Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Party in Kodiak

The cave painters and the cave art

The cave painters at work.
We love Halloween, Halloween parties, and an excuse to make costumes or re-use old ones. This time we went all the way to Kodiak for (among other reasons), our friends Patrick and Zoya's Halloween party. We re-used our cave people costumes for the third time, this time with a cave painter spin. Our friend Catherine was the cave art.

I thought it was particularly timely when this article came out that argued that women made many of the hand marks in ancient caves across Europe. Coincidentally, I volunteered to have my hand measured by a biology professor doing a similar study at UAF when I was an undergrad (too bad I wasn't part of this study!). Hard to believe that so many archaeologists over the years have assumed men made all the ancient cave art in Europe, but the idea is still pervasive among both archaeologists and the public today, just watch the fairly new documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams - the archaeologist who does most of the talking refers to all the cave painters of the past with male pronouns even though there was a study published in 2009 that also argued women made much of the paleolithic cave art in Europe. Common sense might also suggest that people of all genders made art in the past, just as they do today.

We've had the whole gambit of weather while in Kodiak - heavy rain, high winds, and today, sun, but surprisingly no cold. It's still an unusually mild fall. There isn't a flake of snow on the mountains around town.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rapids Yurt

View up Eagle River Valley from Rapids Yurt
Rapids Yurt
We've been enjoying unseasonably warm weather here. I'm sure it doesn't look warm in the photos, but it was in the mid-50's when we spent the night out at the Rapids Yurt past the Eagle River Nature Center last weekend. It's a little strange to be hanging out in 50-something degree weather when there's not a single leaf left on any trees. But we'll take it! Ryan was reading through the guest book at the yurt and saw that someone recorded that is was 18 degrees on the same date a couple of years ago. On our strenuous 1.7 mile hike out there (I joke) we were actually worried about keeping the fire going all night. Ha! By the time we went to bed it was so hot we decided to leave the door open for a few minutes. I laid on my sleeping bag on the floor wishing the fire was out already.

These yurt are really nice (as far as camping goes) and come stocked with firewood. Pretty convenient since the trailhead is only 20 minutes from our house! The only big excitement of the trip was seeing a black bear checking out the deck when we came back from a morning stroll on Sunday. No pics, we were too busy yelling at the poor little curious bear as it lumbered off into the woods.

Ann Marie, Kristin, and me on the river
Sunday morning view

Kristin, Ann Marie, Ryan, and me at the yurt

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hiking Highland Mountain

Highland mountain is the peak across the valley from our condo that we look at everyday, therefor I needed to climb it.  There is no trail up Highland mountain so my friend John and I scouted the satellite images and picked a route up the north side that seemed least bushy.  After dropping a car at a friends house in the south fork of Eagle River we started up.  From the road we followed a zigzagging bulldozed trail up a few hundred feet to a nice bench were we started bushwhacking.  With all the leaves gone we found the alders and devils club quite manageable.  Soon we were on tundra and within an hour and a half we were on the ridge.  The views from the top of Highland were great and the puffy clouds made for these nice photos.

Michea and John on the North Face of Highland Mountain

View of Eagle River from Highland Mountain

View from Rendezvous Peak

Highland Mountain as seen from our home
From Highland we continued down through a saddle and over Mount Gordon Lyon to the ski area of Alpenglow then along the ridge over Rendezvous Peak.  The wind was very strong along the ridge tops but I really can't complain given that it was otherwise quite warm for late October.  In the end we covered about 6 miles and perhaps 4000 feet in elevation gain.  Some how it felt like quite a bit more.  I guess I need to get back in shape for the ski season, or rather the ski season will get me back in shape.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grilled Cheese: you're doing it wrong

A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post on Smitten Kitchen that changed how I think about grilled cheese. The author said I was putting my cheese on the wrong side of the bread. At first I thought, how many different ways can there be to melt bread on cheese? Well, there is one way that is waaaay better than the other ways and that is to put the cheese on both sides of the bread. That's right, a sandwich with cheese on the inside and both outsides.

While Ryan was at a meeting last night and I was in the midst of canning corn relish, I needed something quick and easy for dinner. I finally went for it. Sharp cheddar and all. It was everything I thought it would be, especially with peach chutney on top.

Try it (here is the recipe).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Symphony Lakes in the rain and snow

Travis and me with the clouds chasing us

Ryan heading up the valley

South fork of the Eagle River
We hiked up to Symphony Lakes this weekend and experienced some real Alaskan October weather, finally. It's been mild here and the only time we got snow down low was way back in September before I went to Kotzebue. So, when we started our hike it was a balmy 50 degrees at our house. Up in the South Fork of the Eagle River where the trail starts it was a littler cooler and it was sprinkling, but overall fairly mild. We even hiked without jackets.

But...the whole way up the valley a low ominous mass of clouds was chasing us. After five miles it finally caught us at Symphony Lake where we stopped to cook our top ramen (classy, I know) with our handy jet boil. Having a hot lunch seemed like a great idea, as did resting for a few minutes. About half way trough cooking our ramen, which only takes three minutes, I was ready to bolt. Don't get me wrong, we were totally prepared with rain gear and warm clothes, but beyond wearing insulated rubber fish-processing gloves, I'm not sure what you can do to keep your hands dry and warm when it's dumping big wet sticky snowflakes sideways.

Here we are enjoying our ramen in the beginning of a snow storm (don't we look like we're having fun??)
After scarfing down our ramen, we did booggie out, but unfortunately due to the extended period of mild (ie. rainy) fall weather we've been having, the last two miles of trail is a complete mud pit and there isn't really a fast way to hike through it. We were plenty warm though and we did hike almost the entire five miles out in a decent blizzard.

This is the last photo we took because the camera, as you can see, was fogged up and wet.
Just as we got back to the car it let up and sprinkled on us. An hour later when I ran to the grocery store, it was sunny and the fresh snow on the mountains looked stunning. I suppose I shouldn't have expected any less from an October day.

This isn't a good photo, but you get the idea - we hike through a blizzard only for it to get sunny two hours later.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Riverside Dr. View

When we first decided to move to the Eagle River area, I thought we'd be able to find a house with a great yard; I thought it would be cheaper than the one we had bought in Seattle four years earlier. I was wrong. In Seattle we owned a 3 bedroom house on a 9000 sq ft lot. Don't get me wrong about Seattle, it is an expensive place to live, but we happened to live in a not-so-desirable part of the city where it was mildly affordable. For the same price here you can get a small house (it won't be very nice), but you can't get a yard that big. What we found is that any place on a nice piece of property was out of our price range. That and there just weren't many houses for sale in our price range. Or at all.

I am very happy that we were able to afford something here though, even if it's not what I first imagined. A two bedroom condo might not be the best place for us to have backyard BBQ's or to live in the long-term, but when I pull onto Riverside Drive on a clear day and I see this view, none of that matters.

We may not be able to have everything, but what we do have is front-door access to one of the largest state parks in the country.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cranberry Picking in Fairbanks

Can you believe that I lived in Fairbanks for four years, off and on, and never picked low-bush cranberries?? I suppose I was busy with other things, like oh, going to school. But still, I had no idea picking cranberries could be so easy and accessible.

Our good friends from Seattle, Brooke, Adam, and 5 month-old Logan just moved here and have already found a great cranberry spot. It's on Cranberry Ridge (go figure). One of the first things they did when we got here on Friday was take us out to pick berries. Lucky for us, Friday felt like a Saturday because Ryan and I both took the day off work, Adam is currently on furlough as a National Park Service employee (thanks, Congress), and Brooke's full-time gig is taking care of Logan.

A five minute drive from Brooke and Adam's house and a two minute walk down a trail through birch forest led us to a spot where Ryan and I managed to pick 3/4 gallon in just a little over an hour. I'll take that.

At this point in the fall, Logan is a seasoned berry-picking supervisor. He lounges on a foam pad in his psychedelic snowsuit while the adults forage. As long as he is on a slope or is propped up enough to see someone, he's as happy as a clam. Unless he's hungry. Or needs his diaper changed. Luckily his parents were prepared for both scenarios, and even though he looked like he wanted to pass out after his bottle, there was just too much excitement for him to cave. At the end of the adventure, he was still his smiley self.

And just because it's adorable, here is a photo of Ryan holding Logan. Logan loves Ryan (really he loves everybody). He also loves his feet.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fur Seas of St. George

One of the most amazing things about working on St. George is being around the fur seals and their pups.  As I will be departing soon I took a walk to the south rookery on a recent (and rare) sunny evening.  I captured some decent photos given that I was working with a point and shoot camera with very limited zoom.  I was particularly amused by the young male that never woke up during the half hour I was standing nearby.  I was close enough to hear him snoring and see his pulse in his neck.  Our boat captain mentioned that fur seals are very deep sleepers.  Lucky for the seals there are no predators on land besides us.

Sleeping Fur Seal