Monday, October 22, 2007

Winter is here

Well, we have had snow for over a week now and it doesn’t feel like it is going to melt anytime soon. I just came in from walking the dog and it’s a crisp 20 degrees F. at the most. Last weekend I took my bike out for my first winter ride of the season. This is probably my favorite time of the year, not just because of October and Halloween, but the ground is now frozen most of the time and the snow is starting to appear. It’s a perfect time to ride the bike.
The one downer here is the wind in the winter time. It is unrelenting and brings the temps down another 10 – 20 degrees F. It also drifts snow so that once in a while, the bike gets a little bogged down.
This weekend in Bethel though, I got a chance to ride one of the infamous Surley Pugsly bikes. What a winter biking dream machine. Four inch wide tires, no derailleurs, cables, shifters, or other moving parts. Just one gear, two wheels, a light, stiff steel frame and a monster truck mentality. It didn’t take me long to start trying to justify me owning one right away. The man that owned the bikes is one, Martin Leonard. He teaches at the university and is an outdoor enthusiast, like myself. Martin takes it to the extreme by doing Mtn. Bike and sea kayak expeditions here in Southwest Alaska… the winter. Anyway, his bikes were a real hoot to ride and it made me want really bad.
I don’t think that I’ll be purchasing a new Pugsly this year, but it may have to happen if I’m here another year or more. We shall see. In the mean time, I will have to equip my 1991 Specialized Stumpjumper Epic with studded snow tires and some special grease that won’t freeze up in the extreme temps here in Toksook Bay. Somehow I will manage to get by.

The important thing is that Katja and I are having a blast in the snow. I feel for all those that are still feeling the hot humidity on the east coast. Come visit for a little taste of winter. I'll let you walk my dog at 6:30 in the morning when it's 15 degrees out.

See ya soon,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Umkumiut - part duex

A couple of weeks ago, I ran back to the smalling village of Umkumiut with Katja. This time, I brought a camera and took some photos along the way and of the village itself. The weather was beautiful on this day and the wind was a little calmer. The tide, however, was not as low, so I had to keep the pace up so that I didn't get stuck on one of the points.

As you can see the coast in parts isn't so nice and sandy. Some parts are actually rougher than this, so it's good to slow down a little in order to not sprain an ankle or just break your leg in two. Katja is good about taking her time and sometimes she is actually being more cautious than I. This particular point is one that is impassable at higher tides.

Along the way there are also little streams that trickle out of the hills. Some of them braid out into minuature deltas as they enter the sea and this one had a small school of sea stars scattered around on the beach. Watch your step.

Along the way, there were many skeletons that Katja loved to sniff and puruse.

Skeletons of all kinds. I think this was a Ski - Doo 550x.

The actual village of Umkumiut is not inhabited all year round and recently is barely used at all. The highschool does a 3 - day overnight there at the beginning of the year for all high school students. There are some families that have homes there and stay there for part of the summer. I took a peek in some of the windows and saw food scraps spread out on tables and some food wrappers still on the floor. The homes are very basic: kitchen, table, a few chairs, wood stove, and beds. I don't think there is running water, but some homes have electricity and heat.

This path acts as main street through Umkumiut. There are also many paths that connect to the beach where fishing boats are stored.

It is so mind boggling to think that people actually stayed out here for months at a time long ago. As I walked around, I took way more photos than I could ever put into a blog posting. And as luck would have it, when I made the return run back to Toksook, I had to wade through the water around those points because the tide had already covered the rocks that I ran across on the way out. It was worth getting a little wet and the wade only added to the whole experience.

This is the view you get as you approach the village from Toksook. The cliffs behind are very rugged and the coastline on past Umkumiut is very steep and unforgiving.

Well, it's not exactly a place that you would make reservations to see, but if you ever get to the west coast of Nelson Island, I strongly suggest that you check it out.

Thanks for reading.