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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Iron Dogs, Wolves, Moose & More (Updated)

It has been an eventful week to say the least. Sorry it took me so long to get back to the computer, just no energy when there was time.

The last post I told you we were going to check out the Iron Dog Snowmachine Race, well we did that. Here is a link to their web site. http://www.irondograce.org/ There is a lot of cool stuff on the web site, like GPS tracking on each team to tell you where they are. The race will be over by tonight (Saturday 2-26). 2028 miles and unbelievable weather and terrain. Myra and I were at Race Checkpoint #1 in Skwentna for a little while then we went out onto the trail to watch the racers come by, and cheer them on. It was Way Cool! (Up Date, the Iron Dog race is over. Team 10 won by 14 minutes over Todd Palins team. Palin and Quam (team mate) were in the lead by 17 minutes with less than 100 miles to go and Todd crashed and it took them a while to get his machine drivable. You can check out my Facebook wall for a picture of Todds bent machine. Team #8 is Erics' (our neighbor) son Tyson Johnson and team mate Tyler. At the third check point while Tyler was getting fuel a volunteer worker splashed fuel on the muffler when pulling the nozzle out of the gas tank, the machine caught fire. They got the fire out and thought the only thing wrong was a burnt recoil pull rope. They fixed it, took off and got 4 miles down the trail. The motor siezed up because the oil injection line had melted and they didn't see it. They had to scratch from the race becasue you are not allowed to replace or rebuild motors during the race. Too bad for them boys and our neighbor (He is a pretty big financial sponsor of the team.) This link is a video of the machine catching fire etc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEJlmWk-U5M&feature=youtube_gdata_player
This is Todd Palin during his "Pit Stop" at Skwentna. The guy in the tan hat is our neighbor Eric, that owns Northwoods Lodge. Eric is one of the officials for the race.
An over-all look of the check point, see Myra? They finished second and still had a good lead on third place. We are still waiting on final results for all teams, some still coming in.)
Check out the video of a team going by us on the river. Crashing at these kinds of speeds has to hurt.

I gotta tell you, we laughed our butts off at one point. We were sitting right on the edge of the trail about 5 miles outside of Skwentna. We were in the middle of nowhere and not another sole was around except the racers as they passed by every few minutes. (They start about 4 minutes apart to head out the trail.) A few teams had gone passed us and we just give them a thumbs up or a fist pump as they go. This one team is coming toward us and slowing down?? I give them a big Thumbs Up! He slows more. I wave him by with a big OK sign, he is still slowing. I stand and wave him on vigorously. He stops right by my machine and says "Is Skwentna this way?". I tell him "Yea, about 5 miles up turn left at the sign for the checkpoint", He says "Great Thanks" and away they go. You have gotta understand, this is only about 70 miles from the starting point and they are not to the first checkpoint yet. They are on a 2000 mile race and this guy stopped and asked for directions. It was Hilarious. They have GPS on their machines. It might be hard to read at 100 miles an hour but still, really funny considering. In all seriousness now however; That team is still in the race. They are team #4 and they are in 9th place. 30 teams started the race and only 14 are left, so this is one heck of an accomplishment. Way to go team 4.

I seen my first Wolf yesterday. I was on the trail heading home from Shell Lake when I seen it across the river. We played Cat and Mouse for what seemed like 15 minutes while I tried to get good pictures. I could see him very well but you know how cameras' are. I seen him and stopped driving, he seen me and stopped walking. I set still and he set and watched me. He laid down, I took off my back pack to get out the camera. He Got up and started jogging. I stopped moving, he stopped moving. He sat, he laid down. I lifted the camera and turned it on, He jumped up and started jogging. I stopped moving, he stopped moving. We went on like this for a bit and now he is too far for a good picture. I got off my machine, un-hooked my freight sled, got on a drove down river parallel to him. He stopped, I stopped; we went threw the whole routine again. I finally threw my gloves, backpack and camera bag on the ground and started the machine and drove out in front of him. Driving one handed across the powder snow while trying to snap pictures, I got pictures of the sky, my feet, the woods, the snow and a couple of fuzzy wolf shots.
The wolf is the little thing just to the right of the brush.
This is the wolf running while I am riding the snowmachine one handed. (Its' the best I got!) I am pretty sure the wolf was laughing just watching me try to do this. The wolf was VERY good at the game. What a neat experience.

Not more than 3 minutes after the wolf experience I came up on a dog musher camped along side the trail. I had seen him earlier in the morning when I headed up river but he was still sleeping in his sled then. He was now breaking camp so I stopped to talk to him. His name is Ramey Smyth. He is a 10 year veteran of the Iditarod. He is a Two time winner of the Junior Iditarod and several time top ten finisher of the Big Show. He was just out on a training run with his team and camped at this spot overnight. Here is a link to the Iditarod Web site. www.iditarod.com/ If you look around this web site under 2011 iditarod and look under mushers you will find Ramey listed.(It JUST dawned on me I should have taken pictures of his camp and dogs etc,, Oops) I will see him again next Sunday, as Myra and I will be working at Checkpoint #1 for the Iditarod race. I don't know what our jobs will be until that Sunday. There is a meeting before the race to assign and instruct everyone.

I have ridin my snowmachine over 400 miles so far this week and talking about going another 50 this evening. The Jr. Iditarod race starts today and they camp overnight at Yentna Station. Dan and Jean invited us down to have dinner with everyone. It's been a hectic week and we have not decided. The Jr. Iditarod is kids under 18 running their own dog teams un assisted for 3 days and 2 nights. Each Musher is adult supervised (followed) but not allowed any physical help. If they get physical help from an adult their race is over. The kids can help each other as much as they want, including they camp and cook outside and cook the food for their dogs and everything. The youngest kids are 10 I think. The kids are not allowed inside the Roadhouse today. The dinner we are invited to is for all of the adult supervisors. We can visit the kids and dogs outside as much as we want though.

I have been to town twice this week, once for personal and once to haul freight. I am attempting to learn the business of "Hauling for Hire" so I can do it for a friend "Adam Gabryszak" (Dan and Jeans son). This could work for a big benefit in a couple of ways. I can earn a little income and "Learn more Trails". I want to learn the trails because I need to know more to be able to take out "Guided Snowmachine Tours". I have "guided" a couple of trips back down river for Craig as he takes more people up river, and have another one of those trips the day after Iditarod starts.I could possibly do a lot more of both guiding and freighting next winter if I can gain some more experience under Adams guidance. He is a young fellow but he has hauled freight all over this territory for 7 years now. He is a really impressive young man.
Adam was hauling to Shell Lake the other day (the same place I went yesterday) and a Moose was on the trail (This is happening a lot now, I followed a Moose for nearly a mile Friday morning, before I heard Adams story.) and he had to follow it until it decided to get off the trail. The Moose stepped off the trail, Adam sped up to pass it, the Moose jumped back out of the deep snow and landed on Adams freight sled (This part does not happen a lot but, it is the kind of stuff we were warned about.). It jumped so hard, attacking, that it broke a 2"x8" solid oak deck plank on the freight sled. Can you imagine if that Moose had been quicker and hit Adam or his snowmachine!! I am out of time to post pictures etc for today. I have some video and pictures etc so check back to this post. I will try to do it tomorrow morning. I obviously got back to doing pictures now!
Gotta scoot,
Thanks for being here!
OK, I am back to the blog this evening, because,,, Myra and I tried to go to Yentna Station this afternoon but it did not work out. I did a couple of chores today like clean and sanitize the water barrel, then tighten the track on the Skandic snowmachine. Then tighten the throttle grip on the little snowmachine. I then started the little machine to warm it up and I went into the shop for a second. The little machine died (it never does that) so I went back out to start it. I had a heck of a time getting it started and it would not stay running. Well, going through several steps of diagnosing I found it was not getting fuel, only by pumping the primer could I keep it running. I got it into the shop and pulled it apart and low and behold, the fuel pump went out as it was setting there warming up. Thank God it happened sitting there instead of down river somewhere.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Burger and Drinks

It was an absolutely perfect day on Saturday. I went outside to do chores and I kept getting sidetracked, playing with the dogs or taking off into the woods on the Snowmachine or whatever. I could not focus on getting anything of substance done so I gave up. I went into the cabin and ask Myra if she wanted to go out to dinner. She said yes! This of course required suiting up and getting on the snowmachines for a ride. I gave her the option of where to go. Skwentna Roadhouse is about 9 miles up river, Yentna Station Roadhouse is about 25 miles down river and Northwoods lodge is about 2 1/2 miles over land behind us. She chose Yentna Station, Yippee! We took off down river and I played in the powder snow for miles on end, with the snowmachine. I would get quite a bit ahead of her then I would stop and wait for her to catch up. These pictures were as she caught up to me once. What a beautiful drive to go out to dinner and back. We went to the Roadhouse and had burgers and visited with Dan and Jean for a couple hours and road back home.

Notice I didn't mention drinks yet, that was a set up. I keep talking about going to get water but I don't think I have ever included any good pictures so here we go. This is the drinks part of the title.

The water literally runs out of the side of a hill along the river. It was -10 degrees when I shot this video and pictures. As you can see the water flows just fine. It even flows well enough that it does not freeze in the 10' long pipe that is in open air.

I added the pictures for a little more clarification. You cans barely see the tip of the pipe under the rocks at the low end of the water trail. I keep a plastic "trash can lid" over the seep to keep out debris etc. I removed it for the pictures.

See the Ice hanging out of Hans mouth. He likes going after water with me. He drinks right from the stream frequently.
It is hard to give you a good image of the ice under the pipe because of lighting and angles but imagine this; The little bit of ice you can see building up from the Ice shelf has built up in just an overnight. I got water the day before and cut the ice down then also. The ice shelf that looks flat is 3" higher than yesterday, then the cone is on top of that. I typically have to cut down 15" or more of ice if I have not gotten water for a few days.

I did some calculations just for fun about this water source. I am not able to capture all of the water that comes out of this "seep" but, all winter I have been getting about 1 1/2 gallons per minute. In the fall I was getting over two gallons a minute. The calculation went like this. 1 1/2 gpm times 60 minutes times 24 hours times 365 days. That is 788,400 gallons per year and that is the minimum that runs out of this little hole in the ground. That just amazed me to stop and think about that. Three quarters of a million gallons, minimum!

What an awesome gift to be given.
I appreciate what God gives us to use and enjoy
Thank you for letting me share with you today,

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Neighborly Thing

I got word yesterday that our Post Master, Joe Delia and his Wife Norma were low and wood, and I was ask to participate in getting some wood to them. Of course I said yes. This morning Tom and I loaded up his toboggan sled and my freight sled with wood and headed out to Skwentna to deliver wood to Joe and Norma.
The video shows the condition of the snow on the river.

The winds had blown hard all night and erased almost all signs of a trail. While this snow would be awesome to go play in on a pleasure cruse, it is terrible to pull a freight sled, loaded heavy. When loaded the idea is to stay on the main packed trail where the sled does not sink in. As you can see in the video, staying on the packed trail was very difficult. The only sign of a trail is behind my snowmachine.

These are just pretty pictures of a wind blown environment.

We had to travel by memory and feel of what was under the machine. The snow has gotten so deep that a lot of the trail markers are buried! I was leading when I lost the trail by too much, one time. I got stuck with the freight sled. I had almost made it back over to where I thought the main trail was when I came to a stop. Tom had seen me go down and I was pointing back to him to stay to the right and he did. I was able to just "stomp pack" the snow around the sled and my machine and we tied a rope to Toms' machine and pulled me out. Over all not too bad of an experience. We made it to the Skwentna river and I unhooked my sled and went scouting for the trail. I could not find a trail on the Skwentna at all. I don't run that river very often and there are no trail stakes on that river. I could not even feel the trail under the machine if and when I crossed it because it had blown in so deep.
We went up the Yentna a couple of more miles and took a trail overland through the woods to get to the post office / Joe and Norma's'. Then all we had to do was climb the hill to the Post Office with the loaded sleds.

Tom was leading at this point because he knew the overland trail. Well, he did not make it up the hill to Joe and Norma's'. He got stuck about half way up the first section of the two section hill, so we got to unhook his sled and pull it backwards back onto the river with my machine. Then we tied onto his machine and I pulled him backwards out of the hole he was in. I then pulled his sled up the hill to the wood shed and went back to get mine.
I only made it up part one of the hill and knew there was no way I could pull part two of the hill. My sled is bigger than Toms' and we had it loaded heavier. I disconnected on the flat section and went and helped Tom unload his sled. Then the two of us went back to mine. I hooked onto my sled, Tom parked on Top of the hill, tied two ropes together and threw me an end. I tied on and we used both machines to pull me up the hill. Piece of cake!
Anyhow, we got Joe and Norma some wood and while there another person (Dave) from the territory brought a sled full of wood. He had also towed a small toboggan. The idea was to unload his bigger sled a little at a time into the small toboggan and take it up the hill. I hooked onto his bigger sled and took it up for him so he didn't have to make the multiple trips. (My wide track snowmachine is designed to pull these things much more so than a standard snowmachine.)
I am really happy that we decided to buy this machine last Fall.
This whole wood delivery project was only supposed to (predicted to) take Three hours. We got back home in Five hours due to those trail conditions.

Of course, once we got home the wind died down. That is when I went to pack trails in front of our place out to the Water "seep" where we get our water. That is when I took the video and these pictures.

The Yenlo Mountains

Denali on right and Mt Foraker on left. What a beautiful view this evening. This is right out in front of our place on the river.

Thanks for being here with us today,
It is a previledge to share this life we live today!
May you have a great day,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Bullet Story

This happened last summer but I was too embarrassed to tell the story.

One day last summer Myra and I were taking target practice with our revolvers. Anthony, the twelve year old from Yentna Station was here with us at the time. He was just observing target practice and playing with the dogs at this time.
I had hung a target on a stump on the side of the hill in the front yard. The stump was from an old mostly dead tree that I had cut down earlier in the year. It was two thirds hollow or gone. I was comfortable shooting at it. Was is the key word her.
Between Myra and I we had shot about twenty rounds or so between the two of us before it happened.
This is the stump near the bottom right side of the picture!

I had reloaded my gun and stepped back about 10 feet further from the target. I was probably about sixty feet back. I shot at the target and did not see where I hit. I stood there looking and the twelve year old was standing beside me. I would say it was between six and eight seconds after the shot and I got hit on the bulge of my stomach by something falling out of the sky.
I was shocked by the impact and stepped back a foot or two. I pulled up my shirt and had a red streak and very slightly broken skin going down my stomach. After talking for a second the twelve year said hey, I bet it was the bullet and he dropped to his knees and started searching. Sure enough, he came up with a half smashed lead bullet right at where my feet were. We went to the stump and found where I had hit the top edge of the stump.
That bullet had hit the stump and went up into the air at such and angle and with the wind it came down on my stomach. Wow, was I shocked and scared all at the same time. I did not blog about it at the time because I was embarrassed to admit this one at the time. I thought about how stupid it was to shoot at a stump.
Now I find out people around here do that all the time. And people have been hit by ricochets off of all sorts of things from stumps and trees to rocks behind a target.
I guess I should just feel lucky I had a roof over the tool shed and call it one of those God things.
Another reason I have to be thankful today,
It was a lesson learned with only a little pain!
Thanks for letting me share.

PS: I immediately made a target holder on a thin, frail wood stick and 1/4" plywood, planted in front of the side of a hill that was about 50 feet behind it. Now I find out the rocks back there are just as dangerous as the stump, Go Figure?
This is the new target location. See the white sheet by the trail.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Woo Whoo Moment

No Pictures this time, just a quick update.

We have been working around the Cabin the last few days. My project has been to install the wiring system. Since we moved in, everything has been ran on extension cords. Once we put in the battery system and the inverter we ran extension cords all over the cabin because it was fast and easy and we were busy outside. Now that it is winter and we are basically caught up from being gone we have time for some Home Improvement.
I got the breaker panel installed, outlets all over and a light in the bathroom. All extension cords are removed. We are going to cover the exposed wires with cut down, peeled and hollowed little tree branches etc. That work is a whole different project.
The Woo Whoo moment came this morning. For the first time since we moved in I turned on a light in the Bathroom. I did not even turn it on to test it yesterday, So, it was a big surprise look for me this morning when I started washing up and remembered the light was there and, I turned it on. Wow, what a change.
The very next thing I did was trim my nose hair. It's amazing what you can see when there is light above the mirror. Oops! I might have to trim my beard and mustache next, we will see. lol
Anyhow, another new little luxary around here, we can plug things in, turn things on and see; all without having to pull an extension cord from there to here.

As a type this Jeff just learned a new trick. Myra is giving the dogs treats and she told Jeff to Wag his Butt and He did it! Just because it is attached to his tail and he wags that any time he gets a treat doesn't mean anything right? It was funny!
Bye for now, Thank You for allowing me to share,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Our Trip to the Post Office

We went to the post office today. It was an absolutely perfect day outside. It was clear blue sky's, 5 degrees, no wind and visibilty went on forever!

Note: You can put your cursur over any of the pictures and click on it and it will enlarge the picture for better viewing.

We were only a short distance from home when we seen our first couple of Moose of the day. These two pictures are of the same Moose. A second one was on the side of the river bank in the trees right near this one but it blended in with the trees so well it does not show up in the pictures we had of him. The second one was really struggling to climb the bank through the deep snow. It is really something to watch nature unfold right before our eyes. I have seen many many moose and Myra has seen several just in the last two days. They are all over our area now, and struggling very hard with the depth of the snow. We have had well over 8' of snowfall so far.

This is our Post Office and Post Masters home complex. The long low building on the left is the Post Office building. The Cabin with the smoke at the chimney is his home and the other buildings are the wood shed, fuel shed, work shop etc.

As you look at these pictures take note. There are no fresh tracks in the snow going to the Post Office from this direction. We appear to be the first to go to the Post Office from the south since we got dumped on earlier this week. Myra took some of these pictures while I was breaking a trail across the river so we could get her over there on the narrow machine. (I rode the Wide track machine this trip!)(The flat area of snow below the hill of the Post Office is the frozen river.)
The actual Post Office Building. Please take notice, there is no ramps sidewalks, driveways outdoor mail drop boxes etc. lol This Post Office is on a hill on the side of the river. The air strip where the mail plane comes in is on the opposite side of the river from the post office.

This is our Post Master, Joe Delia. Joe is now 81 years old. He is the longest term employee in the postal system. He has been on the Post Office payroll for over 62 years. There have been full feature films made about Joe along with a documentary and some cameo appearances in many shows. Joe is full of stories and experiences every time we see him. He has spent his entire adult life in this area of the bush, hunting, trapping, guiding and of course, taking care of the mail. It used to be a part time position when it was not so busy out here. When he first started the mail plane only came in once or twice a month depending on the time of year. Now it comes in twice a week when the weather permits. We did go five weeks this fall when the weather never permitted a single plane.
Joe is telling stories about skining beavers for a Nature show documentarty for the US department of Fish and Game. He said he had taken about twenty beavers with him to the taping, in various stages of being skined. He had them all under a table he was working at and was demonstrating the various stages. The DNR guy that was supervising the taping did not know Joe had all those beavers, he thought Joe was skinning very fast because every time the guy turned around to do something Joe would pull out the next beaver and stash the last one. At he end of this documentary the DNR guy dubbed Joe the fastest skinner in the land, and the reputation had stuck for 40 years. (Just one of Joes stories of this day. He told us a half dozen today alone!) What a facinating fellow.

The inside of our Post Office. What more can I say...
Notice the bolts of material on the floor for one of the areas' more enterprising people. He makes holsters and snowmachine handlebar gauntlets and all sorts of stuff and ships them all over. See the oil burner stove!

We had delivered mail to about 10 people and were on our way home through a swamp. I was riding the narrow machine and Myra was following on the skandic when I made a little mistake while kind of playing. I was on one of those un-packed / packed old trails when I went half off. The machine started to roll over into the fluff and I fell off. By the time I got stood up I looked up Myra had out Her camera so here I am standing in the snow. I am standing as tall as I can. Look at the machine, One ski in the air. Look under the skwagon at the back of the snowmachine and you can see how deep and tipped over it is. It took me a while to dig myself out of this one. Myra never even got off of her machine and offered to help, can you believe that. She just watched, laughed and waited.

We had a great day and a lot of fun!
Thank You for allowing me to share this with you,
We are blessed, May you be blessed also.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We keep Learning

The back of the seat on this snowmachine is about 36" tall. All you can see is the top of it. Why, you may ask.

Myra and I were going to go to the post office yesterday. We had gotten about a 6" of fresh snow in the morning and that is no big deal. We decided to take the two narrow track machines because they are more comfortable to ride than the scandic (wide track). As you can see by the picture, it was still snowing pretty hard.
When we went out onto the gravel bar in front of our place a few things became very apparent very fast. First and foremost is we had absolutely NO depth perception to the ground (snow) and second is that it was snowing much harder than we thought and forward visibility was not good. The snow was covering the windshield and face mask faster than it could be wiped clear.

We are already out on the gravel bar and the snow is very deep around here now. If you get off of the packed trail the narrow machines sink like the Titanic. They do not go down immediately but your demise is emanate. The only way to keep from sinking is to go very fast and very powerful, and since we could not see that was not going to happen.
Now, we traveled about a hundred yards onto the gravel bar and we find out that our nice packed trail has been turned into a maze of zig-zag spun out "one off" tracks from weekend "Go Fast" riders. (Explaination: There was a poker run on the river this weekend and we had about 100 snowmachiners go by our place, up river then down.) They played in the powder everywhere and just destroyed our path. We did not know that until we were out there, in limited visibility, pulling the skwagon.
There was now way to see which trail to stay on so I just took my best guess. As you can see by the picture, I guessed wrong. I followed the path as far as I could and eventully it turned real sharp and off I went into the powder. As you can see, the snowmachine sunk butt deep to a tall Inuit Indian.
Myra had gotten onto a different path when it crossed over the one I was on and she got stuck about 30 yards away from me.
We got hers out then I went back to mine and snapped this picture. We then got mine out. We started going again, on our seperate paths. I was glancing over at Myra as we were riding basically side by side and the funniest thing happened. She was standing up while driving so she could almost see where she was going. She got about half off of the track she was following and see did a slow motion sideways roll. I watched the whole thing as she tipped over into the fluff and disappeared. I was so captivated by watching her, I drove off of my track again and got stuck. It was worth it because it was so funny to watch her!
We are now about three quarters to one mile from the cabin. Our goal had been to get to the main marked trail out on the river, then we should be alright. We had now gone this far and realized we still can't see any of the markers on the main trail. We decided that we had to turn around and go home. That was not going to happen in these conditions on these machines. I put on the snow shoes and walked home and got the wide track snowmachine and drove back out while Myra just stayed with our machines at the end of the gravel bar.
I used the wide track machine to make a new trail all the way back to our landing and packed a turn around circle for each of the narrow machines. We dug out and packed down what we had to on the narrow machines and got them up onto the new trail I had made. Now we were home free. We rode the wide track and one machine home, then rode double back out to get the other machine and rode them both home again.
Whew, that was a ton of learning experience for one morning. Thank God that happened a mile from home instead of 3,4 10 miles from home.
More respect for this environment, More scouting the situation and Maybe don't watch quite so close when Myra tips over and pay attention to what I am supposed to be doing.
This whole affair to go a mile out and a mile back took over three hours. I got severe leg cramps last night from all the walking in the waste deep powder to dig out the snowmachines.
Hope we learned something!

By the way, we got a total of 23" of fresh powder in the last 24 hours and it is still snowing. I know you all are getting a snow storm back East also. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading and being with us,
God Bless and be Careful out there,