king salmon in boat on the waters of Alaska

Fish and Ski

king salmon in boat on the waters of Alaska

First day of real spring seemed like yesterday.  There was a warm wind. Forecast was for fairly light winds today, so I sent an email out to gauge interest for fishing. Jeff and Kurt were in.

We scheduled to head out at 9 am, so I got down to the boat about 8:25 to get ready. I figured I’d start the engine at 8:45 and it would be warm when they showed up at 9.

But like I said – spring is in the air. They were 25 minutes early. So I started the boat and let it run for 5 minutes, then they cast off the lines and away we went. Jeff brought sandwiches for everyone. And a pile of cookies Terri had baked.

By now, they, along with Bob, know it’s an unwritten rule never to give me money for anything. So they bring food or drink on the trips. Jeff and Kurt have taken care of me since literally the first day I set foot in Juneau. And then Bob came along when I married Sara. When I’m out of town, Kurt watches the boat. They are the first people Sara calls if there’s a problem. Bob does welding or builds custom stuff for the boat, like the cover he’s making for the auto pilot I moved above decks.

We put the gear down near the last house on the beach in Thane. I had a brand new cop car King Kandy cut plug on one side, and a white one on the other. I fished them each above a flasher on a snubber on the cannonball like my friend Dave in Wrangell showed me a decade ago. Not much traffic in the channel.

About an hour in, we thought we had a nibble on the white one. Then a few seconds later – there goes the cop car.  Jeff grabbed the rod, I yelled for Kurt to put the boat in neutral, and I got the gear on the other side out of the water.

Jeff was a nervous nelly. Did we lose it?  No. The boat out of gear made some slack in the line. He reels and tries to keep up with the fish. He says something is wrong with the reel. I said it’s the drag. He tightens the star.

He plays the fish to the boat.  Then whoosh!  Out it jumps. An airborne chrome beauty. Ooo!  A nice one. A keeper, no question.

Jeff is tentative playing the fish, just like I would be. You don’t get a king salmon on very often these days. Much less a keeper.  In the middle of March. He patiently plays the fish to the boat, and as I dip the net, the fish takes one more run. You scared him, Jeff tells me.

Then Jeff reels him in.  I tell him not to reel past the swivel connecting the leader to the reel line, then sees he’s already conscious of that. The tired fish comes to the net.  Then the screaming and whooping begins. 99% of it by me. I can’t help it.

I’m 59 and some things stay the same. Like getting excited for every king salmon. Whether on the Dutch Master or here with my buddies. Same thing. Every time. A long time ago I was fishing on Boy Scout Lake up by Fairbanks with Charlie and Gus. It was Gus’s second time fishing with Uncle Mark. He asked his Dad if he would ask Uncle Mark not to scream every time we caught a fish. Apparently, I scared the child.  That was decades ago.

I break a gill of the beautiful king, get the gear back out, then fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of water and put the king in to bleed. I don’t even think about these steps anymore.

After about 20 minutes, I put the fish out flat on the aluminum deck as the temperature is cold, so no need to clean the fish right away or otherwise cool it. Now the photos and texting start by all three of us. I like to send fish photos to everyone whose ever been on the boat or to Juneau fishing or hunting with me. And a few other friends.  That’s a long list now.

One friend I haven’t texted in my life because I always texted his wife. She passed away a few weeks ago,  so I sent him a note with a photo of the fish. He immediately replied with excitement for the catch and that he was missing his wife. It was good to hear from him.

We fish the rest of the morning til a couple hours after the high tide change. One other boat joins us. We see lots more feed on the sounder today, but catch no more fish. And that’s okay. We have our one. I clean the fish as we head to town.

When we get back to the dock, I let Kurt dock us again, as he likes to practice. We get tied up, then I butcher  the fish and divide it into 3 bags for each of us.

I give a steak to my neighbor in the boat across the dock. The first day we tied up at this new spot he swore at Kurt and I.  I swore back at him in a friendly manner. Apparently, we’d woken him. I said we were sorry and that was the end of it. He never came on deck so I didn’t know what he looked like.

I guessed he had bigger problems living in a derelict wood troller on its last legs. Over time, I got to know more about him. He was a shipwright who started a well-known boat works in a community south of here.  His kidneys were failing him now, so he was in Juneau for medical attention. We’ve become pretty good dock friends now.

I get home and tell Sara the news. Then change into my ski clothes, drink a bunch of water to counter the dehydration from drinking gobs of coffee on the boat all day, and head to Eaglecrest. I drop off a couple king steaks for Bob  and Laura. I got my cross country ski in. Soft, fast snow.

About as good as a Southeast day as they come.

The speed of Africa

Three members of Mark's African family standing by new roofing with lush greenery behind them.

Some things still amaze me. Two days ago, my friend Peter, from the village I lived in during the Peace Corps, had a teacher in the village contact me through WhatsApp. I couldn’t quite make out the gist of the messages, so I sent them to Andrew here, and he caught most of it. The tin roofing on Peter’s house had blown off and he needed to replace it.

I told him to find Allieu in Koidu, the provincial capital about 20 miles from the village. I thought Peter WAS in Koidu, or I never would have asked him to do this. I was a bit wary of the person contacting me, so I asked Allieu if he knew who he was. Turns out, he was a teacher in the village school – so Peter was calling me from my village, which was not possible in earlier days. Wow.

I wired money to Allieu the next day. He bought the roofing, got a vehicle, and took the roofing himself up the village. Then he sent me photos of him and Peter. So from Peter calling me to the roofing showing up in the village was just 2 days. I’m not sure it could have happened quicker than that here. This boggles my mind. I wonder what the technology advances are like to Paul, who is 91, and who has seen the invention of color TV and everything since.

Car Buying in Southeast Alaska

I saw a car on Craigslist yesterday. A newer Nissan Leaf than we had, and at a good price. The car was in Skagway. I sent an email to the Craigslister, but no response. I figured at the price they were asking, it would be gone right away. Then I thought- maybe Skagway has a buy sell trade facebook page.

Boom. There it is.

And there is the car listed there, too. Several people had inquired about this and that. But no one said I’ll take it. So I said I’ll take it. I said I can be up there tomorrow on the plane, and bring it back on the ferry. But no!  My message was not sent as I needed to be screened by the facebook page administrators!  Oh well. Easy come. Easy go.

I almost forgot about it til I got a phone message as the phone didn’t ring somehow  I was first on the list for buying the car from responses from Craigslist!  I called back and I was in!  This was at 5:15 pm. But how to pay?  They only had Wells Fargo Bank in Skagway, and I had dropped my WF account!  I’ll call you right back, I said!  I called my bank and they were open for 15 more minutes!  I called back the seller and said I’ll be there tomorrow with cash!  I hung up and off I went to the bank for cash just before closing.

Sara got me to the airport at 7 am this morning for the 8 am flight. The ferry was to depart Skagway at 1145, and the ferry website said I should be there at 945 am, but most of the time, it’s just be there an hour ahead at the small ports, so I hoped it would work out.

We were half an hour late leaving Juneau, and had a stop in Haines. We got to Skagway at 930. I called the ferry terminal, and when they said I needed to be there by 1045 (and not 945), I knew all would be well. When I walked into the airport, there was the car seller waiting for me.

I drove the car from the airport to the ferry terminal, took a quick look underneath, and we walked into a stiff wind into the ferry terminal  to do the paperwork. Then I took the seller to his home on the road to Dyea. Turns out he works at the border, and so I got a few stories out of him about illegal this and that episodes coming through the border.

I had time on my way back to the ferry to get some coffee. And that took some doing. Skagway is largely a ghost town in the winter. 90 percent of the store fronts are closed. So I just looked for some parked cars on the deserted streets. Finally, I turned down a block and there were several cars parked. And a cafe with an “open sign”. Here we are.

I went in looking for just coffee, but couldn’t resist a veggie breakfast burrito. It would sit with me all day until I got a salad on the ferry at 6 pm near Juneau. Really nice people there.

I boarded the ferry about 11 am, and settled in. We left at 1145, and arrived in Haines at 1245. Left again 2 hours later, and were on our way to Juneau.

Lynn Canal is stunning stretch of ocean with snow capped mountains on either side. I’ll never tire of this scenery, I thought. Some ladies nearby from Haines talked of one of them having newly bought land in the Arizona desert as we headed south with the mountains on either side, and I thought: I’ll never leave this place.

Maple Syrup School and Southern Hospitality

Made an unscheduled trip back to my hometown. One of my favorite people and good friends and wife of another like-minded soul and friend passed away from an aneurysm. Even in a top medical location like Buffalo, sometimes there’s nothing that can save a person. It makes Sara and I both think of what a miracle it is that our niece survived one with no initial medical care for 12 hours when she was out at moose camp.

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I stayed with my sister Maryann and her family at their new place out in the country south of Rochester.  She and her husband John love it.  The kids: not so much.  They moved from a neighborhood to a lonely 19 acres of woods in the country.  But they are managing.

I had big plans to see family.  I planned a trip back to Buffalo to see my cousin Linda, her family, and her mom, my aunt Honore, but an ice storm came through, so driving was not a good idea.  Hopefully they’ll visit here some day.

I did see my aunt Barb on the day of the storm.  Maggie and I drove to Ithaca to see her.  She’s lived there forever, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent any time in Ithaca proper.  My cousin Suzie and late friend Kevin went to college there at Ithaca College, and Joe went to Cornell.  Our hometown legend Frank Ganette built a big chunk of the area I think, and my friend Len Peterson’s son’s father in law – Ken Dryden – played goalie there and married an Ithaca girl, too (yes, THE Ken Dryden).  We had a great lunch in a little meeting place in the middle of town that was a melting pot of colors and cultures.

After the ice storm, I made it down to Bolivar to see my friends, and finally get there during maple syrup making season. This year, the sap started running early as luck would have it. I got to attend the last St Bonaventure men’s basketball home game of the season, as well, with my old friend Kelly, who used to take me to the games when I was a kid.

After the game, I headed to the sugar house for syrup making. I learned alot in the next 6 hours. The main thing I didn’t know was how you know the syrup is ready to be taken off during the boiling process – it’s when the temperature of the liquid is a certain level higher that that of the boiling point of water, which, of course means that the sap is not now mostly water but mostly sugar, which doesn’t just turn to vapor and float away. The other takeaway from the process is how much work it is for this fun. I can’t think of another food making process that takes this much work. The boiling of sap and making of syrup seems like the easy part. Pat, and his syrup partner Sean, had to tap all the trees, and then connect the taps with tubing, and run the tubing down the hill to an 800 gallon collection tank about 30 yards from the sugar house. From that tank, another line runs to a 300 gallon tank at the sugar house, and this tank feeds the evaporator. The other big job is getting all the firewood for boiling the sap felled, bucked, split, and stacked to dry. Sean tends the firebox, and that dude is hungry. He feeds from about 5 to 8 sticks of wood into the box every 8 minutes or so. The fire is fanned by an electric fan so it burns as hot as you can make it burn. It takes a lot of firewood to make the syrup, especially this year, when the sugar content of the sap is lower than normal, whatever that means.

Pat and Sean started cooking about noon, and I showed up after the game at about 4 pm. They boiled sap and drew off syrup til 10 pm. They made about 5 gallons, plus 3 pints Pat insisted I take to my sister Maryann and her family where I’m staying. Another surprise was how cold the shack was with the fire going full bore. All that heat is consumed boiling off the water in the sap. The only place that is really warm is right by the chimney stack at the end of the evaporator where the smoked exits up the pipe that goes up through the roof. As day turned to night and temperature outside dropped, I spent more and more time at that location to keep warm, as I wasn’t dressed so good for the cold.

The evaporator is simply built, but complex in that it moves the sap from high low water concentration where fresh sap enters the evaporator box, to low water concentration on the other end, where Pat monitors the temperature and draws off syrup when it’s ready. He and Sean are quite a team, now having both sort of grown up together setting up the whole operation over the course of the year. Sean feeds the fire box while Pat monitors the flow of sap in and syrup out. There are simple adjustable float valves that meter the sap into the evaporator as syrup is taken off and the water is driven off from the wood heat. There’s constant steam in the shack, as the two stove pipes designed to take the steam up and through the roof can’t contain it all, so the surplus steam wafts up either side of the evaporator, eventually condensing on the roof, and dripping back down on us here and there. It’s probably good for the sinuses and skin.

Friends stop by now and then. I can tell they are sort of regulars that drive by, and if they see smoke or steam coming from the shack, they know the boil is on. And if the boil is on, that means there’s beer and conversation to be had, since the whole process is mostly waiting with little bursts of activity. One of the regulars was a childhood friend who I played midget football and little league baseball with. He lived in the next town over, and at the time we had separate schools, but now the two towns have merged into one school, as have nearly every other town in our county as population declines and costs increase.

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I traveled through Mississippi on the way home. I was able to use the airline credit from when I had to cancel my trip last year. I stayed with Don in Starkville for a few days. We caught some bluegill and bass at his farm pond, and walked his new retriever. I took a day trip to Ponotoc to see Mark and Missy. I went to their wedding in a church in Tupelo or Amory that was a city block long in about 1993. I remember not knowing anyone at the wedding, but as soon as Mark introduced me to his parents, they treated me like a guest of honor after all the stories Mark told them about our work on the rivers.

Mark took me around to some of the ponds and properties he manages for owners who live elsewhere. People spend a lot of money on ponds and stocking in these parts. Kind of like we spend money on boats. Of course, they spend money on boats here, too, if they build big enough ponds. I’m not sure when a pond becomes a lake.

Mark is such a genuine guy and reliable manager that the landowners offer up their places to him and his friends and family and church groups since the owners are never going to fish their big ponds hard enough.

We agreed at the end of the day that it was like we hadn’t seen each other in a week, rather than the 3 decades since we spent our days together fishing hoop nets on the Tallahatchie and other rivers for my graduate research.

Mark worked on  lots of different projects of Don’s grad students, and that gave him an enormous background in field work that lead to his job as a hydrologist for the feds, as well as all his side work consulting. Hard to believe both Don and Mark’s kids are grown and most out of college. Mark came up and fished with me the first year I had the Dutch Master. Hopefully, he will come up again soon.

Don took me to his “Friends of Paul” weekly luncheon at a restaurant in Starkville. After me, Don was the youngest person there. The group is about a dozen men that watch after a guy named Paul, who is in some sort of assisted living center but it still in good enough health to go out to lunch. I met former professors from many disciplines, from Michigan and New York and many other states based on their regional accents.

Chris and Sheila picked me up at Don’s after lunch. I told them I knew I was in Mississippi when even the political signs asked people to PLEASE elect John Smith. We had a great ride down to their place in Morton. We stopped in to see Sheila and Jimmy’s mom Gay in the assisted living center. She seemed to recognize me through the masks we had to wear. I met her a couple times when I was in graduate school in the mid 1990’s.

We then went to a feast of crawfish, with sausage and potatoes, at the Crossroads Cafe, a little place near Morton. What a feast. Chris knew most of the people in the place as he used to serve as pastor near the restaurant.

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Chris took me around his property the next day. We picked up some live traps he uses for raccoon and possum, and moved them to a spot near their house, where we set and baited them. Then we put up some tubes around his seedling trees to keep the deer away.

Their house is an open design cabin and overlooks a pond. It’s great to sit on their front porch and drink coffee and listen to the birds and peepers.

We went fishing on a neighbor’s pond mid-day and caught a half dozen bass. That night, we watched the Duke – North Carolina game, as Chris is a Duke alumnus. Both of them fell asleep in their chairs trying to watch the Mississippi State basketball game afterward, and we called it a night.

This morning, I said goodbye to Sheila, and Chris and I headed to his job as minister of the Wells Methodist Church in downtown Jackson. Sheila had her service to lead at the Morton Methodist Church. I met many of Chris’s congregation at the pre-service Sunday School, then many more at the morning service. I recognized many of them as I often stream the Sunday service in Juneau. Everyone was very welcoming, and I’m sure many had heard stories of Chris and Sheila’s trip to see us in Juneau a couple years ago.

Chris then got me to the Jackson airport in plenty of time. On the way, he told me some of his family history before and during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and I told him I wondered what life had been like for the elderly black ladies from Jackson who sat ahead of me at the church service, and welcomed me in.

The airport has just a few terminals, and it was a breeze getting through security and to my gate. It’s cold and clear back home, and I’m eager to get skiing tomorrow.


Petersburg Superbowl Weekend

Made it Paul’s for Superbowl. Not sure how many games I’ve watched there now, but when we start telling stories about other superbowls, I realized we all watched them together in this very room.

I’ve been wanting to make some crab pots with Bob, but I couldn’t find any seine web in town. Then I remembered I was going to Petersburg and could look there, as they have a big seine fleet. Lucky for me the net recycle totes are at the dump, and Sunday is salvage day at the dump. You pay $10 and can go see what other man’s trash is your treasure.

I picked Steve up Sunday morning, and we headed for the dump. We found a nice pile of web right away in the recycle bin, which are located outside the dump grounds.  I asked Steve if he wanted to go in anyway and look around. He said sure, so we paid our $10 each and I signed a form. The form had small print, so I asked the attendant kid what I was signing. He said it was the dump rules. I asked him what that meant, and he said don’t take anything from the aluminum pile, and some other pile, and that was about it.  In we went.

I soon found my first treasure. A beautiful piece of 1/4 or maybe thicker piece of aluminum plate, welded to some sort of stay arm from a boat. It wasn’t on the aluminum pile, but in the regular scrap metal pile. I wasn’t sure why. And didn’t ask questions. But we needed a grinder so we could just take the plate. We piled back into Paul’s van, got the okay from the attendant to leave and return, and went back to Steve’s for his Milwaukee cordless grinder and some cutoff wheels.

Back at the dump, I let Steve do the cutting while I wandered around. There were some crab pots atop the pile of scrap metal from which I would have loved to have taken the escape rings, but it was too high to climb and looked like an emergency room visit waiting to happen. I wandered over to an old shed with mostly outboard parts in it. I grabbed some stainless (or maybe aluminum?) bolts that were loose enough to remove, and also found a red kill switch lanyard on an old set of controls laying in the general metal scrap heap.

When I heard the grinder stop and Steve was done, I helped him pull the plate from the pile to put it into the van. That’s when I saw a drive shaft coupling of some kind that had 4 nice long about 1/2 inch diameter stainless bolts and nuts I had to have. But no tools!  So back past the attendant to get his okay, then on to Steve’s for tools. I dropped Steve off as I didn’t need his help anymore and he was done dumpster diving. I’d see him at Paul’s for the game.  He went into his apartment, and returned to the van to drop his socket set and wrench on the seat.

In his apartment parking lot was the Previa van I’d bought Paul for $500 from the Juneau city manager years and years ago. It was Paul’s favorite vehicle, and he’d sold it someone for $1 when he thought the van was dead. But it wasn’t dead, and it’s still running.  I took a picture of the van and sent it to the city manager, who was in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone one of the same years as me, and he was impressed it was still running. The city manager said he once bought a truck from a woman who had the same name as Paul’s daughter  when he first came to Juneau. Around 1990 I’d guess. And we’re sure that this woman and Paul’s daughter are one in the same, as she, too,  was living in Juneau at the time. The manager said the price he paid for the old pickup was a bag of weed, which the daughter vehemently denies to this day.  Such a small world. Where you can’t get away with anything.

Back I went with the tool set. I took off the bolts. And a nice drive shaft rubber coupler with stainless hose clamps I might need on the boat. Then I saw an old push shovel that had a rusty handle and broken scoop, but that had been repaired at some point with stainless nuts and bolts, which I removed. And then. The jackpot. Under some other little pieces of aluminum scrap, I saw a big stainless bolt. And its nut. And then some washers. Pretty soon I see more of them. Mostly 3/4 and 7/8 inch diameter stuff, and some smaller ones. The more I looked, the more I saw. Some were bolts and nuts with a pile of washers stacked between. In perfect shape. Who would just throw this stuff away?  Now it was pouring rain and wet snow, and I was bent over picking up the hardware. I could see the back of my overalls were soaked, as was my coat. But I didn’t really notice as the endorphins or whatever they are called were firing on all cylinders. Like when I’m in a monster berry patch with more berries than I can pick. Or the coho bite is on. Or I land that beautiful winter king salmon. I was really locked in.

By the time I picked all the stainless hardware I could see – every last piece – I had about 25 or more pounds of it. I know this because that’s what it weighed today on my way back to Juneau. I was now soaked to the bone, but ecstatic with my haul. I made my final pass with the attendant, and back to Paul’s for the game.

As soon as I walked in, I asked Paul for some sweat pants so I could put my clothes in the dryer. I didn’t have an extra set with me. He found me some pajama bottoms that fit. I put the clothes in the dryer and had a cup of almost hot coffee left from the morning.  In about half an hour, my clothes were dry, and  I changed back into them just before Dick and Steve showed up.  Chris showed up just after kickoff, so the gang was all here.

I asked Dick and Steve if they wanted to go in on a pool. What quarter would Paul fall asleep was the bet, and I said I wanted to choose first. I chose the first quarter. Which I won not 15 minutes later when Paul was sawing logs.

At half time, I went out to Paul’s shed to dry the seine webbing as best I could for the trip home. I hung a square of walls in Paul’s shed out of a couple tarps to contain the heat, draped the netting from some nails on shelving inside the tarp square, then put a heater in the square.

The game played out, and went right down to the last possession. All you can ask for. Nobody really had a favorite team, but Paul was looking over his pool board squares from one of the bars in town that he plays every superbowl to see if he hit any of the numbers, which he didn’t.

This morning, I got up early. The netting had dried nicely, and I divvyed it up into two garbage bags. I covered the aluminum plate with a piece of cardboard to protect the baggage handlers’ hands. Finally, I put all the stainless steel hardware into my daypack. I loaded it all into the van, then went back to bed to snooze a little more. I then got up and made a breakfast of an omelette of eggs, spinach and cheese to along with left over toasted garlic bread from the game foods last night, and lots of coffee, for Paul and I.

Eric took me to the airport. I weighed in all my treasures, and paid my weight overage. Luckily, I remembered to borrow some cash from Paul on the way out the door, to go along with the cash I brought with me. I couldn’t find my wallet when it was time for Sara to take me to the airport when I left Juneau, so I didn’t have my credit card.  I ended up needing some of the extra I borrowed from Paul to go on top of the $60 I had to pay for the baggage weight overage.

We flew first to Kake, and then on to Juneau. Any extra money I might pay to fly on Alaska Seaplanes versus flying the Alaska Airlines jet is so well worth it on days like today. We flew at about 3000 feet or less first to Kake, and then to Juneau, since the ceiling was pretty high. I love checking out what looks like fantastic deer hunting locations on Kupreanof and Admiralty Island. When we got up to the southern end of Douglas Island, there were oodles of crabbers out fishing the second day of the tanner crab opening, with pot buoys  scattered  near and far around the boats, waiting to be checked.

Another uneventful, memorable adventure to Petersburg.

Fresh Snow

Snow Naps

ski trail with snowy trees in the background

Finally getting some snow, and so getting out cross country skiing. The last year seemed like a slow progress of debilitation with my hip, but now I’m back to feeling near 100% again after getting the shot for my hip flexor. Now to get back into pre-hip problem shape.

My effing sciatic has been changing, too. Used to be I’d have a tightness in my butt, and could lay on a hard flat surface for a couple minutes and it would go away for the day. Now, it may work in the morning, but on the drive to ski it comes back sitting in the car. So then a lay down before I put my skis on, and then another lay down during the ski tour. It was bugging me to have to go through all these steps at the start to deal with the sciatic, but now just another part of getting older and staying active. And I have to say, I’m starting to look forward to the snow naps.

Especially on a day like today. I was on the lower loop at Eagle Crest, and the only skier on the trail. There was 6 inches of fresh snow on the ungroomed trail. The clouds started to break up, with  sun and blue sky peaking through. Yesterday, it was a 2.5 mile slog through slush on Mendenhall Lake in the fog, snow and rain. Not much fun, but I’m always grateful for a ski.

Today was a slog, too, but an enjoyable one. I got less than a half mile or so down the trail and the sciatic kicked in. The new nordic-step bindings I got that allow me to use my own boots with my skis are easy to get in and out of, now that I’ve got lots of practice with them. I feared my days of skiing might get limited when no one was selling size 16 cross country ski boots anymore, but these new bindings that I put on my own boots have given me renewed hope.

I kicked off the skis and laid down in the sunshine under a big bull pine. The cold felt good on my butt where the sciatic is causing problems. After a couple of minutes, the pain was gone and I felt refreshed. The sciatic never kicked in again for the rest of the tour.

I have to take more breathers now trying to get back into shape. But maybe I see more this way, too. The ungroomed powder told the stories of who was in the neighborhood. A good-sized deer is living around the ski trail. I heard the unmistakable sound of a ptarmigan flush in the brush, but didn’t get a look at it. A big bunny crossed the trail not too long ago, as well.  Feeling 59 and older some days, but it’s okay.