Sunday, July 06, 2014

Adventures in Anchorage

So, I know my posts have fallen short... all right, come to a complete halt recently.  I just feel that I haven't done much out of the ordinary in eek lately, and I guess I've just been plain lazy.

So, I will share some of my adventures in the anchorage area to round out my summer vacation.   Yesterday, Katja and I watched two quarter final World Cup games in our hotel room.  By the end of the second game, we were both feeling restless and guilty for not using such a beautiful day for more outdoor ambitions.

I had to make a quick stop at REI for bear spray (I don't want to risk an encounter without it), and then we headed up to the Glen Alps parking lot to just cruise up Flat Top to stretch our legs.  Apparently, all tourists are told to hike Flat Top while they are in anchorage, because the parking lot was completely full and more people were rolling in.  We dicided to try a different trailhead.

checking the map and trail book a couple of times, we decided to attempt Wolverine or Near Point.  The hike up starts on the Power line trail which is pretty popular and we ran into about a dozen people.  As soon as it started to climb, everyone disappeared and we had the entire trail and mountain to ourselves.  It was fantastic.

The hike down was painful...literally.  Apparently, I never cooled down after my last ride in Maryland, when I was hustled home to avoid a t-storm.  That lactic acid in my legs caused me much suffering, but we made it down.  Eventually, it subsided.

Finished out the evening at Spenard Roadhouse with a fancy Moscow Mule, bacon stuffed mushrooms, and coastal cheddar grits and shrimp for dinner, and a King St. Hefeweizen for dessert!

Turned out to be quite a day!  Tomorrow, the long drive to Fairbanks.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

2013 summer - part I

Well, I've been here since May 31st when I got picked up at Reagan National airport by Molly and my parents.  I was glad to be done with traveling for a while and I think katja would have agreed with me.

Molly, my folks and I got to spend a couple of days together before Molly had to head back to Anchorage and back to work.  We did have a very interesting two days keeping the dogs at peace.  Katja was surprisingly at ease with everyone, but my parents dog, Molly, was not so easily relaxed.  She had to establish her authority several times and each time the situation had to be broken up.  Even after Molly Cobbs and her dogs left, Molly, the dog, was on edge. (Yes I realize that between my girlfriend and my parents dog, my descriptions may be confusing).  Molly (the dog) and katja actually had some altercations of their own, but after the one, katja submitted and they have been great ever since.

Almost immediately after Molly, Scout, and Cooper headed back west, I hopped on my road bike and started getting into shape.  My goal for the summer was to get in at least 500 miles on the bike before I headed back west.  That goal was reached with a week and a half to spare.  I did a lot of riding with the crew from Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle.  I also got to ride with my buddy, Scott Gordon on one of his "recovery rides."  And of course, I spent many miles by myself reaquainting myself with Washington County roads.

Other highlights and events include fishing on the river.  Molly,  Dad and I started fishing the river by running up to Dam #4 and got into some feeding small mouth bass.  Molly caught her first couple of smallies on the river.  She also got to experience Beaver Creek and Antietam Creek.  She caught her first couple of trout on Antietam.  There will be many more to come.  Dad and I continued to fish the river by riding the bikes to specific walls and ledges on the river and fishing them in the evenings.  Some nights were a little slow and some evenings were outstanding!  We never did get to the big Pennsylvania trout streams.  We did get up to the Savage River for a morning.  Most of our fishing was definitely spent right below our house on the Potomac.

I also had an opportunity to work with DNR and do a fish shocking on Beaver Creek.  I kind of want to go back and fish that a few more mornings, but there is not enough time.  There are some fine
brown trout residing in that spring creek.  I volunteered collecting and recording measurements for the trout in the creek.  Very fun!

The last part of my summer was spent down on the Eastern Shore in Kent and Queen Anne's County visiting my friends (and 2nd family) from Echo Hill Outdoor School.  I met up with many people that I have not seen in many years.  I also got spend a little time on the Skipjack Elsworth helping Capt. Nick and Capt. Andy put the boat away in its slip and secure it safely for next weeks group of young explorers.  Thanks to Michael, Beth, and Everett (and Boe) for hosting me once again.  Thanks to Rob Comfort making our annual ride to Rock Hall happen.

And now, it's time to clean up, get organized, pack up, and re-boot for the 2nd part of my vacation with Molly Cobbs.  Molly and I, with all three dogs, are exploring WA, MT, and ID for a couple of weeks before we venture back up the ALCAN to Anchorage again.  Looking forward to it.

Driving the ALCAN - south

My vacation started on May 25th when Katja and I hopped in my car and drove out of Anchorage towards Tok, AK.  I chose to take a short day and do a little more research on the roads through the Yukon and BC.  After that first day, we tried to cover at least 450 miles a day.  That doesn't sound like a lot, but you have to understand, the road conditions are equivalent to serious road construction that most of us have experienced in the lower 48.

Katja and I ended up camping out twice, once at Squanga Lake and again on the Sikanni river.  Both offered fishing, but conditions did not produce successful fishing.  Katja had a great time non the less.  She is always glad to spend time outside of the car and her seat (aka her kennel).  Hopefully, the fishing will be very different and much more productive on the drive back north.

We got to see an abundance of wildlife on the drive.  Thankfully never too close.  I was amazed at how many bison live throughout the Yukon and British Columbia.  I also didn't expect to see Dall Sheep, which are more often found high in the mountains, climbing the treacherous cliffs with ease.

I did stop at Fort Nelson along the way to purchase some miscellaneous fishing gear and contact some people to let them know how the trip was going.  I went to the local library and got online to touch base with Molly and my folks.

Some other highlights of the trip down were driving along the Frazer River.  We also stopped in the small town of Clinton, BC (not even marked on my map) and got in touch with some people while enjoying a wonderful Dirty Chai.  Shortly afterwards, we turned onto Rt. 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway.  This was probably one of the most amazing roads I have ever driven in my life.  It included some extended ascents and descents sometimes at 13-14 % grades.  My little Subaru loved it!  Katja probably did not, due to the windy road conditions.  It had spectacular scenery!

It was only when I started approaching Vancouver that I realized I actually missed my last hotel stop, so I just kept going and finished the drive a day early by driving on to North Bend, WA to visit and regroup with my northwest friends before I finished my trip home by flying into Reagan National airport.

It was a great trip and I'm looking forward to the return trip with Molly and two more dogs.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Another Contract, Another Year!

So it is done!  I've signed my contract for another teaching year in Eek, Alaska.  I know...I know, I told many friends and family that this last year would be the last year.  Believe me, there is much thought and deliberation that goes into deciding each year whether or not I will return.  This year, I was thankful that I had Molly to bounce ideas off of and after careful consideration of where we are in our relationship and where we are personally, we decided that me staying in the bush for another year, might benefit us in the long run.  Either that, or she is trying to keep her distance from the crazy bush teacher and his semi-feral dog!  Katja is healthy and energetic as ever, always excited for our next adventure.

I've come to terms with my decision and feel pretty confident that it was the wise choice for me right now.  I would like to tend to some unfinished business, particularly another Cross Country & NYO season, and perhaps re-starting our Future Educators of Alaska program at Eek.  Maybe I'll even start playing some basketball with the adults.  Probably not....
I just finished a visit to Anchorage over Easter.  Molly and I got to enjoy another trip down to Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, AK for some more tele skiing.  The weather was very warm and there was plenty of fresh snow which made the skiing spring like.  We also got to ski with some other great people that will hopefully ease my transition into a healthy social scene when I do eventually move to Anchorage.  It was a very good visit.  Previously in early march, we finished the Tour of Anchorage 40K freestyle ski "race."  It is the farthest ski either of us have done in one outing, and we both finished wearing
smiles on our faces.
We are also starting to get our summer plans more finalized!  Quick visit back east together, then meeting up again in WA or ID for a little fishing and back country adventure, and finally making the drive back up to Anchorage together.
So I guess I can say congratulations to all of you out there, because you get to live vicariously through me for another year.  Despite the long intervals of blogging inactivity, the blog is not dead yet!  I'll keep writing if my followers keep reading.  I will try to include more pictures as well.  Until next time, enjoy your spring.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Salmon Return to the Classroom

The school year holds many things to look forward to as we trudge along; back to school dance, Labor Day weekend, cross country, NYO, Halloween, haunted house fun, thanksgiving break, basketball season, Christmas and winter break.  There is one other time of the school year that the students start asking about around September..."When are we getting the salmon?", "Are we getting salmon again this year?", "Are the salmon eggs here yet?"  Well, the eggs arrived and the 10th graders have been caring for and monitoring the eggs since their arrival in Biology class each day.  And on December 5th, we had our first alevin hatch from its cozy egg sac and squirm out into the gravel.

During the weekends I make a habit of checking the tank just to make sure things are still going well in our little 30 gallon artificial habitat, and today I noticed that the egg basket was virtually empty.  That is right, there are only about 10 eggs left that did not hatch.  As in nature, not all will survive and I had to pull about 10 stillborns out of the tank and dispose of them.  But out of approximately 500 eyed eggs, we only had a 1-2% mortality rate.  I am very pleased with the outcomes of the project thus far, to say the least.

The fish tank is going to need some more routine maintenance before Christmas break.  The hatching of the eggs produces a foamy film that is toxic to the young alevin if it isn't removed, so we will have to perform some water changes to keep maintain good water quality.  We still may have some alevin that don't mature or die for other reasons and these will need to be removed (turkey baster style.)

By the time we are ready to leave for winter break, the alevin should be at a stable state where they simply lie on the gravel bottom and gradually consume their giant yolk sacs attached to their abdomen.  When we return from break in mid-January, we should start to see some of these alevin progressing into the next stage of development, the salmon fry stage.  This is when they start venturing up into the water column and taking air from the surface to fill their swim bladders.  Then they will remain in the water column getting stronger and feeding on the fish food that students add to the tank everyday.

The project will continue until the middle of May, when we have to wrap up the project and the school year in general.  Look forward to more salmon posts to keep everyone updated on the progress of this awesome project and incredible learning experience for our students.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Things to be Thankful for

This year for the Thanksgiving holiday, Katja and I traveled into Anchorage again.  The visit was full of new surprises that left me thankful for many reasons.

1. Anchorage has more snow than most other parts of SW Alaska, which meant that I needed to drag a packed ski bag for winter fun.  Molly and I got to skate ski a couple of times in some beautiful terrain.  Alaska does have some of the best skiing in the U.S. that is within minutes from your door (depending where in Alaska you live).  Molly also lives within a 2 minute walk from a nice sized park for letting the doggies run around.  The park  also has a small pond that was covered with enough snow to pack down a ski trail that we found ourselves on more than once, skiing, throwing frisbees for dogs, wrestling frisbees away from dogs, and observing doggie snow angels.  We also got down to Girdwood to tele ski for a few hours at Alyeska, which honestly could have used another 24 inches of snow.  It was good to jump on tele skis and make some turns.  It was even nicer to watch Molly make some masterful turns on her skis.  I've got a lot to learn.

2.  Katja is a little possessive of me and her things, which I guess she gets from having "only dog syndrome."  None the less I was thankful and impressed with her tolerance in meeting Molly's dogs, Scout and Cooper.  Scout happens to be Molly's possessive four legged friend, which caused a little tension with Katja.  Unfortunately, Katja also tended to take her tension out on Cooper dog also, who is nothing but four legs of furry lovin'.  There were moments of hostility, but overall the dogs seemed to get along all right and no one got injured (too badly).  Hopefully, the next doggie play date will be a much faster and smoother transition towards dog BFFs.

3.  My girlfriend is amazing and wonderful in so many ways.  Molly has an incredible circle of friends that are very fun and outgoing.  We had a wonderful dinner with her friends Stacy and Brady in their magnificent house.  The following night was dinner with her friends Carrie and Craig with a short introduction to the sauna.  Next time, maybe we can come ready to fully appreciate the experience.  My point is that Molly is a great friend to have and people recognize that.  And Molly is so willing to jump into any adventure that is thrown her way.   We both tackled our first home made pies complete with home made pie crust.  It may not sound like such a big deal to all you dessert aficionados, but we had our struggles (mostly me) and I'm happy to say, we worked through them beautifully and produced some fabulous pie crusts and in the end ... whole pies.  We had a busy busy schedule in the beginning, but managed to slow things down and enjoy some quiet time with just the two of us ... and the doggies of course.

It was a great way to spend Thanksgiving.  I hope to have many more Thanksgiving holidays that resemble this one.

I hope everyone else had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday where ever you were celebrating.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adventure partner

To all my viewers that have been following my exploits in the wilderness, I finally found my adventure partner that has been missing in my life. Who knew I would have to spend 6 1/2 years in Alaska.  All that time finally paid off.  Due to my extreme location, I did have to rely on cyberspace to connect to this amazing woman.  From the moment at which our nano-seconds aligned, we were chatting constantly for about 2 months.  Then this past weekend, I got a visit from one Molly Cobbs of Anchorage.
During her visit, Molly got to see many of the amazing sights in the village of Eek; many of the cozy homes and buildings through town, the Eek dump, the school and my classroom, the frozen tundra on a run with me, and a brilliant display of the stars with almost zero light pollution.  We also hashed out some future adventure plans for the year.  Skiing in the Chugach over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years on the east coast, more Chugach adventures in early January, February, and hopefully March.  Over the summer, there are potential hiking, camping, and of adventures in Montana, Idaho, the NW, and Alaska.  So you should expect this woman to be included in many if not all of my future adventures and  I could not have hoped for a better birthday weekend.