Sunday, September 27, 2009


In a week's time, the mountains that were covered with red cranberry bushes and varying colors of wheat and brown are now snow covered. From the vantage point of the runway at Elmendorf AFB, I took the following pictures. The base has a walking trail along Ship Creek and past the runway. Yesterday, Tok and I walked the trail after a long day at work. Here's the view.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Silvers in Dutch Harbor

During a portcall in Dutch Harbor, my fisherman caught a silver salmon.

Jazz in Anchorage

On Friday, armed with two bottles of wine, I entered the adorable condo of my colleague, Nicole. She is a graduate of Vermont Law School, too, and works at my firm. She has just returned from a month in India. The aroma in her apartment was attributed to the Indian dish on the stove. Shortly after I arrived, five other women joined us for dinner. I found myself surrounded by fellow professionals, some single, some in relationships, and one other married lady, like me. It was the first time in a long while that I had laughed and talked about something other than work.

We carpooled to Anchorage's Discovery Theater. We were there to behold a 23 year old jazz vocalist who plays bass, including electric bass. Portland, OR, native, Esperanza Spalding, walked onto the stage with her drummer, pianist, and guitar player. For the next two hours, we tapped our feet, nodded our heads, and dropped our jaws in amazement. Her energy was palable, and her stories that related her songwriting to us had us in stitches. At such a young age, she has already played for Obama three times and remains humble about her talent, astounding as it is.

I encourage you to buy her latest CD (I ordered mine from earlier today). My favorite line last night came from a female anthem,

"I am not going to waste my diva energy on you."

Sing it, girl.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alaska Bumper Stickers

With "termination dust" on the Chugach, winter is nearly upon us. I saw the following bumper sticker on a large, black pickup truck, rigged to carry snowmobiles, with an adorable blond gal at the steering wheel,

"Snow makes me horny"
Only in Alaska.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tok enjoying the fall

With his second coat coming in, I have been driving around with the back window open and caught our adorable puppy in this photo.
And then his ears open in the wind....

Snow on the Chugach

My morning commute put a smile on my face when I drove past the Chugach and saw that Mother Nature had poured a slight dusting of snow atop some of the higher peaks.

I am sooooo glad I brought my snowshoes to Anchorage.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

McHugh Creek and Glen Alps

Tok and I startted the weekend by driving along the Seward Highway to take some evening pictures of the sunset along Turnagain Arm.
In the gorgeous warm, fall day on Saturday, Tok and I started early. I awoke to my phone ringing at 0630, with a client calling me before he set out fishing for the day. After a quick breakfast, we set out to McHugh Creek, where I left the camera in the car and carried water on my back instead. Already warm that morning, we climbed above the granite slides to walk along the cliffs spanning Turnagain Arm. Bright sunshine in my eyes and jingle of a bear bell keeping us company, we covered four miles to start our day. On our way home, I spotted Tundra Swans in Potter Marsh.
In the late afternoon, we accepted an invitation to photograph some amazing views of Glen Alps. Flanked by berry pickers and dog walkers alike, Tok, my boss (Jon), his hunting dog (Dazzle, and yes, that really is the name of a hunting dog), and I meandered for three hours. I have no idea how many miles we covered, but Tok has slept ever since.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Munro News Post

Coast Guard makes high wind cliff rescue on Unalaska Island

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro rescued a 39-year-old Dutch Harbor man while fighting more than 45 mph winds from a cliff face on Unalaska Island 22-miles southwest of Dutch Harbor at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday. Dan Young reportedly fell down a cliff face injuring both legs. He then activated the emergency feature on his personal locating device alerting Coast Guard and local authorities of his exact location. Munro, conducting maritime safety and security patrols in the Bering Sea, immediately launched the Dolphin and the crew successfully hoisted Young and his dog.
“The winds were what made this rescue difficult. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get in and rescue him,” said Lt. Jason Smith, HH-65 aircraft commander from Kodiak. “As we came in for the hoist everything just seemed to line up and the rescue went great.” Young was transferred to awaiting emergency personnel at Dutch Harbor Airport at 6:40 p.m. The Cutter Munro is a 378-foot High Endurance Cutter homeported in Kodiak, Alaska.


After four days, I finally figured out my preferred commute route from my sublet to my office. on my drive, I pass Baxter Bog, where I walk Tok each morning, a beautiful pond surrounded by golden birch trees, and an elementary school with a distinctly Alaskan name: Williwaw Elementary.

In Kodiak, we experience hurricane-like storms that would have actual, assigned names from the National Weather Systems. Instead, we tough Kodiakians call them rain storms. Wind rages from 30-70 mph as huge gusts cut between mountain ranges and over to our nook of houses nestled on the northeast corner of the isle.

A week after I left, as if on cue that summer was over, the day after Labor Day, a helluva storm stranded Kodiakians for three days. Winds of 50 mph and over an inch of rain accumulated each day. Whereas no flights arrived or left the island, business progressed as usual: children went to school, parents went to work, and Coasties deployed to save lives.

"A williwaw is a sudden blast of wind descending from a mountainous coast to the sea. The williwaw results from the descent of cold, dense air from the snow and ice fields of coastal mountains in high latitudes, accelerated by the force of gravity."
Source: Good ol' wikipedia

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Big Foot

One of the blessings about this stint in Anchorage is that there are few reminders of my best friend being gone. And then I made the mistake of toggling through some pictures from this summer and organizing them into folders like the uber-organized, anal retentive person that I am...ahem...and then I found this one.

The weather had actually been nice enough for me to wear sandals to my morning Rotary meeting. We are shoe-less house, so I kicked them off at the door from the garage into the laundry room without a second glance at the photo-op I had made inadvertently. Brad came out and made me take the following picture. Enjoy.

South Royalton, VT to Willow, AK

Over Labor Day weekend, Tok and I relocated to Anchorage for a six week stint for a large project. Brad had left for another long patrol, so the assignment's long hours will help me get through a large chunk of this underway period.

Being in Anchorage enabled me to head north to Willow, AK, and participate in another weekend of Rotary's Youth Exchange program. As the Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) for my club, I attend to receive additional training and to support our community's newest edition: Sagar.

As I pulled into the camp on Saturday morning, the energy was palpable. Greeted by warm hugs from fellow YEOs and waves from familiar students' faces as they devoured breakfast, I felt welcomed back into the fold. Sporting my Vermont Law School tshirt and birks, I took my notebook and curled into a chair to listen in on the sessions scheduled for the day.

During a break, a guest approached me. His name tag read "Ram ___ Guest." Introductions were made, and he asked if I had gone to VLS. Yes, class of '02 I replied. "Cool. I just graduated this summer." Small world. It turns out that Ram will be clerking for a judge assigned to Barrow, AK (the judge is a fellow Rotarian). Born in Mumbai, raised in Atlanta, he attended undergrad at Furman (go Knights) and then VLS. He looked amazed that not only did I know Furman but that my roots in SC and the south were strong, too. He had lots of questions about his upcoming trip and the community, and I tried to impart my limited knowledge unto him. He soaked up everything. When I found out that I had Tok with me, he insisted upon meeting our "Alaskan" dog. We exchanged contact information so that we could keep in touch. Small world, huh?

From South Royalton, Vermont, to Willow, AK: 4,530 miles

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dancing Bear

Kodiak is blessed by an extraordinary blogger, who bestows upon us his Doonesbury cartoons and Kodiak and Alaska-isms alike:

Turn on your speakers. This is a riot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Summer's End

In April, on the porch of Claudia Anderson’s house, I met the Kodiak Audubon Society for our last meeting before the summer. Internally, I was shocked that we would suspend meetings for the summer. We only meet once per month, on a Tuesday evening. Why was it such a big deal to stop? My raised eyebrows clued in the astute Claudia, “Summers are so busy in Kodiak- Alaska in general, really. Just you wait. The fireweed will be blooming in no time.”

Shocked, I remained.

And now, here I am, desperately catching up on blogs while on an airplane on 1 September (editor's note: and yet not being able to post them all until 13 September). The glorious summer was completely opposite of the Kodiak rainy season in which we arrived last summer. Warm days, plenty of berry picking, and wildflowers galore provided this tree hugger with some awe-inspiring hikes. Fishing with my best friend was not so bad either. Armed with my Ugly Stick (Brand name, not the nickname I bestowed upon it) and my $4 Salvation Army Special Waders, I snagged a lot of rocks and seaweed.

If only I had caught a starfish…

Our End of Summer Visitors

With fireweed blooming along the hillsides and the cow parsnip starting to brown, I knew the salmon runs were changing from Red to Pink to Silver. The middle of August brought us two visitors: Melissa from Savannah and John from Port Arthur, TX. Melissa arrived a few days earlier than John, who stayed a few days longer after Melissa headed back south. The overlap gave us a well rounded table for dinners of salmon and board games (housewarming gifts from our favorite board game addict, John), and a full car to explore the island’s hillsides, streams, fishing holes, and museums.

The highlight of our trip was seeing the bear who has been entertaining a lot of residents and visitors alike down at the Russian and Sargent Rivers. This male has seen some action, as evident by the missing sections of his hind quarters. Not hindered by the missing flesh, he ambles about, catching salmon in the streams, stocking up for the winter.

Now these two visitors did have uniquely different experiences on Brad’s Halibut Charters…. Big Mama remains the top halibut catcher (not processor) by helping put about 20-25lbs of high quality and “organic” meat in the deep freezer, but she did have some notable challengers... Melissa was the ultimate trooper and assassin, but the jet lag proved too much and Kawika and Brad decided it would be more fun to limit out on Pinks in Women’s Bay. John was the seasoned sea going warrior, but not quite the master fisherman. He started slow (he did manage to catch a starfish), but finished with 8lbs of halibut and 4 legitimate non-snagged pink salmon.

Like Big Mama, we treated Melissa to a dinner cruise, where we took in the sea lions in St. Herman's Harbor, birds in flight (puffins mostly), and some amazing ray's of sun over the newly installed wind mills on Pillar Mountain.
Isn't that gorgeous?

Vegas, Baby!

Our big vacation this year took us to Vegas to witness my sister and Suketu marrying in a Christian ceremony. We arrived a few days prior to get our fix of cuisine at Mesa Grill, Rao’s, and Red Square; our spa indulgence at Spa Mandalay; and our workouts at the hotel’s gym. We slept in late, road rollercoasters at New York, New York, and enjoyed picking up “trading cards” along the strip.

Four days into our trip, the happy couple arrived. A few hours after landing, they met us at the StripHouse at Planet Hollywood. Over a bottle of wine and fabulous cuisine, we caught up on summer events and plans for the Hindi wedding in India in April 2010. From there, we treated the couple to a night out at Ka, the Cirque du Soleil show about warfare. This amazing show featured live music, a monstrous and portable set, and remarkable, breathtaking acrobatics from the whole cast.

The following day, we met up with extended family to tour the other end of the strip: Stratosphere, Circus Circus, and the Venetian. After a long day in the sun, we retired early so that I could wake up and collect Dad at the airport on Saturday morning. With my father in tow, Brad and I set off to the Chapel of Flowers, where we witnessed an intimate, personal vow exchange between Jennifer and Suketu. Friends and family celebrated that evening at the Paris’ Eiffel Tower Restaurant. With the sun setting behind the Nevada mountains and the Bellagio Fountain entertaining our tables, their reception featured creative dishes for both the vegetarians and omnivores in the crowd. To see the happy couple as the center of attention was exactly what we traveled 22 hours to behold. To have formal pictures taken with my parents was icing on the cake.

The wedding party and guests at the Chapel of Flowers

Jennifer and Suketu at their reception.Our three tables at Paris Restaurant, which overlooks the Bellagio Fountains.

My goofballs unite!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Port calls with no DUNKIN DONUTS!!!

So when you really consider my job, I make sure that I get MUNRO from point A to point B and make sure that we can do stuff in between. Being the Chauffeur for 140 people versus 1 wifey (in summer 2008) is a very different job, and we know I had trouble pleasing just one person.

So I have now completed my first full year assigned and have been away from home for 211 days. In those 211 days I have seen Busan South Korea, Yokosuka Japan, Adak AK, Dutch Harbor AK, Pearl Harbor HI, Honolulu HI, and Kodiak AK. Now some of my best memories about being afloat on the East Coast are walking off the pier and immediately finding Dunkin Donuts, the ultimate beacon of my coffee "problem". Our first trip in South Korea, I was fooled, it looked like a Dunkin, it smelled like a Dunkin but..... IT DIDN’T SELL COFFEE!!!!! How is this possible I have no idea, but I got a Coolata instead.

In Yokosuka co-located with the Navy Exchange I found true happiness a full service Dunkin. In our 12days there I had 20 cups of coffee. Ahhh the taste of home.

Now we get to our second patrol..... Dutch harbor doesn’t have a single coffee place, so I can’t expect a Dunkin. Honolulu has all Kona and Lion Coffee for local stuff, and I was surrounded by the evil empire Starbucks. I’m working on this whole staying awake thing, but without the good stuff how can I promise not to fall asleep at the wheel. Ship coffee has gotten better though; I complained enough that they are now stocking an AK blend from Ravens Brew called Deadman’s Reach. It is strong, smooth, but still not Dunkin. It’s a good thing we keep having it shipped to our home.

Lance Romance

Our first houseguest in 2008 returned with a vengeance in July 2009. For a long weekend, we hiked, fished, ate, drink, hiked, ate, and drank some more. Our home was filled with stories from seasoned Master Chiefs—well, more like tall tales—growlers of beer from the local brewery, and lots of homemade pies. The camaraderie generated by his youthful outlook and by his insistence of running eight miles in near monsoon conditions kept our spirits high and the jokes flowing. Lance is about my size, so his thin DC blood was quite cold in Kodiak. He borrowed Brad’s clothes and rolled up the sleeves about eight inches for fleeces to fit his little frame. Despite being allergic to Tok, he played with our puppy constantly, and showered us with love and adoration before he jetted off on more business travel. A couple of days ago, Brad pulled out his gray fleece, and chuckled. The sleeves were stilled rolled up…
Weeks later, and he is still making us laugh.

Cutterman's Pin

To say that I am proud of my husband is an understatement. At the beginning of our summer together, he came home with great news: he had earned his cutterman’s pin. With five years of sea service, his uniform is now graced with a gold cutterman’s pin. Building upon that, in early July, we started talking about where we want to go next. We toured both Seward and Homer, and we have decided that Seward is our Number One pick. Backed with what we hope to be a very competitive recommendation for his outgoing CO…

What does it take to be Commanding Officer of a Coast Guard Cutter?

STEP ONE: File a packet to screen for Command (Done!!!)
STEP TWO: Submit “Dreamsheet” in October
STEP THREE: Bite fingernails while the Board meets and determine the screening list in November
STEP FOUR: Wait for a call from the detailer time… TBD (hopefully in January or February 2010)
STEP FIVE: Well, that’s a whole bunch of steps that include Brad going to schools, going underway with CGC Munro during Spring 2010, selling our home (wanna buy a great home in Kodiak?), and move from one remote area in Alaska to another.

But the icing on the cake was when our friend (and my colleague), Jim, visited us in July. Jim is a former Coastie who also earned his cutterman’s pin. He belongs to a group of retired Coasties in Washington, DC, who meet every now and then, mentor young Coasties, and talk a lot of shop. Nevertheless, they have shirts embroidered with the Cutterman’s Pin insignia. He brought his own shirt and gave it to Brad. Note: He did not have one made FOR Brad. He gave HIS to Brad, and wished him a lot of luck as he continues his career at sea.

The exchange took place in front of me, and I have to admit my wet eyes and shocked grin kept me standing there, somewhat stupefied by tenderness of the moment. Jim has been a friend and mentor to us both, and his personal gift is a testament to the faith he holds in Brad and in us. We were humbled…and very thankful for the love and support.