Monthly Archives: July 2012

Dead trees and dangerous neighbors

I’m in withdrawal.  No Cabin, no more handwritten journal entries of recent trips to transcribe for the blog, no prospects of being able to go up there any time soon… Is it too soon to start daydreaming about next year’s trip?  (The correct answer would be OF COURSE NOT!)

A picture perfect reflection on the lake. The boat is waiting … let’s go!

I’ve been considering the tree situation up there…I may have to make some phone calls and see if I can’t hire a crew to take a chainsaw and a log splitter up there for a weekend or three.  I have many years of firewood available if I could just get it cut down and split.  And that’s without touching any living trees!  Beetle infested forests are tinderboxes just waiting for the least little spark, so this year’s constant rain has been a blessing in disguise for folks like me who have to worry about forest fires near remote cabins.    I look forward to having a metal roof on my new cabin.  Not only will it shed snow it will protect against fire danger of stray sparks or floating embers from nearby fires. 

 

It pays to look up as you’re hiking! This tree will someday fall, and it’s going to be laying right across a trail we use often

The one time I was genuinely angry at my neighbors in the camp was when I found an unattended campfire along the trail.  They have a small amphitheatre built in a clearing along the lakeshore trail where they sometimes gather for sing-alongs.  At some point they added a small bonfire area, for atmosphere I guess, certainly there’s no need for light and it’s too far away from the seating area for warmth or marshmallows. 

The beetles prefer older, bigger trees…of course…the ones that will cause the most damage when they fall or ignite!

Anyway, I came upon the fire in question as I was hiking in at the start of my vacation a couple of years ago.  Although it had mostly died down, it was completely unattended and had been for awhile.   I didn’t even meet any recent revelers hiking out as I was hiking in.   The camp was quiet, the amphitheater deserted, and little flames were crackling merrily by themselves in the woods!!  I quickly dropped my gear, emptied my small water bottle over the flames to extinguish them and kicked the embers apart to reduce the danger of a flare-up since I was out of water.  (I had no shovel and the lake shore at that point is dangerously steep even if I had had an effective water dipping vessel at hand.)

I hiked on into my Cabin, muttering curses not quite under my breath, then hiked back with more water to completely douse the last of the embers.  In addition, I confiscated a large bottle of lighter fluid that had been left just a few feet from the fire!  (I had an attack of conscience a few days later later and put it back.) 

 To this day I regret letting my natural shyness keep me from marching into the camp, regardless of the late hour, and banging on doors in search of a responsible adult to report to.  Upon returning to town, I did tell my Dad (a retired firefighter!) who had names and phone numbers for the director and his staff.  He reported the incident to the appropriate people with much diplomacy I’m sure, though I know he was just as upset as I was at the potential for real disaster!

 

Bear Creek Fire ( Division of Forestry/Matt Snyder / June 25, 2012 )
It would only take a spark for this to happen at our lake…

Although I continue to see cold remains of bonfires, I notice that a large jug of water is now always near the firewood pile…alongside the lighter fluid. 

Sigh…

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Pets at the Cabin

Pets have often been a part of Cabin trips.  As a kid I remember we had a German shepherd mix named Chena as well as two cats, PC (for Pussy Cat…original huh?) and Lucifer (‘cause he was solid black, another original.)  I don’t remember if PC ever went with us, but I do remember Lucifer being up there once and Chena always went along.  I was pretty young and had only recently been granted boating-by-myself privileges and Lucifer decided to join me.  He thought he was really something sitting in the bow and peering at the water as I paddled around.  There is photographic evidence somewhere in Dad’s slide collection which I’ll have to try to get my hands on someday.  Other family dogs included a Corgi mix named Frisky and the current Corgi named Bitsy.  Frisky’s favorite part of trips to the Cabin was picking blueberries…although none of his ever made it into the bucket.  Bitsy loves exploring anywhere Dad goes.  She hasn’t discovered blueberries yet!  She is the smallest Corgi I’ve ever seen (she’s itsy “bitsy” you know…) and if it weren’t for her bold tri-color markings, she would be hard to see in the woods and tall grasses.

Bitsy at 6months of age…she did get a little bigger, but not much

In more recent years my friend’s dog, Shortie joined us for several trips.  He was a big goofy black Lab who was unreasonably attached to his momma and she to him.  Actually all who met him loved him, including Mr. Chitters who considered Shortie his personal dog. 

my friend…purr !

Standing guard with my best friend

We spent the first year or so of Shortie’s life trying to convince him that Labs are water dogs and he should swim.  At the dog park he would go in the lake up to his belly but no further… wayward Frisbees had to always be retrieved by another passing dog or lost to the lake currents. 

One day I had a brilliant plan.  I told my friend “Watch this, he’ll do anything for a Dorito.  I’ll get him to sit in the water and then he’ll realize it’s ok to get wet.”  I lured him into the little wading pool in the yard with the chip.  Then I told him to sit, the one command he consistently obeyed.  Sure enough, his butt would lower, back legs trembling, tail wagging and then his private parts would touch the water and he would bounce back up, eyes on the chip the whole while.  It was funny the first time.  And the second time…  And half of the afternoon!  We nicknamed him the hydraulic dog.

Anyway, she brought this non-swimming Lab to the Cabin for a long weekend.  He hiked in with us, and then sat in the boat between us when we went back to get the rest of our gear.  Other than rocking the boat a little in his efforts to peer over the gunwales, he was a pretty good passenger, but he was willing to do almost anything as long as he could be with his momma so that was no real surprise. 

 The next day we decided that we wanted to go take pictures of the loons, so we elected to leave Shortie on shore.  That day went down in Shortie’s history as the day he realized he could swim!  Actually all of us were in danger of learning about our swimming ability as we fought to lift a 95lb dog into a boat.  He was NOT going to let momma go without him!

How come nobody told me how much fun this was going to be!!

From that day forward Shortie was able to retrieve his own Frisbees from the lake at the dog park.  He learned that he loved to swim, though he was never very good at it.  If another dog spotted the Frisbee in the water there was no contest…Shortie had to concede the race every time, which he did graciously, sometimes turning around as soon as he realized the other dog was going to get it and meeting him with a big doggie smile back up on shore.

He succumbed to cancer a little over two years ago and a little bit of sunshine went out in the world.

RIP buddy…

 

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July 20-22 Weekend trip

I mentioned in passing last week that I was going up to the Cabin to finish building the second half of the dock frame and friends T. and D. both jumped on board to come help! 

We got out of town Friday afternoon about 4:00pm and headed up the highway in two vehicles so that D. could come back to town Saturday to manage other commitments.  After a stop for burgers Pinnacle Mtn Cafe, we arrived at the camp at about 7:00, hiked in to get the boat and soon hauled a load of water and gear across.  T. practiced her rowing…From the bow, I felt a bit like I was on an amusement park ride!  She’s getting better, but we still do a lot of circles.  In her defense, it’s always more difficult to maintain a straight course when the boat is loaded.  D. watched from the deck, offering to call the Coast Guard for us! 

After getting the gear stowed, we settled in for the evening.  D. is dogsitting a beautiful young chocolate lab named Filson, and he is the energizer bunny of the fetching world.  In no time the deck was littered with sticks.  He loves to run down to the dock and hop into the water to cool off.  Luckily we had lots of towels to dry him off before letting him into the Cabin!  While he settled down and dried off, the three of us played some Cribbage and ate our pie slices that we had gotten at Pinnacle Mtn.

Saturday morning even Filson was willing to sleep in a little.  Unlike my previous trip, the temp this morning was 52F, and with four bodies in the Cabin the indoor temperature was 58F, which, while cool by town standards, was very comfortable to wake up to.  D. prepared a feast for breakfast – scrambled egg and sausage breakfast burritos with a side of fresh fruit.  Sure beats my oatmeal or granola bar breakfasts!  We went down to the dock and T. took over the drill driver.  The dock frame was done in minutes instead of hours with an experienced and strong person running the power tools, not to mention a second and third set of hands to hold things in place while she fastened them together.  We lugged the second log bridge that Dad had made out to the water.  T. changed into sandals and went out to set the bridge, but it was much too tall for the dock.  Without Dad’s chainsaw to trim it down to fit, we ended up bagging the whole thing. 

After lunch D. had to leave, taking the ever playful Filson with her.  It was a challenge to keep him out of the water for the hour or so before she left so that he wouldn’t be soaking wet in her jeep.  Rain was starting to spit on us as we watched her head off up the trail, so they were doomed to be a little wet anyway, but it didn’t get serious until later in the afternoon.

One of the loons popped up right off the end of the dock after we got back with our boatload of gear!

Rain notwithstanding, T and I took a little hike up to the four-wheeler trail.  Along the way I showed her my potential building sites and got some input from her on the pros and cons of each.  In the evening, as we were getting ready for bed, T spotted a moose swimming from the blueberry bog over to the peninsula in the rain.  I so love having company to share these things with.  I get to see everything through new eyes. 

Late evening light and rain account for the blue look of this shot.

 Sunday morning, July 22

No elaborate breakfast this morning.  The clouds were full of holes this morning, and by the time we got our cabin-closing chores done the sun was out in force.  T. pushed me to get things done early so that if the weather held we could spend some time on the lake in the boat.  The loons came out for a family picnic.  The chick is two weeks old today and is visible as more than just a fuzzy black dot in my lens now!  The parents took turns diving for tasty treats to feed their baby.

I think the male is the larger one. The chick seems to stick closest to the smaller one

After getting our gear across the lake, we rowed around the camp end of the lake, watching as a small plane buzzed low overhead to land at the private strip nearby.  We then rounded the peninsula towards Loon Lagoon. 

A local resident or a friend of one. I see this plane often up here, but it was cool to be on the lake when he made his approach

I’ve mentioned that the loons here trust me and my boat, and today they proved it.  The whole family was out and swimming together near the lilies.  We were careful not to approach too directly, but papa loon broke away from his family and approached us!  T. was in the bow and was able to see him dive under the boat.  He popped back up just a couple of yards away from me at the stern and then swam unconcernedly away. Mom and chick gave us a wider berth, but never acted agitated or worried.  What a special treat!

I almost think he believes we are just a big clumsy duck! Check out the red eyes!

At two weeks old the chick already ducks his head under water to watch its parents diving. He’ll be diving himself soon

Back at the Cabin we pulled the boat out and flipped it and then closed up reluctantly.  It’s always harder to leave when the weather is so beautiful! 

View from the lake. See what I mean about how close those trees are?

 

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Saturday, July 7 to Monday, July 9

Saturday, July 7

46F at 6am.  Clouds in Alaska often mean slightly warmer overnight temperatures, even in summer.  These ones also mean rain.  Not just a sprinkle or spit, but the real thing today.  Chitters is mad at me.  He’s pretty sure I’m somehow responsible for the rain.  He asks to go out then comes right back in and meows at me.  This was a game we played pretty much all day. 

I stayed inside sketching and playing solitaire and reading by the fire.  A good old-fashioned lazy day at the Cabin.  I can remember spending hours sitting across the little table from my Mom as she played solitaire, annoying her by pointing out moves she was missing.  Sometimes we would each have a game going.  If the rain was serious enough to keep Dad indoors, he and I would play endless games of cribbage.  The whole family would get involved if one of the board games came out.  We especially loved Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Clue…games that make you use your brain a little bit, but Dad soon refused to play Pictionary because Mom and I were an unbeatable team!  We’ve always shared a wavelength for things like that.  He would glare at our meaningless lines and wonder aloud how we could have guessed the word so quickly. 

Today though, it’s just Solitaire and a Kindle to keep me occupied.  I brought my watercolors and I have sketchbooks here, but beyond some half-hearted sketching, I haven’t done anything very creative this whole week – unless you count the really creative attempts at carpentry on my new dock!  And I write every day of course for the blog. 

The needles of the black spruce hold little pockets of rain that create another whole rain shower when you walk under them the next day!

The chilly weather was perfect for soup for lunch, and since Fatso was humming along, I just opened the can and set it on the cooktop.  In no time I had steaming hot potato soup!

I’m all about energy efficiency! And I’m lazy – this way I didn’t have a saucepan to wash afterwards

Unfortunately the rain on the roof, the crackle of the fire, and the closed windows meant I didn’t hear if the moose or the loons paid me a visit today.  It was a prime recipe for lots of naps though! 

Into every sunny week, a little rain must fall. I miss my mountains though

Sunday, July 8

43F at 4am.  Yes that time is correct!  That’s what I get for all those naps yesterday!  I lay in bed trying to go back to sleep when I realized I was hearing loon voices.  Two voices for sure, but softer and more intimate than I had been hearing.  Less a series of loon calls than a quiet loon conversation.  I looked but the early hour was a little dark yet to see anything so I went ahead and built a fire.  As soon as it was light enough though my suspicions were confirmed.  We have a baby!!  It must have hatched just a few hours earlier.  The parents were both very attentive during its first day on the water.  They were also cautious and kept it on the far side of the lily patch alongside the little peninsula.  (I think I will rename that area the Loon Lagoon.)  Between the low light and the distance I didn’t attempt any pictures today.  (stay tuned…)

A low fog rolled up the valley and spilled over the hilltops this morning, looking almost like smoke in the blue light of early morning. 

My photo tag says this was taken at 5:18am, which would be about right for this amount of daylight. If not for the fog it would be even lighter

Although the rain mostly quit, it stayed cool and cloudy most of the day.  I spent the day on cabin-closing chores so Chitters and I can leave early tomorrow before the camp gets too active.  In order to manage a reluctant – and heavy – cat, I have to carry as little as possible when I hike out tomorrow, so today I hauled a load across in the boat: laundry, trash, the cooler, empty water bottles etc…  Non-perishable groceries can stay till the end of the summer since I’ll be back as often as I can manage it. 

Chitters was safely locked in the cabin for my boat trip, so I took a detour on the way back and wandered down to the end of the lake.  The sun actually came out briefly so I enjoyed a chance to just row around and look at the lake from a different perspective.  The loons stayed out of sight in Loon Lagoon.  Although they are pretty trusting of me when I’m in the boat, the chick is too young yet to manage the windy conditions on the water that I began experiencing.  The sun had indeed made an appearance, but the clouds just became thunderheads and soon rolled back over the lake to spit at me as I hustled to row back to my dock.  I pulled the boat out and flipped it and tidied up my construction area.

As evening approached the sun dropped below the clouds and brought me a rainbow as a perfect farewell for the last day of my stay.

The mountains are back and how pretty they are with a rainbow to dress them up!

 Monday, July 9

The camp was noisy this morning with kids moving in for their week-long vacations.  I medicated Chitters with the other half of that children’s Benadryl before doing the final closing chores; pulling curtains, bringing in the rugs, making the bed, etc.  A sudden lull in activity across the lake spurred me to quickly lock up and get a leash on Chitters.  As before, after a few hundred yards, he would head off the trail or hunker down and refuse to walk, forcing me to carry him for a short distance before he would resume under his own power and in the right direction. 

We made it out to the car with a minimum of fuss in spite of a noisy group of girls that startled him.  I carried him past them to my car, earning a few unintended scratches along the way as he squirmed to get free.  Once in his carrier he settled down immediately and slept all the way home.  Another year’s vacation at the Cabin is behind us, but there are some good weekends yet to come I’m sure…

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Thursday July 5 and Friday July 6

Thursday, July 5

42F at 7am.  Gadzooks!  Keep in mind that whatever temperature I post in the morning, it’s only 3-4 degrees warmer than that in the cabin until I get Fatso up and running.  Every muscle is protesting this morning and the cold is NOT helping!  I’m missing Dad today as his fire-starting skills far exceed mine. 

Morning mist on the lake

Clouds were ever-present today, but thin and wispy.  Lots of sunny moments and no wind made it a really pleasant day for the most part.  I did almost nothing…all day.  Although a brief spit of rain came through, it didn’t even wet the deck, so that’s no excuse, I was just tired and sore and lazy.  I did finally go down in the afternoon to begin retro-fitting joist hangers.  As the dock is already set, that involved bending over double for the first ones until I had enough deck planks in place to sit on.  I didn’t get very far before the clouds rolled back in and my poor back said “enough!”  Tomorrow I’ll be able to sit and lay across the newly attached deck planks (they’re so pretty!) and will have a little better angle to reach the joists. 

Back up at the Cabin, I started a little craft project I’ve been turning over in my mind.  I began slicing a little spruce sapling that I cut down last year into ¼” slices that are about 1 1/2” in diameter.  When I get enough slices, I hope to make a chess board with them.

The eagle came back twice today to harass the loons.  They sounded off like air raid sirens and he flew off without dive-bombing them like he did the other day.  The last two nights I’ve heard owls hooting somewhere near the Cabin, but I’m far too lazy to go out in the cold to find them!  The moose have been hiding since Dad got here, but one cow finally came through this evening and swam from the blueberry bog to the peninsula right at bedtime. 

We have the Olympic swim team of moose here I think.  The cows get their young into the water within days or maybe even hours of their birth.  The extreme exertion in the icy spring water, together with poor nutrition this year, may have combined to take the life of the little calf, but I think overall it’s a survival skill.  Not that bears and wolves don’t swim, but maybe it confuses scent trails or at least discourages easy tracking.

It’s a shallow lake and narrow between the tip of the peninsula and our blueberry bog, so this is where they cross the most often

Anyway, after my super busy day (HA!) I’m off to bed…

 

Friday, July 6

OK what the ?!?!?  It was 38F this morning.  Holy crap.  The skies were crystal clear blue so I actually got up, though I sure wasn’t moving very fast!  I cussed myself for not remembering to gather kindling and refill the wood box last night.  First thing after the potty run is to tiptoe through the dewy moss in my slippers and jammies, gathering sticks that all feel damp.  Sure enough, it took two tries to get Fatso going and even then I had to baby it for awhile. 

The gorgeous weather and the fact that I only have two more days here spurred me to get busy on the dock.  But then a moose stepped into a patch of green sunlight across the lake and I sat down to watch her, hoping to get a closer shot as she worked her way up the lake towards the lilies.  After an hour, I finally gave up and admitted I was stalling! 

She was in the water almost all day, browsing her way along the whole south shore of the lake

I took the camera down to the dock with me and got to work.  The moose was completely unconcerned about me or my power tools.  She grazed her way almost all the way around the lake over the course of the day.  I lost sight of her when she got to the camp end and had actually forgotten about her.  So I was quite startled by a splash and a loud grunt just a dozen yards or so to my right as I was working on the dock late in the afternoon.  There she went across from the blueberry bog to the peninsula and I’m sitting on my behind on the dock, twenty feet from my camera on shore!  Sigh…

I finally got into a rhythm retro-fitting the joist hangers, managing to get almost all of them in, as well as installing the decking boards to within a foot of the end of the dock, before my second battery died.  I discovered my weight helps to compensate for my lack of upper body strength when it comes to screwing down the deck planks.  The first ones kept jumping up as the screw entered the frame boards, no matter how much pressure I tried to apply with my arms.  But standing on them – or sitting on them once I got a few done – worked like a champ.  Besides saving on my back, it allowed me to dangle my bare feet in the lake as I worked!  (Look Ma, no leeches!)

Currently the dock is shorter than the boat! Dad hopes to make it back up here this summer to set the other half.

My lack of carpentry skill is showing again in the uneven line at the edges, but I can correct that at some later date if it bothers me enough.  For now I’m happy that the joist hangers are in place and that the deck boards hide the worst of my zig-zags!

I’ll fix the last joist and lay the last of the deck boards tomorrow and then will get back to building the second frame, at least until my third battery gives out. 

Clouds have rolled in this evening and the promised “chance of showers” has begun.  The temp got up to 65F today even with a high haze all day, which was quite comfortable for working.  Flies are still my chief nuisance this trip – almost no mosquitoes (which, frankly, is weird.)  I had visits all day from bumble bees and dragonflies that were curious about the bright orange tank top I was wearing.  (Wow, Harry, did you see that huge flower?)  I had my heart set on getting some macro shots of the beautiful little bluet damselflies that kept posing on the cedar decking, but they wouldn’t wait for me to adjust my macro settings.  A family of young robins has been racing around the alders on either side of the dock.  My boss, Mr. Chitters, came down to supervise my work a couple of times, announced by angry cheeping of the bird residents.  (Can’t blame them, he ate two of them this week!)  Like me, he loves to sit on the end of the dock and gaze at the lake. 

It’s sad to think that I only have two more full days here…

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Tuesday, July 3 – Wednesday, July 4

Tuesday, July 3

I resisted all of Chitters’ efforts this morning and slept in until 7:45.  Temperature was 47F with a bit of a breeze and quite an impressive fog bank speeding up the valley.  Part of it slunk over the hill at the east end of the lake at one point. 

Chilly mornings are perfect for a big fuzzy sweatshirt and a fire

In preparation for Dad’s arrival today, I spent some time on chores: doing dishes, sweeping, rounding up trash and laundry to ferry out in the boat when I went to get him.  Chitters wasn’t really helping by bringing me a bird for lunch, but he meant well I’m sure…

What he really wants is for me to leave the door open…24 hours a day

Dad ended up not getting in until early evening, having stopped in Anchorage to have a late lunch with my brother.  My “doorbell” went off at about 5:30pm (I leave a walkie talkie on top of one of my car tires in the parking lot and keep the other one close by and on during the day.  Visitors know to hit the “call” button which sends a loud telephone-like ring to the receiving unit, letting me know I have company) so I dropped everything and took the boat across to get him.  

Once we got back to the Cabin, we discussed plans for the dock, and then walked around the property.  We talked about building sites for the new cabin and then discussed what trees could be cut down and used for dock supports or just removed for safety.  (He brought his chainsaw.)  He and I agree that taking out a bunch of the spruce would be a good, fire-wise, thing to do. 

Mom has consistently fought to keep as many of the trees as possible, but some of them have gotten so tall and are so close to the cabin that they present a real danger, not only from fire but from wind storms.  Only a couple of hundred feet from the back of the Cabin, Dad and I found a tangle of five large beetle-killed trees that have all fallen since last summer.  They often take each other down in a domino effect.  (In the last decade or so Southcentral Alaska has experienced serious infestations of spruce bark beetles.)  It’s purely luck that a tree hasn’t fallen on the Cabin yet.

It was too late to do any loud work with chainsaw, so we went back to the Cabin and had some dinner.  Dad spent an hour or so writing while I read my Kindle before we climbed into our respective beds.

By the way, I was a little worried about how Chitters would react to having company walking around outside.  He freaks out and hides for hours any time a stray hiker goes by on the trail.  But I shouldn’t have worried…he loves my Dad.  The minute Dad’s lap was available, Chitters was on it!

 Wednesday, July 4

44F at 8am when we got up.  Chitters was ecstatic to have two victims this morning!  We breakfasted on oatmeal, then headed down to the lake with our various tools. 

A tentative plan to relocate the dock a few feet to the east of the old one had to be scrapped due to a huge spruce root system that has been hollowed out by the water, making the whole shore unstable in that spot.  So Dad took some water depth measurements and then took a few minutes to excavate a spot for the rebar anchors and the log that will support the shore end of the dock. 

A 5-foot length of 3/4″ rebar went into the boggy soil with just a few strokes of the sledgehammer

Meanwhile I got acquainted with my new 18V drill driver and began assembling the first 10-foot frame (unsupervised…)  Up the hill, Dad’s chainsaw was soon buzzing as trees were carefully felled and cut for posts.

sighhhhh…photographic evidence of my expert carpentry!

It took a certain amount of grown-up language (from me…never from my Dad!) but I did manage to finish the first frame in time for us to drag it and push it out onto the first of his two bridge-style supports.  (According to his math the frame alone weighs over 150lbs.) 

a bit of a zig-zag, and missing the joist hangers, but I’m still kinda proud of it!

After he got it into the water and worked to get it level and stable against the shore anchor, I realized I hadn’t used my joist hangers.  My first carpentry project gets an “F!” (But keep in mind it’s truly my first ever carpentry.)  I had toe-nailed the joists – with much grumbling at the difficulty on boggy, uneven ground – when I had hangers which would have made the job SO much easier, not to mention more stable.  What would Mike Holmes say?  Jeez!  This is what I get for taking Choir instead of Wood Shop in high school…

We had to quit for the day since Dad couldn’t stay another night.  We ate a quick early dinner while a brief rainstorm – what mom refers to as a “gullywasher” pounded the Cabin.   As soon as it passed over, I helped him load the boat with his gear and launched him to row across, while I hiked out.  It was nearly 7pm by the time we got his Subaru loaded and he headed back to Kenai.  He hopes to get home sometime around midnight.  As for me, I rowed back to my new – unfinished – dock, went up to the Cabin to let Chitters out (he has to be locked in when I go out to the parking lot for fear he’ll try to follow me) and relaxed for a bit before bedtime. 

 Again I am enormously thankful for the help I keep getting for this project.  Without Dad’s brawn and his chainsaw I would still be scratching my head, trying to figure out my next move. 

I’m really kicking myself about those joist hangers…

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Sunday, July 1-Monday, July 2

Sunday, July 1

49F this morning at 7am.  Very windy again/still, and heavy clouds obscuring the mountains.  Haven’t seen them in awhile!  The sun broke through this afternoon and I took advantage of the chance to do another big batch of boards.  They’re almost done.  I pulled the last of them out from under the tarp and laid them out to dry so that I can finish up tomorrow. 

In retrospect our tarping system wasn’t the best.  We had laid them on a small tarp and then wrapped the larger one over the pile, which resulted in puddling that couldn’t drain away into the soil.  So the top two thirds of the pile was dry, but the bottom was laying in water!  This is on-the-job training here… 

I got a shoe-full of water every time I stepped on the tarp to reach the pile of boards!

Chitters is finally relaxing and getting into his vacation here.  He brought me a mouse this morning and ate it on the deck…no dead animals allowed inside!  But either he still has a nervous tummy or he ate a shrew by mistake as he threw it up a couple of hours later.  Thank goodness for the easy-to-clean vinyl flooring I laid last year.  Yuck! 

The rest of the day was pretty lazy.  Momma moose and calf swam across the lake this evening from our blueberry bog over to the peninsula, but they didn’t linger there.  The camp was quiet today.  One of the advantages of taking my Cabin vacation over the holiday weekend is that the Camp schedule is usually light this week every summer.  They host some smaller events for older kids, but the rowdy, water-skiing crowds are gone.

Monday, July 2

48F at 6:30 am and still overcast, though at least the wind has finally quit.  Chitters has decided that I’m not getting up early enough.  He’s also figured out that if he wakes me up, I’ll let him under the covers and he gets some snuggle time to warm up.  At home, he hates being under the covers.  Unfortunately, his favorite method for waking me up is to lay on my chest and purr and drool onto my face.  Bleah. 

Momma moose came back across to the blueberry bog this morning but calf didn’t want to swim.  She paced on the peninsula for a few minutes, made a couple of false starts and finally gave up and came across.  She’s getting really big and swims like a champ! 

Huge commotion from the loons this morning and when I looked out, I saw a bald eagle on a strafing run over the nest.  Definitely two loon voices panicked and screeching, so I’m more confident than ever that they are guarding an active nest.  The eagle didn’t persist and they calmed down after awhile.  I’m having to recycle old loon pictures for these recent entries as they haven’t been very visible this trip.

The sun came out a little earlier today than yesterday, and had more strength to it.  I finished all but one side of a couple of the boards, and then spent some time stacking and organizing the dry ones.  Big thunderheads have been building up over the peaks on both sides of the valley, so the threat of wet weather isn’t gone. 

Momma and calf came from across the lily patch toward the peninsula this afternoon.  In the series of shots you can see that Momma stopped for a snack while the calf went on to shore.  But then the calf swam back to touch noses with Momma as if to say, “Hey, aren’t you coming?”  Finally they both climbed out of the water and disappeared into the trees.

The calf swims so close to mom that she must kick her occasionally!

yummy lilies…you go on ahead, I’ll catch up…

Mom…come on!

Mom? No, really…aren’t you coming?

Finally mom agrees to come out of the water!

My other big thrill of the day was a big helicopter flying low over the lake.  He made several large circles, up the valley, out over the highway and back over the lake and the camp, at least four times.  There is always a lot of air traffic in the valley.  Small airplanes are Alaskan commuter vehicles and there’s actually a small private runway across the lake near the camp.  But this helicopter was a first for me.  Seems like an expensive way to scout big game for a hunter and it’s early for that anyway.  My imagination was running wild…Search and Rescue (most probable); Hollywood location scout (hmmm…); advanced security detail for some VIP (ok, I read too much.)  With no way to get news, I’ll probably never know.

The sun ran away early tonight…cloudy to the west…and the wind picked up again.  I took a little walk to get kindling and to scout out my future building site some more.  I hope to get a builder up here in the next year or two, so I have to make a decision soon as to the exact location.

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June 30 – Saturday

48F this morning at 7:20am.  Crystal blue skies overhead, and although the mountains across the valley were covered in clouds at dawn, they soon broke through and the clouds moved back into the deep valleys between the peaks.  High winds today – not just breezes.  I went out first thing this morning and dumped kitty litter on the moose carcass, causing a panicky swarm of maggots to erupt out of the litter!  Ewwwwwww!  Later as I was hunting for kindling I saw robins all over the place near there and realized the exposed maggots were becoming lunch!  And by the way, the kitty litter did the trick as far as the smell.

Sunshine (temps again up to 70F this afternoon) and wind are a perfect combination for working on the deck boards today.  I got over a third of them done in addition to finishing up the joist boards that I had started last weekend.  It’s slow going with no dirt-free work surface.  Even if the existing dock weren’t partially under water, I wouldn’t trust it to hold while I work, so I’m on the marshy shore.  The dock is beyond springy – I keep expecting a foot to go through the rotted plywood every time I have to stand on it for any reason. 

It's not supposed to be a "floating" dock!!

You can see why I need a new dock! The water-ski boat swamps this one all the way to the shore with its wake.

I really look forward to being able to take my camera and binoculars and a mug of tea down there in the mornings like I used to do.  I used to sit there for hours watching the lake and the mountains and talking to the loons…

I took this one last year

I’m glad I got so much done on treating the deck boards today as the clouds have really moved in fast on this relentless wind.  I thought I felt a raindrop or two as I was tidying up the deck and gathering firewood for tomorrow morning.  It could be a wet day tomorrow.  I finally saw some moose this evening.  A cow and calf came out of the trees to the east across the lake and walked the shore for awhile before heading back up the hill.  After she had disappeared, a little yearling bull showed up on the peninsula directly across from the cabin.  He browsed for a few minutes, did a little dance and ran back into the trees.  The wind has died down as evening approaches, and I suspect he was getting harassed by the flies.  Hopefully he will make another appearance when the light is better for a picture.

I haven’t seen much loon activity, though I have heard one calling late in the evenings.  My friend who lives in the camp community told me that swans vandalized the loon nest a couple of weeks ago, so she wasn’t sure there were even any loons still here. 

I wish the swans at the Cabin would pose for me like these ones did

They’re beautiful but noisy and apparently not good neighbors to the loons!

I was able to assure her that I had seen and heard at least one.  My hope is that the pair that nests here has been able to lay another clutch of eggs.  That could be why I haven’t seen more than one at a time.  They’ll be taking turns sitting on the nest until the chicks hatch.   None of my bird books gives information about how long from laying to hatching, so I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed…

Tomorrow if the weather cooperates I will hopefully finish water sealing the deck boards. 

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June 29

46F at 7am.  With no way to keep the Cabin heated overnight, I sure hope it doesn’t get a lot colder than this.  I’m really glad I left my heavy old sleeping bag on my bed as a comforter.  The lake was pretty well socked in this morning, but the skies cleared off fairly quickly.  High for today was 70F, which is very tolerable.  There has been a fairly stiff breeze all day which keeps mosquitoes down, but has little to no effect on these dang flies.  Luckily the breeze has mostly been out of the west which keeps the smell of the moose calf carcass away.  I got a strong whiff of that last night and may have to do something if the breeze shifts.

Chitters taking a nap – one of many today!

Chitters and I had kind of a lazy day.  He is still sleeping off his drugs and his anxiety from yesterday’s trip, though he did venture off the deck for a little bit of exploration earlier.  I took advantage of his long naps to launch the boat and go back across the lake for my cooler and other goods.  While there, I went for a short drive up the highway until I got a good enough signal on my phone to text all my worriers that we both made it.  On the way back, as I was hiking from the parking lot back down to my boat the phone dinged with a response…crazy signal pops in and out unpredictably! 

This kind of cloud I like

This afternoon I went up the trail to the moose carcass and considered my options.  A: drag the thing further away and hope that it’s far enough, B: dig a hole and bury it (which still involves some dragging as the brush is so thick where it lays) or C: cover it up somehow.  I wandered further into the woods to look at my future building site for my new cabin and to scope out possible burial sites, but the smell finally chased me back to the Cabin which is mercifully still upwind of the carcass. 

Ruins of an old trapper’s cabin near the site where I want to build my new cabin

It was getting late so I washed up and made a lettuce wedge with blue cheese and little tomatoes for dinner.  Chitters is still pretty mellow and going to bed early is always an easy sell for me!  I’ll worry about the little moose tomorrow.

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June 28

Please pardon the back dated entries for the next week or so…I not only don’t have electricity or running water, I don’t have ANY cell signal at the Cabin.

June 28:  Whew, talk about a long day… I worked my usual 10-hour day, stopping on the way home to fill up my gas tank and grab a couple of last minute groceries.  At home, I packed my cooler with frozen water bottles (instead of loose ice – in a few days I’ll have ice water to drink), veggies, some cooked chicken, salad dressing, blue cheese, and some cubed cheese. 

Then I began loading everything into my car.  I took a long lunch yesterday to go visit my friends at Alaska Steel, where I picked up a couple of 4’ lengths of stout rebar to be used as a shore anchor for the new dock.  I also have some pre-cut plywood panels that I hope to use to make a box to store the new toilet in the off season.  Once the cooler and the new groceries were piled on top of these items in the back of my car, it looked like I hadn’t just done two big dry-goods runs! 

Last but not least I dressed Mr. Chitters in his new purple collar and tucked him into his carrier.  On the recommendation of a friend (per her veterinarian) who had recently travelled with her cat, I gave him ½ of a children’s Benadryl as soon as I got home.  (He told me in no uncertain terms what he thinks about grape flavored Benadryl!)  While it didn’t make him loopy and sleepy as it did her cat (who weighs less than half of what Chitters weighs…) it did help to calm him a bit.  The hour and a half drive up into the mountains was much quieter than in years past.

So many pictures of this view in my collection…and everyone is different!

As I had planned, we didn’t get to the camp parking lot until after 9pm so it was fairly quiet.  I carried a single tote bag with my camera and journal, put a leash on Chitters and we headed up the trail…sort of.  I still had to carry him a few times when he would get confused or skittish, but the drugs helped him to be pretty docile on the leash and we got to the Cabin with a minimum of fuss.  Here’s hoping he doesn’t squirm out of that new collar before we need it for the trip home.  He’s an expert at “losing” his collars – and trust me we’ve tried every kind I can find!  I wonder if I should have bought a spare…

So handsome in his new collar

Mr. Chitters showing off his new duds on the deck of the Cabin

Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll be able to go get the cooler and the rest of my groceries, but for now that little bunk bed is all I can think about.

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