Saturday, March 11, 2017

World Ice Art Championships

The World Ice Art Championships are held here over a four week period every March. The last ice sculpture event we attended had us out in -13*F (-25*C) weather so I wanted to wait until it was warmish before venturing out to see the sculptures. It took a couple of weeks, but thankfully the weather finally complied. It was a beautiful, sunny 17*F (-8*C) today. The sculptures were amazing. The ice was so clear you could see through it. I am in awe of the talent of the ice carvers. I can barely cut meat, let alone carve something out of blocks of ice.

 A tribute to David Bowie


Finally, a peacock that won't chase me! 

 If you look closely at this one, you can see the snake's tongue reaching out for the bird.

 Some of the sculptures were dark and terrifying, like this Grim Reaper one. 

My favourite was The Mad Hatter's Tea Party. The detail was so precise, from the teacups to the Cheshire Cat to the mushroom. 

It's not every day you get to put your head inside a hippo's mouth. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2017 Iditarod

The Iditarod normally starts in Anchorage every year, but this year there wasn't enough snow along part of the route from Anchorage to Nome so they moved the official start to Fairbanks. What's that? More sled dogging? Yes please! When we ventured out it was hovering right around -30*F (-34*C). We had discussed going to the actual starting line, but that involved parking and taking a shuttle bus and standing outside for hours in the cold. Ummm...pass. Instead we parked at a church right along the river and about 3 miles down from the starting line. We sat in our car for 2.5 hours, leaving it running to keep us warm. The church was open and provided hot chocolate, cookies, and bathroom facilities, as well as a place to warm up if you didn't want to sit in your car.  At the start time, the temperature had risen to -16*F (-27*C). We headed from the parking lot to the river to watch the teams come by. This was much better than the Yukon Quest because the teams came by minutes apart, rather than hours or days apart. We watched about 1/3 of the teams go by before we decided to call it a day on account of not being able to feel our toes anymore.

*Warning: picture overload*


The straw is for the dogs to bed down on. 

Pink booties! 

There was a group of young kids, probably a daycare or preschool, cheering the teams on. Their teachers set up these signs. Every time a team went by the kids chanted "Go dogs go!"

Monday, February 27, 2017

Confession time

For those of you who follow me on facebook or instagram, or for those of you who speak with me longer than oh, about 30 seconds, you may get the impression that I hate living in Alaska. It is dark, very, very, very cold, the roads are horrible, and it just won't stop snowing. Basically it must seem downright miserable to those who don't live here. Let's be honest here, it can be pretty miserable at times for those who do live here. Sliding through intersections is never fun. Every red light or stop light is a game of "Am I going to stop this time?" Shoveling a million pounds of snow, not fun either. You have to put on 72 layers of clothing just to go the grocery store, because there is no such thing as a short trip (thanks for that advice, Lizzie!). When you leave for church in your cute shoes and skirt, you better make sure to throw some snow boots and snow pants in the car, just in case.  Even if you are only going a couple of miles, you could end up stuck in a ditch or get in a car accident and have to wait in your car in -20*F (-29*C) weather. Oh and that's only if your car will start, which you hope it does because you spent hundred of dollars getting it winterized so it better start gosh darn it. Even going around the corner to the mailbox seems like too much some days. The snow piles keep getting higher and you run out of places to put the new snow. I am pretty sure we are in for a flood of epic proportions when it starts to melt. The fruit isn't fresh or plentiful, and what is available is expensive. The vegetables go bad after a couple days. Food shipments are delayed and sometimes that means no chicken at the grocery stores. You go through bags and bags of ice melt, trying to keep your driveway clear, which is a losing battle. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I say insanity is trying to keep your driveway clear in Alaska in the winter. You have to wash the floor of your arctic room (mudroom for you non-Alaskans) every day because snow gets tracked in every single day. It all sounds like a dream come true, doesn't it?

And yet, I feel lucky to live here. We had our first white Christmas in 8 years. We also had a white Halloween, white Thanksgiving, white Valentine's day, and most likely will have a white Easter, but Christmas seems extra special when there is snow on the ground. We have gone dog sledding, and snowshoeing. We have seen the Northern Lights. We have stood in the middle of a frozen river and watched Yukon Quest participants go by. We have seen ice sculptures and we have been to Santa's House in North Pole. We have sat in hot springs in -20*F (-29*C) weather. We have moose that live in our neighbourhood. We have been to the northernmost point in the United States. We have stood in the Arctic Ocean. The snow that we have to shovel is, for the most part, the lightest driest snow I have ever seen (so shoveling is manageable, even if still annoying). We have experienced cold that not many people can say they have felt. We have endured days with less than 4 hours of sunlight. We have seen the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets. We have seen colours in the sky that we have never seen before. An all pink sky? It does happen. We have seen light pillars and sun dogs. We have seen Denali in all its snow-covered beauty. We haven't been in any car accidents yet; well, unless you count the time that *someone* hit the side of the garage while pulling in and broke the side-view mirror off her car, but let's not talk about that, okay? We have strengthened friendships over dinners, board games, and many cups of hot chocolate. We have found new shows to watch on Netflix. We have read many, many books.

Everyday I get to look out my window at the whiteness that surrounds me and think "I live in Alaska." And sometimes, I even like it here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sled dogging!

Going dog sledding was pretty high on my Alaska bucket list and this weekend I was able to check it off. I was so excited as we pulled down the driveway to the sled dog tour company. We were about to go dog sledding! And on the heels of the Yukon Quest?!? It doesn't get much better than that. 

It was a perfect dog sledding day (I say as if I know what that looks like. Haha). The weather was pretty nice, around 5*F (-15*C). The sun was shining. Our musher was a German named Olaf. Olaf has lived in Alaska for about 30 years. He lives in a cabin he built himself on land about 200 hundred miles from us, and 50 miles from the nearest road. He comes into town a couple times a year to buy supplies, including enough dog food to feed 18 dogs for months. Then he transports it by dog sled back to his cabin. He was in the area for a couple months, running dog sled tours to earn money to buy window for his cabin, since he can't make the glass himself. As he told us his story, a part of me couldn't help but admire him. What a wonderful way to live in Alaska, just a man and his dogs on his own land, in a home he built with his own hands. Another part of me thought he was completely crazy. Who would want to live like that in this barren, frozen wasteland of a state? I came to the conclusion that I would like to try it for a month or two, but not for much longer than that. 

The dog sled ride itself was so much fun. We went for 7 miles on a beautiful trail. We got to ride the runners, meaning that we stood on the back of the sled, balanced on one runner (Olaf needed to be on the other one to drive the team). It took a few minutes to become steady but once that happened, oh man!! What an experience to ride behind a sled being pulled by dogs. The trail was a bit bumpy at times and the dogs got up to a speed of 12 miles an hour at one point, which added to the adventure. Neither Husband nor I ended up in a snowbank so I call that a success.

Before and after the ride, we were able to pet the dogs that weren't being used for tours. Turns out that the dogs LOVED Husband. He has a way with them apparently (too bad we just found out he is allergic). I was surprised to learn that sled dogs are pretty much mutts. They are not all the same type of dog like you see in movies and TV shows. Most of the dogs we saw, both at the dog sled place and during the Yukon Quest, looked nothing like the traditional husky we envision pulling sleds. The only thing they all have in common is they have some part of husky in them.

This was an amazing experience. We are already talking about doing it again next winter. If you find yourself in Alaska, I highly recommend a dog sled tour. It is an experience you won't regret!