Sunday, May 27, 2007

Plotting a Course

Flash helps me plot a course for the hot springs adventure race

So I have been spending hours hovering over some topographic maps the past few days. I am in the midst of trying to plot a course for this adventure race/event that is taking place next weekend. The organizer is trying to keep it low key in order to avoid any sort of liability issues with having a bunch of folks out racing across the wilderness in an attempt to get from point A to point B. I did have to sign paperwork that essentially states that if I die its my fault and nobody made me do it.

The point A in this case is Chena Hot Springs--and point B is Circle Hot Springs--which lie approximately 60 air miles apart. The shortest and most direct (but not necessarily the easiest) land/water route is about 80 miles or so. The adventure aspect of this whole thing are the mountains and rivers to cross en route among the other challenging physical and biological features that interior Alaska throws in your face: thick brush, horrendously annoying mosquitoes, cold water crossings, class 2 and 3 rapids on Birch Creek, rocky scree slopes to traverse, swamps, tussocks (which are big vegetation mounds that suck you in as you walk), PM thunderstorms, and of course--BEARS!! Fortunately this time of year there is endless daylight so I will be able to travel through the night...or at least until my body keels over in desperate need of a little nappy-pooh.
I am using my Garmin GPS software to plot various routes from Chena Hot Springs

We plan on taking the shortest walking route over the mountains to the Birch Creek drainage and then floating the creek in Alpacka rafts. Here is a sample picture I stole from the companies website. These pack rafts are perfect for backcountry travel because they weight a meager 4lbs!! and can fit into your backpack.

So I will be doing this trip with my friends Ned and Andy--who are well seasoned summer/winter wilderness travelers. I am fortunate that these guys want to travel with a rookie like myself. This trip will certainly push my endurance envelope much farther than anything I have done in the past. I have a feeling this will make the 100 mile Susitna ski race feel like an afternoon stroll. At least I wont have to worry about frostbite this time of the year.

How lucky is this--I actually got to fly over a portion of the route last week while returning from a work field trip. The mouth of Harrison Cr appears to be the best point to end the 40+ miles of floating on Birch Cr and resume the last 15 miles of bushwhacking to Circle Hot Springs. There is still some ice on the banks of Harrison Cr which = effortless walking.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Day in the Bush

My field slaves--Julie and Kelly--ready to head into the Alaskan bush.

I went on another short work trip today. I did some hydrologic field work along the Yukon River in the villages of Beaver, Ft. Yukon and Circle City. These villages are only accessible by plane. In order to get all the work done in one day I charted a Cessna 207 and dragged along 2 lovely field assistants from my office to serve as my slaves. Julie is our summer hire from Penn State and she was lucky enough to come out to the field with me on her second day on the job.

The thriving metropolis of Beaver on the Yukon River.

We were transported on the river observers 4-wheeler because there are no vehicles in this village.

Ft. Yukon looks like Beaver on steroids--there are stops signs, vehicles, and a lot more people.

Fortunately Kelly had a life jacket on because she almost did a swan dive over the nose of the boat while trying to grab some of our equipment when we were surveying the river.

My field assistants were easily entertained by the sites of Ft. Yukon.

I made the girls do all the manual labor while I sat back and barked orders.

My river observers in Ft. Yukon invited us over for potato salad, rhubarb cake, iced tea and a weenie roast.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Murphy Dome Roam

Well I ran my first running race of the summer season today--the Murphy Dome Roam. Its a 11.5 mile dirt road course with a steady and rather steep climb the first 3.5 miles. I felt pretty good the entire length and this is encouraging because I usually find the transition from skiing to running quite painful. The usual suspects were in attendance and most of us cruised by Brians afterwards for brats and burgers. Otherwise--it was quite a mellow day chillin' out with friends.

Our bbq host and pillar of the community--and a damn fast runner.

Lena looked stunning as usual

Some more running yahoos

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Friday Night Booze Cruise

Endless daylight and warm temperatures have arrived and it was time to pull out the canoe out and visit the local drinking establishments situated along the Chena River. Fourteen of us started the evening cruise at the Carlson Center and drifted and drank our way down the river. We eventually ended up at Pikes Landing just before 10pm and were able to squeeze in a food order before the kitchen closed.

Man--the wildlife viewing from the river was superb!!

A trip on the Chena would not be complete w/out a stop at the Boatel. No--the guy sitting at the bar was not with us--but he would like to be.

Ted was hot tonight. He was playing a game of pool and horseshoes simultaneously.

Dan and I were outside throwing some shoes as Ted darted in/out of the bar from his pool game. Nice Capri pants Dan!

Urinal Art - Boatel Bar, circa 2007

Joe distributes drinks right from the kayak.

YAHTZEE!! - yelled Joe as he recklessly paddled away from our canoe. Seconds later he rolled the kayak and was swimming in the 40F degree water and casually dragged his intoxicated body to the shore. Fortunately we had just removed the keg from his kayak.

10PM - we finally arrive at Pikes Landing with barely enough time to order dinner on the deck.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Relay-For-Life Yard Sale

We had our BIG fundraising yard sale for our Relay-For-Life team today. The entire profit will be going toward the American Cancer Society. We had a pretty good selection of decent items and we made almost $700!!! But of course some people dropped off stuff that didn't even work--why do people do this??

There was quite a good turnout considering we had the crappiest weather this year: temperatures in the mid 30s with rain, snow and gusty winds. The precipitation began just after the start of the sale and promptly ended right when the sale was winding down--go figure! All in all is was a fun time hanging with friends and meeting an eclectic mix of hard core yard salers out in such inclement weather. Some of us also were able to get out for a 9-mile soggy run which was a nice break from standing around under tarps freezing our asses off.

Bernie hangs up one of our fundraising signs.

The first 15 min of the sale started out with sun and a rush of people

Then came the rain--and snow--and sagging tarps. I didn't design these to hold slush.

Lena, Leslie and Ted remained happy even though they had to pilfer through the yard sale clothing to stay warm.

No...Rosie is not for sale.

Lena flashes the cash--we made almost $700 to donate to the American Cancer Society.

Some of the remaining items went to the reuse area at the dump. We were ransacked by a handful of people when we arrived with a truckload of unsellable items. Bernie just couldn't resist the hip thruster and we had to persuade him to leave it there.

Check this out--there was this totally cool retro fridge at the dump!

All in a days work--We depart the reuse area at the dump and head home after a successful day for a worthy cause.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Death Cabin

Jim approaches his newly purchased death cabin

Jim and I ventured out to explore his recently purchased property this evening. He got 10.5 acres not far from my place. We walked the perimeter with a GPS and flagged off the boundaries and the corners of the lot. Jim got the property in a land auction for an unbelievably good price. There was only one catch--it came with a Death Cabin. The previous owner took a shotgun to her head and shot her brains out a couple of years ago and the cabin remained untouched except for when the body was removed.

On the trail to the death cabin there were these odd and somewhat creepy signs that said "Spare us...we want to live!"

The cabin has been padlocked since the suicide so Jim had to break in.
The cabin had been left untouched since the suicide--dirty dishes were still in the sink, there were sodas in the fridge, and the shelves were still stocked with food. The place was a mess though and had quite a rank aroma.
Jim inspects the ceiling for a bullet hole and splattered blood or brains.
We found a bullet hole in this ratty old futon.

This sticker was on her fridge. I felt sort of intrusive and a bit saddened wandering through someones cabin. We could sort of speculate on what type of person she was by sifting through her personal belongings.

Rumors say that she was married in this giant size outhouse.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Field Work on The 40-Mile

Pasque or crocus flowers bloom on the dry slopes above the 40-Mile River

I just got back from my first stint of summer field work. I went out to the Taylor Hwy in eastern Alaska to take flow measurements along various branches of the 40-Mile River. I also checked in with our weather observers in that neck of the woods. Most of our work was done from bridges and this is a great time of the year to be out there because the tourists are still a few weeks away and there were absolutely no vehicles on the road.

Here I am at O'brien Creek getting the flow measuring equipment ready so we can take our readings.

One of our river/weather observers has this great spread near the 40-mile river. Their sauna is right next to this little creek so you can sit in the screened in area and cool off.
Of course there is no running water out here so the sauna is used as bathhouse too. There are big pots of hot water on the stove to pour over yourself.

OK--I know its bad to feed the wildlife but this fox has grown up at the Taylor's place on the 40-Mile River and is used to being fed by hand.

This little guy is very cute.

We measured the flow at Jack Wade creek which runs right along the appropriately named Jack Wade gold dredge.

I took notes while Ben negotiated shore ice on Jack Wade Cr.