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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hahnah's Christmas

It was a great first Christmas for Hahnah. Gifts are not exactly something an 11 month old can comprehend so we wanted to do another first for her. So we went for a snow machine ride, it was a little brisk at around 5 degrees but we bundled her up and put her in the back of the sled with mom. Definitely a good time. This was followed by a nice dinner at our good friends Carol and Jim. Couldn't ask for a better day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Nome

Merry Christmas!

On Christmas day in Nome we will have 3 hrs 56 min of daylight when the sun rises at noon. It's easy to say we will be up before dawn. Our holiday tree consists of a willow as is common in Nome with gifts from many family members. We will take a group shot tomorrow so you can see your gift if you look closely-- kind of like where's waldo.

The only downside today was getting up a 5:30am to go swimming only to discover the pool was closed on Christmas eve. The upside was I managed to get a nice evening "ride". More like a 5 mile plow through not quite set up snow. It's actually more of the same, seems like it is hardly riding conditions after the most recent snow storm. I should be out boarding or something more fun than trying to run through deep snow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Granular Sugar

This time of year the feverish build up of work and events has been intense. I honestly can't recall if it has been this way outside of Nome or exclusive to... The Savoonga and Shishmaref clinics, maintaining some kind of training regiment, enjoying family time, Sarah's musical events; all the while recovering from a terrible viral sinusitis... intensity to say the least.

However, by literally grinding through the past two months in conditioning, even in sickness, a solid base has been built. I finally passed the "dying-like-a-pig" hump during my so-called training. (The term these days is "bonking" but I grew up in the "dying like a pig" era)

We had some typical Nome weather with a splash of freezing rain a week ago. This developed a nice base by melting just enough snow to pack down. I went out on Saturday with the fatbike off trail. It felt great mashing through 10 miles of pure granular sugar snow with an ok base underneath before the swim workout.

Sarah's musician friend Willis Fireball from Fairbanks who now teaches out in Diomede came through Nome over the weekend. Sarah helped arrange a little concert at the local restaurant for him as a fundraiser. It went really well and of course I am biased but it sounded great when Sarah sang harmony on a few songs. I recorded it through the mixer on digital audio and once I seperate out the tracks and get Willis's permission I will give a try at posting a link for a clip.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lows and Highs

A nice low pressure system moved into the northern Bering Sea while I was out in Savoonga and the wind gave the standard island show. I was stuck for an extra night but it was fine. I am always impressed with the hunters out there, even at 50-60 mph they were out getting food.

Last weekend I took advantage of a high pressure cold that settled. The temperature dropped to -29 over the hill. In Nome, "over the hill", usually means the other side of anvil mountain by Dexter or Banner Creek, about 8 miles away. There is an actual temperature difference of about 10 degrees warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. I have a new inexpensive ultralight boot that I've been wanting to check out so I threw them on and went for a night ride on the fat bike. It's practically always dark so you have to get used to doing things as you would in daylight. I rode out on a snow machine trail and was able to ride much of it till the base disappeared. Then I pushed the bike through some decent size powder across the tundra for a few miles. I started getting flashbacks from last years push to Ruby. The boot held up ok, I may have to make a few modifications but it'll be worth it to have a boot weigh ounces instead of pounds.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The past few weeks have cruised away among a lot of activity. I have just enough time to follow a few blogs but am hardly able to formulate 'verbage' (haha, someone might get that) for mine lately. Sarah, Hahnah and I were out in Gambell a few weeks ago again. Sarah finished up her guitar class with her group while Hahnah played with everyone including me.

While my workload and village travel are great diversionary tactics I couldn't quite shake the feeling of not wanting to get out riding or running or anything outside lately. I have been going strong at the pool and gym but the outside seemed so boring. I didn't figure it out till the storm hit a few days ago. Normally, Nome is full of volatile weather but this fall has been really, well boring. A little snow, cold temps but no real storms or wind. On Wed night a squall hit in the evening and I was so excited I left the gym early and couldn't wait to get out on my fatbike. The snow was horizontal, the wind scalding into every minuscule uncovered piece of skin and I couldn't see anything. Now this was bliss!

The type of fun that you can't count miles just time b/c the wind and snow keep things at a crawl. When I got back we couldn't help but let Hahnah enjoy the snow too for a quick sled ride. Sarah put my OR mitts on Hahnah's feet which sure looked funny.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Suntan on the Beach

Nome's transition into winter seems to be taking a while and I am almost wishing for a monster storm of some kind and subzero temps. Except for cutting wood I haven't been out in the country much so today I hung up the swim goggles and went for a little ride on the beach. This was not exactly way out in the country but it would have to do. I debated on taking the fatbike but I just wanted to thrash on a bike and not worry about the salt or sand. So I took my $25 garage sale bike and had a little fun for a few hours.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Alaska, in general, seems to be a transient sort of place. People are always shuffling and moving around. Nome is a rather harsh environment and I have seen a lot of friends (and not-so-friends) come and go over the years. Last week 4 friends left town with their kids to move to Anchorage and Talkeetna. I suppose the constant rotation brings fresh (or not-so-fresh) new (and recurring) faces and makes a small town seem larger than it is but it's always sad to see good folks leave. So here's a little tribute, my favorite picture of Wayne, Owen and the kids.

Since returning from NY the temperatures have steadily been 15 – 25 with practically no precipitation. The ice base is forming really well, I wonder if this will be more of a snowless winter unlike Anchorage which has been hit with a few bouts of snow. It’s a little early to tell. I put away my boats for the year and have been eyeing up my snowbike and snow machine, biding my time for a creative excursion. The waterways are frozen which opens up some interesting options. I don't think any recent pictures are worth adding so here's what I'll miss about the Nome summer....

And here's what I look forward to...

The only outside activity I’ve done recently is driving down to the beach cutting wood for the stove. I have about 5-6 face cords- or 1.5 full cord- and am a little frantic to get a few more before the snow flies. I put the saw aside for a half hour the other day and managed a 4 mile run on the sand before getting back to it. Otherwise the training focus has been building my core strength through swimming. I have an hour to swim in the morning and started at 2 km workouts and on my way to 3 km. The 5:30 am wakeup has been getting easier and easier (especially since Hahnah has been training us to wake up at 3am).

There are two races I would (ideally) like to do in 2009, the 350 Ultrasport bike in March and the Yukon 1000 kayak in June/July. The 350 would be a training run to see if my body will adapt a little better to the bike this year for another go at the 1,000 mile to Nome the following year. I really should have done the 350 last year and the 1000 this year instead of vice versa but, hey, hindsight is always 20/20. The words, "don't get injured", will be plastered in my mind. I'm hoping it will activate as a flashing neon sign before the "don't be a wussy" sign starts in on me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Home in Nome

The streets and highways of NY were an endless monotony of vehicles without faces, droning to a destination as fast as possible. The car in front was not Wayne the nurse from down the street with two kids or Nora who fought and beat down her leukemia or even someone who would wave back. I couldn't shake that feeling of a sheep following the herd and it happens everytime I head out of Alaska. It is the black void. At times welcome, but mostly a sinking feeling. Nothing like a good music jam to uplift the spirits and get the Nome feeling back, especially as the darkness and cold set in.

It's the turn of a new season here that starts the flow of potentially exciting outings. Lately it's been every few months where I actually wonder what is it that drives that drive? It has been building more, tougher to suppress and the daily activities don't quite fit the bill. That insatiable need to tweak myself ever so slightly further and further. Over the years opportunities came...those solo cold ocean kayak crossings in terrible conditions.... that ride outside Namibia to skydive... the edgy snow machine rides to Nome from Unalakleet alone at 30 below... So why not try the ultrasport again this year... oops did I really say that? Well, maybe just the 350.

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.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alaska abuzz....

I most definitely and specifically stay away from writing opinion or politics but can we say, "wow"? The news, like a cup of coffee, jolted us awake... Sarah Palin is the republican VP candidate!?! What do we do now? The decision was so easy before. Incredible, what an antithesis of candidacy. As many Alaskans have, my wife and I met her briefly, during a Governors Ball here in Nome. Of course everyone knows her husband as the Iron Dog racer. This election will be interesting, I haven't seen people so wound up or excited about politics in a while...

Summer Shorts.. or.. Short Summer

It has been difficult to keep up on the writing lately. I just don’t feel the interest so I will post a few pictures of our latest outings and a general blah writeup (how's that for an intro).

The summer is winding down here, the tundra is turning colors and last few nights have dipped below freezing though the days have been warm. We had a good weekend doing projects, getting out for blueberries, chopping wood and some nice fires on the beach. The only interesting change from my standard bike rides, hike, kayak, rows and gym workouts was a 10 mile run last week. Sarah dropped me off at Cape Nome 10 miles from town on the way back from a beach picnic at the Last Train. It was a spontaneous event and I had only my hiking boots so it was a little awkward on the gravel road. It was such a nice day that shorts and a tee were all that was needed. It was a significant step. Since my knee damage earlier this year I stayed completely away from running. Aside from a little hamstring tightness the 1 hr 12 minutes it took felt fine and though a little slow it encouraged me to include running in my repertoire of work outs again.

I was in Savoonga yesterday for a quick day trip and snapped a few photos waiting on the runway and then of Nome when we were flying in to land (above). It was a long day and by the time I packed Hahnah on the front and a weighted backpack up Anvil mnt a few times in the evening I was pretty tired. The brisk wind and the smell of fall were sure signs that winter is coming soon again.

Monday, August 18, 2008


A hectic week ended to begin a hectic weekend. After installing an excruciating painful chimney for a woodstove all day Saturday followed by Sarah's songwriter showcase in the evening, then a berry picking fiesta today, I finally managed to get out for a 40 mile ride today down to Safety and back. I haven't been on a bike in this direction since last year training for the invitational. It was a good ride from town because you can grind out most of it on the beach. I was so sick of riding it last year after countless training runs and couldn't believe I was a little nostalgic. It was probably the weather though, lately we have been having temperatures in the 60's. The sound of the waves and the fine beach sand could have been Hawaii, well up until I rode past the dead headless walrus. Then I remembered I was in Nome.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


When the sun shows up you have to take advantage of it. Evening plans change at the drop of a hat but figuring out what to do is always tricky. It can't be epic, maybe intense or just refreshing. Sometimes, by the time I figure it out the weather changes or time is eaten away. Time to fall back on the bronze standards and going up to Anvil Mountain was the quickest option. Well it is not really a mountain more like a hill.

Carrying Hahnah and a pack gave me an extra 20 lbs to sweat up to the 900 ft top. Biking from town is the usual method though not with the baby so I did a couple of trips up and back to make up for some lost effort.

Nome view and Bering Sea.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sentimental row

The Dexter Challenge was held yesterday, 8 mile run or walk or a 12 mile bike. I didn't participate. Even though I felt a little peer pressure it just did not get me interested for some reason. Some people are doing 100 mile runs (Resurrection Pass) as a training exercise (crazy) and I can't seem to get motivated to race something on a bike or run even as little as 8-12 miles. Maybe I'm afraid of reinjuring the knees or maybe that's an excuse. Instead I went out for a 12 mile row, the evening was so inviting it couldn't be helped. Sculling is so much easier on the body, like swimming. No injuries, good workout.

The idea was born from Jill Fredston who is well known in Alaska for her Rowing to Latitudes book. I had been brewing the idea of kayaking to Barrow when I had injured my shoulder after a harrowing high seas crossing to Unalakleet in the summer of 2004 with a traditional sea kayak. Jill actually discouraged me from rowing the modified version of a kayak solo since it is too heavy to launch and land. She was correct but I did it anyway, the shoulder gave me no choice.

As much as the boat needs new scull tracks, oarlocks and even oars it just keeps on going. Drew Harrison from Vancouver designed the boat and I must say the durability - most impressive. Its name, Eschemo Warrior, is fitting and the pounding I keep dishing out over the years is unforgiving. There are so many miles on the seat the bearings had to be replaced twice and the wheels are ground to a nub. The track has worn completely through in some places and the oarlocks are almost worn through too. I broke the oar in half once and then shoved smaller piece into the larger one, glued it together, made a wooden handle and that still works. It's one of the few modified ocean kayaks with a scull insert and hard to find someone who makes them.

A sentimental piece for sure, the Eschemo Warrior keeps on ticking.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Enough phish

I'm not sure how many pics I can possibly put up of interest for Unalakleet and the fishing we did. I wouldn't describe myself as a fisherman or a hunter by any means but it is insane to live up here and not subsist on the great food out in the country. It's amazing that a $3 lure + borrowed pole = salmon for the year. Next comes berries then moose then caribou. I was wondering if I could use my fatbike this year to get caribou. That would be fun, not sure if it would be a first but it would be interesting. Gas is expensive these days in rural Alaska.

I admit I had a great deal of fun in Unalakleet hanging out with old friends and the air of small town life. Not that Nome is a big city but it is different. This was my view every morning biking to work.

Another fun filled weekend coming up. We'll see what mischief I can get into out in the country if I have time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Biking for silvers

Rain, wind, rain, sun, rain, clouds.

I am not sure why we always comment on the weather, I suppose it's human nature or a tradition that probably dates back to ancient times. Possibly the reason we wanted to communicate in the first place to pass the time or complain about something. It's never perfect and always changes, especially in Alaska. Even when it is perfect and it stays too long, people complain about that too. Animals would likely do it if they could. Maybe they do. It's probably what the whales are really saying or what that wolf said to the bear.

Regardless of weather we had a good salmon catch upriver. Caught our limit each day and put away enough fish for the winter. Hahnah and Sarah enjoyed the river runs too, the scenery is great of course.

This week I get to bike to work at the Unalakleet clinic, only 4 miles of gravel each way but it's great. Last night I explored a little bit and it brought back memories when I used to live here. I would run up to Army Peak but this is the first time I biked it. There is some nice steep single track and good tundra up top. This is what I had hoped the Imuruk Lake trip would have been like. Knees surprisingly held up with only a little soreness today.

If the tundra is this good here though maybe I'll attempt a mountain bike trip to Shaktoolik from Unalakleet. It's about 40 miles through some hills, tundra, ponds, lagoons, brush and decent river crossings. I have kayaked that way but I always wondered what the iditarod trail looks like in the summer or fall. Maybe another little venture brewing in the ole noggin.