This represents the combined travelogue and technical summary of my 1999-2000 sabbatical leave. The plan is to begin my sabbatical leave with a trip to Utrecht in the Netherlands, where I am scheduled to attend Stephan de Rhoode's PhD defense and give a seminar at Utrecht University on Friday 3 September. Returning from the Netherlands, I continue to Portland, OR, where I meet up with my wife, who has driven to Oregon in our pickup truck with camper, loaded with gear for a month including two kayaks on the roof, a folding kayak or "ducky" inside plus my bicycle, and backpacking gear. After visiting our friends, the Eads family in Albany, OR, we then head north to Bellingham, WA, to catch the ferry north to Alaska. We spend about three weeks visiting th e Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and return by ferry about 12 October.
In early November, Vollie and I fly down to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I present lectures on RAMS. In the second week in December I go to Kenya to serve as Chairman of the organizing committee on a WMO-sponsored meeting related to modeling on PCs. I attend the Annual Meeting of the AMS in mid-January, and early February I go to Puna, India, where I present lectures on RAMS to weather service scientists. I end the sabbatical by spending three weeks to a month at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where I plan on interacting with colleagues in atmospheric science and hydrology. I intend this document to be both entertaining and educational. We will see what adventures await me!
Departure from DIA was on 11:20 8/31/99 when I fly to Atlanta on Delta and then on to Amsterdam. I am going light with carry-on, and have added a few items to use while renting bikes to get around, such as headlamp and leg-light, biking shorts, and a h ip-pack for carrying gear. No helmet, though, since it didn't fit in my hand baggage and the Dutch always look at me funny, anyway, as they rarely use bike helmets-maybe they are hard-headed?
My flight to the Netherlands was uneventful except for a go-around just as the plane was flaring out to land at Atlanta. The pilot informed us another aircraft was taking too long to clear the runway. Our arrival in Amsterdam was about 0800, about 30 m in ahead of schedule. After clearing customs and taking the train to Utrecht, I searched through the train station for a place to rent a bicycle. After asking about 5 people I finally found it at the lowest level in the building. I had to leave a deposit of 100 units of Dutch currency to rent the bike, which darn near took all my cash I had exchanged (no credit card!!). The bike was an English-style frame, single-speed, heavy, that one sits rather vertically erect. It reminds me of bikes about 50 years ag o in the U.S. The frame was much too large for me. My feet couldn't touch the ground when I sat on the seat and I could barely clear the top tube. If I am speaking with a high squeaky voice when I return, you will know what happened! After asking many pe ople directions, I finally found the hotel. It is an old hotel that is undergoing restoration.
After washing up, I tried to navigate to Utrecht University. With no mountains or sun for directional reference, and few orthogonal streets, navigating around Utrecht is a challenge, to say the least! I asked one couple directions, headed off and event ually came around and asked them again how to get there; they must have thought I was crazy. But somehow I made it and located Peter Duynkerke. He informed me of what to expect at Stephan's defense tomorrow. I then headed back to the hotel and found it w ith little difficulty. I read over Stephan's thesis briefly and took a jog along some canals with bike trails along them. I saw several cormorants and white/brown herons feeding in the canals. It was really quite pleasant.
I returned to shower and get on my bike again to go to a Javanese type restaurant. The food was very good and had a sweet, yet spicy taste to it. Now for early to bed to try to catch up on sleep I lost last night.
Sleeping in is not a possibility at this hotel as it is under construction, so by 7AM I awoke to hammering, saws cutting, and other construction-related activities. After a continental breakfast, I biked to campus and checked my e-mail. Then Peter and I biked to downtown, where we had a light lunch including a beer. Then began the defense. First the examiners assembled in a separate room, where we were given instructions and those of us that are full professors dressed in our caps and gowns. In a separ ate room assembled Stephan, in his long-tailed tux, with two of his friends, serving as his assistants/defenders? They were two of his buddies from high school days. It somehow resembled getting ready for a duel to the death rather than a defense. We then marched into a large, old hall (this all took place on the original campus center), where the examiners sat like judges in a line at the head of the room, the examinee stood at a podium to the side with his attendees standing by and the remainder of the room was filled with Stephan's extended family, graduate students, faculty, and KNMI scientists.
The exam finally began with everything proceeding in Dutch except for the questions I asked and Stephan's reply to me. So I really couldn't tell what the others asked or Stephan's responses were-yawn!! I could tell, however, that he was able to make e xtended discourses to every question. Whether or not he answered the questions during this discourses, I couldn't tell. This whole thing was under a precise time schedule, whereupon a woman-official entered in the midst of a question/answer session and po unded a staff announcing that we were to proceed to our chambers to decide Stephan's fate. There everyone agreed that Stephan did well in responding to the questions asked. The chairman raised a staff at that point and just then the bell rang at a neighbo ring church. I commented that they had things amazingly choreographed!! The group all broke out in laughter at that. We returned to the hall to announce that Stephan passed the exam and went to a lower, large hall where snack-type foods and drinks were se rved and everyone proceeded in a line to congratulate Stefan. It reminded me more of a wedding reception!
After this, with it being a nice sunny day, Peter and I walked along the canal with its hand-operated locks, with shops and restaurants lining the way above the canal level, and restaurants along the canal level. The restaurants are in front of and in, the old warehouses. The warehouses serve as the restaurants in the cold season. It reminds me a bit of the canal area in old downtown San Antonio. We then met up with Stephan and his defenders, still dressed in tuxes, and his friends to have a few beers while sitting outside of a cafe. Then off we went to the top floor of a large old restaurant. The restaurant had a plastic covering to resemble a castle. This was done as part of some celebration in Utrecht. Other buildings were so covered and over one wa s a large portrait of a man standing nude in a field with flowers covering appropriate locations. The banquet-style dinner/buffet was on the top floor of the restaurant with log beams showing. It was rather warm up there. Stephan's family, friends (and h e has many!), and committee/faculty members, filled two dining rooms. Stephan's father appears to be typical Dutchman. His mother, grandmother (Oma) and the entire maternal side of the family are Indonesian. His mother is a very attractive woman. The me al was excellent. I left about 10PM, while Stephan and friends continued celebrating in a nearby pub, until, I am told, 3AM. But I succumbed to jet-lag.
Friday, I biked to Utrecht University in beautiful, sunny weather. There I checked my e-mail and then gave a seminar on our experiences simulating Arctic stratus clouds. I received two bottles of French, red wine with the institute label on them for a reward. After lunch and some "science" discussions, Stephan and I took a bike ride. Since he had heard that I am a kayak enthusiast, we biked to the river near campus, where we rented two single-place kayaks. They were heavy, pretty stable, but moved eas ily. The only problem is, they did not have backrests and did not supply lifevests, so my back got quite sore. Nonetheless, we had a nice paddle up the slow-moving, meandering river. We paddled through forests, cow pastures, under bridges, and along mowe d yards in front of castle-like estates. Stephan complained about not being able to keep up with the old man. But that is something I do regularly and I was certainly no match for him on a bicycle, as he is a bike-racer!
That evening we met downtown and went to a Mediterranean-type restaurant along the canal. As we ate, we watched tourist-type boats (some filled with cheering, inebriated Students) passing by, as well as some kayaks, some small motorboats, and paddle-bo ats. After a few miss-turns, I pedaled my way back to the hotel again.
On Saturday, I slept in until 8AM! That is one of advantages of the 8-hour time difference! Then I decided to pedal my way to near the town of Hilversum, where there is a gliderport. It was about a twelve-mile bike ride through mostly farmland and a fe w small villages. Arriving at the gliderport, I visited with a fellow putting his LS-8 glider together and helped him a bit. He did not complete assembling his glider, as an un-forecast alto-cumulus cloud layer was shutting down the insolation. He arrange d for me to be put on the list for a flight in one of their twins. I met an American who was working in the Netherlands. He and his son were flying there. He showed me pictures of the various gliders and power-planes he had at various locations around the world. His 15- year-old son gave him a hard time about always getting out pictures of his airplanes instead of his kids! After several hours, it became evident that the alto-cu was turning to thickening alto-stratus, and since I was sandwiched in the sc hedule between a number of young students I decided to call it quits, since they needed the experience of a tow followed by a 5-minute sled ride back to landing more than me!
After biking back to my hotel, I decided to bike downtown with one of the wine bottles in my hip pack. I decided that two bottles in my hand-luggage was just too much to carry. I wanted to see if I could find a restaurant that would let me drink my own bottle with dinner, but found that it is not permitted by law. So, I decided to find a take-out restaurant and eat in the hotel room. Before that, I decided to check out where the bike-return place was located. I am so glad I did, as it took quite a whil e asking people and ending up at the wrong bike place before I found it. At 7AM on Sunday morning the place is quite empty of people to ask. I then stopped at an Indonesian restaurant and got take-out and proceeded back to the hotel with supper and my bo ttle of wine in tow. There I had a great supper and finished off the bottle of wine which was quite good. Then I took a walk in the twilight through a nearby park.
One thing I couldn't help notice is how fit the Dutch are. Very few people are overweight, with most being slim and tall. Some of that maybe genes, but bicycling is undoubtedly a factor. Almost everyone does it. The slimness of the Dutch is especially noticeable compared to many places in the U.S. Biking is a lifestyle there. They bike to work, to school, and on holidays. Many like Stephan and his fiance don't even own a car. You often see mothers or fathers with a couple of children on their bikes or following them on their own bikes. Finding a parking place for your bike can be a real challenge downtown, but still much much easier than parking a car.
On Sunday, after a brief continental breakfast at the hotel, I biked to the train station with my hip pack and backpack-style suitcase including one bottle of wine. I returned my rental bike and took the train to Amsterdam. This began the long flight t o rainy New York, then to Denver, and on to Portland-great fun squeezed in these torture machines!
As I stepped out of the Portland baggage claim area door, I spied our pickup truck with two kayaks on top. It was 11:30PM and both Vollie and I were quite tired, yet had to drive for an hour to Albany, where we visited our friends, the Eads'. After sl eeping in until 8AM, I took a jog along the Willamette River. We loafed the rest of the day and I caught up on my e-mail. The next day while Vollie and her friend Florence toured Corvallis, I paddled the ducky, inflatable kayak downriver from Corvallis to Albany. I had about a 1kt current to help me along, but the winds were often right on my nose, and the gusts would stop me in my tracks. No whitewater here, so it was a lazy paddle. The shores were mostly forested, with occasional farmlands. I spied nume rous blue herons, hawks and a couple osprey. It took me 2.5h to paddle what I estimate to be between 12 and 14 miles.
The next day we took a tour up the Willamette valley and visited several wineries. With temperatures in the 90's, golden-brown fields, it resembled Napa valley. The views off the decks of several of the wineries overlooked the hills covered in vineyard s and forests. Most of the wines I tasked were so-so, but some were quite good.
On Thursday we headed north toward Bellingham. I had hoped to get underway about noon, but it was after 2PM before Florence and Vollie finished with laundry and lunch. My goal was to get north of Seattle to avoid morning rush hour on Friday morning. By 7PM we were in Seattle so I suggested we stop for a seafood dinner near the ferry docks. We had some very good fish and then headed further north to find a place to park our camper. Our first stop off I-5 about 20 miles north of Everette, resulted in wil d goose chases trying to find a campground open. Finally we found a fishing camp-type of RV park on the Skagit river. Since it was quite dark, we weren't sure what were getting ourselves into. Also, as this was our first attempt to raise the poptop roof w ith two kayaks and one fully loaded with boating stuff, I wasn't sure if we could raise the roof. Well Vollie "raised-the-roof" when it became apparent that with her pushing on a broom outside and me lifting inside, we couldn't get it up. With her inside and me out, things weren't any better. Being tired, and not feeling well anyway, Vollie really got upset about all the stuff I brought along. After unloading Ray's kayak for Jerry and a bunch of stuff out of the kayak, we finally got the top up and went t o bed.
In the morning we woke to find us next to the fast-moving Skagit River that was quite nice. We then headed north to Bellingham and did the old-town section (Fairhaven) near the ferry docks, after spending a fair amount of time finding the place. It was a nice, warm, sunny day and we set up our roll-up picnic table in a little grassy square. There we had some clam chowder purchased in a little restaurant and made sandwiches from the fresh tomato that Florence had given us.
After hours of waiting in the parking lot line, we got under way in the ferry. In the warm sunshine, we got spectacular views of snow-covered Mount Baker. Remnants of the one hundred feet of snow last winter were quite evident. After a pleasant night o n the boat, and breakfast, Vollie and I walked the decks for about an hour. Most people got a kick out of us walking briskly around and around the decks. Once we spied the back of a whale and a few dolphins.
The weather on the boat ride was generally nice and sunny in the afternoons and foggy in the mornings. I thus spent the mornings working on proposals and things like that with my notebook computer and the afternoons taking in views on the afterdecks an d reading. It is definitely a relaxing, slowdown process.
The Ketchikan stop was early in the morning, so our only choice was to take a walk. We headed straight up a fairly steep hill across from the ferry terminal, zigged and zagged with the residential streets in the fog until we actually emerged above it.
The stop at Wrangell was only nine minutes of allowed wandering, so we had to stay right by the terminal. Even so, there was something interesting to do. There is a rock shelf containing garnets in Wrangell, which was originally owned by a corporatio n of women (the first). In time, they sold it to some fellow who eventually became mayor and, upon his death, left the ruby shelf to the children of the town. Some of these children set up tables near the ferry terminal and sell chunks of rock with garn ets in them.
And yes, Bill had to buy one.
The Petersburg and Juneau stops were in the middle of the night and at 5AM, respectively, so we ignored them.
Compared to previous Alaskan ferry trips, we didn't see as much wildlife. We saw a couple of golden eagles, one bald eagle, a couple of humpbacked whales and dolphins, but nothing like the dozens of eagles and whales on other trips.
On Monday morning we arrived in Haines in foggy, cloudy, drizzling skies. We then headed east and as we got over the pass, the skies began to clear and the sun began shining through breaks in the clouds. Brush and shrubs in the alpine area of the pass were red and golden as fall was well under way. By the time we reached Haines Junction, the skies had cleared and we were in strong, downslope winds. The Kluane range was covered in bright yellow aspen on the lower slopes with streaks of red and gold scru b brush running up the steep slopes. This mountain range is beautiful any time of the year, but with the fall colors it was spectacular! About 60 miles from the Alaskan border in the Yukon we found a nice campground located next to a stream (Lake Creek). The trees were all bright yellow and orange, lining the meandering stream, and in the background were the snow-capped mountains. What a site! Temperatures over night dropped into the upper 20's as our top of the camper was very frosty.
As we continued our drive north to Fairbanks, the roads were practically void of traffic. Imagine driving with the trees at their peak in fall colors anywhere else in the U.S. with virtually no traffic? This is definitely a time to visit Alaska. Now we didn't see much in the way of wildlife, just a cow moose and two calves, so that is a downside of traveling up there during hunting season.
We arrived in Fairbanks about 4PM and I checked in at the Geophysics Institute (GI) of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) and met with Jerry Harrington, my former PhD student. We did some apartment hunting and finally located one on the west side of town called Sophie-Plaza. Unfortunately, we can't move in until Thursday evening. So, we are literally camping out in our truck-camper in Jerry's yard.
Jerry and Debra have rented a nice house on a south-facing slope, to the north of town. The house is located in dense aspen and birch forest. It is a nice campsite.
I checked into the GI today and filled out paperwork to get keys to the building, a room, and things like that. I will be working out of Peter Olsson's old office in the new IARC building. It has a large window facing south overlooking the city. With t he fall colors in the foreground, the view is very nice. Unfortunately, the angle of the view is too south to permit seeing Denali when it peeks its head out.
After getting started on our joint proposal to IARC, Jerry and I biked uphill to his house and then took a jog on roads and trails in his neighborhood. Then Vollie, Debra, Jerry, and I went to a Thai restaurant for supper. The food was excellent.
Jerry and I biked in to the office this morning. Temperatures were near freezing and since the ride was a mostly downhill ride, it was pretty cold. In typical Jerry fashion, Jerry remarked that it was a bit nippy--Great!!
I'm pretty happy with the progress on our proposal. We have established links to Bill Hibbler with his sea-ice modeling experience and to David Walsh, who is an experienced oceanographic modeler. This is just what I hoped for on my stay here. We expect to complete the proposal by tomorrow.
We have finally moved into an apartment about 2.5 miles from the GI. The bike ride is not as scenic as from Jerry's house but it is a bit easier, especially on the way home. The apartment is a one-bedroom with more than enough room with as little stuff as we have. It comes with TV but for such a short time, we have decided not to hook up the telephone.
On Friday Jerry and I finished up the IARC proposal. It is entitled: "Development of a Global, Interactive-nested Grid Model for Studying the Affects of Low-Latitude Aerosol Intrusions into the Arctic Basin". If we are successful in obtaining funding, it will be a model capable of doing some very unique studies of the interactions of CCN/IFN intrusions into the Arctic basin and their impacts on Arctic climate and the earth-system as a whole. I think it is pretty good and we should have a decent chance of getting it funded.
On Saturday, Debra, Jerry, Vollie, and I headed about 45 minutes south to Harding Lake, where we kayaked and Jerry and Debra paddled a borrowed canoe. The lake is almost perfectly circular with a diameter of roughly 3 miles. Except for a small State Pa rk, the lake is mostly surrounded by cabins and private lands. It is very shallow near the shores, but much deeper in the center. It is so shallow near the shores that most people had their boats moored about 50 feet off shore. We paddled along the shores , over-taking a number of ducks and grebes. The day was sunny with temperatures in the 50's. At first the winds were light. Jerry and Debra continuously chatted how best to paddle their whitewater kayak. A whitewater kayak has high sides and no keel, so t hat it can be turned easily and not take water over the sides in waves. However, paddling in a lake, is a bit challenging, as the canoe has little directional stability. With Debra in the stern-steering position, they paddled in a circuitous pattern, whil e Vollie and I paddled straight along, loafing to keep with them. On the far side of the lake, while heading for an unpopulated shore to stop for lunch, a 15-20 kt wind came up. Vollie and I headed straight into it, heading for our planned stopover, while Debra and Jerry fought the wind and headed close to shore for safety.
Note that the lake temperature was in the low 40's and Vollie and I wore wetsuits, while Debra and Jerry did not. Survival time in that water was probably about 10 minutes, so it was probably a good thing they headed for shore. After lunch we continued around the lake, viewing rather ritzy cabins nested in the bright, yellow aspens. As we paddled along I began noticing this persistent chirping or krilling sound. It seemed like it came from the neighboring shores, but I couldn't see anything. It started getting louder and louder. Then I looked upwards and saw that the sky was filled with sandhill cranes flying in V-formation much like geese. Like geese that continued to talk to each other as they flew, but the sound they made was much different, more li ke a krilling sound.
The winds had abated for a while, so the paddling was relaxing. I gathered that the winds had been very strong a few days before because a couple of the moored boats had been swamped. About a mile from the put-in spot the winds came up again into the h igh teens. Progress became difficult because the winds were abeam (on the sides) and we were on a lee shore--that is, we were being driven onto the shore. Vollie and I had no problems as we paddled along and the 2-foot waves simply passed over the boat. T he whitewater canoe, however, wanted to windvane. Jerry and Debra decided to go ashore and switch drivers. Even with Jerry steering they had difficulty making headway.
At the put-in, a narrow channel had been dredged and it was very shallow near the entrance. Vollie and I steered offshore until we were opposite the channel, and then headed straight in. Jerry couldn't make headway against the wind, and so they ran agr ound near the channel. Thus Jerry dragged the boat ashore and carried it over the bank of the channel to head into the put-in. Both Jerry and Debra were very tired after paddling that canoe around the lake and fighting the winds.
That evening we decided to get together for pizzas at their house. We agreed to pick up the pizzas at Pizza Bella's. Unfortunately, as I drove out of a parking space, I ran the kayak, which was on top of my camper, into an overhanging roof of the build ing, which I hadn't noticed. I took off the forward 4 inches of the bow of my nice, homebuilt, mahogany-decked kayak; I was not a happy camper!!
By 7:30AM on Sunday morning we headed to Denali National Park, where I was scheduled to attend an Alaska chapter of the AAAS conference. We met Jerry at the Princess Hotel and headed into Denali Park. We drove in as far as permitted (only 15 miles) and hiked a trail at the Savage River parking area. Just above the parking lot were a number of Dall sheep on a rock outcropping. At first the trail was nicely graveled and maintained, and meandered along the river. Then at a bridge crossing, the trail becam e a "social trail" or an un-maintained trail formed by people finding their way along the shore. As we progressed along the riverbank, the trail became more and more obscure and rose steeply along the rocky side hill. At one point, while Jerry was in the lead, he turned and indicated an animal was ahead. I caught up in time to spy the back of a wolverine loping up the steep hillside like he was on level ground. It all happened so fast that Vollie didn't get a chance to see it at all. Seeing these creature s is very rare, and Jerry was very excited about spotting it. He knew of people who frequented the Alaskan outback for over 10 years and had never seen one. In fact a book by the naturalist Adolf Murie, confirms the rarity of seeing them. All I could see of the animal was its black-brown back gleaming in the sunlight. I estimate its speed loping up the steep slope as being over 10mph.
After struggling through willows and brush, we found the trail eventually petered out altogether and we turned around. At one point we lost the trail and came to an impassable rock wall. Rather than turn back, we climbed up a steep hillside to intersec t the trail again. Vollie complained all the way up. Eventually we found the trail again, and just around a bend we overtook three Dall sheep. This was just after crossing a bridge and so we backtracked to walk along the opposite shore. The sheep didn't m ind us being only about 50 feet from them as we were on the other side of the river. The two white adults and lamb were situated on scenic rock outcroppings. I took numerous pictures that I hope came out well.
The conference was a mixture of biological science, political science, atmospheric science and oceanography of Alaska and the Arctic. I attended talks ranging from climate studies, oceanography of the Arctic basin, to applications of fuel cell technolo gy to small-disperse communities in Alaska. Just before lunch, Jerry and I took a jog up toward Mount Healy overlook, while Vollie walked the trail. The trail started out as a maintained trail and then again turned into a "social trail" that became steepe r and steeper. Jerry's legs cramped up, but I continued on up and up. After about 1500ft of climbing, I turned around at the base of a scree area when I realized that it would take another 30 minutes to get to the top and back to where I was. I decided th at if I was to make it back in time for my 2PM talk, I'd better head down.
I presented a talk summarizing our experience simulating Arctic stratus and my proposed influence of anthropogenic aerosol on Arctic climate. It went well.
Rising early, we drove into Teklanika in Denali National Park, hoping to see lots of wildlife. We did see a fox and three caribou, but that was about all. The Grizz have headed into the high country to dig their dens. Compared to late May of 1998, when we saw dozens of them, it was disappointing.
Returning to the meeting, I attended a poster session. Jerry showed results of simulations of the marginal ice zone in which cold air flowing off the ice pack formed vigorous cumulus. After the clouds developed appreciable water contents, they glaciate d, and the loss of radiative-convective coupling, weakened turbulence in the ABL, reduced surface windstresses and heat fluxes, and resulted in a cloud-free region, and then the winds built up and the system went through a similar cycle. This is an intere sting consequence of ice precipitation, as it didn't occur for a liquid cloud.
I also attended a couple of interesting oceanographic talks simulating the climate of the Arctic basin. Wieslaw Maslowski, from the Dept of Oceanography at the Naval Post Graduate School, described their coupled sea-ice/ocean model of the Arctic basin. If we are funded for our proposed Arctic work, I would like to see if we can develop some form of collaboration, either using their simulated data as initial conditions and perhaps boundary conditions for the ocean or by introducing their coupled sea-ice ocean model into RAMS.
It is back to work at UAF. The forecast for today is for a cooling trend with showers and the possibility of rain mixed with snow for the weekend. The forecasters said this marked the end to "Indian Summer". Now, I thought Indian summer began at least after the end of summer on the calendar. Since today is the equinox, this period of sunny, dry weather can hardly be called Indian summer. But in Alaska, the end of summer is considered Labor Day! What a bunch of dorks.
One of Glen Shaw's former PhD's, who is in the weather service in Germany, gave a talk. He heads a group focusing on now-casting, which they define from 1 to 12hrs. He said there are only two people in Germany that are responsible for now-casting resea rch and development. I gather that most of their work is out-sourced to private companies or universities. He kept referring to their "customers" and I asked if they charged for their services. Except for aviation and a few other things, they charge other groups such as radio and TV stations, agriculture, etc. for the use of their forecasts. This brings in about 30% of their budget. Unfortunately all their income goes back into the central government and does not reside in the weather service. So much for incentives to improve forecast performance and provide better customer services! He showed an interesting graph in which the ratio of the forecast error variance produced by forecasters (people) to the error variance of the model guidance was displayed a s a function of forecast period. It showed that for the first 9 hours, the forecasters did much better than the models, but by 12 hours they were a wash and after that the forecasters were better off sticking with the model guidance only. Interesting!
I biked home in light drizzle this evening. The ride I have found follows what I believe was Peter Olsson's bike path at the beginning. It follows a gravel road that cuts through the farm buildings of the Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station and then cuts diagonally across a field with a well-worn bike path. Then it goes along the bike lane against travel on the on-ramp of the Parks Highway, crosses Geist Road, and follows a nice bike path that parallels the Parks Highway, crosses the river, and joins a bike lane next to Airport Way. I have only a block or so of riding along sidewalks or streets to get to the apartment. The way I had ridden before was mostly along streets and sidewalks with a lot of traffic turning in and out of the streets. Thi s is much safer and more scenic. In the morning, I come in before sunrise in twilight. I don't need a light to see but do use my leg-light to be seen.
Brenda bugged me to get the NSF ROCEW final report together. She had put contributions by Graham Feingold, Hongli Jiang, and Chris Golaz on my Notebook computer. So I assembled them into a single file, and edited the whole thing and got the report into a form I could send back to Brenda to finalize. The problem was how do I get the files to Brenda, since we never did get the notebook linked into the GI internet, nor did we get a ppp set up to dial into a modem here at the GI. I tried to use the dial-up modem connection directly into the CSU server using the CSU credit card, but I have only gotten that to work once so far and every time I tried it, it wouldn't work. Sometimes Microsoft makes these things more complicated than necessary. Finally I tried via my AOL account. I set up an AOL account for the purpose of permitting me to access the Internet by local calls almost anywhere in the U.S. It turns out Fairbanks is one exception because the closest AOL server is in Anchorage. I dialed in Anchorage an yway and connected just fine and sent the file to Brenda as an attachment. Peter Olsson's old phone will get the charge and where that ends up nobody knows.
Jerry and I took a noon-hour jog around the ski trails near the University in 40ish weather with overcast skies. The leaves are nearly all down now in about one week; about the same time as it takes to green up in the spring! I attended the NWS 7:45AM shift-change weather briefing. The NWS is located in the IARC building just down the hall and at the same floor as the atmospheric science group. This is great, but I was the only non-NWS person attending and I expect that is the norm. The forecast was fo r snow mixed with rain for the Tanana valley for the weekend, turning cooler through next Tuesday with snow showers off and on for the period. This forecast plus, the rains we already had, squashed any attempt to pack into a BLM cabin for the weekend, as the trails for the lower elevation cabin that was available would be extremely muddy and any higher-elevation cabins would be in cloud. The women said no way-Jose! The forecast called for some clearing in the afternoon on Friday through Saturday morning with a short wave moving in early Saturday afternoon.
Friday afternoon we attended a FAC at the Pump House located a few miles from town on the Chena River. There, some of the younger atmospheric science faculty (where were the students?), a couple of former CSU and U of Wyoming students and new faculty i n Forestry economics and EE, respectively, and a young philosophy professor from Argentina, assembled for some beers and bar-type supper snacks. I had a couple amber ales and a salmon burger-it was great!
After leaving the Pump House, I took Vollie down the road to a park on the Tanana River, just below the confluence of the Chena. I'd been there last May, but this time it was much nicer, as the mosquitoes did not attack. As we drove back into town, at the spur of the moment I decided to stop in to the Wolf Run dessert and coffee house for dessert. It is located on the corner of Geist and University, but one has to access it via a winding back street. The building is an old split-level log cabin. Wolf pictures abound on the walls as well as paintings of Denali Park and other Alaska scenes. It is a rather funky place and the desserts were just terrific!
Vollie and I met up with Jerry about 9:30AM to go kayaking with Jerry along the middle Chena. Jerry wanted to go hiking in the afternoon on some of the ridge trails, but I said it would be snowing by 1:30 up there and clouded in. After my experience in Norway, getting lost and wet on similar ridges with a wave moving through, I didn't want to take any chances here. Indeed, as we drove up the Chena Hot Springs Road, we encountered a few snow showers in the highest terrain at 10AM. We almost pooped out o n our paddle but continued on. It was cool at the put-in site, in the lower thirties, but otherwise the weather was fine. The plan was to float about 2 hours down the river and Vollie drove the sagwagon to meet us at the take-out.
This was to be Jerry's first float in the whitewater kayak that I brought up from the Fort. Ray McAnelly gave it to him and it is serviceable but not pretty. I, in turn, used the yellow ducky. The Chena was running surprisingly fast for this time of ye ar. The water was quite cold, probably about 35F. For the most part, this part of (a few miles up from Rosehip Campground down to the campground) the river is flat water that could be easily run in any canoe, with only a few ripples. I estimate the curre nt to be 4kts, so that we actually made the run in about an hour instead of Jerry's estimate of two hours. The only animal we saw was a beaver attempting to cross the river with some twigs. Occasionally we encountered a snow shower, but otherwise it was u neventful; that is, except for Jerry's learning how to handle the kayak. At first, he spun around more than going forward, but after a while he got the hang of it and I couldn't keep up with him in my ducky. He did complain about sore abdominal muscles fr om trying to keep upright without a backrest.
On our way back we stopped at Tacks General Store for lunch. If you are ever on the Chena Hot Springs road, stop there. It is a real, old-time general store. It has a greenhouse, hardware, groceries, and real, home-cooked food. I had a huge grilled che ese and veggie sandwich on home-baked bread. Vollie had half of the same and that was plenty and Jerry had a cheese omelet with piles of home fries. I'd like to go back and try some of those fantastic looking pies.
It was Jerry's Birthday, so Saturday evening we joined Jerry and Debra and some of their friends at a Thai food restaurant for the second time. It is the best place to eat out in Fairbanks. We then stopped at a party held by an economics professor, nam ed Doug, a former neighbor of Jerry's and Debra's. He had a collection of drums from around the world and we all joined in on a drum jam for a while.
We woke to 1.5 inches of snow on the ground. It was very wet stuff as temperatures were about 30F. Vollie and I took a walk with full rain gear on through Creamers Farm, an old dairy farm converted to a wildlife preserve. Occasionally we would be bomba rded with huge aggregates, but after a while it turned to steady rain. That evening we had Jerry and Debra over for dinner and watched a couple of TV shows on the Fox channel, which we get better than they do, as we have cable.
We woke to temperatures in the middle 20's so all the puddles and some places on the roads were iced over. I heard there were several accidents on the highways. I had no problem riding my back way and, in fact, the trail part was nice and frozen, so I didn't have to deal with mud. On our noon-hour run, it was also nicer to have the muck on the trails frozen, except one spot where the trail was more a pond than the usual muck!
Again there was about an inch of fresh snow on the ground but it was warmer than yesterday. It is pretty darn dark as I ride in about 7:15AM. The loss of 7 minutes per day is quite noticeable. It gets tough dodging the puddles in the semi darkness!
After work Vollie and I took a drive around the back roads of Fairbanks and ended up by driving to the Birch Hill Nordic Ski Area. It is not open yet but is a nice place to take a walk along the trails. We could see the tracks where a couple of anxious skiers had skied the 1" of snow on the trails. I presume they were using their "rock skies". Occasionally it was hard to walk as ice was hidden beneath the 1" of snow.
My bike ride in this morning was the coldest so far with temperatures in the upper teens. It is getting quite dark at 7:15AM but there is enough light that I can still see without a headlight, and only use my leg-light to be seen. Sunrise is about 8:00 AM.
I attended the 7:45AM weather briefing at the NWS. Because of the fire in the Cray power supply at NCEP they are still not getting the 12Z runs in time for the briefing, if at all. I asked if they looked at the Navy NOGAPS model output. They said they did, but it does poorly in the interior because of its poor terrain resolution. It also tends to overdevelop low-pressure systems over the ocean.
My noon hour run today followed one of the Nordic ski trails behind the GI. The one I took meandered forever through the woods. It is easier to run it now that the ground has frozen. With about an inch of snow on the trail and only a few real icy patch es, it is much better than the earlier muck! Eventually I came out on a gravel road and just across the road was a field with muskoxen in it. There also were a few caribou. I gather this is part of the university's large-animal research station.
I attended two seminars this afternoon. One was by Walt Dabberdt, associate director at NCAR. He gave an overview of NCAR facilities and services NCAR provides to universities. The second was by one of the NWS forecasters, who talked about his experien ce forecasting in Puerto Rico. So much for getting new insights into Alaska/Arctic weather and climate!
Actually, I've learned quite a bit by attending the morning map discussions at the time of shift changes at the NWS. Unfortunately, in spite of being just down the hall, there is no participation by university faculty or students.
After work, Vollie and I took a short walk along some of the ski trails behind the GI. I wanted to show her the little lake that one of the trails go by. I was surprised that the lake already had a thin veneer of ice on it. A few days ago it was fully open water. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, as Bob Walko pointed out to me, the sun angle right now is 3 degrees lower than it gets in Colorado on 22 December. Thus the lake has probably had a negative energy budget for over a month and the cold nig hts and cool days are pushing it over the hump to freezing this shallow lake.
That evening we attended a dinner party at Glen Shaw's. We enjoyed hearing Glen tell "war stories" about his friends and colleagues in the field.
This was my last day at the University of Alaska. I finished up with my e-mail correspondences with my students, Brenda, and RA's and then in the afternoon, Jerry, Debra, Vollie, and I headed up the Chena Lakes road to the Angel Creek trail. There we put on our backpacks and hiked to the lower Angel Creek cabin, about a 3.5 mile hike. We had originally planned to hike in there the previous weekend, but because it was so rainy, the women nixed that plan. It was a darn good thing! Because of the cold sp ell during the week, the ground was frozen in and so were most of the mud puddles. Had we gone the week before, we would have been slushing through knee-deep mud.
As it was, the puddles were frozen over but not so thick that you didn't have to be careful where you stepped. In one stretch when I was leading with the heaviest load of the four of us, I broke through the ice and muck and totally soaked one of my boo ts. But, my feet didn't get cold so I did just fine. So we marched along, jumping from one grassy tussock to the next whenever the ice became thin. Jerry carrying Peter Olsson's lever-action 0.45 rifle, and his new backpack and long hair really looked th e Alaskan! Debra on her first backpacking trip ever, armed with pepper spray hiked through the frozen muck just fine. Enough talking was going on that bear bells were not needed on this hike. After a while, the trail joined with an ATV trail which compre ssed the snow/frozen muck so that it froze solid. Moreover, the ATVs had detoured around the deeper water holes making it easier going too. Of course, they were destroying the natural habitat over a large area in the process.
Early on in the trail, we saw some very large foot prints about 4 inches in maximum width. As there were no human footprints in the fresh dusting of snow from the previous night, we suspected that the prints were made by a wolf rather than a large dog.
After we followed the ATV track, the trail rose a bit to higher ground and the walk became almost pleasant. About 6:00PM and after about 1.75 hours' walk we finally spied the cabin. It was about 1/4 mile from the stream facing southwest. The building was about 20'X14' with a moderate -pitched roof. It was standard 2X4 construction with plywood siding painted gray, and a moderate- pitch, shingled roof. It had windows at the southwest corner on both walls, and two other windows on the remaining walls. The building was insulated and the windows were even thermal-pane type glass. Inside, it was unpainted, but contained two sets of double-berth bunks, with the lower bunks being wide enough to accommodate two adults. It had two tables and benches for seats, a nd a woodstove in the corner that was a very efficient type of stove. It also had a Coleman lantern with a gallon can of fuel. Outside the cabin under the porch was a full-size axe, and a hand saw hanging on the wall. I carried my full-size axed for nothi ng! There was even a metal, log-cutting stand in the yard. As it was sunny that afternoon, the cabin received enough solar heating to make it pleasant inside even without a fire.
But, knowing that a long night was ahead, I immediately began sawing up trees that were stored along side the cabin into logs small enough to fit into the stove. I then got a fire started, while Jerry and Vollie took my filter and water bag down to the creek to get water for the evening. Jerry also scavenged through the forest with his 0.45 at his side in search of deadfall trees to replace what we were to burn that night.
As the sun got lower, we searched the mountainsides for signs of wildlife but could not see any. We then heated water on the top of the wood stove-both Jerry and I carried our stoves for nothing. This is backpacking in luxury compared to what Vollie an d I are used to. We prepared our packaged meals, opened our two bottles of wine and ate snacks and our prepared meals. We had a great time.
By this time the woodstove had heated up the cabin to 100F, and we opened the door to get it to a reasonable temperature. We would frequently go outside and stand on the porch or in the yard to cool off. I would howl like a wolf, which I learned from m y huskies, trying to get a reply but never succeeded. At about 10:30PM I spied an aurora borealis arch and called the others out to view it. It extended from near the northern horizon to near the southern horizon in a band that was about 3 degrees wide at its maximum and varied in color from white to aqua-green. At times secondary and tertiary bands formed that were thinner but roughly paralleled the central arch. With time they varied in intensity, width, length, and position, a bit.
We finally returned to the cabin, alias sauna, and tried to get to sleep with our sleeping bags open. By about 6:00AM, the cabin finally cooled to a pleasant sleeping temperature.
We woke to a dusting of fresh snow and still coming down lightly and temperatures about 32F. After breakfast of bagels and assorted cream cheeses we hit the trail about 8:00AM. Before doing so, we added our two cents' worth to the logbook for the edif ication of future visitors. Vollie's poem, for example is as follows:
"Green aurora and red wine
The warm temperatures that night made the ice/muck somewhat slushy, and the puddles a bit slippery. As we walked back I proposed that we follow the ATV track where it diverted from the marked trail (with yellow diamonds) as the ATV track was easier to walk on. But the others worried it would end up too far from the parking lot, so that idea was nixed. As it turned out, with the fresh snow covering our outbound tracks, we inadvertently followed the ATV diversion anyway. This went fine and we started to notice that the trail was different. I didn't complain as I wanted to go that way anyway, knowing that we were between the trail and the stream-how far could we get from the carpark as I remembered crossing the creek no far from it. But we came to a strea m crossing with about 3 feet of water and only some logs placed across like a log road. The logs were snow covered and slippery and when I go half way across they began to sink! Vollie said, no way Jose-I'm not crossing that! So, we turned around and back tracked to pick up the marked foot trail through the muck. I figured out that where I had fallen in the day before was in the area where that stream had spread out over about 100ft of the trail.
Eventually we got back to the cars, loaded up our gear, and drove back to Tack's for lunch and Bill's purchase of yet another dorky hat and bush-pilot book; thus fortified, we went to Jerry and Debra's where Vollie and I showered and then hit the road south toward Haynes. As we drove south of North Pole, the road became less and less traveled; remember this was a weekend. Almost everything along the way was closed up. About 6:30PM we stopped at TOK to refuel, and put in 20 gallons of fuel in my 26-gall on tank. I was glad I didn't run out of gas as I would have had a long wait hitchhiking. We camped at a state campsite along a river about 5 miles south of Tok. It was essentially closed for the season, but they at least didn't put a bar across the entran ce. Normally I wouldn't have selected a site so close to the road, but traffic was so little that I figured it wouldn't awaken us and I was right. It was cool enough that night to run the catalytic heater all night. I suspect it got down to the upper teen s.
We woke to a fresh dusting of snow again. By 0800AM we were on the road again. The road generally followed the Tanana river valley and as it rose to 2500ft or so, we encountered as much as 4 inches of wet snow on the road. Cars before us, racing south like us snow birds, however, had left a wide enough worn track that the road was not slippery. We fueled just before entering Canada at a gas station run by a Colorado family who were getting ready to close up for the season and head south. Most of the wa y, the Alaskan Range was covered by clouds, but occasionally a few peaks would come out. We stopped for lunch at Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake. The town is named for a big wind-storm that hit the area and destroyed most of the buildings in the settlement there. It was slightly overcast, so we decided to drive down to the beach, where we spied a lonely, weathered-looking picnic table. The beach is made up of a black pebbles/sand, firm enough for me to drive the pickup to the table. There in temperatures o f about 40F and occasional drizzle, we sat at the picnic table, dressed in our Gortex parkas and had our lunch. No crowds here!
We continued south to Haines Junction, refueled and headed towards Haines. Compared to our drive eastward from Haines to Haines Junction in September, where the mountain peaks were all clouded in, we could see the mountains with their frosting of termi nal snow all along the drive. Moreover, in stark contrast to the Fairbanks area, many of the trees retained their colorful leaves. Thus we had stunning views of those snow-crested mountains with foregrounds of colorful aspen and in one spot an old, decayi ng log cabin surrounded by yellow aspen and the mountains in the background.
We passed through U.S. customs and traveled down the Chilkat River Valley where the river was lined with yellow-leafed Cottonwoods and fishermen in waders were in the stream. Arriving in Haines about 4:30 PM, we explored the place by car, and asked abo ut possible campsites. I inquired about Chilkat State Park and Chilcoot State Park and a local recommended the former. Before we headed the 8 miles out of town, to the Park, we had a nice salmon dinner at a restaurant called the Lighthouse, appropriately located by the shore. We then drove along the windy and chuck-holed road to Chilkat State Park. Along the way we passed by relatively upscale, modern cabins in the woods, and, of course, typical Alaskan shacks with blue tarps covering "stuff". Arriving at the park entrance gate, we found it closed-surprise-surprise! Just before the gate, there was a parking area with quite a slant to it. But, with a few well-placed rocks under the pickup tires, we made the camper sort of level, and setup for the night. Be ing the end of the road, I didn't expect much traffic or even anyone to notice us there-I was right. Vollie was a little apprehensive about bears because there was a mess of scat in the parking lot with a lot of berries. If it was a bear, he/she had had a little too many berries as it had a case of diarrhea.
But we settled in for the night and weren't bothered by much of anything. Well except for a porcupine, which attacked from the bushes as we walked after dinner along the road that descended into the park!
Today is Monday, which is my regular fast day, but it doesn't stop me from taking a hike. So, we headed out down the winding road into the park. Along the way we got great views across Chilkat sound of the Chilkat Mountain range with many glaciers on i t. Again the views were framed in yellow aspen! As we descended down the trail there was this loud crashing through the bushes, and we were again attacked by this porcupine! He must be the watchdog-a pig for the park. After about 3/4 mile and 300ft of desce nt we came to a trailhead that went out to the end of the Chilkat Peninsula. The sign said the trail is 6 miles one way. The trail began by plunging into a very dark, rainforest. Trees were covered by moss, moss was everywhere on the ground, and mushrooms were abundant. It was so dark in the in interior that with my 100ASA film I still had to set my shutter down to 1/15s and F-4. Vollie was again apprehensive about encountering bears and jangled her bear bells to keep from surprising them. As leaves had r ecently fallen on the trail, it was often hard to identify the trail from the rest of the dark forest. But we managed to stay on it, as much by feel of the ground as its visual appearance.
The trail was often slippery either because of mud or because of the tree roots crossing the trail. The trail would cross marshy areas sometimes with wood bridges and often just going through the muck. At one place a sort of ladder/stair case was chopp ed out of a log to get up a steep slippery slope. Needless to say, progress along the trail was very slow and we gave up any hope of hiking to the end of the peninsula. Eventually the trail broke out into the open along the shore, where I gather it meande red along, sometimes in the forest and generally on the rocky beach. We beach-combed a bit, enjoyed the view, spied a couple of bald eagles in the trees and on the islands, and watched a couple of sea lions pop their heads out once in a while only to disa ppear if you looked or pointed at them. Viewing through my binoculars, I could see the main park facilities only about a mile down the beach and since the tide was out, it looked like an easy hike back that way. Vollie said, oh here we go again-referring to my tendency to not return the same way in on a trail and often bushwhacking my way back. But, with a choice of that dark forest with bears potentially lurking behind every tree and an open beach, if a bit rocky, she agreed to head that way. No problem, a little slow getting over the boulders in a few spots, but we made it to the boat launch site with no difficulty. We even found a serviceable outhouse-heh, this is civilization! We returned up the road and found what must be a visitors center log cabin with a large deck surrounding it. It was built of these mammoth logs, some three feet in diameter. From the deck, one could look though gaps in the aspens at the glacier-covered and snow-peaked mountains across the sound.
Vollie suggested that we have lunch on the deck; she cream cheese and crackeres and me a can of Kerns. As we prepared to eat/drink our lunches, Vollie said, Jeez, look at that! Not 50 feet from us in the dense woods was a young, but quite large bull mo ose. He generally ignored us, except when I "popped" open my can of Kerns, whereupon he stopped his grazing and looked our way. So we lunched and he lunched, he browsing on leaves of the trees 7 feet or so off the ground, and plants on the ground. Eventua lly we wandered on back up the hill with that moose totally ignoring us. After about a 1/4 mile up the road, crash, boom, bang, we were again attacked by the ferocious porcupine. He would fan out his rear-end and then head back into the bush. He reminded me of armadillos in Florida that likewise crashed through the bushes and if you didn't watch out they would walk across your feet as you sat around a campfire! That poor, little porcupine was so afraid of me (Vollie) that it ran into the bushes before I co uld get a picture!
Returning to the car, we broke camp and drove through town to Chillkoot State Park. The access road passed by the ferry terminal and then parallels coast winding along beside a very steep mountainside. At several places, I'd say at least six, the road had been totally washed out in the past and you could look up the hillside and see this tremendous erosion pass. I gather they had some very heavy rains in the September of 1998 and it must have closed off that road for some time. The road is very rough gravel now in each of these washout sites. About 8 miles from town the road turns along the Chilkoot River which was covered by sea gulls. At the same time our noses got strong scents of decaying fish. This is where the salmon come to spawn and die. The g ulls wait anxiously by to pluck the eyeballs from the dead/dying fish. The shores are lined with dead fish, and in the water one can see hundreds of gross-looking salmon.
Chilkoot Lake, which feeds the river, is likewise full of these dying salmon. I gather there are some other salmon running in the lake that the fishermen like to catch as well as Dolly Varden trout. We saw one such 18" trout that a guy had just caught. He and his wife had just retired, and were embarking on a trip to Australia and New Zealand to escape the Alaskan winter. This state park was open including its campground situated in the dark, boreal forest. I considered taking down the kayak and paddli ng in the lake, but as it was my fast day and, being a bit cool and very lazy, I decided against it. Likewise, Vollie was not, how do you say, very enthusiastic about camping there in that dark drippy forest with lots of salmon to attract the bears. So we headed back to Haines and searched for an RV park, hopefully with a nice hot shower. Before we did so, however, we drove across the bridge to the end of the road. There we found a number of very up-scale cabins located within 50ft of high tide. It was a very pretty setting as long as you weren't bothered with the smell of decaying fish!
When you really want to find one of those darn RV places, wouldn't you know, they were all closed for the season. One place would let us park there for $10, no bath or showers, no hookups, just a picnic table and a place to park. We went with it as it allowed us to explore the town on foot. Of course our other choice was to go back to Chilkoot State Park and enjoy the decaying fish and bears they attract. Like most of Alaska this time of year, about 2/3 of the stores in Haines were closed. There were a couple of restaurants, two grocery stores, a couple of bars, a gas station, and a gift-shop/clothing store open and that was about it. They really roll up the carpet and close things down once October sets in.
About the time we headed back to our camper it began to rain. And did it rain! It never stopped all night and must have rained at least 0.25"/hour. We breakfasted in the camper in the rain, broke camp in the rain, and got in the queue at the ferry term inal in the rain. It finally stopped about the time we boarded the ferry. I was glad I didn't have to worry about driving along that road with all the washed out sections. As the ferry headed south we enjoyed views of the coastal range and the Chilkat Ran ge, which were only partially obstructed by clouds. Just before entering Juneau Harbor, the crew of the ferry had a man-overboard drill. They threw a life-vest into the sea, lowered a powered lifeboat, and 20 minutes later plucked the now deceased life-ve st from the 40F water. Makes you want to be sure you stay in that boat!
Arriving in Juneau, we joined 4 young people to share the cost of a taxi for the 14-mile ride into Juneau as we had about 3 hours (would have been 4 if they didn't take so long to save that life-vest!). There Vollie and I toured mostly closed shops in old-town, and just enjoyed walking about. On the way back the others wanted to stop by and tour the Alaskan Brewery, but surprise, surprise, they were not open for tours today.
We woke to the announcements that we had arrived in Wrangell. It was 5:00AM and we had until 9:00 AM to "do" Wrangell. It was warm, in the 50's, overcast, with light drizzle. Downtown is only about 3 blocks from the ferry terminal. So off we walked the streets of Wrangell and viewed its closed schools, museums, post office, gift shops, and hardware stores. One place was open since 5 a.m., however: the liquor store. Just as we were noting this, a local man and his black lab came by and pointed out that it was also the espresso bar. He steered us to the "locals" restaurant (the Diamond C Cafe) and had breakfast of fried eggs for Vollie and a Denver omelet minus the ham for me. The local gents were doing their morning socializing before setting off to w ork and we returned to the ferry reeking of smoke. As it began raining hard, we returned to the ferry about an hour before departure. Wrangell is definitely not the most scenic town in SE Alaska. They have not attempted to "tourist-ize" the place as have Skagway and Ketchikan. There are few brightly-painted, revitalized and new-but-old-looking, revitalized buildings as in those towns.
We arrived in Ketchican about 4:00PM but had to wait about an hour until the dock was clear, due to the off-loading of another ferry. Since they delayed our departure to 6:30PM, we decided to head downtown. We took the local bus system, which cost $1 p er person. Although the ferry was only 2 miles from town, the bus meandered through the back streets and seemed to take forever to get there. But once we go downtown, and began to walk around in places like the famous Creek St., we found it was almost tot ally shut down, much like the rest of southeast Alaska. We had visited the Creek St area in June of 1998 and enjoyed the shops and had lunch, eating outside in the sunshine. The weather today was overcast but not all that bad, and we would have probably b een willing to eat outside even today, but alas, nothing was open. Then again, the stench of rotting salmon in the creek beneath the boardwalk was so bad that we probably would not have had much appetite anyway. So we boarded the bus and headed back to th e ferry. We stopped in a liquor shop and bought a bottle of wine, which Vollie and I shared in our cabin after dinner.
After a relaxing sleep on the rocking boat, we awoke to patches of fog and overcast skies in Canadian waters. Winds were light, and temperatures were in the upper 40's. The day remained overcast and we often experienced periods of light to moderate rain. About 3/4 of the way across Queen Charlotte Sound, I decided to put on my long johns and wind- breakers and head outside on the afterdeck. Just as I got out there I spied one of what became the largest pod of porpoises I had ever seen. There must have be en close to 100 hundred of them! These sleek, black creatures with white stripes along their side are great to see singly, but to see several dozen leap into the air simultaneously, as if choreographed, is simply awesome. It must have taken us a good 5 mi nutes to pass through the entire pod.
The remainder of the ferry trip was anticlimactic after seeing the large pod of porpoises. Occasionally I would spy an Orca blowing near shore, but they were all quite some distance from the ship. An hour and half later than our scheduled docking, we f inally arrived in Bellingham, WA, at 8:30AM Alaska time, which was 9:30 AM Pacific time. After refueling, we finally headed east about 11:00AM PDT in light rain. We decided to return by a different route than we have ever tried before; Route 20 that bypas ses Seattle and heads directly eastward across the northern Cascades. As we headed up the west slope, the rainfall increased in intensity, and the forest got thicker and thicker with lush plants, large ferns, and large conifers up to 3.5' in diameter. Onc e we crossed the crest of the Cascades, the forests thinned out and by the time we reached the tourist town of Winthrop, we could have been in the Colorado high country in its full fall colors by its appearance.
Then we entered orchard country in the Columbia River valley, where the sweet smell of apples pervaded the air. As we headed east towards Spokane, the vegetation turned to desert scrub, and then in Spokane, ponderosa forests became prevalent. I decide d to call it quits at Coeur d'Alene just into Idaho. We popped the camper in steady rain to find the camper upper bunk was quit wet from the heavy rains in Haines, with no chance to dry out on the ferry. I put my backpacking pad on it to keep my sleeping bag dry. It was rather warm relative to what we had experienced in Alaska, with temperatures in the 50s.
We got an early start and headed to Hamilton, Montana, to visit the Caughy's. Winslow Caughy is a retired professor of biochemistry from Colorado State and his wife, Helen, is an artist/writer that Vollie became friends with in the Tuesday sketch group in Fort Collins. We had a nice veggie lunch and then took a walk along the Bitterroot River. The cottonwoods were all bright yellow, as were the aspens in the mountains. We have been fortunate to track autumn at its peak for the last month! Winslow had h oped to show us a young moose, which had wandered up to him close enough to pet his snout; something I really don't recommend as moose can get pretty darn nasty.
After a nice veggie supper following wine and cheese, we went to a play at the restored old tick research lab in town. Local players, including a retired teacher/principal, presented "See How They Run", a comedy taken place at a vicarage in England. I t was quite farcical and very well enacted.
The next day we visited after a breakfast of Winlow's famous pancakes filled with nuts, bananas, and other goodies. They suggested that we have a mid-afternoon dinner at a restaurant located about 40 minutes' drive to the south; we could continue headi ng southeast from there. The restaurant is located in the countryside along a dead-end, winding road. Winslow wanted to show us the bighorn sheep that frequented the hillsides near the restaurant and can often seen from the restaurant. Along the way, a yo ung moose crossed the road in front of us. About a mile from the restaurant we encountered this large flock of bighorns. A dozen or so of them were on the hillside on the left side and a couple dozen were in a meadow on the right side of the road. As we s tood there watching them, the group on the right side decided to join the rest on the left and we had the good fortune of watching many of them leaping over fences on each side of the road. I hope my photographs came out.
After a delicious salmon dinner (for three of us) and Vollie's shrimp scampi, we said our farewells and headed into Idaho and made our way to near Tetonia at a view pull-out at 10:00PM. Before sunrise, we drove along the west side of the Tetons and dro ve over Teton Pass into Jackson, WY. This is definitely a drive I recommend. Again we were fortunate to experience it in fall colors. From there we headed north to Moran Junction and passed another moose along the way. The Tetons were a disappointment com pared to the snow covered-mountains in Alaska. Then we headed southeast through Lander, Rawlins, Laramie, and into Colorado. The Colorado Front Range was in the 70's, which felt like a heat wave after Alaska. It was also drier than anything we had experie nced in a long time. Finally the camper will get dried out!
While this has been a fun trip and rewarding professionally as well, it is good to be home. By the way, the fall colors are peaking out on the plains, but at home most of the aspen have lost their leaves. We can't complain, though, as we have experienc ed a month of trees at their prime fall colors when you include interior Oregon, Alaska, coastal Alaska, eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, respectively, and now the lower elevations of Colorado.