Sunday, July 11, 2010

Highlights from Fairbanks

Dave and I judged three days of (dog) agility trials over the July 4th weekend - in FAIRBANKS, ALASKA!

It was terrific! It was like getting into a wayback machine. They ran one ring at a time, spectators cheered and clapped for every dog, they had us give out ribbons at the end of each class. It was really neat for us, as judges, to hear who finished titles, who got double Q's, who finally got a leg in their class. Many agility trials in the Seattle area have gotten fairly impersonal. Exhibitors only occasionally clap, and awards are posted in a book with ribbons as self serve. Fairbanks had a record entry, though, and computer "challenges" plus a delay by thunderstorm, resulted in two very long days -starting at 7:30 am and finishing after 8 pm. I hope they find a way to keep their down home atmosphere and also be a bit more time efficient.

Sorry, I didn't take photos at the agility trial.

We stayed on for 3 extra days to poke around Fairbanks. It was Dave's first trip to Alaska, and only my third. The club gave us tickets on the Riverboat tour as judges gifts, the University of Fairbanks has a great museum, and the Visitor Center also has a Cultural exhibit. That's what we did the next day. Then we took a day to drive to Denali National Park. We looked at doing a big loop drive around the interior of Alaska, but one of the roads was unpaved, and our rental car agreement nixed that. Going home day, we visited more of the University of Alaska. We both took photos.

We saw this plane at SeaTac while we were waiting for our time to board. Golly gee! It was our plane! Think they got planes mixed up during scheduling?

The Kennel Club had put us up at Pike's Riverfront Hotel, convenient to the trial site, airport, and a nice place. It was rather busy, buses and tourists coming and going most of the day and night, plus a bit on the expensive side for us. I was introduced to Bed & Breakfast Inns on my first trip to Alaska in the 1970's and instantly became a convert. Most B&B's are more reasonably priced than hotels, plus have much more local flavor than an impersonal hotel. AND breakfasts are generally outstanding!

So, I had searched the internet and found several B&B's in Fairbanks and chose "Lizzie's Nest" from among them. Turns out it was a great choice! Our hosts were retired teachers, long time residents of Fairbanks, and active in the B&B Association. The B&B was in their home in the hills about 10 minutes North of Fairbanks, our "apartment" was the lower floor and had Murphy bed, chairs, loveseat, day bed, kitchenette and private bath with a walk in shower. They had cleared the trees just enough for a nice lawn and view of Mt. McKinley (I prefer the native name - Denali) and part of Fairbanks.

Breakfasts were sourdough pancakes, homemade English muffins and waffles, jams and jellies from local fruits - have you ever heard of "Spruce Tip Jelly???" - it was pretty good. The blueberry jam was to die for, though. It was packed with flavor and just sweet enough. Also, juice, fruit and sausages. We didn't really need to eat the rest of the day (but, of course, we did ;-) Here I am standing next to the front yard, and their vegetable "garden".

We saw this Ladies parka in the Cultural center. Liz (of Lizzie's Nest) told us her mother had donated the parka, which was originally her grandmother's, to the center. It was beautiful and looked very warm.

This fella greeted us at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) Museum of the North gallery. He almost looks like he has his paw on Dave's shoulder... heh.

The gallery was packed with many things "Alaska". It wasn't as organized as some museums I've visited, but had so much information and so much to see that we missed a lot.

One item of interest - there was a whole section on the Internment camps from WWII... not the Internment of Japanese-Americans but the Internment of Native Alaskans who lived in the Aleutian Islands!! When the Japanese invaded the outer Aleutians, the US Government - against the wishes of the Alaskan Government - took the native Aleutians (several islands and different peoples worth) into "protective" custody. I guess the idea was sound but the execution was terrible! The natives ended up in camps that were totally inadequate, homes and villages were burned and looted, families were separated for years. The whole business was covered up for many years, even through the discussions and eventual reparations given to the Japanese-American families who suffered through the internment camps. Finally, these peoples are getting at least some recognition and closure. How is it that good intentions can have such terrible results?

Well. We also saw their film on the Aurora Borealis. Excellent!

Denali played peek-a-boo with us throughout most of our stay. On the second morning at Lizzie's Nest, we saw this:

...and decided we had to drive closer. Denali National Park and Preserve is about a 3 hour drive from Fairbanks through some rather interesting topography. The closer we got, the thicker the clouds got. ...until, we started passing to the SouthEast of the Park. We were rewarded with this view not far past Broad Pass. Living with Mt. Rainier in our backyard, it takes a heck of a mountain to impress me. Denali is a heck of a mountain.

There were several places of interest on the UAF campus. We strolled around the Botanical Garden while waiting for the Large Animal Research Facility to open. And - a portion of the botanical garden is this Dyer's Garden! The Spinners and Weavers Guild of Fairbanks maintains this garden of dye plants at the University. Fun!!

This is the Madder bed:

Here are the young Indigo plants:

Here are sorrel plants with evidence of a not so welcome visitor!

And this is the woad bed:

They also had marigolds, corieopsis, ragwort and several other plants, and pages from A Dyer's Garden laminated and bound and available for reading by the garden.

Finally, we made it to LARS - the Large Animal Research Station at UAF. We had enough time to go on the 45 minute presentation tour, eat our lunch, and do some shopping at the tiny gift shop before heading back to the airport for our flight home.

Sooooo, why was the LARS on my list of places "not to miss" in Fairbanks???

Since the last time I was in Fairbanks in the 1980's, I learned to spin yarn and have experienced many different fibers. You spinners know that the ultimate spinning fiber for softness and warmth is qiviut... the undercoat of the Musk Ox. Here, at LARS, is a whole herd of Musk Oxen (who neither have musk glands nor are oxen - they're actually more closely related to sheep and goats than cattle or deer.)

Musk oxen are ice age mammals ideally suited to living in the arctic. Even Fairbanks in the summer is on the warm side for them. The musk oxen above and below are males.

This next one is a female. Both sexes have horns; the males horns are longer and wider.

Both sexes shed qiviut in the late spring/early summer! It comes off in a big sheet, and the UAF sells theirs - half to the Alaskan Native co-op based in Anchorage, and half to SPINNERS!!! Yes, I bought some. :-) Luxury fiber comes with a luxury price, so I got just 2 ounces of raw fiber. There is some of the long, hairy outer coat, some intermediate coat (primary fibers?), but mostly the soft, downy qiviut! I'm really looking forward to preparing it from scratch and spinning my prize.

So, highlights complete, here is our homeward bound conveyance. Much less colorful than the one that brought us to Fairbanks, but also not full! Dave and I traded off on the window seat and watched the Pacific coast mountains and Islands on our way home. There are HUGE and incredibly long glaciers coming off the mountains in SE Alaska and NW Canada.

We're looking forward to returning someday. Alaska.