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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Saw Dust Pile: A Crabfest Tradition

I am a Kodiak girl; born and raised here. And now I am raising my kids here. A strong memory growing up was doing the sawdust pile at Crab Fest. This is where the Lions Club sprinkle coins into a pile of Sawdust and let kids dig and find it all!
 This was the first year Patrick and I  took the kids and they had a blast. It was done in phases by age: younger kids first followed by older kids. I think Nora and Stuey enjoyed watching the other kids during their turns just as much as they did digging in the pile.
Afterwards, Noras boots were completely full of sawdust. Now when the kids take off their boots in the house, there are still remnants of sawdust which come onto our entry way carpet. I think I"ll be seeing bits and pieces of the pile for quite some time. Its ok-it was worth it!


Messing about on the beach

On Saturday I took the kids down to the beach with some friends.  Glorious day and it was low tide.  The highlight of the day ended up being 'wading into the surf and filling your boots up with sand and water'.  The kids did this over and over again.  Filling up the boots when a wave came in and then rushing back to the beach to empty their boots.

Stuey posing as if he's in a Sorolla Y Bastida painting on the beach in Valencia, Spain.  Only he's wearing Xtra Tuffs and has no skirt to hold up.

Nora and Stuey playing with their out of town friends, Mila and Phoebe.

 Boots  FULL of sand and water afterwards=Good times!


New life for an old discipline

Yesterday I used for the first time a new set of tele downhill ski gear, and I couldn't be happier with my purchase.  It is extraordinarily light and works like a charm.  Lately I had sort of given up using tele gear because it was so heavy.  Instead I'd switched over to the much lighter AT downhill gear (where you lock your heels down).  I prefer the free heel of the tele gear - especially for the downhills but AT gear has been just so much lighter.  My old tele gear weighs 6 pounds more than my AT gear - that is 3 pounds more per foot!  No wonder I found myself dragging up the mountain in my tele gear and seemingly flying on up in the AT gear.

The irony is that tele gear used to be light and portable.  If you wanted to get back into the backcountry you used tele gear and locked heels on skis was reserved for the ski areas.  All that changed sometime in the 90's when tele gear switched to plastic boots and became popular.  All of a sudden people started to tele ski at ski areas and the gear started to get heavy.  At the same time, AT or Rondonnee gear which has a free heel for ascents and a locked down heel for descents started to show up in the backcountry.  And it started to get lighter and lighter.  Best of all AT gear has much more comfortable lighter boots, releasable bindings, and a totally free boot with no heel compression (like with Tele) for the ascents.

A couple of years ago I tried to upgrade my tele gear and found I could not get any lighter than my old gear.  Nor could I buy lightweight releasable bindings.  I was stuck with super heavy burley tele gear perfect for resorts but bad for the backcountry - exactly the opposite of what tele gear used to be.

And then came yesterday.  My new tele skis, boots, bindings and skins weigh the same or a little less than my AT gear and they are over 6 pounds lighter than my old tele skis.  And that's because most of my new 'tele' gear is actually modified 'AT' gear.  I use my old AT boots and the same Dynafit front binding - only now I have a cable extending from underfoot that I can clip onto the back of my boots for downhill descents.  I have freed my heel in AT gear!  I could not be happier!  Patrick

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stuey Graduates

 On Friday was Stuey's preschool graduation from Kodiak Baptist Mission. His teachers, Miss Ashley and Miss Lucy have been amazing this past year with amazing arts and crafts projects with the kids.
 The teachers made each kid a teeshirt that said, "preschool graduate". And they had individual diplomas for each kid.
 And the morning ended with pizza and congratulation cupcakes!
Stuey is on to kindergarten at St.Mary's in the fall!

Crab Fest 2012~creating family traditions

 The past few years Patrick has been here for Crab Fest, which has been fun as we've created family crab fest traditions. For several years in a row when the kids were even younger, Patrick was out on archaeology surveys and missed the annual 5 day festival. 
 Our family tradition starts by parking at the Alutiiq museum where there is always a guaranteed parking spot and we walk the short distance to the fair. Then we get some food, and Patrick always gets a fresh king crab to shuck the delicious meat out of and share with all of us! the kids sit and watch semi-patiently, eager to go on the rides.
After the crab and meat-on-sticks are consumed, its finally time for the rides. This year we ran into some of our friends by the kid rides and their kids. A great time was had by all!

Before heading back to the car, the kids get a ballon-on-a-stick to enjoy on the ride home and once they are at home. Nora gets Dora every year and Stuey always gets an airplane.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Quick Survey

I came back a few days early from hanging with the family in Anchorage to do a quick 2 day archaeological survey on the north end of Kodiak.  North end of Kodiak means spruce trees!  And most of our survey was conducted under the canopy of these very large trees.  

Since we were on a north facing slope and under spruce trees we had a serious problem with frozen soil.  We dig test pits to see if what looks like a site on the surface is actually an archaeological site.  For one test pit that we absolutely had to finish, we had to use a hatchet to hack through the dirt.  Needless to say, but this is not the way I like to dig test pits.  

Another 1/2 day of the survey was spent looking for an old mine shaft adit.  I had found the mine shaft on another survey last year, but we later learned there was an adit associated with the mine.  So this year I wanted to find the adit and see if it was associated with an old camp.

The adit was very difficult to find and if we had not known it was there I doubt very much we would have ever found it.  The mine was from around 1908 and all the trees had grown up on the tailings from digging the mine.  There nothing but a little hole into the moss - see below.

But once you looked inside there was a scary, long tunnel.  We did not go inside, but supposedly it extends for hundreds of feet into the hillside.  We did not find a camp, nor did we find any gear or trash associated with the mining activity.  I guess these were pretty tidy miners!  Patrick

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mainland Adventures of All Sorts

 Our trip to the mainland is officially a wrap. The kids and myself returned this morning. Patrick had to return several days ago early for an archaeology survey. We got lots of good park time in at Anchorage and Homer Parks.
 Sometimes the paparazzi at the parks was thick... (thats our friend Julie we stayed with in Anchorage!)

The scenics along the Seward Highway were gorgeous. My favorite scenic is always the glacial blue water in the Kenai River. And no, I wasn't able to capture that blue color  on my camera.

And what would be a road trip without misbehaving and some sibling rivalry? There was plenty of that to go around. Exhibit A below: Stuey intentionally annoying Nora.

A low moment of the drive was when Stuey and Nora got into a blueberry juice fight in the backseat. They each had partially full containers of Odwalla blueberry juice and it was thrown all over my car. I pulled over, they vacated the premise, there were some choice words used by myself, and the kids were promptly put on restriction from any fun "sweet" food for the rest of the trip. no cookies, ice cream or any fun summer food. I think they got it. Mommy was not happy! Fortunately the blueberry juice cleaned up cause I got it right away. Phew!

Upon arriving in Homer we visited with my Uncle Roger and Aunt Kathy and they treated us to  some amazing home cooked meals as well as fun times with Legos and Uncle Rogers Ipad....a novelty for Nora. Here Aunt Kathy helped Stuey build a dinosaur out of Legos. It was a several hour project, but a success! Bless their hearts for their patience with the little, tired, worn-out Nora and Stuey.

 In the middle of the night, we got up and sailed home on smooth ocean waters on the M/V Tustemena. (Stuey was the only force of nature to be contended with, but his punishment was not being able to go to  crab festival with Nora and myself today. He stayed behind with Patrick and they worked on the garden a bit together, which was good for him.)

On the ferry we had time with my friend Elke and her girls who were coming to Kodiak from Anchorage. The kids were all able to run around a bit together on deck and watch the boat dock.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Very Memorable Mainland Trip

 This past week after Nora's graduation, our family piled in the car for a trip to Anchorage and Homer.   The ferry ride was 9 hours and the seas were moderately  rough. Even with dramamine in their systems, Nora and Stuey  felt sick at the dining room and we retired to our bunks at 7PM to sleep off the queasies. Patrick felt unusually sick as well in the moderate seas, as he normally is able to tolerate a good swell in the waves.
 These pictures were all taken before the queasies set in.....leaving Kodiak....

 We arrived to Homer shortly after midnight for a 5 hour drive to Anchorage. The kids were awake for a bit before finally giving in to the short period of darkness and falling asleep.

I did the driving and was hoping that someplace in Homer would be open for a cup of coffee. Nothing. So we drove on and 1.5 hours later was in Soldotna where McDonalds arches glowed in the distance. COFFEE!! I wasn't tired, but didn't want the tired to sink in.
Patrick and I both ordered coffee and I learned that it IS possible to get bad coffee at Mcdonalds! I thought Mcdonalds coffee was standardized or regulated somehow....I guess not.  I ordered the iced and he the regular and both of us had really bad coffee. We stopped at a gas station for a bathroom stop and Patrick tried another cup was also bad. I suppose 2AM Coffee anywhere in Soldotna is a bad idea. We chugged down and were just grateful for caffeine at that point. If we had thought ahead enough, we would've packed a thermos of coffee for the drive.

The thing about Patrick's seasickness is that it never subsided after getting off the boat. He still felt very queasy during the car ride and would have moments of stomach pains. We attributed this to the fact that he ate a very large quantity of bacon earlier in the day, but this seamed unlike his usually strong digestive system. He would tilt his seat back in the car and main "ohhh" as he hurt.

The drive was very fun. There wasn't a single RV on the road, no construction to speak of and after 2:30 AM, the sky gradually lightened. Gotta love living in the land of the midnight sun.
Patrick and I talked in the silence of the car as the kids slept in the back and the scenery...gorgeous, of course! Mountains, rivers...
 We arrived to Anchorage at 5:15 AM and started looking around for a place to eat breakfast before going to our friends house. We didn't want to arrive to their house before 7 and had some time to kill.

We drove by Middle Way Cafe, a favorite place of mine to eat breakfast. They serve healthy, organic type of meals, smoothies, etc. We pulled into their empty parking lot and there isn't an HOURS sign on the door. Patrick made a joke about how the workers can't get to work before 9AM probably because they are watering their bean sprouts and feeding their yogurt cultures at home. Part of the humor was probably our sleep deprivation and the fact that it was so early in the morning and the whole scene of trying to find some place decent to eat was quite funny! I laughed so road trip times! The whole feel of the morning reminded me of college days when you would stay up all night and at 5AM everything is very funny.

We finally decided on village Inn and had a good breakfast, aside from the fact that a tired stuey put his feet up on the table at one point. The waitress asked Patrick if he wanted something to eat, and Patrick replied, "no I'm not feeling so good. I'm still seasick from the ferry." The waitress looked at him really funny (you could tell she was thinking, What ferry? here? In Anchorage?) and I started laughing and I said, "the ferry was 6 hours ago, honey!" I explained that we got off the ferry in Homer at midnight. Once again, 5AM Denny's humor.

The not funny part is that his "seasickness' wasn't actually seasickness but an 18 hour stomach virus, which I ended up with the next day. Hence no blog posts until now. We took turns being fairly under the weather.  It didn't put too much of a damper on our trip, however. We saw some family, friends, and our kids got some good park and play time as well. Here they play croquet with our friends Julie and Ray's two kids.
More pictures and posts to come as I play catch up!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kindergarten graduation and a slight hair malfunction

Last Friday Nora graduated from kindergarten. There was an hour long awards ceremony where the teachers of each class presented various achievement awards for the students, as well as kindness awards. Amazingly enough, the hour flew by. It was fun to watch all the different students in the school receive awards, pose for pictures, etc. The principal took turns with each class telling them they had "Graduated" to the next grade.
Nora was one of the 3 recipients in her kindergarten class of the "Golden Achievement" award, which is for academic excellence in all areas.
At the very end of the ceremony, each teacher took a moment with their students individually to whisper something in each of their ears. Nora said her teacher whispered to have a good summer and to keep reading lots. It took 10+minutes for the teachers to do this and it was fun to watch the hugs and moment of connection between the teachers and their students.

And no, Nora's hair did not look like that when we arrived at the church. That somehow happened in the 10 minutes between us arriving and her sitting with her friends in the front pew. It was quite the disheveled/mad scientist look! 

In a very rainy morning, right after the service, I drove Nora and her good friend N. down to the museum so Nora could show Patrick the diploma and awards.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

A beach of sorts. ... . .

I can already hear Zoya groaning as she reads over my blog post, 'not more pictures of snow'.  And yesterday I did promise myself that I would not post any more snow pictures for a while.  But I could not resist.  Actually, the reason I did decide to post more pictures of snow is because yesterday Nora was reading the 'baby blog' (her name for printed out versions of our blog) from last spring, and left it on the couch.  I found myself reading it and checking out the snow conditions for last May.  I noticed that my last skate ski last year was May 2 - so we really are doing better this year.

I like how our blog is a record of years past, and decided that I might as well show my future self what I was up to in mid May in 2012.  Hey - it may bore Zoya and you the reader, but it wont bore me next time I read it!

So here are some pictures from yesterday and what I suspect will be my final skate ski of the year.  Today it is raining, and as it is I could barely ski to the road yesterday.  It's time to complete the transition to downhill skiing.  Patrick

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Converting my skate skis to classic skis

Lately it has been freezing at night and setting up the crust on top of the snow up at the pass.  But by the time I get up there after work the snow and crust has softened up down low by the road, and it is difficult to skate ski up the hills to where the crust is still good.  So yesterday I brought along mini little climbing skins and put them on the bottom of my skate skis for the climb up to a spruce tree covered plateau where the crust cruising is still sublime.

For the skins I cut in half a left over strip from trimming my downhill climbing skins.  The skins have a reusable stick surface on one side and 'reverse hair' on the other.  The hair allows one to walk in skis up pretty darn steep slopes.  To turn my skate skis into classic skis I just use a short, 18 inches or so, piece of skin directly under and slightly forward of my boot.  I then use hockey tape to wrap around the front and back edge of the mini skin to keep it from peeling up (I have already removed the tape in the above photo).

Then off I go using the skis just like classic nordic skis.  With the soft corn snow on top of a pretty solid base it was very easy going.  I had a bomber kick and I was amazed at how well the skis glided along.  I climbed 300 feet or so and cruised in and among the spruce trees until I got as high up the mountain as I wanted to get.  Then I peeled of the tape and skins and converted my skis back into skate skis. If you look closely below you can see my classic ski tracks in the distance and then my skate tree tracks in the foreground - this is where I converted my skis back into skate skis.

Then it was off to the races.  I skate skied all around and slowly lost elevation until I was back at the car.  The snow was a tad bit soft but I did not mind because it made it easier to snow plow when i wanted to slow down.  I was even doing parallel turns in my skate skis on downhills.

Only bad side of the day was that I got back to the car and found that the clutch did not work.  I had to hitchhike back into town and call a tow truck.  Good thing I got in a good ski or that might have made me GRUMPY.   Patrick