Friday, February 29, 2008

My odyssey continues

Today I will be on the F/V Fairweather, the fast ferry to Juneau. This $36 million vessel is part of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet. It makes the trip from Sitka to Juneau in about 4 hours, instead of the 8 to 10 hour travel time of other vessels. (If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend using the Alaska Marine Highway to see some spectacular spots of this phenomenal place.)

Once in Juneau, Robin and I will commence a weekend of frenzied shopping, socializing and eating at real restaurants (because we can).

Stay tuned for details on Phase II of the Alaskan Adventure....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Confusing acronyms and the government

From a recent governmental e-mail. (I have no idea what any of this means.)

"Good morning! This message is to let you know that there has been a problem with entering CFC contribution forms into the NFC database. The staff at ASC was not aware that the CFC account for Juneau, Alaska was combined with the Anchorage, Alaska account in NFC's database.

The payroll staff at ASC has become aware of the situation and is correcting the errors. Unfortunately they cannot go back and make the contributions retroactive to PP.01...if you don't begin seeing your CFC deductions come out as of PP.05, please call the contact center and create a case. "

Friday, February 22, 2008

Latest local news headlines

While I don't read, see or hear a lot of news, the stories I do hear are always unique. Usually, at least one of the quotes in the article is hilarious.

  • In reference to Romeo, a lone black wolf frequenting Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier recreation area: "Since then the wolf, whom some refer to as Romeo, has been suspected in the disappearance of a beagle and a Pomeranian, and he was photographed carrying someone's pug last year. Whether he harmed the first two dogs is debated, and some said he was baited in the incident of the pug, who survived." Read the full article.
  • In reference to Maggie's socialization (the Anchorage elephant airlifted to California): "You do this slowly.... We don't want to overwhelm her or make her feel pressured." Read the full article.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fond farewell to the funkhouse

I will soon be moving out of the funkhouse (a.k.a. the bunkhouse, the duplex or the house of bunk). "Why do they call it the funkhouse?" you might ask. Well, for starters, there are the voices you hear when no one is around. Or the doors slamming upstairs or water running when there's no one there. Or any other sort of strange happenings observed by almost everyone who has stayed there. (Trevor, you and your wife would love it!) Never mind that it is also next door to the National Cemetary, the most popular suicide spot in town.

Other than the strange happenings, the bunkhouse has been the perfect residence during my stay in Sitka. Set up as seasonal housing for Forest Service personnel, it has been mine and mine alone since September (which means I actually received my phone messages since then). It's easy to walk to everything and has all the amenities (sans internet and long distance).

Although the Forest Service was supposed to supply kitchen utensils (like glasses) and shared household items (such as toilet paper and light bulbs), they never quite got around to doing so. I'd been asking for drinking glasses since my July arrival without success. Now, 8 months later and just in time for my departure, I hear someone has located some cups (there is a literal warehouse full of all sorts of kitchen stuff) and is planning to bring them by any month now, I'm sure. Our government in action!

As of March 3, I begin my move to live with Robin in Glacier Bay National Park, housing unit 9B. Despite being only 90 miles from Sitka, the move is much more involved than my original move to Alaska. I will load up my Jeep and put it and me on the ferry to Juneau. From there, I take the Jeep to a barge for its transport to Gustavus and then I go to the airport for a flight to Gustavus.

Find out more about Glacier Bay National Park and the booming metropolis of Gustavus, home to one pizza shop, one liquor store, multiple moose and one interesting golf course!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day Story

A man leaves his nice, comfy life and job in Florida and roadtrips across the country to a job in a remote Alaskan location. All his friends think he's crazy and can't understand why he is leaving such a good situation. He can't explain it, but knows he needs to return to Alaska.

A woman leaves her nice, comfy life in Colorado and roadtrips across the west to an unknown volunteer job in an unknown Alaska. All her friends think she's crazy, but they are happy she's headed to Alaska and not a Peace Corps stint in Azerbaijan. She knows she needs to go.

When the woman pulls up to the ferry terminal in Bellingham, WA (which is really in Fairhaven, by the way) to get her ticket, the man who left his nice, comfy life and job in Florida offers to take her picture for her. He takes her picture and starts talking about how he's headed to work at some place with a weird name (Gustavus). The two continue their conversation.

Serendipitously, they are on the same ferry. The conversation continues for three more days. Up through Ketchikan. Through Wrangell. Then Petersburg. The couple part in Sitka, where the woman goes off to her unknown adventure and the man continues his journey to the remote location. The woman promises to give the man her phone number, as soon as she can find out what it is (a premonition of what it's like to deal with the Forest Circus, perhaps).

The man and woman pick up the conversation over the telephone ... and the rest is history.

Here's to many, many more conversations!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snail mail to Hoonah

Currently, it is taking at least 10 delivery days for mail to get to Hoonah, a town a mere 50 some air miles from Sitka, or around 130 sea miles. This is because flights in and out of Hoonah have been erratic due the nasty weather the last 2 - 3 weeks.

People are requesting that if you send hard copy mail to Hoonah and you expect any kind of timely response, they recommend sending a fax or email instead.

To get to Hoonah, you must either fly or drive because there are no roads in or out. Somehow, there seem to be a high number of registered sex offenders (10) living in Hoonah, population 860. The ratio of number of residents in Hoonah to the number of sex offenders is 75 to 1. But don't let that stop you ... I hear it's a pretty cool town. Find out more about Hoonah.

Google actually gives great directions for getting there from Sitka:
  • Head north on Lake St toward Sawmill Creek Blvd 164 ft 2. Slight left at Halibut Point Rd. Turn left 325 ft.
    5.3 mi 18 mins. (like if you're walking -- it's really like 8).
  • Take the Alaska Marine Hwy/Sitka-Angoon Fry ferry to Angoon
    79.2 mi 3 hours 59 mins.
  • Take the Alaska Marine Hwy/Angoon-Hoonah Fry ferry to Hoonah
    70.1 mi 3 hours 13 mins 6.
  • Continue straight 141 ft.
  • Turn right at Cannery Rd 0.1 mi
  • Continue on Front St
    0.6 mi 2 mins

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Today's muskeg message

On the radio today:

The Harbor Master would like everyone to check their boat to make sure that the heavy snow load is not sinking it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What Robin actually does

Robin works for the National Park Service and is Utilities Supervisor. Right now, he's doing a lot of snow removal (over 3.5 feet of snow the past few days!). See pictures of Robin working and Karen (sorta) working.

Sometimes, he's taking care of the water treatment plant, checking on generators, rehabbing/remodeling interiors of buildings, doing building or mechanical repairs, unloading a barge -- you just never know.

Typically, he has the usual, unpredictable, crazy Alaskan days, too. For example, instead of sitting down at the desk for a couple of hours to knock out a project plan or place a supply order as he planned, he ends up spending half the day evicting a family of marmots. (Really -- a family of marmots had moved in under one of the buildings. They were stinking up the place and causing damage so he had to hunt them down, clear them out and secure the perimeter.)

Other times, he could be going up bay to work on a fuel barge or floating cabin or driving a boat around. (You can see some of those pictures here.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

What I actually do

Many of you have inquired about what I actually do besides enjoy great scenery, play on the trail and go out in boats (all part of my on-the-job training to know the region and my customers).

I am working for SEAtrails, Southeast Alaska Trail System, a non-profit group devoted to the "planning, promotion, maintenance and construction of a region-wide, Southeast Alaska trail system." We create useful information (like trail maps), help get money for trail improvement projects (like installing a sturdy foot bridge over a stream) and provide information on communities and services so people can come and enjoy this great area. The goal is to create more jobs in the region, more $ for businesses in each community, improve transportation and improve the quality of life.

Some of what I've done so far include presenting to different groups about what SEAtrails does, writing a lot of stuff (brochures, articles, press releases, web content, presentations), coordinating meetings and all sorts of weird tasks too numerous to list. My focus for the next 6 months is to get money for SEAtrails by applying for grants, finding investors, working on a paid membership program, writing articles and other content and doing a myriad of other things necessary to keep a non-profit in business.

This is all part of my AmeriCorps VISTA assignment, a sort of "American Peace Corps" where you serve as a volunteer for one year on a project to help prevent or alleviate poverty.