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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Life Afloat

Nothing beats a 50 foot seiner as a mobile base camp.  No matter how nasty the weather the boat is ALWAYS warm and dry.  Best of all, once on shore we are not limited to any one area of the coastline - Jim in the FV Columbia could pick us up anywhere.  We often go to shore in one bay and get picked up in a completely different and far distant bay.

The boat is also where we stored our kegs of beer.  On the last elk-meat ferry down to the sea my mantra was 'beer on the boat'.  Such thoughts keep the pain at bay and are a good incentive to get back to the boat.

Finally the boat is a great fishing platform.  Afterall, the FV Columbia is, first and foremost, a FISHING boat - the 'F' in 'FV'. On this hunt we tried subsistence tanner crab fishing, and failed miserably.  We only caught sea stars, whelks and a couple of octopuses.  But it sure was exciting when the pot broke the sea surface.  What interesting sea creatures would we find inside?  We also had some halibut hand-lines and Justin managed to catch one to take back to his freezer in Fairbanks (along with some cod).

Adelia's husband Philip edited a video of the hunt and posted it to Vimeo.

An Afognak Limerick by Ray R.

There once was a gal from Uganik,
Chased the Waterfall Herd to a panic,
The herd bull went down,
‘twas the talk of the town,
The great Huntress made Patrick more manic!


Life on Shore

During the hunt much of our time on shore was spent either carrying meat or hanging out by the woodstove in the teepee.  A woodstove on a lighweight camping trip might seem extravagant but our teepee and stove together weigh around 5 pounds and are very compact.  They are made by a company called Titanium Goat (click here for more), and are actually FAR lighter per person than individual tents.  Also there is nothing quite like the camaraderie of warming up by a woodstove while waiting for dinner to cook.

This year we also brought along a lightweight propane 'Lucy' lantern.  It provided light, and, when hung from the ceiling of the tent, it did a great job drying out socks.  We were very comfortable in our teepee.  On both nights we had to scrape away snow before setting up the tent and on both nights the stove dried out the ground inside the tent surprisingly quickly.

Of course for the one time we packed out an elk in a snow/rain storm it sure was nice to have a dry boat to retreat onto - but more about life on the boat in another post.  Patrick

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Elk Hunt Scenics

The one regret from this year's elk hunt is that we did not get to camp and hike around the island as much as usual. But I'm not complaining! If we do a lot of hiking it means we had a difficult time finding elk.  And we still did get to see some beautiful country.

This year we experienced a pretty decent snow event and for the rest of the hunt the high country was covered with snow.  It actually made elk difficult to spot because they look similar to dots of white snow.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Successful Elk Hunt

Yesterday evening we returned from a very successful elk hunt.  In 3 days of hunting we found 2 different elk herds and harvested 2 bull elk.  That's a lot of meat and a lot of luck!  I think Adelia's elk weighed on the order of 1100 pounds.  Some years it takes a lot more work just to find one elk herd.  And then there are the years we return with no elk.  Thank you elk hunt gods!

We also had some great hiking and camping, ate delicious food, and saw some wonderful sights.  All to be described in future elk hunt posts.

But the elk hunt is not over yet.  We still have to process and package all the meat.  That is what we will be doing all day today.  I just hope we finish today!  Patrick

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Elk! And Waiting.

The Elk Crew got 2 Elk!

For some odd reason, I am superstitious about blog posting on Elk successes (or failures) until the hunt is all over. Even after Patrick shot the first, one I told close friends and family but didn't want to write about it on the blog until they had reached their goal, or were returning home.

Patrick shot an Elk  last Sunday.  The winds were blowing 25-45 mph and it was Kodiak's first real snowfall accumulation of the year. His phone call arrived in the early evening, shortly after they had arrived safe and sound to the seiner with the elk in hand.

Sunday night I lay in bed until midnight listening to the howling winds outside, hoping that the boat was safe in its Anchorage. I was restless, tossing and turning. The wind pelted the snow and slush aggressively against the window. I couldn't imagine the dampness and coldness of hiking through the wet and bone chilling conditions to bring the elk back to the boat. I thought about how hard sleeping is on boats. And my father, on his boat, how he wouldn't sleep well in winds. Listening for the anchor and making sure the anchor isn't dragging.

And now I await for the crew to return.

Yesterday I didn't hear a peep from Ray or Patrick. I assumed this to mean there was no second elk. Then my phone rang this morning, when I was at St. Mary's prepping a handwriting  assignment for Nora and Stuey's class.

Adelia shot an Elk yesterday-a HUGE one.

"I think its the biggest Elk we've ever shot on one of these hunts. The antlers are taller than Adelia!" Patrick exclaimed.  Because of its size, the crew did not finish processing the elk for haul until sunset, and they set up camp in the dark. Bear fence around the meat.  Nonetheless, he sounded jazzed and elated.

And now I wait some more for word on the time of their return.

This evening, the kids and I made welcome home signs, I did some dishes, replaced some lightbulbs that were out in the living room, and obsessively texted partners of the elk party to see if they had heard anything about return time.

Not a peep. Perhaps they'll roll in at midnight. Sometimes they do that. Perhaps tomorrow mid day. Either way, I'm excited to celebrate their successful hunt! Cheers to savoring Elk meat in this next year to come.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Moments captured on the SAT phone

When Patrick is away on hunts, we communicate via Satellite phone. Its a large bulky, phone (looks like a cell phone from the 80's) which is kept in a hardshell waterproof case. Next to the phone is a folded up piece of worn paper describing how to turn it on and dial, in the event that someone not familiar with it needs to place a call. To dial out, one must stand outside and usually it catches the satellites overhead pretty well. If not, the call is lost and a retry is necessary. There is often a long gap in conversation, as if calling another country.

For the past 10ish years that we've had the Satellite phone, it has brought me much peace of mind.

In our early days of our Satellite phone ownership, I was practicing with the feature where I could e-mail a short message to the phone. There is a maximum character limit on these messages, approx 2-3 sentences. Patrick was in the field I sent several spunky, fun text messsages to the phone. Patrick never received the messages.

I called up the SAT phone company.

"I wrote several messages on the phone and they didn't go through. Can you check on it?" I asked. The SAT phone lady checked the address I was using and re-assured me that it was correct.  She suggested I just keep retrying.

So I did.

"Miss you lots, Tiger. Love, Zoya " ended  one of the messages.

A few days later I got a call from the SAT phone company. A tug boat operator in the NYC area had been receiving my text messages. The address the company had given me was in fact the wrong one.  We chuckled upon hearing this and figured I must have made his day with the spontaneous messages, as he was trying to figure out who his admirer was.


Over the years, lots of history and moments in the messages...just a sample of the messages from my "sent" folder to the Sat phone. In the earlier days, I wouldn't put spaces between the words, to save character capacity for more words.




Oh and today we went to the pool. Nora is able to jump off the diving board and swim back to the side all by herself with her little life vest on. Pretty cool! I can just sit on the side and she swims right over. She was quite proud of herself! Love, Zoya

we had frost today! kids were so excited. Nora wore her winter jacket. Cool breeze now. Stuey kept asking when will it snow. Missing you lots. Love, hunny bunny

On this elk trip (2014), these are two of my recent messages:

Two Canadian hunters were driving through the country to go bear hunting. They came upon a fork in the road where a sign read "BEAR LEFT" so they went home. Zoya

One Elk down? Get outta town! Thats so fast! What a blast. Happy meat humping, over hills and peaks. We're so  impressed-thats quite a feat. Especially with a crew of 4-holy smokes fried muscles galore! From Zoya

Knowing how fun it is for him to get messages in his SAT phone inbox  field makes sending them that much more fun. 


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Happy Trails Hunters!

Coffees were topped off, cinnamon waffles consumed, welcome hugs given and there was chatter amongst everyone in the kitchen as people got acquainted with each other.  The composition of the hunt crew changes every year.

Then we headed outside for ritual departure ritual-group photo.

"Oh, wheres the other hunter?" I mistakingly said as the crew was poised for me to take their picture. Justin, Ray, Patrick, Adelia and Brooks were all staged against the red shed, with Nora and Stuey in front. My eyes were scanning for 5 males, and I had forgotten that Adelia was one of the hunters! This is the first year of an elk hunt with a female on the crew.

Adelia is a born and raised Kodiakian and someone I've known my whole life. Our parents were friends even before we were born. And we are both twins. As well as several other commonalities between the two of us.

Adelia runs a fish net site in Uganik Bay for the summers, is savvy with boats, the outdoors and hunting. As I always say about Adelia, "She is amazing and HARD CORE." If I were to be stuck in the wilderness with only 1 other female, Adelia would be  one of the few I'd want  to be trapped with. She has a calm cool collected demeanor, is graceful and incredibly hard working.

I look forward to the hunt updates from Patrick's occasional SAT phone calls. The weather forecast is good and the seas are calm today for their passage up North.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Elk Hunt '14

Food supplies ready to be packed

And so it begins... preparations for Elk hunt 2014. T minus 17 (ish) hours till the crew departs....

Patrick and Stuey are at the airport picking up the first of the out of town hunters~Justin from Fairbanks.  Ray from Anchorage arrives later tonight and Brooks from Juneau tomorrow AM.

This afternoon Patrick stuffed his new grey hunting pack with the necessary gear and tried it on. Its a new pack, lighter. I liked imagining him hiking on Afognak in search of the Elk herds with it on. He looked at me and smiled, pleased with how much lighter it feels compared to his old pack.

Food. A biggie for such an adventure. Feeding 5 hungry hunters with enough calories for 7-10 days. Several of the guys made frozen meals to eat on the boat and Patrick packed along many meals for their nights camping on Afognak.  When Patrick comes home after the hunt, his metabolism will be revved for several days after-constantly ravenous. His body will still be thinking he is chasing after the elusive elk.

 This afternoon, a call went out to Skipper Jim on ETD tomorrow. The time is dictated by the tides in Whale Pass  and weather.  Tomorrow the plan is for a 10ish departure and 6-8 hours later, they'll be at their destination at Afognak. Ready to start hunting on Sunday.

There is an Elk hunt energy at our home. 11 or 12 years now into the annual hunt, I sense this excitement and relish in it. Tomorrow morning I'll make some waffles and eggs for breakfast. A hearty breakfast for a hearty crew.


Energy Moving

Anchorage scene after the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
 From the Alutiiq Museum Archives - Knagin Collection 

The 6.2 earthquake in the Anchorage Airport should have been a sign of shift and change to come on my trip to Portland to take a 4 day women's health class.

 As I sat in the big leather lounge chair in Starbucks, the earth started to lightly shake under my feet. I looked up at the others in the cafe and no one noticed, all focused on their phones. The intensity increased and the airport swelled up and down. I thought of Stuey's tears when I left in the AM…."Mommy, I'm going to miss you. I want you to help me with my homework. And make my sandwiches."

I darted under the archway and the barista behind the counter let out a scream. A very think layer of dust fell from the tiles overhead. Was Stuey right? Should I have stayed behind, with them? With the dust, the scream, people standing everyone could feel the energy. The movement subsided and only 5 minutes went by before someone had pulled up the stats on their i-phone: a 6.2 quake.


After class on my return to Alaska it is late.   11 pm and  I stretch  across 3 airplane seats, chilled. Even with a vest, warm boots and jacket on, I was  cold and hardly slept during the red eye hours.

In the airport, also cold. Trying to warm up at 3 AM and sleep for a couple of hours. Drowsiness wouldn't settle in. Too much energy shifting, perhaps. I breathed warmth, in and down-trying to warm my core. It helped some and I got a few hours.

The contraction, expansion of energy. All around. The earth, around body healers for 4 days in Portland. And understanding how it plays into rhythms of nature and in our lives as beings. So much shifting of energy.


And now, nearly 2 weeks later. Class is over, and the classmates send e-mails back and forth. Facebook friend requests were submitted and accepted with these fellow healing souls. None of us went back to life as normal. We're all a little changed, more tuned in with ourselves, our needs and better tuned into the energy of our bodies, of the earth, people around us. That resonance that can fill a room..of either warmth or cold. Now I can work with it, understand it. And most of all, appreciate it.