Monday, August 25, 2014


It's blueberry season in Kotzebue. Picking is even easier than in Eagle River - all you have to do is drive a mile or two out of town and walk out onto the tundra. I've checked out a couple of different spots but the one I found at about 9:45pm today when I trying to head back to the car was by far the best. These might be the biggest tundra blueberries I've ever seen.

We've been having incredible weather in Kotzebue for the last month. I read an article in the ADN yesterday about how Alaskans feel guilty not getting outside when it's sunny and as a result, nice weather becomes exhausting because we feel that every day might be the last sunny day until next summer. So tonight, when I was contemplating blowing off berry picking to lay in bed and read, I checked for forecast and saw rain for the day after tomorrow. I grabbed my berry container and ran out the door like there was a ticking time bomb on my blueberries. It was well-worth it. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Home for a week!

Blueberry picking at Mile High Pass

I'm home again for a break and it is a good time of year to be home. The weather is still nice and the berries are ripe! The weather was supposed to be rainy, however, considering Kotzebue consistently has temps in the low 40's and 20+ mph winds, a drizzly 60 degrees didn't sound all that bad. And it hasn't been, mostly it hasn't even rained.

It is shaping up to be a very good blueberry year in the Anchorage area. It seems early, but I just looked back at our blog posts from last year and we started picking blueberries on August 9 last year, so I guess we aren't really much earlier this year. The berries might just be bigger and better this year though.

I also wanted to try fireweed blossom jelly this year after hearing about it from a friend in Kotzebue. I was bummed to see when I got home that the fireweed down low is almost over, but we did find some up high at Mile High Pass. I haven't really tasted the fireweed jelly yet, but it sure turned out pretty!

Yesterday we biked most of the length of Eklutna Lake which I've never done before. Such a beautiful day!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Working and Photographing in Cordova

Cordova is a place I have wanted to visit for many years, but I have never had the pleasure until this last week.  Under blue bird skies we boarded the fast ferry Chenega in Whittier and sailed across Prince William Sound at an amazing 32 knots.  I brought along our digital SLR camera hoping to capture some good photos.  It was a good choice, the weather was nice most days and the scenery was great.  Cordova is a cute little town with a lots of rugged mountains, pretty boats, and wildlife.  I wish I had had more time to wander the town and learn more about the history, but on the other hand being out on the water all day was nice too.  I posted a lot of photos here because I just couldn't bring myself to narrow it down any further.  This is my favorite 16 photos out the 200 plus that I took last week.  Someday I would like to go back to Cordova with Molly and spend time learning more about the history and hiking trails in Chugach National Forest.

Iceberg in Portage Lake on the way to Whittier

Our survey boat the Latent Sea

Chugach Mountains near the Columbia Galcier

Compass Inlay on the floor of the Chenega

Mountains and flag from the deck of the Chenega near Valdez

The M/V Chenega

Boat in Orca Bay with Gulls

Old Cordova Public School

Fireweed overlooking Cordova

Overlooking Cordova

Cordova Boat Harbor

The Ruff & Ready


Porpose off our bow

The Northwestern set up to tender fish

Inside the Latent Sea

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kodiak Fishing Pictures

Alex and a little pink
Alex fishing at the mouth of Chiniak Creek at 11:00 at night

Alex and Dad pulling in a 45 lb halibut

9 halibut
Before time gets away from me, here are a few photos from my little fishing vacation to Kodiak over the holiday weekend. We did a little of everything - gillnetting, pole fishing, and halibut fishing from both poles and a long line. We found a sweet spot for halibut and got nine within a few hours - two on poles and seven on the long line.

The day we halibut fished it was HOT (Kodiak hot, of course, meaning warmer than 65F). Usually on the ocean there is at least a little breeze, but there was not much of one that day. If we'd had a ladder to climb back in the skiff I would have gone swimming!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Arctic Birthday

Some photos of salmonberries from Kodiak, just because
Biggest Russianberries I have ever seen
I flew back to Kotzebue this morning on my 30th birthday. I've been in some remote places for previous birthdays, but never above the Arctic Circle before. I was thinking recently about all the places I've been for my birthday in the past - here is the list:

29th: Anchorage/Palmer - my birthday was two days after we arrived in Alaska after driving up from Seattle
28th: Seattle
27th: Juneau
26th: Penguq Site, King Salmon River, Alaska Peninsula
25th: Susanville, CA
24th: Seattle (I left Seattle at 1pm and flew west across the International dateline and got gyped out of the rest of my birthday).
23rd: Aniak, AK
22nd: Fairbanks
21st: Iceland
20th: Fairbanks
19th: Dutch Harbor

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More from Ketchikan

Ketchikan is known for being one of the rainiest places in Alaska, but the last couple of weeks I spent here haven't been too bad.  Maybe that's because I came prepared for rain or maybe its because I am still accustomed to the fall and winter seasons of Seattle.  I didn't see much sun while I was here but I still managed to capture a few good photos and take in some beautiful scenery.  Unfortunately the photos I took of an Orca didn't come out very well.  I was in Ketchikan over the Independence day weekend and even spent an afternoon downtown with the cruise ship tourists.  

Beach at a state park north of Ketchikan
Our survey vessel

Independence Day rubber ducky race at Creek Street.

Surveying on a nice calm day.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fishing in Pasagshak

Kelly, not able to control her laughter
Happy to be heading back with a working motor and three reds
I think I just experienced some of the nicest 4th of July weather Kodiak has seen in a long time. And I caught some fish! I even got my first subsistence fishing permit. My parents have one so we have always put our gillnet out for salmon under their permit. On the day I arrived my dad was working and my mom is in a boot cast until a stress fracture in her foot heals. My sister and brother-in-law had nothing but time on our hands, so I got my own permit.

I have never taken the skiff out without my dad (once Ryan and I did take it out, but it didn't exactly go well). Our outboard is a little touchy, and old, and in fact, it's built from parts of two old outboards. It's the kind of motor that no one should take out unless they possess the skills to fix it themselves (which is often necessary). My brother-in-law is a mechanic so I had full faith in his ability to keep get that thing running again if it decided to quit.

We set the net in Pasagshak in what was a bit of a comedy show. It involved a lot of swear words and exclamations of "How does Dad usually do this?" and "How does your dad get this thing to start?" We first had trouble getting the outboard to start while we were getting pounded into the beach by the surf after we had dropped the anchor on the beach. Once Alex figured out the trick that it had to be in neutral to start, we started letting the net out while reversing away from the beach. We ended up with the net in a classy "S" shape. We looked like total professionals. Then we tried to straighten the net, which somewhat worked after some time. I'm sure the boats on either side of us were staring and probably laughing.

We sat out there for 5 hours and only caught 3 reds. But, we had nothing better to be doing than be bobbing around in the sun. Three reds is nothing to complain about.

Alex did learn something about our outboard, and I think we all learned that my dad makes setting the net look easy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Far and Away Places

From Anchorage to Akutan and Kotzebue to Ketchikan it has been a busy spring for field work.  Since Molly and I returned from our Utah vacation in mid-April I can count the number of days we spent together on one hand.  This week I was in Ketchikan while Molly continues to work in Kotzebue.  It occurred to me that this is just about as far apart as we could be and still be working in the same state.  It’s about 1200 miles from Ketchikan to Kotzebue and would take anywhere from three to five flights to get between the two places.

Ketchikan is so far from Palmer that we mobilized a survey boat out of Seattle for this job.  I headed down to Seattle last week to install the computers and sonar systems and perform sea trials.  When the boat was ready we had is shipped on a barge to Ketchikan.  A  few days later we flew to Ketchikan to meet up with the boat.  It has been nice to get to know my fellow employees from the TerraSond Seattle office.  The other nice thing was spending a weekend in Seattle catching up with friends and going out kayaking on Lake Union.  It was a bit strange to be back in Seattle.  I moved away about a year and a half ago and it is already weird to think that Seattle was home.  While it was in Seattle I experienced a mix of familiar and unfamiliar feelings around the city.  There are things I miss and things that I don't.  It was a big decision for us to leave Seattle but I am sure that we made the right choice at this point in our lives.

Here are some photos from my most recent travels.

Railroad bride over Salmon Bay in Seattle.  I was staying nearby and watched a lot of trains and boats go by.
A TerraSond survey vessel from the Seattle office

One of my favorite Totem poles in Ketchikan

Creek Street in Ketchikan

Ketchikan selfie
Waiting for a cruise ship to pass while riding the ferry to the Ketchikan airport.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Arctic Summer

Kotzebue has definitely taken a turn for the warmer, and by warm I mean over 50 degrees F. In this photos it is 52 degrees, blowing 20mph and kids were jumping off Front Street into the ocean. And my parents thought we were crazy to swim in Kodiak as kids!

It was calm yesterday and the mosquitoes finally came out - definitely not the worst I've seen, but enough to make us glad to see 20 mph wind again today.

The barge running by is hauling sand for airport paving projects this summer. This barge dwarfs all the buildings along Front Street. There is a very strong current that runs along the front of town so the barge has to do some crazy maneuvering to land near the airport. It's pretty entertaining to watch. And then they tie it off to pieces of heavy equipment to hold it in place while they offload the material. Barges with normal supplies land at the other end of town. It would not be a good idea to be running dump trucks across town though, so this barge has to land at the airport itself so the material doesn't need to be hauled far.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Legit summer in Kotz

I think we finally turned the corner to legit summer! It was in the 50's today! Windy, but warm nonetheless. Things have greened up quite a bit in the last three days (scoff all you want, we'll take what we can get in the Arctic). I just can't wait for berry season now. If I'm going to be here for a while, I'd better be here long enough to get some berries.