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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Clouds and Snow

It was raining this morning and looking ugly outside.  Ughhh another wet day.  But then miraculously it cleared when I left work.  This is what it looked like near the top of Pyramid when I went skiing today. I like the white snow and sunshine with the dark clouds behind.  Patrick

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stuey's Idea of Our Life & Salesman One-Liners

Artwork, by Stuey. Note the mountain climbers on the peaks. And our house sits below.  I''m the one drawn in red. 

Last Sunday we headed out again in the  cold Sunday afternoon to finish selling up school raffle tickets and Girl Scout Cookies.

As with the prior weekend, I had a blast selling. We had lots of good laughs in the hour and a half we trekked down our road from house to house.

A few of the one-liners from the afternoon~

Stuey: "Wow, Your house is really clean". The owner of the house gave a thrilled smile, looked at me and proceeded to say, "Wow, hes a good salesman!" Suffice to say, the gentleman bought several boxes of cookies!

Nora: When making the last raffle ticket sale of the day, a raffle ticket customer said, "I hope you sold me the winning ticket, Nora. How can I know its the winning ticket?"

Nora smiled, shrugged her shoulders and replied-quite seriously-, "You just have to pray to God really hard."

The lady laughed and said, "Can you do that for me? I think we'll have better luck if it comes from you than me!" The lady and I laughed together and as I walked out of the house, Nora asked, "mom, why was that so funny?"

And many thanks to a kind blog reader in Philadelphia who sent a comment and offer to help with Nora's cookie sales by buying 10 boxes of cookies. Nora was thrilled! She exceeded her goal. 


Monday, January 28, 2013

My Camera's GPS

I am really liking my new camera's GPS capabilities, and have been practicing what I can do with it.  The feature will be a useful tool for archaeological fieldwork.  In fact, I already used it on the Kulluk Response - my little point-and-shoot camera took the first GPS points on the lifeboats that had washed off of the oil rig and onto the shore.  Those points are now in Shell's Kulluk Response database.

Lately I have been using the 'tracking' GPS feature to map out my ski trips. When I get home I download the tracks into google earth and create a map like below.  The one below is my route from yesterday's skate ski trip into the hills above the ski chalet.  I have found that it is incredibly accurate as long as I am not in under the trees, in a car, house or helicopter.  But even in a helicopter it still tracks pretty well if you sit by the window.  I have also found that you need to pause a moment and check the GPS 'status' at the very start of your trip or it may not start actually tracking until you are well into your trip.  All this is very important to know prior to using the camera GPS on an actual archaeological survey.  I also think I am going to get some GPS mapping software for my computer.

Anyway, it is also sort of cool to see exactly where you went skiing.  I took the top photo yesterday while on my way home on the track marked below.  The photo above even has GPS info tagged into it so if I wanted I could place it exactly onto the track (actually it is the 3 dots nearest the middle and looking towards the upper right corner).  All good stuff to know before I am actually out in the field!  Patrick

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just an hour out of town....

Just an hours drive out of town is a little slice of paradise called Fossil Beach. The road is a paved, bumpy, turny drive through mountains and along the ocean and ends at a place where you find buffalos, surfers, fossils in the rocks (and a rocket launch site in the distance, too). 

My sister Bonnie is in town visiting so we drove out there with the kids. It was a perfect day for the drive-dry cold weather.   The kids have never been out there before. 

We made a pit stop at the little quickie mart for gas and junk food on our way out of town. This ensured that on the way back we had two hyper kids. Bless Patrick's heart for sitting between the two kids on the way home. He definitely took one for the team. 

I vowed to myself that I need to go out there more regularly, there are great places to explore. It really is a little slice of heaven. And there are almost always surfers out there to admire, as they brave the cold waters. 


Nora atop a cliff after a bit of a hike
Stuey, Bonnie and myself at Fossil Beach. 
Nora's pet stuffed bison, Brownie, with his Kodiak "peeps" (fellow bison) in the background!  Nora was very excited to see live buffalo!

The gorgeous fossil beach 
As Nora hiked, Stuey watched the surfers. BRRRRR!!!

Crossing a stream

Patrick and Nora 

picture-no drama effect

picture with drama effect!

Group times at Fossil Beach!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Drama Doggie Walk

Rain, Rain and More Rain.  It is getting a bit old.  Even if it is snowing up on the mountain - you still have to trudge up through the rain to get to where it is snowing.  That's what I have been doing after work the last few days - trudging up to where it is snowing.  But today I gave up and went for a walk with the dogs.  The reefs off of Miller Point are always quite dramatic during a storm, and even more so when you use the drama setting on the camera.  Kind of amazing how calm it is once you leave the shore and get back in the spruce trees.  Calm and green - no wonder the deer prefer to winter over deep in the spruce forest.  Patrick

Monday, January 21, 2013

Trails Summit Tuesday Night

View from the mountains of Bells Flats and the Jack and Lee Lakes Natural Use Area (on the left).

Have any trails complaints?  Tomorrow night at the Kodiak Island Borough Trails Summit is your chance to let the Borough know what you think about various trails (see poster below for details).  The summit will be in 3 basic parts.  First of all, we'll introduce the trails plan and show you what we did with your input after last year's trail summit when the focus was on the Russian Ridge area.  Then we will open the mike to hear what you want to tell us about various trails around town - have problems with dogs on your favorite hiking trail? is the trail to your favorite fishing hole getting too muddy and degraded to use? stray bullets getting you down while berry picking? - this is your opportunity to let the Borough know about such matters.

The final part of the meeting will focus on the Jack and Lee Lakes area behind Bell's Flats.  We will present the details about the area (zoning and who owns what - current use etc) and then we want to hear what you have to say about the area.  What do you do in this area?  In the next year we will start to write up 'Trail Management Objectives' for the trails in this area and your input is VERY important.

The Summit is scheduled for Tuesday night at 7PM in the high school commons. I hope to see you there!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adventures in Girl Scout Cookies

This is my first year as a girl scout mom, thus the first time being on the selling end of girl scout cookies.

Since Nora got her girl scout cookie form last week, there has been quite a learning curve with selling the cookies. On the parents end of things, that is.

The first night it was dark and rainy and Nora asked, "Mom, Can I go next door and ask the neighbors if they want to buy cookies?" I said, "Sure! No problem!"

Nora charged out the door with her blue Daisy smock on and order forms in hand. Stuey tagged along.  Nora and stuey returned breathless a few minutes later, reporting that the neighbors were gone and they didn't make a sale. It was then that I glanced at the cookie "rules" permission slip and it said sales should be during daylight hours. AND that parents should accompany young children. So we broke two rules at once, evidently. I sent my kids out on a dark evening, without us. The people who made the rules obviously did not live in Alaska, because its dark all the time, aside from the weekend!

Today  I decided to drive Nora around (during daylight hours) so she could get more serious about reaching her goal of 50 boxes. (If she sells 50 boxes, then she gets to go to girl scout camp for free next summer!)  To my welcomed surprise, I had a blast. When I left the house I really only had 1 or two people in mind, but then I would come upon someones house and think, "Hey, I wonder if they'd buy some cookies?" We had a chance to visit with a friend who is recovering from knee surgery, I saw my long time physical therapy mentor, and several other friends.  We had some good laughter and conversations. People were so generous, and we also sold St. Mary's School raffle tickets.

The quote of the day was we were making a cookie sale and Nora smiled and said, "We (the girl scouts) are trying to make the world a better place". The gentleman we were selling too just gave a nice smile and said, "Really? I hope that goes well".

I have fallen in love with girl scouts-Nora's Troupe does so many thoughtful, fun activities and Nora really looks forward to their meetings every other week.  Selling cookies for such a great organization is  easy. Nora glows when she proudly wears her blue smock with her earned patches all over it. Its been great for her to be part of this year.

(btw...wanna buy some girl scout cookies?) :)


Sunrise on Pyramid

I went up skiing early this morning and the sunrise through the clearing fog was gorgeous. The skiing was not all that bad either, but all the powder I skiied in yesterday had turned to crust.  We have an impressive amount of snow up there this year.  Funnily enough since we have no snow in town people are all talking about the 'mild winter' - it does not seem mild to me.  We have more snow on Pyramid than we did at this time last year.  And people already seem to have forgotten that November and December were unusually cold and snowy.  We get a warm spell every winter and it is usually in January.  Now let's hope it gets cold again for February and March!

I can already hear the complaints after a couple of weeks of cold weather - all about how this is an 'unusually cold winter'.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Coming up for a breath of air

Janet leading the instructors in an indoor cycling workout during the training last weekend. 

The past month has been a whirlwind.
 This afternoon I was able to take a step back, lay on the couch with my feet up for a minute....and be thankful for a fairly commitment-free weekend!

I started working at the coast guard base as their physical therapist about 6 weeks ago. 3 mornings a week, I am off in my car at 7:30 to be there by 8am. The 1/2 days on the base fly by and I LOVE the job. I didn't expect to love it as much as I do. I enjoy the group feeling of working in a medical clinic with support staff around, I"m enjoying doing electronic documenting (never thought I'd admit to that!).

And the most important part, I enjoy  my clients. They are airplane and helicopter pilots and mechanics, rescue swimmers and active duty men and women in desk jobs making the whole coast guard system run smoothly. I'm finding a smooth rhythm with my days there, which has been great.

Last weekend our fitness instructor trainer, Janet,  came over from Anchorage to do 2 days of training with all the fitness instructors at A Balanced Approach. It went super; we all learned so much from how to fine tune our workouts, new exercises to add into the mix, and ways to make the workouts less intimidating to new members.

One important piece of knowledge I walked away with, (and have begun implementing) is giving "options" during my power flex workout. And demonstrating the "option". So for instance, when I'm leading squats with weights, I present the option of not using extra weight, just using your own body weight. With new people, I demonstrate just using body weight, so someone is doing it with them. I think it really helps the new folks feel comfortable and not hurt themselves.

The  two days were action packed, and boy did I sleep hard the few nights after that! Janet also led a boot camp class where we learned how to set up and run a boot camp program, which was enlightening. I'd like to add a bootcamp class to my instructor schedule 1X a week sometime soon.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, A Balanced Approach became an LLC. Didn't seem like it would be a big deal, but there were many people to notify regarding it and forms which needed to be re-done, noting LLC after A Balanced Approach. Between the recent  physical move to a new location and becoming an LLC, my office manager and myself have been incredibly busy making sure things are in correct order with insurance companies, tax people, etc.

Today the Bike maintenance guy from Anchorage flew over to put together 3 new indoor cycling bikes, and do maintenance on the rest. Now I"m up to 15 member bikes for the indoor cycling classes, which is great. There have ben 2 or 3 people regularly turned away for the indoor cycling classes so with the bikes hopefully that won't happen so much.  All the fitness equipment is shipped here from Seattle and the maintenance guy comes over from Anchorage quarterly.

Stuey and Patrick built this together - one person had to hold it together while blocks were added - it would not stand on its own until complete (it needed weight on top to hold together).

The kids are doing well and Nora has been selling girl scout cookies this past week (girl scout cookies, anyone?!). It is fun to see her be so excited to sell and to work towards a goal! She has also been attending dance class and having play dates with her girlfriends. In the evening or in the morning (as time allows) the kids and I play the game Qwirkle. Stuey is getting a little bit better at not crying if he is losing. Makes game playing much more enjoyable for all of us!

Stuey and a really tall tower.

Jake giving Stuey some company at night.

Patrick as the super-hero 'Copterhead Man'.

One last picture from the helicopter visit - in the background is the large helicopter that goes out to the rig.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Training for the Tour of Anchorage

Every year in March Zoya and I do the Tour of Anchorage cross country ski race in Anchorage.  Neither of us particularly enjoys competitive racing - and come March I dread 'race week' - but we both like training for a race.  It forces us to stay active and train all fall and winter - to ski when it is raining rather than staying home.  For a few years I stopped doing the Tour and I noticed that I was slowly getting out of shape because I lacked the incentive to get into really good shape.  No one wants to embarrass themselves in the big race.

Anyway, the picture above is where I have been training for the last few days.  I have a 3K icy loop up in the mountains.  I probably would not be training every day on this loop if I was not getting ready for a race.  That said, it is pretty good training.  I have to skate ski 400 feet vertical just to get to the loop, and then there are lots of ups and downs all around the loop.  Once I get up the mountain and skiing around the loop it is actually quite enjoyable, and I am glad to be training for the Tour.  Patrick

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Helicopter Tour

Sven and I got to do a lot of flying in helicopters during the whole Kulluk response thing, and we got to know the Era helicopter pilots pretty well.  These guys are GREAT.  After our role in the response was over they came in to the museum for a tour.  We also ran into them while eating dinner with the kids at the powerhouse.  Stuey was intrigued to meet a real helicopter pilot, and they offered to give the kids a tour of the helicopters.  And so yesterday afternoon we took the kids out to meet the pilots Nico, Chris and Brian, and look over the helicopters.

The helicopter that we flew in is a Bell 212 - basically the 1980s offspring of the Huey so familiar to everyone because of their use in Vietnam.  Also in the hanger was one of the huge helicopters Era uses to go out to the Kulluk rig itself.  The huge helicopter had computer screens and is apparently mostly flown by computers.  I learned that the smaller 212 is more of a workhorse and better suited to landing on mountains etc.  Both of the helicopters are much bigger than the Bell Jet Ranger I am used to flying in - click here to see a post where we use a helicopter to go skiing.  I also made a youtube video (click on 'youtube video' to go to link) of one of our ski trips in the Jet Ranger.  Imagine if we had one of the 212s in Kodiak - we'd be able to take a HUGE group of us up to go skiing!

Anyway, the kids loved the helicopters.  I'm wondering if Stuey or Eilidh might become helicopter pilots themselves.  Patrick

Monday, January 14, 2013

Spring Corn In January

Weirdly enough despite temperatures in the low 40s the skiing has been GREAT of late here on Kodiak.  While in town it has been dismal, up on Pyramid the sun has been making the occasional appearance, and we have enjoyed spring skiing conditions.  It has felt more like April or May than January.  Consistent corn snow makes it easy to look good on skiis - hence the term 'hero snow' because you feel like a hero when skiing on it.  Patrick

Photos are of Sharon and Steve skinning up out of the North bowl on Pyramid yesterday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Balalaika Dancing

The first Saturday after Christmas we attended an annual holiday party at our friend Libby and Jim's house. Every year they have the local Balalaika Players and some dancing. Casey Janz leads the dancing and she used to be my elementary school gym teacher. She is great with folk, polka and line dancing.

The routine she led in the video above came right back to me; I remembered it from gym class with Casey when I was a kid!

At this years party, Nora and I joined in had fun swinging elbows with  our partners!


Thank you Roxann for taking and sharing the video!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ugly Weather

'Dramatized' picture of Bob on the skin track up the mountain today

I've noticed that Kodiak's weather tends to change in 4 to 6 week cycles.  Four to six weeks of cold, followed by 4 to 6 weeks of warm and wet.  It's really awesome when a 4 to 6 week weather pattern of cold storms sets in - that's when we get the deep snow.

Unfortunately, right now we are at the end of week 3 in a warm and wet cycle.  We have pretty much lost all our snow down low, but have actually gained snow up high on the mountain.  The downhill skiing is pretty good right now - when it is not ugly out.  And even at the pass we still have 2 to 3 feet of snow for cross country skiing - again when it is not ugly out.  Sadly enough, it is often ugly out, and I do believe we got another couple weeks of it too.  Ughhhhhhhhh  Patrick

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Kulluk Response Experience

Photo by Shell Alaska. Sven and I flew over this scene on our way in a helicopter to Old Harbor on Monday.  We caught the last bit of the Kulluk's journey under tow to Kiliuda Bay.  

I finally found a way to show pictures that capture what I did during the Kulluk Response.  I went to their webpage ( and linked to their Flickr account. 

And there I got the officially sanctioned photos! Albeit they are not my photos, but I do have many similar photos and they definitely produce the 'flashback' effect on my part.

I'm not sure if I can tell what I found or learned (and I think I will err on the side of caution), but I can at least show what I was up to and what I saw.

Photo by Judy Patrick. By the time Sven and I got here the rig was gone but we looked for archaeological sites in the uplands and checked out the life rafts on the beach.  In the upper right corner of this photo you can see the spit that goes to Refuge Rock archaeological site.

No photographer noted on Flickr.  While this is not a meeting I attended - I did attend 2 meetings in this very room (I sat in the back left corner and where the photographer is situated), and all of the people in the photograph were also in the meetings I attended.  I spent a great deal of time with Colleen (Shell) and Dan (USCG) at the back center in this photo.

Photos by Judy Patrick for Shell Alaska. I am amazed that neither Sven or me is pictured in this photo. I think (based on the pilot) that this was the very helicopter that Sven took to Sitkalidak Island from Old Harbor - I took another copter exactly like this but with a different pilot to the island. 
Photo by Greg Martin for Shell Alaska.  Sven and I flew over this scene close to the time this photo was taken on our way back to Kodiak from Old Harbor.  Here the rig is anchored up deep in Kiliuda Bay.

'Kitsmas' is Over

Everyone wearing their uniforms before leaving for work and school
 'Kitsmas' is most definitely over - thank God!  Hurray for routine and school!

The day after Christmas it started to rain and it has been fairly warm and yucky ever since.  At the start of Christmas vacation we had snow, and could take the kids skiing or sledding. The snow made everything seem bright and cheery.  The kids would go outside and play on their own.  After we lost our snow the kids stopped going outside and our house sort of became a bit like Stalag 13.  They played with Christmas toys, fought, and basically got bored.  As parents we had to do a lot of entertaining.

The night before the first day of school the kids set out their uniforms for the next day and were so excited that they had a hard time getting to sleep.  And since school started every morning Nora asks us to hurry up or we will be late to school.  I think they are very happy to be back in the school routine.

I know Zoya and I are REALLY happy to be back in the school routine.  This is especially true now that I am no longer - keeping the fingers crossed - on Kulluk Response hold.  Patrick

Off to school and work in the dark

Going to movies on base with friends - wearing the 3D glasses

Stuey's Christmas blocks only have pictures to go from - no directions

Going for a walk instead of a ski after we lost our snow

Nora and Stuey check out the Snoopy sno-cone maker

This is the picture I took just before I left on the Kulluk Response - a picture of home to look at while I was in the field

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

'Kulluk Response' Scenics

Sunrise over the mountains with Sitkalidak Island in the distance on our way to Old Harbor

Ocean Bay Beach near sunset - this is actually one of Sven's pictures taken with my camera

A fairly recent bear poop full of barely digested kelp - I gather the Sitkalidak Island bears often stay up all winter long eating kelp on the beaches

View of Port Hobron looking out towards both Ocean Bay (left) and Natalia  Bay (right)

Sunset and blowing snow with Natalia Bay in the distance

Pretty nasty wind!  I'm glad I'm not out there skiing!

Sunset on snow near Koniag Peak on the way home
I think - keeping my fingers crossed - that the field work portion of my involvement with the 'Kullak Response' is over.  I am not allowed to distribute pictures with any sort of Kulluk Response 'content' without Shell permission, but pretty scenics need no vetting.  Sven and I have turned in our Kulluk Response pictures and perhaps we'll get to use a few of them in later blog posts after they get the seal of approval and turn up on the official  Kulluk Response web page (  But for now these scenics ought to do.

Our work involved assessing sites near the rig grounding and determining if any archaeological sites had been impacted or were threatened by the clean up effort.  I am so glad that they got the rig off of the beach!  Patrick