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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

First Snow

Yesterday while we were cutting meat it started to snow pretty hard.  It got to the point where you could barely see the far shore of Mill Bay and the lawn turned white.  After it stopped snowing it melted off the lawn pretty quickly, but then it happened again in the evening.

This morning I drove in to work and admired all the snow covered mountains.  I even put the skis in the car.  But by the time I left work it even looked a little too thin on the mountains to warrant the drive to and hike up from the pass to go skiing.

Let's just hope it continues to snow!


A trip to the South End

Fall colors in the Refugium

On Sunday Ray, Mike and I returned from a hunting trip to the South End of Kodiak.  We brought home a lot of meat and spent the last 2 days cutting and packaging the fruits of our labor.  We almost ran out of freezer space!

Our hunting trip was to the Ayakulik Flats region of Southwest Kodiak.  This area is part of the 'Refugium' - an area of Kodiak that remained ice free during the last episode of glaciation.  At that time there was a glacier in Shelikof Strait and it acted as a dam and created a gigantic lake that covered the entire area where we were hunting.  Today the former lake bottom is a broad swampy area with a river running through it.  We joked that it was the swamp that the hobbits had to cross on their way to the Land of Morder in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

This area is also where Kodiak's reindeer herd hangs out.  Reindeer are domesticated caribou and were brought to Kodiak in the 1920's to provide an economic opportunity to the Alutiiq people living in the village of Akhiok.  In the 1950s there was a big fire near Akhiok that burned the corrals and all the reindeer escaped to the North and went feral.  At one time there were thousands of reindeer living in the Southwest corner of Kodiak, but the population crashed and today, the last I heard, they number around 400 or so.

One of the goals of our trip was to bring home a reindeer.  We also expected to see some spectacular sights, enjoy some 'teepee time' camaraderie, and have an adventure.  The Flats did not disappoint.  Patrick

Camp bear at the Bare Creek Campground

Reindeer by the river on the Ayakulik Flats

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Stuey's First Hunt

Stuey negotiates the 'Hellawe' brush

Last weekend after I went hunting with Zoya it became apparent that Stuey too really, REALLY wanted to go hunting.  So this past Saturday I took him hunting (another Proxy tag).

We hiked up through the brush and during our hike saw 8 deer.  We saw a couple of spikes on a hillside across a ravine, and they were in range for a long shot.  So I asked Stuey what he thought we should do.  And he said, 'No daddy, that's a bad shot because those deer are on top of a cliff'.  He was right, and I was very proud of his restraint.

So we came home with no deer, but Stuey got to glass deer with the binos - looking for 'horns'.  He learned to be quiet, and to note which way the wind was blowing.  The deer smell you if the wind is wrong.  He also got a taste for bushwhacking and climbing steep hillsides with a minimal trail.  He's got in his first hunt.  Patrick

Stuey points to where we saw some deer (2 fawns and a doe)

The alpine bowl where we turned around

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sandwiches by the scouts

Troop #118 with the sandwiches they made for the Brother Francis Shelter
Two pieces of deli meat, one slice of cheese between two slices of bread; together the scout troop assembled the sandwiches for the homeless shelter today. The girls got practice with saran wrap, and my co-leader and I  encouraged the girls to take care with careful assembly of the sandwiches.

When it was all done, we had about 50 sandwiches ready to drop off to the Brother Francis Shelter.

After we made sandwiches, the troop hiked to Fort Abercrombie and enjoyed our sack lunches sitting by the ocean. The troop is learning to listen to others better when talking. This is something that can be a challenge when you get 9 excited elementary school girls together! :)

Excited to see where this fall and winter of scouting brings the troop!


Fall is in the air

Fall is in the air.  Yesterday and today we had light frosts on the lawn, and while driving to work I saw some termination dust on the mountains behind Bell's Flats.  I believe that when I finish mowing the lawn this weekend that it will not get mowed again until 2016. Pretty soon I'll be gathering up leaves for the compost heap.  It's also time to finish harvesting the potatoes and carrots.  Let's just hope that this year we get a winter.  Patrick

Monday, September 14, 2015

Activities at Camp

Sawing yellow cedar for the woodstove

Here are some final pictures from Afognak documenting our Labor Day weekend trip.  Sawing wood for the stove, building play villages on the beach, cooking hotdogs over the campfire, wading in the ocean, kayaking and digging holes are just a few of the activities that preoccupied the kids.  Probably the most important of which was Stuey's 'Hole'.  Digging the hole with a stick kept him occupied and focused for a few critical hours on the last day when he was not particularly welcome inside the teepee - a form of 'Very Active Kid' medication.

A theme of the trip was Sriracha flavoring.  I bought a jar of Sriracha powder and used it to flavor various dishes.  Awesome stuff, and tastes just as good as the stuff in the bottle with the rooster on it.  Like the bottled stuff it also makes your breath bad, but oh so good.

The Sriracha powder came to the fore when I realized that I had left the mustard and ketchup in the refrigerator back at home.  So I improvised and toasted tortillas on rocks by the fire with baby bell cheese on them dusted with Sriracha powder.  And so was born the 'Sriracha dog'.  I also used Old Bay spice powder as flavoring when people (read kids) wanted something salty rather than spicy.

I also took the idea inside and made quesadillas on the woodstove with all the same ingredients except the hot dogs.  Sriracha and Old Bay are some good spice powders to have on hand for remote camping trips.

Our little village on the beach

Our little village operates with feathers as currency

Campfire on the beach

Cooking 'Sriracha dogs' over the campfire

Tortilla bakes on a rock with baby bell cheese and Sriracha powder - the makings of a 'Sriracha dog'

Wading in the ocean never gets old

This year I joined the kids for a short kayak trip - each in our own kayak

Stuey's hole killed a lot of time

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Camping and Hunting

"Mommy likes to 'go hunting' with dad" Stuey said, and he put air quotes around "go hunting". Patrick and I looked at eachother and laughed.

"What do you mean, Stuey?" I asked.
"You like to spend time with daddy" He replied.

He was right on. How I'm enjoying getting out into the back country more with Patrick recently!

This morning Patrick and I returned from a camping-hunting trip in the back country. A friend, Sami watched the kids overnight. Yesterday evening Patrick and I headed up to the back country and set up the tent just in time for dinner.  On the menu was Cheddar Cheese biscuits with sausage gravy. It was our first time making this freeze dried meal and the flavor was delicious! Bless Patrick's heart for being up for the challenge of a new recipe. 

This morning we awoke at 6, made breakfast, packed up and were hiking by 7:15. At 9:30 Patrick shot a buck (a proxy buck for Jeanne P) and an hour later we hiked home. 

The uphills on the hike up were brutal for me. There wasn't too much of a trail at times and I'm just not conditioned for that type of hiking. At one point Patrick said, "We're just going to the top of that hill, Zoya". I looked up and replied, "Oh, you mean that mountain?" We laughed together. 

It was a perfect outing and I loved seeing new back country. Breathtaking views in the rising sun this morning. 


~The hike up~

Jalepeno and Cheddar cheese biscuits with Sausage gravy~freeze-dried meal from Packit Gourmet. Two thumbs up!

Patrick in the morning sunshine

Hiking up to camp. Lots of rest breaks from me. :)


Mr. Buck

Patrick and Mr. Buck

The stream we crossed

Mountains catching the  early morning sun

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Nora's Entry to Art Show

The local frameshop recently hosted a kids art contest.  Both Stuey and Nora entered last year, and Nora really wanted to enter again this year.  This Summer she has been taking great close ups of flowers.  So I helped her create a collage of flower pictures and she entered it into the contest.  This is the collage that she entered.  Patrick

Family Deer Hunt

A pack of hominids on the prowl

While on Afognak we all went for a 'family' hunt.  Instead of the '2 guys heading up the mountain at the crack of dawn' routine we all headed up around 10 in the morning as a pack.  We climbed up the mountain with absolutely no stealth involved. At one point Brooks pointed out a doe and Stuey shouted, 'deer!'  Nora hung in the back and discussed 'Cup Cake Wars' with Zoya and Lindsey.  Then once we got to near the alpine I headed back to camp with the kids while the primary hunters went into true stealth mode.  Soon afterwards Brooks harvested 2 deer.

Back at camp Philip proved adept at pulley systems and non-slipping knots, and we hoisted all the meat high up into the air beyond the reach of prowling bears.  The meat stayed cool and dry under the hoisted tarp in the sky.  Patrick

Brooks as primary shooter carried the rifle

Stuey breaks trail with his stick machete

Meat on the line pre-hoisting

Now that's up there

Friday, September 11, 2015

Porthole offers a view of magical boat rides

Published in Kodiak Daily Mirror on July 22, 2015
By Zoya Saltonstall 

When I was in my shed looking for camping gear recently, I came across a boat porthole in a box. It was the porthole from the boat I spent a very memorable part of my youth on — The Anna D.

The boat was a green, 48-foot Kodiak commercial fishing boat. I loved being on it. My bedroom and my house were OK, but I really treasured the time on the boat.

The Anna D had a ladder going from the crew deck up to a flying bridge — an up top outside steering area where dad could see for miles. I would go to join dad up there and just sit and watch the ocean and dad navigate the boat. It was like being on top of the world. The exhaust smokestack was loud up there, which meant not lots of talking. But I didn't mind. It was the joy of just being together and being outside that mattered.

The Anna D had a small galley with a table and a bunk where dad would sleep right adjacent to the table. An oil stove, sink and small fridge filled up the rest of the small space. There was a heavy, thick door that sealed the room shut in rough weather.

A medium-sized porthole sat right above the galley sink window. Slightly ajar most of the time, it let in the cool refreshing ocean breezes. On the rough crossings, I would lay on my dad’s bunk and gaze out the pothole. I could see the rise and fall of the boat, as well as the endless waves. It took some of the edge of the seasickness off. Ocean spray splashed across the windows and my gaze would be fixed on the salty circle window.

Standing there in my shed, I touched the porthole's weathered brass rim. It seemed surreal to have it here, in my next world of marriage and my own kids. My continued life in Kodiak.

In many ways, 23 years feels like a wrinkle in time. It was 23 years ago that my father passed away from a battle with cancer. I was still in high school. The Anna D was sold several years later to family friends. When the boat was renovated, the porthole was given to my sister and I as a gift. At the time it was given to me, I was appreciative, but not ready for it. It was waiting in the corner of the shed until I was ready.

The porthole brought me back to the young girl who enjoyed the magic of being on the boat. It reminded me of the feel of climbing up the ladder to sit next to dad. Or laying on the bunk in the storms, hoping that the waves would soon pass and seeing dad give me a reassuring smile. It brought me back to how hard dad worked on the boat, how much he loved the ocean and how much I felt his love for me on those trips.

These sentimental objects — sometimes they work themselves into our lives. Objects, letters, mementos. The porthole reminds me to slow down with my own parenting and treasure the magic of the ocean breezes.

As much as we don't want to become attached to items, is it possible for items to become attached to us? For when we are ready, they are there — to guide us in whatever way we might let them.

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

Fall Routine - Happy Zoya

School has been underway for several weeks now. And I"ve been in heaven. With the kids off and on their way at 8:00 am every morning...there is a little more breathing room.

School is going well-Nora and Stuey are in the same class again at St. Mary's with Miss. Schmitt as their teacher and they really enjoy her. This is Nora's 3rd year with Miss Schmitt as her teacher, so Nora knows what to expect with class routines, etc.

I volunteer for 2 hours on Thursday mornings-feels good to be back in the classroom helping. Last year I taught cursive and this year I"m helping with reading groups. Its fun to get to know Nora and Stuey's classmates better and have a presence in the classroom.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rainy Day Fun

Hiking in the rain - checking on archaeological sites and going fishing

When we're on Afognak I love it when it rains.  A good rainy day creates appreciation for the teepee and woodstove. Nothing quite like the cozy feeling of coming back from a hike in the rain and drying out by the woodstove.

This year we had two sunny days sandwiching a day of sprinkles and clouds.  On the rainy day we went for a hike.  Our ultimate goal was a small stream where you can catch silver salmon from the beach.  But really it was all about the journey.  We hiked through the woods and along beaches and checked out the abandoned village of Afognak as we went. Afognak Village was abandoned 51 years ago after it was partially destroyed by the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964.  

I also documented the conditions at various archaeological sites along the way.  Back in 2012 I helped other archaeologists survey the village (click here for post), and I have been keeping an eye on how the various archaeological sites and the old village buildings have been doing ever since.  Are they getting vandalized, eroding, dug into by bears etc?  By monitoring their condition I can help to protect them, and get an idea of how long term trends like sea level changes are effecting the sites in general.  

At the halfway point of our hike we did some fishing.  Brooks tried out his fly rod while Stuey, Nora and I fished with spinning gear.  Stuey hooked a silver on his first cast but it got away almost at his feet.  Nora did manage to catch a little jack silver.  I caught a few too, but lost interest when we decided we did not want one for dinner.  Last year we canned our catch to take home (click here), but this year we already have enough canned fish at home to last the winter.  We did have a hard time dragging Brooks away from the fish.  Patrick

Is this combat fishing on the Kenai?

Nora catches a jack silver

Brooks flyfishing

Small silver

Documenting damage to an archaeological site

Checking on the Petroglyphs

The trees dead when the land sank 51 years ago during the Good Friday Earthquake

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Some Teepee Time

We spent Labor Day weekend on Afognak with our friends Philip, Brooks and Lindsey.  Some much needed family teepee time.

The teepee is our home base on Afognak.  It is where we stay warm by the glowing woodstove, cook food, tell stories under the glow of the Lucy Light lantern, and enjoy each others company.  Nothing quite like teepee time.


Lucy light time with the kids in their tents

What game is this?  I remember it was some sort of chant and choreographed hand slapping thing 

Thumb War, Stove, and Coffee at Sunrise

Sunrise view from the teepee

Brooks feeds the stove while Stuey loses to Lindsey at 'Thumb War'

Our infinity view hot tub

Time to go home