Sunday, February 28, 2010

Travel Log to Alaska in 1993 (Coldfoot, Part 2)


It has been a rainy day in Coldfoot. The rain started last night and has been intermittent throughout the day. This area normally doesn’t get much rain, in fact the annual rainfall is 10 inches. On the other side of the Brooks Range it rains about 5 inches annually. This is called an Arctic Desert.
We went on a nature walk with a group of tourists this morning. I also spent time working on computer programs at the Center. I am putting all of our Alaska Natural History Association forms into an EXCEL spreadsheet format. Marian is continuing to get our trailer better in better order. The towels we have here are very large so she cut them in half and hand sticked the ends. Tonight there will be a small tourbus coming in so we will go over to the Center at about eight for a couple of hours.
There were about 12 tourists over this evening for the presentation. After the presentation Marian, Rick, Sandy and myself went over to the Coldfoot bar for a few hours. Rick is a new person who just got into Coldfoot today and will represent the National Park Service at the Center.


It continued to rain throughout the night last night. I think that so much rain in a short period of time is unusual for here. Marian and I got into our trailer near two AM today and slept till almost ten. This is going to be a beautiful day. The ground will remain wet for some time with the low evaporation due to the permafrost layer. This makes it messy going in and out of the trailer.
Today is an official work day for us. We were at the Center from noon until about nine thirty. Marian gave the presentation tonight and did a very good job. Would you believe, a man and his wife from my ham club in Alexandria were on the tour bus. We were surprised when we saw them and enjoyed the conversation.
After leaving the Center this evening we went over to the bar for a couple of hours with Sandy & Rick. Sandy has this tradition that whenever someone does their first presentation she buys.
Tomorrow Marian & I will head down to Fairbanks for our Bear Safety & rifle training. Arrangements were made with a small plane from Frontier Airlines to make a stop here in Coldfoot to pick us up. When we return to Coldfoot Thurs/Fri the USF&W is going to try to arrange to get one of their planes to bring us back.
Well enough for now. I won’t write again until we return from our trip to Fairbanks.


We have had a great time the past few days. On the afternoon of 8 June the USF&W arranged for a charter Frontier Airline plane to pick us up at the Coldfoot airstrip and fly us into Fairbanks. This was a twin engine Beach craft. Just after leaving Coldfoot we saw a big tanker truck fire on the Dalton. This truck explosion made the Fairbanks front page. Tom, our USF&W contact, picked us up at the Fairbanks airport and gave us a govt. vehicle to use while in Fairbanks. They put us up in the Denali Suite at the Westmark Hotel with full per diem. Our room was as large as three normal size rooms. After coming in from the wild and trailer living we felt like we were in “hog heaven”.
On the 9th & 10th we were in Bear Safety & gun training. The 9th & morning of the 10th was devoted exclusively to classroom training. We went out to the Ft. Wainwright firing range all afternoon on the 10th. The actual firing range training was fun and interesting. We shot at fixed targets and a simulated moving bear target. Marian & I qualified on the Remington 870 Police Magnum using a 12 gauge slug. This shell shoots a single “big slug” of lead which when fired slams the gun stock pretty hard against your shoulder. We fired many rounds. We were required to get at least one slug out of three in the designated kill zone on the target. This wasn’t difficult at all to do. The moving target was a little more challenging but both of us qualified OK.
The USF&W issued us a 870 Magnum & ammunition to bring back to Coldfoot. It is an official office policy that anyone assigned to one of the USF&W field sites must go through this training and be qualified on a weapon. We are in bear country here at Coldfoot and the surrounding area. We have both Black and Grizzly bears here. One year in the past a bear almost got into one of the trailers. Also when we go out on hikes it desirable to have some type of protection should it be needed.
Marian & I are very pleased with the USF&W. We are not getting much money for our daily pay but there are sure a lot of fringes. Today, 11 June, we returned to Coldfoot on a small USF&W single engine airplane. The Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) office set up the flight and provided the plane & pilot. We flew from Fairbanks to the Arctic Village for a refueling stop (we had to hand pump the gas from a big barrel). It is kind of interesting that when you decide to land somewhere you just get on 122.0 MHz and announce “I am going to land here” then do it. We proceeded over the North & South slopes of the Brooks Mountain Range, over the ANWR, the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and etc. It was a great experience to see this wild and scenic area from a low flying aircraft. Sometimes we had to look up at the mountains while flying between them. We could see bears & wildlife on the ground and Dall Sheep high on the mountain peaks. If you can believe it, when we finally landed at Coldfoot we taxied down the road, across the Dalton Highway and right up in front of the Visitor Center within 20 feet of the front door. Where else could you do something like this than in the wilds of Alaska. This is truly bush flying country where most anything you think you are competent enough to do goes.
Tonight I gave the presentation at the Center. Marian gave it prior to leaving for Fairbanks earlier in the week. So we are now pretty comfortable with the routine here and feel we now know enough about the area to competently talk & answer questions. We will have the Center to ourselves tomorrow. The others will be going on a float trip down one of the rivers. We will make this trip a little later on. We need to get in a little work time first before a pleasure trip.


Today was our first day to solo at the Center and all went well. We gave two presentations today. Normally we only give one presentation in the evening however a bus load of tourists got stranded in Coldfoot due to bus problems so we provided some entertainment for them. WOULD YOU BELIEVE, we now have indoor plumbing, and a cook stove. We brought the hot water heater back with us yesterday in the airplane and I got it installed today. ALL SYSTEMS ARE NOW OPERATIONAL IN THE TRAILER.
One of the BLM fellows stopped by this evening for a short visit. He said while he was changing a flat tire on the Dalton a bear came down the road to investigate. He got the tire changed fast and back in the truck in a flash.
Tomorrow we will be by ourselves again at the Center. Sundays are usually a pretty slow day here.


This morning was “dump day”. I am certain that we did something wrong since when we got the trailer back to the resting spot the tanks still registered half. We will try it again tomorrow. When we move the trailer we have to secure everything down and take the breakable things out of the cabinets. It is almost like re-packing.
We were at the Center from 1300 until 1700 and again from 1930 until 2200. We had a number of guests today. Marian gave the evening presentation. As I have said previously, I am in computer heaven here with three Macs. Like any design person I keep improving my programs every day. We keep track of rain with a sophisticated rain gauge. We also have a big platform which measures snow weight and computes inches of snow. I will set up a database soon for these measuring instruments. Today I got most of the ANHA inventory into the EXCEL spreadsheet/database.
Joe, the latest member of our Interagency Center just arrived. He is a volunteer with the National Park Service. We now have 5 persons at the Center. We are a high percentage of the total number of persons in “metropolitan” Coldfoot.


This has been a pretty routine day. We were at the Center for about 9 hours off & on today. There were about 56 tourists in the Center today of which 46 attended the evening presentation. Sandy & Rick came over to our trailer and visited with us this evening. It is midnight now so after we have a cup of coffee and a little snack we will give some thought about going to bed.


We went over to the Center for a couple of hours this morning then took off for Nolan. Nolan is just down the road from Wiseman (a back dirt road). Nolan was one of the mining settlements at the turn of the century and in fact there is still mining going on there. We visited with Paul & Sue Dionne who work a claim on Nolan Creek. They have, and are currently, taking quite a bit of gold out of the hills around Nolan. The first nugget he dug out when first starting the mining operation weighed 7.5 ounces. We went up to Sue & Pauls house and Marian bought a small gold nugget for a necklace. Sue brought out a pan full of gold nuggets for Marian to select from. Some of the Nuggets were in the thousands of dollars weight value. Sue will put a mount on Marians nugget and drop it by the Center when she makes her monthly trip into Coldfoot. It is, to say the least, a unique way of living there in Nolan. They live in a small house high on a hill overlooking Nolan Creek with a beautiful view overlooking a mountain range. Paul runs his gold mining operation in the summer when the soil has melted to the point where it can be worked. In the winter he hunts and traps. Their children are home taught since there are no schools for 250 miles. They use rainwater and creek water for washing dishes & cloths and haul their drinking water in from Coldfoot some 20 miles away over very rough roads.
Marian caught a head cold and has a sore throat and is feeling under the weather this evening. I have been sneezing some but so far so good. There were a number of drop-in’s today but no tour busses.


Things were pretty slow at the Center during the day. There were a couple of tour busses in for the evening presentation. Joe, the new fellow, made the presentation. Marian has been resting today trying to shake her cold so that she will feel better tomorrow.


We are off work today and we took advantage of this to do our weekly laundry. Marian is feeling somewhat better today after a rough night of coughing.
Tomorrow we are scheduled on a bus trip up to Prudhoe Bay. Arrangements have been made so that we can go up on one of the Princess Tour Busses and deadhead back on their southbound buses. We are looking forward to the trip and learning more about the Alaska Pipeline. The bus leaves at 0800 tomorrow morning and takes all day to reach Prudhoe. There will be a couple day lapse in the log until we return on Saturday evening. We have a four day off period.
The weather today has been great. There is a slight breeze which keeps the mosquitoes down somewhat. We keep one of the Mosquito Pic’s going most of the time we are in the trailer.


We are back in Coldfoot after a very interesting trip up to Prudhoe Bay. Prudhoe Bay is about 250 miles north of here and takes 8 hours on a tour bus to reach (with stops along the way looking at animals & lunch). Previously we had only been up the Dalton about 150 miles so we saw new territory on this trip. Twenty five percent of all U.S. oil comes from Prudhoe Bay through the Alaska Pipeline. It is North Americas largest oil field. The Oil facilities at Prudhoe are totally self contained. They have all that is required to live comfortably (relative) in Prudhoe. The employees are taken care of very well and well paid for their work. The work is demanding and in a very isolated area. Outside temperatures in the winter will normally be -40 to -60 degrees and with very high winds can cause a chill factor of -130 degrees. No one lives there permanently. The workers are on for a couple of weeks or so and off the same amount of time. Many of the workers live as far away as Louisiana, New Mexico, & etc. The Oil company will fly them to their home point free of charge on their time off. Prudhoe is what is called a “no second chance town” from the alcohol and drug standpoint. In other words a one time occurrence and you are out immediately. During the winter months they never shut off any of the car engines or heavy equipment engines. With the severe temperatures it would be very difficult to restart if shut off. All buildings are built on pilings frozen deep into the ground. They set the pilings deep into the permafrost in the summer and let them freeze into place over the winter before building a structure on them.
We went out to the shoreline of the Beaufort Sea which is the inland side of the Arctic Ocean. In the winter this sea is totally frozen to the shoreline. Now the ice has broken from the shore and floating out to the Arctic Ocean. The Polar Bears stay on the ice pack and float out to sea during the summer months.
It was quite an experience to see this area of Alaska and participate in the Oil field tour program. Marian & I stayed at the North Shore hotel in Prudhoe which was built in 1990. The rooms were small but the other accommodations in the hotel were superb. There was food and a coffee pots in every hall. The dining room was “an all you can eat and carry back to your room” arrangement. They also supply paper bags for taking food out during the day. Believe me we are both stuffed from yesterday and todays food. We had some fresh king salmon in addition to many other things last night. This morning we ate a breakfast like we were going out to work on the pipeline all day.
Marian & I both have colds now and are running a bit slow this evening. We will go to bed early and get some rest. Tomorrow will be a slow day since we are not scheduled to work.

Travel Log to Alaska in 1993 (Coldfoot, Part 1)

In this section we reached our destination in Coldfoot, Alaska
Link to the Coldfoot Website
Dalton Highway (The "Haul Road")
The Arctic Circle


I am getting a little behind on writing our travel log. We did in fact leave Fairbanks for Coldfoot on the 28th. Our departure from Fairbanks was at 0730 and we arrived in Coldfoot at about 1700. We were pleasantly surprised at the good condition of the Elliott and Dalton Highways. Apparently the condition of the Dalton can change from day to day depending on the weather and the number of large “haul trucks” using the highway. The surface of these highways consists of packed dirt and gravel. Since the highway base is on a layer of permafrost it is somewhat unstable and can cause the surface to have ripples or heaves. We saw a lot of new things on the trip including miles and miles of the Alaska pipe, some wildlife (not the nightclub type), endless tundra areas and boreal forests, mountains, etc. With daytime temperatures in 60s to 70s the snow is melting fast on the mountains including the Brooks range. We stopped many times on the trip to look at new sights and take photos. Of course one of our stops was at the Arctic Circle where we got a photo of Marian standing above the circle and me below the circle.
Coldfoot is about what we expected. It is the last place on the Dalton highway where one can get any services. There is a sign as you pass the Coldfoot turn off on the Dalton that says “last services”, not “last services for x number of miles” but just “last services”. There is a sign in the Coldfoot cafe that says “the last truck stop above the Arctic Circle”. As you probably know the Dalton highway is the only highway that goes above the Arctic Circle on our continent. Well more about Coldfoot. When we arrived our first order of business was to ready our trailer so we would have a place to stay. Well that wasn’t as easy done as said. There were some things broken inside the trailer resulting from it’s round trip journey to Fairbanks which I told you about earlier. Next we didn’t have the right ball hitch on the Govt. truck to move the trailer to its slot so we had to get it done by Coldfoot Services which works on Coldfoot time (whenever time). It was moved to the slot we selected later in the evening. I will admit that it is hard to get a perspective on time here since it is light all of the time and the amount of light change is very small from hour to hour. Next we had to “jerry rig” the battery on the trailer since we didn’t have the right battery connectors. Then . . . when we connected the water is began spraying all over the outside back of the trailer. Then . . . when we connected the AC there wasn’t any. After filling the propane tanks and connecting the gas lines - you probably was thinking that the trailer exploded. No, the gas worked just fine. Well to make a very long story a few sentences. At about two in the morning we were able to disconnect the water heater and remove it. Apparently water was left in the hot water tank last year and with the -30F temperature and 10 foot snow in Coldfoot the tank ruptured. To remove the hot water heater we had to disconnect the water supply and turn off the gas. Our trailer is now without water or gas to cook with until we can get a new heater. Since we are here in no-mans land you can’t run down the local RV place and get a new one so a heater will have to be purchased in Anchorage, shipped to Fairbanks and some way get sent to Coldfoot. Guess who gets to install it. If I had one more inch on my belly I couldn’t squeeze into a small opening where the gas and water lines attach to the heater. I’ll have to watch my diet so that won’t be an obstacle to it’s installation when we finally get the heater. Oh yes about the electricity. Today, 30 May, we were able to get that fixed. At least we can cook on our camping stove, carry water in, and have lights & refrigeration. Last night we took our meats over to the cafe and they were kind enough to put them in their refrigerator until our electricity was fixed. They apparently put in a new electrical hookup system here but hadn’t checked it out completely. There is only one other trailer here besides us right now. Our trailer is a very nice one and is only three years old. We are the third occupants. Even with all of the events that have taken place we are pleased with it and in fact it is very comfortable with the “work arounds” we have in place. One thing that I didn’t mention. Even though we didn’t get to bed until after two AM this morning we were never in darkness. At 0200 here it was about the same light as seven PM light in Washington. It is really hard getting use to not having darkness. It is a little hard to sleep since our bodies are normally triggered by darkness to tell us that we should start thinking about going to bed.
Today (29th) we spent a number of hours at the visitors center getting it prepared to open on the 1st. A lot was accomplished but there are many more things remaining on the “to-do” list. The center was buried in snow this winter so various things required repair (still do). Marian planted flowers all around the center so it will look attractive to our guests. Sandy, the BLM seasonal employee, is very easy to work with. After our work at the center today Sandy took us on a walking tour of “Metropolitan Coldfoot” and showed us where things were located. We also walked to Old Coldfoot, down to the river, the airstrip (dirt), & etc. We met a high percentage of the people in Coldfoot including the seasonal employees with Coldfoot Services which provides everything that is available to be provided in Coldfoot.
We have had some coffee & cookies and it is 0120 on the 30th now. I had better close this log and continue with the events of 30th a little later in the day. One morning soon we will get some photos late at night (early in the morning) so we can remanence about the “land of the midnight sun” when we return to the lower 48 or “down south” as the locals say.

05/30/93 (continued)

There is a water leak in the fresh water holding tank so we have been soaking up water with towels for most of the morning. When we are able to connect up to the main water source this problem should go away. Marian has been doing laundry in a pot on the Coleman stove and hanging the cloths on a makeshift line stretched between the trailer and the truck. We will not be working at the Center today so this gives us a chance to get settled into our new home. It is a simply beautiful day with bright sun, clear sky's, and a cool breeze (no mosquitoes right now).
Thank goodness we brought a tape recorder and some pre-recorded tapes since we cannot pickup any AM or FM stations at all. This even covers night time reception when you would think that some skip station could be heard. We should have the tapes memorized by the time we leave here. I now wish that we had brought a short wave radio so could listen to the Voice of America and maybe Radio Moscow.
Sandy dropped by and after talking for a while we all ate dinner together. Since we don’t have gas in the trailer yet we fixed the dinner on our Coleman stoves. We are all stuffed. Sandy brought over several bags of cookies, cakes and other sweets & fruit that the Pipeline people had given her. I keep talking about the difficulty in getting use to daylight all of the time. Tonight we were cooking out at 10 PM and ate at about 11 PM.
Tomorrow morning we will go over to the Center and continue our preparations for opening. We should have it in pretty good shape after our work tomorrow. Sandy has to complete putting together the slide show. Since we are newcomers to the Arctic we will have to listen to Sandy giving the presentation a few times before we give it.

05/31/93 - 06/01/93

It is a little after twelve midnight and we just ate and took our showers. Since we don’t have water in the trailer yet we have to go over to the Coldfoot Services shower. This morning we worked at the Center putting on the final touches for the formal opening. After our work at the Center we used a BLM truck and made our way up the Dalton for about 100 miles. This was a very interesting trip. A little ways down the road we stopped off in the town of Wiseman (about 25 people) and talked with some of the town folk. We got to the end of the road leading into Wiseman and encountered a swift flowing creek. It didn’t look like a creek we would want to cross in a vehicle. There was a small wooden bridge so we walked into town. There is absolutely no new construction in town, in fact most of the houses date back to the early 1900’s. Bill & Katie Mackey live is a modest old house and works as a dog mushier. He works with Sourdough Outfitters and takes tourists for multi-day dog sled adventures in Gates of the Arctic National Park during the winter months. His father was the man who started the original Coldfoot Services. He started with a converted school bus and served drinks and sandwiches to Dalton Highway truck drivers as they made their way to and from Prudhoe Bay. Another young man, Jack Reakoff, showed us the original home of Big Jim who was a prospector at the turn of the century who had a gold claim in Wiseman. Jack earns his living hunting and trapping. Children in Wiseman and other out of the way places here in Alaska are home taught. There are no formal schools in the small towns so the state provides an educational program that the parents administer. A state education person comes out to the homes periodically to ensure that the children are progressing. I could spend a number of paragraphs on this subject. After Wiseman we passed the Sukakpak Mountains. In this area there were many pingos and ice ledges visible. Pingos, heaves & polygons are similar and formed by the permafrost causing the soil to buckle and form small to very large mounds. In washed out places you can see the frozen layer underneath the thin crust of tundra. This formation is called an ice ledge. Since we were in a government vehicle we proceeded past Disaster Creek which is the end of the line for public travel on the Dalton. The scenery past Disaster Creek is primarily Arctic tundra and completely treeless. At this point you are
in the Brooks Mountain Range next to Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Brooks Range form the northern most extension of the Rocky Mountains. Since we are now well up into the Arctic the snow is still pretty heavy on the mountains. Within another month most of this snow will melt except on the highest peaks. The Arctic tundra will be transformed into a new world from its winter shield of snow. We traversed the Atigun Pass and while stopped to photograph some Dall sheep high on the slopes noticed that one of our tires was going flat. After putting on a spare tire we decided not to tempt fate and headed back for Coldfoot. To put it mildly, you are near the end of civilization on this section of the Dalton (that’s why it is not open to the public). The road is very dusty, rough, sharp rocks, & etc. BUT it is a totally new experience to see such a place like this. We will repeat this trip in a few weeks but will keep going deeper into the Arctic or until something happens to stop us.
Today (it’s 0100 now on 1 June) we will formally open the Center for tourists. More folks seem to be coming up north now than in the past so we are expecting a heavy tourist season. Marian & I have to learn the Arctic as fast as possible so we can answer questions posed by the tourists. At this point we feel more like tourists than the ones providing the interpretive presentations & answering questions.
Like I just said, it’s after 1 AM so we are going to hit the hay even though it is daylight.

06/01/93 (Continued)

Marian and I went over to the center before noon today and got started on some computer work, cleaning, & etc. Sandy instructed us on the operation of ANHA including report forms, cash accounting, & cash register operation. She also went through a dry run of the slide presentation. There were several drop-in’s today and three BLM men stopped by to go over some of the requested maintenance items. We kept the Center open for guests until 2230.
Even though the few sentences above sounds like a pretty light day, it wasn’t. I won’t go into details on the etc. but we did keep very busy all day.
We now have a next door neighbor here in the trailer park. I suppose as the summer progresses more trailers will move in. The folks next door are from Florida.
Still no sign of our hot water heater. As I have said previously we will be without running water and a stove until it arrives. We were told that it “should be here anytime”. I am not sure what “anytime” means but I hope that it means tomorrow.
Tomorrow is mail day so we will rush down to the Coldfoot post office and see what awaits us as soon as it opens. We will wash the truck tomorrow morning since it is dusty and muddy here the truck is brown instead of red.
We will go over to the Center at about noon to one and be there until ten or eleven in the evening. A tour bus is scheduled for tomorrow night and we will likely have drop-in’s during the day. Of course there are still a number of things that need to be done in addition to taking care of our guests.


It is six PM and we are on a break before the tourists arrive at eight thirty. Marian & I went for a short walk in the woods. We must learn about the plant and animal life so we are better prepared to talk about it at the Center. We slept until almost nine this morning so maybe we are getting into a routine. Marian & I are getting more use to daylight at night. We rarely get to bed before midnight or after. I spend most of the day working on computer database setups and making labels & signs. Marian worked with Sandy on setting up interpretive displays and many other tasks that needed to be done around the Center. I think that we are in pretty good shape for the tourists now. Tonight we will have 20 or 30 folks off the Arctic tourbus who will come over for the interpretive slide show presentation & conversation.
Still no hot water heater so we are still cooking over the Coleman and washing in buckets of water. Earlier in the week I think that I explained the connection between the water heater and our lack of trailer water/gas. Tonight we will have fried potatoes and bacon and probably some cookies. One of the men who works on Pump Station 5 brought a big sack of sweets to the Center a couple days ago and we are still eating on them.


Well it’s midnight and we just returned from taking a shower and enjoying a big piece of pie at the cafe. We have had a full day. Our first chore this morning was to wash the truck and get a few layers of dust and mud off it. I worked some more on setting up computer databases which we will use at the center to keep up with the tourists statistics & etc. This afternoon we were at the Center until about 6 PM. Marian worked with Sandy in setting up some more interpretive displays. We came back to the trailer and had dinner then returned to the Center. There were two tour busses in this evening and about 45 tourists at the Center. Officially we are off today but what do you do on your days off in Coldfoot? Not much. Probably this coming Saturday we will borrow the BLM truck and head into the wilderness.
We are almost getting use the midnight sun. I have a little cave that I sleep in at night. To better explain. I can open the bathroom door against the bed and hang some cloths down from the top bunk and snake into the bottom bunk. I fool myself into thinking that it is nighttime that way.
By the way we are still more or less camping out in the trailer still with no inside water or propane. I don’t know what happened to the hot water heater which was suppose to be here by now. Probably the truck driver forgot to take it off and someone in Prudhoe Bay is wondering why they have the thing. The electricity here is generated on-site and they don’t have the frequency quite right. Our electric clock runs about a half hour slow per day. Time is no great consequence here anyway.
Tomorrow we will go into the Center early afternoon even though we are officially off until this coming Monday.


This was a sleep-in morning. We went to bed after midnight and didn’t get up until ten this morning. It sounds like a broken record but I spent most of what was left of the morning working on the Computer. There is a MAC-SE here and I have my Powerbook. The fonts in these machines are not quite compatible so I am having to re-do all of the databases and programs that I want to work on both machines. I think that I have found how to do it without changing the System configuration on the machines. We went over to the Center for awhile today and will go back over this evening. As I said earlier we are off-duty until Monday but there are still things to do and we really don’t have any pressing appointments. Tomorrow I think we will take the BLM truck and do some exploring.
At last nights presentation it got pretty warm in the room. A lot of the people were saying “we are in the Arctic, where is the cold weather”. We are in fact having pretty warm weather which surprised us too. It was 85 in Fairbanks yesterday. Most of the snow has now melted off the mountains which we have a view of here in Coldfoot.
Marian did another “Pot” washing today and the cloths are hanging out. It is handy to have the sun shining for so many hours. We placed a call to Fairbanks today to see if they could put a trace on the elusive water heater.


Today we went up the Dalton. We had a great time and were fortunate enough to see some wildlife. First we saw two Black Bears cross the Dalton just in front of us, then a little bit further down there was a Grizzly lumbering down the highway. When he saw us he reared up on his hind legs and looked around. He then headed for the bushes. Next while we were stopped to photograph some flowers a Red Fox came walking by. We next saw a Long tailed Jaeger diving over the tundra. Then as we passed over Atigun Pass there were Dall Sheep high upon the peaks. We saw a lot of other birds but couldn’t identify them other than several types of Gulls. I took photos of all . . . Then. . . when I was rolling the film it snapped out of the cassette and I lost all of the shots. Boy was I mad...We probably won’t get that close (anyway I hope we don’t) to black and grizzly bears again. To say the least this was an exciting day for us. We traveled to within 60 miles of Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton. The trip was rough and dusty but worth it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Travel Log to Alaska in 1993 (Part 3 of a Multi-Part Travel Blog 21-27 May)

This is part 3 of a 3 part Travel log to Alaska. After this part, the next chapters will reflect experiences while at our destination in Coldfoot, Alaska.


This has been an interesting day. The Taylor highway intersects with the ALCAN near Tok. This highway has a packed dirt/gravel surface as did the “Top of the World highway”. The road was in very good condition to Chicken with only a few soft spots now and then. The distance from our hotel to Chicken was about 70 miles and we arrived in Chicken shortly before noon. Since I have been telling you the town size throughout this log I don’t want to short change Chicken. Chicken has a population of 23 with one family accounting for about 30% of the total. There is one general store and a few shacks. The store keeper said that he had a nice house so although we didn’t see it I guess there is also at least one “nice house” in town. We made our way to the BLM field station which is only a mile or so from the store. The BLM facility is located in a pretty spot and had a number of nice buildings. I am sure that they are the best buildings in Chicken. Marian & I might consider spending a summer at this field site. The main disadvantage is that there appears to be no indoor johns or showers in any of the buildings. There is running water in the main cabin & probably some of the other buildings. Since the field site hadn’t yet opened for the season we were not able to actually go inside individual buildings. So we had to peer through the windows. There appears to be a complete kitchen in the main cabin, a bedroom, living room, office & other smaller rooms. They have a nice boat house, generator shed, a house trailer, work sheds & mosquitoes at the site. If we did decide to come back to Tok for a BLM volunteer assignment next year I think that we would be on the river at least every two weeks for several days. Since BLM has such a large and varied responsibility in this area I am sure that there would be quite a few other things for us to do. BLM maintains several recreation areas & has the responsibility for monitoring the forty-mile and other designated “wild & scenic” rivers. I don’t think that our river running responsibility would be limited to the forty-mile river. Well we have plenty of time to think about this as a possible place for our next years volunteer work. Oh yes, Kathy invited us to spend a few days in Tok on our return trip and join her in a float trip down one of the rivers. We may take her up on this offer.
Since we were not too far from the “Top of the World Highway” we decided to continue on from Chicken. The road was rough for the rest of our trip to a wide spot called Boundary which is about 5 miles from the Yukon Territory. It is sure not hard to guess why they call this the “Top of the World Highway”. Having the opportunity to see the sights made it worth the rough & dusty drive. There are working gold mines & stakes all along the route. We stopped to talk with a couple of prospectors. Apparently they are still getting enough gold out of the area to make it worthwhile for a person who doesn’t expect to strike it rich. Back in Chicken, however, the store owner said that one mine extracted 500 ounces of gold last year. I don’t know how many tons of gravel they had to sift through or dredge to get that amount. Our total round-trip today was about 250 miles (all on packed dirt/gravel dusty roads). After returning from the trip we washed the truck and cleaned the dust off ourselves then went to dinner. A restaurant down the street has a salmon bake each evening so we decided gave that a try. We actually had a combo of king salmon, halibut & reindeer sausage in addition to a nice salad bar and of course baked beans. When we get to town that has a cloths store we may have to stop and buy new cloths. We have been eating ourselves silly since we started the trip.
Well tomorrow will be our last day on the road for this segment of our trip. It’s hard to believe that we are almost there since we have been on the road for so many days. It is only a little over two hundred miles from Tok to Fairbanks. It will be nice to settle in at one place for a few days. Of course after Fairbanks we still have a day on the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) before reaching Coldfoot. I think that we will have a week in Fairbanks before leaving for Coldfoot.


Today was a sleep-in day so we didn’t get underway until after ten. The ALCAN highway officially ends at Delta Junction and the road continuing to Fairbanks is called the Richardson Highway. Both the ALCAN and Richardson were in great condition. Up the road from Delta Junction at the Fur Shack one can get their picture taken with Ethel, wearing her famous Arctic fur bikini. We passed up this opportunity. Outside Delta Junction we got our first view of the Alaska pipeline as it passed over the Tanana river. Before reaching Fairbanks we stopped at the North Pole and visited Santa’s house. Of course we sent cards to the Kyle, Ryan & Stefan. We arrived in Fairbanks at about three o’clock and checked into the Westmark hotel. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife had made reservations for us and are picking up the tab for our stay in Fairbanks. Things appear to be more expensive here in Fairbanks than in other towns. Our hotel room is $95.00/night. The Federal Building/Courthouse is only a couple of blocks from our hotel so we can walk to work while we are here. Of course we wanted to see downtown Fairbanks so we took a driving tour around town. Downtown Fairbanks is only a few blocks from our hotel. Downtown Fairbanks is located on the south side of the Chena River and most of the quick food places and malls are on the north side of the river.
Fairbanks was established in 1903/04 as a mining community and named for Sen. Charles Fairbanks from Indiana (later the vice president under Theodore Roosevelt). Fairbanks is the 2nd largest city in the state with a population of a little over 77,000.
We logged 4626 miles in reaching Fairbanks and have about 250 more miles to go before we reach Coldfoot. The weather is perfect here in Fairbanks with clear sky's and a daytime temperature in the low 70’s. At this time of the year sunset is at about midnight and sunrise about three in the morning.


Todays the day. We went into the U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USF&W) office today and met with Tom Edgerton who we will be our boss. Tom is a very nice person and I am sure that we will enjoy working with him. Most of today was spent with administrative matters such as filling out government forms, getting our per diem allotment, meeting people and such. We also went over to the Bureau of Land Management Office across town to meet with Sandy who is the seasonal BLM person assigned to Coldfoot. We learned that there will also be a volunteer from the National Park Service with us at Coldfoot. A funny thing happened to the trailer we are to stay in at Coldfoot. It was hauled back to Fairbanks by mistake last week. BLM was scheduled to pick up a house trailer in Coldfoot and bring it to Fairbanks. Well they hauled our trailer back instead of the one they were suppose to. Tom checked on this today and found that BLM took it back (we think). This trailer wasn’t conditioned for travel so we hope that it will make the round trip with all of the things inside more or less in tact. I guess we will find out when we arrive and open the door.
Marian, Tom & I will head up to Coldfoot Friday. Sandy, the BLM seasonal, is going up tomorrow. Tom will only be in Coldfoot for a day to make some administrative arrangements. He will open an account at the Coldfoot Services so we can charge things we might need such as propane, repairs, an occasional meal at the restaurant, & etc. We plan on opening the Coldfoot Interagency Visitors Center on 1 June. Sandy told us that there was quite a bit of snow remaining in Coldfoot as of last week. Tomorrow we will go out shopping for a months supply of food, official cloths and other things for Coldfoot. Tomorrow night Tom invited us over to his house for dinner.
We will not get our bear and weapons training this week. USF&W will make arrangements to send a small plane to Coldfoot & pick us up around the 8th of June and bring us back to Fairbanks for the training. If the pilot has the time we hope to extend the return trip and fly over some other parts of the Arctic for indoctrination purposes. The National Parks Service will try to arrange a float trip down one of the designated “Wild & Scenic” rivers later on in the season. We are looking forward to both. We are very pleased with all we have seen and heard. . . .


As you may have guessed we are still in Fairbanks absorbing as much as possible about the Arctic Region of Alaska. Over the past two days the USF&W has shown us several videos on the far north including the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) which is one of several reserves in Alaska. The significance of the ANWR is that this is the specific reserve we will be providing most of interpretive presentation about while in Coldfoot. This reserve is located in the most northwest corner of Alaska and encompasses some 20 million acres of the most beautiful and fragile lands in the state. We have a lot to learn about the ANWR, Yukon Flats & Kanuti reserves in addition to the Gates of the Arctic National Park & the surrounding area. Today we spent quite a bit of time at the Public Lands Information Center here in Fairbanks. In addition to our studies & area familiarization we have been shopping for various items which will be needed in Coldfoot such as graphics supplies, trailer parts, hardware & such. Tomorrow we will complete our food shopping for our first month stay at Coldfoot.
We have an variety of projects in addition to our interpretive talks which we will work on in Coldfoot such as developing: “A handout on what to see in the area including a walking tour guide”, “Various information booklets”, “Photographing the flora, animals, and natural resources”, “Upgrades to the interpretive exhibits & slide presentation in the center”, “Physical improvements to the center”, and on & on.
Last night we had a very nice time and a great dinner at Tom & Kathy Edgerton’s home. One of the nice things about Fairbanks is that it is a short distance to just about any place in town. Tom and Kathy live about 4 miles out of downtown proper in a beautiful wooded area.
Yesterday we picked up some mosquito repellent jackets which are made of a mesh you soak in deet or similar chemicals. From what we have been told this protection is highly desirable when out of doors in the tundra. We also have mosquito rings to burn in the trailer when necessary. You know how gnats sometime swarm around you at a picnic? Well picture these gnats as being mosquitoes and you will have an idea of what it is like in tundra country. Coldfoot is at the junction of the Kuyukuk River & Slate Creek and surrounded by tundra. It is interesting that the Arctic area is considered a desert since the annual precipitation is only about 10 inches. Most moisture comes from the melting snow. We understand that Coldfoot got over 10 feet of snow this winter.


Tom showed us some slides today and we had some discussions on interpretive presentation techniques. We completed our shopping for Coldfoot supplies and finished our administrative requirements. Even though we are volunteers there is still paperwork involved. Our truck is packed to the top with those things we brought with us and our Coldfoot supplies. We are essentially at the end of the world when we reach Coldfoot and if we didn’t bring it we won’t be able to get it until we return to Fairbanks again. Bright and early tomorrow morning we will start the last leg of our journey. The drive to Coldfoot should take approximately eight hours.

Travel Log to Alaska in 1993 (Part 2 of a Multi-Part Travel Blog 17-21 May)


       Off we go again and sure enough this was a smaller boat. This boat, the LeConte, is only 235 ft long by 55 ft in breadth and seats 300 passengers with accommodations for 47 vehicles. As on prior segments, this boat was well under capacity with only 54 passengers on board. The accommodations were just fine for a small boat. There were several recliner lounges in addition to a small bar and restaurant. Later in the trip it was evident why they take a small boat on the trip between Sitka and Juneau. For the first three hours we retraced the narrow channel from Sitka to the main channel for Juneau. Again there were whale sightings and breathtaking scenery. Later in the day the sunset behind snow covered mountains was a new highlight for us to see. During the cruise there were some very interesting documentaries shown on the closed circuit TV. Earlier I said that it was understandable why they choose a small boat for this segment. We pulled into Angoon, Tenakee & Hoonah prior to Juneau. These towns are as small as their names sound. Angoon was the large town with a population of about 800 followed by Tenakee with 150. Tenakee is so small that they don’t have any designated roads. They don’t need them since there are only two vehicles in town (fire truck & fuel truck). Then I got to thinking - Tenakee is 15 times larger than Coldfoot -
       Oh yes about sleeping on board the small boat. Well we did sleep, at least a few hours. I guess that it wasn’t any worse than taking a coast to coast Jet trip and we could walk around.


       Juneau is often called “a little San Francisco”. It is nestled at the foot and on the side of Mount Juneau. We are now is the third largest city in Alaska with a population of 29,000. As with Sitka, Juneau is at sea level with a mild wet climate. Again, however, the weather was cooperative for our visit with clear sky's and mild temperature. Much like Washington D.C., the federal, state & local government comprises an estimated half of the total basic industry (if you can call government, industry). We took the advise of locals and parked our truck and did most of our town sightseeing via foot. The distances are not great and the streets are narrow & congested. Juneau is a pretty town with mostly modern buildings. Many of the structures in Juneau are federal or state offices. Since tourism is also very strong in Juneau there were plenty of places available to sell you things. One of the large cruise ships was in town today with a deluge of tourists walking the streets. After walking around we went into the “Red Dog Saloon” for a refreshment.
       As you know the Mendenhall Glacier is just outside the city of Juneau. The Mendenhall Glacier was formed during the “little ice age” which began about 3000 years ago. This glacier is fed by several other smaller glaciers in the Juneau ice field. We hiked a 3.5 mile loop with excellent views of the glacier, dense wooded areas and new growth forest where the glacier had covered in earlier years. At the face, the Mendenhall Glacier is 1.5 miles from side to side with a depth of 300 feet of ice. The best way to describe a glacier is to think of it as a “river of ice”. The average flow rate of this glacier is 2 feet per day with an average recession of 25 feet annually. After our walking tour of the glacier we boarded a helicopter and flew over the Mendenhall and feeder glaciers. The highlight of this trip was a landing on the Mendenhall glacier and walking on this slow moving ice mass. I took some photos of the deep crevices, gushing water flows and seemingly static creases in the ice. There were blue ponds formed by the melting ice and beautiful blue creases where the ice was cracking. Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed the helicopter ride, the glacier walk and the sights. Tomorrow will be our last day for the inside passage with our arrival in Haines.


       The boat was an hour late leaving Juneau today due to it’s late arrival and the time it took to load all of the RV’s, 18 wheelers, trucks & cars. The boat was fully packed with vehicles and several hundred people. Since the only way in & out of Juneau is by boat or plane this accounts for the heavy load. Juneau is the only capital city in the continental U.S. than you can’t drive to. The trip to Haines was relatively short, only 4 hours. We are staying at the Eagles Nest motel which is near the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Each year thousands of eagles gather in this area to feed on salmon. We have a beautiful view of a snow covered mountain outside our motel window. As a matter of fact it would be hard to find a room here that didn’t have a beautiful mountain view. Would you believe that on both AM & FM I can receive only one radio station and it is a PBS station. Thank goodness for satellites else there would be no TV in most towns in Alaska.
       Haines is located in the northern part of southeastern Alaska (80 air miles northwest of Juneau). By water, Haines is only 13 miles from Skagway. By highway you must travel 359 miles to reach Skagway. Greater Haines (the Chilkat Valley) has a population of a little over two thousand.
       After a good fish dinner this evening we strolled through town. It took about 15 minutes to look in every store window in town. Everything but two restaurants was closed at the time of our walk. Things close down early here. Tomorrow we will drag main street again and hit the stores. We looked around Fort Steward which is located just a few blocks from the downtown area. Fort William H. Steward is now a historical site. It was established in the early 1900’s and for the first 20 years was the only Army post in the Territory of Alaska.
       The inside passage to Haines was our last boat segment. Tomorrow afternoon we will leave Haines via the Haines Highway heading for the Yukon Territory. We will connect with the Alaska/Canada Highway (ALCAN) at Haines Junction in the Yukon. The Haines Highway was constructed during World War Two days as a second passage (2nd to the ALCAN highway) and possible evacuation road to the sea should the U.S. become engaged in a land war with Japan. Japan captured two islands in the western reaches of the Territory of Alaska in 1942.


       Here we are settled in at Beaver Creek in the Canadian Yukon. It is now ten thirty and completely light outside. Looks like we are getting further north where the sun doesn’t set. Todays trip was very enjoyable and again the varied scenery was new and beautiful. The Haines highway took us through mostly snow laced mountainous terrain with many rivers, streams & creeks fed by glaciers & melting snow. The Kluane National Park and the St. Elias Mountains were beautiful. By the way we are now in Pacific Time again, at least until tomorrow morning. Beaver Creek is about 30 miles from the Alaska (USA) border. Although Beaver Creek is a town with a population of 106 it has a Westmark Hotel. The choice here was between the Westmark and Ida’s motel & cafe which is advertised as a place with a “homey atmosphere”. Well we looked at Ida’s and it appeared to be a bit too “homey” so we checked into the Westmark. The room is very nice with the “standard” things a Westmark offers - except -. Can you believe, there are no TV’s here except in the cocktail lounge. So here we sit listening to the radio with me pecking on the keyboard and Marian reading a book. If we had arrived an hour earlier we could have gone to the dinner theater here at the Westmark. There is a tour bus here on it’s way up north so I guess they were putting on some extras for them. 
       Tomorrow will be a light travel day for us. Our current plans are to spend two nights in Tok, AK which is about 125 travel miles from here. Tok is a large city with a population of nearly a thousand. We will meet with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) people in Tok about the possibility of a volunteer position on the forty-mile river outside the town of Chicken, AK (next year). Well I guess that it would be better to wait until tomorrow to say any more about this.
       Just a comment - Its now 1145 and still completely light out -. We just went out to the truck to get something and were attacked by mosquitoes. We are in wet tundra country.


       When we awoke this morning it was light so I can’t say when it got dark last night. We had some good blackout curtains on the windows so who cares anyway. With the short travel distance today we made it to Tok shortly before noon. Since the BLM office was just off the highway coming into town we decided to stop off before checking into a hotel. We had a nice visit with Kathy O’Riley Doyle who is responsible for the volunteer position/s in Chicken. The job sounded interesting. We would live in a trailer at Chicken (wide spot in the road) and run patrols on the forty-mile river putting-in/taking-out at various launch sites along the river. Tomorrow Marian and I will drive out to Chicken and the surrounding area. Chicken is reached via the Taylor Highway. The next large town after Chicken is Eagle, AK on the Yukon river & eventually to Dawson City in the Yukon via the Top of the World Highway. (Comment: These highways, we are told, are not akin to the lower 48 interstates) This trip will probably take most of the day. At least this will give us a chance to survey the situation before seriously considering the job for next year. You may wonder where Chicken got it’s name. In the late 1800’s Ptarmigan was suggested for the town name because there were many of these chicken-like birds in the vicinity. Since no one could spell Ptarmigan, someone suggested calling the town Chicken. As you probably know the Ptarmigan is now the Alaska State bird. You pronounce Ptarmigan (tar-my-gan).
       A word about driving the ALCAN. The ALCAN highway in the Yukon Territory isn’t too great. There are frost heaves resulting from the permafrost. Most of the highway is underlain by permafrost and there are many streams and rivers which are continually changing their course. This made construction of this highway very difficult and keeping it up is a continuous challenge. The frost heaves cause subtle to drastic ripples (drop outs) on the highway surface. Also there are places where the surface has cracked to the point that it was just gravel. When we got into the state of Alaska the highway was much better to excellent. Even there one has to be continually aware of a possible break in the surface, ripples or holes. All in all I guess it was much better than my original expectations. It is required by law that one drive with their headlights on all of the time. We still have a distance to go on the ALCAN after leaving Tok and before getting to Fairbanks.
       Oh yes, we are now back in Alaska time (-4 hours from Washington D.C.). Here in Tok we are staying at the Westmark. Since the main tourist season doesn’t start for another week or so the rates are reasonable. A word about Tok. Tok originated as an Alaska Road Commission Camp for the construction of the ALCAN & Glenn highways. Tok is known as “The Dog Capitol of Alaska”. The Tok Race of Champions Sled Dog Race, one of the oldest in the State, is held each March. Tok is the junction for roads leading to Fairbanks or Anchorage. There is one local TV station and the only channel available here in the hotel (guess they are not into satellites yet). Well you know all about Tok now, except. Some say Tok got it’s name from Tokyo with the “yo” left off.

Travel Log to Alaska in 1993 (Part 1 of a Multi-Part Travel Blog 13-16 May)


Well WE MADE IT TO ALASKA TODAY and our arrival in Ketchikan was on schedule! The boat ride was very pleasant and well organized. Since we were departing Canada for the U.S. there was customs to go through prior to boarding. Our ship, the Aurora was not crowded at all so there was plenty of room to roam about during the journey. Also there was a restaurant, bar and solarium in addition to comfortable recliner chairs on the main observation deck. The water was relatively calm with a few white caps now and then. The inside passage route is always close enough to shore to enjoy the beautiful mountain & shoreline views. We are now back to the U.S. dollar currency and gallons measure so I can put the calculator away for a while. The time difference between Washington D.C. and Alaska is minus four hours. This is our last time zone change for the trip out.
After checking in to our hotel we make a quick drive through the town. Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island in southeastern Alaska, 235 miles south of Juneau, AK and 90 miles north of Prince Rupert, B.C. Ketchikan has a population of 14,000 and is a small town using the lower 48 measure for town size. However it is a large town (4th largest in the state of Alaska) using the Alaska town size measure. Ketchikan has very little new construction but is more modern than the pictures you see during the gold rush days where the prospectors were trudging through mud streets. Tomorrow we will check out the town in more detail. Now it is time to eat now so this ends todays log.


I think that you would agree that most streets have two sides. Well this is also the case in Ketchikan. The unusual part about the main street of Ketchikan is the way the buildings are constructed. On the bay side of the street the buildings are built on pilings over the water. On the other side of the street the buildings are hanging off a hill on stilts. The reason for this -- there is only enough width for the street to be on flat solid ground. Ketchikan’s life is built along the shoreline like a ribbon. Many of the buildings are in need of repair with rotten pilings holding them out of the bay. I guess this is one reason the state of Alaska is called “the last frontier”. In town there are bars and saloons on every block. Although the town is “relatively small” you can find most anything (within reason) you might need in the stores and at prices not too much greater than at non-discount stores in the Washington D.C. area. The weather was great during our visit. We were lucky since Ketchikan’s average annual rainfall is 150 inches. The locals say that it only rains twice in Ketchikan, “January thru June and July thru December”. No visit to Ketchikan would be complete without a walk down historic Creek Street and visiting Dolly’s House. Most every miner left part of his gold with Dolly during the gold rush days. Dolly’s brothel is one of the many historic structures remaining in Ketchikan today. Near Ketchikan is the Saxman Indian village which hosts the largest collection of Totem Poles in Alaska. If you are into Totem Poles this is the place to see. I didn’t count them but there were Totem Poles everywhere.


Yesterday afternoon we departed Ketchikan for Sitka. Our ship was very nice with a large cocktail lounge and dining room. There was an observation deck, solarium, recliner lounge, and the other normal things you find on a ship. We had a stateroom on this section of our inside passage since we were on board all night. There was an interpretive slide show on Alaska’s animals provided by a young lady from the Alaska Fish & Game. We also enjoyed the movie “Home Alone Part II” after the wildlife presentation. Our stateroom had a window and was about like sleeping in a very small trailer. The difference however is that in a trailer you don’t hear the roar of big motors and the throbbing rotational frequency of a propeller shaft. We did, however, sleep fairly well with all of the noise from the motors and pulling into Wrangell & Petersburg during the middle of the night. Today we saw things we have never seen before such as eagles soaring, diving for fish and sunning themselves on the beach. There were five whale sightings and we saw two of them (Humpback Whales). As we pulled past rocks in the channel there were Harbor Seals and their cubs basking in the sun. It would not be possible for me to tell you the beauty of the inside passage between Ketchikan and Sitka. At one point in the narrows we were within just a few feet of the shoreline. It took a steady hand to maneuver this large ship through the narrow passages. Large ships have to time their passage through the narrows with high tide else go aground. We arrived in Sitka at four this afternoon and checked into our motel. While looking for the motel we stopped off at the town square where local merchants were having an exhibition. I signed up for winning something at one of the stalls. The next thing I knew my name was called and I won a $150.00 pair of Patagonia ski gloves. Boy was I surprised and happy. We will walk around town some tonight and look it over seriously tomorrow.


Sitka is located on the west side of Baranof Island, 95 air miles southwest of Juneau & 185 air miles northeast of Ketchikan. The population is 8000 and is the home of the Kiksadi clan of Tlignits (Indians). By the way Tlignits is pronounced “klink-its”. We have had a full day of touring today. With a town of this size it isn’t hard to hit every attraction in the area. First we walked around town (several times) then took the truck and drove to the end of the roads. Alaska’s oldest museum on the National Historic Register is here in Sitka. This museum, the Sheldon Jackson Museum, has a collection of various native artifacts dated between 1888 and 1898. They included a very large collection of Eskimo, Aleut, Athabaskan & Tlingit items. These are the people who live/lived in the Alaska Territory. The National Historical Park exhibits were interesting as were their films on the early Russian history of Sitka. Everything of significance to see is in walking distance of our hotel. Next we walked over to St. Michael’s Cathedral which is the focal point of Sitka’s history as the capital of Russian Alaska. There were a number of other attractions we visited around town. After our town touring we took to the roads (both of them - leading out of town). Outside downtown was mostly houses and light industry. Both roads leading out of town dead end after about 10 miles. Scenery down the southern route was beautiful with snow covered mountains and the inside passage waterway. There were Eagles perched in the trees and soaring through the sky. We have enjoyed our stay in Sitka. It is a small clean town full of Russian history.
Tomorrow afternoon we are off for Juneau. This will be a significantly smaller boat with no staterooms and fewer accommodations. We will be on the boat overnight and the travel time will be about 17 hours. We let you know later how we faired on this leg of the trip.

Wesley United Methodist Church Home Page

Wesley United Methodist Church Home Page

Gadgets & Gizmos

No I am not necessarily thinking about the computer game "Gizmos & Gadgets" that was originally written for DOS computers and sparked enough enthusiasm that it followed along with the computer revolution to 1998 (but I don't want to slight it.) Of course now there are so many newer games with sophisticated software routines, graphics and sound that this game is considered obsolete by the 'now generation'. The game is obsolete under the name "Gizmos & Gadgets" but I feel pretty sure that our interest in Gizmos and Gadgets will only expand as technology and stuff expands. There are more gizmos and gadgets of different types and description  than you can "shake a stick at" and growing in number every day.

I remember when I was a young kid (& thats a long time ago) I first heard the word Gizmo when a plumber friend asked me to get the gizmo out of his tool box so he could thread a pipe. Of course I had no idea of what I was looking for so I said "Mr. Julian, whats a gizmo", with his answer being "son its the thing you use to thread a pipe", I said 'oh' and continued looking. Later Mr. Julian asked me to bring him the pipe cutting gizmo. Now that really threw me since I thought that a threader was called a gizmo and now he was calling the cutter a gizmo. I was on a sharp learning curve when I discovered that there were many different types of gizmos. Some had to do with plumbing, some with electrician wiring, some with auto mechanics and so on. I was feeling pretty smart until another friend threw a left handed monkey wrench into this and called the same thing a gadget. I thought, how could the same thing be both a gizmo and a gadget? I was confused until I learned that a gizmo could be the name of a doodad for a particular job or something you couldn't remember the precise name or the name was not known. Now that simplified things and made a lot of sense to me. So what is a gadget? Much later in life (after Wikipedia - I found that gadgets are invariably considered to be more unusually or cleverly designed than normal technological objects at the time of their invention & are sometimes referred to as gizmos. If Mr. Julian had given me that definition at my young age I would probably have looked at him and thought "How can anyone be that smart to know that."

The bottom line is, if you don't know what to call something you can always revert to calling it a gadget or gizmo. I am quite certain that some of you will be able to help in knowing when its more politically correct to call something a gizmo vs. gadget.  If you find yourself confused, don't give up hope, just enjoy them. What you call them isn't that important. Its just important that you have plenty of them.



My comments will most likely seem random and disconnected so thats why I have titled this blog "Jim's Ramblings." provides some insight into the word 'Ramblings':
Spreading out in different directions
Tending to depart from the main point or covers a wide range of subjects

Sounds about right to me....So here we go...