Failures, Bloopers, and Fixes: Turning Lemons into Blue Ribbons

All of our blog posts mostly show our success with various projects, but what they don’t detail is the perspiration, hard work, and do-overs it all takes. Mostly, everything we do requires doing it over again, and sometimes over and over again. Take for instance, our water situation. We wrote a blog about how we were able to create a gravity-fed water system by damming up a mountain run-off creek and piping it to the house. Our blog details all of the success with the final designs. What the blog doesn’t show is the dozen or so attempts that were made to get to that final design. And, we are still working on this. It’s full of trial and error. For many weeks, our touted design worked fine, then on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, the flow of water to our cabin simply stopped flowing. The water was still collecting at the dam site, and there was a steady stream coming through the hose, but the pressure was too weak to make it upward into the two hose turns leading into the cabin. So, we were back to lugging water into the house in the 5 gallon drums. Nate dug other dams, and tried several other ideas. This has been an ongoing process. Then, this week, the water simply stopped flowing in the hose altogether. Nate finally had the idea to connect an upper dam to a lower dam with about 25 yards of man-made waterway. He dug the trench, and I helped him lay heavy plastic in the bottom of it. Then, I was in charge of loading the trench with rocks from behind the cabin. This entailed filling 5 gallon buckets with rocks and hauling them down a 100 yard path, and up a 35 yard embankment. It sounds simple enough, but this was hard, heavy work. In the end, it must have taken 50 buckets full of rocks to fill the trench bed. While I was hauling buckets of rocks to Nate, he was knee deep in the wet mud. I thought, “Yeah, this is what free water feels like. We might not have to ‘pay’ a water bill, but we definitely work for what we have.” I guess we all pay in one way or another. When we were finished with the rocks, I thought to myself, “I might have preferred to write a check for $75 to the water company instead of hauling all of those rocks.” This design worked, and hopefully this one will stick. To tell the truth, my involvement with the water system has been pretty minimal other than helping with this trench. Nate has spent many hours planning, digging, constructing, and piping. I never take that flow of water for granted. We are lucky because the water we tap into is crystal clear, even though we do filter what we drink. Many cabins on this lake have to pump in water from the lake to their homes, and triple filter it.

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Here’s another ongoing story….The outhouse that we built several weeks ago is made entirely of wood. It was screaming for some paint, so Nate painted the outside walls a pretty teal green. Then, he got fancy and tried to stencil some leaves and other nature shapes, but it looked like a big graffiti mess, so I painted over it again with the pretty teal green base coat. Then, I decided that what it needed was some pretty colorful flowers, so I took an entire day and painted ivy leaves and wildflowers all over one side of the outhouse. It looked pretty good close up, but from a short distance away, it had the same graffiti feel to it that Nate’s paint job had, so I have painted another base coat of teal green over this too. My latest idea is to paint a larger scene—a large tree with a few big flowers on it. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, Nate has hung his Acadiana flag on the backside and it’s still a plain teal green color on the other sides. This will be a work in progress, but for now, all attempts to make it look “artistic” have failed.

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When I went into the crafts store in Haines to buy acrylic paint and brushes for the flowers, the clerk asked me what I was painting, and I proudly said, “I am painting flowers on my outhouse.” He replied, “How Alaskan of you!” I didn’t know this was a common thing in Alaska, but I was proud to be referred to as an “Alaskan”. I have since learned that there is a coffee table book of Alaskan outhouses that are artistically painted.

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Another fun failure has been the locking mechanism on the boat shed. The boat shed was already constructed when we arrived on the property, but it had no doors on the front, just a large tarp that hung over it. So, Nate put some nice doors on it, and we put pretty window boxes higher up over the doors. As a finishing touch, Nate put a locking mechanism on the doors to be able to keep it shut, with the option to lock it if we needed to. The one problem I found out too soon, was that if you went inside the shed and the doors were not open all of the way, a gust of wind could blow the doors shut, the door would automatically latch, and you would be locked inside the boat shed. This happened to me twice, but luckily Nate was close by and he could hear me yelling and come let me out. This happened in the first couple of days after we installed the doors. However, lately, Nate has been getting himself locked into the boat shed. Lucky for him too, I also have been close by each time, and could come to his rescue. Finally, Nate rigged up a pull string on the inside of the door so that if it happens again, one can simply pull the string and let yourself out. I was getting ready for a trip to Juneau by myself, so I was glad Nate wouldn’t get himself locked in the boat shed while I was gone!

And, here’s another small goof up. Each week, we set out the trail cameras at a place where we have seen lots of moose and bear activity. We have gotten more brazen lately and started putting out stuff that we think will attract wildlife to our cameras. A few weeks ago, we tied a bag to a tree containing lots of leftover dungeness crab from a dinner the night before. This attracted a few interested moose, and a black bear, who merely sniffed at the bag. We were able to get some close up pics on the game camera. But, we didn’t get the action we were looking for. Fueled by this idea, and by the ability to also catch video on the trail cam, we set out this week to set up two cameras. One for still shots and one for video. We were also armed with 2 large bags of fish remains from the fish we have caught and fileted over the past two weeks. Today, we were excited to return to the area where we had set the stage for this incredible wildlife viewing. The entire area had many signs of moose and bear, and this time, the bags were torn to shreds. We excitedly pulled down the cameras, only to notice that the one that was closest to the action set on video, wasn’t set at all. It had not been turned on. I was so busy looking at all of the other features on the camera I had just read about in the manual, that I forgot to actually turn the camera on before we left. Failure. Nate had set his, so we were able to get some still pics of the brown bear that found his way to our attractant! We also had a good close up pic of a moose. But, we will try again next time.

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Also this week, with my sister coming to visit, I was anxious to get started on our stair system. The trail leading up from our boat dock to the house is steep and quite treacherous. We plan on building a rustic stair system the entire way using pieces of logs. We have a curved cottonwood tree between our deck and the hot tub that Nate has been wanting to cut down, so I urged him to cut it down so that we could use the logs to start our stair system. He was reluctant to cut the tree because with its curvature, it was going to be hard to divert its path from hitting his garden. But, he said maybe we could divert it using the “comealong”. I said, “I’m sure that will work.” And, with that vote of confidence, we got to work tying up the comealong and tightening it over to one side. Nate told me to keep cranking the comealong while he went at the tree with the chainsaw. I kept cranking, but then as he got closer to falling the tree, I ran out of slack. The chainsaw work went fast, as this was a pretty thin tree. So, down went the tree, right straight into his garden. It knocked over the trellis he had made for the beans and peas, and uprooted some of the plants, but he was able to salvage most of it.

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In the end, although it fell into his garden, that tree sure did make some pretty steps for us.

 

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The last goof up for the week was my entry into the Alaska State Fair Baking Competition. I have had fun making various pound cakes over the last 2 months, and sharing them with our neighbors. Nate raved about the one I made with peaches, and encouraged me to submit it to the fair contest. The mixing and measuring process went very smoothly; but we lost power as the cake was baking, and I couldn’t see the cake well enough to tell when it was done. It was also late at night, and I was tired and probably took it out of the oven too early. When it had cooled for 10 minutes, I tried to turn it over and the whole thing almost fell apart. I tried piecing it back together again, but it was not pretty. I decided to make the light glaze a very thick frosting instead so that I could cover up the lumpiness. I worked on fixing this mess of a cake well into the evening hours. Nate went to bed as I was mixing up various frostings, and he rolled his eyes at my attempt at the lemon flavoring.  So, I ditched that effort, and went for a plain version with whipping cream and powdered sugar instead. I added a few peaches as garnishment. I did the best I could, then packed it in a case in the fridge overnight.

Before going to sleep, I stepped into the bathroom to retrieve a face towel and realized it was still damp from the laundry. We have had several days of overcast weather, so the laundry has taken a while to dry outdoors. After three days, I thought they were fully dry, so I folded them and put them away. Now, I realized they were still damp. It was late enough and I was tired enough that this damp towel combined with the cake fiasco dampened my spirits. As I climbed into bed, I thought, “Can’t I do anything right? I can’t even do laundry or bake a simple cake!” I fell asleep feeling defeated. When I woke up the next morning, my spirits were a little bit lighter. I was okay with the cake being whatever it turned out to be. Nate picked some leaves from the yard, and I used these as additional garnishments, trying my best to make it look presentable. Many times throughout the making of this cake, I almost threw the damn thing in the lake!  I questioned whether or not I should even submit it.  Nate convinced me that it would be fine. He said it might not look perfect, but that recipe was really good. He told me to call it “Peaches & Cream Pound Cake”, which I did. I packed it tightly in a storage bin for the boat ride to town. In the end, I actually won the Grand Champion Ribbon at the state fair!!!

 

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This week has taught me to keep striving, and never give up. Everything takes work and lots and lots of effort and perspiration.  And, in the end, it all pays off.

The blue ribbon award felt magical. It is amazing to me how this small piece of fabric with symbols and words printed on it can make someone feel elated and validated. Such a simple thing. I thought about people in my life who deserve a big blue ribbon…my sister, who struggles with Lupus, and yet still faces each day with optimism and smiles through her pain and frequent fevers….and, to my three children who have made it through 12 weeks without mom close by, and who have cheered me on through their own sadness while I have undertaken this Alaskan adventure…. and, to my husband, who puts up with all my failures and bloopers, and who works harder than anyone I know. A giant blue ribbon for you too, honey!

Who will you give a blue ribbon to?

 

The Time Machine

When Jen and I started planning this adventure over a year ago, we were met with so many questions from our friends and family. The most reoccurring question was what would we miss the most? I would often ponder all the different things that I could probably miss while out here. Movie theaters, restaurants, Internet, Home Depot…..but none of these things do I miss. There is only one thing that I have missed since I’ve been out here: My daily soaks in the hot tub at the gym! So with a vision and a little coonass determination, I got to work on my very own hot tub time machine.

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Every structure out here must start with a solid foundation, so I found the perfect rock wall with the best view and got to it. Of course, I had my trusted sidekick by my side to help. I must hand it to Jennifer, being the only one out here, she is the only person to blame when something goes wrong…..lol. She loves me so much and puts up with anything I dish out. She is the ultimate team player.
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As we finished the deck and the walls of the tub started to come together, we both agreed that this could be the best idea ever. I told her in the Agrarian lifestyle on the list of wants and needs this was one of my needs.

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As we wrapped up with the tub we decided to fire it up…literally. Being off the grid, the only type of hot tub you can even remotely have (no pun intended) is a “snorkel hot tub”. This type of tub has a submersible fire box and a chimney stack. You load with wood and let it burn. Within  30 to 40 min you have 100 plus degree water ready for pure enjoyment. This will definitely be heaven sent in negative 20 degree weather with 7 feet of snow outside.
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Another addition to the wood burning family is our wood stove. We were able to clean up and put together so that it is ready to fire up as well. This is an old south Bend Companion stove from the 1920’s, made completely of cast iron. It was extremely heavy to put together and move into place. We will be cooking mainly on this oven and stove top in the winter and not relying on the propane stove. In addition it will help heat the house. It’s a little to warm to use in the summer right now. The highs have been hovering around 78 degrees this summer…lol. We installed a heat shield on the floor and ran a metal backing against the wall behind the flue pipe to help protect the house. This will also take us back in time trying to learn how to use it and cook on it. Not many people reading this have probably ever cooked on a wood-fired oven. I know we never have, but I’ve always said if I moved off the grid I want to definitely have one.
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We are also learning while being out here that being mechanically inclined and knowing how to turn a wrench is almost imperative. Everything takes constant maintenance and repair. We can’t just take a piece of equipment up to the mechanics and and get it fixed. The one thing that I miss about doing repairs is not having YouTube…if there is something you need to fix and don’t know how, you can bet there is a video on it out there on YouTube. Here you have to just have patience, take it all apart and pray you can figure it out.The flag we hoisted out at the entrance of Clear Creek can’t even go 3 months without repair.
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Friends and Raging Respect 

The past few weeks have just flown by, filled with new friends and never ending projects. As Jennifer and I were working around the house one afternoon, we saw a float plane land in the little lake. This is a normal event over in the big lake during the summer because there are a handful of property owners that are pilots and do fly in on weekends and holidays. Jen and I are the only ones that live full-time in the little lake, so we were curious to see who was landing back here. There is a cabin on the same side as ours that we have always considered to be abandoned. When we saw 3 people over there, we were excited to meet them. Jen went over to introduce herself and invite them over for dinner. Funny how small of a world it is when we find out the couple lives off Barton Springs right by Zilker park in Austin. The 78704 was now on the lake with us. We had an amazing diner and great conversation. As the night went on, as all typical Austinites do, one of them (Danny), picks up the guitar and starts to play. We sing tunes long into the night. All amazing people!  The sweetest old lady called Nina, was the the owner of the cabin and they haven’t been out to the property in 4 years since her husband passed. The couple was her daughter and son-in-law. They were here on the anniversary of his passing for a celebration of life and to spread his ashes in the lake. I decided to take Danny out fishing the next morning and catch some fish. It was a good time.
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Our friend, Robbie, came out with his son and grandkids. This was nice to host, and awesome to have people actually stay the night in the guest cabin. The boys played in the lake all day and we hung up a rope swing so they could fly out into the water. That night we played games and watched movies.
Also on the lake were some of our new friends from Fairbanks. They had a guest in town that was purchasing their property. Funny thing is the guy buying the place is from Kerrville, Texas, right up the road from Austin. All the locals joke that Texas is taking over the lake. I have to remind them that I’m from Louisiana not Texas…lol. They invited us over for a weenie dog roast and good company. The weather was beautiful and all was great. Little did we know things would all turn awry  the following day.
 Jen has written about the Tsirku River in past blogs, but I wanted to give my own take. This river is not scary to me. It can be intimidating. I know it’s very unforgiving and I do respect it. I’m always in awe of how much it constantly is changing. It’s like a living being and it’s ready to lash out at you if you let your guard down. Running the river has become very exciting to me. I actually get nervous sometimes, especially when I’m hauling big loads of lumber or have lots of weight on board. You have to learn how to read the rapids and currents to know exactly where to go. You can never get comfortable with one area of the river because it will undoubtedly change the minute you do. You must always walk over to the bank and scan the river to find your best route. Not only scanning  for safe passage across, but also putting together in your mind what you’re going to do when trouble does arise. Jumping in the boat without a game plan or route is dangerous and foolish. The most important thing to remember when running the river is don’t panic if something happens (because eventually it will). And, always wear a life vest.
A few days ago, as Jen and I came into the river, we knew right away it was flowing like crazy. A good indication that is was going to be nuts was the 1-foot rise on the lake at our dock . The Tsirku River is fed by the Tsirku Glacier. As the temperature rises, the more it melts, and the more water flows down stream.  Also feeding the Tsirku River is Chilkat Lake. As the snow and glaciers melt around us in the mountains, they all empty into the Chilkat then exit out through Clear Creek into the river . This creates a massive intersection of water where Clear Creek empties out in to the Tsirku. As we cleared the river, and made it to the other side, we tied up the boat and relaxed for a minute. As I typically do, I made Jenifer walk over to the rivers edge with me and check out the current status. I always do this while Jen is busy unloading the boat and loading the truck, but I always make her stop to join me. Regardless if I’m the one always driving the boat, I feel that it’s equally important that she learns as much about this river as she can. Every trip to the river is a learning opportunity.
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As we stood at the river’s edge checking out the new paths the river has carved out, we spotted our friends from Fairbanks coming out of Clear Creek. We knew that they were bringing the fellow that was buying the property back in so he could head back to Texas. As we watched them navigate the river, I notice that they were coming in pretty hot and close to a sweeper log that was lodged in the river’s bank. A “sweeper” is a large fallen tree that is in the water horizontal to the current. They usually catch lots of debris floating down the river and there is alot of water pressure from the current flowing against it. They call them sweepers because the pressure is so intense that the river could sweep you right against it and then sweep you under. When I realized they were getting close, I looked at Jen and said “It looks like they’re going to go right into that log”.  Right as I said that, the current swept them into the log. One second they were all 3 in the boat and then….gone!
It happened so fast. It was like this giant beast swallowed them and the entire boat in a split second. As fast as the river swallowed them up, it spit them right out. The 3 of them popped up on the other side of the log and all were swiftly being swept downstream. The boat was nowhere to be seen. As I saw the Texas guy holding on to his suitcase that was keeping him afloat, all Jen and could do was watch the fear on their faces as they flew by us in the water. Jen and I kicked into gear. I yelled to them not to panic and assured them that the current would push them into the shallow water in a second, and that we were coming for them. As we jumped into the boat, we saw exactly that unfold. The 2 guys made it to the shallow and were able to crawl across a couple of other shallow passes and make it to the high ground. The lady was trapped on a shallow bar further down the river and wasn’t moving from that spot. We didn’t know what her condition was, but she was sitting up with her back against the current.
As Jen and I took off down river in the boat, I’m trying to think how this rescue is going to go. She’s in such a shallow spot in the middle of the river that we might get stuck trying to get her on board. There wasn’t alot of time to think about it, we just had to react. As we got into our boat, the man’s wife yelled out, “Please save her. I can’t lose her. I can’t do without her.” I motored down to where she was and whipped the boat around into the current and told Jen to take the wheel. We were idling enough that the river was not pushing us downstream, almost like running in  place on a treadmill.  As Jen took the wheel, I pulled out a large rope and tied a loop around one end thinking if it’s too shallow, at least I can lasso her and pull her to the boat. As I took the wheel and edged our way over to her, the current pulled us dangerously close to her. At this point, I knew the rope idea was not going to work because the current was going to push us right on top of her and run her over. I was going to have to use brute force and let the motor do its thing. I gunned it and whipped the tail end around so that she could grab hold of one of the pontoons I have welded on the back of the boat. This would not be a good idea if the motor had a prop because of the risk of hitting her with it, but no one has props out here due to all the rocks and shallow water. As she latched onto the pontoon I grabbed her by the belt and pulled her in. I gunned the engine and we were out and headed to safe ground.
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After all three were united and thoughts collected, we found the boat overturned, slightly sticking out of the water, a little ways down stream from the sweeper log. We were able to pull  it out of the river with 2 trucks. The motor was pretty much ruined, and all that was in the boat was gone, but more importantly, no one was hurt! This was a very intense experience and makes me respect the river even more. Jen and I don’t feel like some kind of heroes, we just thank God that we were on that river bank at that exact time to be able to help.

The Agrarian Lifestyle

Our one purpose for moving to this remote cabin on a lake in Alaska is to live an “Agrarian” life style. We are planning to set up a homestead that makes us as self-sufficient as possible, and to live by the work of our hands, debt-free and without regular monthly bills. We live off-the-grid, so, no electric bill. Our water is sourced from a mountain creek, so, no water bill. We are hoping to grow most of our own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. We are also hoping to can lots of salmon in the coming months, when the coho and sockeye are plentiful in our lake. We look forward to the opportunity to harvest a moose, which would provide meat for probably 1 to 2 years.

We would also like to raise chickens, rabbits, and maybe a goat or a pig. These are our long-term goals, but we are just beginning and we don’t know what challenges might present themselves. For now, we are beginning to grow a garden quickly, without building a permanent greenhouse, which will come next year. For a while, we still get our provisions from the grocery store. We brought 2 years worth of canned goods and other non-perishables with us. And, we are still purchasing fresh food weekly on our trips to town. We are trying to accustom ourselves to living in a new way, but this will take time. In particular, we are working on adjusting our attitudes about what we have, what we need, and how we get it.

The early settlers in America had to rely on the land and the work of their hands to live and survive. They could trade, barter, or sell. The industrial revolution changed people’s ability to obtain goods, and society’s ideas about the values of labor and money. The value of a job was no longer in the satisfaction it brought, but in how much money it could earn. We feel that this modern lifestyle is too complicated and not fulfilling. Agrarian thinking partners with the land and the skills needed to make it productive through work. The puritans believed that hard work honored God.
We are learning that homesteading is hard, physical work, but the emotional fulfillment it brings is great. It’s a simpler way of life.

We are getting used to questioning our need for certain things. We now categorize things we want in terms of “wants” and “needs”. If what we want doesn’t fulfill
our Agrarian life-style goals, then it’s simply a want that might need to be delayed or dismissed. We are also getting used to how to evaluate things from a new perspective. For example, it would probably be cheaper to keep buying our eggs in town, but this is not the lifestyle we are looking for. Raising chickens meets several of our goals, not only to be self-sufficient, but to live by the work of our hands (we are also excited about not investing in mass chicken GMAO’s. We are getting used to evaluating everything based on setting up a homestead, and not evaluating everything based on monetary costs and modern world values. We currently have only one regular monthly bill: our one, shared cell phone.

The only other regular expenses we have are for gas for the boat and generator, and propane for the stove. We use the generator for my hair dryer and power tools when we are building something. We use the propane stove for almost every meal, but we are preparing to install a second wood stove and we will cook from that, especially as soon the temperatures drop. We will harvest our own wood from the mountains behind our cabin.

The town library is a great resource for us. This is where we use the Internet and computers for free, check out magazines, books, and videos. They have a great collection, and are networked with all of the community libraries throughout the state of Alaska, so we are able to order anything from any library in Alaska for a shipping charge of 50 cents. It’s a bargain. One problem we have when we need to order something on the Internet is the shipping. Many retailers will not ship to Haines.
We have tried using many different addresses in Haines, but none of them work. For now, we are shipping items to friends and family in the lower 48, and they are forwarding the packages to us.

Eventually, we will need to generate some sort of income. For now, I work a couple of contract jobs which I can do remotely. We are also hoping to turn our guest cabin into a bed and breakfast retreat, and maybe offer fishing and hunting guides. Nathanael plans on working the mountain and trapping for fur in the winter months. he has brought along around 90 traps and snares. This is not as lucrative a trade as it used to be, but if successful, we can generate a little income. Furs are still sought out in Alaska, more so than in the lower 48.  Nathanael has thought of acquiring properties
in the town and opening up a diner or something for the tourist trade, but then this will put us right back where we left off, so we are putting those ideas out of our heads for now.

You never know what kind of business we might get into. It still remains to be seen. For now, we are content just living one day at a time. The only schedule we are on is Mother Nature’s.

The Big Bang, Berries and Boats 

20160628_195729-1So with the ever changing surroundings and plants around us, it’s that time of year here in Alaska when the plants start producing berries. Lots and lots of berries! Being from the South and the memories of being chest deep in brier patches picking blackberries, I’m catapulted back to my childhood. Jennifer and I have acquired about every Alaska wildflower and edible plants book in publication. We carry our field guides with us everywhere. Distinguishing what plants are what by the flowers they produce and then educating ourselves on what’s edible  and what will kill you…yes there are several toxic berries here that will hurt you. We have started picking and freezing a variety of different berries. Strawberries, High Brush Cranberries, Elder Berries, Raspberries, and High Bush Blueberries. While foraging thru the woods and finding patches of berries, we take at least one are two transplants to put in the ground back on our property.

 

Our objective is to have our own little Garden of Eden back on Motes Mountain. At first it was hard to fight the temptation of eating all the berries fresh, or Jen using them in some amazing baking treat.  We have been using some self-control and freezing as much as possible. Although it is hard, the game plan is to stock up a lot before the winter comes, so that we can have some of those baking treats when they are not available.

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With the independence celebration this weekend going on, the new town manager that has been in office for 5 days decided to cancel the town’s highly-anticipated fireworks show. The pyrotechnics guy that has been doing the show for years has refused to renew his license. So our friend, Robbie,  over at 33 Mile Roadhouse Cafe decided to donate a piece of his property and invite the whole town out and have the show outside town limits. So with the stage set and the whole town starting to show up, we knew it would be a good 4th of July celebration.
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20160703_222619As Jen and I arrived at the Roadhouse, Robbie was knee-deep flipping burgers in the restaurant due to the big crowd that showed up several hours early for the fireworks. At this point, Robbie left his cook in charge and took us off to show us something in his garage. Little did Jen and I know, but Robbie was planning a finale for the show, Alaska style! He proceeded to unveil a huge amount of Tannerite… 20lbs of it!
Those of you familiar with this know what I’m talking about, but for those who are not familiar, it’s basically 2 chemicals you mix together and in essence, creates a bomb. It’s then only ignited when shot with a high power rifle.
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As we proceeded to fill up a 5 gallon bucket with this stuff, he started unfolding his master plan. He tells me that as soon as the fireworks show is complete, he wants me to take his sons .243 rifle and shoot the bucket, creating an explosion surely to rock the crowd. Sounded good to me. At this point, all these questions are starting to run through my head……What about the state trooper in the road? Is the amount of Tannerite safe? Is this even legal? Will the blast be so large that it burns my retina through the scope?….then at that moment, Robbie looks at me and ask his own question “How’s your beer? You ready for another?” All my unanswered questions seemed to dissolve.
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With the bucket lid securely duct taped, the rifle slung on my shoulder, and double-fisting two beers, we headed off to the field behind where the festivities were going on. With the unsuspecting crowd’s backs to us and eyes to the sky with the fireworks, we slid  into position. We were ready to bring the real shock and awe to Haines. As the fireworks show ended, someone on a mega phone thanked everyone for coming out, and that was my signal. Boooooooom!!

As the whole valley shook, I felt as though I should run and hide. Suddenly, the whole town turned and looked at Robbie, Jen and I laughing our asses off. As we walked through the crowd, it was funny to hear everyone’s reaction to the explosion. One lady spilled her wine everywhere. One guy was taking a sip of beer and the explosion made his body jerk, he crushed the can, and it sprayed beer all over his face. Another guy told us he went behind the building to piss and instead shit in his pants. For the duration of the evening, Robbie and I were giggling like Beavis and Butt-Head. It seemed as though it was a very eventful evening for the whole town.
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The next morning after breakfast, Robbie wanted to take us down the Chilkat River adjacent to our lake. Jen and I have been wanting to do more river exploring so this was a great opportunity. This river is a winding tributary full of side shoots and narrow passageways, engulfed by towering mountains and glaciers. It’s good to have have someone experienced in river running  to show us these waterways. They can be pretty tough to navigate if you don’t know the shallow areas and what to keep an eye out for. We went all the way up to the Tahkini River and then shot over to the Kelsall Valley and up to the Kelsall River. Growing up in Sportsman’s Paradise (LA) has prepared me my whole life to be in this land. This is some of the best hunting and fishing country in all of North America. Every stop we make, we see moose, bear, and wolf tracks. The mountains that surround us are littered with mountain goats as well.
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We had Robbie’s trustworthy companion “Turbo” along with us. Now being a 5 month old lab, I’m not sure how much bear protection he is, but he sure does love to fish.

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We made a quick stop on a shore bank where the week before, Robbie slammed the shore on a sharp turn loosing his keys in the process. There they were in the mud. Today was a good day. With prior engagements for dinner, we had to start making our way back. We do plan on returning to this valley for a 2 or 3 day camping trip in the near future before winter comes. It turned out to be a great 4th of July. Next year we decided that we will be using 40lbs of Tannerite  instead. God bless America!
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