I am excited to welcome 2018 and not at all sad to leave 2017 behind me. Do you wish you could see into the future? I certainly would not want that ability. I looked back at the post I wrote a year ago, and I was so enthusiastic and excited about what I would accomplish in 2017. I had no idea I would spend most of the year sick, weak and in pain, and I had no clue my brother, uncle, and cousin would pass away in 2017. I would not have wanted to know any of these things on January 1st, 2017.
New Year’s Day is a time for planning, dreaming, and looking forward. Life happens, and plans get derailed by sickness, death, and catastrophes, but still, the ability to plan and dream is a luxury, and I know I am extremely fortunate to live someplace where I can indulge in that luxury. I think about people who live in extreme poverty or war-torn countries. What are their dreams when they know their situation is unlikely to improve in the coming year? What is New Year’s Day like for them? For me, 2018 is shiny and bright and full of possibilities. I am very lucky.
My health is improving with every passing day. I am regaining my strength, and my muscles are slowly returning to life. Before long, I will be able to exercise again, and then I will have more energy and a sharper mind (I hope!). I often have been told to appreciate my health, but I don’t think I gave it a second thought until now. I won’t take my health for granted again.
I checked my resolutions from the post I wrote last year to see what I did and did not accomplish. I wanted to publish my third novel, and I did. The Fisherman’s Daughter is now available at online booksellers. I hoped to finish and edit my wildlife book, and I accomplished half of that resolution. I finished the book, but I haven’t edited it yet. I hope to tackle the big job of editing it this winter. I resolved to work on the camp cookbook, but I didn’t do much on it. I also resolved to have the rough draft of my fourth novel written, but nope, I haven’t done that either.
So, what have I done? Editing The Fisherman’s Daughter took much longer than I anticipated, and while I hate to blame anything on my health, it took its toll. I only had enough energy for my job, my blog posts, my newsletter, and editing. I did write approximately 20,000 words of my next novel, and I know the story I want to tell. I am excited about the novel I call Karluk Bones, and I think it will be a good story. I am working on it again now, so I’m sure I will finish it in a few months, and I hope to have it published sometime in 2018.
I have written enough Mystery Newsletters about true crime in Alaska to compile them into a book, and I hope to self-publish my true-crime book this year and offer it free to my newsletter subscribers. If I finish my true crime book, my wildlife book, and another novel, I could publish three books in 2018. I may be dreaming, but I think it is good to dream.
As a nice surprise this year, my publisher started a website called Author Masterminds: https://authormasterminds.com where I and some of his other authors can sell our books. I have my personal information on my author page, so if they want to, readers can contact and correspond with me. The site is also an easy place for authors to discount their books and run promotions. I think the site has a great deal of potential, and I am anxious to explore and spend more time on it in the next few months. It is not easy to be a successful author in today’s marketplace, but so far, I still think it is possible. I still have that dream!
My publisher also created a webinar for me about how I became a published author, and soon it will be ready for you to see. I used Mike’s gorgeous wildlife photos and my friend Ryan Augustine’s amazing photos and videos to create the webinar, so I am very happy with the way it turned out. If you want to take a quick trip to the wilderness of Alaska, I think you’ll enjoy the show.
I wish you a happy 2018. May you have good health, happiness, and love, and may you never stop dreaming.
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Happy Holidays! I hope you are enjoying a festive or peaceful holiday season. I know some enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays while others seek peace. My holidays are very quiet, and I enjoy the peace.
This is the season when I have time to write and indulge myself in a few hobbies. Of course, I also have plenty of work to do this time of year, but I do it on my schedule.
So far, our winter has been wet, windy and warm. The weather has not lured me outdoors for a hike, but I’m happy to have warm weather, even if it is stormy. When the weather is warm, we don’t have to worry about our water line freezing, and more importantly, we don’t have to watch the deer struggle to stay warm and finally die from exposure and starvation. Last winter was very cold, and approximately half the deer on the island died. When we returned from our vacation in March and hiked into the woods, we found deer carcasses everywhere. When it snows here, it is beautiful, but then I think about the deer, and I begin to worry about them.
We are gaining a few seconds of daylight each day again, but right now, it starts getting light at 10:00 am and dark again at 4:00 pm. Kodiak Island is in the southern part of Alaska, so we have more daylight than most of the state. I don’t mind the limited daylight, but what wears on me is even when it’s light in the middle of the day, we don’t see the sun because it is low on the horizon, and mountains surround us. I miss the sun, and I will be very happy when it returns in a few weeks.
A perfect Christmas day for me will be (weather permitting) a hike on the beach with Mike and our cats, followed by a Christmas dinner with our neighbor, Jim, and capped off by a hot-buttered rum in front of the woodstove.
Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate this time of year, I wish you joy, happiness, and peace.
If you’d like to buy yourself a gift, my novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter, is now available for sale in both e-book and print formats. For a free gift to yourself, sign up below for my newsletter about true crime and mysteries from Alaska. You can check out this month’s newsletter about the ambush of two Alaska State Troopers by following this link: Massacre in Tanana.
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I am thrilled to announce the e-book of my new novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers. Here is a short synopsis of the novel:
Seventeen-year-old Deanna Kerr fights to start her outboard engine as storm-tossed waves fill her boat with water. Panicked and crying, relief spreads through Deanna when a boat approaches her. She believes she is about to be rescued. Four months later, Deanna’s bones are found in a pile of kelp on the beach. Her ankles are wired together, and her skull crushed.
Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Dan Patterson fears a serial killer is stalking women on Kodiak. Including Deanna Kerr, three women have been murdered on the island in the past six months. When a park ranger discovers the body of a fourth woman dumped in the park in the middle of a blizzard, Patterson contacts the FBI and requests their assistance.
FBI, Special Agent Nick Morgan has been to Kodiak before on another case, and he volunteers to return to the fascinating island and its unique, independent people. He knows he also accepted this assignment because he hopes to see Dr. Jane Marcus, a woman he met on his previous trip to the island and hasn’t been able to stop thinking about since then.
Morgan flies into Kodiak on an icy, December day to offer his assistance to the investigation. Only 13,500 people live on Kodiak Island, but Morgan soon realizes the list of suspects for these crimes is long. Could the killer be the crab boat captain who knew Deanna Kerr and was the last person seen with one of the other victims, or is the murderer one of the coaches at the high school or the strange assistant coach who seems to have an unhealthy relationship with children? The killer could also be someone related to one of the victims. Morgan believes the killer is a person the victims had no reason to fear and he thinks they willingly met with him. As the investigation proceeds, Patterson begins to worry the murderer could be a police officer or a trooper and may even be one of the members of his task force.
When the murderer strikes again, tensions escalate, and Patterson and Morgan know they must catch this monster before another woman dies or before the killer leaves the island and begins preying on women somewhere else.
The Fisherman’s Daughter will be released as an e-book on October 17th, and the print version will be released on November 1st. If you are planning to buy an e-book of The Fisherman’s Daughter, it will help boost the book’s ratings if you pre-order it. As always thank you for your support!
This week, I would like to give you a summer update. Last week, I wrote about the difficult spring and summer I have had, but I didn’t want to leave things on a negative note. I began writing my last post a few weeks ago, and since then, I have gotten stronger and am beginning to recover the use of my muscles. Lately, I’ve been going out on the boat nearly every day with our summer guests; although, I will admit I’m not much help.
While I have been challenged by the physical demands of my job this summer, spending my days with our guests and the wildlife of Uyak Bay has done much to repair my psychological health. Mike took the above photo one day when a pod of Orcas fed and frolicked near our lodge. An abundant, sustained pink salmon run this summer has provided food for everything from Orcas to bears to eagles. Our fishermen have also enjoyed catching salmon.
Soon after my return from the hospital (you can read about that drama in my last post), a group of Australian guests involved us all in an interactive murder game, lasting their entire stay. The game was great fun and had us each trusting no one else in camp. It did not surprise me when Mike (my husband) won the game by murdering the most people. As if my summer hadn’t already been bad enough, Mike even murdered me!
The most uplifting news for me this season was to learn that a sow we have watched for the past eight years showed up this summer with three newborn cubs. The sow was badly injured by another bear when she was very young, and her rear end was flayed open. The injury was so bad, we didn’t think she would survive. We were happy and surprised to see her the next summer, and while the scar has faded over the years, it is still obvious. She has always been a favorite bear for us and our guests because she seems to like to perform in front of us, often catching a fish and then turning toward the photographers, fish held high while the cameras whir. The walls in our dining room are covered with photos of bears, and many of the photos are of her. As the years passed, and she appeared by herself summer after summer, we assumed she was a barren sow and wondered if the horrific injury she received when she was little more than a cub had anything to do with her inability to reproduce. We couldn’t have been more surprised when she showed up this summer with three tiny cubs trailing behind her, and I immediately began e-mailing some of our past guests to tell them the exciting news. From all accounts, she is a good mother, and all those years of fishing on her own have made her a proficient provider. She still doesn’t seem afraid of us, but she keeps her distance from humans now because she has more than herself to worry about.
We still have several weeks left of our summer season, and if nature follows its usual trend, fishing will peak in late August, and bear viewing will get better every day right up until our last day of the season in mid-September. Every year, nearly 50% of our guests are returnees, and this year is no exception. We love the mix of returnees and new guests, and I like to think of it as old and new friends.
No matter how bad the first part of my summer was, I knew things would improve once I climbed onto our boat, the Mary Beth, and began enjoying adventures with our guests.
This year, I struggled through a difficult spring into a terrible summer. It often seems bad things happen in bunches, and this has been my year for one of those bunches. In April, I experienced a painful outbreak of shingles. I live a floatplane ride away from a doctor, and it costs approximately $2000 for me to make a quick visit to my family practitioner, not counting the cost of the doctor’s appointment. I have to charter a plane both ways, rent a car, and usually stay in a hotel for at least one or two nights. When I face such an expense, I must stop to consider whether a trip to the doctor is really necessary. When I broke out with shingles, I decided I could not get to the doctor in time for the anti-viral medication to be effective, so I felt there was nothing a doctor could do for me.
The shingles virus raged inside my body. At times, I felt as if I had broken a rib and at others I swore I had pneumonia or was suffering a heart attack. The stabbing pain in my side was the most intense, and it was relentless. At night, I could find no position in bed where my body did not scream in pain, and I usually curled up in a chair for an hour or two of restless sleep. I am certain those of you who have had shingles understand the pain I am describing.
I foolishly thought once the blisters from the rash healed, I would recover. Unfortunately, though, the pain only seemed to get worse. In late May, we took our boat to town to have work done on it, and I saw my doctor who prescribed a medication to help numb the nerve pain. She also informed me the pain could last for several months or years, and I decided I’d better learn to live with it. Luckily, the medication did help, and the pain lessened.
In late June, I flew back to Kodiak to help my husband bring our boat home, an eight-to-12-hour voyage, depending on the weather. When we got back to our lodge, we were very busy getting things ready for our summer, tourism season. We are building a new cabin, so I spent my days painting walls. I also painted the long board-walk skirting our cabins, and I did yardwork and tended my garden. I could tell something wasn’t right with me, though. After we returned from town, I felt tired and blamed it on the very busy two days I’d spent in Kodiak. Then, I began to notice how difficult it was for me to walk up the hill from our dock. A few days later, I was startled when I could barely climb the stairs to a storage room. My left leg refused to work. Soon, I noticed weakness in my right leg and both arms. When I began to feel intense tingling in my hands and feet, I knew I had a neurological issue.
At first, I denied I had a medical problem; the last thing I wanted to do was fly back to Kodiak. Finally, two days before our summer season was to begin, I had to be helped onto a floatplane for the ride to town. My plan was to see the doctor and fly home the same afternoon.
I at first stumped the doctors in Kodiak, but when they consulted a neurologist in Anchorage, they came up with a possible diagnosis of Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS). They explained to me that my immune system got confused while fighting shingles and turned on my nervous system, stripping myelin from my nerve sheath. GBS can be dangerous and in an extreme case, an individual has difficulty walking in the morning, and by afternoon, her entire body, including her chest wall, is paralyzed, forcing her to be on a ventilator just to survive.
Doctors in Kodiak wanted to medevac me to Anchorage, but I assured them I could get myself on the jet to Anchorage and to the hospital once I arrived there. Further tests at Providence Hospital in Anchorage confirmed I had GBS, and the neurologist recommended an infusion of immunoglobulins each day for the next five days. Meanwhile, physical therapy could work with me to determine if my symptoms were getting better, staying the same, or worsening. The usual progression for GBS is to worsen rapidly and then stay steady for a period before slowly improving. The neurologist explained it would take a year for me to recover, but nearly everyone who has GBS recovers completely.
I felt thankful to receive treatment and to know I had something from which I would recover. I hated not to be home to finish the hundred little chores I wanted to do before our summer season began, but I knew my husband, Mike, and our brilliant cook, Mary, would have no problem starting our summer season without me. I especially regretted I would not be at our lodge to greet our new, young camp helper, Emily, but Mary assured me she would orientate Emily, and they would do fine.
I sat back in the hospital bed and watched the infusion drip down the tube and through the needle into my veins. All would be okay; I would get through this. I reminded myself repeatedly that it could be worse. And then it did get worse – much worse.
On my last day in the hospital, I decided to call my brother, Russell, his wife, Melanie, and their son, Nick, in Kansas. I am very close to my brother, but we usually communicate by e-mail, mainly since it is nearly impossible for me to make a telephone call from our remote lodge. I decided to call him from the hospital, though, because I knew he was worried about my condition, and I wanted to assure him I was recovering and would be okay. I reached Russell and had a nice conversation with him and his family. Then, according to Melanie, after we disconnected, Russell decided to mow the grass in 100⁰ heat.
Melanie called me back at the hospital just as the nurse was starting my final infusion and gave me the horrible news. Russell had suffered a heart attack and had died while mowing the grass, little more than an hour after I had talked to him.
My world crashed down around me at the news of my brother’s death. I couldn’t believe such a strong force and one of the most important people in my life could be gone, and I stupidly kept thinking he couldn’t possibly be dead because I just had talked to him. I worried about Melanie and Nick and what they would do without Russell. I know Melanie is strong, but they were a unit, and I couldn’t imagine her without him.
The following morning, the doctor released me from the hospital. I took a cab to the airport and made my way from the entrance to my gate, shocked by how slowly I walked and exhausted I felt. It had been too foggy for planes to land in Kodiak for the past two days, but I was lucky, and the fog lifted just before my flight.
In Kodiak, a van whisked me to Andrew Airways, and soon, I was in a floatplane flying home. I felt numb and very tired as we skirted emerald mountains, plunging waterfalls, and deep valleys formed by glaciers and cut by rivers. All I cared about was getting home and curling into a ball with my cat to lick my wounds. I knew I would cherish my last conversation with my brother and would always be grateful that for whatever reason, I had placed the call to him only an hour before he died. I knew I wasn’t well enough to be much help to Mike on our summer trips. My usual job is to work on the boat as a wildlife-viewing and sport-fishing guide, but now I wasn’t even sure I could crawl onto the boat. One day at a time, I told myself. I would improve.
As we circled our lodge and came in low for a landing, I looked at our dock and nearly burst into tears. There stood Mike, Mary, and Emily, and Mary held a beautifully designed “welcome home” sign for me. With their help, I stepped off the plane and hugged each of them. Even Emily, who didn’t yet know me, gave me a big hug. I’ve never been so happy to be home in my life, and yes, my cat allowed me to cuddle beside her while she licked my hand, and I took a nap.
I write wilderness mystery novels set in the remote, untamed wilderness of Alaska, and I also write a newsletter about true crime in Alaska. Recently, as I thought about a plot for my next novel, I decided I would draw pieces of my plot from the bizarre true crimes I write about in my newsletter. I then recalled a character from my past who was far more frightening than any fictional madman I could conjure in my imagination.
My husband and his family operated a remote hunting camp on the Alaska Peninsula, and when my husband was just a boy, he and his family were terrorized by a crazy man who stalked the wilderness of the Alaska Peninsula and claimed he owned the area around Becharof Lake. Killer Bill, as he was called, once hiked into the hunting camp, threatened my father-in-law and then punched him, knocking him unconscious. Killer Bill served time in prison for this crime, and he also spent time in jail when he was convicted of manslaughter for killing a man in a bar. When released on probation, the judge warned Bill that as a condition of his parole, he could not carry a firearm. Killer Bill ignored the warning and carried a rifle everywhere he went.
Bill burned down the hunting camp my husband’s family owned, and when they rebuilt, they constructed tent frames, instead of cabins, hoping Killer Bill would find the tent frames less offensive. Bill responded by burning the tent frames.
One winter, the Alaska State Troopers found Killer Bill’s snow machine submerged in a river, and they assumed he’d fallen through the ice during the winter and had drowned, but they never found Bill’s body. Everyone wondered was he dead or still alive, terrorizing anyone who dared camp on the vast area of the Alaska Peninsula he considered his. On my first trip to Becharof in the late 1980s, my husband warned me to keep watch for an old man who might suddenly walk out of the woods.
“What,” I asked, “was I to do if I saw him hiking up to our camp?”
“I’m sure he won’t bother you,” my husband said, “but grab a rifle as soon as you see him, just to be safe.”
I never saw Killer Bill, and he was surely long dead by then, but every time we camped at Becharof, I worried less about the bears and wolves prowling the Peninsula outside my tent than I did about a strange, old man who might appear at any moment out of the mist.
Numerous rumors circulated about Killer Bill. A fish and game biologist told us that on several different occasions, Killer Bill had gone trapping during the winter with a partner, but when Bill returned in the spring, his trapping partners were never with him. Once, according to this biologist, troopers entered Bill’s cabin when he wasn’t there and found human remains in the cabin. They suspected Bill had eaten his trapping companions, but they were never able to find Bill and charge him with the crimes.
I can’t imagine anything more terrifying in the wilderness than a crazy man determined to do anything and kill anyone to protect what he believes is his. I plan to base a character in my next novel on Killer Bill, and I hope my readers will find my character as frightening as I found the specter of the real man.
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ike and I just returned home after six weeks on the road. We had a great vacation, but as always, I am happy to be home, despite the cold weather and frozen waterline.
Spring is still two months away in this area of the world, and we’ve had a tough winter here. After several mild winters, the black-tailed deer population on the island had exploded, but many deer did not survive the freezing temperatures this winter. I haven’t had a chance to go hiking yet to see with my own eyes how bad the winter kill was, but I’ve heard it was bad. The cycling of deer populations is normal, of course, and the deer population here will recover, but I find it difficult to watch animals starve to death and die from exposure.
I was thrilled to get a dose of sunshine and heat on our vacation. We went sailing with friends in the British Virgin Islands, and then Mike and I traveled further south to Bonaire where we snorkeled and dived and enjoyed wearing fewer layers of clothes than normal. Besides spending time with friends, the best part of the vacation for me was that I could snorkel nearly every day. I studied marine and fisheries biology in college, and I have always been fascinated by the underwater world. I could float above a coral reef all day long, watching the interactions between the fish and marine invertebrates in that busy community. The area surrounding Bonaire is a protected marine park, so the coral is healthy, and the tropical fish thrive. I would grab my mask and fins, jump off the dock at our hotel, and instantly be immersed in a gorgeous, underwater world. Getting to Bonaire was not easy, but it was well worth the hassle to enjoy that little piece of paradise.
During the many, long plane rides and mornings on the sailboat on our trip, I had time to edit the manuscript of my latest novel. With each pass, I am polishing it into the story I want it to be. I think most authors would tell you editing is the least fun part of the writing process, but editing is necessary and can’t be avoided. In addition to questioning every comma and semicolon and trying to remember whether a character’s eyes are blue or brown, I worry that the plot moves forward in a logical progression. Will the reader be surprised or disappointed? Are the characters believable? Have I provided enough description or too much description? My working manuscript is long, so I’m concerned I need to cut some scenes. Luckily, I will get help answering these questions. Once I have the manuscript as perfect as I can make it, I will send it to a professional editor who will look at it line by line and then step back and consider the manuscript as a whole. A few friends have also volunteered to read the manuscript, and my publisher will read through it and give me his thoughts.
I also want to ask for your help with my manuscript. In a few weeks, I will post a few excerpts from the book, and I encourage you to let me know what you think, good or bad. I would much rather have the feedback now than read it in a review on Amazon once the book has been published!
Finally, I have a gift for my blog readers. Click on the cover of my book below and receive a free coupon for an e-book of my novel, Murder Over Kodiak. When you click on the link you will be taken to a site provided by my publisher, and you will need to register to download the book, but there is no catch. The book is yours free!
As many of you know, I write a monthly newsletter about crime and mysteries in Alaska. I think of spring as the start of the new season for my newsletter, and I have several interesting topics I plan to cover over the next months. My newsletters are free, and you can always unsubscribe if they aren’t for you. If you think you would be interested in my newsletters, you can sign up here.
Summer Friends at Amook Pass is a post by my friend, Marcia Messier. I love this humorous story about her animal encounters while she worked for us at Munsey’s Bear Camp. What Marcia doesn’t tell you in this piece is that I named our goat visitor Marcie because the goat’s daring trip each summer from the mountains to the ocean, reminded me of Marcia’s adventurous spirit. Prepare to smile as you read about Marcia’s adventures!
During the summer months at Amook Pass, the animals were my friends. That sounds a bit corny, but they were amusing, startling, and comforting, all that friends should be. I looked forward and anticipated who might stop by for a visit during my busy days.
I was privileged to know Gizzy, Fletcher, Elsie, and Olive during my summers at Munsey’s Bear Camp. They were my very best animal friends. I thought it was interesting that Gizzy and Olive had similar personalities as did Fletcher and Elsie; even though, they had never met. Gizzy and Olive were the sweet ladies, soft-spoken, polite, accommodating for a photo, well groomed, and perhaps just a little bit shy of visitors. Fletcher and Elsie, on the other hand, were true wilderness cats. Fletcher was getting along in years when I first met him, but he told me many a hair-raising tale about his hunting skills as a younger gentleman. Elsie was in her prime, and she loved to stalk bears for days on end. Many a time as Robin and I were mourning her early demise, we would hear Mike yell, “Elsie’s back!”, and there she would be, dragging herself through the door, ragged, dirty and ravenously hungry after her latest adventure.
Fletcher and Elsie loved to hunt voles, the tiny mouse-like creatures close to the bottom of the Kodiak food chain. They must be a very tasty snack because twice daily I’d find their tiny blue and green left-over parts deposited on the front door step. I used to tell myself they were loving gifts, but then again, whoever left the pieces always seemed slightly amused when I reached down to pluck the bits off the doorstep while making slight gagging sounds.
Freddie the Weasel became a daily late-afternoon house guest. Maybe the sound of the old generator starting up interrupted his afternoon nap. He’d shoot in the backdoor, zip through the kitchen and take cover under the couch in the living room to watch and learn about life in the big house. At first, I jumped and shrieked thinking he must be some kind of Kodiak rat, but later in the day, Robin calmly explained about weasels.
Gizzy and Fletcher were still with us then but getting along in years. They knew their limitations, so they decided to pretend Freddie was just a figment of my over-active imagination. Not wanting to insult them, I went along with the game and soon we all looked forward to Freddie’s daily antics. I knew when he heard the boat motoring up to the mooring; I would see the tail end of Freddie flip out the front door.
Early in the summer season, the female Sitka deer would bring their fawns into the yard to nibble the bright green salad-like greens growing around the cabins. Sometimes there would be twins, and I would think happy thoughts as I watched them through the kitchen window while preparing breakfast.
One day I came nose to nose with a deer! I was hurrying to the cabin with a load of fresh laundry, and we met coming around the corner at the same instant. We were both startled and just stared dumbfounded into each other’s eyes for a moment. I’m not sure who moved first, but a hunter later told me I was lucky it hadn’t given me a good kick in the shins before it bolted off! I guess that happens, but ours was a peaceful meeting, and I will forever remember that instant.
I live in Arizona, so the first time I saw a fox on the pathway, I excitedly reported to Mike I had seen a coyote in the yard that day. Laughing, he looked at me like I was nuts and said, “There are no coyotes on Kodiak Island!”. I felt a little foolish but still maintain at a distance, a big healthy Kodiak fox looks very much like a thin Arizona coyote in the summertime!
I’ve seen Bald Eagles before, but in Arizona, they are a special sighting. On Kodiak, they are commonplace, and I was thrilled to see a nesting pair close to camp. On my mid-day break, if the weather was good, I’d sit in a lawn chair facing the bay and watch the eagles fish. It was entertaining; an eagle would fly over the water and scope out a fish, and then in an amazing feet-first dive, catch the fish in its talons. After this, it was usually impossible to get airborne once again, so it had to row itself and the fish, still clutched in its talons, ashore with its wings. There, after expending so much energy, it would devour the fish and do it all over again.
More than once, on a nice day, while taking a siesta in the hammock, enjoying the warm sun on my face, I’d hear and feel the strong wing beats of a very large bird flying close over me, and I’d know I had been checked out by a Bald Eagle!
Some of you may have read my “Encounter” with a bear. I was walking along the path up to the guest cottage one afternoon, my mind far away, when I heard a “horse” snort. The sound brought me back to the present in a flash, and I must say, I have never confused the sound of a bear with that of a horse again!
A secret I’d like to reveal is Mike used to make a bear playground out of old red mooring buoys a distance up behind the generator shed. I heard him and Robin laughing once about how much fun the bears had rolling, tossing and chewing these old red buoys. I never did venture up past the generator shed and burn barrel. Wearing a red jacket, I didn’t want the bears to make a mistake. I did wonder if mother bears warned their cubs, “never go near that playground as there is a dangerous human there who makes frightening loud, smoky blasts come out of the shed and soon after makes fire leap high into the sky out of a barrel!” Thinking back, I was probably quite safe.
Marcie was my favorite yard animal. One warm July day, we spotted a solitary mountain goat strolling along the beach near camp. Mike and Robin reported this was indeed a rare sighting. We couldn’t help ourselves, Robin christened her Marcie, and we began to speculate about her life and why she was here on our beach. She was a rebel. Marcie was tired of billies, she had too many youngsters to raise, and the constant stress of all those steep icy mountain ledges was wearing her down. Maybe she had arthritis in her knees. Maybe she just wanted a vacation at the beach! We happily welcomed her, and for a number of years, she would appear for her annual July vacation at Munsey’s Bear Camp. One year she didn’t arrive. We looked and looked, but no Marcie. Right away we decided, instead of feeling sad, we would celebrate her life. We had a toast to Marcie, how brave she was to break away from the herd and dare to be different!
The sea otter is a zen-like sight floating on its back, paws pressed together as if in meditation pose. It’s a sweet maternal picture with mom floating on her back and a tiny baby resting on her belly. And how clever of them to use tools! They often are observed with a rock balanced on their belly, happily cracking open clams for lunch. Brilliant!
At Munsey’s Bear Camp, I often saw sea otters floating in the cove in front of the lodge, and the sea otters kept to themselves. Their cousins the river otters, however, were a different matter. A family of river otters took up residence under the dock. This dock was now their home, and no one else was welcome. The dock became their dining room and their toilet. A mop had to be stationed on the dock so that the horrid stinky mess could be swabbed away. The mop could also be used as a defensive tool.
With guests arriving and departing from the dock every five days, caution had to be observed. One day stands out in my mind. It was a beautiful, sunny Kodiak day, and we were all on deck welcoming new guests. As they were embarking from the float plane and luggage was being handed down, I took a step back and slid on an unseen mound of otter poo. I wanted to vaporize as I fell on my backside in an ungraceful plop! Afterward, we laughed about this incident, but I never forgot, and every time I saw a sweet little otter posing for pictures, I saw two little horns poking up through the top of its head.
I grew up near Cape Cod where everyone loved to fish. I didn’t. To me, the whole process from baiting the hook, to dragging the poor thing out of its natural habitat with a hook in its mouth, to butchering it, to stinking up the house with fried fish was cruel and disgusting. Fast forward 40 years and I’m a cook in a fishing camp. I politely listened and smiled at all the fish stories and quietly cooked the fish, wondering what all the commotion was about. One day my perception changed. Robin and Mike asked me if I’d like to go out on the boat with them for the day. We had only one guest, and it was a great day to get out of the house. Yes, I wanted to go! Like a good sport, I purchased my fishing license, and away we went. Mike anchored in a pretty cove, and as I sat down in the deck chair ready to enjoy the sunshine, Robin stuck a baited pole in my hands and showed me where to drop the line. Still not paying much attention, suddenly the pole was nearly yanked out of my hands, and the line was whizzing off the reel. “What’s going on?”, I hollered. Robin and Mike replied, “You’ve caught a fish.” They proceeded to give me instructions. Suddenly, the scenario was hilarious, like an old re-run of “I Love Lucy.” I couldn’t stop laughing which in turn made my arms weak and unable to reel in the line. In a second, Robin strapped a belt-like thing around me to support the fishing pole so that I could reel. Now we are all laughing hard, but with perseverance and aching arms, the fish finally emerged from the deep. I was leaned over the rail gasping in amazement at “my halibut” when all of sudden, Mike, with an expert jerk of his pliers, freed my fish from the hook and off it swam! Hey! At that moment I was totally conflicted. On the one hand, I proudly wanted to bring my halibut home for supper, but on the other, I wished it well and was happy it was able to live another day in Uyak Bay.
Our suitcases are packed, and we are headed off on our winter getaway! Part of our trip is business-related, but the rest is a pleasure trip. Our first stop will be Las Vegas, where we will have a booth at the annual SCI Convention. It is a culture shock to leave remote Amook Pass and travel straight to Las Vegas. Here, the only sounds we have heard for the last few months have been the blowing wind and the occasional scream of an eagle or raven, and the only person we have seen is our mail plane pilot on his weekly stop. Las Vegas is sensory overload with constant noise and thousands of people. We always have a great time at this convention, though, because we spend time with friends and talk to past guests. I eat too much and sleep too little the entire time we are there, and when we arrive at the airport for the next leg of our trip, I breathe a sigh of relief because I know we are headed someplace less crazy than Vegas.
For the second part of our winter getaway, we are renting a sailboat with friends and sailing around the British Virgin Islands for a week. I know nothing about sailing, but everyone else in the group knows what they are doing. It will be a fun, relaxing week. After that adventure, Mike and I will spend another week in that area of the world, and we plan to snorkel, dive, relax, read, and I plan to write!
Next, it’s back to Anchorage and back to work. We will shop for lumber and other supplies to finish our new cabin and warehouse, and we will shop for everything else we will need from the city for the next year. We charter a barge once a year in the spring to bring fuel, building supplies, furniture, and any other large items from Kodiak to our lodge in Uyak Bay, so while we are in Anchorage, we will purchase these items and arrange for them to be shipped from Anchorage to Kodiak.
Also while we are in Anchorage, we will take a recertification course for our Wilderness First Responder credentials. We are required to recertify every three years. This course is important to us because it prepares us to take care of our guests when we are hiking in the Kodiak Wilderness.
By March 15th, we will be ready to fly home. We’ll be tired of eating in restaurants and sleeping in strange beds, but most of all, we will miss the peace and quiet of the wilderness. It is always nice to get away from Alaska in the middle of the dark, cold winter, but it is much better to return. By March, the days will be longer and brighter, and while it will still be winter, spring will soon be here.
I will post while on the road, and I already have several posts planned. My friend, Marcia Messier, has again promised a guest post while I’m away, and her posts are very popular. I also hope to keep up with my monthly Mystery Newsletters, and Steven Levi, a well-known author from Anchorage, will write the March edition of the newsletter. You will not want to miss that newsletter because Steve is an expert on crime and criminals throughout the history of Alaska, and I am thrilled he has agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to share his knowledge with us. If you haven’t yet signed up for my Mystery Newsletter, follow the link and do it now, so you don’t miss Steve’s newsletter.
Happy New Year, and welcome 2017! I’ll admit I am sad another year has flown by so quickly. Not everything about 2016 was great, but as I reflect on the year, the good times outweighed the bad. For me, the saddest events of 2016 were the sudden death of my oldest brother and the deaths of three friends. I loved the time I spent with my family in in Kansas in May, though, and I enjoyed seeing high school classmates at my reunion. We had great summer and fall seasons at our lodge, and our yard has been full of deer the past several weeks.
A few years ago, I began making New Year’s resolutions. I had always considered resolutions a joke, like a diet that only lasts two days. I never thought I’d feel bound to a resolution, but to my surprise, I have taken my resolutions seriously, and they are in the back of my mind all year as I struggle to fulfill them. I am not great at following through with resolutions to embrace healthier habits, but I do now exercise an hour a day, and I wear a Fitbit to keep myself honest. I never make a resolution to go on a diet because just the thought of a diet makes me hungry. The resolutions that have worked best for me are those related to writing.
At the start of 2016, I resolved to finish the rough draft of my next novel and the rough draft of my wildlife book by the end of 2016. I remember announcing this resolution and then laughing because I doubted I would come close to achieving either one of those goals. I am proud and amazed, though, to say I almost did it!! I’m not quite done with the wildlife book, but I will finish it in a week or two. I finished the rough draft of my novel in October and am now busy editing it. I know I would never have pushed myself so hard on either manuscript if I hadn’t made that crazy New Year’s resolution on January 1st, 2016.
I’ve given this year’s resolution a great deal of thought. I have several projects in the works, but I don’t want to set impossible goals for myself. I think goals should be lofty but within reach. Here’s what I came up with for a resolution. I want to finish editing the manuscript of my next novel and send it out to an editor by June. I don’t believe I can have the wildlife book ready to send to an editor before the end of 2017, but I want to send it out sometime next winter. I also want to finish the manuscript of my fourth novel by the end of 2017, and since I haven’t even written an outline for this novel yet, this may be a tough goal to reach. I would also like to work with Marcia on the cookbook we are writing and have the rough draft of it done sometime next winter. Finally, I hope to compile my Mystery Newsletters into a book and self-publish that. The e-book of my Mystery Newsletters will be available for free for my newsletter subscribers.
Whew! All those goals sound like a great deal of work, and I’ll let you know next year what I accomplished and what I didn’t. Writing a weekly blog post and a monthly newsletter plus doing my day job takes most of my time, but I’m becoming a faster writer and am getting better at multi-tasking, so I am hopeful and excited. At least I won’t be bored!
None of us can see what the future holds for us, but I wish you all a happy, healthy, successful 2017. Take a minute to tell me some of your resolutions!
If you haven’t signed up for my Mystery Newsletter yet, you can check out my latest edition here. If you want to sign up, you can either click on the sign-up button in the upper left-hand corner of the newsletter or sign up at http://robinbarefield.com.
The next few weeks, I will again concentrate on wildlife profiles, beginning with the fascinating, beautiful, fierce Arctic Tern.