Time and time again, I’m amazed by the constant changes around us. As we gear up around the property for what we know as the craziest winter either one of us have ever lived through, we are faced with continuing weather changes. We got our 1st 12 inches of snow within 24 hours this year, followed 4 days later by continuous raining. Complete white out one day, then the snow disappears overnight and the scenery changes like that. The locals, along with alot of native Alaskan folks believe that Global warming is happening and they are seeing the changes the most. The last 2 winters have been extremely warmer and no one around here can give me a good freeze up ETA. Everyone says we would typically be freezing up already in the back lake. I’m not complaining because we can still make runs to town for lumber and supplies, and I’m finding time to wrap up on projects. In preparation for winter, I don’t feel so far from Louisiana.
We sealed up the complete underside of the house to help keep out the winter’s frigid wind and cold temps. Just like prepping for a hurricane. We started on the new boat docks. Now that the lake is super low we can get our posts in the ground. This will be the 1st level, then we will have 2 more floating docks on the water. I was also able to get both boat ramps completed.
These are essential to get the boats out the water before the lakes freeze up. Ice completely destroys boats. Think about the Titanic.
We went ahead and insulated all of the pipe running from the water dam. The family we got the property from says these springs never freeze during the winter and all the locals have also advised us to stay away from these spots when running the lake on the snowmobiles because where the springs empty into the lake these springs don’t freeze as well and become death traps. Hopefully the insulation helps and our water line doesn’t freeze. If it does we will have to cut a hole in the lake with a chainsaw and pump water up the hill to a big storage tank. Either way I’m thinking it’s gonna be a challenge to deal with water this winter, but nothing the 2 of us can’t conquer.
My 40th birthday came while in Alaska and all I really wanted was to watch sum football. So Jen and I jumped in the boat and B-lined for the big lake to a small cabin over on Birch Island. This is where a cute little widowed lady lives alone, far from everywhere but not far from any comforts. Where else can you find an 80″ plasma TV, off the grid, with a beaver on top of it and a polar bear on the ceiling? Only in Alaska…lol. Without the ability to order a pizza delivered to our house, Jen has mastered the thin crust pizza. After pizza and a not so exciting LSU game, the day turned out to be the best birthday ever. With the exception that LSU lost.
We don’t run the lake very much at all at night but sunset is now at 3:53 pm , and we lose 3min everyday. So when we left around 6pm, visibility was very low. We stayed about 100ft off the shoreline and knew we would be fine as long as we headed south. All of a sudden we hit a huge fog pocket and we couldn’t see 2 to 3 feet in front of us. My 1st instinct was to stop and evaluate the situation and our distance from shore. I knew that we were in open water and I knew that there’s no obstructions in the water that I can hit. But it’s pretty eerie when you’re flying on top of the water and then boom you can’t see in front of you. I decreased throttle to neutral, and I noticed at the same time the wind grabbed the bow of the boat and spun us 180 degrees. At least I thought it seemed like 180 degrees. I throttled up to over compensate for the wind’s push, but at this point I felt like a child at a birthday party and someone blindfolded me and spun me around and around for my turn at pin the tail on the donkey. Neither one of us could tell what direction the bow was facing or what direction the shoreline was. As we sat there in awe at how thick this fog was, all of a sudden, the motor stalled and died. Jen and I were both silent and eyes wide as I grabbed the key to try to restart the motor. With 3 failed cranks and no motor running, Jennifer and I both started laughing out loud. Great… we can’t see and now we have no power. In retrospect the best birthday present was that the next try the motor fired up and we started moving slowly in the direction in what I thought was the shoreline. Sure enough we hit the shoreline and moseyed our way south to the cabin. The narrows were a challenge at night as we ran into the weeds every 100ft. Eventually we got through and we were warming our bones by the fire before long.
We always loved our little rickety bridge that brings us to Chilkat Valley Road from the highway on our way to the boat landing, but even the infrastructure here is changing. The state of Alaska started the Klehini River Bridge Project back in June to replace our bridge and its almost complete. But, with the weather changing, officials are saying they’re not gonna finish till 2017. The construction of this bridge is huge. It looks like tanks are gonna be able to cross this thing. It looks as though its 3 times as large as the old bridge. I always assumed that the new bridge was due to the old one deteriorating, but with the massive size of this new one, it makes me believe that either there’s a new gold mine popping up or alot of logging trucks that are about to start coming this way. I have to believe that the state is not putting this new bridge in for us handful of folks living remotely on Chilkat lake. So only time will tell about what’s going on…
The Eagles have shown up in the thousands. Every year in Haines we have the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world. Numbers have reached as high as 20,000 birds at one tine in a season.They arrive in time for the late coho salmon run. You can count upwards from 20 to 30 eagles in one tree. The record was 80 eagles counted in one tree at one time. Photographers come from all over to enjoy this spectacular event, and there is even a bald eagle festival that runs for a weekend in Nov. We feel pretty fortunate to be able to look out our window and see eagles in our trees on a daily basis. It’s even more amazing to watch these magnificent birds in their mating rituals. They soar way up into the air and lock talons, then spiral down at a dead fall towards the lake and at the last minute disengage and swoop away just inches before hitting the water. This time of year we call the narrows, “eagle alley”, due to all of the eagles that are perched waiting to prey on the salmon squeezing thru the narrow water passage.
It’s been raining for 5 days straight now, and we are getting a little taste of how winter might pan out. We’ve been stuck inside and projects have halted. So being stuck inside, we decide to complete sum inside chores we’ve been putting off that have been least important. Jen was able to clean off the wheat grinder and get it put together so that we can start making our own flour.
When we purchased the property, we found a hidden make-shift root cellar under the house with about 80 5gallon buckets filled with wheat berries, untouched and unspoiled. We have been growing wheat grass all summer but Jen wants to start grinding her own flour.
While we were stuck indoors, I was able to find an electric short in the wiring system that I’ve been putting off. I got lucky and found it in the 1st electrical outlet I came to. Jen laughed and said she couldn’t believe that we put off a repair for 7 months that only took 5 mins to find and resolve. Things have been running smoothly and the boredom of being stuck inside hasn’t effected me to much. I have officially become a guitar hero champion, Jen has become a scrabble champion, and we have broke into our vault of movie entertainment. We started the complete seasons of Game of Thrones, Grey’s Anatomy, Breaking Bad, and Seinfeld. We have a great library and for the 1st time in my life, I have started reading books. I’ve been reading a lot about trapping and gearing up to be a purveyor of pelts. I did get out of the house and venture out to a couple of beaver dens and scouted out sum good spots for a trap line. There was one spot in Clear Creek where a beaver had chewed thru an old cottonwood tree and was at risk for falling into the creek and blocking our passage. So, I helped him out and cut it down.
With all of the changing weather, it’s hard to know where the hard and soft spots are in the riverbed. We’ve only misjudged and gotten stuck one time when pulling our boat out on our trailer.
The boat rides are starting to be less enjoyable with the wet, cold rains. And, soon we won’t be able to ride on the water at all.
We have both snow sleds tuned up and ready for action with the help from our buddy Robby at 33mile roadhouse.
It may be a while before our next blog due to the weather, or maybe not…