Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hoppers and Small Flight

Flying the Pass

Sun over the Wing
Caldera on Kodiak 

Isolated, by water or woods from population centers, rural Alaskan villages are often close knit loving communities with people that are more than neighbors. After 8 years of talking and another 5 of hard searching it was an easy choice for my family when we found our Alaska dream home in a village on Kodiak island. Our small community has a population under170 people, many of whom have lived there since the village was built after the great earthquake of 1964. To those ‘Outside’-  anywhere that is not within Alaska is ‘Outside’- the use of boats and aircraft to get necessities is unfathomable. In an average year I fly numerous small aircraft charters to get staples. 

I hate leaving my village but I need things Amazon won’t ship. I have to fly to town.  For people living in a rural village that involves chartering a flight, which most of America never will have the need to do, it’s not glamourous.  It’s just a phone call and a credit card to secure my seat.  If I’m lucky I can split a flight with someone else that wants to go to town.  Maybe they want to go to the doctor, to the movies, or they are stir crazy and want some Sushi, hey it happens.  Sometimes there’s a fabric emergency and the only thing for it is a trip to the quilt shop or maybe the yarn store for a fix, sometimes there is the emergency trip to the marine supply, to each their own.  We get to town to do our business, whatever it might be. 

You get to know your pilots and Alaska pilots are characters, they have to be.  Some play music and some narrate their flights, while others telegraph what they are doing. I’ve flown with some that love speed, they hug the mountains delivering their ‘cargo’ as fast as they can.  Other pilots watch the beauty as they monitor their gauges. They point out the peaks and talk trail hikes, they love the land and the animals they point out from behind the controls. The talk great fishing spots and what run is on and what is coming next.

These taxi men of the skies fly in some of the most difficult conditions for flight in the world.  I hear pilots outside complain about light wind, I raise my eyebrows, look at my husband and say, “They need to go fly with the pilots on Kodiak and learn a thing or two.”  Granted, on Kodiak when it’s blowing a 40+ nobody’s flying, everybody is hunkering down-but that’s cool.  We don’t want anyone flying in really bad weather, because we also all know someone that has crashed.  

There is a saying in Alaska, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots; but there are no old bold pilots.” We all still fly though, we make our choices judicially, we love the views of our island from above and we are thankful for our safe landings and the pilots who make sure those landing happen. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Low Tide

Low tide to the head of the bay

Treasures in the Tide
Headed to the Pass

I spend quite a bit of time in Alaska on the ocean.  I look out my window and see the tide come and go.  The tide takes logs and other detritus out and leaves new things to be discovered.  Each tide is like a new opportunity.  Reinvention is possible at every roll of the wave and hope it always is there, existing despite everything to say otherwise.

Glittering glasses and new sea creatures in tide pools wait to be seen.  Beautiful in their place among the vegetation of the bull kelp and barnacles.

Constant gulls circle with the ever present possibility of a eagle soaring across the celadon waters.  Majestic, symbolic predators of the nation flex and drive only marginally arousing the notice of drifting otters.

The ocean teems, next to the bright green of the temperate rainforest.  In the dark shadows the alpha predator of our island lurks.  Sometimes the word goes around, he's by the bay looking for a silver flash in the water. Mostly he is staying away. Brown and melding within the spruce and alder, so large and nimble. The bear is gone like a wisp of smoke from the cook fire.

The brown of the wood and green of the mosses surround, it's the fairy kingdom. It could be one hundred years in the future or in the past it's hard to tell.  It's a place of peaceful being. It's being right where you should be.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sturgeon Time Again

The Sturgeon Spectacular is set to kick off February 10-12 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin nestled on the scenic shores of Lake Winnebago.

The sturgeon on Lake Winnebago are once again singing their siren song, calling those brave enough back to her icy blue waters.
It's nothing short of a conservation miracle that sturgeon exist today on Lake Winnebago. If it were not for the foresight of a few passionate sportsmen who wanted to sustain the fishery for generations to come, the sturgeon would have continued the downward spiral to extinction.  Thus, Sturgeon for Tomorrow was conceived.  Thanks to their tireless pursuit for the conservation of the species, the first sturgeon hatchery in the United States was opened, sturgeon watch was developed to combat poachers, and the sturgeon population on Lake Winnebago is thriving today.

Ice Bowling after a Day in a Shanty
Sturgeon for Tomorrow not only raises funds for hatcheries but also organizes "Sturgeon Watches" to combat the illegal poaching of sturgeon for roe and meat.  Poaching of sturgeon has long been a temptation, especially during an economic depression.  Depending upon the grade of caviar it can bring upwards of $200 an ounce.  It doesn't take much to imagine the temptation and the rising caviar market offering a shady quick payday.

Combating the temptation, "Sturgeon Watch" works during spawning season to ensure that the sturgeon make it to spawn.  Working in volunteer teams they line the banks of spawning areas to watch for potential poaching activity. Sturgeon can take up to 24-27 years to reach sexual maturity, ensuring that they are allowed to spawn rather than become a one time poachers profit has helped turn the tide of the once declining population.

Educating the younger generations through classroom programs and visits to the hatcheries has helped to generate new interest in the species.  A once little know bottom feeder is now celebrated in festival and classroom. The Sturgeon Spectacular is more than just fun, it's a way to be in touch with those conservationists that have come before.  It's a way to fish like our ancestors, out on the ice, peering into the depths.  Waiting for that ancient remnant of days gone by to come to the brightly painted decoy. To enjoy the camaraderie of all those that come every year with their brightly painted shanties and their party.  It's Sturgeon time. C'mon in.

Sturgeon Check In At Wendt's on the Lake

Skating, kites, ice bowling anyone?  There is something for the whole family.  Fish, don't fish, watch the Spectacular from the coziness of one of the many locations on the lake, it's all there if you just C'mon in!