Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Blog or Not to Blog

Sorry, I don't have as much interesting stuff to post when we are south for the winter. Seems like a lot of our family are no longer blogging. I'm wondering whether to keep this one going? Any comments? Your input would be appreciated.

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about items for Alaska for next summer. We plan to live in the unfinished cabin so I need to bring along everything necessary to get water, propane, and stove oil heating operational, hopefully within days of arrival. Other decisions in the mix are cabin exterior, and what to use for ceiling? My friend Gene has a lumber yard and has given me some fantastic deals on materials. You will recall he donated most of the windows and interior doors from his mis-orders, and we built around them. The few windows I needed to complete the six window riverfront he must have given me at his cost. He also got me the complete steel roof on a good-ole-boy deal. After a lot of cogitation we decided to use knotty pine for the ceiling. That should give the interior a very cabin-like feel. Gene called a few days ago and said it will be ready after the first of the year. He is going to place the order for the exterior siding in a few weeks. Every time I thought about siding with something cheap like T-1-11, or mill our own boards from the trees we cut down, he would urge me to go with cement plank, saying it won't rot, burn, or mold and he can get it pre-painted. He has a lot of experience and I have gone with his advise on everything. On the negative side I am faced with the fact the siding weighs 5000 pounds (according to the company web site). I will need to put another axle under the utility trailer to transport that much weight up to Alaska next spring. But I can't complain. We knew building remote would have its problems. I feel blessed to have so many friends lend their assistance, input, and encouragement.

I am now ready for Christmas. The last present was purchased this morning. :-)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Update 12-4-2011

Two Daughters, Three Granddaughters, ...and a Strange Boy

A big wind storm here in California the past week with some gusts reaching hurricane force. Our power went out and took 34 hours to get back up. No problem. The wood stove heats the house well, and I ran an extension cord from the 5th wheel generator to the house to run the refrigerator periodically. I enjoyed not having internet or television for a while.

Paulette talked to neighbors in Gustavus and learned the pond is frozen so kids are ice skating. Plus a brown bear has been prowling both sides of the river. This time of year bears should be in their dens for the winter, so after taking calls about the bear out and about this late the wildlife powers-that-be evaluated that the ursa is probably old and was unable to put on enough fat for winter. That makes it a threat to the community, especially to playing children. An authorization to shoot it was given. If you have seen the documentary Grizzly Man you understand why.

I am about finished with a few modifications to the boat. The deeper I go into the structure the more I appreciate the craft. The stringers appear to be eight inch square aluminum tube, so should be very strong. Every joint has continuous welds. The fuel tank is fiberglass so not subject to the problems of aluminum tanks. Sweet.

We made our annual migration to Houston for Thanksgiving day. A highlight for me was taking the grandchildren to an aviation museum. A UH-1D was on display, and it gave them a visual aid of our units transportation in Vietnam. We drove straight through on the way home in twenty-two hours. At our age that is something I will never do again. (I've said that before).

Norah and Gracie looking cute at Hermann Park

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nothing exciting, just a short video of the surroundings as we paddled into the Bartlett River. We had two double kayaks so could only take two of the boys. John and Jonah can be seen in the second kayak to our left. Jayden went up with John and me the previous day and caught five nice Dolly Varden trout, which come in along with the salmon. We were excited to take the other two boys for the same fishing experience. After a lot of fruitless trying I managed to hook one fish that evening, handed the pole to Micah, and twenty seconds later the fish got off the hook. Unlike the fantastic bite the night before that was the only fish we had on a line all evening.

The fishing site on the river is about a 45 minute paddle if one keeps moving. Plenty of daylight in early July in Alaska. This is taken about 8:30PM. We got back about 11PM with plenty of light to spare.

It's a lot of work for those little eleven year old arms to move a 19' kayak. When I urged Micah to help paddle a bit on the way back he was silent, then finally exclaimed, "My arms are frozen."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We made a fast trip north to pick up the boat, then to Oregon to register it. The boat will be used only in Alaska so I tried to register it in Alaska, but they said their law stipulates the boat must be physically in state before registration can be issued. So we registered it in Oregon for the interim months. I am doing some re-fitting and preventive maintenance before we transport the boat north. Paulette nicknamed the vessel Mel's Dream. I told her boats should be named after women. She responded that Mel in this case is short for Melissa or Melody. Tricky lady.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Das Boot

Last summer I dreamed of taking grandkids fishing for halibut, but nothing opened up to get them out in neighbor's boats during their stay. A boat for Alaska had been on our five year plan, but after the inability to get the grandsons out I stepped up the search for our own boat. We located what I hope is a suitable craft. A private party posted it on Craigslist in central California. The boat is a 2004 20' Alumaweld Intruder, 150hp, 10hp kicker, marine radio, electric downriggers, GPS/chartplotter/sonar, and other seaworthy (for fair weather) features for up north. I talked to the mechanic who serviced this craft for the last six years and he said the engine only has 198 hours and if he had not recently bought a house he would buy the boat himself. We pick it up Wednesday. Friends chide me that a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into, but I suspect their thinking is clouded by the fact they don't have grandchildren.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We have been cleaning out closets. Paulette found the following on a sheet of paper, each entry in a daughter's own hand....

Jamie 6-1-83 336,150
Mel 6-3-83 280,500
April 6-5-83 193,950
Joanna 6-17-83 193,100
Beth 8-8-83 277,400

You will recall you had to have a witness. :-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Too Cute to Keep to Myself

I smile every time I look at this picture so had to share it with you. Double click on the picture to get a bigger smile.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fishing for a Boat

Paulette and I are pretty much caught up, settled back in, and doing well. I managed to repair the A/C and heater on the fifth wheel trailer myself. Bela helped me paint my office and replace the carpet. I have too much junk, so am throwing stuff I haven't used in years away (I know Jamie won't believe that). That means I can delete one file cabinet in the office and have a little room on top of the bookshelves again.

At one time Alaska was just a dream. With a few cautious intermediate steps the dream became a reality. I feel like God gave us the desire of our hearts. I am still dreaming, this time about getting a fishing boat for AK. (Perhaps I am never satisfied.) I have never shopped for a boat before. In this economy I expected boats to be selling for distressed prices. If they are I haven't seen it yet.

Looking for a boat for Alaska in California is somewhat like looking for mukluks in the tropics. Boats for the southwest are entirely different than what is desired for Alaska. Most boats down here are fiberglass. Aluminum is preferred in the northwest. You can beach an aluminum boat without doing damage to the hull. Plus aluminum is lighter and therefore requires less horsepower to push through the water. Aluminum fishing boats down here are usually less than sixteen feet in length, and have flat bottoms. That would be fine on a nice day up north. But I would prefer something more all weather in the twenty to twenty-three feet range with an 18-22° deadrise. (Alaska is unforgiving if one makes a mistake so a bigger boat is better than compromise in the smaller craft direction.) A pilot house or enclosure is part of the criteria to provide shelter on inclement days. Outboard engines made recently are very fuel efficient so that option would be desirable also. Now that I have completely bored you with details...

This is a pix of a new boat. I'm looking used. But this style should work for us.

We looked patiently for years before finding the riverfront lot in AK. I hope it doesn't take that long to find a suitable boat. I try not to make emotional decisions on major purchases. To remove emotion I need to divorce myself from the desire to see grandkids catch a fish as big as they are. At some point my age becomes a factor. Paulette is urging me to get ANY boat I want. I'm having to throttle her back.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


After two weeks on the road we arrived in Mentone at 3PM Sunday. Now a lot of work awaits to get everything from the trip organized and in its proper place. I anticipate more than a week getting bookkeeping and maintenance covered. Living in the 5er for two consecutive summers has dictated need for a number of repairs to the rig as well.
All the local grandkids are coming over for pizza. I'll try to keep the blog active once we get settled back in sun country.

Friday, September 9, 2011

South in the Lower 48

We crossed the border into Washington Labor Day Weekend. Not that we realized it was Labor Day Weekend. After living much of the time in AK without paying attention to the calendar that caught us by surprise. We spent the weekend camping with a cousin near the Canadian border. Then south again Tuesday AM to Portland, OR for a few great days with Jon, Elisabeth, and the grandkids. Daytime highs have been in the low to mid 90's, higher than we have seen in almost a year. We planned to leave early (7ish) Friday AM but they sealed the asphalt in the RV park and the note on the door when we returned said they won't remove the barriers until at least 8:30. So we are taking our time getting ready. From here we head south and will drop in on a Manx Dune Buggy Club run in the Mammoth Lakes area of California. We haven't been to one of those in a year. Then perhaps home to Mentone on Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pop Quiz

As we traveled the Alaskan Hwy up by Yukon Territory in Canada I saw this road sign. A free halibut dinner in Gustavus, Alaska next summer to anyone who correctly interprets the sign. (fine print... travel not included lol). Please post your answer in the comment section.

Yesterday afternoon we turned south after traveling east for over a day. Tonight we are in Clinton, British Columbia. The season for road construction is short way up north. Travel today was slow due to road construction delays. One area between Ft. St. John and Prince George had about 30 kilometers (18 miles) of consecutive construction! About the time one picked up speed another flagger would stop you. We did miles and miles of slow escorts after waiting for oncoming traffic to get through. This made it possible for us to average a whopping 38 mph for 12 hours travel, and we only stopped for fuel once. I should have expected this. We had the same thing last year. Fortunately we are not in a hurry.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Best Summer

As I write this we are in Juneau. During a poor tide the motorized barge somehow managed to get the 5th wheel trailer out the shallow river. He told me he got stuck repeatedly but managed to get through by "inchworming" under full power. We were aboard the ferry as the barge passed. Friends aboard came and found us to make sure we had seen our rig go by per the picture. We are leaving several weeks ahead of schedule. I ran out of supplies and could literally build no further without a trip to Juneau. Rain fell for fifteen days straight and Paulette wanted to head south. Tomorrow we board the ferry for Skagway and the Alaskan Highway, then perhaps four or five days to cross Canada (if we desire to sight-see) without pressure of coming winter. We hear temps down south are high. No hurry.

In my youth I enjoyed reading of a time past in the West when life was raw. I still enjoy that type of book for the joy of reading. Rugged individuals pitted themselves against an untamed land. Perhaps that is why I like the last frontier up here. I am saddened about leaving. On the other hand fall is in the air early and winter just around the corner... Time to think about 2012. I had desired to stay around for the silver salmon run, but the river is dark with runoff and I managed to catch only one silver salmon.

All the electrical and plumbing is finished in the cabin with the exception of installation of some light fixtures, and one water heater connection. All the insulation is in the walls, floor, and ceiling except for a mere 160 square feet where I ran out of insulation. Only a few small pieces of drywall remain uncovered over an electrical box where I might add more features. All the appliances are ready or near ready for use. If we bring an oil-fired heater and a bed north next summer the basics are in place for rustic comfort. That means we will not have to haul the trailer north with all its expense for fuel and marine transport. It also means we can come earlier or stay later without much problem if we choose. We are thinking about taking the ferry from Bellingham next year, thus avoiding the long drive across Canada. We will make that decision at a later time.

I should put a question mark behind the title to this blog post. The summer of 1967 was pretty special when Wayne Bartlett and myself zig-zagged our VW van 12,000 miles across the USA from seaboard to seaboard, working “Route 66” style where we could find employment to pay for the trip. I also have great memories of the special summer in 93 when I spent three months in Russia. Perhaps the present is only fresher than the past. This summer the cabin build seemed to progress effortlessly. It was work, but not Work. For two weeks I had the joy of grandchildren at my side on trails and in kayaks. My geographic horizon of the area expanded as we traversed farther from our cabin project. Paulette seemed to always be humming or finding melody in an Alaska that once caused her caution. We made new friends and cultivated old relationships. I got to enjoy good fishing several times even though we do not have a boat. I drilled a new hole in my belt to compensate for losing a bit of weight to work and play. The cabin seems above our expectations. We feel blessed.

Salmon time is bear time. During a day of down time in Juneau we took a drive up toward Mendenhall Glacier and captured this picture of a bear fishing for salmon. We were safely on a viewing platform. But while walking a trail we came around a corner to see a different bear directly in our path. He decided to head the other direction. We did too.

Beginning Sunday morning we should be out of cell contact while we traverse Canada. If we don't find internet along the way we will post again once we reach the lower 48.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mushroom Country, Aug 16

Gustavus has been referenced as having more types of mushroom than just about anywhere else on earth. This time of year I believe it. I must have found thirty different species within 100 feet of the cabin as I wandered with my camera. Some are so small a dime could cover half a dozen. Others are seven or eight inches across. I was specifically looking for a fairy ring, but they must not be up yet.

Yes, that is a dime next to the mushrooms.

The rain finally eased after three solid days of precipitation. The water level in the river raised to as high as during a 20 foot tide, but swift with lots of turbulence. All this rain reminds me of the week or two of storms we get during winter in Southern California. The temps are similar too. The rain let up mid afternoon today. Hopefully we will dry out a little and get some sunshine instead of the earlier prediction of rain all week.

I thought I would post another fish picture (here ya go Dale). I forget the exact weight (50-60 lbs?) but caught this halibut on my last day of fishing. I was incredibly lucky that day. Of the seven halibut caught I hooked six of them, including this one.

I couldn't resist this perfect reflection on a pond

Paulette by a lily pond.

A bear tried to gnaw his way into a neighbors ice chest.

A bear also stopped to take a drink from a bucket filled with rain water. Guess which bucket he chose? Smarter than the average bear...


Lots of rain right now. The weather forecast predicts rain all week. If I remember correctly we had the same thing last year about this time, then it got nice again for a while. Cottonwood tree leaves are beginning to tinge with yellow. I heard sand hill cranes coming in this morning. They winter here. I spent yesterday under the cabin doing insulation. Perhaps two more partial days of that to complete the floor insulation. I procrastinated because it isn't easy working under there in a confined space. Now I have to get it done.

I talked to the barge owner yesterday. Looks like he can get us out of here in about two weeks. No definite date yet. There is an ambivalence. I hate to leave this gorgeous place. I met a young man who lives here. He took some really nice picture of our area. Check it out at

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 7, Progress Update

Total darkness now falls about 10:15PM and the days are noticeably shorter than a month ago. Nighttime temps have fallen into the high 40’s. Soon the leaves will be turning. We have noticed geese flying south the last few days. They are leaving early compared to last year. This makes me wonder what instinct is telling them. We are sensing our time winding down as well. The calendar shows we only have about four weeks left here. Progress has been good. Wall insulation is complete, 50% of floor insulation, and about 20% of the roof insulation. 95% of the drywall is up (98 sheets) with only a few odd sizes to install here and there. I will need to procure two or three more sheets to complete everything. I suspect I’ll wait until next year to finish what drywall remains. Installing drywall 20 feet up in the gabled end was a challenge but I got it done by myself. The electrical is about 90% finished. I ran out of switches and receptacles so those will also wait until next summer. All rooms have power now, and all but the great room, loft lights, and loft bathroom are wired up to switches. Today I mostly worked on getting the water heater into the system, and cut an exhaust vent through the wall. Late afternoon I switched to the washer and dryer. The washer is now ready to go once we turn the water on. The gas dryer still needs an exhaust vent, another item which I don’t have… again a next year detail that can be done quickly. In the meantime we can run the exhaust under the house temporarily if we have to. Next I plan to finish off one of the showers and install a toilet. I wanted to get the stove LP gas hooked up. I bought a gas valve for the stove in California, and thought I brought it along, but cannot find it anywhere. If that doesn’t turn up it will be next summer too. With electric, appliances, and bathroom nearly functional we should be good to go to live in the cabin next year. Once the bathroom is working (though far from finished) I will probably switch back to roof insulation. I do not want to do roof insulation while we are living in the cabin, for obvious reasons. I tend to procrastinate on the overhead insulation because gravity rains the itchy stuff directly down on me. Unless we have to depart early the roof insulation should be about completed when we head south.

I have been blessed with ocean fishing six of the last eleven days. (I'll spare you the pix of more halibut, but did catch six of the seven we landed on the last day B-) The three of us averaged about 40 lbs of processed halibut per day (about 13 pounds per person.) As a result we had to plug in the chest freezer in the cabin a week ago to keep the filets frozen. We cleaned the fish in front of the neighbor’s porch, just up-river from our cabin. The first night two bears showed up, following the fish scent. The first was an adult black bear. About 20 minutes after that bear left a brown bear showed up. They took pictures and video of both bears through their cabin windows. The shoulder of the brown bear on the video is only a few inches below the top of the fish cleaning table, which is 38 inches high. We went to bed in a timely manner so didn’t see either bear. I’ll be glad when the fish smell is gone. One is always a bit on guard with bears foraging in the area.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 2,2011

I know I need to post again when I get calls from friends asking for news, or wondering whether Paulette traded me to the Eskimos for a pair of mukluks.

Catch 22
You may recall my eyeglass frames came apart a little south of Portland, OR. Costco replaced the frames under warranty. I mentioned to the gal in the optical department that we will be remote all summer, and requested she please put some glue on the nose piece threads so they won’t come out. Instead she gave me four extra nose pads and two extra screws. Sure enough, a screw came out a few days ago. So we retrieved the extra pads and screws and I tried to put a new one in. The catch 22 is I couldn’t wear my glasses to see what I was doing. Old spare glasses helped but the Rx didn’t provide the best clarity. Nor did I have a super-fine screwdriver to install the screw. I dropped the first screw and it is so small we couldn’t find it though we both looked and looked and even swept and sorted through the sweepings. With my back to the wall I managed to start and turn the only other spare screw with a needle-nose pliers, but the pad didn’t fit right. I suspect they are the wrong pads. At least my spectacles are wearable for now. This is a saga of being remote. One must MAKE things work.

Eating the Elephant
Drywall installation is about 3/4 complete. I have mostly the gabled ends (12-22 feet in the air. Nuts.) to do, and the portion covering kitchen plumbing. Hoisting a sheet of drywall to a twelve foot height by myself is a challenge. I almost lost the second sheet, but managed to regain control before it took me down the ladder with it. I also began doing insulation on the main ceiling this morning. This is a slow itchy job as fiberglass crystals become airborne. Plus it is warm up near the apex of the ceiling. After three hours of up and down the ladder I got some particulate in the corner of my eye so called it quits and went to pressure testing plumbing (so I can drywall over those areas). The LP line for the stove and drier checked out OK so I switched to the water lines. All tested ok except I found one big leak in a shower valve, which didn’t make sense because the valve was closed. I figured I had a defective valve. Finally I realized the upstairs shower has hot going to the right valve and cold on the left. This is the opposite of most houses. I was closing the wrong valve. The only thing I can think of is I put the lines in from down below and looking up from that vantage I installed the hot on the left. I didn’t realize it would be reversed looking from the other direction upstairs. At least I caught the problem and can change the routing before closing up that wall.

Our elderly neighbor had company coming and asked me to help him get his boats ready. In return he invited me to go along for three days of fishing. I jumped at the chance. The first day out I hit the jackpot. I landed two semi-large halibut. The largest was 56 inches long and weighted 73 lbs, and the other weighed 60 lbs. Plus I got a few ten to fifteen pounders that day.

The grandsons suddenly get perspective when I ask how much they weigh, and they realize the large fish weighs more than they do!

I felt blessed with that catch. The next day we didn’t fare as well. We got a limit of halibut, but all were on the small side. Sunday we tried a different area and again only small stuff. Other items made the day interesting. A mother Orca and her three offspring cruised the area several times. This was the second time I have seen killer whales here. At the end of the third day I hooked something big. The other three guys got their lines out of the water while I thought I might be dragging in a submerged log. Thing is at times the log would pull out drag. It took all the pole and line would handle to gain a few feet at a time. They got a fighting belt and put it on me since the pole was digging into my groin (I have four black and blue marks in that area the next morning). After twenty minutes of this strain we began seeing flashes of “color” of a huge fish.

A little closer to the surface we realized this creature was a Skate, a type of stingray. This was the biggest ray any of them had seen in their 20 years of fishing up here. It measured approximately six feet from side to side and had an overall length of perhaps 9 feet. I don’t have a clue what this creature weighted. They estimated 150 lbs.

Skates are thin so the last picture doesn't show much. After letting me bring it to the surface and taking a few pictures the skate headed down again. It was graceful and seemed to gently fly in the water. I added more drag trying to turn it around. At that point the 80 lb test line broke. We were going to release it anyway. We split all the halibut equally about 7:30 AM Monday. Now I am wondering how to get all this bounty south in a frozen state. Plus we hope to add some silver salmon when they run in about a month.

We see bear tracks now and then but we saw our first actual bear of the year near town; a fair sized adult black bear gleaning strawberries near the road. I just happened to notice as we drove past. Sorry, no pix. The camera was at the cabin. With the salmon running plentifully I expect this will not be the last bear of the season.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18

If you have been wondering about pictures and an update we have been without internet for six days. The wi-fi at the library appears to be down. I started typing this on the ferry heading for Juneau (to pick up more building supplies) and this post is from the comfort of Mick & Sherri’s home. The pix are not in proper order, but you will get the idea.

The boys sorting and trading candy from the 4th of July haul. The parade participants throw candy at the kids.

Grandma, aka Gammie, got to hold all the candy and coats during the games.

This moose track in front of the cabin has a stride of 54 inches! We didn't see the moose or calf but a neighbor did.

The boys (red shirts) pulling for all they are worth in the first round of tug-of-war on the 4th of July. They lost to the girls!

The boys checking out the ROV ocean explorer in the repair shop.

Jonah at the control panel while Micah and Jayden "check" the functions before launch. Only in Alaska would kids get a hands on experience like this.

You will have to ask the boys about the "mine" pushups done on the trail.

Gammie and Jayden at the trailhead to the airplane crash. You will have to ask the boys what the forest was like.

The first few days saw rain and wet conditions, so Paulette came up with a makeshift clothes drying rack in the cabin for jeans.

This bear is named Gus and is a favorite climb aboard for kids.

A sneak pix of Jonah sitting on Gus.

Papa (foreground), Jonah (red kayak), and Jayden (middle) on the river in kayaks.

I liked to tease Jay about trying to hide this puppy in his jacket pocket and take it home.

Jon and Jonah coming through the narrows at high tide. There are a lot of barely submerged rocks just below the surface.

We were given a few of the largest Dungeness crabs I have ever seen. They provided Jon and myself two meals each.

Mr. Porcupine walked through the morning after the boys left for home.

Each of those dark objects is a salmon. Pink salmon are spawning thick in the river for the last few days. All that white junk on the water is from the shedding cottonwood trees.

I guess we are sentimentalists. We think of areas now in terms of the grandson’s visit. We drive past the trail we all took to the airplane crash, or, we are sitting on the ship in the same booth were we took them for lunch. Jayden intentionally left his boots here and Jonah left a pair of tennies. That empty footwear tugs our hearts when we step out the door. Paulette saw Jay’s boots this morning and talked about Jay begging to do an errand for her, any errand that could be reached by bicycle. She came up with sending him to the store, a two mile round trip, for cookies. The fire pit by the river is another touch-point. Many evening memories were made there with smores and firecrackers and boys burning sticks. I would have hidden the sticks so no one got burned, but the forest has no shortage of suitable sticks. One evening I snuck off with Micah and put him in the back of my kayak and we went up river as far as the tide would let the two of us go. I hope he enjoyed that as much as his grandfather did.

Time of day is important, but a lot also happens here based on tide; boat launching, fishing, and river access to name a few activities. Most folks here own a boat or two. A few own airplanes also. These are ways to get around despite being on the perimeter of the largest road-less area left on the planet. I have a boat in mind for our five year plan. Can’t say about an airplane. By the time an aero machine would be on our horizon Paulette would probably have to pilot my wheelchair and me around. On the other hand I cannot say enough about the kayaks. A truck gets us to the regular road places and trailheads. But the kayaks have expanded us (uh, me, though the neighbors are intent on getting Paulette in one. I tell them good luck. I wasn’t even able to get her in on the back lawn in California for a picture). There is at least as much water here as land. Kayaks are a way to somewhat access the waterway and deeper wilderness. They have doubled our wilderness horizon. I am told the Beardslee Islands rank as some of the best kayaking in the northwest. There are no motorized vehicles allowed in the area. Whales, sea lions, seals, dolphins, and even an occasional orca are visible via kayak. Last afternoon a friend called and wanted to know whether I was up for kayaking the Bartlett River with him to do some fishing. The two of us went in through the narrows about 90 minutes before high tide and spent the next 3½ hours fishing. There has been a lot of bear activity in that area as the bears need salmon protein to lay on fat for winter hibernation. An aggressive brown bear recently worked the banks where the sockeye salmon are running, taking fish from fishermen, and even charged a group of six fishermen back into the woods. (We kept the grandsons in the kayaks in mid river while we had them up in that area.) Once John and I exited the kayaks for the riverbank bear evidence was prevalent. I kept my bear spray in a chest wader pocket, finger hole on the canister exposed, and even thought about the times I played gunslinger as a child, wondering how long it would take to draw and fire the bear spray for real if necessary. John was literally “loaded for bear” with two cans of bear spray, an air horn, and a pistol. I found one eye regularly checks the riverbank or the tree line, except when a fish on the line holds the attention. Despite all the precautions and bear sign we never saw a bear (Murphy’s Law?). I caught a fat dolly varden, a little under two feet in length. John, using a fly rod and wet fly, had a sockeye salmon break his pole (it was an old pole) on his first fish of the afternoon. He was bummed as the fish then broke the line and took his only wet fly with it. I was using a middle weight casting rod and thought about loaning him my old flyrod, also in the kayak, but quickly realized it also is too old and light for these fish. We had a great time and lost a lot of fish, and after all the standing my back was tired and I was ready to head back on the outgoing tide. As a cap on the day kayaking back I counted at least nine whales in the cove or at the mouth of Bartlett Cove, with their blow mist beautifully backlit by the evening sun. We beached below the NP lodge, carried the kayaks to the truck, and headed for the lodge were we met our wives for a simple dinner. Life doesn’t get much better than this. At times I wish we had bought up here ten years ago.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 14

Micah seated ahead of me in a double kayak as we paddle into the Bartlett estuary and approach Bartlett River.

Jayden with his salmon.

The boys called to us from a log on our riverbank.

Our ritual was often to have a campfire by the river in the evening. After the 4th of July this included the use of firecrackers to blow cans in the air, or explode a cardboard boat.

The grandsons in an airplane that crashed in the forest back in 1957

The boys and Jon heading for the airplane to go home.

The boys left for home the evening of the 12th. The two weeks flew by way too fast. The next morning we looked at the two beds where they slept and were both misty eyed. During their stay we hiked, kayaked, fished, and then repeated all those activities several times. Two of them caught their first fish ever. We saw moose on several occasions, but no bears, which may be a good thing. For me the highlight was kayaking into Bartlett River with the grandsons. One leaves the National Park lodge and in 20 minutes is surrounded by spectacular wilderness and what has been called perhaps the best kayaking in the west. High tide (necessary to get in and out of a shallow area) was late so we had the boys out until 11PM. That seems late to most of you. Up here there it still plenty of daylight.

We staggered the taking of boys out in kayaks. At ten years old they don’t have the fortitude to paddle long distances. With Jay up front in a two-seater kayak at the entrance to Bartlett Cove whales were blowing in the distance, and small fish were jumping out of the water. I suspected a predatory fish was chasing them and when Jayden cast he got a nice hit on the first try. The fish was scrappy and the two of us took about ten minutes getting it in. Jay was on cloud nine about his first salmon. From there we paddled over to Bartlett River and Jayden was soon catching Dolly Varden trout one after the other. We had three of those trout for dinner the next night. They were nice sized trout evidenced by the fact three fed seven people. There are still two in the freezer, along with his Salmon filets. We took the other two boys out the next night expecting the same results. Unfortunately that didn’t work out at all. We only had one fish on the line, and that one broke free after giving Micah a fight.

Jon Brawley came up from Portland in the middle of the grandson’s stay. We accumulated about two days work on the cabin. The rest of the time was spent…. Guess what... hiking, fishing, and kayaking. Jon seemed to have a great time and the area really grew on him.

The morning after they all left a porcupine waddled past between cabin and the 5th wheel. That was an animal they did not get to see. The boys became more relaxed about wandering the area, much to our concern. Bears and moose seemed to not be around. But two nights ago we were awakened by neighborhood dogs barking. That usually means a bear is in the area. A nearby neighbor got up to see what his dog was barking about and witnessed a confrontation between a brown (grizzly) bear and a moose on the drive outside his house. The bear apparently wanted moose calf for dinner and mama moose wasn’t having any part of it. Eventually she chased the bear off. That all happened about 300 yards from our place. Then this morning I saw a lot of unusual wave activity in the water on the river. After high tide receded I realized why. The Pink Salmon run had begun. This year looks to be a healthy run. The river by our bank is black with salmon. They will rest in the shallows until next incoming tide and then move higher up-river. The downside is once they are spawned out they will die and the whole area will stink for a while, which brings in bears. But I wish he boys could have seen the actual run. It is hard to imagine salmon so thick at times one can almost imagine walking on them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 4th

The 4th was pretty incredible. Tourists come in from all over SE AK and even the lower 48. First the parade where float riders throw candy to the kids. Paulette brought garbage bags for the boys. They made a haul. Then lunch at the fire department. They scarfed down burgers. The Declaration of Independence is read, followed by games and contests in the park. Here are a few pix of them on the tug-of-rope. I’m not sure what the other game is, but Micah participated in it three times. Jonah and Jay did the bubble blowing contest to see who could get the biggest bubble out of gum. Jonah did pretty well. Jay cheered him on. A friend gave us a string of fire-crackers much to the boys delight that evening. We blew cans in the air and holes in the ground. Tuesday AM they are on a Discovery Days at the NP with rangers looking into tide pools and aquatic life here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2, 2011 With Dry Rice

July 1, 2011
Ben and Clint departed and the grandsons arrived on the evening of the 28th. We had great weather for two weeks until that transition of guests. Then rain began to fall. We have had rain off and on since, and rain is forecast through the 4th of July. No big deal. We are thankful parents sent along rain boots and gear. The boys use these almost constantly.

When the plane arrived we saw some patches of red shirt behind the flight attendant atop the stairway after all other passengers deplaned. Soon eyes spotted Gammie and were all peeking to yell and wave at her.

Once home they wanted to explore everywhere as fast as they could. They went from cabin to woods to river to 5th wheel. Ten year old eyes are looking for ten year old activities. I had hoped they would see the beauty, let their senses drink in the river view, be awed by the vista from the cabin and the rainforest, and want to see wild animals. The cabin tour took all of thirty seconds and their comment to each other was, “It’s small.” Within an hour they were dragging my lumber to the “perfect spot” in our dense forest to build a fort. I am amazed how much wood three motivated boys can transport in a short time. (I’ll probably lend a hand if we have down time). Since then we have kept them too busy to do much fort construction. Later I overheard one say to the others in the forest, “There might be a bear out here so we should make noise.” I hadn’t told him that so smiled that these must have been a parent’s concerned words. We took them to lunch on a big ship (200 yards long) when it docked. I figured they would be impressed by the size. Few places would let them be 20 feet from a docking ship. They looked but somewhere in the observing one realized the snow grate floor of the dock could be spit through. Soon the ship was out of mind as they each tried to exercise their salivary glands to the max and watch the splash in the ocean thirty feet below. We took them for lunch at the lodge. One side of the restaurant is all glass. The view is magnificent and several yachts were visible. We seated the boys where they could take in the view. Each table has binoculars. Instead of scanning the view the boys were looking at the table with them, or turned them around to look at things smaller. I had to smile. On a walk through primeval forest with a ranger three boys got bored quickly and ran ahead. We did not need to worry about bears the rest of the 1.5 hour hike as the boys made plenty of noise.

We walked out the dock to the end floats. One at a time I readied their poles with lures. “Be conscious of where your hook is at all times.” Every other cast I had to untangle reels. A little later Micah yelled, “Hey!!! I got one!!” The other two looked on in amazement. None of them knew how to fight a fish, so he just cranked away while the fish pulled against the drag. A foot long flounder appeared, his first fish ever, and he caught it all by himself. The other two now wanted to fish in exactly the same spot. For fishhook safety I spread them out and instructed Jonah to go to the other end of the float. He went reluctantly but soon was yelling himself with a fish on. This one was what the locals call a “double-ugly” (for reason) about thirteen inches long. Now sad Jay was the only one without a fish. After a few hours I told them we were going to have to leave. Jay kept casting and then yelled. It was another double ugly. All three had the hang of casting by the time we walked toward the truck. And Papa was proud to help two of them catch their first fish.

We gave them pocket knives, “tool” instructions, and safety talk the first evening. The desire to sharpen sticks was overwhelming. Soon they had the knives out in places where they shouldn’t, like the truck back seat. And I saw one running with his open, so decided to collect the knives, much to the boys chagrin. They will get them back for a second try, and hopefully realize I meant what I said about safety. They bring back latent memories of my childhood. I don’t think I wanted to listen at that age either.

This morning we walked to an old (1957) airplane crash site in the forest. The boys really enjoyed that. Where else can they climb all over a large crashed airplane? Then a second day of kayak time this afternoon. Micah was tired the first day we kayaked so wanted to nap instead. Thus he is a little behind the other boys in practice. Jay took to kayaking like a duck to water. Jonah isn’t far behind. I get a workout getting the kayaks loaded here and unloaded at the pond, and then the reverse when we go home.

Getting into a kayak it dumped both myself and Jonah (at separate times) into shallow water. We have had no history of that instability here on the river, so I suspect the problem is related to the steepness of bank putting them in the shallow pond where the grandkids practice. The upshot is I got both my camera and cell phone wet in my inadvertent bath. After a day in a bowl of dry rice the phone started working again. The verdict on the camera is still pending. It was in the case and got only a little moisture. We are hoping it didn’t get wet in a vital spot. The bummer part is if the camera dies we won’t get any pix of the grandkids activities for the next ten days. (update: After two days in the rice the camera came back to life, hopefully permanently.)

Rain most of the time they have been here. All their pants are wet. Paulette isn’t happy about that. I said let them wear them anyway. She is reluctant to do that. It is tough with this many people, three very active, in a close space, but we are managing.

A neighbor called late yesterday and said a black bear had just wandered past and was headed our way. I guess it got detoured because we never saw it and after an hour I let the boys go outside. So far the boys have seen only eagles. Saturday morning they are outside playing Starwars. Sounds like the whole planet is in danger. Even the neighbors dogs are barking.

Oh, Micah informed me of his own volition he wants to come again next year.