Friday, June 1, 2007

Odds and Ends

Here's a bunch of "odds" and "ends" from along the last couple day's travel in the land of Alaska, which, by the way has its very own Time Zone. Alaska is 4 hours earlier than Eastern Time, in case you're interested.
In this photo, the Alaska Range "Greater Mountains" showed off the end of the range in fine style. While it may be a bit grainy owing to the use of a digital zoom to get me to the top of the mountain, you can see that there is still plenty of snow up there. With every mountain range along the journey, we kept saying to each other, "It can't get any better than this." But then it did!
The Alaska Highway ends at Delta Junction, just south of Fairbanks, where we will now honker down for a week or so to take in the sights before getting back on the move. We are here ahead of the salmon, which have not yet begun their "run,"so there is no hurry to get anywhere, although, I am getting a bit antsy about getting going on the fishing aspect of the trip. We arrived in Fairbanks officially on May 31- some 3 to 5 days earlier than we thought we would arrive; this fact attributable to the lack of problems and delays, the allowances for which were built into the trip. Those RV's wearing cardboard "Alaska or Bust" signs in their windows have all burned them at the campfires over the last few nights. We didn't have the sign, but share in the joy of the ritual. The odometer rolled over 14,000 miles today. Some trip. Here, I'm waving the flag of Alaska in a brisk wind at the marker. The flag shows the big dipper and the north star. How appropriate.
This oddity is a burl mosquito (and then a caribou). Obviously those little buggers ARE as big as they say, though they have not been a bother at this point. Burls are big business in Alaska. Growths produced by trees to fight infection and infestation, they are often used to make bowls, sculpture, walking sticks and the like. Some of the pieces are quite pricey; all are quite beautiful. And very heavy ...or I would have loaded up the coach by now.

Alaska is well known for its scenery, its culture, its hunting and fishing. But PIG trapping? Yes, that too. This is a "pipeline pig" used to clean the inside of the Alaska oil pipeline from time to time. It is "sent in" from a starting station, then recaptured and itself cleaned in a designated "trap" along the way. Some pigs just clean; some pigs take microscopically fine measurements of pipe wall thicknesses, temperature variations along the way, and are capable of finding trouble areas before the trouble gets out of hand. At least that's the theory. Neat instrument.
This shot is NOT out of focus and was not taken on a foggy day. This is a sandstorm blowing off the basin of the Tanana River. The river bed is much wider than the current water level is covering. Without water to keep it wet down, it becomes much like a desert. Interesting; almost eerie.
This is the Ptarmigan, state bird of Alaska. A popular bird and quite pretty to look at, the name is hard to remember for some and difficult to spell for everyone- so the bird is just called "chicken." The bird gave it's name to Chicken, Alaska -rural, remote gold country in an area of the state where not all the roads are paved and some means of getting to the town require a ferry ride for the rig. We, that is to say I, was not brave enough to tackle that on our first trip here. I guess you could say I was "chicken" too!
This is the end of the Roberson Glacier, referred to as the terminus. Where it ends, the Robertson River begins and eventually flows into the Tanana 33 miles downstream. Photo taken from a bridge in a moving coach- there is a lot to see in Alaska for which you simply cannot stop your vehicle, either because there is no time to stop or there is no room to get off the road or, in the case of wildlife, they are gone before you can ready the camera. Which, come to think of it, is why we have still not shown you moose, golden and bald eagles, foxes, snowshoe rabbits, ground squirrels, minks and a whole lot more....
But while this post represents the end of the "rush" to Alaska, it also marks the beginning of our summer here. Surely there is much more to come in this land of majesty, mystery, and marvel.

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