Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Alaskan Ginger is growing so fast!

I was just over to visit the SP Kennel Dog Log page and found that all the dogs in Aliy and Allen's kennel have new photos being posted. There was a shot of the photographer, whose name is Jeanne, holding "my" special fave puppy Ginger. I could not believe how that little girl has grown since I was there on August 10! Here is a link to the page. http://spkenneldoglog.blogspot.com/

The photo is not mine to share although I grabbed it for my personal file but you can scroll down just a little bit at SP's page and see it. It's also on Aliy's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aliy.zirkle

There is also a good new portrait of Quito, my other fave of the SP dogs. I'm a 'fan' of both of them since I cannot be a sponsor for Ginger--too many ahead of me :-( but that is okay. That one still has a doggie God Mother in New Mexico named Ginger also!! They are both kind of red but my Ginger is definitely not a Husky of any kind.  She is still a special girl though and my 'baby' but it is neat to know she has a namesake in Alaska!!

On another note I have started the Alaska sled dog lap robe quilt for which I got some special pieces of fabric while on my trip. Like all my quilts, it will be fully two sided--no plain back with just one pattern or color of material--and the front is almost complete while the back is coming along. When I get it finished, there will definitely be pictures! It's going to be a special souvenir and inspiration for me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time to check in

I've been scrambling around looking for other sources of funding but that is a slow and complex process. Does anyone answer plain old letters anymore???Otherwise there is not a lot of "Alaska news" right now except on my daily walks with my two red dogs--including Ginger who has a doggie God-daughter in Alaska--I've seen that a ubiquitous Alaska plant also grows here. Yes, there is Fire Weed in New Mexico! I found it in my western weed book and it seems to grow all over. It's most commonly found as early growth in sites where there have been wild fires but it also grows many other places. The magenta flowers are quite distinctive. Of course we have lots of other fall flowers blooming now after the late rains.

It was a very wet late summer and early fall here in the desert southwest, at least from Tucson, Arizona to Alamogordo, NM. I paid a visit to my old home area--from Tucson south and east in Arizona--last weekend and did not see any Fire weed there but it does grow here. I thought that was kind of amazing! Here is a picture of it in the Wasilla area but it looks exactly the same here although not quite as thick and plentiful, mostly an isolated plant or two.

I have a customized weather.com page in my bookmarks and include Wasilla and Fairbanks in the towns I can check for current conditions. At midday Fairbanks was below freezing so I am sure that is making the mushers happy! Now if they just get some snow but at least they can be training some with their carts and ATVs now which is good. The dogs just cannot work at temperatures up in the 60-70 degree range. I am hoping for a good snowy winter this year for them.

Actually there has been a bit of snow in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico already so winter is coming even in our vicinity. Normally we expect the first frost by right around Halloween--which is exactly two weeks from tonight. The village of Cloudcroft, just sixteen miles from my carport but some 4,000 feet higher, could have some snow soon and probably has seen at least a light frost. TV indicated that fall color has come to the Sacramento Mountains which are close behind me here, to the east of our valley.

I think there are some other Iditarod fans in the local area and am trying to figure a way to reach out to them. Personals in the newspaper or some of the local sites like Freecycle and Holloman Yard Sale dot com? Hmm, maybe stand down on White Sands with a placard--"Honk if you love sled dogs." LOL.

It was odd--last spring shopping in Wallyworld, which is almost the only game in town, I passed a couple wearing t-shirts that read, "Safety, the last check point." It took a minute, for I  first thought of on-the-job safety, but then it dawned: Yes! OMG--Iditarod's final check point. I looked all over the store but did not find them again. Bummer. I surely wish I would see them and any others. Maybe I need to make myself a t-shirt and wear it whenever I go to town.

Anyway, please come visit often; I will try to update frequently and hope to have some exciting things to report before too long. I have by no means given up or stopped working on this. It's just that life and other obligations tend to take my time up a lot some days.

I will share a verse I wrote a few weeks back about the race, based on some of the things I heard from various mushers and have seen on the videos I have been watching on it.


Iditarod: far, distant place.
A dream. A myth. A trail. A race.

Beneath aurora blazing bright,
Through cold and wind and long, dark night.
Cheering crowds at start and end
But in between, rare is the friend
Who braves the wild to aid or say,
They’re with you in spirit along that way.
Out on that trail, just you and your team
The elements battle to chase this dream.

Those dogs on which your life depends,
Now closer and dearer than kin or friends.
Together, such trust and faith you share
For only true teamwork will get you there.
There are no losers; all winners complete.
Your goal you’ve reached and it feels so sweet.
Despite the pain and the tears you spend,
Somehow you hate to see it end.

Iditarod: far, distant place.
A dream, a goal, a test, a race.

© GMW 25 Aug 14

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Last of the Trip

And then, back at Wasilla, I passed my last few days in Alaska--for this trip!! Now it's been six plus weeks--seems much longer but looking ahead is like waiting for Christmas when I was a child. I hope so much that I can get back for the two big races! You can bet I will be giving that my best try.

It has now snowed a little around Fairbanks--maybe at Skunk's Place and Squid Acres and Mary's Tails of the Trail. And perhaps even some around Wasilla. I wish them lots of snow in the coming months and good training as winter rolls in. All the mushers I met and their great dogs feel like friends now and I want to be with them again.

Aug 15
Yesterday was fairly uneventful.I spent quite a lot of time at the Fairbanks airport since I had to turn the rental car in at the midday hour I had picked it up and my flight was not until late afternoon. Airports are rather fascinating for people watchers and most of us writers are people watchers. I made a game of deciding whether people were tourists or locals or at least long term Alaskans. No way to verify my guesses but it was fun. I read some, wrote some--just rambling impressions and emotions as I started the long journey home, with a stop back here in Wasilla.

Sadly although I was on the west side of the southbound plane, there were a lot of clouds and I did not get a peek at the peak--although I looked almost all the time. It only takes an hour, a trip of about 350 miles that would take a long day by car on the highway even in good weather. But if I do get back say in early fall next year there is a chance I may try it and make a stop in the Denali National Park. I did want my own photo of  the Big One but that was not to be although I got a number of post cards etc. which of course were better views than I could expect out a plane window!

Again it was one of the Q400 prop planes. It is strange after many years of jet flying to travel in such a plane.It is actually less noisy I think than a jet and I was sitting even with the wing and not that far from the engine on both flights The propeller--which is huge--is spinning so fast it blurs and you can pretty much see through it with just a faint distortion. All in all a rather novel experience.

This time I got an economy car, and it was the costliest of the trip for the least time but it was too late to catch the bus from Anchorage to Wasilla and I was not going to ask my hostess to pick me up again and then return me on Sunday evening so I left the airport around 7:00 pm, still in sunshine, driving. a silver gray Chevy "Spark." It  is kind of a mini-mini crossover, boxy, four door and a hatch back. Low and feels like you are riding in a boxed up skateboard LOL. But it got me up the highway back to Wasilla and back to the house on the lake. I was tired, no question.

Later today I went to the Wasilla PO and got some priority boxes (my hostess's very good idea) and packed up the books, prezzies and souvenirs and sent them on their way to Alamogordo. They will arrive a little bit ahead of me in all likelihood and I got money's worth out of one large flat rate box! It must have weighed twenty pounds! The other was not as heavy. Tomorrow my extra clothes and such start home, probably by UPS. I need to finish packing that and tape it up tonight.

It was drizzly much of the day and a few harder rains so I did not try to do anything else. I am  not sure if the city library is open tomorrow or not. If it is I may drop in and see if they have any more recent Iditarod year books since the Fairbanks collection ended in the early 90s. Of course they are more focused toward the Yukon Quest which is "their" race.

Aug 17
It was gray and drizzly this morning, kind of depressing, but I got my big box of clothes and personal stuff over to the UPS place and sent it home for less than I sent it here.  It is kind of going slow boat LOL but that is okay; it will get there in a week plus which is soon enough.

Then my hostess and I talked crafts and stuff for awhile. She makes some really neat dream catchers on caribou antlers--shed ones, not from killing caribou--and some jewelry like anklets with a toe loop.They are kind of like the slave bracelet linked to a ring but for the foot! We puttered around in the yard after lunch and then the sun came out some and she said, "Let's go up to Hatcher Pass." It's in some of the  higher mountains on the far side--NW--of Palmer and there is an old gold mine which is a state park and tourist place now. WE didn't wander around there--you have to pay a park fee and it was later in the afternoon--but took picture that show some real Alaska type mountains and a rushing stream, the Little Susitna River. It was a lovely drive and a nice end to my adventures. Tomorrow I will drive back down to Anchorage and hang out at the airport for a bit and then get on my flight to LAX and hence on to El Paso and then home.

Yes, I am eager to get there, pet my two beloved Red Doglets and fall into my own bed and start to recover LOL. I may get the last photos downloaded this evening but no guarantee. And tomorrow/Monday will be a very long day. But it will end with me home and more memories than I can sort out in a few hours. And I will be back; next early fall if not before. I have a new 'little sister' here in Wasilla and other new Alaskan friends and that is special too.

Aug 22
I kind of dropped the ball but I'll explain why! My final day in Alaska went by fast and nicely but the trip back to New Mexico was a bit of a challenge. I left my hostess's home in Wasilla about 1:00 pm and drove by the back roads down to Anchorage--Eklutna (neat little Russian cemetery  there but no pix as they had no parking signs everywhere) and on to Chugiak and Eagle River, now actually pretty much Anchorage "suburbs."  I also stopped at the Native Heritage Center just on the northern outskirts of the city. There was not time to really take it all in and turn my rental car in on time so I just visited the gift shop briefly--yikes, very pricey! I'll save the museum etc. for next time.

Anyway, got my car turned in and was of course very early so had to wait outside security until I could check my suitcase four hours before the flight and then finally upstairs and out to the gate area. I people-watched and read a bit. There was a very intoxicated old man who appeared to be at least part Native loudly proclaiming that he was straight and also drunk. It was funny but a little creepy too. I think security finally took him away. How he got through the TSA I have no idea but maybe he hit the bar on the inside of the check-in point.

Finally it was time to board and I settled into my seat, sharing the row with a young couple. At least no lap dog this time! I managed to catnap a little -- maybe 2-3 hours total--and we landed at LAX shortly after sunrise. I hope I never fly through that mad place again! There was lots of construction and perhaps some other issue as my American/Alaskan Air (kind of a joint thing)  flight landed at the Delta terminal. From there I finally found I had to take a shuttle bus to American and then another one to the American Eagle commuter terminal from which the smaller plane would take me to El Paso.

By then sleep deprivation and some dehydration were hitting. An hour touring the flight line (jet fumes are nasty!) in a diesel-belching bus took their toll on my allergies, especially eyes. By the time I landed in El Paso, I was as bleary-eyed as when I had the infection last year. So I had to take a couple of days using lots of eye drops and sleeping quite a bit to get back to semi-normal. But I was home and my two red dogs were very glad to see me and to snuggle on the bed or in my recliner while I rested. They were very comforting.

Looking back, it really was an amazing and marvelous trip! I am already planning to go back and will be working every angle I can find to make that happen in a few months to a year. Meanwhile though, I have close to 300 photos to be sorted out--there will be a new page on Facebook and on Pinterest soon and I will share links once I have those set up.

I'm sending out thank you notes and such, and will be pursuing some financial assistance along several routes. Also getting back to my other writing as well as starting to put together bits and pieces of Women of the Iditarod (working title as I want one with more oomph for the final version!) More on all that later. Thanks for traveling with me vicariously; that has its benefits as no airline miles are involved LOL.

More photos in a bit. Here is one of me that Gail took on our trip up to Hatcher Pass Saturday afternoon, the 16th. I'm looking over the Little Susitna River.  I wore that purple shirt-jacket everywhere; now it is very special with a dog track or two and lots of memories invisibly woven into the flannel.

Wrapping up Fairbanks Days, Aug 11-13

Here are parts of a couple of August posts that I made on my other blog just to continue the narrative of my trip.

Aug 11
My research today was more the book kind, I paid a visit to the Fairbanks Public Library and went through several shelves of books in the "SLED DOG" category. The bad news may be there are an awful lot of them, good, bad and indifferent if not downright ugly! The good news is there does not seem to be anything even close to what I plan to do. I skimmed many, read blurbs and noted who was involved and then made an extensive list to try to get thru inter-library loan and buy a few and start to compile a bibliography. I haven't done serious semi-scholarly writing in a while but I think I still recall how.

I finally located where the museum I wanted to see used to be but they are closed and moving. Not sure where the new site is but may be able to find it and whether or not they are open again. That was frustrating!! I went back to Pioneer Park and rode the little train around the park; seniors only have to pay a buck! I also went thru an art exhibit I had not looked at the first day and chatted with the volunteer who is also a quilter and told me where the fabric and quilt shops were in town.  Did locate one and got two fat quarters with northern lights design in colors that will compliment my planned Alaska Musher quilt. And a pattern for Mary Shield's summer parka. Then I came back to the hostel and have loafed in the grassy quiet back yard since about 3:30. I needed a kind of down day to pull myself together, get some notes down and just veg a little. It has been very hectic. Not sure what the schedule will be for the two last days but I think I have about run out of people to see and even close places to go but I will find something to do for sure.

Aug 12
I woke up to a drizzle today and it rained fitfully much of the day. Went up to the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska campus. It's one of the few I've visited here that has an admission fee but it is pretty impressive so I guess worth the cost. Even have to pay to park. I do recognize though that it costs plenty to operate and maintain such a facility.

They have a vast, varied and voluminous display of Alaska by region--flora and fauna, native peoples, artifacts and art and history. I took a lot of pictures which they allow. A few I got reflections off glass over displays but most of them were fairly good at first review.

I was especially taken by the basketry, beadwork and varied garments of the different native people.  I guess during the winter, if they were lucky enough to stock up on and cache food for the winter, they had time to do detailed and exquisite work. I was also impressed at similarities in some of the motifs although I do know basic geometrics are used by many in varied and diverse places. And the weavings of some, mostly the Tlingit people I believe, were beautiful too. I'm not sure at once how to incorporate such designs into any of my art and craft projects but I am sure something will occur to me  in time.

I spent close to three hours in the various galleries and displays and my legs got tired before I really saw it all thoroughly. Very impressive and well worth a look IMHO. I did see subtle connections that link the Navajo and Apache people to their distant Athabascan kin. That even extended to a sample Native house at the Pioneer Park that bears a strong resemblance to a traditional hogan with a faceted circular structure and a doorway faced east.

Apparently the Eskimo were the first to use sled dogs--again I recall from anthropology classes reading about eastern and plains tribes in the old US region who used dogs to pull drag-able pole travois to haul their goods. I suspect the women were the ones to tame and train the dogs because otherwise they would have been the beasts of burden. That might be worth mentioning in my book about the lady mushers. They may be carrying on a very old tradition. Yes, men used the sleds to hunt and haul in meat, but I'd lay a bet the women used them when it came time to move camp.

Otherwise there was not much on mushing but a lot on many facets of Alaska and life up here to include the gold rush and building of the railroad, main highway and later the pipeline. There was also a bit about the internment of Japanese and  Aleut people from out on the Aleutian chain and especially on Unalaska where a writer friend of mine lives now. That was kind of a downer and I went on by after a short time; not anything we as Americans can be proud of but in wartime many bad things are and will continue to be done. I'm not sure how to fix that.

The end approaches and I will be glad to be home among familiar things, pet my own puppies and try to sort out all the amazing impressions and experiences I have enjoyed.  But as I keep saying, a part of me is already drawn to a return; there is so much more to see and do and of course more dogs, the actual races and many mushers I have not yet met. Must go to Denali for real and maybe even a little farther north though I am not sure I want to go all the way to the Arctic Circle! But never say never. Also down to the Kenai and perhaps even the far southeast area... I am a little sorry I did not get started on all this this much sooner. Were I twenty years younger... well shoot. But I have been here and I shall, like McArthur, return!!

And below you have the Native house I mentioned, the Antler Arch near the Golden Heart Plaza and First Family stature and the Yukon Quest Headquarters Building. The race starts on even years on the frozen Chena River just behind me where I shot the picture of that traditional sod roofed log cabin.The locals pronounce that with a long e, like Cheena btw.

Aug 13
This is really a pretty town and fairly easy to get around in. But for the winters which I am sure would take some major adjustments for this desert rat, I could live here. With a solid vehicle with snow tires I could probably even get around most of the time. In the summer it is really lovely with the flowers and is mostly pretty clean and people are mostly friendly too.There are trains--I hear them night and day--the long days of summer are very inviting and inspiring.

I spent more time at the library today and then took a final drive up into the hills to the north east to the area of an old mining camp called Fox. My only real disappointment with the scenery is that the trees are so thick and even on a ridge top there is no view.I am reminded of Kentucky and North Carolina in that regard. You saw my pix of the mountains around the Prince William Sound on which Anchorage sits and Wasilla is just above but here it is a valley and the hills just roll away gradually higher and higher. Not looming and impressive.

So tomorrow I will fly back south and the final days will zip by. I need to pack and ship a couple of boxes by Saturday and maybe I can visit the Wasilla library and see if they have any mushing stuff that Fairbanks lacks. Other than that, not much left to be done. I am a bit tired; it has been hectic and busy but I feel I have made progress, less perhaps than I had hoped or wished but a good start.

Once I get home I will focus on fund raising efforts, taking stock of where I am and what else is needed and then lay out the next stage or two of the program. Of course other things will intervene such as stories to be written and sewing, my exercise classes, and the various normal chores. I'll be a few days getting back into that, I am sure. But I will. And life will go on with its normal joys and sorrows and frustrations and all the rest! But I did it; I set a goal that seemed very pie in the sky and I believed and made it happen!! The "theme" for that book to be is Dream it, Dare it, DO it!!