Tag Archives: Amook Pass

Home Again

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.



I did not take the above photo this winter, I took it four years ago, the last time we had a cold winter on Kodiak Island. If I posted a photo from this winter, it would show torrential rain and heavy wind. I’m not complaining about a warm winter, because there is nothing fun about hauling water after the pipes freeze, and life takes a nosedive when the sewer freezes. The worst part about a cold winter here, though, is not the inconveniences of everyday life, but it’s watching the wildlife suffer as they struggle to find food and keep warm. Four years ago, we had deer die in our yard or die curled up under one of our buildings from cold and hunger several times a week. I knew when a deer was about to die because he’d look at me with glassy eyes and not even bother to move out of my way when I walked down the path past where he was standing. Sitka black-tailed deer were introduced to Kodiak Island, and the winter climate here is often on the edge of what they can tolerate to survive.

The deer have had good winters the last few years, and this may prove to be the warmest yet. When it is very cold, we have several deer in our yard, searching for grass that may still have some nutrients. This winter, we’ve seen few deer in our yard, because it is warm and there is no snow on the ground. It was 46⁰ the other day in mid-January, but the weather has not been pleasant this winter. We’ve been pounded by one low-pressure system after the next, bombarded by high winds and heavy rain. One storm out of the north in December slammed waves into our dock and sent a 55-gallon drum full of gas and two 100-lb. Propane tanks into the water. Mike has had to repair the dock twice from storms, but luckily, many of our storms have been from the south, and the cove where we live is protected from a southerly swell.

The ceaseless wind and rain make doing anything outdoors unpleasant, and the heavy clouds accentuate the already dark days. I love the peace and quiet here in the winter, but I am beginning to dream about going someplace sunny and calm and maybe even going out to dinner and a movie (I know, now I’m getting carried away). Luckily for me and my psyche, we are leaving on vacation next week!

While we are away, our friends, Ryan and Ruby, will be staying here, battling storms and catering to the whims of our very spoiled cats. Ryan and Ruby are the best caretakers we could ask for, and we don’t worry about our home while they are here. Our cats love them (possibly more than they love us!), so I know the furry little beasts will be even more spoiled when we return.

Once we leave here, we are flying straight to Las Vegas for extreme culture shock and a hunting and outdoor show, where we have a booth. That’s a week of hard work and stress because we go from talking to no one to talking to strangers all day. Vegas is also a great deal of fun, though, because we will see several friends and spend many hours laughing. After Vegas, we are flying to New Zealand for a two-week hiking, biking, kayaking tour of the South Island, and I am excited about that. I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I’ve only heard good things about the breathtaking scenery and the friendly people. After we return from New Zealand, we will spend some time in Anchorage and Kodiak, buying supplies and running errands. We’ll be home by mid-March.

I have a few posts planned for while I’m away, and my good friend, Marcia Messier, has agreed to write some guest posts for me. I’ll try to send a post from New Zealand to let you know about that adventure, but I may miss a post or two, so I’ll apologize in advance.

My next Mystery Newsletter will be about the biggest mass murder in Alaska history. Be sure to sign up on my home page if you want to receive my monthly newsletter.




Munsey’s Bear Camp


Munsey Family 1960
Munsey Family 1960

By the1960s, the Munseys spent most of the year at Munsey’s Bear Camp, their lodge in Amook Pass, where Park guided bear hunters in Uyak and Spiridon Bays.  He soon established another hunting camp at the south end of Becharof Lake on the Alaska Peninsula, where he guided bear, moose, and caribou hunts.  Park was a registered guide and eventually became a master guide, holding master guide license number twelve.

Munsey’s Bear Camp was not just a lodge, it was a home.  Pat cooked for the hunters and then held school for the kids in a corner of the living room. Mike and Bob assisted their father during the hunts as soon as they were old enough to climb the mountains.  Toni, Patti, Jeri, and Peggy helped their mother in the kitchen, and all the kids learned how to safely run boats and shoot rifles.

Pat running the skiff
Pat running the skiff

Fish and Game employees and others often brought the Munseys sick or orphaned wild animals to nurse back to health or to raise.  I’ve seen 8mm-movie footage that shows Pat, dressed in a raincoat and hip boots, standing in the ocean gently urging a baby harbor seal to swim.  The pup had been abandoned by its mother soon after birth, so Pat assumed the maternal coaching responsibilities.  Other pets included foxes, a magpie, and even a bald eagle that had fallen out of its nest.  Their favorite pet, though, was a seagull they named Herbie.  Once Herbie mastered flying, he would often fly out to greet members of the family when they returned home in their skiff.

Park and Mike
Park and Mike

During the March 27th, 1964 earthquake, Mike remembers walking to the generator shed with his father when the first jolt hit and sent him sprawling.  They returned to the house and switched on the single-sideband radio, where they heard people yelling for help.  The marine operator told listeners that there had been an earthquake and to standby for a tsunami warning announcement.  Park and Pat gathered supplies and led the children up the hill behind the lodge, where they sat, huddled in sleeping bags, and waited for the water to subside.

Pat, Toni, and Patti
Pat, Toni, and Patti

The Munsey children have all carried remnants of their unique childhood into their present-day lives.  Cooking is Toni’s passion, and she owns The Rendezvous, a bar and restaurant near Kodiak.  On her menu, you will discover a few items that were inspired, at least in part, by recipes she learned from her mother at the lodge in Amook Pass.  Patti and her husband, Rick, are both captains and have spent many years running large yachts.  Their busy schedules have taken them to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific, among other places.  Jeri and her husband, Mark, are also captains and operate a number of tour boats as well as a beautiful, 57-ft. sailboat on the island of Maui in Hawaii.  Bob is a commercial fisherman and fishes a gill-net site at Chief Cove in Uyak Bay.  He also guides bear, deer, and goat hunters alongside Mike.  Bob’s wife, Linda, is a nurse.  Peggy lives in Oregon with her two, beautiful children.  She is a nurse like her mother, but she now operates a dog kennel and an animal sanctuary.

Munsey Family Reunion, 2006
Munsey Family Reunion, 2006

Mike and I still run Munsey’s Bear Camp.  In 2016, the business will be sixty years old, and for fifty-eight of those years, Munsey’s Bear Camp has been in Amook Pass in Uyak Bay.  Mike and I have expanded the activities at the lodge to include wildlife-viewing and sport fishing.  Both Mike and Bob are master guides, and they still guide bear, deer, and mountain goat hunts in Uyak and Spiridon Bays.