About halfway through my trip, I drove up to Fairbanks (a second time–the first Fairbanks stop was early on, as a launching point for the flight to Barrow) and crashed for a few days at Dave and Jill Russell’s apartment on the University of Alaska-Fairbanks campus. Jill and Dave, friends from Cincinnati, were really the whole reason I was in Alaska in the first place; they invited me to come visit and travel with them while they were teaching biology at the university this summer, and we traveled to Barrow together, along with another Cincinnati friend, sixth-grade biology teacher Karen Glum and her family. When I arrived at Dave and Jill’s apartment a second time in late June, it felt like I was arriving at my home away from home. They were such lovely hosts. (And they are just such wonderfully cool people, in general!) I relished in sleeping in a room all by myself after nights spent in packed hostels, and it was a glorious luxury to have space to sort stuff and repack my bags, do laundry (!!) and slow down long enough to write some postcards and catch up on sleep. Dave cooked and seasoned fish he’d caught the weekend before–salmon and dolly varden–and it was the best-tasting meal I had during my entire trip! Although I did a lot of chillin’ out in Fairbanks, I did get out and explore the city, visiting a few places that were on my must-see/might-write-about list, including the UAF Large Animal Research Station, where I learned all about musk oxen culture (man, they’re some hairy critters) and the fascinating science behind caribou’s miraculous antler growth (their bodies actually go into osteoporosis to enable those spectacular antlers to grow so quickly). And although I didn’t see many birds–obviously I’d missed the spring migration–I enjoyed visiting Creamer’s Field Migratory Refuge, an 1,800-acre bird sanctuary (formerly a dairy–yes, in Alaska!–if you can imagine that) that was blanketed in yellow rapeseed flowers for summer. And I loved the Alaska Bird Observatory, a little nature center that provides bundles of info about the critical role played by Alaska for so many migratory birds. Fairbanks was the perfect place to refuel for the second half of my trip, and I enjoyed every minute spent with my bird-loving, butterfly-chasing, nature-knowing friends. (P.S. And I think they might just move to Alaska someday, which means I’ll be visiting them…. AGAIN!).

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