Friday, May 29, 2009

Alaska's Midnight Sun and Glaciers

Alaska's spring has been beautiful this year with sunny days and temps in the mid-60's. One Sunday a few weeks ago I saw FIVE moose in one day...2 at Hatcher Pass, 2 at Portage and 1 at Potters Marsh....these are all locations outside of the city but I have never seen so many wild animals in one day..... Bears are out too but they tend to be attracted to homes on the outskirts of the city that leave their garbage in unsecured areas and attract bears.

So the sun rises now about 4:30/5:00am and does not set until around 11pm. It never really gets completely dark. The days will be getting longer until the summer solstice on June 21; the longest day of the year.....this is why they call this the Land of the Midnight Sun. Check out this pic I took the other morning when my flight got into Alaska at 1am!

A couple of weekends ago my one of my best friends was up for a visit and we drove north to see Matanuska Glacier. We hiked a short trail to get great views of the glacier but we did not get to the trail that leads directly to it. It was still a beautiful view and a great drive. Here are a couple of pics of the Matanuska Glacier Hike and the Glacier itself.

We stopped by Hatcher Pass, my favorite spot, and I was surprised how much snow was still at the top of the mountain in Mid-May. Of course this is not anywhere near as much snow as there was back in March. Here a couple pics of me at Willow Creek(bottom of Hatcher Pass) and the Hatcher Pass Lodge at the top of the mountain.

The next day we drove down south toward Seward to see Exit Glacier. The trail we took this time led us right up to the rock field at the bottom of the glacier. We crossed the rock field to get to the toe of the glacier. Exit actually comes down the side of the mountain and Harding Ice Field is at the top of the glacier, but that was a 7-8 mile hike and there were notices up that a brown bear was active in the area soooo.....I was content just to touch the "toe" of the glacier! Here are a few pics of the rock and silt at the bottom of the glacier and Exit Glacier itself.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Madness in Alaska

So for the Madness...March Madness was alive and well here in Alaska! I met my coworker and some new UNC alum friends at the Peanut Farm in Anchorage. Lots of fun!

Now for the Mayhem,,,,yes Mt. Redoubt erupted in March. When it erupted years ago, it erupted 23 times over 4-6 months...This time it erupted 18 times in 1 week! Ash clouds came to Anchorage only twice. Here are pics in the day and night...crazy right?!?

Ash in Anchorage....

Living in the southeast most of my life, I have had my share of thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornados. I even experienced an earthquake in Northern California a couple of years ago, but I did not expect a volcanic eruption....especially in Alaska!

Pic: Mt Redoubt is completely covered in ash after several eruptions.

Well little did I know...Alaska actually has over 100 volcanos. Mt Redoubt has been erupting since Sunday(3/22) night and ash finally came to Anchorage today. Mt. Redoubt is a stratovolcano and instead of flowing lava, gas and rock erupts shooting ash up to 65,000 feet in the air. Where the ash falls completely depends on how the wind blows. So after yesterday's 3rd and 4th eruptions at 3:30 and 7:30, the wind finally blew the ash into Anchorage. The airport shut down and people were wearing their air filter masks outside.

I myself do not plan to leave the apartment until it is all settled! I can watch the Heels play Oklahoma from right here :)

Eruption at 11:20pm 3/27

Eruption at 1:20am 3/28

Sunday, February 8, 2009

SEE, DO, EAT..Alaska in the Winter

Visiting Alaska is usually recommended in the summer months however during my stay here I have found there is still quite a bit to SEE, DO and EAT while visiting the Anchorage, Alaska area. I'll be updating this post as I see, do and eat at new places.


  • Flattop Mountain - located in south Anchorage. Great pan views of cook inlet and the city of Anchorage.
  • Turnagain Arm - Seward Hwy/Hwy 1 that runs south of Anchorage. Great views of the cook inlet and its majestic mountains
  • Portage Glacier - Views of glaciers forming down in Portage
  • Seward - Lots of cruises set out from here. Also home to the Alaska Sea Life Center and the Polar Bear Jump Off in January.
  • Homer - great to visit in the summer months, but it's still a nice drive in the winter and has great views from Homer spit

  • Talkeetna - not worth the drive...only visit during the summer months
  • Hatcher Pass - totally worth the drive. Willow creek at the bottom of the mountain...but this is my favorite view in all of anchorage.


  • Resurrection Bay Cruise - This cruise sets out from Seward and takes a tour of Resurrection Bay. You'll be sure to see some good sea life and some glaciers if weather permits. Last cruises of the season tour in late October.
  • Alaska Train Ride - Ride from Anchorage to south to Seward or North to Denali.Alaska Zoo - Visit Aphun the Polar Bear and his friend at the zoo in Anchorage :)
  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center -Basically a drive through zoo on Hwy 1 just south of Girdwood on Hwy 1.
  • Alaska Sealife Center - located in Seward
  • Fur Rondy - 10 day celebration of life in Alaska. Feb 27 through March 8. Ends with the start of the Iditarod...I'll post pictures.
    Iditarod - 1150 mile dogsled race through Alaska. I'm going to the kickoff in Wasilla so I'll post pictures later.
  • Skiing - Aleyeska resort in Girdwood...from Anchorage just drive south about 45 minutes to Hwy 1 to Girdwood.
  • Snowboarding - Drive up to the top of Hatcher Pass and park and snowboard down. You should probably have someone to drive down to the bottom to pick you up.
  • Ice Skating - Outdoor rink complete with ice sculptures located downtown between 5th and 6th streets

  • Hockey Games - Alaska Aces Games....the fans ring cowbells at the games so make sure you do not have a headache before going to the game :)
  • College Basketball - while it is not the UNC Tarheels or ACC basketball.....but the University of Anchorage basketball team is doing pretty well this season

  • Glacier Brewhouse - my personal favorite so far; great food
  • Kobe Japanese Steakhouse - local japanese steakhouse, not upscale...and if you've been to one Japanese steakhouse, you have more tha likely been to them all
  • Orso - owned by same people that own glacier. a little upscale from Glacier Brewhouse, but I still prefer Glacier.
  • Simon & Seafort - great view of cook inlet...a little upscale, good american food and deserts. They have a seasonal fruit cobbler that is favorite is the berry cobbler.
  • Sourdough Mining Company - Warning! Warning! Visit at your own risk. Greasy and overpriced. will leave you with indigestion that will NOT be worth it.
  • Village Inn - Alaskan version of your local IHOP. Decent breakfast.
  • Moose Tooth Pizza & Pub - local favorite pizzeria, very will more than likely have to wait a minute for your food.
  • Bear Tooth Theatre & Grill - owned by same people that own Moose Tooth. American food with theatre on the back side of restaurant where you can eat food from the restaurant and watch movies. Nothing particularly special, but a local favorite.
  • Sea Galley - Seafood restaurant that has the BEST tempura shrimp. Atmosphere leaves something to be desired...but then again, most places you visit in Anchorage are dated with decorations/furnishings that belong in the 70's and 80's.

Artic Desert...with a volcano???

So I went to the doctor here after being sick for a week and having chest pains whenever I breathed the cold air outside. She explained to me that Alaska is essentially an artic desert with cold dry air. People like me who are used to warmer, more humid climates sometimes find it difficult to handle the climate for extended perioods of time. So I have to make sure I wrap up, cover my face when outside, drink significantly more water than I normally would and take plenty of vitamins....yeah yeah doc, so are you saying I have been in Alaska far too long???

Here's my January recap:

First week of January...subzero temps around 25 below zero. It was one of the longest cold snaps in history. You know the temperature is below zero when you sniff and your nostrils stick together, hahaha! One good thing is that the days are lengthening in January…gaining 6 minutes a day.
Mid-January... There was a quick "heat wave" in mid-January of temps around 35 and 40….so much snow and ice had built up that many streets were a sheet of wet ice which made it almost impossible to drive or walk on. The local courts and government offices closed down for ice for the first time in almost 30 years due to weather. Alaska is used to cold and snow, but the ice was horrible.
January 20… There were several community service events in Anchorage the day before to commerote the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I took off on January 20 to celebrate the inauguration. (See why I'm celebrating) The University of Alaska at Anchorage showed the inauguration in the auditorium on the big screen. It was part of their Civil Rights Month Celebration. Hundreds of people attended and we all participated as if we were there….standing, applauding laughing and even crying. They also provided reflection cards for attendees to write down their reflections on what the day meant to them so they could display them all as part of the Alaska Civil Rights Exhibit later in the month. Later that night there were celebration parties/balls around Anchorage.

At this point let me say that I have experienced thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes and even an earthquake in Northern California, but of course, Alaska is aiming to broaden my experiences even further...
January 23/24...Some in anchorage felt an earthquake, but I didn't. This earthquake was unrelated to the unrest that was observed at Mount Redoubt Volcano. Yes, a volcano. ' I was surprised to learn how many volcanoes are actually located here in Alaska. Mt. Redoubt is located some 100 miles southwest of Anchorage was expected to erupt at anytime. It's eruption differs from your traditional lava flowing eruptions from a Hawaiin volcano in that it spews volcanic ash miles into the air and the wind carries that ash miles away. The danger is that the ash from the eruption is most likely to significantly impact Anchorage. This ash is actually earth rock which our lungs can't process. Residents are encouraged to buy goggles and face masks to prepare for the eruption. So yes, all of the hardware stores were running out of stock. Thankfully I was able to secure 2 masks and a pair of goggles just in case. The Alaska volcano observatory keeps daily updates on their website. I'm praying it just settles down and does not erupt. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Still Here in Alaska

I have not posted a blog in a while but the past couple of months here have been interesting.

After election week, it was a while before Alaska's race was finally decided. Ted Stevens was found guilty in his corruption trial. Absentee ballots counted Begich beat Stevens for the Senate seat. Reaction among local residents ranged from nostalgia at the end of an era with Uncle Ted to estactic joy for a fresh voice for the state.

I went home to NC for Thanksgiving and it was good to see family again after so many months. Okay so for the short version of my "Charlie Brown" trip back to Alaska:he short version: Saturday - Greensboro to Charlotte. 1 1/2 hr Mech delays out of Charlotte... missed Phoenix connection. Spent the night in Phoenix. Sunday - Breakfast at the hotel then spent day in Phoenix airport. Able to catch flight to Seattle. Bad weather in Seattle, not enough fuel to make it to another airport, had to land in local Boeing test field. After 1 1/2 hrs, US Air FINALLY sent buses to take us to the airport. It was around 10:30. Monday - After mech issues AGAIN, in the wee hours of morning, flight finally leaves Seattle for Anchorage.

Pics from breakfast in Phoenix:

When I got back, my rental was a Dodge Ram truck...check out my excellent parking skills... and yes I backed into that spot in a parking garage.
December rolled in with colder temps in the teens and single digits and more darkness. Now I understand why alcoholism and depression is so high in Alaska during the winter. Anchorage is further south so the days were not as cold or short as they were further north. Yet, I can say that when you drive into work at 9 am and it is still dark and when by the time you leave work, it has already been dark for a few hours, it can be boring, frustrating and depressing. The key is to stay active as much as possible...or to leave to go home as much as possible, ha!

Anchorage is prettty when it snows. They also have what freezing fog when it is so cold that the fog "frosts" the trees and it looks like a winter wonderland.

More to come soon.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I could see NC turning blue all the way in Alaska!

Soooo it was 7pm here on November 4 and I had just gotten off work and was on my way to the store on the phone with my sister. California polls in CA closed and they called the election for Barack Obama. I rushed through the store and headed straight to the Egan Center downtown. On the way there I had called my parents and talking to my dad on the phone when McCain gave his concession speech on the radio. Concessions in the past few elections have definitely not come that soon, that easy and certainly not that graceful.

By the time I got downtown to park, I was talking to my mom and as she told me Barack had reach the stage, my friend from work and I were rushing to find a park and got into the Egan Center right as he took the stage. The victory celebration was sponsored by the local Obama campaign office and the local Democratic party. I saw grown men and women, black and white, young and old crying like babies and screaming with excitement and jumping up and down......we were all friends that night and all took part in the victory...even though it would be a while for AK polls were closed and the race between Stevens and Beigich was yet to be decided.

North Carolina was on my mind that night as it was yet to be decided as well, but first here are some pictures from the Celebration in Anchorage on election night:

Now North Carolina was finally called for Barack a couple of days later. He won the state by 14,053 votes. I will preface my next few comments by saying I am an Independent voter who has previously voted both Democrat and Republican...

North Carolina voted for Obama and it was the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976 that NC voted for a democratic president.

I am proud of North Carolina not just because people are accepting change and voting for Barack and even Kay Hagan but because so many people registered to vote and voted for the first time....this allowed the country to hear the REAL voice of North Carolina.

And why did people vote? They voted because people began to have hope... actually believe that their voice could be heard, would make a difference and should drive change NOW... And not just change but a shift It is a shift to a time when people realize that we are all US citizens, we are all people have common human values & we all have to stand before GOD one day.

More pics from the celebration: