Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ma'am, it's 35 mph back there

It was the best day on record this summer when I landed in Kodiak. At 7 PM, the sun was shining, it was 70 degrees, and I had all the windows down. With a caravan of others, I drove home in 5th gear, singing along to the bad radio station, getting weird looks from people eyeing my lattice work in the front seat of the bug.

I came home to a warm welcome from the puppy, who was overjoyed to see me. I changed quickly, put on his leash and headed out for Near Island, a small sub island of Kodiak that has a few trails with breathtaking scenery. As the car I had been following turned off on of the road, I put the bug in fourth gear and cruised down the hill by the hospital and kept going. I see the Kodiak police do a U turn and come back and get me, just as I had down shifted into second gear behind an RV going up hill by the middle school.

"You in a hurry, ma'am?"

What followed was my gushing about my cute dog, the beautiful day we were having, my desire to stretch my legs after a business flight from Anchorage, oh, ad "I'm new and haven't quite driven around enough yet to know the zones."

While he called in my license for a usual tracing, he educated me about the zones along the main thorough fares. He asked if I were a Coastie, eyeing my VA plates. I stated that we had just arrived and my hubby promptly left me to fend for myself, etc, etc.

With clearance from HQ, he let me go with a verbal warning and told me to have a good time with Tok.

And that we did, with cruise control on, I completed the drive to Near Island, where Tok and I tackled the two main trails. I loved the sights, he loved the smells. We ventured out onto the beach, and he trampsed up and down along the seaweed and other vegetation. Under his weight, some of it hissed and scared the willies out of him. What does he do in reaction? Pops off and darts his little jaw at it, ripping off part of it and chewing, only to spit it out when he realizes it tastes like, um, decaying vegetation.

I forgot the camera. I am sorry, readers. I will take it again tonight and hopefully, nature will continue to cooperate, as well as my right foot...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Product shopping in Anchorage

You know you live in Kodiak when you check in for a flight back to the island with the following in tow:

1. Two house plants you purchased at Lowe's b/c no store carries them
2. Two sheets of 4x4 lattice work that cost $20 at Lowe's and $70 at Spenards
3. Natural/organic pet shampoo and carpet odor eliminator that also is not stocked on the island

I gues I have, um, acclimated, huh?

Christina in the news

In addition to your's truly, my firm hired some other subject matter experts recently. To announce this to everyone, they posted in the Anchorage Daily News:

URS, an engineering, construction and technical services firm, has announced four new hires: Christina Anderson is a senior environmental planner specializing in NEPA compliance, public involvement, and environmental impacts of military training. Anderson is based in Kodiak. David Gottschalk is the health and safety coordinator for URS Alaska Operations. David has 13 years of safety program management experience in the nuclear industry, timber and reforestation, and most recently worked for the Kenai Borough. He is based in Soldotna. Stephen Rideout is a wildlife biologist and GIS specialist. He has extensive experience relating to Alaska's federal fisheries and spent the past seven years working as a fisheries observer on commercial fishing vessels. He joins the Anchorage office. Scott Simmons has more than 30 years' combined experience in planning, risk management, project development and technical writing. At URS Simmons will concentrate on local, multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan development and multi-hazard risk assessments. He joins the Anchorage office.

Already making headlines: I love it!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tok and the Puppy Sitter

Thanks to Pet Central, I found the perfect house sitter/pet sitter. A biology major home from UAA to complete her core classes at Kodiak College, Sarah is the perfect sitter for our puppy. She loved the house, and when I interviewed her on Friday, Tok actually cried when she left.

I felt awful luring him back into his kennel and leaving him this morning. I called her mid morning to let her know I had left instructions on the fridge. I could hear her smile, "Actually, I am already here and playing him him before I head into work."

To check in on the little furball, I called Sarah tonight, the first in what will be nightly reports. She informed that Tok was on a playdate with a chocolate lab and having a ball. She took him to a friend's house nearby, and he is running off extra steam from being in the crate all day. She laughed, "Tok likes to, um, dominate." I chuckled, "Is he trying to hump the lab's head yet?" "Not yet..."

$15 a day. That is all she is costing us. I love it, but I still feel a wee bit guilty.


The legend of the albatross is known, universally, among all sailing services. In short, seeing one in flight is a sign of good fortune because they represent souls of lost sailors looking out for their brethren (See The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge). As a bird nut, I follow the great Sir David Attenborough and his renowned book, "Life of Birds", which is accompanied by a series of videos- one for each chapter. Also smitten with this majestic creature, David pays special tribute to its life cycle and mating rituals. For a 2 minute snippet, click here.

My beloved husband witnessed this spectacle, that only few in this world will ever have a chance to see with the naked eye. Here is his write up:

I will now rub in just how cool all 20min that I spent on the bridge yesterday was. I saw an albatross in flight. Very majestic and regal in the way that it flies. I didn't fully appreciate it, but the dentist who is with us informed me just how cool it was. However I also got to see a "dahl porpoise". Which looks like a mini torpedo coming at you through the water. Pretty bad ass little fast attack guys. They are much smaller than a bottle nose dolphin; but have the coloring of an orca. All in all the swimmer beats the flier in my book.

My response:
Of course, you, of all people, would disagree with me and Sir Davis Attenborough on the majesty and spectacular flight that is the albatross. But, alas, I must yield to your dentist and assume he did not capture your attention enough by not detailing how the bird attacks invaders of its nest and how it mates. You should tell him about what criteria you have for me that enables me to "speak bird" to you (e.g., ability to attack, kill, cool talons, and special mojo traits).

Ahh...the treehugger and the sailor. Love is.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dinner with Becca

Tonight, our first dinner guest was our dear neighbor, Becca. Her dear husband is also deployed; and Sex and the City finally hit our theater, the Billiken: what better reason than for a girls' night? (Movie tickets are $4 each at the theater! With popcorn and drinks, our date night was $ 13.25.)

For dinner, I bought flowers, prepared herb stuff tomatoes, and for our entree, treated our fine guest to penne with asparagus, mushrooms, bacon, and topped with basil and parmesan cheese. We chatted nonstop- a trait I love about the fast talking New Englander- about everything from family to dog training tricks.

After a picturesque ride in the bug, we arrived for our 2.5 hour movie. The movie itself was LONG; I even commented that I did know there were that many lose strings to tie up; but nonetheless, the movie's theme left me waning for DC. The Fergie-sung introduction, complete with hip hop beat and fashion montage, made me smile as wide as when Tok gallops toward me, ears flopping the whole way. Despite the amazing company of a new friend, who is fast becoming a dear friend thanks to our common personalities, I miss my friends and lifestyle in DC.

Yes, Kodiak is awesome. Yes, it is new and exciting. Yes, it is great for Brad's career (hell, it is great for mine, too), but more than anything, I wanted to dress up and see this with my vogue-reading, career-oriented, cocktail-drinking, power-book hungry, fabulous girlfriends. For 2.5 hours, I was whisked away to fashion, commarderie, and friendship. Walking out the front doors of the theater, to be greeted by snowy peaks was somewhat awe-inspiring and depressing all in the same moment (strange...never thought I could feel that way).

So, what did we do next: went drinking. Over a glass of wine and edamame at our local sushi joint, the Old Powerhouse, Becca and I exchanged stories about what we have done for love. We both married young (her more than me by three years), and we are both supportive of our husbands' military careers. Neither of us really "fit" the mold of an O-club wife, but we love the fact that we wake up to those same natural wonders of Kodiak, despite the fact that we both miss our families and our city conveniences, like public transit.

In the end, only time will tell. Wherever the USCG sends us next will be home...until the next rotation.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Brad on the ship

Courtesy of the EMO, Jeff.

You Might Be a Coastie If

Ever heard of Skippy's list? Here's the USCG version:

You Might Be a Coastie If....

1. You know instantly that "work smarter, not harder" means billet cuts
2. People ask you what you're doing beyond the three mile limit
3. You get married to move out of the barracks
4. You precede every public speech with, "I was going to tell a sea story, but seeing the lack of Cutterman's pins out there, you all just wouldn't understand"
5. An Alaskan cruise is not an option for your honeymoon.
6. You are still trying to figure out what TQM was all about.
7. You've ever laughed when watching the CG commercial at 3:00 am, and wondered why all they show is helo's and small boats
8. You've successfully avoided at least one inspection, Change of Command, or urinalysis
9. After boot camp, you've never fired a gun
10. You hear a HH-65 and DON'T look up
11. Your port calls have more bars in them than people
12. You consider the door falling off your aircraft natural air conditioning
13. While underway, a life raft comes loose, hits you on the head and you're counseled for "loss of situational awareness"
14. Members of other branches of the service visit your workspace and they shout, "Wow, I haven't seen one of these in 20 years!"
15. Your idea of aromatherapy is Simple Green and JP5.
16. ...Any time you set out on a trip you expect to hear "make preparations for getting underway".
17. When you come home with groceries you shout, "All hands lay to the garage/driveway/curb for stores".
18. You catch yourself speaking to your children in the same tone of voice you use with your nonrates ... or is it the other way around?
19. You are not sure if there really is life out there, i.e. in the real world.
20. It seems every time you watch a movie it says on the bottom of the screen "Property of the US Navy"
21. If you've had people say to you, "The Coast Guard is military?"
22. You might be a TC Coastie if everyone on the ship asked you what you do in the radio room and then got mad because you said, "I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you!"
23. If getting to sleep after mid-watch was ever difficult due to the ever-present sun up above throwing your system off.
24. If your ship is handed a list of businesses your crew is not welcome at during their port call... 25. You've left a port with more than one sign from the naval base...
26. You've woken up in the "red zone" in Panama.
27. WMEC means 'We Must Eat Chicken' to you.
28. If your 40-year-old boat is getting underway on Monday for a 6-week patrol and your still making plans for the weekend because you know the boat will break down within 2-3 days.
29. You might be a Coastie if your ship sends an emergency CASREP for the broken coffee maker.
30. You might be a Coastie if the Marines get upset when they see you get to use real bullets in your weapon.
31. If your child refers to the boat or station as "where Daddy lives"
32. You claim to have a woman in every port, yet you are at an ashore unit.
33. You run from the kitchen, trip over the dog, fall and hit your head on the coffee table just to see a 15 second blip on TV when you hear the words "Coast Guard"!
34. You PANIC when you have to wear nice civilian clothes out because you can't color coordinate because you know no other than blue.
35. Your wife looks at you strange and spouts out, "You're not my Chief, and I sure as hell ain't one of your damn Seaman!"
36. If you abbreviate words so much that you for get how to spell them out.
37. You tell your children that Fridays are 'field days'
38. If you believe USCG really stands for "Uncle Sams Confused Group"
39. You can get an alcohol incident and advance in the same week

The world at my feet

This morning, Tok and I rose early to get a head start on unpacking boxes. We had a lunch guest named, Sarah. She will be the new house sitter and puppy care giver whilst I am away (sporadically) the next three weeks. To make the house presentable-- ahem, despite the nasty, ghetto carpet padding-- I found the picture frame box and began the task of unwrapped each individual photo. Once done, the paper did not fit back into the box, so clad in my favorite slippers, I jumped into the box.

Still nursing my first cup of coffee, I just had to laugh at myself and the image I must have been at that moment in time. A taste:

Later this afternoon, as I worked, the puppy slept beneath me. Gosh helps me whe he becomes full grown-- I'll need a bigger desk.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Muddy Puppy

Today, Tok and I had a lunch date with a nearby neighbor, Trudy, and her two greyhound rescues. I picked up some lunch supplies at Safeway, donned my rain jacket and walked Tok to Sharatin. We arrived a very muddy pair. I put Tok in the backyard to play with Jet and went inside to dine with Trudy and the other greyhound, Ryan. Like a good mommy, I ignored Tok's howls at the glass door, desperate to come in with us. Trudy just laughed, "This is why we got adult dogs."

After we finished, she went to get Jet and did not see Tok in the yard. Kita, the monster dog across the street, had recently broken up some of the garden wire that acted as Trudy's fence. Tok had breached it. Luckily, the parents of the culprit were holding onto Tok and dialing my number just as I came out of the house calling, "Tok." I thanked them profusely and saw that he had found several other mud puddles to conquer during his free jaunt.

Needless to say, lesson learned. I was so embarassed and even more heartbroken that he then tracked mud into the house Trudy has worked so desperately to clean and make a home. We left shortly thereafter. I cleaned off his feet at the back door and took our beloved, mud covered furball to the master bath. There, with both jets going, I washed off the grime. No wonder Becca does not take Fred for walks on rainy days! Too much to clean!

After being attacked by the hair dryer, our shiny and soft furball is laying on the pad behind me as I work in the ofc as I continue to draft the Haines Harbor Master Plan. All in a day's work from home, eh?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Breaking Barriers

When reporting to my Anchorage office, my new boss introduced me to one of the VPs of my company. He only had 15 minutes to meet with me, so I spoke fast and aimed to impress. Apparently, I did.

I just got off the phone with my boss. He informed me that the VP just requested my presence at a Pacific Northwest marketing meeting among the office leaders. He wants me to represent the pursuit of USCG work here in Kodiak and Alaska, at large.

Wow, lil ol me. There is no way my last boss would have given me the opportunity to meet with a veep, much less, encourage me to go to Portland and do 'em proud. I am beyond excited about this upcoming trip.

Deep water--time to swim!

Loneliness: Stage 1

We have a very intelligent puppy. When riding in the back seat of the truck, he began to whimper. He knew something was up: he could feel the sadness in the air. With tears in our eyes, Brad and I said goodbye for the next 100 days. Recently, he embarked on his first patrol on CGC Munro, and now, I have relearn how to be a boat wife, again.

The puppy is downright miserable. He is moping around the house, barely chased butterflies during our mid day walk, and lays at my feet underneath the desk as I compose this entry.

Surrounded by boxes, I am still managing to work. My team has superimposed deadlines upon me to bring me up to speed on projects that are due in early August. This work could not come at a better time; it is a wonderful distraction from the personal heartache that I am experiencing. Still, the boxes are so tempting to empty and make our house a home. As I try to balance this working at home gig, training a puppy, and adjusting to life on Kodiak, I will keep you all abreast of my daily do-dahs. Not only will this blog serve as an update for you all, but it is also a portal by which Brad can check in on Tok and me. That said, if you see something sappy, please do not poke fun-- absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Photo courtesy of Trudy

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tok's first wkend

We hosted our friend, Lance, from DC. As a fellow Coastie, he was on the island on official business but still managed to dine with us on Friday.

Saturday morning, we tried to go see the bison, but the road construction left us short on time. We opted for a picnic overlooking some combat salmon fishing. The nearby eagles seemed to have more luck that the Cabella's clad fishermen. It was wonderful to see our friend, Lance. He fit well in the backseat with Tok, whose personality is developing wonderfully.

Later that evening, he found his favorite squeaky toy and played with it in the hallway. Yes, the multicolored backdrop is the lovely carpet padding...
Bonding with Daddy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The joys of home ownership on Kodiak

Two weeks. Everything takes two weeks to get to the island.

Three weeks ago, Brad and I ordered flooring and carpet from Spenards, who guaranteed delivery on 14 July. We lined up two handymen to install the flooring and carpet. The delivery arrived the evening of 16 July, and our carpet installer bailed due to the delay. I scrambled to find a replacement, rcvd his confirmation, and had him re up with Brad. Our new carpet installer is a 71 year old vet named Maurice.

While picking me up at the airport, we rcv a call from Dolly, the rep from Spenard. She and Maurice rolled out the carpet on the lawn, saw some flaws, and want us to confirm. We drove back to the house and see that Maurice already ripped up all existing carpet and flawed carpet on the lawn. This American-made carpet was woven incorrectly. The mill set the loom in one direction and opposite for the entire length of 57 foot roll we ordered.

We declined the delivery, citing the flaw, and after settling Tok, Brad, and the toddlers at play, I ran off to see if a competitor had anything in stock that I liked. Negative. Off to Spenards to haggle. I did not see another brand, color, make, model, anything that I liked. We placed a call to see when the mill would make another batch. Answer: Aug 2, which means it would be shipped Aug 4, and here near Aug 16, or thereabouts.

So, rather than install a carpet I did not like in two wks, I figured I could stand to look at the matting for four weeks. Our biggest obstacle now is that our HHG are scheduled for delivery on Monday.

Thankfully, Maurice offered to gather a fellow American Legion member to move around the furniture and install the carpet in Brad's absence. He stated, "For you, little lady, anything to help you out. You've been through enough!"

Apparently, my hubby is gossiping in my absence, eh?

Operation Puppy-Home a Success!

Picking up Tok was an adventure. The owners told me that he likes to ride in the back seat, so I loaded him into the back seat of the rented Ford Explorer. 1.5 miles down the road and his paws were on the center console, and he was whining to be close to me. I stopped, loaded him into the front passanger seat, and continued down the road. He breached the center console and made himself confortable in my lap, all 35 lbs of him. After riding in my lap and shaking with fear for the five hour drive back to Anchorage, Tok and I spent a wonderful evening together in Wasilla. The next morning, we went to the vet, got microchipped (thank goodness for puppy scruf! he did not feel it!), and I drugged the anxiety-hound to load him into his carrier.

The flight to Kodiak was quick and smooth, relatively. I had not "seen" the island before. It had been shroud in cloud during my one week stint. We landed on the Emerald Isle, and I ran into Brad's arms. We waited anxiously as the baggage turnstile began. A wee bit drugged still, the puppy made a slow round of the weeds in the parking lot, dutifully peeing before we loaded him into the front seat, on mama's lap, of course, and started home.

Last night, he sniffed every weed in the backyard, meet his fellow four legged neighbors with ease, and took a long stroll through the neighborhood. He even played with toddlers across the street, esp when Gabriel had a shiny red ball...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Operation Puppy Preparation Commences

Today, I called Bill and Nancy at Burnt Paw Cabins. I got Nancy on the line and confirmed that I would arrive around noon on Wed to pick up the little bugger. She stated that she has taken him under her wing since we left: teaching him about the crate, riding in the car, and noting his personality development. She indicated that she would document all this, but she would not be there when I picked up Tok. I asked why. She stated, with quavering voice, "I do not want to see him leave." My heart dropped to my stomach. This woman has taken care of our baby for the past month, and now she has to see him move on.

I assured her that he was coming to a home that would love him endlessly. On Brad's behalf, I thanked her for sheltering and loving him so tenderly while we prepared to welcome him. I could hear the tears swell in her eyes.

So, tonight, as I walked around Petco, I had her on my mind. I purchased his travel kennel, a variety of collars, a leash, some treats, a toy, a rawhide, and a tag. The choices were endless, but I settled on a red theme to compliment his coat.

I am so stoked about picking him up. The 10 hour drive will be a bear, but I am looking fwd to bonding with him as we pass glaciers, headed toward Wasilla.

Pictures forthcoming!

Monday, July 14, 2008

When it rains it pours

So, here I sit, in Anchorage, fielding calls from Brad. I am unable to do anything but sit here and listen to him vent. I have been gone for 7 days, and it seems the shit keeps hitting the fan in my absence.

The carpet and flooring we ordered is now due in two days later than we scheduled. He was able to reschedule the installers for this unexpected delay, but that has them in our home through the weekend.

We have a friend in town through Saturday afternoon, with whom we will play and take the dog with us while the installers do their gig.

We still have no notice on our household goods (HHG), but we anticipate a delivery on 21 July. With the delivery so soon to their expected uw date, we will surely be dealt with a stressful episode (read: I am certain that the command will want him present at the boat while I struggle with HHG set up).

On top of that, the boat is in shambles just before the patrol. Hopefully, our local trainers, Pet Central, will have boarding options for HHG delivery date...whenever that may be...Sigh.

Back to work on Local Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance for FEMA (sure sounds like practice for HHG delivery, eh?)

Checking In in Anchorage

I arrived in Anchorage last night and was delighted to see friend, Lance, waiting to take me to dinner. Lance is a fellow Coastie from DC, who is in town to meet with, erm, Coasties. He will fly to Kodiak (for the same thing) this Wednesday. He will be our first house guest.

After a delicious dinner at Glacier Brewhouse, I came back and crashed. I was not too happy to wake up to the alarm this morning, but once my mind computed, "This is the day I meet the new team," I nearly jumped out of bed.

I am so excited to be joining this team. They provide a wide variety of environmental and management services across Alaska, and I am looking forward to collaborating and building my resume.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Corpus Christi

After working at a conference for a week in San Antonio, I headed south for some fun in the sun with Mia, Jonathan, and their three dogs. We kicked off our Saturday with a Body Pump class at their local gym. I used to take this class in DC and was stoked about burning off some of the week's stress. After a fair warning, Mia, Jonathan and their friend, Josh, joined us. I had met Josh, his girlfriend, Crystal, and a slew of other friends the night prior when we crashed a bday party.

Following a hearty brunch, we loaded the coolers, one of the dogs, and headed to the beach. Jonathan was my night in shining armor when he erected the umbrella to shield me for the day. Taking a cue from Josh, I built a sand recliner to lounge comfortably. Sebastian, the dog, seemed to think it a game to walk OVER me, covering me in more sand. It stood out against my whitey white skin, but after he ran along the beach and played fetch in the ocean, he calmed down and sat down with us as we ate hot dogs cooked by friends, Dan and Sarah.

As cleaned up, Josh, the joker of the group, got into Hero mode. With his cape flapping in the wind, he had us all in stitches. His humor was a delight to enjoy for six hours. Great work out, fun in the sun, and relaxing and joking with friends was exactly what I needed.

Dan and Sarah joined us at the Hooks Baseball game, where the team paid tribute to the 1958 Giants. We sat in the grass and watched old cars and listened to both old music and heartfelt message played on the jumbo trom.

After the game, we kept trudging along. We saw the movie, Wanted. MMMMMMM...Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Flying in Kodiak

Once, I saw a comedian’s show in Columbia, SC. He started off with his recent travels into the local, municipal airport, “What is that, a former Walmart?”

Ahem, he ain’t seen Kodiak’s airport.

I walked into a barrage of people randomly sitting or standing, watching the window, chatting up the “Rent a Wreck” agent (I kid you not, that is the business’s name), and checking in with the gate agent. Due to weather, no more than two planes had left the island in the past four days. Like San Diego, Washington, DC, etc, you have to be a pilot to land in Kodiak. If you miss the runway, you slam into Barometer Mountain, snow capped in all its glory. Our plane had departed Anchorage an hour late. As the agent called us up into the security line-- roughly ten feet from the baggage carousel—we listened to people talk about what their relatives were scoping outside. About ½ the travelers were screened when someone shouted, “they turned off the runway lights!” As if on cue, the agent uses the intercom to announce that our flight was now cancelled; the plane inbound from Anchorage was not able to land and returned home. The line for security simply moved two feet to the right, and we were all being rebooked for the next available flight. It was surreal. I dialed AMEX and had them secure the next morning’s flight as I waited for my turn with the gate agent. As I stayed on the phone with AMEX, I had both the gate agent and AMEX seeking the best route for my flight to San Antonio. Some people behind me quipped, “She’s on corporate travel; let some of us up there. She has someone doing this for her!” Not that I had a Shrek-worthy riot behind me but the murmurings were within earshot. Ahem, they were 3.5 feet away.

Fourth of July, Kodiak Style

Kodiak set a record this National Birthday: 2.7 inches of rain on 4 July 2008. In that rain, Brad and I painted two bedrooms, made brownies, broccoli salad, and headed over to our neighbor’s, Becca and Jason. Becca and Jason are class of 1999 from the USCGA; she is the CO of NPRFTC and he is a helicopter pilot. Joining us at their humble abode were our other neighbors, Beth and Zach, their two children, Gabriel and Donavyn; fellow caosties from base, Abbie and Jessie, and their son, Jack. Three other neighbors joined us: Jared, his girlfriend Kate, and Jared’s brother, whose name escapes me. With beer flowing, children playing, and Fred licking (Becca and Jason’s black lab), we fired up the grill and ate till our heart’s content. The Dorvals are excellent entertainers: no soul left hungry, no hand without a beverage (preferably beer) was left empty, and no topic too sacred to touch upon in conversation. They are really great people whose home we immediately felt comfortable within. Sufficiently satiated, we headed out into the rain to watch Jason and our resident cul de sac fire chief, set off fireworks.

You know you are in for a big treat when the fire chief comes out with a propane torch, lights a huge stack of outlandishly decorated fireworks, and runs in the opposite direction (I mean, runs!).

At one point the three coastie airmen gathered around a small stack, trying to figure out how to light the ensemble, which prompted some pointed jokes from the resident boat driver and wife (I won’t name names, but I am sure you have figured out whose who…)

Our first holiday in our new home with our new friends. It was record breaking.

PS Poor Gabriel did not like the sound of the fireworks. His pilot father came to his rescue...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fast forwarding

Dedicated Readers: We arrived in Kodiak on 27 June. Fellow Coasties greeted us at the ferry dock, and then marathon began. From getting the boiler tinkered with on our first night to painting the bedrooms and replacing flooring, we have been on a whirlwind in the past week.

The reason the blog "stops" in Yellowstone is due to pictures. It takes a while to go through so many pictures, crop, upload, etc. It is quite time consuming. So, I have decided to update the blog in the present and post "back flash" blogs to cover the remainder of our trip (cue Wayne and Garth backflash montage).

We hope this note finds everyone well, in good health, and feeling patriotic this weekend. On Sunday, I leave for a week in San Antonio, Texas. From there, I will spend the wkend of 12-13 July with our dear friends, the Tiddens, in Corpus Christi.

I come home to Alaska and officially join my new team in Anchorage on 14 & 15 July. On 16 July, I drive to and from Tok, Alaska, to pick up our puppy. We named him, Tok, and together, we fly home to Brad on 17 July.

Thanks for all the notes and comments. We love hearing how our adventures entertain!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Geysers with Funny Names

We opt to head over to Norris and see some geysers. The snow starts to fall again as we take the two, separate 1.5 mile loops around these active geysers and springs. The smell of sulphur fills out nostrils as we laugh at names like “Puff N Stuff” geyser, “Crystal Ball” spring, and then there were some without names but looked like aliens, nonetheless.

Snowed out of Canyon

“They are all covered in a couple feet of snow, and we are tired of shoveling. You are welcome to go look around, but I advise you to be quick. The lodge is full and the cabins are going quickly,” states the Xanterra rep running the campground registration counter. I grab a map, hop into the truck, and we take off around the loops. All are covered, absolutely covered. A few tents are roughing it, complete with tarp suspended over their tent to ease the impact. (hmm, we have no tarp; there is no clear path to the bathrooms; this is not going to be fun).

We stop and look at what was to be our assigned spot. Really nice spot, if it were dry—near to the store, the bathrooms, and within easy access to now closed hiking trails. We pow wow—with no one around, would we be safe? We have no tarp and the forecast calls for more snow. When it melts, is this going to be a disaster area? Even if we stay, all the trails are closed; we do not have snow shoes and most trails are not marked so we could not follow markers on the trees. With the geysers and mudpits, we have seen half the park today. We conclude that we should cancel our reservation, stay the night in the lodge, and visit Old Faithful on our way out tomorrow. We will be back; that’s for certain. As we sum up our plan, I get hit with a snowball. There, on the same spot where we were to be camping, Brad is picking up fresh snow and hurling it at me. Desperately, I fight back. Bare handed and laughing, we stoop, scoop up snow, and throw. It was just the fun interaction we needed to solidify our decision.

I head into registration and cancel our reservation. As they process our refund, Brad comes in with another couple behind him. I make small talk with the Xanterra rep, “Well, at least the snow is preparing us for our new home.” “Where is that?” she asks. “Kodiak,” Brad responds.

“Kodiak? What do you do?” pipes the male of the couple behind us. “Coast Guard.’ “That’s funny, us, too.” Turns out that the couple behind are Coasties. He is a chief at the MWR in Chesapeake and is on vacation with his wife, a former coastie. They, too, opted to book a cabin and cancel their camping reservation. We chat for close to 20 minutes after we leave registration. We know a lot of the same people and he gives us the name of the MWR head in Kodiak. “If you have any problems with Joe, give me a call.”

Small world…

I want a camera that costs more than my car

A few miles after we leave the grizzly sighting, we come upon another traffic jam. At this point in the valley, we have small patches of snow, making the area look like a golf course with the snow acting as the sand traps. Quite surreal. This time, there is no ranger, but the sheer number of people buzzing along side the road make us stop. Again, I jump out of the car, a la Charlie’s Angels and sprint across the road. “Wolves, just south of the kidney-shaped snow patch.” I peer through my binocs. “Those brown bumps?” “Yeah, they were playing a while back; that is how they were spotted; now they are resting.” A friendly face allows me to peer through scope so I can see the tufts of fur blowing in the wind. “Wow, thanks.” While Brad peers through his scope and then double checks the spot with his binocs, a teenager holding a camera and lens worth a couple of grand shows me pictures of wolves frolicking. They had been jumping in the air and play fighting with the snow as a back drop. Amazing pictures. Wish I had seen it. Was envious of his camera. So, within the span of ten minutes, Brad and I had seen two icons of Yellowstone: grizzly and wolves.

I want a spotting scope

As we make our way into the famed Hayden Valley, my radar is on, full blast. This is the area where you can see grazers in herds, wolfpacks, and grizzlies. Several turnouts enable us to view the Yellowstone River cut through this landscape and the bountiful collection of birds. As we crest a hill, we see a small army of cars pulled over. Immediately, my palms get sweaty. Could it be? Oh my gosh, there’s a ranger’s truck, “Brad PULL OVER!” I bound from the truck before it stops fully. Clutching my binocs, I look both ways and cross the road. “What do we see?” I call out. “Grizzly up on the ridge” someone answers. I queue up for the spotting scope and ask the ranger if anything has been sighted. “No one that I know of, just this big guy running along the ridge.” Sure enough, there he was, a light blond grizzly running along the patches of snow. He was beautiful and too far away from our binocs. I was envious of the people who had telescope-like lenses for their scopes. I really need to upgrade. Brad catches up to me, peers through the scope and smiles. His second grizzly of the day.

Yellowstone in Snow

We made our way into the main lodge at Shoshone Lodge for breakfast. The staff was aflutter with news that a grizzly visited us last night. Apparently, he walked just past our cabin and through the main part of camp; his footprints were huge. This struck me. I had left the main lodge at close to 10 PM, walking back to our cabin in the pitch dark. I wonder at what time he meandered through…

Over a hearty breakfast, we learn that more snow is forecasted. We opt to reserve our cabin for an addtl night and to check out our camp when we make our way into the park. Through the east entrance, we climbed mighty mountains into breathtaking views of near avalanche-like proportions. In one particular pass, a howitzer stood on a small platform, indicating that it is used to start avalanches and clear the roads. As we drove along the five foot embankment of snow, it was quite surreal.

Our first sighting came within five miles of the park’s entrance. A few cars in front of us pull over. We look up and see a small grizzly by himself, turning over rocks and eating grubs and snow. We gaze up at him for a few minutes and then make our way into the park. As we drive away, we name him Gavin the Grizzly. Brad’s first grizzly.We descended into the lake region, taking in the grey blue waters of Lake Yellowstone and watching bison (Bennie) munch on some grass nearby. We head onto the mudpits and geysers as we make or way to Hayden Valley. We stop and tour the mudpits. Smelling of sulpher, we take the .5 walkway loop. As the smoke cleared from one of the pits, we stand face to face with a small group of bison. Only ten feet or less from us, these majestic creatures are unaffected by us. Parents quiet their children as we pass, everyone remaining respectful of their space and heeding park signs that bison ought not be approached. We turn off the flash of our camera and pose for pictures on the walkway. As we round one corner, a seated alpha male is eerily close to the boardwalk. Brad steps back and takes a picture. We hold hands, experiencing this wonder together. We make way for others to behold this moment, and just a few moments after we walk away, we hear a crowd gasp. We turn to see the crowd parting and bison moving across the walk to another area that has less crowds. We were so lucky.

Our last stop was to view a pit called the Dragon keep. This small cave smokes and has a faint outline of a dragon’s head. Aptly named, I thought. See if you can see the image peering through the smoke.