Our days in Fairbanks went quickly. Darrell flew out on Friday, but Ellie, Chris, and I spent the weekend in Fairbanks. Our email inboxes are full and our loved ones have been worried, so a lot of that time has been spent reconnecting with friends, family, and colleagues. We have also been catching up on sleep and work, but had a little bit of time for some fun.
A highlight was the Large Animal Research Station at the University of Alaska. They raise reindeer and muskoxen for research and to give agriculture students experience in raising large animals. The research center is on campus, surrounded by forest and an extensive trail system. After a few days in the city, we were missing our active lifestyle, so set out to hike around the pens to see some animals. Ellie and I were excited to see a muskox, but we were only able to get a glimpse of a large male through the fence. They are strange animals, seemingly straight out of the last ice age, when they ranged throughout the Arctic. Muskox went extinct in Alaska in the late 1800s, but were reintroduced, so now there is a wild herd, and several captive herds. The visitor's center had muskox wool, or qiviut, for sale. Qiviut is one of the softest, warmest, and most durable wools, so I had to buy a skein to knit a hat – another reminder of my time in the Arctic.
Last night, we said goodbye to Chris, who will go back to the Brooks Range for a packrafting trip. Ellie and I are heading to Kaktovik, which is notorious for thick fog and delayed flights. When I called our hotel to confirm our arrival, the man who answered the phone cheerfully informed me that we definitely shouldn't walk since there are "sixteen white bears hanging around" but that I didn't need to worry because "they are really docile, nice bears." Never a dull moment in the Arctic!