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Posts from the ‘Travel Alaska’ Category

MOUNT ST. HELENS

What humans see as devastation nature sees as opportunity. About 35 years ago, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions collapsed an entire side of Mount St. Helens.

Photo of photo of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

Photo of photo of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980

Within ten minutes a landslide of incomprehensible proportion destroyed old-growth forest, lakes, and many mammals who hung around too close to the blast.

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake 2014 from Norway Pass trail

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake 2014 from Norway Pass trail

Life renews. Three days later, herds of elk roamed around the barren plain. Their hoofs churned up the pumice while their droppings planted seeds. Enter the lupine…pushing up through the pumice and regenerating life with numbers of purple flowers rarely before seen.

Looking into the crater of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Observatory

Looking into the crater of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Observatory

Gophers survived the blast underground and burrowed their way to the top, aerating and fertilizing. Insects and birds continued the process of adaption, taking advantage of brand new territory. Aquatic life survived under ice-covered lakes and ponds. Amphibians thrived. Today, there is more diversity and abundance of life around Mount St. Helens than before the blast.

View of Mt. Adams from Boundary Trail #1 near Mount Margaret

View of Mt. Adams from Boundary Trail #1 near Mount Margaret

We are privileged to hike through Norway Pass to Mount Margaret. Walking through the rebirth of a new forest on a clear day, views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake expand us. As growth matures, the diversity of life will decrease. Weed-out so to speak.

Match-stick forests created by the blow down from the blast

Match-stick forests created by the blow down from the blast

Leveled trees, rocks, ash, mud, etc., filled Spirit Lake. The water level rose almost 1,000 feet. Everything died in the putrid lifelessness that followed. Three years later, the waters cleared and nature began a new cycle.

Meta Lake from Norway Pass

Meta Lake from Norway Pass

Rain, melt and runoff created new lakes and ponds where everything from algae to frogs and beavers inspire us with resilience and adaptability. Life lives.

Iron Creek Campground

Iron Creek Campground

Camping on a side of Mount St. Helens that was not in the blast zone, we breathe in a rain forest with some trees up to 600 years old. What humans see as devastation nature sees as opportunity. Thank you abundant Universe.             Ron Mitchell

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FIVE WAYS TO NOT KILL YOUR TRAVEL PARTNER IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Let’s face it, there’s a stage during every journey where travel partners grow grouchy. The book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance mentions this natural phenomenon. Living in close quarters can enhance certain challenges. Here are five ways to get over it:

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail at Cape Arago, Oregon

Hike the coast and let Mother Nature pull you out of yourself. Ego means nothing when you traverse along the ridge of Oregon’s southern coastline. From Sunset Bay to Cape Arago, observe seals and whales in a setting that is much bigger than all of us. (Resist the urge to push your partner over the edge)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Camping on the Rogue River in the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness area, Oregon

Camp, fish and swim along a churning, vibrant river like the Rogue. (Don’t accidentally knock your partner into the rapids) Yes, the rainbow trout are small, but tasty little suckers.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Crater Lake, Oregon

Climb a live volcano that patiently simmers beneath two-thousand feet of water at Crater Lake. (No nudging anybody into the snowbank down below)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Buying fish on the Columbia River near Beacon Rock, Washington

Drive across the Columbia River into Washington and purchase some real fish from the Native Americans. Now we’re talking…steelhead and sockeye freshly filleted for five dollars per pound.

Views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock from the summit of Mt. Hamilton, Washington

Views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock from the summit of Mt. Hamilton, Washington

Let Mother Nature sooth souls. A day-long hike to the summit of MT HAMILTON will exhaust the remainder of your mean thoughts.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Bert Cole State Forest, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

In the morning, before you start snipping, walk about a mile up Beacon Rock. Views of the Columbia River Basin will help you to forgive. (Make sure that your partner does not fall off the narrow walkway)

Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington

Rialto Beach near La Push, in Olympic National Park, Washington

If that doesn’t work, head to the Olympic Peninsula. Writhen trees and branches will carry you into the heart of a cold, green and gray world. Maybe you’ll start to like each other again at the most northwestern point on the contiguous US.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hiking Hurricane Ridge with views of Mt. Olympus in the background, Olympic National Park, Washington

Still grouchy? Take a hike along Hurricane Ridge for views of MT OLYMPUS that you may never see again. (Don’t tell your partner, “Get closer to the mountain goats for a better photo!”)

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Wild Mountain Goats sharing the trail on Hurricane Ridge

Now, you may be able to hike to the summit of MT WALKER with no thoughts at all. (You’ll be too tired to push anybody off of anything)

Views of the Hood Canal and Mt. Rainier from the summit of Mt. Walker, Washington

Views of the Hood Canal and Mt. Rainier from the summit of Mt. Walker, Washington

Finally, the best way to not kill each other while camping in the Pacific Northwest (okay, maybe this is more than five ways) is to look way into each other’s eyes, and recognize that there’s no one else in the world whom you would rather spend two weeks with in the back of a pick-up truck…not counting the dog, of course.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Ron Mitchell

 

 

Campground Hosting in Alaska

Mare, Jack the dog, and I reflect upon our second consecutive summer of volunteering as campground hosts at Chilkat State Park in Haines, Alaska. Over 4,000 visitors from around the world visit the host’s cabin deck each summer. They marvel at glacier and wildlife views, and are curious about the couple with the barking dog inside the cabin. We are curious about them too. Many of them envy our position, until hearing about life without running water and electricity. We engage in more social interaction here than back home in downtown Phoenix.

Mare talking to visitors on the deck

Here’s an honest day in the life:

A Swedish couple enters their car, ready to leave. Mare spots a moose. I motion for the couple to come out and see it. They hurry out and fumble for a camera. The moose suddenly charges them. They run around their car to escape, and the moose veers back into the woods. They are exhilarated, perhaps with soiled pants, but have a good story to tell.

Dale picks me up and we head out on his boat to pull the crab pots that we dropped yesterday. All pots are empty, with the exception of some starfish. It happens. He drops me off at the cabin.

A woman and two guys run towards me in a panic before I get through the door. “Can you haul our dogs home? They just got porcupined!” A large black husky and a boxer greet me, their faces peppered with white quills. I pet one and get pricked. “Gotta get these out quick,” the guy says. “Quills keep penetrating and I only have one pair of pliers.” I loan them my Leatherman before dropping them home. I probably will never see that Leatherman again.

Trouble!

Shortly after, the Ranger calls Mare to warn that Fish & Game shot a mama Grizzly Bear because she was breaking into residential freezers in town. Her two first-year cubs got away and are looking for food. They are dangerously unpredictable. Mare and Jack and I walk the grounds, warning campers about the cubs. Their mama is dead because of people feeding her, sometimes unknowingly, by leaving food and garbage behind. That teaches her to associate humans with food. “A fed bear is a dead bear.” At least three of the bears that Mare and I knew from last summer were shot this year because of that reason.

Finally, back at the cabin we crack a beer. I’ll grill fresh caught Salmon, thanks to a friend who knows that I didn’t catch much this summer. It happens. As soon as we sit, the crackle of car wheels on gravel is followed by footsteps on the cabin deck. Jack barks. We try to ignore the visitors, but cannot. One of us goes out to explain the view, and then answer the same barrage of questions about the couple in the cabin with the barking dog.

Good times with good friends

In a few days I’m heading to the lower 48 to attend book signing parties for my recently published novel, Broken Collar. I look forward to comforts of civilization, but worry about Mare and Jack being out here alone for 10 days. At least we have good friends that will look-out for her. Also, Jack barks differently when a bear is nearby, than he does when a visitor arrives.

At five o’clock the next morning a neighbor (nearest is 1 mile away) calls for help. The bear cubs were in his garage, so he called Fish & Game who told him to shoot them, so he did.  It was both a mercy killing and a safety measure. Otherwise the cubs would die a slow death of hunger and exposure if left on their own – who will teach them to hunt and hibernate? Afterwards, “Game” informed our neighbor that statute dictated that he skin both, and bring the skins to the office. I helped him. Neither one of us had skinned a bear before. The image of that butchered carnage still simmers in our memory.

We absorb our final days of breathing the pristine beauty of wild Alaska. The screech of eagles, rumbling of waterfalls, and blowing wind through the temperate rain forest in this fjord will soon be replaced by beeping horns, sirens, planes, helicopters, and the smog and asphalt of downtown Phoenix.

Post notes: My Leatherman was returned.  Book signings in Ohio exceeded my dreams. Back in Phoenix our toilet leaked with every flush and we had to piss in the yard until the plumber arrived…that did not happen with outhouses.

Jack now swims in irrigation water rather than in the Chilkat Inlet. He barks at intruders rather than bears. Perhaps life without running water or electricity is easier than folks think? We miss Alaska…

Haines, Alaska Bucket List: Take two…

Time to tackle the hike of the year: 7-Mile Saddle and Mt. Ripinsky.Image

Jenn drops us off at the 7-mile trail head which climbs straight up to the Saddle. This 10-mile hike is a real ass-kicker. In between breaths, I eat wild blueberries and salmon berries and then rest.Image

After a brief walk on level land, we climb again to the 3920 peak and absorb the view as if in an airplane.Image

Time to cross a few snow plains and climb again.

On the peak of Mt. Ripinski, we begin to see the city of Haines below.

Our legs are shot, we’re running out of water, and we’re only half-way through! Again, the view comforts us, and there’s nothing like eating a handful of trail mix while sitting on top of the world.

Through the woods, we sidestep scat while singing and making noise to ward off bears. Will this trail ever end? I’m starting to feel old…especially in the knees. The rooted straight-down trial tortures our joints but the constant sweating cleanses our toxins. Going to have to re-tox soon!

Finally, we reach the end with a highly respectable time of 7.5 hours, on a trail that brochures tout as an 8 to 10 hour jaunt. Jack the dog waits for us in the truck, what a good boy. Jack gets rewarded with an evening at a real house. Our closest neighbors, Dale and Renee have a place in paradise,

dwarfed only by their generosity. We spend lots of time drinking, fishing and hanging out with each other. As a matter of fact, we go halibut fishing the next day on Dale’s boat, but catch nothing worth keeping…sometimes that’s how it goes.

I’m down to two weeks left in Haines. I have a book signing at the Haines Public Library on August 22nd at 3:00PM, and then head to the lower 48 for book signings in Columbus and Mingo Junction, Ohio. My novel, Broken Collar is available on Amazon.com or Bottomdogpress.com or nook at Barnes & Noble.

For now, we have only a couple of weeks left to check off the bucket list. For me, absorbing and enjoying the environment here will probably fit the bill, but who knows what Mare has in store? Thank you Abundant Universe: www.ronaldgmitchell.com

Summit 3920 and Mt. Ripinski tower over Haines, Alaska

Haines, Alaska Bucket List: Take One…

A professional hunter spots mountain goats from the scope on our host cabin deck at Chilkat State Park. Finally, I get to show visitors live mountain goats for a few days, until one day we spot four hunters, gutting 2 goats in the snow above Rainbow glacier…Needless to say, the other goats are now hiding…perhaps a reminder that life is short, so we’d better enjoy while we can!Image

With about one month left in Haines, Alaska, we’d better get busy doing all the things we have intended. We jump onto a raft that floats down the glacier fed Tsirku River, where water was ice only eight hours ago. This was a free float for the volunteers and supporters of the Bald Eagle Preserve on the anniversary of its inception. This braided river float brings us into the Chilkat River and then to the Native American village of Klukwan, where we are fed potato salad and cold cuts after a traditional ceremonial dance.Image

Let’s pick some wild mushrooms, which grow like mad…Ah, the cauliflower mushroom makes a great meal, for me. Mare waits to see if I die before taking a few bites.Image

Then we find the prized Chanterelle, and pick pounds. Mare brings these and the cauliflower shrooms to the expert in town, who goes by the name of “Fun Guy.” He says, “Those are beautiful chanterelles!”Image

Fun Guy hesitates. “But those aren’t cauliflowers, they’re corals, which you shouldn’t eat, although some Native Americans use them as a laxative.” Hmm…better stick with the Chanterelles from here on out!Image

What a unique life…wake up to a Moose and calf in our yard, followed by a Grizzly Bear visit, while Bald Eagles watch from above.Image

After staring at Davidson Glacier across the Chilkat Inlet for two seasons now, we finally get a chance to get up close and personal. We take flight in a four-seater and cross the Inlet where Drake drops us off on the beach below Davidson Glacier, promising to pick us up eight hours later. Hiking through pristine woods, making noise to keep bears at bay, we follow a well- marked trail.ImageBut things change as we get close to the glacier and we have to forge our own trail on cliffs and through the bent Aspen that disappear near Davidson’s base.Image

We negotiate a large lake full of ice chunks. Me, not as well, as I fall into the cold water waist-high before finally reaching the blue ice.ImageImage

We change routes on the way back as a huge, blonde grizzly bear eats in the meadow fifty yards away. When we round a yurt, one of two residences in view, a huge man appears. “I’ve been living here for eight years and have never seen a bear,” he says. “The scat is everywhere, though.” I tell him that maybe he scares them away. He laughs and asks us to send him a photo of Blondie. Drake, the pilot from “FlyDrake”, picks us up as promised and tells us that the yurt man is Mark McManara, a former NBA star, who now gives back as assistant basketball coach at Haines High School.Image

The next day Halibut are biting! Thanks to “First Choice Charters” we shall dine on Halibut tonight, with a side of Chanterelle soup. Thank you Abundant Universe…  www.ronaldgmitchell.comImage

Bears, Eagles and Crabs, Oh My

The eagles find a score…something fishy washed ashore…they catch more fish than I. We did cop some fresh Alaskan Dungeness crab, though, thanks to our friends and nearest neighbors, Dale and Reenie. Let’s head to the fishin’ hole.

A group of local fishermen are in my spot. Usually, the bears are there. Okay, so I head across the bridge and fish the other side of the Chilkoot River, where a person is in danger when bears arrive on account of only one way in and one way out. Hey, there’s plenty of fish for all.

Eagles swoop onto the river, talons extended to snag a fish. The guys across the river from me have caught two Sockeye so far. Their loose Labrador runs across the bridge and down to where I’m fishing. “Don’t be bringing any bears to me!” I yell loud enough for the beer-bellies across river to hear.

Mare and Jack walk around taking photos, and bears appear at a safe distance, across and down river. Mare puts Jack in the truck even though he is on a leash. A professional photographer sets up a tripod. Wow, a bear and her cub play and hunt for food. What an awesome sight…until the loose Labrador attacks the bear cub. The cub rears up and the dog scats back to his ill-mannered owner, who puts him in a truck along with his other buddies. The photographer runs off as well.

However it is too little too late; the bears are distressed…pissed. Once we see them start to run onto the bridge, in fighting mood and maybe in search of that dog, I dash up and into the truck cab where Mare had already jumped inside.

You just can’t predict what a bear will do, especially when stressed, so when two other guys run to our truck of course we let them in. They had nowhere else to go. Four of us squeeze into the front seat, along with my fishing pole with a “pixie” plug still attached. We shut the doors just as the bears run a few feet past us and into the woods. The bears stare from only a few feet away. “Thanks for ruining things for everybody else,” I hout over to those fishermen who feel that they own the river. They just stare at me, mouths open, with their dog running loose again.

The next day, two guys approach Mare out on our deck at Chilkat State Park. “Thanks for saving our lives yesterday!” They take photos in front of our truck. They are from the Czech Republic. Although we could not identify their accent, we shared their smiles.

Alaska: Headed Back to Haines

Mare and I luxuriate in lounge chairs on the Solarium deck of the Alaska Ferry, Columbia, for the next 3 days. People pitch tents with duct tape on the cement deck in front of us. Jack is captive inside the truck cab down below on the noisy car deck. He has not gone to the bathroom during this 38- hour stretch of water. Most big dogs are in the same boat so to speak, and do not go to the bathroom during short walks on the crowded car deck. They think they’re in a house and refuse to dirty the rug. Finally… first stop on land is in Ketchikan and all is well for an hour-long walk and fifteen-minute dog pee. 

Hard to believe that only one week ago we hosted two book-signing parties. My novel, Broken Collar caught a publisher and is now available at: www.bottomdogpress.com; or http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Collar-Novel-Ron-Mitchell/dp/1933964561/ref=tmm_pap_title_0. The story is about a priest’s return to his hometown steel mill village and the working class world of sinners and saints, fueling turmoil to his longing for both the heavens and the heart. Purchase a few copies, please, so that we can continue to travel the world…, okay, no more plugging.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Our minds begin to slow down. The ferry glides through the Inside Passage with pleasant stops in Wrangell, Petersburg and Juneau. Ferrying into Haines we see the snow-capped peaks of “Little Switzerland” and it feels like we’re coming home. We cannot get into the camp host cabin on account of snow, so Ranger Preston puts us up at 19-mile cabin in the Eagle Preserve. Each November, 4,000 eagles converge here for the final salmon run on this continent. We may try and stay up here until then…

Finally, we get into our cabin at Chilkat State Park where once again moose and glaciers and spouting Orcas welcome us. We look forward to living without running water and electricity now that we are wiser from our experience last summer…we shall see.

At the watering hole, (literally) a man tells me that this past winter in Alaska set record-breaking snow levels and also set new records for relationships breaking-up. Two months of no direct sunlight and being socked-in gave couples one of the toughest tests in years. One woman told us that she and her boyfriend made it through winter, but the heavy rains this spring are bringing them to the brink.

Let’s go fish for Sockeye. After three full days of casting from the shoreline, I get out there at 4:00AM (been daylight since 2:30AM) and hook our first Sockeye salmon of the year…drag him onto shore and pounce on him. The fish flops all over and I end up holding him down with one knee and sort of a headlock. I knock him out with a rock, and am gassed, out of breath and glad that nobody was there to see me look like such a fool, but we will eat fresh fish for dinner, then with eggs in the morning, then in salad at night and then with eggs again the morning…yeah, baby we’re all back home. Just ask 10- year old Alaska Jack who is diving for rocks in the Chilkat Inlet like a puppy. 

Roam the Roads in Nome, Alaska: Council Road through Solomon

The second road from Nome heads toward the town of Council. It parallels the Bering Sea‘s coastline for miles. Rough waves splash sprinkles of water over the sea wall onto our windshield.

Our hearts pound fast when the four-wheel drive Dodge slides on the slippery, rutted road. One flip over the rocks would spill us into the freeze of turbulent waters.

Many gold mining operations, (they mine their own business) from commercial to individual gold-rushers, line these shores. Major construction projects build better roads and sea walls in support of a newly needed infrastructure.

Small homes line the beach and provide a place to dry fish, escape during the summer, and warm-up in winter when the Iditarod sled dogs howl towards the finish line.

Fishing season has ended, and the Safety Roadhouse boards its windows until March, when it will open for the Iditarod and serve as last stop before the finish.

Boats continue to dredge for gold, some with floating backhoes.

When the Bering Sea freezes over, fishermen cut holes in the ice and drop crab pots to catch King Crab. We would love to see that, but are…too early.

Remnants of the once booming community of Solomon tell the town’s story on a boardwalk display. The Last Train to Nowhere sits rusting in the tundra, since being abandoned in 1907. The ambitious railroad made it 20-miles short of its goal to reach the town of Council.

We walk through this area with an eerie feeling envisioning a lively town full of saloons, hotels and miners during the gold rush of the 1800’s. Ferries brought supplies and influenza, which all but wiped-out the Eskimo Community of Inupiaqs, who naturally were the first residents. Most were buried in a mass grave in an unknown place under this shore.

The area around Solomon also attracts birders and hunters. But where are the Musk Oxen? Mare and I are on a mission to find them with only one more road left to roam.

We roll into downtown Nome just in time for dinner with Jeremy.  What are the odds of knowing someone in Nome? This gateway to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve holds artifacts of peoples dated up to 10,000 years old. Mare and I are practically on another planet.

We met Jeremy several years ago in the southernmost town on the South American Continent – Puerto Williams, Chile. He had just completed his Master of Science in Recreation. (Wish my school had that major) Seems Jeremy, Mare and I share a passion for extremes. Originally from New Jersey, he hadn’t even visited Nome before accepting the position of Assistant Director of Recreation.

“I’ve been here three and one-half years now. He smiles. “I love it.”

“What do you like best?” Mare asks.

“My job is awesome and I have gotten involved in the community. It was the best thing I could have done on many levels.” He removes has hat and looks to be my son, if I had one.

“I never had good luck with the ladies in the lower 48, but here I am a catch. Of course, that is just because I don’t beat women up and I have a job.”

More laughter and drinks to our table, at the Husky Restaurant, which serves the best Japanese food in town. by Ron Mitchell

Nome, Alaska: Three Roads to Roam

Get to Nome by air, sea, or Iditarod – the 1100 mile dogsled race that begins in Anchorage. Mare and I take the slow ferry to Juneau, a pleasant ride through the inside passage and past whales.

The following day, two flights later we will land in Nome. For now, we cannot wait for the luxury of a hotel room. Not so fast…The Alaskan Hotel in Juneau proves a flophouse for junkies and alcoholics.

“Come look at my brother,” says a long-haired,bearded man with a strong accent. He stands on the paisley lined hallway and opens the door to a dingy room. I spot two young guys without shirts, lying perpendicular on a small bed, snoring.

“Nice, are you from Russia?” What else can I say?

“No, Poland!” He grabs one of many half-full bottles of vodka strewn about the room amidst some small pipes. “Nastrovia!” He gulps from the bottle and tries to hand it to me. “No thanks.” I continue down the hallway to the shared bathroom.

Drunks revel outside our window and in adjacent rooms until three o’clock in the morning. My pillow is as flat as a communion  wafer. Mare tries to keep the blankets away from her face. Suddenly we miss our primitive cabin in the woods.

The airplane seats begin at aisle 16…with a wall dividing the front of the plane for cargo and the back for passengers. We soar above over massive glaciers that snake around mountains like frozen rivers.

We find our elusive luxury at the Aurora Inn in Nome. Splurge! Sit on a couch, after living for four months on a picnic table and plastic chairs…plop on a big bed with fluffy pillows…got some catching up to do. We moan in ecstasy and haven’t even gone into the bedroom yet. Outside of our bay window, clouds and rain enhance the whitecaps of a black-green Bering Sea. We break into a celebratory dance. I can see Russia from my house…not really. Still, we cannot stop from staring at the sea.

We force ourselves to leave this comfort in search of food and drink. We roam around Nome and notice weather-beaten dwellings with evidence of sustenance living decorating the yards. Hunting, fishing and gold panning all require four-wheel drive vehicles.

Nome has few restaurants, but many smoke-filled bars. A number of natives from the three Eskimo cultural groups stagger down the streets in an alcoholic haze. We cop a pizza topped with reindeer, and a six-pack to bring back to our heavenly room. I mean, we have a kitchen, lights, and a flushing toilet to enjoy.

Rent a car in the morning and stock up on groceries, including a can of spam and a dozen eggs. Within five minutes, we bounce along the remote tundra road. The terrain amazes us, so different from trees and fiords. Seventy-four miles later, we reach the Eskimo Village of Teller, where the Inupiaq Community thrives on fishing. Salmon dries on wooden racks next to floatation vests that read, “Children don’t float. Please use one.”

We revel for reaching the end of the westernmost road on the North American Continent, only 12 miles from Russia’s Big Diomede Island.

The drive takes us back down the slippery silicone road where maroon, yellow and orange colors blanket the spongy tundra. Snow and ice will cover this carpet for the next nine months. Our expectations of spotting herds of Musk Oxen, Reindeer and Caribou will have to wait. 

We do, however, spot a skinned Musk Oxen, pummeled and picked apart by predators. We chase away the scavenging birds from the dead animal’s skull, which just happens to compliment a beautiful bouquet of tundra colors.

Life in Alaska: As Cyclical as Salmon

Catch salmon for fresh food.

Split stumps for firewood.

Taste real Alaska…well, maybe not the winter.

We see the furry seed of the fireweed climbing to the top of the stalk where it signifies the onset of winter. The nights grow black, and rains provide a small luxury in the form of clear-water mud puddles for washing hands and muddy ax handles.

Hoards of mushrooms bloom in celebration of this change in season. Some are poisonous, others hallucinogenic, and many safely edible. We know not the difference, so will remain happy with photos.

Our closest neighbors, Dale and Reenie, live one mile away. We become friends, and they will dog-sit Jack while we take an excursion to Nome, Alaska. But first, they allow us to observe how they sustenance fish.

This is real Alaska. Throw out a net and pole stretch the buoys into a curve that catches the current of the Chilkat River. Haul in the net each time a buoy bounces. Slice off the dorsal fin, to identify fish as sustenance in the event of a Fish & Game inspection, and toss out net again.

Then eat a fried spam sandwich, which Mare and I find a bit ironic. Catch all the fish you wish. Use the lowest of the food chain for dog food and crab bait, and keep the best of the catch for the freezer, smoker and canning to get through the cycle of winter.

Dale takes me out crabbing. The first pot we pull contains a creature that even  Dale cannot identify. Looks like a cross between an octopus and starfish. It ate all the bait. The next couple of pots contain thirty or so Dungeness crabs, but we have to toss them back because they are female. Dale tells me that sometimes somebody pulls your pots, steals your crabs, and replace them with a couple of cans of cold beer.

Our friend, Laurie, comes to town for a visit, wearing a sun dress and thongs. She quickly changes her clothing, and purchases a fleece vest. We do not tell her about all the mice in the cabin, until the next morning when she decides to check-in to a hotel.

She and Mare have a great time looking at the bears, who hunt for running salmon. When Mare and Laurie decide to hit Karaoke night, I opt-out for a solo evening with Jack, back at the cabin.

I sit on the cabin deck and hear the mating call of a moose. The sound makes me a little horny…perhaps the time to move on has come, or maybe I’m as cyclical as salmon.

No worries, we’re venturing  to the most western roads on the North American Continent – Nome, Alaska. Fate strikes…we know the assistant director of recreation in Nome. We met him, Jeremy, at the southern most town on the South American Continent in Puerto Williams, Chile. So, we got in touch and he will give some local advice on how to roam in Nome, where the Musk Oxen graze on the tundra. Stay tuned…