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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.

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