What’ssss Haaaappppening…

It’s been awhile since my last post. Here’s the excuses: I bought a house, bought a ring, got engaged, planning the wedding, growing the business. Basically, keeping up with all of the madness that goes along with real life.

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A Great Friend: Brandon Chapman Moves to Kotzebue, Alaska!

If you know me at all, then you know I’m completely infatuated with Alaska and became so from my first trip to Denali, Fairbanks and all the way down through the Kenai Peninsula. Currently, I read just about everything I come across about Alaska- from The Anchorage Daily News to the smallest community police blotter (Unalaska).

I absolutely love Alaska, its beauty, its diverse peoples and their cultures. You should also know how I truly feel about native peoples, culture, education and nature: Anyone who dedicates themselves to documenting any of these without bias and with a purist view of telling that story through the eyes of its people or through mother nature itself is an absolute hero of mine.

So it was actually no surprise when I received an email informing me that former college roommate (and great friend), Brandon Chapman had just moved to Alaska. Not just Alaska, but the Alaskan-bush: Kotzebue, Alaska! I used to have just one hero in Alaska- Bill Hess- Now I have 2! Bill Hess and Brandon Chapman- and I might have to rethink the order of those 2 ;) .

Brandon is an anthropologist who is also a world-traveling fool! When we were in college, Brandon set out for Peru to study the culture of the ancient reed-boat fisherman of Huanchaco. Brandon makes a difference in whatever he does, and he will forever be a true friend.

Here is the letter I received from Brandon:

Hi Friends,
After six comfortable and fruitful years in Washington, I’m on the move again… to Alaska! Not only Alaska, but the arctic north. I’m now the full-time anthropologist for the Inupiaq (Native American, Eskimo) tribe with the Northwest Arctic Borough government. I relocated up here a few weeks ago (visited for an interview back in May) and I’m adjusting to my new home. Most of my work will be on a project documenting elders’ knowledge of local ecology and making GIS maps from that. I’ll also be teaching anthropology at the local extension campus of the University of Alaska. I’m living in a small town called Kotzebue, 30 miles above the arctic circle on the Chukchi Sea. Mostly Inupiaq and other Eskimos live here and there are only a few towns more north, such as Barrow. It’s pretty remote, off the road system, sees 24 hour sunlight through spring and summer… and I thought Palouse was nordic. I’m about done with the PhD and will be
defending dissertation near the end of this year while working in Kotzebue. Will be up here for anywhere from 1-3 years, but should be getting back down to the lower 48 for some serious traveling and visiting sometime next year as I’ll have lots of vacay time.
Since I’ve had some requests for it, wanting a way to document my adventures here, and most importantly as an additional avenue to keep in touch with all of you, I’m going to do something I never thought I would and that’s blog. It’s called “North by Northwest” at (nxnw.blog.com). Yep, the same title as the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, although my version will probably involve more dodging of caribou than airplanes in cornfields. I’ve never been big on the blogging thing, but we’ll give it a shot and see how it goes. I started with my most recent travel to the small villages and will add some posts retroactively that document happenings since my first trip to the arctic in May. Ideally, I’d like it to be a forum for my adventures, a place to tell stories of the Inupiaq and the many characters in arctic Alaska, and to share photography of the region. Hopefully, you folks and others will read, be interested, and occasionally comment.

Congratulations Brandon, your a badass and I look forward to your blog posts!

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Posted in Outside by Casey Murawski. No Comments

Missouri River Flooding (part 1)

I had no idea how close I was going to get while documenting the Missouri River Flooding around Craig, Big Lake and Corning Missouri, but let’s just say I got in pretty deep.

I took off from Lenexa, KS on Friday afternoon headed for Big Lake, Missouri since I had heard that water levels just hit unprecedented levels.

On my journey north, and after passing Oregon, MO, it occurred to me that there wasn’t much southbound traffic on I-29, likely due to the highway closure in Rock Port, MO. But then I started seeing caravans of semi-trailers in batches- 5 here, 10 there, then a group of about 20 – all heading south.

Getting off of the main interstate at Squaw Creek/Mound City, MO, it was no surprise when I started seeing “road closed” signs and groups of camouflage Humvees heading in the same direction I was, but the message was sort of deceiving. Why would they close the road almost 10 miles from the Missouri River, how bad was it, and how close could I get?

This is the first view I had at the impending doom: I went around the signs, and turned North- not making eye contact with any of the military personnel- Why? I of course had 2 kayaks attached to my roof, and I figured they would try and stop me if I kept heading West.

It was a gamble heading North, because heading North meant dropping a few feet in elevation and heading through the town of Fortescue. On the drive up, I heard on the radio that they evacuated the town just a day before.

Nearly into town, I could see that water had breached the futile attempt at sandbagging the only highway through town:

I made it- Population 51, Currently “0″.I pulled over on dry piece of ground and went for a walk through the ghost town. I was surprised that there wasn’t a single soul anywhere- not even military or police. There was water literally leaching-up through the grass so I stuck to the railroad tracks and walked West as far as I could go:

The actual floodwater was being held back by this levy (you can see it to the left of the bridge), but right here where the railroad crossed this little creek, I could hear the deafening roar of water and the closer I got, there was vibration on the railroad tracks. It then occurred to me that the water on the other side of the bridge was actually higher than I was. The only thing holding all that water back was a virtual “choking-mat” of  floating debris pinned up against the bridge. The water was so pressurized, it was percolating through the mat of logs and corn stalks and was spewing into the gaps of wooden ties on the bridge- just 50 ft. away!I figured there was probably a good reason why no one was in this town, so I quickly made up my mind to keep heading North. Once I came to a “T” in the highway, it was either West or retreat to the East. Knowing I was about 3 miles from the actual river channel, I decided pull alongside a couple of humvees and ask how far West I could legally go. They told me  ” I guess you could head-in as far as you want, but if the water overtakes the road, you’re on your own buddy“- I think they gave me the go ahead since the kayaks would potentially make their jobs of rescuing me a little easier.

So around the “road closed” sign, over the levy and West I headed:Water was slowly flowing over the road, but it looked to have been higher at a previous point, so I continued:To the left and right, there was floating barnwood, doghouses, refrigerators, plastic barrels and tons of cornstalks. The air smelled of fresh corn one minute and rotting-stink the next.

Then I saw a boat tied to a mailbox:

I made it to the end of the road.

The pressure of the water transferring from one side of the road to the other made me think twice about launching the kayaks and heading into Big Lake. After all, Big Lake was 1 mile as the crow flies from this point, so if I was going to go, I started thinking about how much endurance it would take to stay on a straight course and not be taken into the barbed-wire fences on the left and right side of the road. Road signs were literally waning back and forth under the pressure and I had to come to the conclusion that unfortunately, this was probably the closest as I was going to get. I talked to a young man who was hanging behind while his family launched their motor-boat and headed into see the destruction- He said that his family owned a cabin and it had lifted off of its foundation and crumbled into the water. He was staying behind with the truck because the family wasn’t sure if where they parked the truck was going to be there when they got back, the water was transferring under the road through drainage tubes and Boiling up just 15 feet away from their vehicle. Basically, they weren’t sure if the road was going to hold. The 16 year old remained their fail-safe. He seemed pretty upbeat, saying that this was his 3rd flood at Big Lake since the family bought the cabin, but he did say that they would rebuild again.

Since I reached the end of the road, I decided to head to the next town which was under fire: Craig, Missouri.(continued on Part 2)

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Posted in Feature Kayaking Outside Photography by Casey Murawski. No Comments

Tilt/Shift At Its Finest: Manhattan in Motion

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What I dream about

I just woke up from the weirdest dream and can’t go back to sleep. All I can think about is Tilt/Shift photography and a trip to Wyoming last July. I am standing in a river overlooking snow-capped mountains. I guess my subconscious is trying to tell me I need a break.

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Posted in Feature Outside by Casey Murawski. No Comments

To The Core…

We hit a certain major milestone a couple of weeks ago and another for the month of May. I just wanted to say thanks and congrats to P, S and B. Raise a glass guys- you know what you did!


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Posted in Inside by Casey Murawski. No Comments

In the words of Andrew Booth- “KILL EM WITH FIRE”

Doing a little hiking and arrowhead hunting this weekend, I came across this hog of a spider and this weird green bug trying to pull a fast one on me..

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Belly-Up in MoKan

I took a few days off and away from my computer this Memorial Day weekend and got in about 20 solid hours of outdoor enjoyment across Northwest MO and Northeast KS. The weather was awesome, and I spent some time with friends and family; hiking, kayaking and BBQ’ing.

The local rivers are still too swollen to make for any sort of pleasure cruise, so we took a little road-trip to Hillsdale Lake and paddled a good 6-8 miles along the shore- I did have a couple minutes of battery-life in my iphone to track a mile or so of our progress on Endomondo. If you’re not a member of the Endomondo community, I suggest you sign up for an account and splurge for the “pro” app for the iphone.

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Posted in Kayaking Outside by Casey Murawski. No Comments

Yet Another Day of Tornado Dodging

Yes, gotta love the midwest! It was another day of tornado touchdowns here in Kansas City. Warning sirens came on in Lenexa/Olathe today, and nearly 350 people in our office building were rushed into safe shelters. As we were in our shelter, we pulled up the local news and streamed the coverage of the reported tornado (which was just a few miles away)- We followed it as it kept touching down and lifting up over and again throughout Overland Park according to sketchy details from local residents about damage and it’s possible spotted locations. Soon after we were let out of our safe-rooms, I took a few shots out the office windows, then took a drive over towards the areas where the tornado was reported. Here is what I saw: 

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Posted in Feature Innovation Outside by Casey Murawski. No Comments

Mobile App That Should Be Created: Severe Weather Text Alert based on Storm Path using Geo-Location & Historic Travel Routes of the User

If Obama can initiate a mass text based on National Security, then there needs to be an app created that should allow us(app. developers) access to national weather information of severe storms, storm paths, zip, geo-triangulation using gps, cell tower triangulation, signal alternatives and historic travel patterns of users. The user should opt-in to such an alert system to have this information tracked if warranted. If this was to become a reality, a FREE severe weather app that notifies me by text: 1. The ETA of said impending weather based on my geo-location. 2. If I’m heading into something bad(estimated route and ETA based on travel, speed, historical travel trends/models) & 3. If there IS something bad headed my way, where I can go(alternate travel routes, places to take cover).

Make it happen iOS & Android!

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Posted in Innovation by Casey Murawski. No Comments