Thursday, June 24, 2010

Alaskan Paul

My cousin Paul, perched on a rock high on a mountain slope on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. That's his Icelandic Sheep Dog, Jonah (the smaller one). Paul used to live here in Ohio, but moved to Alaska about two decades ago and hasn't looked back. Can't say I blame him.

Paul lives in Seward, a town of a few thousand hard on the shores of Resurrection Bay, about two hours south of Anchorage. His house is the first one on the left, and the backdrop is magnificent. Black Bear and Mountain Goat are sometimes seen on that mountain - great animals for the "yard list"! Pine Siskin, Steller's Jay, Orange-crowned Warbler, Fox and Golden-crowned sparrows, Common Raven, and Black-billed Magpies were some of the daily locals. One morning, a Bald Eagle was hopping around in the neighbor's yard.

An incredibly gracious guy, Paul put us up for our stay, and provided lots of adventure. He is one of the more interesting people you'd ever meet.

This is Paul's office - a jumbo jet converted to haul FedEx cargo. He is a pilot, certified to fly jets and helicopters, and travels the world moving freight in a high and mighty way.

One of his other passions is sailing, and that's his boat - a 37 foot sailboat that he navigates all over the coasts of southeast Alaska. From what I could tell, sailing one of these things is far more complex than squeezing the throttle on a power boat, but Paul easily handles the craft solo.

In the above shot, we sailed to a remote cove off of Resurrection Bay, anchored, and took the dinghy ashore to explore on foot. This is an excellent way to get WAY off the beaten path, and see lots of interesting places and wildlife.

video

One of the treats of sailing these waters are the Dall's Porpoises. Looking like miniature Orcas, these aquatic mammals are playful as puppies. When they spot a boat, over they come, charging and frolicking about the bow, often coming within inches of the vessel. Check the video above, which I made from Paul's boat. That's Jonah the Icelandic Sheep Dog barking in th background - he gets very excited when the porpoises come about.

There he is, all geared up for seafaring. Even Jonah has to wear a life vest. You don't want to mess around on boats up here - the water is frigid enough that man or beast wouldn't last long if they weren't promptly fished out.

Should you be in the market for canine safety gear...

Paul's also a big runner/skier/snowshoer, and used to own lots of sled dogs. He is - no kidding - a finisher of the fabled Iditarod dog sled race, which entails nearly 1,200 miles of mushing in brutal terrain in often EXTREMELY inclement weather.

His next challenge is the Mount Marathon foot race on July 4. I've been on the mountain that participants run up, and down, and to say it is a challenge would be a gross understatement. Finishers often cross the line battered and bloody from falls.

It was great to see my cousin again on his home turf, and we were indeed fortunate to have such a great host and guide.

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3 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a blessing to have an amiable cousin in AK. Those people that run up mountains amaze me. I can remember trudging up a mountain side huffing and puffing to take a few steps and some man ran past with his dog trotting behind. Then a short time later a fellow passed by walking a quick pace with a 5 year old strapped to his back. Amazing.

Vickster said...

Kudos to your mountain-running cousin! The Hardrock 100 is another grueling endurance run. Starting at 9318' in Silverton, CO high in the San Juan Mountains, participants travel 100 miles up and down the mountains with a total change of elevation of over 68,000 feet. Last year's record setter did it in a little over 24 hours. It's an amazing sight to see!

Bill of the Birds said...

Really neat post, Jim!