Monday, October 27, 2014

Retreat at Shrine of St. Therese

Our new ward's Relief Society has a tradition of going to the Shrine of St. Therese each fall. I went out after work for dinner, games and a devotional. The theme was PJs party. Prayer, Journals, Scriptures and we had a good discussion of how we fit each into our days.

It was a partly clear evening so I enjoyed looking up at the stars...but cold enough I didn't stay outside for long. 

Late in the evening, the Relief Society President went next door to "the early to bed" AKA post office cabin and, scratching at the window, totally terrified the women. One particularly funny woman came back to the lodge to say that she was so scared she had to change her under pants! 

About 2 am, after two hours trying to sleep and the party still rocking, I packed up and went home. I needed sleep or I was going to be sick.

I was so glad I was able to go back early the next morning for breakfast and exploring of the shrine. I walked out the causeway to the chapel with a couple friends and we watch sea lions swim by.

After breakfast I wandered over to the gap which is a cabin you can use to get out of the weather as you look over the columbarium.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dog-sitting and Alaska Day

We had ten days walking and hiking with a 15-year old gordon setter named Zoe who lives in downtown Juneau. We had our share of homegrown carrots, lunchtime walks, Taku winds, smoked salmon, and urban bears.

The bear made its appearance on the first night. We were heading the same direction and I wasn't too keen on following him while holding the leash on a dog that could pass for a shaggy bear cub. We tried to go walking in daylight after being stuck waiting for the bruin to head off into someone's yard.

We took Zoe on a 5 mile, 1800' hike to the tram on Mt. Roberts to celebrate Alaska day (we also walked her part-way up the lower Dan Moller trail, but there was frost and ice so none of us really enjoyed that one).

All along the way, we were greeted by others who were amazed by her stamina. "Yes, us too. No, we can't take credit for her health, we're just the sitters."

I was pretty nervous - as in I just can't watch that - when she'd venture too close to the cliff edge...she's deaf and getting cataracts... But she really enjoyed being off leash for a few miles.

At the top the wind had picked up and so we cancelled our goals to hike farther up the mountain.

The last quarter mile of the hike I was calling and clapping and offering treats, just hoping Zoe would return to me to get her leash back on. We waited for her to turn back but she just continued down the trail toward the parking lot. Did I mention that she's a bird dog that never figured out cars? At the road she made a bee-line to greet a stranger. Fortunately she timed it just right to avoid any traffic and finally saw me racing toward her, treat bag in hand.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ice breaker Healy

When one of the Coast Guard's two ice breakers, the Healy, stopped in town we took the afternoon off work to tour the boat. This 420 foot boat does scientific studies in the Arctic as well as provides support to any distressed mariners up north.

Back in 2012, the Healy lead the Russian tanker Renda through the ice offshore Nome to ensure that the town got their winter fuel. An early storm had prevented them from getting their final shipment. The crew of the Healy gave up their Christmas holiday when they heard that Renda was willing to help and the turned around and headed back north.

It was fun to see the breaker's bridge and skiffs as well as their heliport. We were most surprised by the whole rack of bikes, I assume they use for shore excursions. On the bridge we were impressed by all the handles, floor surfaces, etc. to help them stay on their feet in rough water. I felt bad for the crew, having to constantly tell people not to climb on or swing from various equipment. One crew member  had lost her voice from talking all day, but she was still there answering questions.

After our tour we headed to Sandy beach to attend our neighbor's wedding and reception.

Friday, October 10, 2014

San Francisco

Mr. X had an assignment to attend a conference a.k.a geek camp in San Francisco and asked me to go with him this time around. Little did I know that when I bought my plane ticket, he would need me to be his sherpa...his back was still sore from his good deed a few weeks before. Yes, that was me with the backpacker pack and roller bag hiking the hill.

We arrived Saturday evening and after getting settled in the hotel went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant. Most reviews were favorable, but one had it totally wrong saying that it was inauthentic and that Indians wouldn't eat there. Liar!...all the servers appeared to be Indian, 85% of the patrons appeared to be Indian, and the Indian at the table next to us ordered his favorite home style dish -- which was not on the menu. We felt like we were being lavish, ordering multiple dishes and sides and were prepared for a big bill. It came out to less than $30.

Sunday morning we got ready for breakfast only to learn that there was a dress code -- I had to wear my church clothes to breakfast all week and Mr. X was chagrined he only had one collared shirt.

Sunday and Monday I visited my sister and her family. They showed off their fruit trees and made a batch of homemade lemonade from their lemons. Monday, there somehow ended up being three people in my bed. A couple kiddos were happy I had come to visit. : ) We visited the Winchester mansion and then had a picnic lunch at a park. I went back to San Francisco and planned a day riding the cable cars, visiting the cable car museum, beach, the crookedest street and maritime museum on the waterfront.

Wednesday, I walked from the hotel, across the Golden Gate Bridge. At a park on the other side a custodian told me that it was shorter to walk to Sausalito and then take the ferry back to San Francisco. Honestly, I think it was about the same distance, but it was a fun outing. I loved seeing all the birds at Golden Gate park - especially the pelicans. Before heading back to the hotel I went to Ghirardelli Square to buy a few pieces of chocolate.

Thursday I walked through China town to telegraph hill. It was fun to see all the sidewalk produce sellers and I was tempted by all the fresh ginger for sale. At one park there were masses of people doing tai chi, and I wished Mr. X could have seen it...he needs to try it with a group, if you ask me. I  was hoping to see the parrots of telegraph hill but didn't find them. After all the walking (and sunshine!) I was ready to get back to the hotel to do laundry, pack and finish my homework assignment for the week. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Trail work

Our ward did a day of service for the State of Alaska Parks Department. When the day turned out to be miserably wet, we still had a blast. 

September 20th, we headed out to Point Bridget State Park to do some trail work. All decked out in rain gear and rubber boots, we shoveled pit run into wooden frames like this one.

Fortunately for us the rocks had be helicoptered in, so after our six hours of work we only had to carry back the empty bags for the state park to reuse.

We had people of all shapes and sizes. At one point I was explaining to a four and six year old how they could go into the trees and pick out clumps of moss to re-vegetate some of the eroded trail. The four year old started out enthusiastically, dropping tiny pieces of moss down the middle of the trail like Gretel from the old fairy tale. The crew chief bust his gut laughing at them.

I was relieved when about three hours into our project a couple Tongan men arrived, and they led the gravel bag dragging team like they were hitting the grid iron.

Afterward Mr. X said his back was sore and he injured it further helping some senior citizens cutting down a tree the next week. I may have had a run in with the shovels on Mr. X's shoulder. Thankfully my hat took the brunt of the impact. The next day I was shocked at the soreness of my fingers from all the shoveling.

When we hiked out to the Blue Mussel Cabin in January, we were pleased to see our efforts peeking out under the snow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Body work

Our friend had family come visit this summer and after a whirlwind of activity, they ended their vacation by getting in a minor car accident. A spectacular trip marred by the bitter taste of a passenger door that no longer opened. 

Before going berry picking, I checked out the damage and made my recommendation:  remove the fender, pound out the dent, reattach. Totally straightforward. The men looked at me skeptically for a second and then Mr. X looked more closely and convinced Brad it was possible.

I can't claim to have any skills but I've seen a little body work done...

Yellow Golf -
This car was bought for my oldest brother. It had body damage including a crumpled fender. Dad and Mike went to the junk yard and were fortunate to find a matching yellow replacement which they bolted on.
Hyundai -
The Hyundai was purchased from a neighbor. The rear quarter panel was smashed and as there was some cutting, grinding and bond-o involved in this repair since quarter panels are not removable in the traditional sense.
White Golf -
My sister got backed into in a grocery store parking lot. When Dad saw the damage he removed the door liner and pushed the dent out...with his foot.
Snowball (AKA white rabbit)
One dark morning when I was in high school, a loud crash woke me from a dead sleep. I looked out the window and then heard a woman scream and run toward the crash calling for her baby. Forgetting to put her jeep back into park, her vehicle had rolled down the hill - with her small child strapped inside - and struck this vehicle that had just had a new engine put in. It was totaled but before parting it out, my dad handed me a dent puller that looked like a pike and asked me to pull the dent out enough to get taillights back into it. The car probably looked like Swiss cheese when I was done with it.

After 3 hours of berry picking, Brad and Mr. X spent 4 hours with rusted and stripped bolts, zip ties and a pry bar fixing the fender and fighting mosquitoes. Not quite as straightforward as I was hoping. They were rewarded for their efforts with a blueberry tart...and more importantly a passenger door that now works.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blueberries at Eaglecrest

On one rare sunny Saturday in August, Mr. X and I met up with Brad for some berry picking at the ski area. There were people and pets all over the place picking blueberries, cloud berries and who knows what else.

Walking up the maintenance road less than a half mile we found an abundance of berries, including the sweetest bog berries tucked against a steep incline just off a ski run. We dyed our hands and one of us - the seat of our pants - purple in our pursuit of a blueberry tart.

The sun shone and a light breeze kept us comfortable. Blueberries for Sal may or may not have been quoted. Before we knew it, three hours had passed and our buckets were full. Pausing for a quick snack break of cheese and crackers I questioned why we hadn't brought camp chairs for tail-gating in the parking lot. As we slipped downtown to drop Brad off we ran into other friends who showed us their stained hands and reported that their 15 year old pup was napping after frolicking with a ptarmigan.

And then we went home where I make my first tart.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

St. Louis

I attended a conference in St. Louis. Because of flight scheduling, I was able to have a partial day of touring before the conference began.

In the morning, before the heat and humidity went out of control, I went to the iconic St. Louis Arch and Jefferson Expansion Memorial. I watched the Lewis and Clark film and then rode to the top of the arch in the tiny space capsule-like trolley.

Since the Arch is part of the National Park service I was then able to listen to a lecture and demonstration on native flute music. The ranger  played a beautiful tune that was meant as a tribute to greeting the day. It reminded me of bird song in the early morning hours.

I crossed the street next to visit The Old Courthouse which was the site of the Dred Scott decision. Because St. Louis is celebrating their 250th anniversary the courthouse was ornately decorated.

Riding the train out to Forest Park - I watched a multimedia presentation of the 250 year history of the city at the museum. I also walked to the Pagoda where I found several turtles swimming lazily in the pond.

Gooey Butter Cake - the Missouri Insurance Director gave the keynote address and advised all of us to partake of the many local foods that St. Louis is known for: ice cream cone and hot dog in a bun (world's fair 1904), dry rub bbq, Fitz's soda, and gooey butter cake. Once you've eaten all of that, never fear, Tums was also invented in St. Louis.
St. Louis Public Library
I wandered through some public art gardens

The thing I wanted especially to try was the gooey butter cake, so Tuesday afternoon I set out for a nearby coffee shop that had roughly a dozen different kinds. I chose raspberry and red velvet. And enjoyed eating them. Yes. Yes. I did. (Mr. X had to suffer my very inferior attempt at imitation when I got home)

I wandered over to the Eads Bridge before my last meeting. And found classic cobblestone streets and brick buildings.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fourth of July Weekend

Fishing - I woke up on the Fourth at 3 am and was exhausted plus it was drizzly so we had cancelled our picnic and fishing at Point Louisa. Then at about 11, I decided I did want to go fishing so we drove to Amalga harbor to catch this 31 inch chum. As you can see it's not a perfectly silver, but it'll do for curries - which is really all Mr. X wants anyway. We'd not taken the net so it was a little bit of a challenge landing the fish but we finally cornered the fish in shallower water and Mr. X flipped the fish onto the rocky shore. Not bad for 20 minutes of fishing.

On the way home my brother called and after dropping Mr. X off, I drove downtown to pick up our guest for the weekend.

At four we had Mr. X's brother-in-law join us for an indoor picnic. And then we braved the weather for a campfire on Point Louisa. We had intermittent rain, but lucked out and had a pod of four to six Orca whales swim by followed by a raft of eight to ten sea lions. The chums and reds are in and we also learned that we also have had a sizeable herring return to Auke bay (the herring fishery closed here in 1982); lots of good food for whales and sea lions and bears.

John enjoyed the s'mores - even though graham crackers never made it on my list, in the cart or to the park. 

Dan Moller Ridgeline - Saturday John suggested we hike on the ridgeline above the Dan Moller cabin. We'd been up there with John a couple years ago in winter and he wanted to see what it looked like in summer.

We got a nice view of Oliver Inlet and Seymour Canal. We might have to try that portage sometime in our rafts.

We scrambled our way up the hillside, I switched from rubber boots to my hiking shoes halfway up - when it got too steep for boots to be sensible.

We looked around the this ridge over to Eaglecrest ski area. It'd be fun to hike down that way some time.
Toward the Juneau Ice Field

Admiralty Island

Sunday morning Mr. X wanted to walk at Eagle Beach. We'd heard that there lots of fish and crab around, but we didn't see too much activity - except for fishing boats. We also spotted a bald eagle sitting in the water. I thought he might be in trouble, but it turned out he was just taking his Sunday bath.

Thursday, July 3, 2014



Picnic on Point Louisa - After church on Father's Day I decided we needed to take some time to enjoy the weather so we packed up the camp chairs and a little snack-y dinner and headed to Point Louisa to watch the birds and boats and admire the wildflowers.

Dog Walking - some friends were going out of town and needed someone to walk the dog. We had fun keeping this old gal busy. We checked out the Peterson River trails on North Douglas and discovered our backside of Douglas island trek/paddle could have been easier.

Mt. Juneau take deux - Mr. X's brother-in-law got a job in Juneau! I'm still adjusting to having family in town - "You mean he isn't leaving on Monday? We don't HAVE to do this hike today?" We showed him Mt. Juneau and then true to form, the clouds blew in and we were essentially in a white out. Oh, and for some reason I just about had a heart attack hiking this time. Either walking that dog at 5:30 am that day was a bad idea or I've got seasonal allergies - maybe both.

Magic Show - Our friends called us and asked if we wanted to go to a magic show fundraiser for the fire department. We joined hundreds of children in Juneau to watch a master of illusion. That guy had some fast hands.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 5 - 6: Tenakee Springs

At about 3:00 am Mr. X awoke to find me sitting over him clutching the bear spray. We again heard stamping outside and couldn't decide whether they were deer or bear. I peeked out of the tent but couldn't see anything save beach or trees. Mr. X wanted me to keep still so I wouldn't startle whatever was there. Eventually the noises disappeared and I opened the tent to confirm they had moved on. I turned back to Mr. X and he said, "so you want to go back to sleep?" And I said, "No! I just want to get out of here".

With only 10 miles to go, I hoped we could make it to Tenakee Springs by the afternoon. The wind and waves still looked a bit rough. We decided though to take it easy, try to relax (after that uncomfortable night) and appreciate our vacation. We stayed close to shore and thankfully avoided the bulk of the wind, making decent time. That didn't stop me from humming the song Master the Tempest is Raging, however.

Finally we spotted a cabin, then some more. Finally the main waterfront of Tenakee came into view. At long last the wind was pushing us the way we wanted to go. As we drifted past the ferry dock and then the float plane dock, a man stopped us giving us the low down on Tenakee:  "Uh, you know the ferry's been cancelled, right? You can camp over there by the boat harbor under that shelter. You know about the bath house hours? And the bakery is open." He also asked, "No bear trouble?" We just stared and he answered, "Well, guess not or you wouldn't be here."

We paddled to the boat harbor, hauled out - actually some guy came and helped me because I looked like I was about to fall in, packed the boats and headed to the "surplus area" in Tenakee. Under a metal shelter we found a fire ring, shelves (to hang gear), camp chairs, wood, etc.

We ate lunch and unpacked a few things and then decided to pull everything out and take advantage of the gusting wind to dry our wet gear. A little later we realized we should have talked to the harbor master and gotten his okay to set up in this location. He said it was fine, but I'm thinking we really should have checked with him first.
 Comfrey in front of the bathhouse - one of Mr. X's favorite plants. What fun to find it growing in Tenakee

Tenakee is a place of 50 people with no cars. People have hand carts or four-wheelers and the main drag is named Tenakee Trail.We walked into town and were warmly greeted by everyone. I went to the mercantile (well, their warehouse, the store is under construction) and got marshmallows for roasting, used the public toilet perched over the tide flats, checked out the book exchange and got info on breakfast the next day. We wandered out the forest trail looking for fresh water. We eventually found Tenakee River and a suspension bridge.

The wind was gusting, but the sun was also shining. We found a park bench and sat down to enjoy the warmth on our faces. Never mind that we were still wearing long johns and fleeces. 

In the evening we wandered up to the school. Mr. X thought it was funny that the school is labeled handicap accessible when you have to climb seven flights of stairs to get to it, tucked up on the hillside.

Mr. X took his turn at the hot springs. When the float plane landed in the evening, we headed into town to see if we could change our flight. Alaska Seaplanes took real good care of us. Because the ferry was cancelled and we were a day early, they ordered up a second plane to get us out when we wanted.

I suggested we go to grave island. When we walked around the beach we were astonished at the beauty that we found. This is why I came here. Look at that meadow and those emerald mountains. Don't you just want to go hike them?

Mr. X went to bed and I took my turn at the bath house. There are separate hours for men and women because this is a no-clothes hot spring. The water was a beautiful crystal clear and incredibly hot. I appreciated the little bit of a breeze coming from the window vents in the ceiling.

After a nice, restful sleep, we finally had a sunny morning. We packed up and headed into town to the bakery for breakfast. Mr. X had pan sized pancakes with sausage, I picked the biscuits and gravy and we shared a cinnamon roll and a rhubarb and strawberry tart. The Party-time Bakery was a lot of fun. We got to see a bunch of artwork that locals make, get introduced to small cruise ship passengers in for the morning and find out about the shamrock building which used to be the dance hall and movie theater. The restaurant owner/chef came out and asked us about pack-rafting. He told us about a guy last year that was doing a major trek and got hurt pack-rafting; a local at a remote cabin found him and ran him in to Tenakee to get him out and to a hospital.

Just steps away from the bakery is Alaska Seaplanes where we went to get checked in and weigh our luggage. A fishing party showed up; they also were disappointed about the ferry and were glad they could hop our plane. They put Mr. X and me in the back on the sling seat. I questioned whether it was because we were the lightweights; Mr. X theorized it was because we stank.

We had a beautiful flight over Freshwater Bay and Admiralty island - including Greens Creek Mine - back to Juneau. The ride was pretty good but we hit a few good bumps crossing Chatham Strait and I wasn't sure how well my breakfast would sit. We roared up and over ridge lines and soared over water before landing on the Juneau seaplane pond. A wonderful trip, but just as wonderful to be home with running water and clean clothes.