Please send our Governor home!

I'm having a hard time with my goal to keep my blog Palin-free. Here's my plea to friends and family in battleground states (Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania): send the pitbull guv back to finish out her first term as governor. Maybe she'll be ready to be VP, and possibly President, in 4 years. She isn't now. With the crisis our country is in, we need more than a hockey mom in the oval office.

Wouldn't Tina Fey look good sitting on this bench with the Chugach Mountains behind her? You may be the key to making that happen.

18 October 2008 Big Wild Nature

Anchorage adopted a new slogan this summer: Big Wild Life. The local wildlife read the press releases and soon starting playing their role in a bigger and wilder way than the city marketers had planned on. In late June, a teenage bike racer was mauled by a bear during the wee hours of a 24-hour bike race in the large city park near us. This was the first mauling in Anchorage's history, surprising given how many bears inhabit the parks and fringes of the city, which consists mostly of open military land or Chugach State Park. Wildlife experts and the city recommended staying away from trails along the creeks running through the wilder parks in town, especially Rover's Run, the site of the attack.
The bears continued to be seen more than in previous summers. A sow with two cubs charged runners in two separate incidents. We learned that we had been in the same spot as one of those charges about 15 minutes before the runner was there. We never saw the bears but this was a reminder that the bears are always there -- they're just usually avoiding us as much as we'd like them to. Diva rides were somewhat modified to avoid the creeks and obvious bears. Then a second mauling happened on Rover's Run in early August and the city closed the trail.
Other trails in the park follow the branches of Campbell Creek or cross it, so anyplace is potential bear territory. I strapped bear spray into my water bottle cage, as I do every summer, and rang my bike bell often as I biked there, whether alone or with others. Luckily, I never saw a bear.

Yesterday Paul and I wanted to ride in the park and decided to see if Rover's Run was open yet. Officially, it is open, but it's current condition suggests that the city's slogan should be Big Wild Nature. A recent windstorm brought gusts near 100 mph in some parts of town. We rode the lower half of Rover's, about 1 mile, and had to climb over, under, or around half a dozen downed trees. We skipped the upper half because we heard that over 20 trees had fallen across the trail. The windstorm must have scared the bears away; we didn't see any tracks in the thin layer of snow.
We crossed Campbell Creek several times on other trails and were turned around at it once when a little used trail, new to us, just ended at the creek. At one bridge, I looked down to see bear tracks in the snow on a gravel bar. We explored a new mushing trail and followed day-old moose and bear tracks. Despite the snow, the bears are still grazing and preparing for the winter nap. A hunter in the Anchorage 'burbs legally shot a large boar in his backyard this week.
All the bear activity this winter re-aroused the debate about whether or not wildlife has a place in Anchorage. For some people, it would seem it does as long as it doesn't act too wild. For many of us, we live in Alaska because of the wilderness and the wildlife. Anchorage's parks allow us to experience that on a daily basis and remind us what a special place we are blessed to inhabit. We have to recreate in the city parks like we would in the state park and more remote parts of the state. Big and wild wildlife is everywhere. Respect it, try to avoid it, and if you're lucky, you'll see it from a safe distance.

26 September 2008 Eklutna Gold

We gambled and it paid off. My friend Jo-Ann reserved the Serenity Falls Cabin at the far end of Eklutna Lake months ago and weeks before she fell and tore her rotator cuff. After surgery at the end of June, she asked if we'd mind if she pushed the cabin reservation back from the 2nd weekend of September to the last. That's pushing winter in these parts but how can you say 'no' to someone who's hallucinating on pain killers and not going to bike all summer? She thought she could be back on her mountain bike by the end of September. We rode out in a pouring rain a year ago September so how much worse could it be if we postponed?

We also froze last year with a small supply of wet firewood. So I was up early on Friday to deliver dry firewood to the concessionaire, Dan, who could motor it 12 miles out to the cabin. The lake was shrouded in fog and Dan reported it was 31 degrees. Paul and I returned to the trailhead at 1:00 to meet Jo-Ann, Rose, Bev, and Gloria . Bikes, trailers, and panniers were loaded for two nights at the cabin. Paul was just along for a daytrip. The morning fog had burned off and the clear blue skies allowed the sun to warm the air.

In a summer that had few consecutive days of sun, we didn't think the weather could last. But it did. We took advantage all we could. On Saturday we hiked toward the glacier until the trail disappeared at a cliff and the only route necessitated crossing the glacial river. Back at the cabin, the rest of the crew and more daytrippers arrived. We all grabbed a spot on the sunny back porch and ate a leisurely lunch until the sun went behind the mountain. After dinner we walked down the road and along the river and returned to the cabin for dessert and star gazing, the first of the fall.

On the ride out on Friday, we felt so grateful and lucky to be biking along the lake in the sun and fall gold. We said we were blessed, we were fortunate, we were being rewarded for sticking it out through the rain the previous year and the dreary summer of 2008. We were still saying all of those things on Sunday when we biked back out. The Saturday crew left before Rose, Jo-Ann, Gloria, Bev, and I. We all seemed reluctant to leave this weekend that still seemed unbelievable. After we loaded bikes and gear into the cars, we walked down to the lake edge to sit in the sun just a little longer.

We are blessed, we are fortunate. We have good friends, good health, kind husbands waiting at home, and we bike in golden Alaska.

To see more photographs of the weekend in Eklutna:

20 September 2008 Golden Fall

There have been just a few good things about the rainy summer
  • the grass didn't grow much so Paul didn't have to mow twice a week, more like twice a month
  • the seeds, seedlings, and transplants at my restoration project thrived with the constant rain
  • and the fall colors have been absolutely spectacular and seemingly endless

I haven't posted any fall colors on this blog, so I looked at the Divas blog to see if my memory is right. Did fall really last all of September? And indeed, yes, by the second week the dogwood was a deep red in some parts of the woods and the birches were starting to turn yellow. In the third week some leaves were falling while other birches were just hitting their stride. Even in the fourth week, as the ground was carpeted in golden leaves, some birch trees were just starting to shift from green to yellow.

Those bike rides, and others commuting home from work or around the park on weekends, were like riding through liquid golden energy. I felt an energy that only comes after a long period of darkness. Even though those Diva rides were often cloudy and moist evenings, the golden leaves substituted for the sunlight I've craved all summer.

For months I kept wondering why staying in Alaska all summer had seemed like such a good idea in previous years. But on those bike rides, I couldn't stop saying to myself -- you live in the most beautiful and amazing place in the world.

Back in the spring as green up rolled across southcentral Alaska, a colleague commented that for two weeks in the spring, no place in the world is as beautiful. I'd have to say, for the month of September, no place is as golden and rich with life.