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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tour of Anchorage Goals

Family and friends meeting for dinner the night before the race last year.

Zoya and I pre race last year.

This weekend we are all (except the dogs) off to Anchorage to see family and friends, and ski in the Tour of Anchorage.  This is a yearly event and really it isn't all about doing well in a race.  It's more about seeing friends and family in Anchorage, and the race acts as a touchstone to rally around.  About half of the people we will see are in the race and the other half will be watching the race and cheering the racers on.  That said, everyone who's racing also wants to do well - improve their times and maybe beat someone they lost to last year - and the race acts as an incentive to get/stay in shape during the slow days of winter.  On a rainy day in January I might go skiing instead of staying at home.  I like to be in my 'best shape of the year' in March for the race.

This year training has been a bit difficult.  We did have great snow early in the season from mid November through December, and training for the race was easy.  But the conditions in January and early February were 'tough'.  I did manage to train but I did not do any of the 'speed' work - wind sprints, race pace days - that really helps out if you want to do well on race day.  A lot of the time I was training by climbing mountains and going downhill skiing, or hiking up to the snow with my skate skiis.  Zoya did a lot of her training at A Balanced Approach - teaching powerflex and indoor cycling classes.

And then this week I got sick..  . ..  I'm hoping I got sick early enough that I'll be fine by race day.  The last time I raced sick back in 2010 (click here) it was awful.  I got REALLY sick afterwards and coughed for days.  So this year if I am still sick on race day I plan on taking it really easy.

All that said my goals for the race this year is to beat my predicted time of 2:48 (my 50K time in 2011 when the race was 2K longer than usual) and finish in the top 80.  I am seeded in the second wave - so basically I want to have an average second wave race.  In the second wave to do really well it is actually pretty hard to pass all the slower elite women and first wave skiiers in front of you.  They are just going slow enough that you do not want to stay behind them, but just fast enough that it is tough to get past them.  I started in the second wave way back in 2002 and I remember it was all about passing and getting stuck behind slow people on hills.  But back then I was a fast wave 'oner', and still broke 2:30 for the race.  Now I am an older, slower skier who belongs in the second wave.  This year I want to enjoy the race and finish with the pack in wave 2!  And then have a beer with family and friends after the race.  I can practically guarantee that I'll be able to meet the latter goal.


Training yesterday when it was raining in town.

The downhill skiing was GREAT.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Making Sense of My Own Old Notes

Last week I mentally went back in time while I re-examined some of my first archaeological field notes in Alaska.  I first came to Alaska in June of 1985 to help with the Bryn Mawr College archaeological project in Karluk.  Most of my summer was spent excavating at the Karluk One Site, but the team also surveyed the lagoon and lower river - finding and mapping old villages - and the majority of the team excavated at KAR 031 another prehistoric village site on the other side of the lagoon from Karluk One.  I remember that my first day of archaeology in Alaska was spent working on a stratigraphic profile along the erosion face at KAR 031, and I also dug a test pit in what we thought was an old Russian fort on top of the site.  So the Karluk One Site is actually not the first site in Alaska where I worked. However, within the first week I was digging away at Karluk One.  I know this because last week I found my notes from June 12, 1985 (see below).

That's me  (lower right) excavating at the Karluk One site with Dick Jordan who ran the project (on left).

What's ironic is that I NEVER thought I would ever have to examine those old notes again.  However,  the Alutiiq Museum is in the process of creating a book about the Karluk One excavation.  The site had excellent wood preservation, and the excavation ended up creating a spectacular collage of Alutiiq material culture that forms the core of the Alutiiq Museum's collections today.  Since no one took day to day overall site excavation notes we have been forced to go back to the individual unit notes to piece together a lot of what happened at the site.  A lot of the notes, maybe 25%, are in my handwriting.  Evidently, I was a quick digger.  But sadly I don't remember all that much about it.  Unfortunately, I think I was focused on the minutiae of the squares where I was digging, and was not really all that concerned with what was going on at the site as a whole.  So here I am, almost 30 years later, using my own notes to try and to piece together what was going on at the site.

Core Karluk One crew in 1985 eating lunch (left to right: Rick Knecht, Marie Shugak, Philomena Hausler, Frederika De Laguna, Patrick Saltonstall, Jennifer Krier, Brian Panamaroff).

My first set of notes from the Karluk One Site - less than a week after I first came to Alaska.

Another ongoing and related Alutiiq Museum project is the Karluk Lake and River survey.  Over the last five years we have re-surveyed the entire watershed - all except the last 2 miles of the river and lagoon.  Between 1983 and 1987 Bryn Mawr College teams did do an initial survey of the system, but they were new to Kodiak archaeology and did not have much experience doing river surveys. A quarter century later we are much better at doing such surveys on Kodiak. We have a lot more experience. The recent Karluk survey was my fifth such survey of a major river system. Practice may not make perfect, but it sure helps!  Also, since 1985 we have excavated a great many sites on Kodiak and we are better at recognizing features from the surface.  For example, I can recognize cold trap sideroom tunnels on the surface since I have excavated a number of them.  As a result, our survey maps are much more detailed.

Unfortunately, on our recent survey we did not have landowner permission to investigate the uplands around the lagoon and the last 2 miles of the river.  To complete the survey I needed to go back to the old survey maps/notes and 'translate' what they found into something compatible with our new data.  This was NOT easy.  For one thing, all the old survey maps were made by different people doing the drawing and are not very standardized.  For instance, sometimes they measured houses based on outside wall dimensions, sometimes they used top-of-the-wall dimensions, and sometimes (like us) they used interior dimensions.

 Nonetheless, I was able to put my 'Karluk River survey eyes' on and do a lot with their old maps.  Also  since we mapped many of the same sites I could compare how we mapped the same thing.  To look at some of our recent Karluk River survey site maps check out this blogpost (click on 'blogpost').  We now have a complete survey of the whole river, and it is an amazing dataset.

Just yesterday I wanted to see how settlement patterns changed through time.  So I created a photoshop document using a map of the river and lake as a base layer.  Each time period got its own layer in photoshop, and I put dots of various sizes on the layer to represent the sites and their respective sizes.  Below is the layer that represents the Kachemak (2500 to 1100 years ago) occupations along just the river (my base map also shows the whole lake).  It seems that during this time period the Alutiiq people made heavy use of the middle section of the river - there are NO late prehistoric sites in the lower mid section of the river.

There are lots of other very cool patterns in the data set.  The next step will be to figure out what the patterns mean.  To put the puzzle together and create a picture so to speak.  We might even need to return to some of these sites and do a little digging to figure it all out.  We will also have to go back and re-examine the notes, artifacts and samples from the excavations Bryn Mawr College did way back in the 1980s.  I just wish I could remember a bit better what I did way back then.  I wish I knew then what  I know now.

A portion of a prehistoric village map that I helped create back in 1985, and recently had to re-interpret.

Settlements along the Karluk River 1100 to 2500 years ago.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Summer Field Work Plans

This is the site of our Old Harbor excavation - our future campsite is on the left in the foreground.

It's only February and my summer schedule is already looking packed.  I'll be running a 6 week excavation in Old Harbor from late May through June; helping with an excavation/survey on Chirikof Island way out in the North Pacific in early July; the 3 week Community Archaeology excavation at the Kashevarov Site near town at the head of Womens Bay begins in late July; and finally, in September there is a possible 10 day survey on Afognak Island.  WOW!  But at least I'll be living at home for the Community Archaeology excavation.

At the Old Harbor dig we will actually be excavating 3 different sites slated to be destroyed when they extend the airport runway.  One is a 400 year old village site while the other two are much older  (4000 to 7500 year-old) special purpose sites.  One looks like a temporary camp while the other looks like a place where Alutiiq people smoked meat or fish (see photo below).  

Now that's a positive test pit!  Some sort of Ocean Bay era  (4-7000 year old) smoke processing feature.

Out on Chirikof Island I'll be helping Catherine W test middens and collect fauna samples.  I'll be in charge of camp and logistics.  I'm really looking forward to this project because Chirikof has some awesome beach combing and it is a GREAT place to find glass balls.  But I wonder if the beaches will be covered in Japanese Tsunami debris?

The west side of Chirikof Island - great place to find glass balls.

Deflating archaeological site on Chirikof Island.
Jill and I found the Kashevarov site just last October (click here for post about it), and less than a year later it looks like it will be the focus of our Community Archaeology excavation.  I suspect it will be the same age as the other nearby sites we have excavated over the last 8 years - Salonie Mound, Bruhn Point, and the Amak Site.  Each site has had components dating to about 3-7 thousand years ago.  And yet each of those sites, though less than a mile seperates them all, was a different 'type' of site.  Salonie Mound looks like it was a permanent camp; Bruhn Point was a fish processing site; and finally the Amak Site was a seal mammal hunting and processing site.  What will we find at the Kashevarof Site? Will we FINALLY get some duplication?

Kashevarov Site from the air - the site is on the terrace just above where the oxbow begins (near middle of image - slightly up and to left).

Our DEEP test pit at the Kashevarov Site - the wood tape is 2 meters long and we still did not reach bottom.

The survey on Afognak Island has not been funded yet - keep your fingers crossed - but I am really looking forward to this one.  We would be using inflatable kayaks to survey 3 different parts of the coastline.  Our goal will be to find new sites and check on the condition of the already known sites.  Most of the areas we will be surveying have never been formally surveyed - so I anticipate that we will be finding a lot of new sites. This is also my elk hunting 'stomping grounds', and right after the survey is elk season.  To save the cost of a plane charter I hope to come home on the elk boat. So the hunt and survey would be literally back to back.  My one big worry is that we'll see elk everywhere during the archaeological survey, and then nothing but archaeological sites during the elk hunt.  Patrick

Foul Bay on North Afognak Island.

A prehistoric village site on North Afognak - note HUGE house depressions.

Another archaeological site on North Afognak.

Friday, February 22, 2013


This past week was busy. Between work, trying to get skiing in for the upcoming ski race in Anchorage, and teaching weekly birth class, and fitness classes...the days have been jam packed. This afternoon it hit me.

I had clients at the coast guard base from 8-1 then was planning on skiing with Patrick. After lunch and leaving work, I met up at the lake and I just didnt' have it in me. The day was sunny, conditions perfect. I went half way around the lake and admitted to Patrick that I just didn't feel like skiing. I came home, took a short 1/2 hour nap before picking up the kids from school.  It was a rare Friday moment where my energy reserves were low. Usually once I get out on the snow, I'm good to go and now matter how busy or tired I am, I put in a good workout.

Half an hour after kids were out of school, they donned their ski gear and we headed out to the golf course. It was fun to cruise around with the kids and watch the sun descend behind the mountains.

I'm ready for a chill, low key weekend.

Bless Patrick's heart for rallying the troops this afternoon and insisting that we all go was good to get everyone outside!  Zoya

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Downtown Kodiak

This is what downtown Kodiak looked like on President's Day just as the sun came up.  I had the day off and was on my way to go for a ski.  I love President's Day because I get the day off but the kids do not - no Daddy day care needed.  After my ski I canned fish with Mike P.  The kids came home and sledded for a few hours on their own.  They did not even fight!  All and All a good day off.  Patrick

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Girl Scouts Trip to USCG Base

Last weekend we had an amazing time at the Coast Guard base with the girl scouts. It was a special girl scout outing led by girl scout troups and active duty coast guard personnel. 

There were 3 different stations that the girls rotated through. And we got to walk in between the hangers, which was a fabulous use of excess energy!

The day was so educational and fun for the girls and parents alike. I was very impressed with all the incredible organization that went into the event, and the time that was donated by the active duty coast guardsmen and women. 

Walking to the first presentation with our guide, Allie. 

The mini oil spill demonstration. Oil was dropped into the water and the girls tried various products to mop up the oil. Note the boat and the beach!

Military police demonstration~ Girls weren't quite as into the police dept. 

lunch time! Running towards their food. 

Girlfriends holding hands!

The hit of the day; Fire truck demo! The girls squealed with delight. 

The girls and firehouse guide. He was fabulous answering their many questions. 

Inside the cockpit of a C-130.
Nora with her girlfriends next to a C130


Monday, February 18, 2013

Outside Snow Time

Hurrah for the snow!  It has certainly elevated the spirits of our family.  Over the weekend rather than hanging out inside the house and getting bored (and the inevitable kid squabble), the kids have been going outside to go XC skiing or sledding.  To my chagrin they like the downhill aspects of skiing more than the 'xc' aspect ('xc' is short for 'cross country').  Is it time to take them to a downhill ski  area for some lessons?  I'm not so sure - I figure they really might be better off initially with the whole free heel, flimsy ski thing.  It has to be better for their balance, and this way when they do get on 'real' downhill skiis it'll be a cinch.  Also with kid downhill gear on how would the kids get up the hill on their own?  I think XC gear is more akin to sledding and is better for just messing about in the snow than heavy clunky downhill gear.

Anyway, at the golf course I was amazed at how they just attacked the hill.  They just tucked it and went REALLY fast.  No fear whatsoever.  And it is a scary hill - I know a lot of adults who are scared of this hill.  Patrick

Nora doing the 'herring bone' up the hill.

This hill is a lot steeper than it looks!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Back to Winter Again

Yesterday for the first time since Christmas Day the kids went skiing.  Ever since Christmas Kodiak has been stuck on a warm and gray cycle.  But yesterday it got cold and snowed. The sun came out, and it never even topped the freezing mark - hurrah!  Have we broken the cycle?  I like cold cycles better than warm ones because it tends to be sunny, and the snow reflects the light.  Warm, gray and muddy gets a little depressing.

But best of all, when there is snow on the ground the kids like to go outside.  They skiied and sledded for almost 2 hours after they got home from school.  Initially I was reluctant to get out the ski gear.  I had visions of constantly picking kids back up.  Nora begged and I relented - and then, unbelievably, they did GREAT.  Stuey quit sledding and joined Nora on skiis.

They bombed the hill downhill style.  Nora called the steepest hill the 'devil doom' because 'it's hard to ski down'.  Last year there is no way they could have made it down the hill.  Last year they could not even get up on their own.  It seems we have turned a corner.  Now if only it could stay cold and the kids learn to get into their ski boots on their own. ... .. .


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Love

Today was a fun Valentines Day full of love and surprises! I have a soft spot for Valentines day--its one of my favorite holidays. 

I started the day off early at 6 am making the kids heart shaped waffles for breakfast. (It was my ONE Martha Stewart moment of the year.)

 No, I don't have a heart shaped waffle iron...just got creative with the dough. I think the kids appreciated it....waking up to the smell of waffles for breakfast. 

Last night I stayed up for a bit making valentines for my co-workers at my Coast Guard Base job. I made different cards for the different departments at the clinic and started all of the same with "Roses are Red..." and finished them all with  From ? ... 
I arrived a few minutes earlier this morning to drop them off, which was a fun way to start the day. 

The best surprise of the day was from my co-worker, Shawna, at the base clinic. For Valentines Day I brought her a bottle of Chia seed Kombucha with a handmade card. She walked in this morning and looked quite surprised as she handed me a bottle of Chia seed Kombucha as a Valentines gifit as well! We got a good laugh out of that one. We gave eachother the same gift. We have the same taste in things, evidently!

I looked forward to picking the kids up after school and seeing their Valentines Day Love energy. They came flying out of the building with their bags of candy and cards. 

This morning Stuey so sweetly said, "Mom, will you be my Valentine?"

Patrick spoiled me with the best home made card ever, flowers and a bar of sea salt chocolate. yum, yum, yum....

I (Heart) valentines Day!


Shawna and I with our Chia Seed Kombucha gifts to eachother!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

While Momma was Away

It certainly is nice to have Momma back, but we did have fun while she was away. We went to the powerhouse restaurant, made play dough jewelry, built cardboard box houses, biked in the evenings, played qwirkle. All sorts of things.  And every day it was, 'how long till mommy come home?'  Mommy really is an essential part of this household!  Patrick

After Nora's Dance class I took the kids to the Powerhouse - Everyone asked about Zoya 

Jewelry dough that took forever to dry - Stuey made a dragonfly

Cardboard house that we made with a box from our neighbor Claudia - they later drew all over it