Friday, February 26, 2010

Storm day.

A storm! We finally had a storm. With all the news about snow storms in the northeast and midwest, we feel left out. We received a whopping inch of snow yesterday and then some strong winds from the southwest, about the only wind we have received this winter. It blew most of the clouds out towards evening and provided a great sunset with Cape Douglas illuminated in the colorful evening glow. It reminded me of some sunsets that we witnessed in White Sands National Monument 2 years ago. With the chillier weather following the brief storm, its warming to think of New Mexico. A look back....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our daily beach...

Hardly a day goes by that we don't exit whatever we are doing for some leg stretching on the beach. It can be a cold, miserable proposition during the winter months, but this winter has been very mild with little wind, which is always a more noticeable factor on the un-protected beaches. Lately, with a hint of spring in the air, we have seen more wildlife on the beach, mostly birds that winter such as bald eagles, crows and seagulls, but also a few seals and otters. Last week, we encountered a young moose walking out of the water. Don't know where he had been or why he was in the water, but he found us, and everyone else walking by, of interest and started to follow; not usually what happens when you run into a moose. And of course I did not have a camera. I don't often take a camera, because we usually walk the same stretch of beach. Today, I had my camera and there was no wildlife, but I can always find images to capture such as the various textures that the sand and rocks provide, or the light playing off the water. Here's a few of today's images:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Homer Retreat

One of the occupations that keep many Alaskans, especially the seasonally employed, busy during the shorter daylight hours of winter, is projects. Alaskans are project folks and high on the list of projects is building projects: home remodeling, home additions, shop additions, energy improvement projects, studio additions, etc. It seems that most Alaskans, the ones we know anyway, are never done building. And so it went with us this winter, we had to have projects.

As the daylight hours come screaming back, now at 6 minutes a day... an extra 3/4 hour of daylight every week, we are scurrying to finish up this winter's house projects (all inside) so we can start some outside projects. The last thing on our list of house projects is the first thing added to the list last fall, a shower/tub makeover. I had honestly hoped that winter projects would come to an end and leave the this job as the number one job on the list for another year. But we bit the bullet and began the dirty work in earnest this morning. Ugly, dirty, noisy work! Removing tile from the walls and cutting out part of the concrete tub enclosure. As is usually the case, the days and nights of imaging how difficult this job was going to be were more difficult than the job itself. Of course we have only done the demolition, we still have to fix the mess. But it was the demolition that I envisioned being the worse, so maybe the worse is over. I'll report back in a few days when the changes have been made.

Most of our remodeling work is done to keep our house, a summer vacation rental, in great condition with desirable features to compete in the Homer market which is very congested. Here's a few pictures of some of the projects in work and new wall textures, paints, carpets, etc, that are the result of our winter project hours in the

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring weather brings summer thoughts...

It's a little early to call this spring, but at 58 on our deck yesterday and daylight now lasting to 7 pm, it's hard not to think it. So let's think it until the weather tells us otherwise. We're busy preparing for summer...placing orders, looking for new product, developing new designs and exploring new directions. We're ticking off items on The List and adding a few more. But with only 5 weeks until we head back to Chicken, the clock is definitely turning faster.

Since this is our 10th year in business as Chicken Gold Camp, we are celebrating! Come join us...the party will be June 12th at the 4th annual Chickenstock Music Festival. This year's bands have not been lined up, but now that the Yukon Quest is finished, the organizer, Josea, will have a little more time to devote to that effort.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Final Salute to the Quest

The 27th Yukon Quest is all but history. One racer remains on the trail and should finish tonight. I talked with Race Manager, Josea today and she said the race went extremely well for everyone involved: the dogs, mushers, vets, handlers, and countless volunteers. Many said it was one of the best races ever. So a final salute to the Quest and all who made it possible. And a salute to Hans Gatt, who may have run his final Quest race. Today, I won one of his bibs in the Quest auction!

We received the sad news today that Marlene, a friend and member of the Chicken Gold Camp family, was hospitalized with COPD and pneumonia in Wickenburg and then moved to Phoenix. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and Chuck.

Finally, the weather dried up here today and remains balmy. The grass is beginning to show in our yard and the iced driveway has begun to reveal patches of gravel. On the way to Spencer Beach, I stopped in Old Town, Homer to photograph this old cabin. I'm sure it has many stories hidden behind those old log walls...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dry memories for a saturated day...

Three mushers short of a completed 2010 Yukon Quest and still very mild weather. In fact the temperature rose to nearly 30 above in Chicken while we saw another day in the high 40's in Homer. As I write this at 11 pm, it is still 45, the same temperature as Patagonia, AZ, where we were the last 2 years at this time. But there is one big difference, the humidity. It poured rain here all morning while the sun shone in Chicken and Patagonia. Actually there are 2 big differences; the temperature didn't move more than a few degrees here all day but reached into the 60's in Patagonia. Our driveway is a sheet of lubricated ice and our truck managed ice maneuvers that could compete with the new Olympic gold medalist Lysochek. While it continues to rain and blow here, I'll take refuge in some dry Patagonia memories....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where's winter?

Fifteen of the Quest teams have now finished with the leading 7 teams beating the previous record. It continues mild throughout Alaska and the Yukon and is forecast to continue for a week or two anyway. Guess

are having some effect.

Here in Homer, it again was near 50 at one point today when the sun came out in between rain and snowflakes as big as snowmen. Not too many people out enjoying winter sports here, although there is plenty of snow at high elevations. We made a dash for the beach in between squalls. As always, we had the dogs...the real reason for going. And since we are dog sitting two of Ruby's puppies, it is all the more reason to get out. Maybe the beginning of a Yukon Quest Jack Russell team...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gatt is the Yukon Quest's 2010 champion!


Photo by Vince Fedorof

Hans Gatt claimed his fourth Yukon Quest championship Monday afternoon at 1:35 in downtown Whitehorse, Yukon, with a record run cutting more than 24 hours of last year's record. Lance Mackey, a four-time Yukon Quest winner, and Hugh Neff followed close behind. Mackey finished second, at 2:38 p.m. and Neff was third at 4:18 p.m. Congratulations to the top three for a great race.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Booties for sale...

The front runners, Gatt, Neff and Mackey, are all in Braeburn, the last checkpoint of the Quest and a mandatory 8 hr layover. Hans Gatt, first in, will leave at 2:19 am. The race should have a winner around 9 am whcih will shave over 26 hours off the faster previous race. The Yukon Quest, like other non-profit organizations in this current economic downturn, is in the red. So one way to help the cause is to buy booties, or tags, or bibs. They are all being auctioned at Check it out! I have my money on a signed Hans Gatt #13 bib.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sled dogs, scallops and all things Alaskan...

As the 8th day breaks on the Yukon Quest, three of the frontrunners, Lance Mackey, Hugh Neff and Hans Gatt, are running neck and neck out of Pelly Crossing. Conditions remain mild with a good trail. Should be an exciting finish and one that I would like to see were it not for the 2000 miles there and back.

Meanwhile, here on the coast in Homer, the weather has also continued mild, but messy with mixed snow and rain one day and broken clouds the next. Certainly a little more typical of coastal Alaska winters than January. We did see 47 for a high two days ago and continue our daily beach walks with our dog team of four (our two and our Jack Russell's two puppies which we are baby sitting). Yesterday we were driven from the beach by a rain squall but on the way home we picked up some fresh shrimp and scallops and had an almost-spring barBQ and shrimp stir-fry. Part of the price we must pay for wintering on the coast. Want some fresh Alaska seafood

Friday, February 12, 2010

One musher, a team of dogs and a wilderness trail....

The checkpoint at Central offered a good opportunity to get up close to the race, mushers, dogs, handlers, vets and close fans. Central is beautiful in the winter with all the frost cloaked birch trees which set it apart from the surrounding lands that are sparsely blanketed with mostly taiga spruce. Kind of a winter oasis in a stark subarctic wilderness. Although there were several leading mushers resting their dogs while we were there, I focused on Lance Mackey (, partially due to his notoriety, but more because of his magnetism. Lance is very competitive, but he is a compassionate, considerate, detailed competitor. He's not about self; he's about his dogs, his mushing companions, and no doubt his connection to the tradition.

Tonight, as the VanCouver Winter Olympics begin with it's incredible assemblage of global athletes, it is only a small group of mostly northerners that recognize that some of the finest athletes of the world are quietly running night and day across a 1000 miles of snow covered, empty wildness in whatever weather comes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 2 on the 1000 mile trail...

Sunday morning, Race Mngr. Josea with Anthony and Josh (her right and left hand logistics helpers) left Fairbanks at 2 am in hopes of making Mile 101, the next checkpoint, close to the arrival of the lead mushers. Unfortunately, the wind had drifted in 12 Mile Summit so the going was a little slow, but they arrived at 101 around 4 am to find 6 mushers had already arrived with Zack Steer still leading.

We left later in the morning and enjoyed the ride up the Steese Hwy, my first return in 35 years. After crossing 12 Mile Summit and dropping into the Birch Creek drainage, we started seeing caribou, mostly on the overflow of the creeks. We arrived at Mile 101 and watched a few teams enter and leave and then began the climb up Eagle Summit. Towards the top, we were able to see the valley below, and just make out a team making it's way up Eagle Creek towards the summit a 1000 feet higher; a small speck of humanity in a vast wilderness. We watched until the dogs, sled and musher vanished up a side pup. Then we journeyed on towards Central, the next checkpoint.

We arrived in Central with many teams taking a rest and just a few of the leaders already out on the trail to Circle, including Zack Steer. The trail conditions were a bit rough through the burn area of the 2004 fires, but snow conditions good and temperatures downright balmy, at least for a Yukon Quest musher. Mid day temperatures nearly reached 20....ABOVE. As I scribe this a few days later, the first 16 teams have already reached Dawson City in the Yukon, some 400 miles further up the trail, with Hans Gatt leading a very competitive race. Conditions remain excellent in a mild northern February.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 head North

We headed north February 5th to arrive in Fairbanks the following day to help with last minute preparations for the 27th running of the coldest and toughest race on earth, the Yukon Quest, although this year the race is not expected to see extreme temperatures. Friday night, we met with our daughter Josea, the Race Manager (see the article:, and a few of her volunteer logistics team members, to add the finishing touches to the dog team staging area. Josea's team, as well as many other Quest volunteers, had been working hard for weeks, even months, to prepare for the 1000 mile race which covers some of the remote stretches of the Yukon River valley first explored before the discovery of gold in the Fortymile, Birch Creek and Klondike regions nearly 150 years ago. Not much has changed in some of this country since that time.

The following morning, Saturday the 7th, we met several hours before the race to take care of last minute details, meet other volunteers, visit with some of the racers and get the race underway. Lou and I helped with security along the crowd encroaching race shoot which stretched for perhaps 1/4 mile or more on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. The first of 24 race entrees hit the trail at 11 am with teams following every 3 minutes until all were out headed for the first checkpoint in Two Rivers. After all racers were out, the logistics team broke for lunch and last minute preparations before heading up the road to the nearest checkpoints. We left for Two Rivers in late afternoon but arrived after all but one racer had arrived. The pace had been established...FAST. Fourteen teams were resting at Two Rivers, one just down the trail and 9 teams had blown through headed for Chena Hot Springs and Rosebud Summit just beyond, with Zack Steer leading. We returned to Fairbanks for dinner and rest before heading to the next checkpoint at Mile 101 on the Steese Hwy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Not the winter to go south...

For the 2nd time this week, Homer temperatures topped 50, at least on our thermometer. Shirt sleeve weather, if you stay in the sun. Tomorrow, we head for Fairbanks and some negative numbers so for warm thoughts, a few memories of the last several winters camped in the AZ desert. A good deal of our winter camping during January and February was south of Tucson in the Coronado National Forest , or more specifically, the Patagonia Mtns, San Rafael Valley and Canelo Hills. We hiked the countryside exploring old mines, looking for a possible turquoise deposit, of which we found several. The small town of Patagonia ( sits in the middle of the area we explored and is composed of an interesting mix of ranchers, artisans and retirees. The area's history is rich with traditions from early Spanish explorers, Mexicans, gold & silver miners, ranchers on large Spanish land grants, Native Americans and Jesuit priests. The area varies from desert flora to lush lowlands surrounding Sonoita and Harshaw Creeks to Sonoran grasslands to pine and live oaks forests; it has as much bio-diversity as anywhere in America.

But this winter has been cooler and wetter in the southwest and Alaska has been warmer and quite dry. Absent are the normal Pacific storms and the Siberian cold fronts. Glad we stayed north.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February and still not much winter...

Winter is slipping away. Tomorrow is Groundhog Day in the lower 48 and Hoary Marmot Day here in Alaska. With increased daylight, maybe Mr. Marmot will see his shadow and we will actually get some winter yet. Twenty days since my last post and the weather warmed again immediately and has continued mild without any precipitation. In fact, 2 days ago our thermometer topped 50. We have been pursuing some warm beach adventures, but it is time to go north. We are heading to Fairbanks for the beginning of the Yukon Quest which starts in 5 days. The weather has been warm and dry in the interior as well, but is supposed to cool somewhat. This photo above is from the 2007 Quest.