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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Great Blue

Kodiak continues to have GREAT snow and cross country skiing. Right now we have 28 inches on the ground at the airport, and it is supposed to snow again tonight. We are up to 85 inches of snow total for the season. That is a lot.

Snow on the ground makes Kodiak seem like a much brighter place. The snow reflects the light and even at night it seems lighter. Exercise helps the mood too - and when there is snow on the ground I get to ski. Some winters we have no snow and while usually warmer it is so much more depressing - grey brown and no light. YUCK! But not this year - this year we got it great. I feel like snow and cold and exercise is good for my mood - Patrick's mental medication. It must be said - I am in a very good mood this winter. Patrick

Photos: I took these photos today while on my daily afternoon ski. The bottom 2 were taken at the parking lot at the outlet to Buskin Lake. I did not need to go skiing to take those pictures. The top photo is of a great blue heron that I surprised on some open water on the creeks that feed into Buskin Lake.

Pia's Classic~Learning about Who Pia was

When in Anchorage for the Pia's Classic Ski race, Patrick and I learned about the legacy of the Pia's Classic race name.
AMH, a wonderful local ski supply store in Anchorage, sponsors the race every year. We are frequent customers of the store and learned that the owners daughter was named Pia and was killed in a climbing accident when she was 15. On the Pias Classic website, there is a link to "Learning about who Pia was". I cut and paste it below:

Pia-Margrethe Denkewalter was born April 9, 1981, and died in a climbing accident on Byron Glacier August 4, 1996 at age 15.
Pia was she was an avid outdoor sports enthusiast and a student at West High. She excelled in many sports, participating in cross country skiing and track at West High, and she participated in training groups and camps in those sports. She was also a soccer player with Team Alaska. She had just discovered mountain biking when she died. Pia was a fierce competitor who was always eager to try something new.

Her family, Paul and Mary Kaye Denkewalter, and sisters, Ingrid and Grethe, remember this about her:

Pia loved reading, particularly history. Her flare for fashion was one of her trademarks. She also was a movie buff, memorizing lines, scenes and musical scores from dozens of movies – Monty Python was her favorite. A musician for many years, she played the violin.

Pia was a perfectionist who refused to do anything halfway - she was proud of being a 4.0 student at West High School. Always a lady, she had no qualms about speaking out for what she believed. Pia set goals for herself and worked tirelessly to achieve them.

Her friends, who treasured her enthusiasm and her sense of humor, will miss the way Pia could always make them laugh. Her wit and outlook on life frequently took center stage whenever friends and family were gathered. She was a loyal and steady friend. She will always be remembered by her family and many friends who loved her.

Her father, Paul, is a kind and familiar face at AMH when Patrick and I have gone there over the years. Patrick asks him questions about wax, trail conditions, gear, etc. During my 5K race, the course took us past Pia's overlook, where there is a bench overlooking Cook Inlet and a sign that reads, "Pias Overlook". This year there was a wreath hanging on the bench. As I skiied past it, I thought of Pia, and her family and a fear tears welled in my eyes.

As a mother, I was filled with thoughts of love for Pia's family, her sudden loss and reminded of how precious time with our kids are. Patrick said that before the start of the race, the announcers talked about Pia and how the race was named after her. AMH donated high quality Arteryx hats to all the participants as well as a lot of ski-gear door prizes after the race.

What a wonderful way of honoring the memory of Pia and giving those who never knew her a chance to celebrate her spirit.



Patrick shortly after the finish. Quite tired!
The start of the womens 15K. Julie is...#220. Third from the right in front.
Julie before the start of the race. Cool face mask! Lots of people were wearing air filter devices and face covers, as the temperature was -3. (I frost-nipped my ears!!).
A tree covered in Frost.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Anchorage Ski Race Weekend

This weekend Patrick and I went to Anchorage for a ski race and to visit friends and family. We skiied in the Pias Classic Cross Country Ski race. I did the 5K and Patrick did the 30K. Our friend Julie did the 15K. The race was today-weather was a balmy -3 degrees...brrr. We all survived the cold and had fun racing. Patrick and Julie were much more serious about their races, than I was. My mom came and met us at the finish, which was fun as well! Its always fun to have someone cheering when you cross the finish line. She and I cheered Patrick on as he crossed the finish line.

Patrick did the 30K in 1:54 (he achieved his goal of doing it under 2 hours!). I did the 5K in 26 minutes and placed 29th out of 47 racers.

The night before the race we went out to dinner with Ray and Julie. We ended up being at the restaurant for 3 hours as we ate, talked and laughed. Today after the race we went to their house and took a hot tub outside, which felt SO good after being in the cold. Muscles needed it!

While we have said less-than-nice things about Anchorage in the past, it must be said there are lots of good things about Anchorage. Good friends, family, restaurants, ski races...and hot tubs after races!! What a fun weekend it was.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Snow Candy & Pajama Day gone Bad

Recently when reading Little House on the Prairie to the kids, there was a section on the Ingalls' girls making snow candy. Nora immediately asked if we could try it, and Patrick was enthusiastic about it, so they did it! We googled the recipe on-line and it ended up being quite simple and yummy. Mixed together maple syrup and butter till it boiled for several minutes then poured it over a tray of snow. It immediately hardended into a delicious Toffee like candy.

Earlier this week, I was under the impression it was Pajama Day at Nora's school. In the news letter it said, "Pajama Day" Tuesday, but didn't give the date. So I figured it was this week. I sent Nora to school in Purple Flannel Polka dot pajamas. Patrick returned with a crying Nora about 15 minutes later. Evidently it was NEXT Tuesday.

Nora was quite distraught from the moment she got to school and looked around to see all the other kids in their uniforms. She was the only one in her pajamas. She was so embarrassed she wanted to exit the school through a side door to leave the building. Patrick took her home and got her changed into her uniform. Evidently 2 other kids in the school came in their pajamas that day, so that made Nora feel better.

Patrick made Nora feel better when he told her the story about how he went to school and forgot to put on his pants. He was wearing a really long shirt and somehow left the house without his pants on! That made her laugh lots.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Slow Race?

This weekend Zoya and I are off to Anchorage to race in the Pia's Classic cross country ski race. It'll be fun to try our hand against the Anchoragua skiiers. We both see it as a tune up for the Tour of Anchorage ski race that occurs in early March. In the past the Tour of Anchorage has been our only race of the year. And once that race starts I have often felt panic - the first half of the race has always been about settling down. Wouldn't it be better to practice racing beforehand? And so with that in mind we decided to do 2 races this year - the Tour of Anchorage AND the Pia's Classic.

Since it is a practice race I have decided to try and have fun and go slow. The funny thing is that everyone I have talked to doubts that I will be able to do the race 'slow'. My reasoning is that in the past when I panic my ski technique has gone to hell. I actually believe that if I go 'slow' and keep my technique together I might actually go faster than if I go all out (and flail about). In any case, it would be good to find this out before the big race. So with that in mind I intend to do a 'slow' race. I still hope to finish in under 2 hours for the 30K race. That is my goal.


Photo is from the 2008 Tour of Anchorage - my last 'classic' technique cross country ski race. I did 25K in around one hour and twenty five minutes. But I was younger then, and the Pia's Classic course is much more up and down. I'll be happy with any time under 2 hours. In 2001 I came in 9th with a time of 1:41 (I just looked it up), but that sort time 'aint going to happen again for me - EVER.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Twin Ski

Today my sister, E., and I took our first cross country ski together this winter. We went on Lake Gertrude in Ft. Abercrombie. The evening light was gorgeous, there was a set track and we had the lake to ourselves.

Felt so good to ski in the company of my sister and enjoy the outdoors. E. and I haven't done any winter outdoor activities together since her return to Kodiak last year. Skiing with her brought me back to the time when we did the Tour of Anchorage ski race together in 2001. E. was living in Anchorage, me in Kodiak. She was a much better skiier than me, as she would go on the groomed ski trails after work. Bless her heart, she stuck with me for the majority of the race, although I'm sure she wanted to leave me in the dust.

Today it was fun to just ski for the heck of it- for some good exercise and enjoy the outdoors together.

Can you tell who's who in the picture?

(and Kodiak just broke its January Snowfall record!)


(and at her request, I have to call my sister E. She doesn't like her name on our blog....)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pushin' the Furniture Aside

Last night was a fun impromptu dance party with girlfriends. Patrick and I had a few friends over for dinner and around 9 the kids all went to bed. Marie talked about wanting to dance, so I turned the music up in the living room, we pushed the furniture aside and had a blast dancing for more than 2 hours. It was just Marie, Dawn and myself and we had fun teaching each other new dance moves~so good for the soul! I've got to do that more often.

Patrick, Aaron and Hannah stayed in the kitchen and watched hunting and family videos. They were quite content to not have to dance! But they could hear the howls of fun coming from the living room! And the kids didn't wake up once to the music-yeah!


Dawn and I dancing
Marie, Dawn and myself

Group picture:
From Left, Aaron, Dawn, Tchabo, Hannah, Marie

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Gals Ski! (plus two trailblazer guys)

Today Lisa H., Adelia M. and myself enjoyed a ski in the upper buskin...(and joining us was 2 male trailblazers by the name of Patrick and Philip). Our group had fun trekking along and Lisa's little puppy, Lily, joined us.

I fell a lot in the snow today...partially because I was using skinny racing skis. Everyone else had much fatter skis. So I had to ski fast to warm back up!

The large amount of snow this year is unusual...and we are fully taking advantage of the chance to go on longer ski trips into the woods and up frozen rivers.


Thanks to awesome trailblazer Philip T for sharing his photos!
The two group pictures are at the VERY END of the buskin river at a waterfall. Can't go up the river any farther than that!!

Amak Radiocarbon Dates

Last week I finally got back the radiocarbon dates for last summer's excavation at the Amak Site. Now we know the age of everything we excavated. By the end of the summer we already had a pretty good understanding of the site's stratigraphy, and I had some pretty educated guesses about the age of the various layers we had excavated. See 'Amak Stratigraphy' post -

Still they were only 'educated' guesses and I have been horribly wrong before. Once I thought a house we excavated would be around 6000 years old and it ended up 3500 years old instead. That bad guess forced me to re evaluate what I thought I knew about that particular site, and I ended up with a more refined understanding of the site's stratigraphy. I knew why I had made a bad guess. Nonetheless, I don't like being wrong. And so I was very happy when all the dates from last summer's dig came back pretty much as expected.

Radiocarbon dating is a method whereby we send off a piece of charcoal from the layer we want to date to a lab in Miami, Florida and they put it into a fancy machine. The machine determines the ratio in the sample between the radioactive carbon 14 and the stable carbon 12. Carbon 14 is unstable and slowly but surely reverts to the stable carbon 12 with time after an organism like a tree dies. Half of the carbon 14 will have reverted carbon 12 after 5600 years. They calibrated this curve by dating really old bristlecone pine trees where they knew the age of the wood exactly. So if you know the ratio then you know how long the carbon has been dead. Anyway it is complicated and I have probably confused you with my ramblings.

All that really matters is that I sent off charcoal samples to Florida and a couple of weeks later they told me the age of the various samples. They told me that the site was abandoned shortly after 3800 years ago and that the earliest occupation at the site was around 7100 years ago. The main occupation at the site, the time period when they were making all the pretty slate hunting lances, dates to about 5500 years ago (which means that that charcoal sample had about half of its radioactive carbon remaining).

As I said above, the dates came back pretty much as I expected. The only real surprise is that I think the youngest date pretty much dates a massive volcanic ash fall. The ash was churned at the site and the structure we dated looks like it might have been standing when the ash fell (on far left in the profiles). I had hopes that the oldest date would be older - I really want to get a date older than 7500 years (the oldest date so far on Kodiak) - but 7100 is about what I expected for the date of the thin black occupation layer at the bottom of the site. Finally, the 5500 year old layer contains tools typical of the 'Ocean Bay II' era on Kodiak, but it is an early Ocean Bay II occupation. Good dates all! Patrick

Photos: Top photo is an aerial photo taken by a friend of ours Keller W and it shows the site landform and our excavation pretty well. When people lived at the site the bottom third of the photo would have been water while there would have been a lagoon and stream behind the site. Today the ocean is almost a mile away - I actually wonder if that 3800 year old ash fall might have filled up the bay and created a new beach much further down valley. This would have forced the abandonment of the site.

The other 2 images show the same profile from our excavation - the north wall of the main unit. The top white layer represent the latest volcanic ash fall from the 1912 Katmai eruption. The largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century deposited many feet of ash onto the city of Kodiak almost 100 miles away. It dwarfs the Mount St Helens eruption.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Yet another cross country ski post

Another seriously fun afternoon on the Buskin River with Patrick. He got a crisp drink of water from the river at the waterfall and nearly fell in! Fortunately he only got a little wet.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Buskin Ski Video

Just a quick 50 second video that shows what the skate skiing was like last weekend up above Buskin Lake. Since then it has snowed a foot of dry powder. Now the skate skiing is terrible but the classic skiing is GREAT. Through today Kodiak has received almost 80 inches total of snow this winter and at the airport there is 21 inches of snow on the ground. Anchorage is setting all sorts of snow records and they 'only' have 25 inches on the ground and have received 89 inches total thus far. I was shocked to discover how close Kodiak is to Anchorage in snow total, and in the next few days we might even pass them! We are supposed to get more snow while they are in the midst of a cold, dry deep freeze. Patrick

Here is the website where I get my snow totals from:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Convenient Skiing

Today Zoya came by work with takeout lunches from a local restaurant. We ate quick and then went for a quick cross country ski. We did not have a lot of time because she had a meeting scheduled with a doula client and I had to pick the kids up from school/daycare. So we went to a nearby lake, rather than a more exotic location.

Last night we got around 6 inches of dry, fluffy powder and it had covered all the trees and made their branches droop. No wind with the temperatures in the 20's, the occasional snow squall, and the sun peeking through the thunderheads - it all made for a glorious ski.

The ironic thing is that according to most 'skiiers' Kodiak is supposed to be a terrible place for cross country skiing. I hear it again and again - even from people who live on Kodiak. They ask me, 'where do you go skiing?' And yet I never seem to have a problem finding convenient snow. I'd say that what Zoya and I did today would beat anything you could find in Los Anchorage. And better yet we did not have to deal with crowds or single digit temperatures. My drive time today to get from I work to where we went skiing was around 7 minutes. That is very convenient.

It is true that Kodiak does not have a lot of groomed cross country skiing opportunities (but the USCG is grooming the golf course this year). And sometimes I think 'skiiers' equate groomed trails with places to go cross country skiing. I say it just is not so. Patrick

Monday, January 16, 2012

Little House Time

Recently I started reading the Little House on the Prairie Books to Nora. What a difference it has made in her behavior-we needed more time together and now we have it. Whenever we have at least 20 minutes or 1/2 hour, we sit down and I read chapters to her. It mellows Nora out and I love it. The stories are interesting and the writing is so descriptive. Its like traveling to another time period for a few minutes.

Stuey has had some funny quotes lately...I've been jotting them down on the calender as he says them.

-Tonight Stuey put his headphones on to listen to music to go to sleep. The music blared through them. He said, "That was really loud. It burned my face off."

-The other day Stuey requested, "I need a drink of water-inside of me is crusted."


Sunday, January 15, 2012

More Buskin Ski Pics

This morning Zoya, Paul and I went skate skiing again across Buskin Lake and up the river to the canyon. Zoya was surprised at how much more energy she had after a full night's sleep. We headed across the lake just after sunrise and all the mountains on high were painted pink by the morning light. For the most part our ski was all in shadow and the dark trees made some pretty cool shapes silhouetted against the lit up mountains. Another GREAT ski on Kodiak. Who needs groomed ski trails? Patrick

Visiting Friend From Australia

Last night we had dinner with a longtime friend, Mike L. He is here visiting from Australia. He and his wife Alisa lived here for many years before they bought a sailboat, had a son and sailed to Australia from Kodiak. They left in 2007 and since then, Mike published a book, they have another son and a different sailboat. And they sailed there to Australia once again this year from California on their new boat.

Alisa is with the boys in Florida and Mike was here presenting a research paper.
I really missed seeing Alisa. Here in Kodiak, she and I would go blueberry picking in the fall, enjoy tea and walks together and enjoyed sharing in the experience of having little ones together when Stuey and Elias were both small. They took their dream of sailing to Australia and have made it a reality not only once, but twice. Admittedly, I have moments where things are hard with the kids and I have thought about Alisa and Mike and thought, "well, at least I"m not on a sailboat. At least I can escape for a few minutes."

After talking with Mike last night, I realized that he thinks, "At least we're not stuck in a house in America." We got some good laughs out of that. As dinner was served, I joked with Mike that we were going to do "American Plug in Parenting" and have our kids watch a video on our bed so we could enjoy dinner without the kids. Mike took a picture and he is going to put it on his blog. He has kept a blog since the start of their sailing adventure, so it has been easy to keep up with their happenings in Australia.

Makes me realize how the same water doesn't float every boat; Patrick and I are thrilled with being in a house in one spot, raising kids. And they are happy sailing the world and living in the smaller confines with their boys.

Last night I was thrilled to receive a copy of the book Mike recently had published on his first crossing to Australia. I've started reading it and am hooked. (And I'm in the first chapter! So fun to see my name in print!!) Its a fun read because I remember the teas Alisa and I would have as they were preparing to leave...her talking about repairs and sewing sails, seat covers, etc. It helps fill in the gaps of my questions about their experience to read about the details.

This spring I plan on going to Australia to visit them in Hobart. I've been looking forward to it for years and the time is right this April. Can't wait to see their boat, meet their youngest son and see Australia. And to see my friend Alisa once again!!!


-Toasting with G&T's made by Mike. It was at Mike and Alisas house that I was first introduced to this drink. And he seems to have the perfect recipe for them!
-Friends over last night for a meal of deer roast, Mashed potatoes, Fresh Shrimp from the Gulf of Alaska (brought by Dan U) and roasted broccoli.
-Mike and I with his recently published book.

-Archived Photos:
-Mike, Alisa and Elias before they left.
-A going away dinner when Mike and Alisa and Elias left for Australia.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Buskin Speed Ski

Today Paul Z, Zoya and I went for a skate ski across Buskin Lake and up the Upper Buskin River to the canyon. There is a lot of snow and the recent rain created a nice crust - perfect for skate skiing. You can cruise the crust anywhere you want to go - sort of like ice skating without boundaries. I felt like a rocket ship flying through the trees.

The best part is that it was all upwind and slightly uphill as we headed up the river. So when we turned around it was all downhill to the car. You did not have to work at all and you just flew. Just glorious.

I was really impressed that Zoya came along because she was up all night at the hospital as a doula helping a lady give birth. She figured the exercise might energize her - and I think it did! Patrick