On my third and final day I went north along the beautiful Glen Highway to the “Mat-Su Valley” to see whatever I could. I did have an time that I needed to be at a musk ox farm, but otherwise the day was mine.
I was early for my appointment so I stopped at an overlook to take in the view for a while. At the same time there was someone else also enjoying the peaceful scene. We both were carrying cameras. That is how I met Calvin Hall http://www.alaskasaurora.com/ I had a very pleasant visit with him, talking about the area, ravens, and photography.
My visit to the musk ox farm was an appointment because they weren’t yet open for the regular tourist season when they have trained docents to lead the tours. I had the pleasure of being shown around by one of the herdswomen who actually cares for the animals. The tour starts in a small museum with very nice displays. Then you head out to the pastures to visit with the animals themselves in their segregated by age pens. Musk ox aren’t in the cattle family at all, but are more closely related to the goat. Their native name is Oomingmak which means “bearded one”. The farm has a joint venture with the Native owned Oomingmak Musk Ox producers cooperative http://www.qiviut.com/ . The farm harvest the soft undercoat (more on how later) called QIVIUT (ki-vee-ute) and sells it to the co-op. They then turn the wool to yarn and knit beautiful and expensive shawls, hats and so on (a stocking cap costs $170!). But oh man…that wool is softer than cashmere. The qiviut is gathered by putting the musk ox into squeeze chutes and combing them out. You get about 5 pounds of qiviut per musk ox and 2 oz bulky skein of yarns sells for $80. Yep…you’re figuring that right. Each musk ox produces about $3200 worth of qiviut.
As suggested by Mr. Hall, I headed up the other side to see if I could get a glimpse of Mt McKinley before the cloud cover came in. The native people call it Denali (hence the name of the park it is located in), which means “the great one” or “the high one” depending on which source you read. There are works in progress to change the name back to Denali. That is the one I like best. But anyway…I did see Denali as I drove towards Talkeetna but by the time I got to a place where I could pull over the clouds had covered its face. But at least I saw it!
Now this was my last full day in the Alaska mainland and I STILL hadn’t seen a moose. Moose warning signs, moose *leavings* in the backyard, moose pictures…but no moose. Maybe they were all hiding out with Bigfoot. Then at long last I spotted a moose on the other side of the highway moose fence at Ft Richardson. I made a 10 mile detour to get back around so I could get this picture of him!
The next morning I packed up my things and headed towards my next adventure on Adak Island.