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.

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.

Thunderbirds Fly High

We were at the Artic Thunder Air Show at JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) on Sunday July 31st. I am going through the pictures, and I have to share this slideshow of the Thunderbirds. They were the closing act. I did not know that they are an elite flying group rich with history. I will say that my camera work was a little shaky. The action was so fast and everywhere.

From start to finish the whole experience was choreographed down to the landing. We were not close enough to see the precision routine of getting into the plane. I was a tad bummed until they started the performance, and we were front row center.

When they won’t come to you.

our chariot

You go to them. That is what we did. It all started with lunch and my good friend Lisa, (she does amazing wildlife photography trips to Alaska) plus a question about bears. I went with Lisa in 2018 (when I was more mobile) to Lake Clark National Park Chinitna Bay. Roy and I both knew that was a no-go this trip. So, what to do? Airplane to boat, to bear viewing from boat, back to airplane. My first thought was how is this going to work, I’m in a boat they are on shore (not much chance for action) I was thinking. Well, I am so glad I was wrong. I am getting ahead of myself.

This is exactly what we did with Alaska West Air. The staff there were able to help get us on the plane and then off the plane into the boat.

looking out the window
Our fearless pilot

My only experience flying in Alaska had been in very tiny planes so you can imagine my surprise when I saw a nine-seater. Ok it wasn’t super spacious I did however have a window and some breathing room. I don’t like to fly this is one time Roy told me all I had to do was breathe and look out the window and that is what I did.

Now that we are on semi dry land, (ok a wooden dock with some steps) it was time to get in. It was cool they brought the boat to us as the others who were also getting in boats had to walk the plank. This is not only a bear viewing area it is also a great salmon fishing area.

on the right side of the boat

Wolverine Creek/Redoubt Bay is on Big River Lakes, here is a description of the area we were at. We head directly to the base of Wolverine Creek and experienced a small version of combat fishing. I mean there had to be at least ten skiffs in this small area most were fishing. I caught some of their lines in my pictures which was a little annoying, but I was seeing bear. That made it OK.

almost
Our trusty guide

It took a few minutes to navigate around the boats, but our guide Evan had us tucked into a nice cozy spot. Here, we could see the water and the shore. The first bear was trying and trying to grab a fish but to no avail, lots of splashing and coming up empty. He was trying to compete with the salmon fishers (they were winning)

He then decides to come over to our side of the creek. Which was a win for both of us he got some good fish, and I got some good photos. He did also have some fun blowing bubbles.

fish heads
yum

Maybe this was done to clear the palate, between morsels

bubbles
what’s under that

There was another bear who stayed on shore and was intent on turning over every rock on the beach. He did get in the water once but there were no fireworks, the bear that was in the water was way too involved in his food.

mom
my beach

The fireworks occurred when mama bear number one came on the scene. How to clear out a beach. She made short work of the land lover as all it took was a growl from behind the bushes and he was gone. The waterlogged bear took a few more antics to get him to go. This sow had 3 cubs that were just adorable in how they hung around mom.

Common Merganser

I also saw a Common Merganser with some of her ducklings. I was hoping that they would catch a ride. They usually get a quick taxi ride on mom’s back. I did get to see that later though, so it wasn’t to disappoint.

The boat decided to head to a different part of the lake to see the actual place where the salmon spawn. I was like ok let’s go. I am glad we left because the journey over to the spawning grounds was very cold and foggy the reason for this is crossing the glacier melt it is cold coming right off the glacier. It was windy, damp, foggy, and spooky.

All you can’t see

Once across to the fresh water the temperature warmed and so did the water. Side note here I did taste the glacier run off and it was like eating a pile of rock salt. The fresh water I did not taste as I did not want to reach in and touch some salmon. There were thousands of them here it was like watching the whole lake move. A picture could not capture the intensity of the end of one life cycle and the start of another.

mixing

Stopping at a waterfall was a chance to see freshwater mix with the glacier slit and watch clear blue water turn to a brackish grey.

bear

We journey back to the bears although our vantage point was not as good as the first time there. I was still able to see a few bears. Mom and her three bears were still there but left shortly after our arrival. The next set of bears to come was a sow and two cubs. They were actually too hard to photograph so we moved on to Hidden Lake but ran across a distraction called a bear on an island. The cool thing was it was us and another boat for about 5 minutes.

reflection

Hidden Lake was the best place to end the day because it was so peaceful and quiet except for the sound of my voice in this video.

peace

From here it was back to the plane and the return trip home. I told you I am not fond of planes, so the return trip was in a smaller beaver plane. I almost wanted to say I’ll stay here. I am glad I did not because flying over the glacier was awe inspiring. Pictures do not do it justice. We were able to see deep into some of the cracks in the glacier. It is a blue color that does not have a description. Then the lake was so blue black you could get lost just looking at it.

return trip.

I will be posting a slide show of the trip in a separate post.

This bear viewing trip was much better than expected for me. I went in thinking it was going to be a disappointment because I wasn’t standing on land. Like everything I’ve had to adjust. This however is an adjustment I would do again. How else could you get pictures like these.

shake it

Plus, I don’t have to be the fastest runner just have a larger and quicker motor than everyone else.

Tracking Eagles

The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel

First part of the day we decided to be lazy I caught up on my blog and edited some pictures, Roy slept. After lunch we decide to get moving and photograph the Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik, the lighting was ok for landscape/ building photography.

cemetery view
Honor wall

The cemetery at the church used to be a little less overgrown than we discovered it to be. There is also a Veterans cemetery next to the original one in much better condition. I was disappointed, but it also gave me a chance to explore the front of the church and the cemetery from the front.

The Fleet

The church overlooks the small village of Ninilchik AK. The village is small and old but with good bones. I have enjoyed the beach and it is one you can still drive out on. We haven’t done that yet. I am stressing the word YET. The town is also home to a small fleet of fishing vessels. One of the days we were down by the beach they were in harbor.

View from the beach

The beach here has an advantage over Deep Creek and Anchor Point as there is a dock where the vessels can tie off. On one of our recent visits to the beach we saw a salmon tender. These vessels collect the fish so the fleet can continue to fish.

the road

We have enjoyed parking on the road so I can take pictures from it. There have not been very many eagles down at this end of the beach but that is still good. I was able to photograph some of the few breakers I’ve seen.

DANGER

The beach here does have some shallow rocks near shore, so there are some danger signs.

Incoming

The road that runs on the other side of the harbor has a turn out right before you head down the road. It is below the bluff that the church sits on so the opportunity to practice tracking eagles with my camera was ample.

outbuilding

Before we left Ninilchik I happened upon this building I am thinking that it hasn’t been active in a long time, or it has a well-hidden path to the entrance.

Deep Creek View Campground

When tracking eagles, we always have to stop at Deep Creek which used to be a favorite spot for me. At the top of the road down towards the beach is a charter fishing service J&J Smart Charters and Deep Creek View Campground RV Park. They go out and fish for halibut. When the boat returns the crew hangs the catch for the day up so pictures can be gotten of the fish. So far this was the first time this trip that we were able to capture it as it was happening.

cool paint jobs

There is going to be a rodeo right down the road on July 2nd & 3rd at the Kenai Peninsula State fairgrounds. I am looking forward to the beach horse race earlier in the day. This is all being sponsored by the Peninsula Horseman’s Association. I do plan on concessions food on the 2nd.

I can’t believe that we have been in one place with the trailer for over a week. I do know there is so much more to explore. I have to run now and get to exploring.

On Ship Antics … or

Let’s see if she floats. Not really, but, let’s just say that’s my story. I promise I will come back to this. I did not think I would enjoy my trip on the ferry because of my likelyhood of getting sea sick. That is what dramamine is for. I am having a blast.

This has been a great cruise for pictures lots of landscapes, snow, orcas, and sea otter logs. (you’ve seen these, the ones that masquerade as animals but are really floating logs.) I have missed capturing on my camera a few eagles and some whales. When we were in dock today at Yakatut, Alaska, here I am just yaking away (yes, I said that) right overhead a Bald Eagle and a crow was there. At least people did call my attention to it. No picture though, camera operater was too busy. I did however, get my first clear shot of a golden eagle. Earlier in the day I was able to get a blurry golden eagle. Both of these occured in Juneau. Now that I finally have a photo one, it’s time to work on getting them closer. I’ve also learned things about the lens I brought on board, 28mm – 300mm Tamron. I just might want to take my 150mm – 600mm Tamron on the return trip.

This cruise has been great. It is truly refreshing to get to know people who are willing to help you navigate when you are in a motorized chair. They are also fun and easy to laugh with when you do something silly like navigating the narrows of the cafe tables. The tables are non-movable and the chairs are attached and rotate. So one evening I come into the cafe from outside, (this is the only door that has a ramp on both sides of the door that I’ve found). Two couples I’ve met and have helped me get a lot done were at a table, so I invited myself to join them. We got talking about my pictures because the camera is always around my neck. The challenge was getting to them in the chair. There is more then one way to skin a cat.

The back story begins the night before with a stretch of water called the narrows. This area is before Juneau and after Ketchican, we also travelled it in the dark or dusk as we are in Alaska. It is called the Narrows because you have land on either side and a small channel to navigate through. I did not stay up to see it. The captin has to move in a zig-zag pattern to get through. Just like me and the chairs. So after talking for awile it was time to go, I tried to get out another way. Not happening, back through the narrows I went. Unfortunately, no one decided to film it for Tik-Tok or You Tube so you have to trust me … I looked cute.

Those were the antics. Now onto why someone would want to see if I floated or not. ‘I’m sweet and innocent’. Just ask anyone who doesn’t know me. I had a question, so I rode around and did not have far to go until I found someone to ask. We were getting close to Ketchikan (which is a crew change port). I asked this crew lady a question about Whittier and she said she would not be there, that she was getting off duty. I looked at her with my normal smirk and said ‘Didn’t they tell you your replacement isn’t coming?’ I cursed her. Two hours later she found me and playfully said that I jinxed her. That started an awesome banter with a few comments back and forth that might include me floating. In all truthfulness, it was all in fun and she is cool. But, sometimes I can call them. I was just joking though.

On a side note here, I’ve met some amazing people. One couple is travelling for the summer, but staying at hotels and Air BnBs. Another couple have come up here to build their off the grid home. I joked with them that they were bringing everything up but the kitchen sink. Turns out they do have a small bucket labelled kitchen sink, in the trailer they are bringing up. A cool guy who basically kept showing up every place with a warm happy attitude and two dogs in the car who did not like the deck calls to do it’s duty. I think his dogs were not happy. He is coming up to fish and enjoy his property. The offer of a home cooked meal will be acted upon because he lives where we will be camping for a month.

I have to say, I hope our return trip in September is just as fun.