Monthly Archives: December 2008

Good morning

Good morning. It’s 7:30am here in Dillingham, Alaska and I’ve just woken up. I would have liked to stay in bed for another couple of hours, but it’s time to get ready for work.

It’s -8 degrees outside right now, with winds from the north at 8 mph. I wonder what that makes the windchill factor. It’ll warm up, though. We have a predicted high of 1 today.

Enjoy your mid-50s, Lexingtonians.

Post-Mortem on a Sunday Hike

I limped my arse around the courthouse today. My left ankle was VERY sore from hiking on Sunday. I’ve already decided that I need some good winter hiking boots. The military bunny boots are perfect for keeping your feet warm and dry. They are not good for ankle support. In fact, they basically have a pocket of air around my ankle, so you might as well call that NO ankle support. No wonder I was sore.

By the afternoon, the Tylenol had kicked in and I could walk properly again. But I’m still recovering.

Anthony swung by tonight and we chatted about our outdoor needs a bit. I need new hiking boots, but he’s going to let me try his on first–he wears a size 8 too, conveniently enough. He has a pair of Keen Oregon boots. I’ve got my eyes on the Keen Growlers on Zappos.com. They’re a little cheaper, but basically the same boot. If his fit, I’ll probably get some.

We also talked snowshoes. That hike would have been much easier if we hadn’t been pushing down 6 inches into snow at random. It’s hard on the feet. From what I hear, walking on that kind of snow with snowshoes is cake. The cheapest workable snowshoes seem to be about $60 a pair, which isn’t horrible, but is definitely an expense. So Anthony and I are brainstorming some ideas for homemade snowshoes. Modern snowshoes are basically just a light metal frame with neoprene webbing and a place to attach your boot in the middle. That seems doable as a home project.

Of course, Anthony and I both agree that a AR15 with a .458 SOCOM upper would be the perfect brush gun to carry just in case of bears. (Which is more of a concern in the berry-thick, salmon-rich warmer months, admittedly.) But that’s a little bit more expensive as far as accessories go.

Samara needs a good pair of snow pants and some better hiking boots if I’m going to get her to go winter hiking with me. She actually seems interested in doing it, too. Of course, she’ll need her own snowshoes as well. Lots of Alaska accessories are going on the “to buy” list.

We’ll see what actually gets bought on that list.

Did I happen to mention that it wasn’t until after the hike that I realized that Anthony is pretty much the perfect hiking partner? It’s not that he tells good jokes, or that he has an irrational attraction to the idea of finding a sasquatch. It’s that he was in the Air Force Pararescue. Do you know what these guys do for training? They jump out of planes, escape from sunken aircraft, do extreme cold weather training, etc. They pretty much send these guys to pieces of every other branch’s most elite training schools, just so they can act as medics in the most extreme situations.

Yeah, I think I’m pretty safe in the Alaskan back country with this guy. We just need to get that bear gun and we’ll be set.

Snake Lake Mountain

Anthony called today and said he wanted to go hiking. I like hiking, so I thought, why not?

I put on my flannel lined jeans, snow pants, two shirts, a coat, hat, gloves, face mask, wool socks and bunny boots. Then I threw some stuff in a bag, and Anthony and I drove out Aleknagik Road. Once we got out of town, we stopped at the foot of Snake Lake Mountain. There’s a road, aptly named Snake Lake Road, that goes up and around the mountain. It’s too snowed in to drive, but there’s a packed-down snowmachine trail all the way up.

I gotta say, I thought I was going to die just walking up the first hill. I was breathing hard and my legs hurt. After that, it leveled out a little and I got a second wind. Then I just needed a bit of a break every mile or so, and I did okay.

When you’re walking on a snowmachine trail, sometimes you only sink into the snow an inch or so, because it’s been packed down by the weight of the snowmachine. Other times, you’ll hit a soft patch and sink a foot or two into the snow. It’s really hard walking.

We walked about 4 miles up the road. It curves around the mountain and gives beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the pine-tree studded flats. After a while, you come around a curve to a place where people apparently come to shoot. There’s a scooped out area with a backdrop where a lot of people shoot guns. I don’t know why they wouldn’t use the official range at the landfill, but whatever. After the shooting area, there’s a curve around the mountain some more to a beautiful overlook. There’s a rocky outcropping. From there, you can see the bay, as well as the Warehouse Mountain (and some other mountains). When Erin and Anthony hiked up here last month, they could see lots of moose, apparently. We didn’t see any today, but we saw lots of tracks.

Erin and Samara, by the way, dyed their hair, went for a drive out to Aleknagik Lake, and then made a wonderful dinner that Anthony and I ate when we got back.

I took some pictures, mostly while we were up at the outlook. Here’s Anthony standing on a pile of rocks.

Here he is sitting, wearing his ski mask. That thing dangling from his pack is a water bottle full of frozen water. Silly winter.

And now, the view from the rocks.

And this was Snake Lake Mountain, which was behind us.

This is how deep you sink into the snow if you step off the trail.

Versus on the trail.


Walking back involved a lot more downhill, which was good, but my ankle still started getting sore about halfway back. I think that slowed us down quite a bit, but Anthony was cool about it. My bunny boots, while warm and with good ice traction because of the screws in the bottom, I don’t think they provide enough ankle support. I probably need some better hiking boots. We still made it down before it got really dark–it was after sunset, but there was still plenty of light when we made it back to the Canyonero.

Of course, I had made the stupid mistake of parking too far over on the edge of the road. As soon as we tried to pull out, my right front tire dug in, and my left rear tire just spun. So much for four wheel drive. Thankfully, we were only stuck for about a minute before a guy in a big Chevy Suburban drove by and stopped. He pulled us out with my tow rope. Although I almost ran over Anthony and backed into the guy’s truck, we did manage to get pulled out. I really appreciated his help.

Then there was the aforementioned dinner–ciabatta roll sandwiches with avocado and tomato and curry soup.

It ended up being a much more exciting Sunday than I’d expected. I figured I’d sit around doing nothing, and instead I went on a 8 mile hike up a mountain.

Wherein Lots of Stuff Happened and I Took No Pictures

I’ve been just a little bit sick this weekend. Just enough that my lazy butt has been sleeping frequently and not blogging or even taking pictures for the blog.

On Christmas Day, Samara made a turkey and all the other good stuff that goes along with that–stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etc. I made the light rolls. It was all very yummy. We had a few people over–Erin and Anthony, Rose and Mark. Mark was so appreciative that we had him over on Christmas that he brought us a bunch of frozen halibut and salmon. We all played Wii bowling for hours. It was quite a bit of fun.

Then, on Friday, we hung out at Erin and Anthony’s place. They live in the crazy tax protester’s apartments, but they’re actually really nice apartments. They’re neighbors with Bobbie, the history teacher and owner of the very awesome train game (Ticket to Ride, a board game). Samara went next door and borrowed it, and we played that for a few hours. Erin made some good nachos.

At about 11pm, we decided that it’d be an awesome idea to go to the Willow Tree bar. Surprisingly, there weren’t really any more people there than when we went with Rose at 7pm one night. But, at about 11:30, everyone showed up. From what I understand, everyone drinks at home until later in the evening and then shows up at the bar. That’s understandable, since a single Corona runs you $6.25. That’s an expensive beer. So we have now experienced the Alaskan nightlife. It’s not that exciting. We only stayed for about a half hour and then took off.

On Saturday, Erin and Anthony brought over the train game again. We played some more, and then watched an episode of the family guy that Anthony thinks is the funniest episode ever. It was a pretty funny episode.

Also on Saturday I tried to fix Saramay’s truck some more. See, we picked her truck up from the airport when she left for vacation, and since it’s been parked in front of our house, I haven’t been able to get it started again. I’ve tried any number of gas-drying and truck-warming techniques, none of which have actually helped get the truck started. It sucks.

Anyway, now we’ve got one day off left, and we’ll probably sit around and be lazy, because that’s what days off are good for.

Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Now, you folks know Samara. You know she can’t wait for presents.

So we opened them.

Here’s Samara diving valiantly in front of the presents to save them from an (imaginary) assassin’s bullet.

Yes, as you can see the in background, it’s a white Christmas here in Alaska.

Then I tried to eat a present.

That didn’t work, so I just covered myself with them instead.

Finally, Samara very excitedly opened her present from her dad.

I missed a few pictures after we started really tearing into the presents.

But as you can see, we really made out well. There’s food, and clothes, and ornaments, and coffee and games. We both got jeans and shirts. I got a couple of nice casual shirts that I can wear to work. Dennis and Joe, among other things, got me a really nice tie. We also had nice gifts from Amanda, Ann, my parents and sister Natalie, and my aunts. Samara’s dad, of course, sent the Wii. (There are Wii games being played even as I type this.) We also got some nice Christmas cards.

I’m sure I missed something, but I have to admit that I’m a little addled with sickness. I woke up this morning with stuffy ears, and now they’re still stuffy, plus I am really tired. I dislike being sick, but I dislike it even more when I have time off.

Still, sick or not, we’re having company tomorrow for Christmas dinner. I’ve got the dough for the light rolls rising now, and Samara and Rose are soaking the turkey in brine.

At least with the Christmas presents open, I don’t have to wake up early in the morning.

Care Package

This is a shout-out to Thomas Collins! He sent us a pair of very nice care packages with fancy and organic foods.

We love all our friends who have sent us care packages, and we’ve had a lot of really nice ones.

So this post is for you, Thomas! Thanks!

‘Tis the Season

Yesterday was the winter solstice. Shortest day of the year. That doesn’t mean much in the lower 48, usually. Here, it means a very short day indeed.

On December 20th, 2008, the sun rose in Dillingham Alaska at 10:27am. It set again at 4:37pm. Today, December 21st, 2008, sunrise was at 10:28am, and sunset will be at 4:37pm again. So, I guess, according to the US Navy anyway, today is actually the shortest day of the year.

Here are a few pictures taken at 10:30, 11:30 and around 1:00 today.

Not a whole lot of sun to be seen when it’s cloudy and cold. It’s 27 degrees here today.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from yesterday. Samara got up early and started cooking for the SAFE Christmas party. She made mashed potatoes and apple dumplings. I got up nice and late. It was well after sunrise. I went shooting, which was uneventful as usual. The snow pants Samara got me are great at keeping me warm, though.

Samara left to help do some of the last minute cooking at SAFE at around 3pm. I stayed home and made a fruit salad. I used six kiwis, four apples, four pears, and four Satsuma oranges, along with some lime juice and honey to make a really tasty fruit salad. I also packed up some cookies. I drove over to SAFE at around 4:45, just in time to help with some of the last minute setup for the dinner. The place got packed pretty quickly. There were around 80 people there, which was better than the turnout for the last potluck Samara did. It probably helped that SAFE was handing out its bonus checks to employees at this event. The highlight of the evening was Santa. He and Mrs. Claus turned up to take pictures and hand out gift bags for the kids. (In fact, Samara and Rose had stuffed gift bags the night before to help Santa out.) Samara snapped photos and I used a Kodak instant photo printer to print them out. Then Rose taped them into some foam Christmas photo frames that Samara had decorated. The cutest photos were the youngest kids, all of whom immediately started crying as soon as they hit Santa’s lap.

At about 7pm, everything was wrapped up and cleaned up fairly well. Samara, Rose and I headed off to the Willow Tree bar for a drink. The Willow Tree is probably pretty typical of a remote Alaska bar. It’s a single, fairly large room, with a bar at one end, a few tables, and some pool tables. Samara had to explain to the bartender how to make a Midori sour, but Rose was happy enough with a Corona. Those two drinks cost $12.50. At that early hour, there was hardly anyone in the bar. We sat around and watched TV at the bar for a little while, and then made it to the grocery store just before it closed. Let me tell you, folks–we’re really living it up here in Alaska. Lots of excitement.

Okay… now one final note. I’ll warn you now that this is another gory picture, like the beaver that Samara posted.

I went outside this afternoon and saw this outside our neighbor’s house.

It’s moose season again, and apparently our neighbor managed to bag one.

Weird, huh? More stuff that you don’t normally see in the lower 48. But up here, ’tis the season.

Friday’s events–decorations and ewwww, what is that?

It is my job as the outreach and education coordinator to plan community events, this means all the potlucks, holiday parties and fundraisers. I spent all day decorating 3 rooms at SAFE. I can’t say that I did an awesome job or anything, but I did the best I could with the donated christmas decorations. (Which by the way, if anyone wants to buy clearance lights after Christmas and donate them to SAFE that would be awesome. ) In the room that Santa is going to be in, it kinda looks like some one vomited tinsel on everything, but like I said I’m using 100% donated items.

I took a short lunch break since I had been so busy with the decorations. Aaron and I stopped by the post office. We received boxes from Aunt MeLette and a box from Ann. (thank you to you both) We opened MeLette’s box which was like a care package (thank you!) and nothing was wrapped. But when we went to open Ann’s our gifts were wrapped. So I guess I’ll just have to wait until thursday to see what the batteries are for that Ann left unwrapped.

When I went back to work, I started looking for the people that were helping me before lunch. I looked in one area and I saw 2 of the people. This is what they were up to…

Yes, that is a carcass of some small animal. It was in the process of getting cut up so it could be make into stew. This is another picture of it in case you couldn’t figure out what it is.

Notice the sharp teeth. Now imagine it with fur and a paddle like tail. Did you figure it out? Here’s a clue…

Yes, that thing that was sitting on the table was a beaver. A girl that I worked with trapped it. She is from one of the neighboring villages and she went back home this past week. She brought back some beaver bits and some fish strips (think thick, salty, smoked, fish jerky).

I never thought that I would come back from a lunch break to find a dead beaver on the table. It was weird, gross and very funny. This would never happen in the lower 48.

Wherein I Almost Marry Someone

I almost got to marry someone.

Now, since this coming June will mark our 6th wedding anniversary for Samara and me, and I’m not a bigamist, I bet I’ve got some of you confused.

Well, I was sitting there in the Clerk of Court’s office today, and a couple had come in to get their marriage license. Once they apply for the license, they have to wait three days and then they can get married. They weren’t planning to have a church wedding, so the Clerk started looking in the computer to see if she could schedule it before the magistrate on Monday. He already had something on his calendar, so she picked up the phone and called his desk to see when he could do it.

Apparently he doesn’t like doing weddings, because, among other things, after he did his first marriage, he had to do a domestic violence arraignment on the husband the next morning. I figure that’s enough to put anyone off marriages. So he didn’t want to do it. So the Clerk looks over at me and says, “That’s okay. I can commission Aaron and have him do it.”

In Alaska, the presiding judge in the judicial district can commission anyone to do a marriage. So besides the regular folks that can do them, i.e. judges, ministers, etc, anyone else can be temporarily given the power. The Clerk of Court has a pre-signed form from our presiding judge to commission someone.

For a few hours this afternoon, I thought I was going to have to dress up all nice and preside over someone’s marriage on Monday. But it turns out that the couple decided to have a doctor preside over it, so they’re going to get him commissioned instead. Don’t ask me why they’d rather have a medical doctor than an attorney.

So, yeah, I almost got to marry someone. Two people, actually. I didn’t really want to do it, but at the same time, it seemed like it would make an exciting story, so I was kind of disappointed to find out that I wouldn’t be doing it.

Christmas

Our presents are just piling up! Today we got more presents from my parents and sister Natalie, and also from our friends Amanda and Avery.

Look how big this pile is!

Christmas is going to be exciting!