Monday, November 26, 2012


Thanksgiving eve I checked out the Juneau nordic ski club's site and found that the Mendenhall Campground was groomed and ready for me and my new skis. It was welcome news since we really haven't had snow yet and I've been itching to get outside.

I conned Mr. X into agreeing to a sunrise lap on the trail, but we didn't make it out the door until 9:30. That's about four hours late by my standards - but I'll admit it - I was the one sleeping in. The trail was a little icy; there really isn't much snow out there yet. We enjoyed meeting four dogs and were awed by the skate skiers who zoomed past us toward the lake. We went down on the ice and looked around, but we'd already been out for an hour which is long enough for two out-of-shape, chair force members.

Mr. X's skis on the ice

We'll have to see about getting a ski club membership. They really do a great job keeping the trails in shape - they groom the campground daily. It's just a question of whether I'll actually get out enough to justify the cost.

On the lake with Skater's cabin in background

After our morning activities we went home and I put the chicken in the oven. Yes, chicken, since it was just the two of us and chicken was 1/2 the price of turkey last week that's what we did. I already had potatoes made from a batch I took to a work party, made boxed stuffing and a green salad. Mr. X had his obligatory rice. Good eats.

I was a little nervous about dessert. Mr. X was enthusiastic. It turned out pretty well.

I had made a pumpkin pie by adjusting a vegan recipe. Instead of milk and eggs, I used cashews. Instead of maple syrup I used honey. And I made a graham cracker crust - that I was afraid had burned. It was actually a really good pumpkin pie - though it might be hard to go wrong with pumpkin.

After our feast we sat down to a viewing of Toy Story 2. You know, I really think that should be our official Thanksgiving tradition: Pixar animated movie after dinner.
getting set to go. Thunder mountain in distance.

Edit:  Saturday night, we went night skiing at the campground. It was good, but there was a creepy guy hanging out in the middle of the trail with his headlamp turned off. Not cool. And wouldn't you know it. We finally got more snow (at least six inches) Sunday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Evening at Egan - Being Caribou

In the fall, the University hosts a lecture every Friday night. When I learned the lecturer on November 16th would be Karsten Heuer, the author and adventurer from Being Caribou, I invited Mr. X to join me for a night out.

You might recall that I recommended his book and his wife's film in 2010. I first became aware of them soon after we moved to Juneau and read Being Caribou and Y2Y in 2007. This year Being Caribou was chosen as the "One Book, One Campus" book selection, and I was excited that the University brought them to campus so we could meet these adventurers in real life.

 Karsten has been a Canadian park warden in Banff for the past 18 years or so. His background is in wildlife biology. Leanne Allison is a filmmaker. Being Caribou is the real life story of this couple's trip following the caribou to their birthing grounds in the arctic and back again. The Y2Y initiative is a Yellowstone to Yukon corridor which would improve animal migration, and hopefully their survival. This is an idea that I have been aware of for many years as we've seen and heard of the increase of wildlife at Mack's Inn and the surrounding areas. Mr. X did a research project and presentation on this topic when he was working on his wildlife degree, and I remember discussing the concept with him at the time.

At the lecture Karsten summarized their adventures: Y2Y, Being Caribou, and Finding Farley. In Finding Farley, they took their 2 year old son and traveled from their home in Rockies of Canada to the Maritime provences where they met Farley Mowat, the author of dozens of classics including Never Cry Wolf. The family was able to find the den of arctic wolves just by following the description from the book! It was a real treat to see their slides from this trip, since I'd not seen the film yet.

In 2014, the family plans to take another of what they call a necessary journey. I can't wait to hear what they have planned next.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day (Friday) - Berry Patch Cabin

It's winter. Which means it's dark. And I didn't feel like hiking in it, so I reserved the Berry Patch cabin at the Eagle Beach Campground (Alaska State Park).

This cabin was recently built and has been beautifully maintained by the state parks. Located at campsite #1, it is drive up in the summer and only a 0.2  miles walk on a paved sidewalk...or snow in the winter.  Downstairs there is a sleeping platform with enough room for four adults. An angled ladder delivers you to the loft which has room for four adults or six if you know each other well enough for that kind of thing. There are plenty of hooks for your coats and gloves, a chain from the ceiling from which to hang you lantern, and I appreciated the counter and cupboards in the meal prep area. The cabin comes with a two wheeled wheelbarrow/cart so we didn't even have to lug our heavy dutch oven and bottled water the 0.2 miles from the car. The door has a combination lock. You are given the code when you get your reservation confirmation. We were glad the building was lockable when a man came knocking at midnight.

The Berry Patch cabin is heated using a kerosene stove (diesel #1). Mr. X and I have previously not had much luck starting one of these puppies, but somehow we made it work. Actually, when the instructions say "a couple tablespoons of oil" what they mean is when one corner of the cup starts to look damp. And Mr. X created a teepee with all the toilet paper he used on the cone. Once we got the stove going we were roasting. The whole time.

Since we didn't have to hike-in to this cabin, I wanted to try some dutch oven cooking.  I had decided to make an enchilada pie. Mr. X split kindling and we started the charcoal briquettes. I assembled the goodies that I had precooked at home and put them on the coals.

Our friends arrived now, clutching each other. Apparently, their flashlight went out so they walked out with only their cell phones guiding them. Another group of friends arrived shortly after, announcing, "whew, that's my kind of hike."

Dinner was bubbling away on the coals, and when I brought it into the cabin I set it on the stove to since that was the safest place for a hot pot...only the stove was so hot the enchiladas really boiled.

After our Mexican dinner we played Mexican Train dominoes and went to sleep. Well, really I think I just roasted all night.

In the morning, I took off on a the loop trail. I looked at the tide flats of the Eagle river, crossed under the highway and took a short jaunt up the Eagle glacier trail (we've never been up there despite it's being on my list for years), part of the Yankee Basin trail and then on the planked trail around the Methodist Camp. When I got back to the cabin, I watched some of the river ice break-up and grind itself on the shore. I also watched a seal watch me. Mr. X caught up with me then and told me he had found some bear tracks in the tide flats above the cabin.

For breakfast, I had planned to cook on our tabletop stove that we bought 4 years ago (garage sale $3) and have never used, but I just set our pot on the stove and cooked everything up that way. Easy Peasy. After breakfast burritos, Mr. X burned our trash and taught our friend to use his sling. Then we all headed for home. A simplified but satisfactory outing.