Monthly Archives: June 2012

Friday, June 22

Many things to tell about today, but floating over it all is the HEAT!  I woke up to 52F but once the sun swung around to the south where it could blast the Cabin full on, it had risen to 70F and it topped out at 78F by early evening.  (A note to dwellers South…Alaskan summer sun doesn’t rise in the east or set in the west…it rises SSE and sets SSW.  In fact it really doesn’t rise so much as swing around from left to right in a giant arc that only barely dips below the horizon late at night.  And yes, 78F is HOT for us!)  Anyway, HEAT.  I was soon changing from a T-shirt to a tank top and regretting that I didn’t have stronger bug repellent as the flies were extra pesky today.  (More on that in a minute…)

Only one moose this morning with one calf.  My “wild America” morning was not to be repeated.  Momma moose headed up the hill across the lake as soon as the sun began to show some real warmth.  She will likely find a shady spot for them to bed down in the heat of the day.

One of the “silver” cows with her fast growing calf

I gathered my painting supplies and made my way down to the dock to begin the water sealing project on my new lumber.  Just getting the dang cap off the can of Thompson’s was enough to have me sweating and cursing, and the heat was just getting started!  After working for awhile, I gave up and went up for a shade break.  Bad news is there is no shade to be had except inside the cabin, which had become a sauna.  I had had the foresight to open the one screened window, but indoor temps still held at 10-12 degrees above the outside temps all day.  So for shade I grabbed my camera and went for a short walk in the woods.  In particular I went looking for Calypso, a tiny, somewhat rare orchid, native to this hillside, that I had seen in profusion the last two weekends when I didn’t have time for photography.

Calypso orchid – the bloom is less than an inch long

There was a largish patch of the little blooms near the outhouse trail, so I started there.  In the course of shooting, I became aware of an unusual amount of buzzing only a few yards away.  We do have paper wasps, bumble bees and other stinging critters, so I hesitated to investigate, but soon realized it was the source of my pesky flies…hundreds of flies…oh no!

For those of you who don’t live in bear country, a quick lesson.  Most fatal bear encounters in Alaska have come about from folks stumbling onto (or even just close to) a kill that has been cached by a griz for later snacking.  So if you spot an animal carcass, STOP!  And for heaven’s sake, don’t RUN!  (The only thing they defend more aggressively is their cubs, but cubs can travel.  As long as momma bear hears or sees you in time, she will usually choose discretion over valor and leave with her family.  Hence the practice of wearing “bear bells” when hiking.)

If you’re squeamish stop reading now and skip to the pictures or something, but before you go, rest assured that I did NOT see or get attacked by a bear.

As I feared, it was indeed one of the moose calves from two weekends ago that had the flies so excited.  From the looks of things, it died of natural causes (as opposed to “artificial” causes?) rather than at the hands…er paws…of a bear.  Still, my heart was beating pretty hard and I was really looking and listening and smelling for any signs of bear.

My big problem was – is – that this little carcass is only about 20 yards from my front door.  I started replaying Dad’s line of “we’ve had no bear activity on this side of the lake in over 40 years” and I let that mental tape run in the back of my mind even as I stood frozen, trying to think of what to do about this potential dilemma.

In the end, I actually crept a few feet closer.  What the heck, I was already well into the danger zone and had been for nearly a day, though unknowingly.  And…I can’t help it…I took a picture, though I will refrain from posting it.

There was actually very little left for a predator to be interested in guarding.  A wolf or even a coyote or a local dog could have taken the larger parts that were missing.  There are also a number of big predatory and carrion-loving birds in the area, including bald and golden eagles, either of which could carry off large hunks of meat easily.  There was no evidence of either dragging or of a struggle; the forest floor was relatively undisturbed, which further reassured me.  A bear would likely have done more damage, both to the remains and to the surrounding terrain.  I will confess that I didn’t have quite enough courage to get close enough to look for tracks.  Guess CSI is not a promising career choice for me!

Had to wait for each batch to dry before starting another batch as there’s no dirt-free staging area for the newly painted boards!

Later that afternoon, as I was back at work painting my dock boards, our family friend who lives in the camp year round came through on the trail.  Her eyes got a little wide as we discussed my find, but she reminded me that the moose are all really scruffy and scrawny this spring due to the extreme snowfall.  Chances are that the poor thing was either injured or malnourished itself, and fell victim to natural selection, giving its twin a better chance at survival.  That’s my Pollyanna outlook and it assumes that this was one of the twins from two weeks ago.

She – my friend, not Pollyanna – also told me that her son and daughter-in-law just shot and killed a marauding griz at their home a couple of lakes up the highway. Seems brer bear killed three goats before they put an end to his career.  My Pollyanna side hasn’t decided what to do with that information just yet…

Categories: wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21:  Happy Solstice! Bittersweet day.  Longest day of the year and the traditional start of summer, but also the day that marks the beginning of the gradual shortening of daylight.  We love December 21 because we know that days will be getting longer, but we really cannot hate June 21!!

I left a little early from work, but since I had to stop for gas and a quick eat-it-while-driving dinner, it was still nearly 6pm when I hit the highway northbound.  I watched towering thunderheads encroaching on my glorious blue sky with some trepidation as I travelled up the valley.  There was evidence of recent rain on the little dirt road into the camp, but the clouds rolled back ahead of me and I arrived to a perfect evening at the Cabin.

Storm over fields of Palmer

Unfortunately the heavy rain had gotten into my bin and my cooler that I had left on the deck, ruining my Jiffy Popcorn and a 36-pack of batteries as well as a few granola bars.  My clothes were double wrapped in garbage bags and were dry, and the rest of the groceries were fine.

I spent some time drying things off and storing them away.  The little pantry shelf is groaning!  Then I got ambitious and set up the new composting toilet behind the Cabin on Dad’s shower platform of cinder blocks.  I hung the shower curtain as a door and stapled plastic bags to the “shower stall” posts for the other two walls, transforming the space to a throne room.  I won’t secure the toilet to a base yet until I have a more permanent home for it.  The rest of the set-up involved attaching the handle that stirs the compost mixture, and adding the peat moss.  Done.

A new throne!

Funny story about the peat moss…when I was in Home Depot getting a truckload of cedar cut and paid for, I mentioned to the check-out gal that I was going to have to go back to the main part of the store to get peat moss.  “I can probably look that up here” she says, being helpful.  “Then you can pay for it now and just pick it up on the way out.”  Awesome!  So, she types into her computer and finds peat moss, confirms that I want the smaller bag, and rings it up.  While my friend supervises the loading of the lumber, I go to collect my moss.  Turns out there are several types on the shelf, so I peer at my receipt.  I probably should have confessed to the gal what I was using this for…she sold me Miracle Grow Sphagnum Moss with added fertilizers!  We got some good chuckles thinking about fertilizer’s ability to make things grow!

Anyway, with all these little tasks, it was fairly late before I settled in to read and wind down for the night.  Tomorrow will be a busy day, weather permitting…



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Not Backdated – this time…

Just a quick post before I head up the highway to the Cabin.  I have no cell service or any other 21st century connectivity up there, so will have to share my weekend via back-dated posts again.

I have debated all week about what if anything to take for this weekend.  The weather has been closing in since last night so I’ve decided to rely on what’s already up there and just hike in with my Kindle, my camera, and some sundries for a couple of overnights.  It’s a bit of a struggle to overturn the boat on my own and it really isn’t worth it for such a short stay, especially if it’s raining or windy.  Besides…at heart I’m lazy! 

Tonight I sleep in my own little bunk in my own little backwoods cabin…ahhhhhhhh

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June 16 Dry-goods run…sort of

Well, really a wet-goods run…I took advantage of availability of friends again to haul in another 8 gallons of water and a few more clothes and groceries.  Unfortunately, since we drove the motor home, I made the conscious decision to leave my car keys at home.  You guessed it, the cabin keys are on the same key ring!  I called myself some choice names and used up most of my “big girl” words!  Oddly my friends just laughed…very little sympathy to be had!  Either that or they are getting used to my “menopause brain!”

Luckily there were some little paddles for an old rubber raft stashed under the deck (we keep the good oars secured in the cabin), so with the help of friend T. we rowed Indian-canoe style across a perfectly glassy calm lake and hauled the water and other goods up to be stored under the eaves on the east side of the cabin.  Even unattended as they are, they should be ok for a few days. 

Although the clouds moved in, the calm weather held and the chore was pleasant – probably more so than if it was really warm and sunny.  We finished quickly since we couldn’t linger (sigh) and headed up to join S. at her cabin for another evening of dinner and Farkle. 

T. stayed overnight but left early to go to work – on Sunday?…bleah.  The rest of us had a more leisurely morning featuring a sumptuous breakfast prepared by S. complete with bacon, eggs and toast before heading back to town.

I am already making plans to come up again this week – with the key – to more securely stash my belongings inside.  Since I don’t work on Friday I can get here Thursday evening, have a full day here and then get back to town on Saturday to do chores to get ready for my real vacation.  Actually it will be a nice break from the freight hauling trips.  I’ll have time to take some pictures to share and if the weather stays dry I can start on treating the lumber with the Thompson’s Water Seal that we just brought up. Or I could just relax and enjoy my Cabin!

I spoke to my Dad this week about the dock.  He is really excited and plans to come up while I’m there in July to help me build it.  We have tentatively planned to use logs as the vertical supports since the cedar was not readily available in the size needed when I bought the rest of the lumber.  I still have to pick up some rebar to use as an anchor, like a tent peg, securing it to the shore.

I will also be stopping by the local locksmith for a second copy of this doggone key to hide on the property somewhere!

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My first overnight at the Cabin this year!

June 9 

So, early to bed last night means my eyes popped open at about 4:30 this morning.  I laid there for awhile trying to convince my bladder that a short hike was just what it needed!  (My composting toilet won’t be set up until my long stay since I don’t yet have a place to store it except indoors, phew!)

 Finally, I stumbled out and stood in my jammies at the door, looking out over the misty lake in the dim morning light.  What is the white thing?  I rubbed my eyes – gotta get new contacts before I come up for my long stay – and a pair of swans swam into focus!  The camera was unable to give me anything but blurry white blobs in the low light.  I watched them cruise to the far end, trumpeting to each other (whew, maybe I’m glad they aren’t full time residents!) before slapping the water in a really noisy take-off.  They visit occasionally and it’s always a thrill but I have yet to capture them with a camera. 

Fully awake now, I decided I had several hours before I needed to get to work so I lit a fire in Fatso and sat with my Kindle to read.  The outside temperature was 42F so the fire was nice and soon warmed the interior to over 70F.  I glanced up from my book shortly after getting settled and spotted movement on the end of the peninsula directly across from the cabin.  A big silver cow moose was browsing there, and sure enough there was a little reddish brown calf with her.  Again too early for good photography. 

About half an hour later I heard splashing which usually means moose in the lake.  I glanced at the peninsula, but Momma was now laying down and her calf was out of sight, probably too small to see over the grass.  I saw ripples coming from the shore on my side and another cow emerged into view followed by two calves.  She headed for the peninsula, obviously a favorite browse site, but the first cow was on her feet all of a sudden and charged into the water with a definite message…”this is my spot!”  Momma #2 changed course and disappeared around the west side of the peninsula, walking in belly deep water while her calves swam beside her.  Momma #1 must have escorted her away as neither of them reappeared. 

 I resumed reading and about an hour later heard more splashing.  I looked up to see a young moose entering the water at the tip of the peninsula.  This one was smaller and darker, a yearling cow, probably a sister and/or daughter to one or both of the two I had seen earlier.  She brought my moose total to six counting calves!  Quite a busy morning.  She crossed to the blueberry bog on my side and presumably travelled on up the hill.

 The rain came and went all morning, finally tapering off altogether at about 8am.  I put the Kindle away, let the fire die down, and began chores, first tidying up the interior and putting away the groceries I had hauled up the night before.  Then I made several trips down to the dock to retrieve the items I had left there, including the toilet.  Finally I bailed out the boat, wiped the seats and headed across at about 9am to my lumber pile for the first of many trips.  S. showed up to help with loading and launching me in the boat as I was getting ready to take the second load across.  D. drove up in the motorhome, so for the third and fourth loads she was able to help me unload, stack and retarp the pile at my end.  The load with the ten-foot joists balanced across D.’s lap was a rowing challenge for me.  Thankfully there was no wind this morning!  S. drove on to her cabin while we finished up.

 We stowed the boat and put the oars back in the Cabin before hiking out to go spend the evening at S.’s cabin.  She has a large driveway in which we are able to park our little motorhome.  We roasted hot dogs, drank lots of Mike’s Mango, played some Farkle and finally called it a night.

 I couldn’t have done such a huge chore without these great, fantastic, amazing friends – and there are others who would have come if their work schedules had allowed.  I’m so thankful to all of them!

Categories: wildlife | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A new dock

Well, since I’m behind on posts I will back date this one to June 8. 

I have been looking forward to my first big run to the Cabin all spring.  A couple of weeks ago, on my way to help friend S. retrieve her camper from her cabin a few miles away, I stopped in and just walked the trail quickly to reassure myself that the roof had survived the record snowfalls.  I set up my new trail cam (more on that later) in the window, picked up some picnic trash left by thoughtless hikers, and hiked right back out.

This week I have been frantically shopping every night after work, but the big shopping event had to wait until today, Friday.  I met S. at Home Depot and found a young man to help with my new dock.  He not only designed it on their computer, he cut all the pieces for me and laid them out on the floor so that I could see how it needed to go together.  I have a new appreciation for building costs after this little adventure!  They loaded S.’s truck – and I do mean loaded – and after a stop for last minute groceries we headed off. 

I should confess here that while we were in the grocery store, S. pointed out to me that I (we) had forgotten that my car was still at Home Depot!  Much belly laughing over that one! 

By the time we got to the lake a light sprinkling of rain was beginning.  We hiked in, got the boat and S. chickened out and walked back out while I rowed across.  We loaded the boat with as much of my groceries and dry goods as we could, including my new composting toilet, and I went back across, fighting a terribly stiff wind all the way.  I elected to not try to carry the lumber in the wind, so we unloaded it onto a tarp, covered it with another tarp and parted company for the evening.  She went on to her cabin and I went back to begin the chore of hauling goods up from the dock to my cabin. 

It wasn’t long before I gave up fighting the wind and rain.  I left waterproof items at the foot of the hill and fixed a quick dinner of Ramen noodles before settling myself in front of the woodstove for some quiet time with a book.  The fresh air and exercise kept the book time short and since I needed to get going early tomorrow, I let myself go to bed early.

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