Friday, November 07, 2008

First Descents

I hit the back country last Sunday for my first turns of the winter. I hit up Hatcher Pass with a few friends. We couldn't have picked a more beautiful day - bluebird and no wind (rare for HP). My friend Misty and I are newbie tele skiers, and are especially "challenged" in the back country. We ate a LOT of snow on the way down! But that's all part of the learning curve, and part of the fun. We soaked up some sun (I got a sunburn! I didn't get one of those all summer!), managed a few good turns, and had a great time out there. I'm ready for more! Our lines:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Colors, Round 2

I went to Chicago and Wisconsin last week to visit family and friends, and to experience fall one more time. My grandparents have 160 acres in (very) northern Wisconsin - there are 5 cabins, a spring-fed freezing cold lake, and trees galore. I.e., they own a little piece of Heaven. I always like to go for runs while I'm there, and this trip was no exception. As I started one of my runs I thought to myself, "Gee, this is pretty awesome, I don't have to worry about bears or moose." There are black bears there, but in my 30 years of visiting, I've never seen one. Within 15 minutes I'd flushed 7 grouse, 2 deer, and almost splattered my foot in bear scat. Ummm....

I spent a fair bit of time snapping some photos. Here are a few to tickle your fancy.

Mom and Nonie

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cool Running

October 5, 2008, and this is what my trail run looked like:
(Don't worry, this is not actually what I look like running - this was just for the pic.)

Unbelievable! Mike, Wrigley and I jogged around in 4-5 inches of sweet pow pow up on Anchorage's hillside. It was nothing short of awesome. I cannot wait until I can replace my running shoes with skis, and my jogging strides with tele turns. Bring it!
Here's a shot of the fall leaves covered in a dusting of snow. It was cool to see fall and winter happen all at once.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall Hikin' and Yakin'

The fall colors are out. Here's a shot of the Summit Trail on the Kenai Peninsula. Mike and I hiked up one of the side ridges and it was snowing on us!
That was last weekend. This weekend we saw termination dust from our kayaks! Here is Mike in his Feathercraft (i.e. supercool) kayak.
And the view from my kayak.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Playing catch up

Lots has happened since my last post, which explains why I haven't actually posted anything until now. My fishing charter was cancelled today, so I have time to post. First off, let's start with biking Johnson Pass trail. I biked it at the end of July with a couple of guys, one of whom is from New Orleans. In his cute southern drawl he mentioned that he "mountain biked" in New Orleans. Despite the lack of a mountain range anywhere near New Orleans, Josh actually did really well and was a real trooper as he experienced his first true "mountain" bike ride. We all had a great time, and true to form, yours truly took a ginormous spill (leaving me with bruises all over my legs which matched my black, white, and yellow dress at Jenn and Darin's wedding, more on that later). The day ended with a Wilco concert at Moose's Tooth...with beer....ahhhhhh. All in all, a fun, wet, muddy day.
Then Mom and Dad arrived for their quick visit. We spent a day on Mags' boat fishing for silvers/cohos. If you've ever read any part of this site before, you know that I have some sort of bizarre affinity for not catching fish. Ever. It's awesome. So, Mom and Dad, "showing the locals how to do it," managed to each catch beautiful silvers while Mags and I went home, skunked again. Beginner's luck. I'm not bitter.

Right before Mom and Dad left for home, I took off to Crested Butte, leaving my folks to fend for themselves in Anchorage. (I knew they could actually catch fish, so they'd be fine.) My friends Jenn and Darin got hitched out in Colorado. I have to say, that was one hell of a wedding. The adventure kicked off with a red eye flight with my friend Charlotte, and upon arriving in Denver, we met up with half of Jenn's Texas family. Whoa, Texas!! Let's just say they were hysterical, and provided enough entertainment to keep Charlotte and I (neither of us slept well on the flight) awake and laughing as we drove towards the Butte. We also got some good blackmail on Jenn, and I can't wait to bust it out. :) I took a day hike with Char, Brent, Val, and the two dogs and nearly melted into the trail. It's fricking hot in Colorado - 102 in Denver when we arrived -but the views were stunning, as were the wild flowers. And so was the wedding! After a very unfashionably late entrance to the reception, the Alaskan contingency showed those Texans what it means to tear up the dance floor. Which reminds me, I may not break out the blackmail on Jenn b/c I'm guessing her wedding photographer got me pretty good while I was dancing the night away. Shoot. Anyway, Jenn and Darin, thank you for such a F-U-N time! It was wonderful to catch up with folks I haven't seen in a long time, to meet your families (who are awesome!), and watch two people who are so right for each other tie the knot. Okay, enough of that.

Soon after arriving back home from Colorado, I took a weekend backpacking trip with Mike and Wrigley. Wrigs just got the "all clear" to be a dog, so I was psyched to have my little buddy with me for the first time since April! We hiked a ways up Crow Pass trail out of Girdwood, camped in the Pass on the first night, and then found our way up a "secret" valley off the main drag for our second night. I love having such a cool place in my "backyard."Then, last weekend, I took my fourth kayak trip of the summer to Caines Head. This was just an overnight trip, but we packed it in with paddling, hiking, and laughing our asses off around the campfire. It was like a time warp - felt like I'd been away for days. Love it when that happens.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I headed down to the mouth of the Kenai river for a little dipnetting action this weekend. Not a bad view, eh? Dipnetting, for those of you Outsiders (the name we call you guys outside of Alaska, and yes, we capitalize it), is an absolutely ridiculous, but totally awesome, mode of catching fish. Not exactly given a clever name, you literally take a net and dip it in the water to catch fish. There are limits, of course. Like, your net can't be bigger than 5' in diameter. You can only catch 25 fish per year as the head of the household (plus 10 more per dependant). You get the idea. Since I generally get skunked while using the good ol' rod and reel/fly rod, I became a huge fan of dipnetting last year. You see, despite having waders where the crotch is at my knees, being 6' tall does actually have some advantages. I can wade out past most people and catch the fish that think they're smart enough to swim beyond the nets. But the bad news is that may have been beginner's luck. This year was a little more pathetic than last year, my first year with the dipnet. I only scored 4 fish. Boo. Good thing I have plenty left from last summer and another fishing trip planned next month!
All those things that look like ants in the water are dipnetters. It was quite a scene down there! 68,000 fish moved from the inlet into the river in ONE day last week, and those kinds of numbers attract the masses!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The big 3-0

I hit the big 3-0 on Sunday. Can't say I feel any older, though I'm one of those people who believes age is just a number...until my back starts aching and my dentures need cleaning. So even though I don't feel any older, I do use any excuse to get out for a kayak trip. Bring on Aialik Bay 2008! We kicked off the trip with my best water taxi ride yet...we were entertained by breaching and spinning humpbacks at the mouth of Resurrection Bay. And by breaching, I mean these suckers were launching themselves out of the water left and right. It was amazing. I'd packed my camera and while the whales were putting on a show, my camera was under the deck of the boat. Doh! But Jenn had her camera out and got one good shot (breaching whales are hard to photograph with a point and shoot digital unless you know exactly where and when they're going to launch). Here are some of the highlights - sunshine, seals, otters, bacon wrapped steak with gorgonzola for dinner, boxed wine and campfires, glaceritas, wrestling on the beach, granite walls with 1,000 foot waterfalls, and my favorite, calving glaciers. My b-day night was spent at the foot of Aialik Glacier. There is an unmarked camping spot, probably b/c your camp could easily be wiped out by a wave from the glacier. But we like to live dangerously...or, I just love Aialik and we were willing to risk it. We hiked up the moraine to view Aialik from its profile. Unbelievable. Again, I need Jenn's photos for this. WOW. One of those things I can't explain - you should've been there. Best b-day ever. We peeled ourselves off the beach the next morning and made our way towards Pederson and Holgate Glaciers. They don't hold a candle to Aialik, but they're cool in their own right. The lodge is underway at Pederson, which I find heart breaking. Kinda ruins the experience. And rather than 10 bear sightings at Pederson, as I saw last year with Bree and Michael, we saw one. It was a big, healthy guy, but only one?! Not cool. Here's something a little nuts - while we were up in the upper Pederson lagoon we ran into another girl in a yellow kayak celebrating her 30th b-day!! The water taxi ride home was equally as impressive as the ride out there, but this time it was breaching orcas. Imagine Sea World times 30. There were orcas all over the place, and they were getting airborne. Wicked cool. May have to do it all again for the big 3-1.

Enjoy the pics:
Camping at the end of an avy shoot. We ended up moving b/c the snow proved to be an awesome launch pad for tent-flattening boulders.
Ah, the party boat. On the morning of my b-day, I found balloons stuffed into any place a balloon can fit in my kayak. They all ended up hitching a ride on the back. favorite.
We had Aialik Margaritas that night with this stuff. MMmmmmm.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Movin' on up

Here I am living in a city surrounded by water and mountains. I do my fair share of kayaking in the summer and skiing in the winter, but I've neglected the mountains in the summer. Wtf?! I've been doing a lot more hiking this summer and wish I could show some of you flatlanders the beauty of this place. My pathetic pics will have to do. (I also wish you all could've seen me be charged by a moose tonight while mountain biking...I was riding in Kinkaid to avoid grizzlies at Hilltop, and low and behold, I have moose issues. I love AK!) Back to the mountains.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hikin' the Baldy

I joined a few friends for an after work hike up in Eagle River. Baldy is like ER's version of Flattop in Anchorage. I highly recommend this hike if you've got a few hours to spare. The views are awesome, and the snow glissading can't be beat!

Harriman, Part Deux

I went to Harriman Fiord last year (there's a post about it in the archives), and while I like exploring new places, one of the many things I love about AK is that visiting the same places always feels like a different experience than any other time you've been to that place. So, when my friend asked if I wanted to join she and her friends on a trip to Harriman, I grabbed my kayak and went! We basically took the same route I took last year to tour the fiord, but this time we covered more ground and camped in some new-to-me areas. Black Sands Beach was buried under avalanche debris, so it looked completely different than last year. And so did Cascade Glacier. Check this was a tidewater glacier in 2007 and was connected to its neighbor, Barry Glacier (Cascade is on the left, Barry on the right):

But not in 2008. Its no longer touching the water or its neighbor:

Its amazing how quickly these things can retreat. Wonder what it'll look like next year.

Last year we got weathered in near Surprise Glacier and didn't make it back to the end of the fiord, where Harriman Glacier awaits visitors. But this year the weather cooperated, and we made it all the way to Harriman.
We didn't see any bears on this trip, but did have an angry porcupine at our campsite. The first time I saw him I'd taken a walk to use the "restroom," and as I was taking care of business, something to my right caught my eye. That little guy was peeved. He was in full quill spray mode, and only about 10 feet from me. I have no experience with porcupines, so I didn't know that he can't actually "spray" me with quills (you actually have to touch them before the quills are released into your skin), but I had to laugh at the situation. The little bugger literally caught me with my pants down! He was a brave little guy and visited us in our camp several times. We also saw spotted seals, and now every time I see them I wonder if they can tell I've eaten their kin (see the Kotzebue entry below). So far, none of them have rammed my boat or given me the evil eye, so that's good.

Two Thumbs Up!

I went on my first kayak trip of the summer in May. If you've ever lived in AK, you know that May isn't exactly summer up here. But whatever, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. So, I organized a trip to Thumb Cove, which is in Resurrection Bay, with a group of about 10 people. All of but three of them were total strangers, but that's another story. We paddled across the bay in some of the calmest water I've ever seen. It was ridiculously flat! And it was sunny!! What luck! After crossing the bay, we headed south towards the cove, at which point we rounded the corner to the most stunning, jaw-dropping view you can imagine. Pictures don't do it justice, but I'll try anyway:
After locating our cabin, which, by the way, had to be reserved 7 months in advance(!!), I took a walk around the beach. Here's what I mean about "summer" in May. Four feet of snow blanketed the entire beach. Let's just say we were psyched to have the warm cabin that night! We woke up to more sun the next morning and did an epic paddle around Fox Island. There were chops and swells, and just as I asked my friend, "Do you think it's possible to get seasick in a kayak?" I started feeling a little woozy from the swells. Isn't that just swell? Har har. But no worries, the water calmed down as we rounded the southern shore of Fox Island and all was well with the world.

You Gonna Eat That?

Whew, I am WAY behind on my posts. After my trip to Barrow, I headed up to Kotzebue (in NW AK) for another mediation, which is what I was doing in Barrow. Anyway, the folks at the Kotz meeting brought in some of their local fare. So, yours truly tried some muktuk. That would be bowhead whale. Dipped in beluga oil. (I'd love to see your face right now!) It tasted just about as good as it looks:

The muktuk was from the "chin" of the whale, so the white part is skin, the brown part is fat. Most of the muktuk I've seen has black skin, but the chin is white. So there ya go. That was Day 1 of the mediation. It only got better from there! On Day 2 I ate boiled ring seal intestine!!! WHAT?! Yes! And it was a baby. I know it's hard to believe, but the intestine wasn't too long as you were able to think about something other than what you were eating. And if this doesn't gross you out, you ought to sign up for fear factor - after eating the intestine I actually thought to myself, "Wow, I have intestine stuck in my teeth." EWWWWWW!!! So, here I am, a tree hugging environmentalist eating endangered species (bowheads), mammals that haven't been seen in years (the beluga oil was from a harvest that took place after years and years of no whales in sight), and then a baby ring seal (proposed species for the endangered species list). But, these animals were taken (i.e., killed) by subsistence hunters, so it's not like they were killed for my personal consumption. And those critters had good lives out in the wilds of AK before they were killed...granted, the baby seal didn't have much time for fun... Hey, when in Rome, right?

Monday, April 21, 2008

North to Barrow!

I took a short trip to Barrow last week for work. We didn't have much time to poke around and find polar bears, but I did snap a few pics and experience some of the local life. But before I get there - check this's the Yukon River! We flew over it after a quick layover in Fairbanks. This was about the point in the flight where I kept thinking, "This is the farthest north I've this this is...." (There were lots of kids and my ipod died - I got a little bored, and was pretty excited to be on my way to Barrow.) It was about 5 degrees with winds out of the NW. What's NW of Barrow? Nothing but ice!! Those were some cold winds! Here's my "oceanfront" view from my hotel room. That would be 10 miles of ice before you get to open water. Whaling teams were preparing for the spring bowhead hunt and were shuttling supplies to build camps out towards the lead (where the ice opens to water and whales can be harvested). It was trippy to see snowmachines out there on the ocean. It's like frozen jet skiing. By the way, that picture was taken around 10:30PM. Notice where the sun is? On May 10th it will rise above Barrow's horizon and won't set for about three months!

I noticed an oddity worth noting during my short stint. The city's heat is free. So every building is cranked up to about 80 degrees. My hotel room was on the second floor, and as I made my way up the stairs I noticed that the hallway window was wide open. It was -5 degrees that night and the window was open!! Wow. And while we were working, the office windows were opened so that we wouldn't all fall into a heat-induced coma. Yikes. So, should you ever go to Barrow, be sure to bring two layers - short sleeves for inside, and down parkas for outside!

I'll leave you with a parting shot of Barrow as we flew away. This is not the city itself - that picture didn't turn out. But this gives you a good idea of what it's like up there - flat, cold and covered in ice/snow. I don't mean to give Barrow a bad rap. My trip was so short that I only scratched the surface of this place. Should I ever make it up there again, I'd like to experience more of the culture. I'd like to try muktuk (whale, sometimes dipped in seal oil!), see polar bears, see a whale harvest/celebration, and visit with the locals.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Welcome to My Underground Lair

What a fun weekend! I have logged another first. Bryce, Wrigley and I headed down to Turnagain Pass with plans to find mellow terrain (some serious snowfall - 40 inches in a 36 hour period - meant avalanche danger in steep terrain) and a place to build a snow cave. We decided to head up Center Ridge, just beyond the typical backcountry ski spots for Anchorage-ites. Bryce hauled the sled with most of the goodies most of the way (I hauled it a bit too, thank you very much), and then we found our soon-to-be-home-for-the-night. Look right there between the tree and Bryce. Bryce dug in for the initial work as I dug out a kitchen in the trees. Then we worked together to carve out our underground lair and toss the snow into a berm that Wrigley later used as a patrol post. Here is a video of home sweet home.

The skiing was fun, but a lot different than anticipated. The snow kept on comin', and it made for some ridiculously slow downhill because of all the powder. It also made for some ridiculously beautiful scenery shots. You ought to head down to the area and make use of our kick-ass camp. Just look for this entrance, sans Mr. Wiggles.