Sept. 7th – Friday Rebecca took me over to the Musk Ox Farm outside of Palmer.
Their hair yields a fiber called “qiviut”, which is incredibly soft (softer than cashmere) and can be spun like wool. Qiviut has exceptional insulating qualities (8X better than wool) and is also very strong, because the fibers are long.
Musk ox were eradicated from Alaska in the late 1800s, but were reintroduced. A decades long project to domesticate them has been going on about 70 years. They are remnants of the Ice Age and they like bitter cold – their long snouts warm the air before it gets to their lungs.
Our tour guide told us the finer points of “musk ox love.” At the Musk Ox Farm, usually only 2 bulls are chosen for breeding each year, with 2 females each… this year 2 babies were born (50% reproductive success rate).
Each year the babies are all born late April to early May. Except for Magnolia… her father was only a year old and not supposed to be able to father any children yet. She was born Sept. 27th, to everyone’s surprise. You can’t tell that musk ox is pregnant. The mom gets antsy, starts spinning around, squats and drops out a calf!
After a delicious lunch sharing a sandwich & soup, then indulging in gelato and a cannoli (Rebecca hadn’t ever tried them before), we tried to climb up The Butte. The first part of the trail wasn’t too bad, but it got steeper, and we had forgotten to bring water with us. We ascended a steep slope with a metal grid trying to hold the dirt in place. Then we got to steep stairs, and before reaching the top we looked at each other and said, “We’re good!” and started descending back down!
Rebecca then called her husband Bill about meeting us, and drove me out the Knik River to a fancy new lodge where she & her husband had been treated to a helicopter ride on their anniversary. We had to stop several times for road construction on our way out wondering why this stretch of highway with low population was high priority for roadwork. But the route was very scenic, especially the bridge across the river.
The Knik River Lodge has views that make you gasp. While waiting for her husband to join us, we had appetizers and wine out on the deck. A few mosquitoes made me regret not bringing my insect repellent in the car, but they were easily swatted away.
After Bill arrived, we moved inside to be big free and a bit warmer, as we moved into evening. Rebecca and Bill shared shellfish, while I had their grilled salmon. The presentation was lovely, but the entrees were a little bland. We got talked into dessert, which was also disappointing. .. there were not any fresh strawberries on the shortcake although we had been been specific about our question.
Bill & Rebecca each took a different route home, on the old and new highways. Bill managed to beat us, despite Rebecca’s competitive attempt. We were home in time to meet the young physical therapist who had been living in the garage apartment for wine at 8:00 PM. Marty has been doing “traveling” work and most recently worked 3 months in conjunction with the medical practice Rebecca’s son has, so the garage apartment rental had worked out perfectly. But she was moving out over the weekend, taking her time to drive through Canada back to the U.S., where she will begin a new temporary assignment with the Navajo nation in October. She was a fascinating young woman, just a little younger than my own 2 daughters, but I was so sleepy I had to retreat up to bed and go to sleep. Oh, well.