Friday, May 29, 2009

Alaska 3

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
We went back to the property to at least start working on digging the truck out. We reserved a back hoe for the weekend to do more road work. We had a big sequencing problem with multiple things. The truck is stuck, and also somewhat broken. It didn't start up for us. We had to change batteries in it for it to restart. Is it bad batteries' (diesels take 2 batteries)? Is it the alternator that didn't charge the batteries while we drove it? Is it a bad starter? A loose connection in a switch? We don't know. We tested the batteries at the local Shuck's (Checker Auto) and they were fully charged. Hm.

So...our sequence problem: We need to get the truck unstuck. But we need to get it fixed before we can drive it out. We could pop it right out of the 18" holes with the backhoe on the weekend, but then we may not be able to start the truck once it's out. We need to get it off the road to do the road work. We need to lay down some "road fabric" preferably BEFORE the backhoe arrives so we can make the most of the time we have it rented. You put down the road fabric and then dump a bunch of gravel on it...gravel from the high spots of the road as well as from our "gravel pit" dug out last year for just such reasons. So, we need the backhoe to get the truck out but we need the truck out before we get the backhoe. And we need the truck fixed before we get the backhoe so we can lay the fabric. And we need the truck lifted out in order to get underneath to fully check things out and fix it. Hm.

What we did was begin working on digging it out. We used cut down tree trunks as levers and stumps as fulcrums, other stumps as props. We managed to raise the truck about 12" and shovel rocks and gravel into the worst of the tires. We shoveled away the ground around all the tires and raked out from underneath. We buried that truck so well that the hitch was laying level with the ground. It barely looks stuck now, comparatively. We were tempted to try to drive out (the truck actually started for us) but were afraid that the vibration of the enginewould just sink us further before we had a chance to actually get out of the holes. We decided to wait.

We went up to the the cabin and grilled some salmon and veggies. Yum. Nice to have a hot meal. Nice to have vegetables! A friend stopped by to see the cabin. We met him at the road, drove in with him as far as our van, and walked with him to the cabin. Nice to have company.

We all went into Soldotna to "Moosequitos" bar to watch Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. After a little bit of the game I went out on the deck and called my dad. We talked for 45 minutes. It was about 45 or 50 degrees outside and damp as it had drizzled off and on all day. It was a great talk.

Thursday, May 28, 2009
It began raining in the middle of the night and didn't quit until 3:00 p.m. Another computer day at the Wash 'n' Dry in Soldnotna. That means showers, too. Thank goodness it's been cool-to-cold because that has made our few showers last longer. Took only our fourth showers in 20 days today. It's a consolation that we are by far not alone in this scenario; hoards of people are doing the same thing, going as long or longer between showers as they camp their way through Alaska. Public showers abound. One of our favorites is the Soldotna Wash 'n' Dry. It's a big clean laundromat with free wireless internet, bathrooms, and $5 showers. They'll even do your laundry for you. Lots of fishermen take advantage of this service; they don't want to miss any time on the river fishing!

We wonder what all that rain did to our road and our freshly dug holes under the tires!!! We rescheduled the backhoe for the following weekend and rescheduled with our friend, Jerry, as well, who will be helping.

Friday, May 29, 2009
TODAY. I am caught up! Woohoo! Today we drove east headed for Seward for The Fisherman to catch some Kings (salmon, that is). We stopped at Gwin's in Cooper Landing again to say hi. Then we went to see Jerry at "Prospector John's" Pioneer Village where his wife, Kim, works at a tiny gift shop. Kim was working at her other job for the day so Jerry was minding the store for her. It's always nice to visit with Jerry and Kim. They are a couple The Fisherman met about 6 years ago when he first worked at Gwin's. They loved Alaska so much that they bought a house in Cooper Landing and stayed. After an hour's visit with Jerry we left with plans for dinner tomorrow night where the menu will consist of The Fisherman's fresh caught salmon and Jerry's recently acquired "bear ribs".

The Fisherman just called and said he didn't get his Kings but instead went around to the other side of Resurection Bay and fished for Reds (aka Sockeye Salmon). He got his limit and is now fileting up six 10-pound Reds. He loves Alaska! And I tell you, it's pretty darn cool to grill up freshly caught salmon. Not to mention having a freezer full by the end of summer. Jerry and Kim, along with most everyone up here, live off the land as much as possible. They have a giant freezer with moose, caribou, salmon, and now bear. Tomorrow night's plan now is to have a few filets on the grill and then he and Jerry will smoke the rest. Of course, there's still the bear ribs. I'm curious to try them.

It's not looking good for Kings right now in Seward so we'll probably be back before I leave. That's fine by me because Seward is a nice little town. There are cute shops, the Alaska Sealife Center, and of course, The Sea Bean...the internet cafe I'm sitting in right now. Their motto is: "Sit. Sip. Surf." Only trouble is...they're right next door to A Flyin' Skein, where I just couldn't resist a few skeins of yarn!

Well, I guess I've caught up. Wish I had photos to post. I'll have to post them separately sometime. Maybe next time The Fisherman's out fishing and I find another internet cafe. Catch you all later!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alaska Continued

Thurs – Sunday, May 14-17, 2009
At this time of year people are allowed to drive into Denali National Park up to 30 miles. Once the season officially starts no one will be able to drive into the park in their own vehicle past 2 miles. Road and park management limits road travel to the big green school buses the park provides (at $70 per person) and a few special resort vehicles given permits. We drove in 4 days in a row up to the Teklanika River campground where the road was blocked. We saw all of the “Big Five” – bear, moose, caribou, dall sheep, and wolf. We also saw lots of snowshoe hares and Willow Ptarmigan - the state bird. Both of these turn completely white for winter and then turn brown again for summer. They were both in mid-change. The bunnies had white feet and white around the edges of their ears but the rest of them was in the standard nature camouflage grey tones. The Ptarmigan had varying degrees of change but basically they had brown heads and necks but white bodies.

Monday, May 18, 2009
We went back to the Talkeetna area, shopping, taking more photos of the mountain . We went up to the ritzy Talkeetna Lodge for a great view of all three mountains, McKinley, Foraker, and Hunter. We went to the gift shop where I bought a book by a Talkeetna local guy. I love stories of locals, how they chose to come to Alaska, their journey to get here and settle in. We had lunch at the restaurant and then headed south to Wasilla.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Aside from doing your typical shopping stuff and some nature things definitely on the agenda, there are only a few special things I’ve really wanted to do on this trip: see local art, go to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see big game close up, and do something Iditarod. We could have visited the kennel of a famous musher in Denali but I chose rather to either go to Iditarod Headquarters or to a different musher’s kennel nearby. I chose Iditarod HQ. It was a simple thing but fun. They have a small dog team there and give rides around a loop trail. I was happy to see the dogs. They are all so sweet and love attention. But, boy do they stink! Dog smell multiplied by a factor of probably never having a bath in their lives. I saw a boy helping out and he looked like the brother of a current musher. I inquired. Yes, he’s a Redington. His father, Raymie, drives the team at HQ. His grandfather is known as “the Father of the Iditarod” because he founded the race back in around 1973. I got to talking to Raymie and his wife, Barb. Once they found out I actually follow the race and know some names, they really talked race talk with me. It was fun. I’m sure The Fisherman was kind of bored but he took it well. When they found out he’s a fishing guide down on the Kenai Peninsula, they started asking fishing questions because they don’t fish down there very often. I imagine it was fun for The Fisherman, to give advice to a longtime Alaskan about fishing.

Wed – Thurs, May 20-21, 2009
After the Iditarod HQ we headed down to Anchorage and made it just in time for an afternoon movie. We saw Star Trek. We both really liked it. I didn’t watch the original series very much as a kid but I remembered enough of it to really enjoy how the movie created a history for the characters and their relationships. We hung around Anchorage for a couple days, shopping, looking at some galleries, and doing more movies. Oh, when we were in Talkeetna, we visited a quilter’s shop and got some great ideas. When in Wasilla, we bought some fabric at Sylvia’s Quilt Depot for a project. Then when in Anchorage we stopped at The Quilted Raven. We bought fabric for another project that The Fisherman wants to make himself. Hopefully we’ll be able to make some nice wall quilts this winter.

Friday, May 22, 2009
We had one of our first cloudy days as we headed out of Anchorage, down the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet and towards the game park. It was just too cold, windy and rainy to stop. We decided to make a special trip back to visit it, along with the Anchorage Zoo. We made it to Gwin’s Lodge to visit friends. It was a tough visit, given the sadness that encompassed the place. The owner, Bob, passed away a few months ago and the place is in a bit of turmoil trying to get up and running for the season. We visited with friends, Rob, Charlotte, George, Shirley, and a guy we call Fly Bob. He acquired his nickname because the owner of Gwin’s was also named Bob. Fly Bob ties flies. When I first met him in the summer of 2006, he had spent the whole previous winter tying about 8000 flies which he sold to Gwin’s. So to distinguish him from “Gwin's Bob”, he became Fly Bob. He had several boxes of flies he’d tied this winter. The Fisherman picked up the ones he’d ordered from him and we spent the evening on his little porch catching up. An old friend, Mike, stopped by. He’s now working in Anchorage. He was just stopping by to get his gun from Fly Bob so he could head further down the road and go camping and fishing for Memorial Day Weekend. Mike stayed just long enough to be the one to spot the bear approaching in the woods! Excitement ensued. A loud shout sent the bear running but then there were other people on the property to warn, possible photos to be had, etc. The bear ran up the hill and around the back of the Gwin’s property. Then he ran out across the 2 lane highway and stayed at the side of the road for awhile. That created what is called a “bear jam” on the highway. About 20 cars of holiday traffic all stopped, watching the bear, taking pictures, and marveling at the wildness of Alaska.

Saturday, May 23, 2009
In Soldotna, we checked in with Talon Air and visited with Alan and Shelley, Tiffany and Tommy for awhile. It was fun seeing them again. They're looking forward to another good summer. We dropped off our freezer at the Guide Shack. And we dropped off 3 big boxes of frames which we still have to put photos and mats into for the photos they got from us last year. It was GREAT getting so much stuff out of the van. We were REALLY cramped in there this year.

We also picked up our truck. The Fisherman bought us a used diesel 4WD truck last September. We need 4WD to get into our property better. The truck started right up and we drove out to the property in both vehicles. The Fisherman checked the road to see if it was good enough to drive on. It's a curvy and hilly road from the northern edge of our land in to the cabin. The low spots are places of concern. The dirt is as fine as flour and if there's not a lot of rocks and gravel mixed in with it, it's sink city. There can be a nice crust on top but if you just wiggle your feet up and down in the same place for about 20 seconds, you can see it turn squishy right underneath the surface.

So we did our best to discern if it was passable and decided it was. We transferred a twin mattress set into the truck bed. (Yes, we drove up with a twin mattress and box spring crammed in alongside our sleeping bed in the van. It was good to get that out of there, too!) We headed up the road and did really well. We got to the soft low spot and the right tires grabbed onto some soft stuff. We were pulled further into the squishy ground...and got absolutely, positively, unquestionably...stuck! We buried the right side of the truck up to the floorboard in muck! No way out.

Now, we have a twin mattress set in the back and we're only halfway to the cabin. My strong husband CARRIED the mattress up the steep hill to the cabin, came back and got the box spring and then carried IT up the hill into the cabin. We must have taken 4 trips to get everything out of the truck bed and up to the cabin. But we did it. Meanwhile, the mosquitos were having a feast out of my hands, the only thing showing besides my face. My face they managed to only assault with annoyance but no bites.

The cabin fared well through another winter. We have such an amazing view. It's so fun being inside the cabin, looking out the window and seeing the white birch trunks, spring green leaves, and snow covered mountains in the distance! When we get discouraged with hassles like the road, we look at our view and get re-strengthened to keep plodding along with all that is required to make this place liveable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
We headed down south to Ninilchik and the Deep Creek Beach where we hoped to find lots of bald eagles like last year. There weren't as many when we got there in mid-afternoon. We took photos for a little while and then decided to head down to Homer to see if we could find some more. We didn't. But we went to Pioneer Ave to some galleries and then spent some time on the Homer Spit looking at shops. The Spit is the second longest natural jetty in the world. It's over 4 miles long. There is a marina there and lots of shops, small restaurants, and charter businesses. The Fisherman told me that Homer is where The Deadliest Catch's Time Bandit is harbored when it's not out in the Bering Sea in search of crab.

After Homer, we drove back up to Deep Creek Beach and found LOTS more eagles. We took pictures and just enjoyed being around them. I looked up at the cliffs and counted up towards 100 bald eagles! We watched the sun set behind Mt. Redoubt, a currently active volcano. The steam plume rose above the over 10,000 foot peak just across the water about 50 miles from us. Very impressive. This was about 11pm. We didn't stay till the sun fully set. Sunsets in Alaska are interesting. Not only are they VERY late, they don't go straight down. They go sideways. Very neat for photographers because it means that sunset lasts a couple hours. Cool!

Time to dash again. We're headed for Mexican food tonight and then to Seward tomorrow.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hello From Soldotna, Alaska

Well, so much for posting every few days! And I don't know if I'll even get any photos posted but I'll do my best. I've had plenty of time to think about how I would post. Given the large number of days passed and the short number of minutes for posting...I've decided to just do daily highlights. I've been journaling all along the way, something I've not done before. I'm amazed at all the things I've already forgotten that come up in conversations between The Fisherman and me. I'm glad I've been writing. Along the way, I've written down quaint street names, funny signs, etc. I might include some of them in the diary form entries. So here goes...

Thursday, May 7, 2009
We went to The Fisherman's concert at the Elementary school. Kids were cute. Got good photos of kids, The Fisherman, and guitars aplenty. Took off straight from school.

Chinle (Chin-lee), AZ - police SUVs with flashing lights driving southbound off the northbound highway shoulder, doing an emergency herding of a bunch of wild horses that had made their way into town.

11pm - Many Farms, AZ - 4 wild horses standing at the side of the road in the middle of "town."
Camped in Monticello, UT, where we had our rollover accident 6 years ago.

Friday - May 8, 2009
North through Utah into eastern Idaho, up into Montana. We liked Montana. Wide open spaces, rolling hills leading up to snow capped mountains. Took a left at Butte, drove through Missoula and thought of Chuck and Audrey Armerding - prayed for Audrey's recovery from a broken hip. Wished we could have seen them. Again through Idaho and camped in Wallace, a cute old fashioned looking town.

Saturday - May 9, 2009
Drove west toward Coeur 'd' Alene, ID - lush mountainous forests, wind-y roads up and down. Into Washington state, Spokane and beyond. Took photos of old farm houses. Fascinated by the history. Kept seeing images in my head of hardy farm women kneading dough in the kitchen and wondered of the lives that were lived there.
Took 97 north along the Columbia River, past houses with orchards in their front yards, apples, plums, pears. Lush fruit regions. The Fisherman would love to move to such a place, being the true "hunter/gatherer" that he is. Canadian border by 2:30 pm.

Sunday and Monday, May 10 and 11, 2009
Mother's Day...*sigh.
Took the Cassiar Hwy north. Different from years past. Beautiful mountains and rivers. thank you. Steep drop offs, winding, curvy, bumpy, potholes. Very tired and grumpy after two days on this highway. We missed the sheep and buffalo on the Alcan Hwy.

Made it into Whitehorse, Yukon Territories and picked up the Alcan there. More terrible roads out of Destruction Bay - the worst of the trip. The frozen ground creates "frost heaves" which are massive the degree that the signs don't say "DIP"; they say "DIP AREA". When we first encountered frost heaves in 1990 in Alaska, we unsuspectingly flew through them at highway speeds and got airborne!

Re-entered the United States at around 8pm. Stayed just across the border at Border City Lodge.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Had first showers. Met two nice people outside the lodge. A neurosurgery pre-resident taking one last adventure before putting his nose to the grindstone this fall in Texas. He's riding his bicycle from Fairbanks to Vancouver, alone. Then we met a guy who just packed up his 5th wheel and came to Alaska looking for a place to settle with few people. He didn't even have an Alaska map - his map ran out somewhere in Canada.

30 miles east of Tok ("toke") we spotted a flock of about 120 Canada geese flying overhead. we chased them and watched them for miles. We stopped the van and turned the engine off at one point and we could hear them honking way overhead. Cool!

Ate our first hot meal (other than the occasional Egg McMuffin) in Tok. Stopped at a photo site of The Fisherman's  from last year, one we call Autumn Reflections. Took photos for over an hour. Fun. More bumpy roads - too cold up here in the interior to have good roads.

Stopped at a liquor store outside Glen Allen, AK to see if there was any Alaskan Winter Ale left for The Fisherman. The exterior of the tiny building was plastered with brand signs, posters, and logos. In amongst them I noted a small "For Sale" sign. The sign looked about 20 years old. Guess it's hard to get out from under a business close to the middle of nowhere.

Wed, May 13, 2009
Awoke this morning in front of the Eureka Lodge. Not as glamorous as it sounds. A little dirty spot 80 miles NE of Palmer, AK that has a gas station, restaurant and "lodge" plus some employee bunk houses. We parked next to two giant green dumpsters for the night.

We passed a KNOB LAKE. Hmmmm...... If the Knik River is pronounced ka-nick up here, is Knob pronounced ka-nob?

Photos of a bald eagle in a dead tree.

KUAPPALA AVE. - wait, are we in Hawaii or Alaska?

Headed north on Parks Hwy toward Talkeetna.

Arrived Talkeetna around noon. Photos of Denali (Mt. McKinley) for awhile. Then... we took a flightseeing trip right up around "the mountain." It was SO cool. Gorgeous! Stunning! Awesome! We were supposed to land on Ruth Glacier but instead, because we were transporting 3 climbers to a base camp, we landed on the Kahiltna Glacier. It was such a neat experience to see the base camp. Lots of people. One-man tents blowing in the wind. An HQ type tent with solar panels and antennae. Snow block walls built around some tents. Climbers milling about. Massive mountains rising above us. We stood on a glacier! At the base of the tallest peak in North America!

Passed HONOLULU CREEK on the way up to Denali Nat'l Park.

Got to dash now! It's 4pm and we're hungry. I'll try to post again soon. I'm going to try to type this all out and have it ready to copy/paste next time we stop at a wireless internet place.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Alaska Bound

I am headed up north tomorrow and then we're off to Alaska in a few more days. I'm hoping I can post every few days while we're there. It will be at the mercy of internet cafes, travel agendas, and travel spontanaeties.

One of the things we'll do when we get to the Kenai Peninsula is go to our property and work on our cabin. Insulation and tongue & groove interior boards await us. We're bringing up a twin bed so The Fisherman can possibly stay at the cabin some of the summer. Our property is 17 miles away from where he works. That's kind of a long way when you sometimes have to be there at 5:45 a.m. so he has another campsite arranged right in town.

Speaking of "bringing up a twin bed", you probably can't imagine our living quarters. We van camp. I wish I had a picture. We have a utility van that we've put a bed in. We're able to store stuff underneath the bed and at the foot. The Fisherman installed rods to hang clothes on, bungees and wooden rods to secure his fishing poles to the ceiling, and a whole bunch of cool conveniences are velcroed to the wall, such as a flip light, an alarm clock, flashlights, and a little catchall bin. A little TV hangs from the ceiling in a custom made "cage" that holds it. Laundry bags and clothing bags also hang from the ceiling at our feet. There is no room to stand up, or barely even "kneel up" on the bed, so getting ready for the day requires some creative yoga moves.

Here's our little cabin. Still under construction, of course. When we only have a couple weeks at the beginning and end of summer to work on it, it's going to take awhile.
The view out our door.

Eventually we hope to build a "real" cabin just across the driveway perched on the edge of the trees looking out on....
Click to enlarge - there actually are mountains out there in the distance.
The current cabin - 16x20 - will become our guest cabin...someday.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Moving Out, Back, and On

Through some sad circumstances my brothers and I are having to move us out much sooner than we'd hoped from the house Mom and I have been living in . I will be fully out by the time The Fisherman and I head for Alaska on May 8th. I'll help pack up Mom's stuff as much as possible before I leave but the guys will have some more time to finish up while I'm gone. That's one of the reasons I've been taking pictures around the house so much. And I'm glad I have been doing so. It is becoming a nice collection of images of Mom, snapshots of who she was.

So, I am moving out. Quickly and soon. I will be moving back to the mountains and my rural life. It's a mixed bag of emotions. I'm excited to return to living with my husband and in our rural mountain setting. But it is hard to leave this house where Mom and I lived together for three years. Hard to abruptly leave dear friends, a church I love and that has been a family to me for nearly 30 years. It is hard that this house will no longer be "ours" by the time I get back from Alaska. We're being denied the opportunity to linger in our sentimentality and whatever part it plays in our individual grief processes. It's hard for all of us. But I trust that God knows our hearts and our needs, and that we will be OK. More than that: that this stressful hardship will work for good in each of our lives. I think of a current song on KLOVE Christian radio that says:

"For I'll be by your side, wherever you fall
In the dead of night, whenever you call, and
Please don't fight, these Hands that are holding you.
My Hands are holding you."

I'm not fighting the Hands that are holding me. I have often done that in the past. I'm learning how to let them hold me even though hard things have passed through their permission to come to me.

As for moving on? Well, that will come more slowly as I settle in back home and as we figure out what shape our reunited life will take on as our future unfolds. We have dreams. We have visions and hopes. We're just not certain how they will emerge and develop. One day at a time we will see. I am uncertain what this mysterious "grieving process" will bring to me as well. I only know I haven't had much chance to even deal with it, being so busy with demands that have plagued me since Mom's death. I guess one day at a time we shall see about this, too.