Search This Blog

Friday, November 17, 2017

Ash Haze

It's been windy a lot lately.  Strong winds out of the West that have been stirring up old volcanic ash on the Alaska Peninsula and blowing it across the Shelikof Strait to Kodiak.  Here on Kodiak the ash appears as a haze in the air - almost like smoke from a forest fire.  What's cool is that this ash is from the biggest volcanic eruption in the 20th century - Katmai Volcano in June 1912.  It buried the city of Kodiak almost 100 miles away and created deep and widespread deposits on the Alaska Peninsula at its origin.  These deposits still have not totally grown over with vegetation and stabilized and when it gets super windy the ash gets thrown airborne once again.  Sometimes the ash in the air is so bad that planes are grounded.

It also makes for atmospheric pictures!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Waiting on Snow

Hunting season is over and ski season has not really begun.  I'm in Limbo - on the edge of each season but really in neither.  I was kind of hoping for more 'bow for goat hunts' - the kind where we do not get a goat but do a lot of hiking.  Not that I'm complaining about getting a goat on only one try - but a few more excuses for good hikes might have been nice...

Every day I have been taking the doggies up Pyramid.  Last week I took the skis a few times, but it is even too marginal for me.  But soon - soon there will be snow (fingers crossed).  In the meantime I'll eat goat.  Patrick

Mountain goat stir fry for dinner

Monday, November 13, 2017


It's Monday and my legs are still sore from Saturday's steep downhills with a heavy pack.  It's always the downhills that get me - not the uphills.  But yesterday Philip and I got to take care of the reward.  Philip had never cut up mountain goat meat before and he was impressed with the light color.  'It looks like pork,' he commented.  Wait until he eats some!  I also have to add that I appreciated how much less meat was destroyed by the arrow as opposed to a bullet, and how the meat was so well bled out.  The meat quality was excellent.  Goat is Great.  Patrick

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How I ruined Philip's hike

We beat the sunrise to the alpine

Yesterday I convinced Philip to help me go bowhunting for mountain goats.  I told him that there was absolutely no chance that we would actually catch a goat. And he believed me.  The bowhunting aspect was just an excuse for a glorious hike in the sunshine.  As Philip put it early on during the hike, 'one thing I like about hunting is that you go places where you would never go if you were just hiking'.

And let's face it - I'm not much of a bow hunter.  Given the choice I'd use a rifle every time.  I only bow hunt because at this time of the year it is the only legal method to hunt goats on the Kodiak Roadsystem.  And with no snow for skiing I need an excuse to get me up in the mountains. Goat meat is pretty tasty stuff too!  Philip knows me well enough to know that I was NOT going to chase goats in scary terrain.

And so at the crack of dawn away we went up into the mountains (another good aspect of hunting - who leaves on just a hike before dawn?).  We caught the rising sun just as we reached the alpine.  Philip breathed a sigh of relief when we glassed the surrounding mountains and did not see a single goat.  It looked like the hike was safe!

But we had to go through with the charade, and so when we reached an area where I had seen goats in the last few days I donned the 'goat camo' (white painter's suit) and unpacked the bow.  No more talking, no more fun - we stalked across the plateau looking for goats, and there they were!

Philip stayed behind while I stalked up on a herd of goats.  He later told me that as he was watching me close with the goats he was thinking, 'crap this might actually work'.  But it didn't.  I got to within 20 yards of a goat but he bolted before I could get a bead on him.  There were goats everywhere, but no good shots.  And to my credit I passed on some iffy ones, and on a baby goat that I did have dead to rights at 20 yards (he/she had no horns and reminded me of an emoticon - the one for cute baby goat).  The goats all ran up the mountain and into the cliffs and I hiked pack and joined Philip.

We checked out the area where the goats had been hanging out and it was warm and out of the wind.  A nice place to stop before we headed back to the car.  We spotted some goats a 1/4 mile away on a steep hillside that had not run away.  We watched them, but there was no way we were going to chase them - too scary.  But then they started walking towards us!

Shortly there after a billy goat appeared on the other side of the ravine and was following the trail that lead right to us.  He climbed up out of the ravine and there he was only 10 yards or less away from me - we actually locked eyes.  And so I ruined Philip's hike. Philip did not hear the commotion when I shot, but when he heard me talking he feared the worst.  I'd actually caught a goat.

And then the brutal part began.  After we butchered the goat we had to take the shortest way to the car and this entailed climbing down a ravine and a steep alder, devil's club, and salmonberry choked hillside to the valley below.  Then we had to climb 1100 feet up and over another mountain.  That was an interminable climb.  All this with heavy packs full of goat meat on our backs. We finally reached the car an hour or so before sunset.

Near the end I commented that, 'as far as goat hunts go this one, despite the brutal pack out, was actually pretty straight forward'.  Goat hunts can go very wrong (click here for a goat hunt gone wrong).  Philip agreed and commented, 'and that's why I am not doing this again next year'.  Oh Philip - tell me it 'aint so!  Next year I swear we will absolutely NOT catch a goat.

Now that we got the goat home the best part is that goats are VERY tasty and make the best Italian sausage.  The last few years, lacking goat meat, we have tried to make do with deer or elk meat.  The results just have not been as tasty as with goat.  And so this year we got us the ingredients for some REAL goat sausage.

We would later hike home over the top of the mountain the sun is rising behind

Goat country

The 'fun' part of the hike ended right about here

Goat Sausage!

Philip's right - no one in their right mind would hike down this slope unless they were hunting!

This worked for a while - until we hit the frozen waterfalls

Nearing the top of the interminable climb that followed the hellish descent

Friday, November 10, 2017


Abercrombie trees lit from beneath by a reflection off of the lake

It's getting to be pretty late in November and it seems Fall just keeps hanging on.  The last couple of weeks we have had some of the best weather of the year.  It seems of late that every day has been sunny.  So maybe we don't have snow yet, but you really can't complain about the weather.

November is always a transitional month.  Hunting season is over but ski season has not yet begun.  It is the month when you suddenly notice that the days have gotten really short - this is especially true with the end of daylight savings.  It's almost dark by 5! And yet I am still eating out of the garden and the lawn is still green.  Patrick

Sunshine over Chiniak Bay

Mill Bay Sunrise

Mill Bay Beach Waves

New snow on Pyramid Mountain

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Afognak Lake Archaeology - What's most important is what we did not find

Old hunting camp

Afognak Lake has a pretty good salmon run and there are lots of prehistoric sites at the mouth of the Afognak River - so on my recent archaeological survey of the lake I expected that we would find prehistoric sites up on the lake.  I've found literally hundreds of other sites on inland lakes and rivers that have good salmon runs - the Ayakulik/Red, Karluk, Olga Lakes, Buskin, Uganik to name a few.  But on Afognak Lake we did not find a single prehistoric site.  And I think I know why.

We did find a lot of historic sites, all from the 20th century - old hunting camps, hatchery related stuff, and from WWII (there was a recreation camp on the lake). There is a lot of history on that lake - we just did not find anything prehistoric.

Another thing we did not find was spawning fish and feeding bears, and this is pretty unusual for kodiak.  Late October is prime spawning time for silvers and late run red salmon.  At this time of the year the banks of Kodiak's inland streams and lakes are littered with the carcasses of salmon half chewed on by bears.  It is a feeding frenzy.  Just this last week I have been watching bears feeding on the spawning silvers at the outlet to Buskin Lake.  And guess what?  There is an old prehistoric fish camp at that spot.

I've always suspected that prehistoric Alutiiq people focused on the inland fish late in the fall.  Less bugs and the fish is easier to preserve in the cold weather.  Also spawned out fish are easier to dry.  And why fish in the middle of summer?  At that time there is plenty of other species to chase on the coast and without freezers or refrigeration how are you going to get your fish to keep until winter?

So if there are no spawning fish in late fall - there should be no sites.  And this is what we found up on Afognak Lake. Also supporting this idea, we did not find any sites on the Malina Lakes - another early red salmon run. And on Karluk, Olga and Red Lakes most of the sites are near where the late run red salmon spawn in the lake shoals, and not near where the early run reds spawn in the tributaries.

So we got a pattern here and it is telling us that prehistoric people liked to catch their 'interior' fish late in the fall.

And that's a tidbit of information for the history books!


WWII floatplane wing - the Kingfisher

A new petroglyph site?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pillar Mountain in the Sunshine

On Friday Nora had 'early release' from school so after I got out of work, with the afternoon free, we climbed up Pillar Mountain behind town.  I never climb Pillar Mountain.  It is a very close and convenient trail, and yet I never seem to do it.  But after climbing up the trail in the sunshine I'll be back!

It was super beautiful and very warm - temperatures were in the low 50's which is unseasonably warm for Kodiak in November.  So we climbed up in the sunshine and then sat awhile on the tundra and looked out over town and listened to it go about its everyday activities.  We could hear the canneries in operation and the boats clunking as they unloaded.  Town felt amazingly close.

And then we hiked down a trail on the frontside that I had never been on before.  It made an excellent loop.  Nora and I will be back.  Patrick

At the start Nora was wearing her new winter jacket

But she shed it pretty quickly!

A little steep

At the top - or near it anyway

Friday, November 3, 2017


'NY Times' Cookies

Philip and I have different camping philosophies - Philip is more light and fast while I am a little more into heavy food and wood stoves.  I have done the light and fast, and back in the day that was my way too, but as a field archaeologist I have been in a lot of field camps.  Camps with a cook tent where you stay awhile.  I think my days in the field as an archaeologist have influenced how I camp (click here, and here for old blog posts about this subject).  I like the cook tent and wood stove!

Not to say that Philip does not like 'comfort' camping (or as it is otherwise known 'glamping').  Check out the cookies he cooked for our last survey, and he is also famous for bringing along Chili Cheese Fritos on long hikes where weight is super important.  We both realize that the different styles of camping have their place.  And we both agree that if you get where you are going by floatplane and are carrying it all in a large kayak - then you might as well go in style and do some 'glamping'!

Here are 'clamping' photo from my last survey of the year with Philip.  Pretty comfortable.  Patrick

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Cliffside Halloween

Some photos from our Cliffside Halloween - carving pumpkins (we baked the seeds for a late night snack) and trick-or-treating.  We did our usual down Cliffside and Parkside Roads and back.  And also as usual everyone was expecting us!  Nora was a 'Starry Night' (thank You Roxanne) while Stuey was a convict.

We had planned on other costumes - Stuey as Grim Reaper and Nora as the Four Seasons (or Mother Earth), but despite ordering the costumes 2 weeks in advance they did not make it in time for Halloween.  Oh well, at least we have our costumes for next year!  Patrick

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On the Go

It has been so busy of late that I realized I still have not finished posting about the Afognak Lake survey that ended over a week ago.  I still have a few posts to go, and you'll see them in the next few days.

Our Afognak Lake survey was short at only 2 full days and three nights, but we did cover a lot of ground.  We basically paddled hard for two straight days, and hiked around the evening before and morning after the 2 full days of paddling.  Hiking, paddling, paddling and more hiking.  It was a lot of time on the go!

I became intimately acquainted with the cockpit of my inflatable kayak.  To break up the routine, sometimes I'd sit back and while at other times I'd lean forward.  Leaning forward is when I could paddle with the most power.  And always just off to the side there was Philip paddling away with his weirdly bent paddle.

I went ashore to check for potential sites a lot.  Sometimes I'd stay on shore and hike a section.  Philip would tow my boat and at the end of the survey segment there would be my boat waiting with Philip. I'd hop back in again and away we'd go. ..   Patrick

The remains of our elk camp from the week before - we took the split wood of course