Monday, September 7, 2009

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Village

We started the new school year on August 17 in a new village, new colleagues, and in a new culture in many ways. We are away from the big water of the Bering sea or even the bay that we looked out on for all those years in Toksook. We have a silt-laden river that flows by the village here and empties a mile and a half down stream into the Kuskokwim, where it begins to widen out into its mouth and Kuskokwim Bay. It is slow and heavily laden with silt here though fishing is apparently pretty good with salmon (all finished for the year now), pike, and shee fish (a white fish that is similar in taste to halibut by various accounts). Not much fishing though unless you have a boat and gill net because the river is so muddy. Jigging in winter is good though.

The village is quite spread out and it is a good walk from the house to the post office or to any of the three stores here in town. The airport is about a mile away and the only way to get around without getting your feet wet is on the boardwalks which are sturdily built and will accomodate ATV's quite adequately. Still though, there seems to be much subsidance as the delta we are sitting in shifts position and flows at its own glacial pace but determinedly toward the ocean. in some places the water in the ponds and sloughs lap at the edges of the boardwalks as they way to be shored up or risen away from the water.

The people here are very nice, most of them having lived here for all their lives and stretching back into generations. The population seems stable and the enrollment at the school is on the rise. There is a very high birthrate in this part of Alaska and so education is a growth industry. I am teaching high school science and math (which I share with a more qualified colleague in Bethel through the video conference network the district has to accomodate the woeful dearth of qualified math teachers in this part ofthe country. For some reason they aren't falling over themselves to come to rural Alaska to teach in villages that may or may not have flushing toilets and running water. -strange but true! My students are cooperative, motivated, and polite for the most part. I hope I have started off on the right foot providing them with expectations rather than rules to follow. It feels right for now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Okay, I have not posted anything since before the trip to Harriman. We had an incredible time, I took lots of pictures, and lost the disc that had most of them on it. I have lots of great pictures of a sun dew plant we found, a burry eagle, a long-distance otter that swam by, and pretty much nothing else. We saw calving glaciers, seals both in the water and hauled out on ice, lots of otters, birds that flew over, posed, and even presented us with gifts (Sally got an eagle feather dropped on her), and I have NO pictures of these. Sally has lots of beautiful pictures so there are even some of me, but mine are lost (probably at the campsite in Harriman, the ONLY litter we left!).

For a Harebrained Adventure, we were surprisingly well prepare. I will credit much of this quality preparation to Sally as she was extremely methodical in her organizing. I went shopping with my usual mental list that is highly prone to editing as I go up and down the aisles at Costco. By the time we were ready to pack supplies, we had more than enough food, drinks, and equipment. We did one more shopping trip to tweak the list and accomodate personal preferences and to get a few more dry bags but we were pretty much ready when we were supposed to be ready.

We left bright and early on June 30th for Whittier. We had plenty of time and people who were still on EDT who were happier to drive than I was so we were on our way...until...we got onto the Seward Highway where there was a line of cars, lots of construction equipment, and a long wait. We went from casual, laid-back to frantic bat-out-of he;ll mode. We made it to the tunnel about ten minutes after we were wanting to get there but luckily we made it through in plenty of time to go to the rental place (PWS kayak Center) and check in with the water taxi (Honey Charters). We actually got to leaving by about 8:30 and no one had to wait for us, anew first for Harebrained Adventure Tours!

The ride out to Hobo Bay was uneventful and the weather was perfect with an intensely blue sky, not much wind and the sun shining brightly. It took us about 45 minutes and they unloaded our boats and gear, then sent us on our way, with assurances they'd be back on the fourth. We reloaded the boats, playing "Tetris" to find places to put all our stuff we were sure there would be room for it somewhere, in some boat. We ended up launching our little flotilla with various bulges and lumps interrupting the sleak lines of our watercraft but we were floating and everything was staying dry.

We were making good time, about 3-4 knots and with our maps and GPS we followed the coastline identifying points and landforms we assumed matched those on the map. So much for our a geography degree. Dave was following the coastline and suggesting to us that we were right at the entrance to the fjord. We looked at the chart and actually convinced ourselves that we only at the mouth of the small bay down from Hobo. Even still, Sally pointed out that Dave has a VERY good sense of direction so we might consider. I checked with Annette, who had the GPS and was tracking our speed and course. We hadn't had it long so we weren't too adept yet at using all of the bells and whistles so the little map wasn't as useful, with its labels and relief information appearing as we moved the cursor over the features displayed. By the time we got to the middle of this small bay mouth, I asked Annette how far we had gone from Hobo. She said, "five miles" which was a lot more than it had been the previous time I had asked. Now were sure we had "missed the turn so we decided to make for the far shore, another couple miles still but easier than changing course completely to make our original turn. There were still other campsites that we figured we could find one before we were exhausted so after a short rest on the far shore, we saddled back up continued down the coast of the eastern shore. We met a family of river otters who were a little curious about us but were clearly enjoying themselves with little regard for us once they realized we were just passing through. We kept on and began to look in earnest for a flat place to camp on high ground. Dave scouted the shore but I felt sure we would find something better just down the beach, where I had gone then realized I was out of sight from the group, since I traded boats with Dave and was truly enjoying the speed and efficiency of my own boat after pushing the double we had been in all day. Sure enough, we did find the nicest campsite in Alaska. We were able to stay there and do are day trips from that site for the next 3 days.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Getting Ready

Planning a 5-day kayak trip into Harriman Fjord on Prince William Sound is forcing me to focus on a lot of details. The boats are in good shape and our gear is in order. I got a new-old stove and checked it out to make sure it works. It is probably about 30 years old but it still works. Even still, there is clearly a reason why they don't make 'em like that anymore. It should serve to boil water though, so I'm bringing it as a backup. A mouse found several packages of of our freeze-dried meals which I had been stockpiling in anticipation of this (or one like it). A mouse-nose sized hole in the bottoms of the packages betrayed this incursion. We cursed him and then I poured the contents into ziplocks with a plan to go ahead and use them, mouse spit not withstanding. We've decided to use a double kayak to accomodate my bum shoulder, which will probably need icing every evening (good think there are lots of glaciers around) and Annette's relative inexperience on big water. David and Sally will get to use our boats and we'll be using the big old tubs that the rental place provides us; stable but not high-performance.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yet another highly irregular posting from sunny Kenai (it really IS sunny). We arrived yesterday after a long but uneventful trip up from Austin, spending the night at Virginia's in ANC to avoid the drive down when we could likely encounter a J-walking moose along the Sterling Hiway.

With obligations like getting the dog and cat, as well as dentist appointment for Annette on Monday, I drove or rode a total of about 480 miles yesterday, as I had to also go back to ANC to get our bikes, which Annie schlepped from Mekoryuk for us, as they did not make it out with us initially when we left the village, another interesting story (and one, of course is that I have left out since my blogging discipline is limited AND my audience is non-existent at present). This might change if anyone else wants to look, but they have to know the blog exists first. I'm working on that.

I had a very cool encounter with a young brown bear yesterday on the drive to Anchorage on Monday. He was right beside the road, in the ditch , eating grass and completely oblivious to me or anyone else who passed him to gawk. I stopped, clicked a bunch of pictures before realizing I had no card in the camera, then drove forward 50 feet, put in the card, then backed up and clicked off a few more shots, the bear still totally unaffected by my presence. He wsn't posing so the shots were profile and back views but still very natural. He was not terribly large so I think he was a 2-year old, newly on his own and clearly very hungry.

The summer is before us so I'm not thinking too much about the new school year, which will find us in a new village and als, far from the big water I truly love so much. More on that later, as it starts to concern me more. right now, I'm getting ready to wear out my shoulder doing things I want to do, before I don't have the use of it for a while. PWS, here we come!
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