Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Short Alaska Summer

We would normally depart for Alaska about now. But a few weeks ago Paulette had rotator cuff surgery. We originally tried to expedite the shoulder repair last fall, but modern medicine seems to have a six month medical mill before the surgery can happen. The doctor wants her to stay in SoCal for three months post surgery. The plan is currently for Mel to leave late June and drive the truck pulling the trailer, which will be loaded with supplies. He should arrive a week later and get the cabin open and operational. Paulette is not to use her arm at all so will fly up in early July. We are both anxious to get up north.

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.