Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It happened again

Sunday we were sitting at home and the sun came out after it being wet most of the weekend. I looked at Ruth and said lets go for a ride. She suggested Thunderbird Falls. We left so fast we didn't take any drinks or snacks.

When we got there everything was in full color change. You start the walk through the mossy forest of birch and cotton wood trees for about a mile; you're soon surrounded by ferns. At the end of the trail you reach the viewing platform, where you can watch the falls tumble down the rocky cliff face creating a mist at the bottom.

We strayed from the main trail on the way back. The fall color changes were just breath taking every step we took.

When we got back to the truck we decided we didn't want to go home yet. We decided to go to Eklunta Lake.

This 7 mile long lake was created by Eklutna Glacier. The water supplies a power plant and drinking water for the Municipality of Anchorage. Black Bear, Golden Eagles and Hawks are common. We heard eagles, but we didn't see any. However, we did see several Red-Necked Grebes.

We'll return next summer for camping and biking for sure. A beautiful, large and well maintained Alaska State Park. And when you leave the park, there's Rochelle's Ice Cream and Espresso. While waiting for our order we spotted Dall Sheep, but they were too far to shoot with the camera.

Ruth liked her ice cream sunday!

Thunderbird Fall and Eklutna Lake

Click to see the whole album

P.S. I'll be out of town for the weekend. See you all next week.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sleeping Lady

The south of Anchorage was wet and cloudy on Friday morning but it cleared up by mid-afternoon.

Legend tells us that a millennia ago, the Great Land known as Alaska was inhabited by a race of giants. Among these people was a beautiful young maiden and a handsome young man whose devotion to each other was admired by all the villagers. Wedding preparations were underway when word reached the village of a warring tribe approaching from the north.

After a village council it was decided that the young man would bring gifts to the invaders to show the peaceful and friendly intentions of the villagers. Keeping herself busy while waiting for the young man's return, the maiden eventually grew tired and laid down to rest.

Soon after, word reached the village that the invaders rejected the offer of peace and a battle ensued in which the young man was killed. The villagers, gazing at the sleeping maiden, did not have the heart to wake her.

So there she rests today, still waiting for news of peace and the return of her love .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

West Chester Lagoon

One of my favorite places to go that's real close to downtown is West Chester Lagoon. The lagoon is man-made, created in the early ’70s by slowing Chester Creek as it flows into Cook Inlet. There's always something to do and something going on.

Ruth and I like to ride our bikes, walk our animals, play Frisbee golf (disc golf) and go birding there. For birds you can see grebes, loons, ducks, geese, gulls and more. The bike trail leads you to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. That trail can take you all over Anchorage along the coast. You can also go canoeing or use any non-motorized boat. If your into taking it real easy there's picnic tables or the Cozey Cafe.

During the winter you can cross country ski, skate, or play hockey. Name just about any winter sport and you can do it there. The ice and the trails are maintained by the Municipality of Anchorage.

Right now the scenery is excellent. The trees and bushes are changing colors, the birds are towards the end of migration and people are getting out one last time before it turns cold.

Alaska Railroad's last tourist train to Seward is in a couple weeks. After that it's just freight trains until next spring. Alaska Railroad was bought by the State of Alaska from the U.S. Government in 1984. You can't miss their trains with the blue and yellow paint. They go by West Chester Lagoon blasting their horns and they get everyones attention.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Escape from Anchorage

The sun was out and the thermometer was reading 62°. I said to Ruth "it's time to get out of the house and see the trees changing colors". In Alaska you can't put that off too long because they change colors fast. "Lets go see if Hope is still there".

Actually it takes a lot to leave Anchorage. It's the largest city in the state, it's located in what we Alaskans call “Southcentral Alaska” at the head of Cook Inlet. The area encompasses 1,697.2 sq. miles of land and 263.9 sq. miles of water. Got that? I'll test you on that later.

Our first stop was Bird Point (1st pic). It was full with Tour Buses, so we stayed for a very short time and headed on down the road. We planned to hit it on the way back but we ran out of time.

Our next stop was in Girdwood. The place to go skiing in the winter and winter is starting to show itself. In the second picture, that light dusting is what we call termination dust. Pretty much terminating summer. In between the peaks though that is one of the many glaciers surrounding Girdwood.

Next stop was Portage where we ran into some friends who were using a huge scope to spot wildlife. He showed us a momma black bear and cub almost2 miles away. We played around some more and found a couple running their dogs at a glacier pond (3rd pic). Those dogs were brave going in that cold water. Time to move on.

Next stop was Turnagain Arm which was our first stop out of Anchorage. Here's where we started to see the tree leaves changing colors. We hiked all over the top of Turnagain Pass (4th pic). We spotted a few good camping spots for next year. Ponds were eveywhere. Full of minnows and a few ducks still.

Next was Hope Junction. The old highway bridge (5th pic) there was made into a bike trail and it's gorgeous. I remember wanting to close my eyes when we crossed that old bridge. From there you can see all kinds of trees changing colors. It was worth the trip. Now we're getting hungry. It's time to head home.

The trees should be changing more the next couple of weeks. if the weather holds out we may make another trip.

Click on the pic bellow to see the whole trip album

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Did you know

A little known story of WWII was the relationship of the U.S. and Russia during the time prior to Russia declaring war on Japan. According to International Law, Russia was a neutral country and was obliged to intern personnel of warring nations if they were within the control of Russian armed forces.

Until the mid 1980's, the activities of these airmen was highly classified.

It all started with the famous Doolittle Raiders. One crew due to a fuel shortage, landed north of Valdivoltok instead of China, and were instantly interned. Over the next three years thirty five other crews, for a total of 291 Americans met the same fate. With the exception of 4 B-29 crews of the 29th Air Force, these airman were members of the old Army Air Corps and Navy Air Wing 4 from the Aleutian Islands. They were flying missions against the Japanese Kurile Islands.

In case of aircraft damage, the preplanned escape route was to Petropovlavsk, Kamchatke Peninsula. "Petro" was a holding point until a group became large enough to move across Siberia to another holding point at Tashkent Russia. The trip across Siberia R.R. to flying in an old C-47 is with Russian crews. All in all five seperate groups were held and released by various methods. The last group was released after the war ended.

1075 names of 11th Air Force, Fleet Air Wing 4 and Canadian men and women that were killed, interned or missing during WWII in the Aleutian Islands are inscribed on the wall of honor.

The memorial is located on the southside of Merrill Field near the 15th Ave and Lake otis interesction.

The black & white photo is from the bio of Ex-POW Jack Smith. For more, click here and here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Anchorage is never boring

The day started off as most days this time of year, chilly and raining. By noon though the sun broke through the clouds. I started out at Goose Lake. On hot days it's full of those enjoying the lake swimming. The city provides lifeguards and there's a bike trail that goes around the lake. The University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) is not far away at all.

It's that time of year when the trees are changing colors. You have to watch them because in Alaska they change fast.

The sun came out and I was bored so I went down to the Port of Anchorage at Ship Creek. From here you can see all around Cook Inlet and on a clear day you can see Denali (Mt. McKinley). But not today, it was a little hazy.

There was a barge working a dredging operation for the expansion of the port. He was doing what looked like brodies in the inlet. He was making good time.

Then there was an Air Force C130 practicing take offs and landings. Round and round he went.

My last shot is of an old water tower on Government Hill. When the kids were little and we would go on Elmendorf AFB to go shopping, we would joke on who's turn it was to wait in the red and white thing until the rest of us was done. I wonder who's turn it is.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Out with the old and in with the new

We purchased this 1988 Dodge Ramcharger in 1988 from Anchorage Chrysler Dodge when I was married to my kids mom. A few years later we divorced and my pick up got totaled so I acquired it back from her. I drove it regularly until this summer.

I named her Flo because she went along with the flow of things. It never left me stranded until recent years. All I had to do was normal maintenance and it was done by me. The last few years it would be done by my oldest son or the shop where he now works because I wouldn't have the time to do it.

Flo was a gentle beast. She would drive through any snow storm, any mud or any hill. She could carry a lot of stuff. In the picture at left I had 7 coolers of frozen salmon in it and she drove like she was loaded with Styrofoam. She wasn't much to look at with her faded paint and white spoked wheels, but she was dependable.

The price of gas went up to $3.00 a gallon and it was costing me about $75 a week to drive her. It was time for a change. I had hesitated even though the type of job I do, what I drive reflects on my image. Well if old and dependable is what they saw, they were right. But the gas bill was gnawing at me. It had outlasted wives, girlfriends, lovers, jobs, volcanic eruptions and a lot of others things, but the price of gas was turning me away from her. I had wrecked 2 other cars with it and the most it received was a scratch on the bumper. It was time to shop for a new Flo, $3.00 a gallon was way too much.

One of my accounts is South Anchorage Dodge which is owned by Lithia Motors. We went shopping and they treated us like a customer should be treated. He showed us the 2007 version of Flo, a new Durango. She has room to seat 7 people comfortably and it can carry 9 coolers of frozen salmon. She gets about 7 miles per gallon better than Flo. She has air conditioning and cruise control. A lifetime drive train warranty, WOW! We took her home. If we didn't like her we could take her back within 3 days. She's still here 3 months later and I think she's a keeper.

I named her Lucille. I'm a fan of B.B. King. If Lucille is a good enough name for his guitar, then it's good for my new Flo. She fits into my work image, old dependable guy in nice new truck, er excuse me SUV. That term didn't exist when Flo was new but neither did fuel injection in a Ramcharger.

She's the first vehicle I ever bought that doesn't have a cigarette lighter. That's OK! I quit smoking over 7 years ago. She rides nice and handles well. She's my Lucille.

I kept Flo. She sat for a couple months at the house. She's now with my youngest daughter Cassie. Her first vehicle. Flo is big enough to take on anything and I know Cassie will be OK. Flo will take care of my baby girl.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Potter Marsh

I don't work at my real job on Wednesdays. I do mostly volunteer work. The weather person predicted rain so of course we had a pretty sunny day. Ruth got off work at 4 and so I said it's too pretty a day to waste at home, let's go somewheres. So we did, Potter Marsh.

Potter Marsh is part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. It's one of the most popular birding sites in Alaska. At least 130 bird species have been sighted in the refuge. Today we saw American Wigeons, Greater Yellowlegs, Mallards, and some a little too far away to identify.

The scenery was great. There was a storm headed our way so it was a little windy. There are Spruce, cottonwoods, and alders framing all around the north and east sides of the marsh.

ConocoPhillips has invested over $600,000 dollars into the improvements of the Potter Marsh boardwalk and public areas along with millions from state and municipality funds and the Friends of Potter Marsh.

We drove over to the Potter Section House, an old railroad service building just south of the marsh, it now operates as a state-park office. Out front is an old engine with a rotary snowplow that was used to clear the mountain passes. We played around on some of the old equipment on display and it started to rain hard. It was time to head home, the weather gal got her way.

Potter Marsh

Click to see more pic's

Monday, September 3, 2007

The First One

This being my first post on this blog, I'll warn you right off of the bat that there will be lots of pictures.

My wife Ruth and I decided after brunch to go to Ship Creek and see what's there today. We started at the old power plant dam. The power plant is now used as a warehouse and a large shop. However, the damn is still in place. During the summer you'll find all kinds of tourist from all over looking to see what they can see. There were a few spawned out salmon, and lots of seagulls.

We worked our way down towards the railroad bridge and we came upon a Harbor Seal. This was a pleasant surprise. We have never seen or heard of one up the creek this far.

We hung out near the railroad bridge for a while and determined that the seal had moved on and so should we. This time of year is nice because most tourist have already visited. This is considered the end of the main tourist season for the year.

As we made our way towards the Bridge Restaurant, there were several Mew Gulls and immature gulls (which are hard to identify)eating at fish carcases. There is plenty of fish carcases or heads there for them because it is a popular local fishing spot right in town. Things have slowed down for the season though.

You have to be careful walking along the banks of the creek. The glacier mud is very slippery. However, the Greater Yellowleg was making it's way along just fine. It could care less that I was there.

We walked back to the dam where on our way to the truck we came across a Northern Pintail that was doing some serious eating. She didn't care what was going o around her. Our interest attracted a lot of attention, but when the people came near they couldn't figure out why.

We left the dam and drove over to the Elmendorf State Hatchery. It has seen it's better days, but there's rumors of a big overhaul. It's still a neat place to visit. Earlier in the season you can come see King Salmon trying to jump up the weir. This time of year it's good for the scenery. Ruth also enjoyed feeding the trout.

The older and larger part of the hatchery isn't used anymore. Their free heat source from the Air Force Base has gone away and they have had to scale back. It's a common situation in the lower 48 and now here also. But because of the situation it has become a nice little marsh type area.

There is a bike trail that goes all along the area I wrote about today. Parts of it is still under construction and should be completed next spring.
I'll be there!