Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Iditarod 2014

I know those of you who are in the "deep freeze" in the Lower 48 do not want to hear this, but I got sunburned at the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod in Anchorage last Saturday.  That's how nice it was.

 I didn't take any photos of the start in downtown this year.  You can check out my past years' post for those pictures.

We did go to a point about half way through town to watch the mushers pass through later in the day.  Last year we learned a new term: "trailgating" (instead of tailgating).  Horizon Transportation served free food to all in attendance.  There were foot-long hot dogs, chili, cheese, sour cream, chips, cookies, hot chocolate, etc.  They wrap hot dogs for the mushers and their passengers, and then someone hands them to the mushers as the teams pass by.  Sometimes the mushers stop, but most often the hot dogs are delivered "on the fly".

The mushers give lots of high fives, since they are so close to the crowds.  It was a great family atmosphere.  Kids were sliding down small hills, skating, skiing and playing in the snow nearby, well within view or their parents.

There was serious consideration to moving the start of the race to Fairbanks, due to the lack of snow cover in Anchorage, and more importantly, in areas of the race which are dangerous and rough even with normal snow coverage.  You can check out many of the Iditarod stories for this year's race on kttu.com and on Iditarod.com.  Many of the mushers have already been injured and have had to scratch, just a few days into the race.
For those of you who have kids or are teachers, you can go to Iditarod.com and click on the EDUCATION link.  Under that link you will find another link called Zuma's Paw Prints.  These are Iditarod stories written from the viewpoint of several dogs.  Kids really enjoy reading the stories.

Crowds along the race trail in Anchorage

Trail guards (one of the jobs that are staffed by volunteers)

Activities near the trail

Delivering hot dogs to the mushers

Musher Photos

 Cat-In-the-Hat Musher Hugh Neff, always 
promotes children's literacy when he races


We also attended the start of the Junior Iditarod the weekend before the actual Iditarod start.  It had to be moved to a location about an hour further north of the usual start, due to lack of snow and warm temperatures. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Back In Alaska!

We returned to Alaska on Friday, January 31 for a visit.  Our plan was to get in some cross country skiing and do some of our Iditarod volunteer activities during February.  (Our ulterior motive was to return to where it was much more pleasant during the winter than in Nebraska and South Dakota).
Our flight arrived late Friday evening, so we booked a motel room and stayed the night. A friend picked us up on Saturday morning and drove us back to the Valley to get our car.  We had left our Suburban here with friends, as we had planned to return for visits such as this one.  It was quite foggy in Anchorage. But as we neared the Mat-Su Valley, the sun popped out and the skies turned blue, revealing the gorgeous mountain ranges all around.  We knew why we had come back!
 We are staying in the apartment that we rented last fall, before we left Alaska.  This is the gorgeous  scene that we awoke to on Sunday morning.  The pictures were taken from our apartment window. The lake is completely iced over (and solid enough to drive a four-wheeler on), but there is no snow on the lake - or anywhere else. 

As we were driving to Big Lake for Mass on Sunday, we saw that Denali (Mt. McKinley), Mt. Hunter and Mt. Foraker were all in glorious view.  So after Mass we headed up the Parks highway about 15 miles to a pull of that gave us a view of the entire Alaska Range of mountains (including the three mentioned above).  It was so clear we could see mountains and blue sky across the horizon as far as we could see.  It was a great way to start the week.  I couldn't believe it, but I did NOT have my camera with me.  Guess I have to get back in Alaska mode.

We went to friends' house to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon.  The game began at 2:30 PM here.  They have had a cow moose and calf who hanging around before Christmas. The calf was born last spring.  Mama moose had taught the calf to eat out of the bird feeders at our friends' house.  After Christmas the calf kept returning without his mama.  So they assumed that has has been killed.  The calf apparently returned to where he felt safe.  He comes charging out of the trees when he hears the bird feeders being refilled.
He stayed right outside the house the entire afternoon, despite the fact that Doug and our friend were 10 feet away getting our car ready to go, and the 5 boys (ages 5-10) were outside playing a good deal of the afternoon.

Monday we watched this moose across the lake from our apartment.

We also saw neighbor kids playing and skating on the ice.  A Zamboni could not have done a better job of preparing the ice for skating. 

Tuesday sunrise

We spotted our moose across the lake again.



The weather all week was quite pleasant with no wind.  But on Friday the wind came with a vengeance.  We had high wind warnings and 80mph gusts. (It was almost like being in Nebraska and South Dakota again). Doug saw an upside down canoe blow across the ice on the lake.  Later we saw our neighbor kids again playing on the ice.  That is a story for the next post....