Thursday, October 6, 2011


Wow have I neglected this blog...For so long that I'd have to imagine that all but the most stubborn, hopeful, or bored of my friends and family probably don't bother checking it anymore, probably haven't for months now. It's ok...I'd have quit looking too. I don't know what it is. I know I'm not alone on this though. Every so often I'll check in on MY OWN blog and not bother to write anything. I'm checking to see if any of my friends have anything interesting to add to the web. But the little monitor of friends' blog at the side remains silent. Has blogging died? Have all generally available internet announcements been reduced to inane tweets and facebook status changes? As compelling as all that is, I decided on the commute to work today that when I got home I was gonna sit down and have myself a blogging. So if you're still reading, here's a little something for you, a little update.

So I guess I should be telling everything that's happened since I left Tununak...

But I've worked all day and I left Tununak in May, so I'll abridge things a bit. A lot, actually. I know friends and family like to know about fish I've caught and hunting I've done. I never did get out on the water this fall, not one bit. I did however fly out to Platinum and do some bird hunting over Labor Day weekend. It's become kind of a tradition to find myself hunkered on the tundra or on the edge of a slough with my friend Paul and his dog Stella so it seemed fitting to fly on out there for a solid weekend of waterfowling. We had a pretty good amount of action. We got to see probably 10-20% of the world's population of emperor geese, and at pretty close range, which was a treat in itself, even though they are protected. There was the BIG DAY on Labor Day, where the planets aligned and Paul and I teamed up to each fill our daily limit on geese. And let me tell you they have been delicious :-) Flying home I saw a giant bull moose somewhere in between Platinum and Quinhagak too.

We're getting settled into the new digs here in town. The TO is no more, sad to say. Last year was the end of an era on that one. This year myself, Lee from the TO, and Eileen are living in a 3 bedroom home on the outskirts of town. Slowly we've been coming up with furnishings. The neighborhood is nice, and I appreciate the relative quietude. And we added this little girl to the household...

The dog, Bailey’s her name, really likes the futon. She’s a rescue dog, and I don’t think she’s really sat on much furniture in her life. I don’t know her background story at all, where she’s from, what she’s seen, or how she was cared for. She’s got a scar by her eye where fur won’t grow, she’s timid, sweet and a little dopey at times.

I’ve been doing a bit of traveling lately, but not to villages like in the past, but instead to training and conferences over to Anchorage. I’m taking on a bit of a different role this year, and I’m preparing to provide instruction via two way video teleconference, broadcast out of our district office. I have no idea until it starts whether or not I will like it more or less than the classroom, but I’ll give it my all and see what it’s like.

Today we’re having our 2nd blizzard of the year. In fact, the 2nd this week to be exact. No need to cringe though. With the snow comes winter, and with winter comes tundra mobility, opportunity to cover some miles and put tracks behind me. And when the weather outside is frightful, I can stay in and brood over the Milwaukee Brewers off season.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's Tununak Time

HI folks. Yes I still have a blog. I actually let a whole site visit pass without a post, how negligent of me. I was out in Kasigluk-Akula, (home of the Tundra Foxes) in late March through mid April. Since then, I took an awesome little trip to Anchorage, spent a little time in Bethel, and then this past Monday flew on out here to Tununak.

About that flight out here....The pilot came to get me to leave for Tununak and then called the village agent to check on conditions before we headed out to the plane. He came and told me that the Tununak runway was closed but they were working on it. Although we had very little remaining snow in Bethel, evidently they had lots of it out in Tununak. After a little more checking by the pilot we decided to fly out here, circle the runway and decide if it was ok, and if it wasn't, land at nearby Toksook Bay instead. It was a warm day so I would have been ok with a village to village snowmachine ride, but I was hoping against it.

So, we were off. I took my customary 1/2 hour Cessna airplane nap, and woke up when we were getting near the mountains of Nelson Island. I perked up then, knowing there's always a chance of spotting a musk ox out here, which I did spot two way off in the distance. Still have yet to see one up close enough to look like much more than a distant black blob. Anyways, soon we were approaching Tununak Int'l and came down for a closer look. Sure enough, there were tall drifts along the runway. We decided to go for it, and it was a pretty interesting landing. Slush flew all over the place, and we were keeping a close eye on the wings to make sure they'd clear all the drifts. The pilot had to make a couple tricky little moves to avoid clipping them. But, we made it.

So here I am at TNK, Tununak, Paul T. Albert Memorial School, home of the Coasters. I have a LOT of students here and for the most part they are great. It's beautiful out here and I want to get out on some hikes and maybe bag some birdies to eat. Here is the view from in front of the little tiny house I'm staying in.

Directly in front of the village is the bering sea, and people have been dragging boats out to the edge of the ice and are on the ready to shoot/catch seals. I don't know how long the ice will last out in front, or how deep the water below it is, but maybe I'll find out before I leave in two weeks. Hopefully I'll get some more photos and stories to share from here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Not Human, I Robot

What the heck is that title about?

Well this past weekend I traveled to Fairbanks to be a chaperone, photographer, chauffeur and referee at the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) state competition. It was quite a fun and exhausting time, and our teams represented LKSD well, both in their demeanor and in their performance. We were all quite proud.

The students got to tour campus, which was especially cool since a couple students are planning on attending UAF. They have a great campus, with great opportunities, a really cool museum, and campus dining that I must say is quite good, way better than anything I remember from my days in school. I think it would be a pretty neat school to attend.

Some shots of the museum...

We got in Thursday night and basically rented vans, checked into the hotel. The students were much more full of energy than I.

Friday was campus tour, robot inspection, and pit day.

Pit time...

Saturday was the big day. The competition was impressive, and it was great to see our kids hold their own with "the big boys" from the Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau schools.

After competition, we all went out to eat as a big group, and then went to see the World Championship Ice Carving display. The pictures won't do it justice, but let me just say, this was super cool. And pretty cold, too...
There were things they could touch, sit on, and slide down, like this cool slide

And this big multi slide we raced down, fun!

And this big halibut chair thing

And artwork like this...

Amazing stuff. I would have taken more pics, but I thought my fingers might freeze.

Unfortunately, all this fun and lack of sleep left me exhausted and vulnerable, and I came down with some flu after coming back to Bethel. But, like Buddy Ryan used to say on Night Court...I'm feeling MUCH better now. And good thing, with spring break just around the corner. Stay healthy, friends.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First Catch

Well I made it out of Toksook Bay and back to Bethel.

Myself and coworker Marc had schemed up a little Saturday trip to go up past Three Step, a mountain up river past Kwethluk, on a mission to put meat in the freezers.

I rose early that morning to get ready and have a good breakfast, and at 7:45 set out. It was a bit on the chilly side at -18F, so we were all dressed for the weather when we met at Crowley to gas up the tanks and jugs for the journey.

By the time we hit Kwethluk we were getting first light and it wasn't warming up at all. Towards Three Step we started to see tracks and sign so we knew we were getting somewhat close to the herd. The trail got fresher and eventually we spotted the herd about 4-5 miles in the distance, they were on the move.

We came up with a plan to get up ahead of them so as not to scatter them out on the run. I wish I had some pics or video of this huge group of caribou, it was pretty cool seeing and hearing them move through the draw. The sound of all the hooves in the ice crusted snow reminded me of the sound of a class II rapids in a small river, only a little crunchier. As it was, it was a bit cold to be digging out the camera, and plus I was kind of busy at the time.

Despite it never warming up, it was a gorgeous day in some pretty country. It was a bright day, with ice haze and the sun, as one friend once put it in their blog, had its mittens on. (sun dogs to either side)

Fortunately we found a good ambush point and Marc and I were each able to bag an animal.

I opted for this cow because she presented a decent shot where I wouldn't have an accidental hit on a 2nd animal, and the word was that a cow would have a bit nicer meat this time of year than a tired out bull. That wisdom proved true from what we saw cutting her up.

We set to work on the animals and then had a couple of hangups getting back to Bethel. First, Marc's snowmachine wouldn't start. Luckily there was another man with us, Glen, who could tow Marc back, and I hooked up the sled to mine. But then we got to the meeting place where we were to meet another friend who had gone up that way with us to go check his trap line. He didn't show and didn't show, and we were running out of daylight. At temps like we had yesterday, we were getting worried about him and decided he must have bagged it and headed home, so we did the same. We got him on the phone once we got near Kwethluk and had cell service, so all was well.

It all made for a long day out in some cool temps though. It was good to come back with a catch for the freezer.

Next up, I start teaching in Napaskiak this week, so I'll have the daily ice road commute, and my own bed to sleep in at night.

And some tasty caribou to eat up...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Payback From Wayback

Wow have I neglected this thing or what? Last time I posted I was on the verge of getting a really nasty cold, the Chefornak strain. Since that post, my travels have gone like this:
Chefornak>Bethel>Anchorage>Chicago>Madison>Los Angeles>Madison>Chicago>Anchorage>Bethel>Toksook Bay.

There's alot I could have said about each leg of that journey, but I've let it slide. Sometimes once a memory isn't so recent, it's hard to elaborate upon it. Especially in a blog.

From Chefornak all the way to Chicago went smoothly aside from being sick. For those not in the know, going up and down in an airplane when you have a bad sinus problem makes it feel like your ears will explode out the side of your head.

Once I got to Madison I began feeling better. Maybe it was a big bowl of homemade chili that did the trick. As always, Christmas break was terrific. I spent time with not all, but many of my friends and family that I love and miss. Ate many tasty meals. I got to bowl a few nights in my old bowling league. I got to see the Badgers play basketball, hockey, and football. That's right, football.

The Rendall family took a little trip out to Pasadena to watch Bucky lose to the horned frogs. We had a heck of a nice time being together as a family on a trip for the first time in about 20 years, and yes, saying that does indeed make me feel old. Some things we did out in LALA land were: took a tour of the city, where we saw many star studded sites including this one at the Chinese Theatre.

And down the streed a spell was this gigantic macaroni noodle...

Of course, it wasn't all noodles and concrete out there. We visited Universal Studios, which was much cooler than I had hoped. We went to the Rose Parade, where we saw many things, including this thing:

I'd post a pic from the game, but, well, you probably saw it on TV, and we lost, and it's's just too early. But here we all are before the loss:

And we did get to see this guy:

So all in all, a good time. Last two pics, to give credit where it's due, were stolen from sister Janine's facebook.

Not long after the return from LA it was time to fly back up here to AK. That meant getting up really early, along with Dad (thanks Dad!) and putting the truck away, catching a bus to Chicago, and having another long plane ride to Anchorage.

There in Ted Stevens Int'l, watching the Packers trounce the Eagles, I ran into John, a former TO resident who has since retired and moved on to greener pastures. So neat to catch up with an old friend unexpectedly like that.

My plan was to head right on out here to Toksook Bay (Nelson Island School, home of the Islanders) a day or two after getting back to Bethel, but the weather just wasn't having it. The plans got all bumped back a week. Fortunately I had built into my schedule some flexibility for such weather related events, as they are a simple fact of life out here as an itinerant. Here's a little example:

After I got out here, I decided to head in for the next weekend, as a coworker and I were scheming a caribou hunt, probably the last opportunity for the year on that endeavor. But the weather had to go and change, thwarting those plans. I watched the Packers that Sunday dispatch the Bears, knowing I wouldn't be heading to Toksook Bay that afternoon as I had planned. Wanna know why? Because the weather in Toksook had a SMALL CHILD WARNING!! No, not as in the context of raining cats and dogs. Oh no, the warning was against having small children outside because it was so windy, they could be blown away. I can't make this stuff up, folks.

Things are going ok here at NIS, although schedules are full of bumps and unforseens. A good night's sleep is hard to come by, too. This week I will head to Bethel to judge for FIRST robotics competition, then head back here to conclude classes. Oh, and don't worry, I will be watching the big game in Bethel. And I will be putting on a Wisconsin spread for the occasion. You know....cheese, Johnsonville brats. Go Packers.

Following that, I'll do a little ice road truckin', and then be a daily commuter to Napaskiak. I'm looking forward to that stint, as it will afford opportunities to put some miles on the Ski Doo, and put some ptarmigan meat on the table. Mmmmmmm, ptarmigan.