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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Stuey's first Descent Of Pyramid

Stuey with skis at the start of the run - the crowning moment!

 Yesterday after our tide pooling adventures I took Stuey up Pyramid to go skiing while Nora did a box car derby out at the Coast Guard Base with the Girl Scouts.  

At the end of our trip to Alyeska last weekend we bought used downhill gear from the rental shop.  The guys in the shop liked to hear I'd be using the gear to teach my kids to ski without a lift, and gave us a pretty good deal.  As they put it, 'if your kids learn to ski they are more likely to come here'. I like that philosophy - Thank You Alyeska Ski Company!

And having ski gear that fits the kids certainly makes it easier to take them skiing.  So yesterday I took Stuey downhill skiing in the backcountry for the first time.  Last year we tried it on cross country skiis - but that doesn't count (click here for old post).  

It was a perfect day for it.  The snow had frozen up hard the night before and just the top 1/2 inch or so of the crust had thawed out in the sunshine.  I carried Stuey's boots and skis up the mountain and learned why I pay a premium for light backcountry gear - resort downhill gear is HEAVY!

When we arrived at the mountain there was a family with kids a ways up the mountain already.  Stuey saw them up there and raced off to catch up.  Last year I was always waiting for Stuey to catch up - not so this year.  I brought up the rear lugging his gear.  

I think Stuey was impressed with the amount of snow - 'not even any rocks showing', he shouted.  We did one run from the top almost to the bottom of the snow, and then he wanted to do another. That made my day. Those Alyeska ski lessons have certainly paid off.  

Next trip it's Nora's turn.


Stuey's Picture of the mountain from the parking lot

Stuey knew some of the other boys on the mountain

It got pretty bright with the sun on the snow

Almost there

And away he goes - he bombed the first part

Stuey does some turns

Climbing back up for another run!

Nudibranches Oh My!

Dorid Nudibranch Montereina nobilis - a 'Sea Lemon'

Yesterday I tried to attend the Democratic caucus - I really did! 

I went down to Fishermen's Hall with the kids in tow and started to wait in line, but the kids were fractious and it was so darn sunny outside.  Too sunny to go into a gloomy hall to discuss gloomy politicians.  Then someone told me the event would take more than an hour, and so we bailed and went to the beach with the dogs instead. 

I know Nora and Stuey think we made the right decision. 

We collected some kelp for seaweed chips, Brewster found and played keep away with a disgusting sculpin head, and we examined the tide pools for various life forms.  One of the cooler animals that we found were a couple of nudibranches.  I'd never noticed these animals before and they are just so weird looking.  Patrick

Red opuntia Opuntialla californica? I could not find this one in the book to my satisfaction

Close up of eggs on a rock - I wonder what animal left these?

Sheba - but if you look close I really like the boat on the horizon

Stuey cliff climbs

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hiking in the Aleutians

Camping at an alpine lake on the way to Makushin Bay, September 1996

When I first moved to Alaska every September I'd go out to Dutch Harbor to go hiking with my friend Rick K.  I'd help him finish up his archaeological excavations and then away we'd go out on a backcountry excursion of some sort.

The Aleutians are a great place to go hiking because there is practically no bushwhacking.  It is basically alpine tundra from the coast to mountain top.  The only 'bad' brush that I remember was highbush blueberry bushes and in early September they were all covered with blueberries the size of small grapes - no problem there!

Looking back at the camping gear in pictures brings a smile to my face.  That was some primitive gear!  About the only thing I used back then that I still use in the backcountry today is the Xtra Tuff boots.  Those have not been improved upon for amphibious assaults into Alaska's wilderness.

I remember that Rick and I tried to save weight by not bringing pots and pans and a stove.  So we stocked up on cheese and sausage and food that needed no cooking.  We wandered down the aisles of the local Eagle supermarket looking at the food labels.  We picked out the food with the highest calorie count per weight.  A big winner that I still eat on extended  trips is the liverwurst pate with a devil on the label.  Rick thought maybe we should just buy a vat of Crisco and a bottle of Flinstones Chewable Vitamins.  I think he was kidding.

What I can't believe is that we each brought along a 3-person, four-season tent.  Each of those tents weighed on the order of 10 pounds.  On our elk hunt the teepee that sleeps all 5 of us and the woodstove to warm us weighs less than 7 pounds total.  And check out my rain gear - I brought along the heavy duty Grundens! And no ski poles either.

Still it was a glorious place to go hiking and I was young enough to carry all the extra weight.


Wrong on so many levels - my backpacking set up circa 1996

Yes I did pack Grundens as rain gear for long hikes back in the day 1996

Makushin Bay - Early September 1996

Akutan Caldera, August 1998

Peace 'o' Mind Cabin - Beaver Inlet 1997

Refuge Rock Site and Campsite - Beaver Inlet 1997

Overlooking Kalecta Bay - Becca, Katie, Melia, Don, and Rick

Katie and I on the way to Small Bay - August 1998

Forgot about my birthday

My 51rst birthday party was a very low key affair.  It happened on a school night and we had corned beef with homemade 'beet' sauerkraut on the side for dinner.  Pumpkin pie for desert.  Philip dropped by for the event.  Of course I wore the 'birthday' hat and the kids enjoyed watching me blow out the candles.  My real birthday present was some awesome skiing on Pyramid in the days that followed.  Patrick

Not a birthday ski but Nick, John and I enjoyed some pretty good snow 2 days later

Friday, March 25, 2016

First Salmonberry Blossom

First salmonberry blossom - March 25th!

 It's official - spring is SUPER early this year.  I saw my first salmonberry blossom at the entrance to Abercrombie this afternoon.  Last year I saw my first blossom on April 4rth and even that was almost a month earlier than I had ever seen one before. In the good old days the first salmonberry blossom was typically sometime in the second week of May.  So spring is about 1 1/2 months early this year!

And what's super scary is that it looks like I might have to start mowing my lawn soon.  The back yard it totally green and even starting to look shaggy.  In years past I usually don't start mowing the lawn until late May/Early June.  Patrick

The garlic is looking HUGE too

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Melted Snow 'Aint All Bad

Today it was 45 degrees, raining hard and windy.  But when I went into work I still planned on going for a ski afterwards.  And then Jeremy dropped by the museum.  He asked if I wanted to go rafting later in the afternoon. Initially I said no, but every time I looked outside it was just so dismal and wet - so UGLY.  So when he called back at lunchtime I agreed to go.  And boy am I glad I did!

What was I thinking about not wanting to go whitewater rafting? The equivalent ski day would have been a sunny day and 2 feet of dry powder.  Sargent Creek was raging with standing wave trains.  Afterwards I drove directly to St Marys and picked up the kids from school in my wet suit.  Stuey was embarrassed to see me in the wet suit.

Here is a quick 30 second video to give you an idea of what it was like.  Patrick

Monday, March 21, 2016

Alyeska Ski Trip

We are at Alyeska-rain coming down outside. My stomach is full of fish tacos from the Sitzmark restaurant which overlooks the ski lifts and kiddos skiing down the easier slopes. The kids went swimming first thing this morning at the hotel pool then a ski lesson in the late morning.  This is our first family ski vacation-one  Patrick very much wanted.

After patrick returned from his February ski trip with his 6 college roommates to Taos, he has been determined to make a Girdwood family trip happen. This was surprising to me, as I'm typically the one wanting to travel with the kids and him wanting to stay home. Patrick's roommies encouraged Patrick to start skiing with our kiddos when they're young-getting them lessons and comfortable skiing. It is such a life sport-one which Patrick is able to do with his roommates.

Now that we're here and survived the first night of all of us in a hotel room, hehe, I'm very happy. (Last night I slept in bed with Stuey, who sleeps as hard as a rock. Nora was with Patrick and she had a much harder time going to sleep…saying that Stuey's "snoring" was keeping her up. Nora is by nature a much lighter sleeper than Stuey) 

Yesterday evening we set the kids up with pizza and movie on the TV int he hotel room and Patrick and I went downstairs to the sushi place for dinner. I was glad to enjoy the food and atmosphere without the kids…A wonderful bento box meal and company of strangers in a long table seating awaited us.  

This afternoon there is a Wisconsin NCAA playoff game to watch, more swimming to be done, more lounging to be had. Good R&R on this family ski vacation.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lende Book Reading

About a month ago, Kodiak had the fortunate occasion to have Alaskan writer Heather Lende in town to do a reading. Heather has lived in Haines for many years and has been the obituary writer there for 20 years. The Kodiak College sponsored Lende's trip and she did an evening reading of her recent book "Find the Good" at Kodiak College.

Heathers' reading was well attended, and there were lots of misty eyes in the crowd as she read passages from her book.  A book reading brings the words to life-amplifies them. To hear Heathers words spoken by her was very powerful indeed.

After the reading there was an evening gathering of local writers with her. I enjoyed talking with Heather and hearing about her years as columnist at the  then-Ancorage Daily News. The stories which resonated the most with me in my current state as a columnist is how she, too, would scramble to find things to write about. This was comforting, as I, too,  sometimes find myself scramble for topics.

Heather has a beautiful, comforting presence. She is so grounded and positive. Such lovely energy. I"m so glad to have met her in person.


Glimpse of the Sun with Scouts

After many straight weeks of rain and winds, the sun finally made an appearance last weekend. Thankfully, it coincided with a very casual scout outing I had planned to celebrate the start of spring break.

I popped up popcorn to put into paper lunch bags, packed some percussion instruments and off the troop went to run about together on the trails of Near Island.

There was no patch work done, no big plans…aside from enjoying the warmth and the sun. With the percussion instruments we made some simple rhythms together; what does happy sound like? How about rainy? Windy?

We mimicked each others made up rhythms and passed the little egg shakers and maracas around the circle. Lots of smiles from the scouts as we made simple music together.

Fun times with troop #118


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Seaweed Chips Update

These are the blooms coming out of the soft necked barnacles

Yesterday Nora and again took the dogs down to the beach and collected seaweed.  This time we brought back some fronds off of a bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), or as they label the fronds in the book - 'sori patches'. We also collected some more of the Sieve kelp.  This time the tide was not low enough to collect plants attached to the rocks so we collected freshly broken off pieces floating in the water.  The Sieve Kelp was far more mature than last time.

Anyway, this time when we made chips at home the Sieve Kelp was AWFUL - perhaps it was more mature or maybe because it had not been freshly cut?  And the Bull Kelp 'sori patches' made the best chips yet.  They turned a cool lime green color and melted in your mouth like cheetohs.  Bull kelp will now be our goto chip seaweed.  Patrick

Friday, March 18, 2016

Impromptu Seaweed and Potato Chips

Tide is out - dinner is served!  Note dinner bag in Nora's right hand

Wednesday evening as I drove back from work in the sunshine I noticed that it was low tide in Mill Bay.  The kids are on spring break so I decided it was a good day to visit the beach.  I had the idea that since the kids love the seaweed chips we buy at Cost Savers why not make some for ourselves?

So down to the beach we went to collect the ingredients for seaweed chips.  We climbed down the cliffs with the dogs in tow to the beach below our house.  I noticed right away that the tide was not quite as low as it looked and that there was surprisingly little kelp for chips (maybe it is a little early in the spring for good kelp growth?).

But we did find some 'red' kelp and small 'wrinkled' kelp in the tidepools.  I carefully cut them off above the root ball so that they could grow back.  We collected mostly red kelp because I seemed to remember that it is tasty (click here and here for posts about the last time we collected seaweed), but we also collected some of the less appealing 'wrinkled' stuff just for experimental purposes.

Back home we heated up the wok and oil, rinsed off the sea weed, and dried it out on a kitchen towel.  Then came the big moment - I had Stuey back away because I remember some explosive results in the past - and I added some red kelp to the hot oil.  We put the screen over the top and there was some serious hissing and bubbling - Witch's brew type stuff!

And then we looked in the wok and there was nothing there!  The red kelp had completely disappeared!  So I took the rest of the red kelp and cut it up fine to make a seaweed salad (see recipe linked here).  Now I was glad we had collected the 'wrinkled' stuff, and we added some to the hot oil.  This stuff bubbled and snapped, but did not disappear.  And we ended up with awesome seaweed chips.  Better than the ones you buy at the store - even Zoya agreed.

Only we did not have enough kelp to make any more.  So to make use of the hot oil we sliced up some of the potatoes from the garden into cold water, dried them out, and put them into the oil. I could not cook them up fast enough.  The kids gobbled them up as fast as I could cook them.  We lightly salted them, but in the past we have used ranch dressing salad packets to powder the chips.

Anyway, the kids are hooked and on the next low tide we'll be collecting some more of the brown stuff (Sieve Kelp - Agarum clathratum?) from the beach for more chips.  I think the red stuff I used for salad is Red Sea Cabbage  (Turnerella Mertensiana). I do have the 'Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska' by Lindeberg and Lindstrom, but obviously I really do not know my seaweeds!

The red stuff on the left does NOT make good chips - the brown stuff on the right makes sublime chips

looking for seaweed

Cool underwater tide pool close up

Our 'deep fat fryer' with potato chips in progress

Stuey tests out a freshly deep fried seaweed chip - better than the ones you can buy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Break beach time

A picture speaks a thousand words... How Stuey felt about the hike at the beginning of our walk.

Shipwrecked boat which has sat on this beach for years. we'd never before seen it up  close.
 Today is the second day of school spring break and another day without non stop rain!

 This afternoon I wanted to drive out the road with the family-seems like we don't do that nearly enough, considering what a beautiful 40 miles of road system Kodiak has. We picked Patrick up and got to-go lunches from Java flats.

Patrick showed us a beach hike around the Marine Hill/Cliffpoint area-one I'd never before done. Stuey wasn't so into the hike at the start (Exhibit A is picture above) but by the end he had a great time. On the walk back we played a game where he would step on rocks and I would have to copy his exact foot steps on the same rocks. A few small rocks spoke to me, so I tucked them into my pocket and brought them home.

Patrick and Nora walked further along the beach, as Stuey and I sat and did rock drawings. He wrote "I Heart Mom" on his rock. Made me smile.


Stuey REALLY REALLY wanted to find a way to climb on board and was bummed when the reality sank in that he couldn't explore the insides.

Dogs are SO tired from great beach walk!