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.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Summer Updates

So I decided to change the title of my blog to something a little less cheesy.  It may not be as glamorous as other blogs out there, but I'm not a literary genius by any means.  Plus, I'm not sure people are looking a philosophical or spiritual journey as you peruse through my ramblings in life.

I also thought I would give people an overdue update on what I've been up, so here it goes.  My summer started out with me getting licensed for driving a motorcycle.  That's right, I'm road certified.  It's probably going to be while before I own a bike, but some day I will enjoy the freedom of the open road on a motorcycle.  I chose to purchase a car instead, because it was more practical and I couldn't find motorcycle with a side car for Katja.  Once I had the car, the miles just starting ticking off.  A week on the Eastern Shore visiting friends, day fishing trips with Dad, and finally, my trip out west.  My first stop was Ohio to visit my dear friend Erin Schalk.  We kicked it in Uhrichsville, OH for a few days and then headed to Sheridan, IL to pick up our former colleague, Traci Buckle.  I got to do a little bass fishing in Sheridan to help satisfy my fly fishing addiction.  Then onto Hayward, WI for another friend's wedding.  Rachel and John's wedding was awesome and hanging with friends from LKSD and Seattle in a quaint cabin near the Namekagon River was incredible.

After the wedding, Erin and I said farewell for now and continued west through S. Dakota.  A quick detour through the Black Hills area for lunch and a sneak view of Mt. Rushmore and our compass guided us farther into Wyoming and eventually into the Montana.  By the way, Cassie's Steak House in Cody, WY is definitely a place you want to stop for dinner.  Once we got into Montana, my anticipation of more fishing starting giving me the shakes and tremors.  We had to swing through Yellowstone Nat. Park and see the sights.  We entered the park from the east and drove up to the Northern end of the park and then out through West Yellowstone, MT.  There we stocked up on some light groceries and headed up the Gallatin River towards the Greek Creek Campsite where we spent an evening, me fishing and Erin relaxing with Katja and watching me fish.  About a dozen trout later and a good nights sleep, we headed over to the Madison River and I proceeded to get skunked by the mighty trout that lie in Quake Lake.  Then it was onto Gig Harbor, WA where we stayed with Erin Kavanaugh and tried to accept the inevitable.  Erin was catching a plane back to OH, where she was going to be getting ready for her own adventure in Abu Dabi, teaching at an all girls, private school.

I, on the other hand, still had to drive to Bellingham, WA to catch a ferry that would take me to Haines, AK.  I stopped at REI and made it to the ferry with plenty of time to spare.  Katja and I got loaded onto the ferry and then started exploring the deck of the boat only to quickly realize that dogs had to stay in the car deck.  Needless to say, Katja had cramped quarters for 3 days while we sailed up the inland passage of SE Alaska.  She seemed to handle it okay, but I could tell it was getting to her.  I was enjoying deck lodging in my tent, which stayed fairly dry despite all the wind and rain we received.  We stopped in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, and finally Haines.  Katja and I almost missed the boat on our first stop in Ketchikan.  Literally, it was so close, we almost got turned away from the ferry, which would have meant we buy plane tickets and meet up with the ferry farther along its journey.  But, we made it and we made sure we stayed closer to the ferry terminal from that moment on.

When we got to Haines, we investigated the town a little and decided to stay a night to fish and camp before we jumped back into the car for more cramped quarters.  I got some good tips on the Chilkoot River, so we headed up to the nearby campsite and fished the river for fresh Sockeye salmon.  That was an amazing experience.  Strong current and strong, finicky fish kept my adrenalin pumping.  Although, after one night, we were ready to hit the road and make the long trek around the Alcan, up into Canada, back into AK, through Tok, Alaska, and then down to Anchorage.  We took two days and tried to relax and enjoy the scenery.  It was absolutely beautiful, despite the road surface that tested every ounce of my new car's suspension.  I did receive one nice chip in my windshield, a formal welcome to the Alcan from Alaska.  We spent the night in Tok and also spent some money at Fast Eddy's restaurant.  On the drive down from Tok, I saw a Black bear with two cubs.  Katja was asleep.

We finally made it down to Anchorage, where we stopped briefly to resupply, then continued south towards the Kenai Penn.  We found a couple campsites near the Russian River and fished that for a couple of days.  I found out that Katja does not have the same enthusiasm for fishing that I do, because after 6 hours on the river, she decided to head back down to the car.  Therefore, I had to follow.  She would not turn around and come when I called.  She was done.  So, I had to leave her in the car for the rest of my Russian River adventures.  Fishing on the Russian was fantastic.  I caught many nice rainbows on dry flies.

After 3 days at Cooper's Landing, I headed back up to Anchorage to do some laundry and clean myself up a little before heading back to Bethel and eventually, Eek...aka home.  The Subaru handled the whole trip just fine.  Now she is resting and awaiting our next adventure at Agen's Garage.  I'm looking forward to breaking her out and hitting the snow covered roads along the Seward Highway seeking fresh powder for Katja and I to play in.

Well, I think that wraps it up for now.  Sorry I waited so long and made this post soooooooo long.  Non the less, I hope you enjoyed it.  Until next time, stay adventurous.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring Update

This spring has brought many new adventures that have taken me to new levels of accomplishment in both skiing and living off the land.  I'll focus this post on skiing.  Back in late February, I joined a group of skiers as for the Sugar Ridge Back Country Tour which was put on by NSAA (Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage).  I don't own any Tele skis or back country equipment except for an emergency shovel, so I rented some gear from AMH (Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking) and made some other purchases from REI, including an avalanche probe and avalanche beacon.  The group I was with included about 6 members of the NSAA back country ski patrol and avalanche safety instructors.  Needless to say, I felt that I was in good hands and no one would leave me in the back country.  We had a great day of skiing and were completely exhausted by the time we returned to the cars.
I returned to Anchorage again in early April only this time, Katja was along for the adventure and I was my own back country guide.  Again, I rented gear from AMH and talked to some locals at REI to figure out where I could go.  I was led to the Ram Valley, near Eagle River, which turned out to be a day of steep climbing and bushwhacking.  That's what I get for trying to find my own way up a mountain.  Katja and I met an unexpected ski buddy, Lyra, that followed us all the up and back down to the car.

The next day, I decided to follow someone else's tracks so I drove down the Seward Highway to a popular ski area called "Tin Can."  The lower part of the mountain was very crusty, but the upper sections were nice and powdery and the weather was very sunny, so things started to really soften up by noon.  I made it near the top of the front face and decided I was high enough. 

Great adventure!  I think I discovered my new winter passion, Back country tele skiing.  That means two things.  One, I get to buy more gear and Two, I get to visit the Anchorage area more often.  Both are pluses.

And finally, I apologize for keeping my followers in suspense for so long.