Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wordless Thursday??

I picked a recent picture to post, normally the toughest part of the job, but tonight I just can't think of anything to write. I know my heart is very full - I am thinking of my two wonderful sons in Anchorage and North Dakota; I'm watching crab boats heading back out the East Channel after making their deliveries; I'm listening to Chico contentedly chewing on a leather bone by my feet; I'm thinking of how lucky I am to have Goldfish in my life; I'm mentally planning our vacation next spring and then my brother's visit to the island. I am truly blessed in life . . . .

Happy Halloween!

This is actually what I wanted to put on my pumpkin last year but ended up with a king crab instead, which was a lot of work. The hard part about using the church is deciding what angle to use - both onion domes, or just one? This year I looked through my church photos and just based it on a view that fit well on the pumpkin. Those of you that live here know the Russian Orthodox Church is absolutely beautiful from any angle.
Before she went to bed, Goldfish made me promise to take a picture of myself with my pumpkin when I finished, looking exhausted just like last year . . . I really must figure out how to get more hours in a day . . . . I did experiment with a Dremel this year and it worked well for some things but was much more messy that my little carving chisels and didn't really save any time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Lifetime of Island

When you use Google Earth and virtually explore the island you can begin to understand that even with all the wandering I've done since I got here, I have seen just a tiny portion! I am always reminded of that when I glimpse mighty Makushin Volcano - at 6680 feet, it dominates the skyline from certain perspectives and symbolizes all that is still pure and wild out here, even after 10,000 years of human occupation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pyramid Peak

Back to work tomorrow, it has been a restful week and I did spend lots of time out exploring the island and have a backlog of photos to get posted. I like this perspective of Pyramid Peak I got on a dog walk a few days ago; just as I was going to take this photo several fist sized rocks came crashing down from the cliff to the left, landing in the water and shattering the perfect mirror. When I glanced up in surprise, I saw a raven looking down on me, a trickster as always. I got the last laugh though - and the shot - when the puddle eventually flattened out again.

My lessons learned for the day were to always be open to seeing something familiar in new ways, and to laugh at life's rough spots and look ahead to the calm that will eventually return . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unalaska Field Notebook - 10-22-08

This is for all our fellow Unalaska Pride Blueberry Bash participants - if you were worried that all our picking for this year's competition left no berries for the area wildlife, I can assure you that is not the case! With most of the leaves off the berry bushes, and a few frosts to raise the sugar levels in the fruit, the berries are amazing!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Pass Almost Not Passable . . .

I drove the pass twice this week - once on Wednesday in the middle of a full gale (Picture this, I'm on my knees on the living room couch, face pressed against the window glass like a five year old that had to come inside because it was raining, watching the storm rage outside. "Honey, I think I'm going to go for a motorcycle ride." I ventured. "Of course you are," Goldfish replies. Do you see why she's perfect?) and once yesterday with a camera to confirm it was really as bad as I remembered.
It was actually maybe worse yesterday because the sun had thawed some of the snow and made it icy, and two or three vehicles had gone through since I did and had made ruts in the snow which made things tricky.
The most surprising part of the stormy Wednesday ride was right when I crested the pass the wind channeling through the notch was directly on my back, maybe 60 or 70 mph or better, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to have enough traction as I descended to make the first corner with that kind of push so I immediately shut down the bike and hopped off and walked it the first 50 feet until I was around the corner from the wind.
The top photo is interesting because it shows the valley the trail to Ugadaga Bay passes through - it gives you a different perspective from the ones I posted earlier this week. You can see the weather yesterday was absolutely perfect . . . .so, it is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge my lunchtime rides through the pass to blow off steam may be coming to an end until springtime as they do not maintain or plow that road!

King Crab Offload

Lots and lots of crab being unloaded as all those boats that came in due to bad weather line up at the dock. Processing crab is an amazing process in terms of heat transfer; they go from the boat directly to the processing line after being weighed. Just inside, they are butchered, cleaned, cooked, cooled and packed in one continuous operation.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Unalaska Field Notebook - 10/21/08

As promised, I'm spending this week outside as much as possible, observing the small details and passing them on. As you can see, I think I have conclusive evidence foxes are indeed opportunistic omnivores, indulging in the occasional berry when they are in season. Note the entire scat is bright berry blue - the presence of one glistening perfectly formed berry in the top "deposit" suggests foxes do not have teeth necessarily designed for chewing berries and that they perhaps eat in a hurry. This is one of perhaps 100 bright blue scats observed that day but after careful consideration emerges as my favorite - you really must double-click the image and blow it up to appreciate the finer details . . . . cheers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

F/V Katmai In Trouble - Updated

The 93 foot catcher processor Katmai may have gone down on the fishing grounds on it's way back to Dutch Harbor with a load of cod. Please keep the crew of the Katmai in your prayers as the Coast Guard conducts a search for the missing 11 crew members. You can read the full story here.

Update 10-23-08 - The Coast Guard has rescued 4 crew members, 5 are confirmed dead, and two are still missing. The Katmai sinking is unfortunately one of several in recent years involving vessels that have been modified from their intended purpose.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hike to Ugadaga Bay

Ugadaga Bay is a great hike, it has a little of everything. It isn't physically challenging and at just 4.5 miles round trip it can be done in an evening after work. Along the way there are waterfalls, wildflowers in the summer, berries in the fall, and Ugadaga Bay itself is pristine. The cool thing about the hike is you are hiking from the Bering Sea side of the island to the North Pacific side of the island, and as I have stated in earlier posts, the trail has been used for thousands of years, so there is this magical connection to the land. Be advised you are walking through a valley for most of the way so you should be prepared for wind at times as air is funneled through.

Chico and I made the hike yesterday - well, I did, I'm not sure where Chico spent the time. The reason why he doesn't appear in more photos is shortly after the top photo, he took off down to the valley floor and I didn't see him again until I got back to the truck where he was waiting patiently and barking at a raven that was scolding him from the hillside.

The weather is going to blow up tomorrow with 70 to 80 mph winds so lots of crab boats are coming in with what they have on board so we should some more deliveries to the dock in the next couple days. I'm sure the DC boys will stay out there and thrash around 'cause that just makes for good TV, right?

It's That Time of Year

I'm on vacation this week so I'm going to be in the field as much as possible, taking advantage of this wonderful season of transition out here, then it is fall in the lowlands and you can see winter marching down the mountain, day by day.

As you all know, I haven't made the jump to a DSLR yet, I'm not convinced there is one out there under two grand that is tough enough to survive long out here with the sand and the wind and the rain and the hail and everything else we're blessed with in abundance. All the photos on this blog were taken with a point and shoot, most of them with a very cheap point and shoot.

With that said, I've become pretty good at wringing the most out of whatever crappy camera I'm taking pictures with at the moment but this time of year is always a challenge - auto settings will consistently deliver poor pictures when faced with snow and grass and blue sky. Taking advantage of any manual capabilities the camera has or locking in the settings based on the sky or snow isn't much better, it is just too broad a range and the foreground comes out too dark.

I took both these pictures this afternoon, moments apart, on a hike to Ugadaga Bay - I love the setting, but neither picture lives up to the beauty of the day. The top photo shows all the rainbow of colors in the tundra grasses but washes out the sky completely, and the bottom photo is too dark . . . what I saw was in between, and it was beautiful. You can see portions of the trail were a bit damp!

Monday, October 20, 2008

First King Crab of 2008

We had our first red king crab delivery of the season yesterday, and we also got in some brown king crab late last night. The plant workers really enjoy the change of pace from pollock and cod so spirits were high. I'll try to get down to the dock and take some unloading pictures when we get more deliveries later this week.

I'm on vacation again this week and hoping to get in a couple hikes along with a long list of projects. The weather this time of year is famously changeable, even by Dutch Harbor standards, and can go from sunny to hail and back to sunny in minutes - the key to happiness is just accept and enjoy whatever is dished out. Remember, many beautiful things - vibrant green grass, snow capped peaks, frost-rimmed flowers, rainbows - are the result of "bad" weather. Enjoy your week everyone, I'm off to Ugadaga Bay trail head with Chico!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Never Surrender to the Clock

Everyone is familiar with that last hour of work when you are mulling over how to spend the evening, trying to prioritize. Some days - like today - I just can't decide, I refuse to give in, and I attack the evening, squeezing every last moment from the clock. What do I want to do this evening? EVERYTHING. Should I take a motorcycle ride along the water and watch the sunset? Should I have dinner with Goldfish and talk about our days and discuss the election? Should I attack the mountain of homework on the desk and get caught up with on-line testing? Should I tune in to some Presidential Debate analysis? Should I transfer that batch of raspberry wheat to the secondary fermenter? Should I do some recreational reading? Should I take the time to blog before bedtime? YES. ALL OF IT. I REFUSE TO CHOOSE.

Sooooo, it's 1:15 in the morning and I need to get up in 4 hours . . . way to go hero . . . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

View From The Living Room

Okay, these are not the best pictures but they are from today and with 12 hours of work then 4 hours of class you guys can't be picky!

I took the top photo when I was quickly changing my clothes and heading to class. It is always amazing to watch the tug boats spin those huge container ships and get them docked by the APL crane. For those that haven't seen container ships, all those little boxes are full sized truck trailers towed by 18 wheelers when not on a boat. To see these boats being maneuvered right in front of our place is always a treat. Even though it seems they are too close to shore they are in about 80 feet of water where they are at, the average depth for most of Illiuliuk Bay.

The bottom two photos Goldfish took this evening while I was in class. They are a big rough due to the sun and rain on the dirty window (but I assured her it would be better to post them than not, so be nice!) but what was going on was the Time Bandit and the Northwestern were making runs through the East Channel while a Discovery Channel helicopter was shooting footage. It's actually pretty cool, I saw it last year with the North American. The helicopter flies really low and close - I'll maybe watch the season premiere and see if they got any shots of the house.

King crab season opens tomorrow at noon, let the games begin!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Leading Edge of the Nasty

I went for a long ride yesterday, out to Morris Cove then over the pass and home. It was sleeting and blowing pretty good through the pass so I got a free dermabrasion facelift on the way through . . .

I took the above photo just before Summer's Bay and you can see the Bering Sea was starting to be in a foul mood even yesterday, a mood which has turned into full blown ugly this evening. The crab fleet has known the blow was coming and not many are in a huge hurry to head out to the grounds; the ones that do will no doubt make for some interesting footage for the DC boys.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Unalaska Symphony of Seasons - Late Fall Movement

The percussion section solo, late fall opens with rain building to sleet on roofs and cars and pavement, grains of rice on a taut snare drum.

Booming bass of waves pounding the shore, the tinkling and mummering as the beach stones rearrange themselves on each wave's retreat.

Wind rages and howls, a huge hand shaking a distant sheet of metal, building to a violent crecendo barely under the conductor's control.

True artistry revealed in the small melodic details layered into the whole, cries of birds, boats roaring in the channel, clangs of industry.

All underlaid with the ever-present pulsating hum as hydrocarbons are converted to power, the beating heart of the island.

The storm subsides and the drums and cymbals and noisemakers all drop out and just the pulse remains, thump-thump, thump-thump . . . .


I was walking Chico up by the little pond at the trail head to Ugadaga Bay and noticed this little pocket of sanity, a perfect little slice of calm arranged by an unknown hand like a Japanese rock garden. I keep it as a mental slide I can project on my day when things are less than perfect . . .

Does anyone else have favorite spots they mentally preserve and return to when things are tough?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mixed Blessings

The weather just could not decided what to do all afternoon so I took advantage of the intermitent rain storms to work on organizing photos and class homework. This amazing rainbow appeared over Illiuliuk Bay right when I was completing a timed on-line exam so instead of throwing shoes on and going down to the beach I had to settle for just squeezing off a couple shots, one from each living room window. As a bonus, my favorite tugboat (James Dunlap) was cruising by in the East Channel. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some nice hiking weather tommorow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seems Like Something Is Missing . . . .

Apparently not everyone in the world thinks every photo is improved by the addition of a motorcycle . . . . I can accept that, and I do have pictures from yesterday that don't have a KLR 650 in them. . . . :o)

In my defense, I've always been consistent about "enhancing" the scenery by parking whatever I'm riding at the time in the frame. And looking at all those pictures brings the day's riding flooding back in a rush; I have a favorite picture I look at from time to time that shows 4 motorcycles lined up in front of a little motel in upstate New York. When I see that picture that day comes back to me, the country breakfast in the tiny motel diner, the cool of the morning as we wound through balsalm pine forests, no traffic on the road, riding in sync as brothers, me on a V-Star and my brother on his Gold Wing, our concentration dialed in tight we rounded a corner and emergency braked in unison as a deer bounded across our lane. . . . I miss our riding times bro, can't wait for your visit next summer! And someday soon we'll both be out of the rat race, retired and living in the same town again, every day an opportunity to ride to Big G's for breakfast, pick up Dad, and head for the coast for the day . . . .


I spent the afternoon riding and hiking and just generally enjoying my island vacation. As you can see, there is now snow in the higher elevations - the top photo is Pyramid Peak reflected in a little pond above Westward Seafoods.

Every once in awhile I would flop down and pull a book out of my backpack and read for awhile; the weather was perfect with the sun beaming down and it truly did feel like a vacation, well deserved after 4 months 0f 7 days a week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

End of Summer Cleanup

I was working on filing and organizing the photos from summer prior to burning them onto CDs and of course came across hundreds I would have liked to share; that's not how this works though, time marches relentlessly onwards and the photos that appear here were usually taken within a few weeks if not days of when they are posted. I do this for a couple reasons: for one, this is a photo album for my use, I can look back and see about when the pinks started running or the blueberries were peaking or when we got the first snow; also, it pushes me always to get out and explore, to try something new or equally exciting to look at the same things from a fresh perspective.

With that said, this little fellow was awfully popular when I posted him a month ago, and I remember trying to decide between the photo I posted in September where he seemed to be peeking from the bushes and this one, where he had run forward a bit and was posed in front of all those wildflowers. I like both photos, so in the spirit of closing the books on a fine summer of photography on the island I'm posting this one as well.

I am on vacation this week with the exception of Emergency Medical Technician training. Lots of projects beg my attention but today it was just good books and dog walks, a fine day off by any standard.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Total Surprise

This photo was taken last week and I would have categorized the season as late summer. Today - out of no where - the peaks out here got a dusting of snow on the tops, not a lot, and there was a brief period of sleet this evening. I was hoping to have another month of summer out here . . .

Safe travels to our new friend from Florida and best of luck on your endeavor, you're welcome at our place any time should things work out for you as you have the right attitude to be successful out here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hope Is On The Way

Telalaska is flying in a crew and new equipment to work on what we have deduced is the Slowest Internet In The World! this weekend; the upgrade is supposed to take them about 48 hours so I'm not sure if I'll be posting.

Tomorrow is the Vice Presidential Debates and I think both parties will be on the edge of their seats - the Democrats wondering what will come out of Biden's mouth next and the Republicans wondering what won't come out of Sarah Palin's. The campaigns are starting to wear on me a bit; stuck in front of a computer with only NPR for company 11 hours a day, you don't get much break from the campaign or the economy. I take refuge in the local races, familiar faces talking about issues I fully understand and have strong opinions about. For now though, hot tea with lemon and a good book - cheers!