Friday, April 16, 2010

They're Coming to Get Me

The plane actually came and got me from False Pass, so here I am in Cold Bay. I don’t leave for home until tomorrow, though. I’m on stand-by for the noon flight which would put me in Anchorage by 4:00 – but might not get on that one. I’m actually scheduled for the later flight, but I couldn’t get them to tell me when that was. I’ll find out tomorrow which flight I get on.

This hotel I’m in isn’t the best one I’ve ever been in. In fact, it probably ranks right down there with some of the worst. But hey: at least it’s not False Pass! There’s no phone in my room, but there is a bar down the hall. I’m tempted to go get a drink; I think I’ve earned it.

Cindy, the girl at the B&B in False Pass was so nice; she actually sent me off on the plane with dinner! I have some of her lasagna and two lemon bars for desert. She handed me a plastic grocery bag with the plate, plastic silverware, and food – all bundled up ready for my trip.

The pilot on the plane was great. He smelled really good, too! I asked him if he could circle around so I could get some shots of FP from the air. We banked really sharp on the turnaround – almost vertical. It was strange: I got disoriented because the sky and the ocean were the same color. I couldn't tell which was which for a minute or two. He asked me if I’d mind if we flew low to the ground, which of course I didn't. So our entire trip was just a few feet off the ground. We even passed over a bunch of Harbor seals hauled up on a rock out in the middle of the sea. It was way cool.

Homeward Bound!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Still Stuck in False Pass

The weather turned nasty again, so I highly doubt the planes will fly. Weather is supposed to be bad thru till Monday, even.

However – the school teacher and her 3 students are supposed to be leaving on a field trip to Anchorage along with me. Apparently Pen Air bends over backwards for the school district, so they are expected to make every possible effort to get them out, and me along with them.

Failing that – my office is now looking in to the possibility of getting me out on the ferry system. The Tustumena comes in to False Pass on Sunday and heads on up to Cold Bay in 4 hours, for only $33.00. This gives me the chance to try one more time with Pen Air on Saturday.

The long and the short of it is:
          It would take a miracle to get me out of here today, and miracles are in very short supply so I don’t think God is going to waste one on me. However, he might use one on the teacher and her kids…
          The planes are scheduled to try again on Saturday, but the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate much so I don’t hold out much hope for that. But still, it could happen…
          The ferry will stop in on Sunday, early morning – I can hop on that and make it to Cold Bay to catch a flight from there. I’m not sure what the schedule for flights to Anchorage from there is, so don’t know if I would have to stay at the Barefoot Inn a night or not…

On a more positive note: I found out that if I download the Kindle for PC Software onto my laptop, I can actually get the books I ordered for my Kindle! That means I now have something to keep me busy. What I don’t know is what will happen when I turn my Kindle on at home. Will those books load onto the Kindle or will they only be on my laptop? And will my computer at home, which also has the software loaded onto it, sync with my laptop so that all three devices have the same books on them?

Time will tell…

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good Advice

I’ve been really hit hard by homesickness lately. My friend Rob sent me some advice on how to combat it and make it thru the next 24 hours before I (hopefully) get home again.

     Have some tea.
     Visit with someone.
     Go for a walk.
     Give god thanks today.
     Tell a family member just how important they are in your life.
     Find a rock to bring home.
     Have a beautiful restful day!

So, I’ve been ticking things off that list, one by one.

Of course, the first item is no problem: I drink tea all the time. But I must say I miss my Market Spice tea: that’s one of the first things I’ll have when I get home!

For the second item on the list, I went over to the Post Office where Genevieve works. She is the one who invited me over to dinner the night they cancelled the Pot Luck. I like her a lot, and could easily be close friends with her if we lived in the same city. I fully intend to write her a thank-you note when I get home, and hope that she replies so that we can take up a correspondence together.

The third item on the list is an easy one, too – but I do admit to getting stuck indoors too easily. Yesterday, I made myself comfortable on the couch after my leisurely shower and ended up not going out at all. Well, I mean I did go out in the morning: I went to the school and gave the kids (all 3 of them) a presentation on my Earthwatch expedition to Costa Rica. But today, I spent a good 2 hours out there, walking from one end of the village to the other, taking pictures, listening to the ocean, beachcombing, and watching the wildlife. It was exactly what I needed.

The forth item on the list is pretty much a no-brainer as well. I just can’t be outside in such a beautiful place and not give thanks to God.

I haven’t yet completed the fifth task. I’m actually not quite sure how I will do that: shall I post something on Facebook? Shall I send out an email? Use the phone? I don’t know… but knowing me, it’s a pretty safe bet the phone won’t be in use. I really am not a phone person.

While beachcombing on my little walk, I did find some cool rocks & shells to take home. The hard part was finding ones that didn’t have seaweed or other stuff growing on them! That all smells pretty cool right now, out in the open air and by the ocean and all – but I imagine that after sitting in my duffle bag for several hours, it might get to stinking fairly quick.

Last but not least, I think I will have a restful day – but not until I finish up some last minute work. Genevieve, down at the post office, was able to give me a list of all the people she has P.O. Boxes for – I’m going to double check all my records and make sure I’ve counted everybody. I’ve been a little worried that my “official” count turned out to be much lower than I expected. I’ll feel much better once I reconcile my count with hers.

But first, I’ll finish my lunch.

Reading Lots of Books

I’m still waiting for the plane… weather is good, at least. I’m going out soon for a walk about town: need to talk to the post office to try and get an address for the cannery, and to see if anybody knows anything about Pauloff Harbor for the Census Bureau. They just want confirmation that nobody actually lives there. I’ll also head back out to the old Peter Pan compound to take some more pictures.

It’s quiet otherwise. I have no TV or radio (I miss music!) so have been reading a lot. I brought several books with me on my Kindle, but have read them all. I’m now re-reading one (Fragment, by Warren Fahey). I bought several from, but wispernet doesn’t work here so will have to wait till I’m home to load them onto my Kindle.

Books read while working in False Pass
     The Elephant Keeper, by Chris Nicholson
     Agincourt, by Bernard Cornwell
     The Apothecary’s Daughter, by Julie Klassen
     Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman
     Mirage, by Nina Burleigh

Books waiting to be loaded onto Kindle
     The People of the Mist, by Henry Rider Haggard
     Beauty, by Sherri S. Tepper
     The List, by J.A. Konrath
     The Sleep of the Gods, by James Sperl
     Beneath, by Jeremy Robinson
     Supervirus, by Andrew Mitchell
     Containment, by Christian Cantrell

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weathered In

Sooner or later, it just had to happen. When you travel around the Aleutians, in particular, sooner or later the weather is going to get you.

It got me!

The winds were blowing up to 50 miles per hour when I woke up this morning. I still clung to that last shred of hope, though, and got all packed up and ready to leave. Round about 2:00 I got the call from PenAir saying they weren't coming.

They also said I should reschedule for the next flight, which isn't until Thursday!

Thursday! This is not what I want to hear, let me assure you. I like False Pass and the people are all so very friendly - but honestly, I want to go home.

The man who owns the grocery store assured me that the planes would come as soon as weather allowed, regardless of their official schedule. And the teacher who lives upstairs told me the same thing. In fact, he was supposed to have left with me on the plane that should have come today - and is totally planning on leaving tomorrow. He has said he would give me a ride to the airport (really, it's just a runway out at the edge of town) even.

So: cross your fingers, cross your toes, heck - cross everything you can and hope that I get home tomorrow!


Well, yesterday was certainly a disappointment. There were three things I needed to accomplish but only got one of them done.

The first one was to get all the paperwork done: finish straightening out all the EQ forms, do the QC on all three binders, get the sign-off sheets ready – things like that.

That’s the one I did get done.

The second one was to get with the city manager and obtain a signature on my work. I had spoken to her about that on Friday letting her know I’d be calling on her Sunday, so she gave me her home phone number where she would be that day. I must have called her every hour starting at 11:00 all the way through to 5:00, and never did get hold of her. I’m hoping to catch her at work today before my plane takes off.

The third one was to attend a Pot-Luck gathering with the entire village. I got all ready for it and headed out the door, only to wonder around aimlessly for a while till somebody noticed me and let me know that it had been cancelled.

As I said, yesterday was a disappointment.

On the positive side, the person who noticed me wondering around looking lost ended up inviting me over to her house for dinner! I got to spend a very pleasant couple of hours with her and her family. She has a little boy named Calvin – not quite a year; and a little girl named Camellia – almost 3. She and her husband had just moved in to False Pass from Sqwentna.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Chicken –vs- The Egg

Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Or in my case, the migraine or the homesickness? Unfortunately, I got it bad = both of them.


It’s actually been a very productive day. I got all my paperwork done – well, most of it at least. What’s left to do shouldn’t take too long, and I have to save something for tomorrow. I spent pretty much the entire day at my desk here at the apartment, busily working away at the pile.

Finally, around 3:30, I just couldn’t take it anymore and went for a walk. To my surprise and delight, I found that the weather had cleared up considerably from yesterday. There was even clear blue skies in some places, and the mountains were in their full glory. I walked south first, heading down to the old docks at the burnt out Peter Pan Seafoods compound. I’m glad I did, too – because I found that I had missed a housing unit. Apparently somebody is living in the old hospital, so they need to be counted.

The scenery is so gorgeous around here. I just can’t take enough pictures, it seems. The camera doesn’t do it justice, either. I’m hoping my pictures look better on my PC than they do on my little laptop.

After nosing around the old compound for a while, and picking up “my” dog Cookie, I headed off to the new Bering Pacific Seafoods cannery on the North side of town. I’m sure it’s only a mile or two at the most, not a long walk at all – but my head hurt, so I was a little whiney even out in the beautiful great outdoors.

Along the way, I saw a huge eagle hanging out in one of the little scrubby trees. He was either a juvenile Bald Eagle or a Golden Eagle, since he didn’t have the white head. Now that I think on it a bit, I realize that the Goldens probably don’t frequent the Aleutians all that much, so it was most likely a juvenile Bald Eagle. Regardless, he was big and beautiful and was eyeballing all the ptarmigan that were running around in the field below him. Such funny birds ptarmigan are… but beautiful in their own right.

I had been told by many people to watch out for the wolf that’s been hanging around. That’s how I spotted that eagle; I was looking for the wolf. I didn’t see him though; not sure if it was because I had Cookie with me or simply because he wasn’t there. And I’m not sure I really wanted to see him either: False Pass isn’t that far from Chignic Lake, where that teacher was attacked and killed by wolves recently.

Since I was down at the north end of town anyway, I went ahead and stopped off at the store and picked up a little bit more groceries. I’ll be here a few more days and thought it would be nice to have something other than oatmeal and Cliff Bars. While I was there, I ran in to several other people from town so had a nice chat. The people here are all so very nice. I’m tempted to apply for a job here, almost!

By the time I got home, though, my headache was pretty bad; bad enough that I ended up not going to the movie like I had planned to. They have Movie Night at the school each Saturday and had very kindly invited me to attend. The teacher lives right next door to me, and had even offered to give me a ride. Instead, I took a little nap on the couch – which is why I’m sitting here now at 11:00 instead of sleeping in bed!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Riding a 4-Wheeler in a Blizzard is Fun.

Riding a 4-wheeler in a blizzard is fun.
Riding a 4-wheeler in a blizzard is fun.
Riding a 4-wheeler in a blizzard is fun.

I guess I figure if I keep saying that enough, I’ll actually believe it. In reality, riding a 4-wheeler in a blizzard hurts: the ice particles that are pretending to be snowflakes really sting when they hit your cheeks. I learned very quickly to wear eye protection, too – even though I’m the one on the back, behind the driver.

The driver is my guide. I hired a local lady to help me, and as in Perryville she has been indispensable. She’s a real go-getter, too, which is what I need. I have more time on my hands this go around, but still I want to get it done so I can spend my time with the QC portion of the job.

And yes, I’ll admit it: riding a 4-wheeler is fun, even in a blizzard.

It’s a good thing I’m not scheduled to fly out of here tomorrow. Not only am I not done with all the paperwork, but I really don’t want to be in a tiny little airplane in this weather. Winds are gusting up to 40 miles per hour, rain/snow/sleet/slush is coming down so thick I can barely see out my windows, and the waves out in the ocean are up to at least 35 feet!

Oh, and the barge that was supposed to have come in today at 9:00 showed up at 5:00 instead. That would be 5:00 in the morning, by the way. So I missed getting to watch them unload things

Thursday, April 08, 2010

False Pass

I was supposed to have come out on Tuesday but since the planes only fly on certain days of the week - and Tuesday isn't one of those days - I got a bit of a reprieve and flew out on Thursday instead.

The trip was amazing – the final leg of the flight was in a tiny little two-seater! I got to sit right up with the pilot and watch everything up close and personal. The weather was perfect with clear blue skies and the sun glaring off all that snow and ice so bad it gave me a migraine. It was gorgeous!

The lodging that is provided for me turned out to be a Bed & Breakfast! Who knew there'd be a B&B way out here in False Pass? But there is, and they are really nice people. They even came out to the plane to pick me up when I landed.

My room here is great: I have a whole suite to myself! I have a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room! The lady managing this B&B is really nice: she got the store clerk to come pick me up and take me to the store to buy groceries, then she let me go on a walk with her and the dogs (Digger and Cookie) down to the docks.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it should be fun. People are all real nice; the girls down at the clinic may be able to drive me around a bit tomorrow, after they unload the barge that’s scheduled to come in. Otherwise, I’ll be hoofing it again.

I’m tired and headachey, so will head off to bed now I think.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Another Busy Weekend

I whined. I moaned. I cried. I pleaded. And eventually, I made it home: I got back to Anchorage Friday evening.

Saturday was spent just trying to recover from Perryville. It’s a great place, but I have to admit it wore me out emotionally if not physically.

When I turned my binders in to the main office, I discovered that I had missed a key component to completing them – so technically they’re still not done. There was talk for a little while of actually sending me back to Perryville just so I could get the final signatures I’d missed, but thankfully they found another way. It just didn’t make sense to spend all that money to get me back down there, even if I was the one who had unwittingly screwed up.

So now I’m scheduled for False Pass: a bit farther down the Aleutian chain. This time I’ll be flying thru Cold Pass, which has a reputation for being weathered in all the time. I may or may not get back by the end of the week – but then, what’s new with that statement?

The information packet they gave me about False Pass tells me that they have a total population (as of 2008 at least) of a whopping 39 people. Again, I have 3 binders to complete and will have just myself to worry about. Hopefully they’ll have the travel plans worked out before I get there: that would be refreshing. You can bet I’ll be hiring a local guide again, and can only hope they’ll be as helpful as the one I had in Perryville.

Sunday was Easter. My mother had arranged a bowling party for the family in lieu of a big dinner, and that seemed to have gone quite well. I myself did not attend – and not just because I really can’t bowl (my injured back really does not like bowling). I pled exhaustion and spent my day just relaxing with Rob. We had lunch at Terra Bella and then went for a nice (long) walk up at the Eagle River Nature Center. Back at my house, we watched the movie “Dreamcatcher” but got to sleepy to watch the whole thing.

Today was spent getting ready to leave. As mentioned earlier, I don’t know exactly when I’ll be leaving, nor do I know which flight I’ll be on, or what airline it flies out on – but I do know it will be sometime tomorrow morning. I’ve got my bags packed, the boxes taped together, and the sleeping bag ready just in case I’ll need it this time.

Wish me luck, and keep this blog bookmarked – I’ll hopefully have internet access down there so I can keep this up-to-date.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Damn Government

My guide and I worked our little tails off today, man. We got the entire binder done!

We started at 10:00 – about half an hour later than planned on due to the battery in her truck not wanting to start up. And don’t tell my employer, but we worked right through lunch and on into 3:30 before I finally called it quits and let her go. According to government rules, you’re not supposed to work longer than 5 hours without taking a break – but we were on a roll and didn’t want to break it.

Let me just say right now that I could not have done it without her help. She was invaluable: keeping me on track and organized, introducing me to everybody, convincing the recalcitrant ones to let me do my interviews, and telling me all about every dog we came across along the way. I will certainly write a glowing report on her back at the main office so that if they ever need help out here in Perryville again, she will be top of the list.

I must admit, however, that I am not impressed with the government. Not that that comes as a big surprise to anybody – but this has to be one of the most poorly run businesses I’ve ever worked for. The training was laughable, the organization within the office is nonexistent, and the support for field officers is a mere rumor. About the only thing they have going for them is that they do pay – even if the check is almost always two weeks late and full of mistakes.

Case in point: I called the main office today and spoke to the person in charge of Interior Alaska, letting him know that I had just found out that planes wouldn’t fly over the weekend. He told me that he’d look in to trying to get me out of here on Friday, and that I should call back later on in the day to see what progress he’d made.

That’s why my guide and I worked so hard – I wanted to make sure I was finished with everything so I could leave. No offence to the good people of Perryville, but I’d really like to spend Easter with my own family!

So at 3:30, I call back to the main office only to find out that he had forgotten completely about me and my paperwork never even got started. Then I got chewed out by the lady in charge of travel arrangements for even thinking that I could leave tomorrow without having gone thru her first, and she rather snidely pointed out that other people are stuck out here as well and I shouldn’t think that I’d be getting any special favors. I told her that I had called as early as I possibly could in hopes that the man in charge of things might actually be able to do something, so she rather quickly backed off and said that she had some strings she could pull.

Now I am again to call back later and see what progress has been made. Between you and me – I’m not holding my breath. Most likely I will be hanging out here, with nothing to do and no food to eat.

I’ve actually got several hours of paperwork left to do. If I knew for sure what my schedule for tomorrow was, I’d know if I should stay up tonight and get it done or save it for the long weekend ahead of me.