One year ago last January was the start of this special project.
Four beaver pelts-three blankets and one super blanket-I arranged to buy from a pro trapper in the beautiful UP of Michigan. All were in their winter’s under ice prime, luxurious fur, all perfectly matching.
I had Brian send them straight to Excel Furs in NY. From first look to finished coat, Excel could not stop expressing appreciation for the quality and beauty of those furs. Some of the best they have seen, they kept saying, and they see a lot of fur from all over this country and Canada.
Excel took time to express especially the masterful handling of those furs by the trapper. They know when they see fur- caught, skinned, stretched, and treated just right -making the jobs of everyone else down the process line that much easier.
Thanks to Brian and his partner , those furs were off to a grand start in this wonderful project.
I designed the coat detail myself-a bolero style that can be worn indoors for dressy events,as well as functional in warmth for outside.
I have been in awe of the results of plucking the guard hair from beaver fur, and insisted that be done with these. I did not want them sheared, the natural thickness and length of the underfur was what I wanted.
Excel was just wonderful to work with and, once they had the detail down, were off and running.
They send beaver to be plucked to a special place, Tubari,Inc.,in New Jersey. This US company processes fur in this unique way of hand plucking beaver fur. Canada has two places that do this, in Winnipeg and Montreal. I was informed about this extremely specialized work that many do not even know about, much less do.
I spoke to the president of Tubari, Marc Berman. I told him I did some research on the few ways of plucking -either with a machine, pulling by hand wearing surgical gloves, or using a wood paint stir stick with sticky stuff.
He said that isn’t even close to how they do it and so he told me a wee bit of the amazing process they use. He is a pleasant gentleman, and I was fascinated and grateful for his educational information. I thanked him for the perfect handling they did on my fur, and how exceptional my coat became as a result.
This next bit of information he gave is simply awesome. He said it was alright with him that I share with others what he told me, the details of the company secrets he, of course, kept to himself. I have his permission to repeat what he shared with me.
A very special man from Canada, fur dresser Norman Byman, comes down to oversee the very specific processing of beaver fur. Called “the professor” in respectful nickname, he has a small team of young men he trained to do hand plucking, an old process, and oversees them as he works himself.
First the skins are put in a specific state in mid tanning process while damp: they are put on a beam with a smooth cover, slanted downward. The processor wields a knife-dull on both sides, and curved. At just the right angle and tilt on the beam, the strokes of the knife across the guard hair pulls it out little by little without damage to the soft underfur and hide. The swipes are made in an exact, specified direction. No fingers are used to clamp the fur, just the knife alone. It is extremely hard intensive work, and young men with exceptional strength are the ones chosen to train. It takes approximately one hour to finish one skin hand plucking this way. Then the edges are touched up by machine, to clean and shear any uneven underfur. The details of this process is, of course, a company secret.
I am grateful and express many thanks to Marc for his kindness in giving a wee glimpse into the depth of such unique knowledge, passed down in time.
Any other furrier who gets hand plucked beaver from those fur dressers enjoy the same quality process in their beautiful garments as well.
Excel then took those furs and executed their artistic talent and made the precise cuts for the coat. They took great care in seams, arm tucks, and making sure the dark back colors would show best down mid back, tops of arms, and front with the lighter side and belly fur blending perfectly to the side seams and under the arms. They made me a scarf from the lighter belly/side fur that was left over, and a pair of ear muffs. The colors are natural, clearly evident in the photos, and attest to the talent of Excel Fur. The lining is silk.
Excel was so impressed with the quality of fur that Brian sent them that they mentioned interest in buying beaver that are similar in prime winter fur from trappers, given pricing and conditions of fur discussed and agreed upon. For quality garments, they prefer prime winter beaver from northern areas which tend to have thick underfur. They are always on lookout for good contacts for quality winter beaver. Excel mentioned they would even trade fur for a custom made item. So you trappers who have this type of prime winter beaver, contact Excel Furs -they may well be interested in buying your fur.
Excel ,Tubari,and Brian all mentioned they wished they could enjoy the results of their hard work-what their fur ends up as…and as an artist who has said the same, I am thrilled to show them exactly that.
So,with Trapper’s Post backing, I am happy to show you fellow hard working trappers some of what your precise work ends up being in the industry. You all are the source and beginnings of a truly mighty dance of providing a most beautiful resource to ones who will cherish and care for their dreams come true all their lives. I for one am certainly one of those.
The patience is well worth the wait. Tis a mighty thing.
After enjoying a delicious breakfast prepared by Van, owner and hostess of the Alaska Heritage House B&B, it was time to catch the Chena Hot Springs Resort shuttle to take us on a 90 minute trek to finish the final leg of our “Alaskan Adventure.” For the next several days Deb Ferns and I would be attending the OWAA (Outdoor Writers Association of America) annual convention. The OWAA, celebrating its 85th anniversary, was hosting its first ever event in Alaska and the entire state rolled out the red carpet. Chena Hot Springs Resort was an ideal setting for this event as it represented the beauty of the outdoors and the resort had a variety of unique features and activities to offer. The soothing warmth of the natural hot springs, especially during the frigid winter, is one of the main attractions. And to celebrate the “cool” element of the area, the resort hosts the largest permanent Ice Museum.
(For those who are daring, you can even spend the night sleeping on a bed carved out of ice. Even with the right type of bedding I couldn’t help but think there would be very little sleeping for me and a lot of shivering!)
Chena Hot Springs Resort also offers horseback riding in the summer, and dog sledding in the winter. I was amazed at how “green” the resort operated; their recycling efforts were noticeable and they use their abundant geothermal energy to heat their greenhouses. It’s from these on-site greenhouses that the restaurant is supplied with the majority of its produce year around. Upon our arrival we were quickly given our room assignments, which for us was a nearby four unit cabin where Deb and I shared one room, along with having a private bathroom. After dropping off our luggage we headed over to the main event center where we indulged in more delicious food as appetizers of fresh crab and caviar were served.
Once inside the event center we went through the OWAA registration process, receiving our ID badges and packets. This was also the area where each person did a random draw for their entertainment voucher. Some of the vouchers were for events like flight-seeing packages (yes, Chena Hot Springs Resort has its own private airport), or horseback riding, an ice museum tour, or geothermal tour. Deb and I both drew the horseback riding card and were very happy as that had been on the top of our “want to do” list for a while. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying dinner and getting to know several of the other OWAA members. Later that night Marsha Petrie Sue, WOMA president, arrived with her husband Al. They would end up being our next door neighbors at the cabin unit and that was very handy when it came time to share bottles of wine and snacks too!
Early the next morning Deb, Marsha and I headed into breakfast with our schedules in hand. It was time to make a battle plan of how to attend the seminars that interested us the most and still work in our entertainment events. The first seminar I elected to attend was on low-light photography. I had to scramble after this one in order to attend a seminar on “Diversity in the Outdoors” where Deb was one of four panelists.
Each of the speakers came from a very different outdoor background, with Deb representing women and shooting sports. I found the topics interesting and Deb did a great job showcasing the success of our Babes with Bullets program and how it could be used as a model to encourage more women to learn how to handle firearms. The short webisode she chose to show, “Educate the Mom…And You Educate the Whole Family” was taped at one of our camps and was well received. (If you want to see that webisode, and over 40 others that have been taped over the last two years at the Babes with Bullets camps, they are at www.OutdoorChannel.com/BabeswithBullets )
After the panel presentation ended we headed off to lunch and then from there to our horseback riding event. Since Deb and I are avid horse women, we were comfortable and confident to take this trail ride through hilly terrain, with scenic views and beautiful fall foliage. We met a few more OWAA members while on the ride and enjoyed getting to know our guide, Brittany, as well.
Later in the day we attended a ”Demo-Day” event hosted by numerous outdoor manufacturers at the Chena Hot Springs Lake. We enjoyed ourselves by NOT tipping over in the canoe, then showing our skills (or lack thereof) with fly fishing gear.
Right after that event we hustled back to the Ice Museum to meet back up with Marsha and Al for our guided tour with Christy. (Christy is better known as the resort’s “Mother Goose” since she takes care of several tame geese and they follow her everywhere.) She provided us with heavy winter coats and first thing we enjoyed was watching the full time ice sculptors create new centerpieces to be used later that evening for our dinner buffets. There were over 100 pieces of ice art in the museum, each so unique and beautiful. Though if asked for a highlight during the museum tour I’d have to admit I was fond of sitting on the caribou hide barstools at the ice bar and drinking an Appletini from an ice martini glass. After a full day, plus a few Appletini’s in our tank, we returned to the event center and enjoyed another great meal while members from local Alaskan tribes shared their drumming and songs. As we left the event center the air was definitely nippy and we ended our evening soaking in the Chena Hot Springs; needless to say dropping off to sleep that night wasn’t a problem!
Day 8 - This was the most laid-back day of the entire trip. Deb and I woke up early and started our day with a much needed yoga session. Right after yoga we came back to our cabin to find a bull moose had made himself at home in our nearby pond. We gave him a wide berth as we had been forewarned that moose rule at Chena Hot Springs; or in other words leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Shortly thereafter he wandered back off into the nearby forest so we felt privileged by the opportunity just to watch him graze on the foliage around the pond. Feeling limber and rested we decided to take a leisurely 3-mile hike around the perimeter of the resort, making occasional stops to take photographs and just enjoy the incredible beauty of the surroundings.
One of the amazing settings we encountered was a large beaver pond where the water was smooth as glass with the huge beaver lodge off to one side. We sat at the edge of the pond for quite a period of time in quiet meditation; not speaking, just listening to the tranquil sound of water flowing over the dam. We went to a variety of seminars in the afternoon, got to know more of the OWAA members including Sam and Vizzi Caldwell. Sam is a renowned wildlife artist and donated some of his pieces to the OWAA Silent Auction to be held that evening before dinner. Once dinner was finished we all hit the hot springs one more time and headed for bed.
Day 9 – Our last day at the resort and OWAA was drawing to a close. We attended some interesting seminars and enjoyed one last dip in the hot springs that afternoon. Then we spent some time actually putting on makeup (for the first time on the adventure) plus we dug out nicer clothes to attend the
awards banquet. We sat at dinner with Marsha and Al, plus made a few more new friends; Rosalie and Dave Barus. And I used the term “sat” but that didn’t include Deb as she was definitely getting her exercise by going up to the stage 5 times to accept awards in numerous categories relating to articles, videos and blogs. Even the MC, who was whipping through the awards, finally took a moment and said “that’s been one busy woman this year.” I wanted to jump up and say “Mister, you aren’t kidding” but figured Deb wouldn’t really appreciate the heckling from the back table so I stayed quiet and just clapped along.
As the awards banquet drew to a close we took a few minutes to say our farewells to the many new friends we had made over the last several days. We headed back to our room and started the ugly task of getting packed for our early morning departure back to the Fairbanks airport the next morning. Nothing exciting to report as we landed back in the “lower 48” without mishap.
It was truly amazing how many sights and experiences we were able to enjoy in just 9 days spent in Alaska. Alas, the one event that eluded us each evening was the opportunity to see the “Northern Lights” (a.k.a – Aurora Borealis). But, I think that is part of the allure of this “last frontier”; that there will always be more to see and discover…next time. For Deb and I (Marsha too) the “next time” is coming up in July when we are hosting our Babes with Bullets handgun camp at the Birchwood Gun Range outside of Anchorage. I can’t wait to get back to Alaska and get started on our next round of adventures!
After two back to back Alaska adventure treks, I think both Deb (Deb Ferns, WOMA Chair) and I (Lisa Munson, WOMA member) were happy to slow the pace down a little. We came back from Seward to stay with our gracious hostess, Denali, in her beautiful home near Big Lake. Denali is a several times Babes with Bullets alum and rolled out the red carpet for us. She even cooked up for our dinner the fresh salmon we had caught earlier that morning for dinner.
The next morning our agenda included inspecting the Birchwood Gun Range, located outside of Anchorage. We are very excited to announce that this will be the site of our July 2013 Babes with Bullets camp! As an extra bonus the range manager, Dale Andrews, has competed with Deb in multi-gun matches so he is already in the loop on what we need for a successful “action pistol” camp. The range offers large pistol bays, covered areas in case of rain. Add in the RV accommodations for those folks who like enjoy trap, skeet, cowboy action shooting; basically whatever type of shooting sport you want to try is available at Birchwood Gun Range. After visiting the range we headed to the Birchwood Manor, a large B&B about 4 miles from the range, which will work out as a great housing option for the Babes with Bullets camp.
We headed back to Denali’s home, just long enough to pick up her husband Troy and we were off to the Alaska State Fair. Since the beginning of the trip we’d been enjoying a lot of delicious and nutritious seafood. Feeling the need to balance out our diet, we took the opportunity while at the fair to try some food that was truly BAD for us! I do believe Deb was the “winner” in locating the worst food option. Her selection was a “Donut Burger”; glazed donut, hamburger patty, with egg and bacon. (Personally I thought it was wretched but she seemed to like it. This is one area where I’m a lot less adventurous…I opted for a corn dog and fried zucchini.) After visiting dozens of shops, stopping in briefly on a wide variety of entertainment, it was time to head back to Denali’s house to get ready for our next day on the Alaska Railroad.
The next morning Denali gave us a lift to the Wasilla Station as we were going to catch the train there (instead of driving into Anchorage) for an 8 hour trip up to Fairbanks. We were met at the station by Tim Sullivan, Manager of External Affairs for the Alaska Railroad (www.AlaskaRailroad.com). He gave us some great background on the colorful history of the railroad, which started in 1903 from Seward. Today the Alaska Railroad is a profitable business, mostly due to the amount of freight it hauls throughout 500 miles of the interior of Alaska.
Another factoid is that for many families who live in the interior, the railroad is their only form of transportation. So while folks in the lower 48 (myself included) may not depend on trains for survival it’s different out in the remote areas of Alaska! Some of the stories that Tim shared with us about the Alaska Railroad would make a great mini-series for television. We were able to capture just a few of the stories on tape with Tim before the conductor was calling “All Aboard” and we jumped onboard to head to Fairbanks.
The reason we were heading to Fairbanks, and from there onto Chena Hot Springs Resort, is that we were attending the annual conference for OWAA (Outdoor Writers Association of America.) Hats off to the OWAA staff and board members as it was through their labor/efforts that the Alaska tourism departments across the state stepped up to offer some amazing, and significantly discounted, tour packages to the OWAA media members. Deb is an OWAA member and add in her WOMA connections she was able to get us deluxe accommodations on the Alaska Railroad Goldstar, which is their premier service club car. This is a great way to see a lot of Alaska and done in the comfort of a beautiful touring rail car with huge windows, plus first class service and food.
Since our estimated travel time from Wasilla to Fairbanks was about 8 hours I thought it might be nice to take a nap. I soon discovered that the scenery was breathtaking, so NO naps, only lots of picture taking! Every mile offered something new…sparkling clear rivers, bridges crossing ravines, quaint towns. As we rose in elevation the fall colors exploded in vibrancy. A sea of color in the foreground with majestic mountains in the background…truly a photographers paradise! Deb and I both agree that traveling on the Alaska Railroad is a “must do” on your next Alaskan adventure and if you weren’t planning a trip to Alaska then start planning one now!
After spending a delightful day on the Alaska Railroad, with short stops in Talkeetna and Denali, we arrived in Fairbanks. We were greeted by one of the owners (Bill) of the Alaska Heritage House. This is another “must see” spot while you are in Alaska as this B&B (www.alaskaheritagehouse.com) is on the National History Registry with a very interesting story on Mary Lee Davis. After a restful night, and spectacular breakfast complete with caribou sausage, we were picked up by our shuttle from the Chena Hot Springs resort.
Stay tuned for the next segment on our Alaska Adventure relating to the OWAA “event of the year” at Chena Hot Springs Resort and how our Deb was one of the stars!
“Darlin’, you are soooo lucky,” my husband announces to me.
“Yes, dear. I know,” I reply, stifling the urge to roll my eyes like a 13-year old girl. “I’m SOOO lucky,” I say.
He is quick to respond. ”And I’m lucky, too. Fortunate…we’re fortunate,” he quickly corrects himself.
“But is ‘fortunate’ the right word?” I ask. “Blessed, babe. We’re blessed,” I say.
“Yes, we’re blessed,” he agrees. “Very blessed.”
I was made very aware of just how lucky, fortunate and blessed I am this past week as I attended the Marine Corps Ball for the 2nd Battalion/2nd Marines Division in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my son, Sgt. C.A. Sims. The Ball is held every year as a birthday celebration for the Marine Corps. In fact, the United States Marine Corps is the only branch of the United States military that celebrates its birthday. The ceremony was very regal, and marked with tradition stemming from 237 years of pride, honor and sacrifice. A table set for one with a lit candle signified those lost and the names were read for everyone to remember the ultimate sacrifice. I couldn’t help but shed a tear, thankful that my son was with me that evening. From the messages conveyed by various Marine Corps leaders to the dinner itself, each and every nuance of the Ball was planned and executed with military precision. Sgt. Sims (a/k/a Corey) introduced me to his commanding officers and they were quick to tell me what a great son I had raised. I was all too proud to take it all in, and appreciated the opportunity to meet those fellow Marines that my son serves alongside. It was a spectacular evening!
The next morning, as I made my way home, I was reminded of just how fortunate I am. And yes, blessed. It was about 8:45 a.m. as I travelled on Route 501 through the little towns between Myrtle Beach towards the interstate. The four-lane route is no more than 50 miles long, and it’s a really pretty drive, especially early in the morning. As I was driving along, I came upon an older model hearse and my thought process immediately went to a teenager that might have bought it and fixed it up as an interesting vehicle. As I neared the car, I caught a glimpse through the back window…a flag-draped coffin was visible through the back.
Immediately, my mind began to race. What do I do? Do I do anything? What’s protocol? Now understand this, in the South, you pull over for a funeral procession, whether it’s on your side of the road or the opposite side. That’s just the way it is. But this was different, and there was no procession. No escort. Nothing. As I inched closer to pass, I saw it: the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on the side of the car. This was a Marine. I couldn’t swallow. I was sick to my stomach. Somewhere in the world, a mother had lost her son.
I drove in silence for the next three and a half hours to our farm thinking about that family, praying for them, and for all the mothers who had lost sons. I thought about my own son and his son, my grandson, and how thankful I am. I thought about the three young men who died in my son’s unit that are memorialized on a cuff my husband wears every day. I did a lot of self-reflecting.
As we gather with friends and loved ones this Thanksgiving, remember those that have lost so much and be thankful for all we have. I guess Brian and I are both right. We are lucky, fortunate and blessed. Most of all, we are thankful.
After our amazing glacier trek with Adventure 60 North, we had just enough energy to take a long hot shower and eat a fast dinner of cold chicken microwaved in our room at Hotel Seward. And we were so grateful that the hotel had washers and dryers right on our floor so we could dry our layers of Under Armour cold gear. Hotel Seward was very “user friendly” and we were able to catch 6 hours of sleep before we were off on another incredible adventure, this time fishing on the Kenai Peninsula.
Utilizing Hotel Seward’s fishing guide, Wes, we took off from the lobby early the next morning to enjoy some of the best salmon fishing in the world! To say that Wes is a character who lives, eats and breathes fishing is an understatement
He told us that he would be taking us to two different locations, and coaching us on two styles of salmon fishing.
On our drive to the fishing area we were caught up in a traffic jam…a sure sign that an animal had been spotted. We pulled over and carefully crossed the road and sure enough, we had spotted our first grizzly bear!
While I was ecstatic, Deb was not as happy to see a bear. She had been following various bear attacks in Alaska over the last few months and kept saying she was fine viewing the bears through binoculars. Our guide hustled us back to our vehicles, saying that he might be able to get us an even better view of the bear he had nicknamed “Blondie” as we were fishing further down on the Kenai River. (I was thrilled with that information, Deb was not.)
After leaving Blondie behind, our first fishing stop was on the Russian River. The river here was very shallow (knee deep), but I was very happy to be wearing the insulated hip waders that Wes provided as the water is very cold. The water was so shallow we were able to see hundreds of spawning red sockeye salmon, clearly visible only with the aid of our polarized sunglasses.
Besides giving us the hip waders we were also outfitted with fly-fishing gear, but rather than casting in a typical fly-fishing style, we were basically flipping the lure upstream and letting it float downstream enticing the fish to bite. Catching sockeye salmon here was not a difficult task, they are very aggressive as they are still spawning. I think we hooked 30 in less than an hour and Deb started to notice that her arms were getting tired from reeling fish in. Keep in mind that all the sockeye were a “catch and release” as they are spawning and past their edible prime.
Our real quarry was the Silver salmon, which we were allowed to keep and had hoped to have for dinner that night. Wes taught us how to look for the darker colored salmon that tended to hide and follow behind groups of sockeye. I was having a difficult time seeing any of these “dark areas” but Wes, having an eagle eye and years of experience, coached me on where to cast my lure. Moments later…BAM! I had hooked a prized Silver salmon and the fight was on! I set the hook and began reeling him in. Suddenly, the tip of my rod took a sharp bend and I needed to let him run. I had to play him for several minutes before he relented and I was able to land him. Deb hooked her Silver salmon minutes later, with the identical outcome.
Wes now wanted to introduce us to fishing on the nearby Kenai River, which was much wider and deeper. The fishing action on the Kenai River was a little slower and I had a couple of bites, but wasn’t able to land any of them. We hadn’t been fishing very long when Wes spotted our grizzly bear friend “Blondie” working his way along the bank towards us. He was still several hundred yards away, but our guide was keeping a close eye on him. I was now more preoccupied with watching the bear than with fishing and wondering how we could get into a fishing boat to get closer.
Deb, on the other hand, was still all about the fishing. She was engaged in another battle with a monster fish, when suddenly while backing up she lost her footing and …SPLASH! I saw her sitting in the water, but boy did she get up fast!
Seems ice cold water is a good motivator to move fast as it fills up your waders. Well, all good things must come to an end. Deb was now soaking wet; the bear was getting too close for comfort, and we were almost timed out on our 1/2 day fishing package. Wes kindly offered to clean and filet our fish for us so we could have delicious fresh grilled salmon for dinner that night as we made our way back to our friend Denali’s house for a few days. On the way back to her house near Anchorage, which is a 3 hour drive, we made a quick stop for lunch and a much needed power nap; so much fun, but so exhausted!
Stay tuned for more of our wonderful adventure as we continue traveling through Alaska to attend the annual conference for the Outdoor Writes Association of America (OWAA), getting there by planes, trains and automobiles… trains coming up next!
I was so excited about our highly anticipated tour with Adventure 60 North in Seward Alaska that I barely slept the previous night. What Deb (Deb Ferns, WOMA member) and I were about to embark on was billed as a 10 hour “adventure trek” that included a helicopter ride, kayaking, mountain climbing, and ice hiking on Bear Glacier. From the Adventure 60 North headquarters it was a short drive to the Seward airport where our helicopter, piloted by Sean of Seward Helicopter Tours, was waiting for us.
Sean flew us through intimidating rugged mountain terrain to a remote location off Bear Lake. This drop-off area was a beautiful meadow next to the lake with fall colors just beginning to show and the temperatures were in the mid-40’s.
At that point our guide had to put on a dry suit (specialty diving suit for glacier water) so she could salvage the kayaks that were floating off shore since the water level on Bear Lake had risen dramatically over the last week. FYI – Deb and I were VERY glad that it was Mik retrieving the kayaks and not us!
Once Mik retrieved the kayaks and paddled them over to us we then loaded up our hiking/climbing gear to set off on a 3 mile paddle.
We were trying to take it all in at one time as we went gliding past sky-blue icebergs, entering what seemed to be a mystical, ethereal new world. We paddled along the front edge of Bear Glacier; at a safe distance to protect us from the possibility of ice chunks falling off the glacier in a process called “calving.” While watching a glacier “calve” sounds very cool, and looks awesome in Discovery Channel pieces on TV, in reality it can easily swamp a kayak as the wave action caused on this type of breakup can reach heights of 8’ to 15’ high.
Next we carried our kayaks ashore adjacent to the glacier, to begin a very strenuous climb up the side of a mountain that just a few years ago was part of Bear Glacier. Footing was very “iffy” …best described as “3 steps forward, 2 steps back”.
The hairiest part of this trek was a steep narrow path above the edge of the lake where we were instructed by Mik to grab hold of the young Alder tree roots to prevent us from falling into the glacial water below. Our guide’s understated delivery was ” Falling into the lake would be – VERY BAD!” Taking pictures was not a high priority at this point…survival was!!
By now, a steady cold rain was falling. A thick fog was forming on the lake, causing enough concern for our guide to question whether we should continue on. We constructed a rain shelter with a tarp and hiking poles, so we could eat a quick lunch and assess the weather.
Fortunately, the fog began to lift, and we got ready for the next portion of our adventure which was hiking up to Bear Glacier. At the edge of the glacier we stopped to change into our hiking gear and what seemed relatively simple during our fitting the previous day now seemed like an arduous task. Our cold wet hands were struggling to snap on the crampons, which look like baby ice picks, to the bottom of our hiking boots.
Physical discomfort aside we were determined to carry on after coming so far and that’s when Mik told us that our upcoming climb onto the glacier would be the most difficult part of the trip (REALLY? Gulp!) She coached us on how to plant the crampons firmly into the ice, basically doing a duck walk with our toes pointing slightly pointing outward. We trudged our way up the 45 degree incline, carefully placing our feet with each step and using the ice axes and ice picks for extra stability.
Finally we arrived at the top of Bear Glacier and the effort became worth it as the view was breathtaking! I felt like I was in a different world. After exploring the top of the glacier; peering into crevasses and listening to the unusual sounds coming from the ice it was already time to head back to the kayaks as the weather was getting worse.
Now we were faced with climbing down off the glacier, doing a combination of a hike/slide down the mountain, pump rain water out of our kayaks, and paddle back to rendezvous with our helicopter. By the time we made it back to the meadow, Deb (who’s home base is Tucson) was shivering pretty hard and mildly hypothermic. Mik wanted her to do some jumping-jacks to bring up her core temperature; but after 11 hours of intense physical work Deb claimed that she had “no jump left in my jack!”.
Fortunately, the helicopter was in sight and I know Deb’s spirits lifted thinking about the hot shower that was soon to follow.
This was truly an adventure that we’ll never forget and at the end of the event we raised our paddles in a true moment of victory or as Deb said “Thank you God; we made it!”
** NOTE: Adventure 60 North, www.Adventure60.com , offers a wide range of tours for the novices and/or folks who aren’t up for quite this much physical demand. If the trek we did is your cup of tea, or you would like to do even more that includes overnight camping, make sure to reach out to Rick at www.Adventure60.com .
In the meantime a huge THANK YOU to our awesome guide, Mik!
Now stay tuned for our next adventure in Alaska as we go fishing with Grizzlies! Lisa Munson, WOMA Member
As I had mentioned the food was fantastic!….most of it. Each night our hosts took us upstairs from the restaurant to private dining rooms. Here we were seated around a huge round table with beautiful linens, covered chairs, and a large “lazy susan” in the center of the table. Fine wines were poured. They toiled over the menu for what seemed like a long time and then ordered countless, and I mean COUNTLESS dishes for us to try.
I didn’t know what most of it was, but one dish I had the previous couple of evenings, looked something like chopped cooked apples in brown sugar. Tasted different, but very good. I finally inquired as to what this tasty little dish was. The person waiting on us was called over and a lot of conversing went on that I didn’t understand and then she disappeared. No answer….I figured something was lost in the translation and I wasn’t going to worry about it.
About 15 minutes later she reappeared with a menu with some English in it and pointed to “Jelly Fish”! Now the only experience I had with jelly fish growing up was not good…and certainly you don’t eat those things, do you?! Wow, wish I hadn’t asked. That kind of set the tone for my evening.
At this time, they are still bringing out more and more dishes. After that last little bit of enlightening information, I’m asking more questions about the food now. A huge bowl comes zipping by me on the lazy susan, wait…was that frog legs? I’ve had frog legs before, so I tried some. These were still on the bone, so not so easy to maneuver with the chopsticks. After I downed a couple, I asked what this dish is. Again the conference and finally one says, “it’s a little animal that hops through the forest, kind of like a frog….” Kind of???? Ok, if they can’t identify it, I’m thinking OMG I just ate a toad! I lived.
What are the mystery masks you wonder?
We had beautiful rooms over there. In Nantong, I get to my room and it is a large suite with two bathrooms, full living room, separate bedroom, and the list goes on. So I’m nosing around, checking out all the amenities, two granite tiled bathrooms with soaking tubs and separate showers, two very large flat panel TVs, huge -huge bed, tons of closet space …and oh gee, next to the safe in the closet is this:
I can honestly say, not able to read Chinese, I was ALARMED to find this in the closet! Call me crazy but now I’m having flashbacks to my childhood when we still had air raid drills in school! I mean, really, do we have these in hotels over here?! If they do I haven’t noticed them before. What are they preparing for?! As it turns out these are in case of fire in the hotel and this is your “Fire Escape Hood”. Well, I guess I’m ok with that.
This is why I enjoy traveling and experiencing all the different cultures!
..and my words of wisdom to women traveling alone: Their convention gatherings at the hotel are the same there as here…some very loud, drinking men in the adjoining room to mine – sleep with the iron on your nightstand, you can easily clock one or two of them if they happen to bust through!
Watch for more of Christine’s adventures in China!
A recent business trip took me to Shanghai and Nantong for a brief tour. The visit was all too short, as this was my first visit to China….and such a culture I had not previously experienced. Gun ownership and hunting is strictly forbidden-everywhere. Our hosts were intrigued with the shooting pictures on my cell phone. I showed them one and they took over the phone and just browsed my entire photo collection on the cell phone! Shooting was one thing, but women shooting was even more amazing to them!
The journey started out from Denver with about 2.5 hr. flight to San Fransisco, from de-planing there, it was a mad dash through endless terminals to reach the gate for Air China flight already boarding! Let the games begin! …And no disrespect, but the Asian’s culture has a different view of waiting in lines than what the American’s do. Luckily I’m bigger than most of the Asian women…and some of the men. I’m not that big by our standards…but I am suddenly feeling a bit “Amazonish”. Well it wasn’t too bad getting on, they check and recheck your US passport for the current VISA. Getting off the plane was different. Wow, some of them kind of stepped right over you to get out. They weren’t being intentionally rude, just the way things are done over there… I wasn’t in much of a hurry yet, so I went with the flow. At the end of the trip returning to the US was a different story. I was more than tired and had transformed into a linebacker-no one is getting past me! Bring it on!
About 12-13 hours later we arrived in Shanghai. Getting our luggage and through Customs was a breeze. Very nice airport, thank goodness they also had some signs in English. Yea! A driver was there to meet us on the other side of Customs. I decided I could maneuver the airport if I ever returned solo. Beyond that, I wouldn’t go further without a prearranged driver or interpreter to meet me. Our host and his driver met us there to take us to our first night in Shanghai, a city of approximately 23 million. You put several New York Cities back to back and maybe you are close!
The hotel was beautiful. We’ve been up straight now for about 30 hours and our host insisted on taking us to dinner. No rest for the weary! Drop the bags in the room and meet back in the lobby. From the open lounge area there were four floors we could see with various restaurants, piano bars, etc. We headed up to the third floor. We allowed the host to order for us-I’m game…I guess. Wine for me (don’t drink the water there-and forget ice in your drinks!). I inquired as if they produce any wine in China…as we had a French wine that evening. Apparently they do, but our hosts said it is “no good”. I’m staying with their recommendations! I had a crash course on the correct usage of chopsticks. They brought out many dishes – all delicious! They were very curious about our culture also. But the one of the first things he asked is why are so many Americans so fat! Ha! I’m betting if we forced to use chopsticks, we’d be thinner!
The next morning was a leisure day of touring. Our host took us to the downtown tourist area of Shanghai. Electric scooters everywhere, lines on the road are merely suggestions, and they are constantly honking horns….constantly! But there seems to be no road rage and we didn’t see any accidents. Minus the ”horn honking” I think we Americans could take a lesson on going with the flow, so to speak, while driving. After parking we headed towards the Yuyuan Gardens. To reach this you had to cross over a long zigzag foot bridge. The waters below were full of koi and turtles. The reason the bridge was zigzagged is to keep the evil spirits from following and crossing over. Spirits can only walk in a straight line. So once you cross over the bridge, you are considered safe and will enjoy a long life!
Such history there was. I am anxious to return sometime and visit more areas! I only wish I could upload all of my pictures here, but it would go on forever. The next two days we traveled to Nantong and visited the factory of our hosts. Here we met with the partners in the business and they too were very interested in learning about our shooting experiences, etc. We haven’t actually done any business in China as of yet, but were approached at SHOT Show by these gentleman and invited to visit their factory for a tour in hopes of future business ventures. This company mainly builds scopes, which we do not carry, but that was one thing they wanted to impress upon us was their assembly and quality control abilities. While walking their lines and seeing the entire process to the end I asked them how they tested for “shock proof” ability on the scopes….since they can’t test them on actual guns over there. They had a simulator set up for firing which we checked out. Interesting. Personally I prefer to test mine on real guns….a privilege we have here! …and not to be taken for granted!
Long story short, they were very gracious hosts. Their government and culture was very interesting to learn more of. They asked many personal questions about family, living spaces etc. but were very curious to see all the shooting sports we do. I shared my hunting pictures with them and they were in awe.
The one picture on my phone that made the biggest impression was the Babes With Bullets Camp, www.babeswithbullets.com , photos! This just seemed to amaze them!
…Words of wisdom: Don’t ask what the food is until after you’ve eaten it or you may never try it….and for the ladies: Keep an open mind when visiting some of their restrooms…and for gosh sakes, pack your own TP!
Recently WOMA Members, Deb Ferns and Lisa Munson, did an outdoor adventure through part of Alaska. This is Lisa’s blog of “Behind the Camera” as she kept a daily journal and took amazing photos. (Lisa is also the Senior Instructor of Babes with Bullets, women’s action shooting camps.)
Deb Ferns and I met up in Seattle for our 3 1/2 hour flight to Anchorage, AK. It was a beautiful sunny day; highly unusual for Seattle…trust me! Even through the smeary, scratched plane window, I was able to take some amazing photos of the many glaciers that line the Alaskan coast.
This was the company that offered to take us on a “Glacier Ice Hike” as part of our attending the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) annual conference, which was being held the following week in Chena Hot Springs Resort. Adventure 60 North (www.Adventure60.com).
We were outfitted with all the gear we would be needing for the adventure starting early the next day. When I say “all the gear” think in terms of a big pile of helmets, hiking poles, ice axes, harnesses, gaiters, and crampons. After signing a pile of waivers and release we headed off to check-in to our lovely accommodations at the historic Hotel Seward (www.HotelSewardAlaska.com).
We were given an “insiders” tip to eat dinner at the hotel and the food was amazing! Cream of crab w/asparagus soup, giant scallops wrapped in bacon, then we had a specialty dish of Red Salmon w/Sticky Rice and Asian Vegetables.
After dinner, hotel owner, Mary Kulstad, and her sweet puppy (Bella) gave us a tour of the hotel.
Later Mary shared with us an interesting tape on the 100 year history of Seward. It was a GREAT first day in the beautiful state of Alaska and Seward really rolled out the red carpet!
Stay tuned next week for our incredible adventure with Adventure 60 North!
I’m headed to Florida for a little fishing (and throw in some work!) Found this and thought it was worth sharing for those of us who are ‘fishing chicks!’ Snook here we come!
ALEXANDRIA, Va., August 20, 2012 – It’s been a scorcher of a summer, but that hasn’t kept anglers from fishing. Some, like BoatUS Angler Pro Staff angler David Gnewikow (juh-nee-vuh-koh) of Tennessee, have simply figured out a way to manage the heat as they battle it out with pizza oven-like temperatures. So what’s the secret? Here are some tips to help keep anglers and their catch cool from Gnewikow that may seem forthright – but after spending a long hot day competing on the water, you’d be surprised at how many pros “still look they’ve been smashed by a beat truck” chuckles Gnewikow.
While it may seem overkill, covering your skin not only protects you from sunburn, it is actually much cooler. Purchase a good, lightweight long-sleeve top with a decent SPF rating.Gnewikow also believes in head, neck and face protection. “I bought a Buff and while it’s a little goofy looking, at the end of the day I’m not red-faced and I’m actually cooler during the day,” says Gnewikow. He even recently took the plunge and bought a pair of sun gloves. “If your luck holds out they get stinky at the end of the day, but all you have to do is get them wet and your hands stay cool.” He also has invested in a good wide-brimmed sun hat.
Gnewikow once had a co-angler simply bring two, one-liter bottles of Mountain Dew aboard for a tournament day. By noon, the man felt ill, clearly on his way to winning a case of sunstroke. “I drink a bottle of water every time I start the big motor and if I move 10-15 times a day I stay plenty hydrated,” says Gnewikow. So what’s your timing trick to ensure you get enough water? Use whatever works for you, but bring plenty for the day’s outing and avoid sugary drinks.
For the fish in the livewell, getting enough oxygen is key. Working against you is the heat – warmer waters contain less oxygen. A simple aerator which puts thousand of small bubbles in the water by way of an “air stone” is fine – just make sure you check its operation throughout the day. At higher temperatures, frequency oxygenators which create millions of “Nano” oxygen bubbles may do a better job maintaining oxygen levels. Some systems are for fresh or salt water but not both, and if your system uses chemicals, be sure to use the recommended product.
If temps are really hot, keeping the livewell at a cooler temperature will help. If you have access to a freezer, you can also freeze lake water in zip lock bags to take along. Just use it in moderation – a rule of thumb is that livewell water should neither feel cold nor warm like bath water. Good luck staying cool!
Anglers can check out David Gnewikow’s Pro Staff Blog at www.BoatUS.com/Angler/Gnewikow.