"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sort of, Somewhat, Occasionally Here

So what's my excuse this time for being to negligent with my blog?

September.    September in Alaska.

The most spectacular, stupendous September I can remember in my 71 years in Alaska.   Lots of sunshine and warm temperatures.    Autumn colors lingering long past their traditional peak.  Migratory birds lingering also.

It's been tremendous.

Thanks, September.

Oh, yeah.    My computer isn't working right.   Again.  Getting it fixed means several hours babysitting it while the Geek Squad takes remote control and beats it into submission.   Just haven't had time for that while the sun was shining.

Soon, I promise.   I'm getting so far behind, I don't know if I'll ever catch up.

In the meantime, I was kayaking on Tern Lake in this gorgeous autumn weather and watched the cygnets take off.

To see these photos at their best, click on the first one and a thumbnail filmstrip will open at the bottom of the page.   Then cycle through them.  

Swan down caught on a branch

Tern Lake and my swans

Highbush cranberries

Nothing like a creekside stroll on a golden path to put things right.

A gray cygnet.

A male mallard in eclipse plumage, in the reflection of fireweed.

Red fox with a leap stuck on its muzzle.

Red fox

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Signs of Progress: Why You Should Always Pay Attention to Signs, Unless Instructed Otherwise

I noticed, while driving north last Sunday, that there were an awful lot of speed limit changes, so on the return trip, I counted them.

Sure enough, there were twenty changes in the posted speed limit in 240 miles from Denali National Park to Anchorage.   A few were in construction zones, where fines are doubled for miscreants, and I was paying close attention.   I was driving a borrowed truck and pulling my 19-foot travel trailer.

Best to pay attention under those circumstances.

Back up north, I exited Denali NP and crossed the bridge over the Nenana river.   A sign above the roadside read, “Experience the View.” 


So I did.   I’d always wondered about that mega-hotel perched like an aerie above Glitter Gulch, as the commercial district outside the park is known, and this was the perfect opportunity.

The drive up the hill is a series of blind corners and hairpin switchbacks and, luckily, though I wasn’t pulling the trailer on this excursion, it also soon proved fortuitous to read the signs.


Oh, by the way, there's a big hotel at the end of this driveway.   I can't help but think the humorous signs are meant to  take the attention away from how dicey the driveway is.   Imagine being a passenger in on of those 44 passenger tour coaches going up or down this road.


The lodge is closed for the season.   Employees were busy packing things up.

And, as promised, the view is pretty nice, too.

One of those aircraft you're supposed to watch for is in this photo and the one below.

See it?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Denali Swag

(Note:   I am either going to have to pause the adventures for a while or plan on catching up on posts this coming winter.   Home again after the latest, here we go--a wonderful trip to Denali National Park.)

A short drive north of the entrance to Denali National Park (nee Mt. McKinley National Park), is a mile-long stretch of commercial businesses known, not so affectionately, as Glitter Gulch.    

Entering Glitter Gulch.    The Salmon Bake, on the center right, was closed.   Darn it.

A part of the trinket shops.

Some of the mega-hotels.
More of the mega-hotels.   All were closed for the season..

Many Alaskans are appalled at the collection of trinket and kitsch shops on one side of the highway and mega-hotels catering to cruise ship passengers and tour operators.   In all fairness, though, there are some shops that offer quality products made in Alaska, as well as Alaskan art.

Some of the businesses were already closed and boarded up for the winter, because even the park itself closes the day after the final lottery drive on Tuesday.   But, it doesn’t matter when you drive through this area, either at the beginning, mid, or end of their short summer season, you can always see signs promising slashed prices in the trinket shops.

Note the bright yellow "50 % off polar fleece" sign.

I was gifted a permit for the annual Denali road lottery, one of five days in which private vehicles are allowed on the park road past Mile 14.    Four hundred vehicles a day travel as far as Kantishna, at Mile 92, driving slowly to spot animals, admire the scenery, and hopefully see Denali itself.

My permit was for Tuesday, the final day.   I arrived in Glitter Gulch late afternoon Sunday, checked into the RV park that’s right behind the shops, and went to see what bargains the purveyors of Made in China souvenirs had waiting for me.

  My first purchase, which I absolutely didn’t need but wanted anyway, was a hand sewn backpack, marked down to $20 from $39.99.   I’m not sure, but I think it was made by the owner’s wife.

One main compartment, one smaller in the front, and a pocket on each side.

Waterproof inside.

I then proceeded to visit all the other shops that were still open, filling my new backpack exponentially and refusing all offers of plastic bags in favor of my new, reusable, handmade pack.

Here are some pitiful photos of my purchases:

A notebook for $1.50.   This came in handy.

Known by various names, such as buffs, bandeaus, bandanas, etc., I was introduced to these hand things in Africa by my traveling companions.      You can see below how useful they are.

This one was the real bargain.   Marked way high, the 40 per cent off in the Park gift shop--with many items branded by National Geographic, this buff features a map of the Aaska Range with Denali and its near mountains featured.  It was only $12.99.    I was also able to replace my Armstrong's Bird of Alaska book, which was falling apart, for $12.99 instead of the marked price of $29.99.

As you can see, their uses are varied.   Myself, I find them perfect for disguising neck wattles.

This lovely handmade, sand-carved cup was a quality purchase.

This fleece throw featuring a photo of the mountain itself, was marked down to $7.99, and is perfect for the RV.

I have noticed in the last couple years that my apparel choices run heavily to designs in Real Tree camouflage.     I acquired this taste while preparing for a trip to my cousins' elk hunting camp in Wyoming, and after attending Jamin Hunter Taylor's Birding Boot Camp. Therefore, this zip-up hoodie in lightweight fabric, gray with light blue, was an unusual choice.   I liked it so much, I went back and got another in green and gray.  These were marked down to $20.00 from $54.99, which puts them right in line with what they should cost.

And finally, a black cap with colorful embroidery.