It’s not boring this year

One of the best and worst reasons to live up here is Kachemak Bay: best because it’s beautiful, and there are a million things to see and do on it, worst because most of the coolest stuff is across it. For a couple of n00b/broke mofo’s like we were last year, getting across the bay is prohibitively expensive.

All the best stuff is over here.

For the entire 12 months of 2009, we managed to get on or across the bay exactly twice. The first was a $10/person trip around Gull Island during the Shorebird Festival in May. The second was our Grace Ridge camping trip. Other than those two events, we just looked wistfully at the water and wondered about the secrets hidden on the far shore.

This year, things are different. We are slightly less broke, which is good for many reasons, one being we might be able to afford a trip or two across. Even better, we are far more integrated into the community. That translates directly into more opportunities.

As of today, I’ve been on the bay more times in the past 5 days than I had the entirety of last year. 3 trips so far since Thursday. Total cost: $0.

Thursday, I was sent by the Tribune to participate in and take pictures of the annual halibut tagging quest. Every year, Homer has a halibut derby, where fisherpeople can purchase a derby ticket for the day, and if they catch a tagged fish, they win fabulous cash and prizes. Skippy also participated for Era Aviation (her employer), so we spent the day catching fish and enjoying the weather (sunny, cloudy, snow, rain, sunny, really sunny, cloudy).

Yesterday and today, I volunteered with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies to help teach marine ecology to school groups on a big tour boat as we cruised around the bay. We dropped a crab pot to catch tanner crab, caught plankton with jars attached to pantyhose, looked at said plankton under microscopes, tested the water for salinity and pH, learned about oyster farming in Kachemak Bay, and saw: otters, cormorants, murres, bald eagles, thousands of gulls and a pod of orcas.

Friday, CACS is sending Skippy and I over to video and photograph a group of local school kids as they explore the tide pools. Expect some interesting photos to be posted following that excursion!

We saw mountain goats along this bluff.

The Bucket List, Part 6, The End of the Beginning

This is my attempt at describing what it’s was like for me in Alaska as a sled dog handler. I’ll take a typical day and break it into separate posts, so you aren’t overwhelmed by text. This is the sixth post, which discusses why we left the sled dog job. Don’t miss the other posts: Mornings, Afternoons, Evenings, Nights, and The Dogs!

I’ve left our little sled dog adventure story unfinished for a year now. Whether I did so out of simple laziness or a desire to not talk about it is open for discussion. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Anyway, here we are. Not taking care of 40 sled dogs.

In February of 2009, we notified our boss of our intention to leave the handling job in April. From the laundry list of reasons to leave (most of which I will not discuss on a blog. Sit down and talk with me if you want the long version.), the two most prominent factors are the two most common: time and money.

Over the course of 4 months, I received 1 day off. Occasionally I’d get an evening or a morning off, but nothing regular. For one month, I negotiated to get one day off a week. That lasted 3 glorious weeks. Exhaustion was a good friend of mine, especially at the height of winter.

More importantly, we were losing money. Skippy’s job paid decently by Homer standards, but it was only part time. I was getting some work through Bigwoofs, but I had no time to really dedicate to it. Driving into town took at least 30 minutes, and I had dog duties 3-4 times a day, 7 days a week. That sinister friend (fiend?) of Americans, debt, meant we paid slightly more a month than we were making. With no improvement in sight, we needed to take steps to create our own improvement.

So we left.

No more buckets of dog food, no more chopping up frozen salmon, no more chipping turds out of ice. No 3am dog-house-turning-in-a-blizzard. The sound of 40 hungry dogs, excited to see their food trundling towards them on a bright orange sled, no longer reaches our ears. Except when we visit, of course.

We continue to live in or near Homer, and while our struggles to make a life up here may not have necessarily lessened, they certainly aren’t as exotic.

This is the end of this story, but not an end to our story. There is more yet to come!

Gone doggy, gone
In the year since we left the dog yard, several of our four-legged friends have passed on. I will keep track of them here as time takes its inevitable toll.

Ace, 15 years old. Ace got loose from his pen, and disappeared last fall. He was never found.

Redoubt, 16 years old. Redoubt began suffering from congestive heart failure, and was eventually put to sleep.

Skyler, 16 years old. Skyler got old, and his body failed. He was euthanized as well.

Goodbye, furry friends. Run on.

The lost post

Looking through my “Bucket List” series of posts about our time as sled dog handlers, I see I completely passed over our last couple of months there, and the decision to leave. So incomplete!

The final word on our working with the sled dogs will be the next post.

Post-o-matic

Hey look, it’s a post! Mostly because I see that people are reading the blog for one reason or another, and the sound of crickets is not intriguing.

I’m currently in the throes of launching my business into a fully operational battlestation technology support and training center. I’ve rented space, applied for a loan, and worked a whole bunch. We’ve also managed to move twice since my last post (out of the dog-sitting house once Skippy got her job at Era and into the space above my office, and then out of the space above my office into the house we just rented), so that was fun.

Let’s see, we also did several months worth of preparation for a vacation in Puerto Rico, only to have a blizzard arrive and totally obliterate the road to Anchorage, all flights out of Homer for several days, and our carefully planned vacation. That was also fun. (I think Alaskans must all be masochists)