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Guest: Alaskan Interior
The Frigid Temperatures of Alaska’s Mighty Interior
Story & Photos by Sandy Lorrigan

Meet Our Guest Writer

Photo journalist and writer, Sandy Loriggan is based in Delta Junction, Alaska, two hours south of Fairbanks. As the former Executive Director of Sitka Convention & Visitors Bureau, her photos and blogs capture a rare insight of the wildlife and landscape of Alaska's mighty interior from a local’s perspective.

ith only a 7-day time out from record-breaking frigid temperatures in Alaska's less-known interior, remote Delta Junction mysteriously missed receiving the 10 inches of snow that was predicted (but Fairbanks and Anchorage did). The temps began plummeting last week as I write to a rather balmy -37 F, with a -47 F below wind chill. I remember a saying I once heard in Wisconsin: "It's as cold as a nun's buns.”

 

My friends ask if I am crazy to be in a place where even hell freezes over. The ice river fog becomes its own magical artist and paints the trees to a frosty thickness that is known as hors frost. No kidding. The first time I felt the temperature of -45 F, I gasped and thought, how did the crusty old pioneers of long ago decide to settle here of all places. What could possibly be this breathtaking in this ancient frozen climate where wooly mammoths once grazed?

I took two photos of the ice beginning to dam up on the spring-fed waters of the Delta Clearwater River this past week. The crystal clear river is renowned for excellent fly fishing opportunities for Arctic Grayling, whitefish and silver salmon. The first photo shows closing ice slowly creeping south past (and a little too close to) my home – like a mighty glacier engulfing everything in its path.

snow beginning to dam up on the Delta Clearwater River, Alaska: second picture

The following three photos were taken the next day. The jagged ice tightly sealed the river shut and is continuing its march around the next sharp bend with no stopping in sight.

snow closing up the Delta Clearwater River

snow closing up the Delta Clearwater River, second picture

river fog

The final photo is by an abandoned fire pit near the property. The tree that leans precariously over the water was where the edge of the land jutted out to greet the flowing current. It has disappeared from the ice and river rising. It doesn't look like it is missing, but it was quickly eaten up like a potato chip!

snow-covered abandoned fire pit bear the river

During the creeping steady ice closing, the big ice chards swirled past until they loudly hit the solid ice pack. Smashing quickly and, at times, being uplifted like it was bulldozed by an expert construction worker. I stood outside and listened to the sound of the ice chunks as they crush swiftly into the uneven newly forming ice. The noise from this natural phenomena was a bone crushing chill that played its haunting music against the dark black night. Its eerie sound will never be forgotten.

A well-loved long-time resident of Delta Junction stated he has never seen the Clearwater solidly iced up in the years he's lived here. For a river that does not freeze in winter, this is unusual. Normally, it is a safe haven and winter playground for many interesting water fowl and peering eagles. Other larger interior rivers freeze yearly and ritually perform their spring ice thaw that devours roads, land and even houses.

This very small ribbon of an Alaskan river has its own life and I can only observe with awe. I am learning why there is a solace in this frozen speck of time.

Related Articles:
Alaska's Mighty Interior; Seward Highway, Alaska; Alaska Marine Highway; Alaska Whale-Watching; Denali National Park; Alaska by Rail; Fairbanks, Alaska

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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



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