Saturday, December 10, 2011

Music Camp

Music Camp this year was a huge success as usual.  Much thanks to Belle and the Dancing With The Spirit staff!

For a week music filled the halls and classrooms of Arctic Village School.  Students from 1st grade through 12th grade chose fiddle, acoustic guitar, or bass guitar and made wonderful melodies.  Not only did we play lots of Christmas Carols, but traditional bluegrass fiddle music to.  We were honored to have Fred Weiss as part of the DWTS staff this year.  Fred is an accomplished musician hailing from Fairbanks, AK.  And the kids really enjoyed slapping it on his electric bass.

For more information on Dancing With The Spirit, check out their website.

For loads of great photographs, check out my school website.

Music Camp: "Gwich'in Princess"

As part of Dancing With The Spirit staff this year Belle invited Wilbert Kendi.  Hailing from the other side of the Gwich’in Nation, across the Canadian border.  Wilbert is from Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories. In the video, students perform one of Wilbert's songs, “Gwich’in Princess”.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Beth's Visit to Arctic Village

My sister who lives in Colorado came up to Arctic Village this week for Thanksgiving.  She experienced the coldest temps she has ever been in (-35), flew in a small plane for the first time, got to ride a snow machine for the first time, ski joured for the first time and ate caribou for the first time!  We had a fun filled week!  I am so glad she got to come see first hand where we live.  Stories and pictures just can't explain it all.

 Check out this video of Beth's visit.

So who will be the next to come visit?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chasing Turkey

In typical Alaska tradition, we went for a before Thanksgiving ski.  If I were in South Central Alaska I would probably be out backcountry skiing with Matt Johnson.  Since moving deep into the interior we went for a cross country tour of Arctic Village. 
Beth and Gretchen all smiles despite -15 temps.
Scott, a fellow Yukon Flats teacher from Venetie, came to visit for the long weekend.  This is his first winter cross country skiing and he's doing really well!
Beth tries her hand at ski jouring with Jack.

Jack getting some stoke on the Chandalar River.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

School Thanksgiving

i'm thankful for my school

i'm thankful for my students

i'm thankful for what we've learned
 i'm thankful for the feast we prepared

i'm thankful for the feast we shared

i'm thankful for humility

i'm thankful for grace

i'm thankful for our leaders

i'm thankful for followers
 i'm thankful for sharing

i'm thankful for friendships

i'm thankful for knowledge
we all have so much to be thankful for

Tournament Favorites

Here are a couple of my favorite photographs hot off the camera from this weeks Yukon Flats Volleyball Tournament.  

I'm planning on doing a more in depth post, but wanted to share a few gems first.
The prelude to the main event was a traditional game called "stick-pull".  Rival students sit facing one another, feet touching, leaning forward grasping a stick.  The first person to let go of the stick loses.

The winning school keeps the stick until the following year.  Arctic Village won last year, so we brought the stick with us.  After a tough battle Beaver won and gained control of the stick.

After two long days of volleyball the festivities ended with a fiddle dance.  Trimble one of the Traditional Chiefs for the region, and esteemed fiddle player took center stage.

Belle and her son Mike hosted a Dancing With the Spirit music camp run alongside the volleyball tournament.  You might recognize them from last years post, Music Camp.

Stay tuned for more photos and stories from this fun filled field trip. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Ride

Saturday morning we awoke to crystal blue skies and crisp cold weather.  Overnight lows dropped to -10.  Noonday sunshine brought the temperature to about 0.  I decided to warm up my “snow-go” and check out how the winter trails were shaping up.  Locals have been setting wood trails with snow machines for about three weeks now.  I found no one has ridden on the river or large bodies of water yet, but frozen boggy areas and the tundra are filling in nicely with snow.
At $10 a gallon, throttle therapy can be a pricey affair.  Weather forecasts are calling for more snow this week, and within a few weeks the large lakes should be solid all the way across.  Rumor has it Caribou are within sight of the village, but I didn’t see any signs of the herd.

More Skiing with the Kids

We have been busy! I went skiing almost every day last week.  The kids love taking turns ski jouring with Jack.


Sam took some of this video while following us on the snow machine and I took some of it while skiing alongside the kids.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Skiing with the Kids

Arctic Village Ski Team
Conditions have been fantastic to get out and ski in Arctic this fall.  I dug out a bunch of skis, found boots that fit the bindings on the skis and now we are ready to go.

 And they're off! The kids ski without poles because we don't have any, but actually it has really helped them develop great balance. They all remembered what they learned last year and our first two days out went really well.

As we get spread out, I look around to see how everyone is doing.

I am trying to explain to the kids that we need to spread out so that we can herringbone up the hill.  
We were all sliding backwards as a group!

On the road the snow is packed by snow machines, but as soon as you get off the road you are all on your own!

Jack pulled me with two kids in tow!  

We rigged up another harness so that Caesar could pull too. 
He did pretty well as long as he had Jack to chase.

More to follow......

Saturday, October 8, 2011

From Fall to Winter - Anaktuvuk Pass

Recently, I got to spend a few days in Anaktuvuk Pass for work.  The flight up to AKP was like jumping straight from fall to winter.  We left Fairbanks, full of fall colors.....

And flew into snow covered peaks....

After a busy day of visits, we enjoyed an amazing sunset.  It was the kind of view that makes you take a deep breath and stand in awe.

The snow only comes half way down the mountains now, but by the time I go back in a few months I'm sure it will be on the ground!

A lot of people ask, "how can you fly in small planes all the time?"  My response is that you are more likely to die in a car wreck than a small plane, and I would rather be in a plane because I get to see this..


I left the sound on the video, so that you can get the full effect of what it is like riding around in a grand caravan over the Brooks Range.  I did speed up the video a little though, Caravans don't fly that fast!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Castner Glacier Hike

Thanks to the Yukon Flats School District bringing us into town for an inservice- we were able to take off for the weekend on a hike.  So Saturday morning we raced down the Richardson Highway with the Fall colors in full bloom and sprinkling rain showers.  Our destination, the Delta Mountains of the Eastern Alaska Range.  This is an area I really haven't explored at all, except from the drivers seat racing down the highway at 70mph coming or going between Anchorage and Fairbanks...

The Castner Glacier is easily accessible from the highway just South of the Black Rapids camp.  Within a mile of the truck we were upon this expansive chunk of ice nearly totally covered in rock, scree, mud, and a mix of tundra like vegetation.  

Enjoy the video!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Anniversary Hike

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!  And for us, Happy 6th Anniversary.  We celebrated the occasion with another great hike from the village.  I have never lived so close to the backcountry before.  It's amazing to literally walk out your back door and into the woods.  There are no cars, no parking lots, no entrance fees, and most importantly, no holiday weekend crowds.

This trip originally began as a traverse of the Phillip Smith Mountains, summiting Misty Mountain and ending up in the Junjik  River valley.  After a late start Saturday morning and limited capacity for two people in one packraft, plans changed.  I was inspired by Roman Dials trips with his wife sharing a packraft together.  After two minutes in our boat we quickly realized Roman and his wife must be a tad shorter then us...  The hike would have been about 30 miles hiking across one pass and 45 miles floating two rivers.  Upon reaching the far shore of the Chandalar River we quickly set our sights upon the craggy Under Cloud Mountain.  This peak has tempted me for the last year.  A spectacular rocky spine runs all the way up to the summit from the valley floor.  There are several approachable routes from the South and West via steep tundra slopes.  As we climbed the rain gradually turned to mist, eventually clearing for an awesome view of the Chandalar Valley from the summit.  We followed another ridge due West for at least another two miles before dropping into an adjacent valley for the night.  After sliding down a heinous scree chute we wound up in a peaceful meadow camp site.  We quickly pitched our tent and retreated from the rain.  Sunday morning greeted us with thick cloud cover, so we made the decision not to attempt any more nearby peaks, and began the slog back to the village.

In total we hiked 13 miles Saturday, and 10 miles Sunday.  On Saturday we traveled about 3/4 of a mile in the packraft, "ferrying" across the river.  Then Sunday we traveled almost 2.5 miles in the packraft, launching from up river of the village.

Check out the video of our adventure.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Paddle Mountain

Despite having lived in Arctic Village, my jaunts into the countryside have been limited.  Being overwhelmed as a first year teacher, I restricted travel to only a couple hours, usually just taking short hikes or ski excursions in close proximity to the school.  So Saturday when I was invited to climb one of the nearby peaks I jumped at the opportunity.

For the last two months three photographers from New York have been working in Arctic Village.  They came from a college on a grant to study, record, and capture the story of the Gwich'in people.  Through video interviews and photographs this professor and two students hopes to capture the essence of what its like to live North of the Arctic Circle.  As the professor briefly explained to me, its part of a life long project he's called "Polar Souls".  He's fascinated by communities living in such remote, sometimes inhospitable locations in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Sunday morning we shoved off the shore of the Chandalar River in two inflatible kayaks.   Our group of four paddled about 1.25 miles downriver.  We began our hike on the far shore.  The first and last three miles of the hike would become some of the hardest hiking I've ever done.  Forget steep inclines or hiking at elevation, crossing tundra tussocks was exhausting.   Totally draining the energy out of every muscle as you not only use legs, but core strength to balance on these floating islands of grass.  It was like walking on marbles.  And forget stepping inbetween the grass domes, some gaps were shallow, while others caused you to sink knee deep in freezing water or muck.

Our climb began on the slopes of Paddle Mountain.  We navigated towards a narrow ridge, eventually rising above scrub line and flanking around the main scree covered slopes of the massive mountain just west of Arctic Village.  Topping out at 4750ft, the vista provided new views North and West deep into the foot hills and larger peaks of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

We arrived back to the school boat ramp almost 12 hours after we had left.  The total hike covered 9.5 miles, and the total paddle was 2.5 miles.  Linda, our school Special Education greeted us with warm stew (thanks Linda)!
After an amazing day in the wilderness, we were blessed with a spectacular sunset.