Ahhhhlaska June 2018

Los Alamos asked me to go up to Fairbanks to help represent the lab for the DOE National Lab Day. When purchasing tickets, I found it was only an extra $20 to go up a few days early and spend the weekend in Juneau. It was a fantastic visit in all ways except two – Carrie, Torsten, and Aven didn’t also come, and I didn’t get to see everyone that I’d wanted to reconnect with.

Western Scenery
I love the shadow from the spire
Western Scenery

I always love flying across the Western United States on a clear day – looking out over beautiful geology and scenery is a great way to think about deep time and reconnect with the beauty of the planet. I got to Seattle and managed to squeeze in a nice lunch and catch-up with Ben – bonus and a great start to the trip! (And it was Seattle, so we had to find a Starbucks logo..)

Ben and Matt, posing with coffee after lunch

I got into Juneau and met Chip at the airport. After a brief settling in, we went over to Hot Bites for some chow – fish and chips and an Atomic Fireball Shake at the Hot Bite!! YEAH! We caught up with Sherry and plans started clarifying.

Hot Bite! Atomic Fireball milkshake, halibut, and chips

There was a whale watching fundraiser (for the Alaska Society for Marine Mammalogy Student Chapter) so Chip and I went out – nice small boat and WOW, what a welcome to Juneau. We went out to Favorite Reef in some clouds and drizzle, but there were between one and two dozen orcas out scattered around. Young, older, and just swimming around. One younger orca even treated us to a quick spy hop. And there were a number of humpback whales around as well. Great crew – a bunch of science nerds and Juneautopians.

Orca
Humpback
Enjoying the Cruise

What a nice welcome! The next morning I caught up with the Kleins at GonZo (since GonZo doesn’t open until 9am, first I had to go by the valley Heritage coffee shop!). GonZo has amazing waffles for breakfast and it was so good to catch up with friends and see how Garret is growing up! From there it was down to Breeze Inn (ahh..) to pick up a sandwich and then go get a tour of the UAS marine bio research facility (thanks Sherry!). Sherry, a few folks from her research team, Chip, Missy, Adelie, and I then went out the road to do a hike out to Cowee Creek cabin. The waterfalls were all going off – a great sight for someone from the arid southwest and a great memory from living there!

Roadside waterfalls

Then we stopped to watch another humpback swimming around Sunshine Cove! Great drive out. The hike was a bit wet, but most of us had all the right gear (a few folks had to put up with wet feet..). Laura Hosey was part of a group staying at the cabin (great to see friends all over the area!!) and we did the hike out to the south end of Berner’s Bay and sat down to have lunch on the big beach log there. I saw bald eagles in the trees and then.. we saw a brown bear just down the beach!! I think Sherry had the fancy camera to get a few good photos, but she hasn’t shared those yet.. We decided not to hike around Point Bridget (in the direction of the bear) to go over to Blue Mussel, but had a wonderful hike out (and saw a porcupine on the way out!).

Trail selfie

 

Sherry and Matt, lunch and catching up on the beach log, just before we saw the bear
there is a bear – just about centered horizontally, on the grass near the tree line

What another fantastic power-Juneau day, but not over yet! First I had to go wander around by the Mendenhall Visitor’s Center, just in case the visit got away from me – change is obvious, especially looking at the pictures from when we first moved up there in 2004!)

Mendenhall Glacier from Photo Point, June 2018
Mendenhall, Matt, and Torsten, 2006

Definitely not the same angle, so hard to compare – but the change in Torsten is obvious! 😉

I went downtown to meet a few friends for dinner, but first, before dinner, walking around downtown Juneautopia, I ran into Adrienne and Ganesha – a good catch up over some good Heritage coffee. (And got some scoop from Adrienne on her work at the brewery – there’s more on this great Juneau afternoon interview! ) Then I went over and met Cathy (Tide), Brian, Cathy (Connor), and Rod for dinner at Deckhand Daves (yum!!!) and more good catching up. Then we went up to The Narrows – fancy, fancy and not the Juneau I remember! What a hip spot! Then it was getting late and time to hit the sack.

Another day, another adventure. boating, crabbing, or hiking were all options, but the water and weather weren’t especially promising. The crabbing got delayed, and the boaters were sleeping in, so I went to Breeze Inn (yum!) and then went out West Glacier trail – what a change! There is much more traffic out that way – the trail is in great shape. And the access is a bit of scrambling, but really good to get back around. The early part of the hike is the familiar lovely rainforest.

West Glacier rainforest hike

I didn’t go all the way over to it, but it was great to see the old seamonster glacier front weather station and camera location! It has changed – much greener!

Old seamonster weather station and video site

Then I hiked on up to the ice – it was amazing to seeing the changes. The glacier is almost out of the lake…

Here is the strava route – downloadable gpx if you really want.

After a good Mendenhall adventure, I caught up with Chip and Missy a bit more and then went back downtown, first for some tea and more catching up with Cathy and Rod. I stopped by Alaska Robotics (sad/great postcard “Mendenhall Glacier – it used to be bigger”) and then went over and enjoyed some fantastic salmon with Eran, Sonia, and the girls. More catching up with Chip and Missy then time to hit the hay. An early morning airport departure from Juneau and … on to Fairadise!

Alaska Robotics postcard

Monday was beautiful – I decided I definitely needed a bike for the week, so went over to Alaska Canoe to rent a Kona Wu fatbike. (Goldstream doesn’t start renting until June 1, the UAF Green bikes was closed, and Beaver Sports doesn’t rent bikes..). After getting the bike, I explored some trails, went by Hoodoo (they were closed..) then went out around Goldstream Valley (ran into friends, Dave and ) buying a new bike. I went on by Ivory Jacks to pick up some beer to take over to dinner at Bob and Rachel’s – fantastic food and catching up with friends! And then a bike ride over Goldstream back to Don & Anne’s for a good sleep..  Here’s the strava link for D/A’s to B/R’s – the long way (and via Hoodoo).

It was time for Lab Days to kick off. It was a good event, with lots of good presentations from all the involved folks – policy/legislation (Sen. Murkowski), the labs (14 lab leaders on a big panel about “What is a lab?”) and then the best panel ever (I co-chaired it with Bob McCoy), UAF faculty and administrators, native corporations, locals, Alaskan small businesses.. (And, during a lunch break, the best lab booths ever!! Cathy Wilson and I were working the table and had good discussion with several UAF folks and a few small business people. No pictures…) Lab Days was fun, there were friends from other labs and also out from DC (great to finally catch up with Chris in Alaska – we talked about trying to do that the whole time we were at OSTP together!) who were all good to catch up with, along with all the UAF friends.

After all the Lab Days fun, we did go out to the Army Corps/CREL Permafrost Tunnel – a really amazing look at what permafrost really looks like below and why, as it melts, there is some much collapse of the land around Fairbanks. It is large ice wedges and lots of silt – not much structural integrity in that!

Cathy Wilson, appreciating permafrost

Permafrost Tunnel Tour

 

After a fantastic dinner/reception and catching up with UAF folks, I ran by and got to catch up w/ a few Talus types – no Peter, but great to see Sara and the kids!!!

How did it get to be Friday already?!?! I had a few UAF meetings to follow up on Lab Days, but got those all taken care of in the morning, so I took the afternoon and did a bike ride around Goldstream, “lunch” at Ivory Jacks, then on up Murphy dome. I found snow (June 1, biking on snow – success!!!!) and some Aven flowers popping up – wahoo!! Lots of fun, some scattered rain (but nothing bad), plenty of good bike leans (below) and I got back to Don & Anne’s house for a fantastic dinner and catch up with Martin, Dana, Don, Anne, Curt, Alice, Bob, and families. Fun to see everyone!

Equinox trail fatbike lean
Ballaine Vet Clinic Fat bike lean
Lunch of Champions – at Ivory Jacks
Murphy Dome clouds in the background

Snow biking in June! YES!

We don’t need no stinking trail where we are gong!
An Aven popping up!

Finally, ready to be home but also sad to leave – what a fantastic week! It is 1 am on Saturday morning and time to liftoff.. Thank you for a real good time!

1am, flying out of Fairadise

Exploring Talus Canyon

Based on a posting to the Los Alamos Mountaineers about Talus Canyon, we had to go explore. Just past Abiqui, at a pull out we’ve driven past may times, we discovered a fun trail and area to explore!

We were all happy to explore the geology, great scrambling, erosional features, lizards, and solitude of the southern end of Ghost Ranch. We recommend stopping here on your way through – or as a destination on its own!

Geology!



Scrambling

Climbing





And a little silly…


And a few photogenic moments as well!



It was pretty warm and very dry – not a drop to drink in the stream beds!

At least we did find some nice shade every now and then:

And there were a few flowers along the route:


And I recorded a Strava log..

Iceland Adventures – Spring Break 2017


We were looking for a Spring Break adventure for our last spring living on the East Coast.  After looking at several options, we’ found two free tickets, and one cheap mileage ticket on Iceland Air through their partnership with Alaska Airlines.  It was less expensive than going back to New Mexico!  We got recommendations from Jessica, played with different options (road warrior tour around ring road / the whole island?) – we decided to explore the area around Reykjavik and keep our plans loose.  We had a hotel reservation in Reykjavik the first night, a rental car reserved, but otherwise used airBnB and followed our nose (and the Lonely Planet guidebook).  We had a fantastic visit!  First, here’s a map showing some of the spots we visited.  We want to get back to explore more, but again – it was a perfect (first) visit.

  

We had a direct flight from Dulles (~8pm) to Keflavik (~7am).  We picked up bags, cleared customs, picked up the rental car, and hit the road – first to breakfast in Keflavik.  Then we drove around the Southwest corner of Iceland, went by the Blue Lagoon briefly (but it was booked solid), explored the geology, and then went to Hafnarfjordur for lunch (at the Bike Cave) and then to the public pool for a soak – this was perfect!


One fun stop was at Midlina, where the North American and European techtonic plates meet – we enjoyed a quick hike and exploration there:



We went over and met Tolly for dinner – it was a fantastic reunion with a friend from Fairbanks / grad school!  It was so good to catch up, and over a delicious, home cooked salmon dinner!!!

What a fantastic first day!

On day two, we ran a few errands (car snacks, warm rain gear for the kids, …) and saw a few highlights of Reykjavik-the Saga Museum was a great history and we enjoyed dressing up:


We loved visiting The Living Art Museum in the Marshall House.

 
From Reykjavik we went East – our first stop was at Laugarvatn Fontana – an amazing resort hot springs on the side of the lake.  We all enjoyed the soak and the meal.  Aven & Matt jumped in (and quickly got out of!) the lake.

   

Next, we went to the AirBnB provided house – with a perfect cubby/attic/bed for the kids.  It was so comfortable to explore the farms in the area, Geysir, and more hot springs.

 

We fell in love with the Efstidalur farm – fresh ice cream, lots of animals, friendly people, fun pets (parrots!) – we visited several times!!  I’m a little surprised that Aven isn’t still there at the farm!

  

We went out to Geysir (the one from which all others are named?) – it was a fun visit and Aven and Matt walked around so they got drenched – it was one of many fun moments!  We continued our tour of rivers, waterfalls (both Gullfoss and Seljalandsfoss), more hot springs (Secret Lagoon hot spring in Flúðir), and our final evening was at an (airBnB) farm stay with a horse ride!  


We visited Sólheimajökull which really reminded us of Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau – ah, fond memories.

 
We went to Vik and as soon as we turned the corner we were in a blizzard and a taste of winter weather.  We stopped for lunch and turned around.


We had so much fun getting a small taste of Iceland.  We definitely want to go back for more!!

Heavner roots in Iceland??

After we landed in Keflavik (near Reykjavik), our first stop was at Hafnir.

The sign struck my fancy:

But upon returning, I became even more curious. There are some ruins of a settlement at Hafnir that date to between 770 and 880 – the earliest indication of settlers in Iceland. See the 2011 article at the Iceland Review.

Hafnir was also quite close to the bridge over the North American and European continents, so we enjoyed exploring that geological rift. A tiny bit more info is at this page.

Uncle Ron – have you run into any Hafnir’s in the family ancestry??

Ten toes, all attached (or, I get by with a little bit (LOT) of help from my friends)

Last Sunday, I got the message that I was off the waitlist and into the White Mountains 100 race. This is one of my favorite events in one of my favorite places. I took a look at the weather and found a mileage plane ticket up for less than $20. I check with Carrie who said go for it (awesome!!) and how could I refuse. Don/Anne offered up a place to stay and car to borrow, Bob offered the use of his bike (same one I used for the last two WM100 rides). It was all coming together. I was most worried about my lack of cold weather acclimation. (Adam gave the good advice – come back with 10 toes, all attached and working.) I got everything together, enjoyed the flight up, got a pick up from the airport from Curt and then gathered fuel and chemical warming packs (along with special heat foot liners, etc). I was as ready as I was going to get (without shelling out significant $$ for fancy footwear, etc.). Here I am lined up for the start (it was around 5F, I think):

The start was festival, everyone staying warm and rarin’ to go. Just to prove that I am not the only crazy psyched-up person at the race (I’m in the background right of this photo):

You can see that I was proudly representing the Tarik Saleh bike club (zoom in on the handlebars if you can’t see it):

The trail was great, the sunrise and then blue skies were fantastic, and I love seeing everyone out there ready to enjoy the White Mountains. I felt great, adjusting (removing) layers — except my feet were getting chilly. I stopped, put in some chemical warmers, threw on gators/layers, which helped, but not for long. I enjoyed the ride but was beginning to worry. The challenge is that the true requirement to finish the race is mental, so I couldn’t let myself start worrying too much. But I also did not want to loose any toes. The scenery was beautiful but as I got closer to the first check point (~17 miles in) my feet were too cold for so early in the race – I was already reaching into my bag of warm tricks. And with my pace, I was looking at the lowest elevation overnight – potentially -30F. If I were out on my own, I would have turned back. I was happy to see Bob, Jill, Patrik, Larry, and Michael at checkpoint 1 – I put on my heavy over-boots and warmed up my feet for almost an hour. My feet were warm to the touch, but I could not feel a few of my right toes. The temperature was still rising (it was about noon now, and my mental plan was to charge on through checkpoint 1 at about 10am..) I went back about half a mile to the cabin, put a new log in the fire, and decided to give it more time. After almost another hour, I decided that I would try riding out on my own, so as the checkpoint crew came to eat lunch and pack up the cabin, I went out.

Here is where the story takes a (very minor) “bad decision tree” (ala the Mountaineers disaster stories). A large group of snow machiners had come by after the race was all through and tore up the trail – I cruised along, let out more and more air of the tires, and was eventually pushing the bike back up the hill towards the start line/exit. Was I in that bad of shape and didn’t realize it? I didn’t think so.. Then along came Jeff, Greg, and Josh – they said the trail was torn up for a long while, and I should turn and follow them on the short cut across to the trail shelter cabin – much better riding and just a bit longer back to the start. Who am I to think for myself and ignore Jeff?? (not just any Jeff.. this Jeff). And the checkpoint 1 crew would be coming over to the trail shelter cabin to setup the final (optional) checkpoint for the racers. It made total sense. Anyway, after a mile or two down the Trail Shelter cutoff, I started realizing the bad decision – the race support didn’t know my plans.. They did have my GPS spot tracking at least, but what would they make of it? And perhaps the checkpoint 1 crew would go the “long way” over to the the trail shelter – my original path, to keep an eye on me. Well, I was quite relieved when Patrik (from checkpoint 1) caught up with me!! We loaded up my bike, I hopped on the snow machine, and I thanked him for getting me out of a potentially bad spot/situation. It was all fine, but one or two minor/”reasonable at the time” decisions could have been worse. We cruised along over to the trail shelter cabin and I tried to be helpful in setting up the final check point / support station. We cheered the race front runners coming through. Bob and Larry came over – they had gone the other way, but they were getting low on gas and wanted to meet up with the race sweep/snow machine to refill (and I suspect also keep an eye on me). A little unnecessary drama that all turned out fine (phew). After help Susan and Amanda get all set with the Trail Shelter, Bob, Larry, Patrik and I went on to the start. A few minor trail adventures, including digging snow machines out of the deep off-trail snow, and we were back. I enjoyed a finisher burger and some HooDoo IPA and was happy to see several folks cross the finish line. It was not the day I expected or planned, but it was still a fantastic day in the White Mountains.

I am very appreciated of all the support – Carrie, Fairbanks friends, WM100 staff and volunteers, all the racers, and Adam (for good advice).

I went out to Chena Hot Springs for the healing waters. Ahhhh

And in case you wonder – my feet have no black (or even white) spots. (Three years ago, I had black on the tips of my toes and lost ~3mm off my big toe – likely part of the reason I was more susceptible this year..). It still feels like I have a small rock embedded in two of my toes – I don’t really have feeling back yet in them, but I’ll take good care of them (more hot springs!). I’ve enjoyed catching up with many Fairbanks folks (but I’m sorry I missed so many more!!).

And a final thought from lots of time on the bike seat to think it over – it is often hard to know if you made the right decision but it can be immediately obvious if you made the wrong decision. I didn’t lose any toes and I think that I made mostly all the right decisions.

The Role of Science or Churchill “complained to a friend of having to draft the budget instead of reading a book on quantum physics”

In a fun coincidence, I just caught up on these NYT and Nature articles about some writing from Winston Churchill on alien life and more generally Churchill’s interest in science. I love the quote from the NYT piece that Churchill “complained to a friend of having to draft the budget instead of reading a book on quantum physics.”

But what makes this really sweet – we’ve recently been on a Doctor Who kick. We started with Season 5 (the internet told me that was a good one to get kids hooked, so far, that’s been true). The third episode of season 5 features…. Winston Churchill!

Extra, extra bonus? After the daleks make the first appearance in season 5, episode 3.. We went to the Lego Batman movie and both kids loved the daleks! (just like the kid in this youtube clip)

What fun!

A weekend on Heavener Mountain and in the National Radio Quiet Zone

We had a great weekend visit to Harrisonburg and West Virginia. First we went to the Massanutten Water Park (instead of the ski area, with not much snow around – they claimed 16″). We all had an experience that exceeded our expectations – we may have to go back sometime! Torsten and Aven loved the water slides and all the fun and activities (so did Carrie & I).

The next day we first hiked up Heavener Mountain (all of 2,837 ft elevation – that’s an East Coast mountain). We had some fun driving that reminded us of out West.

Next we went to Green Bank Observatory. We highly recommend a visit. We loved the tour around all the radio telescopes, the hands on science center, our tour guide, and the whole experience. Even the logo was great: “The Universe is Whispering”

The whole weekend we were in the National Radio Quiet Zone, which is fascinating in its own – here are a few links about it:

Two photos from the Green Bank Observatory learning center:


A few more photos from the Heavener Mountain ascent:




Spooky 2015

We always love Halloween! We started with Dave’s week-before great halloween party with an amazing haunted house and lots of great costumes. Thanks so much to Erin and Albert for taking great pictures and sharing them through their online photo gallery.

Torsten’s costume sent shivers through every adult, and he’s ready for some “Refile or Treat”-ing!

Divide and Conquer

Or, a weekend apart..

Carrie and Aven went up for James’ wedding and got to catch up with the Morawski/Talus side of the family. Torsten and I were left to our own devices so decided to have some fun before the end of summer. Torsten came in to work with me on Friday

From there we went out to Western Maryland to spend some fantastic time on the Chaney farm. We had way too much fun, enjoyed catching up with a small part of the family out there, and even helped a bit with the final hay-making (Torsten was proud to get the wrap on the final bail of the 2015 hay making season). Here are a few of our favorite photos, including trips into Pennsylvania to visit the Merle’s cabin, some fantastic ice cream at the Road Kill Cafe (the ice cream place had a separate name.), organ playing (Torsten loved the organ!), a fantastic sunset, and four wheeler fun around the farm.






HAY! and making hay!!





And then hitting hay!

After fantastic family hospitality and not enough time catching up (and not nearly enough four wheeler driving for Torsten!), we went on down to Seneca Rocks for some camping in West Virginia. After a great sunset on the rocks,


Torsten was ready to really hit the hay (in the tent..)


The next day we got some good hiking in around Seneca Rocks and stopped a few times on the drive home..


We missed Carrie and Aven, but had a great father/son weekend and enjoyed the farm and family!

Gone, Forgotten, Privacy?

We’ve really fallen into facebook. Even the t-h photo gallery is getting dusty. I’d like to control our family story and memories — I’m going to try and review both this, and the “rsblog.” I still struggle to find the balance, but I think having a “family blog” with photos (target audience: family) and a “geek blog” (target audience: geeks who run into the same challenges and are googling for solutions). I’m gonna dust ’em both off (having lots of geek fun, as Torsten begins to get into it, so then where does that stuff go? both blogs?) Maybe I need to master blog tags? Hmm.