New Year's Letter 2007

Dear Friends,
Happy New Year.  2007 had more than one rocky moment, but in the end I’d say it was an improvement over last year.  It started out with the snowiest winter on record--the storms began in early November and the subsequent ice remained for months.  I live at the bottom of a long steep driveway with a diminutive Geo metro for transport—not a good combination!  I couldn’t drive home for five solid months.  The skiers loved it (and I reluctantly made it to the slopes a few times), but schlepping all my groceries a hundred yards on the ice and snow in the dark got old.


It didn’t help that the rest of my life seemed to collapse mid-winter.  Home life was unbearable after, in a fit of generosity, I lent my extra room to an unemployed meth addict (to my credit, I didn’t know he was a meth addict at the time).  An insomniac, he never slept when I did and kept me up all night tinkering in the garage or watching videos in his room.  Every day seemed to bring a new unfortunate surprise. He took over the extra bedroom without permission (stocking the closet with about 70 pairs of shoes), moved an entire storage unit into my garage (after I told him he could store a toolbox there), put a locking door knob on his room, and gouged out the outside door in an attempt to break in when he locked his key inside.  I’m pretty sure he is OCD and a hoarder to boot.  I wish I could describe the piles and piles of crap he had in the garage and room, but nothing would do it justice.  Thankfully, just when I was about to get serious with him, he told me he was checking into rehab to avoid incarceration for possession and would move out at the end of February.  Of course he was absolutely incapable of accomplishing anything so in the end my parents and a friend and I forcefully moved him out on March 3rd amid much unpleasantness.


My new roommate arrived the same day from Anchorage, a former co-worker and friend of a friend.  She was a welcome change and lives with me still; later I met a guy from Anchorage at the side of the rode while rock climbing and he moved in for six weeks and became a friend.  During that same period at work, the disengaged and incompetent leadership in my office caused morale to plummet to an all time low; my friend and boss of five years left for other employment in April.  While the extra duties I took on in his absence helped distract me, things only got worse.  After yanking me about for seven months, I was finally transferred to a different division in a different building.  As much as I didn’t care for the manner of the move, I much preferred the environment.  Then a job opened up at Dept. of Fish & Game recently that was very enticing and I couldn’t resist; in December I began work with the Southeast Sustainable Salmon Fund as a grants administrator III and I look forward to working with the biologists.


In early April I took off for a spontaneous weekend vacation to visit a new friend in Seattle.  We drove across the Olympic Peninsula and hiked through the cedar forest to Cape Alava for the night.  We had the misty, dramatic coastline all to ourselves (along with a ton of sea birds and deer) and listened to the waves crashing all night.


Back home I labored vigorously on my garden, filling in perpetually vacant spots in the beds, covering the edge of the driveway with weed-blocking cloth and cedar bark, and separating perennials.  The result (influenced by decent spring weather) was fantastic--at least until mid-summer when it became totally neglected.  I ate spinach and sorrel salads from my garden over the summer, picked small bouquets of flowers, and dug up loads of fat carrots this fall.  


Many of you are part of my email list, and so have at least some idea of the adventures I got up to this summer (if not you’ll find them all at  It was crazy (as usual) and comprised the bulk of my fun this year.  Thankfully we were blessed with normal, pleasant summer weather.  Starting in May I spent 15 out of 22 summer weekends (and some week days) out of town including four trips up to the Taku cabin and 13 down to Snettisham.  This summer’s achievements include a potable drinking water system, propane range, gray water treatment system, porches on the cabins, stairs to the lodge, stain on all buildings, a second outhouse, and lots of other small improvements.  I’m not open for business yet, but it’s getting darned comfortable.  For the first time I spent a whole week there.


All this time in the wilderness (often alone) may have something to do with my increased wildlife encounters.  In the early summer when the grass was fresh and the salmon not yet running, the place was alive with brown bears.  I’ve seen lots of tracks and scat in the past, but they always avoided me.  Then one afternoon Nigel alerted me to a bear; I put him inside and sat on the porch of the lodge watching a young female brownie vigorously tearing up grass and munching happily down the beach.  This bear continued to appear regularly for some time.  A few weeks later I was returning from a solo kayak trip to find her at the edge of the water right in front of the lodge.  She was making her way along the shore back toward Gilbert Bay and I kayaked alongside her.  The tide was very high, forcing her to hug the cliffs, pace along a narrow band of rocks and, at one point, swim.  I paddled alongside about 10-15 feet away (or less) for about half an hour; she occasionally glanced my way but was otherwise wholly unperturbed by my company.  It was marvelous.  What a beautiful bear!


I recognized two other bears this summer (one large, dark brownie and a cinnamon black bear), though I’m sure more passed through.  Humpbacks frequented the inlet again and one evening I heard blows and looked up to see orcas.  I spent about two hours in their company (much of it drifting at a distance), and was approached repeatedly by a couple of rambunctious youngsters spy hopping and breaching.  For the second fall in a row I missed the September resident orcas, so this was my exciting encounter for the year.  An unusual minke whale also made an appearance in the inlet.


So I was on the water a lot.  I’m in the process of renewing my 100 ton masters license and recently had to count up my sea time—35 days on the water this summer, mostly on my own skiff.  I spent a lot of time out there!  I even did spring maintenance myself this year instead of taking the boat to the shop.  Long trips to the homestead meant that I explored more, whale watched in Snettisham, ventured up the river a little, explored mine ruins, kayaked, etc.  My cousin and her husband visited from Fairbanks and had a few adventures at Snettisham and Taku.  Teamo Supremo returned to Sweetheart Creek for our 4th annual sockeye slaying adventure in August.  The river was packed, so we tried new areas and techniques and came away with 33 fish split three ways.  The day was threatening to be adventure-free when a mother brown bear and three cubs showed up, followed by a loan brownie, which resulted in a detour and a long, arduous kayak back to the boat (towing 160 lbs. of fish).  I was pretty worn out by the time Sweetheart was over, but I continued adventuring through the end of September with a final fall trip up to the Taku cabin.  The late spring threw the berry season off a little, but I managed to pick about 15 cups of nagoonberries. 


Nigel was my adventure buddy this summer and he continues to amaze me with his intelligence, sensitivity, adaptability and general good nature.  With experience, his extreme discomfort on boats gradually faded until he now steps eagerly onto the skiff.  I don’t think he enjoys the ride any more than he used to, but he’s no longer as scared and he knows that trips are rewarded with wilderness freedom with his mom.  We celebrated our 10 year anniversary together in October and this card is dedicated to him, without doubt my best buddy, near constant companion, and the best dog in the world.

My little sister Nina and I continue to have fun together.  This summer we hiked, camped, cooked, canoed, climbed, carved pumpkins, and learned to fly fish (I caught a pink salmon).  Bunches of other things too I can’t remember.  She always impresses me with her insights, enthusiasm, generosity, and sense of humor.  She’s now half way through seventh grade.  We were BBBS’s match of the month in December.

Over the winter I continued to climb once or twice a week at the climbing gym and even managed to climb on real rock a few times this spring before the rest of the summer began.  I quit climbing over the summer, but picked it up again this fall and just climbed my first 5.10.  Starting last winter I also began taking ballroom dance classes again, including Argentine tango, foxtrot, and waltz.  Fall brought its own flurry of activity as I buttoned things up for the winter, engaged in social life again, got the house organized, and attended some of the many concerts, lectures, and other events around town. 


As the end of the year approached and the despair of winter set in, I gave in and took another mini vacation the week before Christmas, this time to visit a friend in San Diego. We spent a lovely and mellow weekend walking his dog, visiting the San Diego zoo, and exploring Balboa Park and the harbor in the December sunshine.  I also stopped in Seattle for a brief visit on the way back.

Hope you all had good years, and may the next one be better.    –Debbie

Debbie's Biography