditions

We'll be driving the red Ds up to Prudhoe Bay. Does the fun ever stop?



A little late to the party on this one but I came across some amazing before and after satellite pictures of the power of the tsunami. You can see them on some mac dude's web page here:

Here's another interesting one:

Thursday, January 06, 2005



Well, we got a foot and half of snow over the course of this week and it totally added up. It was so deep that for the first time in my life I had to put chains on my truck just to get to work!
The truck at work

Well, tonight I was taking the dogs out when I realized the snow plow dude was stuck in the neighbor's driveway. It's my neighbor that has a coduroy trail made out of skinny black spruce going back to his cabin resting on black spruce stumps (totally a funky setup). So, headed over there and ended up helping to get him unstuck with my truck but it took a while because he was in there good. The reason I mention it is that I've been busy this winter making up for all the times I got stuck in Kenai... at the Gulkana Glacier... coming up from Haines with Johnson in 2001... the list goes on and on. So, happy to continue to be catching up on getting people unstuck.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Happy New Year Everybody

Hi, Happy New Year, I ring in the new year with some site maintenance (working on making everything .shtml now instead of .html) and several picture albums that I started forever ago that are finally online including a real blast from the past, hiking the Chilkoot back in high school. Well, I'll be heading up north again in a week so I guess get ready for more zany working up north stuff.

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