"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Five days in Anchorage. Eight days since I'd had any exercise. I was going bonkers.

Last evening I drove the thirty miles to Turnagain Pass and started picking up litter. Then, I got out the camera and spent some quality time with the acres and acres of wildflowers.

Chocolate lily and wild geranium.

Indian paintbrush and geranium. I can never remember what the smaller yellows ones are.

All the dark spots are chocolate lily.

Wild columbine.


Someday I'll finish telling you about my trip to Yakutat and my high school reunion.

Someday....when I'm old and gray...

Oops. Can't use that excuse any more.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Who dat?

Gullible? Ah don' know. Last time Ah saw her, she had her second whiskey sour in hand and was headin' for the stage...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reunion Jitters

I've been scurrying around all day trying to get ready for a trip to Anchorage to attend my 50th high school graduating class reunion. I'd been undecided about taking the camp trailer and parking it at Sportsmen's Warehouse parking lot, or driving back and forth each of four days.

The thought of that did me in, so today I got the trailer ready. Almost. I discovered my registration plates had expired last year, so I had to make a speed run to Seward to get them renewed.

Mama Moose and her twins were in the same place as Sunday.

When I got home, I got some more stuff ready. Then I checked e-mail and discovered that rather than 1 p.m. tomorrow, I don't have to be there until about 7 p.m., when we will meet someone at the airport. A very special someone.

So, with a reprieve of six hours, I stuffed the kayak into the mini van and headed for Tern Lake. Seems beaver lodges are made for Arctic terns, too.

A couple gals were painting at Tern Lake. Here's a photo of one, with her reflection in the water.

Okay, now I really am behind. Gotta run.

See you Sunday or thereabouts. Sooner if I have time to locate WiFi in Anchorage.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Good News and Buttered Popcorn

Boy, did I hear some great news today! According to the news report I heard, for one of the few times in my life I actually weigh less than the average American woman.

Wow! I was so stoked after hearing that, I made myself a bowl of popcorn and poured real melted butter all over it, much to Pablo’s delight.

Pablo, Pablo, popcorn eater.

Because if there’s anything Pablo is really, really fond of (besides king crab, shrimp, fish of any kind, raw moose and caribou, raw or cooked beef, pork, or chicken, every fruit and vegetable in the world, potatoes in every form, tomatoes, rice, all varieties of nuts and seeds, every kind of dessert ever created, ice cream in any flavor, all types of candy but especially Jelly Bellies), well, it would have to be butter.

As you can tell, Pablo is not a picky eater, except when it comes to those expensive parrot seed mixtures. Then he eats only the sunflower and safflower seeds, and the peanuts.

But anyway, this is not about Pablo. This is about my good news. Yes, I now weigh less than the average American woman. I’ve had a bit of a problem in that regard ever since….. ummmmm…….well, probably starting in….. I guess it would have to be…….. Yeah, okay, ever since puberty. Sigh.

Not now, though. Without revealing the unsavory number, I can feel pretty good about myself and my weight for the first time in a long, long time. I weigh less than the average American woman. There.

Oh, by the way. I heard that on a report about the obesity epidemic in America. And I guess I should mention that according to the report, the weight of the average American woman is now twenty-five pounds more than thirty years ago.

(Please, no snide remarks about buttered popcorn.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oh. Is it raining?

One of the first things you learn when you come to Alaska is that if you want to do something, then just do it. If you postpone and lollygag and procrastinate waiting for the right weather, you aren't ever going to get around to doing what it is you want to do.

Take today, for instance. Here are some things I saw while delivering mail:


Trucks and SUVs pulling boat trailers were everywhere. Traffic was awful. Fishing fever has hit the Kenai Peninsula. The salmon are running and everyone's running after them. Some had rather unique ways of hauling their boats.

This is a piece of the wonderful boat launch area in Cooper Landing. I was crossing the Kenai River bridge with traffic coming and going when I took this shot. You can see the "kids don't float" PFDs hanging below. But, what a location!

Who cares if it's raining? The fish are in!

Yeah, who cares if it's raining?


Well, at least the saddles have rain coats.

Ah, well, I reckon the riders do also. Aussie dusters all the way around.


When you're part English Mastiff, Rottweiler, and Chespeake Retriever your toys should be in proportion, not one of those wimpy green tennis balls..


And for strolling with someone who loves you.


So if fishing, horseback riding, and the like in the rain aren't your cup of tea, how about a mug of beer drawn from one of the 18 kegs expected to be emptied this weekend?

Maybe acccompanied by a luscious pulled pork BBQ sandwich with hot baked dinosaur beans and sole slaw?

And some cool bluegrass music.

Then visit the bake sale table for dessert.

You could listen to the kids' moose calling contest....

Check out the raffle items, including this gorgeous handmade knife by one of our local craftsman, Virgil of IRBI knives...

Or this totally awesome bowl by local bronze artist Shawn...

The bottom side of the bowl...

Or, here's just one of the items to be auctioned off... OH! MY! GAWD! Five hundred million gazillion!!!

Wander through the concession booths and find treasures like these leather and fur booties....

or these funny hats....

But don't forget your souvenir tee shirt. The annual Moose Pass Solstice Festival raises funds for our community club, and pays the utility bills for the club, volunteer fire department, and library, as well as funding various projects around town.

However, with all these rainy day activities going full blast, I think a black and white loon at Tern Lake had the very best idea of what to do on a foggy, rainy day..... (Yawn. Oh, excuse me.) ...and I think I'll follow its lead...

Heads Up! Wings and antennae, too.

Over at The Pioneer Woman there are some astonishing photographs of bugs. All kinds of bugs but lots of butterflies and mantises (manti? mantae? mantiseses?)

Be sure to look at the one by Artful Magpie in the Group I batch.

Seriously, there's nothing creepy, and you'll have a whole new attitude towards bugs.

Which reminds me of a poem about butterflies I wrote recently. Be back later to share.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tern Lake comes through the middle of the house...

Tern Lake comes through the middle of the house,
In and out of the middle of the house,
Right smack dab through the middle of the house,
'cause it's raining all the time.

All the lakes and rivers are above their high water marks lately. Lots of snow on the mountains still melting and for the past week, rain is adding to the H2O around here.

Tern Lake is especially high. When I drove past there the other evening--a foggy, rainy evening--I wondered about all the birds and ducks that nest on the low marshy islands that punctuate the lake. I wonder if those gulls and terns are rethinking their lakefront property.

Sure didn't see many white heads squatted down on the near islands....

And a wet, bedraggled magpie watches it all from a birch tree limb.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Yakutat Journals, Chapter Two

(Note: Don't forget. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.)


Driving through History

Sometimes history just jumps up and whomps you in the face when you take off on a trip. That’s what it did to me when JJ picked me up and we headed to Whittier to catch the ferry to Yakutat.

At the end of my driveway, we pulled onto the two-lane road called the Seward Highway, named after William H. Seward, Secretary of State during the Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson presidencies. Seward arranged the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, almost 600,000 square miles for 2.3 cents an acre.

Along Turnagain Arm

I’ve walked every inch of the first thirty miles of the fifty to Whittier. That’s my litter-picking area, through the former gold fields of the Kenai Peninsula, now part of the vast Chugach National Forest. After the rest areas in Turnagain Pass at the thousand foot elevation, a long winding seven mile descent took us to the northern terminus of the Kenai Peninsula and the saltwater of Turnagain Arm, a branch of Cook Inlet.

Near Silvertip on the Seward Highway.

The inlet is named after Capt. James Cook, the renowned English explorer who met his death at the hands of Hawaiian warriors at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii. Cook “discovered” the inlet and its twin arms of Knik and Turnagain earlier in that voyage as he searched for the fabled Northwest Passage.

A small herd of bison at the Alaska Conservation project, Portage.

Two other British explorers who sailed with Cook have ties to Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm. They were Captains George Vancouver (who named the inlet after Cook) and William Bligh, he of HMS Bounty notoriety. Bligh, frustrated after a small exploratory sailing into Knik Arm failed to reveal the Northwest Passage, and another into the southernmost arm also returned with bad news, named the second arm “Turn Again,” today called Turnagain Arm. Alaska’s population is hovering around 700,000, and the majority live in the Cook Inlet watershed.

Near Portage valley along the Seward Highway.

The highway loops around the end of the arm and heads for Anchorage. At one point around that loop is a turnoff onto the Portage Glacier Highway, which we took. This road travels through Portage Valley, hemmed on three sides by mountains and hanging glaciers and streams. Just before the road runs into a mountain, there is the number one tourist attraction in the greater Anchorage area: Portage Glacier and the Begich,Boggs Visitors Center.

Begich, Boggs Visitors Center at Portage Glacier.

Again with the history. In 1972 Alaska’s lone U.S. Congressman, Nick Begich, was running for re-election. Joining him here for a fundraising junket was House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana. With pilot Don Jonz at the controls of a single engine Cessna 310, Begich and Boggs, along with Begich’s aide, took off from Anchorage on Oct. 16, 1972, headed up Turnagain Arm towards Portage Pass.

I was living in Girdwood, a small ski town located 35 miles from Anchorage the arm. On that day, at roughly the same time, I left Girdwood driving towards Anchorage in rain, fog, and screaming winds. I considered turning back. The sound of a loud plane caught my attention and I noticed a small craft heading into the snarling storm. I wondered who was crazy enough to fly in such awful conditions.

The plane and its occupants were never seen again. The largest search in U.S. history, combining forty military and twenty civilian aircraft of every type from spy planes and helicopters, and continuing for thirty-nine days, failed to turn up any evidence of a crash. I may have been one of the last people to see that plane before it headed into the malicious winds of Portage Pass.

Ironically, shortly after the plane disappeared, a well-known flying magazine circulated its latest issue containing a story written by pilot Don Jonz. It’s subject? How to fly 365 days a year in Alaska.

Winds in the Portage area have demolished instruments placed to measure their speed, exceeding 130 miles per hour.

At Portage lake, a glacial fed body of water that frequently sports ice calved from the face of Portage and other nearby glaciers, is the Begich, Boggs Visitors Center. JJ and I stopped alongside the lake and took photos of the dense blue ice floating in the lake.

Portage Glacier lake and calved ice.

Dense blue ice from Portage glacier.

I looked at the glacier now so far away. During my time In Girdwood, I once flew in a small ski-equipped plane to land on the glacier with a group of friends. Only after the plane took off and left us high on a snow-covered mass of ice did we discover how horrid the skiing conditions were. Imagine trying to ski through wet concrete.

Glacier through a 200 mm zoom lens. My ski trip started up around the corner to the right, came down the glacier onto lake ice.

We eventually made our way down by skiing in a switchback manner, poling our way through heavy, wet snow and falling often. Finally we reached the frozen lake below the face of Portage glacier, and slogged the two and a half or three miles back to our vehicles. Today, Portage glacier has receded so far you can barely see it.

The short tunnel to Bear Valley.

We left the lake and got back on the highway, drove through a short tunnel into Bear Valley and arrived at the Whittier Tunnel staging area.

Whittier tunnel staging area. Note the red traffic lights at right side of picture.

It’s a shared tunnel—motor vehicles and trains. And it’s only a single lane wide. All we had to do was pay our $12, get in line and wait for the green light.

And hope a train wasn't coming from the other direction.

Let the adventure begin.

(to be continued)