Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mount Baldy

Mom and I ventured out again tonight, not leaving the apartment until 6:00 pm! Our destination was Eagle River's Mount Baldy. Mom calls it 'Old Baldy' apparently she has some history with the mountain. We trucked on up in 50 foot increments (taking rests so mom could catch her breath). I left her again at about 3/4 way up to sit and enjoy the scenery while I made the last leg. Stunning views from the top, I can't believe I'm actually here! You need to come see this place:)

"I'm singing joyful praise to God. I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God's Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I'm king (queen) of the mountain!" Habakkuk 3:18-19

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tonight...We Fish.

And that we did, all night long for the last of the early-run sockeyes on the Kenai and Russian Rivers. Due to the lack of darkness around these parts one can virtually stay awake the entire night continuing to partake in normal daytime activities as if the late pm and wee am hours never even happened (http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/city.html?n=18k/). However, we did find that though the mind is willing, the body eventually gives up and refuses to go on... Pictured above would be Josh and I at about 3:00 this morning, Mom standing between, proud of herself to have outlasted us. Not to worry she conked out as soon as we got back to the apartment around 1:00 pm this afternoon. She did not even make it to her bed as you can see.

This fishing expedition idea took root around 10 am yesterday morning. We packed gear and got a hold of a crew that would be crazy enough to join the all night marathon of anglers. This would consist of Jim and Jake - father son duo visiting from Arizona, Mike - the boys foreman at work, and Ray, Kirsten and Hunter -the boys' boss and family. After an eternity of running all over town grabbing this and that essentials we headed south for the Kenai, Mom and I snugly buried under rods, tackle, and coolers etc. in the back seat of the Monte C (yep, its still going Joey).

As we cruised down Highway 1, I felt like I was in the cabin of a ship peering out my tiny portal window at the passing mountains and oceans along the Turnagain Arm (named so because when Cpt. Cook was exploring this area, he sailed in thinking it would go somewhere only to find a dead end where he had to 'turnagain' and go back out to sea). We arrived at the Russian River Ferry around 10 pm expecting to see less people since it was evening (according to the clock) but we were in plenty of good company (no one else goes by the clock either). The adventure began as we loaded onto the ferry and were hauled to the other side of the river (FYI 'on the other side of the river' is where the bears are, the ferry stops running at 11pm until 6 am, which meant well, you do the math). So I shouldn't have been surprised as I was blissfully casting away in my pink and blue getup, when Sam hollered down the shore at me "Hey, you see the Grizzly, Rach?". I had known this question was nearly inevitable but I still wasn't prepared "What?! Where?! No don't tell me. I don't want to see a Grizzly! Not in real life." Despite my desperate attempts to ignore the scene away, I finally forced myself to pry open one eye to eek out a peek in the grizzly's direction. It commanded attention from anyone within eye shot, impossible to miss, as large as the moose I ran with the other day, but more massive and beautiful in a fearsome, awesome way. It was just minding its own business, about 30 yards from us, slopping around in the the water in search the same thing we were. "Yep, he's the one from earlier. He's been circling around here all day." an all too kind, fellow salmon slayer volunteered as he and his son passed by. 'Circling around?!?!?' sounds stalkingish to me I panicked to myself, uneasily nodded and moved a little closer to the guy next to me, much to his dismay (you aren't supposed to crowd people). He shot me an unapproving glare to inform me that he could careless about my bear phobia, wouldn't be saving me if I got mauled and then wasted no time moving farther upstream. Thankfully, the bear was content with the fish and I found peace of mind at the 44s my brothers were toting. As a matter of fact, as I surveyed the river's edge I noticed my bros weren't the only pistol packing fishermen, holsters dotted the shoreline. I imagined us all part of some old western, Shoot Out at the Kenai Corral or something.... Inspired, I twisted my trusty can of bear spray into a more readily accessible location on my hip, something like a four year old with a plastic squirt gun, and tried to push back the taunting thoughts of, in the unlikely event that I would actually have to use my 'bear deterrent', I would probably just end up blinding myself and anyone unlucky enough to be in my vicinity. Fortunately, the bears and the humans seem to hesitantly tolerate one another for this Alaskan episode. Both species understand that there's enough to go around, and as long as they leave each other to their harvesting, nobody has to get hurt.

So we had a successful trip braving the chilly waters from 10pm to 7am. Now the food saver assembly line begins again. I'd like to bring your attention to my new waders and pink vest (pictured above with Sam and Mom) in which the boys say I look like an ice cream cone and don't particularly want to be seen with me. Come to think of it, maybe that's why the guy next to me moved upstream...hum. Oh well, I like to think of it as a great character builder for everyone involved;)

Yep, that's me with my first sockeye! My secret weapon??? powder blue waders

Jake netting a salmon. We all thought he looked like a bear splashing around:) And he makes this look waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay easier than it really is. Those river rocks are super slippery! Thank the Lord for the felt bottom fishing boots;)

"Light, space, zest-that's God! So, with Him on my side I'm fearless, afraid of no one and nothing." (not even bears, Rach addition;) Psalm 27:1

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Life On The Edge

"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way." -Dr. Suess

A quaint little spot to sit and enjoy the views on Flattop

Anchorage from the summit of Flattop

Our Route

Mission: Take my Sherpa hiking.

Where: Flattop Mountain in Chugach Park

When: Saturday, June 27, 2009

Duration: Approximately 1pm-4pm

Elevation: 3550 feet

So off we went, armed with 2 bottles of water, 2 bananas, a half eaten bag of trail mix, a camera, the spirit of adventure and a can of bear spray (though unnecessary on this particular hike as every other person we passed had a minimum of 3 dogs in tow). Sadly, I must report I had no choice but to de-sherpa my mom. In her defense she really was a trooper, scrambling, climbing, crawling and frequently clinging her way to the 2nd saddle, easily 3000 feet, nothing to shake a stick at. All that way in spite of her very serious and vocal reservations about the safety of the trail grade and elevation. "It's too high, we might fall off the edge" she worried at me as jolly families of up to six, ranging 3 months to 7 years would go jogging past us throwing out a smile and friendly word while my recently dethroned Sherpa mom nervously tried to mold and roll herself along inner wall. Granted, this is no walk in the park, it is up a mountain, but one need not be an experienced climber at all. No, we were not alone on Flattop today, the steady stream of eager outdoor enthusiasts included what appeared to be everyone from inner city adolescent tour groups to elderly couples, and even one shameless heavy smoker. Mom soothed her trepidation by assuring herself that they all must be accustomed to the altitude. Oh yes, they all seemed to be from places high above sea level, places like Iowa, Georgia, and Kansas. I left mom at the 2nd saddle and scrambled on to the top. What a view! On clear day like today, you can see all of Anchorage, across the Cook Inlet, parts of the Alaskan Range including Mt. McKinley and Redoubt Volcano...and yes, it's true I think...even Russia;)

"God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea storm and earthquake, before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains." Psalm 46:1-3

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Mom, My Run...

Then I want to move in with them.”
Phyllis Diller
Good morning all! There is blue sky and sunshine over the mountains today and that makes me smile:) It has been pretty rainy here the last few days (yeah, yeah, I can see the smirks on your faces even as you read this "...she better just wait until it starts getting dark...") anyway, you can start booking your tickets to come see me round about January, Februaryish http://www.kayak.com/;) So I'm planning to take mom hiking today, she will be my Sherpa as I now lovingly refer to her, after having her trail me around Sportman's Warehouse (http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com/) the other day carrying my new felt bottom fishing boots (who knew you need special boots to fish!) again I see some of your heads shaking. But this is all new to me, the cheechako (Alaskan word for newbie from the the lower 48). So my 'Sherpa' is following me around carrying all my stuff and I suddenly realize it. Ever had one of those moments when the world stops and lets you take a good look at yourself and it scares you...well I did, here we are my Sherpa and I in Alaska. I decide try to lose her on purpose, I love my mom but I can carry my own boots. Quickening my pace, maneuvering several abrupt turns and weaves through the fishing nets, sleeping bags then in and out of a few North Face tents and she is still on my elbow. She is unable to be shook. The moment passes and she doesn't even realize I what I was up too. She is happy to be my Sherpa. My adventures become hers and fair enough, she's the reason I get to have them anyway. My mom has a heart of gold.

"Honor your father and mother-God, your God commands it! You'll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well." Deuteronomy 5:16.

Speaking of my mom's heart of gold... I dragged her and her friend Rose, back to Anchorage from Homer last week so that I could run the Mayor's Midnight Marathon (a great race to any who are marathoners - http://www.mayorsmarathon.com/). She was not to happy about this as she had thoroughly been enjoying her halibut fishing debut (http://www.centralcharter.com/).

Pictures with our day's catch after Halibut fishing in Homer, AK.

Reeling one of these babies in can easily be compared to trying to land a truck.

We made it back around midnight (ironically) and I needed to be at the start by 8 am. She sucked it up that morning and brought me to the start in her sleep, shoved me out the car door with a grumbling hug and some obligatory well wishes then promptly headed back to the apartment for what I could only assume was the remainder of a good day's (no night here remember) rest. Rose, on the other hand, was much more animated and encouraging. As I pinned on my number and prepared for the start, she offered the hopes that they would try to be at the finish. I knew not to hold my breath and plodded off, wondering if I really had 26.2 in me. The city of Anchorage has one of the best trail systems known the mankind. You can travel for miles circling lakes, bogs, streams, and meadows never leaving the city limits...this was where we ran the second half of the race. But, up to mile 17 we were routed around on some back roads and through some rugged little footpaths. I was chugging along about mile 16 when off in the trees to my right I heard loud crashing and peripherally spied a very large brown object moving at a pace that kept with mine. Now if you know me, you now are thinking...bear. Yes, so was I and my heart rate doubled as I lept across the road. Others around me didn't seem to bat an eye at the thrashing monster only footsteps away, but instead snickered at my gymnastics move gone wrong. "It's a moose." the man next to me stated matter of factly, "As long as it stays where it is (which was 15 yards away, if that!!!) you're fine." I regained my composure as best as a cheechako like myself could, while desperately trying to shush the bear alert alarms sounding in every corner of my body then pretended to calmly run side by side with Bullwinkle for about 1/4 mile until he'd had enough of the race and stopped to eat. I think God had himself a good laugh at my expense. Welcome to Alaska, lol. At the finish, my dear friends from I.Falls Angie, Brandon and kiddos (Skylar, Tatum and Alivia) who have lived in Alaska now for 10 years, were there cheering me on, a truly welcomed sight. Ang had ran and finished the 1/2 that morning as well, so I was very thankful they had decided to stay and wait for me. Even more so when I called my trusty Sherpa's phone to let her know I successfully finished 26.2 miles barely unscathed by a moose attack so she could come and pick me up, only to find that she had shut her phone off and was still asleep. Ang and Brandon gave me a ride home.

"Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 41:31

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So Much Can Happen In A Day With No Night...

Well folks here I am nestled into scenic Anchorage, Alaska (http://www.anchorage.net/). My temporary home for the next month and a half before I head out to my new teaching assignment in Quinhagak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinhagak%2C_Alaska). I'm staying with my brothers right now, who have rented, for next two months only, an unfurnished apartment. Actually, lets just say its alternatively furnished with a plethora of hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, running, skiing and climbing apparel and equipment. Greeting you as the door swings open is the fragrant aroma of the beginnings of a small grassroots 'private commercial' salmon packing plant, muses Josh. As you enter this two bedroom sportsman's paradise you will find any number of items strewn about haphazardly, though always careful as to fling the wet gear in a manner that would lead it to dry out quicker. As I type my waders are hanging in the front window drying and serving as make shift curtains. Only paper plates and plastic cups don the counter top (yeah, yeah, not a surprise to those of you who were fortunate enough to experience the Skime household on the farm in all of its glory) with the exception of the new food saver vacuum sealer. This handy contraption is an absolute must if you plan to keep 7 people's limit worth of Halibut and as many nights and days as the boys can physically stay awake to fish and catch their limit in the Kenai River worth of red salmon (http://www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/FishCounts/). I'm fairly certain that without the food saver, we'd all be pedaling salmon patties at lemonade stands. The box from the fancy sleeping bag has now been recycled into a garbage can. Our fridge is teeming with these expertly sealed fish and it has spilled over into friends' freezers as well. I have found coolers make great tables and chairs and to boot come in a variety fun colors. We don't need curtains because it doesn't get dark right now anyway (more on the whole solstice phenomena another time). And the only thing found worthy of hanging on the mantle is a poster mom snatched from the sporting goods store where, coincidentally we are now VIP members, titled "Handling Bear Encounters" (http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=bears.bearfax) well, and my Midnight Marathon Medal (again more on that later). Of course Mom has seen to it that everyone is armed with bear spray or more, (forget the fact that she was the first one to come face to face with mama bear and 2 cubs and she forgot her spray in the car) before we make the trip down to the river. Finally, my thermarest sits in the middle of the floor as a welcome mat daring guests to sit down and try just try to take in what appears to be some one's garage shaken, turned upside down and emptied into their living room.

1 Samuel 16:7 "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."