31 May, 2009

A Slow Record?

For me, this year's planting process was a record... of sorts. Slow to get started (didn't get my flowers until really late in the season), but a record finish (normally the flowers sit on the deck for quite a while before they're planted, and then the planting happens over several days - possibly separated by several non-planting days...). Slow to start, record finish - I hope that's not indicative of the flowering season this summer... =)

Because of busy schedules and Memorial weekend camping, I didn't go flower shopping early on. Once I determined that I wasn't going to be able to go until the end of May, I figured that it would be slim pickin's at the flower stores. I mean, there's always something at Lowe's or Fred Meyers, but I guess I'm a flower snob. I like to do most of my flower shopping at Forget Me Not Nursery in Indian, about 15 miles south of Anchorage. The owners plant gorgeous displays and they're different every year. If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see that it's a clock with different types and colors of flowers. Very cool. Last year they had a rainbow - see here. Plus, the starter flowers are always well tended and healthy. And it's a nice drive out along Cook Inlet.
On Saturday (after Greg's biathlon), my friend Heath & I made the trek out to Indian. It was a great day for it - the weather was nice, great chance to chat & catch up, views were spectacular. But, as I suspected, I should not have waited 'til the end of May to do my shopping if I wanted to get my things at Forget Me Not. It was pretty sparce - which is good for them & thier business. But it wasn't so good for me. So I settled for a couple starters (my only supertunias this year) and two beautiful hanging baskets. (Normally I plant my own hanging baskets, but I so wanted to give more business to this local company - and the ones I got are really nice - that I opted to get them pre-made this year.) Then we headed to Bell's Nursery.
Walkway Pot
Pink Cosmos, Osteospermum (either Lemon or Orange Symphony), & Lobelia

By the time we were done shopping, I ended up with three flats of flowers and three hanging baskets. On Sunday evening, I decided I'd get some of the planting done - at least the deck & walkway pots, and I could save the flowers for the front bed for another night. When I gathered all my implements and the flats, I really wondered if I was going to have enough for what I wanted. I should not have worried in the least...
Petunia Pot

Deck Pot
Red Cosmos, Sunny Sheilas, Asters, & Lobelia

Supertunia Pot

When I was done planting the pots, I consolidated the flowers and considered what I had left. Would it be enough for the front flower bed? And did I want to water them on the deck tonight (they were really dry), or get them planted and just water the bed? Since it was still early (just after 9pm), I opted to finish up the planting. Greg tilled the bed for me while I moved all the implements around front. The front bed has a mix of all the flowers in the different pots: petunias, pink & red cosmos, Sunny Sheilas, more Osteospermum (Lemon, Orange, & Melon Symphony - I love the little purple centers), and Lobelia. There's also a few other types, but I don't remember everything I got. It'll make for a nice surprise as the flowers start blooming...
Front Bed Flat

Planted Front Bed

Even though I just purchased the flowers and they're just barely unfolding their little roots in the beds of soil I plopped them in, I find that I'm already anxious to have them grow. I want them big and full and blooming. RIGHT NOW. I mean, I did my part, so grow already!! =)

Duathlon or Biathlon?

Seems like either term is accurate. Biathlon is an event with any two sports, but most commonly refers to the winter sports of skiing & rifle shooting. Duathlon is most similar to a triathlon without a swimming leg - running, cycling, and sometimes followed by another running leg. (All this according to our friend wikipedia...)

Either way you call it, Greg participated in one of them yesterday. The Eklutna Challenge is put on by Lifetime Adventures. It's a 3 mile run, followed by a 15 mile bike ride through the woods. It also happens to be right in our backyard - figuratively speaking, of course. Eklutna is just outside Eagle River, which is about 30 minutes from here. Of course, once you get off the highway, you've got to go 10 miles down a windy road @ 30mph, so it can take almost an hour to get there, but still...

The race started at 10am, but Greg needed to be there by 8:30 or so... which is *way* early on a Saturday (taking drive time into account) for me. So I opted to skip all the pre-race stuff and sleep until 8:30am (which is still early for me on a weekend). So while he was getting warmed up and prepped for his adventure, I was home having a nice warm cup 'o joe and doing the dishes. Dishes?? Well, yeah... the sink was overflowing and there wasn't anyplace to set my dirty cup. So because of the stupid dishes (and because I turned into the wrong parking lot, and because I had to get the park sticker from Greg's car and put it on my windshield so I wouldn't have to pay to park), I didn't actually arrive until almost 10:30. So I missed the start. But I still got to see some of the runners come in, gear up, and head out for the bike portion. Unfortunately for me (but good for him!), Greg had already gone through.

After cheering on the last of the runners, there was a break in activity. Apparently it takes a little bit of time to traverse 15 miles of hilly, rocky trails on a bike. Who'd have thunk it? =) Since I haven't been out to Eklutna since... *years* ago when I drove in to pick M up from a bike ride (I think that's the trip when she & mom were up for a visit and we also went river rafting - which means it really was *ages* ago)... I wandered around a bit and took some pictures. It's a nice place - I'm thinking we might need to investigate this for some camping closer to home...

After a bit, I headed back to the race and got to watch the bikers come in. I was determined to get a picture of Greg as he passed me on the way to the finish line! But maybe I should have thought some things through first. Like charging my camera battery? I already know my camera takes a few seconds between pressing the button and capturing the picture. So I was standing in an area where I'd (hopefully) be able to see the contestants, pick out Greg, focus, shoot, and get the shot before he passed by. Plenty of time! Unless the battery is dying - then everything takes even longer. Oh! And you can't have the camera on & ready, because you don't want to waste the battery while you're waiting.

So I got a great shot of some people that I don't even know. Got a little excited thinking it was Greg, but no such luck. And when he finally did come round the bend getting the shot took longer than I anticipated. So now you get to see a picture of his backside as he passes out fo the frame. Oh well. My next camera will still be a point & shoot, but it'll have a quicker shutter time...

He did really well, considering this was his first go at this type of event. He ran the 3 miles pretty fast - which is how I ended up missing the switch (and the damn dishes!). He had to deal with a flat tire and an inner tube that wouldn't hold air for the bike portion, so was a bit delayed there (another biker had a spare tube that he gave to Greg so he could finish). Live and learn... He seemed pretty happy with the entire event and I'm sure he'll be doing more of this in the future. Official results are posted here. So I'll either need to get out of bed to go with him, or forget the dishes until later... =)

29 May, 2009

Memorial Weekend @ Byer's Lake - Part II

Scenic pictures are at full resolution again. They're definitely worth looking at in the larger view - altho nothing really compares to seeing it in person... =)

So Sunday, was another absolutely *fantastic* day camping. A nice day for canoeing and hiking... our group did some of each. The hike around the lake ended up taking longer than I expected. It's supposed to be 4 or 5 miles, which is not a big deal - I've done charity walks about that long and they only took me a bit less than 1 and a half hours... but this is not paved walking trails. And we added in a side-trip to Cascade Falls, and then above the falls... so the whole thing took approximately 5 and a half hours and was probably more like 6-7 miles. It was *so* worth it!!

Turns out I should probably invest in some hiking shoes. The tennies worked okay (in that I didn't fall or twist my ankle or break any appendages), but I'm told hikers will help out a lot. They may not cure the utter, uncontrollable death-vise panic I sometimes experience, but being more stable in where I walk might ease things a bit. I only cried like a baby twice on this hike - but I didn't wet my pants and I finished the entire thing. =) Who knows... If I'd had hikers, maybe I wouldn't have cried at all... altho I'm sure that I'd still experience the panic - maybe it just wouldn't be as extreme. And then if I continue to do more of this stuff (which I'll have to do, since I will have invested $$ in the boots and I shouldn't be wasting my investments), the panic will ease to just dread and then dislike and eventually to a non-event. Hmmm... something to look forward to... =)

When we got to Cascade Falls, it was really nice. Pretty, but also cooler from the water spray and a breeze. Greg climbed into the middle of the creek on some rocks to have his picture taken... when he made his way out, we found that one of the rocks had gashed his leg (bad rock!!) and he was bleeding profusely. Fortunately, John was carrying emergency supplies.

On the rest of the hike, one of our songs was "I am stuck on Kotex, 'cuz Kotex's stuck on me!" I'd heard of having pads in the emergency supply kit, but never really thought of it. Now, I'll have to make sure we always have some in there. The only problem was the sticky part was on the wrong side. So we used a few bandaids to attach the big blood sponge to Greg's leg.

Thought this might cut short our trek, but not so. Greg's the one that pushed to continue to the site above the falls. And the view was worth everything we did to get there. He had his tripod and the good camera, so we were able to take a group shot with McKinley in the background. I'll have to post that one - maybe on Facebook - when he's done downloading all the pics he took.

Not being a regular hiker (nor a boyscout), I wasn't as prepared as I should have been. Thanks to Todd we had some energy bars & a little water, and thanks to John we had the emergency first aid kit. I'm thinking that I'll get one of those camel packs (to go with my new boots) and stuff the pockets with some trail food and first aid stuff. That way, I'll be ready for any non-serious event I may encounter...

The rest of the hike was a breeze. We passed Beaman's Cabin - built in 1959 (I think), it's not really a great place to stay... but I suppose it'd be better than nothing. We arrived back at the cabins parched, hungry, tired, and with sore feet (our dawgs were barkin'!!) but satisfied with the adventures of the day. We crossed 11 bridges, 8 boardwalks, and 11 snow packs throughout the entire trek; in addtion to seeing squirrels, little chickadee birds, and swans; the falls, the cabin, and The Mountain. A Grand Adventure, indeed!

Spent the rest of the day visiting, playing games, and enjoying the company of good friends - exactly the way a good campout should end.

Packing up Monday morning went faster & easier than I anticipated, thanks to all the people that had water vessels. Between Brian's, John's, and Tony's canoes, just about everything made it across the lake. Greg took a bit in his kayak, and the rest we hauled out over the trail. We were supposed to be out by noon, but things went so smoothly that we were on the other side and packing up the car by just after 10am - a huge relief, as I was worried that the packing & trekking out part was going to be miserable...

Since Monday was Memorial Day, before going south we headed up the road to the Alaska Veterans Memorial. A chance to take some time to recognize the blessings I have because someone else was willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Side note: We recently had dinner with Greg's dad, who has been doing some work in Afghanistan. It was interesting to hear about the conditions of the people and how he lives while he's there. It makes me appreciate the luxuries that I'm surrounded with every day. I love having running water and a flushing toilet; I love turning on the tap and getting sanitary water - and more, filtering my sanitary water to have even more refreshing drinking water; and ice cubes - I really do love my ice maker; and being able to get away for a weekend of camping with friends; buying my fruits & meats in a grocery store; and this way of living - that I enjoy and sometimes complain about, but really wouldn't trade - was made possible by the sacrifice of others. I am thankful and humbled that there are those in the world willing to put themselves in harms way to protect the freedoms of others, whom they don't even know.

We stopped in lovely downtown Talkeetna to get lunch before the long drive home. Mountain High Pizza Pie won the vote for where to dine, and it was mighty tasty. Spent a little time wandering around to see the shops and get some treats, then headed down the road towards home.

There's a pullout outside of Talkeetna that has a great view - and The Mountain was out for us again. Different angle than what we'd had all weekend, but majestic just the same. This really is going to be a weekend that's hard to beat.

27 May, 2009

Memorial Weekend @ Byer's Lake - Part I

I have so many fantastic pictures that I'm going to break this post into two - just so I get to show off more of the eye candy we enjoyed over the weekend... I left a lot of the scenic pictures at full size instead of compressing them, so feel free to view them full screen - it's worth it! =)

For the first campout of the season, we headed back to Byer's Lake. I wasn't sure I was going to like it - last year was cold, with lots of snow still, and I couldn't sleep because my nose & toes were frozen... (you can read about it here). This year, we rented two of the cabins. First time I've been cabin camping - we still hauled in too much gear. Having to prepare for all the different possibilities translated into lots of extra stuff. I took two sweatshirts, a jacket, and a vest - could have left half that home. Took two different propane space heaters - never even used them. Somehow, even packing lighter than normal (no tent, no blow-up mattress on a frame... we really rough it when we camp...), the car was still jammed full of stuff.

To be fair, the kayak took up a good portion of space, and we don't normally pack it around. It's a put-together kayak, not the hard sided kind. So it comes in two green duffle bags, and takes 20-30 minutes to put together. Why would we need that? (Aside from being at the lake, I mean...) Well, the cabins are across the lake. There's a service road to them, but it's not open to vehicles. So we either hike in all the gear, or send it across the water. Fortunately for us, there were several boats in our party. Canoes definitely work better for hauling coolers & action packers - if we only had the kayak, we would've had to pack that stuff in over the 1/2 mile trail. (Oh! And Greg set up a geocaching event in the middle of the lake on Saturday - definitely needed some kind of watercraft for that...)

We couldn't have asked for better weather. And the views from the cabin were just... stunning. It was *great*! There were still spots of snow, but nothing like last year. I woke up Saturday morning (warm & toasty!), stepped outside the cabin, and just had to spend some time contemplating the beauty surrounding me.

Check out the trees reflected in the lake (in the picture just above) - it's almost a perfect replica. I caught this shot when I was up early. I don't think the water was quite that calm again all weekend - but we had plenty of tranquil waters for rowing the boats. And the white mountain in the background that towers over all the others is Denali (aka Mt. McKinley). It's a fearsome, awesome mountain - and it's not often that we get such clear views... Recent news reports are saying that they're stopping the search for a climber who is lost on The Mountain. Been looking for him for more than six days now, with no sign. A beautiful, treacherous, alluring thing of grandeur. And Greg is in its spell... first it was just taking pictures, but now he's talking about someday climbing it...

Saturday was a lovely day! We had an afternoon rainshower that lasted all of maybe 15 minutes, and the rest of the day was blue skies and sunshine. Spent the day visiting and enjoying the company of friends. This is one trip that's going to be hard to beat. May this be the harbinger of sunny skies and a nice summer...

10 May, 2009

Mighty Fine Views

Another fabulous weekend - yay! I participated in the Amblin' for Alzheimer's fund raising walk yesterday. A sunny morning, with a bit of a breeze - I don't think you can get better weather. It was a nice walk, and we even encountered wildlife along the way.
Moose a few feet off the trail

I've never been to Kincaid Park for more than a few minutes - mostly to pick up Greg or drop him off as he's off on another adventure (geocaching, bike riding, etc.). I've heard it's a great place to do lots of different things, and yesterday proved it's great for walking. The trail was wide and paved, relatively easy - although the uphill parts were more of a challenge for me.
Display of bones

When we finished the walk, we explored a little of the area around the chalet (which I recognized from one of the legs of the Amazing Race a few seasons ago - where they're in Alaska and have to go snowshoing). I'm not sure why they have the bones display at one of the lookouts, but it's pretty cool. And a fantastic view of Sleeping Lady. (I left this picture at full resolution, so if you click on it, you'll get a better view.) You can see that we don't have leaves on the trees yet. What doesn't really show in the picture is that we do have buds - the Green Tree Haze is in full bloom. I expect that in about a week or so, we'll have full green... yay!!
Sleeping Lady

After the walk, we had lunch at Moose's Tooth, saw the movie Wolverine, I took a nap, had dinner, and went to see a concert: Louden Wainwright III and Hot Tuna. A very eventful - and fun - day. Today is more relaxed, but nice too. I'm going to call my mom to wish her Happy Mother's Day and chat for a while, and we'll be taking Greg's mom out to dinner. A lovely way to finish out the weekend...

07 May, 2009

Brother Dave

Dave came to visit me for a couple days on his way to Dillingham, where he's going to be working for the summer. He spent the winter going to school for architectural engineering. Two semesters down, a few more to go. And he's got a 3.9 GPA - way to go, Dave!!!

He came in Monday afternoon and had to leave Wednesday morning. Only a couple days for visiting, but it's better than nothing - especially since I don't see him on trucking runs any more. I suppose that's good and bad. Good, in that he's out of trucking - better for his health. Bad, in that I don't get to see him nearly as often as I used to. So I'll take what I can get.

I dragged him out for a walk on Monday night, so rewarded him with dinner out on Tuesday. I'm really proud of all his hard work - and looking forward to another visit in August!! =)

02 May, 2009

Before & After

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous for the past week, and today was no exception. I was on my own for the day, and decided I just couldn't spend it sitting inside. But what to do? I decided that I'd rake the lawn. Get in a little exercise (in the form of manual labor), spend the day in the sun, and get rid of the leaves in the back yard. A sure sign that Spring is finally here - yay!!

Raking is dirty work. I mean, normally it's dirty - but when you add in moose poop and volcanic ash, it's even dirtier. But it was nice to be out in the sun, and there was a lovely breeze to cool my sweaty brow (and blow the ash away). The yard doesn't look all that big in pictures - or looking down on it from the deck. But I swear it grows when you get down into it - especially if it's for raking. Just like the driveway grows when there's shoveling to be done. Anyhow. It took me about an hour to get the leaves piled up. I know Greg will be jealous, so I saved the bagging for him to help me with. =)

Under all the leaves and dirt, I found buds in our perennial flower bed. This means I'd better start thinking about my flower pots and the annual flower bed up front...