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.