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Saturday, March 26, 2011

96%

I did a two day course then an exam to get my Coast Guard license. I got a 96% on the exam. That was pretty cool. Oh yea,,, I was also class valadictorian (and I don't even know how to spell it). I suppose I should mention that there were only two people in the class.
Oh well, it was very informative and a good experience.
I also attempted to apply for a TWIC card but I have to go back in with more information, I got a Physical and took a drug test. I am proud to say I passed all things with flying colors. I studyed for a very long time for the drug test but I aced it. Yea! lol
Myra stayed at Dan and Jeans for the two days and we came back home today. Hans ran the WHOLE way home. 25 miles. He ate and fell asleep and has not even moved other than breathing for 4 hours.
The weather is really warming up and the river travel may become an issue much quicker than expected (normal).
Myra and I have made some plans to go up the Ice Road to the Happy River on Thursday. This will take us into the mountains that we look at out our front windows. I will make sure we take pictures and give you a good update.
Thanks for being here,
Talk to you later.
Roger

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Woo Hoo A Day in Town!

Hi all! I know it has been a while since I have done a post. I could give you all kinds of "reasons" but the bottom line is I was pretty down for a while and just didn't feel like it. It was easier to just let Roger do it. Anyhow I am doing better and so I thought I would at least do a short post.

I actually got to go to town yesterday! We left here about 8 am and headed in to the landing. Got there about 11 and I headed for Wasilla to do some grocery shopping and to look for a desk chair at the resale stores. I stopped on my way in at 3 Bears which is like a store between Costco and Walmart in the quantity and sizes of what they carry. I like to go there first that way if they don't have something I want I know and can look for it when I get all the way in to Wasilla. Anyway I got done there and headed the rest of the way into town. Hit the resale stores and was totally bumming cause neither of them had any desk chairs at this time. Decided I would check new ones at Walmart and Fred Meyers but all of them they had were EXPENSIVE! Most of them were also leather and I didn't want a leather one as I tend to get sweaty in those as well as I knew the cats would jump up and down from the chair and their nails tend to leave little marks. I did find a few other little items I had on my list but no chair. :-(  I have found myself not working on my craft stuff very much as the chair I have been using is very uncomfortable and so I avoid sitting at the desk.

I finished the grocery shopping, picked up some MORE parts for the snow machine and decided it was time to head back out to the landing. I had gotten done what I set out to do in town which was to get the groceries, and hopefully a new vacuum and a desk chair. I had struck out on the chair but I did manage to find a vacuum. I have been using a shop vac with attachments the past few weeks as the little vacuum we had brought with us had quit working properly and there was no more repairing so into the trash it went. Ugh!!!!!!!!! Have you ever tried to get up animal hair from a rug with just a shop vac? It takes forever and then some. About the only way to get enough suction is to use the crevice tool and go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and then do it some more. So I was happy to find what I hope will be a decent vacuum for a reasonable price.

So I am driving on the Parks Highway heading for Deshka Landing and see a sign for Big Lake Road. Hmmmmm there is a resale / pawn shop in Big Lake. Check the time, Yep got time to stop. Walk in the store and lo and behold they have 2 desk chairs. Yippee, and all that good stuff. Checked them over and bought one. It is a heavy son of a gun and you should have seen me trying to lift it into the bed of the pickup. I couldn't get the tail gate open so had to go over the top! Sure was glad it is an older truck and I didn't have to worry about "scratching" it!

I got out to the landing and looked around to see if Roger was back from the snow machine tour he had done for Craig. Didn't see him so I headed for where our sleds were parked and started to load the groceries and stuff into the totes and cooler for the trip home. In the winter you use a cooler for the stuff you don't want to freeze. Luckily a friend had told me this when I said something last fall about putting the coolers away for the winter, she laughed and said "No you will want to use them in winter for the stuff that shouldn't freeze". Another learning experience.

Anyway Roger got there and we finished loading, ate some subs that I had picked up and we left for home about 7 pm and got home about 10. Took care of what absolutely needed to be handled, sat and checked email and went to BED! I am not used to riding that many miles in one day and I am feeling it this morning that is for sure. And I get to ride again today as I am going to go spend a couple days down at Yentna Station while Roger goes to town for his Coast Guard class so that maybe he can do some guiding this summer.

Well that is it for now, sorry no pics but I need to transplant some seedlings for the garden, finish putting away the groceries and get things around for me and the boys to go for a couple days. Oh yeah and make sure that the cats are set for that time period. I will try to post a little more frequently in the future.

Thanks for sharing our adventures.
Blessings, Myra

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't we get bored?

It has only been a couple of days since I took out my first full day tour as a Guide and I got a call to do another (shorter)tour tomorrow. Cool
I have spent the last two days servicing our snowmachines, filling out Coast Guard paper work, doing chores and uh, oh, ah, I think that's it.

It has been very busy around here and we are starting to prepare for another period of Isolation. We have to get ready for the river "Breakup". It could take anywhere from 7 days from the time the river gets un-safe to travel up to 4 weeks. It all depends on God and Mother Nature. Once the river Breaks up and the Ice flows out, it is only a matter of days and we can put our boat in the water. We have to have gas and groceries and various supplies for the No Travel period.

Also, I am taking the coast guard class and test, have to go in Monday for a physical, take a drug test, get a federal "TWIC" card which certifies I am not a terrorist. Besides that I am going to fly to Ohio for company License business and then there is the daily chores.

Someone ask me "What we do for entertainment out here, don't we get bored?" I thought for a second and laughed out loud, I have not had time to think about being bored.
What a way to live. There is no living for the weekend, think about this, the wood cutting deal for Joe and Norma was on a Friday. Did ya see the picture of all the people there? There is always something to do and if we don't get off our butt(s) and do it, nobody else is going to do it for us (we are still too young).
Get Bored,,, Nope! Get water, Get Gas, Get wood, Dump waste water buckets, make most food from scratch, service vehicles, home improvement, pump fuel, generators, snow/yard maintenance, make a little money, go get mail, help others, go to the store for supplies, and on and on and on. Nope, we don't get bored!

Just felt like typing tonight, Thanks for being here!
God Bless you all,
Roger

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Survey is Complete

Since last we spoke I have received many emails in regard to the length of the post. As it turns out, if you like them short you are going to have to use a book mark and keep coming back to read them. Every email I received was in favor of them being as long as I care to type them.

Last week we had a community get together at the Post Office "sort of". On the Friday after the start of the Iditarod about 30 of us went to Joe and Normas' house to fill their wood shed. Several people brought a dish to pass, all of us brought splitting mauls and 2 brought power splitters. Joe and Norma are in their 80s and not able to cut enough wood anymore so the community does it for them.
On Thursday, Tom, Andy, Bill and myself went into the woods behind Joe and Norma's' and cut down and cut up 28 trees. We left them lay right where we dropped them and just cut them into lengths for the splitter. It only took about 6 hours for 4 of us to cut down and cut up 28 trees. On Friday morning a few teams on snowmachines with sleds started hauling the wood out of the forest up to the wood shed area. Many people at the wood shed unloaded, split, moved and stacked the wood. We had a pot luck lunch during the process and filled the wood shed and left an extra cord of wood under a tarp in front of the shed and did it all in about 5 hours.
We processed 28 trees from the floor of the woods into the wood shed in 5 hours, including lunch. It was pretty amazing to be part of.




Myra is in the back row in the sunglasses right in front of the door to the shed. I bet you can find me.




The following Monday 3 of us went back into the woods and cut up another cord or more of "Dry Wood" from a dead section of standing trees. Joe and Norma have been out of dry wood this year and everything we put in the wood shed was fresh cut trees. We had to fill their wood box and porch with wood they could burn yet this spring. According to Norma their old bones need more heat than they used to. The wood shed used to be more than enough wood and now we have been taking them wood for 2 months already.

Our neighbor Tom is the organizer of this event and many other happenings in the Skwentna territory. Tom is a very interesting fellow and has a heart as big as Alaska. He did tell me in a funny way the other day that he has a hidden motive to his good deeds. During a very light hearted conversation he joked to me "you know, I am the second oldest guy in the territory" with a sheepish grin. I believe this "community" will take care of Tom and Patty with out question. What a privilege to live near people of their caliber.

Myra and I went out for a Burger and Glasses of Water again on Wednesday. This time we went to Shell Lake Lodge and visited with Zoe and had lunch. Shell Lake Lodge is a little more than 35 miles from here on toward the mountains west-southwest of us. We took a neat route back from the Lake via the old Iditarod trail then onto an Ice Road that has been put in to a mine way west of us. Our day for a Burger lunch was a 108 mile snowmachine ride when we got back home. It was a beautiful day as you can see by the pictures.





The snow is beginning to recede. We have not had ANY new snow in a month. Now the temperatures are beginning to raise during the day. It is a bit early for the temps to go up so this may be short lived, I don't know. We have lost about 6" of the hard pack in the last week. We are down to about 3 1/2 feet of packed snow and about 5 feet where it is hidden from the sun.
I thought I would include a couple of pictures of our wood pile.
I am hoping to get a wood shed built this year. It was a real chore to keep digging this out to bring wood to the house.

Saturday I took out my first "Official" snowmachine tour for a day ride. It was a couple that moved to anchorage from North Carolina last fall. They had never been on a snowmachine before but they were very quick learners. It was about and 85 mile day for them. That is a lot for someone that has never ridin. I had gone to the landing from home that morning, rode with them and then rode home that evening. I was well over 200 miles for the day. It was fun to take someone into this territory, that has never been out here. I believe they enjoyed it also, as they tipped me more than $10 per hour, for the length of the trip. I tried to turn it down "once" but they said I earned it. I have never had a job where a tip was even possible. I felt awkward at first but as I rode home it started feeling really exciting to get a tip that big.
I hope they give me a good review with the owner of the company also, I would like to do some more of this type of stuff. At any rate, It was fun and if I never do it again, at least I have done it once.

I am going into town next week to take a two day course for my Coast Guard License so I can haul people for "Hire" on my boat. This is the first step to getting my Fishing "Guide" license. I hope to do some Guideing for silvers and pinks this summer. I don't feel I am qualified to guide for Kings our trout until I get more experience under my belt. Silvers and Pinks are just like fishing for maby of the species I have caught in the past, only bigger. I can help people to catch those species comfortably.

Ok, You know what has been, what is and what is to be (almost). I have a little more to tell but that project is not quite done.
Thanks for being here,
It is a blessing to share this experience,
Take Care,
Roger

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Northern Lights

A few nights ago Myra and I had our best viewing of the Northern Lights I have ever had the privilege to experience. Myra had never seen a show anything close to this as we have only seen Green streaks and glows since we got here until now. I guess we had a good show a few weeks ago about 4:30am according to a neighbor but we slept threw that one. I have seen the Lights while fishing in Canada a few times but never got to see a show as big as this one.


The pictures are not great but we were learning night exposure as these were taken. Next time will be much better I hope.


Myra and I were so impressed by what we seen from the back yard that we wanted to see more. It was about 10:00pm and we went in and got our cold gear on, then fired up the snow machines and went out onto the river. We went into the middle of the bend in front of our place where we were a mile or so from the woods to the East and West. We had a fantastic open view. There is not even a hint of light "pollution" out here from any city or town. The sky was perfectly clear and the stars were glistening. The moon was a sliver and the snow was sparkling.


The Northern Lights would change from a dim glow to streaks across the sky. Sometimes you could look up and think "Oh no, they are ending" and then they would begin to strengthen. We had them come from West to East all the way across the sky from Horizon to Horizon going straight over head. Long streams of waving white and green changing in intensity. sometimes they would roll, sometimes they would pulsate, other times they would look like the wind blowing fog. They dimmed down once for and extended period and we started talking about going in and God must have heard us (It is all about us, Right?)


The Eastern sky begin to light at the Horizon, First a stream of Green light, then brighter and brighter turning White, Then the real show began. Most of these pictures were taken from this period. (It had taken us this long to figure out how to get the camera to hold the exposure. We had already put the tripod away so Myra hand held the camera for these, holding her breath trying not to move for several seconds with each picture) The sky was changing every second. We had White and Green with Blue rolling through. Then the Reds started glowing on the edges and "running" up and down, looking like water running down the side of a rock along the Green then it would flow back up and Run down again. Then we had burst like sun rays come from the Horizon and shoot up from behind the trees with Blue Red and Green. Oh My God how can I describe what we stood in the middle of !! ??












The bright spot (In the one picture) is the Moon (blurry). At this time the Lights were going all the way across the sky.

















Should we ever be lucky enough to experience this again we will try to capture clearer images for you.


I have plenty more to tell, about other things, but I catch some grief about making these post too long. I will try to post again soon and often for a little while so I can catch up on other happenings. I am just trying to keep them from being a long reading task for all of you. Of course, I am interested in hearing a vote on lenghts of the blog post. You know only the squeaky wheel gets heard. Maybe you would like multiple subjects in one post? Shoot me an email or comment below.
rogerphillips1960@gmail.com
It is a Pleasure and a Privilege to be able to share this experience with you.
Thank You for being here.
Roger

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Iditarod ---- WOW

What an experience! There is No Way I can describe all that took place, went on, happened, did, experienced and etc.


We arrived at the Roadhouse late Saturday afternoon, it took longer than normal to get there because we took Hans and Jeff along. The place looks normal inside and out except there are many more snowmachines than normal. Even on their busy days they don't look this busy in the parking area. When we went inside most of the other Volunteers were already there. There was a lot of introductions and then right into dinner time.

After dinner Dan got out his guitar and played and sang for a couple of hours. He was a professional performer Way back in the day.
The Roadhouse is a pretty big place and there were people from end to end and many people were working in the kitchen. Take a look at the ceiling, it is covered with 30 plus years of Iditarod posters and memorabilia.


On Sunday morning Dan and I cooked breakfast of Eggs over easy and waffles for everyone of the 30 some people that stayed the night. I was in charge of cutting the waffles and loading plates and food distribution. I gotta tell you, I was one heck of a good waiter if I do say so myself. The rest of the morning was free time until noon. Several people went snowmachining and some just took in the sights and sounds of their first time in Alaska. (Many of the volunteers were from different parts of the country and we had 3 from Australia and 2 from England.) Five of the people were Veterinarians from other places, that volunteer and get courtesy licenses.
During this free time before the Noon meeting we managed to find a way to make it so Hans no longer needs to be Neutered. I can't and won't go into any details but he slept thru the race and is doing very well as an It.
The Noon meeting was to give official introductions, learn operational procedures and hand out assignments. Myra jobs were Collecting the "Race Bibs" from each musher, and Getting Signatures (Autographs) from as many mushers as possible as they went thru the Checkpoint. The signatures were on official Iditarod posters that are done each year by an Alaskan artist. She had to try to get them to sign three posters. (We got one of the posters for ourselves.)
This is Myra's' official work uniform. It helps to lighten the mood of a very serious musher when you want an autograph while he is in a 1000 mile race. These posters were for us, the Roadhouse and one was going to Australia I believe.
Myra managed to get 47 signatures out of 62 racers. This is quite a feet considering sometimes all 5 checkpoint lanes were full at the same time. You can see here the Mushers does not have on his Race Bib anymore. The Bibs are removed at this first check point and re-assigned at the last checkpoint. This is done for two reasons. The big reason is Safety. A Musher nearly died a few years ago because he could not get the Bib UN-tied and was stuck in his coats and heavy gear in a very bad situation. The second reason is so that the musher does not lose them if they take them off themselves. The rules state that they must start and finish the race with the Bib in place. The Bibs are actually flown to the last checkpoint before the finish so the mushers get them back. It really is an important item for identification (and TV cameras) for the officials.
This is a Musher coming into the checkpoint with his Bib still on.
Myras' other job was to take as many pictures as possible while dong the other two jobs. I did a little of the photos also.

My jobs were to help with set up of the checkpoint, be a Dog Team Runners then trade out jobs to the "Point" which is to be be the "Look Out" about 3/4 mile down river, with a radio and call ahead to the checkpoint as Dog teams are approaching so they have the right number of people in the right places. At one point in time near the end of our night I had Eleven Dog Teams in My sight at once heading toward the checkpoint. it was a near "Cluster" considering there are only 5 lanes for check in. It got real busy out for a while.
I am the guy in the middle near the dividing point. The Dog Teams that were parking and staying were at the top lane and the Teams that were going thru were in the bottom lane. Since there are no Rains or halters on these dogs and they are voice command only, that does not always work out very well. I frequently had to grab a Lead Dog harness and direct the dog team to the right lane for them to travel. I would sometimes have to take them all the way to their parking position. You should have seen this big body running with 16 race dogs trying to get them where I needed them.
In this picture I am the little image way out away. there is one dog team passing on the right and the two leaving the checkpoint are coming at me at the same time. Have you ever seen 32 dogs in race harnesses all tangled together? I Have and all I can say is Wow!
We had a plane over shoot the runway and get stuck in the soft snow while landing. Guys went over with ropes and snowmachines to pull him out.
We had Para-sailors (two) and helicopters (two) and many airplanes and hundreds of snowmachines all coming and going during this event. To top that off we had 62 teams of 16 dogs come thru in just over 3 hours (That's 992 dogs) and 14 teams parked and stayed for up to seven hours.

The Moon went down over the Mountains and Life was perfect again this day.

OK, so these moon pictures were from in front of our place the other day but they were just to beautiful not to share.

We had a Wonderful experience and a Great time. It was a Lot of work and we were both very tired after the event but WOW, it was cool.

Martin Buser is in the lead and Lance Mackey (4 time champion) is in second. They are just over 1/2 way as I type this and it is turning out to be a good race.
www.iditarod.com check it out if you want. It is also in the paper here at www.adn.com

I did take a snowmachine tour group into the Landing on Monday and bought fuel and groceries. We did not get home until Tuesday and today was chore catch up day at home.
It never gets boring here. There is more I could tell and more pictures I could show but, This has taken me over 4 hours. It is great fun to share.
Thank You for being with us! May God be with you!
See Ya,
Roger

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Morning of Iditarod weekend

It is the Saturday of Iditarod weekend.
The river has been crazy with traffic of snowmachiners. I have no idea how many people will be along this river this weekend but, it is a Lot!

I got the fuel pump and the voltage regulator replaced on the little snowmachine yesterday, then repaired a leaky radiator hose, then made a guard for it on the two up machine. Also went to get water, stocked the wood box on the back porch and took Hans for a run.

Today is make a new latch for the seat of the Skandic snowmachine (Myra broke it during a minor tip over accident trying to avoid running over a dog a few days ago), then go get another load of water ( Did laundry, dishes, now showers - lots of water) and Then,,,, Iditarod stuff.

Myra and I are leaving for Yentna Station Roadhouse about 2 - 2:30 this afternoon. Myra is going to help cook for the Iditarod party tonight, then we get to participate in the party. Tomorrow is the Iditarod Race. Monday I am taking a few snowmachine tour people back down river. Myra and I won't be back home until Monday evening. We are taking the dogs with us and staying at the Roadhouse. The dogs will have to be tied during the race.

I am taking the freight sled with empty fuel barrels and will actually lead the tour people while hauling my empties down river. That way while I am at the landing I can get fuel for us. While I was hauling freight I went threw a lot of fuel but never had room or weight capacity to haul any for myself.

It is a real privilege to be able to take Hans for a run. He is a beautiful creature to watch. He will run right beside the snowmachine (most of the time) for miles on end.

I have had him out for as far as 9 or 10 miles none stop at 10 to 20 miles an hour. I let him choose the pace he wants to run most of the time. He is amazing. He dips his head down and scoops snow while on a dead run, to get a drink or wet his mouth or cool off (or all three). Not to be gross but he goes poop and pee while running. He loves to run and he does not want to stop. I know that he is off spring of an Iditarod dog so if I chose to train him to run farther he would. The Iditarod dogs run over 120 miles a day, taking a 2 minute snack break about every one to two hours. Then only a few hours of total rest with a big meal. Then back out on the trail again.

video videoThe first video is Just Hans running. The second video is after about 7 miles. We are on a very hard trail and he wasn't able to scoop snow right off of the trail so he dipped into the deep powder on the side. He kind of crashed and I caught it on camera.

Thank you all so very much for being interested in our life here. To be able to live a dream is beyond words of description.

What a wonderful gift to live!

Roger

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sharing a Ride



I have been hauling freight with Adam for a couple of weeks now. I have put over a thousand miles on my snowmachine. I have broken one suspension spring and lost one bogey wheel. (I lost the bogey wheel because I forgot to tighten the bolt after I replaced the suspension spring.)








Today I told Adam to "go on ahead and go home without me, I am going to stop and take pictures and pick up our mail and basically goof around". We had hauled loads of lumber to a cabin on Shell Lake, where a guy is building a new workshop this coming summer. Shell Lake is not accessible in the summer except by airplane. There is no river close enough to get you there and there is no overland trail in summer, so almost everything goes to Shell Lake in the winter time via, snowmachine freight haulers.




Anyhow, I wanted to take my time going home so I could share this ride with you. I am going to start the trip from the Lake coming back toward home.




The lake is nestled in an area called Shell Hills (of all things) and it is near the base of the Tordrillo range of mountains which is a sub range of the Alaskan Mountain Range. The Tordrillo's are toward the southern end of the range. The main mountains in the Tordrillo's (if you want to look them up) are, Mt Gerdine, Mt Torbert, Mt Spur, Mt Talachulitna.




The lower hills covered with trees in the foreground is Shell Hills. Go over those hills for about 8 miles and you come to Shell Lake. I am about 8 miles from those hills now, in the middle of this swamp crossing. I am looking back where I just came from in this picture.




The trail threw this swamp has been groomed by a really big rig because they are bringing up a 60 ton articulating dump truck to a gold mine in the area. That is a whole different story.

All of those Mountains I named are over 11,000 ft. high. (I was not smart enough to take a picture from the lake surface.) The lake is about three forths of a mile wide and a few miles long, situated in a glacial valley from the hills. There are several cabins around the lake and there is Shell Lake Lodge. Shell Lake Lodge is owned by a Lady named Zoe. Zoe has been on the lake (the first full time resident) since 1974 if my math is right. She is now 72 years old and still runs the lodge by herself. Myra will have to tell you the rest of Zoe's story some time.




When I drive away from the lake I am headed up in to the Shell Hills trail which is heading North and up away from the Lake. This trail is very narrow, winding and bumpy. To get over the hills takes approximately 8 miles. There are a few high area swamps that smoothe out for a few hundred yards but mostly twisty turney bumpy riding. The scenery is, hills, willow and alder trees with pine and birch everywhere. When I get down out of the Hills I am in a very large swamp area. It is 16 miles across the swamp the direction I am going and I don't know how far west the swamp goes for sure. I know it is longer to the West than it is to the North. This swamp is not passable in the summer, only when frozen over in the winter. There are several little pine trees when I first enter the swamp but after a mile or so most all tree growth stops. I am sure that is because there is too much water for them to survive.








videoThis video is a full circle of where I decided to stop in the middle of this swamp.






These pictures are from the same place as the video, just easier to make out some details.
It was kind of a Hazey day so it is hard to make out the details but, if you look at the horizon closely you will see mountains. I am 100% surrounded by mountains around this swamp.

In the haze just to the left of this clear mountain you can see the ghostly image of Mt Foraker.






I had just hauled about 1600 pounds of lumber about 100 miles from the landing then was heading back toward home. This is what I got to see from my windsheild for the entire day (more or less).
What a perfect place on earth, at least in My opinion!
Thank You for letting me share.
Roger

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Freinds, Dan & Jean

You have heard us speak many times about Dan & Jean.

Here is a link to an article in todays paper that tells a pretty good history of them. It is a 3 page long article so I am not going to type much more today.

We will be spending this weekend with them as the Iditarod Dog Sled Race will be going on and Myra and I will be working at the Roadhouse which is Checkpoint #1

Article about Dan & Jean http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/behind-scenes-yentna-station-roadhouse

Link to Iditarod web site http://www.iditarod.com/

Lots of other stories for me to tell but, I want to share these special people!
See Ya,
Roger