Fairbanks Alaska

Swiss on the  West Coast
FAIRBANKS Alaska

The Golden Heart City

Introduction

The duration  of the Americorps contract was spent working in Fairbanks Alaska.  We settled in the community of North Pole.   The schools  here are wonderful The class sizes make learning fun and achievable.

 The sponsoring agency was University of Alaska Fairbanks.   The site location was Access Alaska Youth in Transition Program .  Access Alaska is a nationally accredited center for Independent living. The primary focus is to support  people with any disability to live in community of choice. The independent living specialists help identify the necessary accommodations and find ways  to make them happen.  This wonderful group is focused, dedicated, and extremely flexible to the changing needs of the community.

Architecture

The city architecture is unique combination of Pioneer times, modern , and industry.

The girls and I  were interested in learning  more about Pioneer times. We were told the best place to visit was Pioneer park.  The restored historical pioneer park has authentic cabins, a museum, theater,  a dry docked steamer and a steam train.

The buildings were donated and relocated from all over the Fairbanks area. Then the  building were loving restored by volunteers and opened to the public.

The cabins, theater, and museum are placed  in an authentic  town layout reflective of a traditional frontier community.  Some are rented out to local nonprofits that offer services to the community. Other buildings  are rented out to local artisans.  The theater offers stage plays by a local acting troupe.

 The park also doubles as a community events venue.  One of the most fun and exciting experiences we have had was during  Halloween. Pioneer Park was transformed to a haunted  town to raise money for a local school sports  program.

Community  events and places to visit are held throughout the Fairbanks area.  One such area with several places to visit is  University of Fairbanks campus.  The two places the girls and I have visited are the , The musk ox farm, and  The museum  of the north.

Our first visit to The Museum  of the North was on New Year’s Eve.  The museum grounds are a  favorite viewing place for community  fireworks.  Before the show begins Local area residents are invited in to the Museum for hot chocolate and cookies while they study displays.  Some of the displays include a mammoth skeleton, Authentic whale  bones, artisan handmade boats and wonderful stunning  examples of native clothing and craftsmanship.  

The spirit of adventure is strong .  The sub zero temperature  doesn’t  stop the community  from coming  together for special  events

Autism

Our journey  with Autism started  twelve  years ago at a time of  grief, loss and endings. As newly single parent moving forward I felt overwhelmed and full of anxiety.  However I was determined to make the best of our situation.

 

Little  did I know at the Autism diagnosis  would be the beginning  of making our life better.

 

Upon returning to the The Evergreen  State College my studies began into Autism and support therapies. It was a friend that I recommended reading books by Dr Grandin.

 

When I switched degree focuses to Autism research  I began to read Grandins work along with other authors such as Dawn Prince Hughs and  William Stillman.. During this time period I read additional research on the theory of multiple intelligence.

 

The Autism journey has impacted us each differently.  This path has taken us through 4 different school systems and countless IEP meetings.  Part of that was spent in online school.  When I didn’t have money for childcare the girls often came to classed with me Evergreen State College.  Through it all my youngest now wants to be a teacher.  She is often ask to assist students with challenges in her classes.  My oldest now wants to be a para educator.

 

 The clear detailed writing of Temple Grandin helped me to begin to grasp the needs that would  be required for my daughter’s success.  I have been approved for scholarship funds to attend the autism conference.  Sunday the girls and additional FFA members will  attend the lecture given by Temple Grandin on Multiple Species. 

Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

The days grow short in the Winter time. The temperatures drop to blustery negative numbers.  Some years the temperatures are worse then others. So far the worst we experienced was negative 40 degrees.  There are compensation this time of year. Some of those trade offs are the time to gather with co workers, friends, and listen to stories of the surrounding area and different lives experience of locals.

For my youngest its sliding and skating across a shallow near by  pond with one of her best friend with a toboggan.

This time of year is great time for reading, time for art, and a time for watching the dance of the northern lights. The sky is never really completely dark.  The Northern Lights bring a breathtaking show all there own to the sky’s over the Alaskan interior.  The light show takes a new rhythm every night.  Some nights it chargers across the sky with a crackle of  intense electrical charge. Watching and listening to it reminded me of the thundering hooves of  wild mustang running through the wide open field.  Other nights the dance is a soft  river of light with gently pulsating charges of light as it roles on through . Last night was a new show of angles wings and abstract flowers hanging in the night sky slowly hovering and watching out over the expansive spruce forest and near by houses..

The Northern Lights are a collision of gaseous particles in the atmosphere.  The colors can be a rare red light show, pale yellow green or purple reddish and blues.  The colors that are dominant are dependent of currentatmospheric conditions..

The human civilizations have explained the northern lights in many different ways.  Some of the norther tribal stories are linked to the ancestors watching over the people, playing games and or animals of past hunts, the land of the giants and or ancestors  playing in the night sky. to the Roman the lights were the goddess of the dawn.

Our First Experience with Alaska Culture

 Our first experience with Alaska Culture was on the final approach to the Alaska boarder. We met people from  the sled dog community, when I got the moving truck stuck on in the rest area sheet of ice.   Two Dog mushers came to the rescue .

They were the dog team handlers for Iditarod musher Trent Herbst.   The names of the handlers were Josh and Greg. The team had stopped in the same rest area to feed and exercise the dogs.  The girls and I  learned the team was  traveling the highway from Idaho to participate in the Iditarod sled dog race.  They  explained this particular husky breed was known for running for long distances.  They ran the dogs for training an average run  of  50 to 60 miles a day to prepare to for the race.   The closer we came to Fairbanks the more dog teams we noticed pulled over by the side of the road.   Our arrival in Fairbanks coincided with the Iditarod Sled dog Race.

Alaska State is the starting point for two famous sled dog races, the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.   The Iditarod sled dog race was started in the early 1970 to preserve the sled dog culture and honor how sled dogs played in the development of the Alaska interior.  Part of the race still runs along a original sled dog delivery routes. This race now is recognized by the internationally and a favorite tourist stop during the winter months.

 Upon further research on Trent Herb-st web sight I learned that he is also an educator.  He first became interested in Sled Dogs while teaching in Switzerland.  His students wanted to learn more about Sled Dogs and the Idtiterrod  race.  In order to learn more about  dog mushing  he and his family moved to Michigan.  While living in Michigan he  started learning about, practicing  and embracing the musher life while teaching in the local schools.

 He now  brings the subject into the classroom.  He has his students build sleds and snow shoes with different materials. The students  learn math, engineering concepts, and  applied science concepts while participating  in the construction of the different items. Currently he is a 4th grade teacher in Idaho.

Do to global climate change conditions and the little snow accumulations in the Anchorage area  this years race started in Fairbanks. Needless to say my new co workers were very excited for the race… However my late arrival from this trip and the time girls missed we opted out of the race festivities.

Our next interaction with the sled dog  community was with an organization called Noble Paws.  There was a fly-er posted at work for an event held at mushers hall offering free sled dog rides.  The purpose of the the day was about educating the community on this new non profit.  The sun was out and the temperature was in the negative numbers.  The snow  crunched beneath our feet as we exited our car.  We  entered the hall to have the girls  sign the wavier forms to have this unique experience. The excitement of individuals waiting was palatable.  We had a chance to walk around and interact with some of the dogs in training.

What I learned was they are a non profit that exclusively seeks to help people with disabilities learn to run there own sled dog teams.  The owner explains that this was a labor of love started with in the last two years.

The Goal Statement Reads

To help people experiencing disabilities discover new forms of mobility and independence, while engaging with the natural world, through the use of a team of sled dogs.

http://noblepawsalaska.org/

The organization  goes through a great deal of time and fundraising efforts to custom design and purchase adaptive equipment.  The dogs are leased for Trail Breaker kennel.   This resulting efforts  gives individuals with certain disability a freedom to connect to the natural world for the first time and  on a more frequent basis..    As part of active fundraising efforts they offer private sled dog lessons during the winter months.

Swiss on the West Coast article part 4

It is hard to believe seven months have passed since we arrived in the  Alaskan interior.  Time has passed quickly. I tired working a second job in a kitchen but do to old injuries that is no longer an option.

As a person with Dyslexia its was mind blowing to be ask to write a series of articles for a publication that my mom subscribes to.  Attached is part 4 in the travel series…

Dawson Creek and the Canadian Yukon…

The celebrated  author  Jack London brought to life the wilds of the Canadian Yukon and Alaska.  His real life experience in the Yukon gold fields at the age of 21 became the foundation for his writing. Famous titles of White Fang,  Call of the Wild. Love of Life, Queen of the Yukon along with many other titles brought in time international fame.  It  brought many young adventurers out to the last great frontier.

During the Gold Rush years it was a bustling a stopping point for resupplies for prospectors heading to and from the gold fields. These gold fields were located far and near in the expansive  Canadian Yukon and the wilds of Alaska. Some legends have it that bartenders got rich from the gold dust that fell out of the drunken miners pockets.  his precious dust fell into the saw dust as would be swept into the piles at the end of the night.. and set  a side to be sorted later..

Building the Alaska Highway was first discussed in the 1920’s . However its construction was began in 1942 after the attack by Japan on the Aleutian Islands. The highway was completed in  1948.   It addition to its strategic importance on national defense the hope was it was spur economic development.

The town of Dawson Creek is an interesting colorful stop with a blend of old and modern. The town is a strong tourist themed destination that  celebrates its colorful history.

We didn’t spend much time in town.  The step back in time happened a few hours out of Dawson Creek. We noticed signed for a gas station prior to pulling down the  nicely snow cleared road.   When I pulled the moving truck up to the gas pump we were immediately greeted by a sweet older blue healer cross.  Unfortunately our own dog early on in our trip figured out how to break out of her crate.  She had become very territorial over the truck and was quick to defend her temp new space.  So I had the girls stay in the truck with the dog while I went into pre pay for gas.

My mouth dropped open when I went in and the faint scent of the tanned hides met my nose. As I looked up and around there were several furs hanging up for sale along with some tourist nic knacks.   The has trading post owner explained that several local friends still run trap lines as part of a subsistence life style that is still practiced along the area.

After returning to the truck I sent the girls in  to  view the experience of the modern day trading post and look at the pictures on walls that showed what the  seasonal life style of the local community embraced.  It turned out this trading post was a ranch were visitors  could  leave the Internet and the fast paced life style behind and experience of life style almost forgotten.

One of the nicest part of this trip so far was the absence of frequent Internet access. It gave the opportunity for quality time as a family.   The Alaska Milepost book became our computer and navigator. The maps and descriptions were accurate and it made it easier to connect to areas were driving through.

  Onward into the wilderness we drove. Each turn and curve brought an entirely new and amazing view.  The valleys and fjords brought a new and inspiring connection to the expansive rugged pristine wildernesses lost long ago in the lower 48.  The carving in the mountain sides brought wonder and amazement of the natural processes the  ice bergs the  that created such perfect symmetry over the course of time in the mountains.    ..

Driving British Columbia

Driving British Columbia…

Driving a moving truck and car hauler made for a much slower journey then anticipated.The work requirement after leaving training from Los Angeles was an expectant 7day drive.   After flying home, packing the moving truck and getting called in for afew extra days of work. We left 7 days later then expected.

Everyday after a quick shopping trip into the local grocery store stocking up on necessaryfood, water and gas we would be on our way. We were ready for our daily embrace of the awesomeness of the Canadian wilderness. Each and everyone mile brought a new and wonderful view of spectacular British Columbia.

Historical Stop of Hundred Mile.

We stopped at 100 mile BC for an extra night of rest. Upon our arrival the town was busily preparing for a regional hockey competition. The first few hotels were booked. We finally found a nice clean not to expensive hotel about half way through town on the left hand side. They didn’t charge extra for our dog. Interestingly enough this town was originally named Bridge Creek House. The name change happened during the Cariboo Gold rush. It was a half way stop between

Kamloops an Fort Alexandria. It was a collection of cabins that people could stop at for rest while on the long travel. The further north we drove we noticed an ever increasing amount of snow and the accumulated compact snow and ice was visible on the road. This slowed down are daily progress even further. The nightly temperatures became colder quickly

On this trip we faced challenges. The worst of these challenges came when we arrived in Chetwnd. We tried checking into the Motel 8 and my debit card wouldn’t work.  Unfortunately the prepaid phone service doesn’t work in Canada. The customer service 800 numbers listed on the back of the cards couldn’t be called from Canada. .   However we were able to use the hotel’s phone to call my Canadian friends 800 number.   She wasn’t home either. We went across the street to the A&W across the street. I struck up conversation with the couple sitting next to us.  I explained our situation and they recommended an emergency shelter behind the The Red Lion Tavern. It was about a mile from our location at the A@W. They fed us pizza and salad. We were warm and fed. I was feeling grateful and tired.

The blessing in this experience came the next morning. Claire my older daughter noticeda damaged wiring harness on  the car hauler. We pulled over to the gas station across the street. The debit cards worked normally. We filled up the fuel tank and pulled over to the mechanic near by. It turns out the car hauler was no longer safe to use for transport. Thankful with the help of this kind gentleman we were able to call Uhaul and order a replacement car hauler. The Uhaul place was located about 30 minutes out of town. Car hauler switched we were finally on our way to Dawson Creek.

Let the drive begin

Let the drive begin….

I hope that everyone gets a chance to drive and explore the Alaska Highway. The experience is priceless.   The Milepost travel guide has many of these potential experiences listed for people to explore together for months and years on end. The Canadian and Alaska people are kind wonderful and warm.

The opportunities for wildlife viewing are numerous. Some of our highlights included numerous buffalo, a lone black wolf running along the moving truck, North America’s largest owl and a shy Bull Moose grazing by the safety of the tree line. My co worker has seen 5 bears along with caribou and elk.

Trip preparedness…

  1. Alaska Mile  Post travel guide a must it can be purchased  through Barnes and Noble or Amazon .com
  2. Phone service is spotty.  Make sure your phone carrier is prepared for your travel plans through Canada.   Then follow recommended protocols to have accessible communication through the remote Alaskan wilderness.   Follow the same protocol for your GPS units
  3. Call your banks and have a vacation rider notification on your credit and debit cards.  Be sure and carry extra cash. There are times when access to accounts can be spotty.
  4. If making the drive in a rental vehicles please read the fine print on the travel restrictions on roads that are allowed for travel for coverage and the roads that aren’t.
  5. Check with insurance coverage that meet Canadian requirement and extra

road side emergency coverage.

Mishaps

We made the drive in a 15ft U-Haul truck with attached car hauler.  The weight of the heavily loaded truck plus the weight of towing the car hauler caused a way higher rate of gas consumption then we expected. The trip had its series of mishaps. They incidents and breakdowns happened with that attached car hauler. Some of which included blown tires and slow leaks from the icy roads and a wiring harness that was caught up in the chains and damaged beyond repair.

Trip highlights.

With the girls and dog loaded we started our drive with a side trip through Eastern Washington to Castle Guard BC.   The reason for the side trip was a long over do visit to life long friends that had relocated to Castle Gar BC.

The rolling hills of Eastern Washington were covered with a light morning fog. As it gradually rolled back, my eyes were met with stunning shades of golden green and yellows. In some places cows were grazing. Many fields held unending fields of newly emerging crops.

Castle Guar is nestled in the Kootenai Rockies It is about an hour and a half from the Canadian Border. The panorama view of the massive rocky out cropping is visually impressive.   The local economy is heavily reliant on timber, mining, and tourism. Currently challenges are faced by timber economy with the Pine Beetle Bark infestation.

The First Nations People that still reside in this area and in the American side of the border are the Arrow Lakes Band of Sinixt peoples (Interior Salish Tribe). They have roamed this area for 10,000 years. The language is a Salish linguistic extraction dialect of the Colville-Okanagan language. (Wikipedia)