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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We Got the Machine Out

We did go down river last Saturday to help get Dave's snowmachine out of the water. It was a pretty interesting project. The biggest challenge was getting the Ice out of the way.
The guys cut the ice with 20" chainsaws, into cubes about 18" square.
Once they would get one cut one of us would take a long 4"x6" board and bang on it to break it loose, because it would begin to re-freeze as they cut it so it still had to be broken loose. Once we got it loose then 3 to 6 guys with 2"x6" boards would push down on it and try to dunk it under the ice and push it away from the hole. This was a real struggle, you wouldn't believe how buoyant a big ice cube is. After we dunked the first few we started picking them out using the 2x6s as chop stix to lift them then wrap a rope around it and pull it across the boards to the surface.
Once the ice was out of the way, and a lot of dipping with shovels to get the slush out of the way so we could see,
Wallah, there was the machine.
Leif went fishing with a grappling hook and got ahold of the front bumper of the machine.
We managed to lift the machine high enough with a com along hooked to the bumper of my snowmachine to get a ski up to hook a rope through it.
As we worked on tieing the rope on the ski a bunch of interested onlookers stopped to check out the process. Once we got a rope on the ski with this many people here it was Game ON. We just pulled it up, tied a rope on the other ski and the group started pulling. It went really slick.

We are leaving tomorrow for Yentna Station to visit for the night then on to Anchorage and a flight to Ohio and points beyond. We look forward to seeing a lot of you while we are on or travels.
We probably will not post an update for 3 weeks or so, I am not sure.
I will talk to you all in the near future,
Thank you for the privilege of letting me share with you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Weather Channel Lies (Up Dated)

Up Date: Sorry, I have tried to up-load the video for this blog a couple of times and It won't upload. I will try to re-do a new video (shorter) and do it again.

I looked many different times at the average temperatures for where we now live,,, Before we moved. It always showed that the averages here were only ten degrees colder than North West Ohio. They LIED. I am not complaining, I am just saying that it is much colder here than where ever the Weather Channel gets there temperature from. IT WAS -27 DEGREES BELOW ZERO at 11:30 today. The Weather Channel shows the record low for this date to be -21. I guess there thermometer is in Anchorage or something. Anyhow, it has been a lot colder than we anticipated but we have no complaints. It is a Dry Cold, just like Arizona is a Dry Heat. Watch the video and see how Myra is dressed. Granted she was not out for an hour like that but 15 minutes isn't too bad.It did get up to a whooping -20 about 3:30 this afternoon. Be patient waiting for this video, it is 98 megabytes, almost 5 minutes long! Isn't the coffee thing cool! It's kind of like shooting a Grouse with a 44 magnum Bear load, Poof, it's gone! After taking this video I gently started a snowmachine and warmed it up and went visiting. Lief, one of the cabin owners was up for a couple of days so I went to see him then over to Bentalit to visit Tom and Patty for a few hours. The ride was a little brisk since I did not put on anything other than normal snow pants that I wear to work around here and one poly shirt with a flannel jacket. No special clothing at all. It was not too bad other than my forehead got so cold I got an Ice Cream head ache, and it came from the out side and went in. That was a new experience. Once I got home I did some outside chores like haul wood into the back porch, gas up and start the generators and I prepped the snowmachines for a trip tomorrow. I did this stuff dressed the way I described and was outside for about an hour and a half. It is truly amazing that I can do this and to the best of my knowledge the coldest I have ever worked in before was -22 in Ohio. Back then I froze my butt off and was going inside every 15 minutes to get warm. Here I just stayed out and did what needed done. I am even able to work without gloves for several minutes at a time. I have no idea how God engineered us to be so adaptable to so many different conditions but it is truly miraculous. (Big word huh) We are planning on leaving around 9:30 tomorrow morning to head down river. We are going to go watch and maybe participate in removing one of the snowmachines from the water, from when the guys fell through the ice a few weeks ago. Lief, our part time nieghbor is the one going to spearhead the operation to get it out. It is about 45 miles down river but it just sounds like to much of a neat experience to not go do it. It is currently -24 degrees and still dropping again tonight. I am sure it will be plenty chilly when we get on the snowmachines to go in the morning. Can you believe Myra is up for this! The video shows most of what I could blog for today so, See Ya, Thanks for sharing with us, Roger

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I have been to Town

Since my last post I have been to town three times.
The first trip was last Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday. I went in with 4 other people and we cut the trail through the new deep snow. We developed what will be the freight trail for this 60 plus miles of the river system. It was a neat experience to be a part of cutting the trail. Me and one other guy had so much to do that we stayed in town until Wednesday and the other three returned earlier. On Wednesday I was the leader coming back home and the other guy had never made the trip by his self. Come to find out, he moved out here late last winter and was originally from San Diego. He only has a couple of months of snowmachine experience, period. I thought I was a rookie at this life until I heard that! I got us home, on an unmarked trail that now had many many off shoots where other people had come and gone to there cabins and taken other routes etc. I am proud to say I did not even have to use the "turn around gear" on my snowmachine.

Did I mention we got a pretty good snow fall last week (22" in one day) Remember how high the cabin is off the ground? It is starting to pile up. Look at the top of the Burl log at the back corner of the cabin (one snow fall). See the depth around the shop and barn. I am thinking I am going to walking above them before spring.

I got back to Northwoods Lodge late Wednesday afternoon, where Myra was at and stayed for a short visit then took off to go home before dark, and check on things and feed the cats etc. I was pulling a freight sled loaded with a 30 gallon fuel barrel, a 40 lb propane tank, 50 lbs dog food, 25 lbs cat food, groceries and misc other supplies. I don't know if I ever mentioned the valley in the trail about half way from there to here but, it is a pretty good size hill coming either way through the valley. I did not make it up the hill. When the machine stopped its forward movement the weight of the trailer took over and I started backwards down the hill, OMG. The freight sled is twelve feet long with front steer skies and fixed rear skies. It does not back well on flat land. Well, I was on the edge of disaster when the brakes started to slow me and then the sled stuck in the snow on the side of the trail. Whew! I locked the parking brake lever and got off the snowmachine, took one step and heard a click. The parking brake let loose and the whole assembly started down hill again. I jumped on the machine and grabbed the brake again with the same good result. I am now half way down a 200 foot long 30 degree hill. I re-locked the brake and proceeded to unload the fuel barrel. I got the barrel out and turned to get the propane out when the brake let loose again and it all slid about twenty more feet before stabbing into the bank of the trail, now it won't go any farther down. I unloaded everything off of the trailer and set it along the side of the trail. Now, I re- lock the brake (after finding the problem) (operator error) and picked up the back of the freight sled and set in on the trail. Now I backed the sled down the hill about 10 feet at a time, continually stopping to lift the back of the sled around the curve and get to the bottom. I then got a good run and got the sled to the top of the hill. I then proceeded carrying everything up the hill, on arm full or heavy load at a time. Can we say, It kicked my Butt! I got everything up the hill and onto the sled except the fuel barrel. It is Still setting beside the trail as I type this 6 days later. I will take over gas cans and the barrel pump and empty the barrel where it sets, then haul it home.
I had just walked into the door of the cabin when the phone rang and one of the fellows needing a ride into town to get "parts" for his snowmachine. It seams he hit a stump on his way home and bent a bunch of steering parts. I told him what I had just gone through and I would have to call him back. Well, I caught my breath, called Myra and knew we still needed many more supplies so I called him back and said OK.
The very next day (Thursday) I left before dawn to go get Gary to head for town. As it turned out, he had a freight sled he needed to take to town and he had a spare snowmachine at the landing that he had just got back from the repair shop. SO, I hooked his freight sled to mine (pulling tandems) and he set a chair on his sled with some ratchet straps and a "ride em cowboy rope" and I hauled him and two freight sleds to town, with empty fuel barrels and totes etc. He darn near froze to death, figuratively speaking, It was ten below and breezy. He got cold since there was no engine heat and no windshield.
Oh Yea, more to this story. On Monday I had rode our two up long track snowmachine to town pulling my "Skwagon" to be able to haul the empty containers to town that I needed. I then picked up my "new" used freight hauling snowmachine that I bought last August and that is the machine I hauled out the freight sled full of stuff with. I had left our two up machine at the landing. Now I had a spare machine at the landing.
This is the "Skwagon" a couple of months ago right after the first snowfall. I pulled this little sucker over 60 miles to town with skies strapped on the wheels. Not really what I intended for it!

Well, we loaded my spare machine on Gary's freight sled along with two 55 gallon drums of diesel fuel he needed to deliver to the Post Office in Skwentna. I returned the freight sled that I had borrowed, while waiting for our new one to be built, and we headed back for home. ON the way home I stopped at Yentna Station Roadhouse. I ran into a Craig Saunders the snowmachine tour guide. He was in a pickle with too many snowmachiners on tours that got into trouble in the deep snow. Two of them had to get back to town that night and the others wanted to stay out on the trail another night, too cold, tired or disappointed to travel farther. I turned around and took his two people back the 38 mile trip to the landing and loaded the snowmachines into his trailer and seen his people on their way. Then rode back out to his cabin for the night (42 miles). I had made the vast majority of this landing trip in the dark and it was 13 below zero. I stayed with him and his five other people for the night and finished my trip home in the morning. It was a really good experience and a very long day.
This is Sunrise on Denali during my trip home Saturday morning. I purposely got the windshield in the picture to give you my driving perspective. The darker gray in front of Denali is the shorter Alaska range Mountains, "11,000 to 12"000 foot peaks" and still below the sunrise. (Still my cheap little camera though) Just around the next corner Mt Foraker and Mt Hunter came into view with the sun on their tips also, but, no more stopping. What can I say about my commute this day! Tough drive home from "work". (Yea Right!) It was spectacular beyond pictures.

Now I had gotten home on Saturday, did my chores at the house and groomed and packed trails then went to spend the night at the lodge with Myra. Sunday, home for chores, back to the lodge helped clean the yard and vacuum the lodge and Eric and Shan's son flew in and took over lodge sitting "early" because he was bored in town since college went to break. Myra and I then went to Gary's and got our two up snowmachine that he had hauled out and we got home just after dark. Sunday is done!
Monday morning, up at 6:00 and on the trail at 8:00. It is 18 below zero and I am heading to town alone this time. About three hours later I am at my pick up truck and it won't start. Ron Vanwaveren (owns the local "does everything shop") took a heater and generator to the truck, warmed it up and it started but runs like crap. I headed for town for much more shopping (it did not work out on the trip with Gary because our freight sled still was not ready). I also made an appointment to have the truck looked at. Well, a full day of errands and shopping, a motel room and off to the repair shop this morning. Almost $600 and a new distributor shaft later and the truck runs like a million dollars. I hope that repair last a while. Back out to the landing, got the new freight sled and loaded up. I unexpectedly ran into two other guys from our region that were heading out so I teamed up with them and I got home about 5:30 this evening.
On this trip home it "was" and continues to be very windy. The radio is saying that there is 25 to 40 mile an hour winds with gust to 75 miles an hour and we got about two inches of snow last night. Oh, did I mention temperatures near zero. It was like stuff you see on TV. The trail was very ruff from drifts, the snow was blowing and it was "white out" for a large portion of the trip. I was pulling the new freight sled with about 1000 lbs of lumber, a new bed (we have been sleeping on a Coleman campers air mattress since we got here), groceries and other supplies. I have no idea how to describe to anyone what it is like to be in the middle of wilderness at zero degrees with very strong winds and blowing snow, with very limited visibility. Use your imagination to see the experience then add exaggeration and you may come close to the conditions. It really was something out of the movies in a very neat way. I was dressed properly. I had a very good survival pack strapped to me and I knew where I was at. I really did not get UN comfortable.
I really wanted to take pictures but there was no way to stop without losing the two guys I was riding with; This would be a recipe for them to turn around in the deep snow with heavy freight sleds to look for me (not good). Even this drive was a spectacular experience in many ways. My butt was whipped when I got home. I am Rested enough now to do this blog (after unloading the sled) but that's about it for tonight.
It has been a very busy week trying to get re-stocked and get ready for the trip to Ohio and beyond. At least one more Fuel trip before we leave next week.

Thanks for being here with us!
It is a privilege to be able to share this with you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It has been a while since I have done a blog on here. I have just not been in the mood to do one. I have also been fighting some loneliness and depression the last few weeks. In the past 4 months I have seen only the people here on our little "island" up until 2 nights ago when I went over to the other lodge on our island for dinner. There was a couple there from across the river so that made for a total of 8 people that I have seen since just after Labor Day. I have been told repeatedly that the freeze up this year was very unusual and the normally it does not take 4 months for the river to freeze and be safe to travel. I have told a few people that if this is the way it is going to be then I am going to go visit my kids, grandkids and mother during freeze up next year! Of course then I will be missing Roger and the critters. Guess you just can't have it all. At least not all at once. I am currently at Northwoods Lodge while the owners are on vacation. I have been here for 2 weeks now and am ready to go home. Don't get me wrong, it is a very nice place. It just isn't home. I also miss Roger and Gracie and Isabelle, my kitties. Hans and Jeff have been here with me for the past few days as Roger went to town on Monday to pick up the new used snowmachine, do some shopping for items that were needed and came back on Wednesday. He left again this morning to go back in to return a borrowed freight sled, then on his way back pick up the one we bought from Dan and Jean at Yentna Station. While he was at Yentna Station, another friend of ours, Craig (he is the fella that we went on the tour with last Feb) got a hold of him and asked him if he could take a couple of people back in to the landing. He did that and then made it back to Craig's cabin where he is spending the night.

Ironing Board

Before I came over here to take care of the lodge I did manage to finish a couple of projects at home, some of which included some good ol' "bushineering". If you need or want something, or something breaks, it is not like you can run to Wally World. The closest WalMart is 102 miles away! That being said, Roger mentioned making me an ironing board in a previous post so thought I would show you a picture of that. I have not made a cover for it yet but just used a towel on it. I would set the ironing board either on our water barrel or else on the little washer after we took that upstairs. It was usually safer to put it on the washer as Gracie laid claims to the top of the barrel a long time ago. I did manage to finish the kitchen curtains which were the last ones I needed to do. I decided to use some of my rubber stamps and make a couple of stamped panels for the centers. They turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.

Kitchen Curtains

Kitchen Curtains 2

Since we moved we have been sleeping on an air mattress. Now that is OK so long as it doesn't lose too much air. It has been my experience that all air mattresses lose air over time. Which is fine so long as you have a way to pump them back up. Well we have a rechargeable air pump that we have had for quite a few years and it decided it had had enough. Crap...... the "bed" needs air and the pump won't work. Ggggggrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!Well Roger to the rescue with some good ol' "bushineering"! With enough D cell batteries connected together and then wired to the pump TA DA! I was able to pump up the bed and climb in.

Roger had also put together an emergency back pack etc and decided he wanted to take a walk with it and also use the snow shoes that Willie had given him. Hans as you can see was very "nosy". Since the incident with Russ and Dave going through the ice and not being found for a couple days it just makes you realize again that you have to be prepared for anything and everything. If everything is on your snow machine (as theirs was) and you go through, your machine sinks along with everything on it. So we have our emergency items in fanny packs and a back pack which we wear.

"Be Prepared"

This next picture of Roger is what he looks like after several hours out on the snow machine breaking and packing trails. Talk about a "cold Kisser"!
The last pictures I am going to add to this post are of a sunset. All of them were taken on the same night. Again another awesome God moment. I already have an incredible number of pictures of sunsets just in the short time we have been here in Alaska and I have yet to stop being amazed at how awesome God's handiwork is. I pray that I never take these blessings for granted. It seems like whenever I am struggling with loneliness out here God gives me an amazing show like this to remind me that I am not alone unless I choose to be. I always have Him with me. Who could ask for anything more?

The pictures speak for themselves as usual. I know how very blessed we are to be able to have this experience and adventure. I just forget sometimes and need reminders like these. I have time today to get to truly know myself, my husband and my God. How incredible that is!

Thank you for sharing our experience with us. I hope to see many of you soon! Blessings, Myra

Friday, December 3, 2010

We Got Mail (Up Date on Bottom)

On Tuesday of this week Me and Willie took our snowmachines up river to the Post Office. There is very little snow on the Ice so I Had made some Stainless Steel "Ice Scratchers" for my snowmachine. These are just two inch wide pieces of metal bent toward the ground with a point on the end that literally scratch the ice and cause the ice dust to blow under the snowmachine to cool the track and the radiator. It worked fairly well, I only over heated the machine once, and I just bent them back down so they pushed harder on the ice. It works for a temporary solution until I can buy some real spring loaded ones.
Anyhow, Willie and I went to the post office and picked up mail for ourselves and the two lodges on our little forest Island. We brought back about 100 lbs of mail, No Kidding. It had been over a month since anyone had boated, flown or be able to get mail.
The condition of the ice on the river was getting pretty good. We did go over two spots that made me uncomfortable. I was in back so I just stayed far enough back that if Willie sank, I was not going with him. He has many years on the river and it was good to be able to follow him.
While we were at the post office Many other people showed up from all over the area. It truly was the first "safe" travel day for the Ice. A few of us have made plans to go to town next week for the first time "snow dependant". No one will travel that far with no snow, it will just tear up the machines.
Good News, It's snowing hard right now and the forecast is for 14" to 22" in the next twenty four hours. It looks like the town trip will be able to happen.
We just ran out of Propane for the refrigerator. We have been using 20 and 30 lb bottles for the fridge and a 100 pound er for the stove and water heater. the big bottle sits outside and the small bottles sit on the back porch for the fridge. we have 3ea 20lb and 2 ea 30lb and we went thru them all. I did the math on generator run time (for the amperage consumed) vs propane consumption and it is still cheaper to use propane than it is to haul and use gas for the generator, for running the refrigerator. I have put things in a cooler and put it on the back porch right next to the cabin wall. Hopefully it won't freeze.
The temperature has gone up over night and this morning with this snow storm. It is now +1 degree outside. It has been about -18 to -20 below at night and -10 during the day for a few days now. The cabin has stayed very toasty and I have no complaints about the cold. Myra has had to learn how to stay warm in the Lodge across the way. The lodge is drafty and uses only fuel oil heaters and it is very un comfortable if you are just sitting still. It is a beautiful place and I am sure the heat could be turned up enough to compensate if guest were there but can't justify the heat bill above 68 degrees for one or two non paying people.
I have been working on Cabin "Interior" repairs and alterations for a few days now. I have relocated some built in shelves and re-sided about 20' of interior wall surface with plank wood. this is where built in items were removed and we put in the new back door and water heater etc. It is starting to look decent in here, but always more work to do. I have my "Saw Shop" set up on the back porch for cutting all of the siding planks and trim. When it was 15 below outside it was 10 below on the porch. I was out there cutting wood in tennis shoes, jeans and a tee shirt. some times 5 or 6 pieces cut at a time so out there for several minute stretches. It is amazing how the human body can get used to this.
Sorry, No Pictures this time. I have got to go do snow prep work "getting ready for 14" to 22" of snow" which entails Gassing generators early, digging out the trail groomer, cleaning off the ice from roofs where I can and getting plenty of wood on the back porch. Then while it is snowing this hard, every 4" inches or so I need to go run the trails and keep them packed down so I don't have to go "Waller" thru deep powder on narrow trails thru the woods. That could make for a bad experience with a tree.
Talk to you Soon,
Thanks for being Here with us!
UP DATE: I just came back to the cabin from North Woods Lodge. I left there about 11:00pm. It took me nearly an hour to go 2 1/2 miles. I had to keep stopping to clear snow from hood and headlight so I could see. Then I had to stop and dig out from under a tree that has fallen across the trail. I went under it earlier today but it has snowed so much it was over half way down the windshield tonight. We have gotten over 18" of powder snow since about 10:00 this morning. It was a challenging ride thru the woods, just what I typed about this morning and it got ahead of me. Another lesson!