Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cabin Interior

You have seen pictures of the outside of the cabin. Here are a few shots of the inside. The great room has a cathedral ceiling reaching up 22 feet and the back half of the building is a loft with rooms under.

This is Paulette's bumpout. The main front windows will be just to the left out of the picture. A bench seat will be built across the entire bumpout a little below the window. Paulette wanted an area with a big window where she can lean agains big pillows and read or do cross stitch. The bumpout only adds about 18 square feet of living space, and for that small amount is a LOT of extra work and expense. Paulette was so into the Alaska retirement that I wanted to do it for her. It is built, and adds a nice custom feel as well as making the great room seem larger. The elongated octagon window will mount in the bumpout side wall.

The 36 inch wide hallway is to the left. The picture is taken from the great room, and the "L" shaped kitchen will be part of the great room on this side of the first wall. There will be a partial overhang of the loft over the kitchen. The mud room/laundry room is just beyond with the windowed back door. Beyond the second wall will be the lower bedroom with two 4x4 windows.

This looks a little more like a painting than a window, but is the central window of six that will be in this wall facing the river. The windows will basically cover most of the wall, extending fifteen feet wide and to a height of fourteen feet. (I didn't notice all the plastic trash in the yard when I took the pix. It was used to cover lumber piles and protect the roof during construction.) The view looks somewhat narrow at the moment but should be fantastic with the whole wall covered (opened?) by large windows. They will let in lots of light.

The "L" shaped stairway to the loft will fit where the ladder currently sits. A landing for the stairway turn will be directly under the elongated octagon window. Behind the ladder on the other side of the wall will be the pantry. Behind that, difficult to see except for the window, will be the bathroom.

A look up into the loft from the 20x20 great room. The loft area is wide enough to divide into two bedrooms, but for now we want to keep it open as a combination visitor sleeping area and sitting room. With all great room windows installed the loft will have a fantastic view of the river. After this picture was taken I built a wall to enclose a very small second bathroom back in the left corner of the loft.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Once Again

I want to again express my gratitude to Kent and Ben who came from SoCal and gave freely of their time to help me do the bulk of the framing and get the walls lifted and rafters in place in Alaska. I couldn't have done it without that vital assistance. Also special thanks to Gene who donated almost all the windows you see.

Yesterday we unpacked the basics from the 5th wheel while it was near the Mentone house and then parked the 5er out back. We were done by the time the temp hit 102˚ (Eventually hit 112˚yesterday). My next few days staying where it is air conditioned will be spent entering five months of financial records into the computer so I can simply print out tax info at the end of the year.

Speaking of taxes, while in AK the IRS wrote saying we filed late (we didn't) and levied a 10% penalty they say we must pay. Letters come every few weeks (to both of us) threatening to file a lien on our property if we do not pay. Their attitude seems to be we are guilty unless we can prove innocence. When we got the first letter I wrote back asking for their evidence and stated we filed on time. I included that this could have been avoided and lots of man hours saved if they had simply looked at the dated sticker placed on the envelope by the USPS. They have furnished me no evidence so far, only a letter saying they are conducting an investigation. If you mail tax forms I'd suggest you get a mailing receipt.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I had hoped we missed the heat of summer. But we pulled into the old homestead Sunday early afternoon to an exceptionally hot summer-like day. The temperature reading on the back porch thermometer when we arrived was 107˚, and is currently 109˚. That temp is unusually high for late September. Eight days ago we were in a 25˚morning and chilly days; an 84˚ temperature differential in a little over a week. Our house was hot and the A/C ran for over two hours straight to pull the inside temp down.

We are a bit ragged from all the travel and need to unload the 5er (which can wait until tomorrow morning) but otherwise well. We lived in the 5er for five months and five days and were quite comfortable. I'm back to the iMac and some speed on the internet. Lots of paperwork and catching up to do over the next week after a great summer in Alaska.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Post til Calif ?

We are heading south this morning at our leisure after a great time with E and J and especially the grandkids in Portland. Abie is such a good baby, which E needs with Brynne. Paulette and I nicknamed Brynne "Scooter 2." She is super active and runs (doesn't walk) everywhere.
After 6000+ miles of northern latitudes Jack ran me (er, the truck, not me) through the carwash. I had forgotten how nice the truck looks when it is clean. Thanks Jack. The 5er still looks like it has been through a war showing a dull exterior with dirt, grime, and even mold. Those paved but semi-rough roads found every loose nut and bolt on the trailer. I had to add three screws to one fender as it was separating from the rig when we exited Canada, and tighten lots of other hardware in Portland. But I'm not complaining. The trip was fantanstic. I'm already planning and accumulating cabin construction materials for next spring. The weather while we have been in Portland is about like summer weather in Gus so very comfy for us. Unless we have a problem along the way I won't post again until we are in Mentone, which should be early next week. M&P

Monday, September 20, 2010

Run for the Border

We pulled out of Fort St John, northern BC, Canada in morning twilight and some fog, and took a shortcut that, though very hilly, saved us about 25 miles. The truck outside temperature reading was 25 degrees, and stayed between 25 and 28 for two hours. I decided to keep the heater going in the trailer while we traveled to keep the water lines from freezing. The outside temp eventually rose above freezing three hours after we hit the road. That evening we looked for a decent RV park but saw none, so kept going. We were a bit bushed so decided to take the next one we came to. That one turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The rate was very reasonable, and the campground nice. The snooty (he's Canadian) owner winters in the Palm Desert area. His little eatery, with him as waiter, cook, and dishwasher, served great food, and the dessert of wild berries and homemade black cherry ice cream was fantastic. We put his place in our logbook for future reference. Next morning we were on the way early again, and the roads were great compared to the far north. We made good time and crossed into the "lower 48" early afternoon. U.S. Customs/Border guards decided to pull us into secondary inspection. I guess Paulette looked suspicious ;-). They confiscated our tomatoes and bell peppers, much to Paulette's chagrin. They were purchased in Juneau, in the good ole USA. Go figure. Paulette suspects the customs officials wanted salad for dinner.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Headin to Jerusalem by way of Jerico

The title denotes a round about way. We have to head north and east for over a day before we can start south.
The motorized barge out of Gustavus was also towing someone's boat back to Juneau, along with our rig aboard. When I went to greet the rig in the early morning the barge was parked in the harbor and I noticed the small boat they were towing was on it's side and had partially sunk while the barge crew slept (After seven plus nighttime hours of conveying our rig across the inside waterways). The small boat's motor was submerged in salt water. When I awakened the captain he was in disbelief until he looked over the rail. We finally got our rig that afternoon. Two days later, Wednesday about midnight, we got on the ferry to Skagway. We got a few hours sleep lying on bench seating in the closed bar/lounge of the ferry, where we figured it would be quietest. Thurs AM we offloaded and began the steep climb up White Pass out of Skagway. The road this far north is rough in places from winter after winter of frost heave, necessitating many slowdowns to navigate the irregular areas. Darkness overtook us that evening after only about 400 miles of progress. Few dare drive at night up here because of the large wild animals that may wander onto the road in the dark. We camped overnight in a provincial park campground. The host called us British Columbia senior citizens when we registered and gave us a half price deal. I told him our true residence and he said, "Tonight you are from B.C." Next morning we awoke about 8AM to 28 degree temps. I was grateful we slept that late because the previous night and day were short on rest. The camp host told us they already had their first snow which reached all the way from Ft. Nelson down to Hope, but said it would be melted by the time we reached Ft. Nelson. Next morning travel through two Provincial parks was beautiful on the winding road with a lot of up and down. The scenery and wildlife viewing were awesome. Again we saw caribou, also many bison and a half dozen bighorn sheep. They come down to the road to lick the winter salt from the pavement. One group of caribou started running alongside the truck. The pix is a bit fuzzy as both the animal and cameraman were in motion and he had to pay attention to driving with caribou running on both sides of the rig. (No animals were endangered in the making of this photo ;-) The big feature was the fall colors. On the way north spring had not arrived yet. Now fall was in full display. We ogled and pointed for hour after hour at vistas and rich fall colors with the sun on them.

After Ft. Nelson the road turns south and improved a lot for about a hundred miles. Then we hit road construction. A few months are all the good weather they have to do road repair in the far north. I didn't count the number of flaggers or stops, or the time it took for a pilot car to lead us miles and miles across soft roadbed. I could feel the trailer bogging down as I tried to pull its wider wheelbase over areas cars did not compact. My least favorite was several bridge repairs with complete stops. Rivers are in valleys and often the ascent up the mountain from the bridge had me in second gear for miles after the stop. They don't reconfigure the mountain much for these roads. Some of the grades here are 10%! An hour before nightfall we made it to Fort St. John, a bit tired after a fairly long day with only three pit stops. I fueled and am ready for tomorrow. Paulette found our missing map tonight, which will help greatly as our northerly map doesn't go much south of Ft St John.
After all the driving activity Gustavus seems weeks behind us already.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Exit Strategy?

Sept 12. Sunday morning we awoke to temps in the high 30's for the first time. The barge is scheduled to pick the rig up this afternoon, assuming all goes well. This is not like a ferry. They do not operate on a regular schedule. Any mechanical breakdown or other problem and every load gets pushed back. Rural Alaska is like that. We are comfortable with the way things work here. That said I am optimistic I will leave for Juneau today. I will go with the rig on the 7.5 hour sea voyage. Paulette will fly over tomorrow morning. Then we have numerous things to accomplish in Juneau before catching the ferry north. From Juneau we must go north about 350 miles before we can catch the Alaskan Hwy east, and finally turn south after about two days of mostly easterly travel. If you missed our blog about the scenic trip up you can find it in the posts from last April.

Update: Fabulous weather again today. The type that makes one not want to leave. At the last minute the barge owner asked me to fly instead of go along with them. Go figure. It seems to me almost the whole departure schedule has been fraught with this type of last minute change. One wonders what will be thrown at us next. But we are flexible. On the upside a friend from Gustavus was flying his airplane over to Juneau and offered us a ride. So we are in Juneau as of 7PM Sunday and have their internet for the moment. I am sure I will sleep better here than on the barge. The barge and 5er are suppose to be here in the morning. Sweet Sherri is loaning us her car tomorrow so we can begin the errands before the rig arrives.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Alaska...

Sept 9, 2010
The barge owner forgot to write down that he was going to take us out at our appointed time. He apologized and said he will work us in. Consequently we are in a bit of flux. He could call any day and say he will pick us up within hours. We are basically ready to go on short notice. If you don’t see any updates for a while we are possibly on the way to the lower 48 via the Alaskan Hwy. We anticipate about a week to get south to Washington State, assuming all goes well along the route. Our objective is to get across the continental divide as soon as possible as weather can be a problem there any time after late September. Then we can be a little more relaxed as we travel.

I’ll try to update IF we have internet available. Our cell phones don’t work in Canada so if you try to call us please leave a voice mail on my cell as we can’t get Paulette’s mailbox to work.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Whitehouse

Below are the requested pix from the restaurant windows at the lodge. In the second pix the cloud obscures snow capped mountains. On a cloudless day it's hard to beat this view while enjoying a gourmet meal.

September 2, 2010
We awoke to a cold damp fall morning and true to forecast we had hard rain all the previous night. Neither of us slept well, which is unusual for me because I enjoy the sound of rain on a roof. In the morning I was eager to see how the cabin fared under that amount of rain. First I walked the outside to see where spatter hit the exterior, then literally climbed into the stairless opening where we will install a door, and walked the walls from the inside, paying close attention to areas around the windows. I saw lots of spatter on the window’s exterior, but witnessed no moisture anywhere inside. We didn’t have much wind with the rain, but this was a good first test of the “dry” ability of the cabin. I am very pleased. As I stand back and let my senses absorb the project I am lifted. I know I had help for eight days, but other than that the feeling of accomplishment at what these two hands have done is very satisfying.

I was thinking the pleasant days of summer were gone. But mid-day after the rain moved on we had a cloudless sky and nice temps. If only it would last another month.
The Coho salmon should start running any day now. There is anticipation because this is the biggest run of the year and a decent grade of salmon and if possible I want to stock our small freezer before heading south.

Sept 4. A few recent pictures:
The one window facing the river will be complemented by five more in future years... we hope.

I built one last interior wall to separate the mud room from the kitchen this morning. Early afternoon Duane came and helped me lift the 165 pound picture window into place. That was the final window we brought with us. Perhaps next spring we can bring the next seven windows that will complete the glass. Only one last door and hardware remains to be installed this year. We will have five days to organize and move items into the cabin that will remain here for the winter (lumber and roof for the porch, some tools, ladders, electrical, and a few plumbing items). Plus separate out items that we want to transport south. I am not anxious to leave, but the weather is slowly changing and it is time to begin our migration.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Bear" with Me.

September 1, 2010
To answer your questions we plan to head south via Skagway, AK and the Alaskan Hwy on September 17. Any later than that and we risk possible “weather” going over the mountain passes in Canada. We will be pulling the 5th wheel trailer. If all goes well we should be enjoying burritos in SoCal about early October.

When we first arrived here in early May we heard geese migrating north every day. Yesterday I heard the honking of geese moving south. My California background has trouble getting use to the fact fall arrives here in late August.

Monday we took the day off. Completely off! This was the first total day I have taken off since May 8 (other than the kidney stone trip to Juneau). We visited our back yard, a wonder called Glacier Bay. The boat trip up-bay took all day and we saw a lot of amazing scenery and wildlife. Close to the glaciers (I think there are twelve of them up-bay) where they have recently retreated the ground is somewhat a moonscape of nothing but barren rock and sand. A bit farther away from the toe of the glacier moss and a few other plants have had time to take root. A bit farther and the landscape turns brushy. Approximately ten miles away from the glaciers and spruce and cottonwood trees are growing. What amazes me is our present property looked that barren only two hundred years ago; nothing like the lush forest that surrounds us today.

A forty foot adult whale died from unknown causes and the tide beached the carcass half way up Glacier Bay. The body has become a buffet for bears and other critters. That is where I took the following pictures. There were four brown bears near the carcass. This is a case where the food chain goes from large to small instead of the other way around.

The cabin is coming along and nearly dry. I have all the windows in but one. I still need to finish a roof trim area, seal around the windows well, and install the two doors. Somewhere in the next 10 days I hope to build a few more interior walls as well. I have been waiting for a rainy day to do that interior work. I guess I know where I'll be tomorrow because the weather predicts 100% chance of rain.

The Marjorie glacier put on a show for us. The boat crew said it was the most active calving of a glacier they have seen all summer. I chanced to have my camera in movie mode when I saw the first ice begin to fall, and captured the following sequence. The ice face of the glacier is several hundred feet tall, and the thunder sensation of hundreds of tons of ice falling into the bay is more awesome in person than the audio can convey.

Well.... I thought I'd share the video but can't make it work. Nuts. Perhaps if I have more time I'll try again.