The luck of the draw! Dick and our friends Cathy and Brad from Montana won a coveted lottery for a rare opportunity to observe bears at McNeil River Game Sanctuary. This remote area on the western shore of Cook Inlet is accessible only by float plane or boat. Together with seven other lottery winners, they pitched their tents in a small camp near the mouths of two tide-affected salmon streams. Rangers armed with shotguns (which so far have never been used) accompanied them almost everywhere. Every morning for four days, a ranger led the group on a short muddy walk to the Mikfik River. Moving to various places along the river in a tightly controlled group, they spent eight hours just watching about ten Alaska brown bears (grizzlies) close up. The group had some heart-stopping moments when the bears wandered by as close as 3 feet away. The grizzlies totally ignored them. When the tide was in, the bears often reared up on their hind legs and splashed their front paws and bodies into the flooded river to flush out the salmon. The bears ate the whole salmon the first time they caught one, and then only the head and skin of subsequent salmon. They left the rest of the fish for the eagles and seagulls to fight over. It was mesmerizing to watch the bears … devouring endless amounts of sedge (low grass) …frolicking … hugging each other ... walking with their heads under water looking for fish … their pecking order … boars chasing sows. Just bears doing their thing. Truly amazing.
We spent a few days this summer on Kodiak Island. It always rains in Kodiak, but luckily we had hardly any rain. Although the area of the island is slightly larger than that of Connecticut, only the far northeast corner has roads. From the town of Kodiak we drove the whole road system: 11 miles to the north and 40 miles to the south. We hiked on beautiful trails that took us along rugged shorelines, smooth beaches, rain forests dripping with moss, and fields of colorful wildflowers. We did not see any of the famous Kodiak grizzly bears but saw a big herd of bison and lots of eagles. In April we once again spent a few weeks in the southwest. We met our group of friends for a week of camping, hiking, and reminiscing about the old days.
We are thankful for another year filled with good health, enjoyable trips, fulfilling lives. We have fun with our three granddaughters: Tazlina is nine, Marley is six, and Iona is four.
Snyder Family 2012
We live in Alaska and of course we have a lot of snow. But at the beginning of this year it snowed and snowed and snowed. And Snowed. Normally the snowfall for the season in Anchorage is about 75 inches. But we surpassed that fairly soon. Shoveling all this snow became a challenge. Where to put it? Walkways became trails with high white walls. At street intersections we could not look around the snow walls to see if traffic was coming on the cross streets, so we had to slowly inch our way out and hope for the best. Finally the snowfall on April 7 broke the record: 133 inches. On April 9 we happily left all that snow and flew to Colorado where we picked up our car with camping gear. We met our friends in southern Utah and drove up to Natural Bridges National Monument. We were looking forward to warmth and sunshine. The 13 of us took up half the campsites in the small campground, set up our tents, and … it snowed! We could not believe it, but luckily it eventually melted. We spent a fun week exploring ancient Indian ruins and hiking in canyons. In July, all the Alaskan Snyders flew to New York for a huge family reunion, which we hold every 4 years: Liska’s four brothers, their wives, their 10 kids and spouses/partners, our two cousins from Germany and their families, the nine grand-children, … 48 of us! We met at Lake George and spent the days swimming, boating, eating, hiking, watching little plays put on by the kids, and visiting, visiting, and more visiting. A very special week. Tragically, in November, our niece Ellen’s 40-year-old husband, Joe, died completely unexpectedly in his sleep. They had two young children. Our whole family is grieving for the profound loss of this warm, charming, and loving person. After New York, we went to Wisconsin for a week to visit Dick’s relatives and go to his 55th high school reunion. We spend a lot of time enjoying our three granddaughters.
Tazlina is 10 and belongs to her school’s garden club and choir. Marley, age 7, loves to read and run. Iona, 5, is in a Kindergarten where she is learning Russian. All three girls are enthusiastically taking gymnastics classes.
Snyder Family 2013
Our Alaskan “adventure” this year was visiting Sitka on an island in the southeastern part of the state. The Tlingit people had lived in Sitka for thousands of years, but when the Russians arrived in 1799, they battled with the Tlingits, sadly forcing them to leave the area. In 1867, when Alaska became a U.S. territory, Sitka became the capital until 1906. We enjoyed a couple of days exploring the many interesting Native and Russian historical sites and hiking in the rainforests. The Sitka National Historical Park has magnificent totem poles along a scenic coastal trail. The highlight was attending the Sitka Music Festival, an annual event of classical chamber music concerts. The musicians sit on a stage in front of a wall of huge windows overlooking the water, the mountains, the forests, and the sky – a gorgeous sight and lovely music. Our son David had a unique Alaskan experience this summer. In August he spent two and a half weeks on a boat (the Westward Wind) in the far northern Chukchi Sea. About twenty scientists on the boat were collecting environmental data, observing Arctic wildlife, and sampling the ocean water. David’s job was to manage the data so they could be used by many different agencies. The boat navigation was sometimes challenged by thick fog and often had to re-route around huge floating icebergs. Although spotting lots of walrus, seals, polar bears and seabirds was always exciting, the biggest thrill came when they saw an extremely rare grizzly-polar bear hybrid. Only a few sightings of such a bear occurring in nature have been confirmed. Gary, Heather, Tazlina, and Marley spent six weeks traveling in Europe this summer. They all agree that the best week was sharing a house with some German friends in southern France. The Ardeche River was within walking distance where they swam, boated, and also explored old towns. Other places visited were Germany, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Belgium, Denmark, and Iceland. Definitely a grand trip with many unforgettable adventures. In April we met our usual group of old (… well… long-time…) friends for a week of camping and hiking in the desert. Then David, Patty, and Iona joined us for another week of frolicking in the canyons. The weather in Alaska during June and July was spectacular – warm and sunny for days at a time – such a rare treat. In the spring and fall we take classes for senior citizens sponsored by the University of Alaska. No homework, no tests, no grades. We just listen to lectures and have discussions. This fall we learned about Alaska statehood history; Alaska fossils, birds, and sea ice habitat; and watched foreign films. A momentous event for us in September was a Book Launch Party to celebrate the publication of David’s book Geography of Southcentral Alaska. Tazlina is 11, in sixth grade, loves gymnastics and reading. Marley, 8, is in third grade, loves to run and read. Iona, 6, is in first grade, learning Russian and loves gymnastics. They all enjoy doing art projects and standing on their heads! During the first week of January, Dick, David, and Gary are embarking on a once-in-a lifetime trip to explore the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. What an exciting way to start 2014. May the year be good for you, too!