Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sunny Skies in Angoon

Beaver, Raven, Bear, King Salmon, Shark totem poles

I've been enjoying some of the finest weather Alaska has ever seen this last week. I'm in Angoon doing fieldwork for my brand new job. It's great to be able to go in the field and I feel very lucky that my superiors trusted me enough to throw me into a field project two weeks after starting. And what an awesome place this is to work.

Angoon is a great little town on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska. Most of its 500 residents are Tlingit. It's wonderful to be in a small, welcoming town where everybody waves and is interested in what we're doing.

I knew that Angoon's weather is generally dryer than the rest of Southeast Alaska, but I did not expect it to be sunny and in the 70's every day. For our day off, we even went swimming, true Alaskan-style.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Moved in and heading out

Ryan and I are rarely in one place for long in the summer and as usual, as soon as we got settled in to our new place, we are both off to the field - Ryan to Kotzebue and me to Angoon. 

At least we had time to unpack most of our stuff. I found everything I need for the field except my Helly Hansen raincoat...and I'm going to Southeast Alaska. I'm borrowing one from a friend, but hopefully mine shows up eventually; those things are expensive!

The moon from our condo at 4:45 this morning, just before sunrise

Moved in and furniture arranged!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moved in

Today was the big day for moving furniture. With a lot if help from Ryan's parents and our friend, Travis, we got all the furniture moved in and unpacked most of the boxes. It feels good. It's sort of a relief to find things I've been missing that were packed four months ago. It's also a little overwhelming because, well, we have a lot of stuff. But with some creativity, I think we'll be able to make it all fit. It's the kitchen that is really the problem; our last kitchen was huge. This one? Not so much.

After all the moving, we took a walk down to the river in front of our condo with Mollie, Mark, and the kids. We have fantastic river access here and a great little gravel/sand bar perfect for getting dirty and throwing rocks in the river - complete with bear tracks. 

Ryan and Steve moving the roll top desk

Dining and living all set up!

Oliver heading down to the river

Throwing rocks in Eagle River

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Condo

We have finally closed on our condo in Eagle River! Even though I didn't have a chance to look at it in person until just a couple if days before we moved in, I was sure this was going to be an awesome place for us to live. 

The view is one of my favorite things about this place. It faces a green belt to boot. The oversize two car garage also sold us on this condo. You'd be surprised how many houses in Alaska only have a one car garage, or no garage at all. And, besides the fact that this condo is only a few years old, our other favorite feature is the open kitchen/dining/living room with great light.  That'll be important come December!

Our condo is the unit on the right

The view from our balcony

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bikes, Bug, and Bats: A Summer Weekend at the Cabin

After our final walk though this weekend of our soon-to-be new condo, we drove to Talkeetna and headed out on mountain bikes to the family cabin.  Having panniers on our mountain bikes made the ride along the rutted four-wheeler trail through the woods manageable. The last part of the trail was completely overgrown as no one had been out there yet this summer, but with a little bush riding and walking we made it.

The mosquitoes in the woods were bad and we both got bit a lot, especially since I was wearing shorts and sandals.  Molly put on a head net but found was still hard to concentrate on biking because there were mosquitoes in her head net!  I blame at least one of my wipe outs on a mosquito biting my leg.

Luckily when we got to the cabin there was a strong breeze coming off the lake providing a great reprieve from the bugs.  The temperatures were in the upper 70s and the lake was so warm I went swimming four times.  I don't think I have ever spent so much time in the lake.

We have unfortunately been having a bat problem at the cabin.  Little brown bats have apparently been making themselves at home in the poles that form the roof on the cabin.  This time they have really made a mess and it time to take some drastic action.  We are currently debating the course forward but we may very well tear apart the roof from the top town to clean out these little critters and the mess they have made and then seal up poles so there is nowhere left to roost.  Either way we will need supplies and its always best to haul in building materials in the winter.  Whatever it takes, we will drive out the bats for good.

Molly ready to hit the trail

Biking on a easier part of the trail before the mosquitoes got bad

Row boat and the cabin

Swimming in the lake

View of Alaska Range from the trail

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Birthday hike

One if the things I missed most about Alaska was the accessibility of short hikes with big payoffs (ie. expansive views). In Washington the tree line is so high, the trees so tall, and the forest so dense that it is really hard to easily get anywhere with much of a view.

For my birthday we hiked up The Butte on its fantastic new trail. It's a short, steep hike but the views of the Matanuska Valley and the glacier are incredible. Well worth climbing all those new stairs!

That is what I love about Alaska. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Back in Alaska

We finally made it back to Alaska together! After a day in Seattle to organize and pack my car, I picked Ryan up at the airport at 5:00 on Wednesday morning and we headed north, arriving in Palmer on Sunday. We were lucky to have one more day than we needed for the drive. The first two days we put in a lot of miles and were then able to take our time during the last three.

The weather was amazing nearly the entire drive and my car held up like a champ. We stuck to our early morning schedule started by Ryan's red-eye flight into Seattle and saw a lot of wildlife along the road. In addition to the usual moose, caribou, deer, bighorn sheep, beaver, fox, bison, and black bears, we saw a wolf in northern BC! Wolf sightings are pretty rare. Despite all the time I've spent in the back country (and on the roads) in Alaska, I've never seen one up here (I did see a wolf in Yellowstone once). The only place Ryan has seen wolves is in Denali National Park. We were just lucky to be in the right place at the right time before it darted off into the woods.

We stopped at Kluane Lake and visited Soldier's Summit - the place where the opening ceremony for the Alaska Highway took place. It's a really cool spot with great information plaques including an audio player where you can listen to the speech given when the highway opened. Unfortunately the turn-off is not signed, but it is definitely worth asking about at the Kluane visitor center nearby.

Soldier's Summit

A lake in the Yukon

Black bear on the side of the road in BC

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

High Street in Lissycasey

The view from the neighboring farm on High Street
 The first time I went to Ireland I was 9 months old. It was my mom's second trip. She, my dad, and I were staying in a B&B in Ennis, Co. Clare and she was intent on finding out where exactly her grandfather, Denis Melican, had come from and if she still had any relatives there. She knew he was from Lissycasey, so she picked up the phone book and called the first Melican.

The woman she spoke with didn't think they were related, but suggested she talk to Peggy and Patrick Melican. As it turns out we are not very closely related to Peggy and Patrick either (a DNA study does suggest that all the Melicans in Co. Clare are distantly related though), but they nonetheless became very good friends of ours. They invited my parents over to their house right away. My mom agreed and said that we would hitch hike out the next day. Naturally, Peggy thought they were crazy.

Peggy and Patrick were able to deduce that my great grandfather had probably lived on High Street. They took us to visit an older Melican woman still living in the area who, as it turned out, was my grandfather's first cousin. Her father and my great grandfather were brothers. A few months later my mom and I traveled to Ireland again, this time with my grandfather. He was thrilled to find that he had a first cousin in Ireland. As the child of immigrants, he did not have many relatives of his generation or older in the states.

On this trip, my aunt Clare and my mom's cousin Martha got to visit High Street for the first time and see the old farm house where their grandfather was born and raised. It's not owned by the Melicans anymore, but someone does live in it (the satellite dish is a nice touch for a house that's probably 200 years old).

My aunt Clare and my mom on High Street
My mom's cousin Martha and my mom in front of the old Melican house
The old Melican farm house