Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Stupid keyboard.

Well, I said I was going to try and post more regularly, and here it is two months later, and the posting has not been regular. But I have at least thought about posting more often, so I guess... baby steps, right?

I'm on break at work and am using a computer with an absolutely crummy keyboard. I type my password many many times a day, and this computer is the only one where I often have to stop and retype it, sometimes three times, because the keyboard is so gummy. You have to use a ton of force on these keys to get the keystroke to register. I don't like that because using the extra force screws up my momentum and means I'll often waste time and energy because then I hit a wrong letter. Also, the strokes still don't register sometimes, so that screws up too. Stupid keyboard. Normally I can type over 100 wpm with 98% accuracy. It used to be 120 wpm back when I was blogging almost every day. I can get back to that again. I just need to blog more!

I'm tempted to start leaving the typos. Then you'll all see just how crummy this keyboard is. But I can't, because hitting the backspace to correct errors is kind of hard-wired into me.

Stupid keyboard.

I was at Wal-Mart earlier today and this lady in one of those motorized scooter shopping cart thingies was driving in front of me. Suddenly, without any warning at all, she abruptly spun the cart around and almost ran me over. I jumped back to get out of the way with an automatic apology, and instead of saying what normal people would (something like "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't see you there!") she glared at me and drove away. Ahhh people of Wal-Mart...

Oh wait. You don't read this to know about the people of Wal-Mart. They're pretty much the same everywhere, I think. You really want to know about adventures in Alaska, right? Of course you do.

It doesn't really snow too often in Fairbanks. Not nearly as much as it does in Seward, which is where I lived several years ago. It doesn't feel like that long ago, but I guess it's been ten years. Boy, I'm old! Anyway, it does get a lot colder up here, but it isn't as humid, so it doesn't feel too bad.

I really enjoy snowshoeing, but the snow here is dry and powdery ("sugar snow"), so snowshoes often just punch right through, no matter how much surface area they have (it's called post-holing). It's a ton of work to snowshoe on that. But work keeps you warm, so I guess it's not so bad.

I learned how to cross-country ski a couple winters ago. It turns out I'm really really bad at it. I fall down a lot. I have been informed that downhill skiing is a completely different skill from cross-country, and it's possible that I could be really talented at downhill skiing and be completely inept at cross-country, but I'm afraid to try. Seriously? I get scared when I get going faster than 30mph on my bicycle, and you expect me to go shooting down an icy slope at 80mph? I will die. Dead. Boom. Blarg. Those will be the sounds.

Snowshoeing is easy, though. It's like hiking. Hiking is easy. Put one foot in front of the other. And sometimes carry things when you do it. I began training for hiking when I was less than a year old.

I went to Denali for the first time a week or two ago. I can't believe I've lived in Alaska as long as I have and had never been to Denali before. It turns out it is completely incredible. My hiking partner and I brought snowshoes but didn't end up using them. We went to the Healy Overlook trail. The path up took a little bit of kicking, but was solid enough to not require the snowshoes. Coming down was way fun. It was steep and had a ton of switchbacks. We ran a lot of the way. It turns out that trail running is not so great when you're carrying a pack stuffed with warm clothes and a water bottle and snowshoes. Okay, the snowshoes weren't stuffed IN the pack, they were lashed onto the outside, but you know what I mean.

When I was a kid and went hiking with Dad, he used to tell me to never never never ever ever never run on the hiking trails. He said you could get hurt and then you would be out in the wilderness with no way to get help and even something minor like a sprained ankle could be serious because you couldn't get out and get to help. True story. But what he DIDN'T say is that more importantly, if you run on the hiking trails, you might accidentally step off the narrow foot trail and into the deeper, unpacked snow, and then you'll fall down and land in the snow and when you stand up, the snow will go down your pants and it will be cold and wet and you'll make those squealy "EEK THERE IS SNOW IN MY BOOTY" sounds while trying desperately to maintain your dignity to impress your hiking partner because he's really cute but it's too late because he's doubled over laughing at you.

The danger is real.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Random things

Once upon a time, many years ago, I kept a blog almost daily. In fact, I sometimes would write two posts in a day because I would write something after work, but then later, I would think of something else I wanted to write about, so I would write more. Since then, I've gotten a life, and I go on adventures and have fun and do things, and now that I'm doing things worth writing about, I find it harder to make time to write about them. Also, I want to add pictures, and I want to say everything there is to say about what happened, and I feel obligated to write about every adventure I haven't written about yet and then I get overwhelmed and as a result, nothing gets written.


I started this blog specifically to write about adventures and trips and being outdoors in Alaska. But, as you can see, that isn't happening. So I guess I'll have to start writing about whatever comes to mind for a while, just for the sake of getting back in the habit of writing.



I could write about the last canoe trip we took this fall... It was very snowy. And cold and windy. The wind was the worst. It was interesting that the wind had kicked up foam on the lake, which had subsequently frozen. I didn't get pictures, though, because the wind was blowing so hard that if both of us in the canoe weren't paddling solidly, we would get blown backward. It was awful. In fact, after about an hour of paddling, we decided to turn back. It took less than twenty minutes to get back to where we had started. By that time, the snow had stopped, although the wind hadn't.

This story is so old it's actually a little disappointing now. I don't want to try and tell it after all. Maybe I'll just upload some pictures. Here's one of me doing one of the more glamorous aspects of my job:



I don't even remember what was wrong with the van. I don't think it was anything important, though. Nothing my Leatherman couldn't achieve a temporary fix on, anyway.

Oh, this one was a good one!



Some kids had tied this little kitty to a stick and thrown it in the lake at Tanana Lakes this summer. They were upset when I pulled it out, but I asked if they were going to retrieve it later and they said no, so I reprimanded them for littering, and told them that I was cleaning up their trash, and if they didn't like it, they could take it up with the park ranger. Cynical Ranger was on duty. They wouldn't have gotten very far. I'll have to tell you about Cynical Ranger sometime. We named the soggy little kitty Puddles and kept him as a mascot at our rental kiosk. I think Arctic Llama still has him somewhere.



I really love how prevalent double rainbows are here in Alaska. This panorama warped a little weird, but that's okay. Also I love stuff like this:



I guess that sums things up for now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Cycling pictures

Here are some pictures summing up my cycling adventures in the last year or two. I should have posted them as they happened, but I was swamped last summer, so now you just get a whole bunch at once, late. Enjoy!

It's good to be prepared for when geocaching sends you places you can't really take a bike, even though you're still dressed for cycling...



We had some flooding last July, and some of the bike paths by the river weren't realistically rideable. Not if you want to keep from getting drenched in Chena-river-water, anyway.



Like with any sport, the gear tends to develop as the rider does. My family sent me a couple jerseys for my birthday, like this one here:



Note: I was a lot more excited than that, but the smiley pictures came out a little fuzzy (like the cat in the corner of this one). Sorry about that.

My buddy Byronius got me a new chain ring, which Coffee Duck taught me how to replace. Nailed it! My first bike upgrade! Yay!



Geocaching is always one of my favorite hobbies, and cycling makes it much easier and more fun! Arctic Llama was even able to bring his Llamalets along.



On my way to work one fateful morning early last summer, I wrecked and scraped my face up. It felt like it took forever to heal, but it was really only a couple weeks, and now the scar is almost unnoticeable. This is after I cleaned up a bit--I thought the "before" picture might be a little too cringeworthy for the blog.



I am really grateful I was wearing my helmet. That crack there could have been my skull! I've always been really dedicated to wearing a helmet, but now I have a really good story about why. I kept the broken one so I can use it as a show and tell item.



Eventually, Coffee Duck and I worked our way into mountain biking. Nothing suuuper hardcore, since neither of our bikes are designed for the crazy stuff, but Esther Dome had some fun and interesting trails. Or... well, mud.









A trail to a (relatively) nearby glacier had some interesting parts too:



Someday when I'm rich, I'll get a Corvus fat bike and have some awesome winter cycling pictures for you too! Until then, I'll try and update more often with some fun adventures this summer.

First paddle of the season

Two weekends ago, I went for my first outdoor paddle of this summer with Coffee Duck and our friend Badger Dog. Badger Dog likes to canoe, but Ducky and I prefer kayaks. Fortunately, there is no rule saying our boats all have to match.





It was my first time paddling when there was still ice on moving water. And of course, I have to specify "moving water" because last year at the same time (May 5th for both), I did paddle on still water that had ice on it:


There was considerably less ice on the moving water this year than on the lake last year, as you can see.



There were big floating ice platforms, some ten feet or so across, and Ducky and I enjoyed getting up some speed and grounding ourselves on the ice, sliding across to the other side. Unfortunately, I didn't get any good pictures of that particular piece of fun. I did get a picture of the weird ice formation on one of the smaller chunks, though.



That water just looks so nasty, though...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Classes

I'm so excited for warmer weather! I can't WAIT to be on open water again! Loading and unloading the boats on the trailer is WAY more comfortable now that we can do it in shorts instead of ALL the coats and gloves...



Why yes, those boats ARE steaming. Hard to believe that was just a month ago, and now...



Our classes are going (heh heh...) swimmingly! We've learned a fair bit about being better instructors and playing off each other well. I really like that we've arranged for classes to go from 2:30-4:30, while open paddling is 3:30-5:30. This helps the students not be distracted by watching the paddlers longingly while we're going through the necessary talking-before-getting-in-the-boat. It also gives the students time for free paddling practice after the class so they can practice and learn from the other paddlers. Also, (bonus!) they get extra time on the water, so they're getting something from the class that the other paddlers aren't. So far, though, although we've had several students who had paddled quite a lot before (one of today's students was even on the champion Epic league team last summer), we have yet to have a student who didn't learn something from even the introductory class. That's a nice feeling! :)



We're looking forward to teaching classes on the Air Force base in the fall, and are currently aiming to alert the home-schoolers (there are a LOT of home schooled kids in and around Fairbanks) to the option of canoe and kayaking classes year-round. (If we're lucky, we'll have a youth Epic league in no time!)



In the meantime, Mike has been working hard preparing a presentation for the Fairbanks Paddlers Club, which means he's been going through tons of pictures and GoPro videos from last summer. His excitement is contagious, and all of us are just itching to get out and have summer fun now!





Though as much fun as it was, I hope we don't end up having to do this again:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bored paddlers

Today at the pool, a bunch of us were practicing all kinds of weird tricks. Balancing tricks, bounces, spins, rolls... We practiced with paddles, with Frisbees, with hands only...

One of our new paddlers (he took an intro class just a few weeks ago and already has a pretty reliable Eskimo roll!) watched us and commented, "It's amazing the things paddlers will do when they get bored..."


Kayak sledding

I know I promised I would talk about more boat names next, but I think I'll use that for a filler post some other time. The weather's been getting warmer, and it's supposed to be getting above freezing fairly consistently starting this week (WOOHOO!), so everyone's getting eager to get outside. We're using the last little bit of winter that we have to have all the fun we want to have in the snow without the -30 degree temperatures that usually accompany our winters. In this case, Mike, Tony, and I decided to give kayak sledding a try.

We took our kayaks to the sledding hill on UAF campus. The remains of cheap plastic sleds littered the ground, but we didn't let that deter us. Mike and I each grabbed a Stomper, figuring them to be good, maneuverable choices, Tony grabbed the Mullet, and we started huffing our way to the top of the hill. Turns out that kayaks are a lot heavier than normal sleds, and the climb up the hill was something of a workout. When we finally reached the top, I looked down the hill and noticed it was a lot bumpier than I was expecting. Also, the snow was hard-packed, not powder, and I realized the paddles were probably not going to do us much good. I began to have misgivings.

Mike went first. Tony called for him to drag back on the paddle, but it was pretty ineffective, and he turned sideways and bounced hard on each of the drops near the bottom. I felt sure he was going to flip, but he slid safely into the powder at the foot of the hill.

I went next and tried to follow the back-paddling advice, but there was no grip. I might have had better luck trying to control my speed and direction with a handful of Jell-O. The kayak turned sideways just like Mikes did, but clearly, his balance was far superior to mine. Slamming back into the ground after each drop was uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as when the kayak flipped upside-down and I slid the rest of the way down the hill on my face with a kayak on top of me.

The visor of my helmet was broken, but I was surprisingly undamaged, so we decided to continue. But first, we stuck our paddles into the snow at the base of the hill and decided to control our boats by dragging our gloves on the ground, which worked far better. Tony made sledding look easy, and he always slid the farthest when he reached the foot of the hill. Mike, who loves challenging himself, took the chute that wove through the trees and even took a big jump backwards (though that might have been accidental). Not only did I manage to not flip over again, but on one particularly entertaining trip down the hill, my boat came to a gentle stop right up against the paddles, which I tagged to score a point. (GOAL!!!)

Things we learned: 1) Flat-bottomed boats like the Mullet are a better choice than boats with more rocker. 2) Powder would probably have made this easier. 3) Without powder, dont try to use a paddle. 4) ALWAYS wear a helmet!!! 5) Unless you're actually injured, don't quit just because your first try didn't work out perfect.

This is definitely something that was worth doing, and while I don't know if it immediately jumped to the top of my List of Favorite Activities, you certainly wouldn't have to twist my arm to convince me to go again.

--Video courtesy of Pirate Cat Studios