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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spruce Cape Hike

Yesterday it was supposed to be sunny in the morning and then raining in the afternoon.  So I got up in the dark and went hunting with a friend.  As I was leaving the house on the way to the car I spotted Orion and his Belt on high and thought it would be a great day hunting.  By dawn I was high in the mountains and there were deer everywhere (I even passed on a spike) - and then the fog socked in and it started to rain - HARD.  Cursing the weather, we hiked back to the car with no deer meat.

However, once we got back to the car it cleared up and the sun came out.  And it stayed beautiful for the rest of the day.  Another typical Kodiak weather forecast gone wrong!

The lesson here is that on Kodiak one should always react to the weather outside and not the forecasted weather.  So yesterday afternoon when it was supposed to be raining our family took advantage of the sunny sky and went for a hike out Spruce Cape.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Clips in Hair

Making Red Currant Jam with Patrick

Nora has blossomed.

There is a  confidence to her long-legged steps; a lightness to her smile. And in the morning Nora places barrettes in her hair  so carefully along the crown of her hairline. I catch her posing in the mirror, angling her head to look at her hair design more closely.

I believe I've never enjoyed parenting as much as I am now.

It could be too soon to say, but I think perhaps a very hard time is behind me. Hard times where she would try to push beyond my parental boundaries of "No=No." Frusturation, hopelessness.
Wondering why everything had to feel so hard and why other kids didn't struggle like my Nora. It hasn't been easy. The unexplainable outbursts, crying, intense mood.

These moments are the very real, challenge of motherhood which all of us moms face in one way or another.


"No, Nora…we don't have any oreos left because I finished them all off" Nora says with a smile on her face today, imitating me as she comes into the kitchen after school today.

I laugh and reply, "oh, yeah…that would be me.  There were only two left...That's pretty funny Nora!"

Nora's got her groove on.


I"m not going to over think it and ponder the elements which came into place to see this switch. I'm just going to enjoy her and soak her in every chance I have.

For years Nora didn't care about her hair and she didn't appreciate that I cared about it. So I gave up caring and knew that with time, when the time was right, SHE would come around to caring.

And that moment is now.


Our Black Pack! What sweet dogs they are. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Harvesting Local

Campfire on the beach

Fall is in the air and here on Kodiak we are trying to fill our freezers before winter sets in.  Deer, goat, salmon, elk, potatoes, carrots, berries, mushrooms are all available and ripe for the picking.  It is the time of plenty before Alaska shuts down for winter.

Recently I read an article about how eating meat equates with a higher 'carbon footprint' than eating vegetables and grains.  And I bet this is true if the meat you eat is farm raised and brought to a city by truck and airplane.  But here on Kodiak local protein is abundant while vegetables and grains tend to be brought in from outside by plane and barge.

In my opinion it was a silly article because it was trying to generalize for everyone in the world when in reality everyone's particular circumstances are different.  How about trying to gather whatever you can locally regardless of whether it is a plant or animal?

I certainly know that eating locally harvested deer meat is better for the planet than eating tofu bought at a store and made from soy beans genetically modified by Monsanto ('A sustainable agricultural company' according to their website).  Patrick

Silver salmon for canning

Stuey and Lars casting for salmon

Canning the days catch - 3 1/2 fish fit into one load and we ate the rest of the fourth fish for dinner

Our canning set up - pressure cooker and crab cooker burner

Salmon leftovers from the canner on the fire for dinner

Hedgehog mushrooms collected near camp by Ray

Ray cooks up the hedgehog mushrooms

Our carrots won first place at the local Kodiak State Fair!

Collecting raspberries in Old Afognak Village

Ray and the deer he harvested

A packload of tasty mountain goat meat - But watch out Brooks those horns and hide will not be good eating

Saturday, September 06, 2014

More Mountain Goat

Another view of the photogenic goat

The scenery where we went goat hunting was spectacular.  Fall is in the air and the vegetation is starting to change colors.  On day one it was bright and sunny and hot and the photos I took came out a little washed out.  It clouded up a bit on day 2 and the atmospheric conditions made for better photographs.  But it seems I had a dirt smudge on the lens that I did not wipe off until I took pictures of Brooks' goat - note ghost of brown at the top of the images.  Oh well, I'm sure if I tried I could fix them in photoshop or iphoto.  Patrick

Looking back towards the ocean at the start of the climb to the alpine - there are lots of bears down there!

Fog forming in the valleys as a front moves in on day 2 of the hunt

Brooks picture of me glassing for mountain goats

Back in the day, these are places where I used to summer ski

Friday, September 05, 2014

29 Hour Goat Hunt

Brooks and his goat

I just got back from a 29 hour mountain goat hunt with Brooks H.  The short story is that we took a float plane to the head of a nearby bay, hiked up into the mountains, camped, woke up and harvested a goat at 9 AM the next day - and then slogged back to the sea burdened down with meat and camping gear. We just beat the rain and got back to Kodiak in time for dinner.  A hard hunt to be sure, but, for the first goat hunt in a long time, nothing went dramatically wrong.

But of course there is much more to the story.  The hike in was 6 miles and almost 3000 feet up there, and the landscape was stunning.  There were bears everywhere along the river near the bay where we started our trip.  Salmon heads littered the banks and we could see fresh tracks in the sand.  It was so hot we saw a bear just hanging out in the water to cool off, and Brooks even took his shirt off for the climb to the alpine.

Brooks sporting his 'stream-crossing' slippers

Once we got up to the alpine we set up camp.  We decided not to hike any further into the mountains because we did not want to spook the goats out of the country.  Brooks headed further up the ridge to scout for goats while I set up camp.  I was relieved to find plenty of dry wood for our woodstove, and this at 2000 feet.  By the time Brooks got back from scouting (no goats nearby but some on a FAR ridge) I was cooking a rice and beans dinner on the woodstove.  Earlier a HUGE deer had run panting by camp (I swear he had his tongue hanging out) - clearly spooked by Brooks on his scouting trip.

The next day, we woke up in the dark, and lit the stove.  Brooks later confessed that there is no better sound than the clinking of pans while lying in bed and KNOWING that soon the woodstove would be lit and there would be coffee.  After a leisurely breakfast we were off as soon as it was light enough to hike without headlamps.  We were not sure if we'd get a goat and carried our entire camp with us so that we could deal with any contingency.

But as luck would have it we did find a goat before 8 AM and Brooks had it down by 9 AM.  That is quick work!  Best of all it died on a flat place and did not jump over any cliffs. He shot it perfectly through the lungs and clipped the spine, and there was very little in the way of spoiled meat.  But the goat was pretty darned big.  I'd sort of been hoping that Brooks would harvest something small, and easy to carry back to the sea.

That's me contemplating a BIG goat and the beginning of the REAL work

Soon after the euphoria of the harvest ended we realized we had a big job a head of us.  Our packs each ended up weighing 120 pounds and it was six miles as the crow flies to the ocean.  And we had a time crunch.  Rain was in the forecast and if we wanted to get back to town before the storm we had to be at our pickup spot by 6:30 PM.  So off we trudged.

Near the end there it got pretty ugly.  As usual I have already sort of blocked it from memory, but I vaguely remember a period of constant pain.  I think the worst parts were the steep downhill, and then the unending river plain to the sea. At one point I was struggling to get up after a short rest and my pepper spray fired off a burst that soaked my thighs in burning hot pepper sauce.  By the time we got to the river flats my thighs were on FIRE.  It sort of took my mind off of what was happening with my glutes, waist and shoulders.  And then it started to rain.

At this point who cares if you get water in over the tops of your XTRA tuffs!

Brooks slogging it out to where the floatplane could pick us up

But we got there and the plane picked us up on time.  We beat the storm back to Kodiak, and got to cut up our goat meat in town the next day while it stormed outside.  There is some primo goat meat in the freezer and later this fall we'll be making up a batch our favorite Italian mountain goat sausage.  All and all a successful hunt - as good as it gets for a goat hunt.  Patrick

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sea Otters & Surf

Theres no denying it- fall is here. With stronger breezes off the ocean, leaves falling from trees and later sunrises and earlier sunsets, its really here. My favorite season. 

Our friends, Julie and Ray arrived from Anchorage  and we went to Afognak to fish, hike, pick berries and visit. A trip that we've been planning together for nearly 5 months.  Patrick and Ray skiffed over with gear  in the Whaler and set up camp~bless their hearts!   

Julie, the kids and myself took a float plane and enjoyed a silent trip over to the adjacent island from Kodiak. The plane was short one set of headphones, so I just plugged my ears for the short trip over.   After the flight I was happy to learn from Julie that the kids hadn't spoken a word on the headsets! Often the trip can be fraught with "evil eye" looks from me when they do silly talk in the headphones so it was a treat to enjoy the views without any concern about how the kids were or weren't behaving. I was in an "in-flight" bubble. 


The only things that we leave on the property between visits are the
-cast iron bathtub
-broken red firewood basket (a beach find)
-1 small elk antler (found by Katelyn earlier in the summer, I believe)
-Square slate stones on which to assemble to the cookstove upon inside the Kifaru Tee-pee.

On the prior trip out to Afognak in July, we left a bottle of 1/2 consumed liquer nestled in the tree trunk right near  where we set up camp. When we returned this go-around, it had been consumed. Not a drop left. I am so curious about who consumed and feeling very glad that we set up and take camp with us on our trips.

Sawing wood+good conversation=excellent Afognak times!

On this trip, Julie introduced us to the world of camp cookies! She brought a few packs of pre-made Nestle cookies and they baked up well in her special camp oven. 

tent scenic

Nora's new seaweed 'do' :) Silvers caught on the beach by Patrick. 
Every time when we are packed up and ready to return back to Kodiak, I return to the emptier piece of earth where the tent used to stand. My heart is sad for a moment, not ever quite ready to go. Taking a deep breath,  I envy the sea otters which get to float around the point every day, or the eagles which nest in the trees.  Or the fox that frequents the land.  All of these beings are what make our experience rich.

The breeze blows through the trees and the salmon berry bushes and I realize that I've never cared about a piece of land as much as this one.


Friday, August 29, 2014

My new 'old' bike

My bike and I last week

Recently I resurrected an old friend - my three speed bike from graduate school.  Back in the day when I was at the University of Wisconsin in Madison I rode that bike everywhere.  I used to call it my 'horse' and never walked if I could ride.  Once when the bike was in the shop for repairs I got shin splints from the unusual exercise of actually having to walk to class.  

I rode it in the snow and ice during winter, in the rain, even out on the lake-ice when Lake Mendota was frozen over, back from bars, down railroad tracks - everywhere.  And when I moved to Kodiak the bike came along too in the back of my Chevy S-10.  I'm pretty sure that if I moved someplace else today I would not be able to fit everything in the back of a pickup truck like I did then.

For a few years after I moved I continued to use the old bike here on Kodiak.  My 'old ride' did some hard duty as a 'mountain bike'.  I remember biking to Saltery Cove with my neoprene waders full of ice and in a backpack.  Then I'd use the waders and catch a couple of silver salmon and put them back into the once -again ice filled waders for the ride home.  In the photo below you can see that I also used the bike to ride up the Saltery Cove Road to access summer snow for skiing.

Somehow around 2000 I was convinced to buy a true mountain bike - another Schwinn same make as the old three speed - and for a few years I really got into mountain biking. Meanwhile the old three speed had some gear/chain issues and got retired to the ceiling of my barn.  It hung there for almost 15 years until just about a month ago when I decided to get it repaired.

And then I rode it for the first time in what seemed like forever.  WOW! The old saw is true about how once learned you never forget how to ride a bike.  That bike just feels so right.  Rather than bending down over the handle bars one sits back and enjoys the ride.  It's a perfect 'around town' bike.

At the start of a bike ride down the Saltery Cove road in 1999 - I got my skiis on the backpack.  Back then I tried to go downhill skiing at least once a month

State Street in Madison, WI 1993 - I took this photo while riding my bike.   I always bought my coffee beans at the 'Steep and Brew' seen on the left.