On Sunday evening I rode my snowmobile for the first time over the weekend and the choke was nicely iced up. It closed okay, but then this evening didn’t seem too happy, coughing + spluttering, as was holding open 3-4mm and with the temps up around 15-20F. I managed to coax it home and Jeff helped checked it over. My own fault for not lubricating it properly (along with, er, anything else…) this winter. Need to convince the maintenance guys to let me roll into the garage one day me thinks. Too cold to work outside on it.
But, I then headed over to the wood workshop for an hour or so as Jeff worked on his canoe. He’s wanted to build one from scratch since he was a kid and figured now’s as good a time as any. I played supervisor, though did help sand the inside a little Starting to look good, and looking forward to the summer. There’s plenty of little waterways around here to explore, and he’s really keen to camp out as well. I didn’t get a chance last summer at all. Throw in a couple of fishing rods and bottles of beer (hmmm, not sure on the legality of that out here actually…) and should be fun.
I appeared in the Delta Discovery newspaper this past week as a photo and brief article on the K300 fun run from a couple of weeks ago was printed. My name wasn’t spelt right again. I guess I should just get used to it! And after a friend thought I was about the same age as him a week ago (early 40′s), at least today someone else pegged me as mid-30′s today Definately a day for giving up and not caring!
The temperatures have been so up + down the last couple of weeks, and today we’ve been getting hit with freezing rain. It really is quite scary seeing cars sliding everywhere as all the rain/sleet/snow freezes as soon as it hits the ground and gives no grip. Riding a snowmobile is especially tricky! After pizza + a movie tonight, I figured it was easier to move along the slough than the road – big mistake. In only a few hours huge parts of it had 3-4 inches of standing water. Twisting along a narrow slough is tough at night in fresh snow, let alone sliding sideways on the ice whilst pushing a bow wave of water! Was convinced I was going to dump it.
Walking isn’t going to happen, we’d already dropped the idea of hitting Shogun’s for dinner earlier as 50mph winds mean rather than just sliding on the ice as your boots have no traction, you also then get blown along the ice (which is actually quite fun until you realize you can’t stop…). Not many taxis running either so hoping it’s a little better in the morning, or that my neighbor drives up to school Am *not* going on the slough again until it freezes…
Today was probably the first day I’ve felt like having a decent work-life balance since starting out here. Riding to work in 5 minutes rather than walking 35-40 minutes helped, and then being able to actually come home for lunch for the first time in 5 months was cool – called in at the Polaris store to get a new ignition switch, ate lunch, hooked up a sled and rode back comfortably in time for 1p.m. Coming back after work in 5 minutes, and getting some shopping without then lugging it all home was much easier too!
I got the ignition switch connected rather than just the bungee cord system which meant anyone could technically start it, so a little happier now it needs a key. If someone wants to steal, they’ll still get it started, but it’s a bit of peace of mind. Need to see if the guys at the metal shop can solder up the leads properly tomorrow as -15F (-26C) made it a tad cold to do a good job as the iron just lost all it’s heat right away and the metal terminals were too cold. Hopefully they don’t shake themselves loose on the ride to work in the morning Will take my duck tape with me just in case…
After spending 20 minutes digging a sled out of a snow drift this morning, Jeff + I headed down to Tunt to pick up a bunch of boxes and see if my snowmobile would play nice. Miraculously, is started up pretty much right way, and after a bit of ISO Heet, ran like a champ. Did the full 50 miles or so back to Bethel without skipping a beat.
No, the dog sled isn’t for me, it’s for a colleague here in Bethel. Was tempting though Most of the boxes made it quite okay, I have a few papers drying out and some of the electronics are slowly warming back up too. Hopefully nothing is damaged. Jeff + I were both exhausted, was 8 hours door to door, but so glad I have friends like that willing to help out. Was pretty cool riding back with the sun setting behind us, knowing everything was safe + sound. Hard to even try to capture the scene in a photograph, as it’s so just so vast and desolate, it’s 360 degrees and impossible to do justice in a single image. Least I won’t have to leave the house at 7.20a.m so I can walk to work and be in the office by 8a.m anyway (well, at least until breakup!).
The weather had warmed up a little in the middle of the week to right around 32-35F and brought sleet snow and freezing rain, so the rivers built up quite a bit of standing water in places. Kinda put an end to trying to bring my snowmobile out of Tunt – if we couldn’t see a trail on the river last weekend, certainly wouldn’t have seen one with 6 inches of standing water But, it started cooling down yesterday (currently 8F with windchill to -12F) and the slough and river are starting to freeze up again. There’s still going to be at least 15-18 inches of ice down, but it’s always disconcerting to see water as you do get overflows sometimes where the ice cracks and can never sure how wide the cracks are!
Jeff is flying down to Tunt on Tuesday to work on the water treatment plant and spending the night there, so offered to get my snowmobile up + running, put new plugs on and fresh oil + coolant in, etc. It’s really nice of him, and he even suggested riding it back up to Bethel but I’m trying to dissuade him unless he can find someone else riding up. It’s not worth it enough to me to risk him getting wet or lost. But, he also told me ATS have planted two of the Casa 212 cargo planes, so I guess the idea of having it flown into Bethel is off too as I don’t think they have anything other than 207′s left or maybe one more 212, and you ain’t getting a snowmobile into a 207… If Jeff can get it running whilst he’s in Tunt and the river freezes up again through this week, we might try riding it again next weekend.
Sometimes out here you just have to go with the flow, and nature just says “nope”. Today was one of those frustrating days.
Jeff + I headed down river hoping to get to Tunt, and although there’s a beautifully marked trail to Napakiak and then down the east side of the Kuskokwim before hitting the tundra trail to Eek (literally, trail markers every 20 yards), we couldn’t find any trail down the west side to Tunt. We met one guy from Eek that said he’d seen the trail when passing yesterday but not this morning, so not sure whether the tracks were covered with drifting snow or what. We headed down to fish camp island where the Eek trail heads off river and tried heading down and across to the Johnson River, but there was quite a bit of standing water Jeff wasn’t sure about, and given he has a brand new snowmobile he’s only been riding for 3-4 weeks who was I to argue! Was just so frustrating to see exactly where we had to go, I could even pretty much make out where the trail should have left the river to Tunt, but the weather also then started closing in a little which didn’t help. We headed back around Napakiak and checked the island mid-channel where I’d seen another trail last year, but nothing, and definately nothing skirting the riverbank where it should be. I’m guessing the guys are going into Napakiak itself and down the tundra the whole way, but without knowing for certain and just being the two of us on one machine, not worth trying to break trail ourselves.
So, we headed back to Bethel where the sun was back out and hit Alba’s for lunch. I had a burger, it warmed me up. Jeff enjoyed the ride anyways and it was nice to get out of town again. Frustrated my snowmobile is still just sitting in Tunt whilst I’m schlepping around Bethel, along with half a dozen boxes I packed up two months ago that simply need taking to the post office. Really tempted just to write Northern Air Cargo a blank check and tell them to fly it here on back-haul.
It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow which gives us a 4-day weekend After 10 days straight, it’s needed, and the big boss superintendent came over the intercom around 2p.m letting us know we could go at 3p.m which was even more welcomed! I’m heading round to Jeff + Angel’s for dinner tomorrow, sure there’s a few other folk wandering over too, and then word is the trail to Tunt is clear and rideable so Jeff and I plan on doing our best not to get lost and try riding it this weekend. So long as it doesn’t snow too much or have strong winds coming in to cover the trail, should be fine. Looking forward to getting on my snowmobile again, though not convinced about the 1 1/2 – 2 hours of sitting on the back of one to get there. Never ridden as a passenger for more than a couple of minutes catching a quick ride with someone! Really hoping I can get my snowmobile up though as walking to walk with the kinda weather we’ve had lately is getting boring!
Well, the warm weather at the start of last week was just a teaser. It cooled down again the middle of the week and froze over, and then the last couple of days there’s been some gentle blowing snow most of the time covering the ice. The tundra is still very bare + exposed so it’s kinda a mixed look outside, and still staying down around 15F (-10C) with windchill. Haven’t been out on the snowmobile anyway as the tundra is all exposed around the houses, and don’t really have anywhere to go on it with the weather swinging around!
A few more locals have been getting boats ready though – one of them by the river had a big pile of broken ice next to it which looked like someone had lost control of their sled after being ice chipping, but then the inside of the boat was thick with ice and it’s owner had been breaking it out! I’ve seen a couple getting towed along the river too, again, probably to get out seal hunting along the coast:
Isn’t quite as gruesome as some of the photos recently published out of Canada though, honest.
On the plus side (segue from clubbing seals…?!), GTA IV arrived through the mail this afternoon – about time, as I pre-ordered it last summer, even though it’s final release date wasn’t until this past Tuesday Pretty cool though, so can’t wait to get to stuck into it later on this evening
I’m also heading into Anchorage on May 12th for a few days, partly just to get out the village for a bit! I’m meeting up with a friend who lives there, and hoping to get an introductory flying lesson (TSA approval required for anything more) and pilot medical done whilst I’m there. Slowly moving forward I guess. Should be good, and Damond used to work in Denali National Park and has lived around the Anchorage area all his life, so I can pick his brains for when we head out at the end of July when my parents fly over Can get some shopping done and mail stuff back to keep us going over the summer as well – think I’ll have one box just of mosquito repellant!
On Monday evening I uploaded the first of some files I’ve been working on with flight sim to a couple of the major flight sim sites that provide file libraries to collect resources like that together. The first was a complete package for Grant Aviation including repaints of the Cessna 207 and 208′s that fly in + out of the village, along with AI flight plans I’d worked out so that you get the planes flying around in flight simulator as you would do in real life. This area of Alaska is pretty much devoid of anything in flight sim (not unlike in real life I guess!), but the addition of some traffic makes such a difference and is pretty cool seeing them moving around Bethel and out to the villages. I wasn’t expecting many people to pay much attention to them, but there’s been over 1000 downloads within the first 72 hours Probably taper off after they move out the latest uploads pages, but nice to see. I’ve already got planes and flight plans pretty much worked out for Hageland Aviation and good ol’ Yute Air (just wish I could figure out a ‘randomness’ factor so sometimes the planes simply don’t turn up…) which I’ll be uploading in the new few days too. The files are available from my flight sim section, and here’s an idea of what some of the Grant planes look like:
Yesterday afternoon I went out for a while jigging (short retirement, I know…) on the Galic River. Got three hooks ripped off whilst trying to haul fish in as the hole wasn’t cut properly at the bottom and was catching the line so headed home, but did have a bit of fun riding out there – this is Pam bundled up in the sled behind Nick + Dana, Mott leading us, then a couple of guys obviously nervous the river was liable to break up
I’d guess they were just moving downriver to be able to get out seal hunting shortly, but was still funny seeing a boat being towed along the frozen river by a snowmobile!
This afternoon, moose foot and me wandered along to the airport and saw a Hageland 207 struggling to come in to land with the wind. Even the pilots have been joking on the radio about how windy it is when coming in to land. Barely seems like they’ve moving sometimes as they’re on final to land.
Least this guy took a little more time on his takeoff run-up – look at how much movement he got out the airplane whilst checking the elevator:
Kat’s feeling a lot better now, I’m blaming it on the broccoli she had on the Sunday evening with dinner The snow does seem to be slowly melting away, and there’s a lot of standing water and cracks forming on the rivers. Riding out to the Galic river yesterday the area looked so different to just a couple of weeks ago with patches of exposed tundra, so the ice may well start to break up in the next couple of weeks. Seems unlikely given how much snow and ice there’s still down (well over 5 foot thick ice yesterday), but the temperature has been slowly rising and due to carry on over the next week up to 40F. Maybe spring is here!
Iain Foulds, 29 years old. Originally from England, now living in St Louis after 4 years in Alaska. I currently work as a technology support specialist at St Louis University High. Very passionate about photography. More...