Back in '04 and 05 when we had a lot of forest fires, we cleared a bunch of trees near the house. It was a hard thing to do, we built the original cabin to fit in amongst the existing trees, but we did what we thought was necessary. When it came time to clear the stumps, we decided to try a stump grinder. It worked great and we cleared the whole area without tearing up the ground like a dozer would have done. Well since then we've accumulated a bunch of new stumps and it was time to get rid of them. The stump grinder, once I got it hooked up again, worked great, and now we have a stump free yard, until I drop some more trees.
Spent the last few weeks out at Nome Creek off of the Steese Hwy. While it’s only about a 60 mile drive north of town, it’s a relatively remote area in the foothills of the White Mtns. This area had been mined years ago and while some reclamation had been done, a few of the larger piles remained. As the creek has continued to meander closer, the piles had begun to erode.
Drove the same dozer as last year, the first time that’s happened, so it made it a lot easier to feel comfortable on the machine and just focus on the work. Moving the old tailings piles back from the creek is a lot like peeling an onion, just strip it off a layer at a time. The hardest part is finding a place to put all the excess material. Fortunately, the miner had left an old bypass ditch behind the piles and it held stripped tailings nicely. It always seems like it takes forever to finish the dozing, but the biggest pile was reclaimed in just about a week. And it’s still a lot of fun to drive a piece of equipment nearly as big as the garage,
Went down to Black Rapids to do some survey work on the Delta River. My friend Mike, who moved down to the lower 48 last fall (Last Trip on the Delta…Sep 26, 2009), came back up for a week to get his former project started again. He met me at the site with Tim, who would be taking over the project. The river looked pretty high when we were getting ready, but having surveyed there several times before, we figured we could deal with it. We had no trouble launching the boat or getting the cable strung over the river, but during the survey of the water depth and velocity, one of the vertical stanchions on the cross bar that attaches the boat to the cable broke. It sounded like a gun shot as it went flying off. Almost immediately, the boat began to turn side ways to the current. This was definitely not a good situation, as we were in the biggest standing waves on the river. Mike gunned the motor, which he had kept idling during the survey, and quickly straightened us out. I was able to get the other stanchion released from the cable and then we motored to the shore. We talked about what to do next and decided to try to take a few more readings along the cross section to estimate the unmeasured flow.
After we finished up, the consensus was that high water surveys on this river with the boat tied to a fixed tag line was obviously not the way to go. The high speed of the current and the turbulence in the standing waves put way too much strain on the equipment and we broke the weakest link. There’s a measuring system available that uses GPS for position and an acoustic doppler for depth and velocity, and we’ll try to get one to use next time. It was great to see Mike again and we hope he’ll be back up sometime soon.
Doggles are a type of sunglasses for dogs, tinted goggles designed to fit the shape of a dog's head. While marketed as a fashion item, several practical and medical uses have been reported, including usage by military working dogs of the U.S. Army in Iraq.
I suppose, now that Spuds's a lead dog, he'll be expecting some rose colored doggles.
The second trip to the White Mtns was not nearly as exciting as the first (White Mountains Mar 4), but that's not necessarily a bad thing. With all the overflow encountered on the last trip, I planned to mostly use Spuds in lead with Barney, since Chappy is deathly afraid of overflow. While he's somewhat of a reluctant lead dog, Spuds did great on this trip, as he and Barney took the team through all the bad sections of trail with no problems. The one odd thing that happened was that the moose kill we passed on the last trip, which originally was about a mile or two from the cabin, apparently was drug nearby, since every time I let a dog run loose for a few minutes, they'd come back with another bone. Had quite a collection by the time we left.
It's been pretty warm the last few days, up to 45°F . I'm heading out to the White Mtns again and really hoping that it cools off a bit. The dogs are running great, but the ones with heavy coats, the fuzzy ones, are really struggling with the heat. I guess we'll find out how well they can deal with the warm weather. It's kind of like the global warming, how well species adapt to change.
Spent three days out in the White Mtns north of Fairbanks. Always an interesting trip, this time the highlights were a wolf killed moose and a runaway dog. The moose remains were scattered along the trail just a few miles from the cabin. A flock of ravens were scavenging it when we passed by and the dogs sure were excited for a bit. That night, I could hear the wolves howling close to the cabin. Several times during the night, the dogs woke me up with their furious barking, but in spite of the full moon, I never did see anything.
The runaway dog was from another team. I saw the musher on the way in and he mentioned in passing that he had lost one of his dogs. When we got to the cabin, the dog was standing on the porch, as if she was waiting there for someone to stop by. It was lucky I only had seven dogs, so there was a spot for her on the drop chain at night and also in the gang line when I ran the team out.
The trails were really good in some places, but also very rough and icy in others. The Beaver Creek crossing was perfect on the way in, but apparently had flooded with over flow and then completely frozen over afterwards. When I went out, the crossing was like a Zamboni had just finished with it. Just another fun trip in the White Mtns.
January was cold and dry, and while February started off cold, it has gotten a lot warmer lately. The dog runs are getting longer, since I'm supposed to go out to the White Mtns the first week of March, so need to get them in better shape. My friend Bill came over last weekend and we ran two teams out into the valley behind our place. He took this photo of me on the trail, with a cell phone I think, and I look mostly bemused. Don't often run with another team so I guess I was suitably confused.
The following Monday, the warming trend turned into a chinook and the temperatures got up to near forty the next few days. The snow pack got real soft by the end of the week and the inevitable horde of snow machines and 4-wheelers tore up the trails pretty good over the weekend. It's finally starting to cool off and snow a little bit now, but the outlook for serious dog training remains marginal, at best. I think anyone who doesn't believe in climate change should try running dogs in Alaska.
Update on Sunday, Feb 28: After a fair bit of snow towards the end of the week, the temperature dropped to -20°F on Saturday and was only a little warmer today. The forecast is for a lot warmer by midweek, so the temperature roller coaster continues. I leave for the White Mtns tomorrow. Can only hope that the weather is decent for running dogs, but it'll probably be interesting no matter what.
Saw this story about Bag Balm on the internet news. It certainly struck a chord, since years ago, when I moved to Alaska, I had never heard of it. During that first winter here, I began to get skin cracks on my finger tips. They took forever to heal and nothing seemed to help. Then one day I picked up a hitchhiker and during our conversation, he told me that he sometimes worked as a cement finisher and that Bag Balm was really great for cracked skin. Well since then I've not only used it for skin cracks, I found it'll cure just about anything from chapped lips to inflamed 'roids. Like I always says, some people use vaseline or chap stick, but I prefer duh udder one.
December seems like one big party. In spite of so little daylight, officially 3 hours 41 minutes on the solstice, there's much to enjoy this month. My friend Mike and I have our birthdays during the first week, so that's a great excuse for a party. There's usually a few work related parties mid month and then comes the neighborhood Christmas eve pot luck dinner and white elephant gift exchange, always a hoot. The next day we usually have Christmas dinner with friends, then another neighborhood party on New Year's eve. This year it was at our house and quite a few people showed up, since it was a relatively balmy -20° F. Last year it was near -40 and only a hardy few ventured out. Today was kind of a let down from all the parties, but now we're up to 4 hours of daylight, so spring's just around the corner.