Friday, December 31, 2010

Eagles looking for a meal

Now that the salmon are gone from the rivers (but are still being caught in the ocean) , the eagles are coming to town to look for a little food.

Here is a short video of a few in early December. I have seen quite few more on the trees around the city.

By the way, those white dots on the trees are indeed eagles. Sometimes there are a hundred near the canneries.

Maybe I'll "shoot" a few for you to see en mass.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where are Santa's reindeer from?

Where do those reindeer that helped Santa deliver your presents come from? Are they local? Of course not, they are from the North Pole you say. Maybe. But, maybe not.

I did not know we had any till today's Kodiak Daily Mirror article... but there are actual reindeer in parts of Kodiak island!

Apparently 32 were brought to Ahiok in the 1920s. From my reading on the subject, in those days the government thought it would be smart to have the natives herd those animals like they do cattle in the Southwest. But herding reindeer never caught on anywhere in Alaska. The natives preferred to let them go loose and hunt only the ones they needed for their personal food.

They let the ones in Kodiak go free also. And so they wander through those parts of the island. Mainlanders, on the other hand, have decided it is a sport to hunt them from a plane or helicopter. And that has been allowed. I must tell you, that if hunting a moving deer while you are standing on firm ground it must be a lot harder to shoot one form the air.

They estimate that 25 - 30 are taken every year. Anyway, estimates are that the population has been stable for the last 10 years despite the hunt...up to about 300 from those original 32. And who knows, I too might "shoot" a few (with my camera) some day soon when I take a sightseeing plane ride around the island.

The season runs between Aug 1 and Jan 31. So Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid et al might want to wait another month before flying down to enjoy our near 30 degree warm weather, compared to that in their frigid northern lands.

In case you are interested: While we have temps about +30, Wasila is -10 and Fairbanks is about -30! What a wonderful world this island is!!!

If you want to read the paper's article, go to

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas song from Alaska

A village's song for you, from the west coast of the Alaska mainland.

Sorry the right of the screen gets cut off. If you go to the YouTube, you'll be able to see all the words.

Where are they are from?

View Larger Map

Merry Christmas from AK !

Saturday, December 18, 2010

As you've read, Kodiak people do more than enjoy bears and salmon and eagles and sea lions. We even send rockets into space.
But did you also know that we have cowboys?

Check it out at:

Monday, December 13, 2010

A happy ending story, just in time for Christmas

Last Friday, the Kodiak Mirror newspaper told a heart warming story for the animal lovers of Kodiak.

A 50 pound bear cub started to show up near the Wall Mart store for 2 consecutive days. On the third it crossed the street and was seen at the Mill Bay Coffee, just one block from our house (sorry I didn't get a picture!).

The day after that it was found walking around the trailer park across another "major" street.

We do have an official "bear specialist" on the island who is called whenever a bear is repeatedly seen in city.

In most cities they would probably immediately call out the SWAT team. But not in Kodiak. The bear guy says he kept getting hourly reports about the location of the bear. Not because they feared for their own lives, but because most people were concerned that she might be hit by a car.

So after 2 days around the trailer park, she was finally found under a trailer. She might be only be a 50 pounder, but that is probably enough to inflict a lot of injury if you get her scared. But, she was easily tranquilized (while the State Troopers stood by)....). And then to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) it was, just across the Portage Glacier park headquarters, only one hour south of Anchorage. This is the second young brown bear cub they get this year.

Why such a young cub was wandering the streets in December is any one's guess. Was it a bad mother who didn't take her into hibernation? Was the mom killed and 11 month old had no idea of what to do? Who knows.

There is no way she can be trained to return to the wild. We just know that you will be able to see her for years to come at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC).

By the way, that is a great place to visit on a trip to Anchorage....and a great place to send a year-end tax deductible contribution, since it provides a valuable service to our injured wildlife!

P.S. As a follow up on Kaladi, the 3 pound, 2 day old sea otter they found stranded across the street form the beach last June....according to people at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, by July she was off to the Tacoma, Washington Zoo. It is easy to find a place to adopt those young and cute animals. And while you have your wallet out, send some money to the Alaska SeaLife Center also!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First snow of December

It was the first week of December, 9 o'clock in the morning.

Isn't this the perfect Christmas village?

Merry Christmas !!

(By February we won't be feeling so "cheery"!)

Waterproofing your shoes

In Kodiak it is important to keep snow, ice, and water out of your shoes.

We have discovered that if you place the shoes by the side of the wood stove for just a few minutes, the beeswax spreads a lot easier, as it melts into the shoes.

One treatment and they are nice and dry for nearly 2 years. Really.

But if they have a suede knap surface, realize that they will lose their texture as the wax coats it. They are not as pretty, but they will stay dry.

P.S. If you don't have a wood stove, put them in the oven on aluminum foil at 200 degrees for a few minutes (but, be sure your spouse is out of the house when you do that).

Give either method a try. But I think you will find beeswax much better than the silicon aerosol spray they sell you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday in Kodiak

Like all American cities, we too look forward to the sales on Black Friday. We particularly like the 20% discount, starting at 6 AM, at one of our sporting goods stores.

Here is what we got:

For him: 1) insulated Muck rain boots for hiking in the rain & 2)a reflective jacket for riding the bike to & from work in the dark.

For her: 1) a fleece jacket and gloves, plus 2) a new 357 magnum and hearing protection! What a lucky girl, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rockets from Kodiak

In this blog we often talk about the "natural" things of Kodiak. But, we live in a surprisingly advanced island.

For example, on the week before Thanksgiving we launched a non-military rocket, sending into orbit 7 satelites and 16 scientific experiments.

Think we're kidding, don't you?

We might like fishing, hiking, and other outdoors stuff. But we are not "all Bubba".

Check out the video of the take off:

The launch site is located just beyond the place I took the pics on the blog before Thanksgiving, of the last salmon swimming upstream and the eagle's feast. It's just past the Pasagshak river.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

After feasting on the last of the salmon.......

A total of about 40 eagles were on the river's edge or on trees along the way, digesting a good meal.

And so, we hope you too have a full and happy tummy on Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The last of the salmon

November 14, 2010 and it is finally getting cold: 28 degrees, snow on the mountain tops and frost on the ground.

But, life goes on. Here is perhaps the last of the salmon trying to make it up the Pasagshak river.

It never ceases to amaze me how these guys swim in water that is not deep enough to even cover their bodies. What procreate and then die!

But, alas, these will probably not make it in time. Weather and competitors in the food chain take their toll.

Despite the salmon's best efforts, they will only provide sustenance for other animals to make it through the winter.

Check out Sunday's scene on this one minute video.

Sorry, no classy music today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sarah Palin is in the "news" again

This week there has been a lot of "news" items about Sarah's upcoming 8 part series on TLC about her beloved Alaska.

Was it truly done because her love for the wilderness, her aspiration for political office, or is it the $ 1.5 million per episode she was reportedly seeking?

Well, we have to tell you, that people in Alaska do not think as highly of Sarah as you in the lower 48.

As far as we are concerned, half way through her term as governor, when one is supposed to bring into effect all the promises made during the election and the first half of her term":

"When the going got tough, Sarah was gone!"

Just an opinion...but a popular one in Alaska.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Inflatable boat finally reaches it's goal!

The first hard-bottomed inflatable boat that crossed the Northwest Passage along the Arctic has finally reached it's goal. We discussed it's trip on an earlier blog this month. Here is an excerpt from today's Kodiak Daily Mirror newspaper:

"The Zodiac crew that stopped in Kodiak on its way back from the Northwest Passage arrived safely in Victoria, Canada.

After more than a week waiting for a good weather window the crew left Kodiak at 3 a.m. on Oct. 6.

Across the Gulf of Alaska the weather was rough, but not as bad as it had been in the Bering Sea. The small boat reached Cape Spencer near Juneau in 22 hours.

The boat arrived home Oct. 13, somewhat the worse for wear.

“We literally had one engine hanging off the back,” navigator Scott Barnes said. “We had to use the ratchet straps to attach it. We had to pretty much limp the boat back, but we made it.”

The boat’s trip over the top of North America was the first in a rigid hull inflatable boat. The trip was organized to test the boat’s shock absorbing seats."

Back in June we talked about a group that came in the opposite direction, along the Northeast passage in a well supplied tug boat. They brought enough food for one year in case they got stranded in a port over Russia. Being French, that included wine. Check it out at

Here is another boat I spotted as I kayaked out to check on the Sea Lions. It travels throught the Artic Summer or winter!.

It's the Healy, the largest ice breaker in the USCG fleet. These guys carry enough supplies to live on board for 11 months, in case they get ice-locked. But, probably no wine. check it out at:

The tug in the June story was about the size of the small baby blue boat in these pics. The Zodiac would be a small spec, maybe twice the length of the Coast Guard's anchor!!

Seems strange, having the largest and the smallest boat that has sailed those northern waters in our harbor at the same time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall is in the air

Yes, Fall has arrive in Kodiak.
Here are some local pictures from mid October.

By comparison, Anchorage has lost it's leaves and they are expecting snow this week.

Fairbanks usually has its first freeze on Sept 8th. Their first snow usually falls on Sept 21st. Fortunately this year both were late (according to a weather report I saw on TV).

We recently traveled by Seattle on the 3rd week of Oct. and it was beautiful. They sure had a lot more reds than we do, either in Kodiak or the Alaskan mainland.

But they have all the congestion of the "The Big City" !

Time to put up the Summer toys

With the shorttening of the day, it is time to put up the summer toys.

No more kayak on the roof or fishing stuff on the back.

Just the old rusted 4WD. Time to mount it's studded tires, so it'll grip the road, no matter the weather.

Sea Lions sunning on their pier, before their nightly hunt

One of the things I learned about sea lions last month was their activity before going out hunting. It's not something I read.....and I might be all wrong. But this is what I saw over and over again this Fall.

I would kayak to their pier in the harbor after work and see them taking a nice nap. They'd start waking up as the sun started to hide behind Pillar Mt. The young ones would get in the water to play around the pier for about 30 minutes. Then some older ones would take them to play a few hundred yards away from their pier, to practice jumping and diving together. Later they went out of the harbor in a big group. I imagine it was for a nightly hunt.

My prior blog was was about them starting their trip out of the harbor and coming up to startle me in the kayak. They seemed to be having fun, and did not seem to intend me any harm.

Today's video is a series of 3 different visits I made while they were still sleeping. As the older ones woke and enjoyed the sun on the pier, the young ones would play in the water, swimming on their backs and letting their flippers catch the sun rays. Looked like fins of sharks sticking out...but barely moving as they floated by.

Hope you enjoy what I saw.

P.S. The trick, I learned, is to paddle very quietly up wind, and start very far away from their pier as they were still sleeping. Then I'd let the light wind carry my kayak towards them without making any sound. As long as I came slowly and quietly, they didn't get excited.

Admittedly this is in the Fall. They have returned form their Summer hunt and even the big ones have grown quite a bit since my Spring blog. Full tummy means a happy heart...and a non-mean sea lion. I would NOT ever try getting anywhere this close in the Winter or Spring time, when they are really hungry.

To see their behavior when they were really hungry, check out my YouTube from the end of Winter as I went eagle watching annoticed the sea lions at the edge of the dock. It starts with he arrival of 3 and eventually 15 to 18; all looking to get on board that fishing boat and getting a free meal. Two eventually did get on board, but didn't get to the fish before falling off the ramp.

Sea Lions surprise lone kayaker

On a calm September day, with the water acting like a mirror, I was taking pics of boat's reflections at one of our fishing boat marinas.

Suddenly 3 sea lions came up, about 20 feet from my kayak, just to check me out. I didn't realize how surprised I was till I heard the quiver in my voice.

But it turned out to be fun, watching them as they watched me. So, later in September I decided to learn more about their behavior.

Every night after work, I would kayak out and study them at their pier in St Herman Harbor (also called Dog Salmon Harbor by some).

Here's a series of pics and videos as they swam around me, on their way our of the harbor to go hunting.

Do you realize that when they come out of the water to breath, their heads are as big a bear's; they stick up higher than my kayak....and they spray water out of their nose for 4 - 6 feet.

It was indeed fun....after I realized they were just playing with me.

P.S. The yellowish images were taken later that day, when they decided to give me a special "show". With the setting sun behind them, it was neat catching the drops of water as they jumped in and out of the water. At one point some had about 2/3rds of their body in the air; looked more like whales than sea lions. I never had seen them jump that high. I didn't get it all on film. Thought I had it on video, but I guess I didn't press the record button hard enough to start the camera. It's easy to mess up when so much is happening around you.

More about them another day.

The last of the berries

Here we go. Talking about food again.

Well, when Fall comes, that is the end of all fresh local foods till lettuce and rhubarb in May or June.

So, the end of Sept and early Oct is the time to climb Pillar and pick up some of those low bush "cranberries".

They are not as big as store bought ones. But, they taste better when you pick them yourself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guns in Alaska

This weekend we took the concealled weapons class. Not because we need to.

Handguns,rifles and shotguns have always been legal in Alaska. The average Alaskan owns 3.5 guns. You can wear them openly.

The only reason they made the Alaska concealled weapons law in 2003 was so that you could wear a jacket over your gun.

Locally, it is wise to wear one while fishing and hiking. Although the great majority of our local brown Kodiak bears are nice, you never know when one might act mean. So we pack a handgun quite often in the woods. And we practice. The indoor range is quite a social place in the Fall and Winter.

So it is no surprise that Kodiak is the number one contrubutor to the NRA in total dollars; even more than the big cities like Dallas.... and we only have 14,000 people!

Here is our class make-up: 30% Coast Guard personnel, 30% physicians, 10% nurnsing, 10% clergy, 10% educational, and 10% other. We all passed.

For the class we had to use an outline of a "human" target". But, I'll tell you, the prior weekend was much more popular. In the Fall and in the Spring they have a "charging bear" event. A poster of a bear is placed on a cart that is pulled to you as fast as possible. The goal is to draw you weapon and incapasitate the bear before he reaches you. Admittedly it is closer to 20 instead of a bear's 30-35 mile per hour charge.

It is a lot of fun.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More famous boats in Kodiak

Last Spring we talked about a French group that got an old tug, replaced the engines with efficient new ones and even put a sail to help them save gas. They started in the Spring of 2009, sailed north around France, Scandanavia, turned East around Russia along the Northeast Passage and eventually made it to Alaska and Kodiak in May 2010.

Well, in September a Canadian group decided to get an 37 foot inflatable Zodiac, left New Brunswick and came across the broken ice of the Artic while Summer lasted. Their goal: 8,000 mile trip by turning West north of Canada, along the Northwest Passage, rounding Alaska and then going south to the west coast of Canada.These 2 guys were not into gas savings.

Here I take the liberty to paraphrase an article by Sam Friedman in the Kodiak Daily Mirror newspaper.

Their goal was to make it as quick as possible. And so they got three engines with 300 horsepowers each! With special "bladders" they can carry 1,000 gallons of gas and travel 1,000 miles between fill-ups. Is that 1 mile per gallon? Not bad for a boat that can reach 70 mph! (Much better than the tug's 8 gallons per mile, but without the comforts of home)

And travel quick is what they needed to do. Without a galley, a bunk, or head (eg toilet), they didn't want to stay out there too long.

Here's a picture of the "cabin": vinyl; and the size for 2 to sit in. Imagine living off granola bars and sleeping while sitting up.

Good thing one of these guys owns a company that makes special seats for boats that go out in rough seas: shock absorbers on the stem and special straps to keep them on the seat. Instead of riding out the storm they push through it.

Storms in the Bering Sea can alter anyone's plans. Riding through, strapped to their seats, caused 25Gs of acceleration as they rode those waves. That's twice the accelaration a fighter pilot experiences. So, it was down to 15 knots progress in seas in which fishing boats make absolutely no progeress, they just ride the troughs. Two and a half days and they make it form Barrow to False Pass!

So, once they got to False Pass they decide to spend a night on land and sleep in a cabin overnight. But that is not too restful either. A bear wakes them up, tearing down the wall of their cabin. So its back to the "safety" of their boat.

Last I hear, they were in our marina, seriously thinking of putting their boat on a barge and getting on a plane back to Canada.

1,500 miles short of their goal. But alive.

I think sometimes we do get some peculiar people here.

(P.S. Maybe, for comparison, next time we'll show you the largest ice breaker in the USCG fleet).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hunting time in AK

"Going hunting" is an excused absence from school in Alaska. And it should be. You can learn a lot by hunting.

Plus, it might actually be what puts food on your table.

This summer, for example we had a family over for dinner. The teenagers just kept talking about how our BBQ burgers tasted so different. Turns out they have eateelk and moose for over a year. Cattle just tasted so different that they like it. (We, on the other hand, were equally impressed with the elk steaks they left for us).

We have no moose or elk in Kodiak. So if you don't want bear, deer, or buffalo (the last 2 were "imported" to the island years ago), it'll require a ferry ride to get your food.

So here is a picture of a young Kodiak teenager, on her excused hunting expedition to the mainland, earlier in September.

Note that she is actually the one who shot the larger moose.

Those antlers have a 58 inch spread!

This is just part of an Alaskan's education.

Incidently, did you notice? ...... Those are NOT all trees behind them.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Little Farther South

Here's a slide series of walks along the road on the Kenai penninsula,at a similar latitude to Kodiak. Note how much less color there is than on the prior blog further north.

(Hope you like the train-like tempo of the music. The train that takes the cruise ship people to Denali passes by here. So you could have seen this too, if you where a little lazy and just rode the train.)

Our vacation was exciting. The first night camping we stopped by the Portage glacier in a campsite with only one other camping family. The lady rode her bike over to let us know they had 2 visits by a bear during that day. Thought we might want to know.

They had been Bar-B-Q ing and had a trailer into which to retreat. We had gotten there just before dark and had already set up out tent.

So, I stayed up till dark at 10 PM with my camera (and 44) hoping to snap a picture in case a bear came. After that it was the 44 by my side, all night long.

Fortunately, no visitor. Until our return form the glacier. A little movement of the bushes and the small black bear in the pictures crosses the trail 15 feet in front of us.

He doesn't look at us. Seems not to notice us. Just crosses as if he owned the place.

Our 2 dogs just keep smelling the grass...didn't notice him either.

Wonder how close to the tent he came that night.

But...All's well that ends safe, don't you think?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn on the Alaskan mainland

Below is a slide/video of our trip after visiting the State Fair: Palmer, thru Glenallen down to McCarthy (next to the Kennicutt mine) at Wrangle-St.Elias National Park. Went up 3 glaciers on vacation (more about those another day perhaps).

It was the last week of August and the first week of September. On the way back, the leaves had lost their oranges and even many of the yellow ones had fallen.

The further north and the higher in altitude, the earlier winter comes. Anchorage is at 61 degrees Latitude north. Kodiak is at 57.6. Since each degree of Latitude is 69 miles, that means Anchorage is about 235 miles north of us. Glenallen is at 62.1, so about 310 miles north of us. In addition, Glenallen is about 1000 feet above sea level. So check out their fall colors!

The locals seems to really enjoy living so far from modern civilization and the frigid inland cold of AK. So I thought that song is something they would appreciate (even if there is only one road that goes towards their neck of the woods).

P.S. Here in AK, the treeline is about 3000 feet, according to a ranger. So you can see how high some of those peaks by the side of the road might be. Wrangle-St Elias park has some of the highest mountains (aside from Mckinley/Denali), lots of them over 15,000.

Anyway, look at our video on the prior blog, about Old Woman Trail in Kodiak taken just 3 - 4 days before today's video....for a comparison of how much greener it is here in Kodiak, at sea level and 300 miles south.

By the time we got back, Kodiak's Pushky had started to turn brown. Now the wild grasses are also changing. But the trees are still nice and green. And my lawn still keeps growing and growing; that is good.'ll need at least one more mowing! Darn it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Take a Hike

Enough about berries. It is time to burn off some of those calories from all that baking.

Here's a hike up Old Woman Mountain at the end of August. Its a nice climb along what looke like a creek bed to a great view of Kodiak. And if you are tired and hot, how about a swim in the lake at the top? That's the plan.

But on this day, it was a little too windy. So we returned before reaching the lake for a swim.

The houses below are for the Coast Guard. The airport you see is Kodiak's major airport, and the plane you see takingoff goes to Anchorage. There are 2 others for float planes and wheelled small planes used locally.

Note how green everything was in Kodiak. Our next blog will be showing pics from just north of Anchorage, about 2 days later. What a difference a few hundred miles north can make! (We'll show you autumn on the mainland soon.)

P.S. If some Coasties see their old houses, hope you don't get too homesick. But remember: Kodiak is a great place to return for another tour of duty or even retire. Hope to see you soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our Favorite Kodiak Berry

Sounds like lots of people liked the blueberry blog. Yes, our blueberries are great.

We also have low bush cranberries that grow on the mountains, though I've never gone to pick those.

By far, though, this is our favorite: The Salmonberry.

Maybe they call them that, because they look like red salmon.
Here it is, early in the season, June to early July.

In late July and through August. Just right to eat!

The darker, the sweeter.

Its bigger than a a raspberry. But, less tart, and has a lot of more liquid inside. So when you go on a hike, you can just pick them off the branches and get a "pick me up". In fact, you really don't need to take water if you are going in a short to moderate hike. You have sweetness, tartness, and water all in one.

We are not the only ones who love them, though. I've heard that bears occasionally abandon fishing to find a bunch of Salmonberries and take a break from all that protein.

So watch that there is not a furry picker in the bushes wanting the same thing you want. And be careful of what you put in your mouth..... 'cause slugs like to crawl on and in them after a rain.

They are great to put on your cereal in the morning. Or make a jelly for your toast. Syrup for your ice cream or bread pudding! So get youself a bunch and get canning.

Here is how you do it: Freeze them. Then rinse them (....'cause its easier to remove the occasional baby slug when they are frozen).

Cook, mash, and can them.

(P.S. Maybe this is why they really call them salmonberries:
when mashed for canning, they do look like salmon eggs)

Anyway, now you have a special treat for your breakfasts.

It's a reminder in winter of why we live here!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kodiak Blueberries

August was berry picking month in Kodiak. And blueberries are a favorite.

Here is what a mid August afternoon's efforts can yield.

Enough for 2 good size pies and leftovers for morning pancakes.

Sure, ours are not as large as those genetically engineered giants at the grocery store.

But they sure pack a heck of a lot more flavor into every bite!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Even More Kodiak Lingo

People come to Kodiak, from all parts of the world,
with all sorts of fancy photographic equipment,
to take pictures of our bears.

But, no matter what language they speak,
I think I can tell what this guy was saying.

"This trip was certainly worth what it cost us."

When we tried to get his attention,
he seemed upset over our interrupting him:
"What are you screaming about?"

Then, he said,
"Oh, Shoot!"
Or something like that.

(Sometimes people just seem to miss what is right beside them.)

More on fishing Kodiak's American River

You go fishing with so much hope!

...Sometimes you only catch a rock.

Good thing we enjoy the 18 mile ride!