Monday, February 2, 2009

Back Home and....

Back in Colorado now for a year and I finally get to blogging again. I contemplate the idea of changing the name of the blog as I am no longer a lass in Alaska but more of a Mountain Lass. Any thoughts? Life is amazing and full of changes! I wonder if a life without some kind of change or constant movement is a bad thing? I have moved, oh and moved again. I can't seem to force myself out of the beautiful Rocky Mountains and am actually being accused of migrating farther into them.

The things I was so glad to be coming home to have been wonderful! My family and friends, the peacefulness of the familiar surroundings and home. Life is a constant change though isn't it? I have left the jobs I came home to, and left my beloved cabin and have moved over the mountain to another county and to different companies. I have kept and treasured the friendships of old, but continue to develop new ones.

Alaska is still a memory that was a grand adventure and such a time of growth and personal healing for me. Strangely enough, all desires to return to the familiar there are still not even close to the overwhelming desires to stay in Colorado and find the new adventures this wonderful state has to offer me! I will start blogging them here as they come.....

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The End is Near

My time here in the Arctic Circle is coming to an end soon. There have been many adventures and wonders that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
One thing that is coming quickly is the Winter Solstice. Do you remember when I got sun burnt during the Summer Solstice? I assure you it will not occur this time. The Winter Solstice is the SHORTEST day of the year. Again, may not mean as much in the lower 48 as it does here. For those of us who have felt the need to live in the Arctic Circle, it means that the sun does not come up at all on that day. We will have an impression of daylight. We call our current sun movement the Sun Peak-A-Boo game. Here is the Peak-A-Boo from a few days ago. You will notice the sun does not do much above the horizon. By the way this picture was taken at the peak of the movement seen over the tundra, it was about 1:30 in the afternoon. It "set" less than an hour later.
As my time comes close to an end, I was given a marvelous new camera! It is the first one that I have had here that has been truly capable of taking some pictures of the completely awe inspiring Aurora Borealis. I want to share a few pictures that I got last night. I will tell you the sacrifice that was made to acquire them. First, we went out at midnight. Then we realized that there is really no way to prepare for weather as cold as we were sitting in. I had 2 jackets, a hat and two hoods, two pairs of gloves, my jeans and snow pants, super dupper warm socks, and my snow boots. The dog kept coming over and sitting on me because there was no way she could stay warm without lying on top of my lap. This little bit of extra warmth was very appreciated by me! We were still cold as the weather dipped to -34 degrees. Really, you must ask yourself, "Is there something terribly wrong with the folks who claim global warming??"
The shots I posted here were part of the most spectaular display I have seen since being here. Normally I can see the very casual play of low energy lights running along the horizon as I fly in the darker months. These barely show up in pictures as anything more than "misty clouds." Last night the whole sky was lit up with colors that looked like they were raining from the sky! It was really spectacular. I can't describe the movement any better than to say that they move like they have life and mooods of their own. They seem to move in predictable patterns for a few seconds then change. It is incredible! Someone asked me what I would miss most about being here. I will have to honestly answer by saying I will miss the colors!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seasons, they are changing!

The seasons are changing here without a doubt! Did you know it had to be "warm enough to snow?" How does that make any sense?? We went from the summer months at warm temperatures of 45-50 degrees, to negative 21 degrees in a matter of weeks! We felt like winter long before we looked like it. The snow didn't really start falling with earnest until this week. The Sound started freezing over and the rivers were solid long before we had true snow fall. Now that it has actually started getting warmer again (yes, 12 degrees counts as warm!) it has been able to cover this area with feet of beautiful snow! The first day of the snow fall you can make a snowball out of it, after that, the snow packs down so quickly and "dries out" so much that you can't get it to pack at all. I compare it to the man made snow they put on ski slopes as they wait for real snow to fall. It is basically ice, in a shaved, airborn form!

The Sound froze over actually before we had a true layer of snow on the ground. We have a sand bar about 100 yards off our "beach." The ice would form up the rivers and on the sand bar, then break free with each tide change. It was very similar to when the Sound first broke up last Spring because we had the ENORMOUS ice chunks floating down past Front Street. They were about 5 inches thick.

I have a new friend here with me in the Arctic Circle. She came up from the lower 48 and we have known each other for about a year or so. Her name is Shiloh and she is a German Shepard/Australian Shepard cross. She has adapted very quickly to the change in climate. She is not a big fan of the snow boots but it is necessary to keep frost bite from setting in on her wee little pads. She has learned the "Arctic Circle " form of travel. Most folks get around in the winter on either 4 wheelers or Snow Mobiles. Shiloh and I currently have access to a 4 wheeler and she has gotten the hang of it nicely!

I wanted to let you see a great picture I took the other day as Shiloh and I were being blown across the frozen lagoon. It shows the basics of my area in broad detail. Look at the picture closely. Notice the old with the new culture in the pile? This is very typical of the outside of most homes here. The snow hides a lot of this pile. It is about 2 feet here, not bad really.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Alaska Glaciers

Last week I went down to Southern Alaska to see what this enormous state had to show me. I took a wildlife/glacier cruise out of Seward. The drive from Anchorage to Seward was breathtaking! A few Bald Eagles and moose to be spotted along the roadside. Mountains that seemed to tower above us, the tops covered in snow and waterfalls flowing straight from the snow. When I got to Seward, the cruise started with a gentle rain and a fairly cold breeze going through the bay. As we headed out to Resurrection Bay, I saw my first Alaskan Sea Otter!
As we continued towards Harding Gateway we saw a pod of Orca's, a young humpback whale, a fin whale, oodles of puffins and more otters! No pictures of those guys because apparently they knew when my camera was pointing at them and they dodged under. Camera shy little beasties!
When we got to Cheval Island, we found beaches of a fair number of Steller Seals. These guys are so beautiful! Deep amber colored coats but they are still clumsy seals on the rocks. While we were there, two of the bulls got into a roaring match. Lots of noise and posturing! The ladys continued laying around like tossed little coats, not paying any attention to the show that was being put on for their benefit.
We traveled around the Bay, saw several glaciers including the Bear Glacier that calves directly into a small fresh water lake.
We got to see the Holgate Glacier, the Exit Glacier and the Prospect Glacier. If you are like me, your impression of glaciers has always been,"Ok, so its a bunch of ice and snow that moves along." Needless to say, I have learned better now! Glaciers are actually more than ice or snow, they develop over time from ice and snow, but have all the air pressed out of it! It turns this amazing color that I just couldn't capture with a camera or with every explain. Glaciers are full of sharp peaks and deep valleys of "ice." The finality of this trip was the Aialik Glacier. It is one of the largest tidewater glaciers. That means that it terminates at sea level and calves directly into the ocean. Its face is just around 400-700 feet tall and is over a mile long. As we moved closer to the glacier bay, we found harbor seals lying around on the large calved pieces of ice and playing in the water. They would poke their little heads up, and then "BLONK" they were gone.

The Aialik Glacier itself was breathtaking! We had the rare opportunity to witness the glacier calving. Sorry no pictures. It was one of those moments in time that you are lost to yourself and simply become a part of the event. Stunning and awe inspiring!

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Sound Finally Breaks Open!

Areas much farther north than my village have been "open" for weeks now. By open I mean that the frozen sea or sound that they are on has thawed enough that the ice has broken up and floated on its merry way. The picture here is showing the Sound as it starts to break up, it is raining on the far horizon.
Our little sound has taken its time! Finally it broke open at 10pm. For the last week it has looked like it had melted, but the water that was seen was simply flowing from one of the rivers and was covering the ice. Everyone kept telling me that it had melted but that the ice had not broken yet. So, how much sense does that make? It looked like open water to me! Folks didn't have their boats out yet, so I was inclined to believe them. One of my friends and I were out bouncing around on the ice chunks for HOURS! How much fun! We realized that this was an experience that no one else we knew could claim. Playing on a sound full of floating ice at midnight in the Arctic Circle!

Of course both of us are in Health Care and realized the danger, but still had to play! Breaking up ice brings out the kid in most of us!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Solstice

Admittedly, the Summer Solstice doesn't have as much meaning for you folks in the lower 48 as it does for those of us in the Arctic Circle...for us it means that we start getting 8 minutes of less sunlight each day. Not that it shows much of a difference yet. It will not be noticeable until about August. The picture here is of the sun not setting and not rising over our little village as we fly into it around 4 in the morning.
Being of Irish heritage, I did manage to be the only person I know who has gotten a sunburn in the Arctic Circle on the Summer Solstice. No, no pictures for you. My poor little nose actually seriously considered the option of blistering. I did put on SPF 45 sunscreen, but found that sitting out with a moose and a swan for 5 hours on the tundra can lead to a severe burn on your face. It is still too cold to go out without jackets and stuff. The mosquito's here are pretty thick too! Therefore the only area that was sun burnt was the wee little paramedic face.
For the celebration of the Summer Solstice I thought that I should post some pictures that I managed to get of the Northern Lights before the hours and hours of non-stop sunlight. When I first came here, people kept telling me how stressful they thought the long nights would be. I have found the non-stop daylight to be more stressful! It has been more challenging to not have the desire to SHOOT the sun down....sigh. You can only make things so dark using curtains and even aluminum foil on windows. The things I miss right now from the lower 48? Night sky's full of stars! Though I would even take an Alaskan sky full of Northern Lights instead!
Remember how I described the Northern Lights? It really feels like an energy that is almost alive! It wraps and moves in such an amazing way! It reminds me of waves only without the predictable pattern that the ocean has. It is an experience more than any picture could ever capture! There is an awe and an indescribable feeling of being a witness to something ethereal!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Tribute to a Beloved Friend

For all the amazing adventure that Alaska has shown me and continues to promise more, I have had one bad thing occur here. My beloved dog had to be put to sleep. He loved being here with me and I wanted to post some pictures of him. If anyone has pictures of him, feel free to email them to me! When he first got here, he found that running out on the frozen Sound was his favorite thing to do daily! Glad that he didn't have to see it thaw. It would have taken away his favorite place in town.
When we went for our first walk on the Sound, it became apparent that Jake needed boots. He kept stopping to dig snow or bits of ice out of his paws. When I first bought the boots, he hated them! Every time I put them on, he would act like I was just the meanest person in the world. It probably didn't help that he walked like a cat with tape on his paws at first, and I couldn't help laughing! That put me right on the mean person list. He actually refused to stand up the first time I put them on him. He just gave me this look, " What kind of person are you?"Jake and I had countless adventures together including Jake being the mascot for my paramedic class, a Colorado 14ner, summers where both of us were more often covered in mud and dirt than clean, Arctic walks and countless snuggle times. When I went to find a puppy, Jake picked me, not the other way around. I am a better person for him choosing to spend his life with me.