Archive for July, 2008

County Fair

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Friday I spent the day at the county 4-H fair. They had asked to have a few of my quilts for display only. Since I don’t live in that county I am not eligible to compete there, not that I would want to. So I took them “Lazy Afternoon”, “Lady Godiva” and “Bittersweet Memories”. I think the quilts were well received and showed a different aspect of quilting from what a lot of the people expected.

The 4-H Dog Show was Friday so I spent most of the day watching the kids work their dogs in Showmanship and Obedience. You could really tell who had put in the hours and who had left it all til the last minute!

It was fun to look at all of the exhibits and the animals. When my kids were in 4-H years ago, I was the leader for Leatherwork and Dairy Goats; now apparently they don’t do leatherwork but the goats are still there! This cutie wants to be in a quilt!

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While waiting for the close of the show, I finished the hand work on the binding of Poppies.

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Here’s a close up showing some of the quilting.

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The color is not the greatest; I will have to retake the photos for the pattern cover. Oranges and reds are hard to work with in photos – at least for me!

Hot,Hot, Hot

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

We are sweltering here in Kansas; for the last few days temperatures have reached 98-100 with heat indexes around 105! Yesterday afternoon with a possibility of rain the temps dropped the breeze came up, and it was quite lovely outside. I watered a few plants that were looking stressed, plants that have been only recently planted, and a good thing, too! The rain never came. I sat on the deck and noticed that the first blue blooms of the Chaste Tree are out. I love blue flowers. The blue Balloon Flowers are in full bloom now and my Clematis Rogoochii (sp?) which was blooming it’s little head off the day before was stripped to it’s skeleton by some insidious creature. I hope it can recover!

Mostly I stayed inside and quilted, and the poppy quilt is nearly done!

Poppy Progress

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Here’s a progress photo of the poppy quilt to date.

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It’s leaning towards the red which is more the color of the poppies that I grow and the fabric stash that I’m pulling from. The blue in the center has been difficult. At first I was trying to use more purply tones but they tended to blend away too much. I feel that this is a bit too blue but it does at least show up. I know quilting will make a difference. Lest you think that I don’t struggle, I think I cut seven fabrics before settling on this blue!

Stuff

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Wednesday I taught a hand quilting class. It seemed strange, felt like it ought to be Saturday! But the class went well and was fun. I think it actually jump started me and I got started on a new design. This beautiful poppy was in the park in Vancouver – don’t you love the way light plays with flower petals?

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This will probably be a new pattern. I have just started to cut the fabric; still have not sewn anything though.

Other accomplishments last week were finishing up the books to date for sales tax and getting a quilt sent off to the Asheville NC show. Because it was very late coming home from being in Florida for the I-4 Corridor Exhibit, I was forced to pay $85.00 to ship “Watermelon Wine” Next Day Air in order to get it there on time. But since it had been accepted, I felt obligated to have it get there if at all possible. I think keeping one’s word is very important and I only wish everyone felt that way as I had specifically checked before entering it to be sure it could be home on time. I had assurance that my quilt would go out as soon as the show closed, instead it didn’t go out til the 8th, arriving home on Friday afternoon. Not only was this an unnecessary monetary drain, it was very stressful. Not very professional at all!

This fun site just came to my attention for all you animal lovers out there. Just click here
and answer an easy quiz question to provide free kibble to shelter animals!

Wrap-up

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

We barely sneaked in under the weight limit for bags at the airport, but we made it so that’s the main thing! We flew home to KC on NW through Minneapolis. We soon knew we were not on vacation any more! Air travel is not what it used to be, not that it was ever fun, but now it is a nightmare. One of the flight attendants was SO rude it was unbelievable, AND now they charge for that awful food!

It was a LONG day and by the time we landed, gathered our luggage and got outside to wait for the parking shuttle, it was dark. Glorious dark! With just a bit of an after glow on the horizon and enough light left to see the clouds. I guess I missed dark!

It was June 20 when we came home and Fairbanks was preparing for their Summer Solstice festival. Since they really can’t do the fireworks thing on the 4th of July, they have this instead, a celebration for the longest day of sunlight. It’s all downhill from there!

It took me a couple of days to get all of the clothes washed and put away, orders filled and shipped and those little odds and ends taken care of. The new puzzle was calling to me, and I gave in. That was a mistake, as I couldn’t ignore it once I started and it was hard to get other things done, like tending to the flowers which grew like weeds in the rainy weather while we were gone. The puzzle is deceptively hard and took a week to finish. It looked like it would be easy, but it is cut in such a way that I was sure pieces must be missing as ones that looked distinctive were impossible to find. A good puzzle for a week of blizzard shut-in time!!

Since coming home I have not sewn a stitch! I have ideas, I have deadlines, but I don’t seem to have motivation!!

Day Fifteen

Monday, July 7th, 2008

This morning we are scheduled to take a riverboat tour that includes a few interesting stops along the way. The Riverboat Discovery is a sternwheeler captained by a family whose steamboating traditions go back five generations to the gold rush times. As transportation needs shifted with the times they transitioned to the excursion business that we enjoy today.

As we slowly move along the river we see the homes of the locals. There are some wonderful log homes and I am really surprised at how large some of them are and how much glass they have. I wouldn’t want to heat them with the price of fuel now! They are beautiful though.

We are introduced to an Alaskan Bush Pilot who talks to us from his plane ( there are monitors conveniently located so everyone can see and hear well), then he does a take off and landing from the water right beside the boat.

A little further on we see the home and kennels of the late Iditarod Champion, Susan Butcher and her husband and we hear about the dogs and see the team in action. They love what they do!

On down the river our clear water Chena flows into the glacier fed Tanana River and you can see the difference in the waters as they join. The glacial water is full of that fine glacial silt.
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Our Bush Pilot is waiting on the sandbar to demonstrate landing on a small sandbar with a different airplane this time, one with wheels. Airplane is the only way in and out of so many places in Alaska and often there is not much space to maneuver! He has no problem!

Before long we stop to see some reindeer from a local reindeer farm. We hear that reindeer were a very important part of the Indian/Eskimo economy. These are shedding their winter coats.

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Moving along, we come to Chena Indian Village a recreated Athabascan cultural experience. We see a fish wheel in motion and can see how it would scoop salmon from the river, and we see a demonstration of filleting and preparing a salmon to be smoked. It took about 5 seconds! We docked and went ashore for about an hour to explore the village and visit each of the main areas where native guides would talk and demonstrate features of the culture. It was extremely well done and interesting. There was also a more in-depth visit with the sled dog team, there.

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The whole tour took about three and a half hours and when we were back at the landing we looked around the gift shop and grabbed a quick reindeer hotdog lunch before getting back on the bus to go to the afternoon’s adventure the gold mine!

The El Dorado Gold Mine was great fun! We rode the narrow-gauge train into the permafrost tunnel to learn about past underground mining methods and modern mining techniques. We saw demonstrations by local miners. While touring the present day working gold mine we met the couple who would introduce us to panning. She said she had come to Alaska as young woman to look for gold and he said “That ain’t ALL she was alookin’ for!” She said, ” Well, he did have some mighty fine nuggets!” and it went on from there!! They showed us how the huge pile of dirt and rocks gets dumped into the wooden sluice and water washes down and starts the separartion process. After a demonstration on how to “pan” we each get a “poke” of the concentrate from the sluice and we try our hand at striking it rich. We are guaranteed at least 8 pieces of gold or we get a new “poke”. I stopped counting at 12 pieces and when it was all over I had about 3.5 grams. Charlie’s and mine together was about 6 grams and we had it put into a little gold and clear locket for posterity.

On the way back to the Lodge, we stopped at the Alaska Pipeline which is 800 miles long; 420 miles of it above the surface because of the permafrost but 380 miles of it is buried where there is stable bedrock. It is high enough to not impede the migration of the caribou.

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Currently about a million barrels of oil per day are transported through the system which has a max daily capacity of 2.1 million barrels. The pipe’s diameter is 48″.

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This was a full day and we are tired. We re-distribute our stuff and re-pack our suitcases and hope we are not overweight for the flight home tomorrow!

Day Fourteen

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

This morning we have a Natural History Tour at Denali National Park. The park has 90 miles of road and only 15 of them are open to private vehicles. We will be on a bus so we can go beyond that checkpoint into the restricted areas. Of course we are hoping to see animals but the guide reminds us this is not a zoo. Animals prefer to stay away from roads and this park has six million acres for them to hide in. It’s vast – there are probably animals right there that we can’t see.
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Along the way we do see caribou, ptarmigan, marmot, ground squirrels, snow geese, snowshoe hares and dahl sheep.

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Most animals are so far away it’s hard to get good photos. There were at least two caribou here but they were too far apart to get them both in the closeup shot.

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But this hare was not shy! Look at those feet!

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The snow geese were also unconcerned.

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We saw quite a few small herds of dahl sheep but they were FAR away. Without the binocular camera I would not have been able to get even this good of a shot!

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The scenery is amazing, just awesome!

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There is a lookout where McKinley would be visible if it were visible, but it’s not. I hardly expect it anymore! It is so big at 20,320 feet, it makes it’s own weather and is only visible 20% of the time, They don’t really tell you that before you get there!

In the six hours we were out, we had a few short rain showers but they stopped as quickly as they came and hardly interrupted the tour at all.

Back at the entrance we opt to get off the bus and walk to the train station since our luggage has already been picked up. After a short visit to the visitor’s center to see the displays, book store and cafeteria, be walk across the road to the train station to wait for the train to Fairbanks, our last stop before flying home.

We are again in the Princess UltraDome cars with great views for the ride that lasts a little over 4 hours so we took advantage of the opportunity to have dinner in the dining car – very good!

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More great scenery, this is a view down from one of the high trestles. Scary, but it’s gone before you know it!

Our bus driver meets our train and entertains us with stories of her drive to Alaska all by herself and about life in Fairbanks. We learn that it is an arctic desert with only, I believe, 16 inches of moisture per year. This along with early gold miners polluting the waters with arsenic, results in water problems for the area. She and almost everyone else who lives outside the city limits do not have running water and live in what they call dry cabins. They have to haul water and go to the Y or to the Laundromat to shower! Yes! The Laundromat! It’s $4.00 at the Y and less at the Laundromat, so she goes to the laundromat, but not every day because she is poor. I think she was angling for better tips!  We checked into the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge for the next two nights. We have a shower.

Day Thirteen

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

A lazy morning, checked email, checked the mountain (still not out), checked the Ranger programs (nothing early) so I checked out the gift shop. We’ve seen a lot of gift shops on this trip and this one is not too bad! I found a jigsaw puzzle I had not seen anywhere else that I liked; actually there were two by the artist, Terry Lee, that I liked but I settled for the bear instead of the moose. I love his impressionistic style, bold brush strokes and unexpected colors. I used to LOVE to do puzzles before quilting took all of my time and the little I did on the ship reminded me that I should MAKE time for the other things I enjoy. I’ve tried not to make many purchases on this trip because our bags are very close to the weight limit already but the puzzle is light.

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One last sculpture from McKinley, before we go.

Right after lunch we board the bus for Denali, the ride takes over two hours but it goes quickly as the bus driver and the scenery keeps us entertained.

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We have activities scheduled for later, a horseback ride for me and an ATV adventure for my husband. It’s cool and overcast and we hope it doesn’t rain.

The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is a bit of a disappointment after the last one. It’s nice, but just doesn’t quite have the ambiance we enjoyed at McKinley. It seems more like a big hotel, more commercial. Maybe it’s the highway going by the front lined with tourist dives and eateries on the other side. On the back side it looks better; there’s a river and view of Mt Healy with a short paved riverside trail.

There’s another short bus ride to the stable where my horse awaits, and the three other ladies and I get acquainted. We have all ridden before, that’s good. For me it’s been quite awhile, nearly 20 years! My horse is a nice little bay called “Stumpy”. Not unexpectedly the saddle is western. I prefer English and the stiff stirrup leathers pull uncomfortably on my bad knee. We head out across terrain that goes from taiga to tundra.

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Taiga supports stunted tree growth – those little trees are probably 200 years old! – while tundra is only small shrubby bushes, plants and lichen. It’s all permafrost area so the ground is permanently frozen, but since it is summer the top foot or so is thawed. The horses sink into the mud with every step. Undisturbed ground that looks fairly dry is very wet below the surface. It’s a fragile alpine ecosystem and we stay on the trails. You can see the land is criss-crossed with caribou trails and we use some of those. Stumpy and one of the other horses are having a feud so we have to keep them separated. We come across the state bird, a willow ptarmigan with her chicks and the guide talks about the plants and animals of the area. My knee is screaming and since Stumpy seems pretty steady I finish the ride without stirrups, hoping not to be dumped in the mud and thankful that it is only for an hour! But it is nice to see the area up close like that and I’m glad I did it! The rain held off. We’ve been so lucky!

Back at the lodge I have time to relax before Charlie returns from his ATV adventure, so I have a nice visit with a lady who is waiting to go on HER horseback ride. My knee is feeling all better so I check email and head back to the room to get ready for dinner. This lodge has a Pizza place, and since we have not had that we go there and have Calzones which were quite good AND a bargain compared to the other options. These lodges do have good food, but it is expensive! Charlie tells me all about his adventure and I am happy that he had such a good time!

Day Twelve

Friday, July 4th, 2008

This day calls for a day at leisure, but we have scheduled a Jet Boat Adventure for later in the afternoon.

There is a program scheduled by the Rangers that sounds interesting, so we go. He talks about a typical day in Alaska and with humor, covers such things as waking up late to get to a noon appointment on time only to discover when he gets there that it is really midnight. Hard to tell when the sun doesn’t set! What to do if you encounter a bear, stuff like that. It was good. Then he had a nature walk scheduled so I went along for that, since it’s another pretty day, though cool.
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These little flowers related to dog woods are familiar from my childhood years in Maine.

Back at the lodge I check email and enjoy the fire in the big stone fireplace in the great room. This is a very homey spot and folks gather to play cards and visit. There is a big deck facing where they say the mountain is – it’s still not visible – and no one called last night to say it was.

Our Jet Boat Adventure is in Talkeetna which is over an hour away by bus so we head out for that after a late lunch. Dinner will be late! The last shuttle bus heads back to the Lodge at 9. There are three rivers at Talkeetna and I think we were on them all, but I am not sure, maybe only two. the word “Talkeetna” means where rivers meet. We saw evidence of beavers along the shore and we saw eagles.

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The boat was going a little too fast for a good shot of this one,

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but this is pretty good of a nesting eagle.

The salmon were not running yet and we did not see any bears. No moose either. The boat IS pretty noisy, but fast and fun!

We stopped to visit a replica of a trapper’s camp a short hike up from the river, there were LOTS of mosquitoes. This is the first time though that we have been really bothered by mosquitoes! I have repellent wipes that take care of the problem.

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The building on stilts is the cache where food is kept safe from bears. There are stove pipes at the tops of the log supports to keep bears from climbing in. The stuff growing on the roof helps to insulate and absorb moisture and prevent leaks. Inside the cabin were furs of all the varieties of animals, our guides laid them out on the hitching post rail for identification.

Before getting back to the dock, we were treated to a glimpse of the top of Mt McKinley poking through the clouds, perhaps we will get the call later that it is all the way out!

We made it back in time to catch the last bus home, only to discover that another couple who had gone on a flightseeing trip were delayed and we had to wait for them at least a half hour. Not really enough time to chance finding food in town, but will we be able to eat at the Lodge, getting back around eleven? The bus driver called to check and found out one restaurant stayed open til 11:30. The poor bus driver would have a late night too, we noticed that the couple who were late did not even tip her!

Walking back to our room at nearly midnight, it was a bright as afternoon. Weird.

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Day Eleven

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Day Eleven

It’s another gorgeous day and we board the Midnight Sun Express for Talkeetna. Princess has their own UltraDome railcars that have full domed glass ceilings for ideal viewing of the natural beauty of Alaska. Breakfast is offered in the dining car downstairs, but we ate earlier at the hotel so just have coffee at our table in the dome. Someone yells “Moose” and sure enough there is a moose ambling across an open field. There are so many flowers! Wild roses line the edges of the tracks and the forests. Ponds are filled with yellow lilies and bog bean blooming white. Lupine accents with blueish drifts. An occasional dwelling or small town pops up and is gone again. The guide keeps up a commentary as we go. He talks about how large the vegetables grow here with so much daylight but says not too many people garden because the moose are such a problem. I can relate. For us it’s raccoons and deer but moose are so much bigger!

When we arrive in Talkeetna, it is time for lunch. We will have plenty of time to explore this little town before the bus takes us on to the McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Talkeetna’s population is only 873, many of it’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and it is said that the TV show, “Northern Exposure” was based on Talkeetna. Could be.

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There are too many touristy junk shops though. There are also lots of tour opportunities based here and if you want to climb “the mountain” you have to register here with the Rangers.

By mid afternoon we are ready to get on the bus for the Lodge, our home for the next couple of days. The McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge is beautiful. It is situated secluded in a wilderness area with a perfect view of the mountain if you are lucky. When we arrived it was “not out” which means it was hiding in the clouds which apparently is what it does 3/4 of the time! Even without the mountain, McKinley, Denali, The Great One – whatever you want to call it – this place is gorgeous. There are 2.5 miles of walking trails and we hike one of them to a spot overlooking the river. Breathtaking!

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Mt McKinley is hiding behind those clouds.

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Forget-me-nots are the state flower and this lovely drift is on the way to our cabin complex similar to the one you see in the background.

The grounds have many statues of wildlife and this one is near a waterfall on the way to our room.

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We register our request to get on the mountain call list in case the mountain comes out while we are asleep and go to bed. It is late, but as bright as midday.