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Monday, July 30, 2012

A Warm July Night

Last Friday at 4:30, the afternoon was warm and we had no concrete evening plans. The evening just called for an outdoor BBQ fire pit.

Several visiting scientists to the museum came over, as well as Nick L. and other local friends. Nick brought some black cod cheeks, which we marinated quickly in soy sauce, garlic and ginger. After they were grilled on the firepit, it might have been the best fish I have ever tasted in my whole life. The pieces evaporated as soon as they touched the plate!  There was also homemade guacamole, salad and sausages.

(We toasted several times to Nick L, who is a paleontologist  and recently got an article published in Nature journal last week. Click here for the link to his article!)

At about 9:00, the party from next door joined in. The banya was fired up, and 7 of us ladies took a VERY hot banya. It ranged from 180-200 degrees. When we got out at 11pm, it was just starting to get dark. The remaining people sat by the fire and it was still quite warm outside. We sat by the fire, listened to music, danced on the grass  and looked out at the still ocean. The combination of fire, banya, warm weather, incredible fish,  dancing (and the fact that the gathering was a last minute occasion)  made it  a special Kodiak summer gathering.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Monashka Mountain Hike

Yesterday I led an Audubon hike up Mount Monashka.  At first it was foggy down below, but we broke through the fog and into the sun as we hiked up the mountain.  By the time we got back to the cars the fog had mostly cleared off.

Mount Monashka is one of my favorite hikes.  You get to hike through mature Sitka Spruce rain forest at the start and end up in the wildflowers up in the alpine.  And it has some of the best views of any mountain near town.   

In the photo above the group starts to break out of the fog just as we leave the spruce trees.  In the photo below we are starting up the steep part of the mountain. We started our hike from the road that is visible in the center left of the photo.

It was a beautiful day for a hike!  Patrick

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dig Half Done

The Community Archaeology dig at the Amak Site is now half over, and things are starting to get a bit clearer.  Like last year we still finding mostly bayonets - so our story about the location as a hunting camp is holding up.  We still do not understand why the people using the site moved so much dirt around, but at least we now know how all the dumps and quarries are related to each other.

We have also found 2 large areas of scattered large rocks and charcoal stained soil.  I am beginning to think they may have lit large fires and filled them with large cobbles to retain heat longer than it would using wood alone.  Perhaps for processing and drying meat?   These piles also have some old sods clumps in them that have been fired red.  So it seems the people at the site might have been putting sod blocks on the fire for some reason.

Anyway, in a nutshell, we know what the prehistoric inhabitants left behind but we still do not quite understand what it all represents.

During the week my friend Gary C a geologist also visited, and had some good ideas about the site's situation up the valley.  He convinced me that the site was probably not directly on the ocean when people lived there and that tsunamis probably did not reach up to the site.

After his visit I am realizing that we REALLY have to survey the rest of the valley and find out where the old 4000 year old beach ridge was located.  We also have to precisely measure how far above current sea level the site is located.  My current theory is that site is located in an analagous location as the highway bridge over the Olds River.  On the Olds the tide floods a big tidal lagoon behind the beach berm and seals follow the salmon up to just below the bridge - the limit of extreme high tide water.


Above are 3 bayonet bases found by one volunteer excavator - we seem to be finding mostly the bases to bayonets and not as many tips.

Above - Molly directs the crew while below is a picture from the top of a spruce tree that shows the site off to the right and the view down valley to Womens Bay.

Finally a view of Womens Bay on our commute to the site one morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Grooves

 This evening after dinner, Nora asked, "Can we go for a family walk down Cliffside road?" The kids jumped on their bikes and the search for salmon berries began. They rode all the way down to Ft. Abercrombie and we went on a short walk there. The fun season of berry picking has begun. Patrick gave me the first strawberry of the season along cliffside road~it was delicious. And salmon berries are really starting to pop up around Kodiak in areas where there is more sun exposure.

 And of course when Nora wanted a picture with just she and I, Stuey jumped in the photo. Above, Nora tries to push him out of the way. Sibling love.

 Below, the kids and I go out to the archaeology site to see Patrick and the crew dig. There is a trail along the right side which the kids scamper down, and Stuey yells, "Hi Daddyyyyyy" as he runs toward the dig. From the distance,  Patrick screams back, "Hi Stuey!".
When we leave, Stuey yells from the trees, "I love you daddy!" and Patrick yells back, "Love you Stuey!"

I'm really enjoying this last month of summer. The kids and I have (finally) found a good summer groove. A nice combination of activities and time with friends and family. And lots of outside time recently as well. The weather has been nice!


Some Dig Pictures

Molly has been doing such a good job writing updates about the community archaeology dig at the Amak Site that I have not had any incentive to write my own.  Molly's latest posts can be found here and here.  But I do want to post a few pictures from last week before they are too outdated.

In the photo above Andrea shows off a toy lance that she found.  It is made on a piece of slate too thin to be actually ground into a real point.  I like how the maker serrated the base just like it would've been done on a real lance.  Finding a toy indicates that kids were probably on the site.  I imagine a hunter and his son hanging out in a blind waiting for a seal to swim by - and to kill time the hunter makes a toy lance for his son.  That's my story anyhow.

Below is a picture of Molly on the screen.  The backdirt pile has gotten much bigger since I took this photo!

The students taking the dig for credit and Molly record a small hearth or processing feature that we found in level one.  Basically we found very few formal features in level one.  It looks like after 4000 years ago that people visited the site and occasionally lit a fire, but they did not build houses.

Tatiana shows off the base of the lance that she found that fits together with a lance tip that John S found.  You can see that it had broken in the past and that the prehistoric hunter was trying to re sharpen it, but for some reason (maybe it snapped) he/she gave up.

Below is the crew digging into Level 2.  Level 2 is basically a sterile volcanic ash that fell around 4000 years ago.  We found VERY few artifacts in Level 2.  Since taking this photo we have dug much deeper down into the site and are now digging features over 5000 years old.

Tiffany looks at a far away bear that walked by the site.  For the next few days we saw him looking for fish on the other side of the road out on the tidal flats as we drove home.  We think he might be one of the 3 cubs we saw with a sow last year.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend Hikes and Ski

This weekend I led an Audubon Hike up Sharatin Mountain and there was still so much snow up there that I went back on Sunday and went skate skiing.  Audubon hikes are free hikes led by local volunteer hikers under the auspices of the Kodiak Chapter of the Audubon Society.  It's a good way for newcomers to town to learn the trails, and I always try to lead at least one every summer as payback for when as a newcomer and someone showed me the trails.

Saturday was a pretty dismal day and I was surprised that so many people showed up for the hike.  But at least it did stop raining and we made it up to the head of the big bowl on Sharatin.  It was too foggy to go up to the true summit.

The skate skiing snow in the big bowl on Sharatin.  It was quite a big area and the snow was fast.  The way to the summit is by the two lines of snow in the middle of the picture at the far end of the bowl.

And here is a video of me skate skiing on the summer snow.  It may well be my last ski of the year.  Patrick

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Visiting Friends

This weekend we've had the pleasure of company with friends from Anchorage;
 Lili, her husband Jerome, baby Collette and Jack. We first met Lili through cross country ski lessons in Anchorage almost 2 years ago. Click here to the first time we met Lili in 2010...

  Lili and Jerome are both French and as I write this, Jerome prepares a batch of crepe batter for breakfast crepes tomorrow morning. YUM! Can't wait. Nutella crepe here I come. 

3 year old Jack  loves playing with Stuey's cars and trucks.  And Lili, Jerome, Patrick and myself enjoy talking about food, travel, family, skiing, etc. 

   The weekend has had such a relaxed, fun feel to it. Everyone helping out with everyones kids. And we have a similar appreciation for simple Alaskan pleasures such as exploring beaches, hiking, the smell of saltwater in the air, fresh king salmon....

Our friend Mike gave us some fresh king salmon caught this morning, so we enjoyed it together both raw as sashimi and then the rest grilled for dinner. Such a summer treat to enjoy fresh king salmon with friends.

 Nora loves holding baby Collette!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hoop Time

This week there is a functioning basketball hoop at our place! Since I've known Patrick, there was an old, worn down hoop hanging from the garage-to my knowledge, it hadn't been used in 13 years. This summer I decided to put it to use, so I cleared the cement pad off and started shooting hoops. The hoop broke. The whole thing was rusted. Fortunately Ella was making a trip to the mainland with her car, so one stop to Sports Authority and we had a usable hoop and backboard. Our friend Brent installed it today and when I came home from work, it felt great to shoot some baskets.
I forgot how much I love the sound (and 'feel') when the ball swooshes through the hoop!

 I played JV basketball in high school and have played very little since returning to Kodiak. I played in  a women's league for a month about 12 years ago, but that was it.

Stuey wants so badly to make a basket, and Nora loves watching and giving me points when the ball goes through. I can't wait to play HORSE and all those other fun driveway games with friends this summer!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Archaeology Enthusiasm

Community Archaeology has begun! At  Salonie creek.

The kids and I went to visit twice this week, once walking and once bike riding the 1/2 mile to the dig site. As soon as Nora and Stuey arrive to the site, they had a chance to do a little bit of digging...the very top layers of ash and "early kachemak" (can't believe I know that term! I didn't need Patricks help to describe the darker layer below the ash. Maybe there is hope for me afterall).

Nora and Stuey haven't found an artifact yet, but they don't mind. They just love chipping away at the sand into their dustpans. We only stay for 15 or 20 minutes then head back on the road. The kids love it, the journey of biking there, then discovering an oasis of activity in a big open field. People digging and talking and laughing. The whole scene is very fun and all the archeologists are so friendly to Nora and Stuey, explaining things to them. This year they are both at an age where summer archaeology season is exciting.

below: Screening. The process where Patrick sifts all of the dirt to look for small artifacts. It reminds of a giant powered sugar sifter...with chocolate powdered sugar!

 Nora and Stuey put the ash into their dustpans, then bucket. When the bucket fills up, they bring it up to Patrick to sift!
 The Group Scene

Community Archaeology 2012

Community Archaeology 2012 has begun!  Every summer about this time I help run an archaeological excavation for the Alutiiq Museum that is open to all volunteers over the age of 14. On Monday we busted sods and re-opened an area we did not finish last year at the Amak site.  This is year 2 of excavation at the Amak site.  Our goals are to finish excavating the structure we found on the last day of excavation last year (the area covered by the blue tarp in the top photo), find and excavate the oldest layer at the site (L4 - 7100 years old!), and finally just to make sure that what we found last year is actually representative of what is at the site.

Last year we found a lot of hunting tools and not much in the way of features.  Our initial impression is that the site represents a place where Alutiiq hunters waited to ambush seals.  While they waited they sharpened and re-furbished their spears.  But my initial impressions have been wrong before and I believe in excavating at a site until there are no more surprises - until I feel I completely understand what is going on at the site.  And at the Amak site we still do not understand why the prehistoric Alutiiq  moved around so much dirt and sod or why they created a huge pile of rocks.  Also does the structure we found on the last day last year represent a house or a hunting shelter?

Anyway, the dig has begun.  In the top photo the crew cleans off the 1912 Katmai ash.  Every site that we excavate near the city of Kodiak is covered with this thick layer of volcanic ash - it fell almost exactly 100 years ago (June 1912).  In the photo below the crew begins to excavate into level 1.  This was the soil surface from about 4000 years ago until 1912.  We have found artifacts around 3500 to 4000 years old in this layer and also evidence for repeated tsunamis.

Andrea starts to excavate (above) while Ashleigh shows off the base of a ground hunting lance that she found.  The lance looks like those typically found in 5000 year old sites - so what is it doing in the top layer?

In the photo below co-Principal Investigator Molly Odell shows off an unfinished ground slate lance.  This lance was chipped to shape rather than ground and sawed.  This style of lance preparation is what we would expect of a 4000 year-old lance.  Also Molly has her own blog so if you want to read her on-going opinion about our excavation you can find it here.

The best part about excavating at a site so close to town is that my kids get to visit while we are at work.  Here Stuey is checking out what I have been finding in the screen.  Patrick

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Impromptu Pyramid Camping

 Yesterday Lisa H, Lisa M, Gregg, Patrick and myself planned on going to Center Mt. via helicopter to get dropped off on Center Mountain, ski then hike the 8 miles home back to town. Going to Center Mountain and hiking home is something I've wanted to do for 13 years since meeting Patrick.
There was confusion with our helicopter arrangements (ie no helicopter pilot available), so after confirming this, we decided to camp on Pyramid Mountain. Our kids were in good hands over night, we had our camping gear all packed, so up Pyramid we hiked.

 There was no wind, which made the black flies and mosquitos thick!  The cook tent and sleeping tents were set up quickly and in a matter of no time, Patrick had the cookstove assembled, and water boiling for tea and dinner. We retreated inside the warmth of the shelter and outside the fog would move in and out of the surrounding valley.

 Greg brought some of his homemade bread, jarlsberg cheese and salami for an appetizer. Patrick cooked a yummy rice and beans dish. We stayed up till nearly midnight sitting by the warm stove talking.

 This morning we slept in until 8,  enjoyed a leisurely breakfast inside the cook tent,  hiked to the top of Pyramid then took down camp and headed home. My right eye was stung by black flies last night and swelled up horribly overnight. Today it remains very swollen. Bugs love me, evidently.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bear Viewing With Elizabeth

 Yesterday my physical therapy guru, Elizabeth Noble, arrived in town. (As you may remember from a post last spring, Eliabeth's writing got me started in the field of women's health 13 years ago when I first started practicing physical therapy.)

Last night Patrick prepared a meal of deer roast, beach greens and potatoes and a salad from the garden. Elizabeth and I went for a walk to Abercrombie in the horizontal rain and wind. Stuey trekked along with his hood up and jacket zipped up and I held his little hand as Elizabeth and I walked and occasionally talked.

It is very cool to spend time with a woman who is a pioneer, really, in the field of women's health.  Elizabeth was the founder of the section on women's health for the American Physical Therapy Association back in the 1970s and has written  many books on childbirth, fitness and health, having twins. She is a big advocate for helping women achieve natural births with minimal interventions and she founded a women's health center in Cambridge, MA which operated for many years. Now she speaks all over the world on topics relating to women's health.

 Today she and I went on a Bear Viewing Trip with Willie and Jo and SeaHawk Air. It was more fun than I ever could've imagined. Breath taking. The scenery down there was beautiful and Willie was great about helping find bears as we flew by the mountainsides. As we flew, Jo would give information about Kodiak and about the bears. Things about the island that I didn't know!

We landed near Fraser Lake, hiked a mile up to the lake and watched the bears for nearly two hours.

At one point, the most precious little 8 month old bear cub and his mommy (the Sow) came along.  The baby cub scampered about like a puppy.

The sow went down into the river to catch some fish. Meanwhile the cub took off into the hills. It was 15 or 20 minutes later that the sow caught a fish, ate it and then started looking for her cub. She looked all over and it was a while before she sniffed out the path that her baby cub went on.

Tonight I pray to the stars that the mom found her baby cub in the wild and they are reunited. There is no chance that the baby cub can survive on his own at such a young age.