Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winner Creek Trail

We had another fabulous hike this weekend, as part of our annual Family Hiking Series, going on the Winner Creek Trail all the way up to the river gorge – about a 5-mile round trip. We had Mother and Lauren, Me and Rob and his two kids Sierra and Trey, as well as Tina and her daughter & son (I’m so sorry, Tina… I’ve forgotten their names again!) with us this time.

The weather forecast was not so good that day: according to the weather channel it was supposed to be rainy and cold. Rob and his kids had been up near Moose Pass Friday and Saturday, and reported winter-like weather conditions - and not two days prior to the hike I’d overheard some people at the softball game talking about how they actually had to deal with snow up there.

So, we were all rather concerned and bundled up in sweatshirts, windbreakers, and wool socks for the hike - only to find clear blue skies and perfect weather once we got there! Every one of us kept trying to get somebody else to carry our coats for us: poor Rob ended up with his coat, his kid’s coats, three water bottles, and my bag of snacks & other essential items needed on a hike.

Mother and Lauren turned around after about a mile and a half, pleading the 2-hour drive back home. They still had a good hike, and got to see some beautiful scenery along the way. The rest of us went on up to the gorge, where we got to ride the “bucket” that swings out across the sheer 100’ drop-off with gallons and gallons of water gushing through at 100’s of miles per minute. What a spectacular sight that is!

Rob and Trey were the first to cross over, and then had fun working the rope & pulley system to get the “bucket” across for other people (I say that in a half-way sarcastic tone, since it’s a lot of REALLY HARD WORK to get that thing across). Sierra was a little apprehensive about crossing over, but she bravely stepped in with me and went across. The way back was easier for her, since she was an “experienced traveler” by then.

After that we sat for a while and recuperated from all the hard work, then slowly made our way back down to the car. We went at a very easy pace, stopping mid-way to eat our snack and investigate the nearby meadow. The whole hike took us about 4 hours, but as I said - we went very slowly and took our time.

Giving Blood

A comment was made on an earlier posting stating now that I have this eyebrow piercing I won’t be able to give blood for a whole year. This had me worried enough that I actually went down to the local blood bank and talked to them about it.

Turns out I’m safe. The place I had the work done is on their “good” list, which means I only have to wait one month. I would have had to wait one whole year if it had NOT been on that list.

I have to wait whole year anyway, after my trip to Africa. I’m half way though it right now, and would really have been bummed if I had to tack on another year to that. Thankfully, the moth’s waiting period fits right nicely inside the year from Africa, so it won’t make even the slightest bit of difference.

December 1st will see me laying down in those horrible chairs down at the blood bank, giving my bi-monthly pint – just you wait and see!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Getting My Eyebrow Pierced

I found myself eating lunch all by myself last Sunday and decided that I needed to do something exciting for once. Getting my eyebrow pierced seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.

I emailed a friend and asked if she knew anyplace to recommend: she told me about The Hole Look. I called them and got the basic information (such as how much it would cost - $45 – and where they’re located – on Dawson Street, between Benson and Northern Lights) and headed out the door.

When I got there, I found the shop to be very clean – almost sterile, and smelling cleaner than a hospital almost. I was the only customer, so got to spend some time talking to the lady at the front desk. She went over the particulars and made sure to answer any questions I had.

I had a few: How do I take care of it after it’s pierced? (I have a saline solution that I spray on it 6 times a day to help it heal and keep it clean) How long will it take to heal? (Up to 6 months) Will I get any diseases from your shop? (No - they sterilize everything according to medical standards to ensure no blood-borne diseases get passed on) That sort of thing. She was more than happy to assuage all my fears, and soon enough I had signed the paperwork and was ready to be pierced.

My piercer for the day was Blake, a very nice man with several piercings and tattoos on his own body. He led me back to a room that was set up just like an exam room might be at the doctor’s office. Again, it was very clean and sterile, and again smelled very strongly of bleach or some other cleaning solution. He had all his tools laid out and ready for me, and was very thorough in explaining exactly what he was going to do.

First he had me sit up on the table so he could clean the area to be pierced. He had a q-tip covered in the cleaning solution that he swabbed me with, making sure to get every possible contamination off.

Then he took a sharpie (yes, a sharpie!) and made dots where he would be piercing me. He was very particular about the placement, erasing the dots several times till he was satisfied with the results.

Next came the measurements to determine what size ring I need. Apparently some people have fatter eyebrows than others do. Which only makes sense, since people come in all sizes: I just had never really considered that before.

Once he had the ring ready and all his tools on hand, he then had me lay down so he could do the actual piercing. He told me, “I want you to take a deep breath in through your nose and then blow it out through your mouth. When you breathe out, that’s when I’ll do it.”

So, I took a deep breath in and slowly blew it out my mouth – and he stuck the needle in. It hurt, of course. It actually hurt a lot, and it wasn’t a quick poke either. In fact, he eventually had to tell me to “Keep breathing!” because I had apparently stopped.

Once he had the needle all the way through he then had to back it out while at the same time threading the ring through. I just kept on breathing very consciously: in through the nose, out through the mouth – in through the nose, out through the mouth. Once the needle was out and the ring was in, he closed the ring.

And then he was done. I lay on the table a while, to make sure my body adjusted itself to its new pierced condition before attempting to stand up. I’ve feinted before, and don’t enjoy it!

Now, here’s a very interesting side effect that I totally did not expect. When I finally sat up to see if a vertical position was at all possible yet, I discovered that my toe had turned completely black! (Yes, I was barefoot) What in the world would cause my toe to turn black from getting my eyebrow pierced? It was the toe right next to the big toe, and it took a good 10-15 minutes for color to come back to it.

Very strange.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Impulse Buying

I did something today that rather shocks me. I'm usually way more conservative and reserved... definitely NOT the type to do something like this without having thoroughly weighed every option and researched every tiny detail of it first.

Not that I haven't ever thought about doing this: I have. Every time I see somebody else who’s done it, I always think "Oh, I want to do that." But to think that I'd actually go and do it - now, that's something a bit out of the ordinary for me.

What did I do, you ask? I got my eyebrow pierced!

Yes, you read correctly: I got my eyebrow pierced. I walked in to The Hole Look after lunch and simply got it done.

I feel so… so… so rebellious!

They are very nice over there, by the way. If you ever are in the mood for a piercing (they will pierce just about any body part you can think of) I do recommend them. Their shop is nice and clean; the people are very friendly and understanding of nerves & anxieties; and they made the whole ordeal as pleasant as possible.

They even do tattoos! I am seriously considering having them do my Black Widow, whenever I decide to get it done.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

These Are The Days Of My Life

So , here’s the latest on the soap opera that is my life.

My job at the US Census came to an end a few weeks back, but I managed to hire on with another temporary job – this time with a construction company that builds Decks, Docks, and Pilings.


I’m back on the computer drawing up plans, so that is a good thing. I started just this week, and already they’re telling me I was better than the other girl who’d been there 6 months (she must have been really slow is what I’m thinking). As I said, it’s just a temporary thing – from March to September – and it hardly pays at all… but it’s a job. And as an added bonus, I get to ride my bike to work.

My roommate told me that at the end of her contract she will not be extending her stay with me. This means I need to find another roommate – which I hate doing. I really don’t want a roommate at all, but just can’t afford to do it on my own. She’ll be gone August 1st, which gives me a little bit of time.

I had a bit of a blow-up with her this past week: she has this boyfriend who stays over EVERY NIGHT since like April. I’m very annoyed at that – and not just because they have loud noisy sex all night long (although when they started to make MY bed rock, I did throw a fit). If I had known she was going to have a boyfriend stay over all the time, I would not have rented the room to her in the first place. I do not want two roommates, especially one who doesn’t pay a thing to live here!

Part of my blow-up was the boyfriend thing – but part of it was also the whole “new job” thing. Plus the whole Guy thing, too. And that is a whole other story.

Want the condensed version, or the whole story?

The condensed version: my boyfriend's kids are up visiting him for the summer, so while they’re here – I’m basically out of the picture. He doesn’t think they are ready for Dad to have a girlfriend so soon after splitting up with his last one. If you take all emotion out of the picture, I agree with him: they aren’t. However, I’m still hurt… and sad… and lonely… and terrified that he’ll get used to not having me around and won’t ever come back to me.

The messes I get myself into.

On the plus side, my diet is working quite well. I started actively trying to lose weight about three months prior to the Africa trip. Last summer I weighed somewhere around 196 lbs. When I weighed myself and all my gear for the trip, I was around 182. I don’t have scales here at the house so I have no idea where I’m at now, but the clothing I wore in Africa are a few sizes too big for me now so I know I’ve lost some more.

My goal is to get down to around 150 pounds. I think I’ll be happy with that. Less would be nice too, though. I used to wear a size 8: I’m in a 14 now, so still have a few more sizes to lose.

Stress over the new job, the whole Guy issue, the whole roommate thing, and the fact the my job doesn’t pay me enough to cover all my bills and get food, too = all this will contribute to my weight loss plan, I’m sure. And riding my bike to work each day will help as well = it’s about a 6 mile round trip.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

What Are You Reading Today?

I just got a book I’ve been waiting a long time for: The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I read his other book, called The Shadow of the Wind, and thought it was just wonderful – so am really excited to see if he really is a good author or if that was just a fluke.

What are you reading?

Another Writing Assignment

I was contacted by an employee of Earthwatch who is putting together an article for one of their publications. He wanted some input from an Earthwatch Volunteer, and asked for a short account of one or two of my experiences from the Earthwatch Grevy’s Zebra project. He even gave me a few possible subjects to choose from.

Me being the anal and wordy person that I am, I of course wrote about each one of them. I did manage to keep my responses to about 100 words each, though.

Here's what I wrote:

The census of Grevy’s Zebra
The transects portion of our expedition was the highlight of the trip. My guide was a local boy named Elija. He was probably around 17 years of age with a pronounced stutter. You could tell he was really trying to do a good job, and was so embarrassed because his mother kept calling him. “I’m at WORK, Mother! I’ll call you back later.” He kept us on track and pointed out several interesting plants along the way. He very kindly complemented me on my speed, although I’m sure he was just being nice. He kept offering to stop for a rest and politely declined my offers of water.

Digital Photography and Identification of zebra individuals
We saw many zebra on the way to the park, but only one inside where it counted. He was a nice male specimen; healthy and large. However, he simply would NOT turn the right way so we could get our photos. We kept driving around him, at a distance so as to not startle him – and he kept turning around the wrong way again. It was almost as if he knew what we wanted and was being stubborn about it, just for the sake of being male. We didn’t mind, though, as it gave us a great view of the surrounding landscape.

Using GPS units to monitor zebra, other wild animals and livestock distribution
Using the GPS device is not a good idea for me. I have this strange electrical thing about me that tends to mess with any and all electronic devices: I cannot wear a watch at all, and go thru computers almost yearly. I have short-circuited enough of them to know that the best thing for me is to simply let somebody else handle them and try to find some other way to be of use on these expeditions. For this trip, I took on the roll of Secretary and got to take all the notes for the team.

Clipping vegetation
While Mutiga himself was very nice, I found that his work was very disorganized and confusing. I could not see the point to what he was doing, and did not fully understand all of his goals and/or methods. That might have been due to my lack of scientific knowledge or to his lack of ability to convey his meaning to us. Regardless, I found that the day with him was mostly spent with me on the sidelines watching him and his students do the actual work. I did not really enjoy this as the whole purpose for me being there was to help out.

Visits to Samburu Park
We had a good day at the park, and managed to see just about everything there is to see: great herds of elephants, half a dozen giraffe, gerenuks, oryx, antelope, dik dik, guinea fowl, warthogs, eagles, crocodiles, monitor lizards, baboons – about the only thing we didn’t see were any of the carnivores, unless you count the eagle. We even got to pop the top of our jeep so we could stand up to see everything. It felt like one of those “African Expeditions” you see on tv… And being in a car all day made the heat so much more manageable, what with the natural air conditioning (re: wind).

Aspects of Samburu culture
Several days in a row we got to stop in at a local village in Barsalinga: the first day we stopped by the entire village was preparing for a wedding! People were coming in from miles around to attend, all dressed in their finest with bright colors and lots of beadwork & feathers. The Chief’s son was the bridegroom, and this was his second wife. He made a point of coming over to our jeep to meet us all in person, shaking everybody’s hand and asking us all where we come from. He was very nice, intelligent, and quite talkative.

Other local wildlife
Ask anybody who knows me and they’ll all agree: I love bugs. And let me assure you, Africa has some really cool bugs! One night in particular stands out: we found two rather large hairy spiders that were a little too close to the men’s bedroom. On closer inspection we realized they weren’t spiders after all but were instead a relative to the scorpion, called a Solifuge. You tell by counting its legs: the solifuge looks like it has 5 pair instead of the usual 4 pair. The solifuge is not necessarily poisonous, but it certainly scary looking!

I am Alaskan: used to majestic mountains, tall trees, and extreme cold weather conditions – so found the wide open savannahs of Africa to be quite foreign and exotic. The plant life is completely different with pretty much every one sporting some sort of thorn, from tiny little ones that stick to every piece of clothing you have on, to the larger 3” spikes that seem to reach out and grab you as you walk past. There’s even a mid-range one, about an inch long, which can pierce thru the soles of you boots and cause sores on the bottoms of your feet.

Effects of the draught
The effects of the 2-year drought were painfully obvious everywhere you looked, from the animals who were just skin and bones and could barely stand up to the people who were lined up along the halls of the hospital, so skinny and shaking from hunger. We had to have an armed guard with us at all times, not just to protect us from the wild animals but also from the neighboring tribes who were fighting for the few remaining pools of water. It did rain while we were there, and you could hear the entire village come out and sing & dance in the rain.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ptarmigan Creek

It was such a nice weekend my friend Rob and I decided to go for a hike out to Ptarmigan Creek. We had hoped to camp out overnight, but life got in the way of those plans so we went on a day hike instead. And what a hike it was: absolutely gorgeous out there. The sky was clear blue with hardly a cloud in sight, and the bugs were at a minimum.

The trailhead is about 20 miles short of Seward, just off the Seward Highway. We sat in the parking lot for a while and ate our sandwiches and geared up. Rob had his pack on with extra water, the bear spray, and a windbreaker incase the weather turned on us. He also carried his .44 but thankfully didn’t need it. We hoped to see bears, but preferably on the OTHER side of the creek!

Ptarmigan Lake is about 3.5 miles from the trailhead; the trail continues on for another 3 miles or so, but we only went another half mile or so to find a nice quiet spot to eat our cookies and enjoy the lake. All total, we probably hiked a good 8 miles.

On the way back to the truck, I managed to trip on a concealed root and did a face plant in the ditch. Really, it was quite a spectacular fall – I’m only slightly embarrassed about it. It hasn’t shown up yet, but I’m fairly certain I’m going to have a huge bruise on the side of my knee. I’m also quite sore in the shoulder and hip areas. I even managed to get bruised on the top of my foot – which I really don’t understand, seeing as how I had my hiking boots on.

Once we made it back to the truck and ate another sandwich, we decided that since we were so close to Seward, we couldn’t NOT go to Seward. I do love that place! We parked the truck near the docks and took a walk along the boats, then took a little drive up to the waterfalls. I could easily live there, you know? We daydreamed about that possibility, coming up with all sorts of things we could do to make it work.

By the time we got home again, it was midnight. Certainly a day well spent!

Car Troubles

The Gods are angry with me, apparently. Or at least, the Car God is.

First: I was on the road to Eagle River the other day, doing probably 65 miles per hour, when my right rear tire blew up! Talk about an exciting road trip… Thankfully a cop pulled over and assisted me. Thank You, APD!

All four tires were pretty bad so I went ahead and got new ones all the way around, to the tune of $500.00. But at least they are good ones and I don’t have to worry about them for a while now.

Then: the “Check Engine” light has been coming on and going off again, over and over, for quite some time now. I had a friend look at it for me, but he couldn’t really do anything about it since it’s all computerized nowadays. He did think it might have something to do with either the O2 sensor or the Fuel Injection System.

The car finally died a rather permanent death Thursday afternoon, to the point where I actually had to push it home and call for a tow truck to take it to the shop for me (and shell out $85.00). R&R Garage is a great place, by the way. If you ever have car problems, I do recommend them.

My car’s problems required them to keep it over the weekend, however – and since this is a holiday weekend, that meant that I went without a car for about 5 days! Thank goodness I have good feet, a bicycle, and a friend willing to let me hang out with him all day.

I’m hoping to pick the car up tonight, but am expecting the cost to be somewhere around $900.00.