I'm Flat Lara, from Brooklyn, New York. This spring I got an itch to travel... to Alaska!
Alaska is a long ways from New York. Since I went through the U.S. Postal System to get there it took a few days, but it was fun seeing post offices all across the country - but from the inside it was always hard to tell what town I was in. Eventually, I was put on a plane and when we got out, everything was white.
I was in Fairbanks, Alaska - right in the middle of the state! I've put a map here to show you where I went. Follow the yellow arrow across the continent.
It was snowy when I left Brooklyn because we've had a very cold winter. But in Alaska, every winter is cold! When I arrived, it was 10 F, which I think is pretty cold, but they told me it can get down to 50 degrees BELOW zero! Hope I brought enough clothes.
My friend Erin picked me up from the post office and the first thing was check out the big river that flows through Fairbanks. The Tanana River is frozen all winter long, but now it is starting to thaw! We were going to go skiing on the river that day, but with spring coming, we would have had to swim first!
Fairbanks is like New York in that it was founded on a big river, because in the “old days” - before we had roads and highways - the rivers were the easiest way to travel around. In Alaska, the rivers are still used as a primary way of traveling, because there still aren’t many roads up here!
In the winter, frozen rivers provides a perfect “ice road” for skiers, for snowmobiles, for dog sled teams, even for cars and trucks. But now it is April, and you can see from my photo that the river ice is starting to break up. We wanted to go skiing, but we would have to swim first!
In the summers, many people use boats to travel around from town to town. Erin took me to see the largest riverboat that ever built west of the Mississippi. The SS Nenana, it used to travel up and down the rivers here - and even all the way down the Yukon River to the town of Nome. Today, there still is not a road to Nome, but airplanes have made it easier to get there, so the river boat doesn't travel there anymore. If you want to read more about the SS Nenana, there is a lot of information on this webpage.
Here is a photo of me with my new Alaskan friends - PJ (on right), Ajax (standing behind me), Carrie, and Estelle (on left). Carrie is PJ and Estelle’s mother - she used to live in Brooklyn!
PJ and Ajax are my same age, we had a good time tromping through the snow. But I also enjoyed playing with Estelle.
While exploring around near the riverboat, we found a tiny pony and some puppy Husky dogs. The dogs were up for adoption, but Erin said I would probably get in trouble if I brought a Husky home with me from my Alaska trip. Also, I realized that the Husky wouldn’t fit inside the envelop I will go home in. I did have fun petting the puppies, though.
While the puppies were fun to pet, the real team of working Husky sled dogs were my favorite part of the whole trip. Here you can see me petting the dogs and I got to meet the Musher - that’s what they call the person who drives the sled.
He would have given me a ride, but he already has some passengers! They were still fun to watch. Mom, Dad, can I have six Huskies - so I can be a musher? Erin bought me a book about a mushing team with a lead dog named Granite. Turns out Erin knows the artist who illustrated the book.
While I’ve been here, I’ve met a lot of really interesting people:
- Erin is a scientist, she studies ice - especially how the big ice sheets are shrinking as the Earth gets warmer.
- Sarah is a paleontologist, she studies fossils. I was amazed to learn that the pollen dust that trees give off in the springtime - that makes people sneeze - actually can be preserved as fossils. Sarah finds these fossils with a microscope because they are so tiny.
- Ken is a musher and a scientist!
- PJ and Estelle’s mother and father are both teachers. Their dad is also an artist and he built their cozy home, with help from friends of course!
There are many more, but I’d like to talk more about the animals I met!
Have you ever seen an Owl smile? Well, I haven’t either, but I did see a Reindeer smile - but you’ll have to wait for the end of this letter for that one!
The Great Grey Owl was amazing! Just amazing! The biggest owl in the world. I don’t know if the one I met was a boy or a girl, so we’ll say it’s a girl just for fun. Here’s a photo of her.
It took a while for me to be able to get a good photo of her, she kept turning her head too fast. But eventually she looked my way - then we had a staring contest. She won. Look at those eyes! But with all of her feathers coming out of her face, it actually is pretty hard for her to have any facial expressions other than with her eyes. She can’t really smile, and doesn’t laugh or squint. Just watches with those wide eyes. Beautiful.
The owl posed with me, but it was a bit dark in the room and this photo came out darker than we wanted. Oh, well. It was amazing to see her.
I wanted to see Moose, Grizzly Bears, and Polar Bears. We did see a Moose, but it was too dark and happened too fast to take a photo! It was while we were over at PJ and Estelle’s house. The moose walked right through their yard. It was after dinner and we were playing in the living room. We heard the dog bark and looked out the window to see a giant moose wander through the yard and into the forest. Slow lumbering walk, but still happened too fast to get a photo.
Erin said the Grizzlies are too scared of us and they stay out of the towns mostly. Polar Bears live farther north - way up on the northern coast of Alaska. They are very dangerous and it’s better to just stay away.
Aren't the mountains here beautiful?
The last thing Erin and I did together was visit the Reindeer Farm. I learned that Reindeer are a domesticated version of the wild Caribou. Through many generations, they have learned to live and thrive in the Arctic. Here is a website about the Reindeer that shows how they have adapted to living here.
The one we watched the most is called SaraP. She just had a baby! The baby doesn't have a name yet. We can all offer names through this link!
The best part of SaraP was that she smiled at us. Check it out! Isn't that a smile? ok, maybe not, what do you think it is?
My adventures in Alaska have come to an end. Erin is taking me by bike to the post office today. I"ll be back in Brooklyn in no time! I'm looking forward to my next adventure!!!
Here is a slide show of all of the pictures we took!