Sunday, 27 September 2009

Autumn fruit and colours

We have been back in Tromsø for nearly 2 months. I am mostly finished with the Alaska blogs (I may still try to add a map here and there), so it is now time to show some photos from the beautiful autumn landscape around Tromsø before the winter darkness starts. This year turns out to be an exceptionally good mushroom and berry year and we have already frozen several liters with raspberries, blueberries, stone bramble and cantarelles and have a large jar full of dried cantarelles. Today, in between some heavy rain and sleet, we were out for a few hours and picked a large amount of hedgehog mushrooms (hydnum repandum), which are currently spread out on the kitchen bench waiting to be boiled and frozen, and a few king bolete or porcini, which we have just eaten.

The hedgehog mushrooms are particularly large and plentiful this year.

With it's spikes it is an easy to identify mushroom.

Here follow a few images from a long weekend berry and mushroom trip in inner Troms where we rented the cosy little hut Langvasstua from Statskog.

Kirkesdalen and Kirkestinden.

Fields full of blueberries.

View from Langvasstua.

Little frog.

Tony picking cantarelles.

Cantarelle, my favourite mushroom.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Fairbanks#11 - permafrost tunnel in Fox

On our last day in Fairbanks we had the opportunity to visit the permafrost tunnel in Fox ( Absolutely fascinating to be able to walk through the permafrost and see the ice lenses and wedges in the soil and gravel! It was also a welcome escape from the hot (30 C and very smoky) air outside the tunnel.

Entering the tunnel. The tunnel was built in the 1960's to study both the permafrost itself and mining and construction technology in the Arctic.

Pleistocene fossils of steppe bison n the upper gravel layers.

Ice lenses.

Reticulate-chaotic ice in the middle right of the photo as result of freezing of soils that had been thawed earlier. Ice lenses in the top of the photo.

The end of the tunnel collapsed. There used to be a vertical ventilation shaft out to the surface, but melt water trickling in weakened the permafrost and caused the shaft to collapse.

Another example of reticulate-chaotic ice (frozen soil).

Foliated ice wedge. Melt water seeps into vertical cracks in the soil and freezes.

Tony standing underneath an ice wedge.

Another ice wedge, clearly wider at the top.

Ice lens and reticulate-chaotic ice in the ceiling.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Fairbanks#10 - last week

The last week in Fairbanks was busy, apart from preparing to move back we also tried to fit in some things we had wanted to do but had not done yet, such as visiting the large animal research site (LARS) and the university museum. I had also been fascinated by the large variability in houses and cabins in Alaska and had wanted to photograph some of them, but ran out of time. Next time I guess, if there ever is a next time. But I do have some photos of structures (and oddities) in and around Fairbanks and of some of the large animals.

View over the Tanana river and the forested flats and the Alaska Range in the distance, with some of the forest fires that brought horrible smoky conditions to Fairbanks.

The teddy bears along the Parks Highway.

The Nenana Ice Classic is a very popular lottery for guessing the minute of river breakup on the Tanana River ( A tripod, like the one in the photo, is placed on the river ice and connected with a rope to the tower with a clock. When the river breaks up the tripod starts to move and stops the clock. In 2009 the jackpot was $283723.

One of many churches in Alaska.

There are a lot of houses with character in Alaska, often home designed and built. This one is in Nenana.

Again in Nenana.

Cute little log cabin in Goldstream Valley. Many of these cabins do not have running water. We had a well in our log house, but went to the Fox spring to get drinking water.

Other fill their yard with 'rubbish (?)'. Not quite sure what the purpose is of this.

And why not live in an old plane?

Some houses are never finished...

Melting permafrost can be a problem. This row of apartments is quite bent.

One of the top restaurants in Fairbanks (Fox).

And a popular family pub/restaurant/brewery.

Popular take away falafel is across the road from an even more popular ice cream shop.

Take away/drive through coffee shops are very popular. We have also spotted drive through banks in Fairbanks.

And large shopping districts.

Musk ox at LARS.

Caribou at LARS.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Fairbanks#9 - Denali national park tourist bus trip

We had always taken all the recommended safety precautions for travelling and camping in bear country: when camping we stored our food in bear barrels or hang it up 5 meters high between 2 trees away from the tent, we cooked away from the tent and made sure we had no food products or other smelly items in the tent, and we carried bear spray with us. However, we never saw any sign of or heard any bears. We travelled along the more remote Dalton and Denali highways, no bears, we paddled in Prince William Sound, no bears. We started wondering if there were any bears in Alaska at all! On our very last weekend in Alaska we decided to take the tourist bus into Denali national park as a last chance to see a bear in Alaska. I had booked the early morning bus at 5 am, so we drove down to the park the night before and slept a few hours in the car in the carpark. It started promising, we spotted a black bear crossing the road just when we pulled into the carpark in the middle of the night. And the bus trip was very good too: we saw a lynx, red fox, moose, caribou, dall sheep, several grizzly bears (amongst others 2 mothers each with 2 cubs), several ptarmigans, and Denali showed herself in all her white glory. A beautiful, but very long day.

Male grizzly bear foraging on the braided river bed.

Sign chewed by grizzly bears.

Braided rivers coming from the Alaska Range.

The Denali Park road, a bit nerve-racking when 2 busses meet and you sit next to the outside window...

Ptarmigan family along the road.

Mt Denali.

A bus load of tourist admiring the view of Mt Denali.