Search This Blog

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Camping on Sheratin Mountain

This Spring, I've been itching to backpack. The mountains have been calling. Yesterday Patrick went skiing on Sheratin in the morning. When he returned,  we did the "tag-you're-it" with the kiddos and I headed up with back pack full of camping gear. I met up with my friends Shanna and Jason. Jason just returned from climbing Denali several weeks ago. During the trip, I enjoyed hearing about his trip~such an amazing adventure. 

Doing my own camping is a very new thing for me. Patrick is an amazing camper which has left me not learning how to get confident with my own camping skills. I packed up tent, sleeping bag, and a pocket rocket to cook dinner with. Patrick sent along freeze dried shepards pie which I was intimated to cook, never having camp cooked before. 

When the time for dinner came, Shanna and Jason were so helpful with any questions I had. From setting up my tent, to cooking dinner and packing up, everything went smoothly! I had a blast. I had so much fun, that I cried upon my return. Patrick and I downloaded the pictures on the computer. Tears rolled down my face. "I had so much fun honey! I did it! All on my own!"


setting up camp

Sheratin camp

my first camp meal all on my own! 

shanna helping shield the flames from the wind

freeze dried shepards pie turned out yummy 

nearing sunset
10:45 PM! I couldn't believe how late it was when I asked Shanna and Jason the time

Loved this view. I sat for 30 minutes and soaked it in. 

A Quick Trip Up Sheratin Mountain

Last week on Afognak we had a nice view of the backside (north facing slope) of Sheratin Mountain, and I could see that it still has a nice cover of snow.  So yesterday I decided to make a quick trip up there to go skiing.  And it had to be quick - I could not leave the house until 10:30 and I needed to be back by 4 PM.  So once Zoya got back from teaching powerflex I raced out the door.

I went up an old trail I have not used in years and found myself on the summit remarkably quickly.  I thought it would take a lot longer.  But my old trail had been recently brushed out, and it leads directly to the bottom of the snow where I could put on my skiis and skin the rest of the way up.

Once on the summit I had a spectacular view out over the ocean towards where we were last week on Afognak.  But now I was on top of the snow I lusted after all last week, and it was Afognak in the distance.

It was time to go skiing.  And what run I had -  I skiied a mile in 4 minutes - WOW!  The snow was perfectly soft and fast.  It was a quick trip home and I got back home by 3PM.  And Zoya was out the door to go camping - tag I'm it!

I should climb Sheratin more often.


View from near the bottom of my ski run to the summit a mile away - if you look closely you can see my skin track up on the upper left

The reverse view of Afognak - where we were camping on Afognak is slightly to the left in the far middle distance 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Afognak Close Ups

Baby crab shed

I'm still loving my Olympus Stylus TG3 - it takes amazing close ups.  And not just good close ups for a waterproof point-and-shoot, but the best close ups I've ever been able to take with any camera.  At the Alutiiq Museum we even bought one for taking artifact pictures rather than using the fancy Canon SLR with its 1000$ macro lens.  The TG3 is that good.

Here are a few close ups I took while on Afognak last weekend.  Patrick

Alutiiq Llam Sua Petroglyph

Baby Sea Urchin - this sea urchin was about 2 cm across

Friday, May 29, 2015

Bethany, Nate and Winston

Since starting my weekly kodiak daily mirror column, I haven't been blogging as much. My hope is to get back to a couple times a week like I used to. Its just a matter of time-need more of it. I've recently become terribly hooked on the mini series Grey's Anatomy, so after putting the kids to bed, working on rough draft of my column, then I plug into Greys.

Our neighbors Bethany and Winston are leaving this week.  They have been in our next door rental for  6 months. Bethany is a 3rd year medical student and her husband Winston is a contractor. And they have a precious black lab named BP, which brings our block black lab total to 3. 

We're going to miss their smiles, and I'm going to miss Bethany's hiking enthusiasm. She and I had a routine of Sunday morning hikes up new peaks. We all recently went to Afognak together last week, which is the bulk of the photos below. 


Celebrating Bethany's 28th on Afognak

Nate shaking the silly's out of Stuey

Taking a break on our hike

Nate, Winston, Stuey and Patrick on our hike

the bottom of an overturned tree

Add caption


For our first 3 days on Afognak it was too windy for kayaking, and I was beginning to wonder why I bothered to bring them.  But the fourth day was mostly sunny (with apocalyptic clouds) and calm - a perfect day for kayaking.

So we all loaded up and kayaked around Graveyard point and headed for the West end of Old Afognak Village.  We beached our kayaks at the big beach where the runway used to be located and walked over to Back Bay on the old road through the trees.  We'd never done this particular hike before and it was cool to see a new part of the island.

When we got back to camp at Lipset Point the kids wanted to kayak some more, and we let them have at it in the cove with an onshore breeze.  With the wind blowing towards the beach it felt pretty safe. The rule was that they could not go outside the anchored whaler and had to stay insight of me watching  from the beach.  I was impressed with their kayaking abilities.

When they go double with us adults in the boats we (the adults) tend to completely control the boat, and the kids don't get to do much.  So it was good to see them flit about in complete control of their own boats.  They even had races from one end of the beach to the other.  Patrick

Activities Centered on the Woodstove

Big breakfast cooked on the woodstove

Camplife on Afognak centers around the woodstove.  We feed it wood and it feeds us heat.  It is the center of all attention right in the middle of the teepee.  I much prefer it for cooking rather than the white gas powered Coleman 2-burner that we used to use.  The heat is tempered and food does not get burnt or stick to the bottom of pans - perfect for slow-cooked meals and 'fire-side' conversation.

On this trip one of my favorite meals was nettles cooked in SPAM.  This is a long-time favorite field food (click here for another recipe).  Basically you pick the tender tops of the nettles and cook them with SPAM.

I start by cooking thinly sliced SPAM to achieve a crust on each side.  I then remove the SPAM and set in a warm pan under the stove, and add around 3 table spoons oil to the cast iron frying pan.  Once hot I add the nettles and toss to coat with oil.  Sometimes I also add Old Bay or Cajun Seasoning.  I toss until the nettles are slightly wilted, and then add a 1/4 cup or so of water.  This creates an explosion of steam and flash steams the nettles.  I might do this twice until the nettles are thoroughly cooked (and will not sting anymore).  But don't overcook them too much either!  Then I re add the SPAM and serve.


Zoya washes the dishes with sand and salt water

S'mores on the woodstove

Picking nettles to cook on woodstove

Nettles sautéed in oil

Nettles and SPAM - my favorite meal

Gregg sawing wood for stove

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Afognak Landscape

There were some HUGE clouds the last evening we were out there - if you look closely the white blob on the far shore is the dead whale we still thought was a boat

Here are some of my favorite landscape photos from our trip to Afognak.  The clouds on this trip were stunning.  Patrick

Nora contemplates a flat calm ocean

I could not decide which version I liked better - with or without Nora

View from the cook tent through the trees

If you look closely you can see Nora, Stuey and Zoya hanging out in the 'landscape'

Whaler at anchor on the 'bathtub' beach

Swamp and mountain view from our hike to the far end of Afognak Village

Thunderhead over Spruce Island

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Finding my writing voice

MOUNTAIN VIEWS (Weekly Kodiak Daily Mirror Newspaper Column)
By Zoya Saltonstall

 "FInd your writing voice, or get your money back" the online writing class ad read. It was one year ago, and  I had been casually scanning for distance writing courses which could fit my schedule. My first thought  upon reading this sales pitch was "I didn't know I had or have a writing voice. Did I ever have one? What did it sound like? "  Perhaps I saw  glimmers of my writing voice, but it was a very shy,  voice which was more comfortable disappearing into the shadows.  

I signed up for the class. We  met  weekly on the phone, from the comforts of our own living rooms.   Our teacher took us through various 5 and 10 minute writing prompts and we had chance to read our work, and share feedback.  We wrote about our grandmothers, mothers, adolescence & childhood. We wrote about details in pictures, moments frozen in time and as our pencils moved, the memories were stirred. 

My writing shell gradually came off. There was no grading. No pass/fails. No A's or B's to worry about. Just my style of learning. By the end,  we called our group the writing sisterhood. 

The stories--they  were just waiting to be told. I was amazed at how effortlessly they came. And by the end of the class, writing seemed like a good use of time, instead of something that should be done only when the house is clean. 

                                                                          ___  ____  ____
Months had passed since the writing class and  I was curious to try writing an occasional piece in the newspaper. Having kept a family blog for 9 years, I wondered how different writing a column would be from blogging. 

 When I hit send on the final draft of my first column this spring, I thought "What in the world have I done?" My heart raced. This is good for me, I reminded myself. LIfe begins just outside my comfort zone, right?  THe newspaper arrived, my pulse raced again. Then, I slowly peeled open the paper and took a peek. There it was-my first column published.  It was exciting to see my word in print.  

Thus begins a new writing adventure.  Heres to writing with a very specific weekly deadline. This is new for me-but good. It gets my fingers flying on the keyboard and doesn't allow for writing stage fright.    Heres to my husband who graciouslessly reads over my final draft to give me his honest critique.   To the  readers who have given me kind words of support-thank you. Your encouraging words help fuel my writing time. Thank you, Kodiak. 

Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.

Dead Whale

We got back last night from our camping trip on Afognak - lots of stories and pictures to come.  I thought I'd start with one of the weirdest things we saw while on Afognak.  A great big dead whale that floated up on the beach across the bay from our camp.

We first saw it 2 days ago but thought the white blog was a boat and crew tending a subsistence net.  It even moved around a bit like a boat.  Then yesterday we boated over and discovered the blob was a great big dead whale.  Someone who seems to know whales tells me the small tale and side flippers indicate that it is a fin whale.  It certainly looks pretty 'fresh', and we all wondered why it died.

It will not be long before the bears find it!  When it starts to smell it ought to be a bear magnet, and there will be some great bear viewing here before too long.  Patrick

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gardening at the Baranov

Last weekend my Brownie Troop helped plant the Baranov museum garden. With the help of Pat Holmes, Deborah Carver, Sue Jeffrey and Vickie Vankek, we planted over a hundred flowers into the garden beds. 

Dig the hole, add the fertilizer, add some water, then put in the plant. By the end, the girls had the routine down to a science. Afterwards the girls enjoyed hot cocoa and cookies as they learned about the history of the Baranov Museum gardens.