Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A picnic at the shack

The Wife and I are on assignment in Wisconsin this week, where all things revolve around cheese, cheese curds, traditional American macrobrew, the Packers . . . and Leopold's land ethic. 
Having never visited the shack and needing to catch up with our good friend Alanna, who happens to work for the Aldo Leopold Foundation, we worked our way over to Baraboo for a quick sit-down.
It's quite the place, and there's a ton of history.  Where else can you have a picnic where Leopold wrote A Sand County Almanac?  Where else can you sit in Leopold's chair, fer crying out loud?
Although, he made it look better:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Above the Arctic Circle

Work had me in Anaktuvuk Pass last night to attend an Alaska DNR public hearing on some proposed coal prospecting permits.  Anaktuvuk Pass is a Nunamiut village of about 300 people that lies on the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, just north of the Arctic Circle within Gates of the Arctic National Park.  While there's regular air taxi service and a few non-native people living in Anaktuvuk Pass, a significant portion of the population speaks Eskimo as their primary language.  A few individuals know no English.

Historically, Nunamiut people were somewhat nomadic, relying on the large caribou herds, abundant dolly varden and whitefish populations, and plentiful berries to sustain them throughout the years.  While people in Anaktuvuk Pass no longer are nomadic, subsistence hunting and fishing, berry picking, and many of the traditional values remain.  Of course, the DNR's proposed coal prospecting permits would be the first step in developing a coal mine right on top of important caribou habitat, something the locals want nothing to do with.

On to the pictures . . .

The flight up from Fairbanks was pretty awesome.  Here's the Alaska Pipeline:
And the Yukon River:
The Brooks Range:
A herd of caribou bedded down in the snow (click to make larger):
And the bustling metropolis of Anaktuvuk Pass:
It was around 5-10 degrees below zero when we landed.  We were met at the airport by Chief Cooper, local fire chief and tour guide extraordinaire.  As one of the few non-native individuals in town, Cooper insists on using the moniker "Chief" and seems to take a special interest in out-of-towners.  My boss, Vicki, is on the left; Chief Cooper is in the middle; and Emily, who works on coal issues for one of our partner organizations, is on the right.
A newly-built experimental arctic home (notice the wind and solar power generation and sod roof) which, when combined with the dump, formed two the biggest highlights on the Chief Cooper tour:
Here's a more typical Anaktuvuk Pass home (notice the inspirational dumpster on the right):
Since we were so far north and the skies were so clear, we decided to venture out late and look for the northern lights.  However, temperatures around -25 F and cutting wind made sure we didn't stay out long.  If the northern lights came out, we didn't see them.
And finally, in case you were wondering, here's what $225 per night gets you in Anaktuvuk Pass:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The aftermath

The Wife got her arm all patched up on Friday so I figured a follow-up was in order.  She fractured her left radius and ulna near her wrist joint.  The radius broke clear through and splintered a bit.  Her ulna has a few smaller cracks and separated from her wrist joint.  Here's the pre-surgery CT scan of her arm and wrist showing the fracture:
And here's the post-surgery x-rays:
Side view:
And the post-surgery recuperation:
We also were greeted by a couple moose when we got home from the pre-operation appointment, you know, which is nice:

Monday, March 15, 2010

At least it wasn't her casting arm

Well, there's no shortage of adventure and excitement around here.  One day The Wife is making powder turns in the Chugach; two later she's laid out on an icy curb with a broken arm.  As Ash said upon finding out that her sister had broken her arm, "You can get down a 2,000 foot mountain but you can't go for a run around the block?" 

For those brave enough, here's a picture of the damage.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sometimes the back-up plan ain't so bad.

The Wife and I had grand plans to ski Arctic Valley yesterday with a bunch of friends.  Arctic Valley is closed during the week so Saturday would have been the first day open since all of our new snow from the past week.  Five of us were planning to ski, but by 8:15am two had bailed out.  By 8:30 another one canceled.  And around 8:35, The Wife mentioned that she had ordered a bunch of tomato plants that needed to be picked up around 10:30.  It was becoming painfully obvious that Arctic Valley was going to have to wait.

However, with recent snows and blue bird skies, my friend Evan and I got to talking and decided to meet up for an afternoon skin and ski.  The Wife was game, so, after she collected her plants, we all met up around 12:30 and were geared up at the trail head by 1:00.

We had to skin up a snowed-in road that was guarded by a young bull moose before getting to the real skin track.  Here's Evan leading the charge.
The Wife, after gaining around 2,000 of vertical.
Getting ready for the turn around.
The Wife and I.
Evan on the descent.
The Wife getting her turns in . . .
. . . and stoked back at the bottom.
We had skied down from a saddle just out of view to the right of peak in the back-center of the picture above.  The snow was variable, with some wind crust near the top, turning into three-day-old powder for the majority of the down, and cut-up powder near the bottom.  Pretty good day for having to settle for the back-up plan.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

40 inches in the last 12 hours?

Reports out of Alyeska proved a bit too much to resist so I ended up playing hooky and going skiing yesterday.

I forgot the camera, but rest assured it was amazing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Otis bugs and leaky waders

The Wife and I have been on a whirlwind tour of Oregon over the past week.  We took a red-eye into PDX on Tuesday-Wednesday of last week, spent Wednesday through Sunday at PIELC taking in all that the world of environmental law has to offer while catching up with old friends, and then traveled down to the Medford area to catch up with my parents and chase a few steelhead.  After getting our PIELC on for a few days--which really deserves it own blog post--I was pretty beat.  I can only handle so many days of wake-up-at-7:30-after-partying-until-2:00 before things starts to wear thin.  As The Wife gently reminded me last Friday, "you're not 20 anymore."

On to the fishing . . .

My dad and The Wife and I got out on the water for a few hours on Monday afternoon.  What we lacked in caught fish I made up for in leaky waders.  Note to self, look elsewhere when your brother says the waders you're about to borrow have "a few slow leaks."  Thanks, Josh.

The Wife and I floated the Rogue yesterday, enjoying a sunny day with exceptionally low flows.  The fishing was slow, but, if you're going to have a fishless day on the river, you might as well be in a drift boat.  Short of more agreeable fish, not much could have been better.

Having struck out yesterday, I decided to give it one last go 'round for an hour or so this morning before needing to head back into town.  Yesterday's sun and low flows gave way to colder weather, rain, and a slightly off-color water clarity.  Dad and I went out first thing this morning and by the second cast I had outdone our entire prior day's efforts.
Nothing too big, but it was a start.

We were fishing the head of a run right below a long riffled bend.  I had fished this exact spot many times over the years, having caught perhaps half of all the steelhead I've ever landed here.  The river bottom is mostly cobbles, coagulated into a concrete-like substrate creating a significant underwater ledge and a series of slots and seams that fish like to hide within.  So long as you can avoid snagging a shallow spot or wading off the ledge, it can be phenomenal fishing.

After fishing for another half-hour or so, I saw a big fish roll along a seam in the current.  Taking another few steps out away from shore, I placed six or eight casts into the seam before my line made an abrupt stop and gave a few telltale head shakes.
After a few decent runs and two leaps from the water, I was able to move the fish in close, get him over the rock ledge, and beach him on the cobble shore. 

It was a wild male, just a hair over 29 inches.  He took an otis bug and made for a fine start to the day. 

. . . and using a different pair of waders, I even managed to stay dry.