‘Tis the Season for a Snowpocalypse

Much has changed since my last post way back in September. Fall was short lived, and I bade farewell to all the summertime lushness. Around mid-October we got our first snowfall and winter was on! It took a while to really gather steam, however. There were 2 or 3 mild snowstorms that left a few inches on the ground through October and November. The main problem for a while was when the temps hovered around freezing for a few days (30 degrees feels balmy to me now by the way) and there was a bit of snowmelt during the daylight hours. After dark it refroze and turned the entire city into one giant ice rink. I seriously didn’t know how cars could handle being on the road. I could barely cross the road on foot without busting my ass! It wasn’t too big of a deal though, I managed to adapt to getting around town in what are conditions I’ve never had to deal with before.

I chuckle every time I see this on my walk to the bus stop in the mornings. It’s the only cactus you’ll see outside up here!
I was all good with my cold weather ensemble by the time of the first snow. I really appreciate my new Eddie Bauer parka, it was 250 dollars well spent.

Then December arrived. Right off the bat we got a foot of snow. The town pretty much shut down for a day as everyone had to dig themselves out. Over half of the people at my job had to miss work for a day or two as the underfunded city snowplow crews struggled to get the streets taken care of. It took folks a while to dig out their driveways, not to mention the snowplows took a while to reach all the neighborhood streets. A couple of days after the big dump, I hopped on a plane to go back to Santa Cruz to grab some things and see my tribe down there. I was worried that the snowfall would mess with my departure, but the airport never missed a beat and I was able to get out without any problem.

I had to take a picture of this massive 20 ft snowpile out on the tarmac at Anchorage International. The amount of work needed to keep the runways clear during winter storms must be massive.

I only spent a weekend down there, where I had the great timing to experience the biggest storm of the year so far. I got stranded up at Jacob’s place an extra night due to the storm felling trees up on Shelby Mountain in Last Chance. The Beast is parked on his property, so I stayed in my truck that night without any of my cold weather gear and it was incredibly miserable. I could have stayed in his trailer, but I missed my Beast and hard-headedly insisted on staying in my camper. We all got beat up by the conditions, but I still managed to grab the things I needed to grab and see all my friends. Overall, the trip was a great success.

Scenes from around town after the first deluge. I thought this was a big deal at the time.
The ocean seems to be halfway frozen out around Fire Island right off the coast from the airport. There are some nice sized ice floes forming there.

I knew that it had snowed while I was gone, but I didn’t think much of it. Upon landing here in Anchorage, I was amazed by how much more snow had fallen in the 3 days since I had left. The snow on the ground had doubled at least! I had a hell of a time getting out of the airport as the buses weren’t running, and cabs and rideshare options were few and far between. After a couple hours of waiting I finally managed to get a 50 dollar Uber to take me the 5 miles back to where I am staying. On the way back it seemed like utter chaos had consumed the city. Cars were stuck everywhere and everyone seemed to be walking around with snow shovels attempting to dig themselves and every one else out. Turns out that Anchorage hadn’t experienced so much snow at once in 25 years. Around 3 feet of snow had fallen in a week! People were having a real rough time dealing with it. The main roads had been somewhat plowed, but the side streets and sidewalks were still waist deep.

Thankfully they finally got around to plowing a hole in the berm at my bus stop. I feel sorry for the old people and infirm who have to wade through this stuff to get on and off the bus.

I had to go back to work the next day. To get to my bus stop, I had to walk down the middle of the street. The snow berms thrown up by the plow were nearly head high, which made getting on and off the bus quite the adventure. After a couple of days back, I wound up getting really sick and had to miss two days of work. The first day I missed, we got hit with yet another storm, and we got another foot of snowfall! It was brutal, even the buses couldn’t run. It was a good day to be sick I guess, since I couldn’t have made it in anyway.

For a couple days I barely left my room, I was sick as a dog. I had the chills and sweats really bad, not sure if it was COVID or just another run-of-the-mill flu. I really wanted to get out and see what the world looked like under all this new snowfall, but I was too ill to be out there traipsing through it. By the weekend, my condition had improved to the point where I decided to take a walk down to the Coastal Trail and see how things were down there. It was astonishing at how different everything looked. The sidewalks had been cleared somewhat, but walking down them was like walking through a tunnel! The snow had built up on the sides of the road where it was only a car width wide in places.

The view from the front of the condo. This is around one in the afternoon, the sun barely peeks above the horizon these days. The lighting is actually really nice this time of year for photography, it’s like the Golden Hour all the time.

The sidewalks were clear at the beginning, but as I made my way down the hill, it turned into a foot trail. Wading through the snow was tough in my weakened condition, but I really wanted to see what it looked like further along towards the coast. It was really cold as well, with temperatures in the single digits. As I made my way along, I started getting passed up by people on skis. That is definitely the way to go when you’ve got substantial snow on the ground!

Going down the ‘ol snow tunnel sidewalk.

The big lagoon at the bottom of the hill has long been frozen solid. I’ve been having fun walking out around on it, it’s a novelty to me to be able to walk around on a frozen body of water. The snow was too deep to be walking around out on it that day though. I did see work crews with heavy machinery trying to clear the snow in certain spots. I think that they want to have clear patches for ice skating and hockey games, they had a lot of snow to clear first in the meantime! I lingered down by the lagoon for a bit, but as I was still pretty week I decided to head back. It did me a lot of good to get out and about though, and it was a great day to get some snow photos.

Not too long ago you would see ducks and geese frolicking here at Westchester Lagoon. It’ll be a while before they can do that again!
A world of blue and white down on the Coastal Trail.

Besides all the snow madness, things have been going all right. I’ve been working for Great Northern Cannabis Manufacturing since September. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I just go in, get my assignment for the day and package candy until quitting time. I can get super stoned and listen to podcasts all day. My co-workers are awesome and there is zero stress. I get paid time off and actually got a Christmas bonus for the first time in my working career, so that was pretty cool. I get 30% off all items at our retail store, which really helps me financially.

What we are known for is that all our products contain a ratio of 1:1 THC to CBD. Having the CBD in there rounds out the high nicely. It also not only takes away most of the anxiety I usually get when eating edibles, but really helps with the pain management aspect. I get bad back pains hunched over tables all day, so a gummy or two really helps to take the edge off of that. The management is great, they are always kicking down 50 dollar off coupons and samples of our products for quality control. For the time being, I mostly package and label our gummies and chocolates. Soon I’ll be trained on actually making the products, which I am looking forward to. It’s amazing to actually not dread having to go to work every day, that’s really been a rarity in my life. Being treated decently by my employer is something I really appreciate as well.

Man, I wish all of these were part of my personal stash!

The only thing that is a major drawback is that I only make 17 bucks an hour. Even at full time, I can’t live on that in Anchorage. My personal bills and food costs alone run me around 1200 dollars a month. There’s no way I can afford my own place and to maintain a truck with what is left over from that, so I’m going to have to find something that pays more here before too long. I just found out the other day Ingrid wants me to leave by February, so that adds the pressure to increase my wages soon. One bedroom apartments go for around 1000 dollars a month, which is a lot better than I’m used to. It is just out of reach of affordibility with what I am making right now, however. I’ll probably have to have to live with a roommate, which I absolutely dread. Living with people causes me immense stress. I got along really good with Ingrid though, and this spot is in a prime location close to the bus lines and businesses I utilize. It’s a real bummer I have to relocate, it’s almost certain to be a major downgrade in my living situation.

Unfortunately wages here are a lot lower than Santa Cruz, around twenty dollars an hour is about all I can hope for without a degree or specialized training. If I can just make it to the summer and get that sweet sweet fishing money for a grubstake I’ll be good. I can use that to get my truck up here which will really open up a lot of job and housing options for me. Believe me, seeing people whizz by in their nice warm comfortable vehicles while I wait for buses in sub-zero temperatures really makes me miss having a way to get around. It’s super frustrating to be stuck in one tiny corner of Alaska without any way to get out and see things as well. I can’t wait to get a nice camera and have the ability to get out and get some good photos. The northern lights are starting to rev up good and I can’t get to anyplace I can get a good view of the sky to see them! It’s aggravating to say the least.

Even if I had my truck, it’d be hard to find parking at my job. This is what our parking lot looks like these days.

I’ve really been cooking up some incredible grub the last few months. I cook a couple of big meals a week so I’m not spending so much on food. I’ve really perfected my fried rice, and alternate between Asian and Cajun cuisine. It’d be great if I could get hold of some local wild game so I could really cook Alaskan style. I heard from a guy on the bus that back in the 80’s they would actually give people on food stamps haunches of moose meat! Someday when I’m settled up here I’d love to get back into hunting and fill a deep freeze full of moose steaks. When I grew up in Louisiana, my grandparents would fill up their deep freezes with fish in the summer and venison in the winter. I’d love to get back to that and live the way most Alaskans do. Anyways, here’s a couple pics of some incredible dishes I’ve made recently.

Green gumbo with reindeer sausage.
Red curry with crawfish and pineapple. I can get Chinese crawfish tails from the market next door. It was an experiment that was an incredible success!
Bethan and her mom got a new puppy! His name is Jasper, I really like the little fellow. I think he’ll grow up to be a good dog. He’s some kind of doberman mix, I think.

So that’s pretty much all that is going on in my life. It’s a pretty boring life actually. I just get up, go to work, and come home. I take walks around the neighborhood occasionally. While the weather conditions are tough, every day I still marvel at the fact that I’m in such a unique corner of the world. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to try and carve myself out a life up here. I really feel like I can be myself in Alaska. I don’t think I’ve ever been aligned with a land and its people as much as I am now. As I mentioned before though, I really want to get out of town and be out in the real Alaska. A joke around here is that Anchorage is a great town, it’s only a half hour drive away from Alaska! One good thing about living the Anchorage life is that the weather is the mildest here anywhere in this part of the state. Up towards Fairbanks they are dealing with -30 and lower temperatures and much more snowfall. They don’t get any sun at all this time of year up towards the Arctic Circle, that’s got to be rough for those folks up north. We’ve got it good here in the so-called Banana Belt of Alaska! Well, I hope all of ya’ll had a Merry Christmas and I wish ya’ll good tidings for the new year. Until next time!


Goodbye Fireweed, Hello Fall

Alaska people like to say that when you see fireweed, fall is right around the corner. It started flowering around the end of July and pretty much was done by the end of August. It doesn’t linger long, but it is really beautiful to have around. It’s all over the sides of the road and in pretty much any ditch you see. There were some nice patches around the cannery, which is where the featured image this week was taken. It is a symbol of the ‘dog days’ of summer up here I reckon. Like summer itself in Alaska, the fireweed flush is fleeting. By this point in mid-September everything is starting to die, and leaves litter the ground everywhere. I’m starting to see some really nice colors in the trees on my journeys around town as fall ramps up into high gear.

They say that it starts snowing up here around mid-October, so I figure that’ll be when winter officially starts. I’m savoring the relatively warm weather at the moment, it’s going to get real chilly here soon. It’s been raining non-stop for weeks, but it’s not that cold yet. Every day is pretty much the same, rain off and on with highs in the mid-fifties and lows in the mid-forties. I recently invested in a bunch of additional gear to keep me dry like a quality umbrella and a waterproof backpack cover. I’ve been caught in a couple of downpours on my bike, and even with rain gear on my top and bottom I still got drenched. I’ve been taking advantage of the bus to get around town more and more as a result, it’s nice to travel without being soaked! This time of the year is the wettest, so when there is a nice day maybe once a week, seeing the sun is definitely glorious. It’s wild considering that very recently, a lot of places in the lower 48 were suffering under a heat wave, we definitely haven’t gotten any of that up here!

I just placed an order on Amazon for a bunch of snow gear I’ll need here in a month or so. I’m already down a couple hundred bucks on snow boots, a warm hat, snow pants, and good gloves. I figured I’d go ahead and get what I needed before I actually need it. I’ll need to get a good coat as well, I have a nice winter coat down in Santa Cruz but I don’t know if I can get to it before the snow falls. That’ll be another couple hundred if I have to get one. It feels good to know I’ll have quality winter gear on hand despite the cost, it’s a necessary investment. Since I’m getting my stuff ahead of the winter rush I can pay less and get exactly what I need while there’s still ample supplies available. I’m definitely feeling some trepidation about what I’m about to have to go through, but with proper gear I’ll be all right. I’m actually looking forward to maybe learning how to ski, maybe I’ll even get in some snow machine time! I’ve never lived in a place that has a real winter, I’m sure it will be an educational experience.

This is a pretty typical forecast. Rain, rain, and more rain.

Much has happened since my previous post. The fishing season made it another 5 days or so after I last published. I was hoping for one last hurrah, but the season fizzled out with a whimper instead of a bang. I really didn’t do all that great financially, but I made enough to get by for a while after the season ended. I didn’t know what to do with myself there at the end, I didn’t have enough money to really do anything with. I didn’t have any place lined up to stay at, and definitely didn’t want to go back to the lower 48. One of the last nights I was at the cannery, out of the blue I got a call from Ingrid. I suppose she had heard from Thor about my situation and decided to help me out. She said that I could stay with her at her condo, she had a guest bedroom I could use. I enthusiastically agreed, and when I came back to Anchorage I moved myself in. She’s an awesome lady and I greatly appreciate her stepping up and helping me get started here in Alaska.

Things have been going really well, Ingrid and I get along fine. She’s gone a lot of the time hanging out with Thor and for her job so I have the place to myself a lot. It’s a really nice condo, and mostly old ladies live here so it’s nice and quiet. I really love the location, I’m only about a 10 minute walk from downtown and close to all the major bus routes. One of the first things I did when I got back into town is buy a bike from the local volunteer-run bike collective. I got a really good deal on it, and got a helmet and fenders thrown in for free. It’s a game changer being able to get around on some wheels, I’ve been making huge bike journeys across town and up and down the Coastal Trail. I think my record bike trip so far is around 17 miles or so in a day. I constantly recall my days in Hawaii when I got around solely by bike, it’s been 20 years since biking has been my main way to get around. I’ve been getting super fit, between salmon season and my constant exercise I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in since my early 20’s.

My new wheels. I really love this bike, it’s such a perfect fit and exactly what I need to get around town.

One of my favorite things to do out on the Coastal Trail is stop at the point where it goes under the flight path of the airport and watch the planes land/takeoff. There’s always a few people hanging out there. It’s at a good turn-around spot so I’ll watch the planes for a while before I turn around and head back.

Hanging out watching the planes come in seems like a pretty popular pastime around here!

There was an incident the other day out on the trail where a lady who was hiking was attacked by a black mama bear with cubs. She only had minor injuries fortunately, but ever since I’ve carried bear spray on me while I’m out biking. I did have a pretty close moose encounter in the same general area as the attack. I came around a bend and suddenly a massive bull moose was there only about 15 feet off the trail. It had a huge rack and was contentedly munching on some foliage. Some morons (probably tourists) had stopped and were taking pictures of it from like 10 feet away. I blazed by without stopping, thinking those people probably shouldn’t be so close to the beast. It was probably 6 feet tall at the shoulder and would make short work of a human being if it had a mind to do so. I admit that the temptation to stop and take a photo was strong, but I wasn’t about to get in the moose’s space!

I had another funny incident with a moose the other day. I was riding another trail in the Greenbelt coming back from Wal-Mart. As I’m pedaling, I see a flash of brown to my right and see a young moose chasing after a magpie. The bird must have done something to really piss off the moose, as the moose was hell-bent on trying to stomp it. The funny thing was is that the magpie would fly a few feet, wait for the moose to get close, then fly a short distance away. It was getting off on tormenting the moose! It was interesting behavior to observe between animals. I asked a few people if they’ve ever witnessed something like that and they seemed to be as surprised by this happening as I was. You’ve got to wonder what is going on with these wild animals sometimes!

I got a chance to visit the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit here in Anchorage. Bethan’s birthday happened recently, and I went with her, her mom and a couple of her friends for the occasion. I didn’t know anything about it, I purposely went in blind. I was really blown away by the show! It’s a traveling exposition that features Van Gogh’s art, hence the name of the exhibition. They set up a bunch of screens and video projectors that surrounded the audience with visual collages of paintings. On every surface, art drifted and morphed around in an amazing display. It runs in a 45 minute loop, and there was very nice music accompaning the show. It was interesting watching one presentation evolve into the next. I took photos and short video snippets, but it was really hard to capture the essence of what was going on. It was one of those ‘you have to be there’ kind of things to truly appreciate. It was a really great time for sure, I would like to see other artists (Dali is the first to spring to mind) presented by this company. It was nice to see such a fresh take on classic art, if it ever comes to your town ya’ll should definitely check it out.

I could tell that they were working up to ‘Starry Night’ at the beginning of this section.

The Alaska State Fair runs for three weeks from mid-August to the first week of September, and it is a pretty big deal around here (as a state fair would be.) So many people I know were talking about it, I knew I had to check it out. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a state fair, and I was interested to see what kinds of exhibits and food a place like Alaska would feature. I rode along with Bethan and her mom, and they told me while it was a really cool fair, it wasn’t as impressive as a lower 48 state fair would be. I went in with an open mind, and wow! I was really impressed! There was truly something there for everyone. Every kind of food you could think of was there, as well as so many exhibits such as arts and crafts galleries & booths, animal shows, demolition derbies, monster truck rallies, live music, helicopter & carnival rides, axe throwing, gun raffles, and tons more activities too numerous to mention. It was definitely a slice of Alaska culture!

I left Bethan in charge of what we should check out, and she planned us a slate of things to do. We went to this juggler/comedian show first. After that we went and checked out a bunch of reptiles, then went and saw a falconer show off a bunch of his birds. When that was over we checked out all the farm animals, followed by all the food, vegetable, and plant best-of-shows. Lastly we saw all the arts and crafts stuff. Probably the highlight for me was seeing the state record pumpkin that weighed in at 2147 lbs. I really enjoyed seeing the reptiles as well, in particular some alligators and bearded dragons. The whole time I was walking around the fair, I had to stop and get some good fair food. There’s nothing like eating a big ‘ol BBQ turkey leg!

It’s been a while since I had a good turkey leg.

Scenes from around the fair.

On the job front, I’ve been doing pretty well. Since most of my professional work experience is in cannabis cultivation, I decided to try and get a job in that field. I found out that in Alaska you have to get what is called a ‘Marijuana Handler’s Licence’ to work anywhere in the industry. To get the licence, you have to pass a background check, take an online course, and pay a fee. The course cost money as well. In addition to the Handler’s licence, most places in Anchorage require you to get a ‘Food Handler’s Licence’ which costs another ten bucks and is done online. You’ve got to jump through a lot of hoops up here to get started working in the weed business, it’s definitely something I’m not used to. There’s an incredible amount of regulations to follow at the place of employment as well. I managed to get all my ducks in a row and applied to every dispensary in town. It took about a week, but I managed to land a cultivation job at this one shop. I really liked their operation, all of their plants were super healthy and everything was really organized, clean, and pest-free.

Unfortunately the management was a bunch of ex-military dudes and there was a weird vibe about the place. I’m used to working with a hippy vibe at grow shows, so it kind of threw me off. The guys I worked with in my crew were pretty cool though. The main thing I couldn’t stand was the extremely low pay they offered. I’m used to making 20-30 bucks an hour down in Santa Cruz doing this kind of work, but these jokers were offering 14 bucks an hour pre-tax! Even at full time, it’s impossible to survive in this town on so little. I took the job just to get some money rolling in while I continued my search for better paying work.

I actually got a interview with a rival dispensary within a couple days after I was hired. This new job paid 17 dollars an hour, which is still pretty horrible…but it’s a step in the right direction. The job was for making cannabis edibles, which is something I’ve never done professionally. I’m a great cook and I’m very knowledgeable about weed, so I figured I’d be a shoe-in for the job. The interview went great, and I have connections with the owner of the place. I wound up getting the job, and as soon as I found out I told my employer about it. They did not take it well at all! They accused me of being disloyal and untrustworthy, and wouldn’t even let me finish out the day. Oh well, screw those guys and their notion of ‘loyalty’. McDonald’s pays more than those jackals did, paying me so little for what I bring to the table is theft of my labor. Anyways, time to be the new guy yet again and learn yet another system. I hope I can stick with this one for a while.

For all you cat lovers out there, I thought I’d include a picture of Bethan’s cat. He’s a handsome fella. It looks like he’s got a jacket on, but that’s actually a bell harness. He’s very good at killing birds, so having bells on him handicaps his wanton slaughter.

I finally had to bite the bullet and upgrade my blog. I ran out of storage, so I had to pay money or else find a new platform. Lord knows I didn’t want to do that after finally getting this one just the way I wanted it, so I had to splash out some cash. I got a deal on it so it wasn’t too expensive. Now I have more storage to keep me going for a while. In addition to that, I’m supposed to have eliminated ads for my readers (ya’ll let me know if you see ads on here and I’ll let WordPress know) and I have my own domain now! My new address for the blog is, I am free of WordPress hosting my site! My old address @ still works, but it redirects to my new site automatically. It feels good to have my first-ever Internet domain all to myself, I feel a bit more professional! Well, that’s all for now, I’ll see ya’ll next time!

Alaska, Fishing, Hiking

Back in the Land of the Midnight Sun

It’s been a while, but I’m back in action! After I got back from the desert last fall, I headed back home to Louisiana for a couple of weeks. I partied in New Orleans a bit and finally got around to moving all the stuff out of my storage unit down in Madisonville. I took it all up to Natchez, MS and moved everything into a new unit, which was quite a mission. I then spent some time with the family before returning back to Santa Cruz in early December. I had been traveling and working by that point for almost 6 months, and I hit a brick wall on my return. To finally come to a stop after all my traveling and adventures was jarring. All I wanted to do was to hop on a plane and come back to Alaska, it was hard to get back into California life. I had spent all my summer money by then so I had to find employment. There wasn’t much work available from my usual sources, so I had to get a job at the local natural food store working in the deli. I worked with great people and management, but it was just soul-destroying work. I hadn’t worked a job serving the public in many years, and I came to remember how much I loathed having to cater to the whims of entitled customers. I put my nose to the grindstone and got through it, but I feel like that’s going to be the last winter I can stand living out of my truck and working such a miserable job. I’m just so over living that way, it’s hell on my body & mental state.

It was a long and painful slog, but I got through it. A couple of weeks ago I parked The Beast up at Last Chance once again for the summer, and I hopped on a plane to journey back here to Alaska. The year didn’t feel like it started for me until early April, when me and the boys had a great opening day on the king salmon opener. I had bought a new Penn Squall reel just for the occasion and it caught not only one, but two salmon! Bear-Tits caught one on my rod, and I got the second one after a textbook takedown and retrieval. Hopefully my luck with salmon continues for fishing up here this season!

It’s great to be back here in Alaska, I feel like myself again. All the stress and anxiety that I had been feeling just melted away the second I saw those big beautiful Alaskan mountains on my approach into Anchorage. The first weekend I was here I stayed at the same Airb&b over by Bethan’s house that I rented out last year. I spent some time with Bethan and her mom, it was really nice. We did a lot of hikes and saw a few critters. It was a nice way to ease my way back into Alaska life.

On the Monday after I arrived, Captain Thor picked me up and we drove down to Kenai. During the 2 and 1/2 hour drive, we got to know each other. He’s a pretty cool fellow, we seemed to hit it off really well. Thor and I had planned to stay at his trailers on the grounds of the Pacific Star cannery in Kenai while we started getting the boat ready for the season. When we got there, the management said we couldn’t stay on the property as they needed to do some electrical work. When pressed on when we would be allowed to move in and hook up our trailers, they said it would be at least a week, possibly two. With nothing else to do, we returned to Anchorage. Thor said I could stay in his spare bedroom at his apartment located in the downtown area, so that’s where I’ve been based out of the last couple of weeks.

Every day I’ve gone out and hiked around 4-5 miles a day. His apartment is only a couple of blocks away from the coastal trail, so I’ve been out on that a bunch. There’s so many awesome restaurants within walking distance as well. There’s even a couple of Cajun restaurants downtown that serve food just as good or better than I could get in Louisiana! Anchorage is one of the most diverse cities I’ve ever visited, and there’s so many ethnic restaurants around as a result. The markets tend to have quite an Asian influence which I really like. There’s a market a few blocks away that sells all the Cajun products I love, plus things like poke and canned juice drinks from Hawaii. I’m like a kid in a candy store every time I go and get groceries, it’s almost like being back in the islands.

My favorite view from Elderberry Park, which is about 5 minutes walk from where I am staying. It’s a good place to get stoned and people watch. I usually plan my day while sitting here taking it all in.
This room at a local bar called Chillikoot Charlie’s is full of bras and boxers stapled to the ceiling! Kind of nasty, but I guess it’s an Alaska thing.

It’s actually been really nice to explore this part of Anchorage and get to know Thor. He’s a really cool guy, he’s an accomplished artist, sculptor and boat designer. He’s actually sketching out blueprints for his son to build his own boat, which I think is pretty cool. Thor’s a easygoing dude and we’ve been getting along great, which is a relief. We’re going to be spending a lot of time together, so being able to get along is huge. He’s a big reader and has a lot of cool books. One he gave me to read was written by his friend Pat and is a memoir. It’s all about commercial salmon fishing with Thor and his dad back in the 70’s and 80’s. It actually was a really good primer for me in regards to what I’m going to be doing this summer. There’s all kinds of tales in there about fishing back in the day. If this season is anything like the ones described in the book, it’s going to be an interesting time to say the least.

Anyone who wants to know about the Alaska commercial fishing business should read this! It’s very well written and full of great stories.

Thor’s introduced me to a lot of people, and I’ve been going out on hikes with his girlfriend. She’s a member of a hiking club and I’ve been going along with her. Our first hike was to the summit of Flat Top mountain, which overlooks the city. I went and bought a pair of YakTrax (chains attached to a rubber band that attaches to one’s boot) to put on my hiking boots. The trail up was still covered in snow and ice, so they were definitely needed for traction. When we got to the trailhead, half the group wanted to stay and hike the relatively easy trail around the mountain. The rest of us headed up the trail leading to the summit. At first, the trail was pretty tame. Occasionally we’d fall through the snow (known as postholing) but I never sunk in deeper than my knees.

I soon fell behind, as I’d stop and take pictures every now and then. The members of the hiking group I was with were like mountain goats and straight charged up the mountain, leaving me in the dust. I’m in decent shape, but the trail conditions started hammering me pretty hard. It was pretty much straight up, and I found myself having to stop and catch my wind pretty frequently. I was set on making the summit however, and I forged ahead. When I got to the last third of the trail, I found that it was pretty much climbing up snow mixed with some rock scrambling. I really could have used some snow poles at this point, but I felt I could accomplish it with the gear I had.

There must have been a dozen times I wanted to quit, as I was running out of energy. The summit was right there though, and I knew if I wimped out I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself. The last 30 feet I was climbing the snow like a ladder. Finally, I made the summit! It was exhilarating, and the views were just spectacular. I finally get why people climb mountains now, it’s just the most rewarding experience. The feeling of accomplishment is like being high on a drug or something.

Incredible views off of the summit.

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. It seems that the hikers ahead of me had slid down the mountain for their descent. After walking around the summit for a bit, I realized that I either follow their lead or go back down the way I came up. I took one look at the drop that went for a mile downslope and realized that if I didn’t slide properly, I’d just tumble all the way down…possibly breaking every bone in my body in the process. Since there was no one with me to show me the proper technique of sliding down the mountain, I decided I’d have to go back the way I came. I got myself together and eased my way over the lip of the summit doing a kind of crabwalk. My main goal was to inch my way down and not get into an uncontrollable slide. It went well at first and it seemed I would be able to control my descent.

Alas, soon gravity took over and I felt myself beginning to slide. Suddenly, I was off like a rocket! My backpack and water bottle was ripped loose and slid down with me. Snow filled my pants and shirt as I careened down the mountain. A whole bunch of snow was sliding down with me and for a moment I thought I was going to start my own personal avalanche. As I shot straight down the mountain, I found that I could kind of steer with my legs and was able to make my way over into a bunch of snow that was broken up by footprints. The rough snow finally stopped my slide and I came to a halt. About this time my phone rings and it is Thor’s girlfriend, Ingrid. It seems everyone else had made it down and she was wondering where I was at. I told her I was on my way back and I was busy sliding down the mountain at the moment, I’d be back to the parking lot momentarily.

I was pretty shaken up by the experience, but it was pretty exhilarating at the same time! I seemed to be all right at the moment, but as I made my way back down and the adrenaline wore off I started feeling some bad pain in my right forearm. I peeled back my sleeve and saw that I had a major scrape. I must have tore it up on a rock or something on my way down. I could have messed myself up far worse, so I counted myself lucky. The rest of my descent was without incident, although I got off the trail close to the bottom and got my leg stuck in the snow for a few minutes before I could dig it out. It’s amazing how the snow can harden like concrete once you’re stuck in a drift. I can definitely see how doomed someone would be if they got stuck inside an avalanche. If there ain’t someone around to dig you out if that happens, you’re pretty screwed.

I didn’t know you could get road rash on a mountain, now I do.

So that’s pretty much the goings-on of my first week. I’ve done a lot more things around here since, but I figured I’d save that for next time and split this into two parts. Stay tuned for further Dogfish Tales coming at you from the Great White (well, green now) North!


Return to Civilization

In regards to my featured photo, I wanted to show the joy I experienced being at the end of the rainbow! A perfect rainbow was formed right over the lodge in the last week we were there. I’ve seen a lot of pretty rainbows at Yes Bay, but this one is the best. I just wanted ya’ll to see me experiencing it.

Well, I finally did it! The season is over, and I’ve returned from the bush. The way it worked out, I left three days earlier than expected due to our last couple of groups canceling. The coho run ended suddenly, and that along with really bad weather finished our season. At first, I was pretty annoyed at losing out on the extra pay I would have made. Also having to reschedule my flights and the extra money that would cost was another aggravation I wasn’t really keen on experiencing. After thinking about it though, I decided I was glad to leave early. I was just completely done with the whole thing. Instead of changing my flights around I opted to stay the extra three nights in Ketchikan and ease my way back into civilization. This really worked out well and I’m glad I did it.

Before we all made our escape, we had a wedding to attend. Captain Pack Rat and his lady Party Wolf were going to tie the knot out at the lodge. Everybody pitched in to make the hitching a success. My task was to clean and cook a whole bunch of Dungeness crab for the reception, so one last time I got the ‘ol crab pot out and boiled up a mess ‘o crab. We had the wedding down on the dock, and one of the office girls made a nice little wedding arch placed on our fish-hanging rack. Captain Snapper officiated the ceremony, and it was a great success. It was raining and cold that day, we were all in our raingear and Xtra Tough boots. I must say it was the most unique wedding I’ve ever attended! After the ceremony, we had really nice reception/final dinner with the crew. The boss gave us some great compliments on having a stellar season and said that he’d hire any of us back. It really made us all feel pretty good, and was a great way to end things.

The happy couple.

The next day was our departure day. I was initially supposed to head out by boat, but at the last minute I got bumped to the plane for which I was glad. All season long I had daydreamed what it would be like to finally leave, and when the moment came I was ecstatic! Climbing into the back seat and taking off was one of the finest moments of my life. It was a really nice plane ride into town, the weather was perfect and you could see for miles. The boss had left a little before us in the Water-Horse, transporting some of the crew and all our baggage. Trevor got down to about fifty feet over the water and we buzzed the boat on the way in, that was fun!

When we got back to town, Trevor took us around in the company van to run errands. I mailed off a box of gear at the post office and then a bunch of us got dropped at a hotel in town. We all made plans to meet up later that night at the local Moose Lodge for drinks and I checked myself in. It was absolutely decadent having a nice hotel room to myself, with a great view of Ketchikan harbor.

Nice view from my room. A bit noisy from the traffic however.

Fortunately, there was a dispensary right next door so I didn’t have to go far to get myself some smoke. Afterwards, I had a crazy appetite so I treated myself to a nice seafood platter at the best restaurant in town. It was an awesome first meal back in civilization! When I was finished eating, I met up with some crew members and we made the rounds of the bars downtown. At some point I made it to the Moose Lodge where almost everybody showed up and we got sauced! I don’t remember too much about the rest of the night but I know we all had a real good time. It was a great last hurrah with the crew.

Almost everyone flew out the next day, and I moved from the hotel to a nearby Airb&b I had rented out. The Airb&b was right on Ketchikan Creek about a quarter mile from downtown. Supposedly the writer Richard Bach had stayed there before, it was in a really cool 100 year old house. Being so close to the creek there was constant white noise which I really loved. It was ironic that my waterfall white noise app on my phone helped me sleep while at the lodge, and now I had the real life version! It worked out great as a base of operations the next three days I was in town. My co-worker Mary Ann was flying out the same day as me, so we hit the bars and hung out in the interm. The weather was pretty bad the whole time so I mostly stayed indoors. I did a bit of walking around checking out the sights though. I managed to make it to the town museum and check out the exhibits. I’ll never pass up a good museum!

A view of Ketchikan Creek from my Airb&b window.

The day finally arrived for my departure from Ketchikan, and I hopped on my flight bound for Anchorage. I had been really looking forward to seeing Bethan again, but a day before I left Ketchikan she told me she was sick! She didn’t know if she had COVID or not, but she didn’t want to spread whatever she had to me. I was really bummed about this development but decided to go anyway. I told her we’d just play it by ear, if she felt better we could get together. I figured that in the worst case scenario I’d just take it easy and rest up. I was still super exhausted from the season and laying around doing nothing sounded like a good time to me!

I arrived back into Anchorage and took an Uber to my Airb&b. It was in a pretty good spot close to a liquor store and good restaurants, so for the first couple of days I just laid in bed drinking whiskey and started to get caught up on all my shows I’d missed while out at the lodge. On the third day I had booked a night at the Historic Anchorage Hotel downtown. It’s known to be haunted and I got the room that was said to be the most haunted in the hotel. I love staying in haunted hotels so I was interested in seeing if I could experience any paranormal phenomena while I was there. Fortunately, Bethan wound up not having COVID and was feeling well enough to hang out. She wanted to see if any ghosts were around as well, so she came over and we had a nice reunion. She recommended we walk this trail that went from downtown to the shore of the Knik Arm that lies to the north of the city. We went and had a good little hike with some really pretty views. Everyone says that Anchorage is an ugly city, but the views around town are incredible I think.

Looking west/northwest towards the Knik Arm.

The Chugach Mountains to the south and east of the city are magnificent.

The Historic Anchorage Hotel. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Alaska, and one of the few to survive the destruction of downtown Anchorage back in the earthquake of ’64. This place has a lot of history (and ghosts).

We came back to the hotel and settled in, but no ghosts made an appearance that night unfortunately. It was still really cool to be in such an historic building, and the room was pretty nice as well. I definitely recommend the place. The next day was my last day in town, and I really wanted to hit up the museum before I left. After a seafood Benedict breakfast (I needed to get my Eggs Benedict fix after a long while without) we made our way to the museum. I was really impressed with it, it took around 3-4 hours to see everything. They had all kinds of cool exhibits and art. Bethan and I had fun playing on all the interactive exhibits meant for kids. There was even some live animals in there. I really connected with this little black rockfish that was hanging out in the tank with a king crab. I emailed the museum after my visit to see if the fish had a name but they never got back to me…so I guess I’ll refer to him as Blackie! They also had a snapping turtle in there for some reason and a nice tide pool tank. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the museum and I’m glad I got to check it out with such lovely company.

After the museum, Bethan suggested we go to this place called ‘The Crow’s Nest’. It’s at the top of The Hotel Captain Cook which is the tallest building in Anchorage I think. She warned that it was pretty pricey but the views were amazing. The hotel itself was set up like a sailing vessel with a lot of dark wood paneling and was sort of a tribute to Captain Cook himself. There were a lot of portraits around showing his travels around the Pacific. When I lived in Hawaii I actually went to the place where he was killed by the natives. It was a haunted place for sure. What a bad end he came to! Anyways, we went up to the restaurant and had some food and drinks. She was right, the views were incredible! It was a little pricey, but it was definitely worth it in my opinion.

After we were done eating and drinking, we tried to go to this native museum but it was closed unfortunately. It was getting dark, so at a lack of things to do we got some pizza and headed back to my Airb&b to hang out for a while. Unfortunately, when we got back to where I was staying, the lady of the house yelled at me for having guests (I guess there was a no-guest policy, I wound up getting my first negative Airb&b review because of it) so Bethan couldn’t stay. As it was late anyway and I had to get up early for my flight back to the lower 48 we said goodbye to each other. I hated we couldn’t have spent more time together, but sickness can really throw a monkey wrench into things. Oh well. We still had a real good time.

I really miss Alaska. Hopefully I can get a job doing deckhand stuff up there next season. I hope it works out. I thought I’d post a couple more videos from Alaska. One is of my first (and only) bear sighting. Needless to say I was excited about it. The other is of a school of salmon coming real close to me by the dock. Enjoy!

So I’ve been back in California for the past few days getting geared up for my next adventure. It’s been really difficult getting back into society down here. While it’s been great being reunited with The Beast, I just feel overwhelmed. All the traffic and people everywhere has me crazed. Also the whole society seems to be crumbling around me. When I left back in June things seemed to be getting better, but now it’s just chaos. I’ve not really had time to clear my head and think about what I just went through. This being the case, I’m heading out to the desert for peace and quiet in the desolation. I’ll name this upcoming expedition ‘Operation Desert Solitude’ I think. It’s gonna be a good one. I’ve invested a couple grand in truck repairs and gear so I’m ready to go.

In the morning I plan to go out to one of my favorite places, Laguna Mountain down in San Benito county. Since I’ve got a lot of new gear I want to have a familiar place to stay and test everything out before I head down south. I’m going to check out Anza Borrego, which is a huge park down close to the border, about an hour east of San Diego. I’ve long wanted to go exploring down there. After that I’ll probably head up to Joshua Tree and the Mojave National Preserve. After that, who knows? I’ll figure it out after I get down there. Anyways, really looking forward to getting off road and in the backcountry. It’s all I could think about when I was stuck up at the lodge. It’s going to be a great expedition, I can’t wait to be on the road!


Antics in Anchorage

Well, I have finally made it up here to the Great White North & the Land of the Midnight Sun! I must say it is another one of those places where the pictures don’t do it justice. There is no way to convey the vast sweeping scale of the place from pictures or video alone. The mountains are higher and more rugged than any I’ve ever seen. The land itself is dotted with thousands of lakes and mud bogs are everywhere. Looks like some prime off road country for sure! I’m sure me and The Beast would have a good time up here.

Anyways, after a long arduous day of travel (made better by having a window seat next to an empty center seat on an almost full flight) I arrived in Anchorage. Bethan picked me up and we drove around town a bit running some errands. After making a few stops we went back to her place and met up with her mom who cooked up some salmon for dinner with some delicious blueberry crisp for dessert. (Later on in the week she made some rhubarb crisp & cake that was incredible! Props to ya Miss Carol!)

After we ate Bethan suggested we go for a hike. I was pretty tired from my trip but I really wanted to get started on checking out some scenery, so the 3 of us went out to this nearby trail for an evening stroll. It was about 8:30 when we set out and the sun was still way up in the sky. It’s crazy to see how the high latitudes impact the length of the day! The sun just hangs out in the sky forever in the evening. The winds were whipping pretty hard (which was out of character evidently) so it was a bit nippy. Still, it wasn’t a whole lot colder than Santa Cruz, and the low hanging sun had a suprising amount of warmth to it.

We hiked about an hour and a half up this trail where you could get great views of Flattop Mountain to the east and Anchorage far off to the west. All along the way Bethan showed me a lot of the native flora and told me what is edible and what you have to watch out for. There’s this stuff called ‘devil’s club’ that looks particulary gnarly. I guess it’s the closest thing Alaska has to a cactus, I don’t want to get into a thicket of that stuff!

On our hike we didn’t see any animal life until we were in the car on our way out. It was then when we rolled up on a moose. It was grazing contentedly on what looked to be moss or something similar. We got to within 15 feet or so and it didn’t pay us any mind. It was on the smaller size for a moose, I’d say it was the size of a big cow. Still, I bet that it is one thing coming up to one of these animals in a car and quite another to come across one on foot. I hear that they can be mean if they want to be!

On the second day, Bethan suggested that we go up to this place called Girdwood. It’s a little ski community about a half hour north of Anchorage. There was still plenty of snow on the mountains up there, I think Bethan told me that they ski pretty much year-round. We had lunch at this nice little restaurant and hiked some of the nearby trails after we ate. The woods were lush and primeval, I guess you could call it a sub-arctic rainforest.

For the third day, we decided to go north and check out the Matanuska Valley. There was a spot up there where there was an old coal mine that left behind a large amount of fossils in the tailings. You can go and just pick them up off of the ground. They are all plant fossils, although Bethan said that she once found one of a fish that got in there somehow.

The road was pretty good until the last half mile or so. We had to hike in the last little bit due to the road being washed out. When we got to the site we ran across some locals who drove all the way in with a big lifted off-road truck with big mud tires. It was a pretty bad-ass truck, I guess that’s what you need to get around in the valley! Wish I had thought to get a picture of it. 

After our fossil diggings, we headed up the valley a ways to go check out the Matanuska glacier. The scenery on the drive up was absolutely breathtaking. The weather was overcast and foggy so I couldn’t see all of the mountains, but it lent an air of mystery to the surroundings. After a long drive, the glacier came into sight. It was the first glacier I have ever seen and it was an incredible sight to behold.

Of course I wanted to climb up on the glacier, so we found the road down to it and drove on down. Now, I expected to be able to just go to it and explore without any complications. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The road was pretty rough and we had to cross this really sketchy bridge. The road ended at a gate and it became clear that you had to pay to see it! I think it was something like 80 bucks for the both of us, you have to pay for a guide. I had the money and really wanted to see the glacier up close but I was kinda upset with the whole scenario. I declined to pay on principle and we drove away. Later on Bethan showed me some pictures from a blog showing the glacier and I had some regrets about not shelling out the funds to go see it. Oh well, we’ll have to check it out on my next visit.

It was sunset by the time we got back into Anchorage (around 11:20 PM), so we drove up to this overlook right below Flattop Mountain to take it in. One thing about sunset here is how long the ‘golden hour’ lasts. It lasts at least twice as long up in the north, and it is such a rich glowing light. It was like having on yellow tinted sunglasses. It’s so good for photography!

For the fourth day’s activities we decided to go check out the zoo. They had pretty much all the main fauna found in Alaska. They had moose, reindeer, brown bears, musk ox, polar bear (which didn’t make an appearance) snow leopards, seals, bald & golden eagles, and probably our favorite, wolverines. The wolverines reminded me of a bunch of different animals, like a cross between weasels, skunks and bears! They put on a show for us. We had a good time checking out the animals, I haven’t been to a zoo in years so it was fun. This zoo specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating animals so that’s cool.

After we checked out the zoo, we decided to go down to the closest thing Anchorage has to a beach. Kincade Park has a trail about a mile long that goes down to a mostly rocky beach, but it does have some sand. We picked up Bethan’s mom and some Thai food to have a picnic down at the beach. One of Bethan’s friends met us down at the park and we walked on down to the beach. As we walked down the trail people warned us that there was a momma moose down there with a baby so we needed to watch out. Those moose are everywhere! You’ll never know when you’ll run into one.

We did eventually come across the moose, but it was off the trail a little ways up in a thicket so we were able to pass safely. After about a half hour walk we made it down to the beach and found a place to sit down. The cliff overlooking the beach seemed to be unstable for some reason, and small rocks constantly cascaded down the slope. There was a sizable earthquake in the Anchorage area a couple of days before I arrived so that was possibly the culprit. After a grapefruit-sized rock nearly hit our group we decided to move over to some nearby sand dunes where we were out of harm’s way.

We stayed at the beach until around 11, and on our way out we found that the park rangers had locked up the gate, trapping us inside! Fortunately someone showed up and let us out without having to wait for the police to come over and do it. On the way out we saw a moose mother and calf grazing on the side of the road. Maybe they were the ones we had been warned about before? Who knows, I was glad I was in a car and not on foot though!

On day five we headed off to the south to visit the town of Seward. This is the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. I’ve heard that the drive down there is one of the most scenic in the nation, up there with Highway 1 going through Big Sur. I love a good scenic drive, so I was stoked to be taking the road trip down there. We headed out and it was the most perfect, beautiful day one can ask for in Alaska. The skies were almost free from clouds and the temps were in the mid-60’s. They don’t get many days like that down in the Kenai Peninsula!

There was a place on the way to Seward called Portage that Bethan recommended we stop and check out. Back when she was little there was a glacier feeding into the bay there and there were hundreds of calving icebergs always floating around. These days the glacier has retreated back quite a ways from where it used to be and the icebergs are almost a distant memory. When we stopped to check it out the rangers told us there was an iceberg there! To me it was a big deal as I’ve never seen an iceberg before. We walked over and checked it out, and sure enough, there it was all floating by its lonesome.

There were a bunch of kids skipping stones so Bethan and I had to get our skip on as well! After doing this for a while the kids started chunking rocks at the iceberg out in the water so I had to do that too. It was just within stone-throwing range, I nailed that sucker a few times. It was so satisfying to do this, I don’t know why but it was!

We continued on down the road and eventually rolled into the town of Seward. First we checked into our Airb&b. It was a really nice place except for one thing…there appeared to be no bathroom! In the utility room there was a toilet wedged in between the washer and dryer but that was it. Feeling a little ripped off, I called the owner and asked where we were supposed to take a shower. She burst out laughing and told us that the bathroom was behind the bedroom door! We looked, and sure enough, there it was! It was a nice bathroom at that! Man, did we feel like a couple of dumbasses. I bet she had a great story to tell her friends though!

After we rested a bit we headed into Seward. We were pretty hungry, but we rolled into town around 8:00 so places were starting to close up. I was all stoked on getting some fried halibut and chips so I placed a to-go order at a local spot while Bethan hit up the taqueria in town. She got her food relatively quickly where as mine took 40 freakin’ minutes to cook! When my order was finally ready we went and ate down by the water and enjoyed the evening bayside. When we were done there was still plenty of light left so we walked around the marina until midnight. The marina was a hive of activity as red salmon were running and people were snagging them all over the place. The fish cleaning stations were covered in beautiful red fillets, it was a sight to see.

The next day we headed back into Seward and checked out the SeaLife aquarium which was the main attraction I wanted to see. I so much wanted to go on a glacier tour but by this point my funds were pretty depleted and I just couldn’t fit it into my budget. Well, that’s another thing that’ll have to wait until next time! The aquarium was pretty cool, the main critters that I liked were the 2500 lb Stellar sea lion (biggest sea lion I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of them) and the puffins. They had this two-story tank you could watch the puffins dive from the surface all the way to the bottom. It’s neat to see how they swim around under water as if they were flying through the air. Of course there were a lot of cool fish there as well, most of which I was familiar with from Santa Cruz waters.

As I was flying out the next morning I was on somewhat of a tight time table so we had to leave earlier than I would have liked. There’s a lot to see down there in and around Seward. Bethan suggested we drive out to Exit Glacier on our way out, so we went to go see it. It’s pretty cool, there are signs going back to the early 1900’s on the road going up to it to show where the glacier had been in that year. It was shocking to see how far it had retreated during the past 100 years or so. It won’t be long until there’s no glacier there at all. When we got there there was a short hike to get to a place where you could actually see it and I took the opportunity to take some photos. At least we got to see one glacier while we were down there!

After this, we headed back to Anchorage. I was bummed to be saying goodbye to Bethan, but it was time for me to get ready to go to work. It was a nice little break after months of inaction & anticipation for this experience. I really enjoyed my Anchorage interlude. There’s nothing better than having a great time with great company! Alaska has just blown my mind so far. The land is just so vast, wild and epic, it exceeded my wildest expectations. Alaska in the summertime has to be the most magical, beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen in my life. It feels like a great fit for me so far. Now on to Ketchikan and my summer sojurn at the lodge. I’m really nervous about what the future holds, but hey, if you ain’t getting out of your comfort zone you ain’t really living I say!