Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alaska Adventure #2

The many years I've been to Alaska, I've never visited Denali. My friends, Tami and Bruce live about 2 1/2 hours away from the park. We loaded up Big Blue (their massive dual cab truck) and took off for a couple days up north. The mountain is elusive due to cloud cover so we never did see the 'High One' but was not disappointed in the surrounding (6 million acres!) scenery. To see the park, one can hike, bike or take a bus. The park runs many buses all day long and you can hop off and on at any time during the ride. The longest ride is about 11 hours round trip to Wonder Lake on a 92 mile long road. We chose to go to Eielson Visitor Center, an 8-hour round trip. On the way we saw much of the wild life that inhabit the park, moose, grizzlies, wolves, caribou. The road climbs over a few passes, one particular pass is quite scary, cut into the side of the mountain, the downhill side very steep. The view above is looking over the edge of this road to the braided river below.

This bull moose was peacefully grazing on the hillside,

then slowly approached the bus

and gave us a good view of his fuzzy antlers.

While at Eielson, we were thinking of taking a walk along the trail behind the visitor center. Luckily we didn't. From the patio behind the center, we saw two young grizzlies playing, eating berries, digging for bugs and slowly making their way up the path to the building.

We watched from the safety of the patio for awhile.

The bears got within 30 yards of the building and the rangers finally ordered everyone inside. We were catching a bus back so we scurried to the bus, ready to close the doors if the two decided to board the bus also. Tami happened to be in a safe place on the patio above the visitor center, looking down at the bears and got a very close view of them. They came up to the windows of the building and I'm sure the visitors got a great look at the cubs while being safely separated by windows.

Eielson Visitor Center opened in 2008 at a cost of $9.2 million. It is a silver LEED certified building, blending into the landscape. It's an earth-bermed building with a tundra mat roof using solar panels, hydroelecric power and natural light. A former building was dismantled and materials were recycled for the use in the new construction. Due to its location, the center is off grid, using alternative energy sources.

There was quite a bit of art inside the center and they even have an artist in residence program. This beautiful fabric wall hanging, 'Four Seasons of Denali', covered about 12' of space.

We hopped off the bus on the way back and took a hike up a creek canyon. We took a hot coffee and snack break and hung out a bit in the drizzle.

This little ground squirrel gave us hell, barking at us to go away.

Back at camp, our camp cooks, Tami and Houston made us this delicious salmon chowder. This was the last jar of smoked, canned salmon of Tami and Bruce's. Time to go fishing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alaska Adventure #1

After a long day of flying and a restful night in Anchorage, my friends, Tami, Hannah and Skyler and I traveled on down the Kenai Peninsula to the Devil's Pass Trailhead where we were biking in to the Chugiak cabin.

I rented a great Kona hardtail which fit perfectly. We attached our panniers, loaded up with sleeping bags, thermarests and plenty of food for our 3-day funventure. We ignored the sign at the trailhead warning us of a grizzly mauling of a bicyclist just days earlier. lalalalalalala

Nearly ready, all packed up and looking forward to a fun ride into the wilderness. See.... smiling!

The trail started out through the woods, dappled light playing on the trail and the most beautiful
woods of birch and spruce, with an underlayment of ferns and grasses.

The trail opened up to expansive views of snow mottled mountains and a wide valley of meadows and wildflowers with Devil's Creek meandering beside. (perfect bear habitat) Remember to make noise, I had to keep reminding myself. "Hey Bear! Stay away Bear! Yip!"

Tami crossing Devil's Creek, luckily over a bridge. There were a few creek crossings, but they were small and I just walked right through, pushing my bike.

The trail was steep in places and I walked a good bit of it. My bike was heaaaa-vy pushing it up the hills (canned salmon and coconut milk had something to do with it), but pedaling is so much more fun than hiking. We took a welcome break at this overlook and fueled up with trail mix and turkey jerky.

There's the creek bed and vegetation where the bears are hanging out but Hannah is about to
scare them away with a loud descent. At one point (while pushing my bike) I noticed digging along the trail and HUGE griz prints, about the size of a salad plate with claws. Griz go digging for marmots (like mountain groundhogs). Tasty.

It appears that I'm taking an important cell phone call, but I think I'm just looking for bears.

Our little cabin awaits us in the valley, a very welcome sight. I had taken a spill into a ditch, with my bike landing on my knee and it was starting to not feel so good after biking the last few miles.

The cabin comes complete with a cute (although smelly, Tami gave it a 6 out of 10 and she has high standards) outhouse that someone dolled up with a lace curtain.

This a relatively new cabin, the old A-frame being torn down a couple years ago. There are 4 bunks, a counter for the kitchen, a table and plenty of room for our gear. A cold, clear stream rushes by right behind the cabin.

The second night we were joined by friends, Louisa and her 2 dogs who all hiked the 10 miles in and Cade, who biked in in less than half the time it took us. Man with big thighs.

We spent lots of time playing cards. Cade is game guru and had us learning all kinds of card games. This one's a classic...lick a card, stick it to your forehead and guess what yours is.

and this is what I did a lot of, knitting and keeping my knee elevated. The middle day of our trip was supposed to be for riding the 40 miles of trails this region offers, Resurrection Pass to Hope. Sounds wonderful. But me knee swelled up and I could barely bend it, let alone get my leg over the bike bar and pedal. Phooey! My friends took turns getting bags ice cold water from the stream so I could 'ice' my knee. By the third day, the swelling was down a bit but I was kinda afraid to get on the bike. Everyone took most of my weight so I wasn't loaded down. Luckily the ride back is 98% downhill (yippee!!!). I got on the bike and yeah! I could pedal, a bit shaky at first but I could do this...."Icandoit..Icandoit...Icandoit Hey Bear, go away Bear, yip!"

The wildflowers were abundant...

and new little pine cones, flashing their bright purple.

We had a little wren visit us all day, singing us a happy, friendly song.

It had a lot to say.

A shot the kids took from the back seat of the car, bikes loaded up, leaving the Devil's Pass Trail behind.

We took my rented bike back to Girdwood and I noticed all these hoops. I am so into hooping these days and was thrilled to see that the hoop craze has hit Alaska. Hoopers have not yet been known to be mauled by grizzlies!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Alfresco Dining

For my birthday Annie delivered a cute chicken feeder and waterer. Now most women would say "Thanks, you shouldn't have." But I said "Thanks...I LOVE them!" I'm not even going to use them practically. They're going to become displays in the studio, maybe my button cards or felt flower pins in the feeder and colorful yarn in the glass jar with my fused glass pins in the tray. My girlfriends and I share some unusual (but to us quite normal) gifts. For Annie's 50th I bought her a pair (why we say 'pair' since there is only one, I don't know!) of Carhartts overalls since hers were totally worn out. I had to get her boy sized ones cuz she's so tiny. I decorated them with old lady frilly hankies and lace with rose chintz fabric for the pockets and I think I even included a rhinestone pin on the collar. I told her she had to wear them for working the sheep and cows and not save them for 'dress up'. I think she totally wore them out in 2 years.
For Christmas one year I gave my friend, Ann, a chicken water heater. What every girl wants! I think it was her favorite gift that Christmas. And she brought over a huge bag and gave me big leather gloves to put on so I wouldn't hurt myself opening my gift. I carefully reached in wondering if this could be some wild animal with big teeth waiting to take a bite out of me. But it was a large (like 16" tall) star wrapped in rusty barbed wire. We both love barbed wire, don't know why, just do. The star was covered in photos of us on our many travels together out west. A truly made-just-for-me gift and well treasured.

Anyway, back to chicken stuff. Because of this oven temperature heat, I thought I'd put up an umbrella for the chickens. They like to take dirt baths, burrowing down in the dirt, attempting to stay cool. But with the sun beating down on them and the high temps, they were staying inside the coop where it was maybe a few degrees hotter than outside. I looked in on them one day hoping not to find 'fried chicken' and saw them with their wings held out from their hot little bodies, their beaks parted and they were panting. Who knew chickens panted!?

When I first put up the umbrella, they totally freaked out. All chickens flew around the coop in a frenzy, feathers flying and much squawking and fussing. I threw them some old popcorn and they slowly ventured out, not sure of the scary yellow and white thing above the run.

But they soon settled down and are now so happy with the shade and their new alfresco dining arrangement. More popcorn please!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Tussle with a Vessel

I really do like felting even though I don't do enough of it. But I wanted to enter something in a gallery show in Cumberland so thought I'd better get to it.

Starting out with lots of colorful fluffy stuff, wool, mohair, and silk, I layered wooly bits over a piece of round, flat foam.

I wanted the vessel to be black in the middle so laid the black down first, then the dyed wool over that. This is how the one side looked before turning it over and laying down more colored wool.

I patted, poked and prodded...

... then rolled it all up in bubble wrap....

and got jiggy with it, stomping it with my feet.

and it turned into this yucky blobby thing with a gaping black mouth!

I managed to get it to stand up and behave itself and fiddled, fudged and fingered it until it turned into

this! It's about 8" tall and will hold a jar with flowers in it or be just a thing on a table. I have been spinning really funky chunky yarn and I embellished the top with my handspun and sheep's locks.

In other felting news, I attended the monthly felting group meeting and we made hollow balls and flowers. We'll be able to expand on this pod thing to go really big and wild. Look for future pod action.