Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Veggies for the week

Purple beans! They turn green when you cook them, you know. I think I will pickle them with carrots and whole garlic cloves. I will also pickle the turnips with the beets, which appears to be a middle Eastern thing. I managed to pawn off the kohlrabi almost immediately, making quick pickles and bringing it to a friend's house to round out our supper. She, being overwhelmed by a preponderance of zucchini, had made a delicious zucchini lasagna. :)

Also, here is an interesting article about training free-ranging, independent huskies, written by a bush trapper, who coincidentally lives in the same village from which hail my neighbors across the street.

Also, also... orphaned behbeh meese have been sent to the Columbus Zoo!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pioneer Ridge Hike

Day Two of our Southerly Adventure. See yesterday's post for Day One.

M, the dowgs, and I had a plan to backpack the Pioneer Ridge Trail at the edge of Chugach State Park. However, when we reconsidered the topo map, and the fact that the trail was four miles long in total, and rose over 5000 feet in those four miles, we realized that we could do it in a day and would be best off carrying only a day load rather than also tents, sleeping bags, and additional water. But I kept my stove and mess kit on me because a hot lunch on a day hike? Heck, yeah!

The trail systems in the Southerly lands are paradoxically both more civilized and less civil. There are oddly placed picnic tables along the trails, which are very clearly demarcated, and trail markers placed by folks who apparently have obsessive-compulsive disorder. But there is more evidence of rude behavior: for example, the trail sign is apparently frequently used for target practice:

The mile markers were placed--get this--every two hundred feet. Even California trails don't do that! It was the strangest thing, and completely unnecessary!

Watermelon berries!

They are bland, but full of water.

The view got more and more stunning the higher we climbed:

Linden would like a bite of Pilot Bread:

The treeline and brush line are much, much higher down South. We had trees and scrub the whole way up. Here the Knik River serves as a beautiful backdrop to some fireweed:

The dowgs were very happy:

Awesomest. Lunch. Evar:

Along the highway, when our car had broken down, some Chinese-American tourists who had stopped for gas had given us a five-pack of Korean ramen. It was so random and unexpected, and we were delighted. M, P, J, and I were so hungry from the car-failure-induced travel delay and subsequent lack of lunch that we ate one raw, like potato chips. M and I took the rest hiking and cooked them up for lunch. How perfect with our beautiful Mat-Su Valley carrots and radishes! And from now on, I will take a stove and mess kit for day hikes! That was the best!

The dowgs rest:

The vegetation is so different in the Southerly regions; lush and green:

I believe parts of the region are considered temperate rain forest:

Now finally we are high enough to see the glory of the Knik Glacier:

And how it feeds the Knik River:

Two glaciers feed the Knik, and you can see a dark line of silt where they merge.

Another beautiful fireweed:

The hillside closer to us looked more like the kind of country we are used to around Fairbanks:

Only the mountains in the background gave away our location:

There are houses in the valley--sparsely spread out, but still there:

It's patently clear that the Southerly lands are more populated than the Interior!

Trees grow to their full size when they aren't stunted by permafrost:

There was fungus among us:

A full-sized cottonwood!

The bark looks the same as the ones we know in Fairbanks, only it's scaled up in size:

And that concludes my report on the Pioneer Ridge hike.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Report from the Palmer State Fair

Busy weekend! Drove down the Parks Highway with M, picked up other friends J and P in Denali, had the car break down, had the car fixed, made it to Palmer, attended the Palmer State Fair, where there were MO GIANT CABBAGES!, headed down to Anchorage, spent a night, dropped off J and P, then headed back North for a planned backpacking trip in Palmer. Got intimidated by the steep grade of the trail, unpacked the overnight stuff and converted the hike to a day hike, bombed up and down a 6000-foot ridge in four hours, headed Northward, car camped at the most beautiful camp site I have ever seen, then finally headed home, with perfect weather and enjoying the absolutely stunning scenery of the Interior in early fall. Posts with photos will trickle in here this week as I organize the photos and my thoughts. We will only tackle up to the fair for now.

Here is the spectacular view of Denali we got on the way Southward:

So, firstly, the Mat-Su Valley (the agricultural capital of Alaska, from whence come the most delicious carrots I have ever tasted), was, I am sorry to report, very disappointing. I had imagined the Matanuska and Susitna rivers to flow through a beautiful lush, green valley of growing fields. Instead, it is sort of a suburban spread from Anchorage, with the farm fields tucked away from view.

Wasilla, which was put in the national spotlight by Sarah Palin, is as ugly as one can imagine a suburban town in Anywhere, America to be. It has a Walmart, a Target, a dozen fast food joints, et cetera. People drive at Mach 3 and are very rude to each other. All I can say is, I am thankful that they could fix my car (a simple fix) on a last-minute notice, and I had a cup of gourmet fancy-pants tea in a gas station for sixty cents!

Palmer housing:

Sad, isn't it? I prefer my cabin, even without running water.

A Palmer field of broccoli and cabbages. Finally!

The Fair itself was a lot like the Tanana Valley Fair, only larger and more noisy. A death metal band was playing, and it blasted very loudly throughout. Teenagers with mohawks swaggered around. A man who was working security told me later that six people had been arrested that day! But the giant vegetables and deep-fried delicious goodness did not disappoint!

The fair parking lot:

At this point, I was so overwhelmed and unnerved by the traffic, crowds, and loud noises that I wanted to hold my friends' hands. Fortunately, I felt better after having some disgustingly delicious food!

A line!

Whoever heard of a line in Fairbanks?

Ferris wheel, backlit:

The Chugach Mountains caught the evening light so beautifully:

Maybe the only State Fair in America to have a veggie stand. Perfect for M and me as we were hiking the next day! I got 4 good-sized carrots and 6 golf ball-sized radishes, for a dollar!

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

859 pounds!

An assortment of giant veggies:

Mat-Su Valley veggies put those of Fairbanks to shame, due to the fertile soil and longer growing season.

The third place cabbage was 74 pounds!

The first place was 86, but it was so wilty I didn't photograph it.

786-pound pumpkin!

My favorite vegetable in giant form!

You never know what will turnip at the fair!

Now that is a kohlrabi!

Millie would have had her own garden had she been there!

Fireweed in the parking lot. Theirs is not as far gone as ours:

Oh, I had almost forgotten the tally!
1 buffalo burger with waffle fries
half a dozen corn fritters with honey butter
a shared elephant ear
shared chocolate-covered bacon
1 carrot
2 radishes


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Veggies for the week

I even scored some fresh beet tops and carrot tops for Millie that were en route to the compost pile:

Oh, and here is some late-blooming dwarf fireweed:

Here are the dawgs hanging out:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More Photos from Denali Weekend

From H's camera.

The group of us girls:

Climbing that crazy ridge:

The dowgs behaving as decorative objects:

Mutual photography:

Here is my side of the story:

The dowgs smiling:

My best side, as I eat supper:

Me in my tent? I'm not sure when she snapped that photo... maybe I am inside!