Monday, December 14, 2009

It has been getting colder recently...well below zero with significant wind chill. I had to bundle up in my fur parka and heavy cold weather gear to make the 6.2 mile drive out to the Pioneer Oooguruk Drill Site (ODS) for my spill response training yesterday.

Sometimes I pull a sled so I can bring a load of firewood home, but this time I drove my Skidoo without a sled. It is usually about a twenty minute drive. The stars were out, despite heavy frost falling like snow in my headlight. Once I get all my gear on, you certainly couldn't see who I was, unless you knew ahead of time. Even my face is completely covered with a mask and goggles and surrounded with a wolf ruff. I'll share a picture next time I write if I can remember to have one taken.

I got some Christmas lights up in our kitchen window. Then I added a little tree. This will probably be the extent of my Christmas decorating.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adak Visit in Nov. 2009

I was on my way for a week’s visit to Adak to see Isaac, Crystal, and Rhianna at their home in Adak, on an island midway down the Aleutian chain.

I left home by snowmachine Monday morning, and drove the five miles across the river and tundra to the drilling pad where we park our truck.  I parked and covered the snowmobile, transferred my luggage to the truck, and then drove on east in the truck along the gravel road system to Prudhoe Bay. It takes about 2 hours driving time for me to reach Deadhorse, the service area for the greater Prudhoe area.  I had some errands to do, such as a stop at the post office, fueling up the truck, plus extra time before the afternoon Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage. I generally leave the truck with friends near the airport.  In winter, I have no way of knowing how cold it may be when I return and I don’t want to leave the truck sitting in the Alaska Airlines parking lot with no way to plug it in and warm it up should the temperatures drop below zero.

I was headed to Fairbanks for a few days before continuing on down to Adak, and had to fly all the way to Anchorage first, then take a different flight back up to Fairbanks.  It is always a long day of travel.  My brother Mark picked me up and I stayed three days in Fairbanks with him and Denise.

I never have enough time in Fairbanks to do all I’d like to do.  First, was a short drive over to Jay’s home for a visit with Amy and my three oldest grandchildren, Natasha, Melody and Elisha.  It doesn’t take much arm-twisting to get Grandma to read books or play board games with the kids. They don’t get visits very often from the grandma who usually comes and goes from the airport, so it is special time for all of us.  This trip, I got to meet Charlotte, the new pet Ginny pig.  We had dinner one night and more special times over the next couple of days.

Jay took time off work to help me with a job needing done at his grandparent’s house.  My niece Krysta took time from her busy family of three boys to give me a home hair perm one afternoon, I went for my routine medical checkup, enjoyed visiting my youngest brother and wife, Eldon and Debbie, and squeezed in a few other activities.

Before I knew it, Thursday arrived and I was headed back down to Anchorage to connect with the flight to Adak.  Unfortunately plans got high-jacked when the Fairbanks to Anchorage flight got delayed over an hour and I missed the Adak flight by only a few minutes.  Adak flights run only twice a week, so the next flight wasn’t until Sunday.  I called my youngest son Aaron in Wasilla, Autumn and Aaron_FAIand he drove down to the airport to get me.  I suddenly had extra time to spend with Aaron and Autumn, which turned out to be a pleasant change of plans.  Plus I got to attend a nice dinner with live music one night, a dinner with friends I hadn’t seen in ages, visit my sister-in-law, and other things in the Palmer/Wasilla area. 

Sunday I was back at the airport and this time I made it to Adak by late afternoon.  It is over a three hour flight to reach Alaska’s furthest west and furthest south town.  I took a few pictures as we flew by the islands southeast of Adak Island.  Adak_11-16-08 001 

Adak_11-16-08 002 

Isaac was at the airport to greet me…but of course he would be…that’s his job. The Customer Service Manager greets and sends off every plane.  Crystal and Rhianna were there too, so I soon had a baby girl in my arms. I spentAdak_11-16-08 007 as much time as I could during my stay with Rhia.  We played, read books, and went for walks on the beach…Rhianna riding on my back, peeking around my shoulder and looking at all the plants, birds, waves, and other things of interest I would show her.  She usually fell asleep before we would get back from a walk.  Below are some of the winter beach plants, sand patterns, and outcrops:

Isaac took Rhia and I on a drive one day and visited several locations I had yet to see on previous trips to Adak. It was a blustery day, so we stayed inside the warm vehicle for the most part.  Winter or summer, Adak has beautiful landscapes and so much to see and enjoy.  Eagles are everywhere.  I could practically reach out the window and pet this one.

Adak_11-16-08 049

Rhianna loves going for rides with Daddy as you can see.

  Adak_11-16-08 053

Here are more pictures of Rhianna’s  first birthday party:


My Adak time went by way too quickly and I was on the jet back to Anchorage 5 days after arriving.  This time I flew straight back to Deadhorse after spending part of the night at the airport.  I then had to reverse the order of my departure from homeJim walks Ruby& Toby_11-2-09 by driving the truck west across the oil field, transfering to my snowmachine and sled and then driving back across the tundra and river to home.  Another tiring day, but it is always so nice to have my crew waiting to greet me: Jim and two very excited dogs to have me back home.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ruby Settling In

Once the big storm was over, we continued to have a lot of fresh snowfall. It has remained soft and fluffy for the time being, making walking more difficult as my feet sink in and tend to fill my boots up with snow. When the next wind blows all the soft snow will be blown away or into hard drifts, easy to walk on.

I've been getting a lot more walks outside since bringing Ruby home, since she is too little yet to just turn loose. It didn't take long for her to realize that her yard is unending, and she has been want to roam too far for my comfort. The leash came out when I got tired of chasing her all over tarnation when it was time to come in.

She loves to chew on old caribou antlers, and has learned quickly to love fish and caribou. That is why we think Toby grew to be such a big Chesapeake Bay Retriever...all the good food he had growing up. I'm not wanting Ruby to be that big, but just that she gets all the good food too.

Here's a picture of Ruby and Jim to show how much she has already grown in a week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Family Member

Sunday I went to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse) in the evening. I started out by being picked up by helicopter from home for Spill Response Training (SRT). Rather then returning home by helicopter after the weekly 2-hour training (like usual), I just stayed on shore and got a ride over to the pad where I keep our truck parked. ConocoPhillips is very nice to let me leave the truck parked on one of their west Kuparuk production pads.

I drove to Kuparuk and spent several hours there getting errands done. I got the truck washed by friends in the KIC Wash Bay, and then visited friends at the Kuparuk Operations Center (KOC). I continued on to Deadhorse, and went straight to the store and Post Office to pick up some odd supplies we needed and our mail. There were two large fiber mail bags full of mail and boxes, plus two big bags of special dried dog food we had mail-ordered from the feed store in Fairbanks.

That night I stayed with friends at the Marsh Creek company. Getting to visit friends and work associates is always so enjoyable. I am truly blessed with many wonderful friends across the slope.

Monday morning, after coffee and more good visiting, I went and fueled the truck up and bought some cases of generator oil. Next stop was Alaska Airlines. This was the reason for the trip. Our new puppy was arriving on the morning flight from Fairbanks. She is a Great Pyrenees with 1/8th collie mixed in. She had come all the way from Nebraska two days earlier and had stayed with Jay and family in Fairbanks for a travel breather. Of course we had picked her out and had seen pictures of her, but I was very pleased to meet her in person. I was also pleasantly surprised that at 14 weeks old, she was still smaller then I realized she would be. She looked small and vulnerable in that #200 kennel, and was immediately loving and cuddly when I took her out of the kennel. I attached her leash and we went for a short walk outside in the snow – her first exposure to the white fluffy stuff. She had no fear of walking in the cold snow and seemed intrigued with it, sniffing, pushing her nose through the soft stuff, and quickly relieved herself.

I put the kennel in the front passenger seat and still had plenty of room to let her lie in the middle between seats with her head in my lap. I tried out her new name which Jim and I had finally decided on, Ruby. Of course she didn’t respond at all to words…that comes with training and repetition.

Before leaving Deadhorse I made several stops to visit friends and show off Ruby. A puppy around the oil field is pretty unique, so she got a lot of attention everywhere we went, and she was calm and sweet with everyone.

It began snowing and blowing hard as the day progressed, until we were pretty much in blizzard conditions. Jim had planned to come get us with the super cub when we got back to where we leave the truck, but weather had deteriorated to the point where flying the cub wasn’t an option. After waiting on weather to improve, Ruby and I finally got home by picking up my delayed return-home ride on the helicopter from SRT.

Arriving in snowstorm

We were soon warm in the kitchen and glad to be home.

Ruby curled up with rope toy home_10-19-09 005

Toby was less excited about the new arrival, but give him time and he’ll fall in love with her.


Ruby zonked out in middle of play Jim and Ruby played and she just zonked out asleep right in the middle of grabbing Jim’s shoe. It had been a long day for her.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rain In October

More rain and melting here in the Colville River Delta, and in fact, all across the North Slope. It’s happened in the past, but not for quite awhile In fact, it has happened in January several times in past history too, which is even more unusual. It is always associated with a south or southwest wind.

I need to go to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse) to pick up mail and freight soon, so it looks like I won’t be using my snowmachine (snowmobile, some of you may call it) to get across the river, like normal this time of year. Jim will have to fly me across the river to where I park our truck on one of ConocoPhillips’ oil production pads. This is the closest pad to us that is connected to the road system. Once Jim drops me off, and then I have approximately a 2-hour drive to Deadhorse. I have to go through one security check-point on the way. Most everyone in security knows me and my truck, plus I am in their computer system with a badge, so getting through the "guard" shack is quick and easy.

I'll give more details of how my travels turn out after the weekend. One advantage to being able to cross the river by snowmachine verses the plane, is that it is not dependent on good flying weather. (Of course, weather can be so bad that I can't travel by snowmachine too, such as a bad wind storm with blowing snow and extremely poor visibility.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Started

Well, I've procrastinated enough. It is time to begin writing something here. I set this up about the time my husband began his blog, Arctic Smoke Signals, but just never got around to writing anything.

I guess my hesitancy is based on the fact that when I'm writing here, I am not working on my book or other writing I should be doing. That's the hang-up. How do I spend my time?

Just to put something up here, I'll add a recent picture of our dog looking out over the river ice yesterday when he was so worried about Jim walking on the thin, slippery ice.

Here's another picture of our house on Anachlik Island, Colville River Delta, Alaska.

That's a fish net on the ground that Jim had just hauled up on the island to save it from getting frozen into the fresh overflow water on top of the ice. I still needed to "pick" the fish out.