Posts Tagged With: friends

Ready, set, go!

My friend, Christine, made the front page this morning! Follow her on Facebook at Kinetic Kennels and read up on her kennel with this Anchorage Daily News story and photos. I can’t decide if I’m nervous or excited for her!
http://www.adn.com/2013/02/25/2802390/iditarod-rookies-sled-dogs-are.html

(if the link above doesn’t work, just go to adn.com – it’s the lead story for today, February 26)

She has invited several of us to join her at the musher’s banquet on Thursday, which will be a treat. There the mushers will draw for positions/bibs. Then on Saturday morning they run across Anchorage in the ceremonial start. The real thing starts on Sunday in Willow.
Then we have a week and a half of worrying and watching race reports!

Go Christine!

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Iditarod Dreams

I recently came across a brand new blog by a teacher named Kurt who has dreams of coming to Alaska to take part in the Iditarod.  He doesn’t have his “donate” button up and running yet, but visit his blog at http://eagle4008.wordpress.com/  and be infected by his enthusiasm for learning about the Iditarod and using it in his classroom! 

In honor of Kurt’s dreams I thought I would tell about our trip to Nome several years ago and the great treat of seeing the last of the racers come in across the Bering Sea.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have a friend, C., who is a musher.  Back then, she was a dreamer with a single husky and a lot of ideas, one of which was to volunteer during Iditarod to get a foot into the mushing world.  2005 was her second or third Iditarod volunteer experience and her first time working at the finish in Nome.  That same year, another friend’s husband was working in Nome for a big construction company and offered us a place to stay if we wanted to come to see the end of the race.  It was serendipitous.  We went.

Nome during Iditarod is an amazing and bustling little metropolis.  An official watcher is posted somewhere south of town and calls to signal the air raid siren to blow each time a musher is spotted on the final approach across the ice.  This gives spectators and officials time to gear up and get down to the finish line to welcome the teams in. 

Standing on the brakes as they approach the Burled Arch on Front Street

The apartment we were borrowing was one block from the sea, so each time the siren went off we jumped into our boots and trotted over to cheer and take pictures. 

When the siren sounded, we had about five minutes to get to this spot to see the mushers crossing the last bit of ice before heading up onto Front Street.

One of the local residents stepped out on their deck for each musher and rang a big cowbell to urge them on.  Understand that mushers don’t sit around waiting for daylight!  That siren and cowbell were apt to go at any hour of the day OR night!  It was a bit of a thrill to lie in bed and hear that another one was coming in, but I didn’t always opt to go out and try to see them in the dark.

Between mushers we wandered the town on foot.  The weather that year was fantastic, with sunshine and temps in the low 30’s(F) almost every day. 

Each dog got lots of love and personal attention from the musher, who had to be exhausted himself.

A well deserved rest!

D. checked in at race headquarters and decided to actually volunteer.  If you should be in Nome during Iditarod I recommend looking into the many volunteer opportunities.  They asked her to come in at 6am to help with some of the record keeping on the big boards that track the mushers.  By then most of them were either in Nome or had scratched, so there wasn’t much for her to do, but she really enjoyed being a part of the activity. 

The Bering Sea sometimes becomes an airstrip for the many small planes that are called into service during Iditarod

After her volunteer shift we took advantage of a special pancake breakfast ($10) where spectators like us got to sit alongside mushers and their handlers and families.  We got a chance to meet young Rachel Scdoris, the legally blind musher, who unfortunately had had to scratch due to sick dogs that year.  (She has completed the race twice since then!) 

The famous Burled Arch is actually stored in an alley the rest of the year

Each dog is carefully checked by officials while the musher waits under the Arch before they can go off to the dog yards for a rest.

As if we needed any icing on the cake, we then went to the mushers’ banquet that night. (I think the tickets were about $20.)  Predictably there were more than enough speeches and awards, but being a crowd of mushers and handlers and race volunteers, there wasn’t a great deal of formality!  We met DeeDee Jonrowe, a perennial favorite among the women mushers, and saw many more notables. 

The next summer, as an official Iditarod volunteer, D. was invited to the big picnic in Wasilla.

Our friend C. is going to Nome again next year…behind a team of dogs this time.  She officially qualified this spring (YAY!) and is taking time off work to train like crazy over the next four months.  I would love to go see her cross the finish line, but there is a serious lack of accommodations to be had in Nome so we’ll probably have to cheer her on from Anchorage.

C.’s team, with Spazzy who was apparently full of jumping beans!

I hope to be posting pictures or at least news of her crossing under the Burled Arch next spring!

 

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A Day At The Top Of The World

Saturday in Deadhorse:

We had reservations on a tour through the camp so were up fairly early in order to take advantage of the showers at the Arctic Caribou Inn (our hotel/RV camp) before catching our bus.  Security is pretty strict there.  In order to get to the Arctic Ocean you have to go through the oil production areas, and that is by tour bus only.  In order to board the tour bus you have to sign in, present ID, watch the informational safety video and sit through a little lecture.  Heads are counted any time the group moves anywhere. 

The driver was friendly and the day was gorgeous.  The camp was not exciting to me, just a bunch of apparently random metal structures whose various purposes I’ve long since forgotten, but when we got to the Arctic Ocean, our driver let us get out and run down to dip our toes. 

The beach in Deadhorse. You can see more oil field production buildings in the distance

The family from Kentucky that we met in Coldfoot stripped to bathing suits and dunked all the way in!  They had totaled their car just outside of Deadhorse and a BP safety officer had had to rescue them the night before, but they were all in good spirits obviously!  Although the ambient temperature was in the high 60’s, the wind off the sea was chilly, so most of us opted for dipping rather than plunging.  (You can get a certificate for a Polar Bear Plunge or a Dip!) 

After our tour and our dip (another head count as we reboarded the bus), we returned to camp to pack up and start back down the road.  We hated to leave after such a short stay, but hey, it took us over two days to get here, so …

One of the girls decided to clear Winnie’s back window before we headed out. As dirty as it looks here, the mud of Atigun Pass later created a layer nearly an inch thick that hardened like cement. There were rocks embedded in it when we went to the car wash!

A brief stop at the Deadhorse general store (and souvenir shop!) and we were headed south…the only direction available!  The weather continued to hold until we approached the Brooks Range.  Fantastic clouds built up on the horizon and a drizzle made the approach to Atigun Pass muddy and slick. 

Weather on the horizon as we waited for the rest of the convoy to catch up

Winnie picked up a new rattle which we discovered was a dangling muffler.  At the top of the pass we decided we shouldn’t let it bounce all the way back to Anchorage, so I crawled under and wired it up with a piece of wire coat hanger, earning the fix-it queen title for the trip!  What made it exciting was not being able to turn Winnie off while I worked next to that hot muffler!  One of the ladies held it up in place with a big serving spoon while I fastened the wire.  Hey, whatever works…

(Our practice throughout the trip was to only shut Winnie off at night…she had to keep running even during our lunch stops for fear of not being able to get her going again!)

North side of Atigun Pass (I think)…again plenty of leisure time to shoot out the window as Winnie huffed and puffed her way to the top

The downhill run out of Atigun Pass was slick and spooky in the rain.  Winnie’s hips sashayed a bit, but she held the road.  The pop-up trailer was a little more sketchy, threatening at every turn to pull S.’s van off the road.  She was geared as low as she could go and crept down with as little braking as she could get away with and made it just fine.  At the bottom of the steepest part of the grade the road began drying out and we were in sunshine and blue skies again within a few miles.  (I can’t imagine driving that pass in an 18-wheeler…let alone on ice!!)

Fireweed as far as you can see. We had to stop again on the way south to get pictures of this incredible pink valley

We made it to Marian Creek Campground north of Coldfoot without further incident, pulling in at about midnight.  There we were finally able to celebrate in style.  Wine, champagne (for a Fourth of July toast) and beer flowed, along with a concoction known only as “coffee creamer.”  We got so silly that the only other group camped there came and politely asked us to party elsewhere!  Oops… We apologized and packed it in for the night.  In our defense, it was still broad daylight and we hadn’t really processed how late it was…not a good excuse I know. 

The TransAlaska Pipeline. It’s full of zigzags that I think are to help slow the flow oil and handle pipe expansion…don’t quote me on that!

Sunday we stopped at the Hot Spot Café between Coldfoot and the Yukon River camp.  There we ran into our neighbor and his girlfriend!  Alaska is the definition of “small world.”  After great hamburgers eaten outdoors in the sun, we continued on to Fairbanks, arriving at a decent hour for a change!  This time there were no adventures involved in finding the RV park.  We were a bit subdued after a rowdy night and a long trip. 

I had to stop on the way home and get a shot of Winnie with the Arctic Circle sign. My passenger never woke up…we were a tired bunch of ladies!

Monday morning was quiet.  Part of the group took off to visit Santa Land in North Pole while the rest of us bathed, chipped at the worst of the mud and dust in and on our rigs, and relaxed in the sun.  Our tourists returned and we pulled out of Fairbanks mid-day and made it back to Anchorage by about 10pm.  

As Winnie pulled into our cul-de-sac she started making a horrible clunking sound in the rear.  We stopped at the curb, jumping out in alarm…and then laughed.  After nearly 1600 miles, in the road construction in our own neighborhood she had picked up a huge rock between her dualies!  No matter…we were home.

Yet another shot of the pipeline…north of the Brooks Range I think

 Epilogue:  Like us, Winnie had a good time, but she was tired and dirty.  She refused to start a couple of days later when we got in her to go the carwash!  A neighbor helped us get her going and $30 worth of quarters later we had the last of the mud blasted off and drove her out to Palmer to get that new starter installed and the muffler more professionally fixed. 

For our first road trip, she did AWESOME! 

My dad repeatedly shakes his head in wonder at the trips we’ve made with this little rig that he had given up on!

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Days 2 & 3 – Deadhorse or Bust!

Surprisingly, we all woke up fairly early Thursday after our late night.  Of course, that did NOT mean we got on the road early!  Seven women, seven bladders and the availability of hot showers are not a good combination for maintaining any strict schedule.  (Not a complaint…just an observation.  I love the lack of a schedule on a vacation!) 

Eventually we did pull out, but just to cross the street to Fred Meyers to pick up a few things.  Another stop at an auto parts store to purchase a starter for Winnie and we were finally on the road a little after 1pm.  (Predictably there was no way to get Winnie’s starter fixed on a holiday weekend, so we just decided to have the parts on hand and keep our fingers crossed!) 

We passed the road to Livengood and the turn-off to Manley Hot Springs and began to feel like we were really on the Dalton Highway by mid afternoon.

The pipe itself is covered under that slanted metal sheet that is probably designed to shed snow

Crossing the Yukon River was a treat, the pipeline crossing alongside us just out of sight below the highway.  We pulled into the camp on the far side of river to gas up and make sandwiches for dinner.  There is a nice overlook and information center that was worth the walk.  At 80F the weather was almost miserably hot for driving so we welcomed every stop where we could get out of our rolling tin cans and away from the dust of the road!

Driving into the low angled midnight sun created a real visibility problem with the dust as we pushed on from the Yukon.  The billowing dust was like a thick fog, completely obscuring sight of the road…and the oncoming trucks!  We crept at a snails pace for many miles before the road turned enough to give us some relief.

The sight of this pink valley made us all gasp. The pictures don’t do it justice

One welcome break from the dust was a valley that we descended into that was solid magenta from fireweed.  A recent forest fire had blackened the spruce trees that you see poking up like spikes.  The fireweed blanketed all the nearby hills, identifying the spread of the fire that had preceded it.

It was close to midnight when we decided to call it quits for the day.  We had originally hoped to make it to Coldfoot, but the tense drive through the dust had left us all exhausted so we camped at the Arctic Circle pullout instead.  Once the pop-up was set up we pulled out camp chairs and enjoyed a beer in the glow of the midnight sun before going off to our respective beds.

 

No more sunsets until we come back through!

Friday morning was leisurely.  The pullout at the Arctic Circle attracted many visitors who shared stories of the road with us including a group of high-spirited young BLM volunteers.  We were to see them again several times along the road.  A middle aged couple on big touring motorcycles were on their way back from Deadhorse and reported that they had had heavy rain all the way up.  A family from Kentucky was woefully underprepared in their little rental sedan, but determined to go on to the end of the road.

We drove on into Coldfoot Camp where we lunched at a local café and toured the beautiful visitor’s center before heading on.  The road was well maintained and the views were incredible as we approached Atigun Pass. 

The long, low grade approach to Atigun Pass…see the pipeline in the distance? That Pipe is 8 feet in diameter by the way

Winnie’s climb to the top of that pass was epic.  The other two vehicles pulled aside so we could blow past as fast as we dared on the approach…we needed all the momentum we could get!  Less than halfway up she began bogging down and she crept up the last mile at 20 mph, but she made it! 

I wasn’t driving and at 20mph had plenty of leisure to snap pictures out the window as we climbed Atigun! Whew!

The weather continued to be beautiful and hot, so the shade and patches of snow at the top of the pass were a fun snowball fight break for us! 

The terrain on the north side of the Brooks Range is completely different from the south side.  We weren’t just above treeline in terms of altitude, we were above treeline latitudinally!  South of Atigun is thick with brush and the occasional tree.  North it’s all tundra.  As far as the eye can see and farther.

That’s Winnie up there at the head of the convoy today…the pipeline is marching along beside us

We counted down the Pump Stations as we approached Deadhorse.  At #2 we knew we had less than 100 miles to go and pushed on in spite of the late hour.  Winnie’s fuel light came on within sight of the camp, but she made it to the fuel station.  (We had five gallons of gas on the luggage rack, but the can was caked with dust and we hoped to not have to unstrap it!) 

Because of our concerns over gas, we didn’t stop with the other two vehicles who had spotted a herd of musk oxen far in the distance.  We did see a big bull caribou wandering through the camp as we were gassing up though!

This big guy came by our campsite for a visit! No, that’s not the Transalaska Pipeline behind him…just a utility pipe for the camp.

Our “RV park” was really the parking lot of the camp’s hotel.  The “hotel” was really a converted modular building that had been used as barracks in the early days of the pipeline building project. 

Yep, that’s our RV parking spot. The blue building in the background is the hotel. See why we didn’t want to have to access that gas can on the luggage rack? Ewww!

Whatever, we didn’t care.  We pulled into a slot under the electric lines and plugged in.  The camp is strictly dry – as in you face possible prosecution for bringing any alcohol in – so we had to celebrate our achievement very quietly. 

Welcome to Deadhorse, Alaska!

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Prelude to a road trip…

I’ve been promising some road trip stories for awhile now and the onset of winter seems a good time to sit around the fire and tell tall tales, so pull up your chair, wrap your chilled fingers around that mug of coffee (is that Irish crème I smell in your mug?) and enjoy…

In the early 80’s my parents invested in a little Winnebago motorhome.  Let me further define “little.”  This is not a Minnie Winnie such as you see on the road or in RV lots all the time.  It’s much smaller.  In fact it’s actually a Micro 319RK according to my insurance guy.  Driving it is not far different from driving a small pickup…like Chevy Luv small…like sitting directly on the pavement with a small house bouncing along behind you…small.

Isn’t she cute? She fits in most regular parking spots at the grocery store!

 My folks drove it down the Alcan twice on extended shopping trips as they looked for a winter home.  By the end of the second trip the starter began acting up and after a few more years of travels around the state, Dad gave up and parked it.   

I soon started hinting that I wanted first option when he was ready to sell it.  Finally, after it sat for nearly 4 years, he said, “come get it if you still want it, otherwise I’m towing it to the dump.” 

So for my 45th birthday I got a motorhome! 

Winnie can go places some of the big rigs can’t easily go – This cleft in the rock is the only road to get to McCarthy

My roommate, D., and I drove to Nikiski to collect it.  Mom and Dad helped with some new tires and a new cabin battery as part of my birthday present and we drove it back to Anchorage with no problems.  After an oil change, D’s brother looked it over and did some small, mostly cosmetic, repairs but otherwise pronounced it sound.  As an “RV warming” gift he and his wife bought us a hitch rack for additional luggage space.

We were ready for our first motorhome road trip!

Winnie at the Arctic Circle

 Take a look at a good map of Alaska.  See that wiggly line that goes from the northernmost coastline all the way to the bottom of the state?  That is the TransAlaska Pipeline that carries oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.  Following that pipe for most of its 800+ miles is a road known as the Haul Road or the Dalton Highway.  It has been featured on Ice Road Truckers in the last couple of years.  That was the road we decided to try on our first real outing!

(warning:  boys and girls…don’t try this at home!)

Map borrowed from Wikipedia…our route picked up the pipeline at Fairbanks and followed it all the way to Prudhoe Bay

(PS stands for Pump Station, Fairbanks close to PS8)

There were seven women altogether in three vehicles.  S. (my cabin neighbor) with two other ladies in her van and towing her popup camper, three of us in Winnie, and C. in her elderly Grand Cherokee.  We spent 5 days on the road together and there are WAY too many stories to tell in one post, never mind the thousands of photos I could share! 

Stay tuned…800 miles of mostly dirt road to come!

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September 7-9 Fish Camp

My roommate has spoiled her friends with an annual tradition that we call “Fish Camp.”  After the summer renters have all left the lodge on the Kenai River, she uses it to house a group who are itching for one last big fishing trip to close out the year.  (She gets to use Broken Rod Lodge in return for care-taking it in the off season.)

Mt. Redoubt seen from the end of the runway on Funny River Road. One of my favorite photo stops on the way to Broken Rod Lodge

Everyone makes their way to Soldotna Friday night, most arriving in time for snacks and cocktails catered by my roommate.  Those who are fishing get up at what she calls “o-dark-thirty” on Saturday morning to drive to the boat launch to catch their guided fishing charter, while she stays behind to prepare for the evening feast and festivities when the fishing folks return. 

One year she did a Cajun “dump” dinner, somehow convincing all of her gullible guests to put on disposable surgical hazmat overalls without revealing what was in store for them.  Much giggling and outright guffaws ensued as we all sat around the table and watched each other in our ridiculous costumes eating from a steaming mess of delicious food dumped in the middle of the table!  (Note: hazmat suits are NOT necessary to eat a dump dinner under normal circumstances!)

That one will be hard to top, but she made a noble effort this year with grilled fresh red salmon, grilled New York steaks, homemade rolls, baked beans, salad, roasted veggies and much more.  It took two tables to hold all the food!  Afterward, anyone still able to waddle outside gathers around the fire pit to drink and tell fish stories.  We always intend to make s’mores but the size of the meal often discourages dessert longings! 

Red willow leaf…fall is really here…sigh

Sadly, Fish Camp marks the beginning of the end of summer.  This year we saw everyone off Sunday morning after a big breakfast of quiche and fruit.  Three of us stayed behind to finish laundry and dishes, clean out the refrigerator and tidy up, before we too headed back to Anchorage.

Mushrooms – another sign of fall. I laid my camera on the moss, pointed it up at the mushroom and trusted it to focus!

Soon the lodge will be officially closed up: plumbing drained and disconnected; pump shut off; furnace shut off; remaining liquid items stashed in the bathtub in case of frozen explosions.  Outside, the big travel trailer (that serves as a spare bedroom at the height of the season) is also winterized and then gets completely tarp-wrapped.  The fishing platforms on the river bank even get hauled out to minimize damage due to ice during breakup.  The lodge is completely inaccessible once the snow flies, so once it’s closed, we won’t see the inside of it again until May. 

In addition, as part of the chores this trip, we drove Winnie out to her winter home in my parents’ backyard in Nikiski.  We didn’t get to do much RV’ing this year…weather and schedules got in the way. 

Winnie’s custom made winter home…doesn’t she look sad?

It was hard to leave the Peninsula to head back to Anchorage.  The sun did its best to tempt us to stay, lighting the increasing fall colors along the road, but a stiff breeze warned of coming storms.  I took a short walk with my camera, but couldn’t linger.  

Camera shy leaves kept dancing away from my lens and defying me to take a focused picture!

With such a busy weekend, these fall color pictures taken during my walk were all that I took, but in hindsight I really regret not getting a shot of that food laden table!

 

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A milestone in a marriage…

Got back Sunday afternoon from a really great weekend with my family.  My parents were in their glory as friends and far-flung cousins joined in their celebration of 50 years together.  Dad’s musician friends sat and played and sang into the evening, the younger cousins took off briefly for a couple of hours at the local go-cart track, and the rest of us meandered about, acquainting or re-acquainting ourselves with one another.  My free-spirited aunts were a big hit with my camping friends!  

An impressive shot taken with a self timer and a lot of determination!

Dad pulled out a bunch of old photographs family and of past gatherings, laying them on a table in the entryway of the apartment we were using for the party.  In one, he pointed out that of all the grown men in the photo (taken nearly 40 years ago) only he and an ex-husband of an aunt (does that make him an ex-uncle?) are still alive.  The women, especially on my Mom’s side, are very long-lived.  If I can dodge the family bullet of breast cancer, I can expect to be around for another 30-50 years!  Even with two bouts of that miserable disease and a terribly sedentary lifestyle, Mom is looking great at almost 75. 

 In the spirit of protecting unsuspecting family from public exposure on my blog, I won’t be posting any pictures of the party, but the drive to Soldotna and back was lovely. 

This is not a dog that had to be tricked into liking to swim!

On the way down we stopped at a campground to let Filson out of the motor home for a potty break and a chance to run for a bit.  The sunshine felt glorious and the lake was beautiful. 

You still here? Why won’t you play with me?

Filson found a dead fish carcass and kept trying to get it to play with him.  He would swim out to fetch his tennis ball and then would detour on the way back to show the ball to the fish…”you sure you don’t want to play?”  (Apparently during his week on the Kenai River he got used to the freshly caught salmon flopping on the bank.)

 

When the top buds bloom or “top out” we say we have six weeks til winter

The fireweed is especially brilliant this year, probably because there hasn’t been a great deal of sunshine to fade the blooms, although Friday’s weather couldn’t have been more perfect. 

 The day of the party, Saturday, the rain came and went all day.  Luckily, prepared Alaskans that we are, we had a total of four canopies between us, so there was plenty of shelter over the outdoor eating area.  Filson was a hit with everyone, even the assorted little dogs brought by other family members.  He had no trouble finding people to throw the tennis ball for him, and of course he loves the rain!

 Sunday’s drive back to Anchorage was not quite as nice as the trip on Friday.  Although it didn’t rain, the sun never quite overcame the thick layer of clouds.  Still, my stop at Tern Lake netted me some nice shots of spawning red salmon and king salmon (sockeyes and Chinooks) in Dave’s Creek.  And you should have seen the one that got away!  Friend D. came back to town Monday and said the kings were thick in the creek.  The red coloration occurs when they hit the fresh water after living the bulk of their lives at sea.  They are literally rotting to death as they make their way upstream to lay and fertilize eggs in the gravel beds.

 

Not good for eating at this stage, but beautiful to photograph

I was once again thankful that my Cabin is NOT on the Kenai Peninsula as I fought miles of steady traffic all the way home.  I hope to make a quick trip up to the Cabin this weekend.  Although I may endure some heavy traffic – 3 lanes deep and as far as the eye can see – on the way out of town at rush hour, I will soon have the whole highway to myself.  I lived in Los Angeles for a few months and I understand that some folks will find my definition of “heavy” traffic amusing, but everything is relative. 

Raven on the chimney of Summit Lake Lodge on the Seward Hwy

Anyway, a weekend trip is something to look forward to regardless of traffic.

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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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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

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