Saturday, August 23, 2008

Finally, Our Latest Adventures

Phew! What a really busy couple weeks. Who knew that moving 90 miles could take so much time and effort? But at last, the landlord "stuff" is (hopefully) behind us. The PO Box had a slip in there today for a certified letter, so hopefully that means our rent reimbursement and fuel money is there, and we can really be done with this nonsense once and for all.

J is working insane amounts of overtime in this and recent weeks. 'Tis the season for firefighter overtime. *sigh*
But, that hasn't stopped us from having a handful of adventures.

Early this past week, our neighbor (another firefighter) was struck by the boredom bug and asked if we felt like panning for gold. Before you all start laughing, it's a very common hobby up here. And YES, people really do find gold. And sometimes, even cooler things like rubies and jade.
So, we packed up the rain gear. Not because it was raining, but because you'll have the best luck panning for gold in a creek. And a creek is wet.
We also loaded up some snacks, lunch, our neighbor's 12 gauge (in case of bears), and gold panning supplies, namely a shovel and some pans.

As a side note, I'd like to add that "gear" is a lot more cumbersome when you have kids. In addition to all the gear, we had to have the diaper bag. And the baby backpack. And toys. Ah... the list goes on.

ANYHOO... we finally had the van loaded up and cruised down the Richardson Hwy, toward Black Rapids. We weren't the only ones with a hankering for gold panning either. We passed several people digging up the creek beds and sifting through the silt in search of treasures.
We staked out our own spot a little past Bear Creek, and hiked upstream a bit. It was an easy hike, but stream crossing took some ingenuity. For starters, I wasn't exactly wearing waders. My (cute and useful) Columbia boots only gave me about 3 inches of water protection, and the creek was easily over the ankles to mid calf. With me wearing Beans in the backpack, and J piggybacking me, we eventually crossed the stream a handful of times to "a good spot", when we started our panning operation.

For those of you who want to know how the story ends: no, we didn't find gold. Or rubies. Or Jade. We DID find a lot of really neat quartz rock. We did get really wet and pretty cold. And we DID have a really good time. And I even found myself brave enough to go pee in the woods.
OK, it wasn't bravery, it was my pregnant bladder, but still, I went in the woods. Alone. Without the gun.
After everyone except Beans was cold, wet, and hungry (Beans was lucky enough to get to watch this operation from the backpack), we hiked back to the van. That's when we saw BEAR TRACKS!
Yep, real, live bear tracks.
And folks, they weren't there when we crossed the creek on our hike in!
I was slightly humbled by the sight, and realized that at some point in our day, we were most likely noticed by bears that we didn't notice at all.
Glad that I didn't become bear food (and really starting to worry that the bear might come looking for the peanut butter sandwich in my pocket), we loaded back into the van and decided to take a cruise to Paxson.

Before I go further, let me say this: Paxson is not so exciting. It's literally a gas station/roadhouse (with really expensive gas, too), out in the middle of NO WHERE. I think the Milepost said the population of Paxson was 67. As in 67 people. Total. But they were friendly people, and the drive was SPECTACULAR.
Seriously, any locals or future travellers to the Interior, it's a drive well worth taking. I don't know if words can describe it, but I'll give it the ol' college try...

Once you get past Black Rapids, the hills open up quite a bit. The mountains that were covered in birch and spruce are suddenly only covered in brush, or even barren. As you enter Rainbow Pass, you begin to see multicolored mountains, an effect of volcanic rock. The mountains are literally red, blue, green, orange. They very suddenly get taller and taller... so tall that you begin to realize that you really are only a teeny little speck on Planet Earth.
Not to get all "religious" on y'all, but under those mountains, there is no denying that a very great and powerful God runs the show, created those mountains, and left them there as a reminder that you are insignificant (and yet, somehow, we still mean everything to God!).
You get the distinct feeling that the mountains are swallowing you, and just as fast as these enormous mouths of rock came into sight, they all but disappear, opening up on a lake that stretches for miles.
I'm glad I had the Milepost with me, and that I gave up the driver's seat for the trip. Reading the Milepost revealed that we were just a few mile markers away from being able to catch a glimpse of Gulkana Glacier, where we stopped for a photo opportunity. (Pictures to come, I promise. One of these days.)
Beans snoozed comfortably while J, myself, and our friend chatted and took in the scenery. Our new friends are as avid about loving Alaska as we are, and we exchanged stories of the few adventures we have already undertaken and the many that we want to. Our new friends are also avid "Moose Patrol" junkies. *grin*
And the moose along the way back home from Paxson were amazing. We passed 7 or 8 (that we saw).
We returned home much later than we planned, tired, muddy, and glad for the trip. The evening ended with a beautiful sunset (we are finally having real sunsets, and at a decent hour!) and dreams of our next gold panning adventure, when we hope to really strike it rich. (Don't worry, J's hanging on to the day job!)


The following day was a trip to Fairbanks. And now that I live in Delta Junction, I REALLY hate going to town. I elaborated on our trip by the old North Pole house last post, so I won't rehash that nonsense. The rest of the day was exasperating... shopping for things we needed, doctor's visits, the works. I had every intention of stopping by to see my friends in North Pole on the way home, but by 5 pm, we were STILL finishing up our shopping and everyone was tired and grumpy and ready to go home. (Sorry M! My next trip up is Sept 9th and I DO plan on stopping in then!)


I was almost relieved when J went to work the following day. I was exhausted and Beans desperately needed her routine back in order. We chilled out for a couple days, then made our way into Delta Junction for another adventure on Saturday.

Nothing too exciting... we went with my neighbor (the wife) to the library, the IGA (where you can get a coffee), had lunch at the Drive In, visited the Farmer's Market, then since Beans dozed off in the car, we drove down Clearwater Road and the down the Rich Hwy to Black Rapids. (Just because). With lots of gal pal chatting and beautiful scenery, the time passed quickly.
Of significant note was a HUGE Bull Moose (we actually say two of them on our drive). The first one was enormous, and we nearly mistook him for a tree, until we noticed he was moving. His rack was probably the size of the front of my minivan. AMAZING. And just right on the side of the road. The other "little" guy still had fuzz on his antlers, but was an impressive sight, nonetheless.


In Other News:

I came face to face with a moose the other night! I wandered out our back door onto the deck and found myself within 6 feet of TWO of these amazing animals. The smaller of the two took off in a sprint toward the tree line, while the other acknowledged my presence with a half hearted snort, a glance up, and then went back to munching on my neighbor's chickweed. I figured I was somewhat safe on my deck (even though the moose WAS able to rest it's head on the deck floor!), and snapped a few photos and stood in awe of this creature.
Honestly, there is no way to do justice in a description of these animals. They are huge, powerful, skittish, unpredictable, and even then, when they are chewing up your lawn and only giving you a bored look from time to time, amazingly docile and peaceful animals to be around.


More News: One of Bean's beloved goldfish (we had him for 3 days) had the take the porcelain plunge. Yes, "Callie" (named for her calico coloring) had to be flushed away this morning, as she was found belly up in the tank.
Don't worry, 10 month old Beans was in no distress over the loss. In fact, she laughed hysterically as poor Callie went around, and around, and around in the bowl before finally being swept away. (OK, I guess on some level, a goldfish swirling to it's grave IS kind of funny!)

Callie was quickly forgotten, and "Bub" (named because it's a word Beans can actually say), the remaining fish, is still alive and well. For now, at least.


So, no idea where this coming week's adventures will take us. J is working more overtime, then he claims he is going fishing. Hopefully he brings back something good for supper.
Meanwhile, on MY agenda is to find somewhere around here to get a haircut.
Beans is hopefully going to get the hang of this tooth cutting business. She has two top teeth poke through in the last 24 hours, and it looks like her canines are following close behind. EVERYONE in the house will be sleeping better if those teeth would just come on through.

I DO know that Delta Junction's Sullivan Roadhouse is hosting the Garden Soup this Wed, and I DO plan on making it into town for that. This will also be the last week for the Farmer's Market, finally closing up for the winter. Lots of other adventures planned, meanwhile, I have several crochet projects that have been neglected this week, and I've got an itch to get back to them...

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!

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