Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Wishing my hubby and his brother, Bryan, a very Happy Birthday!!! Hope you both have wonderful, wonderful days!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The "S" Word


It looks like it's stopped for now, but it's been snowing all morning. It's early, but beautiful. I can't change it, may as well just love it! Have a happy day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I'm a chicken. There I said it. Are you happy now? I am. And while I think it's wise to be cautious, I get frustrated with my chicken self on a regular basis. We live in the trees. Surrounded by woods, at a close proximity to the house. For all intents and purposes this situation is divine. Except for that first sentence, I'm (literally at times) scared of my own shadow!

Last winter I complained at our lack of moose viewings. This being mainly because I was home all day long, stuck inside, and jonesing for a big, fat moose to walk right up to my front door. I read lovely stories of people who had moose looking right in their windows, which would freak me out, but thrill me to no end. Now that it's happened, I can say it was worth the wait. It is still a little freaky, and wiping little moose nose prints off my car windows is annoying, but I'll take them.

What I'm having a harder time with are the bear scat, and now seeing a bear, at the end of my driveway. It happened last week. I had been hearing about people seeing bear, or bear sign, everywhere. Though I've heard that the bear here are elusive with some people only seeing one in the past twent years. Anyway, it's something we love to talk about. I was driving home from work one day last week, and as I pulled into the driveway, I thought "hmmm...that was big". I backed up and sure enough, there was a pretty little black bear sitting at the end of my driveway, in the gravel pit. I suppose it was a smallish bear, and so pretty, but still I couldn't help but imagining him trying to eat me.

I've always had a pretty healthy imagination. When I was growing up in Northern Minnesota, I would be scared at night that a bear would climb up the outside of the house, into my window and eat me. See, I have this ongoing thing with bears! LOL. Anyway, I respect wildlife, I don't want to get in their way, and I do enjoy having them around. However, I do wish that my first (and hopefully not only) bear sighting would have been a little bit further from home.

Like many Alaskans we've been busy trying to prepare for winter. Which, if we listen to the weatherman, is predicted to come with the first snow this weekend. I have to admit. Mentally I am NOT ready for this. But I will be. I cannot lie that I enjoy the first snow falls, the fluffy whiteness. The serene quiet of the world around. But I'm nervous about the dark that is pushing up against me like an unwelcome hug from a smarmy "uncle". We are losing light at the rate of 7 minutes per day. That's rapid. At this point in time we're about on par with light in the lower 48, well, Minnesota anyway. But the deep, dark night is coming.

We attempted to pick cranberries this past weekend. Brent really wanted to get out and get some berries in the freezer before he left for Portland. The berry season will be pretty much over when he gets back. But much to our dismay, and not for a lack of trying, we ended up with a small container of rose hips and no berries. I'm going to dry the rose hips for future use, or perhaps just freeze them. Apparently there are a number of things to do with them. This is new for me. I've not eaten rose hips before.

Other than that not a lot is going on. Brent's away for class this week, and the first night went much better than I thought. I guess that's one benefit to having a big dog and a few big guns! Ha. But really I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't freak out more. Of course it could have helped that I had been up for about 20 hours when I hit the hay, hard. I'm surprised I don't have bruises!!

While Brent's gone I'm busy organizing and getting ready for my first Alaska girls' night. Since winter is coming, quickly and with wild abandon, I decided that the only real way to meet people is to invite them over, er, bribe them with cocktails and food. Some of the ladies I know, and some of the ladies I've met on one or more occasions, but I don't know as well. I asked each lady to bring a dish to share and a friend. I invited 8 ladies, so that's potentially 16 new friends. Am I smart or what?? Ha!

In between there I'll snap some interior photos of the house so that you can all see where I'm living. And where the magic happens. My writing that is, let's keep it PG here people! Sheesh. My parents read this thing...

Happy Monday! What's happening in your neck of the woods? Have a happy day!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Last Summer Blast

We have been on a mad dash to soak up all this late summer sun, and warm temperatures. Labor Day weekend did not disappoint. Last Saturday we loaded up the ATV, the dog, and just about everything else we owned and headed south of Delta to Meadows Road. This is a road we have traveled much these past few months, and we are rarely disappointed by the scenery, and the animals. We have been itching to ride it all summer long, and finally we had our chance.

Our first stop on the the Tour de ATV was Ghost Lake. We had walked part way back a few times, but since it is unreachable by road vehicle (for us anyway) we rode in and were delighted with the view. Brent threw his line in, and while he didn't catch his trophy, or anything for that matter, the scenery was breathtaking, and catching fish just didn't rank very high that day.

As you can see from the photos it was a beautiful, clear day with temps in the 60-70's, The sun was warm, and much to our delight the lakes area was nearly abandoned. I think we saw 4 or 5 people the entire day.

When we had had our fill of the views for the moment we headed onward to Nickel Lake. Nickel Lake has been a favorite of ours. The lake itself sits along the road, but the open area is tucked away, far away from the prying eyes of passers by, and it complete solitude.

We set up camp. Chessa played in the water, Brent fished for his lunch, and I took a nap on the banks of the lake. It was pure bliss. At one point I even got so warm in the sun that I had to move into the shade. We lazed around the most of the afternoon, and when Brent had caught his fill, which ended up being two rainbow trout, we lit a fire and roasted fresh trout and buffalo sausages for our lunch.

After lunch we headed back into the hills to capture the fall colors of Donnelly, the flats, and whatever else we could feast our eyes on. I dare say, it was one of the most relaxing days we've had in years. Delightful.
The following day we decided to stick around the house a bit. I did a little cleaning, and some cooking in the morning. In the afternoon we headed out to Borman's farm, a u-pick it, vegetable farm in Delta. What a wonderful idea for those of us who are new to Alaska gardening, and don't really have room for a full-blown vegetable extravangza. We picked beets, cabbage, a lonely little zuchini, and dug about 20 pounds of potatoes.
That evening we had Rose and Willie for dinner. We grilled up some buffalo steaks, halibut and I roasted fresh potatoes and beets. It was wonderful.
Monday morning when I woke Brent informed me that the day was too nice and he wanted to ride Bluff Cabin Trail. Ugh. Not this again! Seriously. This trail has been my nemesis. All. Summer. Long. The first time we were out there we tried to walk the beast. Oy. Not gonna happen. So, we tried again in July, when the trail was sure to be dry. Not so much. Turns out between the mud holes waiting to swallow us whole, and the bear prints the size of my head (now does it ring a bell?), I threw a prime time hissy fit and we left. With our heads in tact, thank you very much.
After I put my big girl panties on, we recruited Rose and Willie to be our suckers, er companions, and we headed out to conquer the big, bad beast. Now I know what you're thinking. "Karla, it's just a trail, there's no need to be dramatic." Well, phooey on you. Have you ever heard the saying, "Tougher in Alaska"? Well, my friends, this beast is muddy, mucky, rutted and ugly. After a fairly dry summer, and weeks without rain, this trail is still full of tar pits.
We started out, apprehensively, and I have to admit that the trail had dried out significantly since the last time we were there. Eventually I loosened my death grip on the "Oh My God" handle, and regained a little feeling in my hands. The first portion of the trail was pretty painless and I was thinking that this could be a fairly uneventful trip.
Well, those thoughts were short-lived. And while the trail was better, it was far from easy and we had some hairy moments along the way. Some of the mud pits are fairly shallow and firm on the bottom. Most of them aren't.

When we reached the mud hole that served as the turn around spot on our last try at Bluff Cabin Trail, even Brent had to admit that we were lucky we made it out, and with the center of the pit being at approximately 6 ft. deep, he was fairly happy that I had a pitched a fit. I'm fairly certain our little Love Buggy would still be sitting in the center of that big, slippery mud pit.

While the trail was tough in places, there were portions of the trail that were easy riding, and trust me, the end is worth the pain and suffering along the way. This is the lake at the end of the trail and it was beautiful.

Brent and Willie took the time to throw in a line, and managed to wrangle in a couple rainbows. Willie gets SOOOO excited for fish. He is just beside himself once those slimy little suckers are hooked. He whines, and fidgets, and once the fish is in hand he licks and licks and licks. Then he perches on the end of the boat to wait, with constant whining and nearly unbearable anticipation, until the next trout is hooked.

When they had had their fill of fishing, Ches and Willie decided to swim, er take a mud bath, in the lake. The shoreline is pretty squishy but they romped and played and chased and explored to their little doggie hearts content.

This is a little foam fishing boat that sits on the shore of the lake. It's not quite seaworthy anymore, but it sure makes a nice launching pad/fishing dock.

Brent tried to convince me that I could easily walk out to this swimming platform, for a little dip in the ice cold water. I declined, I am not that gullible, ever-pleasing girl he met so long ago. I have grown smarter with age, thank goodness! Though I seriously doubt I would have done it, even back then. Well...maybe...

Once we had our fill of water, mud, and bugs galore, we headed back down the dusty/muddy trail for home. Rose stopped to point out a spruce grouse that had flown from the path and landed in a nearby tree. I dare say that will be the last time she stops to point anything out to Brent. Much to her dismay, and horror, he pulled out his gun and shot it. Ches dove in, like the pro that she is, with Willie on her heels to retrieve the grouse. Just before she reached it, it flopped wildly sending Willie hurdling backwards on his haunches and as far away from that bird as possible! Ches swooped in and brought it back to Brent. I don't know who was more pleased, Brent or Ches. It seems our Chessa girl has found her niche. She is an avid grouse hunter, and I have a feeling they'll be doing a lot of it in the coming months.
This week we have just been getting out as much as possible. The wildlife is moving, and fall is defintely upon us. Thursday night we were working around the house. I was upstairs in the bedroom putting away laundry and something caught my eye. I stepped back in time to see a huge cow moose and her yearling bull saunter down the driveway, across the yard and disappear into the woods next to the house. I managed to regain my voice in time to holler down to Brent so he could enjoy it too. This is what I've been waiting for since we set foot in Alaska. FINALLY!
Friday evening, as with most weekend nights, I was up late. About 1 a.m. I was growing sleepy and decided to hit the hay. When I turned off the lamp I noticed the motion light was on. I decided to peek out to see what I could see and much to my delight, and surprise, I came face to face with a huge cow moose. Holy cat! I had to check myself to make sure I didn't involuntarily let go of any "surprises". I ran upstairs to wake Brent and we watched as she and her calf nosed around my car, snipped the heads off my pansies, and mozied along through the yard, slipping quietly into the woods.
If this is a sign of things to come, I. AM. STOKED. As long as their visits continue while I'm IN the house, I'll be happy and content.
In other news I finally broke out my sewing machine and have begun the crafty phase of my life. I'm not really the patient kind, and I haven't sewn since Mrs. Cleven's 7th grade Home Economics class when I walked away with that hideous sweatshirt with one arm shorter than the other. Do you remember that, Mom? I know you do. It was yellow with bunnies, dressed in all kinds of bright 80's clothes, hideous. But we thought it was sooooo cute.
Anyway, things are going well. I will post things when they're complete, as long as you promise not to scrutinize and grade me on them. I am certainly not a pro, but I'm having fun!
Well, 'til later. Stay warm and safe! Have a happy day!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back At It

The view from Tenderfoot Trail

Where to begin? It's been a while. A lot has happened in the past few weeks, and I guess, truly it's been over a month. Uff da. Well, let's see if I can catch you up to speed.

The first thing that happened is that my poor little Mini crashed. Hard drive kaput. Which is why I've had the blogging hiatus. We attempted to fix the little booger, then got busy, and well, it's still in the closet waiting to be fixed while I'm typing away on my new bigger, better, faster laptop.

While the computer was crashed we packed up and moved our meager belongings to our little house in the woods. It's wonderful. Peaceful, serene and more than just a little bit freaky. But we all love it. And I'm getting used to the howling dogs, the pitch blackness, and the presence of animals in the woods. I'm a fraidy cat. Haven't you figured that out by now? Hmph.

After we moved and got slightly settled we hit the trails in search of playtime. What a wonderful place we live in. There are new places to explore for years to come. Friends of ours were anxious to ride the Tenderfoot trail, so we decided to go along. I was reluctant, but willing to ride about anywhere. If I had only known, I would have been loaded up and ready to go hours in advance.

Tenderfoot is a nice leisurely trail. It has some straight ups which inevitably lead to some straight downs, but it's fantastic. We found the resting spot below where we stopped to stretch our legs, let the pooches run and be free, and watched a bald eagle swoop and perch on the tips of the trees.

After we left our part-way-there resting spot we continued upwards and onwards. We came to a grassy knoll on the side of the mountain that was perfect, and as far on the path as we were going to go. We parked and perched to eat our ham salad sandwiches, and munch on freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, as we took in a view that was more phenomenal than the last.

Being warmed by the afternoon sun, we laid on the knoll and napped, visited and some of us even picked a few late season blueberries. It was a nice relaxing afternoon ride. When the berries were picked, and the sleep was rubbed from the guys' eyes we continued back down for some exploration and sight seeing.
On the way down we stopped at an old cabin. It was really just a shell of a cabin, most likely an old trappers cabin, or so I've been told. It has some beautiful tin work in it, but it was seriously lacking. It lacked a roof, and chinking, and windows, and a floor, unless you count the heavily weeded forest floor. I really don't think it was the place for us.

As we continued along, we stumbled upon an old mine site. From what we hear it's not that old at all, but the abandoned equipment says that it's been around for a long time. We came across this crane, and an old trailer home. I cannot even imagine living up in the wilds of Alaska in a trailer. These people are tough cookies up here! But it seems they lived happily and heartily until a few years ago.
When we reached the bottom we found our way back to a friends place near the trail. When we stopped to park the ATV's, now trailered and ready to hit for home, we stumbled upon these beauties. Aren't they magnificent? And surreal? They look like they're straight out of Alice in Wonderland. There were about a half dozen of them, in various shades of orange, some in the perfect domed shape, and others that had flattened themselves out like an over-extended umbrella.
The following weekend we headed off to Valdez, Alaska to do a little salmon fishing. Silver salmon to be exact. It was a cool and misty morning, not to mention dark, as headed off to the south in search of fish, fish and more fish.

As the sun came up we caught the above view of Summit Lake. This is the first time we've been by it without ice on it. It is a huge lake that seems to go on forever, especially when you're hurling yourself through the mist and darkness around the curves and dips and winding roads that follow along the banks, most often without guard rails. Another example of how Alaskans are much tougher than I!
This was our first trip to Valdez. If I had only known, I likely would have taken a week off of work to just explore. I've heard, from the natives, that you'll either love it or hate it. I, for one, LOVED IT. The entire day it dripped or misted, and moisture hung in the air. It was wonderful. You could smell the salt in the air. The views were magnificent, my only wish is that I had had more time.
We started the day with breakfast at the Totem Inn. They have a wonderful atmosphere, keeping true to their Alaskan ways. We were fortunate to be seated closest to a huge black bear, dead and under glass, of course. We enjoyed a tasty, and inexpensive breakfast of eggs, american fries, and reindeer sausage.

When we were full we headed to the parking lot to check out the produce truck that was advertising fresh peaches. Since produce in Alaska, especially Central Alaska, can be tempermental, I was eager to see what this produce aisle on wheels had in store for me. We bought delicious Anaheim and Jalapeno peppers, a huge Acorn squash and a bundle of those previously advertised peaches. They were juicy and sweet, and they're in my freezer waiting for just the right day to be made into a sweet, flaky peach pie.

Since we had time to kill before our boat would leave, we explored the city of Valdez. We bought tickets for the salmon derby. You can buy a ticket to be entered, in the instance that you catch a monster halibut, or in our case, salmon. We shopped, and wandered the piers, just taking in the marina, the sights, the sounds and the smells.

At promptly 1 p.m. we boarded the English Maiden and set out to catch silvers. We trolled and trolled and trolled, and trolled some more. We didn't have a single nibble for about the first two hours.

We paced the entire length of the Sound, or so it seemed, and even caught a glimpse of this pretty little creature. She was trolling for fish as well. She put on quite the show, swimming, diving and surfacing amongst the boats that were vying for the salmon that she so desired.

Once the games began, we pulled in fish after fish. The mist came heavier and we hooked the fish quicker and quicker. It was fun, and messy, but most important of all, fun.

Here is the catch of the day! 19 Silver Salmon with the largest weighing in at just over 15 pounds. Our limit, for the 4 of us, was 24, so we didn't come up too short on the day. In the end we walked away with 42 pounds of salmon per family. Not too shabby. Next time I'm hoping to stay and play more. But it was a beautiful trip and I am anxious to do it again, next summer.

Autumn has most definitely come to Central Alaska. With each season I solemnly vow that it is my favorite season in the Last Frontier. Winter is bone-chilling cold, but crisp and serene. Everything covered in angel dust and the sky that shifts and moves with the Aurora's. Spring is messy, muddy and alive. The trees are budding, the grass greens, seemingly over night, and the days grow longer in leaps and bounds. Summer brings wildflowers in every hue of the rainbow. There are baby animals and the sun never sleeps. It is hot and dry, with cool summer breezes to take the heat away. And then there's autumn. It is a riot of color. Everywhere you look there are shades of yellows, reds and greens. You can smell the leaves turning, the fireweed fuzzes out and fills the air with wisps of white cottony seeds. Autumn in Alaska is magnificent.

These blueberry bushes have born their fruit and their leaves have turned a crimson shade. They coat the forest floor, and the contrast of the red against the blue-green of the spruce trees is beautiful.

Anywhere and everywhere the plants grow, they also change. This rock is covered in maroon and gold, and reminds to cheer on our home state team...GO GOLDEN GOPHERS!!!

Prairie grasses in shades of red and orange. Against the crispy white mountain backdrop, it is hard to imagine a more wonderful sight.

It's hunting season in Alaska. And despite the threat to his health this brazen bull took a walk on the wild side hear Meadows Road. Isn't he magnificent? Brent told me I couldn't give his exact location, as he'll be on the hunt for Mr. Bull next year. He is not hunting moose this year as we are still on non-resident status. I have to say that I am disappointed. We recently had our first taste of moose, and it's delicious. This from the squeamish, not-so-fond-of-venison, picky eater. I am really looking forward to next year, and having moose in our freezer.

This is a view of Donnelly Dome in autumn. Since I have a photo of the Dome in every other season I had to get a picture of it in it's pre-winter glory.

Here is another beautiful beast! This guy is slightly smarter, and he technically lives in town. When his head was down and he was munching you couldn't even spot him amongst the grasses. As soon as he raised his head, his antlers gleamed in the fading sunlight. We just stopped and watched, and he was in no hurry to leave his buffet.

Darkness has come back to Alaska. I let Chessa girl out to pee before bedtime the other night and caught this view. I stood and looked at it for a while, wondering what on earth that light was. I didn't hear a helicopter, and it took me a minute before I realized it was the moon! It's been a while since I've seen the man in the moon.

We have been enjoying our peace and solitude. The last summer, early autumn, has been good to us, and we're trying to enjoy every last minute of it. These are the colorful poppies that grow along the long driveway that leads to our house.

This is our new home. The front windows let wonderful light into the living room. There is an entry door on either side of the house, and the kitchen is at the back. Once we get settled, completely settled, I'll give you a photo tour of the inside.

In between a very demanding work schedule, and an equally demanding play schedule, we (mostly Brent) have been busy cutting, cutting and cutting firewood for the long winter ahead. I highly doubt we'll feel even the slightest bit of cold this winter! I am fortunate in many ways. Fortunate that we live in such a beautiful place, blessed that we both have jobs that we love, and lucky to be married to a very hard-working man.

Phew, well, that gets us a little more current. I'll be back soon with more photos from this weekend. I'm sleepy... Have a happy day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Online Again

Well, my new little beauty has finally arrived. What am I talking about? My new laptop. As I sit here, in my living room, watching a movie on Netflix and typing away, I have found bliss, once again. I have much to say, so I plan to get it all updated this weekend. We have been busy, exploring, riding, snapping photos of the gorgeous Alaska fall foliage and MOOSE!

Stay tuned...