May 29, 2012

The 3 Little Bears

Despite the rest of the weekend, Memorial Day was beautiful.  No rain, all sunshine.  We are very fortunate to have a trail system practically in our own (or should I say, in the Anderson's) backyard.  So lastnight we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go for a much needed, and long overdue, hike. 

Since the area we were hiking in is known for bears, we were prepared with our bear bell and even our newly purchased bear spray.  We were almost at the end of our hike, in a spot we have hiked many times before - I had just said how I want to see a bear climb a tree in the wild and Steve had tucked the bear bell away because there were lots of other hikers - when Eagle Eye Steve spotted the movement less than 100 yards off the trail.   It was a black bear.  Our first sighting of the season! But, she wasn't alone.  Sitting under a tree, not far from where we spotted her looking for dinner, were her three little cubs. While Steve's immediate reaction was to have the bear spray in hand, just in case, mine was to grab my camera.  It's a good thing at least one of us has some common sense. We stood and watched, knowing we were at a safe distance, as they wrestled and even ventured up the tree as mom kept a close eye on them, and us. It was such a beautiful sight and definitely one of the most breathtaking, and probably one of the luckiest, things we've seen so far on this staycation.

Forgive the blurriness, I was a tad bit excited...

Here are some more pictures from our walk...

Stay tuned for our next BIG adventure...


Rain or Shine

Camping in Alaska definitely sets the bar high - Sitting around a fire under the midnight sun, being afraid to fall asleep knowing there could be a bear lingering in the bushes outside your tent, knowing there's a good chance it will rain, or possible even snow.  There's not many places that can top that.

This Memorial Day long weekend we ventured a little further into the unknown, 3 hours northeast of Anchorage past a little town called Eureka. 

Here is our Memorial Day weekend in pictures. Or at least the first night, before it started raining and did. not. stop. 

We stopped for lunch with a view, of the Matanuska Glacier.

Our night was spent along along the flowing Little Nelchina River.

We even got to test our new bear spray... just in case.

Camping is the perfect escape, rain or shine.

Happy Memorial Day to all of our American friends!


May 19, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Get ready for it.  Another post about... you guessed it, the girls!

Every spring, musk oxen prep for warmer weather by shedding their downy-soft undercoat, called qiviut (pronounced "kiv-ee-ute").  Qiviut is eight times warmer than lamb's wool and extraordinarily lightweight. It's one of the finest, and rarest, natural fibers known to man. And did I mention it's super soft?! Believe it or not, each musk ox yields around four to six pounds of qiviut a year! That's a lot of hair! Qivuit is often collected and made into garments, super soft and pricey garments. 

At the Zoo, we give the girls a little help with their shedding and comb it out of them!  Sound like fun?  This is the first year we were able to comb the girls.  They love to be scratched, but we weren't quite sure how they would handle being combed. Combs are pretty scary! We were a little nervous they would be terrified at first - their ears would start twitching and they'd turn wide-eyed (which normally happens if they're unsure of something).  But, turns out they absolutely love being combed!  It must be such a relief to rid their bodies of all that hair. It's pretty funny when you have a 200 plus pound musk ox leaning against your legs because you've found the itchy spot. While it's fun to give them a little pampering, it's not an easy task. It takes a lot of combing to get all of that qiviut! In just one half hour pampering session last week, we had half a garbage bag full but had only made a small dent in Maya's rear end! But if it means getting to spend more time with the girls, then I don't care how long it takes :)

This picture cracks me up. She's smiling :) And look at those not so little daggers for horns!
All finished. Afternoon siesta time.

Photos (unless otherwise noted) taken by Stephanie's wonderful husband, Sean Hartman.


May 17, 2012

Are You Bear Aware?

One thing that makes Alaska so special is that all three species of North American bears flourish here.  While the chances of seeing a polar bear in Anchorage are slim to none, unless at the Zoo, it is not uncommon to see brown and black bears in and around town.  In fact, at last count Anchorage was home to 250-350 black bears and 55-65 brown bears!  In a city of 260,000 or so people, that's a lot of bears!!! There is a chance that you may be lucky enough to see a bear, but even if you don't, chances are you will never be far from one.  Kind of an eerie thought right?!   

Many species, including bears, are valued as symbols of wild Alaska, and most Anchorage residents have some appreciation for the wildlife that live here. However, the privilege of living in bear country also comes with great responsibilities and as Anchorage continues to grow, interactions between wildlife and people are also increasing.  Problems arise when black and brown bears are attracted to food sources easily obtained around human establishments. Bears frequenting neighborhoods for food are often perceived as risks to people or their pets and are sometimes killed by residents or authorities.  Therefore, certain precautions need to be taken in order minimize the number of human/bear interactions and to live safely amongst some of the world's largest land predators. Whether it is keeping the garbage at your home secure, or maintaining a clean campsite, your behavior often dictates the bear’s behavior.

Bear Aware at the Alaska Zoo was all about educating the community on how  they can be more "bear aware" - how to read bear behavior, how to use bear spray safely, how to keep a bear-aware home or camp site and how to respond properly to bear encounters. One way to minimize the number of conflicts is by using bear-resistant trash cans. On Sunday, we put both normal and bear-resistant trash cans to the ultimate test by giving them to our both the black and brown bears at the Zoo to show people how effective these resistant cans really are. 

I must admit, after much effort, Oreo, one of the brown bears, did eventually crack the plastic of the bear-resitant can. However, that is why they're bear-resistant and not bear-proof.  It's possible for bears to get into them, with a lot of effort, but most bears recognize the amount of effort they have to put into getting it open and would rather not waste the time and energy.

Bears are fascinating and beautiful animals, but whether you live in Alaska or Ontario, it's important we keep them wild.  Remember that "a fed bear is a dead bear".

Information provided by Anchorage Bear Committee.

Are you bear aware?


May 14, 2012

Photo of the Week

Wow, I have been slacking! I apologize.

This picture kills me. She is my favorite (but you all know that by now). Can you tell she was having a good time playing this afternoon? Animals smile too.

Photo by Sean Hartman.


May 13, 2012


I've been really stressed lately.  School is ending and the Zoo has literally been a zoo, packed to the brim with small children every. single. day.  Hockey ended last week which means we'll be moving apartments once again. (We need to move out of our current apartment for the summer by tomorrow. No pressure.) And to top off the packing mayhem, we are not having ANY luck finding a place to live for the summer. Yes, you could say I'm a tad bit stressed.  I've wanted nothing to do with packing up our aprtment, and everything to do with lying on the floor, talking to Mo in my mouse voice and pretending like he talks back, or even just staring at the ceiling. Anything but packing right now.

I came across this photo in last week's newspaper, obviously while procrastinating. His name is "Tripawed", and he is a brown bear that calls Denali National Park home.  He only has three feet, but do you see him complaining? Hell no!  He looks like he's loving life in this picture!

This picture reminded me that yes, I may be stressed and yes, I may complain, but that at the end of the day, I've got it good. Apartment or no apartment, life is good. We have a new car, food on the table, awesome friends and family and each other. We are happy. My problems could be a lot worse and I am very fortunate to have what I have and be where I am.

I need to stop and smell the roses more often.


May 10, 2012

New Wheels

After a few test drives and much debate (and believe it or not, 0 fights), we FINALLY did it... We bought a new car! Our choice? A 2012 Kia Sorento EX.  Not only was the price right, it's beautiful.  Complete with push to start, back up cam, bluetooth, voice recognition AND lots of storage.  While having all the bells and whistles is a nice perk, storage space is not a want but a must with us.

Here she is...

Bye bye Merc.  It's been nice knowin' ya.

On a sunlight note, Anchorage is now getting about 17 hours a day.  Sun rises at 5:30am and sets at 10:30pm.  Safe to say it's our alarm clock in the morning.  I can't even count the number of mornings I wake up in a panic because I think I'm late for work.  We not only wake up earlier, we also go to bed a lot later now too, before the sun.  Let me tell you, blackout blinds don't always work.  (However, this may also be due to the fact that we have become addicted to Mad Men and watch a couple episodes on NetFlix every night before bed). I'd love to say we get 17 hours of sunshine a day, but that's not so much the case.  Just because the sun is up and it's light outside, doesn't mean the sun is shining. The weather has been kind of crappy lately - Mid 40s and dreary. Not the spring I envision.  Those couple days of sunshine last week were a tease, it makes you so happy and then the clouds roll in, crushing your mood. Mr Sun, please shine down on us again. 


May 8, 2012

Fish On!

Yesterday, after a very yummy brunch downtown, we decided to brave the dreary day and take a walk along Ship Creek.  We worked off our eggs benedict and Steve got to do a little "reconnaissance" before fishing season begins.

Although these pictures may make Ship Creek look like a mud hole scattered with garbage, which in some parts it is just that, at certain times of the year it is truly an incredible place.  In a few weeks, this exact spot will transform into a hotspot of fishing mayhem. Come June, the creek will be teeming with fish making their way upriver to spawn, and with that, the banks will be filled with fisherman looking to claim the ultimate Alaskan fishing prize, a giant king (chinook) salmon

When the kings are running in Ship Creek, it's urban combat fishing at it's best. If those two words bring to mind thoughts of men, and women, in camouflage, battling for the perfect fish, then you're not far off.  It's man versus fish, but also man versus man. While the thought of fishing shoulder to shoulder with your neighbours and jockeying for the perfect spot may scare some people off, hooking that king makes it worth it.  Combat fishing is a true Alaskan experience. 

With the perfect location literally steps from downtown Anchorage, in the middle of the ship and rail yard, it is not uncommon to see business people step out of their office, throw on a pair of waders and head down to Ship Creek on their lunch break.  Only in Alaska can you get away with it.

Ship Creek in the spring is every angler's dream.  If you ever get the opportunity to visit Anchorage while the kings are running, take a trip down to Ship Creek and throw in a line. Just remember to pack your patience, and fishing etiquette, in your tackle box.

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