Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tolovana Hot Springs

Andrew and I were given a gift certificate for a cabin rental at Tolovana Hot Springs this winter and we just cashed in on it!  Perfect timing too, because both of our birthdays are in March and March is the best winter month (warmer temps consolidate snow making perfect trail conditions and 12+ hrs of daylight).  Tolovana HS is a remote, natural hot spring about 100 miles north of Fairbanks.  There are a few different ways you can get there, but for this time we chose the shortest route :)  From the trailhead it is a ten mile hike up and over a pretty respectable dome.  There are three tubs to soak in and three cabins available to rent.  The cabins are all equipped with a wood stove and plenty of firewood, a table, bunkbeds and pads, propane lights, propane cooking range and an outhouse.  So all you have to bring is food and your sleeping bag!
This the 10x12 frame cabin we stayed in.
 There are also a couple of cold water springs nearby.  This is the one used for drinking water.  It has an insulated box placed around it so it can be used year round. 
These are the hot springs seeping out of the hillside.  There are about a dozen spread throughout this small area.  The hot springs range in temperature from 125-145 degrees.  In order to fill the tubs, pipes have been placed at the mouth of a couple of springs and they flow continuously into the tubs.

 These tubs are actually large water holding tanks with the tops cut off.  What a great idea because they have a spout at the bottom so you can drain all the water periodically for cleaning.  In addition to the hot water pipe coming into the tub, there was a pipe letting cold water flow in too.  This made it very easy to regulate the water temperature.  If it was too hot, take out the hot water pipe and keep the cold water one in.  If you wanted it hotter take out the cold water pipe.
 A lot of the surrounding area was burned back in 2002.
 Set the timer for this one!
 This one was an accident, but a cute one!  We didn't realize we had it set for several timed photos.  We had such a great time and can't wait to go back!  Although it was too long of a trip for just one night.  Next time we'll have to stay at least two nights :)  If not more!  Thanks so much Gabe and Stef for sending us this wonderful gift!  It would have only been better if you all could have joined us.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ice Park and Sculptures

For the past 24 years Fairbanks has hosted the world's largest annual ice competition.  As many as 100 ice artists come from all over the world to compete and create some amazing and fun ice sculptures.
A welcome bear at the entrance to the ice park.
Another welcome bear inside the park.
I'm not exactly sure what is riding this bear. 
This is one example of a fun ice sculpture.  They had at least a couple dozen of these animal shaped ice cups that you can sit in and have someone else spin you around.  There are a ton of other fun things for kids of all ages too.
I'm was spun around in a bear and Andrew was spun around in a fish!  He actually wasn't going to do it until he saw the fish! :)

A rocking horse.
This brings a new meaning to ice truckers.

Slides for little kids...
...and slides for bigger kids.
Ice tunnels for kids to crawl through.
A huge ice maze for everybody!
Inside the ice maze.

For me and my niece, Kennedy, a nice ice turtle.
Ice artists can work alone or in teams, and they have either 60 or 132 hours to complete their creations.  There are a few divisions which include a single block competition, and multi-block competition, and a youth competition.  The youth competitors are given a single ice block measuring 3' x 5' x 4' and weighing approximately 3,600 lbs.  The single block competitors are given one block measuring 5' x 8' x 3' and weighing ~7,800 lbs., and the multi-block competitors are given 10 blocks measuring 4' x 6' x 3'.  They use tools ranging from chainsaws to wood carving tools.
This grizzly bear in attack mode won an award in the multi-block competition.
I know it's hard to see the detail in these photos with such clear ice but it was incredible!

On the rear of the grizzly bear was a mosquito also in attack mode.
This was a scene with geese coming out of trees and one swan or goose coming out of a pond below.
Downhill skiers.
Paddlers in a boat under a huge crashing wave. 
The boat from above.
Abstract art.
A duck in a carriage.
A mythical character.
A beautiful eagle swooping down for a squirrel (pictured below).
Squirrel fleeing from the eagle.
Mountain goats on a rocky cliff.

Samurai missing his sword.  The warm afternoon sun had caused a few sculptures to lose pieces.
Dragon slayer scene.

This was the first place winner of the multi-block competition.
An ice cabin.

Complete with ice furniture.

We got there just after the sun had set, and a few minutes before we left they began tuning on all the colored lights. 
Nice salmon sculpture.
Ice castle
Napping on an ice bench :)
Phone booth
Always time for a phone call!