Thursday, December 15, 2005


So they tell me Mt. Augustine's about to blow. It's rated "Code Yellow," for what that's worth (just like the United States has been in a code yellow terrorism alert since, well, since the British were coming.) This photo is actually Mt. Iliamna. It could be Mt. Redoubt. I don't know. What I do know is - I live near a lot of volcanoes. And one of them, they tell me, is about to blow.

I never really thought about volcanoes before I moved to Alaska. An active volcano is something that belongs on a tiny tropical island, somewhere deep and warm and surrounded by chanting natives hoisting a screaming virgin up the face. No one told me that Homer was surrounded by these things - one big geothermal hug.

So I came into work today, wide-eyed and clutching the Anchorage Daily News with a shot of a big, steam-spewing cone on the cover. My co-worker just laughed at me (she has lived in Homer since the beginning of time, or at least since 1986 - the last time it blew its top.)

"It's not so bad," she said. "It just gets really foggy and dark, and everyone stays home for a couple of days."

"You can't even go outside?" I asked.

"Oh, you can go outside. Just try not to breathe too much."

I wonder what it would be like to ride a bicycle in a few inches of fresh volcanic ash. I imagine it would be a lot like riding in powder snow - airy, slow and locked in ethereal silence. It would probably be really enjoyable ... except for the not breathing part.

Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of the still-available oxygen in the air to ride my bike today. I did manage a good, sweaty 75 minutes on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I feel it was an accomplishment only because I managed to ignore a leering bodybuilder that entire time. But I do have a deficit of cycling mileage that I owe - and this makes me very happy. I want to thank everyone who's helped me out in my miles-for-dollars Susitna 100 bid. I am close to my goal, and with any luck I'll be able to file my application to the race toward the end of this week. In answer to Fritz's comment yesterday, I am good for every mile. Come wind, ice, blizzard, or the most horrifying condition - rain, I'll bike it. I have until Dec. 31, so bring it on!


  1. This is off the subject, but my wife was wondering where I've been getting all those cool pictures (I use them for wallpaper).

    Between you and Ptelea I have all kinds of neat pics.


  2. Prolonged darkness, cold, snow, grizzly bears and now volcanoes. Just another reason why you and every other person who lives in Alaska is tougher than me. HA!

    Seriously after reading "Looking for Alaska" by Peter Jenkins and now reading your blog. You all have my respect and admiration. Good luck.

  3. I used to live on O'ahu, Hawaii before moving to Minnesota. On occasion I would make a visit to the Big Island which has it's own lil' active volcano.

    I didn't like to go to often - the natives would come screaming out of their grass huts and haul all nearby virgins to the top of the volacno in their SUV's. :)

  4. Riding after the eruption might seem like a neat idea, but have a parts catalog and your Visa card handy. That ash will get into all sorts of moving parts and wreck the hell out of them. Might as well bury your bike on the beach for a week and then take it for a ride.

    I've been looking forward to an eruption since moving up here nine years ago. I know it'll be a pain in the rear, but what a cool thing to witness. We have great views of Spurr and Redoubt from Anchorage, so I've been rooting for a little action from one of them.

  5. A couple of summers ago I thought it would be great to go for a 40 mile bike ride alongside a mountain forest fire in Colorado. I'm still coughing up the black junk I sucked in that day.

  6. jill blows:

    "No one told me that Homer was surrounded by these things - one big geothermal hug."

    ~ that's a great gawdamn lil' line.

    i'm stealin' it.

  7. Welcome to the Ring of Fire Jill, Homer sits top center of it all. If Augustine does blow her top you should have some panty-hose handy for your car, keeps it from sucking in all that stuff.

  8. Hey, dig the blog. Great pics and corresponding stories. Am a nutty ultra running family man who appreciates edgy lifestyles and adventures. It appears you share the same passions. I plan to bookmark you site and follow your exploit with envy, amazment, and yes... maybe even a bit of pitty if deserved. Bon chance and happy trials.

  9. It's Redoubt. As they say, you could look it up. But here's the simple Cook Inlet volcano identifying code. Think AIRS: Augustine, Iliamna, Redoubt, Spurr, with Augustine the furtherest south. Augustine is an island. Il-i-am-na has four peaks and four syllables. Redoubt is the next volcano after Iliamna. Spurr is way north and not too obvious from Homer.

  10. I'm pretty sure when the British were coming the terror alert level was at "Elmo"

  11. I was in Anchorage for the eruptions of both Redoubt and Spur. I thought it was pretty cool, they had ash eruptions, not lava or pyroclastic flows so they don't look as amazing as Mount Kilauea (I went to grad school in Hawaii)

    but with the Alaskan eruptions, I remember coming home to the dorms and there were alerts on all of our doors that the ash would hit Anchorage at 3:00pm and we looked at our watches and it was 2:55 and then we looked up a the sky and there was a wall of black headed straight for us.

    After donning our heavy duty face masks we went for a walk while the ash was coming down like a heavy snow; you can't (or shouldn't) drive your car as it's bad for the engine.

    It felt like being out after an apocalypse..midnight black in the afternoon (this was summertime as well). Anyway,I wouldn't worry about it too much (but I might invest in a good face mask).
    Good luck!


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