Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chistmas in the Whites

Me, Magan and our two dogs enjoyed Christmas eve and Christmas day in the White Mountains Winter Rec area. We skied into Colorado Creek Cabin under a beautiful moon and starlight sky making the use of supplemental light optional. The starlight sky and light breeze on the way in made for about as nice of a ski as could be asked for.

We spent the night at Colorado Creek Cabin and enjoyed the very warm wood stove and a bunch of tasty food.

Once we were back on the trail the winds were really howling up on the open ridge where we were starting from. Nothing a little activity could not combat thought. Above is a picture of Magans set-up...Jack up front, Magan with backpack and skis and a pulk full of gear in tow.

The trip out was great, the trail is a fairly gradual downhill grade, the snow was fairly fast and the breeze was either to our back or blowing sideways. I could not have asked for a much nicer Christmas.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Fun In and Around Fairbanks

It has been a very graceful slide into winter this year in Interior Alaska. September and the first part of October have allowed everyone to finish up all of the outside chores that usually get left until next spring thanks to warm weather and no real snow. This mild fall has also let us enjoy some fun activities that don't include ski's or snowshoes.

Working in the Western Village of Gambell-

Gambell is located on St. Lawrence Island, west of mainland Alaska. It is actually closer to Russia than the U.S. It is an interesting village with strong ties to the local marine mammals, using them as subsistence resources. It was nice to hear them speaking their native Yupik language more than English which is something that I have not experienced in the Interior villages that I have visited. The picture above shows a pile of whale bones and a skin boat used for hunting and fishing.

Dried seal and a few dried dolly varden char.

I bought a nice pair of seal skin mittens from a local woman.

Gambell is located on a spit and was always blanketed by fog in the mornings when I was there.

The Equinox Marathon-

The annual Equinox Marathon is truly a highlight of every year for me. This is the second year that team BIZP has run the relay together. We still have not broke the speed record, but we are shooting for the worst facial hair mark.

Luke is ripping up the course on his way down Gold hill Rd.

Liz hosts the annual "sinners and winners" support booth. You can enjoy a cold Gatorade or a cold Pabst if that is what you need a the time.

Magan ran the last leg of the relay for her team. Although she claims to hate running I think she enjoyed this race.

Test Ride on the Clearwater-

I recently pulled the trigger on a new/used inflatable boat. So Magan, the dogs and I went down to the Delta Clear Water for a trial run.

Magan is trying to hook up with a late season Silver Salmon. We did not catch any fish but had a good time on the river.

Establishing the Garden-

We got the future garden site tilled up and our soil samples pulled before things froze up.

Angel Rocks with darleen-

And just this past weekend we got together with a great friend darleen and hiked the Angel Rocks trail. We even got to enjoy some home grown chicken with Mike and darleen at their place after the hike.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Done!

Well at least as far as the bank is concerned I'm done with my house building project. I have a multi-year plan that includes many upgrades such as: landscaping, a garage, a sauna, a garden and too many other small improvements to include in this post. The bottom line is the major construction phase is over after about 18 months. Now that the house is done, the wild game is in the freezer and the woodpile is big, I invite winter to start creeping into Goldstream Valley so the work can finally end and the skis can come out along with long nights and good times at my new home.

My driveway looking out across Goldsream Valley and up at Ester Dome.

I still have a large deck to build on the front of the house but for this year I am satisfied. This piece of land has changed a bit since my June 2008 post Building for the Future.

A shot of the front of the house.

The Kitchen
The living room...a rocking chair, a wood burner and a good dog. No complaints here.

This is a custom railing built from local birch with a inlaid piece of metal work. My Mom and step dad helped finance the railing and Magan helped with the construction.

The bedroom

A view from a side window into the parking area...in a couple of years I will build a garage where the vehicles are currently parked.
My wood pile...I will make many trips to this stack throughout the winter months. I am actually looking forward to whittling through the stack.

Blue skies and golden birch leaves make it hard to leave my little homestead and drive into Fairbanks for another day in the cubicle...I guess I'll survive.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hunting 2009

I was lucky enough to take two more trips up to the Brooks Range this August. Both trips were walk-in backpack hunts for Dall Sheep and both trips provided me with memories and lessons learned. I must say that the weather was less than desirable but the quality of the company and the sheep meat in the freezer will be tough to trump.

Luke and I walked in during a blizzard on August 9th. Once we made camp we were tent bound for the next 30 hours due to crappy conditions.

Once we started sheep hunting we realized that finding white sheep on snow covered mountains might be a bit challenging.

We ended up moving camp to get us in a more huntable location. It was a great valley but the sunshine did not melt the snow quick enough for our liking.

The bright sun and fresh snow was creating concerns for Luke and I. Neither of us had brought sunglasses and feared snow blindness. We created these sweet mesh masks from the ventilation panels from his hat. We also used a little duct tape for sun screen. I'm pretty sure we are not going to get accused of having too much extra gear on this trip.
We could not find any legal rams on that trip, but we certainly had some good laughs and a good time overall.
My buddy Shawn Verhulst came up from Wisconsin a couple of weeks later to chase caribou and I was still looking for sheep. We walked into the same place and found very similar weather...cold, windy, and mixed precip.

Shawn and I were enjoying a little down time on the tundra before we glassed some nice rams a couple miles away. From where we were sitting in this picture, we began a stalk that ultimately yielded a nice legal ram.

A nice 9 year old full curl ram.

I shot the ram almost ten miles from the road. We were able to get the field dressed animal back to camp at around 1:30 in the morning...it was not too late to have a few celebratory sips of whiskey. The next day we packed the ram and camp to the rest of the way out to the road. It was a heavy load on the way out. It was a good heavy though!
After giving up most of our elevation we were able to enjoy some of the colors of the late season tundra.
After Shawn and I got back from the Brooks Range we teamed up with Luke to do some trout and salmon fishing on the Kenai River. The weather was fantastic and the fish kept us very busy.
Luke had us totally outfitted. Here we are on our way back to camp after a day of floating and fishing. His rig looked pretty sweet stacked up with the camper and the boat.
We had a grizzly follow us for a few hundred yards one day. It was a pretty cool experience. He was just out for a nice swim and some salmon fishing too.

Luke hooks up.

This deformed catch really should have won fish of the trip but Shawn ended up with the title by landing a chubby 24+ inch Rainbow trout. (pictured below)
Our last day on the Kenai we took a little time to pursue Silver salmon. We had a couple on the stringer at the end of the day but several other fish showed us up by denying final capture after we set hooks into them.
When all was said and done Shawn got to go home with some fresh salmon fillets and a few prime cuts of sheep meat as well as a few memories I would suppose.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Doin' the Hulahula...A Packrafting Trip Through ANWR

Ed's planning, great weather and some of Alaska's finest country made our 140 mile arctic traverse one that I won't forget soon. The traverse began in the upper Sheenjek River drainage on the south side of the Brooks Range and took us up and over the continental divide and down into the headwaters of the Hulahula drainage. We walked along the Hulahula until we thought that we could put our boats in the water...which proved to be a bit premature. Once we reached the confluence of the Itkilik and the Hulahula we had an eventful float into the arctic coastal plain. From there we hiked across some open tundra to position ourselves for a paddle across a small stretch of the Arctic Ocean and over to Barter Island for one last hike into the Native Village of Kaktovik. Enjoy the pictures...I know I enjoyed the adventure and the company!

many of these photos are taken by Ed Plumb

I am feeling really good about the week ahead of me...nothing but hiking, paddling and enjoying the north for 8 days. Big medicine.

The hiking was really nice for the most part but we had a few challenging river crossings once we started to gain elevation.

This one of the nameless glaciers in the upper Sheenjek Valley.

This is my attempt at Arctic Art...I call it "Sheep Turds on Purple Rocks"

Descending off the back of the continental divide.

Ann gets a good stretch in in the morning before we break camp and head down to see the Hulahula for the first time.
Robin looks mighty happy while she enjoys the blue skies and nice hiking.

We saw this big old bruin while we were enjoying a break. Once he came across our scent he spun around a headed in the other direction.
A couple of caribou antlers in a great valley.
Once we reached confluence of the Hulahula and the Itkilik it was time to inflate the boats again start the paddle towards the coast. We had attempted to float ealier but the water was really fast and we ended up pulling out.

Ed's having a good time.

I'm enjoying some quite water on the river.

Ann powers through a big hole.

Chris and Robin dry off some cloths after a day on the river.

A Dall Sheep lamb and ewe.

Chris rides a wave.

We took a few hours and went on a day hike to see if we could get some better views of Mt. Mikelson. We did not get quite high enough to see the big mountain but the hiking was great and it was nice to break up the paddling.
Ed enters the supposed canyon.

Ann and I scout out a rapid toward the end of the canyon.

A good looking red sun.

Some cotton grass on the tundra.

I think this was the first time that any of us had ever paddled in the Arctic Ocean.

The Brooks Range loomed behind us as we walked along the Barter Island coast.

We walked into the Village of Kaktovic ready to find the diner and enjoy a greasy breakfast made to order.

The two white blobs in the middle of this picture are Polar Bears. They had been napping and cleaning up the bones from a recent Buluga whale harvest.

Here is a beautiful shot looking south at the North American continent. The last night of the trip was spent on Barter Island. Although it always feels good to accomplish the goal that was set back in the planning process, it is always hard to leave the carefree nature of a pack trip behind.