Ken's Pond and a Visit from Denise / by Michael Johns

Spring break in Fairbanks means longer days, browner snow, and visitors from the south. This year we had my long-time friend Denise stay with us for a week to experience the best interior Alaska has to offer. Actually, showing her around town made us realize that Fairbanks isn't such a bad place to live after all, although we still have no intentions of staying beyond graduate school. Along with cocktails at Ursa Major, a brief lesson at the curling club, and the Museum of the North, the highlight of Denise's visit was an overnight trip to a public use cabin on Ken's Pond. Conditions were ideal for the five mile trek out, with sunny bluebird skies, a well packed trail, and sweeping views of the Alaska Range to the south. As a bonus on our way to the trailhead, we discovered where all the moose seem congregate during the winter, on a stretch of flat exposed land just south of Delta Junction used by the military as a landing strip. We counted at least 15 moose in one area, with 5 exhibiting herd-like behavior. 

The skies turned cloudy and full of fine snow as the night fell over the cabin, thwarting our plans of viewing the northern lights. Instead, we drank a bottle of champagne each and played Phase 10 in the warmth of a blazing wood-stove; a card game which I have no intentions of ever playing again. The clouds parted at sunrise, allowing for grand views of mountains steeped in a morning glow. The sun fully broke through by mid-morning, when we wrapped up our stay at the cabin with a celebratory sledding session across the frozen pond. 

Spring break always aligns with the timing of the World Ice Art Championships, where folks from all over the US and other countries travel to Fairbanks to create single and multi-block masterpieces. The impressive ice sculptures are accompanied by a playground of colorfully illuminated slides, rides, houses, and this year even a maze, all carved out of ice. 

After several nights with no luck, Denise finally got to see the aurora borealis on one of her last nights in Fairbanks. We drove up to Cleary Summit to get better views to the north, and managed to catch the lights before the rising of a nearly full moon. Not the most spectacular show, but enough to convince her of a second visit to the frozen north to try again.