Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mt. Magnificent Attempt

We are having absolutely incredible weather for still being May. Officially it was only 72 degrees in Anchorage today, but the thermometer at my house read 87. It's amazing how hot that can seem when you're not used to it!

With such amazing weather and so little snow I can't resist the mountains! I went for a hike with my friends Wynne and Nicolai on the Mile Hi Pass Trail. I've never been all the way to Mt. Magnificent, so that was our goal. However, once we got close, it became evident that the trail doesn't go all the way to Mt. Magnificent. Apparently most people stop at a small peak short of there. And we decided to as well. There was a little breeze, but it was still very hot for these three Alaskans.

We spent our fair share of time just sitting up in the alpine enjoying the incredible views of Eagle River Valley, Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains, and the Alaska Range. Every time I hike that ridge I think of how lucky I am to live somewhere where such incredible alpine hiking is accessible within a 15 minute drive and 30 min hike from my house.

We also ate cupcakes to celebrate Wynne's birthday!

Wynne and Nicolai getting our their bird identification book

Happy birthday Wynne!

Adventures in Akutan

I'm still in Akutan after leaving home nearly four weeks ago.  It feels like it has been a long time, I have watched the mountains start to turn green, performed countless hydrographic surveys and spent endless hours on the water.  Despite the long days I have had the chance to explore the island a little bit the over the last week.  The weather has improved from earlier this month and has been good for hiking.  Yesterday the view the top of the nearest mountain offered panoramic views.  Akutan Volcano was as clear as I have ever seen it.  From the top of the peak I climbed I could see Unalaska, Akun, the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  The view was amazing!

We also had a chance to tour the old whaling station across the bay recently.  Apparently this was the only whaling station to ever exist in the Aleutians.  There are many rusty old rivited boilers and engines.  Its easy to find pieces of whale bones on the beach.  I would like to learn more about how the whales were processed at this site.

There was also a sad day this week.  A person from the facility here went missing.  The day after she was found to be missing we took the Miss Alyssa around the coast searching.  Unfortunately the woman was found deceased.  The weather was so calm the state troopers were came over from Unalaska in a skiff.

Breaks between surveys have also offered a little bit of time for fishing, touring the tub boat, and continuing to enjoy Jimmer's great food.

Bering Sea Scallops

Searching for the missing person from the Miss Alyssa

Alaska State Troopers skiff that come all the way to Akutan from Unalaska

Taking water samples!
Boilers at the Akutan Whaling Station

Cod I caught 
Akutan Volcano as seen from the peak I climbed

One of the engines in the tug boat

Monday, May 25, 2015

Camping at Hanging Lake

I went camping at Hanging Lake up the South Fork of Eagle River this weekend. It was a test-run for my brand new backpack I'll be taking on a week-long back country trip to Katmai in late June. It was good to see that my bear proof canister fit in there with my warm sleeping bag, but it is a tight fit. With some creativity and things strapped on the outside it should work. Plus, we'll be able to spread the communal gear among four of us in Katmai. All four of us will even have the same backpack - at least mine is a different color from the other three!

 New Osprey Exos pack - only 2 lbs 3 oz when empty!
When I headed out yesterday afternoon it was sprinkling, and it continued to rain all night, but I was cozy in my spacious two-person tent by myself. When I got up to Hanging Lake I was surprised that there was still ice on the lake and quite a bit of snow on the ground. I had forgotten that there is quite a bit of elevation difference between the lake and where we live in Eagle River. It was colder than I expected, but I was plenty warm in my zero degree (aka Alaskan summer) sleeping bag.

Hanging Lake
This morning the weather was a little better and once I started hiking out the sun stayed out and it was downright hot. There were tons of people once I got back to the main South Fork Trail. The last person I talked to before I got back to my car was not really having a great time. After we chatted for a minute I said "Enjoy your hike!" and started to head on my way when he replied "I'm done hiking already. To tell the truth, I hate this crap. I was never an outdoorsman." ....How do you respond to that??? I just laughed a little and kept hiking!

The very back of Hanging Valley

The water level is very low in all the creeks and ponds - so little snow to melt this year!

Descending from Hanging Valley

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Biking in Denali

At the top of Sable Pass
I had an incredibly beautiful weekend biking in Denali National Park. Right now the road is open to Teklanika (mile 29) for private vehicles and the buses don't start running until May 20. My cousin, a couple of friends, and I parked at Teklanika and biked out and back. It was perfectly clear, but very windy. We had a headwind on the way out and the going was tough, but on the way back it was a fantastic ride! Three of us made it just over Sable Pass (10 miles) to a nice view of Denali and took a little nap in the sunshine. The other two made it almost to Polychrome Pass (19 miles), but were turned around by a sow and cub on the road.

I didn't see any wildlife larger than a rabbit while biking, but on the drive back to the campground we saw three reindeer and a grizzly sow and cub.

I can't wait to do this again next year. I just wonder if there isn't any way but down with the weather though!

There were lots of other bikers out

Heading up Sable Pass

Just over Sable Pass with Denali in the background

Coming down Sable Pass

A practicing bus and driver passing in Sable Pass

A grizzly sow and cub on Savage River

Akutan 2015

It is deja vu in Akutan.  I was here last year in May, on the same boat, with the same captain, eating the same food.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  While we jokingly refer to this place as Akutraz in reference to the notorious island prison, there could be worse places to be stuck.

While most days are cold or windy or rainy or some combination of the above, breaks in the weather remind us that we are working in a beautiful inlet surrounded by picturesque mountains freshly shaped by volcanic eruptions and glacial erosion.  And the work is rewarding too, this is an evolving and adaptive project with a breadth of acoustic tools being used to make quick decisions in the field.  That said, I look forward to being home in a couple weeks and seeing some real summer weather.  Here are a few photos from this trip to Akutan
Ever present sea otter eating a crab

Looking west toward the higher peaks of Aktan

My colleague Jason working at the survey station aboard the Miss Alyssa

The Trident seafood processing facility

Captain Jimmer with a live king crab

Overlooking Akutan Harbor and the Trident Seafood facility