July 25, 2010


It has been kinda quiet around here lately.  Ernie has been working all the days, and it has been cold, and rainy, and November-ish, so I don't feel like going on many adventures by myself.

And we make really good hermits.

So mostly we have been sitting around reading, or watching movies based on video games (which are as good as they sound).  It has started to get dark early, maybe by about 10:30, so that adds to the wintery feeling, and somehow we have become morning people, who get up before we have to.  I'm blaming the transition from the basement for that.

I have just started the second year of a 10-year Buddhist practice program, and what I am doing right now is fairly physically demanding (kinda like yoga maybe?), so that is taking up a lot of my time right now, and I am all sore.  I will get used to it.

I picked blueberries today, this time with the intention of making jam.  There are so many out in our yard that you can't even tell where I have picked.  My per-quart time split is about 40 minutes, and I'm sure I could knock several minutes off that time if more than half of the berries I picked ended up in the container.  Alas, there is nothing I can do about that.  But all of the berries are ripe now, and since I am going to cook them, I don't have to be too picky.  I try to avoid the berries that have been predated on by birds or squirrels(?), but I am not worried about the ones with tiny holes.

You see, every wild Alaskan blueberry has a chance of having a worm in it.  Well, everyone calls them worms, but they are really a tiny caterpillar.  As a biologist, I wouldn't go near any food source that I knew had the chance to give me some sort of intestinal parasite, no matter how delicious (except maybe cheese, but not maggot cheese).  But I would, and certainly have, consumed caterpillars.  (I draw the meat line at flesh; organized muscle fibers.)  There is a way around larvae-eating though.  The trick is to soak the berries after picking.  This causes the worms to crawl out of the berries in search of precious air.  (It makes sense that you would have to soak them longer than the average Juneau downpour, I just do it for "awhile".)  When you soak berries that have a large gouge out of the side, all of the remaining flavor leaks out.  When you soak berries that have a tiny wormhole in them, they are still pretty good afterwards, maybe even better for the lack of worms.  (And maybe you can travel through that wormhole to an alternate blueberry dimension.)

Now you know.

So I am soaking the berries now, and will make jam this evening.  I'm pretty sure I should be cleaning the bathroom right now, which is why I am blogging.

                                              A blueberry caterpillar in his natural habitat.

I will understand when nobody wants my blueberry jam as a Christmas present...

July 21, 2010

New Camera!

As I mentioned in my last post, I bought myself a new camera this weekend.  I'm pretty sure that it is the coolest present I have bought for myself, at least in recent memory.

                                            A Fuji Finepix XP10.  It's not this blurry in real life.

I don't know that it is any better than the camera I already had, in terms of picture quality, but it has several things going for it.  It is tiny, so I can take it with me anywhere.  It has a rechargeable battery, so it don't have the added weight of extra batteries to carry with me.  And it came with a 4 GB card, which I may never use up.

The best part about it though, is that it should be Sarah-proof!
It is dust proof, freeze proof, and shock proof, so I can drop it or take it into snowy or dirty conditions.
And. . .it's waterproof, which means I can take it kayaking and not worry about it.
Okay, I'm pretty sure it doesn't float, so I have to worry about it a little, but now I can take pictures on the water!

Ernie is totally jealous!!  (Which is not why I got it, I swear :) )

So for you all, that should mean more pictures that are more interesting.  Yay!

July 19, 2010

You must be as sure-footed as me to ride this trail...

...trust me, that's not setting the bar very high.

Today after work I decided to go on a walk.  Ernie had already left to go kayaking by himself, so I chose to go hiking by myself.  I did not get eaten by bears.  (Although interestingly enough, I have chosen to go in some of the the most beary-areas of this region right off the bat.  Maybe I am getting it out of my system.) 

I chose to go on the West Glacier trail, which runs up along the side of the Mendenhall Glacier, though not really on the west side, since the glacier itself runs pretty much west to east.  It took a long time to get this straight in my head.

Anyway, it is pretty cool being that close to a glacier, although today it was pretty warm.  I think there might have been a temperature inversion, though it is possible I was just wearing more clothes than usual.

Also, I got a new camera!  I will have a special post about it later.

This is Mendenhall Lake, near the start of the trail.  The glacier does go all the way to the edge of the lake, but you can't see it from here because the point of land blocks the snout of the glacier.  Yes, there are icebergs in this lake, and yes, Alaskan kids do swim in it.

This is a viewpoint a little ways up the trail.  No glacier yet.  That point of rock is fairly recently exposed, maybe in the last 20 years.

Now we have a glacier...

This is what the trail looked like in several areas.  It seemed nearly vertical, but there was a bit of slope to it.  I took this picture from about halfway up that section.  It is mostly slick rock, but in some cases stair steps have been made, and there are quite a few places where you have to use your hands to get up the trail.  Up actually isn't so bad, but it seems like down could get tricky, especially in the rain.  Luckily it was mostly sunny when I was up there.  Its kind of neat because the soil on the trail is mostly as thick as the moss that covers it, and when you pull that away it is just bare rock, where you can still see the scrape marks from the ice.

This is up near the end of the trail.  I didn't quite make it to the end, because I was trying to stay within a certain time frame.  The trail gets pretty close to the ice, but the official trail doesn't go all the way.  There are many unofficial trails though...

And a close-up of the ice-edge.

This is where I turned around.  Not because I couldn't cross a creek, but because it was getting late and I don't know when the bears are eating their dinner these days.

July 17, 2010

Doing my part to keep the bears out of the front yard

As I mentioned in an earlier post (which you all probably haven't read yet), the majority of our yard is covered in blueberry plants.  One of the good things about all of the rain we have been getting is that now they are plump, and juicy, and ripe.

Today I picked about two quarts, but there are probably about a million more berries out there.  I plan to make jam, and maybe pie, and freeze some for winter.


July 14, 2010

Our Home

Seriously, once we were actually in Juneau, we didn't have a plan.  All of our planning abilities had been used up just in getting there.  Juneau was a much easier place for us to move to, as opposed to Anchorage or somewhere smaller.  At least we have friends and family here.
But we did not have a plan.
Okay, we did, but it focused only on getting some coffee that didn't taste like ferries.

Luckily, the first person we dropped in on said (after she was fully awake), "of course you can stay for as long as you need to.  And you can let your cats out of their tiny boxes."
We stayed there for a week and a half, which seemed like forever, especially to Ernie and the cats, but in retrospect it wasn't that long.

And then we moved into the place we are staying now.  This is the same place that was offered to Ernie as we were driving through Washington, it just took awhile for the details to get worked out.

It is a beautiful one bedroom on the top floor of a house.  Underneath us is mostly a garage, and a tiny efficiency (studio) where someone else lives.  And laundry.  Yay!!
It is far and away the most grown-up of any place we have lived, except my parents house.  It has wood floors and nice furniture, and almost everything works.
And it is reasonably priced, by Juneau standards. 
It is close to my work, but remote enough that we can barely see the houses of our next door neighbors.

So here is the grand tour:

                                                  This is the driveway coming into the house.
                              The house from the front.  The french doors on the balcony go to our
                                                 living room (left) and bedroom (right).

                                                                      The kitchen.
                                                The left (port) half of the living room.

                     The other half of the living room.  You can see our new cat sleeping on the couch.
                                           Her name is Funnyface.  She came with the place.
                                                         My cats don't love her yet.

          The view out the side windows of our living room.  You can see houses through there.  Kinda.

                                                                     Our back deck.

And the view of our backyard.  Most of the brush you see are blueberry plants, and there is a good sized duck (mosquito) pond just beyond.  This means we hear ducks quacking at all hours, at least in the summer.

So that's where we live now.  I forgot to take pictures of the bedroom, but I will get those soon. 

July 13, 2010

The Journey

Now that we are here, and comfortable, and starting to settle into a routine, Portland seems soo far away.
Everything seems so far away.
And some things seem like we never left.

When we left Portland, the weather was shite.  We spent the last morning and the night previous packing and hauling away the things we didn't need anymore, and we were drenched the whole time.

The weather in Juneau was perfect, of course.  Sunny and 80.

But the hideous downpours stayed with us the entire time we drove to Prince Rupert.  Everyday there was at least one stretch of road where we couldn't see anything through the windshield wipers, and my tires weren't actually touching pavement.
I suppose the weather since we got here hasn't been that bad, but it hasn't been what I would call perfect.  That's fine by me, since I get worried if I go without rain for more than about 36 hours.
But I do appreciate the sun more here than I do in Portland.  It is nice to see.

Anyways, we pulled out of Portland at about 1 pm, which was just in time to hit three hours of the Seattle rush hour traffic, which is my favorite in the world.
(I still love living in a town where there is literally no such thing as traffic, and I think I always will.)
We were incredibly stressed out and frazzled and sleep-deprived, and our goal was to make the border crossing, just in case there were problems.  Cause there is nothing better than a couple of crazy americans and their cats, trying to enter Canada.

Somewhere around Seattle, Ernie got a phone call from a woman who had seen his housing wanted ad on craigslist, and wanted us to rent her house.  This was very promising news, since we would be there in 4 days, and we had no leads on housing.  And we did end up renting her house.

We slogged our way through the Seattle traffic, and made it through the border with no problems, as long as we promised not to let our cats go in the Canadian wilderness.  A friend of mine promised me that Canadians are not scary, and that turned out to be true.  Even their traffic signs are polite.  "Please don't kill the construction workers", etc.
WARNING:  In Canada, Mountain Dew contains no caffeine!!
That's a little too nice for me.

We took two days to drive through Canada, which was by far the farthest I had ever driven in my life (in one stretch).  That seemed to be a decent pace, especially considering that we were originally going to do the whole 1200 miles in two days, which would have been brutal.  After the first day we were more comfortable.  It was too late to turn back (as we had left everything behind), and it seemed the vehicles and the boats were going to make it.  The drive through the Fraser Canyon and forests of Southern BC was pretty, but it got a little monotonous and flat and dry farther north.

And boy did the cats love it!!!!  Now they always want to go for a ride in the car!
Or not.
I would do it again, but preferably not by myself, and not carrying everything I own.

When we got to Prince Rupert, we knew the only thing left to do was get on the ferry.  We ate some bad chinese food, then got a hotel room to hang out in until we had to be at the boat at 5 am.  It stormed like mad all night.  After a long wait through the line and the Canadian customs (again), we finally made it on the boat.  We covered up the cats, and went upstairs for the 27ish hour run to Juneau.

On the ferry we hung out, ate crappy food, and slept at random intervals.  I love boats, and can't get enough of looking at the ocean.  On the other hand, you are trapped on a ferry, and have no responsibilities, so it is a great time to catch up on all the sleep you've missed.  Sometimes we slept in the bar (to get away from the screaming kids going to Ketchikan), sometimes on the couches, and sometimes in the chairs, but it really didn't matter.  Unfortunately I slept through my favorite part, the Wrangell Narrows, but it was dark and I wouldn't have seen anything anyway.

The next morning, we pulled into the ferry terminal in Auke Bay, and got off the boat.

We were in Juneau.

Of course, we didn't have a clue what we were going to do next.

July 11, 2010

Point Bridget

Today we hiked out to Point Bridget.  It is still cloudy and rainy in Juneau, and we wanted a hike that didn't require a high ceiling to enjoy.

The trailhead is located north of town, almost at the end of the road.  The trail is boardwalked most of the way because it runs through muskeg and mucky forest (most of the time), along a creek, and ends at the beach.

This is looking back at the beach where the trail comes out (right in the middle of the meadowy area).  We walked down the beach and around the point to look for interesting things washed up from the sea.

There are two little state-run cabins along the trail that can be rented by the night as well.  One of them used to have a sauna, but that appears to be missing now.  It probably burned itself down during a party one night.
                                                               Cute cabin, no sauna.

It was a really great hike.  Fairly flat and easy, but lots to look at.  Many types of wildflowers were in bloom, including a variety of orchid, lupine, and of course, fireweed (but the flowers haven't reached the top of the spike yet, so summer will return).  We saw lots of eagles and ravens and smaller birds, harbor seals playing, two toads, a marmot, two porcupines, and...
                                                                                    a ton of bear sign.
This trail consistently has more bear sign than any other trail I have been on in Juneau.  I chose the trail and I knew that going in.  Along with the usual scat piles, which virtually line the trail, there are claw marks in the trees, trails in the grassy areas, patches of ground that have been dug up for roots and grubs, and footprints.  Pawprints.  Whatever.

Now I have only seen one bear (family) on a trail the entire time that I have hiked in Juneau.  I realize that in most cases I would have to try to see a bear (that is, not wear my rain pants), and that I would be lucky to see one.  And I want to see one.  Or more.  Just not on the trail, up close and surprised.  But I pay attention, hike carefully, and am not in the practice of carrying large dead animals out of the woods on my back (which is when most people have problems).  So I know that I am less likely to be surprised, and if I do run into a bear, chances are good that nothing horrible will happen.  I know that bears aren't lining the trails, hiding in tree branches, and waiting for me to walk underneath them so that they can ambush me.  I know this.

That doesn't mean that every snapping branch behind me, and every rustle in the bushes ahead of me doesn't turn a nice walk in the woods into an aerobic exercise.

But I decided long ago that I would rather live in a place where bears roam free.  Even if they eat me.
I'm grain fed and delicious.

July 10, 2010


I know that I have promised some of you a blog.  I know that I am a little late on that.  Soory.

The delay is not because I don't know what to write.  Trust me, I have more words than any of you would ever want to read.
It is not because I have forgotten.  I think about posts to write everyday.  I have even written out 6-8 of them already.
No, it has more to do with the fact that I don't want to bore you guys to death.  I can live on words alone, but I realize that many of you are more interested in pictures.  And really, who am I to deprive anyone of Alaska porn?  The problem is, I am not used to being the photo-taker in this operation, and even when I do remember to bring my camera, I usually forget that I have it.

I am working on that.
And in the meantime, I can borrow photos.
So never fear, I will use pictures to fill the space, at least sometimes.

 So now I present my blog, from Juneau.  It doesn't have a permanent name yet, and I will probably change up the layout, but here is the beginning.
However, 5 posts make a blog, and only one person knows my address so far (and I am sure that he has forgotten all about it), so I won't send out the announcement for a couple more days.
Then it will be real.