with over 20 years in this amazing place. it's never dull. i hope to enjoy years of exploration here.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Flew to Barrow Twice....
we did eventually make it there. i am above at fish camp and the baleen palm trees. there are no actual growing trees in Barrow.
our first attempt to Barrow turned out to be a very long flightseeing tour. my longest ever and in the end it was free i guess or really we ended up getting paid. i got $500.00 towards a new ticket some place and also 2500 air miles since my luggage decided to hang out in Fairbanks a wee bit longer than i did.
we were quite literally about 5-10 minutes from landing in Barrow on a beautiful day. was enjoying our flight from Prudhoe Bay and all the beautiful sea ice we could see from the air. it's only like a 38 min flight. we were turned around due to a mechanical issue of some sort. no immediate danger obviously or we would have just landed in Barrow. i believe they feared having a plane left in Barrow making it difficult to repair due to lack of parts and labor. (though as we were coming from Prudhoe and many on the plane were workers up there...it turned out we had 3 mechanics on board i guess. above is getting set to land back in Anchorage where we had left many hours before. about 8 hours actually.
these are iphone shots so they are now in Barrow. had to show the prices of a few items..quite impressive.
our flight turned away from Barrow and instead headed back to Fairbanks, fate to be determined.
here is a double rainbow in Fairbanks after we landed and were told that our flight was cancelled and we would now be put on planes back to Anchorage...i guess there are no direct flights between Fairbanks and Barrow. we were tossed on whatever flight they could get us on. ours left at 9:20 i think while others behind us wouldn't get into Anchorage until much later.
i'm sure SH was very shocked to get my text begging for a ride and to get my car/keys back as we were coming home already. they re-booked us for a flight on sunday...though we were slated to return on Monday. we were told they were probably just going to add a flight the next day to get us north. i requested food vouchers as we'd all pretty much only had the little bag of peanuts since before we boarded. people were hungry. first they brought us a kids snack box...which i kind of went a bit ape on them for. okay not ape, but i sure made my displeasure known. soon everyone had sandwiches and drinks and chips...thanks to me. haha.
Denali from the air...i think this is day one of flying. we began to make friends as we were all in the same boat..trying to get somewhere. Val booked it to the ticket counter when we arrived back in Anchorage and then the fun really began. i really felt like they should have assigned someone to meet us at the plane and work on the return plan and all that. instead val and i started grabbing people who we knew had been from our original flight and we basically took over the ticket counter. we held it up for i'd say 45 min while we pushed for hotel rooms for those who lived in Barrow and the added plane we had been told would happen. one girl was crying in line so we grabbed her into our battle...all told we had i think 10 of us. before we left there was a new planed added and we were all booked on it.
we saw everyone again the next day when we met again to make attempt #2 to get to Barrow. i figured that with all the trouble the first day fate would have it that we would be blessed with an uneventful flight. it was pretty empty as well. the second trip to Barrow was a direct flight. our crew had been called up to take this flight.
Val and i got settled in the Hotel room and then went out wandering. our new friendships soon paid off and a friend we'd met in the madness at Alaska Air saw us out walking and picked us up and gave us the grand tour!! we were out for a few hours with her and her sister having fun, laughing and seeing all the sights. hopefully we see her sister again sometime as her sister lives in Kaktovik and runs Polar Bear tours with her husband out there. have always wanted to get out there so this was good news and a good contact for me i think!!
all the folks we met from Barrow were super nice. the folks in the community that we met were all really nice as well. pics above...me with a deranged look and some art. the thing i am holding is fossilized whale vertebrae. at the museum there is a back work room where the artists gather and work on their crafts. you can go into the craft workroom and they have tables set up with art. i'm sure i could have bartered more but the prices on the stuff i bought seemed pretty dang reasonable to me so i settled pretty quickly.
the football field was for the high school team. everywhere you look is mud and gravel. there are no paved roads there so the kids played on this gravel field. some wealthy lady in Florida saw some news bit about the team and helped fund the astroturf field. the next day we did run across the team practicing. Val and i rented a car for day two so we could explore a bit. our other friends arrived that evening so then we drove them around as well.
our flight that never landed in Barrow did give us some wonderful views of the sea ice out there. Pt Barrow is the split between the Chuckchi Sea and the Beauford Sea which are both in the Arctic Ocean. we got to tour to the point on Sunday.
we had no Polar Bear sightings though i guess there had been one swimming close to shore the week before. you just never know when one may wander around though so we did have to be careful. we were somewhat jokingly told that if you hold up your thumb and can see the polar bear you are too close. they have powerful sense of smell and can run fast. not overly comforting knowing that you are prey. on our impromptu tour we'd seen a big seal that had washed up on shore so we thought that might bring a bear in. the next day when we drove over that way we saw no seal anymore so we guess the sea had taken it back.
our tour guide kept us entertained with some amazing tales of going out whaling and also tales of polar bears. a few gems that i remember...an elder had told him that he was out hunting when he spotted a polar bear. the big bear kept picked up large ice chunks and lifing them over his head. then he'd toss them down. finally he settled on a very large chunk of ice and held it over his head while standing. he then continued to hold that chunk of ice that way for nearly 45 minutes. the elder kept watching curiously...so powerful to be able to hold such weight over it's head. pretty amazing site i would think. finally the polar bear quickly through the ice with force downward...it killed a beluga whale..patience paid off. crazy...the guide tells it better of course.
he was also telling us that the polar bears will sneak up on prey on their belly on the ice...while they sneak forward they will cover their face with their paw, lest their dark eyes and nose give them away. they have also been seen to sneak on their belly butt first to prevent being detected. they will sit for hours at a seal hole just waiting.
cool chess set at the hotel...many birders come to Barrow i guess.
40# bag of dog food nearly $70/bag.
the homes are not fancy in general. a smaller home would be much easier to heat and cheaper. yards are not immaculately groomed. not much time for yard care in those short months. it just doesn't seem to be a priority out there. hides and bones are laid about...above is a polar bear hide stretched out. we saw very few live animals but we saw loads of dead ones. the folks up here live a subsistent life. this means nature provides for the bulk of their main food.
above is sunset arriving back in Anchorage on night one....below is the other side of the polar bear hide.
bowhead whale skulls are plentiful for photo ops around town and out the road to the fish camp
leftover christmas decor...very inventive.
our guide also told us some stories from some of his whale hunting. he is on a crew...guess he didn't really go as a younger man as his parents sounded like they wouldn't allow him as it's dangerous...he goes with his wife's family it sounded like. he seems to be getting a reputation with some questionable luck with the whales. once a whale tail whacked him in the face in the struggle, another time he was bounced out of the boat and onto the whales back.
while we were out on tour we drove past his net set up and their were seagulls he felt he should chase away. we all encouraged him to go ahead and check his net while we were there to enjoy it. he wore chest waders and no gloves. he went in and out of the water deeper and deeper to get the fish. the water is not warm at all. the weather stayed between 30's-40's for us. we got some breaks in the rainy weather the first morning val and i were there, otherwise it was windy at times, foggy, misty, rainy..snow is forecast for next week i think. he pulled i think at least 8 fish out, salmon.
MW was asking about bleeding the fish. she asked another guy as well. they both kind of gave her a look that said they had no idea what she was talking about nor why anyone would do that...i suspect the blood gives them added nutrients that they do need. as for him being barehanded...he says his grandfather i think would just put his hands in the cold ocean water as he was growing up to toughen them up.
as you can see...gas prices were a bit steep. gas gets delivered by barge once a year and the price is set from that. so for them the price fluctuations we see at the pump just doesn't happen...so $7/gal is set until they get their next barge filled with gas.
these should all be from our flight day one. the temps in Anchorage have stayed in the 70's-80's. warm again today. mowed the lawn, laundry/dishes....unpacked. that sort of day today. finally just started looking at pictures. no idea what i will turn out with. not the most picturesque city but there is beauty and i love discovering what there is to find in each community.
it really wasn't that long ago that these folks relatives lived a more nomadic lifestyle. you have to remember to look not through the eyes you grew up with but to be open and curious to discover this unique lifestyle and culture and how this cold, dark world is navigated and survived.
was a bit bummed about the clouds and weather as i was looking forward to seeing the sun just move in a circle around us, barely dipping under the horizon briefly.
it's always cool to see a place in different weather and you never know...i may return another day and see a very different place.
we'd brought a bag of snacks and sandwich making items so we didn't eat out very much. we ate one breakfast at Sam and Lee's, this was decent. we also ate at the Pizza place a few times. they were closed Monday so we hit the other bigger hotel in town, "the top of the world hotel". it was good as well.
our Hotel was "the king eider" and it was right across the street basically from the Alaska Air building. i was happy they didn't pick up when i called to ask if they had a shuttle service...haha...then i saw the hotel...so we walked over with our gear.
place probably looks much nicer in winter as there just is a lot of mud right now. they had a pretty warm summer though. August is often raining/foggy and cold. winter is fast approaching for them...for us as well.
my flight home was pretty much uneventful as well. the other pairs flight was late so they left right before we did...of course, they had a direct flight and we again went through Prudhoe Bay.
all the creeks and rivers and such look pretty cool from the air
these were getting ready land in Prudhoe. if you look you can see the Dalton Highway i believe and the pipeline as well.
mostly flat up there. at least in clouds i wasn't worried about hitting a mountain.
i still get myself psyched up for plane trips and changes like we had that first day get me anxious. my flight once aborted the landing and then we landed in crash positions...i never really get comfortable flying and it seems anytime i start to feel comfortable something else happens to throw me back off balance.
i am ready to crash here soon so i will try and look through more photos tomorrow and see what i've got.
due to wind and lateness we didn't have any issues with bugs. these parts can get crazy with bugs...all those boggy bits below.
did do a walk in appointment today and got my hair trimmed. we shall see. won't know if i like it until i attempt to do it myself tomorrow. the hairdresser i've gone to in the past wasn't there so i went with another one. she seemed to do fine and we got along.
coming in for a landing in Deadhorse.
very industrial there.
i shall head to bed...travel is always tiring,especially when you have an extra day of travel. we were on a plane 3 of the last 5 days.
thankful for: 1. safe travels to/from and to from Barrow again. 2. fun times and laughter with friends 3. meeting new people and learning new things.
have lived in alaska since 1995, lived in ketchikan for 6 years and here in anchorage since 2001. it's a wonderful place and i enjoy getting out nearly daily for a walk/hike/stroll or ramble. enjoy the pics