Thoughts, ramblings, experiences and joys of an Alaska girl. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is firmly rooted in the Great Land of Alaska.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Snowflakes and Earthquakes

We were worried for a while that we wouldn't have a truly "white Christmas" here, even though we live in Alaska. The snow has been sparse, and what has accumulated has been washed away by the rain that followed these past few months. Yesterday, however, we awoke to falling snow.

I've been here for a year and a half, and was here last winter. But, I have to admit that I have never in my life seen snow like I saw yesterday (and I've seen a lot of snow, having lived in Utah and Montana for most of my youth, and having lived in Connecticut for a while during winter time). The snow that fell from the sky yesterday was the perfect powder. It was the consistency of instant mashed potatoes before adding the liquid. The snow was light, crisp, and the flakes were perfect "snowflake" shapes complete with the "arms" extending from the center with pointed ridges. It was as if Jack Frost spent Christmas Eve cutting out perfect snowflakes, then let them fall from the sky on Christmas Day. The flakes were large, and looked like flat glass shards that could be broken in half instead of melted. They were so dry and lacking in moisture that they couldn't be packed into any sort of snowball at all and ran through my gloved fingers like sand on a beach. It was a magical day, except for the earthquakes.

We had an earthquake during the morning while opening presents, and another in the afternoon while we were watching a movie on the television. While earthquakes are nothing new in Alaska (we live in the state with the most earthquake activity and active fault lines of any US state), living now in a house perched on a mountainside above a river it didn't make me feel safe feeling the jolts and hearing the house creak the way it did. I told Alex it is a fear of mine that the hillside will sluff like the hillsides along the fault in Anchorage did during the 1964 earthquake, and our house will slide down the bluff with us in it. Both earthquakes registered at about 3.5 on the scale. Neither would have made our house slide into the bluff, but I can just imagine the headlines "Christmas Quake Of 07 Turns Hillside Home Into Sled For Owners On Eagle River Bluff."

In spite of the jolts, we had a wonderful Christmas day. It was a wonderful White Christmas!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Felt Up in Eagle River

HA! I knew the title would get SOMEONE's attention! It's not what you think though... it's another post about knitting.

I FINALLY finished my first knitting project. I made a felted tote called a Booga Bag. I didn't stab anyone even once while I was making the bag. No sheep were harmed during the making of the bag, and neither were any children, my wonderful fiancee, our dogs, cats, or myself. We did catch a squirrel in the live trap on the deck that froze and died before we could move it, but that has nothing to do with the bag.

I'm not totally digging the bag. I'll take a picture and post it when I get home. There's nothing wrong with it, if you ask everyone else. Probably the fact that I'm a perfectionist control freak is blurring my enjoyment of my very first completed knitted project. I don't like the color, the size, the shape, or the top of the bag. I like the handles (which is funny because it's the one part of the bag I really thought I'd dislike the most when I was knitting them up).

Right now, we have zero snow on the ground. That's right folks, zero snow. All the snow that fell 2 weeks ago was followed by a week of rain that melted it all. Now, our neighborhood looks like fall again, but without the fall foliage, more dismal, muddy and the sun sets at 4:30 pm. I love winter, but I'm not liking this at all. The lack of snow and warmer weather is providing me the opportunity to clean the hot tub on the deck and get it going. I cleaned 1/3 of it the other day, and I'll finish it tonight if it's not too cold out. The weather may be clear, but the odd phenomenon of clear weather in Alaska is also that on the clearer winter days, the temperature is freezing. The clouds of dismal snowy days keeps the warmth in and the temperatures up.

I'm rambling, but I was wondering... I read that the aurora borealis is shifting to the west and in 50 years the center of the aurora will be over Siberia and not over the Arctic Circle. How much of "global warming" has to do with the orbital rotation of the earth and the fact that it changes and the location of the poles change? I'm going to have to read some and research it.

I'm off to start another bag. I wouldn't have admitted it a few months ago, but knitting is kind of addicting (don't tell the longtime knitters I cussed out for saying the same thing to me months ago that I said that). I still like crocheting better, but having another hobby that keeps my hands busy is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

From the Stacks, Winter Reading Challenge

On my birthday, I decided that I needed to go ahead and make a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish by my NEXT birthday (October 24, 2008). Reading more books was one of the things on that list. In an effort to actually accomplish this goal, I cruised the net looking for inspiration. I found it. I couldn't believe how many readers had blogs out there. And, from the amount of books they read, I am equally amazed they have any time to blog!

One blog I read mentioned a reading challenge called "From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge." It goes from November 1st to January 30th. The premise is to read 5 books during that time frame that are already on my bookshelf, without going out and purchasing another book. Wow, what a concept! So, I'm joining that challenge. My actual final goal is to read 26 books this year, with authors whose last names range the full spectrum of the alphabet, A to Z. Starting with 5 books by January 30th will be the jumping off point where I'll begin.

I'm off to post my list! Happy Reading!

Why I love the Parking Garage

Ok, so I don't love the parking garage itself. I have a parking pass, but most days when I try to find a spot, it's filled and I end up having to park on the street. Nothing like paying a meter 5 minutes late and already having a ticket on my windshield! I did love the parking garage this morning though. Not only did I find a spot, but the view of the city from the 7th level really is beautiful. I got a bird's eye view of the inlet. It's not frozen yet, but it will be soon. The whole city was still dark, the sun hadn't come up yet. It was only 9 am. Everything I saw, buildings, the inlet, the sky, the roads, was all the same color, a hazy shade of gray/blue, and really quite beautiful and peaceful. Anchorage really is a nice city. I like it because it's big enough to give me the "city feel," with traffic in the morning, buildings over 2 floors tall, more people than I see in Eagle River, and the bus station always makes me feel like I'm around "city folk." Sure, Anchorage has its crime, its homeless, its "city issues," but hands down, there's no place else I'd rather be right now. I'm looking forward to winter, when the Christmas lights are out in full force, the shops are decorated with colorful decorations and everyone is excited about it being December. Seeing Anchorage from the parking garage helps me appreciate it more, cause I can see the "bigger picture" that Anchorage is, not just the street view I get from down below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Growing Older

Tomorrow is my 37th birthday. I remember a time when 37 years old seemed so old, almost ancient. I remember a time when 20 seemed old. I was convinced that by 21 I would know everything, and when I reached 21 I thought I DID know everything. Tomorrow, I will be 37, and I realize now that I know very little indeed.

I'm not doing with my life what I thought I would be doing at thirty-seven. I look at the lives of other 37 year olds and am amazed at how "grown up" I think they are compared to me. I have done a lot though. I helped start a church my junior year of high school. I joined the Navy at 19 and served 6 years active duty during Desert Storm/Desert Shield. I married at 20; had my daughter at 21; divorced at 26. I got two degrees, finishing my last BBA degree in management at age 36. I have supported myself and my daughter since my divorce 10 years ago. I moved us all the way from Virginia to Alaska, with no help. I have done a lot of "grown up" things. Yet, I still don't feel I'm where I thought I would be at this time in my life. Does aging do that? Make one wax and wane (what does that even mean?) philosophical? I thought I'd be further financially, career wise, and definitely didn't intend on having the body I have now. I'm in a job that bores me to death and doesn't challenge me at all. In fact, every morning I enter my place of work, I believe I can FEEL brain cells dying. Financially, I'm doing well enough to take care of myself and Kaylee alone, with few extras. I don't have to depend totally on myself now, but I refuse to ever be totally dependent on another, even if I'm married to them. Physically, I sure didn't plan on having a body that looks like I'm still trying to lose the baby fat I gained when pregnant with my daughter (and I can't use just giving birth as an exuse anymore, as she's 15 1/2 years old now!). I'm always telling the kids that "failing to plan is planning to fail." Peeking over the hill at my 37th birthday, I feel like I've failed at a few things, by failing to plan more for myself and following through. I feel like a total hypocrite too when I get upset with them for being lazy and not doing chores, for not being active, for not being vigilant in their studies, for not living up to their full potential. Exactly what right do I have to get upset with them, when I haven't lived up to my own full potential?

I feel old. I know that 37 isn't OLD old, but I feel my age. All that said and done, what now? I haven't gone on that diet and exercise plan I know I need to for my wedding, for my life, for my future. I am still just going home and crashing, instead of heading outside and raking leaves, or doing crafts, or reading, or being productive. I'm still at the same job, no energy or effort being spent on finding another. Honestly, looking at it, those are the only things I feel I haven't been proactive about changing in my life. I know I'm a strong person. I know that my family depends on me to be the "rock," the "leader," the one that guides them into doing what needs to be done. But, no one leads or guides me. I've been so busy guiding everyone else, that I've neglected taking care of myself and being the one who encourages myself to do what I need to do to be where I need (not just want) to be. I'm always telling the kids that if they don't reach their full potential that they have no one to blame but themselves, that they have all the tools necessary to be the best that they can be. I need to preach to myself more, and others less.

I'm not one for pity parties. I don't feel sorry for myself, so that ends the party right there. I'm more upset with myself than pitying. I don't want to get back on here at the eve of my 38th birthday and be rehashing everything I just wrote. I know that all it takes is me putting my mind and energy towards a goal, and I can accomplish anything I set my mind to (oh my god, I'm channeling my mother now, I knew I'd heard that somewhere before). I've accomplished all that I have in my life, on my own. What is to be is up to me, I determine my destiny. I'll have to look at my life like a plan for a successful business and get to work.

Ah, aging.... It really is a good thing. I need a Tylenol after all this hard thinking so early in the morning.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder In Reverse

Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by a lack of sunshine, or so I've read. When the days get shorter, the lack of sun causes some kind of chemical shortage in the body of some kind, and people get depressed. I don't suffer from SAD in the winter, although I do know people who do. I guess I suffer the opposite of SAD, whatever that is. I was very upset in the spring when the snow started melting and the days started getting longer. I missed winter before it even left.

With the weather dipping into freezing temperatures at night, the days getting shorter, and the nights getting longer, I'm happy to say that winter is returning. I love the snow. I love wearing sweaters. I love drinking hot chocolate and snuggling under warm blankets watching the sun set. And now that we are in the new house with the gorgeous deck system and the hot tub, I'm going to love watching the northern lights while immersed in the bubbling 102 degree water! I will miss the warmth of summer though.

I had so much that I wanted to do this past summer. I didn't realize how short 9 weeks really was till I woke up and the leaves had turned yellow seemingly overnight and the temperature was in the 40s. I wanted to hike more. I wanted to bike to work (that didn't even happen once). I wanted to camp more. I wanted to fish more. I wanted to backpack Crow Pass and Resurrection Trail. Now, those things will have to wait till next summer when they aren't hampered by snowfall, freezing temperatures and ice. If there's anything I wish about summer, I wish I had been better organized. It really did sneak up on me. I missed concerts in the park. I missed bike rides. I missed hikes. I just didn't plan well.

I'm psyched it's winter though! Now, for the next 8 months, I'll have time to plan for those 9 weeks of warm weather. I'm going to read up on the flora and fauna of Alaska. I'm going to plan more trips with Angie (ok, I'm going to let her plan and I'll go along with whatever she says. She's an awesome planner.). I'm going to research camping sites. I'm going to get my gear ready for those warm summer days. I'm going to strategically plan every weekend and weekday night. I'm going to do my own little reports on places in Alaska that I would like to know more about. I'm going to read books about Alaska, books by Alaskan authors, and sponge all the knowledge off of Angie that I can soak up. I'm going to hit the museums (who wants to be indoors during summer, winter is the time for museums), playhouses, and the performing Arts Center. Oh, then there's Fur Rondy, the lighting of downtown (I'm a sucker for Christmas lights), Snowzilla, snowshoeing, losing weight for the wedding, and the Iditarod. I am planning to learn to XC ski this winter. Our new place is perfect for snow hut building and neighborhood snowball fights, and this winter, I will definitely make time for sledding (I didn't make it even one time last year!).

While I'm upset with myself that I didn't better plan my time for the months of May through August, and especially June and July, I definitely have the reverse of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I feel like a kid at the door of a winter wonderland candy store right now. I can just imagine how giddy I'm going to feel the first time I snow blow the driveway.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Knitting Insanity

I'm a crocheter. I say that with pride. I've been crocheting since my grandmother taught me how when I was seven. It was probably the only "girlie" thing I did as a child. While other girls were playing dress-up with the Barbie dolls they'd receive as gifts from their parents and grandparents, I was using them to play catch with my dog in the backyard. I was far more interested in seeing the "war wounds" of missing feet, mangled heads and ripped off arms that were caused by my dog than seeing my Barbies sporting the latest fashion in plastic Malibu Barbie sports vehicles. My Barbies didn't have feet to wear shoes, and after my dog choked on one of the shoes that weren't being worn by my Barbie, my grandmother decided that it was time to teach me to crochet. I think she believed that if she taught me how to make Barbie clothing that I would treat my dolls better and that they wouldn't be used as substitute rawhide chews for my dog. She was wrong. Though I loved to crochet them outfits, I much more prefered crocheting them burial shrouds. After grandma realized that, she started getting me small metal race cars instead. But, I kept my love of crocheting.

Crocheting relaxes me. I love to watch the hook dip in and out, up and down, around and around. I love seeing the finished product of my effort, whether it's a hat, a scarf, an afghan or anything else. I rarely keep the items I make, I usually give them away, or sell them. I love crocheting so much, that I thought I'd try knitting. It looked relaxing too, and the stitches look different from crocheting. I thought it would be a way to share my love of yarn art with the gals at the office who knit and not crochet. After knitting for about two weeks now, I'm ready for therapy!

Knitting drives me batty. I'm in the process of making my first piece, a felted bag. The pattern looked easy enough: Cast on 70 stitches, knit one row, pearl one row, continue for 16 stitches, then change color and knit one row, pearl one row in an alternating color, then return to the *. Repeat till piece reaches about 160 rows. Easy, right? Sure, till I drop a stitch. The perfectionist that I am can't accept a dropped stitch, so I've removed all the stitches from my knitting needles and attempted to unravel the piece then place all the stitches back on the needles. I've done that about three or four times, just enough to drive me nuts and leave me cursing under my breath. When people ask me what I'm making, I tell them I'm making a garbage can liner! They think it's a joke, but they don't know how serious I am. Oh, then I get to listen to the "experienced" knitters tell me that it gets easier with time the more knitting you do. Uhhhhhh, sure. I may just take their word for it.

I had these grandious ideas of knitting afghans, bags, hats, gloves, scarves... I had grandious ideas of gorgeous items that I'd knitted myself keeping me warm this winter. Ahhhh, dreams. Then, yesterday, someone told me about recycling wool sweaters to make felted items. I think it's some kind of cruel joke! If I would have known I could recycle a sweater to make a purse, that I wouldn't have had to go through the patience testing unraveling process I have been, that I could have gone to the thrift store and spent 8 dollars on a used wool sweater instead of 4.99 a skein for yarn, I would have jumped on that in a heartbeat! It's still crafty, it's creative, it's EASY!

My pride and determinination won't let me just toss the item I'm working on in the trash on my way out the door to the thrift store to purchase a wool sweater, so I'll finish the bag I'm working on. It's going to cost me more than I had first anticipated (with the cost of counseling sessions thrown added... so, tell me more about your obsessive/compulsive need to control your environment and your refusal to allow yourself to make mistakes... blah, blah, blah psychobabble), but I think it will be worth it. I'm not saying the bag itself will make it worth it, but I will be able to say that I finished something, whether I ever start another knitting project again. It's also given me much more respect for crocheting and my ability there. Maybe I can't be good at everything, maybe I don't have the patience to be good at everything. Maybe it's my purpose in life to recycle? I do know that I'm probably not going to knit a pair of socks that requires 4 needles to create when I feel like causing bodily damage to "experienced" knitters with the two needles I'm already using when they start in about how addicting knitting is and how relaxing it is. If I had access to four needles, oh, the damage I would do.

Hello, my name is Cristine, and I'm a crocheter.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Wallpaper Woes

We have moved into the new house. Well, mostly anyway. We moved all of the larger items in, and all that is left is boxing up my and Alex's clothes at the old place, getting some of the left over items laying around, and cleaning up.

Being in the new house is great. It's roomy, gorgeous and holds secrets that we are still discovering. One of the secrets I found that wasn't so great was the wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom. Two showers were taken in the bathroom over the weekend. About an hour after the second shower was taken, I went into the bathroom and found that the wallpaper was bubbling off of the walls. Seems that the folks who had the house before put up the wallpaper without treating the wall first. So, I'll be removing the wallpaper in that bathroom and painting it this weekend.

For the remainder of the week, I'll be painting the kids' rooms. There's still wallpaper adhesive up in Kaylee's room from the border near the ceiling. I guess that the previous owners took down an old border, didn't remove the adhesive, then placed another border over the top, with plenty of glue. I spent about 8 hours attempting to remove the old border, and finally got the wallpaper off by applying first DIF wallpaper remover, then following that up with hot vinegar and boiling water. In the bathroom downstairs, I'm just going to use the vinegar and water solution to remove the wallpaper. It worked so much better than the DIF. Of course, now my daughter's room smells like a giant Easter Egg, but that's ok. Hopefully, the smell will go away with the application of the primer.

I wish this post was more interesting, but I have "new house issues" on the brain that are taking up all of my time and energy (literally, I'm exhausted) right now. Moving has been wonderful, but I'm so tired I can't think straight.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Three Bears, Two Moose, One Engagement

Yes, we made it to Denali for the road trip. The day dawned dark and dismal... but ended with me wearing the sun!

We headed to Cantwell to stay at the Cantwell Lodge on Saturday. The weather was gloomy, but I was so excited to be spending some alone time with Alex that nothing could have made me unhappy, even the weather. We stayed at the lodge that night, and I totally loved it. The lodge was great: two queen beds and a single bed in every room; a kitchen area (complete with dishes, a microwave and a small fridge); and tons of channels on cable! The host was friendly and the lodge was quiet and well maintained. We spent the night snacking on pizza bites and popcorn, washed the food down with a bottle of wine, and watched Trading Spaces all night. It was relaxing, peaceful and totally enjoyable.

The next day, Sunday, we headed to Denali. When we got to the visitors center, we were informed that the road was only open to mile 30, but I was still so excited to be there that I didn't care if we only got to go to mile 15, I was in DENALI! We headed to the Denali Princess for breakfast and some shopping before going into the park. We figured we'd avoid some lines that way. We watched a little football with some tourists in the lobby (their train had been delayed due to snow in Denali, and they were headed to the McKinley Princess).

We headed into the park at about 12:30. The colors of fall surrounded us like a blanket. Patches of snow were already forming, and we hadn't even reached mile 30 yet. Just before mile 15, traffic was stopped in both directions. It's amazing how many people will stop everything just to watch two moose eat leaves off of bushes. Just before Teklenika campground, I saw a reflection pond (lake) just off to the left in the trees. The rangers still weren't allowing us to go past mile 30, so Alex and I turned around and headed back to the lake so I could get some pictures. I hopped out of the car and made my way around the trees to get the "perfect" photo. The weather still wasn't cooperating. It was still a bit drizzly.

After I took some pictures, I started walking back to the truck, but found Alex still lingering down by the lake. I joined him at the edge, and we watched the ripples on the top of the water made by a beaver swimming to the far shore. I was getting cold, and asked Alex what he would say about heading back to the truck for some carmel popcorn (we had some for the road trip). He turned to me, and out of no where says, "What would you say if I asked you to marry me at this lake?" He pulled out a box with the most beautiful ring in it! I was in shock, I think. I pointed to the ring and said, "is that a hypothetical ring?" We'd joked all the time about "if we hypothetically get married," so I didn't know what else to say! I told him I would say yes, then I'd cry. Both of which I did.

On the way out of the park, we saw a mother bear with two cubs on the edge of a shallow river at mile 15. They didn't stay long, they had berry eating to do, I'm sure. The snow beyond mile 30 was already 5-6 inches deep, with more snow on the way, and winter fast approaching.

The weather may not have cooperated and brought the sunny skies we'd hoped for. We may not have seen much wildlife. We may not have been able to drive into the park to the end of the road. But, this will always be my favorite and most memorable trip to Denali. We don't know the name of the small pond/lake where Alex asked me to marry him, but for us, it will always be Engagement Lake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Make New Friends, But Keep The Old

.... one is silver and the other is gold. That's how I'm looking at the changing of the seasons. Summer was a wonderful friend, a new friend (since it was my first summer in Alaska since moving back). Fall is my old friend here, my golden friend.

The city of Anchorage has officially called an end to summer. I wrote in one of my first blogs about how a friend had told me that the "official" start of summer in Anchorage was when the city put up the hanging baskets that line the streets of downtown. On the flip side of that coin, the city took down all the baskets yesterday. All that was left of them when I walked to work from the parking garage yesterday were the remnants of flower petals that had showered down upon the sidewalk when the baskets were removed. By lunchtime, even the petals were gone, after having been swept up by zealous sidewalk sweepers. Adieu, summer! Welcome fall!

We are in the process of moving into a new house with views that rival views I drive to Seward to see! We are still in Eagle River, but we are moving to a new place that will accommodate our family much better. The leaves on the trees in the backyard in the new place are already changing, yet another testament that fall has indeed arrived, whether the fall solstice has arrived or not.

I've been asked by friends Outside (outside of Alaska) how we survive the winters of Alaska. To tell you the truth, the winters in Anchorage aren't that bad. My mom told me that when we lived here when I was young that they weren't that much different than the winters I grew up with in Utah. If last winter was any indicator, the winters here are warmer than the ones I experienced when I lived in Whitefish, Montana and Chicago, Illinois. Granted, the darkness can make me a little less active, but I make sure to plan activities, regardless of the sunlight. That's one key, not letting the lack of sunlight keep you inside. Yes, it's chilly. Yes, it's dark. Yes, it can seem like winter lasts forever sometimes. There is, however, the gym. Last winter, Alex and I tried to go at least 3 times a week. We also planned snowshoeing trips to get us out in what sunlight there was, during daylight hours. Angie and I took trips to Talkeetna and Homer and Seward, which gave us something to look forward to, and a bit of a change of scenery. Sure, we were still surrounded by snow, but the wildlife and the people are definitely different and unique in the different places we visited. Just getting out and driving along Seward Highway and seeing the once free-flowing springs frozen by the winter cold was a wonderful get away. Alex has ski passes for himself and the kids for this winter, so they will be busy, and outside (that's a key, get outside) every weekend during winter. It also helps that the new house has a wonderful hot tub on the deck. Even if it's cold outside, we'll be nice and toasty, outside, enjoying the winter night air and hopefully get a glimpse of the aurora borealis. There's really nothing more invigorating or spirit lifting than seeing the Northern Lights dance across the sky!

There are other ways to get out of the house than dining at one of the Anchorage basin's many restaurants. There are several museums; the tourist shops that were teeming with tourists during the summer are now ours to rummage around in; there's the beer festival in October to look forward to; events in other cities, towns and villages to enjoy; events at the Performing Arts Center that we have tickets to already; many local theatre troops (including my favorite, Cyrano's). The Snow Goose has blues on Thursdays; there's the monthly First Friday Art Walks; there's Sidestreet Espresso for a great cup of coffee (latte, mocha, Americano... pick your poison); the Anchorage Museum hosts independent films and foreign films; and, there is MEETinAnchorage and the Anchorage Adventurers MEETup groups. My kids have also been reminding me of all the crochet and knitting projects I've neglected during the summer, and with the new house comes a beautiful new kitchen that I get the joy of learning to cook (all over again) in. I'm also going to spend the fall and winter reading up on wilderness survival, the plants and flowers of Alaska, mushrooms, and write out a list of activities so that spring and summer don't catch me off-guard with nothing planned (like they did this spring and summer). My fall and winter months are full, indeed!

There's no reason for me to stay inside the house, depressed that the weather isn't warm and beautiful, during the winter here. There's always something to do, it's just a matter of looking. So, how do I survive the winter here? The same way I do the summer. I get outside, I greet each day with a big Alaskan bear hug, I remember where I live and how lucky I am to live here with the people I love, whether the weather is warm or cold, sunny or snowy, splashed with spring color, green with summer foliage, yellow with the leaves of fall, white with winter's snow, foggy, rainy or beautiful and bright. Alaska is a place to be experienced, each day providing a new adventure, each season holding its own place in my heart and it's own set of activities in my day planner.
How do I survive the winter? I don't survive it, I live it, I love it, I relish it! When it comes, it's a new friendship all over again. When it's gone, it's another old friend that I miss till it returns once again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Touring like the Tourists

We decided not to camp when we go to Denali for the road lottery on the 15th and 16th. Alex talked to someone who said that it would be down in the high 20s to lower 30s at night. While I think we'd be fine, I guess Alex has thinner skin than I do. He booked us a room in Cantwell for the night of the 15th and one at the Denali Princess Lodge on the 16th. I'm not complaining! We haven't had a get away from the kids in... oh... EVER.

The weather is getting cooler here. I have pulled out my sweaters and am in the process of storing all of my summer wear. Pulling out the fleece and the flannel is like greeting old friends! I love sweater weather. I'm looking forward to wearing my Cabella jacket with the wolf pelt lined hat in the next few months. When my friend Connie moved from Anchorage to Tennessee this past Spring, she gave it to me. When I tried it on in April, I could only keep it on for about 5 minutes before I was broiling! It's going to be awesome this winter.

Alex got the kids and himself ski passes for the season at Alyeska already. They don't know yet, but I know they will be excited once the first substancial snowfall hits. I have no interest in downhill skiing, myself. I know, I know... I've been told that if I try it once, I'll love it and get hooked, but I just don't think I will, and it's not worth the money to me to purchase all the gear I'd need to go just one time. Alex and the kids can go skiing, I'll go snowshoeing and cross country skiing on the paths around Alyeska while they are zipping down the hills and doing face plants into snowbanks.

The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn yellow. Further up on the mountains, the low lying bushes are turning red. Fall is my favorite time of year for color. I love the colors of fall even more than I love the colors of the flowers that line the streets of Anchorage in hanging baskets during the summer. I love bundling up in a jacket, feeling the cold air on my face, wearing gloves. I love making fires, drinking hot cocoa, and snuggling to keep warm. I love watching the dogs bury their noses in the snow and chasing snowflakes as they fall. The darkness that lasts so long during the winters here doesn't bother me either. I have an aunt who has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that makes her very depressed and lethargic during the winter. She has to spend time under an ultra violet light lamp in the winter. I'm so glad that it doesn't effect me like that in the least. Winter here is my favorite time of year, hands down. The trees, bushes, ground and mountains are covered with a layer of white that reminds me of wedding cake. It's beautiful when the light hits it, or moonlight reflects off each snowflake. The small waterfalls that usually flow down the sides of the mountains on the Seward Highway freeze into magical ice walls, the inlet freezes to a mirror like sheet of ice, and the path to Winner Creek just about evens out to be elevationless with the snowfall. The last time I snowshoed to Winner Creek last winter, I could hear the creek beneath the snow and ice, whispering as it fell over the cold rocks. I took the hand tram over Glacier Creek and couldn't tell how far above the ground I was because the creek was blanketed with a 20 foot layer of snow! It was amazing. I won't be snowshoeing unprepared like I did last year again though. I'll bring an emergency pack this year.

I'm getting all caught up in dreaming of winter already, when I should be looking forward to my Denali trip! This is a possible once-in-a-lifetime trip! Winning the Denali Road Lottery is awesome! Having sent out 10 entries, and winning with one, was great! I'm definitely entering again next year. The opportunity to drive in our own vehicle the entire length of the road is really special. Being able to stop whenever we want to, spending the day in the park from 6 am till midnight, not rushing, breathing in the air and the magesty is going to be amazing. I'm going to have to read up on Denali before we leave. I'm going to make sure I have plenty of batteries for my camera, the appropriate NON COTTON attire (no folks, here in Alaska, cotton is NOT our friend!) for layering, I'm going to crochet a hat just for the occassion, and I'll make sure we have healthy food in the truck to eat! Ok, getting psyched about the trip again! Angie won for the same day. I wonder where they are staying. I could let them use our camping reservations if they wanted. It's already paid for.

I've been here for a little over a year, but I still enjoy Alaska every day, just as much (actually probably more) than I did when I came to visit in 2005. I look forward to every sunset in Alaska, every change of season, every animal I see I feel I'm seeing for the first time, I love the abundance of the land and the secret beauty it holds. I still tape every documentary (thank you Jeff Corwin) on Alaska, bears, and Denali. I look for books about Alaska at every bookstore. I wonder, do people in Iowa enjoy their state as much? How about Oklahoma? There's just something about Alaska, there really is. There's a spirit here that grabs hold of you and just doesn't let go. I have a friend, Mary, who decided to move back to the Lower 48 a few months back. She made it for 41 days before the longing for Alaska brought her right back to it's awaiting, open arms. I love it here! Bring on the Northern Lights! YIPEE WINTER!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Blueberry Slogging

Yesterday, Alex and I went hiking up Harp Mountain in Eagle River. Ok, I'll be honest, Alex went hiking, I went berry picking. We had entered some geocache locations in our GPS unit that morning before heading out. Alex headed up the Harp Mountain Slog to find the geocache box at the top of the peak, and I stayed below, picking to my heart's content.

I decided yesterday, after berry picking for 1/2 the time and getting 2X the blueberries, I will never pick berries up Arctic Valley again. It was a bit of a hike to get to prime berry picking grounds up Harp Mountain, but no one else was there, I didn't have to compete with others, pay for parking, or search and search for ripe berries. Right above the treeline, the berries were there, waiting to be picked. At Arctic Valley, I had to hike and hike, just to find berries, and then they were so sparce that I spent hours there for less than 1 1/2 quarts of berries.

The only thing I advise about picking in an area with few people, remote areas, is to bring bear spray. The area I picked in was an area where this past June, my friend Julie and I had seen a very large black bear about 200 yards away from us on the other side. Also, Alex saw wolves when he was going up and over the slog peak of Harp Mountain.

You'll notice I didn't tell you WHERE Harp Mountain is. I guess I'll let you find that out on your own. It's my way of attempting to have a "secret" berry spot. Not many know where Harp Mountain is, and if you are willing to do the research, drive to Eagle River, and hike to the berries, I'm more than happy to share! Please remember though, this area is surrounded by private property housing, there are no restrooms and little parking, and no trash cans. If you pick there, please leave the area the way you found it, bring doggy doo bags and don't let your pups annoy the locals much.

Happy picking!

Friday, August 31, 2007


Haven't written in a while, thought I'd post some updates.

I've been jamming my heart out. I've made red currant jelly, strawberry rhubarb jam, and fireweed jelly. I've made so much of it, my kids think that we are going to survive on nothing but jelly and jam all winter! They swear I make it every other day.

To my delighted surprise, I learned that rhubarb can not only be grown in Alaska, but it thrives here! My friend across the street had a backyard patch full of it, and offered it to me. I took armloads full, literally. I've got so much rhubarb that the whole entire bottom shelf of my fridge has been dedicated to rhubarb storage. Some of the stalks are 2 1/2 feet long and about 2 inches wide! No, I'm NOT exaggerating!

The berry picking has been tedious, especially for blueberries. I've made it up Arctic Valley several times, but it has taken hours and hours just to harvest 2 quarts of blueberries. I recently read that berries grow best on southwest facing slopes, so my new goal is to take my gps and find some southwest facing slopes before the weather turns cold. Though the blueberries may be sparse, the crowberries are plentiful. I changed my gathering goal from blueberries to crowberries last weekend and gathered 2 quarts of crowberries up Arctic Valley. I also found a great crowberry pie recipe, and have several crowberry jam and jelly recipes that I'll be using my stash of berries in. Won't my kids be delighted!

We hiked Winner Creek trail last weekend with the MEETinANCHORAGE group. A friend and I decided to hike the path from the hand tram over Glacier Creek (just past the Winner Creek Gorge Bridge) to Crow Creek Road. On our hike, we found bushes and bushes full of blue huckleberries. Blue huckleberries look and smell an awful lot like blueberries, but they don't taste as sweet. Caitlin collected enough to make a blueberry (huckleberry, in this case) buckle out of them! We also found patches of salmonberries and I introduced her to the delights of watermelon berries (her new favorite, she says).

Out of the blueberries I collected at Arctic Valley last Sunday, I made the family a wonderful Blueberry Cobbler. My daughter said it was wonderful, but not worth the 5 hours of work it took to get the berries. I have to agree. Five hours for only 2 quarts of berries was a lot of work! Last year, we got that many berries in less than an hour up Arctic Valley. And, the berries this year that we managed to find are an odd oval shape, not the traditional round, plump, juicy berries we've found in the past.

I'm not giving up though! I still have a few other spots I'm going to check out. Since Monday is a holiday, I am devoting my "Labor Day" to the "laboring" of picking berries. I've discovered that the Internet is a wonderful place to find recipes for all kinds of "berry good" recipes. Woman can not live on jamming alone!

Next weekend, Angie and I are going camping again. More about that in a later post. And, the weekend of the 15th, the family is off to Denali Park for the road lottery winning drive on the 16th! I'm so excited about that!

Live is wonderful! I've said it before, I'll say it again.... I LOVE Alaska!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Denali, here we come!

Well, the results of the Denali Road Lottery are in! We won a ticket for Sunday, September 16th. Angie won for the same exact day.

I reserved a camping space at Riley Camp Ground right inside the park entrance. We have reservations for Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16. Last year, Angie went and left early in the morning from Anchorage. She said the experience was wonderful, but the day was long and she was totally exhausted when she finally got home. We'd like to avoid the exhaustion. The drive into the park itself will still take an estimated 10 hours or so on Sunday, especially if we see wildlife along the way and stop to watch it in its natural habitat.

I'll know more when we receive the package for permit pick-up. The name that won was actually my sister's name! I entered for me, my daughter, my nieces and my sister. My sister's name is the only name that was chosen out of the 10 entries we made for the lottery. I guess I should contact her and thank her for being my sister!

I'll make sure to post LOTS of pictures on my Flickr account after we return. Until then, I'll be learning all I can about Denali, its history and legends. I am also reading a book about the first woman who ever climbed Denali. The book is called The Accidental Adventurer: Memoir of the First Woman to Climb Mount McKinley, by Barbara Washburn. I've got a little less than a month to find out all I can. I find it shocking and a little sad when I tell people that I won a ticket and they tell me they've lived here for 10+ years and NEVER gone to the park. I fall more in love with Alaska every day, and don't understand why some poeple who live here take living her so much for granted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Lottery in Alaska

No, we don't have gambling lotteries for cash here. For Alaskans, the lotteries that are most important are the Denali Road Lottery and the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary Lottery. Each year, thousands of applicants vie to drive into Denali on the only park road all the way to mile 91. Access to the park otherwise ends at mile 15, and the only way to see the park beyond that is on foot, by bicycle, or on one of the busses that enters the parks that is run by the park service. For $10 an entry, applicants hope to be awarded one of the 400 daily passes to enter the park for September 14, 15, 16 or 17.

Alex and I entered the drawing this year for Denali road access. We also entered for our kids. We are hoping to win access for at least one day. If we won access for two consecutive days, that would be ideal. We'd camp in one of the camping grounds near the park, and spend the two days driving the unpaved road, hoping to see at least one of the big 5 (bear, moose, caribou, dall sheep and wolf) animals in the park. It would be an amazing experience to win a ticket and be able to experience the park like few are ever able.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

From Homer to Fairbanks

I don't watch the major networks much, so I didn't know there was a new show on called "Fat March." I caught it last night when it was on. The premise of the show is that 12 overweight people walk from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. That's 570 miles. They do it in 10 weeks. They eat 5 mini meals a day, and two snacks.

Out of curiosity, I map quested how far it is from Homer to Fairbanks, Alaska. For those of you that don't know, Alaska may be the largest state in the Union (YES, we are a part of the United States and not Canada), but we don't have many road systems here. Most villages like Nome, Kotzebue, Barrow and just about everywhere off the main highway system isn't accessible by road. Homer is the southernmost point on a major highway that can be reached, and Fairbanks is the northernmost point on a major highway that can be reached. Anyway, from Homer to Fairbanks it's 579.54 miles. That's only 9.54 miles more than those folks are walking on their Fat March.

I've decided to do my own little Fat March and see if I can't walk the distance from Homer to Fairbanks. I'm going to shoot for doing it in 10 weeks, which means I would complete the mileage by my birthday on the 24th of October, by starting tomorrow. I've been wearing a pedometer to determine how many steps I take a day, and I've been attempting to get to 10,000, though I rarely do. Alex is wearing one too, and we've got a little contest going to see who walks the most steps. Activity outside of walking also has a step equivalent that he's got a chart for. Walking 579.54 miles in 10 weeks would be 57.95 miles per week, and about 11.59 miles a day if I walk 5 days a week (9.6 miles a day for 6 days a week; 8.28 miles a day for 7 days a week). I can walk. I can get up in the morning and walk at the gym or in the neighborhood. I can walk at lunch downtown or along the Coastal Trail or at the gym that's only a few blocks from my workplace. I can walk after work at the gym or in the neighborhood or on the myriad of hiking trails in Eagle River. The show encouraged me that I don't need to spend all day in the gym, or eat snail food, or kill myself with intense workouts. Nor do I need to live in a mansion and have trainers yell at me to run up a hill, do 200 more sit ups or cry on camera in front of a whole nation.

I'd like to lose 30 pounds in the next 10 weeks. I know that it's advisable to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, but I'm convinced that is for skinny chicks who want to lose 10 pounds in order to fit into their size 2 jeans instead of their size 5s. I haven't seen a size 5 since I was 5. I've got a lot to lose, and 30 pounds would get me into my snow pants with room to spare, help me snowshoe without getting terribly winded, allow me to buy lower weight rated snowshoes and XC skis, and really get me motivated to lose the rest of what I need to lose by next summer. Plus, we are planning on going to Hawaii the end of December for a winter vacation. I'm not going to have people trying to harpoon me on the beach in Hawaii! Other goals I have will only be helped by losing the weight: running the mayor's half marathon in Anchorage next June; running the Nike half marathon in San Francisco next October; biking the Sonoma wine country next summer; biking from Eagle River to Seward next summer; camping and hiking and biking my hiney off next summer and fall.

No one ever intends to become overweight. I didn't hit my teens and think, "WOW, now I can get a fat ass and wide hips!" Life handed me food on a silver platter, and I ate every bit of it and asked for seconds. But, I know I don't have to stay like this, so I'm not going to.

If those 12 folks on Fat March can do it in front of a nation, all of us seeing their rolls, tears, attitudes and accomplishments, I can do it here in Alaska. I'm not doing it for 1/12 of 1.2 million dollars, but I'll feel like a million bucks when I'm done! And, as I've said before, being fat sucks. I don't like it any more now than I did when I first posted that.

Wish me luck.... the fat march begins! I've created another blog and attached it to this page. It's called My Alaska Fat March... read my progress, pitfalls, pity parties and panderings about it there!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chitina, McCarthy and Kennicott, oh my!

This weekend, my friend Angie and I headed out on the road for another adventure. So far, we've hit Homer (last winter), gone to Talkeetna for the Moose Dropping Festival and stayed at the Montana Creek Campground, and this past weekend we headed to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mine. We've done hikes, showshoed, hunted for wild salmon on parade in anchorage and have more plans for the coming winter, and the coming year ahead. It's really great to have a friend who has an adventurous and inquisitive spirit that matches (or actually far exceeds) my own. We were both born with wanderlust spirits.

The trip from Anchorage to McCarthy is not a short one. Driving the 7 hours it took to get there further confirmed that Alaska is a huge, HUGE place with such diverse landscape that I know I'll never tire of living here or run out of places to see. We started off at about 10:30 am on Friday. The last time I'd been up the Glenn Highway past Palmer was last year when I moved back to Alaska from the Lower 48.

The weather was amazing when we headed out, and remained so all weekend long. We saw the Matanuska Glacier clearly as we passed it. We stopped at the Sheep Mountain Lodge for lunch, stopped in Glenn Allen for gas, then headed down the road towards the town of Chitina (pronounced Chit-na). Before getting to Chitina, we stopped at the washed out state campground of Liberty Falls. Angie told me that Liberty Falls was one of her favorite places to stop on the road to Chitina, but that the flooding had changed not only the path of the creek, but also the falls itself. There is a road and parking lot before the actual campground, and we got out there and hiked up to see if we could see the falls. We couldn't see the falls from that hike, however. So, we headed up the road to the entrance to the campground. The road is closed, but we left the car at the entrance and walked past the baracades to the camping area. I could tell that Angie was a little disappointed that they hadn't started to rebuild the campground, but when they do, I'm sure we'll be going back there to camp.

Chitina used to be a ghost town, but it's slowly being rebuilt and reinhabited. It's the end of the paved road area, and the starting point of the McCarthy Road. On the road to McCarthy, Angie maneuvered around potholes and old railroad posts, across old railroad bridges and past moose, snowshoe hares, and ground squirrels till we made it to the campground where we stayed, Glacier View Campground. The campground was quiet, most of the areas were nice, and it was only a mile from McCarthy.
To get to the actual town of McCarthy, it requires walking across a footbridge over the Kennicott river. There used to be a handtram across the river, but the bridge was built in 1995 to replace it. We stopped on the bridge to take a look at the Kennicott and Root Glaciers on our left. We passed the city's watershed, a stream with signs posted that read "Ecologically Sensitive Area: Do Not Wash Dogs, City Water." The last day we were there, we actually saw a man back his truck up to the area and plop a hose with a filter on the end of it into the water and pump water into a huge water holding tank. McCarthy itself is compromised of maybe 10 buildings on a "main" street. There's two restaurants, a take it restaurant called "Potatoes," and a restaurant at the McCarthy Lodge. We ate at the McCarthy Lodge both nights we were in McCarthy. The food is awesome! It was a lot of fun sitting there listening to people from all over the world who were visiting, trying to determine where they were from by the language they were speaking.

Saturday, we took the shuttle from McCarthy to Kennicott. By the way, you'll see Kennecott/Kennicott throughout this blog. This is not a misspelling. Kennecott is spelled both ways. The city, glacier and river are spelled Kennicott. The mine and mining company are spelled Kennecott. The road from McCarthy to Kennicott is 5 miles long. At the end of the shuttle ride, we were let off in Kennicott near the Kennicott Lodge. Ruins of the mining town greeted us. The town and mine were active until 1938. Then, the company up and deserted the town and the mine, leaving everything behind. Several of the buildings were razed, but many have remained and are being rebuilt by the National Park Service. We walked around the town taking tons of pictures, picking the wild raspberries (ok, I picked, Angie watched), and finished by eating lunch at the Kennicott Lodge. Another great place to eat, and the views are amazing! We walked the 5 miles back to McCarthy, then on to the campground.

It was an amazing and relaxing weekend in an amazing and beautiful place. I love living in Alaska and having the ability to act like a tourist without having to pay for airfare and car rental! We've already discussed going back next year, and taking a root glacier hiking trip. For 1/2 a day, it's only 60$; full day cost of 95$. I could have stayed for another week and still not seen everything there that there is to see and done everything there is to do. Since McCarthy basically shuts down in mid September, we won't be able to make it back this year, but we'll be waiting for May, when the area opens up again.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

When Alaska Hands You Fireweed

There's a saying that "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Well, when Alaska hands you fireweed, make fireweed jelly.... or fireweed honey.... or fireweed ice cream.

I went berry picking up Arctic Valley in Anchorage yesterday. We parked at the lot at Alpenglow, and began the hike up the trail that leads to Rendezvous Peak. We'd hiked it a few days ago and found berries on the way (crowberries, lowbush cranberries or lingonberries, and blueberries), but Alex had a goal and a mission to reach the Peak. That goal didn't include berry picking. So, yesterday I went back and I found about 2 pints of Alaska blueberries (the ones with the green meat inside), but didn't stay long enough to find more than that. I'll go back some time the end of next week when the berries have had more time to ripen.

There is, however, a lot of fireweed up near Alpenglow: thick, long, flower-filled stocks of fireweed in bloom. Seeing them, I decided to change my jelly strategy and go for the fireweed instead of the non plentiful berries. I'd taken my scissors to trim the fireweed to place in bags to take home where I picked the petals off. I stuffed two grocery bags full of fireweed stems and headed home to petal pull. From the two bags of stalks I'd cut, I pulled off 2 quarts of flowers. Since most of the recipes I've found for fireweed jelly call for 8 cups of petals, I got exactly the right amount.

I've never made fireweed jelly, honey or ice cream, but I've tasted all three. Most of the fireweed jelly recipes I found were exactly the same. Here are the jelly, honey and ice cream recipes I am going to try:
Marylin's Fireweed Jelly Recipe
8 Cups fireweed blossoms
1/4 Cup lemon juice
4 1/2 Cups water
2 pkgs Sure Jell (or other powdered pectin)
5 Cups suger

Pick,wash, and measure fireweed blossoms (flower part only, no stems). Add lemon juice and 4-water. Boil 10 minutes and strain. Take the strained juice and heat to lukewarm. Add pectin all at once and bring to a boil. Add 5 cups sugar and return to full boil.
Boil hard for 1 minute. Pour into hot clean jars and seal. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Homesteader's Fireweed "Honey" Recipe
50 pink clover blooms
10 white clover blooms
18 - 25 fireweed blooms
3/4 tsp alum
5 pound bag white sugar
3 Cups boiling water

Wash blooms in cold water (gently rinse) to remove little critters. While rinsing blooms, boil water. Put all ingredients except water in pan, then pour boiling water on. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or jelly bag.
Put in clean canning jars and water bath process for 10 min.

OR, another I was told by a friend for fireweed honey that calls for more fireweed than clover:

Fireweed Honey
45 pink clover blossoms
25 white clover blossoms
100 fireweed blossoms
1 tsp. alum
10 Cups sugar
2 Cups water

Wash blooms in cold water. Put all ingredients except water into pan, then add water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and boil until fireweed turns gray and water is a purple color. Strain through cheesecloth or jelly bag. Put in clean canning jars and water bath process for 10 minutes.

The fireweed ice cream recipe I am going to use is one I modified from a rose petal ice cream recipe I found. I'll see if it turns out. I couldn't find ANY recipes for fireweed ice cream online, so this will have to do. I'll post the final product and review.

Fireweed Ice Cream
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 1/2 Cups fireweed petals only, no stems, no stamen
2 large eggs
3/4 Cup fine sugar
2 tsp. honey
1 cup milk

Put the cream, milk, and petals in a saucepan and bring to just below the boil***. Remove from heat, cover and leave to infuse for 25 minutes until cool. Whisk egg yolks in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Whisk the sugar and honey a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended. Strain the rose-infused milk into the egg mixture and return to the sauce pan or a double-broiler. Cook very gently until slightly thickened, but do not let it boil. Chill this mixture (custard now) and then freeze or process in an ice cream maker. Store in the freezer.

***An alternative to adding the petals full to a saucepan with the cream and milk is to place the sugar and the fireweed petals in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and make paste. Then, place the heavy cream, milk and sugar/fireweed paste in a medium sized saucepan with the honey and completely blend, then place on medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat then continue by adding the egg mixture as above.

I've also learned through buzzing about online that I could have made lilac jelly from the lilac that blooms in my yard. Also, I've goint to try my hand at rose hip candy, rose hip jelly and rose hip jam. When I do, I'll post the pics of the final products, the recipes and the reviews.

Have I already said I love Alaska????

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Berry Crazy

It's berry season, and I've definitely got berries on the brain. Everywhere I go, I see them: currants, high bush cranberries, crowberries, bog blueberries, Alaska blueberries, lingonberries, cranberries, raspberries... I walk the dogs through my neighborhood in Eagle River, and I see the berries off the sides of the path. My walk took longer than it needed to this morning because I kept going off the path to sample the bounty. By the time I got home, I'd eaten my fill of raspberries, currants and some early ripened highbush cranberries and didn't even want breakfast!

I had a friend pick berries up Arctic Valley this past weekend and she let me know that in one hour, they picked enough crowberries to make 4 batches of jelly. That's 48 jelly jars full, folks. I'm berry, berry jealous!

I'm heading up Arctic Valley myself tonight to hike Rendevous Peak and scope out the berry crop. The berries I'm most likely to find are bog blueberries, or bilberries. Bog blueberries are closely related to both the blueberry and the huckleberry. Bog blueberries grow on small branched shrubs, with wiry angular branches, that are very rarely over a foot high. They can be distinguised easily from Alaska blueberries by the height of the bush they grow on and the location where they grow. Alaska blueberries grow on taller shrubs near water or near the treeline in partial shade, the bog blueberry on the shorter shrub above the treeline in full sun. The fruit of the bog blueberry is also different from the Alaska blueberry in that it produces single or pairs of berries on the bush instead of clusters like the Alaska blueberry. Another way to distinguish them is that while Alaska blueberry fruit meat is light green, the bog blueberry fruit meat is red or purple. The most commonly cultivated is the bog blueberry, but I've found Alaska blueberry bushes near treelines as I've hiked up to clear treeless areas where the bog blueberries are. Both types of blueberries taste the best a few days after they turn a complete dusty blue and can be removed off of the plant easily. The berries should be firm, and the skins undamaged. Wash them just before using. To freeze, lay them out on a cookie sheet or in a pie pan/cake pan in a single layer and freeze, then place in freezer containers. When they are frozen this way, they keep their shape and are less likely to get mushy and bleed. You can also use them in muffins by tossing them in the batter still frozen and they won't bleed that way or get mush when cooked.

Highbush and lowbush cranberries (lingonberries), bog cranberries and crowberries are best picked after the first frost. These berries can still be found on the plants even after the first snowfalls and into winter. Highbush cranberries should be put through a food mill before using in jams, as they have a large pit in the middle. Highbush cranberries aren't actually a cranberry at all, but are members of the honeysuckle family. That fact doesn't make them any less tasty though! Lowbush cranberries (lingonberries) are not true cranberries, and are actually related to both the blueberry and the cranberry. They taste very similar to true cranberries, however, much like the highbush cranberries. They can be found on small evergreen shrubs in the same locations as bog cranberries, bog blueberries and crowberries. Bog Cranberries, or true cranberries, can be found among the bog blueberries and the crowberries on trailing plants, sometimes the berries can be found just above moss. The vines look so fragile it's strange to see such heavy berries on them. Crowberries can be found on small "pine looking" plants above the treeline in tundra sections. Crowberries can be "force frosted" by picking them when they are the desired deep purple/black color and placed into the freezer. This has the same effect as the first frost would.

Currants are ripe when they become a beautiful red and can be removed from the plant easily. When you hold them up and look at them in the light, they are almost translucent, and the seeds can easily be seen.

Raspberries are ripe when they are the recognizable dark red color and are easily removed from the plant with the center "core" staying behind so that the berry itself is hollow after you remove it from the plant.

As I've said before, make sure you know what you are picking. There are poisonous berries in Alaska that include baneberries. Never eat any berries that are white, also. I don't claim to be the berry expert. I've done a lot of research and own a lot of books. If you don't know what you are picking, don't eat it. I certainly don't. Once you do pick berries though and have enough to make something with, there are plenty of recipes online, and the books I've mentioned in my other postings have wonderful recipes in them also.

Make sure you remain bear aware when picking berries. Just as people enjoy berries, so do the bears, and we pick berries where they live. When I was picking currants last weekend, I had my boy be my bear watch. He didn't do such a hot job, as he pulled his jacket up and over his face and head to escape the mosquitos. I had found a large pile of bear scat and remained very aware that I was not alone where I was. Just as we were leaving, a couple passed us with their dogs and told us that they'd just seen a brown bear about 100 yards down the trail. That was our signal to leave the area.

I really do enjoy learning about all the plants, animals and berries in Alaska. Call me a nerd, but it makes me feel like I'm a part of everything around me when I look around me and know the names of the things I see. It's like knowing the names of old friends.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Berry Picking Locations

As I've said before, people usually closely guard their secret berry picking locations. However, I've been doing a lot of searching online, and have found a few locations that look promising that I'm going to share. Most of them are within the Chugach State Park system, but according to regulations: "Berries and edible plants may be gathered for personal consumption, but not for sale. Disturbing rocks, trees, or other plants is not allowed. 11 AAC 12.170."

Berries ripen at different times and are best picked when they are ripe. This past weekend, I found many berries of different types. Alaska Trekker has a great guide that describes when to pick berries and a few different types found in Alaska. If you haven't already gotten it, I'd also recommend the book Alaska’s Wild Berries and Berry Like Fruits to correctly identify what it is that you are picking. Not every berry in Alaska is edible, and those that are edible aren't always very tasty. When I went berry picking last, I not only found watermelon berries, raspberries, highbush cranberries, lowbush cranberries, blueberries, soap berries (not edible), and currants, but I found both colors of bane berries. Bane berries are very poisonous, and ingesting just a few can kill. Through researching other online blogs, state online sites, hiking sites, recipe sites and information concerning different "berry" topics, here's a list of locations that I'm planning to check out. Maybe I'll see you at 1 or 20 of them:

* Eklutna Lake Trails: Take the Glenn Highway to the Eklutna exit and follow the Eklutna Lake Road for 10 miles to the Chugach State Park campground. There is a fee for parking, unless you have a pass. There are several trail from the parking lot, and there is quite a hike to get to the Alpine area for blueberries, but highbush cranberries can be found in the woods. The hike starts in the parking lot and is 5 miles on foot or by mountain bike. Check specific day restrictions if you are going to be taking an ATV on the path, they aren't allowed every day. From the parking lot, cross the Twin Peaks Creek bridge and take a right onto the Lakeside Trail. This trail is rated as easy. It's a 13 mile trail. Bold Ridge Overlook Trail starts at mile 5 of the Lakeside Trail. This 3.5 mile trail (plus the 5 miles it takes to get to this trail, remember) is rated moderate to difficult. It's a hike of a mile and a half to the basin where the berries are. Twin Peaks Trail begins at the parking lot, crosses the Twin Peaks Creek bridge and continues to the alpine tundra. This trail is rated moderate to difficult also because of the steepness in some places. The trail is 3.5 miles. There are highbush & lowbush cranberries, currants, raspberries and watermelon berries along the lower trails, and blueberries, bearberries, crowberries and cranberries at the higher trails and the basin.

* Wolverine Peak Trail: Rated moderately strenuous. Drive about 6.5 miles south of Anchorage along the new Seward Highway and exit east on O'Malley Road. Go about 4 miles to a sharp left curve, and follow the curve to the immediate right. Turn onto Upper O'Malley Road. At the "T" intersection, turn left onto Prospect Drive. Another mile up, bear left where Prospect Drive intersects Sidorof Lane and continue .1 miles to the Prospect Heights parking area. From the Prospect Heights trailhead, mile 2 near Point Trail.

* Flattop Mountain Trail: just above the Flattop trail parking lot on the mountainside above Glen Alps on the Anchorage Hillside. Go back along the Powerline Pass Trail into the South Fork of Campbell Creek.

* Rendezvous Peak Trail: short, easy trail at the end of the Arctic Valley Road next to the Alpenglow Ski Area. Take the Glenn Highway towards Eagle River to the Arctic Valley exit and follow the road about seven miles to the parking lot. There is a fee for parking. This place may be crowded, but there are blueberries, mossberries, crowberries and cranberries enough for everyone.

* Peters Creek Trail: Take the Peters Creek exit off the Glenn Highway and turn right onto Ski Road. Go up about a mile, and go right on Whaley. It turns into Chugach Park Road. Go left on Kullberg, and then right onto Malcolm Drive. Parking is a quarter mile ahead, parking is limited. Use the cleared parking spaces along the right of the road near the trail marker. The trail leads to the slopes of the Mount Eklutna and Bear Mountain above Peters Creek. You have to hike in several miles from the trail head to get to the alpine berry patches.

* Mount Baldy Trail (up the backside, not the face) in Eagle River. Take the Hiland Drive exit. Pass through the light at Hiland, go up the hill. Pass through the light at the Walmart. On your right up about a 1/2 a mile will be Skyline Drive. Take Skyline Drive all the way to the end. The road changes names several times. At the end of the road is parking on the left. The trailhead actually goes through the gated section at the end of the parking lot and up around to your right. The face section is straight up from the parking lot, avoid that section.

* South Fork Eagle River Valley Trail: Drive up the Glenn Highway towards Eagle River. Take the Eagle River Loop/Hiland Drive exit. At the light, turn right onto Hiland Drive. Take the road up and over the South Fork of Eagle River. Just after the South Fork Bridge, take a right onto South Creek and follow it to West River Drive. Take a right and park on the left in the lot. No parking fee. You will have to hike a while to get out of the trees and into the alpine for low bush blueberries. Take either the Hanging Valley Trail or the South Fork Trail.

* Lazy Mountain Trail: This is a steep trail. Take the Glenn Highway north to Palmer. Follow West Arctic Avenue (the Old Glenn Highway) through town and across the Matanuska River Bridge to Clark-Wolverine Road. Turn east and go less than a mile to Huntley Road. Turn right on Huntley and follow the signs to the Lazy Mountain Recreation Area. Take the narrow footpath, NOT Morgan Horse Trail (which will be obvious because it's a wide trail), on the uphill side of the far end of the lot. Bear right, keep bearing right at the fork in the path a half-mile up the trail. The trail climbs for about a mile and a half, but at an elevation of 2500 feet, there's a picnic table and the trail moderates. This is where the berries are.

There are a few other Wild Berry Picking Spots I plan to check out that others have told me about, such as a few off of Abbot Road on the hillside, the Eagle River Nature Center trails, the rest stops along the New Seward Highway, a few camping sights along the New Seward Highway close to Seward, Hatcher Pass near Palmer, and a few near the Kennicott Mine in McCarthy when I head up there next weekend. Now, all I need to do is figure out exactly what I'm going to do with all the berries I get!

Happy picking!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Fishing in Alaska

I managed to catch one red salmon this past weekend when we went camping in Soldotna. The first night, I fished for 6 hours and caught nothing but a hand cramp, but I still enjoyed every minute I spent on the water. Sunday, I faired much better, and even landed one my first cast out.

Depending on who you ask, everyone has their favorite fishing spot, honey spot, or their own secret spot where they believe the fishing is best. Much like favorite berry spots for berry pickers, fishermen are very secretive about their fishing spots. I have a friend, Carol, at work that guards her secret fishing spot location. She will tell me all about how many fish they caught, how many fish were running, when they went fishing, but she stops short of actually telling me exactly where the spot is.

I haven't been in Alaska long enough to have my own secret spot. This is my first summer back here, and we've only gone fishing a few times. There are also several locations, according to the fishing regulations, where we can fish but then have to release everything we catch. That's the case around where we live in Eagle River, so we fish in Soldotna, down the road past the Fred Meyer, at the public boardwalk or the boat launch. When we fish there, we are shoulder to shoulder with the tourists who have no idea how to fish without the standard 20 feet of space between them and the next person. They also have no clue how to underhand toss their line into the water, so they fly fish over their shoulders like they don't see someone 4 feet away from them, with their lines flying wildly around, hooking on everyone and everything around them. I sympathize that their fishing licenses (because they aren't residents) cost $145.00, but the cost of the license doesn't include a fee for fishing like they own the river. They also have a tendency to keep anything they hook onto.

There are legal keeps and non legal keep fishing regulations when fishing for salmon. A hook in the mouth is a keeper. A hook anywhere else is a foul hook (a non keeper). Easy enough, right? Some don't seem to remember, and keep anything they hook into, fair or foul. I don't know if it stems from laziness, disrespect for the sport, or selfishness and greed, but keeping foul hooked fish is just wrong. With 60,000 fish running through a section of river on a given day, it's really not that difficult to fair hook the daily limit. It may take a while, but that's why they call it fishing and not catching. Fishing takes a while. It's about the experience, spending time outdoors, enjoying nature, not just about catching the daily limit allowed. If catching the maximum amount of fish without worry about skill or the experience, then dip net for them. Dipnetting requires no skill, the maximum number of fish that one can keep is increased in number, and it would open up spots at river locations for those of us that enjoy spending 6 hours on the river and going home with no fish, but many memories of our time on the water.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Happy Medium

Birds, fish, flowers, plants, berries, animals, insects, trees, people. There is so much about Alaska that is unlike anywhere else, and I want to know about it all, and experience it all. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I have as long as I want here, whether it be another 5 years, or a lifetime. I don't have to rush my experiences here. I'm not a tourist anymore. I had to remind myself that I could pace myself while I was in the bookstore today. Angie and I are going berry picking near Whittier on Sunday on the Horsetail Falls and Portage Pass trails so I wanted to get yet another book on wildberries. I purchased the Alaska Wild Berry Guide and Cookbook. But, true to my addiction of not being able to stop at just one book, I also purchased Wildflowers Along the Alaska Highway to add to the book I purchased a few weeks ago, Alaska’s Wild Berries and Berry Like Fruits. If money were no consideration, I would have purchased the dozen other books I wanted about mushrooms, fishing in Alaska, camping spots, trees and plants, hiking trails and Native Alaskan indian tribes. I've really got to get a library card!

I'm going to create a list of all that I want to see and do and break it down by season and year to focus my learning aspirations and activity goals. I want to smoke salmon (after learning about all the types of salmon, spawning seasons, fishing spots and habits of the fish, of course); I want to see more of the state (from Ketchikan to Barrow, which takes just a tad bit longer than a weekend); I want to learn to recognize animal tracks when I see them in the wilderness; I want to know all the names of all the plants, animals and trees around me so that if I had to, I could survive and not end up eaten or poisoning myself. I want to know about the people that inhabit this wonderful land, from the ancient inhabitants to the interesting folk on the Anchorage streets. I want it all NOW. I know that isn't realistic, however. There has to be a happy medium, a learning curve, a doing curve. I've also got to work, handle daily responsibilities of raising a child, pay bills, and enjoy the luxuries of being "civilized" and not having to live off of the land. I'm not ready to move into the bush quite yet, but I want to know everything I would need to know if I ever wanted to.

The happy medium this weekend, this month, this summer, is just to learn about the berries in Alaska (there are 50 types) and how to make jellies and jams from berries and flowers that most people I talk to, people who have been here for most of their lives, have no idea about (which totally surprises me). If I can do that, then I'll be one step closer to achieving my goal of knowing everything I want to know about Alaska. I will never know everything, but I'll do my darndest to learn as much as I can.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Welcome Weekend

It's Friday! It's the weekend! It's sunny and warm in Eagle River and Soldotna too!

I've been in less than a good mood today. Alex is out of town, the refrigerator is still broken and not expected to be fixed until next Tuesday, someone let my cat out of the house yesterday and we can't find him, and I'm on a diet. I could go on with things that have irritated me last night and today, but I'm not going to anymore. Instead, I'm going to take full advantage of the beautiful weather we've been given this weekend and enjoy My Alaska!

Last night, I was introduced to the wonderful world of wild currants. I've now added them to the list of wild edibles I'm going to attempt to jar this weekend. Our friends near the Eagle River Nature Center have wild currants growing in their yard and invited me to pick as many as I like. Since they are moving, I'm going to pick to my heart's content and not worry about leaving some for them! A few days ago, we drove up Hiland Drive and saw that the fireweed are in bloom, and blooming in abundance, so I'll drive up there tonight with a few empty bags for the flower blooms and gather them. Another friend just let me know that some kind of berry is growing across the street from his home off of Hiland and invited me to come and see what they are and pick any of them I like (if they aren't poisonous). He says the bears love them, so I'll have to be very aware of my surroundings and especially cautious while I harvest them.

To add to my reasons to be cheerful instead of gloomy this weekend, I'm going to head back down to Soldotna tomorrow to fish. In the Russian and Kenai Rivers, there are still some reds (Sockeye salmon) to be caught. I can use Alex's chest waders and the kids can use the hip waders. I'm going to have someone else filet whatever I catch though. The poor fish I tried to filet last week ended up looking like oatmeal with red food coloring. It was a bad scene. Our tent is still at our friend's property, so we have a place to sleep.

I have to remind myself that my reasons for moving to Alaska and the things I was looking forward to experiencing here can't be overshadowed by broken fridges, lost cats, or children who are (as of late) plucking my last nerve. I'll throw myself into the joys of living in a place so full of life, beauty and abundance and (for the weekend at least) forget about my day-to-day troubles.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Church of Harry Potter (I'm probably going to hell)

We have more copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in our house than we have of the Bible. When the book came out this weekend, we were camping in Soldotna. The only thing we could talk about the entire drive down was the new Harry Potter book and what we (Nicholas, Alex and I) thought would happen, who would die, and how we were going to share one book between the three of us. Alex and I even placed a bet (a bet I lost, so I now owe him a Cold Stone ice cream) as to what would happen in the book.

When Saturday morning rolled around, we decided we needed to go get food. What we REALLY wanted was the book. We picked up a copy off of the table in the store, took it back to the campsite, and began reading. Ok, I began reading. I don't like to share when it comes to my Harry Potter books. We ended up going BACK to the store and purchasing 2 additional copies so that we each had our own. That's dedication. That's addiction. Yes, that's pathetic. What's even more pathetic is that I'd also preorded a copy at the local bookstore that I have yet to pick up.

I told Alex on our drive home yesterday that I thought Harry Potter was the new Jesus (I'm waiting for the lighting to strike me as I type this). He fulfilled a prophecy, he triumphed over evil, he came back from the dead (well, sort of anyway), and he's managed to unite all peoples (through god knows how many language translations of the book) in a common purpose, the fight against the evil of Voldomort and his demon hord. Harry "saved" those of muggle and magic blood alike. Sure, he was a fictional character, but who doesn't know who he is? Some like him, some love him, some say they refuse to jump on the Potter bandwagon and downright hate him. But, like him, love him or hate him, everyone is talking about him and the book (young and old alike).

I converted to Catholism a few years ago. As a Catholic, I appreciate that there are saints that I can look to as examples in times of trouble and happiness, and believe me, there are plenty. There's a saint for travelers, a saint for mothers, teachers, children, just about every profession. I'll probably be excommunicated, but I think Harry Potter should be sainted. He performs miracles (sure, he's got a wand and wizard blood), he's encouraging, he's so "human" in his actions that he's easy to relate to, and he's inspiring. He's an example that goodness and love conquer all. Also, because he doesn't represent any one religion, he's someone that everyone can rally behind and support (unless you are Pat Robertson, of course).

I'm actually sad that the books have come to an end. Maybe I'll start a church based on the book and JK Rowling can be a traveling minister. Why not? Anyone interested in joining?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Being Fat Sucks

Everyone knows it... being fat SUCKS. Anyone who claims to be fat and happy, or pleasantly plump, is just fat and deluded. Anyone who tells you that you "have such a pretty face" is basically saying "Lord, when did you get so FAT?" If you are ever described as having "a nice personality," read that as "there's no chance I want to sleep with you."

I joined Weight Watchers again yesterday. I've joined, quit, and rejoined so many times that if I pasted all of my membership booklets on the wall, I could wallpaper my bathroom a few times over. Why have I joined and quit so many times? Well, being fat does suck, but the pain of withdrawing from eating, and the pain of working out, is more painful than being fat sometimes. Weight Watchers and their program is much better than the clinical study I did from November of 2005 to January of 2006 though. That was a total nightmare. Here's some advice: if ever given the opportunity to take a drug that hasn't been approved by the FDA, a drug that doesn't have a name (only a number), the opportunity to participate in a program that requires that every time you go in for an appointment you have blood drawn, have to pee in a cup, and have to get an EKG done, RUN (or waddle, or crawl, depending on your fitness level) as fast as you can! Why do we put ourselves through stuff like that in hope of losing a few pounds? In hope of finding a miracle cure that allows us to eat whatever we want, exercise little, and end up looking like Jessica Biel? It's not going to happen!

I don't like stepping on the scale any more than the next person. I don't care if it's 5 pounds, or 50 pounds, any woman who feels she isn't the "ideal" weight has a love/hate (or hate/hate) relationship with her scale. Like being in a bad relationship with a man and staying, we keep stepping onto the scale, hoping it will tell us what we want it to, justify our not having that piece of cake at dinner or that slice of pie at lunch, will it into making us feel good about ourselves. And what do we do when it doesn't read what we want it to? We feel bad, abuse ourselves because we were "bad" and that's why we didn't lose the weight, and then get right back on it the next morning.

I have to say one thing about the clinical study I did, I did lose weight. Going on a drug with no name, enjoying the wonderful side effects of no appetite, emotional upheaval (it made me LOOOOOOOOPY), sleeplessness and irrational amounts of nervous energy (I was like a toy poodle on LSD) helped get some of the weight off. But, when I realized I was heading to crazy land, I got off the ride! What happens when one gets into a program with no possiblity of making it a life-long change? Uh, POOF! the weight one lost suddenly finds its way back to where it left.

A friend of mine has this whole theory on the distribution of weight. He says that the earth can only hold so much weight without spinning out of its orbit into space and that the weight has to continuously be redistributed. So, when one person loses weight, another has to gain it. That's why, with the extinction of the dinosaurs and so many large mammals becoming extinct, the population of humans had to increase, to maintain the weight distribution. Don't know if I believe his theory, but I do know that the more weight my friends lose, the wider my hips get. Instead of taking personal responsiblity and admitting that I've gained weight because I have no self control, I guess I can blame it on the weight distribution concept?

Anyway, I didn't join Weight Watchers simply because they have a wonderful program. If I have to be honest, I also joined because I need to be responsible to someone else. It's too easy to lie to myself when dieting. It's too easy to roll back over in bed when the alarm goes off, instead of going to the gym. I tell myself I've already done a half marathon, I've already run a few 8K runs, I don't have anything to prove. I tell myself I'm in ok shape, so I'm ok. Lie, Lie, LIE to myself. I also joined WW because I like the fact that when I go to meetings, there are people there that inspire me, people who have been where I am now on their weightloss journey. And, there are a lot of people there that are bigger than me. Somehow, in my own sadistic way, it makes me feel good about myself that I'm not where they are. Plus, for every five pounds I lose, I'll get stickers. I always liked stickers. I like the instant gratification I feel when I get a gold star. If I got them at work, I'd probably work harder!

Use whatever catch prase you like to encourage you to lose weight... the whole "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels" mantra doesn't do it for me. But, "Being fat sucks" definitely does. It's simple. It's catchy. It's true. BEING FAT SUCKS!

Camping with the past and Harry Potter

We went camping this past weekend in Soldotna with some friends. They have about an acre of land near the Kenai river. We packed the truck with camping gear (thanks to my highly superior packing skeeeeelllllllsssss, it all fit), placed Beaner (the dog gets carsick, so there's no way he's riding in the cab) in the kennel in the back, put Nicholas in the truck with Chloe (the dog that doesn't get carsick) and headed out for the three hour ride south.

We arrived in Soldotna in the evening and unpacked the tent. I didn't realize that we would be there with so many other people. Marilynn (Alex's friend from work that owns the land) had invited a few other friends for the weekend. Our tent looked downright rustic surrounded by the RVs and 5th wheels on the lot. Marilynn's RV is the size of a tour bus, and looks like an apartment inside, complete with plasma tv, dvd player and a washer and dryer! With the people that came and went all weekend, I'd have to say there must have been about 25 to 30 people there! It was loud, full of laughter, and a lot of fun.

We'd brought a cooler of food, but it didn't get eaten. We brought a small camp stove, but it didn't get used. Marilynn cooked something for every meal. The woman should be a professional caterer. She's Filipino, so we got the treat of dining on Pork Adobo, seafood soup, rice, fried fish chips, and some "American" food like the normal cheese burgers, sausage, etc. I do have to admit though that being surrounded by people speaking Tagalog took me back to my past. It also reminded me that someone from my past go married on Saturday.

We dated for almost 5 years. It was one of those relationships that neither of us really wanted to be in, but it was familiar, comfortable, and hard to leave. I'm definitely not jealous he married someone else. I didn't want to marry him for more reasons than I can count. I ended things to move to Alaska, and I made sure before I left that there was no going back to that situation ever again, intentionally. I guess I can't escape my past, or the people in it, entirely. Thankfully, life does go on. The only constant in life is change. Things change, people have the capacity to change. Good memories, not so good memories, happy memories, painful memories, they are a part of me. Sometimes I do want to know how the people in my past are doing and what they are doing in their lives. I think that's normal for everyone. Some people have left profound footprints as they walked through my life. I've known some truly wonderful people that have shown me that people are good, kind and decent. It's helped me maintain hope in mankind when I've allowed people into my life that were selfish, self centered and hurtful. This walk through life has taken me down so many twists and turns, and I've learned so much about myself and others along the journey. The walk down memory lane that I've been taking for the past few weeks topped itself off with this camping trip.

Looking into my past memories is like looking into a pensieve (sorry for the Harry Potter connection, but I can't help it!). I can pop in and out of my past and view my memories as if they are someone else's memories and not my own. I can view them with an emotional detachment that I didn't have when I was living the actual event. I can't go back and change anything, but I can definitely learn from the events and see now the pain I may have caused others, not just the pain I felt in some situations. I know I don't have the right to intrude on the lives of others in order to say that I regret doing and saying some things I did and said (oh, and there are some things I did and said that I don't regret IN THE LEAST, but that's another issue), or see how they are now, but maybe feeling the remorse and taking responsibility for my actions is enough?

I didn't catch any fish on Sunday. I should have cast differently and gone when I knew the run was on. Instead, I waited till no fish were running and the catching was sparce. I bought hip waders instead of chest waders and ended up with a wet hiney and cold legs, unable to go very far into the water. I should have bought chest waders and gone into the water as far as I could, without fear of getting wet, no holding back. I'll add the memories of this weekend, good and not so good, to my memories of "shoulda, woulda, coulda, didn'ts" and go on with my life. The good thing about life, camping trips and memories is that until this life ends, there's the possibility to do things differently next time. There's the opportunity to look at all the decisions I've made, good and bad, and see how those decisions have led me to where I am. There's also the opportunity that when I'm faced with making decisions in the future, hopefully, I will have learned from the past. I think I have. I don't have a magic wand to wave to make my life any different than it is now, and if I did, I wouldn't use it. Are there things I would do differently if I could? Maybe. If I would have said the things I should have when I had the opportunity, gotten out of relationships I shouldn't have stayed in as long as I did (or gotten into relationships and friendships I never should have), reached out to people I should have kept in my life instead of letting go of them, my life would be much different than it is today. And, so would theirs. And, maybe that's not a good thing. Who knows. It's like the movie Sliding Doors, starring Gwenyth Paltrow. In the movie, two decisions she could have made actually occur, and throughout the movie we follow each decision and its consequences through to the end. Some of the decisions she made along the way were good, some weren't so great. In the end though, the path she DID take and the decisions she DID make were right. I have to believe, so were mine.