Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Last week, I was hanging around Kodiak Island, doing my normal thing. I was fiddle-farting around the office, drinking gallons of coffee, playing on-line chess and trying to solve my Rubik's Cube when, without warning, Pati Sprecher stopped by the office with her mom, Corina. They told me they were going to fly in a small plane across Kodiak Island to the little village of Port Lions and invited me to come along. Apparently Corina, who is a school teacher in Switzerland, is researching how children live in other parts of the world so she can go back and relate her findings to her classroom in Vättis. She'd come all the way from Switzerland to Kodiak Island for her research.

Well, I love flying so of course I said yes to their invitation and less than an hour later we were in the air and headed toward the little village of Port Lions.

Early in the flight.  At this point, Corina was showing Pati and me what all the knobs and buttons do.
Before long, Corina was telling the pilot, Titus, how he could fly the plane better.
Fantasy Island? Sure looks that way.  Here's the local Port Lions swimming hole.
While swimming, you can catch a red salmon.
Corina getting ready to jump.
On our way home, Corina wrestled the controls away from Titus and started buzzing mountain goats and doing all kinds of crazy aerobatics. Pati and I, in the back seat, tightened our seat belts.
Titus finally regained control of the airplane, but not without a stern scolding from Corina.

       1. It didn't happen exactly like this. 
       2. Thank you so much, Cheryl, for showing us around your beautiful town!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Two Laps Around Alyeska

Mario sent me a picture recently. It was a picture of winter weather. But it was taken during the summer.  A photograph of Mario and Pati hanging out on the Albula Pass wearing bike shoes in the midst of a mid-summer snowstorm in Switzerland. Mario said he was going to tell me the whole story behind the picture but he never did, which leaves it up to me to make up a story for the photograph and here it is:  Mario was doing hill repeats up the west side of the Albula on his bike as part of a little Swiss mini training camp he'd undertaken.  Meantime, Pati was in the midst of an overdistance day-ride from her home town of Vättis, far to the north.  Mario was just topping out on his eighth and last time up the western side of the Albula Pass from La Punt when he looked up and saw Pati topping out on the pass from the eastern side.  They took this picture together and then went their separate ways and won't see each other again until late August in Alaska when school starts.

While Switzerland has apparently been experiencing winter weather this summer, the same can't be said for Alaska.  After the least wintry winter ever in Alaska, we had the warmest spring, and now we've had the warmest, sunniest summer ever. No change is in sight, as an El Nino bomb is gathering itself for an assault on Alaska next winter. What's to be done about this?  Andrew and I decided to go hiking in the sun.

The biome in which Girdwood is situated is considered "rainforest". But that may be changing with the climate.  Girdwood hasn't seen much rain lately.  Andrew and I went out for a recon hike to see what what was going on in the mountains above town. Ridges that would usually have huge overhanging cornices were bare rock.  Rocky meadows that have been under snow for years and years were dry and bare of snow, with no lichens yet grown on the rocks after the sudden disappearance of the snow cover. It was simultaneously frightening and blissful. It was so nice up there, I went back a couple weeks later with D.

This part of the trail is steep! It may be forest, but I wouldn't want to fall.

The ocean

Girdwood Valley

Our destination, Mt Alyeska, in the background.

Climbing the ridge