Darcy and I on the Deck  with fresh-picked Salmonberries

Darcy and I on the Deck with fresh-picked Salmonberries

My sister Darcy and her husband, Chris arrived.  I was SO excited and looked forward to seeing them and sharing with them the “adventure” I was experiencing. AND, they brought THE most incredible food.  Filet Mignon, Prime Rib, Porterhouse Steak and delicious treats from around the world, including Candied Figs from Abu Dhabi, THE most divine chocolate from Japan, yes, Japan, Baklava, Green Tea KitKat Bars, and the list goes on.  They knew we would be jones-ing for beef and they delivered!  WOW!  While here, Chris demolished a building that had been blown down that winter.  And a fine job he did!  The landing area looked 1000% better after he cleared the debris.  Darcy took over the kitchen, making wonderful delights including Yorkshire Pudding to go with our prime rib.  It was great to have a woman in the kitchen with me.   And finally, after Darcy caught a 45lb. Halibut, they both couldn’t wait to go fishing again!  It’s addicting.

A week later, we had the annual Port Vita Costume party with our guest Len Wass and his usual crew who travel with him to camp.  Len has been visiting Port Vita for 15+ years.  An avid hunter, he has a great story to tell about his bear hunt with Tom in ’95.  I can’t help but know about it ‘cause he wrote about it on a BEDROOM DOOR  in the Bunkhouse.  EVERYONE has read about it and IT was quite an adventure. I adore Len, he has a smiley face everyday, he’s friendly and man, does he fish.  This guy likes to fish and fish and fish.  He umpires an annual event, the Costume Party.  Len brings a freshly pressed, new design PORT VITA T’shirts each year that we all wear in conjunction with silly hats and costumes.  It seems that he Tom celebrate one night, each year where everyone dresses up, kinda silly, but nonetheless fun.  Here are some photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed being there!

Len keeping me company in the Kitchen  :-)

Len keeping me company in the Kitchen :-)

Tom and I in full Port Vita Regaiia. That’s Tom’s retired Naval Captains Hat. How about them plastic white boots?! :-)

Bob's Halibut - Yippee!

Bob’s Halibut – Yippee!

Chef Paul

Chef Paul

Tom’s California neighbor and very good friend Bob D’Ambrosio (that’s Bob with his Fish) and Bob’s buddy Paul (he’s the one in the chef’s hat) have made an annual trek to Port Vita.  I think this is Bob’s 20th (?)th year.   Paul is a great guy and knows how to do ANYTHING.  Amongst his many careers he was John Wayne’s (wig) hairdresser during his Los Angeles heyday!  Today he rebuilds classic airplanes amongst many, many other things.  One of them, and my favorite is that he cooks fish really, really good.

A highlight of the next week was our guest Ed’s annual harvest of a Sitka Black Tail deer.  Each year Ed will hunt for one deer when he visits Port Vita.

Ed with Tom and gang - preparing fresh Venison for tonight's feast.

Ed with Tom and gang – preparing fresh Venison for tonights feast.

He takes most of it back to Napa for his wife Andrea, who has a very successful business importing wood fired ovens (think pizza oven) from Italy in addition to classes instructing clients to cook in one.  One of the courses is a “how-to” for meats & wild game.  Venison, Duck, boar and the sort. You can visit her website at http://www.MUGNAINI.com.  Ed shared a large portion of the deer’s back strap, the “filet mignon” of the deer, which we enjoyed beside the “just caught” Silver Salmon, it was the ultimate feast!

The following day our guest Carl caught a large Halibut. Not just a “Halibut” but 98LBS worth!  Well, guess what we had for dinner???  Now, don’t get me wrong, I DO love Halibut, however, I was more interested in finding the Otolith.  What’s that you say?  Well, native Alaskans consider the otolith a prized find.  It is a bone that some types of fish “hear” with.  Natives call it Alaskan Ivory.  I “Googled” it and discovered that very large (read “old”) Halibut are more likely to have an otolith that can be found.  Whenever a very, very large Halibut (or other fish that have them) are caught and reported, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) will examine the head of extraordinarily large Halibut and remove the otolith.  They count the amount of  “rings” (similar to the rings of an old tree trunk), and are able to guesstimate the age of the fish.  Through these studies, they keep extensive records of the Halibut strain. Well, I donned gloves and a sharp knife and “dug” in, literally.  I cut into the head, here and there, like a novice surgeon.  (Thank goodness I didn’t become a surgeon, a “Butcher” would have been a better choice!)  I knew it was in the head, somewhere, but to no avail.

A couple of days later, Tom split up the two groups who were visiting PV.  One group was keen on catching Halibut while the other was ready for Salmon. Salmon hunters went with Shane on StraitShot while the Halibut group went with Tom on Lady Lize.

A stellar summer afternoon

The weather was glorious, clear skies and warm and I wanted to catch Salmon so that I could smoke it and give to friends and family as a gift for the holidays.  So, off I went with  Ed and “The Boys” on StraitShot. Well, I cannot begin to explain how much fun I had!!  We departed Port Vita through Raspberry Strait and out towards Shelikof Strait when we bee-lined towards Malina Bay, a gorgeous, expansive beach with green lush hills as a backdrop. It is absolutely beautiful.  The ocean is clear as glass (similar to Lake Tahoe or a fresh water lake).  And so clear, you have to remind yourself that it’s saltwater.  Shane dropped us off on the beach and headed out away from the beach to spend some time on StraitShot fishing for whatever would bite!  Meanwhile, on the beach as we were tying on the proper lures, Ed, (he’s the hunter) walked up to the beach, away from the ocean towards the berm of to make sure we wouldn’t encounter a hungry bear coming down the stream looking for a salmon lunch.  The coast was clear and guess what??  The mouth of the fresh water river and the shore of the (salt water) beach boiled with Salmon!!  I mean seriously.  There were so many fish starting their spawn up the Malina River it was insane.  Their wake made the water look as if it was “boiling”.  Within 5 minutes we were reeling in Pink Salmon.  We could have walked into the water and caught one with our hands!! There were so many.  Of course, we didn’t.  Spawning is a very special time of year for Salmon and we were cognizant of allowing them to do what they do naturally.  It was a great morning and each one of us caught our limit (5) before being picked up and heading back to camp.

Just caught Silver Salmon on tonight's menu

Just caught Silver Salmon on tonight’s menu

The Lady Lize group was just as happy to land Halibut.  With fresh Salmon and Halibut on the dinner menu, a great view of a Kodiak bear at the river, sun, blue skies, and not another human (besides ourselves) for miles around, the day promised to be a memorable.  Well, it was.  With the weather as divine as it was and the sun in full Summer regalia (sunset happening around 9:30 pm’ish) we celebrated even more.  Tom has an extensive collection of incredible fireworks  (the kind you see high in the sky on 4th of July or New Years) and we decided to have a celebration of our own.  Tom fired off six huge fireworks ending the show with a Thai Floating Lantern.  It was magical.  Everyone had a great day and it was one of my favorite.

The following morning we departed Port Vita to take our guests to Kodiak for their departure home the next morning.  Our “plan” was to return to camp with our new guests that were scheduled to arrive that same afternoon. Drop off a group in the morning, depart with a new group in the late afternoon.  Well, there was a storm brewing.  A summer storm.  Tom got a call from the new arrivals that their plane had been diverted back to Anchorage due to weather, however, there was a slim chance their flight would arrive later.  We decided to wait it out for a few hours to see if they would arrive Kodiak on the last scheduled flight for the day. Unfortunately, that flight was cancelled.  Well, this caused a problem for our departing group.  The plane our new guests were arriving on was the same plane our departing guests were leaving on!  Fortunately, everyone had a hotel room for the night but the big question was whether or not the flight would be able to fly in the next morning.  It was getting late and we had waited as long as we could, it was now time to go.

The next morning Shane and Tom returned to Kodiak to pick them up.  All’s well.

A small side note – Things are shakin’ here on Raspberry Island. Our next door neighbors at Port Wakefield are in full swing.  They open their camp for about a month each summer and host all of their guests into a short period of time.  They are constantly communicating back and forth on the VHF radio which ALL of the local residents, the Coast Guard, fishing boats or whoever is on the channel, can listen to, and trust me, we ALL do!  What makes me giggle are the names of their boats, They are “Cat’s Ass” and “Cat’s Ass Two”.  So, when they call each other on the radio it’s goes something like this:  “Cat’s Ass Two, this is Cat’s Ass, come in.”  the response is, “Cat’s Ass, this is Cat’s Ass Two, do you read?”  Well, this goes on all day while they discuss just about ANYTHING on the radio and it cracks me up every time!   I know it sounds “simple” that I’m entertained by this, but once you meet these guys, it’s even funnier.

I went fishing again today.  We headed to Malina Bay, once again.  It’s a bucolic and gorgeous place to fish and there is always so much wildlife to see.  This time as we approached the beach we spotted a Kodiak Brown Bear running back and forth in an effort to snag a salmon. A lumbering, big fellow he moved swiftly and soon enough he snagged one.  He started up the beach to enjoy his snack, sat down on his rear end, and started to feast on a “just caught” salmon.  It was beautiful seeing him in his natural habitat and especially during the salmon spawn, but what was even more entertaining were the seagulls.  They stood just inches outside of the bears reach intent on scavenging any part of the fish that the bear dropped.  Ballsy birds, that’s for sure!

Well, the bear did better than us when he caught his lunch and although we could see Silver Salmon in the water, they weren’t interested in our lures, they just wanted to spawn!

On our way back to camp we snagged a 45LB. Halibut.  This was probably my last chance this season to find the elusive otolith.  When we got back to camp I cleaned and fileted the fish, then I dug around for about an hour in the fish head, when I found it!  Pretty Cool.

It’s a big night at Port Vita!  We are invited to join our neighbors at Port Wakefield for dinner.  They are closing out their Summer season and have a lot of food to spare. From what I learned the two camps annually invite each other.  Our turn is summer, 2013.  They have already requested Pizza!  (Yes, we ALL get a bit tired of fish during the season.)   It was fun to get all “gussied up”, pull on hip waders and head over on the evening “taxi” the FishStick. We were greeted at the beach by the camp team where they helped us moor and handed us a libation.  It was a fun night, good food, nice people and new friends!

Today we trolled for Salmon in Raspberry Strait.  The weather was too windy to fish the mighty Shelikof.  With the good catch we had yesterday, we were all pumped up to try it again. (fishing IS contagious.) We headed to the mouth of Muskomee Bay, a small and protected area where we trolled for a couple of hours to no avail.  Salmon can be so damn elusive!  We decided to go to another beautiful area, Selief Bay, a picture perfect river to fly fish.

Selief River Basin

Selief River Basin

We dropped our guests at the mouth of the bay for a few hours while Tom, Shane and myself boated back to camp, just a short ride away.  We had a few hours before we were to pick up Gary & Dave so we got busy doing small errands around camp. Shane mowed the grounds, I did a few loads of laundry while Tom picked the last batch of Raspberries from the garden. At our pre-determined pick-up time, we departed Port Vita to fetch Gary and Dave. As we approached the mouth of Selief River there they were, stringing along five huge Silvers!  A great day for Fly Fishing! But it was time to leave, and quickly.  Aware of an incoming storm, it was beginning to show its ferocity as we headed back to camp but we were compelled to troll just another hour or so across the strait from Port Vita. In the event the weather turned really ugly we would be at camp in 10 minutes, so off we went where we snagged two more 20#+ Silvers and a King Salmon!  What a day.

As we approached camp on the boat we noticed a “Willi Wah” (water spouts that occur during high winds) that perked our attention and guaranteed we would have to be extra careful while transferring from the big boat to the skiff, our ride back to the beach. We arrived at shore safely and immediately began disembarking.  Tom & Shane strategized where they would beach FishStick due to the impending storm and concluded to bring it as high onto the beach as possible since the tide would be low during the storm.  Tom stayed on the beach, holding Straitshot waiting for Shane to return. At that time, Shane, Dave and myself started up the hill to the fish-cleaning table with our days catch while Gary (another guest) who was still on the boat was gathering his things before disembarking.  While Tom was holding the boat waiting for Shane suddenly a HUGE gust of wind hit the beach and Tom lost control of the skiff.  The wind was pulling the boat to sea and Tom was being dragged into the water.  Gary immediately jumped into the water to help Tom but in his haste, he jumped into the water on the side that the wind was pushing the boat!  The boat blew over Gary, who was pushed under the hull as Tom tried desperately to keep the boat from being pulled into the Strait and getting Gary from underneath!  I was heading up the hill to the fish cleaning table when I heard a call for “HELP”, I turned around and realized the emergency that was occurring. Shane and Dave were much further up the hill than I but we all ran down to help and keep the situation from worsening. I grabbed the rope from Tom and started to pull the boat closer to shore.  Shane and Dave grabbed the rope and pulled it even harder. All the while Tom reached for Gary who was under the boat trying to get up.  Tom pulled him up and all was well except for the good moods we had earlier.

Gary getting the water out of his waders!

Tom, Gary & I were drenched from top to bottom and I had my first hip-waders filling up with water experience. Boy, THAT water is cold!  Luckily I have a back-up pair. :-)  Nevertheless, Gary who took the brunt of the boat/wind debacle smiled and quipped “just another Alaska Experience”! And he’s had quite a few over the last 25 years of fishing with Tom in Alaska. Good fodder for future dinner conversation! After all had settled down and no broken bones or scratches were detected we were instructed to go immediately to a hot shower to avoid hypothermia. I got to skip the “Fish Cleaning” part!!! Yippee!!!

Today was to be the “big Storm”, instead we got the tail-end of a nasty storm that hit Anchorage.  Blessings that it didn’t show here as winds were recorded at 131 mph in Anchorage. Nonetheless we still experienced wind gusts to 40 knots & rain. I stayed home while everyone else went trolling the strait for Salmon. They came home early, about noon’ish when we all settled in for a delicious & hearty lunch.  Afterward, some read books while others watched TV or got some shut-eye! A restful afternoon for all while we rested up for “Pizza Night”!!

Here are some miscellaneous images of the camp and things I like:

Wild Flowers for guest cabins

Wild Flowers for guest cabins

Iron Creek Trail Sign

Iron Creek Trail Sign

Tom is one of the builders!

Emerson Boat Works built Lady Lize. Tom is one of the builders!

Onan Cabin - our largest two bedroom guest cabin

Onan Cabin – our largest two bedroom guest cabin.

We are getting close to closing up camp.  Today is September 5th and we are departing mid-month, September 15tth.  We have a lot to do. We still have guests but instead of fishing,  I remained at camp and began washing and cleaning lots of plastic storage bins that we use for winter food storage.  While I was outside I found a little bird on the deck of the Onan Cabin.  It is a cold, gray and windy day and he was just standing there, on the deck not moving.  He was alive but for some reason he wasn’t protecting himself from the cold and wind, I surmised that he wasn’t very strong and that his little life was meant to be over.  I know I shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature but I couldn’t resist, so I carefully picked him up with no resistance and took him into my warm cupped hands where I placed him into a box that would keep the cold wind out.  I walked the bird-in-the-box to the old chicken coop building for warmth & safety and placed him high enough so that other critters couldn’t hurt him.  After about two hours I went out to check on my little fledgling, but he had fledged and fled.  I hope he is OK.

The Weather is foul today.  Blustery, wet and a cold 42 degrees.  A great day to start my first salmon smoking process.  I brined the salmon last night and will smoke it for approximately for eight hours.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Bunk House closed up for the Winter

The Bunkhouse closed up for the Winter. (notice the Bear Boards.)

Our Cabin closed up for the winter along with bear wire around the grounds.

Our Cabin closed up for the winter. Notice  the electronic bear wire around the grounds.

Lady Lize Beached for the winter season.

Lady Lize beached for the winter season.

It’s September 9 and it’s as if someone pushed the “winter” button. Seriously. All of the sudden the colors on the mountains turned from a crimson red to a light brown, the same color of a Kodiak bear. The outdoor thermometer hasn’t been over 48 degrees for three days, the fireplace in the Bunkhouse has been roaring and the morning sun doesn’t come out of the southeast sky until 8am’ish. The night sky is dark at 6 pm.  Seasons change at the blink of an eye here.

Today we started the process of closing down the cabins. In each guest cabin we are stripping the beds, removing fireplace smokestacks, putting plywood across windows, draining toilets and sink lines of water & pouring anti-freeze into the commodes. These are tedious and arduous chores but it signals the end of another successful season. We are all looking forward to getting back to our respective homes and reveling in the tail-end of summer before it slips into Autumn.

Tonight there was a little “action” at camp, no silly, not THAT kind of action!  After dinner Shane left the Bunkhouse to go to his cabin for the evening.  He noticed the hydro-generator running low,  therefore not generating enough electricity for camp. He told Tom that he was going to head up the hill to check the water-tank in the event the recent rains had caused debris to clog the filters, resulting in the low flow. Tom waited at the camp for him to return safely. Well, guess what?  When he returned,  Shane told Tom that when he got to the water-holding tank he noticed that the river water that was flowing into the tank was muddy.  Perhaps a mudslide had occurred or, a large rock had lodged in the pipe, so he walked further up the hill to check it out.  And there it was, a bear digging a hole in the riverbed. Shane hightailed it down the hill.  The bear had not yet smelled or noticed him.  Thank goodness! Shane is an experienced Bear Guide and he knows a small, medium or large bear. According to Shane this is was a BIG bear.

This (obviously) got us talking about bear stories, and boy, did they start to flow. It seems as though a “phantom” bear has been in the ‘hood for close to 15 years. It has been known to rifle the waterlines at Ironcreek Camp, our neighbors to the south and it has invaded Camp Wakefield, neighbors to the north.  In addition, and as you all know, Tom’s camp, Port Vita, was ransacked by a bear 11 years ago.  It demolished the Bunkhouse kitchen pulling the refrigerator to the floor, pushing the huge WOLF commercial stove to the ground, leaving it upside down, removed and eating mattresses, (must have been REALLY hungry) put his mouth around a stainless coffee dispenser, the damage goes on and on.  Off to bed for the night with tales of Sugar Plums in our head.

As if we had nothing to do, and we definitely did, we took a day off from closing camp and went to Kodiak.  A longtime friend of Tom’s who visits Port Vita every year, was returning to Kodiak with his wife, Father, Brother and wives during a cruise and asked Tom if he would be willing to meet them in Kodiak for lunch and perhaps a fishing trip for the afternoon before their cruise departed to Japan.  We were thrilled to have something else to do than close down camp, so we went in.  It was fun to see Frank again as well as meet his immediate and extended family.  Small world story:  It turns out that Frank’s sister-in-law is the sister of a my friend Dave who was a co-worker with me at Keck Observatory in Waimea.  We took a picture with an iPhone and texted the photo to Dave.   We got a call moments later where we all exclaimed how small the world is!  There is that 6-degrees of separation, AGAIN.

We departed Port Vita for the season today, September 15th.  We left via floatplane, what an incredible treat.  From the sky I saw where I had been living for four months and it took my breath away.

Waiting for the Float Plane

Waiting for the Float Plane

Arriving Kodiak

Arriving Kodiak

Departing Port Vita, Raspberry Island, Kodiak, Alaska

Departing Port Vita, Raspberry Island, Kodiak, Alaska

Alaska, Port Vita, I’ll see you next year!

We are gearing up for our first group of guests.  And guess what?  Shane & Tom decide it’s a perfect opportunity to rip off the front of the bunkhouse and “update” it.  So, we head into town on an expedition and amongst all of the normal grocery items and errands they purchase new siding for the Bunkhouse.  Shane immediately went to work removing the existing wood and lo & behold, massive amounts of water damage existed in the old wood and portions of the building were terribly rotted. Imagine that!  It seems that the deck was butted up against the wall of the building not allowing for drainage.  So, instead of it being a three-day job it turns into a week long job, jamming us right up against the arrival of our new guests.  Needless to say, Shane pulled it off.  All of the construction materials and “junk” that was all over the deck and surrounding area was cleared, the deck in front of the bunkhouse was finished and swept and the Bunkhouse entry looks fabulous.  As for me, I wasn’t jumping for joy at the last minute situation and the pressure was on to make the Bunkhouse look fabulous “moments” before they arrived, but I did it.  I slicked on some lipstick along with a small douse of perfume and greeted them at the beach.  All in all, the “camp” looks GREAT.

Shane. Now that is a human machine unto himself.  This guy can accomplish more in one day than I can in a week.  I have never known anyone like him before.  He constantly blows my mind with his tenacity, strength and determination to “get ‘er done”.   He’s a great partner for Tom and they are like two and the same.  If the dictionary had a definition of “great friendship” their picture would be next to the definition. Cool guy.

Last week I realized that the guest cabin linens were stored in big plastic bags since last September, so I’ve been washing bed linens, blankets and comforters to freshen them and finalize the cabins ready for our guests.  Washing is easy utilizing the washing machine but drying the laundry is another story.  I pray for sun and a good breeze while they hang on the clothesline.  As you know, there is no dryer here.  Although laundry on the clothesline is a bit time consuming it magnifies how we are an instant gratification society.  Without modern conveniences, everything slows down just a little.  It’s kinda nice and I like the smell and feel of “line dried” clothes.

Our guests arrived.  I was a little nervous but everything was PERFECT.  The cabins looked great with flowers and amenities and each of the cabin fireplaces were lit and the rooms warm and cozy.  The Banya was ready to go.  (Banya is an Alaskan “hot” room, similar to a sauna).  I had appetizers laid out, luggage was delivered to their rooms via the ATV and we were all pumped up for a few days of fishing, food and fun.  After checking in to their cabins, they all got geared up and went, you guessed it, Fishing!

A wonderful group, we enjoyed their company.  They are all long-time friends, retired NorthWest Air pilots from Anchorage, one of came with his wife (thank goodness!!) and two non-pilots, one an Alaska Fish & Game Biologist and the other a gentleman all the way from Florida who owns an insurance consulting business.  One of his clients is Jimmy Buffett, the singer.  Cool.

Fresh Snowcrab

My first Snow Crab dinner. A lot of work and worth it!

They fished and fished and fished for three days.  They caught Atka Mackerel, Halibut (YUM!), Black Bass & Ling Cod. They were happy fisherman and campers.  One evening we enjoyed a crab harvest and one of the highlights of their visit was Pizza night.  Tom has a pizza oven at Port Vita.  We had a wonderful evening dicing, chopping, creating, cooking, dancing and eating pizza. It was a fun party!

I went on the boat one of the days, although I didn’t actually fish (due to a carpal tunnel situation I’m enduring, ugggh) and we all saw an amazing sight.  During our journey back from Shelikof Strait, we saw a Bald Eagle chasing a Seagull.  It was an image right out of the movie, Top Gun, (well, sorta).  If you saw the movie you will understand what I mean.  The eagle was within two-inches of catching the seagull.  They flew this way and that and it reminded me of the “escape” training jets practice for real warfare.  We all thought the Eagle was going to catch the Seagull and eat it but as time went on, nearly five minutes, we finally saw what the Eagle was after.  The Seagull had a fish in its beak, and the Eagle wanted it.  Well, it got it.  But what a sight it was to watch the cat & mouse game.

I saw Sea Lions that day too.  :-)

On the third day Tom, who listens to all of the weather reports on the NOAA hand-radio channel, heard of a storm brewing.  Unfortunately, it was expected to arrive at midnight the evening before our guest were scheduled to depart.  The strait going to Kodiak is treacherous and was calling for 12’ waves, Tom was forced to announce to our friends the situation and that he would not be crossing the strait during those kinds of conditions.  Therefore, did they want to leave that afternoon or wait until the day after their scheduled departure and re-book flights, etc?  As a group they decided to leave that afternoon.  It was hard to believe the storm was encroaching as it was a BEAUTIFUL day.  Sunny, balmy and warm.  Anyway, off they went for a morning expedition of fishing and a little hike up a river where they might see bears in the distance.  Eventually they returned, packed up, split up the fish they had caught amongst themselves (all vacuum packed and frozen, ready for shipping) and they departed for Kodiak.  I went down to the beach to say my good-bye’s and we all took pictures.  It’s amazing how you can make instant friends when people stay in your “place” and you eat three meals a day together.  I actually got a small tear or two when they departed the beach.  I had to laugh to myself about that.

That evening, when Tom and Shane returned safely from Kodiak, they told me how the docks in town were slammed with lodge and charter bringing in guests due to the impending storm.  They had not seen Anton Larsen harbor that busy in a looooong time.

Tom had an incidence years ago when the waves got so high that it flooded the smallest boat, Fishstick.  He and Shane discussed getting all three boats as close to the beach as possible. High-tide was due to happen about 9:15 pm, so after dinner they went down to the beach and eventually had all three boats safely behind a small jetty of rocks.  By morning, when the storm was due and the tide low, the boats would be sitting on the beach, high and dry and safe from flooding.  There is never a dull moment around here.

Sure enough, the storm arrived.  July 12 and it was an all-day squall.   High winds, high seas, grey and rainy.  A perfect day to catch our breath and relax.  Two days later we got word that all of our guests were able to catch flights that day and had reached their final destinations without any hiccups.

Well, that’s it for now.   A lot of new adventures to look forward to along with our next guest arrival, due July 26th.  From then on, it’s back-to-back guests!

Whale Bale

Whale Bale

Oh, this is a random photo I think it’s kinda neat.  This is a photo of what is called “Whale Bale”.  This is the actual “net” that is inside of the whales mouth that captures crill, the food whales eat.  I had never seen one before and thought it might be interesting for you to see.

A hui hou, oh, and SEND SUNSHINE!!

Image

Kodiak Mascot

PS – This is the Kodiak Town Mascot…in front of the Harbor Masters Office.

Tom is teaching me how to shoot a 22 rifle and after a couple of days, I am now learning the  357 Magnum.  I seem to be doing well as Tom keeps telling me so.  Personally have no clue if I’m hitting the target except for looking at it up close and look for the bullet entry. It’s not always as close as I wish but Tom keeps commenting, “Well, if you had to hit a “target” ie; Bear, that is coming at you at full force, you would do well”.  Whew, I was worried but I’m not now.  Yeah, right, as I look for my cowbell and start reciting “hey bear, hey bear”!

It’s been a long and dreary week.  Not much sun and a constant drizzle.  The weather makes me wonder if I have/ “SAD”, (I think that’s what they call it) the sunlight deficiency syndrome.  Well, the sun has been out for two days now AND it’s been over 50 degrees.  Imagine that, a full day of sunshine, it’s warm AND it’s not raining. Yippee!! 

The days are getting longer as we creep ever closer to June 21st, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and always a favorite day for me.  I delight in the days of summer when sunlight reaches late into the day, but here, in Alaska, this is the norm.  I see the sun from 4:30 am until 8:45 pm then it dips behind the mountain, however, it stays bright and light until 11 pm.  I always wondered how Alaskan’s slept during the long days but I can assure you, by the time dinner is over and a couple glasses of wine are enjoyed, it’s easy to fall asleep in the “daylight”. 

Lady Lize i

Lady Lize being lowered into the ocean with her new “shoes”

Our trip this week to Kodiak included picking up Lady Lize.  She is so proud of her two brand new 4-Stroke 250 HP outboard engines.  She goes real fast!  Although I’m born and raised in Hawai’i I haven’t spend much time around boats or harbors.  Surprisingly I have since being in Alaska.  Imagine that!  Anyway, I was fascinated to watch as Lady Lize was put back into the water. The boat crane they use is huge, like a monster out of a Starwars movie.  Anyway, these long, heavy-gauge giant belts are fastened underneath the hull of the boat then lifted off of a platform that then moves the boat along a huge belt and slowly lowers it into the harbor.  Pretty cool.  

We are gearing up for our first set of guest due to arrive July 6th.  Over dinner one evening, I mentioned “decorating” ideas I had for the cabins and it seems we are all congruent that they need updating.  In the past Tom’s guests would visit camp with their children. Now that they are older only the adults are visiting.  This means less beds, bunk-beds to be exact.  So now that there is a more “sophisticated” clientele, we removed the bunk beds from the cabins, and WOW!, you should see the improvement.  I can’t wait to get in there and decorate! 

 

Chocolate Lily

Another beautiful random image…..

It’s been a few days since I last wrote and it’s due to the “new” cabins!  They are re-decorated and each has a theme – we have the Prospector Cabin (yup, years ago gold prospecting from our river was the norm), the Beachcomber Cabin the Deep Sea Fishing Cabin and the Hunting Cabin.  I have two rooms remaining that are in the main building – one will be the “Trekking” room, to celebrate Tom’s 1995 Mt. Everest (properly referred to as Sagarmatha) Expedition, Tom has all of the gear, maps, etc. that I can use to decorate and the last room will be the Stream Fishing room, complete with rod & reels, nets and Waders.  There are so many waders here (albeit, they all LEAK!) it is incomprehensible!  I could line the walls with waders!  Everyone leaves them here for their next expedition to Port Vita and over the years they have accumulated.  J.  The remainder decorations came from the camp that I scoured around for.  Tom and Shane supplied the fishing gear. There are LOTS of fishing items here, almost more than the waders (just kidding). All in all the cabins look great and I had a good time decorating them.  

P.S. – I hope to get the photo placement application right some time soon!!!  Hope you enjoy these.

Tom's Bhutanese Flags

Random views around the “hood”

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Hi Again! It was wonderful to hear from so many of you and it made my day. Thank you! I’m working on the next one and will let you know when it “publishes”. ************************************************** I have seen the north end of Raspberry Island each time we arrive or depart Port Vita, but not the south.. …

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It’s been two and-a-half weeks since we arrived Kodiak, the center of Kodiak Island and our launching pad to Raspberry Island and adventures beyond.

Arrival at Kodiak Airport (think really, really, really small airport) was pleasant but cold, I mean, winter cold.  Tom and I were greeted and picked up in one of Tom’s three vehicles.  Happily for me this car was the nicest or I would have had second thoughts if it had been one of the other two! The “other” two trucks are the workhorses, one fondly known throughout Kodiak as the “Green Bomb”.  Everyone in Kodiak knows when Tom is in town. Pete, our greeter and an old friend of Tom was our chauffeur.  Their longtime friendship was cemented during Pete’s six-year tenure as a winter watchman at Port Vita. Pete is a character to say the least.  Let’s just say that he is wonderful and has a lot to say which is usually opinionated, amusing and/or funny.  After lunch, Pete delivered us to Shelikof Inn where we checked in for what we thought would be two nights but ended up being three due to inclement weather.

Kodiak is a town right out of a fisherman’s dream.  Boats everywhere and harbor side buildings that do everything from building your boat to gutting and packaging your fish. Not pretty, but I found it interesting.  This is a workingman’s town.  There are no woosie’s here, this is “man’s” country.  Big trucks, big meals, lot’s of bars, well, you get the picture.

We had 3-square’s a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days which was a perfect way to visit and catch up with Tom’s long time Kodiak friends.  In between meals we shopped for provisions that would last two weeks, went to the car repair shop, visited with the boat builders and went to Walmart, the Neiman-Marcus of Kodiak. That’s where I got my hip waders.  The brand name is “Alaskan” so they must be good and some groceries.

In addition, we shopped Safeway, Cost-Savers and Mack’s for everything from food to clothing.  Tom is quite the shopper and knows the best places to go for the best price.  We purchased items that wouldn’t need refrigeration.  Why?  Tom was unsure of the state that we would find Port Vita.  It has been seven months since he closed up the camp and without a winter watchman, he was unsure if a bear may have made itself comfortable.  If so, we would turn around and head back to Kodiak and start planning a remodel!

The day before we left, Shane, Tom’s friend and long time sidekick arrived in Kodiak after a long over-night flight from Montana where he lives during the winter.  An incredible young man, Shane has been working with Tom for 12 summer seasons at Port Vita. He is a vital necessity to the success of the camp and it’s upkeep.  Not only is he awesome, he is a really nice guy.

That afternoon, Tom and Shane took off to take care of boat business and shooed me off with Pete. Pete drove me to all of the little places I wanted to see as well as a final I wanted for camp, my favorite body lotion.  Pete took me to the only health food store in town that carried the product line, which in Hawai’i costs $8.00 but in Kodiak $14.00.  Highway robbery, No thank you! No body lotion.  Oh well.  With that done and my shopping list complete, Pete gave me the grand 15-minute tour of the Kodiak residential area, which is where I saw my first Bald Eagle.  Very cool.

That evening myself, Tom, Shane and our new friend, Dan drove out for a wonderful dinner at some remote part of the island and ate what was like the “Last Dinner” for me as I had no idea what to expect the next day.  Onward Ho!

Departing from Kodiak on Saturday morning was interesting to say the least.  The weather was “iffy” but our “ride” to camp was with a friend who offered to deliver Tom, Shane and myself to Port Vita.  We boarded the boat with our luggage, groceries and other items we would need to survive (obviously without my favorite body lotion!) in the middle of the wilderness.

All in all, there were six of us in the boat.  During the boat ride we experienced 5’ waves, large kelp fields, otters and PUFFINS, I have finally seen a real Puffin. It was nonchalantly floating on the ocean, happy as a clam, err, I mean Puffin.

BTW, Port Vita is on all maps of Alaska, how cool is that??  It’s kinda like Monterey or San Luis Obispo or Manhattan Beach being on a map, it’s a LANDMARK!

Our first view of home/camp was lovely from a distance, however, as we approached it became apparent that the region and Port Vita had suffered a long, harsh and very windy winter.  The boat landing area looked like there had been a garage sale that had been abandoned.  Tools, fishing rods and other items were strewn all over. The building that housed these and many other things had been BLOWN down.  Tom and Shane estimate that the winds must have been over 100mph for it to collapse the building.  High tides did the rest of the damage with salt corrosion.  Not a huge loss, but nonetheless, a loss with some costly items and a big mess to clean up.

The good news…No bears!  Tom and Shane were immediately at work, starting generators, lighting fires in the bunkhouse, and eventually getting the hydro-generator pumping (for electricity). They are like “automatons” when it comes to getting this place “open and running”. Hmmm, “automatons”.  Is that a real word??

The remainder of us emptied the boat and carried luggage and grocery boxes up to the Bunkhouse.  I nearly made a terrible mistake by walking onto a bear board.  I was holding a box in front of me as I went up the hill to the bunkhouse.  I didn’t have a view of my feet because the ground was wet and slippery.  I wasn’t looking ahead, I was looking down. Well, I nearly walked onto it.  What’s a bear board?  It’s a large piece of wood with nails coming out of it from the bottom.  I giant “pin-cushion” that thwarts bears from entering buildings. Yikes, straight out of a midevial torture chamber!

Port Vita is beautiful and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains.  We look out onto Raspberry Strait that separates us from the western edge of Afognak Island, directly across the strait. I have seen just three boats & one barge go by since we arrived.  The weather has been chilly, peaking at 40-degrees during the day and the sun came out for a couple of days, it was well received.

As you know, Alaska has long days.  The sun is up until 10pm and then dusk starts.  One evening we were on the deck BBQ’ing when we noticed a lot of Bald Eagles circling on the beach.  We walked to the stream where it meets the beach and found that the eagles were having their own dinner, a freshly caught halibut.  As we approached, they flew away, but not very far as they were hoping we would leave and let them get back to dinner!  I walked over to look at the fish, although the birds had picked it nearly clean I noticed the entrails hanging out, obviously eagles don’t eat fish entrails.  Tom made a comment suggesting I pull open the tummy portion of the dead fish, which I did.  And guess what?  There was a dead fish inside the fish’s stomach! It had just had it’s own dinner before becoming a dinner!

I’ve seen otters in front of the camp, a fox on the beach combing for food and we’ve had three to four whales pass.  Shane saw one of them breach, but I didn’t.  Tom say’s they will be here all summer so I’m sure to see them again.

All of our electricity is run from a hydro-generator.  It’s pretty nifty.  Powered by the stream that runs on the property, we have free electricity all day.  The only appliance I wish we could have is a dryer, but the voltage is too high so it’s laundry line drying!  Anyway, the snowmelt has been extreme this year and we have had to clear the hydro filter twice a day.  It’s a nice 10-12 minute hike up the hill to the pool where we clean the filter (freezing water!) and head back down to re-start the hydro.  We ford through streams, pick fiddleheads for snacks and are always aware of bears.  It’s good exercise, which gets my heart rate up, but I need it, the cold wet weather is perfect for snacking.

One of my self-imposed “jobs” is to replenish the firewood each morning for the Bunkhouse.  The only part I don’t like is making the kindling.  It’s tedious and I’m scared to death I will cut my hand off with the axe should I miss the piece of wood.  Well, I’ve gotten better at it and can produce a hearty stack of kindling in a short period of time.  And, I still have my hand.

You should see the kitchen.  Located in the Bunkhouse, it has EVERY single cooking tool, spice, pan and fryer you can imagine.  So, I am starting to bake.  Tom whipped up a sourdough starter and it’s doing well.  I’ve made two things, Sourdough Applesauce Cake and Sourdough Cornbread.  I even know what “setting the sponge” is.  Watch out Martha!

While baking I really spooked myself.  Being used to conventional ovens, I had turned on the oven to pre-heat it for a recipe and forgot to light the pilot light.  So, here I am, mixing away, adding the flour, sugar, this and that and smelled something un-ordinary.  The odor was like that of a dead animal that may be under the house and becoming pungent in the mild weather. It was vague but nonetheless smelly.

Well, I turned around to put the bread in the oven when I realized I had been running propane for about 10-minutes!  I could have blown the Bunkhouse and myself to smithereens.  I was petrified and immediately opened every window and door air out the house as well as confirm that the fireplace door was closed.  Needless to say, I will remember to light the pilot light when I bake from now on.

We went back to Kodiak today, it’s Saturday, June 2nd and the most beautiful day since we arrived.  It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you are re-provisioning.  There was much to purchase since our last trip.   On our way back I saw my first bear.  We were all exhausted.

Sunday, we were all exhausted. In the morning we hunted for fish bait and found a perfect octopus under a boulder. Later in the day we walked all over the property looking for morels and found bear scat and fresh bear tracks.  Dinner that night included a fabulous bar-b-que octopus, it was delicious!

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading my adventures, I’ll keep you “posted” when I publish again.

A hui hou!

 

Oh, this is Tom, Pete & Shane. My heroes!!Image

Hi Everyone!  Thanks for visiting.

Well, here I am, BLOGGING.  My first blog and I have so much to say, but I’ll spare you the details and just get you somewhat interested in what I will be doing for the summer.  ALASKA. Yes, I’m going to Alaska.

I’ll be spending the summer learning all about the 49th state in all of it’s glory.  I plan to upload my summer “diary” of adventures and images of Bear spotting, Salmon catching, fox viewing, wild-flowers, friends new and old who will visit Port Vita, hiking in the wild, log-splitting, well,… you get the picture.  It promises to be a life altering experience.  hmmm, I wonder what I might miss and what I will forget while being saturated in this new experience.  I can’t wait!

I hope you will enjoy my posts and photos, it will get better with more blogging under my belt.

Until then, A hui hou and a big hug to all!

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