Saturday, December 24, 2011

Year in Review

I'm so grateful that I've kept a blog this year so that I can remember all the wonderful times that we had. Whether visiting with family or relaxing with our favorite friends it's been a good year. We hope you are able to reflect on 2011 with the same happiness.

We house- and dog-sat for 20 days.

Hiked Anvil Mountain in Nome

Attended my grandmother's funeral in Washington

Hosted Gram, Granpa and Mom - which included going to the Yukon

Visited family in Washington DC, Michigan, and Indiana

and Hosted my brother John.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy First Day of Winter

It's the shortest day of the year.
That means tomorrow will be a little longer.
I am glad. Relieved really.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reason #785 to rent

Never pay a plumber for gushing 2.5 inch water pipes.

It's in the crawlspace. The plumber is coming today. We didn't notice anything wrong with our water (maybe it's the upstairs water supply?), but I could hear water running and running. When our landlord's winter caretaker came over last night he couldn't hear it, but he sure found it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving power outage

At about 6:30 am we experienced a power outage. AELP got us back up and running a little over an hour later by firing up the diesel generators. Reports today are that a tower on the Snettisham line is leaning into another tower. Two of its anchors have been sheared off - apparantly not due to an avalanche (which is surprising because we have had heavy snow and gusty winds).

As you can imagine the outage created a bit of panic for some Juneau-ites. Our friends in charge of the turkey for Thanksgiving lunch had already prepared the bird and preheated the oven when the lights went out.

The good news is that we should be back on 100% hydro in about a week. Right now we do have four small hydro generators running along with the diesel generators (and as we all know diesel generation is 5x more expensive than hydro).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

image credit: The party-animal blog

Wherever you are today. Whatever you're doing. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving, even if you're surrounded by family, especially if you're celebrating alone. I'm thankful to know you. I'm thankful for you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Anchorage - Girdwood - Whittier

A few weeks before John was to arrive, Mr. X received an invitation to a Fisheries Conference in Girdwood. We decided to go and take John with us.

Wednesday morning we left Juneau early and arrived in Anchorage in time for lunch. We did a little shopping at REI - a treat for us, not so much for John - and a used book store. Then we headed south on the Seward Highway.

We made our way south on the Scenic Highway, passing through several avalanche areas until we reached Girdwood and found our way to the Alyeska Resort. It was still light out so we took some more time exploring the beautiful scenery along the Turnagin Arm. It was near zero and the wind was gusting like daggers. John got to see the country's two largest national forests - the Tongass in Juneau and the Chugach in Anchorage.

After nightfall we returned to the hotel in time for Mr. X to register for the conference.

Thursday morning, John and I found the only open ski rental facility (thank you Jim at Girdwood Ski and Cyclery) and ran out to get some X-country skis. John and I spent most of the day gliding around Moose Meadows, the Enchanted Forest and the New Nordic Trail. Of course since Girdwood is the home of some of the world's best Nordic skiiers, we definitely were out of place.

It was a beautiful sunny day and since the wind had stopped, quite pleasant.

Friday Mr. X was finished with his meetings. Before John got up, Mr. X and I took the skis down to Moose Meadows for a sunrise lap. I could really get used to a sunny, snowy, no work lifestyle.

We then took the highway south again to Portage to see Portage lake, Portage Glacier and Bryson Glacier. We also traveled through the 2.5 mile Anton Anderson tunnel to Whittier. This is the longest multi-use tunnel in North America. There is only one lane of traffic so cars and trains have to take turns in both directions. We quickly toured Whittier, awed by the view of the ice free Prince William Sound and the WWII era condominiums which house about 1/2 of the town's population and headed back to Portage.

We stopped at the Conservation Center to see bison, moose, elk, musk ox, eagles, Kodiak bears, black bears, and caribou.

From there we headed back to Anchorage. Found the temple, visited the Dimond Mall and returned to the airport.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

X-Country Skiing

Yesterday was our first real snow. We have about 20 inches at the house (and expect 12 more in the next 24 hours). That meant John did some serious postholing all day (he says 12.1 miles) on the Nugget Creek trail. This also meant that I dragged him out the door for some night skiing at 7 pm. We skied out the door and soon found that the icy streets were better suited to skiing than the powdery sidewalks. We didn't make it far, 'cause the binding on my $2 skis kept popping open, but John didn't fall on his head so I'll count his first X-country ski trip a success.

Windfall Lake Cabin

After hiking down from the Dan Moller cabin, we grabbed some lunch and headed out to the Windfall Lake cabin. By early afternoon the fog had started rolling in so we had no view.

At night we stayed busy playing phase 10 and roasting marshmellows over candles. We also munched on junk food and eventually a real dinner of beef stroganoff.

In the morning, it was snowing. Of course, that meant that we grabbed the canoe and paddled into the middle of the lake where we laughed about being stuck in the ice ala Shackleton and the Endurance.
We then hiked out to the car and drove to the end of the road.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dan Moller Cabin

Thursday Mr. X and I took the day off to hike with John to the Dan Moller Cabin. This hike has a 1800' elevation gain. It hikes through the Dan Moller bowl and Juneau's original ski area.

We hit the trail just before 11 am and arrived at the cabin less than 2 hours later. Thankfully John broke trail for us...since apparantly I was the sherpa. It was raining downtown but the snow level was about 400 feet so we were hiking in blowing snow.

At the cabin the snow was at least knee deep. We spent the stormy day holed up in the warm cabin playing skipbo, Uno and a modified version of 21.

The Dan Moller cabin was replaced about 18 months ago. This new cabin is bright and keeps out the winds. It boasts a wide front porch and deep balcony on the second story with views toward the Juneau icefield.

Overnight, the storm blew out and in the morning we made a run for the ridge to look down the backside of Douglas island over to Admiralty Island. It was nice hike, but I forgot to put my snowpants on so I was pretty cold. We saw martin, rabbit, and squirrel tracks.

We grabbed a quick breakfast and then enjoyed a leisurely hike back to the car.

Sheep Creek Hike

Wednesday, the Park and Rec holds a day hike. Since John had been entertaining himself with simple hikes more accurately described as walks, I hooked him up with these experienced hikers.

That morning dawned clear! John rode the bus downtown, and I shuttled him out to the trailhead in Thane where we met up with about a dozen retirees ready for their walk in the woods.

The first part of the trail is a 700' climb, then a walk through an old mining camp. He saw sled dogs. The next part of the trail following switchbacks up the side of the mountain. The "adventure" group - with John breaking trail - stopped at the 2000' mark due to snow where they ate lunch and then hiked back down.

John arrived at my office at dusk and just 15 minutes before quitting time - perfect.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adventuring with John

My brother is here for two weeks. We have some grand plans.

So far we've taken him to hike to Nugget Falls and the Mendenhall Visitor's Center (of which we know you've seen lots of pictures, so I'll spare you). Monday, he hiked the East Glacier Trail while we were at work. The weather's been terrible. We hope it improves soon. I can say the same about the head cold I've got.

At least my menu plan is delicious: chicken pesto pasta, lasagna, Middle Eastern, Indian halibut curry, enchiladas, pizza, pork roast.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Class updates

Remember those classes I'm taking? The last few weeks I've sort of felt like I couldn't catch my breath. Would you believe that my Supervisor sent me a link to another course on Market Conduct Examinations. It starts November 28th.

I also got an email a couple weeks ago from our Accounting Clerk:

Would you like me to process your registration for these courses?
Disability Part I (11/7 - 2/24)
HIPAA Primer (11/7 - 2/24)

~ Accounting Clerk

Hmm. They may start 11/7 but I don't think I'll be ready until Mid-December. I guess I have my winter entertainment planned.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter

Winter is in the air. It's getting colder. That snow line is falling lower and lower down the mountain. We've started our winter preparations:

  • Put on the studded snow tires - Check.

  • Pull out the winter coats - Done.

  • Replace Rain Boots with Snow Boots - TBD

  • Lubricate door locks -To Do

  • Seal windows - To Do

  • Stock up on books and movies for long winter nights - To Do

  • Dark commute both ways - Already.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Save for Retirement Week: Oct 16 - 22

Have you looked at your account statements lately? Read a good book about finances?
Did you know that the IRS raised the contribution limit to $17,000 for 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans for 2012?

Take some time this week to look at your retirement savings picture.

What I am doing: I ran some retirement calculators and found that we are "done" saving for retirement. We don't believe it and won't stop saving (especially since Mr. X wouldn't mind an early retirement, like tomorrow), but I know that means we can start looking at other things to invest in. Like a house.

Last week we went house shopping and hope to get serious about buying something in the near future. Maybe. We've done this before so I'm not sure how serious we'll be.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Favorite: Sea to Summit Water Bag

As I mentioned in the Peterson Lake Cabin post, I love my new water bag. It's smaller than a deck of cards, weighs in at less than 3 oz, yet scoops up 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water in one swoop.

The bag stands up on its own, so you fill it and forget it until you need more water. Just store it away from children or animals as the bag is fabric it can be pushed or tugged over with a splash.

It is made from waterproofed nylon fabric. It has a thick cloth handle and a small handle on the side of the bag to assist with pouring.

We used the bag to collect enough water for two people for 24 hours for cooking, drinking and cleaning. In the end we poured out more than half of it because it was unneeded.

On the Chilkoot we saw several hikers with similar bags that they filled with freezing glacial runoff and then set aside to warm in the sun.

It is a luxury item, but one that both Mr. X and I agree is worth it weight, especially when camping in wet, cold SE Alaska.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Juneau News: Dog-sitter's worst nightmare

2 black labs stop Alaska Airlines from landing on initial approach

Deputy Airport Manager Patty deLaBruere tells us that Flight 64 (Boeing 737) was coming in for a landing at about 2:30 pm when two black labs were spotted on the runway. The plane had to abort that landing, attempt to do a go around before it could land.

Chava Lee of the Gastineau Humane Society says an Animal Control Officer caught one of the dogs. The owner of the one that was nabbed on the runway is out of town. The animal was in the care of another person at the time. Lee says the owner will be cited.

Lee says they don't know yet how they got on the runway. deLaBruere says the dogs could have come from the Airport Dike Trail, through the wetlands from a neighborhood in the area, or they could have gotten loose from owners while on the airport grounds. - KINY Radio

Message to T and E: We were out walking on the wetlands near the airport at 2:30 p.m. yesterday. We promise none of your dogs were on the runway.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Back to School

The last two years I've enjoyed getting into the back-to-school spirit by preparing Mr. X for Seminary. I bought pens, pencils, notebooks, sharpies, kleenex, dry-erase markers, hand sanitizer, the works. In order to not miss out this year I decided to keep myself busy...maybe too busy.

I have to take several professional classes for continuing education, so I was all set with Medical Expense Insurance and Regulatory Compliance for this semester.

But then Mr. X and I were discussing accounting last week and how I'd like to take a class. Two days later I received an email offering me an accounting class from the local university, paid for by my employer and held at my worksite over lunch. Score!

So that's my plan this fall. Three classes. Should keep me happy. Or crazy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peterson Lake Cabin

It's been raining - I mean really raining - for two straight weeks. We've had flood warnings on lakes and rivers. The streams have been brown with runoff instead of their usual pristine crystal blue.

Mr. X had a cold. In fact he'd been nursing it all week. So Thursday night when I asked him if we were keeping our reservation, he was guarded. We packed, but not confidently.

Friday evening when Mr. X picked me up in a torrental downpour I questioned why we torture ourselves. Why do we bother hiking in the rain?

Nevertheless, we headed out the road to mile 24 to hit the trail.

We'd heard terrible things about this trail. Knee-deep to thigh-deep mud all 4.25 miles. The rain we've gotten was sure to make the trail that much more enjoyable.

We also knew that we were hitting the trail late in the day, when bears would be active and we desired to be at the cabin before night fall. Thankfully, the Peterson Lake Trail has an elevation gain of 700 feet so, I calculated 2 - 2.5 hours for the hike in. Plenty of time before dark.

Trail follows historic tram route

We followed the trail through gorgeous forests, across muskeg just changing color for the fall, past incredible waterfalls and finally along the Peterson lake edged with lily pads. I was surprised at the good trail. There have been some improvements, particularly in the first mile of the trail - but I was hiking in rubber boots and rain gear so the muddy spots weren't anything I should have been afraid of. I compared the trail to Cowee Meadow to Camping Cove trails which can be rooty and muddy as well.

Boards from 1910 tram

We reached the cabin at 7:30, 1 hour 50 minutes after leaving the car. We got out of our wet clothes (fortunately, it really didn't rain on us, we felt very lucky), inspected the new boat and new outhouse and then turned to our chores. Mr. X grabbed my new collapsable bucket and headed for the roaring stream behind the cabin. Instead of standing on a mossy rock, balancing filter and bottle, he just scooped up water and placed the bucket on the front porch in case we wanted water later.

We were (probably) the second group to use the newly remodeled cabin. The walls and ceilings have new tongue and groove panneling. The bunks, table, "kitchen" are all brand new. The deck, dock and cabin trail have been updated. We were pleased with how clean everything was.

By now, it was dark, so we sat down to do some reading. Mr. X lit a candle and balanced his guide headlamp on the table. I read the history of Peterson Lake.

Sometime in the middle of the night we both woke up to soft scratching sounds. I couldn't identify the source. I thought mouse or squirrel. Mr. X had seen the reflection of the eyes of a weasel, marmet, or wolverine. The skies cleared and I enjoyed actually seeing stars.

In the morning, armed with hat and neck gator I sat under the eaves on the porch to read my book. A duck flew by. A stellar jay and winter wren checked me out. In fact, the winter wren (which is smaller than my palm), made such a racket, I thought a bear was going to come around the side of the cabin.

At 9:45, I suggested that since this cabin is a "warming shelter" and only 168 square feet that we get dressed before any hikers came knocking. We had just exchanged long johns and lounge pants for our muddy rain gear when a Forest Service employee walzed up the path. He was there to collect 60 - 80 lbs of equipment left from the cabin remodel. Yes, he did fit everything in his backpack and turned back down the trail, thankfully leaving a bottle hand sanitizer and a roll of TP for future renters to enjoy.

Mr. X then gave me rowing lessons and I rowed us around the lake, looking at lily pads as we went. After a quick lunch we packed up for the trek back to the car. We sure had enjoyed the tranquillity and freedom from cares on our short trip. I think I'll be back (perhaps, AFTER, they finish fixing the trail) next summer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

West Glacier Hike

Saturday the 13th was an incredibly beautiful day. We did our chores Friday night so that Saturday morning would be free for hiking.

Mr. X has been saying for weeks that he's wanted to see how far the glacier has receded, so we went out to the West Glacier Trail, took the turnoff marked "Unmaintained, hazardous trail" and hiked down to the glacier.

Mr. X decided to turn us up hill, so the glacier would rise to meet us, rather than have us scramble down the scree and back up again.

I took a few steps out on the glacier. That's all the farther I would go, though, without ice climbing gear. The area that we were at was almost slushy, and we could hear and see ice falling off, so really that's all I was interested in.

Knowing that Mr. X's definition of a good time involves bushwacking, I suggested that we head back to the West Glacier trail from our current position rather than doubling back. Mr. X agreed and we started scrambling through the small brush, up the side of the mountain, using a stream for our navigation.

After 45 minutes we were ready to sit down and take a break before heading into the second half of our scramble through devil's club and Sitka spruce. I looked around and said, "isn't that the trail right there?" Sure enough, it was. We hiked down the trail a way until we came to a look-out where we settled down for a break and looked out over the glistening Mendenhall lake, pounding Nugget Falls and blue glacier.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cowee Meadows

Our friends called us on Saturday to go for a hike. We met out-the-road for the short jaunt out to the Cowee Meadow cabin for a snack and then to the beach for some rock slinging. It was a beautiful day. We saw eagles and beavers. Fireweed and cotton grass were in full bloom. The Devil's club has gone to seed.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Washington layover

After all our fun down south, I ended up with an 18 hour layover in Seattle - yipee! It meant that I was able to spend just a little while with my mom and brother.

Here's the boy all decked out for trek youth conference.

Mom showed me her new garden and fed me steak off the BBQ and fresh greens for lunch.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Trip Stop 3: Indiana

Brown County State Park - elevation 1058'

Mr. X's other brother had moved to Indiana two weeks before we traveled down south which meant we needed to travel a little father south to see him and his family.

Shipshewana, IN

Mom drove us down, and since we didn't need to be in Columbus until the evening, I suggested we stop in amish country for lunch. Yeah, it's out of the way, but good grief we're the ones who drive three hours (after 7 hours on a ferry) for lunch at Whitehorse's Pizza Hut.

Fire look-out tower, Indiana sandstone shelter

In Southern Indy, we went swimming, mini-golfing, paddleboating, hiking, raptor watching. Mr. X was involved in some trampoline hijinx that had him holding his back for weeks.

Brown County was celebrating Smokey Bear's birthday. In honor, they held a Raptor show.

All in all a successful trip.