Monday, September 15, 2014

Ski Team Alumni Reunion

The plan was to get together with Steffi, Karl and Paul Schauer - all former UAA skiers - and a couple other friends for a day of hiking up Winner Creek Valley and packrafting down Twentymile Valley.  But there were concerns about high water and flooding in the upper portion of Twentymile River, and the possibility of hurricane force winds and torrential rain over Blueberry Pass. Paul is a hydrologist at the US Geological Survey, so he knows about these things, and he suggested we make an alternate plan. We called an audible and went north instead of south, to the Matanuska River for a little kayaking and packrafting.
The UAA Nordic team during the Schauer / Hiemer era, in 2009.  Recognize any faces here?

Karl and Paul during their UAA Ski Team days.  The guy sitting behind them was keeping his eye on these two donkeys.
My history with the Schauer boys goes way back.  Here I am hanging out with them in Greenland in 2002.  Look at the size of that camera around Paul's neck - it's almost as big as his little brother!
I drove across town to meet the group at Paul's house but I accidentally ended up at the wrong address. The guy who answered the door told me I had the wrong house, but after I apologized and was walking back to my car, a woman came running out of the house across the front lawn and said, "Wait! Did I hear you ask for Paul Schauer... THE Paul Schauer?"  I was pretty impressed that these people knew the UAA skier who'd won the New Mexico NCAA Invitational race a few years ago.  " If you're looking for Paul Schauer, the kayaker, we don't know him, but of course we know who he is.  We've heard he lives one block that way," she said, pointing south. "Are you going boating with him? We're kayakers, too, but we're from Montana and the water's a little too cold for us here... good luck!" It was then that it occurred to me that I was planning to go boating with THE Paul Schauer - (check the link):
Paul (Notice the elbow pads. I don't know about you, but I don't normally go boating in places that require body armor.)
A couple minutes later when I arrived at the correct address, Steffi had troubling news:  the Schauer boys were talking about paddling some "big, brown water" today and this kind of talk was making Steffi think that maybe she'd be better off spending the day at the museum. It suddenly occurred to me that my lawn really needed to be mowed, and I'd been meaning to clean the garage, too. But it turned out to be a misunderstanding; the Matanuska would be easy Class II water after all, and we'd have a nice relaxing float together.
Four fifths of our group:  Steffi, Emma Brooks, Paul and Karl.
Steffi and I were thus put at ease about the paddling that awaited us, but the trepidation came back double at the put-in when Karl put on a helmet with a face mask and Paul put on a one-piece survival suit that had a rip cord attached to the front, a parachute on the back, a klettersteig rig wrapped around the side, and a bunch of other rocket-propelled doo-dads and knick-knacks that could be unleashed in an instant in case of any kind of emergency.  Suddenly, Steffi and I were once again looking for hiking options in the area.

This is how Karl retrieves a lost paddle - with a special paddle-biner attached to a throw bag, attached to a life jacket, attached to Karl.

The Schauer boys comparing gadgets.

Meanwhile, Karl generously offered to let me use his best paddle jacket while he used his old leaky one because, as he told me " probably have a lot better chance of having to take a swim". At this point, Steffi and I were starting to think of ways we could end things painlessly in case the situation got dire out on the river.
If there was to be trouble ahead, my emergency plan was to use my knife to sink my boat and get it over with quickly.
The thought of drowning scares Steffi. If the boat flipped, she figured she'd go straight for the wrists to avoid drowning.

Paul and Karl grew up in Fairbanks, where the wintertime temperature is usually around 300 degrees below zero. And they learned to paddle (and worked as guides during their youth) on the rivers of the Brooks Range, north of the Arctic Circle. So whenever the temperature goes much above freezing, they start overheating and need to jump in the river to cool off.  The Matanuska is relatively warm - it's fed by the Matanuska Glacier which is a few miles northwest of where we're paddling in it. So by the time the river gets to where we are paddling, it's several degrees (at least) above the freezing.
Never miss an opportunity to practice a rescue.

Fun on the beach. I think Karl was doing backflips or something.
The "Helmet of Death" survives another day.
I hadn't seen Karl and Steffi in far too long - not since July in Bavaria.  Nor had I seen Paul since last Wednesday on Kodiak Island.  And it was fun to meet Emma for the first time.  As it turned out, this was the right trip, on the right river, with the right people - a day I won't soon forget!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Team is Getting Into Huge Canoes

The team camped overnight at Spencer Lake, and went out for some canoeing and hiking in the morning before taking the train back to Anchorage.  I wasn't able to be there myself, but I have pictures from a reliable source:

Paddling out to Spencer Glacier.

Spencer Lake from above

Nordic coach Andrew and Alpine coach Julie

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Team is Getting Into Training

Every year, some of our skiers graduate and new athletes arrive and take their place. Though ski racing is generally considered an "individual" sport, it's very much a team sport on the NCAA circuit, and we all have more success when we work as a cohesive team - men, women, alpine and nordic. It's a lot easier to work effectively as a team if you know your teammates. But the alpine skiers train differently than we do on the nordic side, and consequently we don't always see that much of each other, even though we're on the same team working toward the same goals. In an effort to get better acquainted with our teammates, the team went to the Girdwood, Portage and Placer valleys this weekend for some team bonding, some exercise and some camping.

We started with a hike up the north face of Alyeska Mountain for an hour of yoga in the upper tram station. Whenever I start feeling sporty and athletic, all I need is a little yoga to reveal how weak and unbalanced I truly am. I am always impressed by how much we can learn about our bodies with a few simple yoga poses. The team thanks Julia Von Imhof and Tonya Parsons for the yoga session as well as the hot drinks and snacks! It was a special workout in a special location and we really appreciate their efforts in making this a really unique team workout!

Yoga at the top of Alyeska.

The UAA Ski Team at the top of Alyeska
Loaded into the tram for the return trip

From tram to train.  On the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier.

Offloading boats and gear at Spencer.
Spencer Lake.

In the raft. Anna thought we were on the Titanic

Sean, Sparky, me, Anna, David, Brandon.

David explaining everything about glacial ice. 

I'd call us "happy campers" but none of actually camped tonight.

Spencer Glacier

Most of the team camped overnight, and they'll go hiking tomorrow morning before coming back out on the train. Here's Pati, Manon, Brandon, Clement and Marion.

Alex and John.

Bella and Etienne

The ones who couldn't stay overnight - Brandon, Anna, Sparky, Sean and David.  Catching the train back out.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Camping Here and There

The leaves are falling off the trees and it's clear that summer's over. The UAA Ski Team is back together here in Anchorage, but as usual I've missed most of the first couple weeks of practice because I've been camping with friends in the desert.  I managed to make it to one UAA workout (our annual alpine vs nordic soccer showdown) but otherwise I've been missing out on all the fun. That all changes starting tomorrow when the team goes camping in the torrential rain at Spencer Glacier (check out the forecast here).  

Until then, here are a few photos, most of which have nothing to do with the UAA Ski Team:

The best thing about going camping is the friends you're camping with.

The best thing about going camping is the friends you're camping with.
The best thing about going camping is the friends you're camping with.
The best thing about going camping is the friends you're camping with.
The best thing about going camping is the friends you're camping with.
The best thing about going camping is the friends you're camping with.
And bonfires.
Fires and dust
The weather's always perfect in the dome.

pop quiz:  What's the best thing about camping?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Beginnings

Some people like to think the new year begins on January 1.  But I haven't felt that way for quite some time.  To my way of thinking, the new year starts right about now.

It's a new school year at UAA. Students are arriving on campus in preparation for the coming academic year. We have new UAA skiers arriving in Anchorage for the first time, and old ones returning for another year.

Preparation for the new school year takes many forms.  For example, Etienne's new used car is being scrupulously prepared for him to his exact specifications down at Arkansas Street Auto Works.

Don't worry about the lack of seats.  Etienne's car has the important stuff:  steering wheel, shifter, and hand brake. Comfort is irrelevant to a UAA Skier.

Head Coach Sparky is getting into the proper spirit of the season with his new license plate border declaring his love for cross-country skiing:

And everywhere I go in town, I see signs on businesses welcoming the Seawolf Ski Team back for another year of NCAA racing.  I snapped this picture as I was driving past a McDonalds this afternoon:

As for me, this is the time of year when I always get an irresistible urge to go camping in the Nevada desert, so there won't be any blog updates until I return from the wilderness in early September.  Happy training, Seawolves!