21 December 2009

The Long Dark Night

Happy Winter Solstice!

Otherwise known here as the beginning of the end of the long dark night. In celebration of the day I took my lunch break by ski around 1pm when you could almost tell the sun had risen. We've got 5hours and some odd minutes of daylight at the moment - not bad really from other places I've lived - and by January 1 we will have gained 12 more minutes. This is worth celebrating. With fire and malted beer and good warm foods and laughter and friends.

'Tis of course the season for things such as:
-funny takes on holiday songs such as "the 12 days of Christmas my ex-governor brought to me" over at The Mudflats
-listening to King Island Christmas (over here)
-making chocolate truffles and packing them two to a cute little box and giving them out to all and sundry: my favorite gift
-office holiday parties and the attendant white elephant gift giving: this year at the big boss's not quite completed house
-a flurry of mail: all of his family and all of my family this year got silly pictures of us dancing in the snow as did some of our friends.
-the X-mas bird count: this year we saw 7 ravens and 2 redpolls and at -27F we considered that huge. However, it was an excellent excuse to go for a ski along the bluff.
-Lebkuechen, the food I still miss from living in Germany at this time of year: available this year in Los Anchorage!
-decorating the house with Santa riding on every imaginable creature (whales to mooses)
-skiing, skiing, skiing, and sauna-ing....and then repeating!
-contemplating how much my life has changed in one year...but that's for another post!

27 November 2009


So this is the little guy who showed up on our doorstep. So far no one has come forward to claim him. He has been very friendly towards the other Disreputables and as such well, what can I say? We're soft hearted. So I think he's going to stay as Disreputable Cat Number 2 or D2Cat unless anyone else has a better idea? Feel free to suggest in the comments.

On a completely unrelated note, I've been getting lots of spam comments lately so I've re-engaged the word verification. And I'm sad that in the time I've been gone some of my favorite bloggers have gone to password only blogs and I can't read them now. :(

18 November 2009


There has been a bit too much excitement in my life lately. I'm hoping for a mellow night some time soon. There follows three ways to have your adrenaline surge:

1) Hearing the cry of some beast while stepping naked from the sauna while it's blizzarding (not a verb, I'm sure). Turns out it was a stray cat with a canning jar ring around his neck. We coaxed him into the warmth, took off the lid, and fed him a little spoon of wet cat food every hour. He was clearly starving and miserable. He has since gotten a clean bill of health from the vet (a 5hr round trip) and is schmoozing with the DDog while still a bit afraid of the DCat.

2) To come home from a lovely walk with the DDog to the sound of a smoke alarm going off only to find flames merrily dancing their way up to the ceiling outside of the stove in the basement. Got to pracitce my fire fighting skills and use of the fire extinguisher which made a huge mess. My love comes home from the vet with the newly vetted cat to find me looking wild in the basement with all the windows in the house open eve if it's -20F and soot and fire extinguisher dust all over the place. "Honey I almost burnt the house down."

3) Crash! Bang! After the fun post fire clean up the middle of the night finds the newly liberated stray trying to find extra scraps of food on the kitchen counter and dislodging and breaking all the dishes he found there.

And to top it off one of my Love's employees loaned her brand new car to someone (3 payments made) only to have it totaled by a driver in Los Anchorage who ran a red light and then got out and ran. Turns out the car was stolen. Luckily all the occupants where okay other then some minor bruises and cuts thanks to seatbelts and airbags.

14 November 2009

Let it snow, Let it snow!

I've made it safely home despite a white knuckle drive from Los Anchorage after my two conferences and a brief bout of not-quite-the-flu. I was not too keen on the snow when driving home. It is always a little scary when you only know where the side of the road is when you drive over the rumble strip. It makes one thankful for rumble strips in a way that one normally is not. Perhaps it wasn't too good of an idea to listen to an audio book that involved a guy deciding to cut off his arm to escape from a canyon (Aaron Ralston). I was as relieved to skid into my drive as the Disreputables and my love were. I was wired for half the night on adrenaline.

Now however, big fat fluffy flakes and snow piled higher then my knees, slush rushing down the increasingly constricted river, and lots of white stuff just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love snow. I really do. Ask anyone who went to undergrad with me where there was no snow. I love snow, I love winter. Tomorrow the skis are coming out!

08 November 2009


I've been traveling this week - lots of conferences and meetings, 3 to be exact. Two days for the first meeting, a day of travel, 3 days for the next, a day of travel, weekend with friends, a day of travel, 2 days for the next one. Yippee! And the really expensive hotel where I stayed would only give me internet access if I paid $25/ hr and I balked. The picture above does not really related to my travel other then it was taken in another west coast temperate rainforest. The photo is from the Popular-Icy-Surfing-Town whereas I am farther south. It was -15F when I left home, winter by all accounts although we certainly don't have enough snow to show for it, and now I'm in fall again. Me and several crates of mice that were loaded onto the plane with me. I wonder what that was all about.

02 November 2009


It's time for a new header, don't you think ?

Pictoral Summary of My Summer

As I mentioned before I had a very busy summer. This tends to be the trend in all places where the summer is 3-4 months long but this one was even more so then usual. So, rather then bore you with too much verbage here is a pictoral summary with a little bit of clarification of the highlights.

Measuring vegetation monitoring plots.

I spent a week in Denali in the same house that Olaus Murrie lived in. What an amazing place to be - staying in the place where one of the greatest -oligists of this state and one of the first conservationists here lived. I was there to help train and to pick up my 3 person crew. (Just one of my crews this summer - last week the last seasonal left. Break!)

Rafted the glacially laden river that is very famous for it's salmon. It's Red (Coho) Salmon fetch the highest price on the Seattle market. This was a invasive weed survey and patrol.

Scary holes in the water. I will post more about fishwheels (I promise Rubberducky!) later but there were plenty of them on this river (our is) including some carcasses of wheels that had washed downstream. I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures this summer, when I found a minute, was to text my sister about the very famous, expensive red salmon "Five minutes from the river to grill - you should come visit". To which she invariably replied "u stink". My sister can always be relied on to know exactly what the price is that it is fetching on the market at any given time.

Watching glacier calving from the Million Dollar bridge (not to be confused with the bridge to no where although it may well fall into that category depending on your view) - it counts as movie entertainment up here. We were camping here at the end of our float and waiting for a pickup the next morning.

Brutal hikes to research caves and mines in July heat. It was hot! Don't let anyone ever tell you that it's always cold in Alaska.

I wonder if they built to code?

A massive 60,000 acre fire, lightning caused, in wilderness, dual agency response (i.e. disagreement of what needed to be done). Flying helicopters into the smoke, trying to lay plots ahead of where it will burn.

Didn't think these guys lived here either did you? Nope, nobody else did either.

Flying over the Malaspina, a small little ice field the size of Rhode Island. Climate change and whale and harbor seal / boat collisions.

Another lovely piece of ice that threatens an entire way of life every time it closes that gap. Last time the military (and the major) thought we should detonate a small nuclear bomb to clear up the problem.

The Disreputable Dog grows tusks! Nope, he just found some sheep horns on a backpacking trip and decided to bring them home as a souvenir.

Backpacking with my love, my parents, and the DDog. (You already heard this story so I won't belabor it)

Ice storm. It did this to our tent zippers too.

More cave work.

Fire severity.
The Disreputable Cat always ready to warm my lap at home.

28 October 2009

The Engagement: the detailed version

Yay! for all of you with RSS feeds. My own is an appalling mess and I really need to go clean it out on of these days and re-set it so it more accurately reflects my reading interests. I haven't looked at it in over a year. Really.
So let's see, it seems that the story of the summer that interests you most is the story of my engagement. Some of you may have known that I was dating someone, sort of, in Alaska before I moved back. The guy was wonderful but it just wasn't working for me so sometime in March I decided to split with him. After being away for so long I felt I had lost whatever "it" that was there. I felt terrible about it but one cannot manufacture feelings where they are not. And I was busy with my job and my new/old co-workers (I had worked here seasonally before) and friends. One of these new/old co-workers kept insisting I go x-country skiing with her and another co-worker, someone completely new to me. And so we skied, weekend after weekend as the light came back to the northern skies. On weekend new/old co-worker (who needs another name) was away on a trip to Hawaii but new co-worker and I decided to keep skiing together. I thought he was cute, I liked him, but I was new and trying to focus on my new job and blew it off as me making things up. Then he wrote me the sweetest card asking me out on a date.

I have to say I was absolutely flabbergasted on our first date. There were flowers (all the way from Los Anchorage) and a homemade meal, candles, table cloths, and champagne. I think he even intended a post but I had been in Alaska too long - long enough to not know what to do with a man who is really and truly romantic. And bold. Did I mention he was bold? The funny thing is, that both of us moved here thinking, 'dating is going to be slim to none but I'm going'. I mean after all, the community we live in has about 250 people. We were so wrong about the dating. We had a great rest of the spring and a great summer despite our crazy hectic schedules. And it just felt right. I dunno, I never used to believe people when they said they just knew someone was the one but we did. We just knew it. Of course, he loves the Disreputables. Retrospectively, he knows wouldn't have had a chance if he didn't. His friends didn't believe him that he's met someone until he sent pictures of proof. They were sure he was making me up. Guys don't meet girls in Alaska, right? Everyone knows that.

This fall my love, my parents, and I went on a backpacking trip north of the arctic circle. It's something I've dreamed about with my dad since I was in high school and we had been planning it for some time. It was sort of the end of the field season, enough so that we could escape. We had this amazing backpacking trip for 6 days across the tundra. Then, sore and bedraggled we hauled ourselves to a hot springs just north of Fairbanks. Under the new lights of the stars and the moon - new to us as the darkness was just returning - as the mist of the hot springs wafted around us and my parents were long in bed, he proposed. It was very romantic. Of course I said yes. We've had three distinct reactions: my family) what? you know what month already? his family) what? you don't know the date already? our co-workers) what?! you are going to wait a year?! Because we have decided to get married near the fall equinox next year when the workload slows, the colors are gorgeous, and even those scared of winter can love Alaska.

27 October 2009


It's past the autumn equinox and I'm long past due on the page. I've been thinking about coming back ever since the equinox as the craze of summer field work has faded but it's hard to know where to start. I've missed being here and sharing with you and although I've been sneak reading some of your blogs I haven't been commenting much. But where to start? Do I give you the blow by blow of a crazy summer? Or do I just start with now? With the two inches of fresh snow and the peach taffeta sunrise that occurs a good two hours after I've arrived at work? With the grouse that are strutting around the yard and the ice flowing down the Copper River? And my goodness, I never did fully explain the fishwheel, oh where did the summer go? And much has changed in my life since I was here last. I moved again (I know! but I think it will be a while until the next one) and I fell in love and got engaged to be married to a wonderful guy. The Disreputable Dog has fully recovered from his surgeries and acts like a young pup and has collected his allotment of fall moose leg bones and the Disreputable Cat has been on shrew patrol in our arctic entry ever since she caught one there a month ago. I wonder who of you are still checking to see if I post? I hope I haven't lost the lot of you. I am here now. Here for the winter. I promise.

08 June 2009

Burning Daylight

It's June and the solstice is around the corner. The entire first week of June went by in the blink of an eye and now it's summer in Alaska. It's hot too. For those of you who still secretly harbor thoughts that it is always cold in Alaska I'll have you note that it was 85F (30C) all last week. The salmon have begun running and we are harvesting the first of our lettuce. This weekend I found a junco's nest in the grass and the mosquitoes got so bad that we were actually forced inside long enough to realize the power had been off for 6 hours. I got my fishwheel permit and we're on the neighbor's fishwheel so I expect a few 3am phone calls to clean a hundred fish or so. WE even did a little dipnetting but there was a rain on Friday and the fish were hanging loose in the water, gauging the new flow, and we didn't have any hits. There is so much I want to come and write about here, to share with all of you, and yet I never seem to make it here lately. There's just too much going on. We are burning daylight here - and like the metaphorical candle it is on both ends.

I'm headed to the most famous of Alaskan parks this week to pick up another crew of mine and to attend some of their training - they are part of a network effort so all of the training for several parks will be occurring there. I'm not looking forward to the 7 hour drive (starting as soon as I'm done here) but it should be an enjoyable week and I hope it will be cooler. Truth be told though, I think this park is rather over-rated and has too many visitors, I prefer my own (but then, I'm biased). But still, it should be fun and I will likely run into many people I know there from grad school and other jobs. If I'm really lucky I'll get out on a hike or a run there. But it's unlikely - that is, if you don't count field work. Thank goodness for fieldwork though! It's what makes all the lab and computer time worth it. Of course, it makes it hard to get around to reading all of you as regularly as I would like...

27 May 2009


It's been a busy time. Tiredness lags at the eyes in the early morning and though the sun is bright there is a deep calm in the chest as if the body would easily fall into slumber if it came to rest for a few seconds. But it isn't the season for rest.

I'm trying hard this field season to schedule for weekends at home. Home to tend my garden, the Disreputables, to catch up with bills, to remember the feel of my own bed, to spend time with my new boyfriend. However, sometimes other things happen. Last Friday 4 Germans showed up at headquarters asking after me. Turns out they are my mother's cousins and were here for the weekend. We had a lot of fun visiting but entertaining is not exactly restful. The weekend before we hosted a going away party for two colleagues with more then 75 people showing up - a fabulous potluck with lots of kids running around and funny stories and with more people showing up then I even know in the community.

Seasonal allergies have hit hard these last two weeks. Birch and aspen then the willows and now the spruces are blooming - all wind pollinated. It exacerbates the feeling of tiredness. I'm in Los Anchorage with one of my crews - we've got gear to get and some training to cover while here. I had forgotten that Los Anchorage can actually be a pleasant place in spring. I have my bicycle and in the evenings I explore corners of town I wasn't aware existed as well as long time favorite places. There are more fishermen standing on the banks then I would expect for this time of year but the bike ride refreshes me and I recover from anti-social feelings. It's hard this time of year to find time for the self - too many crews of people all clamouring for attention as they adjust to life here at the park and figure out how to do things. It makes me feel vaguely parental even though many of them are older then I am. Patience is important as is good humor.

I want to share pictures but I am on a different computer and the connection doesn't work and so I will have to wait.

12 May 2009


The Disreputable Dog is amazing. The surgeon told me that this leg might take longer to heal up. If anything, it's healing faster. On Friday he was a miserable lump of a dog. We got him out of the vehicle and whenever I wasn't visible or was more then 5 feet away he would whine. His eyes were cloudy and drugged and he fought the drug induced sleep all he could until he would just keel nose first into the rug. He refused to eat all weekend and had to have pills thrust down his throat and he was completely and totally uninterested in his hedgehog (a stuffed toy that he carries around like it's his baby and that he has to show every visitor). I think the drugs must have made him nauseous. And his leg was this nasty purplish swollen thing. Frozen peas helped but he didn't tolerate them for very long.
I pedaled home yesterday wondering how he'd be and out came this bounding dog with his hedgehog in the mouth full of energy and a sparkle in his eye. He ate - of course he did, he got hare that my boss gave me - and he even lifted the other leg to pee - putting all of his weight on the newly operated on leg. His joy in all things has been revived. He tussled his cat instead of the other way around. He threw his hedgehog in the air a few times. Still, he set up howling when I left this morning and twice I had to bike back to pacify him. If that were me post surgery I think I'd still be whining on the couch.

05 May 2009

First Pasque Flowers!

I just found this pasque flower (Anemone patens) today on my walk to my phenology plot. I call it a northern crocus because it is the first flower to bloom in the tundra and it's of similar size (we can't grow crocuses sadly). I was so excited to see 4 or 5 of these little guys today!

I'll be gone for the next few days as I have to head back to Los Anchorage tonight for the Disreputable Dog's second operation (right rear leg). He goes in at 7:30 in the morning and won't be out until the next day. I've been so encouraged at his progress from the first operation (left rear leg) but I am not looking forward to him going back to pathetically in pain again for a few weeks.

04 May 2009

Sharp-shinned Love Affair

This weekend was a busy one. I dismantled an old dog run, I dismantled an old compost pile (with yummy albeit frozen composted soil in it), I built 4 planting beds + 2 half planting beds (i.e. they aren't finished and yes, that yummy compost is going in them), I went to a seed swap where everyone complained about voles (so I lined the bottoms of my new planting beds with fine wire salvaged from the dog runs - I'll post pix when the last two are finished), I dismantled and moved two beds and reassembled, and I watched, mostly listened, to a lovesick pair of sharp-shinned hawks.

It started Friday night while we were having a hurried dinner out on the picnic tables before rushing off to see the premiere of a local high school history film (which was fabulously well done I might add). We kept hearing these, at the time, unseen hawks just going off. We speculated but we had to get on the road. The next day though they were in full form. They seem to have claimed the land we have lived on as part of their territory as they kept swapping places on one particular aspen tree. Maybe we'll be lucky and have a nest! Or not so lucky as far as seeing any other birds this summer - I noticed that it had gone deadly quite where the other birds were concerned. However this weekend I did see my first spring robin and this morning on my bike ride in I heard my first varied thrush. While at the seed swap we had tundra swans and a bald eagle flying overhead. That and a week of really warm weather and it must be summer, even if the ground is still frozen half an inch down!

01 May 2009

One Dead Bear & A Blueberry Pie

It's okay, you can look, it's a paper bear. A very dead paper bear but a paper bear nonetheless. Doesn't s/he look ferocious? Yesterday was my annual bear safety/ shotgun training. At least mostly annual. I've given the bear training myself more times then I can count and I try not to fall asleep when someone else gives it but the afternoon shotgun session is always worth being outside for a sunny spring day. That despite my exceedingly bruised shoulder from the shotgun (but see that shot right through the heart - that's mine). Plus I got blueberry pie out of it.

Let me just say, for the record, that despite my many years in bear country and my many encounters only 1 of them ever involved a charge and I emptied a can of Bear Spray in that grizzly's face and it stopped. Granted, it stopped about 1 foot in front of me and my quivering fieldworker who I was holding down with my other hand (he thought he should run! Never, ever run from a bear!), but he stopped. For the most part I won't be taking a shotgun with me but relying on good old pepper spray (I have an old post on it here, if you want more details). There are two occasions I prefer to have a gun though: 1)when I'm working on a salmon stream - let's face it, this is pretty much a grizzly bear buffet and they may think that this little naked (relative to a bear) bear needs a lesson in who gets the best fishing holes and 2) when I'm working in an area where I know the bears are not only well adapted to humans but to their food (this is a particular problem in bear-baiting areas - don't get me started).

Here's some fun bear-human facts to entertain you:

-more people get killed by pet dogs then bears
-in Alaska, more people get killed by moose then bears
-bears have never attacked a group of 4 or more if those people stand as a group (cowering behind your partner doesn't count - you've got to stand shoulder to shoulder)
-bears are a lot like dogs in their body language
-bear bells mean absolutely nothing to bears since they never evolved with a sound similar. However, pick up a stick & snap it up in little pieces and they will hear it and take good heed.
-I'm way more scared of humans then bears (but this fact may be more about me then bears)

This picture is not mine - I don't know who to credit. I've been told it's of a local bear but there are a few tree species in the photo that make me suspicious of that. As you can tell though, bears will go to great length for food!

Do me a favor, if you live in bear country, take down your bird seed already! And don't put it up again until it looks like winter!

30 April 2009


Many a person in Alaska will try and tell you that break-up is not really about rivers but about that time of year when a couple who has been keeping each other warm through the winter break off their relationship. But really, it does have to do with break-up of ice on the rivers (even if the latter is also true). I'm kicking myself for not grabbing my camera when I took the Disreputable Dog on his evening walk to the river where we witnessed break-up.

Tidal ice along the ocean in Los Anchorage

Rivers in Alaska have long been important transportation routes. In the winter they are highways for sled dog teams, snowmachines, and skis. In the summer boats of all types go up and down them. But during break-up and freeze-up all traffic stops. Predicting break-up has long been a pastime of locals and their is at least one break-up that is akin to our state lottery.

Having found that my new residence is a short walk from the mighty River that Brings the Highest Price for Wild Salmon, the D. Dog and go there twice daily. I love these huge, glacially fed, silty rivers (ok, I'll admit it, there isn't really any river type I don't love). Just standing on the banks makes me feel like I'm out in the field. The other day we had stopped in the early morning sun to look out on a still mostly frozen scene with a few leads of water. When we arrived on the banks in the afternoon we were just in time to see it all break up and wash out.

We sat in the sand on a high bank while the ice roared and crashed and moaned, while huge car sized chunks of ice floated by, submerging occasionally and then creating huge sprays as they lunged upward again like whales breaching. Occasionally a berg would strand temporarily on the edge of the river until enough of its brethren piled up behind it and forced it back out into the stream. The river was chock-a-block full of ice, it looked like the surface of a slurpee, churned pieces of ice streaked with sediment layers of grime and a huge variety of freezing ice patterns rushed by. The sound of it was awe inspiring- roaring, rushing, seething, spraying, sucking. I can't really describe it accurately. Huge blocks got torn from the banks creating their own current and sending muddy water skyward. And after sitting there for maybe 45 minutes all of the ice had passed us. Suddenly there was an open river with a few small pieces of ice still clinging to it's banks. Looking down river we could just discern the rush of ice as it headed for the open ocean.

28 April 2009

My Cat the Tree hugger

Yesterday, when I was out planting greens in the window boxes (yes, this might be a sign that I will stay at this residence a little longer then the last), the Disreputable Cat escaped out the front door. She is an indoor cat as there are things that would dearly love to eat her and things that she would dearly love to eat. I was about to run over and scoop her up when she caught sight of the red squirrel.

Now this may have been the first time she's actually ever seen a red squirrel and she was absolutely enthralled. As I watched she walked straight through a cat-belly deep puddle, tail dragging in the water, in the direction of the squirrel. I could hardly stop laughing. The squirrel was in no danger and when I finally rescued the D. Cat from the little island she had marooned herself on she grasped each tree as we went by (only the aspens though, not the spruce) and I thought to myself 'My cat's a tree hugger'.

27 April 2009

Field Season Looming

It's going to be summer next week and then it's going to be crazy, hectic busy, and then it's going to be over the week after that. At least, that's how it feels. I'm planning my field projects and I'm already trying not to think long term planning because I'm going to be gone almost every single week, starting the last week of May. It's not going to be the kind of field season where I go far, far away, drop off the planet, and stay there for 5 months before returning to the real world (which morphs into the unknown in my absence). No, this is the kind of field season where you spend one week at site A doing a project involving one taxa, the next week at site B involving and entirely different taxa, off to site C immediately thereafter to deal with yet another taxa, and so on. And yikes - how many people do I have to coordinate with and arrange equipment for? It's going to be an adventure, as is always the case when your transportation methods include (but are not limited to): snowmachine, hiking, helicopter, and raft. Right.

I expect I will come out the other end with crazy stories and beautiful pictures and absolutely ready to hole up for the winter doing mellow things. Right now we are all scrambling - we've got 13 million acres of land to traverse and take care of (that's six times the size of Yellowstone National Park) and 3-4 months to do it in. So right now, I'm logistics girl - 'cause I need to line it all up so that then I can just let it flow.

25 April 2009

Rabbit's Foot

Snowshoe hare foot found in the woods - it always seems that predators leave one behind...it makes me wonder about the origin of the "lucky" rabbit's foot.

Things I've been doing while I wasn't here:
  • Moving again - out of employee housing. There's been quite a crunch for housing so, despite the difficulties of finding housing in the area, I've moved
  • D. Dog's surgery & 3 subsequent check-ups - the vet is a 4 hour drive away. There is a vet closer but I have been repeatedly warned not to take an animal to this vet unless you intend to put them down. His next one is for the week after next.
  • Hiring two crews of seasonals for two different projects
  • Been sick, again, this time with a cold
  • Monitoring the Aspen trees for catkin development
  • Bringing my bike out of storage and resuming the bike commute - it's much easier from my new place which is about 4 miles away. The other one was 15.
  • Celebrated a birthday

24 April 2009

Signs of Spring in Alaska

  • Strange baby faced men who look vaguely familiar keep showing up at work - all winter long they've had chest long hair and beards but now they've gone in for their "annual" - annual haircut that is.
  • Flocks of snow buntings swooping around the roadsides like a wind swept snow storm
  • Owls becoming more visible, their hoots filling the forests
  • Daylight increasing so fast that it is confusing when trying to guess the time
  • Big lakes of melt water stuck between the frozen ground and permafrost. You could stock some of them with fish, I swear.

My mother asked me a week ago how much snow we had - 2 feet I replied. She asked if I was exaggerating. I wasn't. You couldn't even see the benches of the picnic tables and now, a week later, there is bare ground under them.

06 April 2009


Ice Festival Creature 2009

So I'm finally feeling totally recovered (and I still have no clue what it was). The Disreputable Dog had his first knee surgery and is doing very well although he manages to be very pathetic at the same time, howling when I leave until the Disreputable Cat comes up to comfort him (I peeked in the window). And my step-father has been buried (but I'm reserving a future post for him.) Thank you for all of your kind thoughts.

My favorite at the festival this year

Before I got sick I was going to post all these fabulous pictures of ice sculptures from the Ice Sculpture Festival in the City of the Midnight Sun where I was just before I got ill. I'm still posting them but it feels a little out of sync with the season as the we now have almost 14hours of daylight now and it has gotten above freezing every single day and the pussy willows are bursting from the very top-most branches of the willow trees. However, the ice festival is one of my absolute favorite events in this grand state and I was delighted that I had the excuse to go up there and the time to visit them with friends.

Ice DNA (to scale!!!)

This last photo is not as clear as the others as the camera batteries were getting cold and the lens was fogging up (it was -35F ~ -38C) but it is of an ice slide. A fabulous set of long ice slides that run the length of the hill. Now many respectable adults feel that they shouldn't be using such things but how else, I ask you, does one stay warm when standing around a gallery of ice other then by running up the hill and sliding down on your butt, going so fast that you laugh wildly into the cold air even though you forgot how much catching air on an ice slide would hurt when you came down.

ice slides!

24 March 2009

Showing up at the page

So I've been very ill this last week. It makes an impression when you pass out in front of all of your co-workers and your boss at a very important meeting. It's not good when they find you face first in the snow in the parking lot. Yep, that was me. Making an impression at the new job. The Superintendent took me to the emergency clinic where she was asked if she was my mother after my boss confiscated the keys to my truck. The Superintendent (aka Big Boss) asked me my phone number and I couldn't remember it. She asked my parents' number and I couldn't remember it either.

If I had been more then semi-aware of my surroundings I would have been worried about the doctor at the emergency clinic who didn't know how to spell the illness he thought I had and who looked like he was sixteen complete with black baggy pants draping off his boxers. It might have concerned me that he was focusing on things that didn't hurt. But I was not myself. Luckily my new co-workers rallied - the next day my boss called up two other co-workers and told them they were taking me to Los Anchorage (one was going anyway), another co-worker commandeered my pets.

I had been to City-of-Ice-Sculptures the weekend before for work and by the time the weekend had come had checked myself into the emergency clinic there. I thought the diagnosis seemed a bit bogus but was going to give the meds a shot. I thought I was fine at the meeting - really, I did. Then I crashed, spectacularly. So now, between the clinic here, the one in City-of-Ice-Sculptures, and Los Anchorage I now have three completely different diagnoses - and my symptoms don't fit any of them. Argh.

Just days before this the Disreputable Dog blew both his posterior cruciate ligaments (that's akin to a human ACL). He's scheduled for surgery next week. Last night Marlboro Man (my step-father) passed away - I can't absorb it. Oh, and that volcano (Mt. ReDoubt) is exploding - luckily the ash is not falling but it may prevent me from flying out of here.

Anywho, that's where I've been. Signing off for now....

04 March 2009

Falling books

Monday morning I learned that the independent bookstore where I spent the year of 2008 is closing its doors, on my birthday no less. Sadly, the belt tightening that has people reducing the number of lattes they buy has caused them to reduce the number of books they buy and the place just can't stay afloat. So it will be closing. I'm having a hard time imagining the town without it - even though it was absent all of my growing up years. It was more then a bookstore, it was a social place, a comforting place, an escape, a place that blurred the imaginary and real. I feel for my colleagues there who now are joining so many of the ranks of unemployed. I also cannot help but reflect on how my personal fortunes seem to be in direct contrast with everyone else. I lost my job at the end of 2007. I lost my home. I lost my sense of direction. Etc. And then, just as everyone else started to lose their jobs I was offered a new one in the field I love in a place I love with people I truly enjoy. I am truly grateful for this fact. I feel like I have been experiencing this economic downturn a year ahead of everyone else and now I've gotten back on my feet.

Already I miss the bookstore. The smell of the fresh books, the fireplace with the big wing chairs, the big stuffed pillows in the children's section, the crisp displays, the rhythm of book selling, of browsing, and buying, and enthusiasm.

03 March 2009

Happy Square Root Day!

Okay, on a purely nerdy note, today is square root day - a day when both the day of the month and the month are the square root of the last two digits of the year - a holiday that only comes around once every nine years. It is one of those oddly satisfying symmetries in the world.

On a related note, there's only 17 days left until the equinox! Woot!

(Edited on 3/6/09 to add: I made a mistake! I meant to say that square root day only occurs 9 times a century. NOT every 9 years! Sorry I didn't catch that earlier!)

25 February 2009

Somewhat Wordless Wednesday

So I finally am able to upload my photos again - but the system isn't yet refined so I can add my nifty little signature to them. Oh well. This picture is from my weekend ski along a fire break north west of my house. There are a gazillion unofficial trails all throughout Alaska and in winter you can access the ones that in summer would be swamp, such as this fire break. I think they planned this one so it would frame the mountain just so, don't you?

24 February 2009

Yukon Quest 2009

I'm sure you all have been wondering where my dog mushing posts have gone to - I've been attempting to restrain myself a bit. But now the winner of my favorite sled dog race has been announced - congratulations to the winner of the 2009 Yukon Quest - Sebastian Schnuelle!

Sebastian Schnuelle arrives at the finish line in Fairbanks, AK (this year it
started in Whitehorse, YT). Photo by John Hagen & taken from the official
Yukon Quest Page.

It's been a very exciting Quest this year - we all thought we knew exactly who the winner was from the start and then he fell out due to a penalty (well deserved in my opinion although he seems quite sore about it) and then it seemed equally obvious who was next in line but he got stuck a day before the ending of the race on Eagle Summit. It's one of the things I love about dog mushing - the winner is never a given.

20 February 2009

Short Week

This image is from my trip up on the Alaska Marine Highway this January. It exudes serenity and peacefulness. I'm feeling somewhat wordless today - the week escaped me, somehow it's Friday but I missed Wednesday. I have fun weekend plans - more skiing, a dinner date, a new book club to attend, and the Yukon Quest Dog Race to follow. I'm feeling dreamy and tired now as I snuggle with the D. Cat on my lap and the D. Dog at my feet. Did I mention the D. Dog caught himself breakfast the other morning? He was most pleased with himself.

19 February 2009

Inspiration Award

awww! Thanks to Step-wise Girl for nominating me for the Inspirational Award! I'm very flattered. I think I'm going to follow CAE's example and only nominate one blogger at the moment. I'm going to nominate Dea over at the Huffblog. She inspires me by the way she takes life by the horns even when it challenges her greatly.

18 February 2009

Recovering from 90th Birthday Party

So this weekend I flew all the way across the continent to join the rest of my family in celebrating my mother's mother's 90th birthday. It was a long day of travel - pretty much 24 hours worth - but you can't miss a 90th birthday.

My grandmother, I call her Oma, is a pretty amazing woman and the fact that she has made it to 90 and is the only one of her generation of her family to do so is quite remarkable. She is a survivor against incredible odds being as she was a German speaking Mennonite in a Jewish village in the Ukraine, Russia in 1919. Between the Russian revolution and the second world war she lost everything she had including most of her family - she was always on the wrong side simply by birthright. But she was clever and cunning and she survived and came to Canada as a refugee. At 89 she finally became a Canadian citizen after living there more then 50 years.

However, the exact details of her life are a bit of a mystery as my sister and I found out when we tried to make party favors using an old photo of her. We wanted to add some details to the photo card - where she was born, when she was married, when she came to Canada. This proved much more difficult then we anticipated and of great dispute among family members. We couldn't even pin down the age she was when the photograph was taken. At the birthday she told my mother she was 35, me she was 15, and my sister she was 25.

It was a lovely party - I think she enjoyed it. It was a lovely moment to spend with my family, to see them all there, to all pitch in and create this gift for her. And then I flew all the way back across the continent, picked up the Disreputables, then drove 4 hours in a blizzard to arrive home sometime after 1:30am last night. As a result I'm a bit bleary eyed today. Not to mention the fact that I spent the weekend in a time zone four hours different then my own.

13 February 2009

Footprint Friday: Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americana)

Location: The boreal forest in Alaska
Approximate size: ~11 inches, ~29cm for the set above, when looking at the below picture it is approximately 14 inches, 35.5cm between sets
Answer: Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americana). I can see how some of you might have thought moose however a) a moose footprint might have the beginning two pieces but not the back bit b) a moose's toes would not be quite so far apart. Argh! I just realized my second picture didn't show up which would have made it clearer - hmm...well, will have to get it later tonight. Sorry about that! (Edited to add: there it is! Now you have a better sense of scale)

11 February 2009

This little piggy wore boots

So I actually have very blister prone feet - and as Silver Fox pointed out in a comment, I am "hellishly gung-ho for the outdoors". It's not the best of combinations. My feet are so blister prone that I can get blisters in slippers and any other foot device and yes, if I go barefoot I can manage that too. If I haven't worn a pair of shoes for a week I'll get blisters, if I've worn a pair of shoes for a whole day I'll get blisters. So this explains my skiing situation - I hadn't worn my ski boots for that long of a ski in a month because, well, I've been moving. This blister problem has plagued me all my life to the point that in field camps there are entire betting games based on the number of blisters I come home with in a week with winners scoring whatever the cheap beer is that is being drunk in camp. I kid you not. Usually I have a thousand and one strategies for dealing with this. I am the person you want to have on your trip if you develop blisters because I can wrap them up in such a way you won't even know they're there. Of course, I'll also make you stop the minute you mention that your toe/ heel is starting to hurt. Which was my big mistake. As we glide along the beautiful crystalline river I think to myself 'hmm, my big toes hurt, I bet they're blistering' and then as Life-Long-Ranger says that he feels a bit of a cramp I say off handidly, "Yeah, I think I'm getting a blister". Did I stop and take care of the offending appendages? No. I did not. I was thinking 'it's cold out, the sun has gone down behind the ridge, we're almost there'. Almost, it turned out was another 2 hours and by then the damage was done. So now I spend my evenings soaking my toes for half an hour each night, I spend the rest of the night freezing my toes so as to let them dry out (freezing because there is a cold draft on my floor that can only be buffered by soaks and slippers), and I spend 15 minutes each morning wrapping them and generally making sure that, other then the first twinge as I change shoes, I will not notice that they're a mess. Really, if they insist on fussing like this they're just going to have to get over it because I am going to continue to go running, hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing - every day and they're just going to have to deal. You'd think my feet would have figured this out by now. I'm not letting a little pain get in the way of my outdoors time! There now...if you're brave scroll down for a photo of the damage... (if you just ate or have a sensitive stomach I suggest you avoid this part).







after a few days of healing