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Friday, March 31, 2017

Beating the storm

 Yesterday I woke up to and posted about the storm that was to (and has since) wreak havoc on the cross country skiing at sea level.  It was supposed to start raining around 11AM and temperatures were to rise into the 40s by early afternoon.  I anticipated taking a nap after work.

And yet I got to work and it started to snow hard, and come 11AM it continued to snow hard.  Could it, would it continue to snow after I got out of work?  I kept on looking out the window and surreptitiously checking the internet for the weather conditions out at the airport.  When I left work at 1PM it was still snowing and the temperature at the airport was a cool 33 degrees.

I rushed home and grabbed my cross country skis and the dogs.  And off we went to the Upper Buskin.  The wind was screaming so we opted not to cross the lake.  As we skiied in from the road I was pleasantly surprised by the layer of 2-4 inches of fluffy, DRY powder covering everything. It was heavenly with no wind in the trees.

We skiied up into the canyon and to the waterfall that 24 hours earlier I had thought I was seeing for the last time this season.  We had beaten the storm!

On the way back to the car it continued to snow but it started to melt on the trees and drip on the trail.  It was no longer dry powder.  And then as we drove back into town the snow turned to sleet and then all rain once we got to town.  The storm had arrived in earnest.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ice in the Canyon

The big bend in the canyon - the white line to the right of the spruce is the ice column in photos below

Yesterday during my daily ski up to the Buskin River canyon with the dogs I ran into John and Ryan ice climbing.  Climbing in the sunshine.  I was amazed at how quickly John climbed up the ice column.

It was sort of a bitter sweet day in the sunshine.  The weather forecast was for rain and wind today and an end to a spell of 6 weeks of clear, dry and cold weather.  Goodbye to skiing up the river after work.  And indeed, as I write this, the storm has arrived and all the trees are shaking outside the window and Mill Bay is all a roil. The temperatures are meant to get up into the 40s by later today.  Oh well, at least we need the rain.

As if the snow god Ullr knew it was my last day up the canyon, on my way back from the waterfall I inadvertently skied into a hole and snapped a ski.  'Uh oh', I thought, 'over 3 miles from the car and only one ski, and I got to pick up the kids from school at 3:30'.

I ended up double-poling all the way back to the car on one ski.  That meant most of my weight was on one leg.  Whooo wheee did that leg get tired!  But it was also mostly flat or slightly downhill, and I did make it home fairly quickly.  I made it home in plenty of time to pick up the kids on time.

And like the broken ski I fear the Upper Buskin is done for the year. But I can't complain.  It has been a tremendously good run.  Thank you Ullr and Upper Buskin!

Ryan and John start their climb

John how fast can you go - 'X-games fast'?

Pretty fast it seems - hey slow down I'm trying to do a pan

Hey where did John go? He eluded my panoramic

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Plantlore Pics

Lit Alutiiq lamp with sphagnum moss wick

The last few months I have been helping to edit and publish a book about Alutiiq plantlore.  My main job has been to edit and find images to illustrate the volume.  The best part of this process has been taking new photographs.  Back in February I did another blog post on this topic (click here), but I thought I'd do another post to show off some of the more recent pictures.

A couple of days ago I took the top photo of Rebecca holding a lit lamp.  The purpose of the picture was to demonstrate the burning wick made of sphagnum moss.  I'd always thought the Alutiiq mostly used cotton grass for wicks.  But the Alutiiq sources had specified sphagnum moss.  It was hard to shape the moss into a wick and I was a little skeptical that it would work very well.

So Rebecca and I set up the shoot and lit the lamp.  And the sphagnum moss wick worked amazingly well!  It lit quickly and burned brightly - far better than any wick we had previously used.  I was sold, and I also had learned something new from the book.


Berry picker and masher

Gayla's Kelp Pickles

Frozen blueberries - mmmmmm

Sphagnum moss

Monday, March 27, 2017

Back to the Buskin

Last night we got an inch or so of fresh snow.  So today for the afternoon ski with the dogs I decided to return to the Upper Buskin.  I parked at the outlet to the lake, skiied across the lake and up the river to the canyon.  I have not skiied the Upper Buskin for a couple of weeks, and was worried there would not be enough snow.  I need not have worried.  There was plenty of snow and the new powder had freshened it up nicely.  It was perfect.  In fact it is better now than it was in February.  All the holes are frozen over and it is very easy to ski all the way to the waterfall.

It's been an amazing run of skiing on the Upper Buskin.  I checked back in the blog archive and I first skiied up into the Buskin Canyon back on January 24rth (click for link).  That is over 2 months ago!  What's really amazing is that it has been a very poor snow year for Kodiak - at this point we are 33 inches below normal and have only gotten 6 more inches than last year.  But the snow we do have has sure stuck around.

Today I experimented with vertical panoramics.  Rather than take photos in a line horizontally and then stitch them together, I tried taking them in a line up and down and stitching them together.  I am very pleased with the results (see top and third photos).  The technique helped accentuate and show the depth of the canyon.  I did do one standard horizontal pan (see immediately below), and it does not show the depth of the canyon nearly as well.  Patrick

Two More

 I was looking through my iphoto library and saw I missed posting these two from my Thursday ski with Henry.  They make the skiing look good!  We were exploring below the cliffs on the west side of Pyramid.  I do not generally ski in this area so it was fun to explore.  Patrick

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eagle Poop

Eagle poop on the North Sister - some fish bones but mostly plastics from the dump

The last few days I took a friend's nephew downhill skiing.  The skiing was not very good, but we did have some adventures.  Up high on Pyramid was all ice and wind pack.  In the south bowl we did find some corned up snow on the steep south-facing slopes.  But where ever the slope flattened out the snow was still rock hard.

On another day we tried climbing the North Sister, and discovered that where there is no snow there is still ice under the grass.  Slippery!  But it was an adventure and we saw a herd of mountain goats.  We also got into some serious bushwhacking.

Another cool discovery was an eagle poop - clearly the eagle has been hanging out at the nearby dump.  Our National Symbol a dump scavenger, but if you look closely you can see that Mr or Mrs  eagle still did eat at least some fish.  I'm not sure if there is a moral to this story, but it seems like there should be one.  Patrick

This is where I have been cross country skiing lately

Henry harvesting corn in the south bowl - due to the cold temperatures only the steep, south facing slopes corn up in the sun

Henry checks out a steep little couloir

The North Sister bowl was a lot of bushwhacking for just a little skiing

Friday, March 24, 2017

Movies for the ITN Film Festival

The Island Trails Network  Kodiak Island Film Festival is fast approaching.  Movie submissions are due March 31. That is only a week away, and the event itself is in two weeks.  The event is free to ITN members and most people become members at the door.  At the event everybody eats pizza and watches local adventure films.  It is a good place to get inspired to try a new Kodiak adventure.

Anyway, this year I have decided to enter a few films.  Back in the day I used to submit quite a few films, but my movie editing software went obsolete and the new software was too complicated for my Luddite technological tendencies.  However, a couple of days ago my friend Philip took the time to show me how the new imovie software works.  It really is not all that bad - I even made a movie that I plan on submitting (see link down at bottom).  And I'm inspired to make another!

 Philip is usually the point man on movie submissions but will be out of town this week.  Still submissions can be dropped off at the front desk at ADFG as long as they have his name on them.  Everybody knows Philip over at ADF&G.  Also you can give them to me or any other ITN board member - leave a comment here if you want me to pick up a film submission.  Andy Schroeder the ITN director is another point of contact.  Check out the contact page on, call (888) 301-0568, or email for more information. The more movies submitted the better the event, and this is your chance to show off your own adventures.

Here is a link to the short movie that Philip helped me make.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Skate Skiing with Stuey

When it comes to living in Fairbanks or Anchorage vis a vis Kodiak I have always been slightly envious about one thing - the ski programs for children.  I have had to work hard to teach my kids to ski, and I had actually despaired that I would ever teach them to skate ski.

But suddenly it is what Stuey wants to do and he has actually gotten good at it almost overnight.  I think it helped that back in January he went skating on the 'long blade' skates I have that have a free heel (click here).  I did not realize it but he was basically learning to skate ski.

When we got back from Anchorage last weekend I took him to Lake Catherine to try skate skiing.  I had him on short waxless cross country skis.  He looked at my skate skis and said, 'Daddy I want to try those'. So we switched skis, and even though they were far to long for him he loved the skate ski glide.  So I ended up chasing him all around the lake on the short waxless skis.  They were definitely WAY too short for me!  And wow! but he flew on daddy's skate skis.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The ungroomed Kodiak ski experience

After the impeccably groomed ski trails of Anchorage we returned to Kodiak and the ungroomed experience.  And I kinda appreciate it a bit more.  While Anchorage seemed a bit sanitized Kodiak is wild and woolly with dogs allowed.  On occasion you do have to take your skis off to negotiate a road or creek and there is brush and 'debris' - but it is also far more adventurous.  And you decide where to go because there are no trails.

I was heartened that the kids still like the ungroomed experience too.  Stuey even continued to work on his skate skiing technique.  Of course the doggies were ecstatic to have us back on Kodiak, and chased bunnies while we skied.  Patrick

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Ski Chalet Circuit

The ramp up - Buskin Lake is just out of the picture on the right

For the last couple of days the dogs and I have been skate skiing what I call the 'ski chalet circuit'.  I start at the ski chalet and climb a ramp behind the chalet going to the skier's left or south.  Then I go up into a big bowl on the other side of a valley behind the hill behind the ski chalet - phwew that sounds complicated!  From there I ski a sidehill back to the wooded plateau above the road to the north of the ski chalet.  Basically I make a big circuit of the hill and valley behind the ski chalet.

It is a nice loop and I have it all figured out.

Yesterday there was actually some new powder and I decided to make a video - click on link below.  I love skiing with the dogs and they seem to love it too.

More ramp up - it's a long climb!

The big bowl above the Red Cloud with Sheratin in the distance

On the way down - it's a bit of a sidehill

Skiing the plateau - the best skiing is here

Another view of the plataeu

The Nordic Experience at Hillside

The groomed experience at Hillside - note downhill slopes in background

The biggest benefit to the extra day of vacation was that we got to go cross country skiing as a family on groomed trails.  I had brought along everybody's cross country skis, and had paid the price when the ski tube catastrophically opened and dumped them all on the moving escalator (that would have been a great picture!). So it was also nice just to use the skis and make the hassle worthwhile.

And it was worthwhile.  The trails were freshly groomed and in perfect condition, and free!  No lift tickets to purchase or gear to rent.  To be honest, if the purpose of the trip had not been downhill ski lessons for the kids I think we would have stuck to just cross country skiing - way more bang for the buck. 

Of course it did not start well.  On that morning Nora was angel child and very gung-ho and bright, and Stuey was the yang to her yin - grumpy.  He'd cover his face up when I tried to take his picture, and kept asking when we could go home.  But then he started to try skate skiing.  And, despite the slow waxless classic skiis, he was pretty good at it.  He cheered up and started to ask about skate skiing back home on Kodiak.

So all turned out well and on our arrival back at the car I was shocked to see we had been skiing for an hour and twenty minutes!  It was time to rush off to the airport and fly back to Kodiak.  And since we've been back on Kodiak Stuey has gone skate skiing - twice.  So the cross country ski excursion on groomed trails paid off - big time.  Patrick

Stuey negotiates a hill

Hey no pictures! - the grumpy skiier 'face cover'

Stuey tries his hand at skate skiing

Now this is fun - note no 'face cover'

Perfectly groomed 'classic only' trail

Skate ski to the car, and on to the airport.  Time to go HOME!