Thursday, September 16, 2010


There is an imprint of my fist somewhere above Tabletop on Lazy Mountain. It had been an amazing fall. Cold, crisp, sunny, still, BEAUTIFUL!!! So what do water logged Alaskans do when the sun comes out? We go crazy and try to pack all the out door fun we couldn't do all summer into a sunny weekend. Days are getting quite a bit shorter and the nights colder. But since there has been no wind (knock on wood) we have kept our beautiful colorful fall intact. The lakes are so still they are like amazing mirrors smoothly catching all the colors around them and casting them back at your eyes causing you to pause to catch your breath. Thanks to the warm sunshine cutting through the cold the adventurer in all of us has come out ten fold. The crisp air has made the mountains stand taller and our energy grow expidentially. Saturday we took the kayaks to Cottonwood lake and took turns toodeling along on the lake finding signs of fall. Dead salmon carcases, where they gave up the fight and rolled over the last time. Yellow leaves that let go early in an eager rush to float, toss and turn only to land on a wet surface so still they don't go anywhere fast. An old airplane on floats tucked in the trees quite forgotten, paint fading, skin rusting, still grinning from couling to couling like it's keeping a funny secret. Animals I don't recognize swimming through the reeds gathering stuff for pending winter. Geese flying in ever changing V's overhead giving up the ghoast and flying south. The kids were happily catching stickle back minos at the edge of the water. Buddy goes manic near the water anymore digging to China. Blue tried to keep up with us in the kayaks by running through peoples yards along the shoreline. It was practically perfect in every aspect. We decided that tomorrow, tomorrow wouldn't be so lazy..

Matt and Tosha decided to attempt Matanuska Peak for the third time that summer. Scott and I looked at each other and decided to attempt a lesser but just as harowing hike, Lazy Mountain. Unfortunately, while we were floating around lazily on a lake, Tosha was up at a river playing with her sisters and in an atempt to bolder skip across the river to rescue half a guitar case, Tosha slipped in and broke her toe between bolders. 8am Matt joined us at Windbreak Cafe for Morris Breakfast to tell us the sad tale. He joined our group after church in our ascent. It was another BEAUTIFUL day, clear, warm, FABULOUS!! Now I was born and raised here and have never attempted this particular peak before. Actually there are many peaks I have not ascended yet in this valley...all just as harry as the next. But I did grow up with lots of friends who climbed it...or ran it weekly...sometimes daily...I wish everyone could get a feel for what this means...insanity at it's best. Anyway, three years ago, the bourough decided to add an optional switch back trail for the first half of the mountain. Trail maintenance just finished it this year, so we took off down the horse trail for about ten minutes to find the head of Lazy Moose Trail. Here I told the group to go ahead and please not wait up for me. If I made it to the top that would be a bonus but today was about me, my camera, and my keeping myself intact and happy. This meant not pushing my knee to exaustion before I decended. This meant finding and eating as many raspberries and blueberries as I could find. This meant stopping and looking through my lens as much as I pleased without slowing others down....that was the last I saw them till the top. They beat me by 30 mins but we all arrived content and the view was so so SO worth it. A different perspective on the valley and a view of what is beyond was breath taking!! Matanuska Peak didn't look as intrepidous from here as it does from the floor. We took lots of silly pictures and decided to head down. Now you seasoned peeps know what I mean by the fact that there is only one option down and that is to run. The slope is at such an angle that it takes more energy (and pain) to hold yourself back than to let gravity take over. That is my favorite part, running down steep terrain!! It brought me back to my childhood and slopes at Hatcher Pass and the Butte or slopes above George Lake. Besides running created the first breeze we had felt all day!! I think this is odd because in this valley that is placed at the end of two wind tunnels, there is rarely a still moment, especially way up high like this. It was such a thrill, pure joy, until we got to the mud again and I hesitated. On my way up, I had gotten to this part, end of switch backs, slippery dirt slopes that I fell twice hard and almost gave up going up to the top. Now as I was coming down hard my left foot slid and I tried to catch myself with my right. That's when it popped loudly and I got sick to my stomach. I lay on the trail, pounding my fist into the dirt. I know I left an imrpint of Jen up on that mountain side that will wear away under foot and snow and wind but this mountain left an imprint on me. After being helped up, I tried to walk on my own and found this to be impossible. There was no stopping the tears of frustration, humiliation, fear, and pain. Matt and Jo helped me to the picnic table not far down the trail and we decided to take the steep, wider, more treacherous trail down in stead of the long, skinny, switch backs back. This way I could have a person on both sides to help me down. I had already started with 4 advil at the bottom and two at the top so I took 4 more and decided that swelling would probably not be a problem till tomorrow. The sun was still high in the sky but I knew even not having taken this route before that we probably would be lucky to get down by sunset. So, with Scott on one side, Jo on the other, Eric took my pack, and Matt testing trails and which path was the best choice we picked and proded our way slowly down. I'd like to forget this painful trek soon but attitudes were high, comments positive and if I had to be stuck in that situation, those were the people I wanted joking with me. We reached the parking lot AT sunset as I had predicted up at the picnic table, hungry and happy to be down with no more catastrophies. I tried to go to the Urgent Care clinic the next morning but they called my name at the time I needed to leave to go interpret at the high school. The nurse asked how I was going to get there and I told her they same way I got here, hobble my way back to the car and drive there. She kindly wheeled me to my car and off I went. After work, I tried again and got the same woman, we were good friends by now. My ankle was also twice the size it had been. No fractures showed on the x-rays but the doctor said that he assumed it was a torn achilles and a sprian. He said under no circumstance was I to hike for the next 6 weeks at least and if I aggrivated it at all and it ripped any more he would put me under the knife. He gave me "the boot" and put me on crutches and told me to stay off it as much as possible for 4 weeks. Tammy came to get me, I was in no mood to learn to drive left footed and didn't have crutches YET so we went to the pharmacy for pain killers and TURNING LEAF for crutches...did you know the local second hand store has stuff like this for loan??? For FREE!! Then I went home. The sun is still out. I have been to Big Lake twice this week, trying to enjoy the beautiful fall as much as I can with my limitations. I have been hiking once a week with my friend Carrie, but she offered to find a beautiful place to sit in the sun instead. I have learned that just because I'm down, I'm definitely not out. We watched an amazing sunset while a bank of fog litterally rolled in, with denali standing tall to our right on a lake as still as glass with bright red salmon swimming slowly below us. Fall is still awe inspiring here and I am still enjoying it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Star wonder

Star light, Stars so bright
A million stars I saw tonight.
I wish I may, no I wish I might
spend a few hours gazing at you tonight.

To watch the clouds block your light,
To see the moon reflect just right.
So wish I could join you up above
unable to let go, holding earth so tight.

Photo by Carrie Lambing Photographic.

Life seems to rush by at different speeds. Sometimes we are able to savor every moment other times just barely keeping up with all the very important things pulling us in opposite directions. The more you close your fingers around it and try to hold on, grip it, slow it down, the more quickly it slips through your fingers like warm fine sand. Lately, I wonder if I'm doing enough to keep up with the important people in my life. Often I feeling I'm loosing myself in the busy-ness of the day, keeping up by loosing my sense of self and direction.

I know that hiding is an option but even though stillness is what I'm looking for hiding can suck you in like a black hole and eat you alive. I am sitting in a mostly quiet house (not hiding) enjoying the peace that comes at the end of a good life. When the colors seem sharper and the people seem clearer. Dinner is cooking and the pieces of life become like the spices, just a little goes a long way and mixing the right ones together smell so good as they simmer away! Do you remember the last food you REALLY tasted? I am reminded of my Granddaddy and how much he loved to taste food. He really enjoyed a good meal and always complimented the cook on each dish individually. I'm sorry this is so random, I need to write. Not sure how much to say.

I feel raw. Like life is pulling in so many directions and all are good but the options don't mix too well. Choose your own adventure books never sat very well with me. I always had to go back and ready every available option before moving on. What happens when you can't read ahead? What happens when there isn't another chapter? I feel very comfortable in this quiet space. I'm just not very good at moving on from it. Maybe it's because I don't find this space often enough. Maybe it's because it's a rare gem, a moment on a mountain, a moment with a friend, a moment walking to my motor home in the dark, looking up at the stars, inviting me to join them...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Well here it is 10pm and Luanna's boyfriend Chad is running around in the woods behind our house chasing a moose. This moose to be exact with a bow and arrow. Now the work begins...they drove a forklift from a work site to the house and lifted it onto a trailer, took it to the Cameran Shop and are going to hang it from another forklift and gut it over the burn pile...then the cutting and slicing, cleaning, wrapping and labeling begins. Have fun Lu and Chad!!! Good night all!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Pilot's Tribute

It's been a long day.

It's been a long summer.

2 summers ago, I would have summed it up as the monsoon summer of Margaret and Zach's wedding when there were way to many bear attacks.

This summer I would sum it up as the monsoon summer of plane crashes. The crazy part is, it's not due to weather or newbie mistakes. They have been old seasoned pilots who are some of the highly respected infrastructure of our greater community here in Alaska, the last great frontier. They are the pioneers of invention and tenacious ingenuity.

The monsoon part is easy to explain. We are setting records as one of the top 6 (and moving up rapidly) rainiest summers ever recorded in the short history of Alaska. The plane crashes have been chilling as one tragedy after another rock the pilot community and families here. When I first arrived in June, it was on the cusp of the first chilling accident. One of our neighbors on Lake Clark was hauling out materials from Merill Field with his family and a babysitter when he crashed into a neighborhood at the end of the strip. The plane burst into flames and valiant bystanders braved the flames to rescue all but one of the passengers. ALL involved were severely burned and most still reside in burn units from here to Oregon. They lost their 4 year old son. Horrible!

We've lost pilots before, plane crashes are not uncommon. My dad has made many rescues and pulled parts out or flown pilots and spare parts out to remote crash sites recovering wreckage or limping a plane back home to be repaired. He has one friend who has lived through more than 10 crashes and even one in the middle of a lake where he broke his back and some guy in a fishing boat happened to be there and pulled him out to safety.

I myself have witnessed a crazy lodge owner that wanted to beat other lodges to a hot fishing hole, leave too early in the morning and flip his plane right in front of our lodge while we were serving breakfast. Thanks to our guides who heard the chilling fla-whomp! and quickly drove in skiffs to rescue the passengers, everyone was okay and they had a new Beaver on floats the next day and the race was on again.

Most unfortunate was a dear friend and pillar in our community, while ferrying his family back from a fishing hole, was on his way back to get the last load and never made it. They attributed it to water in the gas tank but it really rocked our community. We are thankful that he was alone. Here is a picture of his family.

All of these memories and realities flood back when you hear of a plane going down. The closer to home it gets the more sobering the thoughts are. I remember noticing the very first sound of a plane flying over 5 days after September 11th. It was eery as if a ghost was pining for life or soloist was afraid to break the silence but wanted it's presence known. It was the first time I had realized how much air noise really tells me a lot about whats going on around me. This summer has been wet, wet, wet! The skys have been pretty quiet for the most part. I don't have to look up from my work to know that the ceiling has lifted 1000ft and we will have a rain break because the sound of a plane reassures me of it. The few times rays have escaped from the clouds, the sky just buzzes with the sound of pilots itching to get some air under their wings. This is the land of bush pilots. So many people depend on these metal soaring contraptions to bring them food and supplies.

These have been some of my thoughts as I drove to Anchorage to drop off materials for some remote village, sat at a mountain pass alone in the quiet, hiked the experimental farm as planes danced above me.

4 days before the big Elmendorf Air Show a C-17 crashed on the tarmac while practicing. 4 died, 3 of them were my age. The show went on but the air was a solemn celebration.

There was a plane of tourists that crashed on a glacier and got stuck without any supplies or gear for three days before the weather let up enough to drop supplies. A helicopter that tried to land ended up rolling leaving the count to 9 stranded cold and hungery people.

At the same time an Otter on floats, carrying our own Ted Stevens and Retired head of NASA and two teenagers and their parents, a retired Alaska Airlines Pilot,and two others, were headed out to a lodge for a fishing trip. In the fog, they hit the side of the mountain, from the pictures it looks as though the pilot tried to climb straight up to lessen the impact, that and the floats managed to limit the death toll to 5. 4 survived but were trapped in their seats till rescuers arrived later the next day. They were busy attempting to rescue the glacier group and pulled out and relocated to this crash site. Our state was in shock. Ted's first wife had been killed many years ago in a separate plane crash (in which he survived) at Ted Stevens International Airport. Worst part was, the pilot in this crash lost his son-in-law in the C-17 crash. Do the math for his daughter. She lost her dad and husband within two weeks of each other.

Reeling from this news, we heard that a C-123 had lost an engine and crashed. It was John mind went Eshelman, Eshelman, ESHELMAN!!!

I haven't seen Casey or Kristen since high school. We called Casey "Keebler" and his dad was just that, "dad." He pulled me out of a ditch once when I missed a hairpin turn before the airport on the way to a cross country ski team party at the Eshelmans. He was also owner of Steppers Construction so often he would swap favors with my dad's business.

He was working on a beautiful C-123 he had brought up to Wasilla from Florida in the hopes to use it to deliver supplies to those in need across Alaska. It wasn't quite ready to close! He had just talked to dad about flying a forklift and building supplies out to Lake Clark for our cabin and dad had just delivered Metal Roofing for John's new add-on. It was just weird. He was so busy doing so many good things. He was planning a trip to Israel, He was in the middle of moving a Firefighter Memorial to a more accessible and visible location. The list goes on.

Today, we went to his Memorial. We parked and walked with the masses along the taxi way only to be met by a pilots tribute as 10 beautiful planes and one helicopter flew one by one down the air strip. They came back and landed and we all cheered as they joined us. There was over 1000 people there, the Anchorage Fire dept and Wasilla Fire Departments showed as well as many pilot families and construction folk. Many Colony High alumni and faculty. He touched many communities. His brother choked through his Eulogy. It was very touching, and I learned who this person, Casey's Dad was. There were quite a few stories and from different parts of his life, an over view, an early view, and his last days view. I really liked this guy and felt the void he left behind. Crazy part is, he left but every thing he had his hand in kept going without him there. He was an amazing orchestrator, that's for sure! Two guys in parachutes landed during the stories and poems. And at the end, this man who was born on Elmendorf Air force Base and lived a die hard patriot and his hand shake was his word, was given a solute, the Steppers solution way. His son's Casey, Connor and (one more I don't know) Shot off 7 blanks while his brother Bob called them off.

I got to give Casey a big hug at the end. I'd like to actually get the time to catch up with him. Earlier this summer I drove by their place promising myself I'd go say hi later and now I wish I had taken the time to stop in.

Farewell John, you were a great guy and you will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Busy Living Life

Well, I was mentioning how I was behind in my blogging AGAIN and my mom said, "Jen, you are just too busy living life." I know, and I'm loving it, but I do love to write and I do love to relive my adventures on a page of...screen? Anyway...

Last weekend was again pretty darn spite of the rain...I know I keep talking about weekends as if I don't work and have plenty of hair raising stories from that. I do actually and will comment when I have pictures to post with. Unfortunately, Kara and I both forgot our cameras this weekend, even though we were only 10 minuets from home...Again, I am ahead of myself.

Wilson's are planing to go to Valdez. I am planning to go to Chena Hot Springs.

Morris's and Wilson's decide to go to Kennicott Mine, I waffle on my plans and mom starts looking for a motorhome.

We are all cool with going to McCarthy and Kennicott for the weekend.

Mom and Dad find a Motor home.

10am Mom and Dad buy said Motor home. Kara calls and changes her Valdez reservation to Sunday night. I call to reserve a camp site

11am Kara and I start looking for plan "B." Mom and I go pick up RV and she heads to DMV. Office is going up in smoke, fires in Dillingham, Delta, Horse Arena, Middleton Island etc.

12pm Byers Lake (opposite direction of Valdez) Horse Arena Fire OUT

1pm I head to Anchorage. Still no decision. Delta Fire OUT

3pm I head back to Wasilla. Dad says lets do Lake Louise. Dillingham Fire Semi under control

5pm Still no decision.

6pm Kara and I look at each other with pitiful "I really want to go camping" eyes and I throw out Finger lake, she looks at the clock, "now?" "sure, it's ten minutes from home, if we need anything we can run back." Mom says maybe they will join with the new motor home later.

8pm We drive out of the driveway to go grocery shopping.

9pm We set up camp, and start a fire.

10pm All fires are out in the office and mom and dad come over for s'mores in the Mini Cooper instead!!

This is a typical weekend in the Morris house hold. Kara and I never left the camp ground. We ate steak bites and hot dogs and cold cereal the ENTIRE weekend. I kept the fire going and it POURED on us both nights. We woke up to the sound of Buddy lapping up puddles of water inside the tent...tons of it too! Saturday warmed up enough to tempt the kids to go swimming, even though their lips turned blue. Mom and dad brought dessert both nights and then Sunday Wilsons left me by the campfire for Valdez. I made myself some hot tea and knitted till mom joined me, then we broke camp and picked every last current on the property before heading home...

It was a WONDERFUL weekend. No Pictures, sorry :(

Current Sorbet anyone??

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leaving Society Behind

When dad picked me up he said, "You're out of practice."

Let me back up. It had been a long work week, actually short because Monday was a holiday and we had just got back from Clam Gultch. But by Friday, everyone was talking about going BACK to Clam Gultch for the weekend. I was not thrilled. I drive a lot already and as I previously mentioned, we drove a lot over 4th of July weekend, and here it is 4 days later and they want to turn around and do it all over again.

That's when dad asked me if I wanted him to drop me off in "The Pass." Now dad has been forever telling me of a little place of mystery and history called "The Pass" or at least that's how he has always referred to it. Up till now, I only knew that it was up high and really cool. I learned more along the way like Doc Cunningham put in the airstrip, and used to have a spot with wooden platforms for tents but the Forrest Service burnt them down since they didn't look natural. I also learned that a drop of rain could basically fall and have two choices, roll one way down the Chickaloon Pass or the other way down the Talkeetna Pass. I was at the head waters of two main rivers. Dad flew me around and oriented me to the area, set down and I unloaded my gear...then I watched him fly away.

Now don't think he left me ALL alone, Buddy was with me and I had a radio that on 121.5 could talk to the jets flying over, just in case...and Rusty's .45 of course. But I was up at 5,000ft and rarely did planes fly OVER this pass and the bears were at least two valley's down. It was just me and the sunshine and the breath of freedom. Freedom from societal norms. Freedom from convinces. Freedom from technology!! No Service!! I literally cast off my cares (and clothes) and went climbing. Buddy lost about three years off his life and turned into a happy puppy!! He wouldn't stop playing fetch and pranced every where he went. Everything was new and exciting!

Setting up camp was quick and easy. Everyone except the neighboring squirrel was happy with the site. He didn't stop chattering at me till I broke camp and went home! I was shocked and sad to find that my air-mattress wasn't holding air. I stole some duct tape off the scope box to stop up the biggest hole and ended up having to blow it up again every 3 hours. It started to rain a couple hours into my stay so into my tent I went. It was so nice to just snuggle into my fleece and down bag and listen to the rain. I read a book, started knitting a pair of gloves and slept, and slept and slept. All the sudden I realized it was Sunday and I hadn't gotten out of the tent in almost 24 hours!! It was the sudden growling from my stomach that brought me out of my slumber and back into my senses. I hadn't eaten since I left home. Oh! and did I mention it was cold? I was on the verge of freezing but had lots more clothes I could have put on. Little did I know it was snowing just above me!! I could see glimpses of it through the cloud bank that had obscured the pass the next morning.

Hungry! Right! So I opened the tent and in the vestibule set up the stove...(first mistake). I had bungeed the vestibule to some rocks and everything was wet wet wet! Since it was still drizzling, I decided to cook from inside the tent and use dad's stove...(second mistake). It took me a bit to figure it out get it set up and by the time the thing roared to life, I wasn't ready for the blaze it put out waiting to catch the burner or the back draft that was bringing the blaze into my tent. I was frozen in fear and stuck without a way out of my tent and no way to reach the zipper to the vestibule. Then the surge of panic and adrenalin hit me...I was flailing and and throwing and thanking God that everything was soaking wet! Somehow, the rocks with the fly still bungeed to them ended up on the other side of the tent, the stove on its side a few yards away still blazing in the rain and me breathing heavy thinking, "Did I just get away easy??" That's when the burner caught and I started laughing hysterically. I decided to cook the rest of my meal a couple feet from the tent and heck with the drizzle, it was now my new best friend.

Fed and ready to explore, Buddy and I "packed up" and took off on our adventure. I decided to follow the Talkeetna River up to it's source since I wasn't too excited about getting wet in a river crossing. I put on my new Keens and carharts and threw on my backpack and headed out. The clouds moved by quickly and gave us peeks of the peaks around us. Once in a while we even got a ray or two of sunshine! We had a great hike along river beds, across high tundra, over bolder piles left by meandering glaciers. Past lakes and caribou tracks and poop. We hiked all the way up to the glacier (Piedmont, since it ends on land.) Then I realized I hadn't brought any food, or the gun, and somehow, somewhere, I had lost the antenna to the radio. It was time to turn around and head back to the tent. We photographed rocks and mud, water and foliage, bacteria and lichen. Marmots wistled at us and birds chased us away from their nests. We even got the ground squirrel talking about our intrusion. Not once did we see a sheep or a caribou. Back at camp I realized we had been out for over 8 hours and so I cooked up some dinner, cleaned up and it started to rain again. Snuggling back down I decided if dad didn't come pick me up in the morning, I would try crossing the river to check out the huge gorge and cliff at the mouth of the Chickaloon Pass.

I woke up to sunshine streaming into my tent! It was practically a sauna!! I was excited to go exploring again so I got dressed, repacked with necessities I had forgot the day before put in first and started making breakfast. I figured if dad wasn't there by the time I was done I was heading out. Fed and cleaned up I heard a sound I hadn't heard in 3 days...the sound of an airplane coming through the pass. My heart dropped as it circled my camp and landed. It was such a beautiful day, I wanted to push dad to go hiking with me but I knew that we had a lot of catching up to do back home. Buddy ran up to the plane and to my great surprise was ready to jump in and GO!! (He hates traveling) We broke camp, much to my neighbor's delight and flew home trading stories all the way. We checked out a hanging glacier and a nursery of baby goats and a Golden Eagle!! I had such a grand time, I can't wait to do it again!!

I was unprepared for all the astonishment at my adventure. Since then I have been questioned by many Alaskans as well as others why I went on this solo trip and wasn't I scared. I think it is sad that people are so afraid of and detached from God's green earth, his creatures and his people. I loved being in a place so quiet I could hear my heart beat and my soul think. The usual fast stimulus of life sated so my eyes and feet could discover many miniature miracles and anchient earth artifacts. I was so full and rested when I got back, I wish this place of being on everyone, no matter how you get there. No, I was not scared I had my common sense and lots of comfy accommodations as well as my Buddy to keep me company.

I'm just out of practice...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mt Marathon...FINALLY!!

Well it has been a while hasn't it and boy do I have stories to tell. Tawni, I hope this makes you laugh as you requested. I will have to keep it to one story per post or you will be here all night reading this thing! Lets go back two weekends ago to 4th of July.

It was a long work week, nobody new what the plan was but we all new Seward was somewhere in the mix. Mark and Melony stopped by and invited anyone who wanted to halibut fish out of Homer to meet them Saturday morning. Of course Clam Gultch was also a given it was just how when and where. Thursday evening still nobody knew what the plan was, mom and dad had been shopping for a motor home but ended up using the Gigantoid Company Motor Home instead. The boys packed up the 4 wheelers in a covered trailer and hit the road after work. Dad still had more to do so he sent mom and I off in the motor home by ourselves with a "to do" list about as long as Santa's "nice" list. Dad and Andrew later flew to Kasilof...oh, let me back up a trace. Margaret and Zach had company from Oregon, friends from Multnomah up visiting. They went to Doner's Beach on Thursday I believe and Chad and Luanna whom both had 4 days off had decided to join until Wednesday night, Chad bought them both tickets to Montana for his family reunion, so they left Thursday afternoon. So much for plans eh?

So back to mom and I (because that is where I was!) we stopped in Eagle River for propane and food. Propane wasn't so easy to find but eventually we got it (and didn't even have to back up the beast!!) Figured out where it went but never ever figured out how to turn it on. Upon rejoining the string of cars on the Parks Highway, the oil pressure dropped through the floor. Now imagine my mother driving this 34+ft long beast through Anchorage, looking for a gas station she trusts herself to pull through with 3,000 other RV's trying to get a last fill up and top off before hitting the same 2 lane road we are driving down. Not only that, but mom points between the seats and says, "I don't even know where the engine is in this thing, do you think it's there?" This starts the first of many laughing till we are crying fits that last most of the weekend long. I wish I could remember them all. We can't get a hold of Dad who is most likely somewhere above Nikkiski by now and Margaret has no clue what kind of oil the beast takes. We try to rouse Keith Wright but by now it is 10:30. We take a guess, fill her up and still no oil pressure. The dip stick is terribly long and takes mom ten minutes just to get it in and down the hole only to pull it out again...we are giggling hysterically.

We decide that the gauge isn't working (even thought the beast was seriously low on oil) and make our way to Girdwood to check the oil again. On the way dad finally calls us, Margaret has kindly driven out to Kasilof to pick them up. Andrew forgot to unpack the truck into the plane while dad was fueling up so they are without many things including sleeping bags. Back in the beast there is no heat so I have ransacked the beds of their blankets and wrapped them around us.

Arriving in Girdwood, we open the engine compartment to find a hot engine and the dip stick says we still need more oil. This can't be good. Only then are we approached by two college age girls looking to hitch a ride to Cooper Landing. I told them it was an iffy ride, no heat, questionable oil pressure, not much to count on but it was up to them, there was plenty of room. They had been waiting on a promised ride for over an hour and were glad to take us up on our big roomy questionable ride. So we closed up the hood and made our way down the road. We did make it to Cooper's Landing and decided after dropping the girls off to pull over for the night.

It was 1:30am and so we called dad and said our good nights, bundled up in real beds and slept like two lumps on a log sideways! We hadn't figured out how to level the beast yet. Morning was much brighter and our spirits rested we felt better prepared to face the rest of the trip, especially after seeing an Esspresso Drive thru that served Kaladi's!! We called dad as we got close just to find that they had just pulled out to go to Homer.

Arriving we tried to light the propane and failed so we went to Merry's Clam Shack for hot tea, only to hear that Andrew and Dad had slept in the truck sitting up all night WITHOUT bags or blankets of any kind!! Pour boys!! So now most of us after a VERY long work day have had very little sleep and still we charged on with our many plans. Mom and I kept the beach fire going, we knitted, drew and read. Mom tried to help me paint my toes and we both about wet our pants laughing, in the sand with wet toes bright pink/orange and big drops of it all over my feet and her hands. We made quite a pair! We visited with Moe and Merry and Jo and Hiedi and different Doner gang members as they came in off their boats. Heather and Luke were also down for a visit...the beach is a grand place to chill and visit. We got to hear all about Heidi's trip to Greece too and see all her pictures. Mom and I made hobo dinners.

Margaret and her friends eventually went to Homer to help clean fish. They all got back very late sometime after midnight and we all fell into bed...I think dad was already passed out in my sleeping bag on the couch when we got back to the beast. Buddy was exhausted from running up and down the beach chasing waves and atv's and balls and rocks and kids but there was little sleep for the weary.

6am my alarm clock went off, we had 15 minutes to get ready before Merry and Heidi were to pick Scott and I up to drive to Seward. It was July 4th and it was Heidi's first race to the very top of the mountain and my first attempt to climb it. The plan was for everyone else to follow in the plane, unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and so it was just Scott and I who attempted the climb.

The first part was very precarious!! Basically rock and root climbing, then it was just straight up, one foot in front of the other, excruciatingly painful the HELL do they RUN it??? Scott would get a ways ahead and wait for me. I would be ready to quit when I would see a flash of yellow ahead and think, okay fine, I can make it that far then, and on and on it went. Mark sped past us at one point and Mr. Veenstra came out of the brush at one point and told us that Emily would be racing too. We could hear clearly the band and the announcer getting the women lined up for their race. At the first gun shot, we still hadn't made it to midway. I thought we would be caught on the trail but we shot out at the shale just seconds before the first woman runner to break through the brush. It was a tight race to the finish, we could hear that the Seward favorite was behind the Olympic runner and past her just at the finish, protecting her title and gaining her 6th and final win in Mt. Marathon. 53 minutes and the race was over but women were still pouring out of the brush and climbing up the crazy thing!! After Heidi past us the second time on her way down, we tried our foot and riding the shale down between was AWESOME!! I believe that was the best part of the whole day really, cause then we got lost thinking we had found the easy way down only to find ourselves standing at the top of the rock face with tree roots to swing by...down down down we went and I don't know if I shall ever climb it again but I can now say I've been up it at least to midway!

We had BBQ at the church parking lot during the parade. I ran into my old boss from Helly Hansen and then we watched the men's race. They are crazy and act invincible climbing down the rock cliff at the bottom!!

Then we headed back to Clam Gultch...oh for those of you back in Portland...Wasilla to Clam Gultch is 225 miles, Clam Gultch to Homer 40 miles, Clam Gultch to Seward 132 miles. A Whopping total of 792 miles for the weekend.

Tosha met up with us in Seward and came back to Clam Gultch with us to spend the night and her birthday. It was awesome, we had a bon fire in the pouring rain and the next day sat around the campfire, drank hot tea and picked nets. My boat even caught a KING Salmon!! We drove down the beach to visit and climb the waterfall and enjoyed one more night on the beach before dad flew back, the boys drove back and mom and I chug chug chugged our way back to Wasilla in the big ugly beast. We were only to happy to send it on it's way to Eielson AFB a couple days later which I am glad to inform you made it.

Mom and I enjoyed our fits of giggles in spite of the headaches caused by ill prep and planning. Craziest part is, they all turned around and did it all over again the next weekend!!! I, on the other hand, have a different adventure to tell you about, in my next post.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Work Work Work

Did I mention the cotton is flying around like nobody's business and it's getting harder and harder to breath? Well it's been a busy week and if it is a sign of whats to come I think there will be some laughs, some tears, some sweat and some fear. So far I have done a little bit of everything, shipping freight, delivering steel, following up on quotes, and running kids around to soccer. My house sitting job finally started on Wednesday but I've been too busy to move in. Monday I basically answered phones and email. Tuesday on the other hand was running to Anchorage, over and over again. Wednesday I cut my hand real good but I'm not posting a picture here. It really didn't hurt until today, now its an annoying pain, but it's a clean cut and should heal up just fine. I also spent Wednesday "advertising" as my mom calls it. Basically I installed (with the help of dad's handy man Sean, who dug almost all the post holes himself) three Arctic Fox took ALL DAY! I also bought a pair of gloves so as NOT to repeat that mornings "oops." After work I went and watched Emma play a double header where she decided head banging and picking clover in the back field was much more interesting than the ball. (I remember feeling the same way in kindergarten, almost as if it was yesterday) On my way home I had an epiphany...I didn't have to go home! So I stopped by Lambings' and had a short visit with Misty and Barb and Marie before they went off to bed. Carrie served me up some of the best current sorbet topped with dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt! She is going to teach me how to make it this fall if the caterpillars don't eat all our plants. After that Carrie and I and Matt went out to Kroons' and sat on the porch watching the sun...go down?? Being as it was the 23rd, and we had lost 24 seconds, I guess we are on the down hill side of summer already and the sun will be setting earlier and I'll stop now before the Alaskans get depressed while reading this. Today is Thursday, I spent the morning following up on quotes, then spent the rest of the day delivering stuff out to Wolf lake...first off this requires a REALLY long heavy trailer. It rides real nice but I was so afraid I'd forgotten how...then I backed right up and first try hooked it up and drove off! Oh yeah! I still got it, grin!! First load was supposed to be two stops one drop, easy peasy lemon squeazy!!! There is no such thing. First load was two crates of windows, picked them up, then noticed down the road that one of my ratchet straps came loose, pulling over, one of the crates almost bailed. I called dad for some 4x4's and help. He said skip pick up number two and do the drop...this requires going through mass road construction (not a smooth ride WHAT SO EVER!!) 5mph or slower and 2 hours later, drop number one was done. The foreman told me that dad had requested I drop the trailer so I did and ran home, only to see dad's jaw hit the floor when I drove up without it...oops! I switched trucks (been using dad's) and loaded a bunch of "C" Channel (bloody steel that cut my hand yesterday) back through road construction at a healthier pace, picked up the trailer but had to drive down the taxi way and airstrip to get it out of the job site. Next stop was pick up number 2 at Greatland Welding. One of the guys came over and said "Wow! Nice trailer! I have trailer envy real bad right now." I had to laugh and tell him it was a lot better than the piece of junk I used to haul around! This one rides nice and smooth...His turn to laugh, "Can't take the tom boy out of the girl now can you!" BACK THROUGH construction (the flaggers are now waving and smiling at my familiar convoy.) Only to find the guys had all gone home! So, I did a refresher course on Forklift 101 and picked the load myself...(I can't believe it but I remembered how to do that too!!) BACK across the airport, through construction and ALMOST home when dad pulled up and said
"Hey, you have a minuet?"
"Hop in and I'll show you the new job site."
So we delivered a forklift out at Hatcher Pass and then went find a car of two kids waiting to go to soccer and no mom...well she was inside disciplining children, so I hopped in and took them to a soccer game, where the ref decided that they were going to play ALL 90 MINUTES!!! (they are only 8 year olds and we haven't had dinner yet!) So after 11 hours of work and a 90 minute soccer game, we FINALLY sat down to dinner!

(why am I blogging at 12:30 am? Because there is no other time!)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Alaskan Awesomeness!!

So two weeks ago, I decided to spend the summer in Alaska. Since then life has changed drastically. I found a renter, stopped taking interpreting jobs and started cleaning and packing. The yard is beautiful and the house immaculate. Mom came to visit and the party began! She landed and it was one event after another.

Interpreter Happy Hour
Freddie's BBQ
Brenna's Graduation
Brenna's Graduation Party
Jenny's Graduation/Cambodia Party
Chinese Garden Tea Party
Rose Garden Trek
Surprise Birthday Party for ME!! (thanks terp crew!)
France Reunion Party at my house

Then mom dropped me off at the airport and away Buddy and I went! Arriving in Alaska, Dad and I headed straight to Providence to visit Lyndsey Heiserman. She is still not doing great but we are still waiting to see if the anti-inflammatory meds will help regulate her colitis. It was good to see Margaret too for a little minute.

My first morning in the USAK, the kiddos piled on my bed and snuggled in...SO FUN!! Then the work began. Kara started baking cakes and I played with the nephew and nieces. Our day looked like this:

Snuggling, French toast, Search for eggs, play in yard, game of Sorry, roast hot dogs in the chimeniah, play nap time in one big bed, SSR, order out pizza, soccer game, pass off the kids to the cousins, bridal shower, visit with friends, back in bed

The next day all the kiddos went with Miss Erin and visited the Zoo...while Kara and I started decorating the "practice cake." The craziness began and didn't stop till 2:30am only to start again at 6am and lucky for us the masterpiece was finished an hour early. Then we had to transport it across town and gravel roads to the wedding on a bluff. Minus on mishap where the cake tried to slide off the board onto my lap we made it safely and the wedding was beautiful, clouds, wind, rain and all.

Today we are granted a bit of sun between clouds and a great morning of friends, kids, coffee and...(oh the house looks like we ignored it for three days while making a wedding cake!)...time to clean!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two More Book Events

Carriage Me Back in Brownsville, Oregon!
May 1st
Farmers Market 8am - 12pm
Bella Caccina's 1pm - 5pm

Local farmers, musicians, wagon rides, old cars and historical movies all located in one of the smallest, quaintest, oldest towns in Oregon...where my Granddaddy lived! You wont regret visiting this local celebration.

19th Annual
Canby Wine, Art and Garden Show
June 4-6, 2010
Main Pavilion and Main Lawn

Friday 5:00-9:00 PM
Saturday 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Tickets: $5.00 per person, 3 day pass, $12.00
Tickets and passes purchased at the door.

All weekend long, you'll enjoy wonderful wine, great art, and beautiful flowers, plants and garden decor while listening to the sounds of talented musical artists.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


You know you want to be there :)

This is a reminder that I have a book signing this Saturday, April 10th in Canby, Oregon. It will be held at a quaint local bookstore called "Walk in the Park." Information and maps are on the Granddaddy's Hands website as well as to the right and below on this page. Hope to see some familiar faces there and can't wait to meet some new ones too!! Thank you for your support!!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Escape to the Beach!

Buddy and I decided it was time to get out of Portland, so into my truck we jumped and up Highway 30 we went! The plan was to head south from Astoria and stop at every beach sign we saw until the sun set.

In Astoria we hit traffic heading south, getting out to stretch our legs and take a bathroom break and check out the sea lions in hopes that the traffic jam would break didn't, so we changed plans and headed north!

"Long Beach!" I said. "Woof!" said Buddy. I figured pretty much that meant lets go! And so we did. We hit Long Beach and drove on the sand till we couldn't see anyone and set up "camp." First we played fetch, then went for a wade in the waves.

I sat and read "Emma" for a bit then broke out the bread and cheese (and cheese burger dog bites of course.)

As the sun went down we watched a dad and his kiddos fly a kite to our left and an old couple set up a campfire to my right.

The moon rose behind us the sun set before us and we went for a run down the beach in the dark. It was absolutely fantabulous and exactly what both of us were looking for!
Then we tried to drive home...that was a mess. I decided to follow my Garmin home and anyone who drives in the dark following a Garmin deserves to get taken for a ride! The normal two hour drive up 30 or 26 turned into a 3 hour back road tour of the turny topsy turvey logging roads complete with gravel and potholes with glimpses of Orion and a sliver of the moon to guide our way.

Finally arriving home we both fell into bed exhausted and perfectly happy with our day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My First Royalties Check!!!

Okay, how exciting is that! I think I'm going to go cash it now that I've played around with it for a while...hehehe...most fun $10.79 I ever made...oh simple pleasures!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Changing Seasons

Life has many seasons, some of them earth bound others in personal growth, even others socially, economically, romantically, etc. When too many seasons change at once, one tends to look back on their life either in awe or curiosity wondering what caused so many changes all at once. I know there is no answer to this as I look at several new seasons. Weather wise, spring came early this year. First week of February I saw my first flowering tree! This was shocking to me. I know nature follows its own internal clock and tells us whats coming next but, I thought someone should tell this little tree that its a bit to early to be showing off it's beautiful buds. I was right, we had some beautiful weather broken up by rain storms, wind storms, even snow this week, yes this very first week of March! I keep turning the heat off and back on again. Spring is such a tease!

Economically, the stress of our nations situation is starting to show signs of serious strain on my field. Jobs are far and few between and the competition is fierce. Its becoming more than just tightening the belts to wait it out. It becomes a way of life as the dry season is looking more like the seven year drought. There are lots of conversations around this subject and it is interesting to hear what different people have to say about it and how they are dealing with it. Some are traveling, which sounds like the wrong way to go when money is scarce, but if one has no bills and a little bit of cash saved up, a little goes a lot farther in some countries around the world compared to here. Others are scraping by on one income rather than two, lucky dogs. Some are parking cars and using bikes and transit faithfully, even others have lost everything and are couch surfing among friends and family. For me, I got a roommate. Hopefully this will be enough help to stave off any more moves in my near future.

Socially, I have found a few girlfriends who's schedules actually match mine. We have been enjoying "Happy hour Wednesdays" and "Soaking at the Kennedy School Saline pool" on Thursdays. Once a month we have been going dancing at Holocene or taking adventurous outings such as OMSI after Dark and trips to Seattle. This season has filled me with hope that a season of new friendship has arrived, a new wave of female companionship has started to partially fill the void left by friends and sisters far away as well as a significant other now gone from my life. That hole has also opened up a new season called "dating." The freedom to accept the offer of a dance, or drink, or phone number. This season is full of excitement, disappointment, anticipation, surprises, ups and downs. Gone is the days of unspoken understandings or givens, or knowns. Everything is new, history is a mystery, the future unknown. Sometimes I think, I'm too old for this. Other times it makes me feel young. Mostly it makes me feel lost. Humans are creatures of habit, change is not something they do well, no matter how much they profess being efficient at it. I, for for one do not claim this. I understand that I am at fault when I do not accept change with grace. My patience is nil when it comes to a new learning curve which doesn't make meeting people very easy at all. So starts the calamity of dates, one after another. I give them all nicknames since a lot of them have duplicate names and the names are not important really until one of them fits with mine. This may be a mistake but it is how I've decided to keep things interesting and light.

Another season, comes with me personally. (as if the last season wasn't personal enough!) It has to do with becoming a published author. To Google my name now comes up with all kinds of interesting stuff! Honestly, I used to Google my name to see what my alter ego was up to. I have been a dancer, photographer, singer, lived in Britain, New York and Japan. Now, the real me can be found on and an Artists website, a blog and Facebook...I used to be so obscure! People are already selling used copies of my book on Ebay and it only came out two months ago today!!! I have bumbled through 3 book signings and as much as I don't care for selling myself (mostly cause its all so unexpected and new) I am learning the ropes slowly...probably more slowly than my marketer would like but I'm still working on it. The fun part of it all is sharing my amazing Granddad with people all over the world, and yes my book has been purchased all the way over in England! And bragging on my Aunt's amazing water colors. Another fun part is hearing peoples' stories about their own grandfathers and all the sweet memories that are resurfaced by the book. The not so fun part is remembering how to spell my name when signing copies and counting correct change after hearing such touching stories or watching someone wipe their eyes after reading through it. Through all these changing seasons, three things remain the same: I am still Jen, I still love my job and I am still a crazy Alaskan girl looking for the next Adventure.

Ciao Bella!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring Cleaning in February

I will not attempt to reiterate the last two weeks where everything that could go wrong did. I am in a good place now and would like to not relive or dwell on the hell I passed through...somewhere in the world, someone had it worse I'm sure of it. Instead, spring arrived early and with it came a visit from my parents. God's perfect timing. Every morning dad got up and took Buddy for a walk exploring the area, and mom put more and more clothes on. Saturday we went on my trek for the best waffles ever and mostly just enjoyed the sun. I had lots of plans and trashed them all because it was so nice and sunny we spent three days pulling ivy and black berry bushes, burning brush, rearranging flower beds and cleaning up the yard. We hung my lights and now I have a little bit of Italy in my back yard. I really wish it was just as warm! Dad re-vamped my bbq, mom showed me where plants were coming up. There was a pile of brush from last spring and we added just as much to the pile. Being a city I googled the rules for burning in city can't. But you can have a 2'x3' fire in a fire bowl with a fire extinquisher near by, Alaskan-Speak for go ahead! mom and dad got me one for my birthday and dad started chopping up the pile into little pieces and burned almost the entire thing!!! Now I have a beautiful yard to play and entertain in. Garretts and Verheydens and Nana came over Sunday to break it in. We had a fire pit, took walks, bbqed lunch, made home made ice cream, played Apples to Apples and had a grand ol time. Brenna made Uncle Paul an amazing brownie cake decorated with pansies for his birthday. I ignored my phone for 4 days and got a lot of rest and physically worked my body to permanent state of sorness! I'm ready, come what may...

Seattle or Bust

Technology is an amazing thing...when it's working, when you don't forget it somewhere. Sitting at my computer, IMing back and forth with Saamanta, we were agonizing over the fact that 3 o'clock wasn't coming as fast as we liked. We had big plans to drive to Seattle and 'paint the town' as they say, or used to anyway. Margaret's company likes to send her places and this week happened to be within driving distance of yours truly! Saamanta wanted to visit her sister and friends in the area so we found ourselves squirming in our seats biting the bit wanting to hit the road before Friday rush hour clogs the road from Mexico to Canada. Throwing what I could in a bag, Saamanta waiting on my porch, we finally hit the road. Hitting the carpool lane, we sped past the parking lot through Portland and Vancouver, stories flew by like the country side. I straightened my hair, we stopped for gas and a Mocha Perk, with visions of pizza and beer to come...then we hit Tacoma. SCREECH!!! putt putt putt, 5 mph, we are NEVER going to get there!!! We were both so glad we were stuck in traffic together instead of by ourselves. We found some good tunes on her ipod and enjoyed the unique city scape. First stop, Stellar Pizza with her friends in an old industrial section of town. It was a birthday party for a girl named JoJo. I met a bunch of people and remembered maybe 4 names. Margaret got off work around 7pm and called me for the address, plugged it in her garmen and promptly got lost. She called me to get unlost and said, "the lady is telling me to go straight but there is a fence!" I handed her to a person with an iPhone who knows the area better. LOL!!! After a bit of back and forth, I eventually stood on the side walk, just in case and there she was! We were both very excited. After some REALLY good cheesy garlic bread and salad, Margaret gave us a key to her room and directions and went home to bed. Saamanta's friends were a lot of fun and it made me miss my girlfriends back home. There was a lot of reminiscing and catching up and giggling over old antics. We crawled into Margaret's King size bed around 2am.

Good morning sunny Seattle!!! Saamanta and I woke up LATE! She had a hair appointment so off she went and I struck out to find black gold. It was a chilly beautiful morning, I enjoyed a bit of coffee and Pride and Prejudice before the day got started. Afterwards, Saamanta and I (and her hair dresser) walked down to Pikes Place for lunch and met up with Margaret and her senior Jennifer. We had just ordered some Russian pies when Margaret ran past me down the street with her camera up trying to catch a picture of a mounted was hilarious!!! Wait, do I know her? Do I want to know her? After introductions and a farewell to the hairdresser, we went into pikes for the best fish and chips EVER. Saamanta took off to meet up with a friend and the rest of us perused the isles of colorful produce, and artisan crafts. I showed them the layers of shops below and the infamous post alley gum wall. We walked back to the hotel, stopping at Ross, for a "quick" shopping detour. They were raising money for the heart association and all over the store with each transaction announced another dollar raised, please yell 'whoo! hoo!' Jennifer was trying to reserve and orchestrate a dinner at the space needle for all the KMPG Alaskans in the Seattle area that evening. It was hilarious! Eventually we made it back to the hotel for a short nap=get ready for a night out. we ordered a cab and went to the top where the spinning restaurant gave us a 360 degree of the city at night. Margaret and I shared a salad, shrimp cocktail and the king crab. 4 of her co-workers met us there for dinner, one of them being a cute guy from Montana named Collin. After dinner we went to the top of the space needle only to find out that Jennifer was scared of heights and Amy had fallen 300 ft higher than the space needle with a defunct parachute during a stint in the military and was there to tell us all about it...after we were on the ground of course for Jennifer's sake! We wanted to go out for after dinner cocktails but Amy and Mark insisted on walking up to Capitol Hill (unbeknown to us, lacking in bars but full of gay clubs). Margaret and Jennifer caught a taxi home. I remember some snogging and loosing my credit card but lets just skip to Sunday...

Found my card!!!! I had left it at the space needle when paying the bill. We started with crepes from Pikes Place (fantastic!) They are huge, if you can share, DO! Then we walked back to the space needle to recover my card. Found a photo booth and after passing the second one figured it was a sign so we all crammed in and took some photos. We also found a rail car that takes you from the space needle to down town 2 blocks from our hotel for two bucks! Arriving down town I discovered I had left my purse in the photo booth with my camera and phone in it! two bucks to get back and voila! It was still there! With everything in it! two bucks to get back and my feet still love me. Margaret and I spent most of the rest of the day shopping while the others watched the super bowl. We found some cute clothes and hot boots. Margaret totally made out but then come to find out her boots were two different sizes! Saamanta met back up with us and showed us some cool spots like in the Fremont area the troll under the bridge as seen in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, and a park that overlooks Seattle at sunset. We went to pick up my bag and drop Moe off and back to Portland we went.

It almost felt surreal, like we had never even left. We found ourselves back at our computers, IMing each other, chatting about different events of the weekend, wondering when the next adventure would be...