Dear MJ,

Today is my last day in Alaska! I have one more stop on my way back to Texas, and I think you will be very jealous.  I get to go to the North Pole! This photo to the right is me with the giant statue of Santa.

Santa is really busy this year, but he says hello and I told him that you have been really good this year, especially because you sent me on this awesome adventure! I get to fly home from here - so you'll see proof that I was there with the stamp on my envelope!

But just wait until you hear all about my whole trip was to Alaska, a long ways from Texas. Since I went through the U.S. Postal System to get here it took a few days, after hanging out with Katie, Aly, Aunt Ginny, and Uncle Scot, I went by boat from Seattle to Anchorage, but stuck in the envelope, it was hard to tell where we were. I did feel the waves when the weather got worse and we must have been exposed to the big open ocean!

Most of the time 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 hot when I left Texas, and chilly when I left Seattle, but in Alaska, every winter is cold! When I arrived, it was 15 F, which I think is pretty cold, but they told me it can get down to 50 degrees BELOW zero!  Erin had to give me a new jacket and scarf.

It has been a pretty snowy year already in Fairbanks, Aunt Erin picked me up from the post office and the first thing we did was play in the snow! Here I am making a snow angel in Erin's backyard. Fluffy fun snow to play in.

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Then we climbed on the treehouse in Erin's backyard.

















Here's the closeup of me hanging from the railing. I got to jump off the platform into the snow!












And I helped her chop some wood for the fire. It's a lot of work, but the fire keeps the house cozy warm. 

Fairbanks is on a big river, because in the “old days” - before they 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.

In the summers, many people use boats to travel around from town to town. Erin took me to see the largest riverboat that was 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 no 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 - click the button!

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 envelope 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 are a few photos of riding in the sled. Hard to get photos of me inside the sled though, so I got some of my other friends. I got to meet the Musher, too - that’s what they call the person who drives the sled, but his real name is Ken. He's a scientist like Erin. 

Mom, Dad, can I have six Huskies - so I can be a musher? Erin bought me a book about a musher with a mushing teamthat never lost because of their amazing lead dog. Turns out Erin knows the artist who illustrated the book - her name is Klara and I got to meet her at the book signing!

Our next adventure was meeting the reindeer!  They also have wild reindeer here in Alaska, they are called caribou. Of course, seeing the caribou is harder than the domesticated reindeer. The caribou don't come through town (the moose do, though).

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We had fun making faces at each other through the fence.







And here is their farm home.

Erin is a professor at the university up here. She teaches in the geology department and studies ice! But she also likes to take classes herself as a student. I helped her with her assignment for her art class, and then we had a "critique" where all of the students and teachers look at your artwork and tell you what you did really well and what you could do better on this particular piece. We did a still life painting of eggs - that was the assignment from the teacher, but I liked trying to paint some that mostly looks white but is really reflecting all sorts of colors around. If you look closely.... eggs aren't really white! Here is a picture of me present our masterpiece to another student.

Erin went to Seattle for Thanksgiving, so I got to hang out with Erin's friends PJ and Estelle. 

The first thing we did was go skiing! 

This is me with Estelle. She just turned 8, a little younger than our cousins Aly and Katie, but not by much! 











I hung out and skied with Estelle while watching PJ do some real racing, he is 10. He is on the junior nordic ski racing team. All the kids up here are great skiers.

Nordic skiing is with skis that let you go up hill as well as downhill. It needs to be done on packed trails, but there are lots of those around town, even out on the frozen river (where the boats go in the summer, the skiers and dog mushers in the winter!)

A lot of the ski trails are lit up in the wintertime because it gets dark here around 3pm, they kids here are barely out of school before the sun goes down!






I like the duct tape used to identify PJ, with all those clothes on that look the same as everyone else, the coach needs a way to figure out who is who!!












We had a great thanksgiving dinner, everyone was so stuffed with turkey that we forgot to take pictures!! Even when we saw the moose out the window in PJ and Estelle's yard!

After Thanksgiving, though I got to spend a day at school with PJ and Estelle. This time of year it is really dark most of the day, and often quite cold. So here's what it's like to wait for the bus in the morning! It was -8F and pitch black at 9am. The sun doesn't come up untill well after 10 am! And it isn't really very bright out until after 11am.


Here we are all bundled up on the school bus - this is normal for PJ and Estelle, I'm glad Erin got me a warm coat!

They also live quite a ways from town, our ride on the school bus was 45 minutes (normally only about 20 to 25 minutes by car).

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After school we stopped at the post office. Notice it is dark again - all the light for the day happened while we were was in school! The inside of the school looked pretty much like our school back home, so I didn't take any photos there. Some things are just the same here as in Texas!

Do you like how the post office is a log house?? There really are a lot of log houses here - many built in the old days when the city was just being founded, but people still like to build with log today, it is a pretty good strong insulating material and keeps things warm inside!

Well my trip has come to an end. I had a great time, but I'm excited to get back to Texas.

Oh here's one last picture of Erin's house! Her's is not a log cabin, but just as cozy.

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. I didn't get a picture with her, though!

  • Ken is a musher and a scientist, too!

  • Klara is an artist and wilderness guide.

  • PJ and Estelle’s mother and father are both teachers. Their dad is also an artist and he built their cozy log home, with help from friends of course!

There are many more, but I’d like to talk more about the animals I met!

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 before Thanksgiving 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. Next time I visit, I want to go to the far north coast and see the polar bears!

We heard owls hooting in the forest at night, and then of course the funny reindeer! And the dogs! The amazing dogs!

Aren't the mountains here beautiful? I can't wait to come back!!


See you soon!

Flat Stanley