Sunday, May 6, 2018

Thank You, Homer!

Each month my husband writes the Homer High School newsletter. Usually it is mundane school news, but this month, as our youngest child prepares to graduate, he got a bit more personal. Judging by the outpouring response to it, many other Homer parents feel the same way about raising their kids here. Thought I would share it here.



Normally I would write about all the great things Homer High students are doing and the cool events that are coming up. Instead, I want to let you know how grateful I am to the Homer community. We moved to the Homer area eleven years ago and it was the best decision we ever made. I say this because not only am I a principal of Homer High School, I am a parent and my youngest child is a member of the class of 2018 and will graduate in less than a month.

My children are a product of the Homer community. We have had so many great experiences raising them here. Events ranged from Bruins Basketball and taking art classes at Homer Council on the Arts to taking kayaking classes, HOWL and Boy Scouts. Our kids were inspired by participating in Math Counts and even performed for Pier One Theatre.

We have great memories with Homer Community Recreation, especially with Fuzzy and rock climbing. All through Middle School our kids lived at the rock wall. We even spent time across the bay climbing Kachemak Crack. We have missed Fuzzy since he passed away.

In High School our kids were able to play varsity sports and be a part of National Honor Society and Ocean Bowl. Most importantly, they were inspired by a great staff. They were awoken to the world of science by Mr. Rife and were challenged to think critically by Mr. Campbell. Mrs. Borland pushed their limits studying history and Ms. Tetor helped them fall in love with ceramics. There are too many influential adults, teachers, coaches and community members who positively affected our children's lives to list here.

They were able to give back by helping teach kids to ski in remote villages as part of Skiku, encourage children to get excited about sea life through providing tide pool walks for elementary children at Peterson Bay and help present Native summer camps in the Aleutian Islands. I am totally envious that my daughter got to deckhand on the Tiglax for a couple weeks one summer with Youth Conservation Corp (YCC). It is crazy to me the number of opportunities there are in Homer for our youth. It is like we woke up one day and hit the parenting jackpot.

Both of my kids worked hard and are going to college to become engineers and I couldn't be prouder of them. They have both earned awards, excelled at school and enjoyed sports, but it wouldn't have played out the way it did anywhere else in the world but Homer. In fact, our kids are mad at us that we didn't move to Homer sooner. In their hearts they are Alaskans.

It truly does take a village to raise a child and my children are an example of that. I am truly grateful for what the Homer area has provided for my family and I hope I can give a piece of that back to future graduates as Principal of Homer High School.

Thank you, Homer!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Signs of Spring

"Did you hear the cranes?"

"Yes! I saw two of them in my yard last night!"

"A flock of them flew over earlier today."

"There's a momma moose and little one outside."

"I think that momma is pregnant and has been trying to run her young 'un away."

"Yeah, I've had one hanging out in my back yard this week."

"I've seen at least a couple moose every day this week!"

These are conversations of spring in Homer. There's some anticipation of the first cranes arriving and a buzz when they come in, advertising their presence with their echoing squanks overhead.  Only in Homer is there a video of sandhill cranes in the pre-movie show. 

The moose that have been hiding all winter have come out, munching on the fresh green grass that has been sprouting and sticking to the highly populated areas of town and protection from bear.  Now the waiting game becomes watching to see when last year's babies are run off as the momma's anticipate their newborns and the breathless hope of seeing the little moose freshly born tottering around on their little stilted legs.

The sound of cranes and the sight of moose around town are unique signs of spring in Homer.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

February Sunset

Every spring feels like waking up from hibernation--despite best attempts at warding off seasonal affective disorder. I recall asking my cousins and aunt how they survived the winters when we visited Alaska three years before moving here, as that was my biggest reason for not wanting to live in Alaska.  They said you need to exercise and take care of yourself and get outside every day. Now I know that's not enough as even getting out in the middle of a sunny day in the winter doesn't provide much benefit besides the mood lift, as there is rarely enough skin showing to provide vitamin D.  Taking a vitamin D supplement helps, but for me doesn't completely take away that slight dulling of the senses.  Our local joke is "everyone goes nuts in February and March" when we start getting our daylight back. If some local issue is going to blow up, likely it will be during those months.

With that context, this Valentine's Day sunset behind the Seafarer's Memorial on the Homer Spit was a sweet treat--a gem that we really appreciated after enjoying a special dinner at Land's End Resort.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Day Ski

After 4 years of amazingly warm winter weather, this winter has been a "real winter" and I have skied more this winter than the past 4 years combined. To top it off, we have the special treat of spring skiing.  With nights below freezing and days above freezing, the temperatures are perfect for "crust skiing"--the glorious activity of just heading out cross-country, off-trail, with perfect snow conditions everywhere! 

Easter Sunday I got out late--about 1:00--so the crust was just starting to get too soft to ski (breaking through the crust) so I had to stick to the trails. But with all the new trails at the McNeil Trail System this year, this is amazing!  The Homer Ski Marathon (25k & 42k) and the Homer Epic (50k, 100k and 150k) races both utilized this trail system this year so grooming has been extensive, winding up, down and around the hills and muskegs. I have always appreciated this little town having 70k plus of impeccably groomed XC ski trails, but with the additional trails offering wide, sweeping panoramas of the Kenai Mountain Range, and a feeling of being on top of the world, the trails at McNeil are now irresistible.  Oh, the portapotty at the school parking lot trail head helps too--also a new feature this year--since in the past it was a "find some bushes" situation.

The Homer Spit is a thin line in Kachemak Bay from the McNeil ski trails

Glorious views from the trails that serpentine higher and higher up the hills
The Easter Day ski was doubly delightful:  no hat, no gloves and no jacket! With temperatures in the mid-40's, it felt balmy, and the stiff breeze was welcomed.  Just a day later, on Monday, serious snow melt had happened and shrubs were started to poke through the snow on the trail. The groomers are likely done for the season, which is always a sad time to admit another ski season is nearly over.

On the same day of the glorious ski at McNeil, the 'bench' looks nearly bare of snow.
The harbor sits in anticipation of another busy season.
We know spring has arrived because the eagles are busily building nests, here, there and everywhere! This one is near the deep water dock off the spit. A high tide swept last year's nest off the metal platform.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Weird Weather the New Norm

It has been four years of above-average winter temperatures in Homer, with winters feeling like spring or fall, with the grays of those seasons more common than the white of winter. This year is the all-time record high temperatures since recording began in the early 1900's. We now know that the poles are warming faster than the equator, and the uncertainty around skiing has become the new norm:  the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club now puts TBA for many events--date and place dependent on snow, and rather than committing themselves to saying when and where it is going to happen, saying it will happen, snow dependent.

I've seen ice flows before--just random places where water seeps out of the ground and creates an icy patch on the trail, but this year, it seems like at the McNeil trails, which are dominated by boggy areas, there were many more ice flows than usual.  The groomers adjusted by just going way out of their way around it, where they could, creating a new groomed trail.

Water flows on the ski trails

More flows


Luckily it is not all like that!

Warming and thawing, which is the new norm in Homer it appears, is wreaking havoc on roads, which are just breaking apart, with giant potholes appearing seemingly overnight. On our road, the ditch has overflowed because of frozen culverts so instead of running under the road the flow is now all over the road, an icy, slushy mess that will continue to get worse till the borough gets out and thaws the culvert.

Temperatures in the 40's is now common, and while some folks like it, it also means that many times the precipitation is coming down when the temperatures are at freezing, creating insanely icy conditions. A few nights ago it was 24 degrees, but drizzling, turning the roads into random slick spots. Oh what fun! 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Big Shake!

The earthquake that shook Alaska early Tuesday morning was a very large shared event for folks in Homer, who got the double whammy of the quake, along with a tsunami warning. I had the good fortune of sleeping through the whole thing. I awoke Tuesday, turned on my light and wondered why all my dresser drawers were open. I was able to shrug it off, until my husband said, "The pool is closed--we had a big quake last night and school is delayed."  That got me awake quite quickly, and the rest of the day was a series of folks sharing "their experience".  Here's a few slices of experiences.

My husband was barely awake through the quake itself, and he rated it a 6.5 or 7.0 maybe, rather than the 7.9 it was rated at. What woke him up was the slew of texts and phone calls he started getting once the tsunami warning was put out. The high school is one of the "safe places" in Homer, along with the hospital, because it is 300 feet above sea level and just over a mile inland. Somewhere around 50-70 folks in the tsunami evacuation area came into the school (along with a variety of pets such as gerbils, hamsters, etc.), while others just parked in the parking lot. The assistant principal lives in the evacuation area so luckily she was in and unlocked the doors.

A co-worker of mine also lives in town. She said that when the tsunami tower went off it sounded like it was right in her living room. Then emergency vehicles drove up and down the streets sounding alerts to evacuate. Finally, the City of Homer Public Works evacuated their heavy equipment across town to the high school parking lot, since they are located by Beluga Slough and at virtually sea level and would get the brunt of a tsunami. All that was quite noisy, so even if one would want to fall back asleep there was plenty of action to keep one awake!

Another co-worker of mine lives 4 or 5 blocks below the hospital. She said lots of folks were walking up the hill to the hospital, the moose on one side of the street and the people on the other. The birds were going nuts like it was morning, and of course the dogs were adding to the chaos.  Some folks just drove to the top of the ridge that Homer rests on, which is about 1000 feet high.

The tsunami was called off sometime around 3:30 or 4:00, so folks could go home. At that point the school district decided to have a 2-hour delay for Homer schools so folks could get some sleep. Many people had a hard time getting back to sleep after that. We did end up getting a 1.5 to 2 foot tsunami, which would be slightly noticeable from other waves coming in, primarily by it's longer wavelength.

That day, folks were just very tired, and also a bit wound up. As I was getting dinner ready that evening, a series of 4 quakes within a minute shook the house a bit and light fixtures were swaying. Apparently there were dozens of aftershocks. Damage has been minimal. I did find a cracked wall at work, and some folks had things fall off their shelves and break, but for the most part it was not destructive. My husband said it was less scary than the last one last year, which had hard jolts that shook things violently, and which created much more damage even though it was a smaller magnitude.

I'm always a little relieved when we get quakes. I'd rather have the pressure relieved than have it build up. I'm not sure if my logic is solid or that's just wishful thinking, but I'll take that hopefulness!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hiking Carter Lake

Carter Lake, with a skim of ice on part of it
My husband's first weekend off in three months led us to a Cooper Landing getaway last weekend. The weather was outstanding for hiking: in the 30's and 40's so things were mostly frozen and not mucky from our months of rain, and comfortable for hiking. We hadn't hiked the Carter Lake Trail a few miles south of the Seward Y on the Seward Highway, about 10 miles from Cooper Landing, for many years so we decided to check it out.  It was a good choice; the hour-long uphill trek got us warmed up, but it wasn't so steep we were sweating. A light crust of snow at higher elevations made traction good. We made it to Carter Lake in an hour, though did not press on to Crescent Lake and the Crescent Creek Trail, which may have been possible at this time of year. Many times the trail through is overgrown with grass.  Here's a photo journal of our hike.

Cat tracks in the snow....likely lynx. We saw 3 ptarmigan on the hike up to the lake,
 and saw them again on the way back down


I'm a sucker for pictures of bridges. Maybe because I love what they do for me (dry feet!)

Mid-range trail, right at snow line (the snow quite literally starts at one spot)

The lower trail--below snow-line and looking like fall