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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hahnah goes to New York!

Culture shock, as expected, when traveling out of Nome to the lower 48. Noise, people, cars, more cars, people, honking, traffic, weird people, and some more noise.

It is amazing when I look back at all the traveling and meeting of new people Hahnah has experienced in her 8 months of life, so far. Quite the ambitious child. She has been to Unalakleet, Gambell (x3), hiking, camping, 4 wheeling, off-roading, and met all sorts of folks along the way- from the ultrasport to musicians to family to friends.... now NY.

She did great in the plane (though we were exhausted). We were in Long Island to visit the folks, some nephews, brother and sis-inlaws then off to NYC to check out the Met. A little Picasso, Monet, Renoir and other greats to add a little culture.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Across the Bering Strait

I cannot tell you how many people have attempted to cross the Bering Strait in every imaginable form. Most fail thinking that the ice is solid across the 40 some odd miles from Wales to Diomede to Russia. It is not. It acts like a funnel for the Bering Sea so the current is tremendous in addition to contrasting wind patterns at times. Then there are the visa problems. I'd get a headache thinking about all the logistics. I have kayaked passed Wales and I have done a 40 mile open water crossing in the Chukchi but I do not have the urge to cross the Bering Strait. Audun Nordhus from Norway does though, by rowing a traditional Norwegian rowing vessel. Who is that? I have no idea other than he contacted me last year and asked for some information and if I could hold on to his boat when it arrives in Nome. "Sure, no problem." Many people have helped me during my grand schemes so I extend the favor. I picked his boat up the other day and wonder if this the shape he had sent it. I hope to go through it and clean it up a little but: Audun, please take a look and let me know if there is anything you want for me to do (i.e marine paint, sand the rusted bolts)?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Golovin to Gambell to ...NY?

Upon returning from Gambell this afternoon I couldn't help but wonder about our upcoming trip to NY. The contrast of kayaking back along the lonely cliffs from Golovin earlier this week to traveling to Gambell for a clinic (and Sarah's youth guitar teaching), then to Nome is manageable. But NY awaits later this week. It will be quite the culture shock and of all the things I do I can't quite grasp why this seems more stressful. Maybe I have become Nomenized. The longer I stay in this region the weirder it is when I see the lower 48.

Gambell as always, was a great experience. I had clinic for a few days and then Sarah and Hahnah joined me on Fri. Sarah was teaching some of the Gambell youth guitar and a friend, Laura from KNOM radio, came too to do a story on it.

The weather was sunny but windy and we had a nice walk along the beach on Saturday. The surf and shoreline reminded me of kayaking up north around Point Hope (everything at some point will remind me of some kayaking trip). The St. Lawrence Island is smack in the middle of the Bering Sea so it is fairly routine to see intense wind, weather and extremes on this island. It never fails to amaze me the seamanship of the whaling crews and hunting in some of these conditions. I have been fortunate enough to witness when a 50+ft bowhead is brought to shore- that's basically 50 tons. In our post-modern-computerized-economy based-secluded-yet-connected era it is astonishing to see an event that is completely reliant upon the whole community. Together they work in a consolidated effort in a very specific hierarchy of roles. Sometimes it can be well over 24 hours straight until every last scrap of meat, blubber or insides are designated for food. But I digress.

Photo of Sarah and Hahnah on the Gambell beach.

Sarah took this pic from last weekend at the Train to Nowhere. I was waiting to be picked up from the kayak trip.

Muskox and blueberries also from last weekend.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Whales, seals and night kayaking

Rejuvenated, whew! Satiating the adrenalin void is always a fun challenge in creativity, particularly with many obligations. This was a great trip, 62 miles of kayaking in 26 hrs of some very potentially treacherous and desolate ocean.

Occasionally, things go smoothly- not often but this was one of those times. I ended up leaving a day later due to some strong wind patterns and trouble finding a flight. Monday morning I hopped on Bering Air and flew to Golovin. Just as Thomas mentioned, the boat was where he indicated and in really good shape. I missed my traditional kayak and it was nice to see it again.

I left Golovin around 10:30 am and shot straight across toward Rocky Point, the NE wind picked up heading towards the cape. Except for the typical turbulence next to cliffs, interesting breaking beam waves and a few hairy moments at the cape the strong offshore winds made gloriously calm water next to the coast. Lots of seals, birds, cliffs and beluga whales, even one that went under the boat that was more than a little freaky. I had forgotten how much of a rush it is to paddle next to cliffs and the enormous feeling of kinectic power. I can always tell when I need to be on edge as I approach a volatile section. First I hear thousands of screaming birds then comes the pungent dank fishy smell and then the clear water under the hull becomes black from depth. Pay attention but don't look down you just might see something below. The playful seals pop up in all directions to check me out and the heart rate increases exponentially when a whale breaches close by. As much as I want to linger I want to get past the section as fast as possible. I gave up long ago trying to take pictures of marine life, anyone who tried knows what I'm talking about so landscape is all I managed- even that was a struggle.

Since the water was flat I wanted to make it past topkok cliffs, the last section of 5 mile rock before the final 10 mile beach. I needed to get to the stretch of beach to camp in case the weather or wind shifted. I had my sights set on the Topkok shelter cabin (also the iditarod shelter cabin) immediately after the cliffs. I was weary but the luxury of the cabin kept me going. I ended up paddling well after dark and right when I was going to pull in to shore I turned the headlamp on to make the sure the shore was clear of bears. Two sets of eyes stared back at me. I yelled and the bears took off but it was a bummer because I had to keep moving. Eventually I pulled in another 5 miles further. The rain made it difficult to start a fire but once I had it going I loaded up the wood for roaring blaze.

The last 7 miles this morning were uneventful. When I pushed the help button on the SPOT around noon, to notify Sarah to pick me up at Nome's Lost Train, I was pleasantly rejuvenated. Another great kayak trip.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I have a ridiculously busy September but I had to do it I had to get out for an excursion. Golovin it is, I fly out tomorrow afternoon hopefully and pickup my kayak that has (supposedly) been under someone's house for the past 2 years. It'll be interesting. It's about a 70 mile kayak back to the Lost Train outside Nome. If the weather is good I am shooting for Monday afternoon return. This will be my third time heading around the iffy Rocky Point and the topkok and bluff cliffs. Last year I saw seven bears within fives miles in this area so... it'll be interesting. Here's the SPOT

Friday, September 5, 2008


Another house project finished. Hopefully, it will save considerable finances during the winter. It sure heats up fast. Earlier in the summer I had to decide between purchasing and installing a woodstove or a 29er and compete in some bike races. It was a good decision. I not only saved some knee time but I actually get more enjoyment out of solo excursions into parts unknown. More along the lines of what these guys,are doing.

Instead of any fun multiday extravaganza's I had a quick overnight in Anchorage for a meeting... not exactly my idea of productive time but it was nice to see old friends. Considering I haven't done many real excursions lately I didn't want to waste family time away on Anchorage. I'm feeling the pressure build inside for another outing though and I suppose I'm a little torn on going moose hunting, paddling my old kayak back from Golovin or returning to finish the Imuruk Lake trip with my fatbike or maybe even a climbing epic with Ian for ole times sake. We'll see.

We have had a great high pressure system just hanging out in NW Alaska so the temps are in the 50-60 range. Quite unusual and a real treat last night to finish up a gym workout with a run in shorts and tee on the beach.