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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's Blueberry Season!

Today Nora and I picked 2 cups of blueberries from one bush.  It's blueberry season!  And it is a mighty early blueberry season at that.

Last year the blueberries got ripe around the middle of July, but I seem to remember that they do not usually get ripe until the end of July or even early August.  It seems everything is early this year.  Maybe we'll get lucky and get an early fall and first snow!

Ripe blueberries in June unbelievable.


The Archaeology of Kazakof Bay

Danger Meadows in the distance at the head of Kazakof Bay

The archaeology of Kazakof Bay can be summed up in 2 words - 'drowned coastline'.  The coastline is lined with spruce trees killed during the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake when the coastline sank around 5 feet in this part of the archipelago, and many of the tree trunks are still a few feet below the high tide line.  There are very few beaches and it is clear that the coastline has been extensively reworked by erosion.

It's also clear that much of the archaeology has been washed away.  In support of this idea, we only found 4 prehistoric sites, and one of those was an artifact scatter on a beach that represented a site that had already been obliterated by erosion.  That means that there are now 6 or 7 known prehistoric sites in the whole bay, and that is not very many for such a big bay.  We saw evidence for a lot of erosion during our Malina Bay survey (click here), but it seems far more of the coastline has been lost in Kazakof Bay.

One of the coolest things we did find was the remains of the WWII logging camp at Danger Bay.  We even found an observation post where the soldiers kept a lookout for marauding Japanese planes and boats.  Gregg and I imagined the bored soldiers smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes and playing cribbage while keeping an eye on an empty horizon.  Patrick

A prehistoric multiroom depression found while on survey

Checking out a beach - a lot of in-and-out of the kayaks while on survey

At high tide we could follow the creeks amazing distances inland

A WWII observation post

Debris associated with a WWII lumber mill

Kazakof Bay

Kazakof Bay, or, as it is otherwise known - Danger Bay, is a beautiful place.  But it has a reputation as an area of Afognak Island that has been heavily logged.  So even before the survey began I did not hold out high hopes for scenic quality.  Boy was I wrong.

Whoever planned the logging did a good job because while on the water we had a tough time seeing any evidence of it.  There are big buffers of uncut trees and it seems like whole ridges were saved for esthetic purposes.  And when we did see clear cuts they had mostly grown back pretty well and consisted of surprisingly tall trees (like 30 to 40 feet high).

Gregg and I would paddle along and ask each other, 'Why aren't people coming here to kayak and camp?'  'This place is gorgeous!'  And it was funny because we saw no evidence of other travelers.  Go to Shuyak Island and you are bound to see other kayak campers and evidence of their activities.

What's ironic is that Kazakof Bay is really close to town, and, compared to the rest of the Kodiak Archipelago, super cheap to access.  It's about 1/2 the cost of a flight to Shuyak and 1/3 the cost to say Uyak Bay, and the land access permit, while required, is free if you are not camping, hunting or fishing - and only 125$for the whole year if you do want to camp and hunt and fish. Patrick

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kazakof Wildlife

Gregg glides on by Bird Rock

Kazakof Bay was full of wildlife.  We saw bears, sea otters, eagles, foxes, and all sorts of birds.  One of the coolest wildlife moments was one morning when we were paddling at dead low tide.  I was wearing polarized sunglasses and the bottom was RIGHT THERE as we glided along on the surface. 

We could see all sorts of sea creatures and plants.  Some of the anemones were gorgeous.  And then I kept seeing these sort of white blobs that looked like they were twisting and swimming.  I looked closer and realized that they were nudibranches - basically snails without a shell.

I tried to take a picture and video with my waterproof camera and they would instantly dive for the bottom.  For blobs those guys are fast! I did manage to get one half decent image (see bottom photo).  At home I identified it as Melibe leonina.  You can see its intestine track through its translucent flesh.  I gather they capture food with their hood, and are quite the predators.  They supposedly even eat small fish!  You can read more about them here.  Patrick

This guy came by and checked out our campsite

Seagull egg on a cliff

Mister bear - he just watched while I surveyed a beach berm

The white thing is a Nudibranch - Melibe leonina

Monday, June 27, 2016

Camping on the go

Gregg and gear

I've done a lot of archaeological surveys by kayak, but they have all been in May or September - never in the heat of summer (except one mosquito plagued canoe trip on north Afognak many years ago).  So at the start I was a little worried about using the teepee and woodstove when it was hot, sunny, and buggy outside.  As a back up we even brought along a traditional tent with a floor and bug screen. But we never needed to use it.

We did try and find campsites that faced east and were cool and shady in the evening.  A big discovery was that burning a woodstove tended to drive anything flying out of the tent.  With the tent lifted off of the ground and the door wide open it was sort of like hovering over a campfire - only without the smoke or bugs.  Perfect. 

We pretty much had all our packed into 2 barrels and at each campsite we'd carry the barrels up the beach and set up camp.  Pretty simple.  Patrick

A few times we filled up our water bottles without even getting out of the kayak

Our clothing got pretty salty by the end of the trip

Our final camp - we lifted the teepee high to catch a breeze

Exploring the beach after dinner

We found a lit woodstove drove the mosquitoes out of the tent

Secret Picnic

Saturday Afternoon, in the rain, Jeremy and I took the kids on a picnic to Secret Beach.  We got to the beach by boat.  Jeremy paddled his kids in a canoe while Nora, Stuey and I went by inflatable kayak.  Stuey paddled one of the kayaks all by himself.

Once at the beach we set up tents for shelter and lit a great big fire.  We cut some alder branches for roasting sticks and cooked hot dogs and s'mores.  No one seemed to mind the light drizzle and the kids played in the rocks.  And no one sheltered in the tents either.  Later all the kids tried their hand at paddling while Jeremy did his part as a 'sheep dog', and herded the kids about the water.

And then it was time to pack up and paddle back to the cars.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

a month of grief

At one month, what does grief look like? This first year is a precious time, I remind myself. 

 Coming out  of  a storm. Waves are quieting down. There is still a major swell, but the waves aren't beating me up against the shore like they were. I've come up for air for many days now and able to look around again.  
Music seems more beautiful. I find myself turning up good songs a little louder in the car. The sun roof gets opened a bit more frequently. I don't mind if I’m wearing mismatched clothes. I"m doing my best and that is good. 

Be gentle with youself, my friend Claire encouraged right after my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  I took  this to mean be gentle with my expectations of myself, of others.

Sometimes I really don't want to be around people. At times a trip to Safeway can feel daunting. So Patrick will go instead.   

Recently I put on lipstick, lip liner. A skirt. And smile. I am starting to feel the beauty inside again. And its ok. I my feminine self   come alive once again. I know shes in there and its good to see her for a short bit.

Loss is hard. Life will never be truly the same, people remind me.  

Beautiful things seem more beautiful. The ocean  and beaches are even more breathtaking. Sad lyrics are even more heart wrenching. My heart has been broken.  

I find myself talking to my mom. 
Hi mom, I love you. 
 It brings me comfort. Nothing major. Just to let her know I’m thinking of her. 
My spirit lightens. 


Saturday, June 25, 2016

View from the teepee

This past week Gregg and I conducted a 4-day archaeological survey of Kazakof Bay on Afognak Island. We traveled by inflatable kayak and camped as we went.  The scenery was gorgeous and we got super lucky with the weather. I'll write some more about the camping, wildlife, and archaeology in posts to come.  Today I'll show the view from our second camp through time.

It was sunny and hot every evening on the trip so we tried to find campsites that faced East, and were shaded by the tall spruce trees.  That way we could light the woodstove and not over-heat in a tent flooded with sunshine.  In the morning the rising sun would dry off the dew in camp.

Anyway, here is a series of photographs documenting how the view changed from just after setting up the teepee on our arrival, through sunset, moornrise (we were worried the high tide might flood our teepee), and sunrise.  Patrick

Monday, June 20, 2016

Wildflowers in the Alpine

Eschscholtz Buttercup - Ranunculus eshscholtzii

For the past fortnight I've been taking the dogs skiing practically every day.  We climb up Pyramid Mountain and then they chase me across the snow and we hike back down. The wild flowers are blooming like crazy. Two weeks ago the skiing was still pretty good, but by last week it was getting pretty skimpy.  There is still a run that is 600 vertical feet long - only it is broken in the middle and you now have to cross a short section of grass to ski the whole run. 

Last week I decided I'd try and learn a new flower every day.  I already know a lot of them like the Pixie-eye Primrose, White Anemone, Avens etc, so I went looking for the ones I did not know.  Each day I did not bring the plant book up with me so it was sort of a two day process.  I'd try and memorize the flower I found and then I'd look it up in the book when I got home.  And then the next day I'd find the flower again and confirm my identification.

I was surprised to find buttercups and hawkweed that are native to Kodiak.  I'd thought all hawkweed and buttercups were invasive species - but no I gather there are relatives of the standard roadside buttercup and orange hawkweed that do indeed belong here.

Anyway, here are the new flowers I learned the names of last week.  Patrick

Snow Bed Marigold - Caltha leptosepala

Another of the buttercup where you can better see the leaves

Leatherleaf Saxifrage - Leptarrhena pyrolifolia

Wooly Hawkweed - Hieracium triste

Dying snowfields, Brewster and Lupine

Yellow Anemone - Anemone richardsonii

On the ride home the doggies love to stick their heads out the car windows and sniff

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Stephen Curry and Pretzels

For the past week, Zoya took the kids to Anchorage where Nora attended a baking camp while Stuey did the basketball camp.  In the meanwhile I've been holding down the home base, taking care of the dogs (I've taken them skiing every day), and living the camps vicariously through pictures from Zoya's cell phone.  I got to see Nora's baking creations, and Stuey's shooting award.  I gather he came in third in the end-of-the-camp shooting contest.

What I find hilarious about the shooting contest is that it is the 'Stephen Curry Shooting Tournament'.  Stuey is a big LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and right now Stephen Curry's Warriors are playing the Cavaliers in the NBA finals.  Tonight is the final game of the season - the winner of the game is the NBA champion.

All spring Stuey has been asking me who is better - Lebron or Steph?  And we've both always agreed that Lebron is the MAN.  Steph can shoot, but not if you push him around (which is no longer legal in today's NBA - click here for nice article on this).

So it is ironically funny that Stuey got a 'Stephen Curry' shooting award.  At least I think it is funny - I hope the instructors did not sway Stuey's basketball allegiances.   Patrick