It took all day and three different flights to reach Bethel, Alaska from Portland, Oregon. I was pleasantly surprised when I got off the plane that it was as warm as it was. At -1 degrees, it was 35 to 45 degrees warmer than it was just a few weeks ago (it's a good thing I've got my thermals on!). Patty Burley, who is the Kozy Kusko Quilt Guild Program Chair and the person most responsible for getting me to Alaska, met me at the airport. She and her husband, Mike, are my hosts for the next several days.
The third thing I noticed upon arrival was all the taxis. Bethel supports a surprisingly large number of taxicabs. In fact, the city has more cab drivers per capita than any other city in the country, making it the unlikely taxicab capital of the U.S. It's not so hard to understand, though, because residents pay a lot of money to have a vehicle barged in during the summertime, or a huge sum to have a vehicle flown in during the winter. As a result, there's not a lot of cars, but lots of cabs!
Everyone in class was very productive and got a lot done on their herons. In fact, most gals stayed and worked on their pieces long after Patty and I left last night. While driving home from class on Sunday afternoon, we saw a Sundog (scientific name parhelion), which is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates a bright spot of light in the sky close to the setting sun. It most often occurs during very cold weather. I didn't get a very good picture of it, but it was very cool to see.
He currently has 19 dogs that he is working with who live in his back yard. These dogs aren't the Siberian husky or other long-haired breed so commonly portrayed in the movies, but rather small, wiry dogs with a strong will and hearts of gold. After hooking up eight dogs to the sled, we were off. It's surprising how fast we were going. Bill trains the dogs to run at 10-11 miles an hour whether they're going uphill,downhill or on flat terrain. And when you're sitting just a few inches off the ground, everything is just whipping by. We mushed for two hours on the tundra and frozen waterways, and Bill even let me drive for a short while - it was an experience I will never forget!
After our return, Bill needed to check his fish net on the river and asked if I'd like to go with him and his friend, Don. We drove onto the Kuskokwim River and checked the net that Don and Bill put out last fall when the river first froze. They had seven whitefish, a local highly-prized fish, in the net, so fresh fish for Don and Bill's dinner! I, on the other hand, headed to Tom and Andy's home for an amazing close encounter of the feathered kind.
Tom is an ornithologist, or bird scientist and has two birds that he keeps at his home - a gyrfalcon and a goshawk. The gyrfalcon is the largest of the falcon species with adult wingspans reaching from 43 - 64" and weight from 1.8 to 4.6 pounds. Tom's gyrfalcon is not yet fully grown, so it's still on the smaller side. The Northern Goshawk is a medium-large bird of prey with short, broad wings and a long tail, which makes it ideal for maneuvering through trees in the forest. We drove to the tundra and Tom flew the goshawk several times. Both birds are just magnificent and it was incredible to see them up close - I even got to feed the gyrfalcon. Afterwards, we had a classic, local dinner of moose burgers at Tom and Andy's home.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012