Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Funky moon a risin'

Last night Sam and I chased the moon. We left the house around 1 a.m. armed with our cameras and tripods and set out to photograph the lunar eclipse. (I had 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' in my head ALL night...damn you to hell Bonnie Tyler!) Whilst out on our early-morning adventure, the aurora made an appearance and it was spectacular. Usually when I'm out chasing the northern lights, it's cold enough to freeze the tits off a brass monkey, but not last night. It was amazing....moving...dare I say: spiritual.
Here are some pics I got between 1 and 4 this morning.

Moon over totem.
Moon over kooky cabin.

Moon over cross.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Bully and the Acid Queen

I have found Surprise.
Without getting too wordy here, I need to tell the story of Ruffles and Surprise. Ruffles is my 14-year-old dog. Back in the day, she was a winning lead dog in sprint races. She was purchased for a pretty penny by Ken and Gwen. On their first training run with new, expensive Ruffles, Ruffles blew her knee out never to run again. They kept her as a loose dog and bred her once. In that litter she had Raven, Strider, Turtle and Feather. They sold Feather to a musher down south. Now, usually dogs, especially Alaska huskies, wean their young and then, that's it. They are pretty much forgotten. Not Ruffles. Ruffles didn't care much for the boys or for Feather, but she and Raven were tight. They would sleep in the same house, Ruffles would wander around finding bones and bring them to her Raven. It was adorable and a bit of a mystery. Fast forward a couple years and here I am. I got Raven and Strider last spring. Raven became sick and I thought maybe it would help if I went and got old Ruffles to cheer up Raven. It worked. Even though Raven, who had a weird spinal issue, and Ruffles would never run again, they were now part of my kennel. I enjoyed having them around and they enjoyed each other. A few months ago, Raven died. Her body was full of cancer. Ruffles, who is now 14, did not take it well. She is still distraught some days even though she has a good life as a house dog. Strider is still here, but Ruffles pretty much ignores him.
I knew of another offspring that Ruffles had had a year or so after she had the Raven/Strider litter. It was a little girl that Ken and Gwen called 'Surprise' because she was in fact a surprise. One pup, that was it and they didn't even realize that Ruffles was pregnant. They found a recreational musher to take Surprise and Ruffles was destroyed. Legend has it that it was that turn of events that made Ruffles into the weirdo she is today. (Sam calls her the Acid Queen for a reason.) A few nights ago, I was at a party out in Cripple Creek (not a 'woot woot' party, more like a bunch of ABR nerds sipping G and T's and talking about birds) and a man named Steve showed up. We started talking and he informed me that he has some dogs from an Iditarod musher. I asked him who. He said Ken. I asked him which dogs he had as I had worked for Ken for several years and know all of his dogs well. When he said 'Surprise,' my eyes welled up and my jaw hit the ground. I immediately asked him if I could have her. He said maybe but later said no because his kids were just too attached. We agreed that I could bring Ruffles out to his place for a reunion and that I could take Surprise out running with my team any time I wanted. I haven't taken Ruffles out there yet, but man, what a story! I mean, this should be a reality TV show, no?
Anyway, this is wordy so I'll stop now. Except that Theresa said a few months back that I should write a children's book about Ruffles' life and now, this has added a new and exciting chapter. She has had a crazy life. (I won't even get in to the time she took Raven, Strider, Turtle and Feather out into the woods when they were tiny pups and was out there for a couple weeks before some hikers found her and returned the family to Ken and Gwen. She had made a den for them and was foraging for food.)
Anyway, I can't wait to reintroduce Ruffles and Surprise. I’ll let you know what happens.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Red Rider, this is the Cotton Mouth

I spent three nights in jail. Not really, but a new song by our friend and nemesis, singer/songwriter Steve Brown is about me. And we all know how much I love me. Anyway, the song is about how I spent a few nights in the drunk tank and Steve and Robin are having second thoughts about bailing me out. Even though I hope I never wind up in the clink, especially the drunk tank - and maybe I should be mildly insulted by the the fact that Browner thinks of the hoosegow when he thinks of me - I can't help but be a little flattered. When he gets it done, maybe I'll post it here.
Yesterday I covered the Renewable Energy Fair out at Chena Hot Springs. Last year the hot springs unveiled its geothermal power plant, the first in the state and possibly North of 60. This year, the folks there revealed a new hydrogen facility. They're making hydrogen from the same warm water they use to create geothermal power. The entire resort, which is 35 miles off the electric grid, is now powered with either geothermal or hydrogen resources A hydroponic greenhouse provides fresh vegetables and herbs for the restaurant. Before these alternative energy sources were online, the hotel, restaurant and other facilities on the property were powered by smelly, expensive, polluting diesel generators.
At the energy fair, vendors came from around the state to educate and potentially convert people to start using wind, solar and other alternative energy sources.
At the event, I met a woman who said she stumbled across my blog about a year ago and is a loyal reader. She too is a dog musher and informed me that there are a butt-load of sled dogs at the shelter right now. I'm going there next week to see if I can't adopt a few. She said a whole brood was dumped off by some hyper-religious family living in a van in the K-Mart parking lot...First of all, how the hell does a family living in a van (I guess within walking distance of the river) have a whole slew of huskies? Secondly, well, I guess that was it. Anyway, for those who live here or for those who don't, why not adopt a dog? Sled dogs are loyal and hard working. They are perfect for those with an active lifestyle, or, for those who are more sedentary, an older, retired sled dog makes a perfect companion. So, let's see, Libby? Theresa? Jeremy? Coldfoot? Phoebe? Meg? Mary? let's see if we can't find homes for these dogs. I'm not saying I'll slash your tires if you don't, but, um, well I might just have to take you off the Christmas-card list. Of course, I'm kidding. No I'm not. Yes I am. (I'm not.) The Fairbanks shelter has shipped unwanted huskies all over the world to people, so if you don't live in Alaska, that's no excuse.
Unfounded threats aside, these dogs need homes, so let's get them off death row. Or, if you can't adopt, what about just visiting the shelter to give them some love? I know, we're all busy, but it would be excellent Karma.
My ambitions of starting fall training have been hampered by 80-degree temperatures, so the dogs and I are waiting patiently for cooler days ahead.
I'd like to give a shout to Theresa; welcome back! And congrats to Dana and Danny who got married yesterday! Photos of the wedding sent from my dad are on the way, but in the meantime, here are some shots I took from the energy fair yesterday.
Peace and solar power to you all.

Plump tomatoes in the hydroponic greenhouse.

El Cortez the Alpaca. A rancher was at the fair selling Alpaca wool clothes.

A lettuce seedling. It takes just 23 days from seed to harvest in this greenhouse.

Libby interviewing Roy McAlister, the president of the American Hydrogen Association.

A solar-hydrogen demo at the fair.

And you thought FFA kids were good. Here are a couple sleeping during Senator Lisa Murkowski's speech. It was long. (I almost dozed off, too, but instead rolled my eyes and sighed heavily as the republican blathered on. She is articulate, I'll give her that, but totally not believable. How about not drilling in ANWR, senator? Eh? How about that?)

Harnessing the wind can be done by anyone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

60 percent of the time, it works every time

If I didn't have to edit the letters to the editor in the paper every day, I might not believe what some people write. So, there are the usual kooks and quacks, bible thumpers and gun nuts, but yesterday there was a letter from a grandmother whose grandson was over in Iraq. I won't get into her whole rant, but she ended the letter with 'Git R Done, troops, come home soon and God Bless America!'
I'm at a loss. When you're trying to make a point about something that is obviously important to you, how about not quoting Larry the Cable Guy? Talk about the dumbing down of America.
Sunday night, Sam and I were flipping through our three, fuzzy channels, remarking on the fact that we're glad we don't have cable, when we came across 60 Minutes. (I can't believe Andy Rooney is still kickin' by the way. His rant was one on neckties. "Some men wear neckties, some don't. Some wear suit jackets, some don't." I think it's time to take this lame horse out behind the barn, if you know what I'm saying. But I digress.) One of the segments on 60 Minutes was an interview with Larry the Cable Guy and how he's the top grossing comedian for something like three years running.
For those who don't know him, he's a rootin' tootin' redneck, whose whole shtick is made up of gay-bashing, racist, misogynist rants. He plays to tens of thousands in sold-out arenas around the country. People freakin' love this guy. I can't understand.
Ha! But here I am dedicating a whole post to him. I'll stop now. But I have to add that it causes me angst every day to see people walking around, glazed over, mindlessly buying and consuming and following along. I don't proclaim not to get caught up in it all sometimes. I buy Redpaw for my dogs and prefer Taiga harnesses and Algyval instead of other, nameless mushing products. But at least I can recognize it and feel a slight twinge of guilt each time I purchase or consume something of which its origins or effects are unknown. Honestly, it's hard to get away from, especially here. But I know the difference and am making steps, albeit baby ones, to change. I forget who it was that told me 'It's better to make small changes that do nothing at all.'
How do you avoid it all? Move to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, cut off from the rest of the world? Hmmm. Well, it's time for me to step down off my high horse now. I need to pour another cup of organic, free-trade coffee with Splenda...'Tastes like sugar, because it's made from sugar.' (I did say baby steps.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cake: a hangover and a twisted ankle

Cake rocked the house! It was such a fun night. The show was outside at the Blue Loon and it was a beautiful evening. There were tons of people there and, wonder of all wonders, I knew quite a few. Cake played for about an hour and half, and even though we were a little disappointed that the concert was short, it was amazing. They played the classics (Going the Distance; Short Skirt, Long Jacket, Mexico) and a bunch off their new album 'B Sides and Rarities.' I danced like a maniac, sang along and reveled in the relaxed, albeit nutty, atmosphere. After Cake played, we moved inside where there was a DJ on one side and local cabin-funk band Gangly Moose was playing on the other. So, yesterday our big plans to keep working on the dog yard were kiboshed by a bad hangover and a twisted ankle (I fell at some point in the night).

This past week Sam and I hit it hard in the yard, baby. We rented a wood chipper and chipped all the huge brush, nay tree, piles in the lower dog yard. We cleared some more trees and crammed those into the chipper, too. You know, there is something so satisfying about grinding up trees and brush in that monster machine. We used the plethora of chips to fill in the outbound trail to the main ADMA trail. I didn't use our trail much this past winter because it was way too bumpy. Picture knee-high tussocks and deep water-filled ditches with a fresh team of huskies...well, it was a disaster waiting to happen. But now, it's all filled in, level and smooth...all we need is snow! This week we'll put up fence so I have a safe place to let the dogs run free. I let them loose now, but am always paranoid because we're so close to the road. Anyway, it's been a productive and sweaty week off. We'll get back out to the yard at some point today to collect firewood and finish cleaning up before the fence goes up. I think the dogs will love it.
Peace.The yard sans the huge piles o' brush.

Sam chippin'.

The trail out of the yard.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I know you are, but what am I?

This year's RibFest was a success! I mean, really, how could it not be? Kegs and ribs and friends, what's not to like? The kegs were gone by 8 p.m. and so we polished off a bottle of Patron, wine and JD. Sam's famous smoked ribs were gone pretty early too. There was some dancing, falling and lots of laughing. The dogs too got in on the festivities with lots of attention from the kids and lots of (too many) rib bones. Around 1:30 a.m. I got a call from my friend Amanda who had gone to see Bela Fleck and Flecktones earlier in the evening. She was hanging out with the band's trumpet player, Jeff Coffin, who wanted to see real, live sled dogs so she wanted to bring him over. We were still sitting around the fire pit, so I said sure. He was impressed with the dogs and snapped lots of pictures of Hitchcock because he loved her eyes. We sat inside and chatted for a while...nice guy, though I'm a little fuzzy on what we talked so long about. Oh well.
Sam and I booked this week off to float the Gulkana River, but we decided that we've had a lot of camping, paddling fun already this summer, so we're staying at home to work on the new dog yard. A big fenced commune where the dogs can run free was the original plan, but since we're on permafrost, the estimate we got for a guy to come in with a piledriver and pound posts was $150 per post. We need 60 posts. That's $9,000 just for the posts alone. Yeah. We weren't prepared for that, so Sam and I are going to clean up the yard, make it bigger and fix the outbound trail, which was too bumpy for me to use last winter. We'll see how long that takes and decide what to do from there. This weekend we'll take the canoe to float the Chatanika River to check out the moose stand for our September hunting trip. Before that, though, we're going to see Cake at the Blue Loon on Friday night. I'm thinking I'll wear my short skirt and a long jacket. Anyway, back to work.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I am weary, let me rest

Ok. In the last six days I: have watched fire dancers shake it in a drum circle, listened to more bluegrass and cabin funk that I thought existed, danced like a maniac, hiked so long I thought I would never walk again, climbed mountains, saw/ate more blueberries than a grizzly bear in fall, camped on top of a mountain, wondered if life gets any better about a zillion times.
These fabulous events began with the Anderson Bluegrass Festival on the weekend where whole bunch of us camped together including some musicians, so when we weren't at the maain stage there was always banjos and guitars going at camp. Sam compared the whole festival to a Grateful Dead show with the diversity of festivalgoers, the music, the vendors, and rows upon rows of tents. In a word, it was trippy. I vow here and now to make Anderson part of our summer routine.

We got home from Anderson Sunday night and early Monday morning I grabbed my pack and headed to the White Mountains with Richard. The first day we did 12 miles (18kms). We made it to Lee's Cabin (A BLM public-use cabin) and then tried to go on to Moose Creek Cabin but our plan was thwarted by water and mud that made the trail impassable. We went back to Lee's, sat on the porch and enjoyed the scenic vista. The next day we headed back the way we came in, but cut across Ski Loop Trail to Summit Trail. For about the next four hours we climbed. A lot of the trail was marshy so our feet were soaked throughout. I thought my shoulders and legs would never recover. My pack was only about 30 pounds but since I haven't backpacked that long before, my body just wasn't used to it. After six and half hours of climbing up mountains, down ridges and back up, I was done. We still hadn't found the shelter that was on the map so we turned around and found a sweet spot on top of a mountain. It was windy but a small stand of trees sheltered us from the wind and it wound up being the best camping I've ever experienced. The view was amazing. We cooked dinner and played cards before turning in. I slept really well except for the full spasms I experienced about every hour. Wednesday morning we got up and out early and hiked the last eight miles back to the truck in about four hours, climbing back up and over the domes we had summited the day before. It was a little hard to get going that morning as it was a little chilly and my boots and socks were still wet from the day before. Rich, of course, had no problem with any of this as he's a maniac hiker, but I had trouble walking last night when we got home. We figured we did 35 miles in two full days. Rich and I both had to work last night but I'm feeling much better today and can't wait to do it again.
We saw lots of bear and moose tracks and scat, but no animals.

Bear track.
Blueberries o' plenty.
The view from our camping spot.

Rain's a comin'.
We were trying to decipher how long this boardwalk had been there.

Rich climbing.

Magic mushrooms.

Into the clouds.

It was too cold to even get out of my sleeping bag for breakfast. Rich took the pics of me.

Rich, above, and me, below, climbing. Always with the climbing.

I got to work last night and got a call from a woman who said she found Ruffles in her front yard when she got home from work. I went to pick up the old girl, who was apparently playing like a puppy when they found her. They thought for sure there was another dog but sadly, no, Ruffles was playing by herself probably imagining another dog with her. She made it five miles. When I got her home, I opened the car door and to the other barking dogs said 'Look who's back again.' It reminded me of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' when the grandmother wanders off and is repeatedly brought back by the neighbours. 'Look who's back again. Hi Yaya.'
I laughed all the way back to work.
This Saturday is our annual RibFest so for those who I haven't called yet (Libs, Mary, Jeremy) the keg is tapped is noon and ribs are served at four. The party goes all night.