Winter Light

Thank goodness there will start to be more light in a matter of about two weeks. I feel sleepier and lazier, and not to mention colder. My favorite season is spring because every day seems warmer and I’m eager to get outside and do all the things I love to do in the summer. Right now my favorite thing to do is sleeping.

Nome's port in the middle of the day

Sleeping all day just doesn’t work for a college student, though. We still have to get out of bed and attempt finishing homework and walking to class. During my brief outings, when there is waning daylight, I notice how pretty the limited light we have is. On a clear day everything is bathed in either orange or pink light for hours at a time. When it’s really cold, there is a frost sheen that catches the light and glows. It’s on those days that I don’t mind doing whatever I’m doing. It’s on those days that I’ll even pull a camera out of my pockets and expose my fingers to the biting cold to snap a picture of the gorgeous light.

Lately, the sun has been rising around 10:30 and setting around 2:50 p.m.


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A Rabies Update

First off, I want to apologize for my neglect of this blog. I’m sorry for those that came here and were disappointed to find that there hasn’t been anything new written in the last two weeks or so.

Next, I would like to update my post about rabies after hearing a presentation by Donald G. Ritter, a retired Alaska Division of Public Health employee.  On Friday he presented a 37-year Record of Animal Cases and Human Exposures of rabies at UAF. I had no idea about some of the facts he informed his audience of.

  • 55,000 people die from rabies annually.
  • There have been three documented cases of death  by rabies virus in humans in Alaska.
  • River otters can infect humans with the virus.
  • Rabies in Alaska is most commonly found on the coast.

Watch out for this guy...

My favorite story told by Ritter was of a 72-year-old hunter named Panuekuk Samson from Noorvik. Samson was out with his dog team in January, 1942, when he saw a strange black dog attacking one of his. He picked up a big block of hard snow and threw it at the stray. The black beast turned around and revealed itself to be a rabid wolf. When the wolf attacked Samson, he somehow got it into a headlock and said he kept it for 30 minutes.  When he finally felt the animal go limp, he released it only to be attacked again. The wolf bit him on the back of his head, neck and on his thigh badly. Samson managed to stab the wolf several times, and finally the wolf ran off. It soon attacked another dog team and was shot by its musher, who discovered the stab wounds.

Samson wrapped his thigh wound, climbed into his dog sled and told his dogs to take him home. The team brought him 40 miles back to Noorvik where a nurse attended him for days before a doctor from Kotzebue could arrive. When the doctor finally made it, the old hunter made a show of how healthy he was, and declined any treatment. In March he died of the virus’s consequences.

I can just picture the old man denying help when he thought he had healed nicely. Going out by wolf attack would be a little more valiant than old age, though.

The odds are good for Roderick Phillip who was attacked earlier this fall. He received treatment not long after the wolf nipped him, and he should be calmed by the small numbers of reported deaths in Alaska.

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Outdoors Alaska Dream Job

When I was little my parents had a small dog team in Nome, AK. I remember the dogs still – what they looked like, their names and their weird habits. I remember one used to eat his dog house when he was bored. When I  was about eight years old, though, my mom became a full-time elementary school teacher, and neither she nor my dad had enough time to take care of the 15+ dogs. We gave them to another family, and the days of riding across the bumpy tundra in the belly of a wooden sled were over for me.

I’ve always respected the patience and skills of mushers, and I think it would be awesome to learn to mush one day rather than be baggage.


Denali National Park and Preserve's Tonzona - taken from

A new job opening in the National Park Service at the Denali Park and Preserve has one exclusive description: hauling freight, taxiing passengers, supplying and patrolling – by dog sled.

Karen Fortier is now retiring from the dream job that required managing a kennel and doing public educational outreach because it became too time consuming for her newly expanded family. She called it a great job, and kept it for almost 10 years.

It is not an easy job, though, and Fortier doesn’t necessarily think a commercial musher would make the cut. The job is more than mushing. It’s paperwork on top of public skills on top of breaking one’s own trail often times. It will take someone up for a challenge for sure.

More information can be found at ADN, and something for mushers to keep in mind is that the job pays healthier than commercial mushing! It’s not my cup of tea, but I’d like to meet the brave individual whose it is!

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Taking it to the streets: How do you get out in the winter?

The temperatures are descending, and a big part of me just wants to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate. If everyone did that though, who would give those snow-covered hills and fields company? I felt so sorry for the lonely outdoors I thought I’d ask a few facebook friends if they planned on getting outside this season.

Preview of “Facebook | Rebecca Lean”

These responses were encouraging so I decided to take this matter to the street, and ask people walking on the UAF campus what their favorite winter outdoor activities were. Notice the guy who says “sleeping”…

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Don’t stay in on Halloween!

Have you been hearing a lot of this lately:

“OMG It’s way too cold to wear my Tinkerbell outfit when we’re going to be standing for like two hours waiting to get into …” ?

Not too many people I know are excited about the combination of low temperatures and long lines to get into Halloween celebrations. Since when do Halloween costumes all have to be a skimpy Lara Croft or “300” Spartan style? One should not have to suffer the biting cold of the outdoors scantily clad.

I came up with some last minute ideas for people who are considering staying home rather than risking the chilliness.

  • John Mills as Cpt Robert Scott of the Antarctic, a 1948 movie.

    John Mills as Cpt Robert Scott of the Antarctic, a 1948 movie.

    Antarctic Explorer – complete with full winter gear, snow goggles and the most enormous boots you’ve ever seen. If anyone asks what you are, just pretend you can’t hear them through all the layers.

  • Abdominal Snowman/ Gorilla/Wookie – these all have something in common – full body hairy coverage.
  • Little Red Riding Hood – you can still go with the short dress you’ll find online, but instead of their little cape go with a big ol’ cloak. Also, no one would blame a poor, lost girl for wearing long-johns for a walk in the lonely forest.
  • Dog Musher – all you really need  other than regular winter clothing is a flappy hat and a headlamp.
  • Astronaut – 1. if you can keep that suit oxygenated, then  you should be able to keep that thing warm. 2. If that fails, nobody can tell what you’re wearing underneath anyways.

I hope if you were scurrying for ideas for a warm costume this helps. Now head over to Value Village before all the good stuff is gone!

Fairbanks Halloween parties:

The Blue Loon always has a big celebration and it’s only $10 to get in with a costume. This line is supposed to be pretty long so dress preparedly!

The Pub also has a party starting at 8 p.m. It gets packed quickly and has a capacity around 200. Get there early and dress well because there is a prize for best costume!


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Skating Season is on at Smith Lake


The beginning of your skating adventure. Photo from UAF Facilities Services.

The beginning of your skating adventure. Photo from UAF Facilities Services.

Smith Lake right off Sheep Creek Road or a 10 minute walk from the ski hut at UAF is at the heart of some of UAF’s ski trails, which makes it very accessible to visitors. With no snow on the ground, some certain wise people have been on the lookout for frozen lakes to get their skate on. Once the snow falls, lake skaters may be out of luck. You better hurry if you’re into that sort of thing because there’s a chance of snow later this week.


Thanks to Carl, Nancy, George and Louise who were all kind enough to talk to the weird girl standing at the edge of the lake.

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Just keep running…

A dusting doesn’t count as winter, guys. Come on Mother Nature, is that all you’ve got? Just kidding, I totally take it back. Some of us are still enjoying the bare ground. Just ask Stian Stensland.

His running group meets on Tuesdays at 5:30 pm at the Patty Center. When they started in April they had about 20 runners showing up. If you’re interested, you’re welcome! We’ll see how many more weeks they can keep up the running without getting snowed on.

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