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Thursday, September 03, 2015

The last time a sitting president visited Alaska



President Roosevelt might very well have entered this Bunker - it was the headquarters of the Army Command for Kodiak

Over 70 years ago when a sitting President visited Alaska he stopped in Kodiak.

Listening to the Alaska news this morning it was all about President Obama's visit to Alaska, and during the newscast the announcers kept on hyping his visit by saying, 'The first visit by a sitting president to Alaska's arctic'.  And while strictly true I found this statement disingenuous, and a little belittling to another sitting president who visited Alaska.

I am excited by Obama's visit to Alaska and I think he highlighted some very important issues during his visit.  He also impressed me by visiting the small villages of Alaska's rural regions and how he interacted with Alaskans.  His visit is very important because it highlights to the world what climate change is doing to the arctic.

However, he is not the first sitting President to visit Alaska.  I gather a number of 'sitting Presidents' have visited Alaska - Presidents Harding, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and GW Bush all visited Alaska while in office. And 71 years ago during the summer of 1944 and a year before the end of WWII President Roosevelt spent 3 weeks in Alaska. (click here for a very interesting ADN article about Roosevelt's visit to Alaska).  He visited the troops in Adak who had recently expelled the Japanese from the Aleutians, and the base was still a forward operating theater in the fight to invade Japan.  My favorite factoid is that during FDR's visit to Kodiak he 'caught one fish'.

Maybe I missed it, but on the news this morning I just wish they had at least mentioned the earlier visits by a 'sitting President' to Alaska, and Franklin Roosevelt's visit in particular.  Patrick


Monday, August 31, 2015

12th Aniversary Hike-Hunt

Yesterday Patrick and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary with a hike-turned-deer-hunt up Mt. Monashka Mountain. 

Our friend Thomas is in town for several days.  I had a sitter lined up for 7 hours and the three of us adults wanted to get up into the high country. For Patrick, the prospect of a hike was much more appealing if there could be some hunting involved in the day! :)

At Patrick's encouragement, I went to the sports store to get my deer tags and hunting license--just in case we came upon a deer to hunt. Little did I know, I'd get to use it!

Thomas and Patrick spotted the deer…there were several that sparked out interest. But one which was closer-just a ways down the hillside from us. We stalked down to it, Patrick got the rifle set up for me. He asked if I would be able to shoot kneeling, as it wouldn't be possible to get a prone shot. I said, Yes-I thought i could do it. 

Patrick handed me the rifle and I had to scoot over to get the right angle on the deer who was moving through the bushes. Finally, the deer stopped and looked straight at me, or so I saw through the scope. Much of his body was behind him, as he was angled. I pulled the trigger and saw him fall down in the scope. 

I looked back at Patrick and Thomas to see if I saw what they saw. Was the deer truly down? 

They were enthusiastic and said I did it!

We hiked down a bit and found the deer in the tall grasses. Flooded with emotion, I was so grateful to this beautiful deer and this moment of my first hunt. 

Patrick and Thomas went into field dressing mode and one hour later the deer was packed up in their backpacks. 

I'll write a future kodiak daily mirror piece on the hunt as I reflect on it all some more.

I'm so grateful for a successful, smooth  first hunting experience!

Zoya



On our way up, before deer fever struck. Happy 12th, honey! 


Thomas and I on the hike up




~R.I.P. Mr. Spikey~



headed home after the hunt

Beautiful forest at base of mountain

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sticklebacks at 2000 feet

My underwater photography attempt at capturing the sticklebacks

On our recent camping trip in the alpine I was shocked to find sticklebacks in the lake.  The lake is at almost 2000 feet elevation and the outlet stream descends very steeply over waterfalls - 1500 feet in less than a half mile.  How did those guys get in the lake?  And how have they managed to survive in a lake that probably freezes solid in the winter and does not thaw out until July?

I did some research and I gather sticklebacks are REALLY, REALLY adaptive.  They will change their diet to fit the environment.  They are known as survivors.

Also what is really cool is that they can decide if they want to be male or female and can possibly self-fertilize their own eggs!  I was a little confused by the details, but if you want a good read download this book about fisheries research on the Karluk River and check out chapter 8 on stickleback research in particular (click here for link) (it's free from NOAA). A comparison of the dead stickleback I found at the lake and the pictures in book indicate that it is a Three Spined Stickleback.

So I'm thinking maybe it just took one stickleback full of eggs getting dropped by an arctic tern (or some other bird) to populate the whole lake. Arctic terns are nesting on the lake.  Or maybe just eggs on bird feet?  Pretty cool anyhow.  Patrick

A close-up of a dead one I found on the lake shore

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Meat Hunt

Lisa and the meat tent
The main purpose of our fly out trip to Kodiak's alpine was to bring back deer meat.  We like to harvest our deer in August because it tastes so much better than it does later in the year.  In the late August the deer are at their fattest and are still eating wildflowers.  How can something that eats pretty yellow arnica flowers not taste great?

The problem with hunting in August is meat care issues - meat does not like heat.  For this reason we keep our trips short, and bring along a shelter for the meat.  The shelter keeps the meat dry and we've found that the ground keeps the meat cool.  Also by late August it is getting cold at night - a couple of nights it dropped down close to freezing. So the meat stayed remarkably cool.

We also brought lots of clean cotton game bags and kept the meat in the bags during the heat of the day to protect it against flies.  At night the meat came out of the bags.  Lisa was in charge of meat care and kept on top of it - constantly monitoring its condition.

In the end we came back with the meat of 4 deer.  That's a lot of meat!  And it was all in primo condition.  Tasty meat for winter.

First day buck

Lisa and Gregg putting on a stalk

Lisa buck number 1

Lisa buck number 2 - note deer medallion

Lisa heads up the slope towards home with a full pack of meat

A deer harvested close to camp and packed out with an unconventional pack job

Back home - time to cut up the meat

In search of deer

Dawn Patrol

On our alpine deer hunt last weekend we did a lot of glassing for deer.  There were also deer everywhere.  So it wasn't very hard to find deer.  But the number of bucks did allow us to be very choosy.  We only harvested deer that met our criteria: 1) the deer needed to be big, 2) we preferred deer with convenient access back to camp, and 3) the timing of harvest needed to fit our schedule (no deer just before dark).

Knowing that we would get another chance if we passed on a deer is a comfortable feeling, and it allowed us to relax and simply watch deer.  We observed a fawn suckling a doe, numerous masticating  bucks in their beds, and lots of sparring bucks butting heads and antlers.  Some of the views through the scope were like a dramatic wildlife painting.  I remember one particular view seen from camp of 3 big bucks - one huge buck watching while the other 2 locked antlers. All blown up larger than life.

After a few days we started to 'pattern' particular groups of deer, and even came up with names for particularly distinctive bucks.  We learned where particular deer liked to graze in the morning and bed down in the evening.  Patrick

Glassing hillsides for deer

Out comes the scope when we wanted to check on a particular group of deer




I was scoping a BIG guy in this picture but he was a REALLY steep slope away from camp


Carrying meat back to camp - once back at camp we'd glass for deer in the afternoon

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Living large in the Teepee



Glowing woodstove and Lucy Light makes for happy campers

Another great aspect about fly out camping is that you can bring along a bit more camp than you would if you had to hike up to the alpine.  We tried to keep it somewhat light because the floatplane rates are based on weight - if you can get under 800 pounds total weight there is a significant cost savings.  But 800 pounds is a lot of gear (even with people weight included) and we managed to carry 100 pounds of firewood, an extra 'meat shelter' tent, an electric fence, and even a cooler of beer and still 'make weight'.  It helped that both tents, woodstove, and fence all together weighed under 15 pounds total.

Living in a teepee with a woodstove is living large.  We did most of our cooking on the woodstove, and heated water on Gregg's MSR Reactor.  A 'Lucy Lantern' gas mantle that fits onto a propane can provided both light and extra heat.  Every morning at 5 AM Lisa's barking dog iphone alarm would go off and I'd ignite the Lucy Lantern and light up the woodstove.  And then, as Gregg put it, he'd get up when he felt the 'heat of the woodstove' on his face.

Our general routine was to hunt from first light until around noon (when we'd arrive back at camp loaded down with deer meat), eat lunch, and then siesta time until dinner and 'hang out by the stove time'.  The teepee would get a little too warm from the sun in the afternoon, and yet it would still be a little too cool if you napped outside, and so we moved about quite a bit.  We'd glass for deer on the hillsides, Lisa would do her art, and we'd read books.  Lisa remarked, 'it's rare that you get to nap by a lake and not feel guilty'. Evening was all about cooking the big meal.  And then after an all too brief sleep the barking dog signaled the beginning of another day.  Patrick

Quesadillas on the woodstove

Teepee Kitchen

Glassing from camp - Afternoon down time

Scary pre-sunrise ritual

Waiting for pick up with all our gear and meat

Alpine Hunt Scenics

Dawn a half hour or so out of camp

This past weekend Lisa, Gregg and I flew up to an alpine lake and camped out.  Deer hunting was the purpose of the trip, but the camping and gorgeous views were certainly worthwhile. And best of all, since we flew to the alpine we did not need to climb through a 1000 feet of Hellawe brush to get there.

Every day we got up well before dawn and were already high on the mountain sides when the sun came up.  This meant that every day we caught a glorious sunrise.  If it had been just a camping and hiking trip we probably would have slept in and missed the best part of each day.

Another good thing about hunting as opposed to hiking is that everyone is so much more alert and focused on the landscape.  Everyone is actively scanning for deer and other animals, and as you hike you interpret the landscape.  You ask yourself where will the deer want to be?  Where is the food and shelter?  What are they eating and where is the best browse?  Where are the does and fawns as opposed to the bucks hanging out?  While hunting you see much more deeply into the landscape - it is not the passive enjoyment of a hiking trip.
Patrick

Blue bells on the mountain


Arnica - a flower favored by big bucks


Sunrise colors

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kodiak Military History Museum with Scouts

On Sunday  my scout troop went to the Military History Museum in Fort Abercrombie. The museum in a WWII bunker and full of so many amazing military relics. 

The bulk of the troop had never been to the museum.  My co-leader and I  had the girls do a scavenger hunt where they wrote down in their books an item that starts with each letter of the alphabet. If they couldn't find an item, then something in the shape of the letter would work. It was fun to see what the girls noticed and used on their lists. 

A highlight was the military uniform dress up! The museum has a great rack of clothes which people can put on and THEN a jeep to get into! One by one, the girls took turns in the drivers seat. 

The trip counts towards completion of an Alaska Council girl scout patch we are working towards. Our troop decided to be a museum sponsor to help support it. I'm so glad the museum is part of our community. 

Zoya




Playing dress up in the jeep

Barb Chase showing the troop the Miller Point Display

Nora in the drivers seat

Blueberry Pies

Before Nora's 10th birthday, she asked "Mom, can you make me a blueberry pie for my birthday?" Of course, I would love it. My crust making abilities have been slowly improving and the process seemed less daunting. 

On her birthday, we went down to the road to secret berry spot, where the berries were amazingly plentiful and huge. It was the best berry picking I've done in years. The spot is on a neighbors yard and we called her that morning and asked if we could pick there. She said yes.

As we were picking these huge berries, I suddenly remembered Nora's first blueberry pie. It was the day after Nora was born, I had just brought her home from the hospital. We were home only a matter of hours when our friend Hans showed up with a blue berry pie. It tasted so delicious and the "NS" he drew on it with whipped cream was so thoughtful. 

Now, 10 years later, I pick berries in the peaceful woods with Nora. 
Mostly silent, doing our own berry picking and then occasionally striking conversation with one another. But very much there-with eachother. 

Berry picking and blueberry pies-a fall kodiak tradition which continues to unite. 

Zoya





Monday, August 17, 2015

Stuey had a good week

Team 'Jamaica' hoists the World Cup Trophy at the end of British Soccer Camp

Stuey had a good week.  His team at 'British Soccer Camp' won the World Cup, for the first time in his life he got to shoot a rifle, and today he caught 3 pink salmon - Not bad at all!

Last week Nora and Stuey attended soccer camp every morning, and their coach Josh stayed at our house.  To make Josh feel at home, every night we tried cooking up some sort of 'British' food - fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding and gravy (twice), and Josh taught us about dipping chips into a yellow curry sauce (click here for link).  The British 'curry chip sauce' was a winner and we will be whipping that one up a bunch as a dipping sauce in the future.

Josh, a Yorkshire man, serves himself some Yorkshire pudding

At soccer camp Josh divided the kids up into teams associated with various countries.  The kids had to learn particulars about their countries and draw the national flags.  Stuey was on team Jamaica while Nora was on team England.  Only Nora told me she was on team Italy, and so, with my help she reported to Josh that 'England' was 'once Rome'.  I guess that's sort of technically true.

Shooting the 'Hornet' is something that Stuey has wanted to do all summer.  But every time it was about to happen Stuey would have a 'not listening' episode, and you just can't let a kid shoot a rifle if he's not listening.  But, finally, on Thursday afternoon he got to go out to the rifle range and shoot the Hornet.  He was a good listener too.  That evening during dinner he stopped conversation to report, 'Everyone, I got to shoot the hornet'.

Stuey has caught pink salmon before (click here), but, in the past, he has always had problems reeling them in, and de-weeding, untangling his line.  Not so this time, he reeled them in on his own.  And while I did have to stop and untangle his line a few times, he mostly did it on his own.  Wow! he is well on his way to becoming a self-sufficient fisher dude.

Patrick

Fish on!

Pink salmon - albiet with a watermark
Stuey shoots the Hornet


Not bad - he hit the target every time