Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tropical plants in Kodiak

Who would have thought that we would see tropical plants this far north? I think it was Alaska Magazine that talked about 5 palm trees that were brought up to Sitka by someone 10-15 years ago About 3 of then are still alive. True, they are located between 2 buildings so they are protected and they are further south, so their temperature does not go much below freezing

But I was surprised to learn about the wild orchid that grows only in Kodiak. I talked about it on a prior blog but lost the picture of it. I finally found it so here is it. People have tried to transplant it to grow further south and have reportedly failed to keep it alive. Here is a link talking about it for those who think I am. kidding, Click here.

But can you imagine my surprise when last weekend during our hike I found wild cotton growing alongside the trail? As a South Texas boy I had to get on my knees to examine it closer. I might have come all the way to Alaska, but I think I am still a "cotton-picking Mexican".

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A typical weekend...

All day Saturday Carlos and I had to spend time indoors. The rain was coming down heavily and the winds were up to 50 mph. At least our repaired windows didn't leak. We've been working on them for 2 years and I think we've finally won.

Sunday, however, was a different type of weather. The sun came out again and the winds were very mild. We took a relatively easy hike with our friends. It was only about 1.5 miles each way. The salmonberries were ripening on all the bushes so we had plenty of fruit snacks along the way. We did have to stay on the lookout for bears though. We know that a couple live in this area. As a result, you'll notice in the photo that the guys brought their guns along with them. Again, only in Alaska can you see guys taking a hike and carrying their rifle.

After the hike we came home to do a few minor things and then we were off again. We both wanted to see what the sea lions were doing. We hurried and put the kayak in the back of the van and took off to the marina. Just a short paddle away we found about 15 sea lions resting on their permanent pier. There is always at least one that stands guard while the others rest and sleep. We did see one baby. It was probably only about 200 pounds....just a little thing. The adult males weight about 1200# and reach 10 feet in length. Needless to say, we didn't paddle too close when they started noticing us, but we did get within 50 feet. We managed to return home before the next storm arrived. It is supposed to have 40-50 knot winds (46-48 mph) again. Just like the sea lions, we had to get outside and enjoy the nice weather while it lasted.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A new store in Kodiak

Whenever there is a new store to open in Kodiak, the entire town tries to support it. As we wrote before, the opening of the Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken resulted in long lines of people waiting. As of now, almost a year later, you can still see cars lined up in the drive-up lane daily. It appears that people seem to enjoy the "fast food" concept in Alaska as well.

Now we have "A Sweet Escape", a new ice cream parlor in Kodiak. It opened last month. People are trying to forget the fact that it is in the same building as the old pet store. I spoke with one of the employees tonight and he stated that they spent 3 weeks with just "clean-up". It seemed worth it. The store smelled nice (that's a positive) and it looked really clean.

Now, an ice cream store in Alaska might seem a little out of place but right now it is certainly becoming popular. Our recent heat wave (over a week of temperatures near 70 degrees) really helped their business. In fact, they had to close for a couple of days when they ran out of ice cream. They had to wait for the next shipment to be flown into town.

As for service, when we were served this evening, the single scoop was bigger than most double scoops and the cost was only $2.50. Now, we don't have the fancy waffle cones that you might have in the lower 48 but the store bought cones were fresh. They even have a variety of toppings if you want and some brownies and rice krispie treats. What more could we need?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kayaking on Tuesday

This is what you missed Tuesday by not being here for my kayaking trip...sea gulls, ducks, puffins, oyster catchers, cormorants, seals and sea otters.

Those cormorants act just like teenagers...when one looks to the right, they all turn to the right.

Seals are interesting because they determine a distance they want to be from you and if you get any closer they go underwater and show up farther away. The ones Tuesday liked to stay about 100 feet from me. One day there were 3 of them near the rocks that let me get 12 feet from them before swimming away. I guess there were a lot of fish near the rocks.

The sea otter yesterday stayed about 60 feet away. After he went underwater he would bounce up and down until I saw him or he would lay on his back and clap his flippers until I located him again.

Until our next adventure...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Picking Salmonberries

This year the weather has been supportive to the salmonberry season. The fruit is appearing on almost all the bushes around town. You see people picking them along the streets and their hiking trails. They have the texture similar to blackberries and taste somewhat like raspberries but more dilute. When thoroughly ripened they have a tremendous amount of juiciness and can help when you are really thirsty.

For the last couple of nights Carlos and I have hiked a mile along a trail to get to a grove of bushes. We have collected a little over 3 quart sized bags full and plan on learning to make salmonberry jam this next month.

You remember the part in the movie "Forrest Gump" when Bubba talked about all the different ways to cook shrimp? Well, here in Kodiak we'll have salmonberry jam, salmonberry jelly, salmonberry muffins, salmonberries over cereal, salmonberry with whipped topping, etc., etc, etc.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Small Town Theater

Carlos and I went to the movies tonight. We've lived in Kodiak for 2 years and this is our first trip to the local cinema. I guess we've lived with DVD's too long. Anyway, with the opening of the newest Harry Potter movie, we had to go.

Opening night was Thursday and there was a line all around the building of people waiting to get inside. I don't think that happens very often. We waited until Saturday night and were worried about crowds and parking since it was the weekend. We arrived at the theater about 15 minutes before show time and parked in the grocery lot (about 30 feet from the theater door). Although most of the theater gradually filled, we were able to find good seats.

With this feature, there are no reduced prices. We had to pay the regular price of $5.50 each! I think that's one of the few things that costs less than in the "lower 48".

As we walked into the theater half the people there called out "hello" and so we felt right at home. Everyone chatted with friends across the aisle until the lights went out just before the previews. It was rather nice. Oh yes, when the movie was over, I think everyone was picking up their trash off the floor before they left. It still kind of amazes me what I see here. Small town living is nice.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wildflowers in Kodiak

Flowers sure do bloom during summer in Alaska. Here are a few from our walk around the house on Sunday morning. One picture is of the bike path Carlos uses to go to work. Note the orchid we included. Yes, there is an orchid that grows wild here. People have tried to transplant them to the lower 48 but it doesn't grow there at all. It seems to like the cool weather.

In Fairbanks, people like to plant flowers in a way that they look very organized and beautiful. But in Kodiak, we like them to just sprout everywhere. 

We hope you enjoy them.

To view more Kodiak flowers, you can see them at:

To view the Fairbanks flowers, go to:

Friday, July 10, 2009

High Temperatures Continue...

For all of you that are coping with those typical summer temperatures, we thought you might like this.  This article was on the front page of our newspaper yesterday. The caption read, "It reached 68 degrees Wednesday. It was the sixth straight day with temperatures more than 60 degrees in Kodiak."  And as luck will have it, we have continued for another 2 days with the temperatures reaching close to 70 degrees.

By the way, the water temperature has now reach 48.6. The kids didn't stay long in the water.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks in a small town

Fireworks in a small town are an event that many want to enjoy. It's an evening filled with activity. Everyone goes downtown to view the big event.

Kodiak is no different except that the city's official  fireworks display was at midnight, the beginning of July 4th. It was almost dark by that time and the skies were clear. The display was beautiful. We left the house 20 minutes before the beginning and found a parking place overlooking the marina. Carlos set up his tripod and enjoyed the show. After the presentation, the traffic was backed up and it took us an entire 15 minutes to drive home. Traffic jams are terrible!

Of course the fireworks didn't begin or end with the city's show. We have been watching them from our house for the past week and they will probably continue until the store closes its doors when the inventory is depleted. Actually, the show outside our windows is rather spectacular. Mill Bay is a favorite place for the amateur pyrotechnicians. There are no rules set by the borough and we don't have any fire restrictions. The down side is that on July 4th the beach presentation didn't end outside our house until 2:45 am. I thought they'd never leave.

After hearing a number of extremely loud booms, we learned one added feature. We have 2 cannons on the island that someone takes to the beach and fires. No balls are shot but the noise is enough to shake our windows.  Fortunately, since it takes 20 minutes to mix the powder and reload the cannons, they only fire it a couple of times each day.

Enjoyable Hike Today

Today Carlos and I took a great hike out near the US Coast Guard Base. It was called Old Woman's and after the hike I began to feel that way. It was uphill almost the entire trip so we stopped frequently and took some great shots of the city below us. Of course this also helps get your breath back a little as well.

Once we reached the end of the trek we located the lake. As you can see, it's a lovely area of water and yes, that is snow around the perimeter. While we were sitting there a family passed us and went down for a swim. We watched them play in the water while one of the boys was throwing snowballs at the swimmers. Only in Kodiak!

The day was extremely warm. I was sweating much of the way up the mountain but I'm sure it was because we went in the middle of the day. We learned later that the temperatures almost reached 80 degrees! No wonder it was so unbearable! At least we both remembered to wear our hats.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Living in a small town...

You know you're living in a small town when...

1. You need to use the restroom at an office and they tell you that theirs is out of order but the office next door always leaves the key from under the trash can in the common hallway for times like this.

2. You tell the plumber to come any time. If we're not there we'll leave the back door unlocked for you, but if we forget, use the side door. We never lock it.

3. You go kayaking at 9 pm and run into friends fishing from their canoe. You run to Walmart before the 10 pm closing and there they are in the parking lot. You then make a run to Safeway for an 11 pm snack and their car with the canoe is in the parking lot.

4. You go eat at one of the 4 restaurant and the waitress knows your name, what you order and recommends that this time you order the 16 ounce beer since your wife always drinks half the mug.

5. After you enter the restaurant you always meet someone that you know and usually just have them sit at your table.

6. You go to the city midnight fireworks display (it doesn't get dark until then) and find most of the town got there before you. You have to park a whole 3 blocks away!

7. You pass the fireworks store and find that theirs is the only parking lot completely full of cars. And what is funny...this store has arranged to assist with the clean-up of the beaches after everyone has shot off their fireworks.