Fantastic Weather, Fun Skiing in Fairbanks.

Above: Snow-covered spruce trees lead to a hill north of Fairbanks briefly blanketed by the golden glow of sunrise.

While much of North America is recovering from the recent polar vortex, Fairbanks has been experience lovely weather. Temperatures were above zero degrees fahrenheit for much of December and January, including plenty of balmy days up into the 20-degree range. Not to say we haven’t had cold weather – last weekend was 40-below – but it has felt pretty mild so far.

All that warm weather was ideal for cross-country skiing. Nordic skiing is easily one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors while getting a killer workout.

One of the outings was directed toward a frozen pond (in the summer nothing more then a swamp,) overlooked by a old cabin on the bank. Whispery clouds provided a canvas for the pink and orange sunset to blanket.

An old cabin at sunset just north of Fairbanks Alaska, Jan. 2, 2014

An old cabin at sunset just north of Fairbanks Alaska, Jan. 2, 2014

Closeup of an old cabin.

Closeup of an old cabin.

 

Beautiful Burgundy Region Bike Ride – part one.

Above: Vineyards near and far in the Saint-Aubin town of Bourgognes, France. 

The bike left from Beaune, Bourgognes region of France, on a scalding July 17, 2013 – perhaps high eighties by early afternoon. But it was très beau! Blue doors on brick houses, vineyards near and far, wheat fields, and small towns continually supervened by smaller towns – even one with a castle. 

This is part one-of-three and it it only gets better. So please, stay tuned. 

Cool blues and greens on the brick house contrasted the hot mid-July temperatures.

Cool blues and greens on the brick house contrasted the hot mid-July temperatures.

This brick house comes complete with a creek.

This brick house comes complete with a creek.

On a very smooth bike path. One of many small towns in the background.

On a very smooth bike path. One of many small towns in the background.

Beginning of Ski Season – Weekly Photo Challenge

Above: A quiet and foggy beginning to the 2013-2014 season at Skiland. December 7, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.

December 7, 2013, marked the start of the downhill season at Skiland – the farthest-north chairlift in North America. Opening day is often a mad dash; wake up after a party; corral people, some gear, and grub; then try to get there for first run at 10 a.m., because last run comes quick at 2:30 p.m.

This year was relaxed, waxed boards the night before and went to bed at a reasonable time. The next day lots of clouds made visibility difficult, but unseasonably warm temperatures – over 10 degrees fahrenheit – complemented  a snowpack that hide reasonable numbers of rocks! 

Not much lifts the spirits in dark and typically cold December then an early opening at the downhill. Here’s a few examples of rapidly-changing light from the chairlift. 

Colorful Seattle Streets

Above: Walking the docks at sunset in Washington Park Arboretum.

It’s time for a few more pictures form the streets of Seattle, featuring some fantastic fall colors. Not much to say about these – just an exercise in editing and blogging!

Vibrant leafs expand across the frame as a couple enjoys a walk near the Ballard Locks.

Vibrant leafs expand across the frame as a couple enjoys a walk near the Ballard Locks.

Canoeing around - Washington Park Arboretum, Oct. 13, 2013.

Canoeing around – Washington Park Arboretum, Oct. 13, 2013.

Old yellow stables at Discovery Park.

Old yellow stables at Discovery Park.

Taking a sunset run on the docks at the arboretum.

Taking a sunset run on the docks at the arboretum.

Litte Daylight, Cold Temperatures, A Long Ski.

Above: At 10:28 a.m. the sun has yet to rise above tree line, snow can be seen blowing off peaks in the Alaska Range. Elliott Highway, 37 miles north of Fairbanks. 

It was an… ambitious adventure. Nordic ski 14 miles into Colorado Creek Cabin, in White Mountains National Recreation Area, starting about 55 miles north of Fairbanks. Distance wasn’t the issue. The problem at hand was twofold: temperatures around -35 degrees fahrenheit, and less then 5 hours of daylight. Stopping more then 2 or 3 minutes meant quickly becoming chilled, and wasting precious daylight. 

It’s fascinating to review the time-of-day pictures were shot, tracing the sun path.

At exactly noon, the sun is already hidden behind some trees, with a frozen lake in the foreground.

At exactly noon the sun is already hidden behind trees, with a frozen pond in the foreground.

At 12:16 p.m. some of the only direct sunlight to be had.

At 12:16 p.m. some of the only direct sunlight to be had.

Nick pauses partway into a long uphill on a cold cross-country ski.

Nick pauses partway into a long uphill on a cold cross-country ski.

Sporting thick  fur mittens and hauling a moose skull, the only person we encountered on the 6-hour ski said “you have a ways to go.” Taken 2:21p.m., Nov. 30, 2013.

By the time darkness really took hold Nick and I had just slogged up the final ascent. I was far too exhausted to stop and fumble with my camera, and risk chilling off again.

When not sleeping or eating the cabin was a blast, but the next day brought another 14-mile ski back. Luckily the return was all downhill. 

Even two weeks later, as my blisters and frostbite continue to heal I wonder why we thought it would be a good idea. It really comes down to mind over matter, living in Alaska requires perseverance and toughness. Sometimes a little personal reminder is necessary. 

Denali and Fairbanks at Dusk

Denali and Fairbanks

Above: Denali – the tallest mountain in North America – is silhouetted at sunset as city lights from Fairbanks begin to shine. A 15-second exposure created the long tail of smoke leaving the power plant. November 20, 2013, 

Winter in Fairbanks is a double-edged sword. The clear days with stunning views are often some of the coldest. The low temperature was -32 degrees fahrenheit the night I took this photo, 2 years and 2 days after I took this similar photo.

Luckily one of the grandest sights is easily seen about 7 miles north of town, on the Steese Highway.

Calm Before the Storm

Above: A strange system moves in prior to a strong winter storm, seen from University of Alaska Fairbanks.

A storm that blew into Interior Alaska recently brought with it snow, rain, strong winds, three days of closed public schools and left an estimated 14,000 people without power, heat or both. An article from the local News-Miner has more details along with photos of toppled trees.

The dramatic-sounding storm wasn’t as bad as the front that hit western-Alaska towns. And certainly nothing compared to recent Typhoon Haiyan that ripped apart the Philippines, a monumental tragedy.

My photographs are from the night before the storm, and rather unusual for Fairbanks.

A streetlight obscured by trees blends fog nicely into the frame.

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FoggyEve'

A streetlight obscured by trees blends fog into the frame.