After spending 54 years from birth to 2008 living in Iowa I was presented with an opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. My blog is a diary of the adventure to get to Alaska, day to day life in Alaska, as well as facts for loved ones left behind in the Lower 48. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

International Dance Festival

Last Saturday an International Dance Festival was held in Fairbanks at Pioneer Park (formerly Alaskaland). These photos are from the event.

This photo is of a lady who attends Camilla and Brian's church with her two adopted daughters. I think it is so cool that the mother is wearing clothing from her daughter's native country.

Sunny and snowy outdoors.

This is a group of the participants from various countries.

This is only part of a beautiful mural painted on the wall behind the stage.

Alaska natives. The girls are wearing kuspuks. The receptionist at our facility, Letha, sews beautiful kuspuks and sells them at native events.

Like mother like daughter.

This is a photo of an elderly native and a tiny, young native. The little boy didn't miss a step in following the older gentleman around and around and around.

The lady on the left is wearing garb made from deerskin. Her beads are all handmade too.

Russian dancers


BGH now a tourist attraction?

Today I was running the switchboard when one of our younger clients came wandering into the waiting area. Several new staff were relaxing during a break by the fireplace. The young lad walked up to them and asked 'are you tourists?'

We adults were amused by the thought of it...Boys and Girls Home becoming a tourist attraction. After spending a few hours (okay minutes) observing some of the client's shenanigans most tourists would be joyful at the thought of returning to their peaceful homes.

To my fellow BGH employees who work in the Lower 48 and are reading my blog I'm sure you can understand the humor I found in this.

On another positive note, I've been transcribing the psychiatrist's visit notes with our clients. The other day one progress note in particular brought me to tears. He reported that one of our clients received her GED. This is no small accomplishment for those without all the barriers and baggage of our clients, and to think that this young lady met her educational goal was very touching. We will be hosting a graduation ceremony and celebration for her in hopes that others will be motivated to achieve their goals and to give her the recognition due to her.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

60-inch - Moose Musings

Moose hunting is something quite foreign to this Iowa native and perhaps to you as well. Here are several newspaper articles about the 60-inch club - hunters that scored moose with 60 +" antlers this year. After reading these articles I think you'll agree with me that moose hunting and harvesting is a LOT of hard work.

Click on the links that all begin "60-Inch Club" to read details in the News Miner.

60-Inch Club — Jeff Johnson, North Pole
Jeff Johnson was sitting on top of an Argo, munching on a ham and cheese sandwich, when he spotted the big bull.

60-inch Club — Jason Chalstrom, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
The bull, accompanied by two cows, was standing in the first “honey hole” that Jason Chalstrom and his hunting partners — his father, Bill, and friend Saul Williams — checked.

60-Inch Club — Mike Childs, North Pole
By Tim Mowry
As soon as he saw it, “I could tell instantly it was something special,” North Pole’s Mike Childs said of the 62-inch bull moose he shot on Sept. 4 on the Tanana Flats.

60-Inch Club — Chris and Pete Pemberton, Two Rivers
Brothers Chris and Pete Pemberton make a point of hunting until the last possible moment.

60-Inch Club — Jack Green
Jack Green, a 15-year-old sophomore at Galena High School, has killed more moose than a lot of men two, three and even four times his age.

60-Inch Club — Jason Donahue
By Tim Mowry
Jason Donahue was “just walking and looking, checking every stream, every pond, every lake” when he ran into a 60-inch bull moose about 3 1/2 miles off the Elliott Highway north of Fairbanks.

60-Inch Club — Arnold Marks Jr., Tanana
By Tim Mowry
“Every year my brother, Aaron, and I see all the big moose in the 60-Inch Club, and we were beginning to think that we would never bag one big enough to be in it,” Arnold Marks Jr. wrote in an e-mail. “In years past we walked all over the country searching for ‘Goliath,’ as we called it, but we were never lucky enough to get a really big one. We always shoot the first bull that gives itself to us, but this year we were extremely fortunate.

60-Inch Club — Kory Eberhardt, Fairbanks
Kory Eberhardt and his uncle, Bruce Maroney, were paddling a canoe around a lake looking for moose when they heard a gunshot from the other side of the lake.

60-Inch Club — Matt Ellingson, North Pole, and Clark Klimaschesky, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
Clark Klimaschesky and Matt Ellingson have had their sights set on joining the 60-Inch Club ever since Klimaschesky’s wife, Joni, and brother, Mark, made it into the club in 2001.

60-inch Club — Jay Hildebrand, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
When the giant moose he had just shot from 50 feet away jumped in a slough and started swimming, Jay Hildebrand wasn’t worried.

60-inch Club — Caleb Humphrey, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
Considering that Caleb Humphrey went to the Brooks Range to hunt caribou more than moose, he fared pretty well.

60-inch Club — Seth Marley, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
Steve Marley was setting his cross hairs on a bull moose that had a harem of six cows and an antler spread he estimated at close to 70 inches when “all hell broke loose.”

60-inch Club — John Rothweiler, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
As soon as he heard the grunt, John Rothweiler knew he was going to be eating moose meat this winter.

60-inch Club — Chris Tolliver, North Pole
By Tim Mowry
“I was hunting south of Fairbanks on a strip that a friend dropped me off on,” Tolliver wrote in an e-mail.

60-inch Club — Simon Suchland, North Pole
By Tim Mowry
After taking time off from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to go on a 17-day hunting trip on the Kelly River in the Brooks Range, Simon Suchland won’t mind if he graduates a little late.

60-Inch Club — Aaron Kremer, Two Rivers
By Tim Mowry
After setting up a spike camp about a mile off the Nowitna River, Aaron Kremer took a nap to get out of the rain. He was reading a book when he heard a “soft grunt” outside his one-man tent.

60-Inch Club — Gerald and Josiah James, Fort Yukon
After Rourke Williams told Gerald James that he had seen a big bull moose about 20 miles upriver from Fort Yukon as he flew into the village, James decided to check it out with his 13-year-old son, Josiah.

60-Inch Club — Blain Morris, Nenana
With two bull moose in the mid-50-inch range answering his calls and moving toward the tree stand he was sharing with his father, all Blain Morris had to do was wait for one to get close enough to shoot.

60-inch Club — Nicole Bifelt, Huslia
By Tim Mowry
After coming up a few inches shy of the 60-Inch Club last year, Nicole Bifelt more than made the cut this year as the lone female representative in the club.

60 inch Club — Rodney Pangborn, Salcha
By Tim Mowry
After winning moose-calling competitions in Salcha and Fairbanks this summer, Rodney Pangborn had a reputation to live up to.

60 inch Club — Brant Finstad, Fairbanks
By Tim Mowry
The big bull “just appeared,” said Brant Finstad.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Salcha Homeowner Killls Three Marauding Grizzlies

Here's a couple of pictures and an article from today's newspaper - Salcha is about 45 miles from Fairbanks. Be sure to click on the photos for a larger view.

FAIRBANKS — A family of three grizzly bears that broke into a garage and raided a freezer at a home in Salcha earlier this week was shot and killed Thursday night by the homeowner after they evidently returned for another meal and the sow charged the man.

“They chased me into my house,” Brandon Mattzela said by phone Friday morning. “That was beyond my scope of live and let live.”

Unbeknownst to Mattzela, the bears — a sow with two yearling cubs — were at his house when he returned home from a trip to town at about 9 p.m. The two cubs were in the garage, and the sow was in a feed shed on Mattzela’s property.

A motion light on the garage was off when he arrived home, leading Mattzela to believe the cubs had been in the garage for a while, and were possibly even sleeping while the sow rummaged through his feed shed.

“I think what happened is I got between her and the cubs, and I didn’t realize it,” he said.
Mattzela was in the back of his Ford Ranger pickup, which he had backed up to his porch to unload a fuel tank, when he heard the sow coming toward him.

“I heard the crunching of the snow, and she was woofing,” said Mattzela, a 29-year-old concrete cutter.

If it hadn’t been for the F-150 parked in the yard between Mattzela and the bear, he might not have made into the house, he said.

“She hit the truck, and I could see the truck move,” Mattzela said. “I heard this thump, and then she came screaming around it.

“By the time I had my hand on the door, she was 10 feet away,” he said.

Once he was inside, the sow started pacing back and forth in front of the porch, woofing and growling, Mattzela said.

“She was staring at the front door, pacing back and forth, making a lot of noise,” Mattzela said. “She came up to the porch a couple times and put her paws on it and pushed on it.”
At that point, Mattzela grabbed a .300 Winchester magnum rifle, went upstairs and shot the sow through his bedroom window.

The full moon and a light amplifier on his scope allowed him to get a good shot, he said. After he shot the sow, the two cubs ran to their dead mother and he shot them, too.

“I didn’t like shooting the cubs,” Mattzela said. “I feel bad about it, but it had to be done.”
Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms wasn’t surprised when Mattzela called her Friday to report the shootings.

She called it an “unfortunate situation” but one that was justified and probably inevitable, given the bears’ increasingly bold behavior.

“It’s gone beyond getting into buildings and freezers,” she said. “He was charged by the sow, and the (cubs) were large enough to present a danger.

“It’s clearly a defense of life and property shooting,” Harms said after talking to Mattzela.
There was no doubt in Mattzela’s mind that he was defending himself.

“You can’t be in your own home and think something is going to break down the door and eat you,” said Mattzela, who measured the sow at about 6 feet. “(The sow) was overly aggressive. I’ve been toe to toe with bears before, and that one scared the crap out of me. My heart was in my throat for about two hours after that.”

Not only were the cubs too young to survive on their own, Harms said the young bears had been taught by their mother how to forage for food around homes, which almost always leads to problems.

“These guys learned some very bad habits,” Harms said of all three bears. “None of our research has shown you can untrain a bear once they’ve learned these kinds of habits.”

The bears had been raising a ruckus in the rural neighborhood 35 miles south of Fairbanks for more than two weeks. State wildlife biologists with the Department of Fish and Game set a trap for the bears last week after the bears pounded on the door of another home about 4 miles up the road from where Mattzela lives.

The bears triggered the trap twice without getting caught.

Mattzela first noticed their tracks at his house Tuesday. On Wednesday, they returned to break into his garage and rip the top off a chest freezer, helping themselves to a buffet of frozen salmon, moose and caribou.

Mattzela caught the bears in the act when he let his dog out at 5 a.m.

The dog, a basset hound named Pike, ran out and confronted the bears, prompting the sow to swat at him. Mattzela shot at the bears with a .44-caliber handgun, but said he didn’t think he hit them because he was worried about shooting his dog, which escaped unscathed.

The bears broke down the door to the garage that Mattzela had rebuilt after they got into his garage Wednesday, causing what he estimated is about $1,000 in damage.

“They went straight through the rebuilt door,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with bears all my life, and I thought I had it barred up pretty good.”

The hides of the bears will be salvaged and used for educational purposes or sold at the Department of Fish and Game’s annual spring hide, horn and antler auction for animals killed in defense of life and property or killed illegally, Harms said.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Winter's Arrival

Sending I Love You's to all my blog readers. Wearing my 100% real rabbit trooper's hat that was Made in China (where else?) The coat was purchased a year ago in Sioux City. It fits in perfectly with Alaskan fashions (if you can call it that).
A decal in the back of a pick-up window depicting Alaska (center) and snowmachiners with 907 - the sole Alaska area code.

Snow covered trees along the expressway.

The street we live on...we live by the 1st and 2nd electric pole. Snow removal equipment is scarcely seen. Streets have no curb/gutters and most neighborhoods no sidewalks. Small rock (no salt) i used on major roadways when needed-nearly guaranteeing broken windshields we're told.

The front of our house. The left portion is our living/dining area. The front part is an arctic entry. Basically one door on the outside...step in 4' to another door to the inside.

Lutheran Church we visited today. Interesting picture on the wall as well as pulpit, candleholders, etc.

Snow covered trees by the Fairbanks library. Guess you could call these government trees if you'd like.

The back of our house. To the right (back door "wall" is our kitchen, the window is to our bedroom and to the left of bedroom is the bathroom. Oh yeah, and our $23 snow shovel we purchased at Sam's Club.

Snow piled on top of trash container.

Nate waving hi next to his vehicle parked in our yard.

Not only are we IN Alaska, Alaska promotes Alaska. Familiar sites are Alaska Made sweatshirts, Alaska girls kick butt and Alaska Girls - Attitude is everything. They strongly support Alaska grown vegetables in the summer too. Alaskans are proud, yet humble.

We received snow last weekend which melted Friday and Saturday, only to wake up to more snow this morning. I'm guessing we received probably 4-5 inches. With no wind here the snow falls straight down. It makes it much brighter outdoors - something I'm sure we will appreciate during the shortened daylight hours over the next few months.

I've been browsing some websites and came across a neat one which provides a web cam which records the overnight sky, providing a view of the aurora borealis (northern lights). According to the forecast, we have a very good chance of seeing northern lights October 12 and 13. If you take a look at the link near the top of the page you can indicate the date of the recording you would like to view. Check it out:
Note: the 20081010 indicates 10-10-2008. That evening the chances of seeing it were predicted as LOW, and you could actually see the northern lights, so I'm looking forward to seeing that October 12 and 13 have in store. Camilla spoke to someone who said if you get close to the northern lights you can hear the energy snapping and popping.
Yesterday was Camilla's 30th birthday. She spent the day with her husband, Brian, then I picked her up and she and I went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant then to a live theater production Omelet, Prince of Danish, a takeoff on Shakespeare's Hamlet written by a couple of local gals. Nate and I went to the production on opening night, Thursday. While he was getting our tickets I struck up a conversation with a young boy, probably 12, sporting a broken arm. He indicated he and his father are the only two people in his family that are not in the play. Him because he didn't want to be, and his dad because he's in Iraq fighting the war. (Heart string tug) His mother, brother and sister were all in it, with his mother playing a large role. I thought what a great way for the mother to keep her kids active and the family together!
When Camilla arrived at the theater Saturday night he recognized us and we again chatted. The people of Fairbanks are so friendly. They live a slower-paced life and dress very casually. I've also noticed that the beauticians and barbers in Fairbanks more than ikely aren't making a lucrative living, as many folks have very simple hairstyles, and many, many men, especially those 50+ have beards. In addition ponytails on men are very common. Therefore Nate fits right in with the beard part. He won't be joining those with ponytails.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Final Fall Photos

Fall has become winter, with snow on the ground, so thought I'd post these final fall photos before sharing our new snow-covered views of Fairbanks.

Brian and Camilla standing in front of their cabin (it's a duplex).
The view across the road from Brian and Camilla's cabin.

Above: interior of Brian and Camilla's cabin the day they moved.

Their "facilities"

Here's a photo of Fairbanks I found on the web. We live very close to the A in Alaska. See the mountains near the top of the page? (Remember if you click on the photos they will enlarge.)

Nate and I drove the 15 miles to North Pole, Alaska to Santa's Workshop. Here's a photograph of one of his reindeer.

Approaching train against the colorful birch trees.

A memorial was held for 8 homeless people who died last winter in the elements. One of our finest was there to offer his words of comfort to other homeless, friends of the deceased.
A photograph of some attendees at the memorial service which was held downtown. A committee has been formed to create shelter for the non-sober homeless, as currently those individuals are turned out into the streets. There is a 24-hour shelter for sober homeless.