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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas pictures

Socks, socks and more socks! Everyone in the family knows what Patrick likes.

vest from Grandma Coco and Grandpa George
lighting candles and placesettings

My stuffing this year turned into stuffing soup :( A byproduct of using old frozen bread and cooking it all day.


Roxann made Baked Alaska for dessert--so yummy! But she wasn't there to enjoy it, as her daughter Sophie was sick and they stayed home. 

Christmas Hike

On Christmas morning I hiked Pillar ridge with our friends Heather and Bob and their son Shane. They are in town for 2 weeks and staying next door to us.

 The sun was fresh out of the ocean horizon.   The light cast on the mountains was breathtaking. It is so unusual to be able to hike on Pillar in the end of December! Typically the mountain is covered in ice and snow and its not easy to drive to the top of the mountain.

Shane and Stuey raced ahead, in an unspoken race. Taking turns dashing in front of eachother and breathless at times. Icy at times, with crisp air, the hike woke up all our senses on Christmas morning.


Kincaid with the kids

After Christmas we left the dogs on Kodiak and went for a quick trip to Anchorage.  We stayed at a hotel with a pool and I was amazed at the number of families also at the hotel.  It seems Anchorage is a popular spot for 'bush Alaskans' to visit post Christmas.  All us rural folk visiting the big city to shop and visit.  I'll leave all the shopping, visiting, theatre going, and eating for another post, and talk about the highlight of my trip - the visit to Kincaid Park with Nora and Stuey.

While we were in Anchorage I went for a cross-country ski every morning.  I was loving the time on snow.  And every morning I saw all the other families out skiing on the trails. I kept on thinking, 'uh oh, am I a 'bad dad'? And 'If I don't get them skiing they might never like skiing.' To our credit we tried to get Nora and Stuey into some ski classes but they were all full.

So I on the last day I decided I'd go it alone and took them to Kincaid Park.  I had visions of tears and high speed wipeouts on the hills.  But their time on skiis on Kodiak lakes and at the Bear Valley Golf Course translated VERY well to the groomed ski trails of Kincaid. I was impressed with their confidence.  We went for a 45 minute tour and they did not want to quit at the end.  What was I worried about?

Ironically, I forgot my ski boots and during our tour I had to run along after the kids in my shoes.  In Anchorage the ski crowd does NOT like pedestrians, dogs and bikers trespassing onto the ski only trails and I was a little worried I'd get busted.  To my credit I did stick to the edges, and did not post hole at all.  And we mostly skiied ungroomed trails.  But for a while there I was 'one of those people' - the ones that bring a collective eye roll to the Anchorage ski community.

But it was worth the eye rolls because Nora and Stuey had a great time.  Cross country skiing on groomed trails is something we will be doing a lot more of during future visits to Anchorage.  That and signing up for Hillside downhill ski lessons BEFORE we leave Kodiak.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014


It snowed a little on the mountains overnight so today I actually carried my skiis up the mountain and went skiing during 'my after-work ski'. The conditions were pretty desperate, but I did get in a 400 vertical foot run, and I did not hit any rocks.  So good enough.

The low sun and snow squalls made for some dramatic scenics.  Patrick

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grey Skies

This is what it looked like from near the top of my hike yesterday.  We've been seeing a lot of grey lately here on Kodiak.  But it does seem to be getting a bit colder and the weather report is even calling for a chance of snow.  I got my fingers crossed.

Even with no snow it's funny but Zoya and I still refer to my daily hikes as my 'ski after work'. Yesterday when I she got home she asked, 'how was your ski?'.  We both know I did not going skiing, but that's what we still call it.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Solstice moments

Yesterday was an extra special winter solstice.

As the sun was rising at 10:20 ish, I drove out the road with my girlfriend Elise to walk Kalsin Beach. We stopped for coffees at Java F. and drove on for about 1/2 hour, catching up on life. The tide was high, and frost coated all the grass alongside the beach. The light of the sky and ocean was even more appreciated since it has been rainy and dark with almost no snow this winter.


Later in the evening our family went to dinner at Erica V's house and her kids and our kids played together as Erica and I attempted making a loaf of Stollen. (In the end it didn't turn out, but we sure gave it our best try!) Erica made a Shepards pie with Goat meat for dinner...perfect winter solstice soul food!

Erica and I trying to decipher the recipe...did they mean 2 eggs or 10 eggs? :)

 Erica requested that we bring 10-20 pictures from 2014 to share in a slideshow fashion, and after dinner we all looked at the family pictures together on their TV from the Computer. The kids picked out some photos as well and it was fun to see which photos they got excited about. I liked the slideshow format--makes me want to do more slideshows with friends to learn about their trips, adventures, life moments.


When we got home and putting kids to bed, my friend Heather texted, who is visiting from Wyoming. She heard there was Northern Lights and wondered if I'd be up for going out the road to check them out. I definitely was up for it! We drove out to the base of North Sister and saw a glow int he sky, as well as a few vertical bars of light. The sky was so clear and it was wonderful to see the stars and galaxies so crisply.

Heres to the return of the light....and hopfeully snow, too! :)


Solstice Sunset with Stuey

Yesterday afternoon I climbed Pyramid with Stuey and the dogs and caught the sunset sunshine on the shortest day of the year.  The low light made for some spectacular photos.  There had been an ice storm so up high the ice coated bushes and grass sparkled.

The snow near the top had a bullet proof crust and Stuey was sliding all over the place.  I had to break trail for him because he was too light to break through the crust and would end up sliding backwards.  We found a low angled hill and did some 'sit down' sledding on our butts.  Patrick

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Confused Yarrow

This morning I noticed a yarrow plant blooming in the yard.  I checked around and clover is growing in the garden beds and the hanging baskets still have flowers.  It's been so warm this fall that all the plants are confused and think it's a light deprived spring.  I must admit I'm confused too - what is going on?  When will it finally get cold and snow?

On the clover if you look closely you can even see some slug damage.  That's super bad - it means if we don't get some cold temperatures to freeze off the slugs there will be a plague of nasty garden slimers next summer.

I hope I'm not mowing the lawn in january.

Anyway, I did take the dogs up the mountain this afternoon, and I was heartened that there was even some new snow up there -  baby steps forwards to winter.  Patrick

Friday, December 19, 2014

What made my pack so heavy?

Recently on a day trip goat hunt/hike (read about hunt here) I brought along a tent, sleeping bag, and woodstove.  I figured you never know what will happen and the days are so short and nights so long.  Maybe I'd shoot a goat and he'd fall in a ravine and we'd have to spend the night.  So I brought along emergency gear, and the tent, while small, has slept three in the past (click here to see that hunt).  That morning when I picked up Philip and Adelia I felt a little insecure about my huge pack, and I almost, but not quite, decided to dump gear.

Anyway, it was a long day and on the last climb, as Philip and Adelia flitted on up the hill in front of me, my pack felt REALLY heavy .  Philip had carried my pack for a bit while I was stalking the goats and commented that he was surprised at how light it was considering how bulky it looked.  This got me a bit insecure and I pondered if I was just old and out of shape.  How heavy was my pack?

So when I got home I weighed the pack on my digital scale and it came in at 38 pounds.  That's pretty heavy for a day hunt pack.  I immediately wondered about the weight-cost of my emergency gear and weighed the tent, sleeping bag, bivy and woodstove all together.  I was shocked to find they only weighed 6 pounds!

So what had made my pack so heavy?  I weighed out the different parts and was surprised to discover that the bow, game bags, satellite phone and case, ice axe and crampons weighed 16 pounds!  That's what weighed the pack down!  I was particularly shocked at how much the game bags weighed.  Anyway, what made the whole exercise interesting was that the emergency gear really did not add all that much weight.  Maybe it's time to get some light game bags and dump the SAT phone case.

Seek Outside Evolution Pack empty = 4 pounds
Bow and arrows = 8.5 pounds
10 degree down sleeping bag, bivy bag, tent for 3 and woodstove = 6 pounds
3 Game bags, SAT phone and case, crampons, and ice axe = 8 pounds
Bone/wood saw, puff jacket, rain pants and jacket, food, knives, range finder and binos, water bottle and misc stuff = 11.5 pounds
Total = 38 pounds


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Birdin' with the Brownies

Birding with the pros last weekend-Jeanne P on the left and Rich M in center. 

This past weekend I learned that my Brownie Troop  knows their birds and I was so appreciative of local birding support.  

Earlier this month,  our Troop   began an  Alaska Council Bird "Try-it" patch. It involves learning about several different species of birds,  different bird habitats, feathers, etc.  Patrick came to the first  meeting and we walked over to Near island to do some birding with the girls. The girls were curious about bird watching and especially enjoyed the prospect of learning bird songs to go along with sightings. 

 The following week I contacted Rich M of our local Audubon chapter asking for help with getting my troop exposed to the Annual Bird Count which was this weekend. My hope was to peek in on it with my troop somehow-show them that this world of bird counting and tracking exists. Give them a taste of the excitement and planning around it. 

 I underestimated just how  excited my troop would be about birds.  Rich graciously offered to present to our troop the day before the bird count-bless his heart! He did a powerpoint presentation on Kodiak birds.  He asked them to guess which birds they saw on the slide show. "Varied Thrush! Blue Heron! Kingfisher!" the girls were shouted out. Just as I was guessing Chickadee for virtually every bird during the "guess  the bird" slideshow, the Brownies had a lot of right answers. 

The girls shared stories about birds around their houses, as well as questions for Rich about Kodiak Birds.  I was glowing with joy inside with pride about their interest. I was glad to be pursuing the birding patch with them. 

Time and time again, I am realizing how much I learn from being a brownie leader. Every meeting is a new adventure!


Bird pre-lim work..week 1. Girls learned about various Alaskan birds, feathers, bird calls, etc. 

Hot cocoa break on Near Island

Group picture. Birdin' with the Brownies on Near Island

Shine a light

It's been a pretty dismal fall here on Kodiak - rain and temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above normal.  Grey skies, low light and mud. I know what I want for Christmas - some cold and some snow.  Snow reflects light and when it is cold it is also generally sunny.  We NEED some of that weather.

But Monday on Pyramid I was just happy the sun came out.  Patrick

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Year's Christmas Tree

Last week Stuey and I harvested this year's Christmas tree, and carried it home.  It's not the biggest tree that we've ever had but it is symmetrical and bushy.  Yesterday at Nora's insistence we decorated it as a family.  Zoya and I had intended just to watch the kids decorate but Nora did not want to decorate alone with Stuey.

So we all decorated the tree together.  It was nice to find all the old decorations - the same ones we put on the tree year after year.  In the past we often wrote the yearly events on the new for the year decoration.  There was a sad moment when we found the one from 2003 when Katie the dog died and we welcomed Roxy dog to the family.  Roxy passed away last year.  Time is passing.


Zoya reads the 'Katie Dog bone decoration' - the one that welcomes Roxy to the family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Garden Still Kicking

Kodiak's non-winter does have some benefits.  It's almost Christmas and the garden is still going strong! The kale is still growing and producing better than it has all year.  The parsley is alive and well too.  Even the lettuce lasted almost until the end of November, before it got too bitter to eat. I also recently noticed that the carrots I did not pull by accident are still green and growing.  I'll have to check and see if they've continued to grow bigger.  I guess I did not have to pull them way back in October after all.

And best of all, the few slight frosts have 'sweetened' the kale. It tastes FAR better than it did during the summer.  I wish I'd grown parsnips and brussel sprouts!


Thursday, December 04, 2014


This morning as I took a bath, Nora sat on a little stool in the bathroom and studied me and drew this portrait. I took it to work and hung it up. 

Tonight was a  productive Thursday night where we moved Stuey to a bigger bedroom…a guest room which has a bunk bed in it. He's been requesting it for months and tonight after work I rolled up my sleeves and took the lead with it. He's thrilled to be sleeping up high; the only bummer is that he can't use Tank as a pillow anymore.

To catch up on kid quotes…

Stuey from the top bunk, "How many quarts is this? Jumping off this bed?"
"Quarts?" I replied.
"No, no, I mean pints" Stuey says.
"Oh you mean feet!" I correct.

"Mom, you know the cool thing about Adelia? She's graceful and yet on the elk hunt she shot the biggest elk!" Nora- as she and I were making cookies. The day before we went to the Isle Bells concert where Adelia played bells beautifully!

"But the Wis-kin has 42 points?" Stuey, when watching his first Wisconsin Badgers Game.

"Who are you voting for?" Stuey when deciding which team to root for.

"I didn't read all of it because my eye bulbs were so tired" Stuey at end of night ready for bed.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

My favorite photos of 2014

This morning I looked back through all my photos from 2014 and picked out my favorites.  I did this last year too (click here for post) and I've found the exercise interesting and helpful.  For one thing, many of what I thought were my 'favorites' when I took them no longer interest me while I also found some under-appreciated sleepers.  The exercise is helpful because it forces me to critically examine my own work.  Knowing what works and what does not will make me a better photographer.

This year one theme I tried hard to capture is the Sitka spruce forest understory.  And I finally think I captured it in the image above.  This was my favorite photograph of the year.  I also captured it pretty well in the 9th picture where I used the HDR feature on my point and shoot to catch the light glinting through the trees.  HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and the camera takes 3 pictures at different exposures and then combines them into one photo.  The different exposures means the brights aren't washed out and there are details in the dark areas - the image has a 'higher dynamic range'.

Anyway, in general, I must admit I do not like my pictures from this year as much as my best from last year.   My landscapes have suffered a bit - I think I have been trying to make my panoramic images too wide.  I think I need to focus them in a bit.  For instance, in the bottom photo of the Sturgeon River I think it would have been a better photo if it was less wide because it would focus more attention on the loops of the river.  The loops get lost when the pan is so all encompassing.