Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall/Winter Updates

It's been a while since we've blogged. This is an update from October and November of miscellaneous adventures. Snow has come down the mountains and we're solidly in winter. We currently have 6 hours and 45 minutes of daylight (per the newspaper). Temperature has been in the teens. This picture is from a recent drive between Anchorage and Seward in a town called Cooper Landing.

Winter wind storms...winds in our neighborhood had been clocked at 80 mph. At 5am we heard a "thud" to find that one of our trees had fallen on our roof. About a week later Chris decided that it couldn't stay for damage to the house thankfully!

Dan Clausen (Chris' childhood friend and the person who introduced Chris and I) took a break from his job as a figure skating coach on cruise ships to do a little "late season" fishing with us...

Fishing Day #1 on the Kenai River. Surprise - there were very few other boats around us. No fish were caught. It was quite cold outside...

Inside, Jen found the weather quite nice. We had our "Buddy Heater" cranked up and the sides down on the boat, turning the boat into a bit of a sauna. The guys were shivering outside, while Jen was shedding layers inside and doing some studying... this is my kind of winter fishing!

Fishing Day the boat never made it to the river that day. A snowstorm took us by surprise. (Don't let them know that they're not going to catch any fish this way!)...

Fishing Day #3: This time I didn't go along. Dan DID catch one fish that day (one small rainbow). The river was gorgeous and QUIET...something that just doesn't happen during the summer fishing season.
I did a recruiting trip for the Alaska Family Medicine Residency down in Portland, Oregon at OHSU (where I went to med school). It was a bit odd giving a "lecture" to med students in the same lecture hall where I used to get lectured to! I stayed overnight at Bob and Christine's house (THANKS!) and, while the "parents" were away, threw a party at their house with many of the boat friends that I had not seen since we threw off our bowlines in Oregon and moved to Alaska.

Tammy, Toni, Dan, and Tammy...Jen and Kim...
The first week in November, Chris went on a deer hunting trip to Kodiak, Alaska with his dad, brother Travis, and good friend Steve. This trip involved a one-hour bush plane ride from the city of Kodiak to an isolated lake. They were blessed with 8 deer between them and a few bear scares but no dangerous encounters. Here is Trav, Pa Hyer, and Chris with the airplane that took them to their hunting camp.
Chris, Terry, Travis, and Steve on Kodiak Island.

-A note or two here from the mighty hunter: My extreme dislike of being airborn nearly caused me to keep my name out of this hunt. Kodiak in November is typically stormy with lots of wind, snow, and rain...providing flights that can range from very unpleasant to shear terror. However, this was the last opportunity until next fall to provide wild game for the freezer, and so I booked my flight. All the anxiety was fortunately wasted this time as flights to and from were spectacular- and even fun flying in the vintage Dehavilland Beaver. From the air we saw bears, goats, and even whales as we skirted the rugged coast line of Kodiak Island. We has reserved a forest service cabin which made sleeping much easier as Kodiak's bear population density is 1 bear per square mile. We saw 14 brown bears, one of which was hovering around the cabin on our last night. We were fortunate to not have any bad encounters, though many people have this year. Our pilot cautioned us that the bears were particularly grumpy and to be extra cautious. I could write pages of stories of our week long hunt and philosophize on my view of hunting, but I won't. I took my limit of three deer and we got eight total which is good hunting and will help feed four families for a year. Aside from the steak, we made burger, brats, and pepperoni from the meat. I am thankful to the deer and glad to have a full freezer.
Chris and Trav taking a walk while waiting for the airplane to pick them up:

Chris in front of the Vera Lake Cabin in Willow, Alaska. A wonderfully rustic place to escape for cold winter weekends. We heat with a wooden stove, chop through the ice to get our water, and use kerosene lamps for light. The weekends are spent sleeping in, reading, eating, and taking saunas.

Chris with his 1978 Chevy. We drove into the cabin this weekend. Later in the winter season we'll have to ski in, with sleds behind us with our food/water/gear.

That's all for now. We hope that everyone has a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fall in Alaska

It's Fall. The air is crisp (VERY actually started SNOWING today!), the leaves have turned their mellow golds, and the last fish have been caught for the season. Here are a few pics from our fall fishing and sailing adventures....

This is our neighborhood court, Kushtaka Circle, tucked against the Chugach Mountains.

One last fishing trip for Silver Salmon on the Kenai River...

Our final boat trip out of Seward for the season. After this boat trip, SV High Endeavours went into hibernation for the winter season. We removed her sails and winterized her.

The SUN came out and shone on us all weekend. We spent the four day weekend exploring beaches, walking up creeks, relaxing, and picking berries.... This was the morning view out my galley window...the sun coming up over the mountains, causing the water on the shore rocks to evaporate...

Chris dropped me off by dinghy at this water-surrounded rock, but eventually came back for me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

4th Wedding Anniversery in Wisconsin

This year, for our 4th wedding anniversery, Chris and I returned to the site of the deed...Door County, Wisconsin. Jen's family cottage is there and is one of her favorite summer locations, full of memories of growing up.
Jen & Chris at the site of their wedding ceremony, 4 year anniversery. Sister Bay, Wisconsin.
The crew in front of the family cottage (from left to right): Laura & Ty, Kelly, Dad Burger, Aunt Barb and Uncle Dave, Mom Burger, Chris & JenDoor Couty Wine-Tasting: Jen, Laura, and KellyJen on the Lake Michigan coastJen at Cave Point, Lake Michigan coastPontoon Boat Fishing: Dad, Mom with Shorty, and ChrisChris and a Monster BassBack in Anchorage: Jen made a pie with Door County cherries and Chris cooked Wisconsin Bass.

Fishing, Hunting, and Gathering: Reflections on Local Food

One of our favorite aspects of Alaskan life is the ability to gather one's own food. Lately, I've been reading many books about "local food" (Check out "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Pollan or "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Kingsolver). I have enjoyed finding all that the Alaskan land offers up for our sustenance. We wanted to live in a place that could feed us, and Alaska is such a state. Being in touch with where one's food comes from is immensely gratifying - and one doesn't get much more "free-range, organic" than a moose or wild salmon! Alaska has a genuine food culture, where there is an affinity between people and the land that feeds them.
First, there is fishing. Alaskan summers are all about fishing, whether it be for salmon (reds, kings, silvers) or halibut. We spent many weekends on the famous Kenai River. No Kings for us this year (keeps us humble about how special catching a Kenai King Salmon really is), but many reds and some silvers.

Jen & Chris with a Red Salmon on the Kenai River.

Jen dip-netting. This is a VERY posed picture. The day was miserable rainy and Jen only lasted about 15 minutes of this. No fish were caught.

Chris fishing in Humpy Cove from our sailboat, outside of Seward.

Next, there is hunting. As I write this, Chris and his dad (along with some of their friends: Nate, Steve, and Brian) are out moose hunting along the Swanson River, where they canoed to a potential moose hunting site. One moose can feed a few families for the winter. They are also hoping to go deer hunting on Kodiak Island.

Then, there is gathering. This last weekend, while Chris was hunting, my friend Leah and I thought it only appropriate to "gather." We went to nearby Girdwood to pick high bush blueberries. This was my first experience with high bush blueberries and we gobbled them up while we picked (2 in the bucket, 1 in my mouth). However, back home, as I prepared the berries I noticed a little friend looking at me...a blueberry worm! After much research on the topic, I discovered that our blueberries were packed with PROTEIN. They are now soaking in cold saltwater and the worms are making an exodus to the surface. I will be making cordial with the berries, along with a blueberry crisp.

Jen with her blueberries.

Leah with Anna on her back, berry-picking together.

This next year, we will be planting a garden in our backyard (we set up the beds this year) and will be exploring other Alaskan edibles, from fungi to seaweed! We also have raspberries all along the side of our house.


  • Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our food as our cars. We're consuming 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen (about 17% of our nation's energy use) for agriculture, a close 2nd to our vehicle use. But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only 1/5 of the total oil used for our food. The lion's share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical US meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels.

  • Local, fresh foods TASTE better! Food is the rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure! Eating home-cooked meals from whole, in-season ingredients obtained from the most local source available is eating well, in every sense. Good for the habitat, good for the body.

  • Find your nearest farmers' markets and local producers: Also, check out and and

Now, back to eating...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

First Year of Residency Over & the Harding Icefield

What does a group of family medicine residents in Alaska do to celebrate the completion of their first year of residency? They go camping! Every year, the Alaska Family Medicine Residency holds a camp-out. It ends up drawing about 100 people (residents, faculty, staff, and their families). Jen was in charge of much of the planning and shopping for this event (she's the class representative in the residency), which meant that Chris "volunteered" his help as well. He's such a good sport! The Saturday of the camping trip was spent on a strenuous 8 mile round-trip hike to the top of a mountain to the Harding Icefield. This ice field is 60 x 60 miles in size and over 3,000 feet thick. The day was amazingly sunny and we all ended up with sunburns (bad doctors!). See pics below...
Jen and Chris half-way to the top.

Chris showing what NOT to do.
A group of young Alaskan docs and their significant others.

Check out the line of people in the snow above - gives a good perspective.

Jen & Chris at the top. Notice the points (tippy tops) of mountains sticking out from the massive ice field. Those mountains are 3,000-4,000 feet tall and are encased in ice. The Natives call these exposed mountain tops "nunataks."

Intern year is behind us! 2nd year of residency involves less time in the hospital, more clinic time, fewer nights of call, less 30 hour shifts in the hospital, and new levels of responsibility (supervising the new interns). We also get more weekends off - more adventures to be had. Thanks to all those who have given their support and love through this first year of residency. Only 2 more years to go!

Jen's 30th Birthday & A Word on Bears

Jen's 30th was spent in Soldotna, Alaska; on the Kenai River. A wonderful birthday dinner complete with triple chocolate cake (why have only single or double chocolate?) was prepared by the folks at "Kenai Vineyards" (the elder Hyer's place on the River). The day itself was spent going for a hike in the woods (see above) where there was uncomfortably close signs of bear nearby. At REI, where Chris works, people often ask Chris, "So, are there bear at such-n-such place?" His standard reply has become, "Is such-n-such place in Alaska?" They often pause and then get it - there are bears EVERYWHERE in this state. People bring bear protection of various sorts, from bear spray to guns. There was even a black bear spotted in our neighborhood a few weeks ago. There are a few things that people can do to decrease their odds of a bear attack - go hiking in groups (a bear has never killed anyone in a group of 6 or more), talk loudly while hiking (don't surprise bears), and stay FAR AWAY from any dead animals (bear food) and cubs (baby bears). However, no matter what you do, nothing decreases your odds to "zero" of a bear attack, so it is wise to be aware and carry protection. Our good friend, Steve, was just charged by a bear in the middle of an open field last week. There was no precipitating factor, he was not a threat to the bear. Luckily, Steve actually teaches a class about bear safety and shooting. The bear charged, he shot, and the bear ended up dead. He was a teenage bear, which are said to be the biggest troublemakers - something that must run in all species :)

The Kenai Peninsula Canoe Trails

Every summer, we try to spend a long weekend on the Canoe Trail System on the Kenai Peninsula. This year, we spent that weekend in May with our dear Alaskan friends Nate and Leah and their baby Anna.
Here is the AMAZING thing that shows why Nate and Leah are perhaps the best parents ever. Anna is only about 1 year old, which is a feat in itself for a canoe trail excursion. The canoe trails involve portaging over land, carrying all one's gear and the canoe, going from lake to lake. Imagine carrying all that gear AND a baby AND all the baby's gear. Even more amazing is that Anna was born with spina bifida, and has little to no movement of her legs. So, here we are, in backwoods Alaska as these amazing parents take the time and the energy and the love to share the beauty of nature with their little girl.
We feel blessed to have them in our lives and to have shared this weekend canoe adventure. Here are some pics:
You know you're in Alaska when....every sign is covered in bullet holes.
A moose swam across a lake right in front of our canoes.
An amazing loon that repeatedly swam under our canoe, popping up on either side. We could actually see the body of the loon as it swam through the water.
Chris, Nate, Leah, and Anna in a water portage - always nice because we don't have to unpack and carry our canoes.
This should be in a brochure....fantastic accommodations, fresh salmon grilled on the fire...

Chris portaging our canoe. Note key components of an Alaskan man - brown "Xtra tuff" boots, a 44 on his hip for bear protection, a beard.

Nate and Chris portaging our canoes. Leah and I offered to help...

A wonderful weekend of laughs, stories, campfires, great food, great adventure, wildlife galore, and more - THANKS NATE, LEAH, and ANNA!