Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Our Moose and other updates

It's been a couple weeks since I've seen moose at the B&B, though I've seen them around our area a lot when I'm out on the road. Yesterday evening about 8, I got home from a Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting and let the dogs out. Little Girl saw the female moose in the shrubs just as I did. She ran over to bark at her. I took video of them out in the yard together, but it twitches a lot on the video because I kept flinching when mosquitos were biting me.

When the female charged Little Girl, I wasn't sure which moose this was. The mama moose who I've had here for years doesn't look like this one, I don't think. I think this one is a two year old. This one also seemed mildly curious about Little Girl, whereas the mama moose has definite opinions about Little Girl and doesn't hesitate to let her know. I'm pretty sure my mama moose is still pregnant and hasn't calved yet.

I was at a B&B in Anchorage two days ago, Alaskan Frontier Gardens B&B, for a meeting. Rita, the host there, showed me her two moose, bedded down in the deep snow behind her house, about 20 feet beyond her windows. While we got about 6" of snow on Friday that melted by two days ago, Anchorage got pounded with nearly two feet of snow, up where Rita lives on the Hillside. Her two moose were a very pregnant mama and a yearling who was still kind of small.

I was kind of concerned about my moose last night--her ribs were pretty prominent and her coat looked kind of rough. I guess this probably is the most scarce time of year, waiting for green things to start growing. She was eating birch bark out by the tennis net.

Today is a little rainy, which is great. We need it. I see that the buds on the apple tree right outside my kitchen window are just starting to swell a bit, and htat more branches are newly "snipped" where the moose have been munching on the tree. I'll be glad if we get a drizzle rain today--it can help settle my pothole fillings. Yesterday, I filled potholes in the driveway by shovel, about 3 cubic yards of material. I'm sore today. My neighbor next door has exposed gravel outcroppings, so I took my 1969 F-250 over and filled up the bed, spade by spade full, then went up the driveway, placing rocks then sand then pebbles into each giant hole. I had a gravel company bring 7 dumptrucks of B chip gravel last year, and it's mostly "gone," either sunk into the drive or pushed off by the snowplow. I'm hesistating to do that again this year, not only because of the expense of covering a half-mile driveway, but also because it looks likely that construction will start this summer on the redo of my road, Trunk Road. It is just waiting for the Governor's signature on the state capital improvements bill, then they can start. She got slowed down a little by going into labor at a convention in Texax last week. The baby was coming a month early, so she gave her hour-long speech and quick scooted onto a flight home. She wanted to have the baby at our local Mat-Su Regional hospital, a mile down the road from me, since she's from Wasilla.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Enter Sandhill Cranes, stage left

I was making breakfast this morning for guests and thought I heard something outside--it was the cranes! I heard their raspy clacking sound, something like a pepper grinder turning, and then I could see them below the B&B, rising up from a field. More and more of them started to come in, too. In a few days we'll have hundreds of sandhill cranes in the field. They'll hang out here for a couple of weeks. It's an amazing thing to go walking by the fields and watch them courting, doing the mating dance, feeding, males keeping watch over the females, etc. One of my favorite memories is being out early one morning when they were migrating through. It was chilly but the sun was warming the morning quickly. As the males raised their beaks straight up towards the sky to vocalize, the sounds came out with little puffs of steam above their mouths. That was so neat to see their breath like that, so close to them. I still haven't been able to get very good photos with my cheap digital camera--they always turn out looking like tan specs against a tan field of dead grasses. Maybe this year!

Peddling to Nome

A gal I know just became the first woman to ride a bicycle all the way from here to Nome 1100-some miles, through the snow on the Iditarod Trail. She and her husband put on the Ultrasport Marathon ( http://www.alaskaultrasport.com/index.html and http://alaskaultrasport.blogspot.com/ ). Kathi Hirzinger-Merchant also had a nice article written about her in the Anchorage Daily News: http://www.adn.com/24hour/consumer/outdoors/story/383567.html . They have really great photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23623775@N05/show/ --Can you imagine taking a mountain bike over that terrain in the deep of winter, through that terrain?? Great job, Kathi!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Welcome back, geese

Today nearly 400 noisy Canada geese flew overhead and circled to settle on the field below the house. They have claimed a hay field, while the ducks have taken over a tilled field that grew potatoes last year offers more mud for the ducks. Hopefully it won't be long til the sandhill cranes return, too. I'm very excited because today Jeff Corwin and the Animal Planet team (on the Discovery Channel) reserved the whole B&B for May 5th for their visit. They'll be here to film at the Musk Ox Farm, and that's good timing, because the babies are typically born right before Mother's Day. Mother's Day at the Musk Ox Farm is always a free day (no charge) to go, and it's fun to see the rolly polly little bundles of shaggy fur running around on their bitty hooves and sturdy little legs.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tax Day Blizzard

We decided to take an impromptu trip. We were headed for the Mat-Su glacier, which Cass hadn't visited before. We had a nice drive out there, an hour from the B&B. The day was overcast, but it was still really nice scenery. We decided to keep going. The drive to Glenallen is so scenic, we kept just going. By the time we got to Glenallen, we had dinner at the Caribou Hotel restaurant (awesome half pound burgers), then thought there was plenty of time left in the day to scoot down to Valdez. Cass hadn't been to Valdez or Glenallen, so it was all new to her. It surprises me how many Anchorage folks don't get out into Alaska much! The weather turned to spitty snow, but light. It made it really ethereal and pretty through the dramatic high mountains of Thompson Pass. The last time I went to Valdez was 2 years ago, and in the late summer, so this was my first time to see the walls of tall snow through which the road was cut. We must have seen a half dozen driveways in which sat a helicoptor with its rotors covered in canvas shields to keep the snow off. At the driveway were signs that proclaimed this the home of a heli-skiing adventure company. Several times we saw people getting ready to go up in the choppers with their skis. It seems this sport was in full swing those days.

We got to Valdez about 8 p.m. I showed Cass around town, which takes all of about 10 minutes. I thought we might get out and give the dogs a nice long walk by the docks and down to the ferry terminal, but Cass was too cold to walk in the chilly rain. We thought about leaving town pretty quick, to make it back through Thompson Pass before the rain turned to ice or snow, but it also sounded good to call it a night and stay over there. Otherwise, we would have gotten home at 2 a.m. That would have been ok, but we were ready to be done driving for the night.

We got a good room for a good price at the Best Western, which takes dogs, likely the only time I'll be able to afford to stay there. I'm guessing summer rates are a lot more than the $89 we paid in this off-peak season. They had a nice continental breakfast in the morning. When we got back to Glenallen, Cass asked what the road looked like, going towards Canada. We headed off east for a few miles, then came to the junction with the Richardson Highway, which turns north to Fairbanks. That road looked more interesting, so we turned up that way.

Within the hour, we were into snow and the weather was getting worse. We marveled in the swirling storm about what we were doing out here on Tax Day in a blizzard. It got pretty thick. It was a gorgeous drive, though, and we were still able to go about 55 mph. I just love the quiet of Alaska highways where we can drive down the middle of the road and not meet another car for most of an hour. The area around Summit Lake was incredibly beautiful. We made it into Fairbanks about 3 pm, not bad time, and went for a late lunch. After exploring town a bit, we hopped on the Parks Highway and headed back home by way of Denali.

The weather on this side of the state was much better and the roads were clear instead of snow-packed. We got home right at the stroke of 10 pm and had a wonderful day and a half of adventuring under our belts!