Monday, August 18, 2008

I have had a most full weekend of wonderfulness. It included catching my limit of reds on the Russian River and three amazing hikes. Here a pictures which are worth a thousand words!!!
The Missoulians of Seward RD, Jenny, Shannon and Rachel
Harding Icefield
Vally of Mount Alice
Michael and Mount Alice
A trail project just outside of the main Seward RD office building

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rock fish from Res Bay
Scenic mountains from Res bay
Maintenance trike at Russian River
Otter on Res Bay
Swimming in Carter Lake!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pink from Res Creek
Morale-boosting trail pancakes
Smoking pinks
Cassie, Kelly, Jenny and Rachel on the way to Grant Lake
Resurrection Bay

So to quickly update and refresh the the memory of the future me, who will undoubtedly rely on this blog as a reference when writing my autobiography...

I spent the last two weeks working on the Carter Lake Trail and we what some might call a bit of summer. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds just long enough for me to skinny dip in two lakes on two separate occasions. It also peeked out long enough to exacerbate my cow parsnip exposures on my arms and neck to the point of small blisters! Not only that but the sun's rays almost convinced me that I wanted to stay in Alaska forever and explore its every nook and cranny, but five minutes later, lightening ripped the sky and let out a torrent of rain strong enough to wash away small pebbles and create flash floods on the trail. I do love a lightening and thunder storm though!!

Carter lake trail held all kinds of surprises for us. First of all, the trail is much like the "M" trail for about 1 hour and then it opens up into this high alpine plateau that is ringed by peaks, peppered with goats and sheep. So every morning we had a real treat of a hike during which I did a lot of thinking and reflecting and day dreaming and poem memorizing. I can now recite the Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dangerous Dan McGrew by Robert Service. We were doing basic maintenance work on the trail such as brushing, clearing ditches and constructing drainage dips. One morning, a cow moose and two calfs bolted down the trail as I was hiking up. I jumped up the trail as the skittered to a stop and we came to a bit of a stand off as we both waited for the other to pass. Eventually, I was able to get far enough off the trail to convince them to pass by. The next day, I spotted a grizzly bear rooted around in a campsite across the lake from me as I ate lunch. He moseyed on to the lake shore and jumped in and splashed around. I can only assume he was fishing for the greyling that they stock in the lake. I watched him for about two hours until he started moseying my way and I decided to clear the area. I also saw a bull moose tramping along the hill side above where we were working. At some point when the rain set in again, my crew sunk into a pit of despair and bad feelings so I made sourdough pancakes for them during a lunch break on my camp stove. It was fun but didn't really work. I made cupcakes the next day and that didn't really work either.

However, after work has been a joy as always. Highlights have included canoeing on Kenai Lake with my dormies and hollering at the cliffs with all our might to summon our echoes as well as a lively dinner at a coworkers house with his wife and two dogs. He goes by many names: Equipment Dave, Mountain Dave, or if you're me, you get the two confused and combine them to equal Machine Dave, or if you're Kurt, you call him Mountain Dew. Either way, when the shit hits the fan and the revolution happens, I am going to Machine Dave's place because he has everything from a composting toilet to semi automatics and a garden. His wife cooked up a scrumptious meal all in cast iron while we sipped bud lights and watched his dogs root around in the garden. His house, which he built with his own two hands doesn't have running water or electricity and is lined with stuff. So much stuff, and random too, but all interesting and I had to look at it all! Dave is a sweet old guy that wouldn't hurt a fly but he is part of a motorcycle gang and tells stories of being in the military and the like and I get the feeling that he has a crusty rusty past. He always has a huge smile for me and a lot of stories though. At one point, he brought me a bunch of books about strong frontier women!

Let's see, some other highlights include volunteering for Stream Watch on the Russian River, hiking to Caines Head and watching the chum salmon run up the delta and fishing for pink salmon on Resurrection Creek out of Hope. I went with Claire and Dave and they showed me the basic art of snagging salmon. Some salmon, reds and pinks included, don't eat while they are spawning. You just have to hook them in the mouth as they swim upstream breathing. The river was thick with these amazing creatures. Some had developed huge disgusting humps on their backs as they began the rotting process. It wasn't too difficult to snag a fish. In fact, any idiot could and was doing it on the river that morning. Landing the fish was a little more difficult and I barely managed to get my limit of three by the time we left. Feeling high on my pink fishing success, I tried my hand again at fishing for reds on the Russian River the next day and failed miserably. The second run has been really low and hasn't gotten too far up the river. That was my big mistake...instead of fishing the lower river, I hiked a trail three miles up and fished down from there. It was low on fish but high on scenic beauty, so I won't complain.

I proceeded to deal with fish all week as I embarked on the process of smoking the pinks I had caught. You have to soak the fillets in brine overnight (I used apple juice, salt and brown sugar), let them dry and form peliculil on their surface and then smoke them. I borrowed a shitty smoker and had to smoke my fish for something like 20 hours including overnight and had to replenish the smoking tray every hour or so. All the fuss and sleep loss was worth it though because my smoked salmon is very tasty!

I took a hike up to a very scenic lake with all of my dormies one evening after work and ran into two folks from my crew and their 4 dogs. So there were twelve of us stampeding up the trail and infringing on some poor kayakers solitude. There was an old mining cabin up there and was fully stocked with peanut butter and maple syrup. I don't know why the bears haven't ravaged the place.

I spent last weekend fishing and hiking. Kelly's family took us out on Resurrection bay in their little 16 foot boat and we fished for silver salmon. Unfortunately they forgot the bait. Fortunately, it was a BEAUTIFUL day and the mountains and vibrant colors were out in full force. I basked in the sun and ogled the scenery completely content to be out on the water. We caught a small rock fish and a small silver salmon with lures but threw them both back.
We had dinner at a Greek restaurant in Seward where the solo canoe guy from Grant lake was our server! Later, Kelly and Caroline and I lived it up at the Yukon bar where Nervis Rex was playing some ska goodness. We danced our heart our with a couple of commercial fishermen from Homer. Then, on the ride back home we stopped at a pullout to look at the stars-my first Alaskan star sighting!

I went hiking to Fuller Lakes with Kelly and Cassie and we were stormed on again. I love lightening and thunder, they conger up such energy! I made a salmon quiche for my dormies that evening and continued smoke fish.

I went back to the Russian River to get fishing for reds right and actually caught two after being ran off the river by a brown bear for a half hour or so. The place is a death trap for bears. 9 have been killed there by fisher-people or fish and wildlife service. This little bear was minding his own business, looking for fish carcasses and all the fisher-people cleared out of his way. I wanted to stay well out of his way but I also didn't want to let him out of my sight because I didn't want to walk into him. After foraging at the fish cleaning tables he ambled across the river from me and proceeded down stream. After that, I learned a few tricks from my fellow fisher-people and landed a beautiful chrome colored red and then a humpy ugly red colored red which I had to throw back. They are not good to keep once they have changed from chrome to red.

As it stands now, I shall continue my random adventures, perhaps go fight a fire in the states, but maybe not, and slog through work until I am done at the end of September.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


His goal in life was to be an echo
Riding alone, town after town, toll after toll
A fixed bayonet through the great southwest to forget her

She appears in his dreams
But in his car and in his arms
A dream can mean anything
A cheap sunset on a television set can upset her
But he never could

Remember to remember me
Standing still in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird

His goal in life was to be an echo
The type of sound that floats around and then back down
Like a feather
But in the deep chrome canyons of the loudest Manhattans
No one could hear him
Or anything

So he slept on a mountain
In a sleeping bag underneath the stars
He would lie awake and count them
And the gray fountain spray of the great Milky Way
Would never let him
Die alone

Remember to remember me
Standing still in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird

I have now seen Wilco more times than I would have ever thought I would. The first time I saw them at Sasquach festival in Washington in 2004. I had only listened to one of their albums, Summerteeth and only really knew and liked two or three songs including Jesus etc. I enjoyed the show but wasn’t really taken with it as I was with other bands that I saw that weekend such as The Frames. I listened a little bit more to Wilco in the following years and came to really love Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue, especially California Stars and Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key. However, when I found out they were coming to Missoula, I wasn’t particularily sold on seeing them. Sure they had good musicians, but Sasquach had left the impression that they didn’t put on the best show. I decided to opt out of the show but at the last minute decided to go and scrounged up a ticket. I found as much of their music as I could prior to the concert and listened to as much as I could so that more songs would be familiar to me during the concert. They put on a great show though I still didn’t recognize many songs. They were very animated and fun to watch and I had a pretty good view. After that concert, I listened to them in earnest and began to really appreciate there thoughtful lyrics and lengthy instrumentals. However, when I found out they were playing in Anchorage, I was unsure about whether I was going to go see them. I finally bought tickets when I learned half of my crew was going to see them and that a friend from Missoula was actually going to be at the concert too!

The opening band was a local Alaska band called the Whipsaws. I had seen them play at the Moose Pass Soltice Festival and had gotten two of their CDs afterwards. The concert took place in the parking lot of a brewery and there was pub food and beer available. It was pouring rain and everyone was bedecked in raincoats and rubber boots. My raincoat failed the waterproof test even though I had waterproofed it only a week earlier and renewed my resolve to invest in a new raincoat. Ty and I got right up close to the front and jammed there the whole concert, which lasted for a couple hours and included some of my favorite songs. They insisted that they were going to play until the rain stopped. We all laughed at that because the rain hadn’t stopped since the middle of June. They wrapped up the concert with Hoodoo Voodoo from Mermaid Avenue and that made the show!

The rest of my weekend consisted of riding Kelly’s bike around Anchorage and watching fisherpeople catch King salmon out of Ship Creek.

The work week was one of the most dismal yet. Fortunately the rain stopped and the sun came out for brief stints. We spent the whole week brushing the Carter and Crescent lakes trail which is the first uphill trail I have worked on. Brushing and doing drainage work should be fairly easy and straightforward but the morale on our crew has sunk so low that we can’t even eek a good 4 hours of work out of a day. On the upside, I got to see a lot of big animals! I encountered a cow moose and two calves clomping down the trail as I was trudging up. Moose are so exciting to see! They are so funny looking!!! The next day, I spotted a brown bear across the lake from me. It was nosing around in the fire pit and then in ambled into the lake and splashed around catching fish!!! Yesterday, I watched a bull moose foraging on the hillside for quite sometime until it disappeared into the alders. I also watched bright red sockeye salmon struggling upstream in about 4 inches of water.