Category Archives: Hiking

2013: The Blogless Year

January: What to do with a new year? Apply to grad school and watch Zags basketball, obviously. Submitted my application to SIT Graduate Institute and cheered on my #1 boys.

Go Zags.

February: Back to Southeast Alaska for work and the opportunity to see friends in Sitka.

Dock. Walk. Talk.

March: Let’s play JEOPARDY! (That’s my mom.)

Final JEOPARDY: “What is Hail to the Chief?”

April: Made a documentary. Met great people, shared the story of good friends, screened it at a theater with 300 people in attendance. Folks at NW Documentary–you’re beautiful. Oh, you want to see it? Fathoming A Future

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 9.30.01 PM

May: Met this guy, Dave Matthews, you may have heard of him.

I love you, Dave. Thank you, Brittany.

June: A mess of a month, but I had the chance to spend my grandma’s final days with her in Missouri (and learned I look exactly the same as when I was three years old).

Some things don’t change.

July: Quit my job (bye JVC Northwest, it’s been good!). Trekked 93 miles around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. Would I do it again? Yeah, I think I would. Didn’t love every moment of it, but damn that cold Rainier beer tasted good at the end. Thanks to Brian and Aunt Christy for the Trail Talk.

Hey, Mt. Rainier. Let’s take a look at you from all angles.

August: Road trip! Packed up and left it all (again). Vermont-bound, but not before a stop at the best brewfest ever. Thanks, Bend!

Up top! Farewell with Portland party peoples in Bend, Ore.

September: Turns out I decided to forfeit my income and work really hard going back to school in Vermont. Honeymoon phase of all new people in a new place. Delicious cheese. And reading assignments.

Obligatory first day of school (jumping) photo.

October: New England autumn proves worthy of its reputation. Cider. More cheese. More reading assignments.

After growing up in Seattle, I didn’t know fall days could be sunny.

November: Drew some Econ graphs, wrote some papers. Spent time with new friends who somewhat resemble lawn gnomes.

A lawn gnome and his friend, Preston.

December: Completed my first semester of grad school. Many hours spent attempting to define sustainability. And a little stop by Yale to see a man deserving of the descriptor “inspirational,” Mr. Wendell Berry, of course.

Story time with a great man.

January 2014: The sun has set on a semester of grad school. A jaunt to Barbados awaits . . .

Snowfall concludes a semester on the hill.

Happy New Year!



Let’s Catch Up

Well, I’ve had quite a few complaints about the state of my blog. And I, of course, have no excuse except to admit that I simply have not sat down to post in far too long. When it’s sunny outside, my productivity levels regarding anything computer related drop dramatically. So let’s catch up…

Summer 2012 was an absolutely exhausting and awesome run around. For the first time in the last twenty years of my life, autumn arrives without a major transition; I’m not headed back to school, not moving, no end of season work. I’m just continuing where I’m at and, for now, that’s just right. With end-of-summer fatigue, I’m digging into the depths of my bottom drawer and lovingly putting on my fleece pants one grateful leg at a time. But before the rain returns and the monochrom days greet me with each glance out the window, here are a few summer highlights:


At the end of May/beginning of June, I made my return to the great state of Alaska, rendezvousing with Ms. Lisa Colella, JV friend from Juneau and fellow-beerfest extraordinaire. The trip was a nice jaunt around Southeast, starting and ending in Juneau, with a quick trip to Haines for the Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival and revisiting Baranof Island and my friends in Sitka.

Just practicing a little wood chopping in preparation for the sauna with Meg. Obviously a total success.
With mountains that size, Haines is an easy town to fall in love with immediately.

A fabulous return visit to Southeast kicked off summer in the most appropriate fashion!


Back in the Northwest and able to spend some time with family and friends, I did what any Northwest native would do at low-tide in the month of July: geoduck hunting.

Family friend, Justice Wiggins, and I tactfully dug our hole around our geoduck victim.
Observing is an important aspect of supporting the geoduck diggers.
This guy was quite tasty. Oh yeah, we eat them after a nice quick boil.

With low tide on the third of July, geoduck hunting was quickly followed up with patriotic celebrations for the fourth of July at my good friend’s, Ms. Kelly Noland, cabin on the Olympic Peninsula.

Please note the proper celebratory components of sunshine, a boat ride, a patriotic halo and, let’s be honest, the beginning of a severe sunburn.

July also brought celebrations of the return of Mr. Scott Hippe to the U.S. and of his acceptance to med school with some rather quality GU folks at the Hippe cabin on Lake Cavanaugh. Those pictures are all over Facebook, which, of course, means that I haven’t seen them at all.

And no summer could be complete without a marathon of visitors coming through Portland, beginning with none other than Mr. Lucas Sharma, who, as of the end of August, has entered the novitiate to become a Jesuit priest.

Mr. Lucas Sharma (showing his Jesuit education pride) and me in Hood River, OR

August: On the eve of orientation for 140 new Jesuit Volunteers for work, our busiest time of year, I left work promptly on my birthday, August 2nd, after a month of secret phone calls and texts, to surprise my best friend, Brittany at her family beach house in Cannon Beach, OR to celebrate her engagement!

Congrats to Brittany and Abby, a wonderful excuse to be back with the original beach girls, Tab and Tif!
Abby honored the fact that she was sharing her carefully planned engagement day with my birthday by providing me with a lovely celebratory tiara–which I wore proudly.

Mr. Ian Roeber also arrived in Portland to work for JVC Northwest as the recruiter this year and found a happy little home in the basement of my house in Portland for the few weeks he is at our office, not on the road. After engagement celebrations and a full week of camp at JVC Northwest orientation, Ian and I had the brilliant idea of starting a hike in the gorge at 1p.m. on a 95 degree day.

Hot and sweaty. Trying to show enthusiasm at the top of Dog Mountain.

And since hiking the gorge is good, but not quite magical, why not take my comp days for work from our time at orientation and make a quick trip to Grand Teton National Park? I called upon my trusty travel companion, Lisa, and we hopped in the car for a wondrous long weekend in the Tetons.

Lisa and I managed to visit Ms. Gina Graziano, my roommate from Sitka, during her first week at the Teton Science School. We even found ourselves in my old stomping grounds pictured here at Jackson Lake Lodge.
Buffalo out my window. Just another day in Jackson Hole.
A rather perfect morning on Jackson Lake. What’s up Mt. Moran?
And I managed to see my former hiking buddy (and boss) from my summers in Grand Teton, Mr. Brian Bultema. With one full day on our short trip dedicated to hiking, I picked one of my favorite trails, and Brian and I found ourselves burning some serious calories on the way up to Lake of the Crags.
This picture doesn’t even begin to capture the greatness of Lake of the Crags. Topping out around 10,000 feet, my sea-level lungs were burning. And it felt amazing.
A rather perfect post-lunch, mid-hike snooze never felt so good.

After wrapping up our final day in Jackson with a trip to Snake River Brewery and attending an Andrew Bird concert that evening, Lisa and I (insanely) hopped in the car at 11p.m. and drove out of Wyoming, through Montana in the middle of the night, took a quick nap in a parking lot in Missoula, and cruised through Idaho and eastern Washington to arrive in Olympia, Washington the next afternoon where we surprised Lucas at his going away party.

I suppose the 15 non-stop hours and driving through the night wondering if we were going to hit a deer was worth it. I am severely sleep-deprived in this photo, but how could I pass up a gathering with these beautiful people?


Finally, I rolled into September, running on fumes, ready to reclaim my summer finale tradition after a couple missed years: a trip to the Gorge Amphitheater to see Dave Matthews Band over Labor Day weekend.

Standard scene during the day at the Gorge Campground.
Standard scene in the evening inside the Gorge Amphitheater.

However, despite having GA tickets for the shows, I only viewed the stage from this distance on Friday night. On Saturday, I had the most epic live music experience of my life, when I made it (not by following all of the rules) to the pit standing area on the floor about seven standing rows from the stage. I could see Dave’s sweat stains. And he played a glorious set with many of my favorites. It was magical (apologies to Patrick Noland for ditching, which I know I will never live down).

He was so close.

So just when I thought summer was really over…

I headed up the familiar route of I-5 to Seattle this past weekend, where I officially wrapped up my summer with a trip to the Mariner’s game. Because what summer could be complete without a trip to the ballpark? Thanks to Mr. Brian Hensley and his very entertaining family for a trip to Safeco Field!

Watching the game was a top priority.
Letting out our inner-Mariner Moose after a 6-3 victory against the Texas Rangers.

Ok, so that’s why I haven’t been posting on my blog. I was also working 40-hours a week (most weeks) amidst the run around. But bring on the rain and the chai tea and the wool leggings, because I am ready! Thanks to all who contributed to my fabulous (exhausting and awesome–see?) summer and, thanks Meghan for still reading my blog and not unsubscribing!

Cheers to Summer 2012!

The Enchantments, Part I

At the top of my list for my return to Washington State was a multi-day backpacking trip–since most of my hiking has been done outside of my home state, I thought it was time I actually got to know what I claim to be familiar territory. I am “funemployed” after all, I knew I had the gear and the time, all it would take was figuring out some logistics. I entertained the idea of attempting the Wonderland Trail, but with various plans falling through and only the hope of obtaining a day-of permit with a variable itinerary, I opted for a shorter, more convenient trip.

While I’m in transition from Alaska to whatever’s next and playing the role of “house-daughter” currently, I knew I was looking for a hiking companion with a similar “limbo” status. I just happened to mention my backpacking desires to Mr. Scott Hippe, a friend from Gonzaga,  who I met on the first day of our Outdoor Leadership class during my senior year. Scott happens to be playing the “house-son” role currently as he applies to med schools, and he enthusiastically suggested The Enchantments. One search on Google Images had me sold on the idea and the more I researched the trail, the more I wondered why I had never heard of it before. A description in one hiking book began, “Ahhh, The Enchantments . . . ” and proceeded to explain the splendor of Washington’s most beautiful hiking area. Despite not having a permit, Scott and I agreed to give it a shot.

I borrowed a stove, checked the Forest Service website for regulations, convinced me the skies would be clear with perfect temperatures, and I spent the better part of the previous Friday night on a date with every employee of the REI shoe department tweaking my newly broken-in hiking boots. With that, on Monday night I drove to Scott’s home in Snohomish, my hiking gear compiled, but definitely not packed, in the back of my Subaru. Scott and I procrastinated getting organized by enjoying dinner with his family, but around 9 p.m. we thought we better think through “the plan” of leaving his house no later than 5:30 a.m. to drive to Leavenworth and be at the Ranger Station by 7:30 a.m. in time to enter the daily permit lottery.

By 10 p.m. the stove I borrowed was leaking fuel and despite Scott’s, his mom’s, and my persistent efforts to replace the O-rings where the fuel line connected, I had to make a last minute trip back down I-5 to grab a JetBoil from Annie in Seattle. In the meantime, Scott tackled our grocery list at Safeway. I successfully arrived back at Scott’s around 11 p.m., shortly before he did, but as his Civic careened down his cul de sac and bounced into his driveway before screeching to a halt in front of his garage door I knew the late-night shopping venture hadn’t produced the same ease I had gained by obtaining a working stove. His door flew open as he simultaneously killed the engine and announced,

“I spent a half hour looking for the God-damned raisins! Why would dried fruit be in the fresh fruit section?!”

I have never heard Scott swear this liberally and his exasperated tone coupled with his erratic approach to the garage left me keeled over in his driveway laughing. Oh yes . . . it was going to be a good trip.

After a midnight bed-time and a 4:45 a.m. alarm, we arrived promptly at the Leavenworth Ranger Station at 7:30 a.m. and pulled into the parking spot next to a Volvo with a couple also in pursuit of a permit. We lingered for fifteen minutes before Amanda, bless her heart (as Scott said), a grumpy ranger who clearly wished she was still in bed, opened the door and recited a rapid fire explanation of the rules to obtain a permit, but managed to leave out rather crucial details, such as, how many different permits you could enter the lottery for, in case your name wasn’t drawn on the first one. This didn’t affect us, but definitely screwed up the plans of another hiking duo.

While Amanda didn’t crack a smile, Scott began openly negotiating with the other hikers, asking who else was interested in hiking to the “Core Enchantments” and plotting to get all the parties on one permit since up to eight hikers are allowed in a group. The woman standing next to us from the Volvo said she’d been there the day before with her husband and had lost the lottery, but if we were the only two groups going for the one permit, she would put us down as a group of four to enter the lottery. We graciously complied with the offer and thus began our friendship with Rick and Anne as we teamed up on the same permit to hike into the desired territory. Amanda adamantly reminded us that we must camp in the same location if we were on the same permit together, so we nodded and pretended as though we would comply. The last minute addition of Scott and me to Rick and Anne’s permit registration blossomed into a beautiful trail friendship as we ferried each other’s cars to the appropriate trailheads, shared campsites 2 of the 3 nights, and traded cookies and fuel.

Scott and I were still a bit on the unorganized side so we said goodbye to Rick and Anne as they took off down the trail and, well, Scott and I monopolized the one picnic table at the trailhead.

Getting Organized at the Trailhead
Don’t worry, I totally have this under control.

But after a bit of work, we were off!

We're Friends, Stuart Lake Trailhead
Friends at the start . . . and the end 🙂

We strolled along the trail to Stuart Lake for lunch, four miles out of our way from our destination for the night, but it made for a great lunch break.

Scott at Stuart Lake for Lunch
Scott at Stuart Lake for Lunch

We worked our way up to Lake Colchuck for the night, and, following Anne’s advice, we hiked to the far end of the lake so we were conveniently located at the bottom of Aasgard Pass, where we would begin the hike up the next day. I was quite happy to see the little patch of beach that Rick and Anne generously offered to share with us at Lake Colchuck and promptly face-planted by falling off the log on the beach to end our first day! Scott and I set up our tent about six inches from the calm waters of the lake and, after a brisk jump in to wash off the the grime, we enjoyed a beautiful, quiet night on the lake.

At Lake Colchuck the First Evening

We were greeted with Aasgard Pass on Wednesday morning and began the trek up after a bit of doctoring of blisters acquired the previous day.

REI, why don't my boots fit right?!
Scott and Me, at the Bottom of Aasgard Pass, Starting Up
Oh Hello Aasgard Pass!

Scott was sporting a little-known hiking fashion that allows underwear that is still wet from the previous day of swimming in the lake to be air-dried while in transit. Not only is it an effective drying method, but it’s highly fashionable.

Scott Underpants Hippe
Scott Underpants Hippe

Though I wasn’t making quite the same fashion statement as Scott, I dedicated my day of hiking to Mr. Lucas Sharma, who wears polo shirts from J Crew while hiking, because I was wearing a collared shirt on the trail. Here’s to you, Lucas!

We made it to the top of the pass and entered quite a different world, the Upper Enchantments.

Scott and Me, Little Anapurna Behind
Scott and me in the Upper Enchantments

Scott took a drip in the frigid water while I pumped water and was, of course, there for moral support.

Scott Takes the Plunge
Scott Takes the Plunge

We set up camp on the moon-like landscape and were promptly visited by some Mountain Goats who wanted to check out the new neighbors.

Mountain Goats
Mountain Goats Exploring the Neighborhood

While they look cute and fuzzy, they are rather aggressive and strongly attracted to the smell of urine, which can cause an interesting/dangerous situation for the average squatting female. A fellow-hiker who was camped nearby warned that her friend had been gored by a goat the day before while she was peeing after the goat smelled it and came running toward her mid-flow. The hiker pointed to Scott and said, “You watch out for her while she pees!” then pointed to me and said, “And you, be careful!” Needless to say I was rather alert every time I popped a squat! And yes, Scott did sometimes stand guard.

After a little afternoon rest, Scott talked me into hiking up Little Anapurna, the mountain whose base we were camped at. Scott, being the ambitious outdoorsman that he is, thought it would be fun to take dinner up to the top of the mountain in time for sunset. I, in the meantime, had visions of us roaming aimlessly in the dark attempting to get down after sunset, but he assured me that with headlamps we would be fine and even offered to carry all the gear, so with that, I had little excuse to reject to his proposal.

When we got to the top, it looked as though perhaps we had arrived in the Scottish Highlands.

Scottish Highlands on top of Little Anapurna?
Are we still in Washington?

And we wandered our way to the random rock structures where we found a rather excellent place to take some pictures and have dinner.

Sunset Silhouettes
Sunset Silhouettes
Yummmm, freeze-dried Lasagna!
Mt. Rainier
Did I mention there was a view of Mt. Rainier?
And a rather EPIC sunset

Scott also had a little surprise in store. When we got to the top he asked what one material thing I wished I could have. Feeling content, I let him know that I didn’t think a scene like the one before us needed any material thing. But he insisted I answer the question, so finally I acknowledged that a Starbucks delivered to the mountain top wouldn’t be so bad. Or a cold beer. At which point he chuckled and said, “Ooooor, some whiskey?!” and he scrounged around to the bottom of his backpack pulling out the bottle of whiskey he had proudly shuttled to the mountain top.

We did, in fact, make it back down to our tent just fine, while utilizing our headlamps and Scott’s route-finding skills. Just as we had turned our back on the sunset and started down the mountain, we saw the moon rising bright red in the east. By the time we made it to our tent, the moonlight was overtaking the landscape and we captured the moonlit evening on camera.

Moonlit Night
Moonlit Night

The next morning we were off again for day three.

Packed Up
Packed Up

To be continued . . .

Salmon Lake, Girls on the Run, Busy Fun!

The days are long with it getting dark around 10:30p.m. now, the adventures are many (even able to fit in a hike after work on Tuesday), and the sleep is minimal! Lots of events from the past month, I’ll update with photos as much as possible. The cruise ships are also back; tourists now frolic by the hundreds through our downtown streets, and several times a week Sitka Sound flaunts what looks like a high-rise building in the middle of the water–a rather jarring image out our window the first time it appeared a couple weeks ago!

Work continues as usual, but the weekends have been full of fabulous fun. The first weekend in May, I did not hike Mt. Edgecumbe as originally planned. It’s been a late spring here and there is still a lot of snow at the top, so it was postponed a month. However, my wonderful friend Chris rented the Salmon Lake Cabin in the Tongass National Forest for that weekend and invited me, Brandon, and a few of his Coast Guard friends for an incredible weekend in the woods.

Salmon Lake Cabin

We enjoyed some sunshine on the dock and even took the paddle boat out for an impromptu Alaskan photo shoot!Alaska Photo Shoot III

Boat, Book, Sunshine = Happiness

It was an awesome weekend of relaxing, sitting around the campfire, and sighing while looking into nature and saying, “Ahhh… the great outdoors!” (That was Chris’s favorite line from the weekend anyway). We didn’t see any bears at the cabin or on our hike, but when we returned to the trailhead at the beach, the dingy we used to row to shore was absolutely mangled and only slightly resembled a boat still. Our trusty captain, Chris, stripped down and went for a very brisk swim to retrieve our ride home which was tied up to the buoy offshore. We made it home without any other issues and were all grateful for the fabulous weekend!

The following weekend was the 5k race for the Girls on the Run program I have been volunteering for this spring. Girls on the Run is an empowerment program for elementary school-aged girls that explores ideas such as self-confidence, teamwork, self-image, and media influences through activity-based lessons and running routines. The 12 week program culminated with the 5k race on the beautiful Saturday morning of May 14th! Each girl had the chance to decorate a t-shirt, get her face painted, her hair sprayed with crazy colors, and have a “running buddy” by her side throughout the race. The event was wonderfully successful and brought about 100 people out to cheer on the 25 race participants!

Girls on the Run 5k!

Enthusiasm Runs Wild: Chris shows off his Girls on the Run tattoo on his nose!

Chris's GOTR Tattoo!

Girls on the Run with Attitude: Brandon and I are feeling hardcore with our GOTR tattoos.

Brandon and me, showing our Girls on the Run Attitude

Brandon takes a moment to show his artistic side with facepainting.

Brandon Working on his Artist Skills

The totem pole mentioned in a blog post from a couple months ago was raised on Sunday afternoon May 15th, which brought out hundreds of community members to the waterfront of Sitka National Historical Park. It was a beautiful cultural celebration.

Last weekend was the Second Annual Sitka Seafood Festival, which I got to enjoy with my local friends and Braden who came to town for his birthday weekend (Yay!). We got to watch the rather ridiculous halibut head toss, the fish head bobbing contest, and the fish tote races in the harbor. The Seafood Festival also brought one of the strangest/greatest bands to town to perform, The Wicked Tinkers, a tribal celtic band from California. After dancing to their rhythms Saturday night, Braden and I got a chance to slackline and hike around Beaver Lake throughout the rest of the weekend. It was a fabulous time.

In just two days the JVs from Juneau arrive to spend the weekend checking out the other Southeast Alaska JV location. A “Top Gun” theme party has been planned for the weekend and we’re all looking forward to their visit. After the Juneau JVs depart, my good friend Lucas, whom I haven’t seen in a year, arrives a week later!!! I couldn’t be more excited about my fabulous visitors headed this way 🙂 Finally, on June 10-13,  all the Alaska JV communities will meet in Bethel, Alaska for our final retreat of the year. Busy and exciting! So the end of spring and beginning of summer goes!

Herring Update, Juneau Photos

The third herring opener has been called this afternoon at 1 p.m. here in Sitka. After Friday’s opener and the drama of the Infinite Grace almost flipping completely over, the herring fleet has caught 7.1 tons of the allotted 19 tons for the season. The fishermen took the weekend off to allow the processors to catch up from Thursday and Friday’s openers and were back at it today. Living just a few feet from one of the harbors here allows me to keep close tabs on where the boats are and whether they are out on their latest pursuit. The boat, Infinite Grace, happens to be parked at Crescent Harbor (when not tipping over in the ocean) and I feel like I’m beginning to stalk the guys on that boat because of the frequency with which I see them at the harbor and around town . . . awkward!

Finally, some photos from retreat weekend in Juneau and one of my favorite outings of the year so far to Mendenhall Glacier!

Under perfectly clear skies, Ian and co. begin the trek out on the frozen lake toward the glacier.

Ian Trekking to the Glacier

Across the lake we go, it was farther than it looked!


We stopped by a few large ice chunks to show off their size!


Once we got to the glacier, our path across the lake was obvious. Look at all those tiny people out there!

Line of People Trekking Across the Lake

Then we had a photoshoot on the glacier, naturally. Ian, Braden, and Conor, some of Alaska’s most attractive JVs! 😉

Three of My Favorite Boys, How Bromantic!

Braden, showing off his soaking wet leg after falling in thigh-high!

Saucy Braden Showing Off his Soaking Wet Leg

And then we had to smile for the camera while the sun was in our eyes . . . and that awesome hunk of ice was behind us!

YAY, Braden and Me at Mendenhall!

And, of course, Ian and I got an awesome snowball in the face from Bridget while showing off our icicles!

Bridget Snowballs Us!

A fabulous outing, indeed! Sorry for the delay in posting photos. At this rate, herring photos will be up in July 🙂

Spring Time = Fun Time

We officially have more than twelve hours of daylight every day here and spring is showing in Sitka! It’s currently pouring rain and looks a bit like October, but the rain has only returned after a week and a half of beautiful sunny days! The herring fisherman have yet to have an opening, but they have been on two-hour notice since Monday at 8a.m. (meaning that Alaska Department of Fish and Game could open the fishery at any time, so be by the boat and be ready!). The herring fishing season is about 40% of all of Sitka’s fishing income for the season–around $12 million last year– and only lasts a couple weeks. Herring is . . . kind of a big deal here, to put it mildly. Selected boats are currently catching samples of herring, which are then tested to examine the maturity of the roe. Apparently the eggs aren’t at peak maturity yet, which is when they are most valuable and are caught. People here are beginning to get anxious for an opener, even people in town who have no claim to any of the fish, but who just want to see the action! My supervisor has promised me that as soon as there is an opening, even during the work day, we will hop in the car and run to the shore to watch the chaos of the competitive opening unfold.

Last week I had the privilege of hosting my life-long, best friend, Annie and her friend, Amy here in Sitka.


Annie and me in Totem Park, Yay!

Up for a little vacation, Annie and Amy headed up to experience Baranof Island. I enjoyed a bit of a “staycation” myself as we had the chance to housesit.  Lounging in the hot tub on the porch in the sun is not too shabby for March in Alaska! And, for the first time in many months, I experienced what it felt like to be too hot. A rather unique experience that we all got to enjoy, was the carving of a new totem pole that is being raised on April 9th at Sitka National Historical Park. The totem is specifically designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park here in town. The artist/designer is carving it himself along with a couple others and it is visible for everyone to learn about, watch, and even to participate! For our “community night” last week as a house, we headed down to the park to check it out!




If you want to see more pictures, they’re right here!

The design of the totem beautifully weaves together symbols of both the Native and the Russian history here with particular distinction. The raising of a totem pole is a special event, surrounded with ritual and ceremony, and I will not be missing this unique event on April 9th!

Annie, Amy, and I also meandered to the lookout on Gavan Hill and visited  Baranof Island Brewing, where Annie learned that she still doesn’t like beer, but she does like cute, local breweries. Other activities with my lovely visitors included a picnic at John Brown’s Beach with a very scared little dog (Dipper, who I was housesitting for), building a fort in my living room, eating delicious bagels at Highliner Coffee Co. and fabulous sushi at Little Tokyo. It was a great visit of catching up with each other and exploring around the area. Any more visitors are always welcome!!

This past weekend, I also hiked Mt. Verstovia with my friend, Chris and ate fresh crab that was delivered to our door! Not too bad for a Saturday in Alaska! 

Me Rocking the Windswept Look, Officer Bonner Squinty Eyes!

I even managed to fit in a little sunbathing!

Alaskan Sunbathing

Gina scoops out the fiesty crab with a ladel. Always something eventful at the JV house!

The Crab Fights Back!

And Nick goes to work killing it in our kitchen sink.

Nick the Crab Killer!

Life has picked up a bit since the sun is out more, the daylight hours are longer, and friends are coming to visit!! Many more adventures to come.

Juneau? Alaska!

Juneau what happened last month? Well, let me tell you! (I’m sorry, totally cheesey and completely irresistible. Had to take advantage of the word play).

After hearing about Juneau every day since arriving in Sitka (it is, after all, only 90 miles away and the “metropolis” of Southeast), I finally got the chance to travel there for our second retreat with the Alaska JVC community houses (Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, and Bethel) over President’s Day weekend. With only two flights out of Sitka each day (6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), all six of us stumbled out of the house shortly after 5 a.m. Friday morning and loaded our packs into Hank’s Cab bound for the airport. Prior to leaving for retreat, I realized we would be getting to Juneau rather early in the morning and that retreat didn’t start until 2 p.m., so I began plotting!

Conveniently, my friend Chris from Sitka was in Juneau on a little ski vacation and was looking for a ski buddy for Friday! So, despite thinking that I may not ski at all this year, after our arrival in Juneau and a brief time at the airport, Chris picked up me, my friend, Ian,  from Gonzaga (a JV in Juneau this year), and his housemate, Conor. We headed out to Eagle Crest ski area just 20 minutes down the road under perfect blue skies. The word “excited” drastically understates my feelings as we headed to the ski hill. I think I bounced up and down in the passenger seat on the way there, and I was so enthusiastic, in fact, that I lost my ability to think, and I left my ski boots at Ian and Conor’s house. Naturally, this became obvious when we got to Eagle Crest and began getting ready. . . Well done, Liz! So, we piled back in the car (Ian with one ski boot already on).  I endured relentless teasing from the boys, and we made a quick trip back to the JV house. Upon our second arrival at Eagle Crest, we had a more successful start! I believe a direct quote from me to Ian while on the chairlift was, “I feel like I’m reconnecting with my soul!” Needless to say, it felt amazing to be up on the mountain again, 14 months (not that I’m counting) after I made my last turns in Alta, Utah. I do not, however, have ski legs this season, so the half day we skied before retreat was plenty for me!

After heading down from the mountain, we managed to fit in a quick trip to Alaskan Brewery! The other JVs had arrived while we were skiing, so we quickly picked up Braden downtown (yay!) and headed out to get some local samples. You have to have a beer after skiing anyway, right? Alaskan Brewery was actually much smaller than I thought and even felt a bit similar to Baranof Island Brewing Co. here in Sitka. With the popularity of Alaskan, I had imagined the venue on a slightly larger scale. The samples were, of course, fabulous and then we headed on to retreat, since that was in fact what we came for!

Our retreat was held at The Shrine north of Juneau surrounded by water and snow-capped mountains. I had heard nothing but incredible things about it, and the setting did live up to expectations. Pictures to follow later when I have them available. Our weekend was facilitated by Father Thomas, a former parish priest in Juneau who has recently been moved to Wrangell/Petersburg. He led several hours of reflection and prayer throughout the weekend, and we were even treated to his lovely spinach/broccoli/almond blended delight in the mornings (not something I have continued to consume since!). The weekend went by quickly, we shared many stories of our jobs with one another, and, just like retreat in October, it felt wonderful to come together with the other JVs.

Though the retreat ended on Monday, I extended my time in Juneau for a couple of days, as did Braden and six people from the Bethel house. On the way back from retreat, we stopped by Mendenhall Glacier, which I thought would be cool, but it was significantly more impressive than I even imagined. Due to the cold temperatures and the storm that had blown through that weekend, Mendehall Lake was completely frozen and had about two feet of snow on top. On a perfectly sunny Monday afternoon, we all trekked out on the lake walking across the frozen and snowy surface to the base of the glacier. It was sunny. It was quiet. And it was BIG. I felt very little next to even a “small” piece of ice that had broken off and was stuck frozen in the lake. This was obviously a unique time to experience Mendenhall since most people have to kayak to the base during summer.

Throughout the rest of the time in Juneau we went to the Alaska State History Museum (which was actually way more interesting than I thought it would be), we hiked through the snowy meadow part way up Mt. Jumbo, toured around downtown Juneau, wandered through the ruins of old mines around Douglas, and went to the local rock climbing gym where they love JVs and let us climb for free! I also got the chance to visit the AWARE domestic violence shelter where Ian and his JV housemate work, which gave me a nice opportunity to see another shelter in action. It was much different than the SAFV shelter in Sitka and left me with plenty of thoughts about my work as an advocate. I can’t forget to mention, of course, the Island Pub in Douglas (across the channel from Juneau, where the JVs actually live) where I indulged in the greatest steak sandwich of my life. The weather was cold and sunny during our days of touring around town, and it was a nice change of scenery. Though Sitka and Juneau are often compared to each other, I came to the important conclusion that in Sitka the water is dominant, while the mountains are secondary, but in Juneau the mountains are dominant, while the water is secondary. I felt much more surrounded by mountains during my time in Juneau, whereas here in Sitka, I feel much more surrounded by water (perhaps because I’m on an island?). This might not sound like much of a revelation to someone who hasn’t been to either of these places, but for as similar as they are, they offered a much different feel, at least to me!

So, that is a bit of a report of the weekend/retreat events in Juneau. It was a wonderful time to be with other JVs, to see a new place, and to take a break from work. Back in Sitka, spring is on the horizon. The snow is melting, but what most makes it feel like spring here is the return of fishermen to town. Herring season begins in just a couple weeks and the docks are filling with people as many preparations for the opener take place! My life-long friend, Annie, is also coming to visit in just 12 days with her friend Amy and I very much look forward to showing them around and sharing my life in Sitka with them. I will post pictures as soon as they are available. Until the next report, I hope spring is beginning to reach you wherever you are!