Monday, June 30, 2008

Earthwatch: Mongolia

I did another Earthwatch presentation at the Elim Café this weekend, this time on my Mongolia Expedition.

It was not very well attended, but I did have at least 8 people there, so that’s not entirely bad. One group of three were there because the daughter was heading out to Mongolia herself, soon, and wanted some tips on what to expect out there. I believe she is going to volunteer at one of the orphanage/hospitals in UB (that’s short for Ulaanbaatar, their capitol city).

Once again, I had to make due with the dwindling amount of supplies I have on hand because the box of new supplies the headquarters sent me has not arrived yet. It’s ok, because I keep all the flyers and pamphlets they mail out – but since I only have one copy of those, I need to keep them and cannot let anybody take them home, as they seem to want to do. I also brought along all the books I have on Mongolia and the wildlife out there – those are always good to pass around. And to really set the mood, I had my CD of Mongolian Throat Singing playing in the background both before and after the talk.

The people at the café are very nice people, and I almost have them all sold on going somewhere with Earthwatch!

Their barrister is very much into coffee and the sustainable farming of it, so that’s rather an easy sell: Earthwatch has several expeditions dealing with that subject, down in Costa Rica.

The marketing director has a sister who is interested in one of the archaeology ones, and since I am as well I find it very easy to talk to her about the possibility of going.

As with most people I know, money is unfortunately a deciding factor. These expeditions are not free! There are numerous ways of making it work, so I keep bringing as many options to their attention as I can come up with. Hopefully, some day soon, I will be able to sit and listen to THEIR presentations!

Family Hike Series - Part 4

Wow – what a gorgeous hike that was! I have to say the Winner Creek Trail is one of my favorite hikes.

Mother, Noel, Hank, Myself and my guest, Rich Reading from Denver, did the hike together. It was a great day for hiking, too – the weather was perfect for it, and the trails were in very good condition.

There has been a considerable amount of trail maintenance done on the trail lately – a lot more boardwalks installed so you don’t have to trudge thru all that muck and mud. On a sad note, the “hand-bucket” thingy has been taken down and replaced by a regular bridge. We were all really looking forward to hauling ourselves across the gorge in that bucket…

We of course ate lunch afterwards at the Bakery – you simply cannot do that trail without stopping by there! The staff working at the Bakery seem to be all from Russia, with only one English speaking person in the bunch. They somehow managed to turn Noel’s name into a 4-sylable word! I can’t even begin to spell that one out phonetically… As always, the food was delicious. I’m never sure if it’s because it’s good food or because we just came in from 2.5 hours of hiking out in the elements, you know what I mean?

On the drive back into town, Rich and I pulled over into just about every pull-out there is so that he could take pictures. That creek where the “combat fishing” takes place was particularly beautiful. We saw two juvenile eagles hanging out with their parents, waiting for their meals to be tossed up onto the beach for them. Amazingly enough, we also saw a Harbor Seal in the creek! Who knew they would be there!

Potter’s Marsh was Rich’s favorite pull-out, however – he is an avid birder, so really appreciated all the nesting water birds. We saw two sets of fluffy little baby birds on the beach. Oddly enough, you could walk right up to them – their parents weren’t attacking, like I fully expected them to (memories of Arctic Terns dive-bombing us each year at the lake kept running thru my mind)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There’s a snake in there!

When I was about 25 or so, I had a pet snake I’d named Ssadi. She was a rather large Corn Snake that I’d gotten as a 1-year-old baby and raised to adulthood. She was beautiful, too: a deep orange with brown & black diamonds down her back, and a black & white checkered belly.

My friend Kevin (aka: Aqua-Aerobics Man) wanted to meet her, so one day when she had to go to the vet’s, we arranged that I would stop by his work after the appointment and show her to him.

He was at the University pool that afternoon, coaching a high school swim team. When I walked in he was at the opposite end of the pool, which was full of loud, boisterous teenagers. Using only hand gestures and facial expressions, he asked me if I had the snake with me, and I replied that she was tucked in my shirt.

I actually had two shirts on: a t-shirt and a sweatshirt (and yes, I was over-heating in the pool room), and Ssadi was wrapped around my waist in between the two.

We made our way alongside the pool to meet together in the middle, with all the teenagers watching (Coach has a girl come meet him!). When we met up, Kevin reached out and took the neck of my sweatshirt and pulled it out so he could look in.

“Oh, Wow!” he exclaimed.

And then he realized that the entire swim team had stopped their activities and were now staring at him in dumbfounded amazement.

“There’s a snake in there!” he told them.

Right… sure there is.

You could tell by the looks on their faces that they didn’t believe him, so I said “No, really – there is!” all the while trying to extricate her from around my waist.

When I finally got her out so they could see that there was indeed a snake in there, they all burst out laughing.

Kevin was blushing.

Aqua-Aerobics Man!

When I got home from the zoo Tuesday night, I found a very unexpected message on my answering machine from a guy I hadn’t seen in about 15 years! It took me a while to place him, but I finally figured out who he was. Many years ago I had taken an aqua-aerobics class; the instructor turned out to be a very nice guy named Kevin.

He was in town this week to attend his brother’s daughter’s wedding, and looked me up on a whim. We wanted to get together and catch up on everything, but with his flight leaving that night and my schedule being so booked (as it always seems to be) it looked like we wouldn’t be able to – but he somehow managed to squeeze in a few minutes here at the office, so I got to see him after all.

He looks good! He is, after all, an aqua-aerobics instructor who has lived in Hawaii for the past 6 years. I have his phone number & email address now, so we can stay in touch at least.

Who knows – maybe a trip to Hawaii is in my near future?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday Night at the Zoo – Part 4

The title of the program last night was “Planet Insect” given by Fred Sorenson of the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service.

I had heard Fred talk before on the subject of bugs, and remembered that he was a fabulous speaker. In fact, I’m rather proud to say that it was my idea to have him be a part of our TNATZ programs this year! Katie, our education director at the zoo, told Fred after his talk that his spot on next year’s program is pretty much guaranteed – he was that good!

What makes Fred such a great speaker is that he is truly excited about the subject. He’s very animated when he speaks, and uses his entire body to illustrate his point. And he comes with his own bug collection – trays of all kinds of bugs, displayed on the boards with tiny pins thru their bodies.

The program started out with him asking the crowd what kind of pets they had: dogs, cats, reptiles, and the like. Turned out that only one individual in a crowd of well over 50 people had an insect for a pet.

Why is that?

According to Fred, and I have to agree with him, humans are almost instinctually “freaked out” by insects because they are so NOT like us. They have too many legs, they don’t have a recognizable face with ears and eyes where they belong, and their life cycles are so alien to ours.

Speaking of aliens, the movie “Alien” (staring Sigourney Weaver) was actually based on insectoid behaviors!

After talking about insects and all their fascinating facts & statistics, he turned the kids loose on the lawn. He had a bunch of little glass vials with lids which he handed out to everybody, telling them to go find a bug!

And find bugs, they did.

Some really cool ones, too. One little girl even managed to find a bug that stumped the expert: Fred did not know what it was. I told her that she should go to school to become an Entomologist so that she could figure out what it was for herself!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Earthwatch Presentations

I gave an Earthwatch presentation a few weeks ago at a new café called the Elim Café. It started out being very poorly attended, with only café staff on hand. I decided to go ahead and show my power-point to them anyway, and am glad I did because people trickled in throughout the presentation. By the time I finished, I had about 10 people sitting there.

I used my “Earthwatch in General" presentation with all the gorgeous photographs provided to me by the main headquarters in Massachusetts. I thought that would be a good way to draw people in because it gives me a chance to talk about all the possible expeditions, not just my own. I also get to talk about the research being done, the results they’ve had so far, and the potential for the next 10 years.

The café is an internet café, and it just so happened that there were a few random guys on computers when I started. Of course, I interrupted their gaming (or surfing, or emailing, or… or…) – and I did apologize for that – but they told me afterwards that they didn’t mind because they got interested in my presentation.

Pretty much everybody that was there picked up brochures, postcards, and/or the catalog to look thru. I had asked for supplies from the headquarters ahead of time, but hadn’t received their package yet – so just brought in what I had and passed that out.

Hopefully I will get the re-supply package this week, since I am scheduled to give another presentation at the same café on Saturday. This one is to be on my Mongolia expedition, so I will bring all the books I read ahead of time to prepare for it.

I also have two discs of Mongolian Throat Singing music – I wonder if I can have that playing in the background both before and after my talk? That would make it interesting, I’m sure.

Learning a New Computer Program: REVIT

We had a 3-day training session at work last week, to get the whole company on board with the new computer program = Revit.

I hate new computer programs. I am not a computer geek, and would love nothing more than to stay with what I am comfortable with.

That being said, I have to admit that I do like this new program. The potential is very exciting.

It’s a Building Information Management tool, otherwise known as BIM. BIM is becoming an industry standard so our office needs to be on board as soon as possible: we want to lead the pack, not follow it.

The learning curve is going to be a rough one: a lot of people are going to have to change completely the way they come at their designs now.

Because I am on the CAD Standards Committee here at the office, I felt that I should know the program ahead of the in-house training, so I took a crash course offered by one of the local dealers here in town, Alaska Computer Brokers.

The crash course was a 16-week class condensed down into one 8-hour day. Talk about overload! My brain made it till about 3:30 before shutting down.

I have the book and a disc containing all the training files from that class, a demo disc from AutoCAD, and the program itself has some tutorials in the help file.

That’s what I’m working on now – trying to get familiar with the program so that I can (theoretically) answer questions that other people will have once the office gets up and running on it.

Alien's Vet Appointment

Alien went to the doctor on Saturday. I packed his box up with a portable heater and some towels, so he was purring in the car on the way over.

The doctor was one we hadn’t met before. She was very nice, and was properly impressed with the Alien. She kept saying how handsome he is, and what a sweet cat.

We like her.

He’s lost weight, which is both good and bad. Good because he was overweight – bad because it wasn’t due to any diet change, but rather due to old age instead.

She checked his eyes and determined that he can see light, at least. Beyond that is anybody’s guess. He’s still bumping into chairs and whatnot. I have to be careful and make sure his pathways are cleared of obstructions. He knows where the food is, and the potty…

As for his hearing, she thought that cleaning out all the gunk would help – other than that, there’s no real way of knowing what he hears since he’s always been a little off on associating sound with anything.

He hates having his ears cleaned, by the way. She actually had a vet tech come in to do it for him. He did a very good job, and Alien lived thru it (barely).

All in all, he’s relatively healthy and should be around a while longer.

Anual Family Zoo Day

Our annual Family Zoo Day went very well this year. I was a little cranky at first, but once I realized I was snapping at people, I made myself calm down and ended up having a very good time.

We rented the greenhouse again this year so we had a place to settle down and eat, without having to worry about any weather - which turned out to be nice anyway. The greenhouse cost quite a bit so everybody paid $5.00 per person to help cover it; that worked out very well.

The gardener at the Zoo does an incredible job with all the plants: that greenhouse is spectacular! The biggest job of the day is trying to keep Mother from pinching off parts of all the plants to take home and try to grow herself!

I made everybody play a game again, too. I made cards that had a letter of the alphabet on top and six categories listed down the side (Mammal, Plant, Bird, Fish, Insect, and Reptile) and we all had to come up with a name for each category starting with the letter listed on the top of the card. It was a pretty good game: everybody got into it and did three or four cards each. There were some rather inventive animals, I must say. My favorite was my niece Tara. She had the letter G so for the reptile category, she wrote Godzilla.

Once everybody had eaten their fill, we went out and walked around the zoo for a while. There’s a lot going on at the zoo this year!

Our new Amur tigers arrived finally! 4-year old brothers name Korol and Kunali, from New York. They’re gorgeous, of course. We could just see a bit of orange peeking thru the bushes back in the back corner. My niece, Lauren, kept wondering how a very large orange cat was able to hide so well. You would think they’d stick out like a sore thumb.

We have lots of new babies at the zoo this year: a baby musk ox, two baby caribou, two baby moose, a baby harbor seal, and a yearling camel. Best of all, we just MIGHT have (cross your fingers and toes!) baby snow leopards!

The baby musk ox caused a bit of commotion the other day = she got out of her pen and into the bigger enclosure with the big male musk ox. Poor thing got a little battered and bruised before they were able to get her back in the smaller pen with her mother again! Male musk ox do love to head-but things…

A few weeks ago, a cruise ship down in the southeastern part of the state came across a baby mountain goat standing next to its dead mother. They picked her up and brought her to us – we now have her in quarantine, and she is the cutest little thing! She cries all day, but is quite feisty and very healthy. Hopefully, she will go in with the mountain sheep once she’s big enough.

We also have a musk rat, a raccoon that had been confiscated at the airport, and a golden eagle that came to us from a rescue place down in Oregon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Family Hike Series - Part 3

Sunday was the third hike in our Family Hike series: we went up to Eklutna Lake and spent a very pleasant 2 hours walking around the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.

I met Mother at the parking lot for the Thunderbird Falls trailhead and left my car there – after transferring all the stuff back and forth, of course. It seems there’s always stuff that I need to pass on to her, and she always has stuff to pass on to me!

Once that was all taken care of, I climbed into her truck and we took off together from there. The trailhead for the Eklutna Lake trail is about 10 miles from that parking lot, heading up the hill a good enough distance that our ears were popping.

Coincidentally, my brother Stewart had worked the job that paved that road. He has pictures of it on his website:

Once we got to the trailhead we parked the truck and got our gear gathered together. I keep my backpack loaded with all the stuff I need for each hike, like my plant book, my tree book, my animal tracks book, my trail book, my bear spray & whistle, my bug dope, my camera, my binoculars (yes, it is a tad bit heavy) but there always seems to be something missing. This time it was my water. Again. You’d think I would learn to have a bottle in there, since it seems I’m always forgetting the water.

I did have a new toy to play with: my friend Rikki had given me a compass for my birthday, so I had that out and was walking around the parking lot while waiting for the rest of the gang to show up. Mother would ask me, “Where do you think the bathroom is?” and I would reply, “I don’t know – but North is that way!”

Very helpful, I’m sure.

Right on time, Rachel and her family drove up and parked right beside us. David, her husband, and Elly, her daughter, were all very excited to be out with us that day. It was Father’s Day, and this was his choice for celebrating it. My kind of guy!

It had been many, many years since anybody in our little group had been there, which meant that nobody really knew which direction we were supposed to go – so we just chose a path that looked interesting and took off. We ended up back by the dam, which was really cool. I had hoped to be able to see that – although, I must admit it wasn’t as impressive as I’d thought it would be.

Eklutna Lake is where Anchorage gets it’s water & some of it’s power from – so I thought the dam would be this huge powerful thing. It actually was quite small, and looked like any old concrete bunker that just happened to have water on one side.

The lake itself is very large; if we had walked all the way around it, it would have taken 2 days (or so my trail book says)! We just went part of the way, and had fun identifying plants as we went.

Yes, I got to use my books!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Discovery Tours at the Zoo

The summer season is finally upon us, which means two things to me: the tourists are here (in droves!) and I get to give my favorite tour at the zoo!

Each summer, from the end of May till around the beginning of September, we offer The Discovery Tour every day, from Noon till 2:00. Actually, we started out calling it a Naturalist Tour, but decided after the first year that The Discovery Tour sounded better. Since I do have to work my regular job (the one I actually get paid to do) I can only do the weekend tours, but it’s still a lot of fun.

For a mere $20.00, a tourist (or a local – we don’t discriminate!) can receive a 2-hour guided tour and learn about not only the animals of the zoo but also the plants, and how they interact. For good measure, I throw in a lot of Alaskan history as well as my personal experiences growing up here.

I have a lot of fun with this tour, but it does require a bit of training to be able to give them their money’s worth. I have taken quite a few classes, read a lot of books, done a lot of on-line research, and picked the brains of a lot of experts around town in preparation for this tour! I don’t mind in the least, however. I love to learn everything I can about the plants and animals, and really enjoy telling people what I’ve learned.

My first tour this season was for a couple from Australia. The lady was so excited to be there: she was cute. The guy was a really nice man – well, both of them were. It was really fun to spend a couple hours with them.

My second tour wasn’t quite as fun as the first one, but was still a good tour. This time it was for a gentleman from Fairbanks who had guests up from Michigan.

One thing I’m not too pleased with about these tours is that you never know who will sign up for them. You show up about half an hour ahead of time, and sit there and wait to see if you’ll have a tour that day or not. Sometimes you might have as many as 20, sometimes none. Most often it’s about 2-6 people, which is very doable.

Tuesday Night at the Zoo – Part 3

Last night was our third program in the TNATZ series, this time given by our zoo veterinarian, Dr. Riley Wilson.

Those of you who know Dr. Riley, from The Pet Stop, know he is a wonderful man. Everybody loves him, from the humans to his patients! He is, however, rather uncomfortable speaking in public, so sometimes his programs can get a little … off.

Katie, the education director here at the zoo, helped him out a bit more this year by bringing three animals into the greenhouse for his presentation. That gave him something to talk about, and got the ball rolling (as they say).

We had Peabody, one of the great horned owls, on hand (literally) – with his handler Jana. Next we had Chance, the red fox who was so badly injured as a kit – along with his handler Mary. Last but certainly not least, we had Karuna, one of our ball pythons – and I got to stand in as her handler!

All three of the animals did very well. Peabody was slightly nervous, but didn’t do much more than look around the place. Chance was amazing – I’m so pleased to see him looking so healthy! He was nervous, and kept running around Mary’s legs on his leash. She’d hold him and he’d settle down for a while, then struggle to be put down again. Karuna was great: she just kinda hung out around my neck for a while, then started to sniff around a bit. Towards the end, she actually started to squeeze on my neck just a little too hard – but nothing to get concerned about. She was just flexing her muscles, I think.

Dr. Riley spoke of what it means to be a veterinarian, how he got to be the Zoo Vet, and all the different types of care the animals receive. The audience (and we had about 46 people!) asked all sorts of questions afterwards, and Dr. Riley did great in answering them all.

Channel 11 was on hand that night, filming a bit-piece story of things to do out and about town. I’m told that I was on TV this morning! I wonder if anybody else saw it…

Animal Observations At The Zoo

I am helping a friend out with her thesis at UAA on the behavioral patterns of captive polar bears, as opposed to behavioral patterns of wild polar bears. This basically means that I spend my Friday evenings observing Ahpun and Lyutyik, the two polar bears we have at the zoo.

On the one hand, I love to watch those two; they are such beautiful animals (I’m slightly biased, but not much). On the other hand, it’s quite boring just sitting there. It’s cold, it’s uncomfortable, it’s buggy…

I have a stop-watch that beeps at me every 15 seconds. I sit and watch the bears and when the beep sounds, I write down exactly what they’re doing at that very minute.

I do this for 2 hours.

Even worse, my friend does this for 8 hours, 7 days a week!

This is why I’m helping her: she’s exhausted!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Taking the whole "alternate energy sources" thing just a little too far!

Boy, did I have one strange dream last night.

It was our company dinner and the place we were eating was using this huge toad as a means of generating electricity. The toad, who was about the size of a small dog, couldn’t generate a whole lot of electricity, so it was fairly dark.

The toad was also providing dinner: you would break off pieces of him, which turned into miniature copies of himself, and that’s what you were supposed to eat for the main course.

I was – of course – trying to save all the little toads, while Lauri and Brian (co-workers) got into a scuffle with the toad over their dinner. They each grabbed an arm & a leg of the big toad and were pulling on him trying to get their meal out of him.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tuesday Night at the Zoo - Part 2

Last night was the second in the Tuesday Night at the Zoo series. It was my first one, however, since I had missed the actual first one while I was in Fairbanks. From the sounds of it, the actual first one was VERY well attended: they had between 80-90 people show up! That’s almost unheard of, but they attribute that to both the subject matter (Polar Bears and Climate Change) and to the fact that our advertizing is a little better this year.

We may not have had such a huge turnout last night, but with 46 people we were still scrambling to get enough chairs and elbow room for everybody!

The title of the presentation was “Drawing Zoo Animals” by the Sketch-n-Safari guys, Leon Rabinovitch & Steve Carson. They spent the hour showing people how to draw all the different zoo animals (with a dragon thrown in for good measure). The audience really seemed to be having a good time.

Setting up for the event was interesting. The education department has been relocated to three different areas around the zoo: Katie’s office is currently still in the old Ed building (which is due to be torn down this summer) but will soon be moved to – I think – the old elephant house. The reptiles and education critters have already been moved there, so she’ll have company when she gets settled in. All the education supplies are either in the garage behind the coffee shop or in various closets scattered around the office building.

Poor Katie: whenever she has a program to put on (which is almost a daily thing this year) she has to run all over the zoo to gather up her supplies. That’s hard enough under normal circumstances, but you throw in the fact that she’s 4 months pregnant and is beginning to feel slightly uncomfortable with it, and that just exacerbates the problem ten-fold!

If anybody is feeling particularly generous at the moment, you might consider donating an electric pencil sharpener to the zoo. That sounds so small and insignificant, but I tell you: we had boxes and boxes of pencils to hand out, and barely a tenth of them were sharpened! We had plenty of tablets of paper, and tons of crayons, pens, and markers thankfully, so everybody had something to write on and with regardless.

We would have preferred to have held the program outside under the big tent, but Alaskan weather is unpredictable at best – so, we erred on the side of caution and put them all in the greenhouse. That seemed to work just fine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Human Anatomy

While in Fairbanks with my cousin Chris last week, I got to spend some time in the classroom where he teaches Human Anatomy.

The room had all kinds of plastic models of just about every part of the body you can think of. He went over most of them, telling me all the parts and how the work together. My favorite was a torso that could either be male or female, depending on what parts were attached to it. That day it happened to be female.

I finally got to see how it was possible to have 32 feet of intestines crammed into one’s body cavity!

Also in the room were actual skeletons, both human and animal (mostly cats). Chris showed me a man in a cabinet that was of Asian descent: he was put together in such a way as to be movable, so you could see how the joints work and how everything fits together. He was quite short, actually – possibly 5’-6” or so, as compared to my 6’-0” height. Another human skeleton was kept in a box, unassembled – thereby giving students a chance to attempt to put one together themselves.

One of the major highlights of my visit to the anatomy lab was to hold a human brain in my hands! Gloved, of course (me, not the brain). The chemicals used to preserve human tissue are not something you really want to soak in. The brain was surprisingly heavy for its size, I thought. Chris pointed out all the pieces/parts to it, and talked of how it functions.

The other highlight of my visit was the chance to look thru the microscopes. I had never done that before, and I must say it takes some skill. You can’t just look and see things easily. You have to adjust your vision in some strange way that can’t be explained – you just have to figure it out on your own.

When I finally “got it” it almost felt like I had flipped a switch in my head. I was able to go from looking in the scope to looking up at Chris with relative ease - after a bit of practice, that is.

The slides were arranged in boxes so you could pick and choose what you wanted to see. I looked at bone slivers, muscle tissue samples, amphibious skin samples… all kinds on cool stuff. I even got to see blood cells and cells that were dividing and multiplying. While I was looking at the premade slides, Chris got some pond water out and prepared a few slides so I could see the bugs living there – they were actually quite cute!

When we got back to Chris’s cabin for the night, he loanded me a book to read called “Stiff” by Mary Roach. This is a book that is readily available at most any bookstore, and is about “The Curios Lives of Human Cadavers.” He thought that since I had such a good time in the anatomy lab, I might enjoy reading it – and I totally am!

However - while this book is, without doubt, a very interesting and well-written book, I must admit that I cannot advise reading it while trying to eat lunch!

Especially if you’re eating brown rice, black beans, and scrambled eggs over crisp corn tortilla’s while reading about surgeons practicing their plastic surgery techniques on severed heads at a facial anatomy refresher course.

I may never eat at that restaurant again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Family Hike Series - Part 2

June 1 - Powerline Pass Trail

I had my doubts when I pulled into the parking lot at the trail head yesterday. It was blowing the kind of wind that can knock you off your feet if you’re not carful – and I just knew that most people would not be expecting that and so would not be dressed properly. There was also a considerable amount of snow still on the ground, as well – we were, after all, at about 2500 feet. But we persevered and ended up with a most excellent hike!

Mother, Kelly, Myself, Reed, Heather, Pam, Adriana, David, Elley, and Rose made up our hiking group this time – although Heather, Pam and Adriana turned back very shortly after beginning due to being too cold. Mother impressed me by gamely plowing thru the snow at the beginning of the trail to make it to the cleared off portion – I was afraid she would not be able to traverse the snow & ice. In fact, there were several instances of people suddenly breaking thru the crust on top and falling thru almost 2 feet to the ground below.

Once we got to the main trail, the going was much easier; except for the wind. That was blowing right at our faces the whole way out. The way back was much easier even if it was up hill the whole way – the wind at our backs made the steep incline barely noticeable.

I did remember to wear the right shoes this time, so my feet gave me no problems at all. I managed to get snow down my socks, but other than being uncomfortable, that wasn’t enough to ruin the day. I had a great time!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Vacation in Fairbanks

I'm back!

I went to Fairbanks for a week to spend some time with my cousin. I just got back last night, so today will be spent unpacking and getting resettled in at home. My cats are like Velcro this morning!

I took the train up on Monday. That was a nice trip. Long, but still nice. I left the train station in Anchorage at 8:00 am and didn't get in to Fairbanks untill around 8:30 pm. I did, however, get to see a Mother Moose and a brand new born baby, 2 black bears, an eagle in its nest, and even got to see Denali - the whole thing, even! It is so tall it has its own weather system around it, and is usually covered with clowds - but I got a beautiful view.

Chris, my cousin, works at UAF in thier biology department, so I got to spend some time in his lab with him. He was extracting DNA from some blood samples taken from some common mures (water fowl) out in the Pribolof Islands. I had never had any lab experience, so it was fun for me. I think he thought I would be bored, but I loved it.

He even took me over to the classrooms where he teaches and let me look thru the microscopes! And, as a bonus, I got to hold a human brain in my hands! How cool is that?

We went to the Large Animal Research Station (LARS) and looked at the Musk Ox and Caribou. We went to the Alaska Bird Observatory (ABO) and looked at birds. We went to the Museum and looked at the exhibits there (they have some really nice dinosaur bones). We took his dog Pato out for a swim in the Chena River.

We had a great time - but I must say, I'm glad to be home. I took a flight home on Alaska Airlines because I knew that I'd want to just get home as quickly as possible (just one hour as opposed to 8 hours by train).

Thanks, Chris!