Sunday, April 29, 2007
This evening we went to dinner at Gregg and Lisa's place. Gregg prepared a fantastic spaghetti meal with homemade goat sausage, homemade cookies and ice cream.
As Gregg cooked, Lisa cut Patrick's hair and Nora's hair.
Lisa used to be a hairstylist in Anchorage. This was Nora's first formal haircut! She needed a trim quite badly and Lisa was wonderfully patient as Nora squirmed to get off the chair. Lisa does a wonderful job with Patrick's hair as well-she doesn't go too short. (Zoya)
Photos: Nora plays with Lisa's hair tools
Haircut in progress, before Nora protests. :)
Budda baby Stuart
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Last Thursday the daytime high was 50 degrees - first time all year the temperature broke the magical number. Warm days and cold nights is consolidating the snowpack and making for some great ski-touring. We still have enough snow down low that you can trek through places on skiis that are impassable jungles in Summer. Yet up high the snowpack is consistant, and, on the slopes that face the sun, the sun-warmed corn snow is a devine rip on skiis. This is the time of year to explore those out of the way creek canyons and ski down the tallest and steepest mountains - mountains that are often too far away to reach in an afternoon during the short days of winter. This is prime time for skiing.
Today Lisa, Gregg and I did a tour from the ski chalet parking lot up into the high country on Pyramid mountain and then toured up and down various mountains until we skiied down into the alders behind the antenna field. The last run was super steep and the alders made it challenging. Deep corn snow. You really have to just go for it and ski fast with few turns through the alders. Down on the flats by Bear Creek we did a little skate skiing, then some river wading and finally some hiking. All quite glorious. The fox sparrows are staking out their territories with song and the sun is warm. And best of all beer is waiting at the car.
It'll be hard for me to leave next Thursday for the South End of Kodiak, and my archaeological survey on the Olga Lakes. No skiing down there, but at least I'll be camping out in the backcountry. And the fishing, bear viewing, and archaeology ought to be fantastic. Patrick
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Seems like the past few days have been filled with wonderful advice from friends. Last night Melissa came over with her son Fisher for dinner. I was telling her how Stuey cries between 8-10ish often at night and how I didn't know what to do for it. She stood up with Stuey and showed me this wonderful move which helps settle the gas bubbles in their system. And it worked beautifully! After Melissa left, I could see Stuey starting to get uncomfortable. So I started doing the magical move and sure enough-he fell asleep without his crying bout. YEAH!!! :)
The second piece of advice had to do with how to best work with Nora....
Today was another tiring day with Nora. I called my friend Marias and she and I were brainstorming ways to do good discipline techniques without spanking. Seems like she and I have been feeling like we're coming to dead ends lately with our little ones. Lately Nora laughs when I say "time out". Frusturating as all get out!
Anyhow, we both thought of people in our life with kids who are older and decided we would call around and get ideas from. I called my friend Libby-she has 3 daughters. She wasn't home, but I talked to her mom who gave wonderful advice. She told me that time outs probably aren't effective for Nora since she is so young. Instead, she recommended distraction with a different activity or focus and getting down on the floor with her more. Boy did this work! I was amazed. Bath time was MUCH easier. When Nora showed signs of losing it, I turned her music CD on loud and started playing with the bath toys in an animated fashion. Then tonight after dinner she and I sat on the floor and played imaginary kitchen with various cooking tools. I think I just need to take more time out throughout the day to really connect with her on her level. Sometimes I get too busy trying to get things done around the house (fold laundry, cook, clean, etc..) and forget to do the pretend play stuff with Nora which she dearly loves.
I'm so thankful for both these pieces of wonderful advice for the past two days. Seems like my little gray cloud has moved on and I have a better attitude and approach for my parenting woes. (Zoya)
PHOTOS: The top Photo is Melissa, Fisher and Stu.
next one down is Stuart and I last night
next one down is Patrick and Nora watching the red sox game over the weekend (the bottle is EMPTY!) :)
one on the bottom is one our mommy helper, Megan, took of Stu and Nora two days ago when she was watching them for a couple of hours.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I knew parenting wouldn't be easy. But I thought it would be easier than days like today. The day began with a jolt when the dogs barked at a dog outside and woke the little ones up prematurely. Patrick and I looked at eachother with disgust at the dogs early morning behavior.
I was in the middle of pumping milk for Stuey (and whatever is leftover for the kids in Africa) when Nora came in wanting to nurse. I stalled her a bit and s finally nursed her -she was a bit happier afterwards and more ready to officially start her day.
Stu squirmed and burped after each mini morning feeding, and refused to be put down at all which is unlike him.Gas, I figured. I hand him to Patrick for a few brief minutes to clean up my breakfast, but Stuey quicky escalated intio a scream. Back into mommy's soothing arms.
After I somehow managed to drink my blissful cup of coffee, off I went to take a shower. Nora toddled closely behind me and stood by the shower squaking, screaming pointing to the tub. I knew she wanted to get in with me. I didn't have the energy to bring her in. She came in the shower yesterday and it ended in tears when it was time for us to get out. Lately that has been her new norm for bath time. She hates getting out. I do everything that the toddler books say to do (give them advance notice, have a bath routine, blah, blh blah...) but nothing works. She screams, arches her back and throws herself on the floor in protest. Putting a diaper on her with her in that state is nearly impossible.
The morning continues on that note. A grouchy, uncooperative Nora. I took her totoddler music group which is a bust for her. She is glued on to me and does her sign for nursing over and over. I know it is time to leave at the halfway mark and we slip out. I smile and apologetically say "thnks" to the teacher,Tania, as we leave. I'm glad we went and were able to enjoy a few of her favorite songs together.
While my mommy helper, Megan, was at the house I was able to get spinach pie made for dinner while she fed Stu and Nora napped. Later as I swept the floor I am reminded of how my concept of getting a lot done has changed so much since having kids. Just the fact that I somehow found time today to sweep up the killer dust bunnies which lurked in the corners made me feel like I had accomplished something!
One highlight of my afternoon was teaching my spinning class. Gosh I love teaching. My time away to work out, laugh, see friends.
When I returned from spinning this evening, we enjoyed a good family dinner together.
After dinner, Nora toddles around and does pretend cooking play with the kitchen strainer, bowls and her sippy cup. We sing songs from music group in the kitchen- she moves in a circle as if she is dancing. She jumps on my lap in the rocking chair as I am working to sooth Stu. She sucks away on her binky and her big eyes look up at me. As she smiles, she pokes my nose, and I say "honk". She breaks out into a belly laugh and all of a sudden the trials from earlier today disappear with the evening.
The couch photo were taken as Patrick and Nora watched the red sox game on Sunday. Patrick emptied his first beer bottle and gave it to Nora. She loved sholding the bottle and sucking on the cold glass top. It mde for some photos! Patrick was in red sox heaven as we witnessed 4 home runs in a row for the sox! Zoya
Part V: Return to the Meat Cache and Homeward Bound
Winds down low nowhere near as bad as they are up in the alpine.
All night long the wind rages - we can hear it whistling through the peaks above, and every 10 minutes or so we’ll hear big gusts that sound like jet engines crashing down through the alders downslope. When they hit camp all Hell breaks loose – tents shaking, brush thrashing, guy lines singing. But our tents are secured in a low area, somewhat protected from the wind by the surrounding brush; we are very happy to be camping by the lower rather than upper lake! It would have been a medieval experience that night camped at the upper lake.
When dealing with alder, salmonberry, and other types of tanglefoot, scout your route first!
The next morning everyone’s muscles are sore, and we’re all bone tired. But the meat, coolers, and hide are still at the meat cache halfway up the mountain. We are paranoid about a bear stealing our meat and hide, and after a quick breakfast head up the mountain, aching legs and weary shoulders notwithstanding, to bring it all back home. Before we leave camp we scout a route through the alders above camp to the alpine tundra on the ridge above. Too bad we had not known the route the day before. Getting up to the ridge is actually quite easy with virtually no bushwhacking. We wend our way through the ptarmigan filled valley, and make it back to the meat cache by midmorning. All is exactly as we left it; apparently bears are smart and don’t like to eat old goats.
The going is easier when you know the stable is close at hand.
The return to the lower lake is rather anticlimactic. We already know the route, and we look forward to an afternoon of rest on our return. Our main worry now is whether or not Rolan the floatplane pilot will find us at our new camp. Before he left us at the upper lake we had agreed that the lower lake would be the failsafe pick up. Even though we know that was the plan - we are still worried about it. Will he come by to pick us up this evening as planned? Once when a plane had flown over, we had fruitlessly tried to get in contact with our handheld VHF radio. So we had not talked to anybody from the outside in almost a week, and were a little edgy about what was going on.
Rolan always saves the day!
Back at camp we organized and packed up gear in preparation for leaving. We leave the tents set up in case Rolan does not come today. We figure we’ll take them down quick once he circles the lake. Then we wait. I go for a low-key exploratory hike around the head of the lake. I do not find any archaeological sites. And we wait some more. The weather is starting to get worse, and it looks like another storm is coming in. We despair that Rolan will ever arrive, and at dusk we start to cook dinner. We are resigned to another night without whiskey. Then low and behold Rolan’s De Havillland Beaver flies overhead with its distinctive throaty roar. We dump dinner in the lake and start to pack up – but Rolan does not circle – just flies on. We despair that it is surely too dark now, and we have already dumped dinner. We are just beginning to start dinner again when we hear the plane again. He circles the lake and lands. He had had to drop off another party before coming back to get us on the way home.
Home sweet home.
It is practically dark as we pack up. Rolan asks if we got our 9-inch Billy (the ‘trophy’ standard), and we reply that we are not sure about horn length but are sure he is pretty heavy. The flight home is quick and before we know it we are back at my house hanging the meat in the shed. My neighbor Len drops by and is impressed with our goat. He helps us go about prepping the hide to send the to the taxidermist. Then it is time to go inside and have a beer. Our goat hunt is over.
Major Lessons Learned:
• Always shoot a young goat – old Billies are not good eating (Zoya and I got most of the meat, and it almost turned Zoya into a vegetarian)(I’ve eaten 6 goats since then, none older than 4 years, and all have been excellent eating).
• An out of State Tag and a Goat permit are NOT the same thing (this one is an expensive story all of its own).
• Hunt or ski, one or the other, but not both – decide before you leave.
• Spike camps do not work – keep your gear to a minimum and bring just one camp.
• If you’re camping in the high alpine, hunt goats early in the fall.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Rolan the pilot later told us that the lake never did freeze over, but that’s probably because the high winds kept it choppy and delayed the freeze up. I personally believe in ‘Murphy’ and that if we had not moved camp the wind would have died and the lakes would have frozen solid. These days I always carry a satellite phone into the field and call the charter service for early pick up or weather updates. But back then you never really knew when the plane would come back to pick you up, and weather delays were common especially after a big storm. What would we have done if the lake had frozen over on the day of the pick up? So I think the move to the lower lake was the right choice.
It always clears up once you decide to leave.
The next morning it was still snowing and blowing, but it let up by the time we left and the sun even came out later when we returned for the tents. It would have been a perfect day to go skiing! But the only skiing we did was with over-stuffed, unbelievably heavy packs on our backs. We could not carry all the gear in one trip so the plan was to take the meat, goat hide, and non-essential gear to a point halfway to the lower lake, and then come back for the tents and everything else and take it all the way to the lower lake to set up another camp. I stuffed so much into my pack that the sides ripped slightly.
Skiing is not fun with a heavy pack on your back.
The start of our trek was not so bad because we had the partially packed trail from our sojourn the previous evening. But once we left this trail and started to break our own trail the slog began. Not only was the snow deep, but also we had to climb over and around big boulders and negotiate cliffs. We even had to climb about 200 feet above lake level to get around the cliffs associated with the creek’s canyon. At one point, to avoid having to climb all the way down into a valley and up the steep other side, we chose to negotiate a sloping, slippery ledge about 2 feet wide and 15 feet long with a big cliff beneath it. To go around through the valley would have delayed us at least an hour and we would have had to negotiate numerous small cliffs. So one at a time we crawled across, trying to not look down. We finally get to a ridge with a gentle slope and not too many rocks and we thought we had it made. We actually skied down to the creek at the bottom. Another mile of side hilling and we came to a large flat plain with considerably less snow. The plain is about 800 feet below the upper lakes. According to the map, we are less than halfway down, but it appeared we had negotiated the worst of it. Seemed like a good place to cache the goat meat, hide and non-essentials, and head back up to the lake for the rest of our camp.
Hiking in deep snow with a heavy pack is worse than skiing in deep snow with a heavy pack.
To save weight, and since we figure we already have a broken in a trail, we leave our skis with the cache, and head back up to the upper lake camp. Even though it is mostly uphill, what a relief to hike with an empty pack! Back at camp we pack up the tents and spend a considerable amount of time figuring out how to tie the ungainly coolers onto the packs. Digging the tents out of the snow is not easy either, and getting the guy line pins out from under rocks that have frozen in place got a little frustrating. When we’re done there is a huge crater in the snow where the tents had been set up. We finally packed up all the odds and ends and coolers and headed back down the trail. The sun even came out for a bit. We negotiated the slippery ledge for a third time and postholed on down to the meat cache. I particularly remember the side hill for the last mile before the meat cache. I postholed up to my knees with every other step. At the meat cache we repack our bags leave the coolers and put the skis back on. We feel like we are making good time and will be at the lower lake well before dark.
Creeks while nice routes for short distances are associated with ravines, cliffs and waterfalls.
At first, skiing on the flat creek plain, we make good time. To avoid what on the map looks like a waterfall we climb a hundred feet or so out of the valley. My brother wants to continue following the creek all the way to the lake – it is a more direct route and does not look bad. The flat, gravel creek bottom far below looks particularly enticing. I want to go the long way around the backside of a valley bowl on the hillside, staying high above the alders until we are just above the lake, and only then descend the short distance to the lake. Thank God I was stubborn. We later determine that the hillside to the main creek bottom is riddled with cliffs and alder, as is the final stretch of the creek bottom to the lake. If we had gone that way, we probably would not have made it to the lake until the next day. But for a while everyone is convinced that I picked the bad route as we side hill around the valley bowl and are forced to cross two fairly deep ravines. Each is 50 to 100 feet deep, but has steep, slippery sides. By this point we are whacked-out tired and any sort of climb is agony. We have left the snow and have put the skiis back on the packs – ptarmigan are everywhere. I have never seen such a large flock.
Thick alders and salmonberry are the worst Kodiak has to offer.
Finally, after another climb to avoid alders, we get to the ridge above the lake. The lake is just below us and it looks like a short, easy hike down. Turns out we should have headed straight down, but the alders and salmonberry are less thick on the ridge so we continue on the ridge for as long as we can. It soon gets very bad. At one point while fighting the thick brush I almost step off a sheer 100-foot cliff. Skiis are hanging up on alders, and the salmonberries bushes are holding back the legs. It is a struggle to move forward. We cut towards the lake and it actually gets worse – big boulders with spaces between them and thick alders. No one breaks a leg and we finally make it to the lakeshore just at dusk.
Complicated tents are hell to set up when one is mentally and physically finished.
At the lake we walk along the shore for a couple of hundred yards to a flat grassy area at the head of the lake. Luckily for us there is the perfect campsite at hand because we would not have had the time or energy to go looking for one. We set up tents in the gloaming and the wind chills us down quickly. I barely get my tent up before I am shaking with cold. I huddle in my sleeping bag to warm up. Dicky and Scott have a harder time with their tent. In their state of diminished mental abilities they can’t seem to get the poles into the right sleeves. I hear them cursing me as they set up the tent two or three times before they get it right. Later, we do warm up and eat dinner by the lakeshore. The wind has picked up and it is cold. The lack of whiskey is sorely noticed, and the percocet in the medical kit seriously considered. Patrick
Saturday, April 21, 2007
The title of this post refers to the weather in Kodiak of late. Last Thursday we finally made it to the 100 inch snow total for the whole winter out at the airport. We had been stuck at 98.3 inches total for what seemed like forever. And then in two days we got 7 inches. But since yesterday evening its been all rain in town and at the airport. But this is good up on the mountain where it has been all snow - do you get the 'nasty but nice' thing now?
This is a picture I took today while skiing on Pyramid, and it really does not do the storm justice. You can't tell that it is blowing 40 and the snow crystals feel a sandblaster pointed at my face. But it does give the sense of what skiing in a partial whiteout is like. Up higher on the mountain I bagged taking more photos because it was a complete whiteout. You'd see a rock or some other such black object and just gravitate towards it because it is the only thing you could see. I figure the audience of this web site does not deserve the visual of a black dot in a complete field of white.
In the last 2 days over 2 feet of snow have fallen on Pyramid and probably over 8 feet in April alone. It's getting weird up there - no alders showing and small trees completely buried. Huge drifts and cornices where I have never seen them before. The weirdest thing is that up above 2000 feet we actually have relatively little snow because all our storms have been on the cool side and the snow has all blown away up high. But between 500 and 1500 feet it is epic. PGS
Friday, April 20, 2007
On a goat hunt the adventure does not end until you are back in town.
I actually don’t remember dinner or whether or not we had some whiskey, but I’m sure we had a tot and some food. I do remember lying in my sleeping bag, warm and very happy to be at rest. I mused about what we had accomplished. We got the goat! The hard part is over – now we just enjoy the high country and go skiing until the plane arrives at the lake. I am awakened from my reveries by Dicky yelling to wake me up. He hears something outside and is convinced it’s a bear come to take the goat away. So we get up, leave our warm shelters and check things outside. It’s dark and the wind is coming up. No bear that we can see.
On every goat hunt in Kodiak’s high alpine there is a least one bad storm.
A few hours later Dicky wakes me up again. It’s snowing and blowing hard. Dicky is worried about the goat meat. That evening when we’d got back to camp we had simply dropped the meat and hide by a rock near camp, intending to better take care of it the next day. Now Dicky is worried about the meat getting buried, and lost in the snow. So we get up again and make a meat stash, wrapping the meat in a tarp and putting rocks over it. Good thing we did because we wake up in the morning to 2 feet of new snow and deep drifts.
Good idea to bring dried fruit and cliff bars on a goat hunt – food you can eat in your tent and not have to cook.
In the morning the wind is slapping snow against the tent and making weird banshee noises overhead, and there is no way I am leaving my tent. I got a Bibler single wall tent that is built like a brick house. It barely wiggles in the high wind behind the stonewall we built when we set up camp. All morning I subsist on cliff bars, dried fruit, and water from my pack. I use an empty nalgene to handle the plumbing issues. I curl up and read my book. I did not bring a full-length sleeping pad and am using all my clothes and gear as insulation from the ice below the tent. I have to roll over every 2 hours or so when my hip gets sore. Every once in a while I doze off. I watch the snow build up against the sides. Things are good in my tent.
Single wall tents are drier than tents with flies in a blizzard.
Not so in the other tent. The wind has been blowing snow up under their fly and it has been melting on the roof, and dripping down into the tent. Dicky and Scott are living in a humid swamp. When the wind shakes the tent it sends down a light mist of precipitation from the ceiling that slowly soaks Dicky, Scott and their bedding. They decide to evacuate, create a snow shelter and cook something up to eat. Dicky tries to convince me to leave my cocoon and join them. He is peeved when I refuse to budge from the nest. He finally gives up on me and joins Scott building the fort. Their voices join that of the storm outside, and off and on for the next few hours I catch isolated phrases and mumblings of their conversation. I doze on in the mellow light shining through the walls of the yellow tent while the storm rages overhead.
Snow caves beat forts for a kitchen in a blizzard.
Eventually, in the early afternoon, I do get up and venture outside. It is a completely different world than yesterday. Snow has covered all the familiar landmarks and has obscured the horizon in a whiteout blizzard. I find Dicky and Scott huddled up in a big pit with a constant stream of snow blowing in from on top. I can’t believe they have stuck it out for so long in such a miserable shelter. It is barely possible to cook. But we all agree that the skiing ought to be great when the storm lets up. While getting water by the lake I notice that the old snow overhangs the lake water, creating a sort of cave. I check it out further and notice that there is no wind under the ice overhang. So after convincing Dicky and Scott to leave their hard won ‘shelter’ we move our kitchen to the lakeshore under the overhang.
Albeit heavy, Dinty Moore stew sure is tasty.
The new ‘snow’ kitchen is quite comfortable and we eat a large meal and delve into the whiskey. We watch the falling snow turn the surface of the lake into an icy mush. And we begin to wonder what will we do if the lake freezes over? If the lake freezes over we will have to move camp to the lake at 271 feet above sea level for floatplane pickup. Big gusts swirl the falling snow out over the surface of the lake but nary a puff reaches us. We eat, drink hot fluids, and pass around the whiskey bottle. We are making a concerted effort to eat up all our heavy food first.
Never, ever finish the whiskey until you are sure there will be no more adversity!
Late in the afternoon we decide to explore our immediate environs and get some exercise. The snow has let up a bit and it seems like a good time to check out the beginning of the route down to the low country. So we strap on our skis and head out to circumnavigate the small knoll behind camp. The snow is so deep that we are forced to wallow in single file and the guy in front has to break trail through the deep snow. We do not go very far, but do determine that the direct route down is a no go because a granite cliff drops sheer into the lake. We will have to backtrack up around the hill behind camp before heading down to the low country. After our ski we retire to the snow cave to eat, ponder our plans, and finish the whiskey. The lake is not yet frozen over, but the temperatures are dropping, the lake is already ‘mushing over’ and it looks like freeze-up is imminent. We decide to move camp down to the lake at 271 feet above sea level, and will start our move in the morning. Our scheduled pickup is in two days, and we figure it will take that long to get all our gear down to the lower lake. There is a sense of severe disappointment that we will not be able to hang out and enjoy the snow while we wait for the float plane to arrive. Patrick
Several weeks ago I received a mass mailing letter from Premera Blue Cross stating that their coverage for my policy was going to change, effective May 1, 2007. Reading through the list of changes, "ambulance services" caught my attention. As of May 1, 2007, there will be NO cap on ambulance services under the plan I'm on. Its good that someone saw the light and changed that portion of the plan. I wrote a letter to Premera requesting that this change of plan be made retroactive to Feb 9th, when we took the "ambulance" ride to Anchorage. We'll wait and see what happens.
I'm in the final stages of my breast milk donor application. I have to wait for a blood test kit from the Milk donation group and 3 weeks after that I'll be ready to start. I"m starting to stack up the milk in my freezer. When I asked Mary Jane and Alexis if I was crazy for wanting to do this, they reassured me that I'm not. I'm so curious about the whole process and it seems like a much cooler way to help people in other countries rather then sending money. You never really know where your money goes to. I know that breasmilk, however, would end up in the tummies of babies in South Africa! So cool.
Once I'm given the go ahead to start, the International Breastmilk Project people send me 1 day fed ex boxes with coolers and I can start. The milk will initially be sent to a center in California and then once a month or so I believe they send it all together to Africa. (Zoya)
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Every day after work and my afternoon ski I take the doggies and Nora for a walk. Usually we hike in Abercrombie and enjoy the trails through the old growth spruce forest. But lately I have been climbing down to the beach on the steps by the Rasmussen's housing project just before the park entrance and hiking back along the beach to just below the Anderson's house where I climb back up. This hike is tide dependant and a few times I did get a little wet (at high tide the water rises right up to the base of the cliff). Nora and the dogs love the change in scenery, and the dogs always go for a swim and fight over sticks. Nora loves to watch the dogs tussle in the water and squeels with glee. Patrick
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The past week there have been some funny moments at our household. Nora is growing into a little person right before our eyes. A few nights ago, Patrick and I were sitting in the living room with Stuart and Nora was toddling around the house being "busy"...moving things from here to there, reading, etc... Nora walked in the room proudly with a small cup of water and stood at the coffee table as she sipped on it.
I looked up at Patrick and said, "did you give that to her?".
He said, "No, I thought you gave it to her?"
I said, "Maybe we should check by the toilet to see if there are water drippings on the floor".
Sure enough, there were. We believe that Nora sees the dog drinking from the toilet and she must think its ok to do! We kindly told her that its not good to drink the toilet water.
A few nights ago it was a balmy 45 degrees and Patrick was going to work on the garden so Nora came with to play in the driveway/garden. Boy did she ever have fun in the dirt! She is hooked on mud puddles. A few times she came close to laying down in the mud puddle-she LOVED splashing in them, throwing rocks and watching the dogs. She is an ourdoors girl at heart! Patrick loves it. Actually, both of us love having a daughter who loves to play in dirt and splash in mud puddles. ( The bottom photo was taken before she went inside for a bath!)
At meals, Patrick and I believe it is important for us to sit together at the table. Occasionally Patrick or I will serve her food, get her seated then walk around the kitchen doing other things, or Patrick may be on the computer for a few more minutes. As of late, Nora, calls our attention and points to the empty chairs next to her. She has our number! She reminds us to come sit next to her at the table. Good for her. She keeps us focused on our goal of eating together as a family. (Zoya)
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
No lesson here – Tyvek is GREAT goat camo.
Predawn gloaming and we are up and cooking breakfast. Freezing cold, but Orion’s Belt hangs above us, and there is the promise of blue skies above. The expected storm had held off for another day! High level of excitement – we will get a goat today. My brother dons his white tyvek goat camo and along with his 30- 06 the mood is complete; he is so much the goat hunter that Scott and I can’t help but laugh. The white camo is somehow incongruous and hilarious. We opt not to take the skiis and head out in ski boots with our packs to harvest a goat. We figure they’ll still be just at the other end of the lake.
Goats do roam.
After much excitement and low-profile creeping through the boulders to where we saw the goats the previous evening we determine that I was wrong, and that, just perhaps, goat do travel at night. There are no goats on the far side of the lake. We contemplate our next move and watch a bear approach our camp far below and on the far side of the lake. Do we need to beat feet and defend the homeland? But as we watch through binoculars the bear winds our camp and walks precisely around the perimeter – avoiding our camp altogether. We decide to leave the goatless immediate area, and opt to go to where we saw the herd of goats from the plane. To do this we need to cross a valley, climb a mountain and cross a glacier. It’s already late morning – time to get cracking.
Good choice – we would never have got a goat if we had gone back to camp.
So we cross the valley and climb the glacier, and then climb down 1000 feet on the other side to a bench where we hope the goats are located. It’s already early afternoon and we need to turn around and get headed back to camp soon. We reach the critical spot near where we saw the goats the day before from the air and Dicky creeps ahead alone to find the goats. Scott and I joke and watch Dicky do his thing in white camo with a gun. Meanwhile the two of us spot a lone goat sleeping on the flats at the base of the cliff below. A little later Dicky comes back making hand signals which Scott and I do not understand – then talks loudly when he gets near us to explain what he tried to signal. Turns out he has not seen anything. We quiet him quickly and point out the goat.
The fun is over once the goat is down.
Decision time – do we shoot the goat? The goat is another 700 feet below us at the base of a very steep slope, it is getting late and we are a long ways from camp. We consult the map and determine that the goat is just barely in our permit area. Not much of a decision – of course we will shoot the goat because that is why we are here. So Dicky creeps off down the cliff and Scott and I kill time while surreptitiously watching the goat and Dicky on his vector course. Scott and I are totally paranoid about spooking the goat and are afraid to even show the tops of our heads. For us the stalk is painful, we are sure the goat will suddenly wake up and then bound away. And he does sit up. Oh where is Dicky! And then the shot; the goat is dead! And then, as Scott put it so eloquently just after we watched Dicky shoot the goat, ‘the fun part is over’.
Goats can be big and heavy.
In its death throws the goat managed to get with about 5 feet of the permit area boundary. And it is a huge goat. We had read all the literature and expected something on the side of a ‘big deer’ – according to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game the average nanny goat weighs 160 lbs and the average Billy goat 200 lbs. The goat we found on the ground was more on the scale of small white cow - 350 rather than the expected 200 pounds. And we have a 1500-foot cliff to climb. On our return to Kodiak we discovered that Dicky had shot the largest goat ever harvested on Kodiak Island. Big enough that it is even mentioned to this day on the ADF&G website on their section about hunting mountain goats (http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=goathunt.kodiak). We would also later discover that 12-year-old Billy goats are tough as leather and taste like old tires (normal sized goats are about the tastiest meat to be found on Kodiak).
Always keep the goat hide – you’ll appreciate the extra effort later.
We slowly came to the stunned realization that maybe getting this thing cut up and back to camp would be difficult. Slightly panicked, I immediately declared that we would not keep the hide – only the meat. I figured that this would reduce the load from about 200 lbs to 150 lbs. I was also worried about the time, and had never skinned a goat. It intimidated me. But Dicky wanted to keep the hide – he had visions of a goat rug in front of the fireplace. So with Scott keeping watch for bears and Dicky as assistant surgeon, I figured out how to butcher the goat and keep the skin intact. We actually did it rather quickly, finishing in an hour and ten minutes.
Good frame packs make carrying a heavy load of meat easier.
So we packed up the meat and hide. All the gear went into Scott’s internal frame pack while some goat meat and the hide went on a small external frame and then the remaining 100 pounds or so went into a large, yellow dry bag that had no frame at all – just straps. Humping the yellow dry bag was so bad that Dicky and I had to alternate carrying it. Climbing up the cliff was truly the Hump from Hell. And scary too, at one point we traversed a slippery ledge above an enormous chasm. The steep part ended, but then we had to trudge up the snowfield for what seemed like forever. I’d look back and see Dicky head bent grunting it out, and realized that for me, it was no better, just one step at a time, and agony always. We’d both look up and see Scott far ahead peering back and waiting for us. After the agony of the ascent we had a steep descent that worked entirely different muscles. To make matters worse, the external frame pack started to come apart. But we got across the valley, climbed the glacier we had skied on the day before and got to camp just at sunset. Totally whacked, we barely had enough energy to cook dinner or even drink whiskey.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Judging by these photos that my brother scanned our parents were quite the skiiers - Probably Mount Baker near Seattle in the mid to early 1960s. It's kind of funny that these days I am doing the same sort of thing here in Kodiak but on Pyramid and Heitman instead of Mount Baker and Ranier. I can't wait to carry Nora up the mountain and see what she makes of the snow, and ski back down. I guess the apple does not fall too far from the tree. The two kids pictured are my brother Dicky and sister Polly. Amazing how much the old downhill gear looks like old school tele gear. People often think I'm ski and snow obsessed; now I can tell them that it is not my fault. It is in my DNA. Patrick
Saturday, April 14, 2007
When I first met Patrick, he did many ski races in Anchorage every winter. Boy did he train hard for them. Lots of skiing, interval training and weight training. Ella and I did the Tour of Anchorage ski race with Patrick in 2002-it was fun to finish the race-boy was it exhausting. 16 miles Ella and I did. 52 Kilometers Patrick did.
Then Patrick went on some downhill adventures for several years, taking him away from training for a cross country race. He hasn't done any races for several years-neither have I.
This spring Patrick and I are feeling like getting back into the training mind set for next winter. We want to do the Tour of Anchorage again. Patricks brother, Dicky, and my sister Ella may even come up and do it with us. It would give us something to work towards, which I think is a fantastic motivater....especially if "competing" with our siblings is involved. Our friends Julie and Ray and Jeremy and Karen would also be interested in doing the large Anchorage race as well.
My plan is to do spinning, weight training, hiking, jogging, skiing in the next year to come to prepare. Training for a cross country ski race here can be seen as challenging, because there are no groomed trails. However, this can be seen as a training advantage because it takes strength to plow through the snow to create a trail of ones own. Patrick has never seen the lack of cross country ski trails as a disadvantage in his training. He found that his race times improved once he moved here from Wisconsin (where there were LOTS of groomed trails).
Patrick quickly snapped the photo today as the kiddos and I were sitting in the recliner together. Nora spent 3 hours today with our friend Patty Mahoney while we were skiing and Stuey was with Meg, the mommy helper back at the house. Nora had a fun time with Patty and discovered the art of dusting-she was fascinated with Pattys feather duster. :)
Today a group of us went on a 'multi-media' ski tour to Heitman Lake. By multi media I mean gear intensive. Zoya and I started out on telemark gear (me) and All Terrain downhill ski gear (Zoya). I carried classic cross county skiis for she and I on my back up to the frozen, snow covered lake.
John Mahoney hiked up on snowshoes, while Gregg, Lisa and Sharon used AT and Tele for a continued tour to the tops of Raymond and Heitman Peaks. It was good to see Zoya on downhill gear again and tomarrow we plan on skiing Pyramid. The skate skiing at the lake was phenomenal. I flew around the lake and, since the alders around the lake were mostly covered, I could go anywhere. Up down and all around. Quite the ski. Patrick
Friday, April 13, 2007
Getting Big Brother’s Goat, October 2000
Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back at my brother’s goat hunt it’s obvious that we did make a lot of mistakes. It was one of those adventures that you remember as a good time, but was a brutal slog in reality. It was our first Kodiak goat hunt. Since then I’ve gone on a great many goat hunts, and none of them have been quite as much fun. We learned a lot on that hunt.
Best time to hunt goats in the high alpine is in September.
To hunt goats on Kodiak you need to enter a lottery to win a ‘goat hunting’ permit. I convinced my brother to enter the lottery with me and he won a tag. Perhaps this is why we made our first and biggest mistake. Since it was my brother’s tag we decided to go in late October rather than earlier in the fall when it is warmer and the weather is far better. But my brother wanted to wait until the end of the sailing season in Maine. We reasoned that by waiting till late October the snow cover would also be better for skiing. This was how we convinced my brother’s friend Scott Carlson to join us. Scott was not interested in hunting goats but a backcountry ski trip seemed reasonable. We envisioned a ski trip up in Kodiak’s alpine that would also double as a goat hunt.
Hunt or ski – but do not try and do both on one trip.
So October rolls around and brother Dicky and his friend Scott arrive on Kodiak. We consult with the floatplane pilot and learn that most of the lakes up high have already frozen over so we amend our plan to land at a lake near sea level. We reason we’ll set up a base camp and then hike up into the alpine with a lightweight ‘spike’ camp to hunt for brother’s goat. . We had read in magazines how goat hunters use spike camps and it seemed like a good idea. We also decided that since we were going to use a base camp, why not make it a cushy base camp. With this in mind we packed up coolers with Dinty Moore stew and brought two large tents – one for base camp and one for our spike camp.
‘Spike’ camps never work out as planned.
We fly out of the floatplane dock in Trident Basin on a spectacular fall day - the sort of day that pushes the coming of winter out of your immediate thinking. We definitely took the weather for granted. We flew down to our permit area at the head of Ugak Bay, and Rolan the pilot did a few turns over the area to help us get a feel for the country and see where the goats were situated. We see lots of glaciers, exposed granite rock, and plenty of snow. We even spy a herd of goats. It was perfect country for an adventurous goat hunt and even enough snow for some skiing on the side. From the plane we also spot many good access routes up and down from the alpine to the low country. It all looked quite easy from the air.
It always looks easier from the air.
Circling the high peaks in the plane we noticed that the lakes in the high country were not frozen over – so we debated our options and decided to land at a lake at 2300 feet rather than one at 271 feet. We reasoned that if our high lake froze over, we could always climb down to the lower lake. After all, it is less than 4 miles from the high lake to the lower lake and we had seen the whole route from the plane. Most importantly, the only goats we had seen were a long ways from the lower lake.
Always have your plan ‘B’ worked out before you leave on the trip.
We land, take our picture with the floatplane, and find a place to camp - what a glorious place. There is still old snow from last year piled up next to the lake. It turns out the area is all granite boulders and the only flat ground is on the old snow by the lake. So we carve out a campsite on the snow, and do something smart. We build rock walls around our tents. At the time it seemed like overkill, but we had enough experience to understand how hard it can blow in the alpine.
Enjoy it while it is good – the best part of the trip is often the prelude to the ‘main attraction’.
After setting up camp, we cannot hunt because it is illegal to hunt goats the same day you were airborne, so we go for a ski reconnoiter. What a glorious place! The snow is a bit challenging with a stiff breakable crust, and we all take a few diggers. But it is October and we are skiing. We climb up to the top of a 3500-foot pinnacle and even see a bear running away far down on the other side. Cliffs, glaciers, big vistas, and we are there. On our ski back to camp we even spot two goats at the other end of the lake from camp. We returned to camp with the highest expectations for the next day. Over dinner and whiskey I assured both my brother and Scott that ‘of course the goats would still be there in the morning – they don’t travel at night’.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
For a blast from the past I thought I'd share these photos that I scanned as slides for Wayne Biessel the ranger for Kodiak State Parks - including Abercrombie. It seems we've come a long way from just the late 1970's. Back in the day people lived out at Abercrombie and it was a rocking party spot.
This was true of many of the old WWII structures everywhere around town. During the king crab days housing was short so people lived where they could. Bunkers were a great place to fix up as an apartment - usually a bunch of guys would share space and cooking duties. I gather it was not until the late 1970s possibly early 1980s that the Coast Guard kicked everybody out of the old elephant bunkers in Swampy Acres. Today they are all locked up tight.
Abercrombie was no different. Somebody probably lived in that bus. People camped out there and then commuted to town to work in the canneries.
Abercrombie was also quite the party spot. Legend has it that each senoir class tried to fill a particular bunker with beer cans. To this day, some of those former Kodiak High senoirs are still proud of how much their class filled the bunker up.
Today Abercrombie is a much tidier place. The trails are maintained and people visit daily to walk their dogs and commune with nature. Only the ranger and his family live there year round. In the summer people picnic and swim in the lake. While occasionally a few wild-eyed 'senoirs' still do make their presence known, the park is a tranquil place. It has come a long way in 25 years. Patrick
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Stuey is over 2 months old now and 14 pounds. He is my little chunker-rubber band wrists, thighs, arms...little fat rolls everywhere. So kissable!
Nights are going better and better-he sleeps 3-4 hour chunks routinely now. Yeee-haa!! Feels good to finally get some rest.
Thats not to say that evenings/nights are always good-last night was an example. Patrick went off to a meeting and Stuart and Nora were both crying at one point right when Nora went to bed. Then Stuey proceeded to cry for 1/2 hour after Nora went to bed. Kind of unusual for him-he was really upset and I wasn't sure why. Finally it passed and he went to sleep-but it not before I chewed my nails off and comfort ate (dried mangos-not too bad for myself-I suppose).
Parenting is filled with those moments of frusturation/angst where you can't do much to alleviate a situation except ride the wave. Fortunately it is balanced out by joyous moments as well-such as Nora laughing, learning something new, giving me a big hug...Stu smiling. It all balances out.
I've been stroller walking every day with different friends, which is fantastic to get outside! One day with Alisa, one day with Roxann, today with Karen. So fun to catch up with friends and get exercise at the same time! :) (ZAS)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Yesterday I drove out to Pasagshak for work. Brechan is paving the road and they need my help to make sure they are not damaging archaeological sites. It was sunny in town and all my co-workers were envious of my lark out the roadsystem. I do not think they quite believed me when I told them it was misty and dreery just 30 miles away on the East side of the Island.
On the way there I saw these Trumpeter Swans (not 100% sure of the ID but sure look like it) hanging out with another 7 Tundra Swans on Rose Tead Lake. The swans wintered on Rose Tead, but I also saw masses of ducks and other migratory birds. The spring migration is beginning and kodiak is one of their main way points where they stop and recharge their batteries after flying across the Gulf of Alaska. By early May Kodiak is awash in migratory birds and heaven for serious bird watchers.
I did not find any threatenned archaeological sites and then on the way home I went for a ski at Pasagshak Pass. It was flurrying and whiteout. Driving home Pyramid was clear, and I wished I had not already gone skiing! But I took Nora and the doggies down to the beach instead.
The bottom photo is the beach and community of Pasagshak. This is where many of the out of town guests stayed during Zoya and I's wedding. Yesterday on the beach was a far cry from the halycon days of late August. Patrick