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Back Home!

I landed in Baltimore at 9:30am (Eastern Time) Monday after 2.5 hours of scattered sleep. Since then, I have been doing a lot of sleeping and catching up – and procrastinating on this last post (it’s now three days later – sorry!).

I’m still not exactly adjusted to the time difference either. Waking up, I feel like I should be getting four more hours of sleep; but it’s absolutely worth it being home.

I’ve got a ton to do – renting textbooks, organizing moving into my house for the coming year, planning a road trip, nailing down a job  – and it’s been hard to step back and take some time to reflect on my last 5 weeks in Alaska.

There’s no way I can adequately recap everything that happened but it is possible to recap all of the things I learned along the way. I’m going to try to order these from greatest to least influence on my perspective on life…

1. There is no real right way to go about living. There is a necessity to be a decent human being while you’re alive, but other than that, there is no set right way to live your life. As long as you are kind and hardworking there will always be opportunities. It doesn’t all have to be planned out right now. I do still think it’s a good idea to have a plan, but if it doesn’t work out exactly WHO CARES. I met plenty of incredible, inspiring people who have worked so many different jobs and lived in so many different places – there’s no way they would have had the opportunities they did without a little flexibility in their life plans.

2. Hard work feels good. Some of my most rewarding days were the ones where I felt just beat by the end. I could fall asleep no matter how light it was outside. It’s a struggle, normally, for me to get motivated to start a hard project but once I got going I felt like I had a pretty decent work ethic and it felt good to do some hard labor every once and awhile.

3. Being uncomfortable is awesome. While I was gone I slept on a couch, a different couch, a futon, a twin bunk bed, a tent on the beach, a twin bunk bed again, and then a couch again; and there were maybe two times where I thought “hmm, what I wouldn’t do for a real mattress”.

4. Connection to the earth is key – I haven’t spent so much time outside in awhile (maybe ever – since most days I was outside all day). Working out in the rain, getting a little cold every once and awhile, getting a little more sun than I probably should at point, etc. Now that I’m back home I’m realizing how much time outside I took for granted when I was in AK. Walking to breakfast in the morning when they dew was thick enough to get my toes wet, washing my hands after planting starts in the greenhouse, or after getting basil under my nails. I’ve never been so okay with getting sandy at the beach – which is saying a lot because usually that makes me tire of beaches after less than a day. Basing clothing & activities on the weather at the moment, getting tons of fresh air, bed times being enforced by the time it takes the sun to set enough so that I don’t have anymore light to read – those things really made me realize that the earth is in charge and we’re just kind of living here. Back home I don’t get as much of that.

5.  People can be great. As terrible as it sounds, while I was out in Homer I was expecting to meet at least one person who was just mean. In my experience, that seems to be the case most times – a good portion of a group of people can be really cool, but there’s always a handful that surprise you by just being terrible. But, that never happened. I dunno if it had to do with the fact that everyone I met was willingly either working with kids or working with plants (or maybe I just got really lucky) but everyone I spent the last month or so with was totally nice and incredible in their own ways. Getting to know them really made me appreciate good people and restored my faith in the possibility of good in other groups of new people.

Missing the view

Missing the view

I’m sure my perspective on all of these memories will continue to change as I move through the rest of my life but I will always have these posts to remind me of my experiences and what my experiences have taught me. Sometimes writing these posts seemed like a chore – especially when the internet was slow and I was exhausted BUT I’m really glad I did them anyway.

And I’m really really glad – and grateful – that I had as much support as I did these past 5 weeks. Thank you again!

-Hannah

Downtown Anchorage

Today, my last full day in Alaska, I spent my time in downtown Anchorage. After a little digging, I figured out where and when to meet the bus and took it (for only $2!) into downtown. I then walked a few blocks to make it out to the Anchorage market. The flyer said their were 300+ vendors and it definitely seemed that way.

market

The largest open-air market in Alaska!

I thought the market would be mostly produce with some vendors mixed in but it was completely the opposite – which was kind of nice!

Beautiful wood carvings! There were tons of booths selling ivory, jade, and whale bone (balene) carvings as well! There's also this beautiful kind of animal bone inscription called scrimshaw that I found super intriguing!

Beautiful wood carvings! There were tons of booths selling ivory, jade, and whale bone (balene) carvings as well! There’s also this beautiful kind of animal bone inscription called scrimshaw that I found super intriguing! (check out the link – click on “scrimshaw” to learn more about it)

syrups

There were lots of locally made syrups and jellies for sale!

sled dog posing

A tent for people to pose with sled dog props! There was a surprisingly long line for this one – only in Alaska 🙂

photographs

Photographs selling beautiful prints of the mountains, wildlife, and aurora borealis

fossilized trilobites

There were also a few booths selling minerals mined in Alaska (and a few from all over the world). My favorite were the fossilized creatures. I have a geeky geology crush on trilobites (top left, gray coloring). (there’s a link on “trilobites”!)

After the market, I spent a few hours wandering around downtown to shops and cafes.

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Part of downtown – outside the visitor center

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There were food trucks selling reindeer dogs everywhere!

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Another stretch of downtown – there were lots of Alaska tour companies and high-end hotels in this area

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A beautiful park I passed walking back to the transit center – there were a few scattered throughout the downtown area

Before I left, I wandered into the visitor center where I found a few museum exhibits and a short film about Denali, which was really cool to be able to see.

By the end of the day I was definitely starting to feel yesterday’s hike, so I made my way back to the transit center where I found that I had about 45 minutes until the next bus #3 rolled around. It turned out to be a nice delay, though, because it allowed me to find a little coffee shop where I got a smoothie, people watched, and read some more of my book (which I’m hoping I can finish on my flights tomorrow).

Sitting here, I’m realizing this is the last time I’m going to see the “sunset” over the mountains and it’s a little bittersweet. Everything is so beautiful out here. I’m excited to get home, but I already know I’m going to have to come back out here at some point – if only to see some of the parts of Alaska that I missed.

I’ll be flying out of Anchorage tomorrow around 4pm and arriving back home the next morning. I’m hoping to get over to Chester Creek Park again tomorrow morning to see some of trails I missed when I was first out here. I’ll be sure to post again if I do! And I will definitely be making a last post reflecting on my trip once I’m home!

Thanks again to everyone who’s been following these last five weeks!

-Hannah

 

Back in Anchorage (Flattop Hike)

I got back to Anchorage yesterday (Thursday) around noon and after leaving at 3am that morning and not sleeping the night before, I promptly lounged and slept the rest of the day.

My last few days at Ageya (Tuesday/Wednesday) were amazing and I was sad to go BUT I’m also excited to be back out here for a few days to have a few more experiences before I leave. I was able to spend some more time with the new friends that I have made this past month and do some more work in the greenhouse – harvesting more lettuce and watering – and help organize and store the gear used across the bay.

My initial plan for today was to head out to Kincaid Park but after realizing that the bus does not run out there and a cab ride would’ve been about $50 round trip I decided it wasn’t worth it. PLUS I read a story about a woman getting trampled by a mama moose there a few weeks ago and so I didn’t feel all that comfortable going out there by myself anyway.

Instead, and I’m super glad it worked out this way, I found a shuttle from downtown that took a group out to Chugach State park to climb Flattop mountain and then drove back for a really reasonable price. I was a little skeptical at first but it turned out to be an amazing afternoon.

I met a few new people on the shuttle over and then spent the next few hours hiking up (1500ft. from the parking lot and 35ooft above sea level), hanging out at the top for about 45 minutes, and hiking back down. The hike was way steeper than I had anticipated but that just made it more fulfilling once I got to the top.

The view from about 10 minutes into the hike.

The view  of Anchorage from about 10 minutes into the hike.

The middle portion of the hike had a few railroad tie steps - thank goodness! It was steep and the ground was made up of loose rock, super slippery

The middle portion of the hike had a few railroad tie steps – thank goodness! It was steep and the ground was made up of loose rock, super slippery

Part of the view from the top!

Part of the view from the top!

From the other side of the summit you could see Anchorage

From the other side of the summit you could see Anchorage

One of many selfies and camera-timer shots

One of many selfies and camera-timer shots

panoramic view at the top (sorry for the scrolling!)

panoramic view at the top

 

One of my favorite timer shots!

One of my favorite timer shots!

 

The hike back down was super treacherous for about the first half mile. At points, I felt like I was rock climbing – using both of my feet and hands to scale down certain areas that were a little steeper. It was a little scary! But there were plenty of people around if I were to fall (which, thankfully, I did not). The whole thing – calf/quad pain and all – was totally worth it. It was a perfect last hike before I leave on Sunday.

The shuttle dropped us back off downtown so I spent another couple of hours wandering around shops and listening to “Live (Music) After Five” in a little park.

Tomorrow I plan to take a bus back downtown and spend the day out there. There’s a huge open air market out there with 300+ produce and vendor booths and I am super pumped. There’s a ton of shops/cafes I still haven’t seen too so I’m sure I’ll be down there for a good part of the day!

-Hannah

Across Kachemak Bay

I am finally back from my almost 7-day trip across Kachemak Bay – tired and sunburnt but so glad I was able to have such an incredible experience. I have so much information to share so I’m going to organize it all by day.

Day 1 – July 21, 2014

On Monday a few of us left Ageya to bring all of the group gear across the Bay. After picking up a few pizzas for dinner, we met the water taxi at 5:45pm. We had probably a few thousand pounds of gear and the five of us had to unload it all from the van/truck, load it onto the boat, then off of the boat, and then carry it up the beach to the 4 separate camping areas (2 girls/2 boys). We then set up tentipi’s (a big tent in the shape of a tipi), kitchen tents, propane stoves, etc. for each of the four camps. The boys and girls camps were separated by a large rock/cliff that made it impossible to get to either side at high tide. After we were done setting up we hung out around a fire on the boys’ side and then took one of the double skin boat kayaks called a baidarka back to girls’ camp because the tide had gotten too high.

Day 2 – July 22, 2014

Tuesday was the day when all of the campers and other staff members were arriving at the beach, so we all woke up around 9am and waited for them to arrive. The girls got to the beach aroudn 11 and then we made lunch and sat around a fire. We had some time to relax for a few hours and I had a chance to get some more Wuthering Heights read. The girls were to start with two large skin boats called umiaks. That afternoon we loaded up the umiaks and down the beach to get some paddling practice in and to load up on fire wood for the week. We saw an otter and a seal off the beach that afternoon!

I made it a point to write down how each day made me feel while I was over there too! Tuesday I wrote “I am feeling lucky to be here and it feels strangely normal to be outside all day”.

Day 3 – July 23, 2014

I was super excited for Wednesday because I was finally going to be able to see a glacier (semi) up close and personal! One of the other staff members ran every morning and so I joined her for about half the time Wednesday morning – during which I somehow lost a contact out of my eye, only had hiking shoes to wear to run in, and the beach was all rocks; but the scenery and smell of the fresh air made up for it! We took the umiak out for about a 45 minute paddle to a hiking trail. We hiked 2 miles out to Grewink Glacier Lake and then made a fire and sat out on the rocky beach for a few hours. The rest (as will be the case for the majority of the rest of the days) can be better told with pictures!

paddling the umiak out to the glacial lake trail head

paddling the umiak out to the glacial lake trail head

The view on the hike to the glacial lake

The view on the hike to the glacial lake

The hike about half a mile from the glacial lake. The glacier used to reach this spot 50 years ago. The rocks have all been left behind by the scouring of the ice.

The hike about half a mile from the glacial lake. The glacier used to reach this spot 50 years ago. The rocks have all been left behind by the scouring of the ice.

This is what it looked like when we got to the beach - super incredible! There was an icy wind coming off of the glacier

This is what it looked like when we got to the beach – super incredible! There was an icy wind coming off of the glacier

This is a close-up picture of the glacier because it is just so darn beautiful! I could probably stare at this picture all day.

This is a close-up picture of the glacier because it is just so darn beautiful! I could probably stare at this picture all day.

Some of us dunked in the glacial melt water! It was so cold that I couldn't talk when I came up - but we had a fire going so it was okay!

Some of us dunked in the glacial melt water! It was so cold that I couldn’t talk when I came up – but we had a fire going so it was okay!

After we changed and hung out for another hour of two, we started our two mile hike back to where we parked the umiak. Two campers and I stopped to take a picture with the view.

After we changed and hung out for another hour of two, we started our two mile hike back to where we parked the umiak. Two campers and I stopped to take a picture with the view.

In the first part of my journal entry for Wednesday I wrote “Today made me feel self-sufficient”. I also wrote that the “glacier’s beauty, strength, and steady movement are qualities I would like to imitate”. On seeing the glacier from the beach I was filled with hope that other people might be as struck by its beauty as I was and feel compelled to appreciate and respect natural landscapes for the inherent value of their beauty.

Day 4 – July 24, 2014

On Thursday we woke up around 9am and ate pancakes and hashbrowns out of syrup-y bowls. The sun was out and it felt good to have another day out camping across the Bay. From our beach, we paddled about 1.5 miles from our beach and parked our umiak by a trail marked with a huge solitary dead tree with a big orange triangle hung on it. The hike was 2.4 miles both ways and relatively flat. Some of the trail was wide enough for two or three people to walk side by side and it really reminded me of the H.H. Poole woods back in Stafford except with more spruce trees and bear scat (which I have a picture of if anyone is interested? I thought it was second-best to a picture of an actual bear). We reached the river made from the outflow of the glacial melt lake. The water was a milky/cloudy white and rushed super quickly – it was a good thing the tram was in place because it would be really dangerous to try and cross.

We got to the other side and built a fire on the rocky beach, ate lunch, and hung out for a few hours telling riddles and reading stories.

Umiak-ing to the Glacier Spit /Tram trail

Umiak-ing to the Glacier Spit /Tram trail

 

View from the umiak on the way to Glacier Spit/Tram trail

View from the umiak on the way to Glacier Spit/Tram trail

 

View from the Glacier Spit trail

View from the Glacier Spit trail

The tram to cross the river (from Glacial Lake overflow) - the metal box fit two and had to be pulled back and forth manually

The tram to cross the river (from Glacial Lake overflow) – the metal box fit two and had to be pulled back and forth manually

Me on the tram!

Me on the tram!

View from the beach across the river - off in the distance is Grewink Glacier Lake

View from the beach across the river – off in the distance is Grewink Glacier Lake

By the end of the day, it was raining and I fell asleep in my tent early.

Day 5 – July 25, 2014

On Friday was made a trip to a community/location called Halibut Cove Lagoon. We paddled in the umiak again and landed on a rocky beach entrance of a community only open to the public from 1-4pm. The whole place was so silent, secluded and beautiful. A man named Clem Tillion who used to be an Alaskan senator and is responsible for setting aside all of the land for Kachemak Bay State Park and owns all of the land making up Halibut Cove spoke to us after we ate lunch out on his front lawn. We got to see his large greenhouses full of fresh cherries and apples and then made a trip to his late wife’s art gallery and some horse stables.

During the umiak paddle to Halibut Cove we passed a rock that looked like an elephant!

During the umiak paddle to Halibut Cove we passed a rock that looked like an elephant!

Part of the halibut cove community

Part of the halibut cove community

Me and two of the other staff members posing in front of the view from Clem's front yard

Me and two of the other staff members posing in front of the view from Clem’s front yard

Clem's incredible home he built and raised his kids in

Clem’s incredible home he built and raised his kids in

one of clem's greenhouses

one of clem’s greenhouses

I took a pocket full of cherries on my way out!

I took a pocket full of cherries on my way out!

Diana Tillion's art gallery. She was famous for her paintings made with octopus ink - they were gorgeous!

Diana Tillion’s art gallery. She was famous for her paintings made with octopus ink – they were gorgeous!

They have a pretty extensive stable with about a dozen horses - and two super soft bunnies.

They have a pretty extensive stable with about a dozen horses – and two super soft bunnies.

After we paddled back to camp, we gathered a few things and went over to boys’ beach for a bonfire. It was a little rainy but still fun. I was exhausted by the end of that night too but managed to remember to write down how I felt before I fell asleep (unlike the day before). I wrote “I feel inspired”. The part of the day that stuck with me most was Clem talking about his job as a senator and how he wasn’t concerned about his children’s futures because they were already grown and he felt like he had given them at least a decent life – but he addressed the campers listening and told them he was worried about making Alaska a better place for their grandchildren. I thought that was awesome. I’ve heard and read quotes about sustaining the earth for future generations but I’ve never met someone who has said it AND completely dedicated their life (and succeeded in) living it out.

Day 6 – July 26, 2014

On Saturday we traveled to China Poot Lagoon. For this trip we switched our umiaks with the boys’ group for some sea kayaks. These were my absolute favorite because I got to paddle a single with a fancy foot-pedal rudder and go steer whichever way I wanted! The paddle there had to be timed with high tide because the water rushed through a narrow inlet into a lagoon and so the current gets really strong going in and out and if we hit the tide going out, it would be almost impossible to paddle. When we got the the narrow part, the normally calm bay water turned to fast moving river-like conditions. It was super fun to just sit and let the current take us. The other cool thing about the strong current was that a lot of the wildlife gets swept into the lagoon and then swept back out when the tide goes back out so I got to see SO MUCH WILDLIFE. I saw seals, otters, lion jellyfish, moon jelly fish, pigeon guilemots, black-legged kittiwakes, hawks, and bald eagles. There were apparently porpoises and baby bears around but I didn’t see them 🙁

We made a fire and cooked hotdogs and smores on the beach at the end of our hike and stayed there for a few hours until it started getting cold. On the paddle back I (super carefully) kept my camera out and was able to take some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

I also took the opportunity on the hike bike, since it would be our last hike of the week, to take pictures of some of the plants growing along the trail.

A counselor and I at the beginning of the China Poot hike.

A counselor and I at the beginning of the China Poot hike.

The china poot hiking trail was a "saddle trail" meaning that it was in between two larger mountains BUT a good majority of the hike was   still really steep!

The china poot hiking trail was a “saddle trail” meaning that it was in between two larger mountains BUT a good majority of the hike was still really steep!

I took a lot of pictures of views on the hike too!!

View 1 from the hike

View 1 from the hike

View 2 from the hike!

View 2 from the hike!

View 3 from the hike

View 3 from the hike

View 4 from the hike!

View 4 from the hike!

View at china poot lagoon

View at china poot lagoon

View of the mountain to the right of the beach on China poot lagoon

View of the mountain to the right of the beach on China poot lagoon

china poot - watermelon berries

Watermelon Berries – they’re super small but taste just like watermelon and have a bunch of white seeds in them like watermelons do!

china poot - soap berries

Soap Berries – apparently you can use them to make soap, lather and all

china poot - salmon berry

Salmon Berry – like a rasberry but a little more transparent looking, they’re super good.

china poot - blueberries

Wild Blueberries! – these were so good, I kept plucking and eating them all along the trail. Some of the other staff members gathered a bunch of these one day and made a blueberry crisp over the fire!

china poot - bluebells

Bluebells – not edible (I don’t think) but super pretty

china paddle - me

Me at the beginning of the paddle back

china paddle - view 3

The view of the mountains looked this beautiful the whole way

china paddle - birds

The current on the way back was even stronger on the way there and I was able to take a picture of all of these sea birds (black-legged kittiwakes I think) without paddling, unless I got caught in little swells.

china paddle - view 4

The view just outside of the strong current

china paddle - view 5

The end of the current – people lived right to the left of the frame of this picture.

china paddle - shallow

The water got this shallow in certain areas as the tide was going out and the current was pulling our boats out with it

china paddle - storm front

Just before we got back to camp I stopped to take a picture of the huge storm front. It ended up hitting homer with thunder and hail but completely missed us.

That night I wrote :

“The current getting there and back was incredible. It was so fun to ride the mini rapids. I felt so alive, free, and self-fulfilling.”

“Tonight my toes are cold as I sit at the edge of my open tent and it’s so wonderful. Nothing I’ve seen yet can compare to the view of the lights on the Homer Spit on a clear pink-skyed night. Everything about this place really is magical. ”

The Homer Spit at night from our camp

The Homer Spit at night from our camp

“On the paddle back I was relatively on my own and an otter popped up, curious, about 30 ft. from my boat. It let me paddle halfway to him and then I sat and watched me as he lounged on his back in the sun. I wanted to see a porpoise or whale (and I haven’t yet) but after that encounter I felt whole. There is something about the almost relaxed nature of the wildlife here that is so calming. I am in love. And though it would be nice to see more wildlife, I no longer feel entitled to seeing more because being out here has become more about finding a place for myself as a part of the vastness and appreciating every part, rather than focusing solely on what I want to see and get out of this trip.”

Day 7 – July 27, 2014

Sunday was a rest and pack day, which was probably a good thing because it was so hot. I got a sunburn on the side of my legs that were facing the sun in under an hour and I can still feel it as I’m typing two days later.

last day - view

This is what I did for the majority of the day on Sunday! It was wonderful, I could’ve stayed there forever (with that kind of weather). It was high 60s and sunny and we were all reading and talking.

last day - kayaks

Part of our camp beach and all of our sea kayaks.

At the end of the day the campers and other staff members and I got together to do a little compliment circle around a bonfire on the beach. Everyone wrote anonymous compliments on pieces of paper and then we all picked one out a read one. I got a few and it really made me feel part of the group.

That night I wrote that I felt at peace.

I wrote “We are leaving in the morning and yet I fell I have so much left to learn and understand from this place. I suppose that is exactly how I will feel leaving AK in a week. I have learned patience, to flow with a change of plans, to not be hurt by small words or small things. To appreciate what matters and to let slide more easily what doesn’t. I have learned that pushing myself feels alright, that I’m a worthwhile person, and that I can make a positive impact on someone in a month, two weeks, or even just 6 days. I have learned that it is okay to rely on and want to emulate the right kind of people. And to focus on the parts of myself that others may want to emulate. More than before, this trip has taught me to not stress or get worked up over things that I cannot change AND over things that are not worth changing. I have learned to be proud of myself for little victories – not down because other people may have accomplished more, BUT to keep pushing for higher accomplishments even when I am unsure of whether or not my qualities will allow me to accomplish them.”

“I value my ability to find new and unexpected opportunities.”

I know that’s a whole lot of feelings, but that’s really what this trip did to me! It made me reevaluate everything in the most positive ways.

Sunset at the end of the last day across the Bay

Sunset at the end of the last day across the Bay

The next morning I left with the first water taxi. Here's the view of the beach we camped on.

The next morning I left with the first water taxi. Here’s the view of the beach we camped on.

I am super happy I had the opportunity to go on this trip. I’m sorry this was such a long post BUT – compared to all of the pictures I took and stories I have – this post was extremely abbreviated. I can’t wait to get home to share the little details with all of you because those are some of my favorites.

Thursday morning at 3am I’m catching a camp van back to Anchorage with some of the campers and then I will be staying in Anchorage until my flight on Sunday (August 3rd) around 4pm.

I’m hoping to get in another hike (if I can find one close enough) and to check out downtown Anchorage on Saturday – I’ve heard good things about their farmer’s market!

Thanks again to everyone who’s been reading! I will be posting at least one more blog (probably two!)

-Hannah

Day 18 (Trip Eve)

Tomorrow at 4:30 (Alaska time) I’ll be heading out with a few of the other staff members to set up camp before all of the campers get there the next day for our week long trip across the Bay. My cold has unfortunately gotten a little worse but I’m hoping tomorrow (and the rest of the week) will be better! Either way I am determined to have an incredible time.

Unfortunately, we will not have service (and definitely no wifi) so my blog will have to be postponed until Monday (July 28th) night! I’ll make sure to take tons of pictures (camera battery permitting) and share them with all of you once I’m back.

TODAY I was able to get back in the greenhouse to harvest three large trash bags full of mixed lettuce and 2 bags full of romaine lettuce which we then proceeded to wash in the kitchen. I was getting pretty dizzy bending over all of the beds to harvest so after lunch I went back to my yurt to try and rest and kick this cold!

Before dinner I made some more yarrow tea and mixed it with this cold remedy herbal tea packet we’ve been stockpiling from the local grocery store. It’s been helping a little bit – but I keep accidentally drinking tiny yarrow leaves.

I’ve been hanging out in the staff lounge talking to some of the campers as they make friendship bracelets. They were super sweet and made me one and then taught me this super easy way to make a bracelet using the beginning stitch for crocheting. Now, all of the campers are heading outside to the bonfire to cook some hotdogs with their counselors and I will be staying indoors to avoid the cold wind. (My sinuses can’t take it tonight!)

I also tried to figure out how to set up the tent I’m bringing across the bay earlier to make sure there weren’t any pieces missing. I figured it out after a few minutes so hopefully I won’t be upstaged by these campers who have been practicing to be pro tent pitchers – they can always help me out if I’m struggling!

If any one is interested in getting an aerial view of our rough location for the next week, here’s a link! LINK TO GOOGLEMAPS

The red dotted line outlines Halibut Cove, AK and towards the top of Halibut Cove is Halibut Cove Lagoon which is one of the locations we will be paddling/hiking. Homer is on the other side of the Bay where the long skinny stretch of land is (the Homer Spit). China Poot Bay is also somewhat visible on the map and that is another paddle/hike we’ll be going on during the week.

The other paddle/hikes are: (as listed in the camp notebook)

Grewink Glacier (3.5 miles) – Terrain Easy; Hiking time 1 hr. 20 min.

Saddle Trail (1.0 miles) – Terrain Moderate; Hiking time 25 min.

Alpine Ridge Trail (2.0 miles) – Terrain Moderate to Difficult; Hiking time 5 hr.

Halibut Cove Lagoon Trail (5.5 miles) – Terrain Moderate to Difficult; Hiking time 5 hr.

Goat Rope Spur Trail (0.5 miles) – Terrain Difficult; Hiking time 1 hr.

China Poot Lake (2.5 miles) – Terrain Easy to Moderate; Hiking time 1 hr. 15 min.

Poot Peak (2 miles) – Terrain Difficult; Hiking time 3-4 hr. round trip

Wosnesenski Trail (2 miles) – Terrain Easy to Moderate; Hiking time 1 hr. 15 min.

I wish I could tell you more about these trips but I really don’t have any idea what they’ll be like. I do know that the first paddle/hike, Grewink Glacier, will take us all the way out to the glacier and we have the option to swim in the glacial melt pond/stream. I don’t know that I’ll actually do that but it’ll be cool to see! I’ve also heard that there’s one paddle/hike trip in particular where we have to time our paddles in and out really precisely so that we’re not going against the current, because apparently it gets so strong in that one area that we would have to wait it out if we got stuck trying to go out when the tide was coming in.

I really am super excited – I just wish I didn’t have this cold looming over me. Tomorrow I’m going to try and get a ride into town to pick up some cold medicine to take with me so I can knock it out while I’m over there if it doesn’t go away on its own.

Until next Monday!

-Hannah

Day 15, 16, & 17 (Sick & Tired)

The title sounds a little ominous. Even though I am really tired and I have contracted the cold that’s been tearing through the staff, the last three days have still been pretty awesome.

I tried to keep up with my new-normal every other day post last night but our internet was down 🙁

I just finished my third and last day filling in as an instructor. At first I thought filling in meant filling in for the 2 hour natural history block every afternoon but I found out that instructors are actually with campers from 9:30-6 and are either taking them to activities or running activities/lessons themselves. I have been able to teach a three day (2 hours each day) lesson on native Alaskan birds, which I have been able to learn a ton about myself. We’ve learned about bird identification, different types of adaptations (beak, feet, wing, color, etc.), and have taken a field trip to the end of the spit to see nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some camping skills lessons about hiking trip planning using maps, the ins and outs of topographic maps, and how tides and currents effect paddling trips. Other than leading natural history (birds) and camping skills lessons I have also been able to accompany and help some of the campers when the go to boat building – which is a section of time where they go out to the “boat tent” and help to build and cover two traditional skin boats (kayaks).

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On Day 1 we went on a hike around the Ageya campus looking for birds that we had just started learning about. We all took binoculars and bird identification books and I wasn’t sure if we’d even see any… but we managed to see three! A golden crowned sparrow, an american robin, and two sandhill cranes (though we see these pretty regularly!)

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This is the first bird we saw on our mini hike – a golden crowned sparrow.

The campers on day 1 getting an intro to the tools used to make the traditional skin boats.

The campers on day 1 getting an intro to the tools used to make the traditional skin boats.

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Campers Day 2, working on tying parts of the boat tight with wax coated string. These are supposed to be the lightest boats in the world – no metal is used and this wooden frame is covered tightly by a nylon (traditional skin) fabric which is then sewed and coated.

Sunset from my yurt on Day 2. You can see one of the volcanic mountains venting in the background.

Sunset from my yurt on Day 2. You can see one of the volcanic mountains venting in the background.

Getting a chance to teach and learn a little bit myself has been really rewarding and I loved that I was able to do it, but I am getting pretty warn down. The instructor I was filling in for will be back in the morning and I’m glad I’ll have a few days to recover before we leave to go across the Bay.

Speaking of which…I found out that I will be leaving the afternoon (around 4) of the 21st (Monday) with some of the other staff members so we can get over there and set up some of the bigger gear. The campers will then get there the following day and we’ll do our first paddle/hike that afternoon. We will then be doing a series of 8 hike/paddles over the course of the next 7 days, getting back to Ageya in the afternoon on July .28th (the following Monday). I’m pretty pumped for it, but I also have no idea what to expect.

The director’s wife also outfitted me for the trip the other day (all of the campers and other staff members had already been outfitted), which I was not expecting but I’m glad she did! I now have a tent, sleeping bag, life vest, tall water boots, long underwear, a mesh bag, dry-safe bags, a thermos, and a camping bowl to borrow while we’re on the trip. So, I know I’ll be okay on gear but as far as what it’s going to like over there – I have no idea. I’m planning on just going with the flow. I really hope we see some wildlife out there though! I’ve heard stores of seals, otters, whales, bears, and all kinds of other animals – so even if we just see one of those it’d be one more than I’ve seen before!

I won’t have power or internet though so I’ll be a little M.I.A. on the phone and one my blog BUT I’ll have about two days back here once we get back before I catch a ride back to Anchorage so I’ll make sure to fill everyone in once I’m back! I’m hoping I can figure out a way to keep my camera going long enough to take some awesome pictures.

As far as being sick goes, my cold isn’t terrible but I do hope it goes away soon! I’ve been trying to sleep a little bit more, rest when I can, and I’v been drinking this medicinal tea made up of yarrow, wormwood, cayenne, and garlic. It’s pretty gross but people have been saying it’s working for them – I honestly can’t really tell if it’s working for me (but I’m not getting worse at least).

As of tomorrow (Sunday) I’ll have exactly two weeks until I fly back home. I’m starting to get a little sad about leaving, but I’m also pretty excited/almost ready to be heading home. I’m sure the time will fly by!

-Hannah

Days 13 & 14 (The Calm Before the Storm)

I have a feeling these past two days will seem like a vacation compared to the next week and a half (specifically the next few days).

Yesterday I watered the hanging baskets and beds out by the dining hall and then we did some watering and seed starting in the greenhouse. We laid the whole thing out on the whiteboard in the greenhouse so that we could plan what needed to be harvested and what needed to be planted over the next few weeks.

The green is all arugula and mixed lettuce that had been started earlier in the week. The bare soil blocks are borage, nasturtium, marigold, and beets that we started yesterday. Borage, nasturtium and marigold are all edible flowers and they also help to prevent pests.

The green is all arugula and mixed lettuce that had been started earlier in the week. The bare soil blocks are borage, nasturtium, marigold, and beets that we started yesterday. Borage, nasturtium and marigold are all edible flowers and they also help to prevent pests. (Also, the smooshed part in the top left corner is from one of the other WWOOFer’s dog stepping in it! haha She’s super cute)

The rest of the day yesterday we all hung out in the greenhouse and I was able to have some downtime to appreciate the scenery.

The sunset view from my yurt (Eagle). This is at about 11:30 and it really hasn't been getting much darker.

The sunset view from my yurt (Eagle). This is at about 11:30 and it really hasn’t been getting much darker.

Today, I watered the hanging baskets and beds outside of the dining hall again. The rest of my time before lunch was pretty slow again and so I had some time to get some reading done (working on Wuthering Heights). We harvested some romaine and mixed lettuce and then brought it to the kitchen to be cleaned (with this really huge salad spinner – it’s pretty cool).

We also got some predatory mites and lady bugs (which are actually called ladybird beetles – who knew) for the greenhouse and so we were able to let those loose earlier!

Ladybugs on the himalayan huckleberry!

Ladybugs on the himalayan huckleberry!

All of the WWOOFers have also been rotating helping in the kitchen before dinner. Today was my turn and I was able to make a salad with the greens we had just harvested and cleaned (which I thought was pretty awesome – being able to harvest, clean, chop, and eat produce myself!). Then for dinner I went upstairs to join the instructors for their daily meeting so that I could get filled in on the schedule before I start filling in for another instructor tomorrow.

I will be with one group of 8 campers from 9:30am-6:00pm with a break for lunch and some free time afterwards until about 2:30. Most of that time will be filled with pre-determined activities but for a 2-hour block in the afternoon I will be teaching them about birds. This is all a little intimidating so far because there is a set curriculum and A LOT of information to get to know before I have to tell the campers about it. I spent some time earlier going through it all and taking notes and I’m feeling (slightly) confident about it, but I’ll have to see how it goes! The instructor I’m filling in for told me that you can’t really mess up because the campers don’t really know how it’s supposed to go – so I’m going to keep telling myself that! I think either way it’ll be a really great experience and I’ll come out of it knowing more about native Alaskan birds! I’m just glad there are field guides and notes to use as the basis of the information so that the campers will still be learning a lot.

Honestly, I’m ready for the challenge.

So, the next few days will be a little crazy… but then I also found out that I will be able to go across the Bay in a week! It’s a little complicated but basically I’m able to go because I’m filling in this week. Normally WWOOFers don’t go so I’m pretty pumped about it. The trip lasts 7 days and all of the campers, counselors, and instructors go. We take a water taxi over and then use kayaks and umiaks to get around to hike in different locations. I’ll be able to go on a handful of hikes and a few paddling trips and eat and stay for free while we’re over there. The trip does change up (what I thought were) my plans a bit, though, because we leave the 22nd/23rd and then don’t get back until a day or two before I catch a ride back to Anchorage on the 31st, which means I only have a handful of days left out here strictly WWOOFing. That’s all a little sad to think about but I’m also incredibly excited to get across the Bay. I’ve heard it’s beyond beautiful over there and I’ll be closer to the mountains and the glacier and that’s really something I haven’t been able to get out of this experience yet!

UPDATES

I tried salmon cream cheese for the first time on my bagel this morning and it was actually awesome! (I had been a little afraid of it)

I’m getting really good at grabbing mosquitos out of the air (karate kid style) instead of just aimlessly swatting at them.

And, I’m not sure if I’ve posted about this yet, but for the past few days we had only been seeing the male crane around (which is strange because crane pairs are normally always together) so we were afraid that the coyotes got her BUT I saw them together earlier! So she’s okay – thank goodness. I was actually getting a little sad about it!

I forgot to post a picture of my herbal tea (lemon balm and wild yarrow) so here it is: I had also put a bag of ginger tea in the mix which was pretty good

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-Hannah

Days 11 & 12 (Pratt/Salty Dog/Spider Mites)

My schedule has gotten a little busier lately so it seems like blog posts every other day will probably be a new normal.

I’ve been to the Pratt Museum, down the spit to see baby sandhill cranes and birds nesting, to Finn’s for pizza, to the Salty Dog, harvesting, fighting off spider mites, learning how to teach about bird feet and beaks, and giving a few of the campers a mini lesson on the greenhouse and sustainability. I’m pretty exhausted by the end of each day (but especially today) so the majority of this post will be in pictures!

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Pratt Museum : a map of traditional homelands in Alaska. The Dena’ina Homeland includes Homer and a good portion of surrounding Alaska. An elder from the Dena’ina Homeland comes to camp every year to say daily prayers at breakfast and dinner and to talk to the campers.

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Pratt Museum: this was a really cool exhibit – it was basically a video of a traditional Dena’ina dinner shown on a screen at about the level a dinner table would be.

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Pratt Museum : traditional rain gear

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Pratt Museum : exhibit about native birds and the environmental hazards they face. The plastic in the middle of the photo was found inside the stomach of dead albatross.

 

Pratt Museum : exhibit about the 1989 Exxon Oil Spill.

Pratt Museum : exhibit about the 1989 Exxon Oil Spill.

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Pratt Museum : a size comparison for the size of the 1989 Exxon oil spill. The spill area covers Virginia.

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Pratt Museum : I was in love with the quilts in the museum. They were all really intricate.

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Pratt Museum: wood carving

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Pratt Museum: another quilt

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Pratt Museum: there was a really interesting art exhibit through the first room at the museum. I thought it all looked a little crazy – but almost in a good way?

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Pratt Museum: art piece from the first room

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Pratt Museum: bear exhibit. There was a lifesize bear model to the left of this picture that stood about 10 feet high. We were walking through with some of the campers when one told us that he’d seen one about 5 ft. taller with his dad.

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Pratt Museum: traditional dress

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Pratt Museum: we made it through the museum a little faster than the campers (they had a worksheet to fill out) so we stopped by All Hopped- Up Espresso down the block. I got some incredible chai tea!

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Pratt Museum: after the chai tea, we took a walk around the garden out front of the Pratt Museum. The garden is separated into different climate regions found in Alaska and the native plants that grow there.

I have been shadowing one of the instructors for the past two days so that I will be able to fill in for her for a few days while she’s gone and yesterday she took her group down the spit to see some birds!

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We stopped to check out two sandhill cranes and their newborn colt (baby crane). They’re the specs in the middle of the photo – we had binoculars. So far I’ve learned that sandhill cranes mate for life and do a whole series of “dances” for different occassions – such as mating, showing their colt how to fly, agression, and to impress each other even after they’ve mated for life! I will be teaching about birds in the next few days so I’m sure I’ll learn a whole lot more before then!

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We went to the end of the Spit where the campers observed the birds in and around the area (there are a ton in the water and under the structure to the left that are just hard to see from the picture). They figured out that the birds come 1). to nest and 2). because the local fishery releases nutrients back into the ecosystem that just happen to bubble up in the area, meaning more fish to eat!

At the end of the day the campers were cooking out and the other WWOOFers and I decided to go to Finn’s  down the Spit for pizza. We bring them arugula and basil for their pizzas and we get free pizza credits in return! After Finn’s we decided to check out the Salty Dog because the majority of us had never been!

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Salty Dog: the entire inside is filled with signed dollar bills and the tables are all wooden and covered in carvings.

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Salty Dog: I carved my initials in the tabletop

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Salty Dog: before we left we all decorated a dollar and pinned it on the wall

The rest of the time we’ve been harvesting and trying to kill off an infestation of spider mites making their way through the greenhouse.

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We harvested a bunch of edamame soy beans – which are super good both raw and cooked!

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We also harvested some of the kohlrabi that had gotten too big and started splitting

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The spider mites (see web in picture) started out on the himalayan huckleberry plant (also in picture) and has now started to spread to nearby grape vines, romaine lettuce plants, and tomato plants. We’ve been spraying a solution of Dr. Bromer’s soap and water to try and shield the leaves but we’re also getting a different type of mite and ladybugs that will eat the spider mites and hopefully take care of the problem. Apparently they like dusty environments so we’re also having to wet down any loose soil each day as a preventative.

During the afternoon today I was also able to shadow an instructor again to learn about a different bird lesson concerning different types of bird feet and beaks. I’m excited (and a little nervous) to have to repeat the lesson as well as she did in a few days! Afterwards another WWOOFer and I did a little greenhouse lesson with one group of campers talking about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and the ability to grow your own food (an idea they will hopefully take with them and implement when they go home). We let them explore, identify plants, taste a few, and try out some basil harvesting. We also got a chance to show them some of the tools that we use in the greenhouse.

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Here’s out dirt bucket for making seed starts. This is where we get the soil to use with the tool in the photo below

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You can basically just stick this in the soil (above photo) and it’ll pop out four square packed together soil squares with little indentations ready for seeds.

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This tool is probably my favorite. You stick the metal probe in the soil by the roots of each plant and it’ll tell you the level of moisture below the surface. You can then use that reading to water the right amount for each bed. (I still have no idea how it works, but I kind of want one)

The first group got back from their 2-day trip across the bay around dinner time and the second group left. I’m not sure what the plan is for tomorrow but I know I’m going to need to fit in some studying on native Alaskan birds!

UPDATES

The sprouts are starting to show signs of sprouting – pictures to come when they grow a bit!

My yurt is warm – the heater was turned on and now it shouldn’t get lower than 59 at night! It kind of freaked me out last night because I didn’t realize it had been turned on or that it was automatic so when the flames in the heater stove started crackling I thought maybe something was malfunctioning (fire paranoia).

The weather is also warm – no rain today and highs in the high 60s! I’m hoping it stays this way.

I also learned how to make some herbal tea today using lemon balm and wild yarrow 

AND I’m finally doing some laundry tonight!! Woo!

Also, I’m wondering if the links in my posts are as obvious when reading the blog as they are when I insert the link so, just in case, anything that’s underlined can be clicked through to a link! 

 

-Hannah

Days 9 & 10 (CSI Ageya)

I’ve been a little behind on blog writing the past two days. Two other WWOOFers and I have been working full days helping an investigator sift through the rubble of the fire to try and figure out the cause.

We're about half way done in this picture. The orange tape in the backgroudn was used to mark out 10'x10' grids in order to keep the evidence organized.

We’re about half way done in this picture. The orange tape in the background was used to mark out 10’x10′ grids in order to keep the evidence organized.

We were given white coverall suits, giant gloves, and shovel and spent 9am-6pm yesterday and today (with a hour lunch break) shoveling and sifting through the debris one grid square at a time looking for pieces of wire, floorboard burn patterns, and anything else that could give the investigator a clue to where the fire started and what had caused it. We were deemed CSI Ageya and the investigator was able to talk to the campers after lunch to give them an idea of what he does for a living in case they were interested in pursuing a similar career. The investigator had also been in the military, a police officer, and a bomb squad technician previously so he told the campers a little bit about those careers as well.

It was pretty interesting to see how everything was pieced together, but it was also pretty exhausting. I got a little bit of a sunburn (in cloudy 54 degree weather?) and my feet are a litte bit sore. It is one more experience under my belt though so I think in the grand scheme of things it was worth it.

Around 5:30 today the investigator thought he had pieced it together enough to call it done. The rest of the night I’ve been able to eat and shower (finally) and now I’m drinking some tea in the quiet dining hall looking out at the fog over the mountains.

One of the instructors has to go to a wedding later this week and so the director’s wife asked me to fill in for a few days. I think I’ll be teaching natural history – I’ll find out a little bit more about that in the next few days. I’m pretty excited to have a chance to try that out. I’m thinking it’ll be semi-similar to what I had been doing interning for the Friends of the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg this past Spring, but I’ll have to see. Either way, it’s another new experience I get to add to the list.

Half (about 16) of the campers left earlier tonight to go across the bay for two days to go to (from what I understand) is a big learning center where they will be able to observe organisms in tide pools and then take some of those organisms into labs to learn more about them. It sounds like a really cool learning experience. The other half will head there in a few days so the dining hall will only be 1/2 full until they’re all back.

UPDATES

The sprouts are still growing. We’ve been rinsing them twice a day but I think it’ll take a few days to see any real progress.

I also haven’t been in the greenhouse in the last few days 🙁 but we’ve been reading up on permaculture and the “three sisters” method (which is planting squash, corn, and beans together) so we’re probably going to plant some beans in the same plot as the pumpkins and corn we have growing.

I did get another blanket for my yurt a few nights ago so that’s been nice and warm – until I have to get up!

 

-Hannah

 

P.S. thank you to everyone who’s been reading my blog! I really appreciate the interest in my adventuring (:

P.P.S I’m sorry for the occasional grammatical errors/typos. I write these at the end of the day when I’m too tired to proofread!

 

Day 8 (Sprouts, Education, and More Rain)

It’s day 8 at Ageya and day 11 in Alaska and I’m finally really experiencing some rain. Everyone keeps saying it was way worse (colder) in June – and I believe it – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still cold here. I spent my first night in Eagle last night and was really optimistic about the temperature at first, but it did get a little nippy around 3am (I’m getting more blankets tonight). It feels like a rainy late February day back home and I’ve been walking around in my rain proof winter coat (which seems to be the norm) but there are some people so used to the weather that they’re comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. I don’t think I’ll ever really get to that level.

I’m also starting to get too used to the food here. I’m going to have a problem when I go back home or back to school and have to actually cook or eat something not restaurant quality (Heaven forbid). Today we had quiche, grapes, bagels, and fresh blueberry muffins for breakfast; chicken tortilla soup and quesadillas for lunch; and brown rice and curry chicken soup for dinner.

I was also able to spend a good chunk of time earlier in the day working on a project I’m really into. Another WWOOFer and I have taken the lead on developing a curriculum for a series of greenhouse/sustainability/permaculture courses to be tried this camp and fully implemented next camp. It’s supposed to span over 5 one hour classes and give the campers a chance to learn about sustainable food sources, developing permaculture and developing a greenhouse and how all of those things are done here at camp. The goal is for them to understand the concepts well enough to be able to go back to their communities (a good portion of the campers are from rural villages in Alaska) with the motivation to grow their own food at least on a small scale (like growing sprouts, creating a small garden for their family, or starting a community growing program). Speaking of sprouts, some of the WWOOFers and I got some started today so that there will be examples to show the campers when they get around to learning about them (which is also covered by one of the instructors in his plant lessons). I wasn’t (and still am not) super familiar with the idea of sprouts for food but from what I’ve gathered they’re basically plant seeds that you rinse twice daily and keep in a dark place until they sprout (pop open) from the seed casings. They can then be eaten and are supposed to be really nutritious – and easy for campers to do on their own back home. Here’s what ours looked like at the beginnning:

We used three tablespoons of seeds, three tablespoons of citric acid (a preservative), placed them in jars, and covered them with a screen (we used pieces of a tshirt).

We used three tablespoons of seeds, three tablespoons of citric acid (a preservative), placed them in jars, and covered them with a screen (we used pieces of a tshirt). I don’t remember what the far left jar is – but the middle is wheat berry and the far right is sunflower seeds. And if you’re thinking “why didn’t we use more of these giant jars?” – I thought that too, but apparently the sprouts will get big enough to fill it up.


The rest of the day I did some work in the greenhouse – re-tying tomato plants so that they don’t sag (we don’t use cages for the tomatoes, we just have a string attaching each plant to planks of wood above them), pulling up romaine lettuce roots, and making another list of tasks with the other WWOOFers to be done tomorrow. I also organized and inventoried camp sweatshirts and water bottles – but that was a very small portion of my day.

We kind of hit a lull before dinner so we sat around in the dining hall drinking tea and talking about bad horror movies and weird alien documentaries on the discovery channel.

I’m going to take a look at the camper schedule either tonight or tomorrow and find some things that I’d like to help out with or participate in and try and get in on some of that stuff. I might also be able to join in on the trip across the Bay at the end of the month (fingers crossed) if I can finagle it.

It just keeps raining, even as I’m sitting here typing. And it’s just cold enough to make my fingers a little chilly sitting next to a window, but it could be much worse – especially up here. I love it up here but I really don’t think I could live here with the winters (or falls, or springs). Summer might just be all I can handle (at least for now).

-Hannah

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