So 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.
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.
As 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!