Back in mid-August, a buddy and I took off on an adventure. The original plan was to visit a site someone had told us about up near Wiseman, Alaska. The scenery was supposed to be stunning, the gold and semi-precious stones easy to find, and –best of all– the mining claim was lapsed so we wouldn’t technically be doing anything illegal.

I’m a skeptical person and this all sounded a bit too good to be true, but I went along with it anyway. Even if it didn’t pan out– pun intended– it’d still be a great adventure, right?

A little bit of history: Wiseman is roughly 300 miles north of Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway, the so-called Haul Road that connects Alaska’s farthest north transportation hub with the North Slope. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 14 people. The nearest community is Coldfoot, population 10.

The history of these two communities has been entwined since gold was first discovered in the area in 1899. While the initial goldrush didn’t last long, mining has continued off and on in the area since. Which brings us to today, and the now-abandoned industrial-scale Nolan Mine.

Continue reading “Wiseman, Nolan Mine, And Marion Creek”

This is the sequel to my last blog post, Dry Cabins, Futility, and General Darkness. It’s late, but that’s probably on-brand for me at this point. (How long does it take to establish a brand, anyway? How many years do I have to struggle to get things out on time before I’m just “that guy whose content is always late?”) Anyway, on to the uplifting content you’ve been waiting for!

Continue reading “Recent Adventures”

Lightning has a strange smell. For me, it’s a combination of burned ozone and chlorine, as if I’ve been transported back to some crowded gym pool in my distant past. There is screaming, raucous and unintelligible, but after a moment I realize it’s just the gulls shrieking in alarm.

“–shelter!” Lynx is yelling. “Move! We need to head for shelter!” She bangs the nose of my kayak with her paddle for emphasis, then turns toward the hill that rises along the northwest side of Summit Lake.

The water is steaming. Thunder heads pelt us with fat, icy raindrops as lightning flashes overhead. I grit my teeth and count while paddling for all I’m worth. One thousand and one, one thousand and– The crash comes before I’ve finished the second beat.

Continue reading “A Meeting With Nature”

Friday evening found me crowded into a shed with a motley group of individuals. The shed was attached to the back of a slant-roofed little house tucked into a steep hillside a few miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The crowd included everything from grey-haired retirees to stay-at-home moms to workers in grimy Carhartts, and even a few professional transporters like myself. Chatter wandered between the heavy snow load, predictions of when the first willow blooms would be out, and speculation about whether the coming summer would be as poor for pollen collection as the last one was.

At the back of the shed, an elderly gentleman with wild white hair handed out buzzing cages; each sturdy 4 inch by 16 inch by 12 inch enclosure contained a queen and roughly 5,000 of her subjects, totaling 4 lbs of bees. (Bees are sold by weight rather than number for reasons of expediency.) This particular bee dealer is the only one in Fairbanks, supplying hundreds of backyard beekeepers in the area.

I’ve been transporting bees for over a decade now, but rumor has it this will be the bee dealer’s last year. That may mean the end of my yearly bee run, or it may mean a much lengthier run down to Delta Junction or Anchorage to meet another dealer. For now, I collect 8 lbs of bees, wrap their cages in my jacket, and climb up a crude staircase to the dealer’s parking area. Now comes the fun part.

Continue reading “The Bee Transporter”