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The WORLD Ice Carving Competition

I just got back of 2 hours of jaw-dropped-mouth-breathing. The world ice carving competition is being held in Fairbanks. This is its 25 year and brings a wide swath of international artists. The competition offers categories for professional and novice carvers in a variety of categories including “abstract”, “realistic”, and more. They are also categorized by block size including single block and multi-block. Ice is harvested from the lake adjacent to “Ice Park” and is renowned for its clarity. It looks like glass!! There are no air bubbles in it.

The visions of the artists are truly incredible and I can probably say that I have NEVER enjoyed art as much I did tonight. I hope you enjoy! Lots of pictures, and not much writing for this one :).

For information you can check here : http://www.icealaska.com/en/



These single block sculptures are carved from a large block of ice. The carvers can dice up the block however they want, but they only get one! The blocks are not small, and result in sculptures that average 7 feet or so. However, they were some over 10 feet!

Single Block size - uncut!
Single Block size – uncut!

Here’s a gallery of many of the single-block entries. In this case the pictures do not do them justice, truly incredible! (The images here are in a gallery, so clicking any of them will enlarge them and allow you to easily go through each of them. )


The multi-block sculptures were HUGE. Some of them were 12 feet tall or more and some were 12 feet around or more. These were all roped off, so perspective was a bit hard, but they are a sight to behold!!

There is more carving categories this week and the location is open through the end of March, so you may see more Ice Carving pictures in the future!


1 Down 1000 to Go : The Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race 2014

This weekend marked the beginning of the Yukon Quest race which started in Fairbanks this year, and ends in Whitehorse, YT. Mushers navigate the Yukon River as it winds its way into Canada. One of the racers has been doing this race for nearly 20 years. At 1000 miles per year that’s 20,000 miles just in this race; incredibly that equates to almost a trip around the earth! These mushers are incredibly dedicated to the sport and their dogs. On top of that they have to be tough as nails. In 2010 Hans Gatt ran the course in 9 days 00 hours and 26 minutes. That’s averaging well over 100 miles per day! There is a great guide for the race which can be found here : YUKON QUEST MEDIA GUIDE. However, I thought I would pull some information out of there that I though was cool!

For instance:

  • “Mushing” is a general term for any transport method powered by dogs and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marche, or go. It is the command to the team to commence pulling—Mush! Although this term is seldom used in the modern day, it still gives name to the sport.
  • The Yukon Quest Trail links together a series of shorter travel routes that were the only means of winter travel over a century ago. When Yukon Quest founders began looking for a route to follow between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, they resurrected many historic routes and combined them to cover 1,000 miles.
  • The Yukon Quest Trail dates back to 1870s to the Forty Mile Gold Rush Era. The Iditarod dates back to the 1925 Serum Run from Nenana to Nome

There is a great resource of tracking the status of the mushers here : LIVE TRACKING!

The day was a tremendous community event. Crowds of people lined up to watch the mushers take off. Each time the announcer would begin the countdown and the crowd would yell “10…9…8…7..6!…5!!…4!!…3!!!….2!!!!!…..1!!!….GOOOOO!!!!!” and the dogs would take off down 2nd ave. All in all 18 teams were launched in this fashion. It is amazing how excited the dogs are. If you have been around sled dogs about to run you know they yip and howl until they are finally released. They jump in the air and are constantly pulling at their harnesses. I learned at the race that these smaller dogs are made for distance, and larger dogs are used for shorter sprints.I compiled this video of the starting day. I think it does a pretty good job of capturing the community of the event, but also how excited the dogs are!

Here’s the route and profile from the race! 1000 miles and some elevation to boot.There is a race within this race as well. At Dawson city there is a required 36 hour layover to rest the mushers and inspect the health of the dogs. The first musher to Dawson City get 4 ounces of Yukon gold!

Source : Yukon Quest Media Guide 2013
Source : Yukon Quest Media Guide 2013
Source : http://adventurelearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BeringiaYukonRoute.jpg
Source : http://adventurelearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BeringiaYukonRoute.jpg


After going through my pictures I was pretty entertained by the dog faces that I had captured. Some of them are humorous, and one (you’ll know which!) looks just down-right ferocious. All of the dogs were very, very excited to head out provided a cacophony of barking. If you have a caption for any of these, I would love to hear them!

Laughing dogs.
Laughing dogs.
WOW! Now that's scary! Even if he is just yipping in excitement
WOW! Now that’s scary! Even if he is just yipping in excitement
Same dog, much more innocent looking!
Same dog, much more innocent looking!
I want to go nowwwwww!!
I want to go nowwwwww!!
It looks like someone just told these two a story. They have that "you did what?!" face on them.
It looks like someone just told these two a story. They have that “you did what?!” face on them.
Look at those blue eyes!
Look at those blue eyes!
Who's Holding up the line?!?!
Who’s Holding up the line?!?!


One of the things on display were a variety of fur garments. I only took a couple pictures when the opportunity came and I wasn’t point my camera at the dogs. Very cool to see some creative furry headresses though.

Tail still attached on this red fox hat.
Tail still attached on this red fox hat.
Now that's a hat!
Now that’s a hat!

Snowshoeing in the Alaskan Winter Wonderland

Ahoy Readers!

It’s the great debate. As an Alaskan, winter resident, are you a skier? or do you don the snowshoes? I think the questions really waters down to : how much do you like getting off trails? Because, although I realize cross country skis CAN BE USED for off-road style outdoor adventure, I see that happening on a very limited basis. Anybody want to chime in here? I snowshoe because if you want to explore the woods during the winter you need mobility, and besides, I fall less on snowshoes :D.

Living in Fairbanks has proved to be a far different winter than my experiences of three years in Maine and my childhood (22 years a child) in Minnesota. One of the primary differences in the winter here in the interior is the wind! I have never seen anything like it, and my friends from Minnesota won’t believe this – we do not have wind. Blizzards, the bane of Minnesotan school systems, are unheard of here. In fact, school systems in Fairbanks do not close when the mercury dip to -40, they close when the weather warms up resulting in icy conditions! Snow that accumulates on railings and fence posts is likely to be in the same pile when the spring thaw begins. The stillness of the wind creates an interesting climactic condition in Fairbanks known as the ‘temperature inversion’. During the winter, the winds are an important mixer of air and because that mixing does not happen here, strong differentials are set as you climb elevation; in short, cold air is trapped in the valleys of the Interior region. This has a couple of ramifications, the first is as a home-owner you would rather have your house high on a hillside, because in extreme cases it could mean an extra 50 degrees of warmth! (http://www.alaskareport.com/science10059.htm). Secondly, below the inversion the development of ‘ice fog’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_fog) is a pest for home-owners and can build up on your house and car. I have watched this ice fog man mornings while studying from the Margaret Murie building on top of campus- a good example picture is shown in the Wikipedia article I’ve listed. The ice fog creates havoc for humans and incredible beauty in the wilderness. The white spruce, willow, dogwood and shrub birch become encases in ice crystals and look like long-forgotten freezer burned hotdogs. As you walk through the areas of hoar frost it is not hard to imagine scuba-diving through a snow-reef; the trees the coral and the snow the sand.

I’ve had a great time snowshoeing some of the lower and higher elevation areas of the Fairbanks. I’ve been focusing on Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest and the Murphy Dome region. Some of the days have been cold and require some extra face protection, but the views and sights have been exquisite. Although I did not see any wildlife, during my last trip to Murphy Dome I followed a fresh set of moose tracks, and found scat so fresh that I made sure to keep a watchful eye for any watching eyes; I was sure I was going to walk up on a moose. Snowshoe hair tracks were abundant as were red fox, mouse, and ptarmigan.

Snowshoe hare tracks were common in the Murphy Dome region. Here you can see them, their heart shaped print is very identifiable.

The series of images below represent the two different winter types of Alaska. The first three are all from Bonanza Creek. You’ll see that the wind doesn’t blow here too often, and tree-corals abound! The the sunlight illuminates them it is snowshoe stopping, many pauses were taken to observe the beauty of this classic,winter, wonderland!

The snow here is so light and fluffy, that even a small puff of wind will send snow flying. Here, you can see the havoc as a breeze (a rare wind!) pushed snow off the branches and into my face.
Branches laden with light snow were lit up by the sunlight. Every new bend in the trail brought about new illuminated trees to focus on.
All the gear and the views! Heres a look towards the river valley at Bonanza creek experimental forest. Warm boots, gloves and jacket!

This second set of images shows life in the ice fog area. The trees here are heavily laden with icy and snow and are bent and stopped. A stark contrast to the lightly laden branches of the bottom lands! The low-lying sun cast long shadows around all the trees. This time of year the sunrises at 10:20 AM and sets at 3:00 PM. The short days are illuminated by a sun that slides along the horizon, rather than going overhead and the cold sets fast once the sun is no longer keeping it at bay.

The longs shadows of the low sun played on the snow. The warm color of the sun was spectacular! The reds, yellows and oranges you see here are completely natural.
Here I am posing in from the hoar-frost-coral-trees on top of Murphy Dome. Cold and stunning!
The shadow of the this 6-foot white spruce cast by the low-lying sun is almost 30 feet long!
Hoar frost behind, views in front! This picture was actually taken with my phone, you’ll see the selfie arm in my face mask.

I wanted to leave you all with a short timelapse video of the sunset on Murphy Dome. This timelapse is comprised of 530 shots over an 1.25 hours time and is played at 30 frames per second. Some of you read in my post about my problems with my camera in the cold shooting the Aurora. I wanted to shoot this timelapse in good light conditions at similar temps (-10 degrees F) and see how my camera reacted. It did pretty well, and makes me think that some of my issues with the Aurora shoot were due to the High ISO and a stressed sensor. Lots more to learn!

My goal of this timelapse video was to capture the changing shadows on the hillside and the sunset. Enjoy!