Friday, August 28, 2009

Good News for People Who Like Good News about Goodnews

A few changes are afoot since the last post and life is fine. Work has been within spec, and so has the fishing. Back on the 16th, Erin, Macy, friends/coworkers from the District Office Iain and Bethany headed out in Erin's boat once again. Earlier in the day Erin and I took a ride down to her old home of Oscarville to visit and drop off/pick up things. I basically went for the fresh air, as the day was a real beauty.

When we pulled up in the Oscarville Slough, I busted out laughing. There were little kids all over the slough, swimming in the cool water and totally full of mud, head to toe. They were all so thrilled to see Erin and Macy both. So all these mud caked boys and girls are running and yelling along the shore as they see Erin's boat approaching. It was pretty cute, and after some hellos we headed inside Erin's old house for a bit.

While the girls chatted, Macy and I went and played with sticks and fed ourselves to the gnats.
After a while we got out of there to go pick up Iain and Bethany back up in Bethel on the way further up river to the Kwethluk River. This time Erin had some secret hole in the river that had yielded several big silvers on the day after my prior fruitless journey upriver.

This time I got on the salmon board. First Erin caught 2 or 3 fish. She was on fire and we all were just looking on in amazement. She seemed to know just where the fish were. My first rod-n-reel salmon of my life was pretty unspectacular. I set the hook, it thrashed for a couple seconds, and then a boat went by doing about 80 knots. The waves rinsed the fish right up on shore, where I subdued it in short order. The afternoon had a fair amount of fishing action, and I got this one on what I had mentally said would be my last cast of the day. (and it was)

Macy was acting like it was really cold on the ride home, but she's kind of a wuss.

Back to work on Monday I spent my week setting up schedules, planning, setting up gear and getting everything ready for the Fall '09 Tour. First gig:
Goodnews Bay
Rocky Mountain School
Home of the Bears

And here I am...

So far life here has been great. I made friends with most of the staff last year, as they stayed at the TO from time to time. Really really good people to be around.

Monday I did the usual: pack up, haul gear to Yute Air, sit around, fly out, unload the plane, haul all the gear to school, schedule classes, set up gear. I got that stuff down to a science last year.

In the evening, a couple friends here Chris and Amanda invited me on a hike up Rocky Mountain which is just behind the school. We picked and ate some berries on the way and I snapped a couple photos of the village from on top.

Tuesday I kicked off classes. They all seem to be going pretty well so far, by the way. But after class was even better. Chris (teacher here, great guy, husband of Amanda), Paul (teacher here, owner of a boat, all around good guy), John (itinerant worker, former TO housemate last year) and myself (you know me) piled into Paul's boat and shot up the Goodnews River a spell. The fishing was unreal. I got fish on each of my first 2 casts. We stacked up fish for a couple hours and then set about cleaning.

The rest of the week went smoothly by, and today we got out fishing some more. This time is was Paul, Ken (Paul's friend from back home), Amanda (teacher here, Chris's wife, all around good lady) and myself. Today the fishing was equally awesome, with a few real bigguns. The weather was pretty much perfect, and I was in short sleeves alot of the day.

The bears were pretty active today too. I was fishing on the bank when I heard a twig crack behind me, and I turned to see a big brown furry head looking at me. A lot of shouting got it to leave the area eventually. Getting snuck up on like that had me keeping a closer eye on the brush.

After a while of catching more fish we decided to head down river to clean the fish away from the good fishing hole and fix up some dinner. About a half hour into the cleaning we had another visitor. This one acted aggressively and it wasn't until Paul cracked off a warning shot that it got the picture and boogied. I think it wanted to run us off and take all our fish. It wasn't too long before the darned thing circled back from down river and started up towards us to feed on our fish carcasses as the current carried them away. It got yelled at plenty, and the agreement was that it could eat all the carcasses it wanted as long as it did so down away from us. Not that it much cared what we thought...

We finished our business, got back to the village and called it an absolutely awesome day. A person's gotta enjoy days like these for what they are.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back in Good Ol' Bethel

Well this won't be the most picturesque or exciting post of the blog, but I think it's time to say "Hi" to the dozens of you readers out there.

I landed in Bethel here on the evening of the 3rd. So far it's been good here. I've been staying at the TO again. The place Erin and I are to live in is small. We knew this ahead of time, but I think it's becoming apparent that it is quite small for us. There is another place owned by the landlord that will come available and the plan seems to be to move in there once it is ready. In the meantime, the situation remains in flux. It's fine, though. The TO is happy and vibrant as ever.

I've reunited with my buddy Big Red Fred and have been cruising Bethel in style. I've made a couple improvements to the rig, with a few more planned yet.

One night in the first week, Erin, KC and myself went out in Erin's boat with a net we borrowed from a co-worker and took advantage of the silver salmon run that is still on. We netted 15 and were just getting the hang of working as a 3 person team, with a nice haul of 11 fish on our last set, when it was time to head in. We were up cutting fish til 1:30 in the morning, but it is nice to have tasty fillets in the freezer. A few days later we headed up river, past Kwethluk to try some rod-n-reel fishing. The fish were not cooperative and I landed the only catch of the day, a smallish pike which yielded some fillets for the freezer. The next day they went back with some other folks and caught a boatload. Usually fishing you hear "ya shoulda been here yesterday" but this time I guess it's more like "ya SHOULDN'T have." Ah well though. In a week I'll be heading to Goodnews Bay, where the fishing is supposed to be really good, and the views majestic and beautiful, so I'm excited and all...

Last week was back to work for me. Monday was inservice for 2nd year teachers in the district, such as myself. Tuesday and Wednesday were district-wide inservice held at the high school in Bethel. It was great to catch up with all the friends I made in all the villages from last year, and meet new people. We got trained on various things, both technological and teaching practices, and overall it was very positive. Wednesday brought a neat surprise with a couple of very important speakers: The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development commissioner Larry LeDoux and Alaska governor Sean Parnell. We all felt very honored to have such distinguished guests at LKSD, and they had some very encouraging words for us.

Now I'm getting all geared up and ready to go for the new year. I have lots of ideas and am just overall excited to get after it.

I hope that you all are well. Stay tuned. Go Brewers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Copper Center, etc.

On July 22nd I made the flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage. It was a little under 3 hours long, that flight, but seemed closer to 6. That's what happens when you cross 3 time zones...

After collecting my bags off the conveyor at Ted Stevens International, my friend and former TO housemate Lee met me outside to pick me up and head over to his place in Copper Center. The drive to Copper Center takes close to 5 hours and was pretty spectacular overall. After you get through the Mat-Su valley, you find yourself surrounded by mountains of varied size and shape, and there are countless panoramic views.

Eventually we got to Lee's place in Copper Center. It's a big 5th wheel parked on the land of some of his good friends, Mike and Pauline, and their large family. Their family, besides their two daughters, includes: 5 dogs, 6 cats, 4 chickens, 2 geese, and a horse. It was a fun, friendly, happy and relaxing time in Copper Center, and a great way to bring vacation to an end after all of my summer travels.

On the weekend of July 24th, Lee and I headed up to Fairbanks to see what was there and visit our friend Erin, who was finishing up her masters classes at UAF. I didn't use the camera on that excursion, but I'll tell y'all the highlights: Erin rented an inflatable raft from campus, and in that raft Erin, Lee, myself, and two of Erin's friends Mae and Donald floated the Chena river. We had a nice time, although the river was a bit lazy. It was nice and safe, but, alas, not an adrenaline rush at all. Camaraderie was the thrill of the day.

The next day Lee, Erin and myself drove out to Chena Hot Springs. The drive was really pretty when we were out of the smoke. The area had lots of smoke because of wildfires, and depending on the wind, it could be hazy, or you could have "ash snow" falling all over you. Many of the mountain views were obscured by the haze, but many were spectacular as well. After a while, seeing moose wasn't as exciting as it had been on my ride into Copper Center. Kind of like when you see your 10th or 20th deer of a drive...whoopee. But they were massive animals of course, all cows and calves. The Chena Hot Springs reminded me of the other hot springs I once visited at Thermopolis. It was warm and soothing, and I really think that sulfur does good things for your body besides make it smell like eggs. Also at the park, Macy, Erin and I took a hike and picked some blueberries.

On Sunday, it was time for Lee and I to break camp and head back to Copper Center. We had a nice drive, and it was impressive to see all the various craft and weaponry as we rode past Eielson Air Force Base. We didn't stop on the 4 hour drive back to CC, other than to implement some roadside dust control.

Back in Copper Center on Monday, Lee was packing up his belongings in anticipation of the end of his vacation. Meanwhile, Mike and Pauline said they had room in the van, which they were driving to Valdez to drop off their nephew. Of course I took them up on it, and was really glad I did. It was a gorgeous ride and Valdez was a pretty port town. It wasn't even raining on the day we were there. Here are some pics I took on that ride:

These are of a breathtaking place called Thompson Pass.

This is the end of the road for the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, where the tankers pick up all the black gold. No big tankers at the time, sadly.

This is one of the many glaciers I saw. This is Worthington Glacier. Apparently they're smaller now than anyone remembers.

Next is a racy video I shot in a nearby stream of some hot pink salmon action. Mature audiences only, bow-chicka-bowwow.

In Valdez we filled our guts with some good Mexican food and headed back up to Copper Center. Over the next couple days I relaxed, read, helped Mike out with "The Wheel" and tended to the animals when Mike and Pauline went up to Delta to the fair with their daughters. The horse only escaped once. Luckily she's a good horse and cooperated for me.

Wanna know about the wheel? It's yet another new way I've learned to fish here, and what ingenuity it is too. I could try to describe it, but here, just see for yourself. This is in the Copper River. I'm told that if you fall in this river you need lose your clothing fast, or it'll fill with all the silt and bring you right down. I did my best not to fall in.

It's a very efficient machine, but the one problem is that it gets entangled with lots of wood coming down river, which means pulling, chainsawing, and winching logs and debris. But when we had it running it brought in some red salmon. The fish in the basket drop on a slanted slide board which drops them right into the holding box on the side. Brilliant!!

Where the Klutina converges with the Copper, the eagle has his own methods of catching fish.

Finally on the 2nd it was time for me to load up and get a ride to Anchorage with my friend Sarah, as I was flying into Bethel on the 3rd. And here I am...back to work in just a couple of days. What a summer though.