Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Few More Photographs

Grandson Jay mushing sled dogs as he prepares for the deep snows of winter. He got the hang of dog commands and sled etiquette quickly. The weather isn't cold but to add to the experience he is dressed in a red fox coat... mushing attire. Hopefully he won't have to carry serum to Nome. During a minus tide Sarah and Micah looked for sea critters. This picture is taken on a drab sand bar, but in the nearby rocks there are a lot of colorful aquatic creatures. Jayden in front of Brian W's barn. Brian imagines with driftwood and any other scraps he finds. Sarah and Micah hamming it up. Viewing breaching whales around us while fishing is what made me want to build in this area. One cannot describe the awe of a 35 ton leviathan coming out of the water within a hundred yards of you. Breaching activity is not unusual by us. In fact, most of the pictures I have seen of breaches were taken within ten miles of the cabin. The reason for posting this particular photo is I took it myself. Of perhaps ten breaches we viewed last summer this was the only leap I caught in a photograph (due to shutter lag of my pocket camera). In one instance a whale lept out of the water only seventy feet from the boat! In the two seconds it took to understand what was happening, turn around, and point the camera, all that was left of the breach was the splash boil. At times like that one hopes the whales know what is above them when they leap.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sept 27, 2012

We had another fabulous Alaskan summer and arrived back at the California abode today after eleven day's travel. All is well... except we arrived to 100˚ heat. We have not been in that kind of temperature for a whole year. A few more pictures of summer.... Cousin Tom came up along with our grandson Jayden. I like this picture. Sarah took over 700 pictures during her two weeks with us. Here she got distracted and almost lost a hand. Pix taken in Juneau at Mendenhall visitors center. Jay and Tom kayaking at high tide out front of the cabin. Thank you very much for making this madcap bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew journey with us by way of our blog. Mel & Paulette

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sept 11, 2012

Three full days left until we depart for points south. Temps are getting chilly. We have had two nights in the high 30's. Days are 50-55 degrees. Rain is now common, though not continuous. Unless something exceptional happens we probably won't post again until California. Debbi, Paulette, and Robin checking out the thickness of a filet on the 104 lb halibut. Freezer fish: I landed three silver salmon one morning. The top two are average for our river. The front fish may go 13 lbs. For comparison the blade on the filet knife is 7" long. I cannot tell you what a joy it is to walk out one's front door and go fishing any time. Last evening about dusk I lucked out and landed this 15 lb salmon (the pix doesn't do it justice) using my 45 year old fly rod. I built the rod myself way back in high school. Several times in the battle I thought the pole might break. It's going to need some repairs after the fight. Several rod guides are now loose. Now that's great fishing!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Inquisitive Moose

Sept 5, 2012 As I sat down to write a mom moose appeared about thirty feet from the library window. Somewhat distracting, but never tiring. Then her baby actually came to the window and looked in at us. He was all of three feet away. Paulette reminded me we have only a ten days until we depart for Juneau. Then two more days ferry ride south to Prince Rupert, Canada. Follow that with two more days driving to reach Washington State. Weather remins cool. Fall is in the air. Each day actually seems markedly shorter than the previous. The Coho salmon run has not happened in any numbers yet. Hopefully the next week will see more salmon in the river. I hope to add some to the halibut in the freezer. My total salmon catch for five hours accumulated fishing... ONE. And a small one at that. Paulette says HI to you all.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Struggle in Alaska Aug 23, 1012

My rule of thumb for three summers has been to do something to the cabin every day. So it is noteworthy that for the last five days I have done absolutely nothing on construction. Instead we went whale watching with neighbors on their boat one morning, and I have gone fishing every day for the past five days. It’s a tough existence. And I may have to do the same thing again tomorrow. _________ Pink salmon are running, and silver salmon are getting ready. We caught our first silver yesterday. Leaves on the trees are starting to turn and a few are already falling. I noticed two flights of geese moving south yesterday. The heater came on for the first time in weeks this morning. All are signs of fall approaching soon. But the long rains of mid August have so far not materialized. I worked in shirt sleeves getting the boat ready for salmon trolling. Paulette reminded me only 24 days until we follow the geese south. Amid my photos of whales I have a few neat shots. This is of a whale spouting about 100 feet away. We are not allowed to approach the whales, but they can approach the boat. In other words we kept our distance and they came to us. One feels a bit intimidated when the whale is twice the size of the boat. I also shot about ten minutes of HD whale video, but have no way to post it from Alaska. I will probably wait until I can edit the video with my grandson in November. The walls are painted in the living room. The homestead looks better all the time. Kitchen sans cabinets. We don't know what we are going to do about kitchen cabinets yet. We'll see what the Lord brings along. Alpenglow on the Fairweather Mountains when we had to catch an early tide and dawn found us already fishing. An exceptional day of fishing this week. The big one, caught by Bob S., is 104 lbs. The smaller one only 56 lbs. By posting the pix of nice halibut I don't mean to give the impression that every day the fishing is this good. We had to stretch last year to buy the boat, but zero regrets.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Few Pics....finally.

5 foot 6 inches long. 148 lbs. Caught by Mel Sunday 8/5/12. The biggest challenge was getting a fish of this size into the boat! A look at the cabin outside progress. Back bedroom side.

Friday, July 27, 2012

June 27th: Four days after Tom and Jayden departed June 22nd granddaughter Sarah and grandson Micah arrived for two weeks. I love having grandkids up here. One never knows what we will see. Plus July 4th is big doings in our little village. Alaskans and tourists appear from all over for the festivities. This year I entered the egg toss. Since doing this event with Paulette would be an unfair advantage I asked our friend Molly if she would like to participate. We did pretty well. Out of about 50 teams we were among the last ten when things got a little scrambled. THE fun event of the day was the greased pole. A 25 foot spruce tree was cut down and trimmed smooth of bark and branches, then extended horizontally from the side of the bridge out over the river. In a hole at the far end of the pole was placed a rolled up $20 bill. For variation occasionally a $50 or $100 was inserted. The pole was rubbed down with a layer of Crisco shortening. Participants, one at a time, then try to work their way out to the end of the pole and grab the cash before falling 15 feet into the chilly river. The catch is the pole gets thinner and bends more as one gets closer to the money end. An uncontrolled slide was usually the result for the last few feet. Most slid right by in a desperate grab for the cash. To my amazement 12 year old Micah said afterward he thought about trying. Sarah, 13, responded she didn’t need $20 that badly. Weather took a turn for the better. We are currently in a summer pattern with nights around 55 degrees and days ten to fifteen degrees higher, and sunshine once the marine layer burns off. We have gone twelve glorious days without rain. Moose were plentiful for a month or more. We love seeing them. Now that the calves are getting a little bigger mama moose ventures deeper into the forest and we see them less often. The big moose event for me happened about three weeks ago. There are signs posted around town warning about moose #1 (the number on her monitoring collar). These warnings state she is apt to charge if one gets too close. We occasionally viewed her and her twin calves over several weeks. Micah and Sarah even got a more than close view as she walked her calves right past our front window one evening while we were eating dinner. After the grandkids departed for California I was picking up construction debris near the cabin when my peripheral vision registered movement. In the 1/10 of a second it took to look up I saw moose #1 running straight at me. Though she was seventy feet away one does not wait to learn moose intentions. With the help of an adrenal gland I bolted my arthritic joints for the corner and then another 30 feet to the cabin door. Once at the door I took the liberty of looking back and #1 had not followed. I know this may sound crazy, but events like this are some of what I love about remote Alaska. In another instance the grandkids and I were walking a forest trail. A narrow strip of tall grass stands between the ocean and the path. As we hiked two tourists appeared on the beach adjacent to us. A small black bear, about five feet tall when standing on its hind legs, stood up in the grass and looked at the tourists. The problem was Sarah was only ten feet from the bear when it stood up. I instructed Sarah to get on the other side of me and move away. At the sound of my voice the bear turned and looked at us, and gave a “woof” of warning. Sarah related the sighting to her mom that night by phone. Her mom was excited for Sarah until she asked Sarah how far away she was from the bear. Sarah said, “Ten feet.” The realization hit her mother and she exclaimed a loud, “WHAT?” Work progresses on the cabin. Paulette helped me put up the last eleven pieces of siding. All in all a bit over half the cabin now has a final exterior. The siding transformation is fabulous. With the recent sunshine I put in sill cocks, caulked around exterior windows and doors, and painted some trim. Right now it is too nice to work inside. On future rainy days I plan to tape drywall and paint the interior. July 19th. The salmon runs are all late this year but while fishing for junk fish to use as halibut bait I caught a Pink salmon from the dock. I guess we are having fresh salmon this week. July 26th my day started at 5AM. Three of us old codgers kayaked through the “cut” (impassable if not at high tide) to fish a semi-remote river for Sockeye salmon. Sockeye is considered the best of the salmon and worth the extra work to obtain. We caught a few nice ones, all between 24 and 30 inches in length. We fished all day as we needed to wait until the next high tide (11.5 hour tide cycle) to return through the cut. Add to the equation that all three of us are 62-64 years of age, we had to kayak upriver against the stiff current, be vigilant for bears while fishing, and fight the current all day standing in the river wearing waders. By 7PM high tide we were bone weary. We then had to paddle all the way back and process the fish. The ladies left a note on the truck that they were waiting the lodge to eat when we got back. My day ended at 10PM. I am realizing the future bounty of Alaska is not all that accessible in these so-called golden years. I may have to limit “muscle” trips or stick with boat caught fish.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No recent posts because my computer was down. A new battery arrived a few days ago so we are able to post again. Spring was almost non-existent up here. Temps were cool to cold but improving and we get rain part of most days. It has been the coldest and wettest June and July since some time in early 1950s. Progress on the cabin has been good. All systems are up except septic, and that should go in within a week. The cabin is comfy even though unfinished. Working on the inside while living in the cabin has its difficulties. We got the construction trailer and boat here without incident on May 10. What a relief. I have had the boat out five times. It performs very well. Our first outing friend John hooked about a 300 lb halibut. After two attempts to secure it by harpoon the fish straightened John’s heavy duty swivel and got away. John was spent and pale after fighting that big fish to the surface twice. The harpoon bent so I called the friend who made it. His advice, “Fish for smaller fish.” Next afternoon we tried again. No leviathan this time. We kept four halibut between 12 and 25 lbs each. The first ten days we saw no wildlife of any size. Then moose started moving in. We have seen two to five a day for the past several weeks. One is a mother with small calf who stays close to the cabin on the meadow side of the river. Unbeknownst to her I filmed her with the digital camera one morning. She moved into the river and to within 25 feet of me. One remains motionless in those situations. I got some great video. Another morning at 5:30 we were seated by the windows when three moose walked by only ten feet away. By the time I got the camera out they were walking away. Though rainy and chilly life here is good. Hopefully we will break into a better weather pattern. Paulette celebrated her 65th B-day. That turned into a beautiful cloudless day for her. A bunch of ladies had her over for lunch to celebrate, and we went to the Lodge with another couple for a fun dinner. Cousin Tom and grandson Jayden came in on the first jet of summer on the 10th. They have been a blessing. Tom and I have as much siding up as we can do until next year. The place no longer looks like a cabin, but more like a house. They leave tomorrow. That will be a bummer. That in a nutshell is our life since the past post.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

We arrived Gustavus on schedule. Lots of friends turned out to meet the ferry and welcome us. Everything got loaded in the cabin. Clutter galore. The next few days were spent trying to find parts I knew I brought along but could not find in the clutter. We got the heat working. That is a good thing because the high so far has been only 45 degrees. Lowest we have seen is 34. Got the water working too. No drains yet for the sinks. They drain into a bucket. Propane now fires the stove. Mom is impressed with the stove and microwave. The bummer is we don't have hot water yet. I am missing one solitary part to hook it up. Should have it by the weekend. The cabin is chilly because a small 10x10 area is not insulated. It's amazing how much cold one small area lets in. Hopefully it will be fixed by the weekend IN the midst of the push to get thing running I got sick. First day was sorta lethargic and I laid low. Day two turned into a full blown flu. (It's going around Gustavus and many have it in sync with my case.) I am into day three and slowly gaining strength. I haven't been sick like that for many years. I need to go to Juneau for parts and insulation and feel well enough to get on the ferry this afternoon. Mom will stay with friends in Gus. No animal sighting yet. only a few tracks... less than usual.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That's a good reminder Mike. Always a struggle on the road, especially in remote Canada where rest areas are few. We spent an easy day driving west from Prince George to Prince Rupert. There were actually rest areas! We arrived 5PM and had to wait until 3AM to begin loading onto the ferry. For dinner we headed into town and found a Subway. One realizes everything must be transported a long way when the price of a foot-long and small drink comes to $11. We split the sandwich. It stormed the whole time we were in the ferry line and the temp was in the low 40s. The terminal was locked until about 11PM and zero bathrooms available to the line. Occasionally one would hear a car door and folks would trek off. Or, about the time one would doze off, the guy parked next to you would start his engine to warm up their car. It's part of the adventure of going remote. After loading on the ferry we got a stateroom and soon crashed to the rolling of the ship. The voyage turned to boring. One sees a lot of islands, and a lot of water. We only viewed two whales the whole time. I decided I would rather drive to Skagway next year than this. Two days and nearly two nights later we arrived in Juneau on time at 2:15 AM and drove to Mick and Sherri's. Sherri had the key under the mat and the guest accommodations comfy. At 6AM my alarm went off. Time to rise and meet the ferry from Bellingham with our supply trailer aboard. Everything we intended to bring is now safely in Juneau. We have very little room to pack anything else we might purchase here. Paulette decided to walk-aboard the next ferry on Wednesday (the ferry to Gustavus and home) so we can pack the passenger seat with Costco items. Smart lady. Instead of a twin mattress, which we wanted to purchase and bring over, we will settle for an inflatable for now. I am anxious to get to Gustavus and begin turning on cabin systems and unloading.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On the Way North

Thursday we crossed into Canada with little problem. Easy traffic day once we got away from the Canadian border. Hwy 1 north was practically empty. The boat tows a bit heavier than I expected. Probably because of the couch and all the stuff I have loaded in it. Tonight we are 450 miles north in Prince George, B.C.. Did go through a freak snow flurry today about 200 miles north of the border. The event only lasted about thirty seconds. Tomorrow we head for Prince Rupert. I suspect we will arrive about 5-6PM. Then a wait to load on the ferry until about 2AM. Not relishing the long wait, but once on board we will have a stateroom and can sleep well into morning. Don't know when we will post next. Perhaps Juneau and perhaps Gustavus. We hope to arrive in Gus the afternoon of the 10th. I have been having neck and upper back spasms from all the driving. I'm probably overdosing on Aleve. At least it lets me function. Glad to be off the road early and kick back. M&P

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dumpster Diving?

Nope. A week ago my friend Dale approached me asking whether I wanted some barely used carpet for the cabin. I told him my decorator (you know who) would have to take a look-see. So today we got the call to come take a gander. It is coming out of a huge house recently purchased by their relative, and was upstairs. The pile is a little compacted in traffic areas and not exactly the carpet we would have chosen for ourselves, but one doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth (or did we?). One partial roll stored in the garage was brand new. There is enough to do the complete loft and a bedroom besides. My biggest problem was where to put it. Our garage is full until we cart stuff north! I had to pile it on a buggy. Much of the cabin has landed in our lap this way. We are awed at the blessing. One more thing.... Anyone have a tool for seaming carpet?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting ready

We head for Alaska in about five weeks. Preparations for this trip are different than the previous two years. Without taking the big trailer our cubic footage for storage is significantly reduced. I mentioned to Paulette she has the back seat of the truck for her personal and cabin needs. These needs are many: cooking utensils and dishes, along with all our personal necessities like clothing, toiletries, bedding, and towels. Plus the ice chest? She has been organizing totes. I think she has three filled so far and a bunch of personal clothing, loose items, and bread machine to go. I anticipate the back seat is going to be very full.

The bed of the truck will carry cabin finish items; a chest freezer, boxes of light fixtures, a table saw & drywall tools, fifteen gallons of paint, airless paint sprayer, a range hood, two windows, three tables, a 10hp trolling motor, two folding chairs, and a tote of electrical and plumbing parts. Oh, and a queen size bed frame. It’s going to be tight with only a six foot truck bed which already has an extra 50 gallon fuel tank. Hopefully everything will fit. And I just realized I am forgetting foodstuffs to purchase in Juneau. In the past we filled the whole back seat with eats for summer. Packing is going to be interesting.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


By reservations I don't mean we are holding back. I meant we made reservations for the ferry. Instead of driving the whole distance to Skagway we will try catching the ferry in Prince Rupert, Canada this year for two days travel up the inside passage. The ferry isn't a cruise ship, rather a semi-comfortable working commercial vessel with none of the luxuries one would expect on Carnival.

The updates to our personal boat are complete. We depart California on or about April 28 with truck pulling boat. If all goes according to plan we should be in Gustavus the afternoon of May 10 to begin a few days feverish activity trying to get the cabin utilites up and running. A restful time on the ferry looked good in light of the activity to come. Our time window also allows three days in Juneau to buy beds and supplies before heading to the cabin. I am anxious to get away from the negative political news that constantly bombards us in California. We also have granddaughter Sarah coming north for a few weeks of summer. Her chaperon? That veteran Alaska bear-slapper and porcupine-petter, now all of eleven years old, her brother Micah. We managed to arrange their trip over the 4th of July. I anticipate a productive summer.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

If All Goes According to Plan

If all goes according to plan we will be leaving for AK in slightly less than eight weeks. The ducks are pretty much in a row down here. In the garage I have piles organized of things we need to transport. The blue room is is similar with Mom's stuff. This summer will be a bit different because we will need to take everything we need to actually live in the cabin. It's a lot of stuff! I have a list which I add to whenever I think of an additional item. Perhaps that uncertainty has given me a little more ambivalence about going this year. May nights are still chilly up there. The pressure will be on to get the cabin up and running as soon as we arrive. That could take as much as a week depending on problems and weather. Electric will turn right on. We need to set up a bed. Water should come right up too after installation of a simple filter. But we have no faucets or sinks installed yet, so those will take some time. Also no fuel supply to the water heater yet (it runs on diesel fuel), which could take a day to temporarily hook-up and adjust. Finally, temporary LP gas for the clothes drier and stove. Plus I need to do about 160 more square feet of insulation in the ceiling to try to hold whatever heat we generate inside. Sorta like pioneering with some amenities.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monthly Post

Time for my monthly post so you will know we are still above ground.
Some folks ask why we are not in Alaska full time. Today is a good reason. 85˚ on Feb 24.

We spent last weekend in one of my favorite places, Death Valley. If you had to choose the opposite of an AK rain forest I suspect it would look a lot like DV. We had a great time and drove the buggy approximately 300 miles. Days were mild and somewhat cool, with nights chilly and often windy. A storm went through just before we arrived which dumped snow at the higher elevations. Most people think DV is low flat desert, but there are also mountains and peaks that surround the valley itself. Therefore the variety of viewing can be very different depending on where you are in the National Park.

The Kilns @ 7000 foot level in the Panamint Mountians. We got wide-eyed looks from the 4x4 crowd on the trip.

This is a favorite picture spot. We have been past Teakettle Junction perhaps a half dozen times and I have several pictures of these same three ladies taken there over the years.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Then End is Near

This doesn't look like much. Yes, the boat is in the background. However, under that black plastic tarp lies freshly milled knotty pine for the ceiling of the cabin. I have not peeked at it yet, choosing to keep it out of the sun and dry until I move some to the smaller trailer for transport to Alaska.

A pix of the smaller trailer seen holding about half of the exterior siding for the cabin. Gene strongly suggested Hardiplank, and obtained it for me at his cost. Plus he ordered it pre-finished, saying the total cost for the siding will be about what one would pay to have the cabin exterior painted. We chose taupe for color; sort of an almond, gray, green.

All the cement board siding weighs 5138 lbs.! I almost choked on that tonnage and had to put an additional axle under the short trailer to carry that weight. Axle cost and new tires negated some of the savings on building materials. Note the different color trailer fenders. I made front fenders to approximate the appearance of the rear fenders. We plan to take half the siding and half the ceiling pine north this summer. Plus load the truck with whatever else is on my "need" list. The 5th wheel served us well the past two years. But I am glad beyond description to not be pulling that behemoth all the way to Alaska again next summer.

Ceiling and exterior siding comprise 2/3 of the last major outflow to complete the cabin (still need to install a septic system). Beyond that there will be small costs to complete the finishing over the next two summers. When we started this project I did a spreadsheet of cost estimates. There were so many cost unknowns for building on a remote site. Amazingly we came in well under those projections. By comparison a similar structure in California would cost almost double if I built it myself. Many thanks to friends for their help in locating deals. The recession and local ReStore had a lot to do with keeping costs down also. We are still watching for a few things like some light fixtures, ceiling fans, flooring, an oil-fired heater, and a certified wood burning stove. We are resting about those items. God brought almost everything in when we needed it.

The blessings keep coming. Paulette found three beautiful new rope lights she liked for the kitchen for $7 each. We found a small end-table whose pedestal is a carved bear, and a lamp made of fake antlers. Both were yard sale items and both will fit right in. Son-in-law Bela is painting a house and over-estimated the amount of paint needed... ordered 5 gallons too much. He asked me whether a beige would fit the cabin interior. Sure. I offered to buy the extra from him. He said his customer already paid for it in the bid price. So with a wink I told him I'll take it if he comes up and applies it. He laughed and said he would love to but this summer probably won't work.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking Back

This was my first post ever when we started the blog years ago. I thought it worthy of re-publication.

"Family: A friend passed away unexpectedly. Amid the grief and tears and shared memories a comment came to our ears. A daughter of the friend mentioned how at get-togethers she would watch our family and felt jealous. That comment made me reflect. Jealous? Of us? I tend to react to what attacks my comfort zone while overlooking the peace and values that surround me every day. I smiled as I reflected on what we have; our family interrelationships. We are functional. We care about each other amid ups and downs. Love covers each other's failings. Irritations come and go but don't affect the greater value of being family. In a crisis we are without question there for each other. And best of all, this is normal for us. As my dad would have said, "You can't buy that with money." Yup, priceless. What a blessing.