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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cabins and Trails in Remote Places

Ayakulik Flats country from the top of Anvil Mountain

I like exploring remote and lonely places, and Kodiak is a good place to live if one enjoys this sort of activity.  It is the sort of place that draws like-minded individuals and I have a lot of friends who also like to explore.  So recently it came as a shock that some of my friends are advocating for backcountry cabins.  The sort of hut to hut type things that you see in the Alps or New Zealand.  To my mind this would destroy what I love about the remote places on Kodiak.  And what is funny is that my friends totally do not understand where I am coming from.

For me, once there is a cabin or a road then the area is no longer wilderness.  A cabin or even a hut destroys the feeling of remoteness.  When I go on remote trips I avoid bays and areas that have cabins - or even lakes where it is easy for people to access by float plane.  I like to camp in places where people do not visit.  And there are places I used to go where I no longer do because someone built a cabin.

Also why does anyone need a hut when a teepee that sleeps five and includes a woodstove only weighs 4 to 5 pounds?  It's not like anyone needs a hut if they know what they are doing.

But what's ironic is that I see a parallel in the divide between motorized and non-motorized trail users and the situation between me and my friends who want huts.  Motorized trail users can't understand why non-motorized people get so angry when they ride on a trail.  Basically the noise and beaten in ruts do not bother them.  But it drives the non-motorized crowd bonkers.

The same thing is happening with me and my friends - they don't value true wilderness and can't understand why I'm bothered by huts.  It's an asymmetric situation where the person whose values and needs are the most simple loses.

I guess what it all comes down to is that we should be considerate of the needs of others.  There are trails that are appropriate for motorized users.  Just as there are trails that are better left unmotorized.  And there are areas that should be left wild and remote.  I do admit I would probably enjoy a hut to hut trip in the Swiss Alps - as long as there is enough good cheese and wine.  And I would not mind a hut at one of the goat lakes up in the high alpine where people are already camping all the time.  But I'd rather we left the wild and remote areas wild and remote.


East Fork of the Ayakulik with the Sturgeon River Valley on the far right

Panoramic view south from near the top of Koniag Mountain - Old Harbor is on the extreme left

Panoramic view north from near the top Koniag Mountain 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holidays approaching & Life Cycles

Stuey's first grade teacher LOVES teaching about life cycles of plants and animals. Many of the projects that he brings home is about life cycles, which I just adore. I'm reminded that death is such a huge part of the life cycle and it makes Roxy's loss a hair easier for me to comprehend. 

The holidays are quickly approaching and thus far I'm not feeling too frazzled!

Today I came home and listened to the phone messages on my landline. There was a message from someone I didn't know saying that they were referred to PT by a doctor off island and all the clinics are full for weeks. The gal heard I was a Physical Therapist and was wondering if I was taking any new clients. This scenario has been happening at least once a week lately at A Balanced Approach and it makes me bummed out to think of people in pain, needing PT and not being able to get in quickly to get treated. All the clinics are booked full.

 In 1 month the new physical therapist, Kelsea, will be joining my physical therapy practice and I'm very excited about it-giddy, actually! Kelseas' upcoming arrival is kind of a hazy dream-like something that seems too good to be true. An event which I'm not letting myself get completely excited about until she is actually here! When Kelsea and I text or call back and forth about her Kodiak move, I always have a smile on my face afterwards and a sense of peace. She is so excited to come to Kodiak and start working shortly after the new year.

The past few weeks I had some TMJ  (jaw) pain on one side and it wasn't resolving. I e-mailed my massage therapist and went in for a visit over the weekend. He did some jaw/face massage and  showed me what stretch to do for my lateral pterygoid muscles~its 90% resolved now.  The whole experience gave me an appreciation for how nice it is to be able to get in quickly with your practitioner of choice and made me extra happy that Kelsea is arriving in a few weeks to A Balanced Approach.

I still miss Roxy terribly.

The grief comes in occasional waves and I get heartbroken that I won't see her again. Nora and I went for a walk to Ft. Abercrombie with Tank and Jake last weekend.  We had a good discussion about missing Roxy and how Roxy would stay nice and close to us on walks. Nora got a little teary toward the end of the walk and I could see it was a healing moment for her.

Friends have written condolence cards and today I got a card from the vet expressing their condolences. I expected that the vet clinic would send a card, but I thought it would be a mass produced card. Well, it wasn't. The staff wrote such nice notes about how Roxy was so lucky and well loved. And how she was lucky to have a family who loved her so much. I could tell the staff put some time into their heartfelt words, which made the card even that more heart felt to me.

A week after Roxy's death, I went into the clinic to get her ashes. The vet tech behind the desk saw me when I came in, and retrieved a small beautiful wooden box from behind the desk and handed it to me with a caring look on her face. The tears welled up inside of me and I was barely able to mumble a "Thank you" without getting too emotional. The tech gave a sincere, kind understanding nod and I walked out back to my car.

As I drove away in the rain, I called Patrick. "I got Roxy's ashes. It was harder than I thought. (Pause, tears) They put her ashes in a nice wooden box.(pause, tears, breath) I thought it would be a plastic bag in a cardboard box. It makes it harder that they're in a nice box." Patrick said, "Oh Zoya...Thats hard" and we shared the moment together. He has been through this before with Katie dog years ago and understood how hard it is.

I"m continually humbled by peoples pet stories of loss...and reminded that it IS a big loss. I let myself be sad and welcome that sadness.

I think the part that chokes me up is that I really won't see her again.  Writing that seems really cliche, but the reality that she won't look up at me with her sweet little eyes and wag her tail breaks my heart. Or lay on the lawn waiting for me outside when I pull up into the driveway. Roxy was incredibly loyal and dedicated to our family.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kids like it FAST

Yesterday I took the kids cross country skiing at the golf course.  I had gone skate skiing earlier and knew that it was pretty fast.  Put another way, I knew it was icy.  I did not think the kids would be able to ski on the ice and was trying to lower their hopes by suggesting that perhaps we would just go sledding.  I was explaining this to them in the car on the way to the golf course when Nora said, 'Daddy you tell us it will be bad so that it will be good.  If you tell us it will be good it will be bad'.  Nora is one perceptive girl.

We get to the golf course and they did not want to go sledding.  They just wanted to ski.  And it was pretty icy too.  I know a lot of adults who would have found the conditions 'challenging'.  They had a blast, and unlike in years past I did not have to help them get up.  It's like the last 6 years of hell - spending 1/2 hour getting the kids ready to ski and then spending 10 minutes picking them up - has finally paid off.  They like to ski.  And they really have no fear when it comes to going downhill.

On the way home Nora said, 'Daddy I had a really good time', and Stuey piped up, 'Me too!'  That made my winter.      Patrick

I made a quick minute and a half video of our adventure (see bottom of photos).  To see the video at high resolution on YouTube go to this web address

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Finally on Snow

Sunrise this morning at the golf course

Here on Kodiak October and early November have been warm (September was actually pretty cold) and it was beginning to seem like it would NEVER snow.  And then finally on Wednesday it did snow, and it snowed a lot. And then it rained a lot.  We lost all our snow in town, but out at the golf course there is a good solid base and I have been XC skiing for the last 3 days.  The ski season has begun.

Out of curiosity I checked back through our blog to see when the ski season usually begins.  And it is usually mid to late November - so this year is about average.  Maybe a tad bit later than usual.  It's just that last year ski season began far earlier than usual, and I think that spoiled us.  Let's just hope it stays cold and snowy.  Patrick

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Local Protein Feed

Yesterday after work Philip, Brooks and I cut up the deer from last weekend.  After we finished cutting up the deer we had a feast.  Philip brought some tanner crabs that he had caught the day before and I cooked up Yorkshire pudding, and 2 of the back leg flat roasts from the deer we had just wrapped up.  The crab was very fresh and the deer meat had never been frozen.  Philip brought a lot of crab and 2 roasts is a lot of meat, but it all got eaten.

The crab was truly amazing.  Zoya claims it is the best crab she has ever eaten which is saying a lot considering her dad was a commercial crab fisherman.  Usually crab is very salty and 'briny' and it is hard to taste the true crab flavor.  Philip's crab was very fresh and not salty at all.  The kids gobbled it up, and they don't usually like the crab.  Brooks even taught Stuey how to open up crab legs.

A great impromptu feast!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Fire, S'mores & Tents; Brownie Adventures

Last Saturday afternoon Brownie Troop #118, a few parents and myself enjoyed a lovely walk to Spruce Cape point together. The wind was blustery and cold, but then we rounded the corner and the beach was in the lee of the wind, where it felt much warmer! The girls arranged and created a fire pit  and co-leader Kathy reviewed fire safety principles with the girls.  I've been around plenty of camp fires in my time, but this was my first time to learn the official girl scout fire rules (for instance, bucket of water nearby, hair pulled back into bandanas, walking all the way around the outside of fire pit, etc..) 

 All the girls had a chance to practice striking a match and later on we enjoyed smores together! 

While the fire was going, the girls  practiced setting up tents in preparation for camping adventures. We'll be doing more of that in the months to come ; I'm hoping for a winter camping adventure. Thus far, I'm getting support and help from the other parents on the the prospect of an upcoming camping trip, so thats fun! I think it will be a super memorable outing for all of us!

 I can see the girls becoming quickly proficient and independent with practice of the same tents from session to session! 

cider break

fire safety-learning the rules before lighting the fire

Nora, Estella and Natalie

Group shot!

Learning how to strike a match

smore time!

roasting marshmallows

enjoying the tent for a few minutes after set up

simple camp delights!

Birding with Brownies


In August I became a girl scout leader.  Since I wasn't a girl scout growing up, I anticipated a rougher transition. Or I was ready for it, at least. Everything with being a scout leader is completely new to me...the formalities, procedures,  and how everything with the girl scouts flow. I think that was the part I was most nervous about-the girls somehow discovering that I'm a "phony" leader because I was never a girl scout growing up.

Fortunately, the new role has been super fun-the girls and their parents are such blessings. So eager, excited and energetic! (And so kids have asked me if I was a girl scout growing up!)

In October, Patrick and I led the girls on a birding adventure and the girls were so into it! We packed up bird books, binoculars, spotting scope and the girls brought their own birding paraphenilia.

As we walked along toward the beach and park, the girls sang girl scout songs, talked, raced eachother, sprinted ahead...picked flowers and dead leaves.  We stopped at the ocean where Patrick set up the spotting scope and the girls had a chance to look at loons, grebes, merganzers up close and personal. They were more excited than I had predicted. The brownies lined up behind the spotting scope, ready to see the birds. And they looked through their binos out on the ocean on the lookout for other birds to ID.

Patrick would eagerly find the birds in the book so the girls could identify with what they were looking at. It was fun to see their genuine enthusiasm in birding!

 The girls did about an hour of walking  on the bird viewing trip and there wasn't any complaints of "Are we there yet?". They were troopers.

Sausage Run

Dawn patrol for sausage meat

 Last weekend we ground up the season's burger.  But no sausage.  Usually we grind up mountain goat meat to make italian sausage.  This year it looks like there will be no goat, so yesterday Adelia, Brooks and I took a boat off the road system to harvest the next best thing for sausage - deer.

Deer hunting near our house on the Kodiak road system is closed. So at this time of year one has to take a boat to the more remote parts of the island.  Cold weather, and short days can make this a brutal hunt.  And with the recent return to a cold weather cycle I had a feeling this was our last chance for an off road system hunt.  By next weekend the harbor where we start these hunts could well be frozen over.

At this time of year hunting time is limited and we had to hike quickly up to the alpine where the deer are still hanging out.  I was worried that all we'd find would be a big rutting buck.  With the rut on mature bucks smell VERY badly and are inedible.  Often hiking along I'd catch a whiff of the rutting deer smell and would know that a buck was hiding nearby.  We wanted to harvest only does and immature male deer.

We finally did find the 'nursery' and harvest a spike and doe.  We could have harvested more but our time was limited.  As it was, by the time we got back to the harbor and the boat ramp it was already sunset.  We drove home in the dark.

This year we will have italian deer sausage in the freezer!


Frozen waterfall - look closely and you can see me crossing above it

Homeward bound with meat

Ice!  It is now winter

Searching for deer

Brooks LOVES alders - at one point he turned around and to show his love for an alder repeatedly whacked it with his ski pole (the alder did not respond)

Hopefully Patrick knows a trail out of here

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Butcher Parties and the Big Burger Grind

Thomaso with an elk hind quarter to cut up

This past Sunday we had a party at our house and ground up 200 pounds of deer and elk meat into hamburger.  This was the annual burger grind party. The event is the culmination of a number of 'butcher parties'.  Every time we butcher an animal it is a 'butcher party'.  Usually we have some beer and someone brings something good to eat for after we finish cutting and packaging the meat.  These are social affairs, but they tend to be small and restricted to just the people who harvested the particular animal(s) getting cut up.

The meat scraps are put aside to be ground up into burger at a later date.  The later date being the 'Big Burger Grind'.  This year we ended up with almost 200 pounds of meat to grind into burger.  That is the scraps from 2 elk and 8 deer.  Everybody shows up for the burger grind, and there is always good food.  I remember fish tacos one year and this year we had barbecued deer and elk ribs.

The kids love to help.  This year Stuey washed his hands and helped Gregg feed 'the beast' and grind the burger.  Both kids also like to help label the meat packages.  We always like to make a drawing on every individual package of meat.  It is a sign of quality, and the kids love to draw the various animals that are represented inside the packages.

The burger grind also means the hunting season is coming to a close.  If any more animals are harvested the next grinding party will not be for burger but to create italian sausage.  That is if we are lucky enough to harvest a goat or a few does in the next month or so.

The elk crew cutting and packaging while Nora labels the packages

A Nora labelled package of elk scraps to be ground later

Prepping the semi frozen scraps for the burger grinder

Stuey helps Gregg grind scraps into burger

Packaging and labeling the burger

Every package gets some personal attention

Also I just noticed that this post is our 2000th since we started the blog a little over 7 years ago.  WOW that's a long time and a lot of posts!  Patrick

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Goat Camping

Lighting the wood stove

Over the weekend I camped out for 2 nights with Brooks while bow hunting for mountain goats.  We did not come home with a goat, but as usual with bow hunting we came REALLY close and 'should have brought home a goat'.

This was the first time I have camped out when bow hunting for goats.  It has been warm on Kodiak and I was surprised at how much snow there is up on the mountains.  The first night we camped on snow, and I was a little worried I'd get cold.  The snow underfoot did cause my sleeping pad to slide all around, but I stayed warm.  The next night we did not camp on the snow and based on my watch thermometer the little Ti Goat stove got the temperature in the tent up to 101 degrees!

Mostly we just hiked around in the mountains and chased goats.  Goats like to hang out in steep places and I'm realizing that as I get older I like steep places less and less.  We visited many places where I have hiked and climbed in the past and I did not remember them as particularly scary.  This time around some of those places seemed downright death defying.  And I looked at some places where I've climbed or crossed before and thought, 'how did I do that?' and  'What was I thinking?'

I am also realizing that I am lucky to live in a place where I can just take off for a weekend and bow hunt for goats in the mountains.  Most places you have to fly somewhere else and pay someone to show you around to do what we did on our own.  Kodiak is good.  Patrick

Drying wood on the stove and relaxing

Dinner cooking on the Ti Goat wood stove

Bow hunting for goats

Down below Brooks is where the goats hang out

Goat hunting at dawn

Monday, November 11, 2013

Goodbye Roxy

This morning we said good bye to our beloved Roxy. The goodbyes were painful for all of us, but especially the kids. They knew that when they returned home from school, that Roxy wouldn't be at home. Moments in time don't get much harder than that.

In the past 2 days, Roxy had taken a major turn for the worst with her health and wasn't even eating her pain pills disguised in hot dogs. Patrick and I looked at each other and knew inside our hearts that this was the time.

Later in the day, I went to work  and had the most healing conversations about pets with my clients. I was forthcoming with the fact that my dog passed away and people were very understanding and shared in the moment with me.

Clients told stories of 20 year old cats, animals which touched their lives forever, illness...I am really blessed by a caseload of thoughtful, caring people. Today on my job as a physical therapist, I felt very well taken care of. And when I retuned home, friends and neighbors brought by cookies and hugs. And moments to share in the sadness of the loss. I appreciated this.

A client dropped off  a children's book titled "Dog Heaven" and it talked of dogs running as fast as they can in big open fields the moment they get to dog heaven. And eating ham flavored dog biscuits all the time. I read it to the kids at bedtime, tears streaming down my face.

I know Roxy is so happy to be able to run through the fields again and enjoy unlimited ham flavored biscuits under the angel's dinner tables!

Thank you to Roxy for being such a wonderful gift to our family.


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Roxy Update

After the intial shock of Roxy's diagnosis hit, we are gradually getting used to the idea that our time with Roxy is limited. She gets all the dish-licking privileges, extra attention and pets.  Nora is good about making sure there is always a water bowl by her.

After I first found out of her diagnosis last Wednesday, I was surprised by how profound my sadness was. I think that since Roxy is 10+ years old and I knew on an intellectual level that she is going to die someday, I didn't expect to be so deeply upset.

 I saw several clients at the coast guard base on Thursday mroning then started typing notes. As I tried to make the words on the screen matter, I thought of Roxy home alone and the tears choked up inside me and then I started crying-hard. Really hard. Mascara-running hard.  I explained to the PT assistant about my sick dog and took the rest of the day off.

I"m so humbled and thankful by the kindness of friends during this time. On the day after Roxy's diagnosis, friends brought by food and drinks and even fun drawing things for the kids (food included apple pie, bread, cookies, adult beverages & smoked white king salmon-WOW!) . Far away friends wrote facebook messages and people shared their stories of their loved dogs and pets who had passed away.

My friend Elke recently went through the loss of a dog recently (also named Roxy!) and I called her to learn about what made it easier/harder and asked about what to expect. One thing she said during the course of the conversation was "Zoya, doesn't it feel good to feel pain and sadness? Its a gift and reminds us what its all about to be alive. To feel the highs AND the lows. Thats what being human is about. To be able to feel that grief."

Her words struck the right chord. And our friends and family reaching out makes the heartache a little more bearable.

As of now, Roxy, is more comfortable on better pain meds. She occasionally wags her tail with joy and is still able to go in and outside. Yesterday she wanted to lay in whichever room we are in, which we liked to see!

It seems like for now she is fairly comfortable.  Its been good to see the kids settle into a new routine of caring with her and have really embraced the notion of giving her extra attention and making sure we do too!


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Bowhunting for Goats. ... ..again

Back in the day - hunting goats on skis in 2005

It looks like I'll be hunting for mountian goats with a bow and arrow this weekend.  This is the first time I've done that since 2007.

For a few years, I bow hunted pretty seriously for mountain goats on the Kodiak road-system.  On the road-system if you are bow certified (and this requires passing both a written and bow field proficiency test) you can just register to hunt goat after the regular season for goats ends.  Otherwise you need to enter a State lottery to draw a permit that allows you to hunt goats during the regular season that ends in October.  The lottery has always had pretty low odds, and so back in the day I opted to get bow certified just so that I did not need to rely on the lottery to hunt goats close to home.

Bow hunting is not a very efficient way to hunt goats.  It would generally take more than a couple of weekends before we got lucky and came home with a goat.  There were always plenty of goats.  The problem was getting close enough to shoot one with a bow (about 30 yards), and then it had to be positioned correctly (you can't shoot if it is facing directly away or towards you), and you can't shoot a nanny with a kid.  

Inevitably, we'd get very close to some goats and something would go wrong.  There was always a story after each hunt....a kid would pop up next to a nanny, the goat would be facing the wrong way, and once a strong gust of wind blew the arrow off of John's arrow rest just when he was getting ready to shoot.  

Whenever we got home Zoya would say, 'let me guess, you got close and ... ...'  And she was usually right. (Click HERE to see a post she wrote about it back in the day).

To be honest I am not a big fan of bow hunting.  I sort of see it as playing with your food.  Also bow hunting in November and December is cold and sometimes scary.  But the payoff is the goat meat; our family really likes it.  And since this year I did not draw a goat tag or go hunting on the south end of Kodiak where a draw tag is not needed - it is time to go bow hunting for goat.  But this time I am NOT going into scary places, nor will I take it too seriously.  If I get a goat GREAT, but if not, then I'll shoot a few does and pretend it's a goat meat when we make the goat sausage we love so much.  Patrick

John puts on the crampons

Another blown stalk - check out all the goats running away behind John

Cliffs, ice and sun
Hiking around on a thick mantle of new ice

John about to start a stalk on some goats way down the ridge