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Fluffy white Cow?

If you are wondering they do not exist. That is, unless it is me seeing it from a golf cart at the PSA festival in Colorado Springs. More on that later. We decided the summer travel wasn’t enough and I enjoyed myself last year so come back this year. It has been fun connecting with old friends and meeting new ones.

We came in on Sunday which is always good, it gives us a day to recover and get used to the area. Monday was a lay low day but Monday night the cowboys were out to play. After getting a lift into the bus, (who knew that they had lifts), we were off to the Flying W Ranch. The ranch itself has been in operation for 70 years. They recently rebuilt due to the massive fire that swept through Colorado Springs a few years ago. The ranch featured the standard chuckwagon fair and food line. It also had some Native American dancers which was worth the price of admission. I have to say I was amazed at seeing my first ever hoop dance performed by a 70+ woman. (I will post a video when I am home.)

We were waiting for the dancers to start and you know me I have to be in the thick of things right. So, I invited myself to take a trip around the ranch on a golf cart. There was no way I would make it with the rental chair. (learned lesson from Alaska). Stephanie our driver said she would stop whenever we wanted so we could take pictures. First stop, donkeys almost as friendly as the ones in Custer. Second stop, big horn sheep on the hill feeding. I think I only got butt shots but that is ok.

Here is where I encountered the fluffy small white cow. In my defense I only did a quick look and the color was right. What makes this even more funny is the fact that after my mind said that is not a cow, my mouth kept insisting. I could hear what the others were thinking and not saying. (She needs a lesson in animal identification. She has been in the city way too long. What was she smoking can I have some.) I did get my mouth to catch up to my brain and now know that it was a sheep. At least I make things funny.

On the way out of the event I almost did trying to be funny run over a friend. Not to worry I have all week. This year it was no outings for me as it would be too much of a pain with the chair. However, I will be exploring macro photography and learning more about night photography. I might even get some cool photos out of this trip.

Things Not Covered

Well first off we are headed home it is official. The ferry left port last night. We had one more shot at the northern lights but, they did not cooperate. I did however see some stars. Today I slept because open seas do not agree with me. Tomorrow should be a little easier as we will start hugging the coast so there will be land on each side.

Now, I want to share some of the things I did not share from summer vacation. The first is I have lost my cribbage mojo. I taught Roy cribbage on our summer trip in 2017. I have to say he won a few every once in awhile. He just sometimes couldn’t beg borrow or steal any points. I am not sure when it happened but it did. Roy can now pull a double double run out of his bum and skunk me almost everytime . It’s funny that the shoe is on the other foot. We didn’t play alot this year but we did play on the nights we had no OTA (over the air) channels. I do enjoy the now rare occurance when I can beat him

Some of the nights were filled with trying to figure out what movie we want to play for the rally in October. The choices were Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blazing Saddles, and Little Shop of Horrors. All I can say is feed me. I had seen Blazing Saddles years ago Roy had never seen it. He loved the humor but we realized not quite right for our crowd. Rocky Horror requires a lot of crowd participation. We both came to the conclusion that Little Shop of Horrors fits the group better.

Food this trip has been a mix of cooking in the trailer and eating out. That old saying when in Rome. The first food we looked forward to having again was Copper River Red Salmon at Sheep Mountain Lodge. In my opinion, Red and King Salmon are awesome but Copper River Red Salmon are the bomb diggity. This restaurant always has it on the menu and we planned the trip so we had it twice.

This brings me to the food on the Kenai. They are known for seafood, crab, halibut, cod, clams, shalots, oysters and some salmon. All from Kajamack Bay or the Cook inlet. The spit offers these at small restaurants. Roy said he had the best clams ever from one of these places. It also was very easy to get the scooter and chair in. I had my first halibut of the trip in Homer. We had more halibut fresh off the boat given to us by one of our camping neighbors.

The best ice cream at least according to Milepost was right next door to one of the places we camped. Roy said his hard packed black cherry ice cream was the best he ever had. It even had a small ice cube in it. I had the soft serve twist cones which they had different twist flavors. I couldn’t bring myself to try pineapple and vanilla but did try raspberry and vanilla.

When we were in Nenana we found one of the best home cooking restaurants. Roughwoods Inn, Kari is the owner and chief cook and bottle washer. She is open til 6pm every night except for Tuesday, family emergencies, and roadkill. Let me explain the roadkill comment. In that part of Alaska if the troopers know of a recent fresh roadkill they donate it to local people. This is one thing you have to get when it is fresh. (No, she does not feed it to her customers.) We both loved the fresh halibutand chips, hand battered and fried from fish caught in Alaska. She had Roy at the fact that she grills her chicken fried steaks and I was won over by her Philly Cheese steak. Although the halibut was hard to get by.

The farmer’s market in Fairbanks helped keep my salad for lunch streak going. I also got my fill of fresh garlic (keeps mosquitos away). Roy was able to get fresh mushrooms for his own crack an egg. This market also kept us in good homemade bakegoods.

I was able after 30 years of being with this man of mine to find something that he can not do I do not know who else can do it either. It all started with a facebook post, that said if a cop stops me for a DUI and asks me to say the alphabet backwards I will get in the car. I asked you can’t do that. He said he never thought of it and no, he can’t. I proceeded to show him. I am not sure he was impressed.

I need to make one comment about people from Wisconsin; when you meet one you immediately become family. Roy and I hung with some on the ferry. He basically got a crash course on Wisconsin tradition, right down to quarters and bar dice.

There are other things that happened that I am sure I will remember once I sit down and look through the pictures. Speaking of pictures I am still putting together the baby bald eagle growth journey.

Someone did what Roy couldn’t.

People who know me know that I’m not thrilled with the thought of a helicopter ride.  In fact I think it has been said over my dead body.  This couple I met changed everything (No he or she do not own or fly helicopters.)  She just took her first helicopter ride to begin a new chapter of live.  It wasn’t the fact that she did her first helicopter ride that changed my mind it was what happened afterwards that changed my mind.

Some back story first.  Three months ago Roy and I embarked on an adventure, so did a few other people.  I know this because waiting to board the ferry I had to be a social butterfly, riding around finding out where people are from and where they are headed, and if they are coming back.  This is when I met John and Jean and their dog.  This was a couple who seemed like any normal 40ish  couple. What attracted me to them was the trailer they had behind the ‘truck camper’  (I use the term loosely)  Pick up truck with a shell on top.  This trailer held everything including a kitchen sink.  I asked what their adventure was.

I saw that they were excited and a little unsure and questioning because  they were heading off the grid  for the summer to build a cabin on land they bought in the middle of nowhere Alaska.  They would return on the same ferry we were on in September.  (Inside I thought, if you don’t get eaten by a bear.)   The trip up was about five days so it is a small ship and  we chatted many times each time I felt they were thinking if this was the right decision for them.  They seemed well prepared with supplies and stuff.  I was impressed with the research they had put into it.  I will be honest I was concerned and thought of them often over the summer.  Fast forward to September 5th and the waiting line to board the ferry.  No trailer, they left everything they brought with them at the cabin.  John comes up and says hi.  I have to say I was relieved they made it out.  He was more sturdy and hairier then when he left and had a differant air about him I wanted to know more.

Catching up and listening to both of them has given me a new outlook on things.  It is amazing how these two blossomed  the courage, strength and determination you can now see in them.  In Jean retelling how she hand peeled the bark from the trees that John cut and delimbed mind you only using a chainsaw and she using her hands and some tools to strip the logs for the cabin.  I could tell that it was a joint effort that made the bond between them stronger.  I am sure it wasn’t all getting along I mean three months with just one other person for the majority of the time and no modern ammenties could wear on you.

Roy and I were lucky enough to see the photos and hear how the three months were spent.  Here is where the helicopter comes in.  Involved in getting to the property there was a bush plane ride a helicopter ride and some ATV transportation.  Remember I said over my dead body I would do a helicopter ride.  Jean was also a little afraid to go in a helicopter.  So she is describing holding the dog’s leash, her cell phone to try and take pictures (she said she got a few) then still trying to look at the scenery.  She got through the  ride by just thinking of the majestic landscape.  So when I get my all terrain chair I will take thaty helicopter ride to visit.

I am impressed how much they completed this summer.  A one room cabin with a door large enough to fit an ATV in.  Her poo path for compost and a little garden.  Cooking on a wood stove and making homemade bread.  Their efforts reminds me that sometime issolation and depending on yourself can give you the strength you need to move on.

Fly Away Home

Both the sandhill cranes and Roy and I are doing just that. Tonight, (Aug 31) is our last night in Fairbanks we head down the Parks Hwy and eventually to Whittier and the ferry. The cranes migrate every year and they congregate at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks before flying south. It was neat watching Canadian Geese and Sandhill Cranes sit side by side each getting fat for the trip south.

The third weekend of August is the Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival. This was our first weekend in Fairbanks, so we headed over to see what was flying overhead. We also went over to the field a few times before the festival to take some pictures of the cranes.

Here are a few pictures of the cranes just hanging out and flying about.

family

I was in one of the photo blinds waiting for the birds to come to me. It took a bit of time, but they moved slowly towards me with cute little movements and even some one-legged posing.

push me pull me
one adult two youngins
mass flight

The birds seemed to be happy just to hang out and fly every once in a while.

That is until the bald eagle comes around looking for dinner. This got the birds to fly up all at once. I really need to work on tracking these birds when they take off En masse. I also think they need to give me an alert saying we are taking off. They do make an alert with a vocalization I just am not sure what that is.

Almost missed them

The lights were a dancing again. I checked my app and saw that the auroral oval was right overhead at about 11:30pm. Off we went, and yes, they were out. Driving up the Steese Hwy we could see them right outside the car windows. Trying to get to our spot before they fade away. We had passed up the local viewing spots at the top of a hill. It was fairly busy for a small area plus I wanted to see if I could get reflections by the pond.

The lights are still dancing at this point but, the sky was getting cloudy, and we were driving straight into fog. So, we pull in the pull out and realize the fog is just getting thicker no lights out here. I was amazed what 15 miles makes in weather and clouds. We decide let’s turn around and head back to the place where the locals hang. I’m glad we passed it by the first time because this time we had one pullout all by ourselves.

Roy’s lights

We shot here for about an hour before I got too cold, and the lights started to fizzle out. The fizzle didn’t fizzle for that long, as I was getting ready to put the camera away. I go and snap a picture right as Roy turned on the car lights. Here is the result of that picture.

headlights and taillights

There are some disadvantages to shooting in a pullout near the road and I also took a few of those pictures.

light painting

There is one picture where Roy flashed headlights.

I enjoyed watching the lights ebb and flow. The clouds wisps in my opinion put some added personality to the lights. Once everything was packed back in the car it was time to head home. We did do a detour because the lights came out again a stop by Creamer’s Field explore Fairbanks said this was a good place for viewing the lights it was. I stayed in the car and just enjoyed the view. It was funny seeing people pulled off the side of the road out of their cars to watch the sky.

Enjoy the slide show of lights.

Clear SKIES

Yes, it did happen. We have had almost two weeks of clouds and rain at night. I was starting to give up hope of seeing the Auroras this trip. I looked at the forecast for possible lights it looked promising. (Just like 5 times before) The next thing was to find out if it was cloudy or not. I found an app for that windy the clouds were not overhead. Time to pack and go outside I look up and see stars and what looks like a small green cloud. I will give you a clue stars don’t shine through clouds. I knew the lights were coming out. We had plans of driving off the base to a spot northeast of town plans changed. The lights were out and did not want to drive for an hour. We went right down the road from the camper and set up the camera. After a few pictures we noticed that a tree was blocking some of the light so, we changed locations.

The next location had an added bonus of a beaver dragging a tree to his lodge. It was cute but made me paranoid of every noise I heard when I was outside. I was imagining that a beaver was right next to me with every sound I heard.

bigger than him

I took a few more pictures here and decided to head back to where it all started for the night. The whole show lasted about two hours and the lights were gone.

Enjoy the slideshow.

Space Force

as far as we got

No, I did not get on base. We did drive over to the base in Clear Alaska. Roy and I tried to talk our way on to the base, the best we could do was take a picture of the sign. The AP at the gate said they have a BX and they only have radar at the base. We did turn around and I did take a photo. Clear did have an airport and a heliport.

the airport Clear AK
the heliport

This was an area that had a major wildfire move through earlier this summer, although we saw no evidence of the fire.

The locals did mention how a few weeks ago Anderson was full of firefighters and equipment. Speaking of Anderson. The town has seen better days, it was originally used to house civilians who were building the Air Base.

the range
campground

There is also a local campground, great for people who would like to be off the main road. Some sites have electric, they are also very level. The lions club maintains the campground. There is also a shooting range for the town. I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen a 5mph road sign.

in Anderson

At one point there was an annual music festival but unfortunately not anymore.

DMV
all services one building

The whole town does seem to be well kept even though it doesn’t have many people living there. They do have a DMV which is interesting beats the alternative of having to drive into Fairbanks. I did not see a bank though.

The one thing I did see in Anderson that you won’t see in a big city is a guy chasing his cow. Yes, that is what I videotaped. Strange things happen in Alaska. It was comical to watch. I think the cow knew exactly what she was doing.

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE

After spending the day south of Nenana, we decided to go out to eat north of town and grab a sunset after 10:30pm. That I have to say was hard for me.

Monderosa
purple

The Monderosa Restaurant we ate at is known for a 1lb burger. That is one thing I have noticed in Alaska they do not skimp on food. I’ve been working on composition and trying to catch the right light so that is what we did on the way home. I love this color purple, I’ve never seen anything like it.

The rest of the week we hung around town and explored the history of Nenana had some great food and met some interesting people. I will share more soon.

The Mountain

magic bus
needed the power today

I have gotten lucky this trip I consider myself in the 7.5 % because this is the third time, I’ve seen Denali in all its glory. We spent the week in Nenana Alaska and decided to head down to Denali it is only a 61-mile trip. Hell, in 5 weeks on the Kenai we put 2,500 miles on the car. I’m not sure how many of you have watch the movie or read the book ‘Into the Wild’ Here is a background article of Chris McCandles who inspired ‘Into the Wild’ I go down this rabbit hole, because I wanted to visit the replica of his magic bus. We did just that when we ate at the ‘49th State Brewing Company‘ in Healy.

which one do I want

Roy and I decided let’s get the scooter and chair out to go eat. That was a great plan until we get inside the restaurant. The bar area has booths and high-top tables (not that handicap friendly). The other area of the restaurant had low tables, but you had to go down a step. I have to give a shout out to the manager and the owner, because they brought a low table into the bar area so we could sit and eat. The manager came over and apologized for the oversight and that they might try and figure out how to keep on low table over in the area. I had a soda flight and Roy had a beer flight. He also had some smoky popcorn used to clear the palette. I tried one; smoky does equal hot here. I kept my mouth shut until Roy asked how I liked the popcorn. I liked the root beer and the spruce tip soda, the cola was ok, and the fourth flavor was not memorable at all.

After lunch we head to Denali there were no clouds in the area, so I knew there was another chance to see the mountain in its glory. We drove until the visitor center where I got back in my chair and decided to explore the visitor center campus like never before.

close as I could get
no clouds ever

In that way I am loving my chair. I had never thought about exploring museums or visitor centers before I actually was able to travel on some of the trails.

flag outside visitor center
inside cabin

After zooming around the campus, I got back in the car, and we drove as far as we could which was mile 15 on the Denali Highway. We decided not to take a bus further into the park because of the landslide that occurred at mile 46.

no clouds

We did not see any animals on this trip into the park. We did, however, see the mountain clear as day again. The other thing that was intriguing was the snow level and how it just stopped.

winter’s coming

One of the close mountains had a fresh light layer of snow. This is as close as I would like to get this year to any snow. I love seeing it from the distance.

dusk at 11pm

After a full day of sightseeing, we headed back to Nenana. My aurora app said that there was a chance for sightings that night. So, the skies were clear, it wasn’t that cold, and we found a good spot. All that was needed was some lights.

Roy light painting LOL

I did get some pictures of the barge that was right in front of the car. After a lit bit we decided maybe a change of scenery was needed. I also was getting cold. Back inside the car we head up the road to a wayside with a different view.

The new view was more profitable in the fact that the auroras had appeared. These were the first we had seen this trip. They were fleeting and very short. The most interesting thing was seeing the lights at twilight. I am hoping to see more of the lights this year but, the clouds are hanging around. This is not good. Here are three photos of the lights from that night.

Something Fishy

Salmon that is. We had an opportunity to watch the fleet of small boats go out and catch salmon then bring it back to the dock and dump the catch. This happened over many days while we were in Ninilchik. This is an advantage to staying in one place for an extended amount of time. When you find something interesting you can continue to return to the scene and watch it develop.

just a few

When we first came upon the harbor at Ninilchik there were just a few boats, so our thought was nice local harbor. When the fleet was all in the boats were lined up three or four deep on both sides of the dock.

the whole fleet

I would really hate to be the boat that was first in and set up against the dock. First in last out is the case here. Someone let us know that this was an actual working fishing harbor. So of course, we had to check back often to see if there was something going on.

The type of fishing vessels are gillnetters, and the process of fishing is called gillnetting. We were also lucky to see one of the boats get ready to go out and fish. It seems that the salmon are kept on ice for the whole process from being caught to being delivered to the store. We watched one boat being loaded with ice and found out that all but one fish hold is filled with ice. The empty fish hold is where the first part of the catch goes, the deckhands then pull the ice from the other holds to cover the catch. The video below was taken right after they had spilled a whole tub of ice.

making it level

Once the fleet comes back in the fish are pulled up from the holds and poured out on a metal table. The first load of fish harvesting for lack of a better description the workers did very little sorting as compared to the second time we went out to watch them. The two crews accomplished the same tasks but approached them differently.

I do know one of the boats we watched had three full bags of fish. It was fascinating to watch the whole process from lifting the catch out of the hold to watching it go in the crates to head to market.

Crew number one all guys in my opinion they just wanted to get it done

The second crew was all business

I was also surprised how quickly the crews were able to clear the fish and go home. There have been about 161 million salmon taken by commercial fisheries this year so far. This fishery was just a small part of that catch.

I put a page together with the videos I took of the fish sorting and some other things you might enjoy. Fishy Videos Also Enjoy the slide show I found the balding guy in the orange to be quite the fish tosser.