The Cormorant Blog

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And now, for my biggest adventure yet...!

Hey all! I unfortunately have no pictures to post, because a) my laptop is nearly out of space (most likely due to the 23 days' worth of music, thousands of pictures, and dozens of movies i have stored on its harddrive--anyone want to buy me an external harddrive for christmas?!), and b) i left my laptop at mary's house in sitka and am currently typing on a library computer. But just thought I'd post a quick update before heading off and out of communication for 40 days!

First of all, I fell in love with Sitka during my two weeks there and was just starting to really get involved when I got a phone call from Alaska Crossings. The original plan was for me to spend a week in Wrangell, shadowing an Alaska Crossings program as a sort of internship, then go back to Sitka (about 100 miles north) and continue to wait tables, substitute teach, and volunteer with Search & Rescue over the winter. Then I was going to come back and start working with Alaska Crossings for real come spring.

Anyway, one of the program directors called me and said that they had an immediate need for an extra staff member for a winter expedition from Nov. 10 thru Dec. 16--and was I interested in jumping on as a full-time staff rather than just a week-long intern? And could I get my stuff together and get to Wrangell on two days' notice?

I'm never one to turn down a challenge, so I'm sure you know my answer. Plus the thought of banking five grand in a month's worth of work (granted it'll be stressful, cold, dark, wet, physically and mentally demanding work) kinda swayed me. So I had a whirlwind two days of tying up loose ends in Sitka, quitting the jobs I'd just started, packing, and saying goodbyes, then yesterday I hopped on the southbound ferry and arrived in Wrangell at 5:30 this morning! Amazingly, I only have my one big backpack and one small backpack for all one whole month of living outdoors in the Alaskan winter! I will admit I am very proud of my newfound packing skills/

Anyway, so I'll be with three other staff members and 12 Alaskan boys between the ages of 11 and 19. I'll be paddling the Stikine River in British Columbia, hiking in the Tongass National Forest, and ocean kayaking in the Inside Passage, camping out every night under a tarp.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mt. Edgecumbe

Finally got some sunshine and blue skies for a couple hours today, and I was able to get some clear shots of Mt. Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano/island visible from Mary's kitchen table when it's not shrouded in clouds. All the tall peaks are now snow-capped--and Sitka proper is supposed to get some white stuff this week. Yay!

Apparently the Forest Service spent over a million dollars creating a new 7-mile trail up Mt. Edgecumbe in 2003--and since then, it's gotten very little use, largely due to the fact that the trailhead is only accessible by boat. And to think the Forest Service could've saved themselves a whole lotta money and had SCA-ers build the trail for $12 per person per day!

Anyway, just thought I'd share a couple more pictures. I think they look not-quite-real!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

At long last, may I present: SITKA!

First view of town, from the ferry docks:

A rare sunny day; this is what I can see from the window at the restuarant I work at! Not too shabby :)

My new home! For a couple months anyway...

Sunset - right from Mary's front yard. Unbelieveable!!

The harbor:

The town of Sitka, Alaska:

So, I'm finally here! The ferry ride up was incredible. We saw dozens of humpbacks whales, hundreds of porpoises, plus bald eages, sea otters, the whole nine (but no orkas, although word on the street is that killer whales sometimes come into the Sitka bay in the winter and wreak havok with the sea lion population). Most of the trip was spent sailing through narrow channels in between the dark green islands of British Columbia in the gray rain, but occassionally the sun came out--and even when it didn't, it was beautiful. I camped on the upper deck with a guy from NH and a couple from New Zealand celebrating their honeymoon by traveling around the world, and it was a blast. We stopped in the coastal communities of Ketchikan, Wrangell & Petersburg along the way...
I've been in Sitka for a week now, and other than the first day when I took these pictures, it's rained the whole time. To an extent, the rain and fog can add to the beauty, but it also gets a little old. I've been working as a waitress at a brand new restuarant downtown (about 2 miles from Mary's house), and I just bought a used 3-speed bike at a police bike auction for $5 (I still have to lube it up, put air in the tires, and put on a new chain--that's my project for tomorrow!) to get to and from work. I also got a pair of Northface rain pants for $10 at a gear swap at the library, so I'll be staying remotely dry when pedaling to and from work every day.
Sitka is surrounded by absolute beauty, but it's surprisingly the largest place I've lived in the past 3.5 years and I'm kind of shocked by the nice-ness of the restuarants, the heels and the makeup that women wear, etc. Sitka--and the people who live in it--aren't nearly as rustic or self-sufficient as I would've imagined from Alaska, but Sitka is just one little isolated spot of civilization (accessible only by plane or boat) in a vast roadless wilderness, so I guess I should grant them their lower-48-crasies. I haven't gone hiking yet, but I just got some bear spray ($42.50 for an 8-oz can!) so I hope to get into the woods soon. Next week, regardless, I'll be getting back on the ferry and heading down to Wrangell for a week in the wilderness with Alaska Crossings, my future employer, so i'll report back then. In the meantime, I'm going to apply to volunteer at Alaska search-and-rescue, try to get either another waitressing job or a substitute teaching position, and get my bike up and running. Gotta run! xoxoxo

Alaska, the beginning

A few pictures from the three-day ferry ride from Bellingham, WA to Sitka, AK. I've gotta run to the library/a gear swap downtown right now, but I'll be back to post pictures from Sitka proper and to write about the journey there later this evening!

A USCG welcome into Sitka



The upper deck where I camped:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm finally in Alaska! But first: Seattle and points south

Whew! What a long two weeks I've had! First, finishing up the internship in Idaho (which involved lots of paperwork and cleaning) and saying my goodbyes, then spending a week and a half on the road, en route to Sitka. Mike, one of the SCA guys from the Boston area, was moving to Seattle, so he gave me a ride to the big city. First, though, we stopped in Missoula, Montana for two nights and I stayed with my friend Shane, who is always the most gracious host. I also left my big ol' elk skull with him. He plans to clean and mount it for me this winter and take good care of it, and I'll be back in a year or two to pick it up from him, if all goes according to 'plan.' Which, of course, it never does.
But Missoula was a lot of fun, I met up with a bunch of guys from the Forest Service I'd worked with over the summer, went to the KettleHouse Brewery, ate the usual Missoula fish tacos, and got my hair cut. It was icy, bitterly cold while we were there--down to the single digits at night, 45-mile-an-hour wind gusts, and on top of it all, five inches of fresh snow!
After Missoula, Mike and I drove seven hours to Seattle, and I stayed the first night in his sister's apartment, which has got to be the smallest apartment I've ever seen in my life. There wasn't even a door on the bathroom. So the next morning, Mike brought me to the Green Tortoise Hostel, smack dab in the middle of downtown Seattle, right across from Pike's Place Market and the original Starbucks. It was a FANTASTIC hostel. For $30 a night, I got a clean, comfortable bed, a place to lock up all my stuff, free full breakfast (pancakes, eggs, fruit, coffee, etc), and free dinner three times a week. The free dinners were a great time to meet up with fellow travelers and inevitably ended up with everyone going out to the bars afterwards. So I had a grand time livin' it up in the big city with a cast of Australians, Kiwis, Irish, Scotch, Canadians and Americans. And during the day, I wandered all over the city, saw the sites, shopped a bit, people watched, ocean watched, and spent more money than I have all summer long. But I deserved it :)
Also, I fulfilled my mission to try Geoduck ("gooey-dock"), the giant clam of Puget Sound! The necks of these babies are nearly a foot long, and taste like a cross between squid and steamers. I'd seen them on the Food Network and wanted desparately to try one, but tried 15 restuarants in vain before I finally found a tiny, out-of-the-way Chinese place in the International District that had geoduck on its menu. Hurray!
After five nights in Seattle, I took an early morning train up the coast to Bellingham, WA, right on the Canadian border. The train ride was beautiful, hugging the water the entire time, with the towering white peaks of the Olympic Mountains rising across the bay. Then I spent a night in Bellingham tucked away in a quiet little Motel Six room on a strip of fast food joints that had me yearning for the convenience and character of Seattle--although downtown Bellingham was awesome--and left the next morning for the ferry terminal, where I sat all day in the pouring rain waiting for four o'clock so I could board.
I slept super late this morning, so I've gotta go run a few errands and get some stuff done while it's still light out, but I'll report on my amaaaaazing three-day ferry ride up the Alaskan Inside Passage and my arrival in Sitka--with lots more pictures--later tonight. XOXOXO

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Part the Second: The Wedding of the Century

Just a few quick photos from The Andrews' wedding on Sept. 12. It rained and no one cared; Leigh-Anne was beautiful, the jolly Johnson clan was in full swing, the ceremony was perfect, and my trip home was way too short. Hopefully I'll be back again for Christmas! The end!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Interlude: The Coolest Groundscore Ever

I found this bad boy on a scree field above the trail during our last trail hitch. He'd been killed and eaten by wolves--his leg bones were scattered around, but his entire vertebrae and several ribs were still attached to this massive skull and 15-point rack! The whole thing is currently soaking in a cooler of bleach outside my door, and I'm trying to figure out how to get it back to New England, where it will surely hang in a spot of honor above the shed/barn in my future house...

Did I mention I FOUND THIS!?