Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cantwell, Alaska

First, I should say that we have a lot to post, and I do plan on putting up stuff related to our trip to Buenos Aires and Uruguay, our visits in the U.S. with family and friends, and our first Alaska work shift down on the Alaska Peninsula in Chignik. This is the first internet connection we've had overlap with some time off, though, and our cultural enligtenment during dinner tonight proved to be pretty good fodder for a quick post.

3 indications the bar you just entered may not be the best place to stay:

1. The bartender's first question to you is "do you have any guns to check?" and informs you he's leaving the state because he's sick of shootings and knife fights.

2. The guy who's just bellyed up at the stool next to yours begins his conversation with "yeah i've been in and out of prisons pretty much my whole life, but I only get DWIs now"

3. At 10PM, "Swamp Angel Road" is taking the stage.

Welcome to Cantwell, Alaska, home to 212 hearty souls, approximately 70 miles east of Denali Peak as the crow flies on the Parks Highway. Jo and I have packed up a Uhaul with field gear and boxes of other random stuff including a pair of crutches and a well-worn moon-boot foot brace (see post regarding Hawaii trip last summer) and are headed north toward our new project area just east of Ferry, AK, then to Fairbanks for a few days. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend the Cantwell Lodge for a burger and lively conversation.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Only in Alaska..........

Only in Alaska can you buy a handgun at the grocery store. Yesterday I went in to Fred Meyer to pick up a few things and walked out with a carton of milk, a box of cereal, some toilet paper, a Ruger .357 revolver, and a six-pack (figured I could use the empty cans for target practice).


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sunsets and Schedules

I know I take too many pictures of sunsets, but here it's a shame not too. Had another beautiful one tonight.


It looks like Jo and I will spend our next break in Buenos Aires, Argentina as our visas are set to expire at the start of May. Pretty excited about this! Our friend Alex and his girlfriend Paula coincidentally are moving from Santiago to Montevideo just before our break, so it looks like we'll get to hang out a bit with them too. Should be loads of fun. Alex went to school with Jo at Oregon State and was with us on our first overseas trip to New Zealand in 2000. He's worked in South America a long time and speaks like a local. It'll be good to have him around, since our Spanish is still pretty bad.

After another work shift, we'll head back to the states for a short break, sometime around the end of May/start of June, then make our way up to Alaska for another season of gunslingin and rockhoundin.

We're off to work tomorrow so we'll be off the net for bit. Ciao.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

End of summer?

Well it is here anyway. Kids are back in school, the tourists are back in Santiago and Argentina, and the nights are cool. A perfect time to take a few days off in La Serena. To be honest, Jo and I are enjoying some domestic time in the apartment. Lucky for me, she has an addiction to cooking fabulous ornate meals originating from around the globe. I just have to sit back and eat. Tough.

Pisco Elqui

Since our visit to Pisco Elqui in the Elqui Valley over last break, Jo's also perfected the art of the pisco sour. Just be sure you put in enough pisco to take Uncle Sal (salmonella) out of the party since raw egg white is involved.

Seriously though, the Elqui Valley was a much needed respite after another stint at camp. The barren brown mountains are contrasted by lush and bright green grape vines in the tight valley. Gorgeous. Jo and I each independently stumbled upon the same place to stay in our short search for accomodation there ... the cabanas at Mysterios de Elqui. Since we arrived on a Monday, no one was there except for one other couple! This place has an amazing pool and surrounding entertainment setup that I wish we had some use for. Set upon the southern side of the valley, you enter from the street on the valley high-side and are greeted at reception by James (yes, Chileno), the owner. He took us down the path to our cabana, outfitted with its own covered porch. The next morning, around 9, a breakfast of local fruits, crepes and coffee appeared on the porch around 9am, as included.

Sometime before noon (I think) we made our way further down the grounds to the beautiful thatch-roofed bar and outdoor seating area that overlook the pool.

A bit of guilt hit me since this area then overlooks the fields where locals are out sweating and picking grapes. Hope those guys get a vacation, too. Actually, James pointed out that Pisco Elqui is fortunate in that all residents (barely over 1 or 200) are employed. That's more than you can say about lots of towns back home. But I digress. Back to my American over-indulgence. The coolest feature were the adobe loungers molded into the short wall around the pool area that overlook the valley:

As the name implies, Pisco Elqui is well know for it's pisco production. For the uninitiated (like me in Oct. 2006) pisco is a liquor derived from certain varietal of grapes, distilled in a similar way as brandy. The final product varies in strength, anywhere from 35 to 45 proof, with the strong stuff of course being the "best" that you should really drink neat. That is, of course, unless you would like to be able to walk for the next hour or so. The varieties we've tries so far vary from a fine ether to a brandy/tequila mix. The locals solve this issue of questionable flavor by adding copious amounts of simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and (usually) some egg white. Toss a drop of angostra bitters in the jar, shake it up, then pour into a fancy looking glass, delicately add another drop or two of bitters, and there's your pisco sour. A fine drink. But no more than two, I warn you.

Jo and I took a tour of the Mistral pisco distillery and had the good fortune of seeing the sights with a guide who took pity on our Spanish abilities. It was an animated affair and she did a fabulous job of somehow making us understand everything from the distillation process to how long the first owner of the fields played dominos with his buddies in a cave in a drunken stupor sometime in the late 1800s. Kudos to this woman. And there was free tasting at the end. Again, kudos to this woman. Along the way we were able to take some pretty ridiculous touron pics. I'm only going to post one (the rest are on the Flickr site):

I have no idea what association this car has to the distillation of pisco. But the facts remain as they are, Jo is behind the wheel and you should get off the road.

At the end of the tour, we picked a pisco we liked and got to fill and label our very own bottle! We'll be sure to have this on hand in Copper Harbor in September. The only drawback was that they made Jo wear this hat while she filled it up. She was very excited about me taking this picture.

Besides cabanas and pisco, Pisco Elqui is a picturesque town in itself. A blurb about it wouldn't be complete without a pic of the local church. The town plans in Latin America may be pretty similar, but the character of each place is unique.

Punta de Choros boat tour

During our break in mid-February we took a day to drive north and take a boat tour with our office assistant Jessica out of the quaint fishing village town of Punta de Choros. Jessica had taken the tour before but missed out on seeing dolphins and hoped to get a view this time around. Apparently they were around, but not while we were in the water. Regardless, it was a bright sunny day, the water was brilliant blues and greens, and we saw lots of penguins and sea lions. It was a load of fun. Some of the other guests on the boat jumped in for a dip, but believe me the water is not as warm as it looks. Not Canon Beach cold, but not close to tropical. Below are a couple of highlights, again, more pics are posted on Flickr.

By the way, Flickr has a cool new feature that allows you to pin photos to a map location. I've been trying to add locations to our photos, hopefully I can finish that up before next break. I've finished most of the Chile pics and some of the Alaska photos. It's a pretty amazing tool and the locations can be view on a simple typical map style or with satellite photos or a hybrid of the two. Resolution is within tens of meters for the map, little under a kilometer for the sat photos. Check it out!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Edits to Last entry

...just a quick note to let you know that the airport information (for the wedding) was incorrect in the last entry and has since been edited. In the meantime, we will put together a wedding website that is separate from the blog...more on that later.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hola Amigos

We'll we're posting again so that means:

1. we took some more pictures
2. we are in a hurry to go somewhere where we'll be out of computer range for a bit

So let's recap...


Hopefully most of you got the Holiday memo for this past holiday season. It included a bit of our roundabout trip to Denver during the massive snowstorm(s) that shut down the airport for a few days. The short version of this story is that as we came in for landing at DIA on the morning of the 23rd, the winds were too strong to land so we went to Salt Lake. After a few hourse on the tarmac there, the airline decided to take us back to Dallas, where we had originated, unless of course you count the flights from La Serena and Santiago. Anyway, without a way to get on another flight until the 27th, we had to rent a car and hit the road.

At first, we thought we were heading to Denver. By Amarillo, this clearly was not gonna happen. The weather and road were still awful and the thought of getting to Denver only to turn around and head back to New Mexico wasn't pleasant. The next day we bee-lined it for Taos.

My good friend Jayson lives in a beautiful adobe in Arroyo Seco (below), just outside of town and strategically located near Taos Ski Valley. He hooked me up with some gear and we got some nice turns in under blue bird skies. It was a great visit. I also bumped into a good friend from the Colorado College days who's relocated back to Taos, where he grew up. Jake taught me a thing or two about skiing during that one year in Colorado Springs and it was great to see him, hang out and meet his new wife and babe. Of course, I should have taken more photos. I don't have one of either Jayson or Jake.

For Christmas Eve and Day, we had plans to meet up with our friends Heath and Shanti at their super comfy new home in Sante Fe. Our friend Brandon also joined us from Portland. We spent a good deal of time getting caught up with our mutally busy lives and then proceeded to cook and eat. Well, some cooked more than others (everyone but Joel), but that's largely because I doubt they'd care too much for a meal I prepared.

We had a lovely stroll down Canyon Road gawking at art and enjoying the luminarios and lights brightened by white snow...

And went for a late dinner at Maria's for the traditional pasole and tamales. Delicious.

Christmas Day was a feast of Chilean empanadas for lunch following by cornish game hens and numerous accompaniments in the evening. Heath captured the moment well with the family seated all around...

By the 26th it was time to say goodbye and head north to visit our friends Stacy and Mike. Stacy's Dad graciously offered to let us stay at his wonderful new home in Bayfield, CO, about 15 east of Durango. Thanks again Steve! It was fun getting caught up with those guys while dodging out-of-control Texans (no disrespect intended to my fellow rednecks) on the slopes at Wolf Creek.

We also had a chance to get to know Dutton (Stacy and Mikes beautiful chocolate lab) well. What a great pup. In between runs we were able to hit the refreshing Pagosa Hot Springs. Very relaxing. At some point we need to visit these guys at home in Socorro, New Mexico.

Next on the agenda was Denver. Until the second snowstorm put an end to that idea. Better find a place to stay, quick, New Years is just around the bend. Then the thought hit me. I got a hold of friends Bret and Keri. Just a few years back they found a condo near the base of Crested Butte. As luck would have it, no one was renting for the next 3 days and we were in! How cool are those guys? Thanks again! You can check out their view from the balcony below.

Jo and I had a nice romantic dinner out on the town following by an old-fashioned throw-down by local funk band Full-Stop Funk supported by the super boogiefied Children of the Horn. Although the snow conditions weren't ideal, we had blue skies on the mountain and enjoyed a great day of cross country skiing during the first day of 2007.

As we made our way back to Denver, we couldn't resist the temptation to soak at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. So we lounged in the thermals on the side of the river before succombing to the calls of work.


We headed back to Chile on Jan. 4 and worked for a few weeks before heading back up north for the Roundup Mineral Exploration Conference in Vancouver, BC at the end of January. We capped off the busy and fun week by skiing a few days at Whistler where friends from Seattle, Portland, and Nevada met us, stayed and played. Good times. Unfortunately we have hardly any photos from this 10 day trip. I did manage to get a good one of our friend Kevin, who's a new Master's student at the Mineral Deposit Research Unit at UBC in Vancouver. You'll find Kev in some other photos from Mongolia (likely with a beard and mad look in his eye), he worked with us on several different projects over there. We commented to each other several times that it was nice to get to know one another after having showered.


On February 6 we left Vancouver, spent a night in Denver, then headed down south. Looks like we be working down here until at least May, maybe a bit longer. We're likely headed to a project in Mexico for 3-4 weeks after that. At some point we'll make it back to Denver for a short time before heading back to Alaska for at least part of the summer.


And in the middle of all this craziness is our wedding!

SEPTEMBER 22, 2007

As many have pointed out, I made an error in my email with the attached Holiday memo. The wedding is in fact THIS year, we are not yet married.

Jo has worked hard to solidify accomidations for 250-300 people in Copper Harbor, although we'll be impressed if we fill all the rooms.

I've had several people ask how to get to Copper Harbor by air. The easist route is to fly to

Hancock, MI (adjacent to Houghton) (~45 min. from Copper Harbor, airport code = CMX)

However, alternatives are to drive from:

Marquette, MI (~ 2 hrs. 15 min. airport code = MQT)

Duluth, MN (~ 4 hrs. 45 min., airport code = DLH)

Central Wisconsin airport in Wassau, WI (~ 4 hrs. 45 min., airport code = CWA )

Flights are probably cheaper to Minneapolis or Chicago, but the drive would be quite long (~ 7 hrs). We are planning on providing a shuttle from the airport in Houghton/Hancock to Copper Harbor to avoid the need of a car rental there. We're hoping this and the affordability of the hotels will offset some of the airline costs for those who must fly. Look for further details on the blog or the official invite that we hope to have out this spring. On that note:


hopefully you know the email, I'm not going to post it here for fear of phishers and spammers.

Hope you're all well!