Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giving Thanks

Here's the deal: You have traveled thousands of miles to a strange new land, not entirely sure you have made the right choice. The new country is very different than what you're accustomed to--vast and isolated, only magnifying your homesickness. You find yourself taking wrong turns and getting lost each time you venture out. Then one day you bump into some kind strangers, who help you find your way around. They dispel your fears by letting you know there are no bears and wolves lurking in the forest, and they show you the best places to find food, and where to cut firewood. They loan you their tools and their expertise. At the end of the autumn you find yourself celebrating the harvest by sharing a feast with these kind people. As you tuck into a nice roast turkey leg you wonder whether you would have been able to get through the winter in one piece without their help.

Sound familiar?

We thought about what the Pilgrims must have gone through as we shared Thanksgiving dinner with Simon and Gareth and Christine, and Simon's next door neighbors Glen and Joanne. Everyone brought food, there was way too much, but it was such fun. After the turkey, Joe and I went ice skating in the moonlight with Gareth and Christine while Simon took a much needed cat nap. We came back for pumpkin pie and a movie, squeezing together on the couch with one of the puppies.

It would have been a lonely Thanksgiving for Joe and I in Fairbanks without our families. Thankfully, Simon and his family and friends have become a surrogate family to us. We thought about the Pilgrims relying on the kindness of strangers to help them get through their first winter in a strange new land. The rest is history, so we know we will do fine in Alaska.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Excellent Adventure!

[Editor's Note]: Like a broken record I got tired of hearing my own voice and decided to ask my fellow adventurers for their thoughts, impressions, etc of our 3 day weekend in the White Mountains (1 night at Lee's Cabin, 2 nights at Crowberry Cabin, a total of 54 miles roundtrip).

Simon (Expedition Leader):
great weekend thanks for being part of it. We will venture further into the white mtns with you and Joe willing sometime during this long exciting winter.
There exists over a hundred miles of terrain to explore in the white mtns. Need to beef up boots and mitts then we will be ready for whatever winter throws at us. Will also plan for a winter trip into tolavana hot springs. Great social weekend with warm friends,cosy cabin and constant good energy and entertainment from the mischievous 9 pups and two adult growlers snapping at persistent puppies.

Gareth (Second in Command): it was real fun going up to Crowberry cabin on the snowmachines with the five of us and 11 dogs. This time the puppies were a little better at peeing and poohing outside. We had pretty good weather, around -10f to 20f (last time me and Simon went there it got down to -50 and -62f in town) cant wait to do it again and hopefully go further on to the next cabin, Windy Gap.

Joe (Tail-gunner): Low-angled sunlit snow crystals green and blue, silhouetted burnt spruce against a descending sun at 3:30, my solo walks on the trail helped me to reconnect with the air and realize that the quiet and stillness are part of my life right now. I’m inspired to do some drawings now based on this weekend. Seeing Simon come down the last few miles of darkening trail with sparks flying off the edges of his skis behind the sled hauling nine puppies hunkered down in the sub-zero temperatures was pure Alaska to me.

Christine (The Snow Machine Queen, photographer extraordinaire, and kind provider of the images you see here): What a Trip! With nary an experience of snowmachining, other than the 2 minute tutorial during which Gareth had me snowmachine down his home road, at which I managed a decent 2 mph, I had to ask which was the accelerator, and where the heck was the break before we took off in the dark. That’s what you do though, when you’re surrounded by a bunch of hardcore Alaskiwis with a ‘can-do’ attitude. Was great fun having Diane as a passenger, and made me a whole lot braver – heck, if I was going to tip the snowmachine, there was going to be good company right by my side --- Got to learn all the 9 puppy personalities real well. Even know which puppies I could be caught trying to sneak home with :-)) And I know which two Chicagoans to be caught in a White-out with, cuz they have a strong relationship to FOOD. Which they cooked up into delicious meals, one that awaited us after a particularly long haul from Lee’s Cabin to Crowberry cabin (all day). The meal Joe had waiting, along with the dip and chips and tasty wine – heavenly. Even got a good insight on how to play Mahjong from Joe. I look forward to playing it with you guys soon. That Joe is someone to be cautious of though – I still can’t believe the snowmachine trails he convinced me that I could undertake!!! (But then you Diane, were behind me doing the same ‘you can do it Christine!’ - alas what choice did I have..). Soooo, the next trip we’ll have more than a couple of inches of snow: What a hoot that will be eh?! Looking forward to seeing your eyes open to the Alaskan wilderness, which is new to me, though I’ve lived here more than 30 years....

[Editor's Note]: She didn't tip the snowmachine over once, although with Joe it was a different story....Stay tuned for more updates, and hopefully more adventures!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Trick r treat!

Halloween: It's No Joke

For nearly 50 years I have associated Halloween with spooky decorations on lawns that are still green, stately elms and oaks showering golden leaves onto the sidewalks where costumed children wander door to door just after sunset with little plastic pails shaped like pumpkins. Just a few short weeks ago riding home on the bike trails from work I smelled the dried leaves crunching under my tires and immediately thought of Snickers bars.

Yesterday it was fifteen degrees and sunny. If there were any Halloween decorations we wouldn't have seen them under the snow that fell a few days ago. We went shopping in town--along with the rest of Fairbanks--and found ourselves jockeying for parking spaces whose lane markers are mostly hidden under packed snow. Everyone here has been saying the snow normally comes in early October, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

At sunset a beautiful moon rose and threw long black shadows onto the snow. Joe and I walked over to our neighborhood pub, Ivory Jacks, to watch Game 3 of the World Series. We didn't see any trick or treaters, except for the children of parents who came in for a bite before taking their kids to a nearby Halloween party at our local park district. Apparently it's easier for kids to get together at these events rather than brave the elements door to door (imagine Spiderman wearing snow shoes--that's just wrong!) Some of the bar staff were dressed up as the undead, but the elderly gentleman I sat next to at the bar seemed to be more interested in the undressed living: he was telling me about a local strip club that he was on his way to. Walking home we were passed by someone dressed in a snow suit pulled by nine huskies. Now that was a GREAT costume!