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

10 February 2009


The view from my office

This morning's weather report: "Clear starry skies and a full moon this morning". Then a breif update on the volcano that is trying to erupt. They forgot to mention owls. Just after my breakfast and snowshoe through the woods (our morning walk when there is thick fresh snow on the ground) with D. Dog there came an enormous crash and the snow fell off the roof. I look around, the D. Dog looked around, the D. Cat streaked to the porch door which has a full pane of glass in it. And there, sitting in the snow, was a Northern Hawk Owl, it's tail stretched out absurdly behind it. They look a lot smaller when you're looking down at them - something I have never done before as they're usually perched on the top of spruce trees like funny hats. Apparently it crashed into the window and sat there staring at the D. Cat who stared back, their eyes strangely similar.

I'm not really sure why these past few days have found so many large predatory birds on my porch - I'm delighted to see them up close but a bit concerned that they might hurt themselves. Good thing the D. Cat is an indoor cat! Of course, I didn't get pictures of either - I was too busy looking and observing their every mood - you'll have to forgive me.


Oh...not to be crude...but who wants a pic of my poor toes? Vote by your comment!

09 February 2009

Weekend Fun

This weekend a co-worker (I'll call him Life-Long-Ranger) and I (and the D.Dog) went for a x-country ski on the River-Known-For-Its-Expensive-Salmon. It was amazingly sunny and the four major mountains practically shown with reflected sunlight. It wasn't particularly warm but it wasn't particularly cold either. We skied for miles, enjoying the scenery that is hard to access any other time of year and enjoying the mostly smooth surface to travel on. Only occasionally did we have to avoid jumble ice. On the way back my toes were aching a little but I didn't particularly feel like taking off my boots - I figured the blister could wait.

At home it was immediately clear that I had bled rather profusely through my sock and yes, indeed, I had major blister-ripage on both of my big toes - mashed meat. Sigh. You'd think I'd know better by now.

Sunday morning I was being lazy, soaking my feet in brine and watching the D.Cat watching the birds feeding on my porch. The birds are predominantly common redpolls with two variants of pine grosbeak in attendance as well, the russet and the pacific. Occasionally a Stellar's jay would chase the group away. Then suddenly all of the birds vacated, a huge bird soared by, then came back and landed on my porch railing. A rough-legged hawk. It sat there, thumping it's foot against the railing and then chewing on it distractedly. Then it flew straight at the window, bounced off it with its feet, and flew away. Well you can imagine the D.Cat's excitement although the bird was twice the size of her. She ignored my dire warnings of how one ought not to mess with such birds because they would as soon as eat you as be eaten. Lucky for me she's an indoor cat.

Once my feet were bandaged up enough the D.Dog and I went off into the woods again - sans skis since I couldn't bear the thought of putting the boots on. But we made good tracks hiking in the woods for 4 hours where we saw a little saw-whet owl just beginning its breeding calls. By the end though the D.Dog was on a mission for dinner and it was getting colder although not much darker since the moon was so full and we headed home.

I apologize for the lack of photos - I'm needing to get my system back into working condition.

06 February 2009

Crossword Breaks

One of the things I like at my new work, which is more or less totally unrelated to work, is the crosswords in the bathrooms. I don't know if this is a tradition carried on in the male toilets but in the female toilets there are clipboards with random crossword puzzles torn out by people from every conceivable place and pens. Everyone fills out a little every time they go in. It turns out this is a great brain stimulator and a great break and since several people work on it you learn a lot too - it's fun to look at the answers for that question that really stumped you. Sometimes crossword books appear when we've run out of tear-out sheets (let's face it, crosswords are hard to come by in the Basin). Currently I find myself wondering whose handwriting belongs to which of my co-workers. Perhaps I'll even get to know that and then I'll know who knows all the TV trivia, who knows the history, etc. I bet you all can guess which questions I'm good at.

04 February 2009

Mercury & Alkali

I find it amusing that I can tell if it's getting below -5F (approx. -21C) because after that temperature the colder it gets the warmer the indoor, alkaline battery operated thermometer at work goes up. So currently it's -20F (approx. -29C which is the D.Dog's favorite all around temperature to lounge around outside in) and the indoor thermometer reads 68F (20C)! Which it's clearly not because I daren't even take my long underwear off indoors and I refuse to even cross the parking lot without my hat. So instead I peer out in the dark at the bi-metallic sensor which currently is accurate. But sadly, this thermometer, like all I've ever seen commercially available, stops at -60F (approx. -51C). Which is clearly not good enough here because we bury the needle at least once a winter. Mercury is no good either - it freezes at -39C (-38.15F), where both Fahrenheit and Celsius are almost the equal.

Perhaps it's time to get an alcohol thermometer - do you think I can make my own? It has a suitably low freezing point ( -113C , approx. -171F) - the weather gods have mercy on us if we ever get to that limit!

03 February 2009

In Memorium: Shelly

I didn't know her particularly well but we crossed paths many times in the last ten years. I first met her at a conference, and then several more and at the houses of friends. As I was leaving grad school she was coming in under the same advisor. She was smart, beautiful, and possessed a confidence I wished I could emulate.

Not too long after starting grad school she smashed her finger in the door of the bathroom. And it changed everything. It didn't heal, and it didn't heal and then she was diagnosed with subungual melanoma. Cancer is often unexpected and freakish and unfair but this seemed particularly horrible - that such an everyday occurrence (well, everyday to klutzes like me) could suddenly turn the world upside down. She was an amazing woman - she did so much even after the diagnosis - learning to fly, continuing to pursue her PhD. Our paths continued to cross and I would always check in but not being close I didn't want to pry.

It came as a shock to me the other day to stumble upon her blog, Shelski, and learn that she passed away with the with the end of 2008. She lived her life well, she did the things she loved and she will be missed. My thoughts go out to her family.

02 February 2009

Snow & Cold

This morning I wake to snow sifting down from the sky the way powdered sugar does for a cake, steady and even, light, coating everything. I do not find this out until the Disreputable Dog and I set out on our morning walk. It's funny how I've forgotten some of the characteristics of cold and how some of the habits have stayed with me. As I unpacked I was absolutely delighted to find my thick down coat and heavy warm boots as my Colorado versions were simply not enough to keep me warm. As I continued to unpack I found more things: long underwear, cutoff sock ankles for that space on one's wrist between glove and coat, several different thicknesses of hats each for a certain temperature range and likewise a set of gloves. When at the coldest three of each of these together makes the perfect pair. I had forgotten I had all these layers, forgotten I needed them, but luckily, there they are. And in the pocket of the coats a headlamp, a habit I continued in Colorado out of sheer habit. One can always use a headlamp somewhere in winter and it's no fun being caught without one.

I am delighted with having, for the first time, a garage for my truck. I never had any particular interest in garages but I can honestly say that it is a pleasure to get into a non-frozen car and not worry about cracking the plastic seat belt cover by hitting it with my bag when the temperature is 0F (-18C) or below. It is nice not to have to scrape the windows clean or to plug the car in at night to a timer so that it warms up enough to start (although I still do this at work). I like having round tires in the morning, not square ones that must be gently warmed up.

Tonight I was tired, mentally, and I new I needed exercise but the gym, a cold empty room at a Bible College with dust bunnies coating the ground and an erie empty feeling, did not appeal to me at all. So instead I went skiing with the Disreputable Dog. Darkness had already started to fall but luckily the shadow twilight phase lasts a long time and afterwards the snow is still quite bright with a little moonlight. By the end of our hour and half ski it had gotten difficult to see. Not only was I stubborn and refusing to turn on my headlamp but the ice crystals on my eyelashes were starting to freeze together.

01 February 2009

Moved In

So I finally made it out of the terminal ferry town. They opened the road in the afternoon and as I passed the giant snow plow/ gravel truck belly up in a ravine with all six wheels waving in the air my grip tightened on the steering wheel. One hundred and thirty-six miles is a long way to go when your top speed limit is 35mph. All thoughts of empowerment and hope that had been in my head after watching the US inauguration at the local bar - the only place open for breakfast at this time of year - had fled my head. All focus was on the road. As darkness fell and a blizzard blew up I was absolutely delighted to reach the next town on the road in the beautiful Yukon Territory. My shoulders were bunched up and tight from straining so close to the windshield. At the hotel resteraunt all of the plow drivers were discussing how to get that damn rig out of the ravine - apparently they had gotten the other 3 (!) out of the ditches they had gone in over the previous 5 days but this one was down a pretty steep slope and was proving a challenge. It may be there until spring, spring being sometime in June.

The next day was longish but familiar and I made it all the way to my new home. En route I passed the people who had slept in the hotel room next to me jack-knifed off the road with their trailer blown open at the seams. No one was there though so they had clearly made it to the next town over. Chaos ensued when I arrived at my destination, my rear sore from eleven days on the road (you may remember it took me seven to drive down in the summer). It took a few days but eventually the where's, the who's, the when's got cleared up and my stuff arrived from Los Anchorage and after I had put the pieces of my homemade bed together and dumped the frozen mattress on it and screwed together the pieces of the homemade cat scratching post together I hit the road myself, following the moving crew out to Los Anchorage. I had a shopping mission, and arriving there at the dinner shopping hour I was soon more then ready to get out of town and I headed out to my friend's who had the Disreputables. The Disreputable Cat had quickly taken control of the other dog who is a puppyhood friend of the Disreputable Dog. We spent the night and then headed to our new home.

I've been busy getting new mailing addresses, phones hooked up, internet services, unpacking and cleaning, sorting and making discoveries (why did I pack that?), and filling out paperwork at work. Showing up for work my first day was great - I had a very warm welcome from several people who I've worked with in the past and it felt like coming home. The Disreputable Dog has been so excited to have the scent of snowshoe hare and the, to him, perfect temperature of about 0 degrees F, that his tail wags constantly on our twice daily walks. The Disreputable Cat was fairly anxious the first couple of days but other then a new wariness of strangers she seems to have recovered. We had new snow on the weekend and I went skiing with some of my co-workers and then again the next day on my own. There's nothing better then being able to literally ski from your front door.