Saturday, January 31, 2009

on volcano watch....

so...we have a volcano 100 miles from anchorage that has grown quite active....could blow anytime. we will probably be covered in ash, how much depends on the volcano and the wind i guess. work is very slow right now but i suspect if that mountain blows we will get all sorts of respiratory patients in. so i'm trying to just enjoy the calm before the storm. trying to get myself a little prepared as well. i have some masks for me and lots of bandana's that i can use for myself and the dogs. i also can wear my swimming goggles if needed and rio has doggles. just need to locate some doggles for blossom. making the dogs wear them is another story though. i guess the ash can be like little shards of glass so very damaging if inhaled or in your eyes. i've had a corneal abrasion before and that think hurt like hell! i was miserable and would not wish to repeat that. i need to pick up an extra air filter for the car, if there are any left in town. i did pick up some big bottles of water. i guess the ash gets into the water and can be a problem. could lose electricity and could be tough for planes to get in/out with supplies. was looking at the alaska volcano observatory site to get an idea of how to prepare. mostly, it suggests staying inside as much as possible. i think the snow will be good as it will stick to the ash and maybe keep it from flying all over so much.
took the dogs to the dog park today. they always have a great time there. rio just wants to play with all the other dogs, but she sounds a bit grumbly trying to elicit play and i think it freaks people out, with her being so large and all. poor rio, so misunderstood. she really is just a sweet pup. though i do pity the poor fool who would try to attack me with her around. i doubt she'd lay down and do nothing. if she could find you....well that would be to the end of ya.
finally got to watch the "sex and the" last night. i always loved that show on tv and have all seasons on dvd...thanks to my brother jeff. overall, i liked the movie. the people that i wanted together were together. i think the overdid the graphic sex scenes. i'm cool with sex scenes when they serve a purpose other than just shock value. they mostly just seemed unnecessary. they could finally get naked though so maybe that was the thing. it was always silly in the show that the girls always had bra's on...i really don't know many men who want to have sex with women with thier bra's still on. i think they work very hard as young men learning how to remove a bra to get to the boobs...i'm not a guy, but it just seemed silly me. i'm also watching "bones" season 2. i love that series. just a good show. i'm also reading that book "girls" about a pair of conjoined twins. enjoying it so far.
better get to bed before they call me in. try and get a little shut eye. i'll try and move over a few more myspace postings in the next few days.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

from myspace...chilkoot trail one

Sunday, September 02, 2007
more on the details of the chilkoot trail....Current mood: accomplished
wanted to write more about my trek to chilkoot trail. it was a triumph of both mind and body. there were times before i left and the night before we summited that i worried about how i'd be able to do. it was a proud moment to be on the summit!!
we had a 16 hour drive from anchorage to skagway. we stopped in the yukon territory YT to camp for the night. i got to test out the element again. the chairs don't go completely flat and i should have opened the sleeping bag...we got enough rest though and cruised towards skagway the next day...did i mention the mama grizzley and her two babies just outside the campground on kluane lake...!! the drive to skagway is beautiful. we had to stop at the emerald lake and take photos, then we stopped at carcross. a railroad stop on the white pass headed to whitehorse. it was a cute little place and we had fun trekking about. skagway is really a fun town full of gold rush history. it was my third time there. the last time i was in skagway was sept 11, 2001...that's another story.
our b&b hostess had just hiked the chilkoot the week before we arrived so we got some last minute tips, rearranged the packs in an attempt to make them lighter. ha!! i'm sure i was carrying 40-50 pounds. i never really did a final weigh. i know it was over 40 and that didn't include the water or camera bag i carried.
the first day we hiked from dyea to canyon city camp. the trail immediately tests you by sending you uphill and introducing the boulder concept...a baby hill really. the sun was out all day for us and it was a great day for walking the 7.5 miles. you pass a few camp sites along the way. finnegans had a super stinky out house!! the things you remember. :-) there were some easier sections on an old logging road and some boardwalk to cross over watery area's. nobody fell in. most of the american side of the trail is rain forest. reminded me of my days in ketchikan though i guess it doesn't rain near what it does there. we pitched our tents in canyon city and headed off to see the ruins of the actual canyon city. of course, there we noted some niced tent sites. i was vetoed on moving our tents...ours were way to close to the outhouse and the smell and flies were unpleasant in the heat of the day.
next day we were off to sheep camp. soon after we left the camp...we got another initiation into the bouldering to come!! the guide book said the trail ascends steeply and it wasn't kidding!! the extra layers came off after that short but killer ascent. it had sprinkled lightly through the night and was cloudy all day, but didn't rain anymore. they called the first part of the days trek a "knee bender". it was loads of up hill, down hill. since i knew i was eventually gonna have to be up...well i was getting annoyed at having to come back down again. the hike for the day was only4.3 miles but we took our time and enjoyed the scenery and artifacts that dot the trail. rusted out cans, old shoes and such. we ate lunch at a lovely campground called pleasant camp. the outhouse there was outhouses go. it was behind the canvas tent the forest service has up and then up a hill...i think most folks don't find it, we did. there was a false sheep camp as they had recently moved it back to where it was years ago. less mileage for tomorrows trek i figured. as we were setting up our tent i came down the hill to the cabin and bear bins to find several other campers looking at something in the woods. it was a large black bear. that bear had no fear of us and came strolling in. we got some good pictures and then were backed into the cabin there. we came back out as he walked past to check out the tents. we had 3 dogs in camp that night. it's a pretty common place to stop before heading to the summit the next day. i did realize at 3 am that i had left some trail mix in my tent...couldn't sleep much after that.
we woke early the next day as we had 8.7 miles to cover. we knew it was going to be a long day. again it had sprinkled on us lightly through the night, again it never rained again that day, but the fog had settled in on the summit. the trail this day will make you climb over 2600 feet in 4.7 miles it takes to get to the summit. the long hill is a bit deceptive as that hill is covered with boulders. mostly you are bouldering over rocks and then you'll have breaks of regular dirt is all uphill though. we cross some snow and get to a sign that said "the scales". we actually were deciding that we were perfectly happy to have the fog obscuring our view of the summit. there are a few false summits and we feared being overwhelmed if we knew what was required of us. it got foggier as we got higher up. at some point after the scales sign the bouldering increased and then went vertical as we hit what is known as "the stairs". when the goldrushers of 1898 went up in the winter they were able to chink stairs up that last section. we were forced to basically crawl up the 1/2 mile to the first false summit. it would be tough anyway, but my backpack seemed to be off scew. once you were in crawl mode you just had to focus on getting up the hill. i got few pictures and none of them do the difficulty justice. again we were happy with the fog so we didn't know how far we could possibly fall down the cliff. the books say it's a 45% scramble over boulders and loose rocks. each step was fraught with danger and you used every muscle and mental ability to get up the mountain. there were a few more boulder scrambles and then we reached an almost level spot with an old metal relic in it. i have a picture of us all there in the fog...we all look drained. it was soon after this that we reached the summit. what a relief. there is a warming hut....warming is a misnomer as the only warmth is body heat. the temperature was about 30 and the wind was blowing. the outhouse up there had a wind tunnel blowing up your arse.
after resting up in the hut we headed off to happy camp. we weren't done with boulders yet...nor with the uphill. the hike to happy wasn't easy, though it was easier than the what we had just done. there were lots of stream/creek crossings and my feet were getting wet. the fog lifted several times and we were able to see how beautiful the canadian side was. it's much dryer on that side. we were happy to get to happy camp. tomorrow i'll talk about some of the other folks in the camp...that was a great part of going as well, were the side tales.
lots of tales in the cook cabin at happy about how everyones hike had gone that day.
the next day, we headed to bare loon. the hills and rocks were still not done...they continued on into deep lake. the scenery was amazing. the sun was coming out. we felt so great at deep lake we decided to wash our hair and eat lunch. the hike from there to lindeman lake is super pleasant. easy long downhill. old stuff from the trail days and amazing scenery and delicious berries to eat on the trail. there is a deep gorge with a raging river running through. after lindeman lake the trail gets a bit more difficult again. plus we had a few folks who joined us who talked non-stop. i decided to join martha and sandra in the back of our pack. there had been a bear issue so the rangers wanted us to group up.
bare loon was a beautiful camp. some guy decided to swim. the next day we headed off to bennett. it was a pretty pleasant 4 mile hike. the sun was out and though it wasn't easy and there was a silly desert to trudge through. the church there was built in the gold rush days from the rounds that were leftover from the railroad ties of building the whitepass rail. it was a beautiful church and surely a testament to people who no doubt felt grateful for having survived as far as bennet. they still had a ways to go to get to where most of them never found gold in dawson, but we caught the train back to skagway. the last time i was on that train was when mom was up here on the cruise with jeff and wils and i. it was all very emotional for me...i'm used to calling mom and letting her know i'm safe and i can't anymore. she had been in on my planning of the trip and i know she would have loved hearing all about it. we had to eat when we got in skagway..real food...real toilets!! we were all happy to be back and safe....i never even said who all silly of me....i guess more on that in tomorrows blog about the cast of characters. i'm sleepy and want to crash. i worked the last 3 nights.
kelly and i took the girls to the dog park. we walked way to fast for rio and she is limping a bit tonight. i felt badly. i generally let her rest more. i'll have to be more mindful of her and her bum knee. she puked out there...i know it was just too much for her.

from myspace...chilkoot two

Monday, September 03, 2007
people of the chilkoot....Current mood: jubilant
thought i should write a few words about all the cool folks on the trail. my group consisted of me, martha(she's a resp therapist i work with), gail and sandra ( peds icu nurses i work with) and sue (travel nurse who now lives in san francisco, she's come on all my annual trips these last 5 years) everyone was totally supportive and positive and i couldn't have asked for a better group to tackle the mountain with. there were also lots of other hikers doing the trail that we met along the way. one family was very fit and we were very impressed that the young kids(around ages 6 and 10) did as great as they did. they had thier grandpa along as well. the mom and son had done the trail 3 times...the boy said the first time didn't count for him as he was only 1 and his mom carried him up. she pulled out this delicious loaf of bread at the summit. i think i ate tuna!! they had a cute dog named crunchy and that dog looked super tired every night. i had debated bringing blossom but was happy i didn't as i think i would have worried about her leaping over boulders and possibly breaking a leg. the little girl had a ski hat made from crunchy's fur. how cute is that. another family was totally opposite, but just as nice. they showed up pretty haphazardly and not prepared for the conquest ahead. they had a 19 year old daughter who took forever getting into the first camp. when she made it in her siblings were supportive and the family discussed options. she was easily over 300 pounds and this trail was not for the faint of heart. hannah was given the opportunity to turn back and i must say i admire her spirit and tenacity. we were fairly slow, but on day three we took 5 hours to go the 4.7 miles from sheep camp to the warming hut at the summit. that girl took 16 hours and finished her climb around midnight by flashlight. the ranger at the hut came down and took her pack for her at some point and the girl needed some physical assistance, but she did it. i was sure she'd turn back as i'm sure i would have turned back if i'd have been in the same position. her family was supportive and kind and she did it. i can't help but wonder what that accomplishment will mean to her in the future. i felt great about it and i'm in decent shape for 40 something...
it's been a year of physical challenge for me and a year of finding that i'm stronger than i thought possible. in may i was able to kayak a single kayak for over 20 miles in one day. 40 miles in 3 days. my mom had just passed away and it was my first time in a single friend scott had rigged his kayak up with rope to tow me as he was sure that i would need assistance, but i didn't. i never saw the rope til we pulled into whittier.....i surprised him and myself. the chilkoot was another challenge. never say never and never hold back doing something for fear of what you are capable are capable of whatever you put your heart and soul into.

from myspace....churchill, canada 2006

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
a few words about the polar bear trek of last year....Current mood: content
every year for the past 5 years i've planned some sort of fun adventure. i just open it up to interested people and see who shows up. this year was the chilkoot trail. last year i decided to go broke and see some polar bears in churchill, canada. it seemed that each time i opened my newspaper there was another article about the demise of the polar bears due to global warming. the bears of churchill are some of the most accessible, but also some of the most at risk. they collect on the hudson bay each year and await for the ice to come in so they can go out to feed. that ice has been leaving earlier in the year and coming in later over the past many years. this means these bears don't get as much bulk on them. time will tell for these beautiful bears, but i wanted to see them before their numbers got lower. planning these trips began as a fun way to pump up the cabin fever of winters up here. several friends were interested and eventually we got a crew together. i wanted to stay at the tundra buggy lodge so we would be able to see the most bears and not waste time traveling from churchill to where the bears were. the lodge can hold up to 38 people and is very similar to living on a train for several days. there were two sleeping cars so accomadations were tight. in the days we could take the more portable buggies out and stay elevated from the bears.
we flew into winnepeg, manitoba,canada to stay overnight. it's a 2 hour flight from there north to churchill. we were so excited and i was so scared we'd get up there and the ice would have already come in and we'd see no bears. they leave as soon as the ice comes in. the tour starts with a bus tour of churchill.....we spent far too much time on this and on hanging out in churchill itself...but it was a tour package so no way out of that. they drove us past the polar bear compound where the bears that become problems in the town of churchill go. they have bear alert systems in place for when bears wander in there. they also have many warning signs posted to keep you from meeting a polar bear accidently. i mostly hung out with my friend maria and sue who went along. it was chilly there, but truthfully, last year in november in anchorage we never got over 10 degree's and it was a bit warmer in churchill than in anchorage. they are about 700 miles south of us. oh...did i mention the polar bear paw prints on the glass doors at the airport...
by the time we headed out to the buggys to settle in, it was getting dark. those buggy's really bounce and rattle us. we had all our gear on board and i'm sure there was thousands of dollars of camera gear. we spotted our first polar bears from the mother ship(tundra buggy lodge) and of course took many pictures for fear we'd never see another bear. we didn't need to worry. we could see them from our little windows on our bunks. i recall watching a bear in the distance get closer and closer and then walked right under the buggy at my window. the wheels are about 5 feet tall so the bears can wander underneath the buggy's. there was one john per sleeping car and man did those things reek. i told them, they should make a shitter car and take that out of the sleeping car area. when i woke the next morning i looked out my window to see a bear asleep in the snow below me.
we saw dozens of bears and most of them hung around the mother ship all day. we had loaded on to our portable buggy, but really just circled the mother ship as the bears were to active. they were sparring all day. 2 sets. they'd rest, spar, rest, spar. my pictures came out grey as polar bears on snow are really tough to photograph...seperates the amateur from the professional. we did have some professionals on board, including my aquaintance, lisa who i'd met viewing grizzley bears...
the bears were amazing to watch. you could scan the horizon and count a dozen bears out there. loved seeing the mothers and cubs. the mom's were so thin. they really dont' eat much at all while raising the yearlings. the bears would dig out seaweed and munch on that. for me, their feet were just mesmorizing. they were just to huge. they look so gentle and you realize if you were down there with them they could just whack ya and eat you. you are a meal to them. i recall a biologist telling us of studying seals up in the alaskan arctic. he said he was taken out by natives and they kept taking turns jumping up on the snow machines to scan the horizon. he asked what they were doing...they looked at him like he was crazy and said, "you think you are the only one looking for seals out here"...he said he then began scanning the horizon as well. polar bears can smell something several miles away. they didn't look scarey at all as they played and lounged about.
one night i woke up to look out my window and see the northern lights dancing away. i've seen the northern lights many times, but we roused everyone else as we knew they would want to see them. the 38 people on board were from all over. there were 6 from mexico, 2 germans, 1 japanese girl, several from was really fun. everyone was really nice and you had alot of time to get to know each other. actually the only one who bugged me was a boyfriend of a girl i work with who went. that is another tale though, not worth wasting time on.
we also saw some artic hares and fox. the fox also have snowshoe feet to make travel on the ice easier.
we spent another night in winnepeg en route home. i went to a hockey game with sue and maria. i love hockey. it was a minor league game. the crowd was pretty subdued. i'd heard canadian crowds are a bit more tame than the american games. mostly, i think it's that they dont' have a person or pa system belting out stuff to get people involved...anyway. it is always fun for me to get to some sort of professional sporting event when i'm out of being my favorite one to attend.
my trip home was pretty eventful...memorable and somewhat life changing. it was a 5 hour plane ride from denver to anchorage. we watched some dumb movie and were supposed to land at 9:30pm in anchorage. i heard alot of thuds...seemed like more than the usual for the landing gear coming down, but we continued to land like normal...then we took off again. we flew in silence further and further away from anchorage. my heart knew something was wrong. then the pilot came on, he said with a trembling voice, "we have a major problem with out landing gear, listen to your flight attendants and prepare for evacuation". he then said we were going to fly over the airport again so they could assess the landing gear ( and i knew to get emergency equipment on the runway and dump whatever fuel we had left) then we were going to just make an attempt at landing. we circled for what seemed like forever. the plane was quiet. the girls in my row and i talked quietly, introduced each other and honestly, i think we were just too scared to even be able to react. i was comforted by the fact that for some strange reason i'd left a note behind in the event my plane crashed...something i'd never done. i had written some names of friends to call who would help find homes for my pets....i really wanted to see the dogs again to come home and be with them. i didn't want to die. as we began to come into land we assumed crash positions and held hands, i repeated this metta prayer i have memorized over and over to just take the focus off what was coming. we didn't know if we had no landing gear, one wheel or just that they weren't locked in place. i thought having one wheel down would be the just go over possible scenarios. when it came time to land the flight attendants screamed ," NOW, BRACE, BRACE, BRACE, DON'T MOVE, BRACE, BRACE, BRACE, DON'T MOVE...." the entire time the plane was coming down. i msut say it was the gentlest landing i've ever had. no braking, i think for fear the wheels would buckle. the pilot did a great job, he just slowed the plane down as much as he could before we landed and glided to a stop. there were fire engines and ambulances all over the runway, but we were okay. i was shaking for hours and the next day i was in full anxiety attack mode all day...i think i had just been to scared to be scared on the plane and the next day my body could release all the stress. we didn't land until 11:30 or later, not sure and we had been on time. my friend said the moniters said, "on time", then our flight just disappeared. i called him when we were safely on the ground and he told other people waiting for our flight around him what was going on. i recall i felt super hungry and he asked if i wanted to stop and eat...i told him no thanks i wanted nothing to prevent the wine i was going to drink from effecting me. we drove right past a big old moose in the middle of my street as we were both too shook up to notice. that is my polar bear tale....
on a sort of funny we were about to crash land i remembered i had gum in my mouth and all i could think was "oh my god, i'll survive the crash and choke on the gum. in a panic i took it out and smashed it between the pages of the plastic, what to do in an emergency thing. also they told us to put our heads on our knees the best position to crash in according to them...the seats are too close together to be able to get in this position...personally, i figured it was the "best" position as you would break your neck immediately.
as for today...took rio and blossom for thier usual rio walk in the morning in the bog by my place then my friend kelly called and we took blossom and her dog mandy for another walk...they ran, we walked. i think the toilet is works, could use some tweaking. i finished reading my book, "water for elephants" which was a really great read. not sure what i'll read next. it's great to be alive and i am one who loves to stop and smell the roses as it were and i'm really happy my life isn't so crazy i don't have time to enjoy all the sweet little things of this world.
metta prayer...
may all beings be happy, content, and fulfilled,
may all beings be healed and whole,
may all have whatever they want and need,
may all be protected from harm and free from fear,
may all beings have inner peace and ease,
may all be awakened, liberated and free,
may there be peace in our world and throughout the entire universe...

from myspace...pribilof islands 2005

September 10, 2007
2005 pribilof islands trek....Current mood: calm
the pribilof islands have always been a place i've wanted to go. it's very remote and a bit pricey to get out there, but well worth it. the islands, especially st paul have been mentioned a great deal in that show about alaskan fisherman on national geographic channel..i think that is where it is. i find the winter is a great time to think of a fun adventure for the next 2005 i decided the trek would be to these islands. i wanted to be able to see both of the major islands out there. the islands sit 300 miles off the western alaskan coast. the fog frequently prevents or delays travel out there. the waters out there can be treacherous and thus the wild tales of crabbers and fisherman out there. deaths and injuries are common out there and getting help is never easy. the way i'd set it up we would fly in to st george, the smaller island and then i'd contacted a fisherman who said he'd take us over to st paul....of course, when you are traveling in alaska you must always be ready for plans to change and for delays to happen.
we were told at the airport not to drink too much coffee or beverage as there wouldn't be a bathroom on the plane and it was a long flight. we did end up stopping in dillingham for fuel and a pit stop. the plane was loud and held maybe 14 passengers. we, me, scott, tanya and sue were the only "tourists" on the plane, everyone else was going to st george for work related reasons. one guy was going to fix something at the little airport, i think most of the others were biologists and a one was a photographer from WWF (world wildlife federation) luckily, though it was a little foggy and cloudy we were able to land on the beautiful island of st george. there are only about 100 people who live there, most of them native alaskans. actually native alaskans didn't live on these islands until the white man moved them there to kill fur seals for the furrier industry.
we hitched a ride with a gentleman who i think was actually at the airport to get us, but you couldn't really tell. he was big in the local native corporation and when he heard how we were supposed to get to st paul i believe he put a stop to it. from rumors we gathered from the biologists that were housed in our little hotel, the fisherman didn't have survival suits for this many passengers and if the coast gaurd caught wind of what he was trying there would be big trouble. we didn't know this for a bit as we just kept trying to get ahold of this dude and weren't able to.
in the meantime we settled in to our hotel,which was very cute and comfy. they had a modern kitchen downstairs that you could do your cooking in and it was a great gathering place. we felt like we had the best tour guides ever. there were several biologists there and the wwf guys and they were all excited to tell us all about the wildlife on the island and where we could meander and all that.
the waters were totally calm that first day, some of the biologists put kayaks in the water...we were a bit jealous!! i was happy to beach comb and there were hundreds and hundreds of intact sea urchin shells all over the place. they were 3+ inches in diameter. i gathered as many as i felt i could safely take back with me. they are so fragile. several of them and other shells i've collected over the years are now in my coffee table. i love that table. it's sunk in and when ross, claralyn,sam and john came up to visit they brought sand from laguna. i added a bit from the beaches of st george and lay the shells in there. it's covered with glass....lest my cats use it as thier litter.
we were able to see our first fur seals that day. i guess i had thought all the fur seals were over on st paul just advertises while st george really doesn't do anything to encourage tourists. the people we saw were friendly enough, but most of the natives stayed close to home, but peeked out their windows at us...i don't think they understood why we were hiking around all the time. the island is just amazing though. green, green, green. there are tons of birds everywhere, puffins, cormorants....cute fox and then the fur seals who were hauled out to have thier babies. there are really no tree's but there are these amazing cliffs. the wild flowers were also blooming everywhere. the biologists were everywhere and they were so nice to us. we had sunday brunch with them.
there were vehicles there, but most of the people rode around in 4 wheelers. gas must be extremely expensive and they sometimes just run out.
the second day we were there we took a walk up to these cliffs. the birds were there in mass numbers, the wind was blowing and the murre's were making us laugh. their call sounds like they are laughing and we all just kept laughing right along with them. the fox scoot around and look for eggs. many of the fox on the aleutians were imported for fox fur farms. these apparently migrated to these remote islands...who knows how?? the fog of the morning cleared though the day and it was just amazingly beautiful. as we came down a cliff to a beach there were more fur seals hauled out. a few biologists were there and we got another private tour and lesson about fur seals. they hang out in harems and they were very quarrelsome bunch. these poor females are trying to deliver thier babies and fight off the other femals. the fox would run through trying to get the placenta's for snacks.
the next day we crossed the island to the other side. i can't recall what the beach was called, but emerald or totally lived up to its name. before we got there we ran into the caribou herd that lives on the island. they were put there and they drive the biologists nuts as there are too many of them. they are damaging the fragile ecosystems. there were bones scattered on this black sand beach...remnants that noone bothers with.
the main biologist gave us a tour of the old fur factory. the waves picked up and by the next day the biologists who had been kayaking on flat calm water were now surfing in dry suits. the bering sea is totally unpredictable.
the wife of the fisherman who left was supposed to take us to st paul made us some halibut was a deliscious peace offering. i made several phone calls and in the end we paid a nominal fee and chartered the plane that flies in from anchorage. it would normally fly from anchorage to st paul to st george and then back to anchorage...we got it to add a trip back to st paul after picking us up. our friend maria was meeting us in st paul. st paul has more of the population, the islands are a bit competitive with each other. st paul has a tour operation and we were somewhat disappointed in it all. they had a crap hotel and fed us at some cafeteria at the airport. it caters mostly to crazy birder folk....we got off the plane there and the tour folks that met us were all, "are you birders" when we said no we got the cold shoulder. this was pretty typical. luckily we found one of the tour guides and stuck ourselves to him. this is a huge place for migratory birds and birders come from across the globe to put check marks in their books for bird speicies. we often made fun of them, even though i love the birds, i am no birder. one guy travels the world just to check off sea gull species. i mean i would at least pick a better bird. gulls are like flying rats!! we did have lovely sightings of puffins and cormorants and there were again many fur seals. we were just spoiled by st georges beauty and relaxed atmosphere. maria was ready to kill us all as she had missed st george and could tell it was the better island. the birders thought us crazy as we again put on our day packs and took off for crazy walks all over the island. we covered it in the days we were there. i always love hiking and exploring new places. it's great hikind these islands too as there are no bears to worry about and the mosquitos are blown off by the wind.
all in all it was another great trip witih a group of super people. we all had a wonderful time and will carry the memories with us always. i'll have to try and post a slide show with pictures from these treks.

from myspace ..kayak island trip 2004

Saturday, September 15, 2007
kayak island trek 2004Current mood: contemplative
in 2004 i got a group together to check out a lighthouse on kayak island. this island is about 60 miles from cordova. you can only get there by air or sea. to arrange this trip i had to work with the group that has taken over the lighthouse to preserve it. they let you camp out at the boathouse. the lighthouse still functions and is maintained by the coast gaurd. nobody lives there anymore, but in it's day it was one of the most treachorous lighthouse assignments. the water constantly crashes on the shore, making boat landings very difficult. the lighthouse is called st elias lighthouse.
i arranged for us to be flown out there. it was 2 little planes a mom and son pilot team that flew us out there. they were super nice folks. the mom is featured in the smithsonian institute. something about female pilots of the bush of alaska. the day we flew out we got a late start as the wind was really blowing. we never asked, but we know it was probably a bit sketchy as to whether we really should have been flying out there at all. our pilot, steve, was very excited about us going though as he and his family spend a great deal of time on this remote island and he is one of the people who is involved in preserving the lighthouse. it's his passion. we circled our landing field 6-7 times...we landed on the sandy beach at low tide....he needed to find a landing area with less rocks. a bit tricky. the wind was really blowing...we later surmised it to be over 50 miles/per/hour...we experienced gusts of much greater than that on our hike. when steve did land he booted us out of the plane quickly as he needed to get back in the air before his tires would sink into the sand and ground him. as we jumped out of the plane we were hit by the power of the was crazy!! we took off for shore and awaiting the other 3 from our group to land with his mom on her plane. he circled above to make sure his mom landed safely and got off okay...what a sweet son. so deb spring, scott johnson and lesley were on the mom's plane, me, sue and stephanie were on the sons. once we were all together we began our walk to the's just over 2 miles to the lighthouse from this beach. it was the most difficult 2 miles i think i have ever walked. we mostly traveled over boulders and log jams that were all damp as it wasn't just windy it was wet and rainy...early spring. as you would lift a leg to attempt another step, the wind would knock you over. it took us 3-4 hours to do that short 2 miles. we had pretty full packs i think too as we had all figured, it's just 2miles....HA . this island is in a location that makes it a dumping ground for all that is lost to sea. so we had to also deal with thousands of old ropes, floats, shoes, balls...several containers fall off barges and those can be used to track worldwide currents. the barges that we saw samplings from including a barge that had carried little plastic animal toys, i found 6 of those. i've read articles about how scientists have used those to track currents and wrote one of the more involved ones and let him know what we found after we returned. there was a container of nike sandles, sports balls, sleep mats.... we also found several of those glass floats.
when we rounded the bend and saw the lighthouse, our destination, we were thrilled. luckily some kind folks had left a bit of dry wood and even though it took a bit to get that fire started we soon could feel the warmth and dry out. we then collected wood and waited for scott and deb to get in. deb has some knee issues and it took her a bit with all that wind. i thought she would have some choice swear words for me when she got to the lighthouse, but she was so happy to arrive. i have been lucky on all these trips in that the people have all been great to travel with. nobody ever complains and they are all just happy to be in these amazing places.
you looked out from the boathouse to see a huge rock called the pinnacle. to the left of that hundreds of sea lions were hauled out. the scenery is just beautiful on the island and the tidepools were awesome. we spent much of our time beachcombing. it's so remote there are all sorts of stuff laying about. never collected, like whale bones....too big for us to carry out too. there is a helipad that the coast gaurd uses and i have heard they may have tried to do some clean up on the island shores to get the larger floatsam up...especially those gigantic ropes. thousands of dollars worth of rope and floats.
many of the rocks on the island must have been formed from volcanic eruptions. many of the rocks looked like heads of cabbage. there were also small ones that seemed perfectly round, like cannon balls.
there are supposedly grizzley bears on the island, luckily we never saw any...perhaps because it was so early in the spring. we did enjoy the sea lions and one day we were able to sit and watch them and all the grey whales who passed by. apparently, every migrating grey whale passes the point there. they are far out, but we could see spouts all over the place as they passed. it was a cool sight.
of course, we had to explore the lighthouse and climb up inside. on the walkway around the actual light that was our only way to contact the pilot. our cell phones occasionally worked from up there. the buildings there are in a state of disrepair, but still fun to explore the history of life in this remote region. the old house had a pool table in the main room....scott found a few beers on the beach...see you can find anything here!! so we had to crack the beer of unknown age and play a round of pool. lesley went to dust off the table, but we decided it was probably laden with lead filled paint dust so we'd just play with the dust.
scott was best at locating those glass balls, i had better luck with the little plastic animals. we all came home with some beat up sandles. we took turns for our main dinner meals and those were really fun and delicious. before we left cordova we discovered sues pack was only 25 pounds....we loaded her up with liquor so we could imbibe. helps keep you warm too. the boathouse is loaded with stuff, everyone who comes obviously leaves a bit behind. the stove and fuel is provided which is great. the bunks were reasonaly comfy.
on the hike back we didn't have the wind and we all found good walking sticks so it was a bit easier. we didn't have to wait too long to meet the planes. again the pilots scouted out the area to find the best "runway". the got the plane in ready position for take off before we were allowed to board. then we boarded and the plane took off quickly, again to prevent us from sinking in, especially now that all our added weight was on board. planes up here are very diligant to weigh your gear and you to make sure they don't carry to heavy loads.
a few of us stayed a day extra to explore cordova, a few had come early. scott ended up looking at jobs and homes while he was there and moving there. he's still there. it's a very small town. we couldnt' get down the main road far enough to see the bridge that millions have been spent on and that leads to nowhere. crazy government!! the birds were starting to collect. so were the birders and photographers....big bird festival apparently. we had yet another successful and fun trip.

from myspace....round island trip 2003

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
round island 2003Current mood: cheerful
round island has to be one of the coolest and most remote places i've ever been. i first read about it in a guidebook put out by national geographic on alaska. the idea of camping out with walrus''s just an animal most people will never see in the wild. to see an animal in it's natural habitat is just an experience that brings such joy and satisfaction. i spent a great deal of time the winter before planning this trip and attempting to recruit people to join me. this was my first island adventure trip...i had no reputation yet and i was asking people to spent a serious sum of cash to camp out with walruses.
many laughed at the idea, others were interested, but not willing to spend the money. the arrangements called for me to get 6 people. only this trip and kayak island were pretty strict as far as filling spots. if you don't fill the spots everyone else has to pick up the charge for the missing person. eventually, i did gather 6 people excited to go to round island!! we finalized plans and flew to dillingham. it was myself, deb springer, sue denlinger, maria peters, arden and debbie wong.
i had arranged for a fisherman to take us by boat to the island, which is a sanctuary for walrus. not many folks go out to this island so when we arrived in town, we stuck out like the tourists that we were. the fisherman pulled his truck over to deb and sue who had arrived the day before and said, "so are you going to round island". he was our captain. the day we took off for our 7+ hour boat trip to the island the weather was a bit questionable. weather in the bering sea and especially bristal bay where we were is always questionable!! we battled 10 ft seas all day and eventually had to hole up and give it up and head back to dillingham. it was such a disappointment, but often people can't get out there or get stuck out there.
the next day was flat/calm seas all day. it was amazing. our 7-8 hour boat trip was a dream. we grew more and more excited. we pulled up near the island.....saw a few of our first walrus cruising around the island. since it's a sanctuary and protected, motorized boats and planes must stay a good distance away. we had to transfer all our stuff to zodiaks. it took several trips to ferry our stuff over and the biologists on the island had to make sure there weren't any walrus impeding our landing. ferrying our stuff was no easy task and we were well aquainted with each others gear by the end of the week. we created transfer lines automatically and repeatedly. the gear had to go up a hill to get to the camp area.
the weather was amazing that first day though so we were rewarded. over 3000 walrus were counted on the island. it's only the males and they are quite white in the water, but on land they pink up as thier blood returns to the skin surfaces. they are monstrous animals and moved at a snails pace, clambering all over each other, getting ticked at each other, swiping each other with thier tusks.
we set up camp on the platforms and immediately went out to watch the walrus and many birds that inhabit the island. we went over solstice so we had long days to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. the island is lush and green and and abundant with birds, wildflowers and these beautiful red fox.
the light is out so late that in the tent at midnight i could read by the light that filtered into the tent. that is solstice. it's hard to really understand until you've been here. as we went to sleep we heard the walrus moving about and filling thier air sacks. not really sure how this works, but it makes a very strange musical sound. of course...if the wind was right and there is always a bit of wind out on the aluetions...there was a bit of a walrus odor...!! as we meandered the various trails on the island these adorable fox would check us out. they have no reason to fear humans and are very curious. they live off bird eggs as the island is a huge nesting ground for murres, puffins, cormorants and various other birds.
the next day was a bit foggy and damp, but we were still able to watch the walrus and explore. the fog cleared up later in the day. some picked a haul out spot and just enjoyed the day. i'm not a very good sitter so i would wander all over the trails and sit for a bit at each, then head towards the spine to see the birds and look over at all the walrus on teh spine.
these giant beasts were just an amazing site to behold. just watching thier slow progress up a beach, fraught with striff as they battled the other walrus already hauled out. they move so slow on land...they are huge though. once at sea, you could see thier swimming abilities improve greatly. there were some sea lions who hauled out at the other end from the spind and they seemed like speed demons in/out of the water by comparison. the walrus' tusks were often broken and fresh wounds could be seen on them. they were the most beautiful, ugly beasts one could lay eye on. so pink...when i bought my home i took a picture of them all hauled out and pink and matched it to paint my bedroom. i still love the colour.
on day three, the wind picked up. the walrus, tired of being hit by large wave action receeded back into the sea. we spend more time that day watchin the birds, sea lions and eventually we sat at an empty tent platform and i taught a few of my friends how to play nerts. at one point we heard scampering in the tall grasses around we knew a pair of young fox came chasing each other through our game. totally without fear.
we were woken early on our last day to pack up and meet our boat. we'd arranged for a large tour boat to pick us up...take us on a two hour boat trip to drop us on a remote beach, then we were to haul our stuff over the beach to a lake and wait for a float plane to come get us. it was rainy and the weather had dropped in...we were a bit unsure how our day would i rolled up my tent i discovered that there were mounds of huge worms that had made their home under our tents. it was so disgusting, i was quickly trying to get all the worms off my stuff and pack up so we could play chain gang back to the shore, the little boats, the big boat, the little boat, the shore...youget the idea.
the beach we were dropped at was very remote. doubt anyone but us had yet been there that year. there were scattered bones everywhere, dried starfish all over and bear scat....loads and loads of bear scat!! the boat captian was telling us where to camp if the plane didn't show up!! eek!! we hauled our stuff up to the lake and waited. luckily for us the plane did come. the first plane they brought could only carry two passengers so just the debs went. that was a pretty lonely feeling being left out there waiting. he said he'd be back...someone asked when and he just said, "hopefully, some time today". we had a at least 3 hours of waiting there before we'd see the next plane that showed up for us...we took turns watching for bears and all tried to keep the chatter up.
the flight back to dillingham was fairly's amazing though how you can fly for hours over parts of alaska and never see any sign of human life. just miles and miles of wilderness. it's an amazing place and i hope to be able to keep exploring all that is out there......
9:41 PM

from myspace valdez weekend trip

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
weekend in valdez....2003Current mood: amused
i was chatting with my friend kelly several years back and telling her my plan to catch the ferry in whittier and take it to valdez and then drive back to anchorage. she asked if she could come along...sounded like a great idea to me. kelly is one of my favorite walking partners up here. she and her husband just finished up their nurse anesthesia courses and moved is great to have my friend back.
anyway. i remember being very sleepy for the ride out to whittier. it's 45 minutes from here and through a 2 mile tunnel. the tunnel in one lane only, it's shared with trains. i was a bit flipped out entering it the first time fearing i'd see that single train light coming back at me. i remember i pulled back out and let someone else go first. the guy just laughed at me. they have it all regulated so traffic coming in goes at certain times and traffic coming out and then also time slots for trains.
on the ferry i tried to sleep, but woke in time to check out all these sea lions that were hauled out on some rocks the ferry passed. they looked like maggots from a distance. nice analogy, i know. we passed columbia glacier as well, but there is always so much ice falling off it,the water for several miles is choked with ice.
i remember that we took a long walk in valdez with the dogs...huey and mandy, kelly's dog, it was so pretty out there. the weather was perfect. it followed the coast and eventually brought us out to the spit of land. some dog that must have lived near the trail head decided to join us on our walk that day. kelly and i were laughing the other day about that dog...we can't remember what the dog was doing, but we were regretting having had it come along. it was a nice dog, but a bother for some reason. some strange dog and now you felt responsible for it.
the spring was still fighting back winter and so it was pretty cold as we drove out of valdez. there were some amazing waterfalls and a glacier to stop and play at. it was a pretty short trip, but kelly and i had fun on the road trip. poor huey used to have panic attacks when the car went over 65 mph. kelly and i were covered in drool and she was crackin up at huey's panic disorder. he was panting and drooling for most of the road trip. later, we experimented with other cars at the same speed and huey always started into a panic over 65mph. i think the gods sent me huey to learn me to slow down. i was forever getting pulled over by cops when i lived in california. luckily, i mostly got out of tickets. though i've been to traffic school 4 times...i've gotten out of over 40 tickets in my life. pretty good odds!! now i drive like an old lady though, especially in winter. i'm trying to remember which of my neices and nephews were in the car when i took them over 90...just for fun. someone told on me though. must have been erics kids cause i think he was the one who was unhappy with me. oops!! no foul though. you can eat all the lettuce you want the thing i've learned is when it's your turn to leave this earth, you are gone. age, goodness,none of it matters.

blog from myspace on mcneil river bear trip

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
there are three sanctuaries in alaska. amazing there are only 3 with a place so huge. i've been to 2 so far. the first was round island, the second is called mcneil river. in order to get to mcneil river for bear viewing one must apply for a permit. it's run on a lottery system. i think i was told less than 10% who apply get slots. i got in my first try. i think that was because i applied in august, off season, and i just put my name in. they only take 10 people per 4 day slot. you pay to sign up for the lottery, $25, then you pay for your permit when you are given a spot. then you also have to make float plane arrangements. i drove south from anchorage to the kenai peninsula. my float plane took off from homer. homer is a great little town. it's a 5 hour drive from here. i try to get down there at least once a summer. one summer we flew over to a little community called seldovia. i'd love to live across there....if i didn't have to work. dont' see that happening anytime soon.
i met a few other folks who would be with me over there for the week. you are allowed to get to mcneil river the day before your permit starts to set up camp and then you have an extra day on the other end to tear down camp. we were all excited. one guy was from colorado i think and he'd tried 8 times to get the lottery position. the other girl on the plane was lisa. she ended up joining me on the polar bear trek. in the end only 4 of the 10 who got passes showed up. we had to weigh in for the plane....all our gear had to be less than 70 pounds. sounds like alot, but camera gear alone can add up. for anything over the 70 you've got to pay extra and possibly have it fly out the next day.
we had an uneventful flight over to mcneil river. we flew towards mt augustine which is quite close to where we would be staying. it's an active volcano. it wasn't active when i was there in2005, but was active the next year. we flew over the river before landing at high tide at the camp. you could see several bears down below. they were all over the place....and this was thier slow time.
we settled into our camps and pitched our tents. we got oriented and educated about rules and such. our food was all stored in the cook cabin. the outhouses were what seemed like miles away...through brush. there was no way i'd be heading to those in the middle of the night in major bear country. on this trip i learned why they really put vestibules in tents....
for the most part we had cloudy, rainy and windy weather at times. we had lots of great bear activity and the rangers were super nice. since it was end of season and the rangers were pretty relaxed and familiar with the various bears of the area, we were able to wander a bit together. every day we woke up early, packed up, put on our thigh high gaiters and crossed the bay at low tide. there were bear tracks all over the place and occasionally we even saw wolf tracks. while we slept and the tide was going out apparently the bay was well used. it's strange really, but we all would set up our beach chairs and wait for bears to walk by us. it was the four of us and whatever ranger we had that day. we had a different ranger each day. we had our lunches with us and if we needed to pee we had to go really close as the place was full of bears and you couldn't wander too far. one time, we were all sitting on a sand bar against a cliff, surrounded by water. if you had to pee, everyone just looked the other we got to know each other pretty well. we did head up to the famous mcneil falls that first day. i guess in july, this is where you go and stay all day. i'd go stir crazy i think so i was happy we got to wander a bit. there wasn't much activity at the falls. i guess the salmon run must have been pretty slow at that point.
a bear named, charlie(well that is what we called him) he was a ham and i think many of my best pictures are of him. he'd return every day and we always saw him a few times. we also saw various mom and cubs. some were first year cubs, others the second year. after that they get booted. sometimes the males will seperate the cubs from mom and if successful, they can rebreed. there were a couple of cubs who were second years that had been hanging together though they were from different moms. the rangers thought they may have a chance to survive if they stuck together. there was also a bear that had broken a leg. it seemed to be healing and charlie was really nice to this bear...he had to have known the bear was injured and was very careful to play gently and let the bear get the upper hand every so often. it was impressive. we got to spend hours watching the bears and all the various salmon catching techniques. you could watch the mom's teaching the young her ways. in the evenings we would head backas the tide was coming in. a few times we pushed the tops of our thigh high waders.
of course, where there are salmon, there are eagles. so we had many bald eagles around us. no matter how much i see these amazing birds i'm always amazed. i do miss those days in ketchikan when i woke each morning to the chitter of eagles in the trees where i lived. i was on the water and it was beautiful. there were also red fox. i can only recall seeing the one red fox and i think i was the only one who got a shot off. shot that is...!!
our last day of bear viewing our ranger was larry aumiller. this was a special treat....larry is a wonderful man who has run mcneil river sanctuary for the past 30 years. we didn't know it then, but we were one of his last groups. he retired at the end of that season. he had become frustrated by continued attempts to open the area around mcneil up to hunting. these bears are habituated to humans. they aren't fearful of us and don't see us as a threat to them. they often walked within a few feet of us...makes them a pretty easy target for a hunter. as larry has been there every summer for 30 years, these bears know him. thier parents knew was amazing to be able to be out there with him. he was personable and loved to chat. i think i made an impression....a joke picture i'd had taken a few days before had been making the rounds in the rangers cabins. i still can't believe nobody in thirty years had ever had thier picture taken squatting over a pile of bear scat (that's bear for shit). the picture would have been better if i'd dropped my pants, but i hardly knew these people and there were grizzley bears all around us. since larry was so familiar with the bears and now i know since he was retiring...i think that made him really casual with us. there were some dead/dying salmon left from the tide so he set those super close to where we set our beach chairs up. charlie enjoyed a snack super close to us and then walked like 30 feet away to take a nap....that is how relaxed these bears were. larry also took a nap.
the rangers carried a gun with rubber bullets to scare off the bears. i never felt in any danger...well, occasionally a little scared going to the outhouse and sleeping alone in a tent in thick bear country. it was a great experience!! not sure i'd want to go back with larry being gone now. i hope the board of game doesn't screw this place up...
today....rain!!the guy came to put up the the storm door, but turns out it won't fit. i'll have to get it special ordered...we'll see what that would cost. i still think it would be a good thing to have for keeping the weather out. i took blossom and rio to the bog for a quick loop. loads of errands to run. blossom and i did manage another 4-5 mile loop up in north bivouac trails. the fall colours arejust spectacular. if the weather had been nicer i may have gone for a nice roadtrip. i probably should my next stretch off. the snow is getting lower and lower on the chugach range. tried to get blossom into that rally class and they must have cancelled it. i signed her up for another agility class, but that doesn't start for several weeks. the smell of fresh baked cookies is still in the house....rainy days are baking days....
11:35 PM

from myspace blog to here..

so i have a blog on myspace, but my friends and family blog here. if i can figure out how to transfer some of those i would prefer this layout. myspace is pretty limited, though i do like that i can alter the background color...just wish i was better at all this computer stuff. i do learn a bit more with each computer adventure so i'm not totally incapable. this week i learned how to transfer photos from my computer onto fabric...that was much easier than i expected it would be. i'm making a memory quilt for a friend who is feeling poorly. i don't want to really go there as i believe i'm in denial over it all. she originally had breast cancer which she recovered from, but then she had a kidney with cancer, which she recovered from and now she has cancer in her liver. we all went on a backpack trip of the chilkoot trail in 2007 so i wanted the quilt to have pictures from that extremely difficult and fun trip. i'm also attempting to throw her a card party this week so i hope that works out and that she gets lots of cards. i just got it rolling so it's out of my hands now. i just feel helpless and want to do something. she seems to be feeling too ill most days for outings and has had to cancel several times. i've spoken to her on the phone, but the conversations wear her out. she likes them though, but hasn't called back these last few weeks. so...i felt like i wanted to do something to let her know that i was thinking of her and wishing her good days. what do you say to someone who is at this place in thier life. i always seem to know what to do when it involves patients, but this is different, i can't emotionally seperate myself from this.
i'm not at all crafty either. it's actually kinda funny me doing this. another of our trailmates went with me to the craft store. she's even less crafty then i am. luckily, in doing this i did find that yet another of our trailmates is somewhat of an expert quilter!! hurray. so i'm to head to her house on tuesday for a sewing session. hopefully we can get it together fast. i'm not a perfectionist with such things either so told her to not expect clean lines and straight edges. i'd rather just get it done and on our friends lap to brighten up her days...well i hope so anyway.
on other news of my exciting's snowing and a local volcano is looking like it may blow anytime. it's 100 miles from anchorage, but in volcano talk i guess that isnt too far. it's called redoubt. haven't been through an ash fall before so that could be interesting. i guess it's like tiny glass shards so quite dangerous. also because it's cold here the volcano tends to really built up and blow ash way up and out.
i have two dogs,which will become quite evident if i'm able to transfer my other blogs here. blossom is a labradoodle and rio is a mastiff. they both love getting outside on walks with me. blossom is quite active, 3 years, chases frisbee's and tennis balls and wrestles/humps rio. rio is very tolerant of blossoms antics. she is a rescue i've had a few years. she came to me blind, but does amazingly well despite her handicap. she went blind as a puppy and is now 4. she has some issues with being seperated from me and also from blossom. i walk the dogs at least once a day. i average 2-5 miles/day on my walks and have done this for years. in the winter i walk in a large park here in anchorage called bicentennial park. in the summers there are too many bears to be out there much so i tend to shift to kincaid park. all year there are moose, but lots more of those in town in the winter. the blind dog can sniff out a moose from several hundred yards and is quite curious of them. so far i've been able to avoid her actually meeting one. i can't imagine that will be a good day if it ever happens. rio tries though and even though i outweigh her by 20 pounds or so. she can get a good drag going when she wants to go somewhere.
been a nice week as i've been able to walk with my friend kelly twice. we used to walk more, but she changed jobs and it's harder to get together. she's a great walk partner. we both are willing to get out there in any weather. the brat was in hawaii when it was negative 20 a few weeks back.
not much else happening. had to call off sick one night of work for a migraine. don't get those often, but this one was a doozey. i'm reading a book called , "the girls" and have been watching episodes of "bones". a favorite show of late. the dang networks moved the new season to thursday nights though which bites since i always work thursdays. i'll have to wait to see the shows. started to watch "russian dolls", my netflix, but it just wasn't working for me and when my little portable dvd played crumped on me i put it in the envelope to mail back.
no desire to talk politics i'll see what i can do about moving a few old posts to here from myspace. wish me luck...