Ahhhhlaska June 2018

Los Alamos asked me to go up to Fairbanks to help represent the lab for the DOE National Lab Day. When purchasing tickets, I found it was only an extra $20 to go up a few days early and spend the weekend in Juneau. It was a fantastic visit in all ways except two – Carrie, Torsten, and Aven didn’t also come, and I didn’t get to see everyone that I’d wanted to reconnect with.

Western Scenery
I love the shadow from the spire
Western Scenery

I always love flying across the Western United States on a clear day – looking out over beautiful geology and scenery is a great way to think about deep time and reconnect with the beauty of the planet. I got to Seattle and managed to squeeze in a nice lunch and catch-up with Ben – bonus and a great start to the trip! (And it was Seattle, so we had to find a Starbucks logo..)

Ben and Matt, posing with coffee after lunch

I got into Juneau and met Chip at the airport. After a brief settling in, we went over to Hot Bites for some chow – fish and chips and an Atomic Fireball Shake at the Hot Bite!! YEAH! We caught up with Sherry and plans started clarifying.

Hot Bite! Atomic Fireball milkshake, halibut, and chips

There was a whale watching fundraiser (for the Alaska Society for Marine Mammalogy Student Chapter) so Chip and I went out – nice small boat and WOW, what a welcome to Juneau. We went out to Favorite Reef in some clouds and drizzle, but there were between one and two dozen orcas out scattered around. Young, older, and just swimming around. One younger orca even treated us to a quick spy hop. And there were a number of humpback whales around as well. Great crew – a bunch of science nerds and Juneautopians.

Enjoying the Cruise

What a nice welcome! The next morning I caught up with the Kleins at GonZo (since GonZo doesn’t open until 9am, first I had to go by the valley Heritage coffee shop!). GonZo has amazing waffles for breakfast and it was so good to catch up with friends and see how Garret is growing up! From there it was down to Breeze Inn (ahh..) to pick up a sandwich and then go get a tour of the UAS marine bio research facility (thanks Sherry!). Sherry, a few folks from her research team, Chip, Missy, Adelie, and I then went out the road to do a hike out to Cowee Creek cabin. The waterfalls were all going off – a great sight for someone from the arid southwest and a great memory from living there!

Roadside waterfalls

Then we stopped to watch another humpback swimming around Sunshine Cove! Great drive out. The hike was a bit wet, but most of us had all the right gear (a few folks had to put up with wet feet..). Laura Hosey was part of a group staying at the cabin (great to see friends all over the area!!) and we did the hike out to the south end of Berner’s Bay and sat down to have lunch on the big beach log there. I saw bald eagles in the trees and then.. we saw a brown bear just down the beach!! I think Sherry had the fancy camera to get a few good photos, but she hasn’t shared those yet.. We decided not to hike around Point Bridget (in the direction of the bear) to go over to Blue Mussel, but had a wonderful hike out (and saw a porcupine on the way out!).

Trail selfie


Sherry and Matt, lunch and catching up on the beach log, just before we saw the bear
there is a bear – just about centered horizontally, on the grass near the tree line

What another fantastic power-Juneau day, but not over yet! First I had to go wander around by the Mendenhall Visitor’s Center, just in case the visit got away from me – change is obvious, especially looking at the pictures from when we first moved up there in 2004!)

Mendenhall Glacier from Photo Point, June 2018
Mendenhall, Matt, and Torsten, 2006

Definitely not the same angle, so hard to compare – but the change in Torsten is obvious! 😉

I went downtown to meet a few friends for dinner, but first, before dinner, walking around downtown Juneautopia, I ran into Adrienne and Ganesha – a good catch up over some good Heritage coffee. (And got some scoop from Adrienne on her work at the brewery – there’s more on this great Juneau afternoon interview! ) Then I went over and met Cathy (Tide), Brian, Cathy (Connor), and Rod for dinner at Deckhand Daves (yum!!!) and more good catching up. Then we went up to The Narrows – fancy, fancy and not the Juneau I remember! What a hip spot! Then it was getting late and time to hit the sack.

Another day, another adventure. boating, crabbing, or hiking were all options, but the water and weather weren’t especially promising. The crabbing got delayed, and the boaters were sleeping in, so I went to Breeze Inn (yum!) and then went out West Glacier trail – what a change! There is much more traffic out that way – the trail is in great shape. And the access is a bit of scrambling, but really good to get back around. The early part of the hike is the familiar lovely rainforest.

West Glacier rainforest hike

I didn’t go all the way over to it, but it was great to see the old seamonster glacier front weather station and camera location! It has changed – much greener!

Old seamonster weather station and video site

Then I hiked on up to the ice – it was amazing to seeing the changes. The glacier is almost out of the lake…

Here is the strava route – downloadable gpx if you really want.

After a good Mendenhall adventure, I caught up with Chip and Missy a bit more and then went back downtown, first for some tea and more catching up with Cathy and Rod. I stopped by Alaska Robotics (sad/great postcard “Mendenhall Glacier – it used to be bigger”) and then went over and enjoyed some fantastic salmon with Eran, Sonia, and the girls. More catching up with Chip and Missy then time to hit the hay. An early morning airport departure from Juneau and … on to Fairadise!

Alaska Robotics postcard

Monday was beautiful – I decided I definitely needed a bike for the week, so went over to Alaska Canoe to rent a Kona Wu fatbike. (Goldstream doesn’t start renting until June 1, the UAF Green bikes was closed, and Beaver Sports doesn’t rent bikes..). After getting the bike, I explored some trails, went by Hoodoo (they were closed..) then went out around Goldstream Valley (ran into friends, Dave and ) buying a new bike. I went on by Ivory Jacks to pick up some beer to take over to dinner at Bob and Rachel’s – fantastic food and catching up with friends! And then a bike ride over Goldstream back to Don & Anne’s for a good sleep..  Here’s the strava link for D/A’s to B/R’s – the long way (and via Hoodoo).

It was time for Lab Days to kick off. It was a good event, with lots of good presentations from all the involved folks – policy/legislation (Sen. Murkowski), the labs (14 lab leaders on a big panel about “What is a lab?”) and then the best panel ever (I co-chaired it with Bob McCoy), UAF faculty and administrators, native corporations, locals, Alaskan small businesses.. (And, during a lunch break, the best lab booths ever!! Cathy Wilson and I were working the table and had good discussion with several UAF folks and a few small business people. No pictures…) Lab Days was fun, there were friends from other labs and also out from DC (great to finally catch up with Chris in Alaska – we talked about trying to do that the whole time we were at OSTP together!) who were all good to catch up with, along with all the UAF friends.

After all the Lab Days fun, we did go out to the Army Corps/CREL Permafrost Tunnel – a really amazing look at what permafrost really looks like below and why, as it melts, there is some much collapse of the land around Fairbanks. It is large ice wedges and lots of silt – not much structural integrity in that!

Cathy Wilson, appreciating permafrost

Permafrost Tunnel Tour


After a fantastic dinner/reception and catching up with UAF folks, I ran by and got to catch up w/ a few Talus types – no Peter, but great to see Sara and the kids!!!

How did it get to be Friday already?!?! I had a few UAF meetings to follow up on Lab Days, but got those all taken care of in the morning, so I took the afternoon and did a bike ride around Goldstream, “lunch” at Ivory Jacks, then on up Murphy dome. I found snow (June 1, biking on snow – success!!!!) and some Aven flowers popping up – wahoo!! Lots of fun, some scattered rain (but nothing bad), plenty of good bike leans (below) and I got back to Don & Anne’s house for a fantastic dinner and catch up with Martin, Dana, Don, Anne, Curt, Alice, Bob, and families. Fun to see everyone!

Equinox trail fatbike lean
Ballaine Vet Clinic Fat bike lean
Lunch of Champions – at Ivory Jacks
Murphy Dome clouds in the background

Snow biking in June! YES!

We don’t need no stinking trail where we are gong!
An Aven popping up!

Finally, ready to be home but also sad to leave – what a fantastic week! It is 1 am on Saturday morning and time to liftoff.. Thank you for a real good time!

1am, flying out of Fairadise

5 Replies to “Ahhhhlaska June 2018”

  1. Thanks for the hello! Yep, LA is nice – especially with a little rain today. We love visiting AK and seeing all our family and friends up there! Hi back, maybe we’ll see you in either NM or AK or somewhere else!

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