Saturday, March 31, 2007

100 km ski--Well, not really

Dan, Tina, John and I decided to ski on the Tanana River between the small town of Nenana and the thriving metropolis of Fairbanks. In the past, this was the route of the Alaska Ultraski, which is a 100km race upriver to the Pump House restaurant in Fairbanks. The race was cancelled this year. So with abundant sunshine and the first above freezing temperatures since October (other than 1 hour back on Dec 9th when the it soared to 34F) -- we decided to have a relaxing day out in the warmth and fast snow.

Ouch!! --were we in for some torture. We left Nenana with light winds and then about 30 minutes out we were buffeted by a strong steady 15 to 20 mph headwind. After 50 km it was brutal and demoralizing. I would have to compare it to skiing a continuous incline with no break. It really wiped us out physically and mentally. After skiing across Finland a few weeks ago we thought we were in top notch shape. Not! The wind died down about 7 hours into the ski so the last stretch was quite pleasant. The entire trip felt like 100+ km but the GPS doesnt lie and we were surprised to see that its really only 82 km. So it took us about 10 hours to finally get to Fairbanks. I have done the race in the past and skied the same distance in under 5 hours. I still cant quite figure out why it took so long...

Here is a topo map of the Tanana River between Nenana and Fairbanks. There is no road access in between so once you hit the trail on the river you are committed to the unknown. Nenana is in the bottom left corner and Fairbanks is in the upper right. They say its 100km--but the GPS proved this to be incorrect.

Dan and Tina start removing layers -- this is minutes before we encountered the chilly wind. Dan eventually ditched us and made it to town about 2 hrs faster...although we spent a total of 3 hrs eating, resting, and cursing the wind.

John takes a break with the doggies.

Fernie chilling out in the snow

Me and Tina are ecstatic because we are finally out of the F!%&#ING headwind.

The trail was in was in great shape and the snow on the river was windblown into an intricate pattern of mounds--pretty cool.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Annual Ice Drilling Trip

I was out of town for work the past week. I went up north with 2 co-workers for our annual ice measurement trip where we drill holes in rivers/lakes between Fairbanks and the Arctic ocean. The data is useful for the ice breakup forecasts we issue in the spring and it also provides us with a climatological record of spring ice thicknesses. I figured I would just throw some pics here on the blog since the scenery is quite nice up north. We also stopped at a handful of weather observering stations that we maintain.

The AK Pipeline winds south across the tundra from the Arctic Ocean and approaches the Brooks Range

Drilling ice at Grayling Lake in the Brooks Range

This is the Davis Weather station we installed at the Chandalar Shelf Department of Transportation road maintenance camp. This is just on the south side of the continental divide near Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range.

We saw a bunch of caribou roaming freely on the arctic coastal plain.

Mountain goats chilling out in Atigun Pass

A red fox greets me in the morning

Headed down to drill ice on the mighty Yukon River

The AK Pipeline winds northward into the Brooks Range below Mt Sukapak

Crossing the Arctic Circle - latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes

Here is our river/weather observers (the Helmericks) house on the Colville River delta about 2 miles from the Arctic Ocean. This is an extreme climate with cold, windy dark winters and cool foggy summers. They live well north of the treeline in the arctic tundra near the northern edge of the continent.

The only way to access the Helmericks house is via a 10km snowmachine ride from the westermost oil field pad in Prudhoe Bay.

One of the only places to stay along the road north is at the Coldfoot truckstop. Here is what you get for 150 bucks/night--a piece of crap set of attached ATCO trailer units.

And a view of the luxury rooms for $150/night -- what a shit hole for the price!

Someone tried to duct tape the wound that eventually killed the tree

Brad and Ron do some maintenance to the precip can in the historical mining community of Wiseman

An old Pepsi machine in front of our observers cabin in Wiseman looks a little "out of place"

A turn of the century cabin in Wiseman

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My Redneck Weekend--YeeHa!

Howdy partners--I had a fun filled redneck weekend at the annual Chatanika Days celebration. The place was teeming with Bush supporters, snowmachines, 4-wheelers, country music fans, miners, hillbillies, etc, etc. I was recruited by Brian to be part of a 4-man team to push an outhouse for about a mile in the highly competitive outhouse race.

About 30 min before the race our outhouse still hadn't shown up. The last bit of communication we had with the guy that was supposed to drop it off was about 8pm the night before and he was completely trashed. We presumed that he was passed out somewhere. Fortunately for us, mighty Old Faithful, a 28 year veteran of the race, was missing a team. So we made an executive decision and decided to run Old Faithful.
Brian, Trevor, George and I struggle to push "Old Faithful" down the Steese Hwy. Melissa enjoys the ride from the pot.

My ass was groped numerous times--eat your heart out J. Lo!

Go! Go! We push on to the finish line at the Chatanika lodge. We ended up in 2nd place.

Check out that hat...prrrrrrr.

This cowboy looks like he just rode down from Brokeback Mountain!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Flash enjoys the scenery

Here is Flash watching some moose that have been hanging around out in the yard. These guys eventually ate the pumpkins we carved back in October. The pumpkins had been nicely preserved on the deck for over 5 months since the temperature has been below freezing all winter. I was actually trapped in my truck in front of the house when the moose decided to eat the pumpkins. They wouldnt move until they were done.

Flash relaxes in front of the wood stove. This stove is awesome--it has been the primary heat source for the house all winter!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rajalta Rajalle - Hiihto

This is one of the lunch stops during the 450km ski across northern Finland.

Rajalte Rajalle - Hiihto ------> this is Finnish for Border to Border ski. I spent the second week of March skiing across northern Finland from the Russian border to the Swedish border. It was a challenging and memorable trip as I ate my way across Finland and skied on an amazing network trails. I STILL NEED TO ADD THE PICS HERE. Keep checking back.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Trip to Berlin

Bob, Ann and took the train into Berlin for the day. We were planning on biking around the city but it was another rainy and blustery day so we opted to walk around rather get drenched on bikes. I was quite surprised that there were only some very small fragments (like 20 feet long) of the wall left in the city.

This is a memorial for victims of the Holocaust. I believe these rectangular blocks of concrete are supposed to represent coffins of those killed but this definitely open to interpretation. The blocks were identical except for the height of them. They lacked any sort of marking and there were narrow passageways between them. The grey day certainly added to the somber mood as we strolled between the masses of concrete.

This is a memorial near the Brandenburg gate in honor of people that died trying to climb the wall and escape into West Berlin.

I have seen these self cleaning toilets in Europe before but this one was extremely sterile, had music, and would allow one to stay inside and take care of business for up to 1.5 hours if you kept feeding it Euros. This is Bob heading in to take a leak...

Traffic races towards the TV tower on a Saturday night in Berlin

This is a glass dome on top of the parliment building with a circular walkway leading up to the top. From inside there is a birds eye view of the Berlin skyline as well as a view down into the parliment hall where goverment officials meet.

Peering down into the German Parliment from the glass dome...not a good place to lose the grip on your camera

Night view of the Brandenberg gate

Friday, March 2, 2007

Potsdam - here I come!

Well I made it to Germany after many unplanned hours sitting on a plane that wasnt going anywhere. Midway during the flight from Dallas-Frankfurt I noticed the engines cut back and the plane turn slightly to the left. I immediately glanced at the gps flight map on my mini tv screen and noticed that we made a 180 degree while out over the Atlantic. It took the pilot about 1/2 hr before notifying us that there was a medical emergency onboard and we were going to dump fuel and make a detour to Gander, New Foundland. In Gander we ended up sitting on the tarmac in the middle of the night for over 4 hours. There was a lot of snow on the ground and fantasized that the skiing was probably really nice out there--too bad I was trapped on the plane. So anyway the flight to Frankfurt ended up being about 15 hours. In Frankurt, Lufthansa had us board the plane and then decided to do some maintenance and left us on the tarmac for about 2 hours before departing for Berlin. So it was nice to get here and get out in the fresh air.

The weather was pretty shitty for riding around the next day but Ann and I ventured out and toured around Potsdam on bike all day. We tried to dodge several heavy downpours but I think we managed to get hit by most of them. It was actually quite fun being out in the rain since I hadnt seen rain since last Sept. I tried to grab a few pics while it wasnt they are.

We stopped by Bobs office and caught him working hard eating chocolate and drinking coffee. Maybe I should get my Phd so I can have a job like that

This is the shoe shaped bldg that was built for Einstein to prove his theory of relativity but he ended up drinking too much german beer and was not able to focus

A mold of Einstein's brain brain was embedded in the cobbles in front of the shoe bldg

A flying German Rhino in downtown Potsdam

These are Stalin's eyes peering out of the roof of the Schloss Cecilienhof. This was the site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference where Stalin, Churchill, and Truman met for 3 weeks to determine how Germany would be divided up after WWII.

OK-it was dry inside and here is Ann at home in the kitchen making me breakfast--what a good little wife.