Snettisham 2015 - 6: Refrigerator in the Wilderness
  July 25-31


Misty shoreline upriver

WHEW. That is me breathing an enormous sigh of relief. It's 11:09 p.m. and I'm in Hermit Thrush in bed, with a tremendous amount of stress drifting away. I've had family (up to six at a time) in town for the last ten days (three of which I hosted at Snettisham), which is wonderful but also extremely exhausting.  On top of that, I was preparing for a week at Snettisham and the Taku and a couple of big projects while trying to juggle working and family time. I managed to spend Friday morning running errands, including the purchase of a 2' pipe, bolts, and concrete for the satellite dish and a propane refrigerator and accessories. Friday afternoon I spent with my aunt and my mother, Saturday morning I went grocery shopping early, then spent the rest of the morning with my aunt and mother again. The afternoon was taken up prepping for departure and sneaking in a little relaxation with Chris. I had wanted to leave on Sunday so I had a bit more down time at home (instead of spending most of my free time getting ready), but the forecast showed the light NW winds turning SE overnight and blowing 20 knots for a couple of days. It was supposed to diminish to 15 knots/seas three feet on Sunday, but the evening looked so pleasant I couldn't resist. I certainly didn't relish the idea of pounding my way south with concrete and a refrigerator in my boat.
 
So at 5:15 p.m. I left the house, stopped by Home Depot for a new propane tank, and headed to the harbor. Chris showed up a few minutes later with hot, delicious pelmeni (some of which ended up on my shirt), and we sat on the boat and had dinner before loading all my gear (tote, cooler, halibut line, buoy, pipe, bag, backpack, vacuum packer, five jerry jugs of gas). We evaded one near disaster when I was backing a cart down the finger to the back of the boat and tripped over the pipe sticking out from across the stern, nearly falling backwards into the harbor. Chris's fisherman friend Jim showed up just in time to help us haul the refrigerator down. We laid it on a cart and they lifted the front while I steered. It sat upright in the back of the boat just as I imagined.

I fueled up and got the boat ship shape, stopped by the outhouse, moved the truck to long-term parking at the end of the road overlooking the beach, and was underway at 6:50 under a lovely, mild, overcast sky. The channel was calm except for wakes which made the refrigerator bounce forwards and backwards alarmingly, as was the passage to Arden. I was optimistic of a pleasant ride south, thinking that even if there were seas they'd be small and from behind. I had, in fact, read that the light winds would be from around the SW, so I shouldn't have been surprised to run into chop past Arden coming from Admiralty. Unpleasant chop. Not the worst kind and we didn't even have to slow down much (it was the kind that's possibly better at speed), but it was bumpy, Cailey was very unhappy (stuck in the front because of the refrigerator), and I was sitting awkwardly with one had hanging onto the strap that attached the refrigerator box to the pallet it was sitting on so it didn't bounce too much. I made up a song and sang as we bumped agonizingly along. At last we passed Grave Point right at two hours and the seas blissfully calmed down a little. We got more chop, this time coming from the mainland, quartering them again, so we got closer to land and they soon calmed right down. I ran out of gas in the main tank just shy of Sentinel Point, from which point it was 11 minutes to the homestead. We arrived at 8:41, just a few minutes after high tide.
 
The tide was good, but the river just lapped at the very bottom of the log. Before we pulled in I changed into waders to facilitate unloading. I unloaded all the easy stuff, then the concrete, all of which I inexplicably carried all the way up to the porch. On the way down I brought two ladders for skids and, once everything else was off the boat, I laid them side by side and tied them on the rail. The ends rested just at the bottom of the log. I tipped the refrigerator over but couldn't get it to slide, which turned out to be because of the braces on one side of the one of the ladders that stuck up and dug into the cardboard. I righted the fridge, turned the ladder over and tried again. This time it worked and I soon had the top of it snugged up against the bottom of the log. Surprisingly, I was able to pick it up at the top (the light end) and drag it up until it was resting on top of the log. Then I scooted it up until it was fully on the stone path. As the tide was dropping, I unlashed the ladders and took off to anchor the boat, leaving Cailey behind.

Back on land I hauled the rest of the gear to the lodge and brought down a dolly and a couple pieces of plywood. I grabbed the pallet and swung the refrigerator end for end so the bottom was uphill, then righted it, slid the dolly under, and tied it on. Tipping it back proved challenging, though. I can't describe exactly why it wasn't working, but it wasn't. I abandoned that path and instead swung it end for end all the way up the path after cutting the packing straps and relieving it of its pallet. It was hard and sweaty work and it seemed like time was flying by. I had a 10:00 date with Chris on IM and the minutes ticked by as I heaved and carried one end after another. The bottom end was much much heavier, the deep grass a hindrance. Once I stumbled and lodged my knee in the soggy ground where we leave the kayaks. About 25 feet from the deck the bottom of the box came off and exposed the bottom of the fridge, which offered some tantalizing but possibly sharp hand holds. I lifted it onto the deck and scooted it across, then stood it upright alongside. This was the tricky part, as the path was narrow and the berry bushes unconducive to swinging a fridge around. I fetched the smoother ladder and laid it down, tipping the fridge onto it and sliding it uphill. I did this several more times until it was up against the back porch, astonishingly. The only time I didn't use the ladder was over the top of the big root, which I pushed across very slowly. I wasn't able to scoot it onto the porch directly, so I scooted it on the ladder alongside until I could life the bottom up where it was lower and then tilt it up. It was 9:55 and I hustled to get the satellite internet going.

By then it was mostly dark, especially inside the lodge, and I was desperately thirsty. I fetched a flashlight, and starting ferrying things outside, starting with the radio, then the modem and power supply and network cable, then the coax cable. By the time I managed to get the leads on the proper battery, it was seven minutes after the hour'.and the TCP acceleration status was bad, the system light not on. I'm not sure exactly how it got fixed. I power cycled to no effect (that I'm aware of), then went through the re-registration process. I'm not sure exactly what happened there, but it did the encryption key download thing again and restarted the modem. It still didn't work, initially because setup wasn't complete, which didn't quite make sense, but that may have been before it restarted itself. Sometimes the pages don't do anything when they are working (like after I click the Close button which is supposed to close the window). Anyway, I went to get a drink of water and at 10:20, all the lights were magically on. I wrote Chris and my parents an email, chatted with a Chris a little bit, then packed it up and brought the modem and power supplies inside. I took the cardboard box off and shimmied the refrigerator inside, hoping I hadn't damaged anything in my unorthodox transportation methods (I'd ripped off the little indicator button that shows you if the box has undergone trauma!). Then I took my shirts off and washed up with cold water, having drenched myself with sweat moving the fridge. I carried the rest of the gear inside, brought the kayak up, picked up the bottom of the box from the path, and decided to leave the other tools for the morning. Finally, Cailey and I headed to bed and here we are, listening to the creek. I think Cailey had some nervous energy too, as she got to work on her hoof and I finally had to take it from her when she came up on the bed. It's almost midnight, and I should be dead to the world. Tomorrow I plan to take the day off!

I woke up around 7:30, came back to bed and laid there, relishing the bed, apparently dried now from a night of sleep (damp as usual when I got in). I eventually dozed off again until I finally got up around 9:30. Cailey, no doubt equally exhausted, curled up next to me on the bed the whole time. I had a little breakfast on the porch, cleaning up a little each time I got up. I collected the four pieces of Styrofoam from the fridge box and stowed them under the deck for the trip back to town, ripped up the cardboard at the back door, and carried the ladder, pallet, plywood, and dolly up from the path. Although I did read a bit on the porch, I mostly puttered around, reading the instructions on the refrigerator, drilling a hole through the hemlock paneling on the inside, and setting the new propane tank next to the tank for the range in the bear proof box. The latter I elevated on 4x4 blocks so its pipe is above the new tank. As I was trying to puzzle out how to remove the bit of paneling from the drill and, more complicated, figure out where to drill through the outside wall, I realized that my mind was impaired by hunger. I made some burritos for lunch, read for a few minutes, and did a rare Snettisham feat'napped! Now I'm on the deck hooking up to the internet for a 2:00 date with Chris. The wildlife is even quieter than it was this morning. It still feels like mid-summer in terms of temperature and growth, but the birds feel unusually quiet. I heard eagles (I looked up from my book to watch one preen beautifully on one of their favorite perches), Steller's jays from their usual place this year just downriver in the alders, a Pacific-slope flycatcher briefly, chickadees, and saw several sparrows disappear in to the grasses, and three Bonaparte's gulls paddled the water. Just now I've been hearing distant sooty grouse! The wind has died down a bit now. The ground is soggy from all the recent rain (and there was a bit last night), but it's been dry today so far, but I did wake up pleased that I wasn't on the water as the devil's club swayed around the cabin.
 
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the lodge resting up, reading on the couch with Cailey at my feet, and working on a new puzzle that either Vicki or my grandmother (or another relative?) gave me years ago of Florida wildlife. I finally got up around 6:30 and began seriously making an effort to remove the paneling plug from the hole saw. I tried a few strategies, but the only thing that made any headway was drilling into the plug repeatedly and slowly chipping out pieces. It took far longer and took much more effort to remove that plug than it did to drill the holes themselves. While doing that I put on water to make pasta and by the time it was boiling I finally had the plug out. I made an unexpectedly large batch of the tortellini and sauce left by Sander and Torsten and ate it outside with toast and butter and canned green beans. After dinner I put a long '' drill bit on the maquita and drilled straight through the paneling hole to the outside. That way I could line up the holes when I drilled form the outside with the hole saw. The gas hose went through without a problem. I took it out and threaded it through the side of the bear proof box and then back inside. I think that a single 6' length would have been perfect, but after a cursory attempt at separating the two pieces I gave up and decided to just use the 12' version they'd put together for me at the shop. I screwed it into the new tank, amazed at how easy all this was compared to the other systems, especially the one using copper tubing. Back inside I moved the fridge as far back toward the wall as I could and still have room to work and screwed the gas line in. I checked all the connections for leaks and, finding none, moved the fridge into place and tried to light it. This involves pressing in a button for gas and pressing another button to light it. There was no clicking sound as promised, so I read how to replace the starting battery which turned out to be non-existent. I put in the AAA battery that came with the packaging and soon had a whoosh of burning propane. It was working! Nothing to do but wait.

I read a little longer and then retired to bed where I read myself asleep. It rained lightly all night and around 8:15, Cailey got up and stretched and seemed fully recovered. I got up a few minutes later and headed to the lodge where I was delighted to find the refrigerator and freezer cold. I placed everything from the cooler inside. In between a little yogurt and toast for breakfast I washed the dishes, stowed all the cardboard from the fridge box between the wood box and the work bench/counter, and organized all the dishes in my two new dishracks. Then I had a cup of jasmine tea on the porch and watched the rain. More birds fluttered around the meadows and I had a good look at one who flew up the path and over the grass into the spruce upriver. There he saw on a branch while I watched him, a streaked sparrow of undetermined species, probably a fledgling. He looked like a pine siskin but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a Lincoln's sparrow or something. I also saw a fledgling Wilson's warbler in the bushes and other birds too quick to identify. It's interesting that Wilson's warbler is around, and potentially Lincoln's sparrows, for I heard neither of those two species singing this year and only a rare glimpses of an adult. I haven't seen or heard any sign of thrushes of any kind.

After that I went on rounds with hardware. First I attached hooks on the inside and outside of the lodge outhouse, drilling pilot holes with a tiny bit. After I finished the inside one, I stayed to use the outhouse, securing the latch from'.absolutely no one. Then I went to Mink and mounted a wooden coat hanger with three hooks on the downriver wall (taken from the abandoned Wostmann office). From there I visited Harbor Seal where I replaced two small brass hooks with two lovely black hooks attached to songbird silhouettes (arranging them to hide as much of the existing holes, or use them, as possible). At Hermit thrush I put up two more hooks to replace the one hook already there and add a second one, one to either side of the door. Then I mounted the new curtain rod I'd bought off Amazon for the new window and put up the curtains on it which, I have to say, looks lovely. While I was doing that, Cailey rested on the bed. I ripped off all the curtain tags before heading back to the lodge. On the way I picked up several beers and a diet Dr. Pepper to put in the refrigerator!
 
The next logical task was the hole for the satellite dish. First I used a chisel to remove the blue protective coating on the top end to make sure there wasn't anything there that would prohibit mounting the dish (I'd drilled two holes in the bottom end in town so that had to be the top). It turned out to be grooved for screwing together like the other end, but I measured it and it seemed to have the same measurements as the mount the dish is sitting on, so I think it will work. I chose a place for the hole at the edge of the currents upriver of the porch, put on rainpants, and set to work. The digging was surprisingly easy at first as there are few roots in that area. The soft black organic earth gave way to sand/silt about a foot down, and not much deeper I hit a rock. I spend some time clearing dirt and rocks from around this smooth, rounded monster, hoping that I could pry it up. I expanded the hole, seeing the rock disappearing after each excavation deeper away. I finally gave up and dug a new hole adjacent to that one closer to the porch. I soon came across another huge rock, this one square, which I was sure I could pry up, as I found the bottom of it, which seemed to be resting on the rounded rock. I eventually made this hole twice as big as the other, but the rock was obviously another monster and would not budge. By then it was 1:30, so I took a break and made quesadillas, finishing just in time to set up the internet and chat with Chris and write some work emails.
 
After that I returned to digging and started another hole on the river side of the third hole, but it ran into the original rock and I gave up on that area altogether. I never would have guessed such large rocks would be located in this area of black mud. They must have been placed there by the rock slide that made this flattish land, or by later avalanches passing where the lodge is now.
 
And so I chose a fourth location, naturally right in the middle of the large pile of dirt I'd made. Some of it I moved back into the existing holes, others I just shoved aside. This last hole finally worked and it probably only took about 20 minute to dig. I did encounter an obstacle about 18' down'this time a pale log about four inches in diameter. Although I did get it to wiggle, I was afraid it might extend some distance in either direction, so I moved a few inches to the side and finished the hole a little farther upriver. When I was about two feet down, water started to seep in and eventually I was simply digging up handfuls of wet gravel from the bottom through several inches of slop. Allow me to describe the scene for you. It is raining hard and everything is wet. Before lunch I'd taken off my fleece to help stay cool, but it was still hot work (even barefoot), so after lunch I didn't wear any pants under my rain paints, and just a t-shirt under my rain jacket. I would use the shovel as much as possible to loosen the dirt and rocks, but very little of it could I bring up with the shovel, partly because I didn't want the hole to be too wide and partly because everything was wet and the shovel was an awkward tool for sodden dirt. It was much more efficient to get down on my knees and scoop out dirt with my hands. On the first three holes, I also spent most of my time on my knees using a hammer and small claw/thing to scrape and lever away at the rocks. My gloves from before lunch were so wet and muddy that holding the shovel became difficult, so I moved to rubbery gloves after lunch. The earth from the holes felt nice on my feet when I stepped onto the piles. Everything was dirty and muddy and, when my hole was finally dug, I rinsed off my rain jacket in the sink and set it by the first to dry. When I went to check on the hole later, it was full of water to about eight inches below ground level.

I put more clothes on, had some Russian tea, and read more of my father's memoirs before making some soup for dinner. Then I read for a bit and here I am! It's about 7:00 and I am worn out. Perhaps tomorrow I'll try using concrete for the first time.


Hole #1

New coat hooks in Hermit Thrush

Curtains in Hermit Thrush!

The new window/curtains in Hermit Thrush

I worked on the puzzle until about 9:30, finding it more comfortable sitting on the couch lengthwise with the plywood in my lap. I experimentally turned off the propane light just behind me to see if it helped the smell (it did) and consequently used a headlamp to see, which proved to be much better. I slept until 8:00 this morning, then lounged around for another half an hour, justifying that action by the fact that every morning that I get up with an alarm clock I wish to goodness I could just lie there a little longer. I washed the dishes, then had toast and jasmine tea for breakfast and worked on the puzzle until it was finished at 11:30 (!). A serious southeasterly storm was raging outside, seas coming in off Gilbert Bay accompanied by heavy rain. There were rain spots all over the deck while I drank my tea, justifying my decision to disconnect the modem every day. The bird life, however, was not particular, and were quite active while I drank my tea outside. There were at least two different kinds of sparrows, two dark individuals with streaks all down their bellies (I'm guessing Lincoln's sparrows) and a much paler, buffy one with an unmarked belly. With them were at least two juvenile Wilson's warblers with gray heads and another warbler, drabber and grayer overall with a yellowish belly and gray head, a juvenile orange-crowned warbler I believe. A Pacific-slope flycatcher joined them now and again (age undetermined) and I also saw a Pacific wren in the bushes. Again, they seemed really drawn to the small spruce in the meadow and several times I saw three species at once, some with multiple individuals of the same species! I also had the privilege to watch the sparrows in the grasses, bopping along on the top of the bent clumps or perched on top of seed clusters, sometimes disappearing among the blades. Bonaparte's gulls continued to populate the waters, picking at tiny bits of something on the surface. The adult heads are beginning to molt into winter plumage.

After the puzzle was complete I lept to the task of concreting. It took a while to assemble everything'wheel barrow, garbage bag, bucket of water, bolts, concrete, level, etc. The hole was by now almost entirely full of water. I experimented with a boat pump but wound up using a coffee pot instead. It didn't take long for the hole to fill back up once emptied, but I emptied it quickly one last time before actually mixing the concrete in the wheel barrow. I also filled a black garbage bag with a couple inches of gravel from the beach and a few shovels of concrete. Once the concrete was mixed, I emptied the hole once more and quickly dropped the garbage bag in, then the pipe. Of course, the pipe was much too heavy to be supported by such a small amount of gravel and concrete in the bottom, so I quickly made temporary braces with electrical tape between it and two stakes I'd pounded in nearby earlier. I managed to at least stabilize it so I could dump the concrete in. It was quite short of the amount needed to fill the hole, and the ample water that had seeped in while I messed with the pipe was displaced to the surface, so I just dumped the last bag on top and mixed it in right there. Unfortunately, that too was not enough, and the concrete has about four inches of water on top of it. I tried to dig a drainage ditch, but the ground is quite flat there and I'd have to go through the currents and down the beach to reach lower ground. Concrete is supposed to set up under water so I can only hope. It is, for the moment, plumb, but I don't think I'll put any weight on it until I can add another bag to fill out the hole. By then it was 1:00 and I was quite hungry, so I had chili and a beer for lunch before getting online about 10 to 2:00 to chat with Chris and do a bit of work. I managed to download reports from one NOAA database, transfer data into them from files in an email, and then upload them into another NOAA database, all via space!

After lunch I decided it was time to light a real fire, one I didn't allow to die when the initial supply of wood burned up. This time I resupplied it once, and the lodge got predictably very hot. With all the rain I thought it would do the building and my clothes good to dry out a little. I'm afraid by then I was feeling a little down in the dumps, and rather unenergetic. I thought the heat was probably not helping any, so I went outside and did feel somewhat energized, but not enough to do anything on my list. I retreated inside and finished reading my dad's memoirs, which probably didn't help my mood any, reminding me of slaughtered geese and the loss of the lodge. I also read a little more in my new book'I enjoy indulging in big novels during the summer at Snettisham'before I finally roused myself for more work. Or, more accurately, the abandonment of more work. I'd bought a roll of hardware cloth 2' wide and 25' long, thinking I'd would try it out on the bridge and wouldn't have to cut it. As an experiment, I stapled a short, narrow length that happened to be the right size to the boardwalk just next to the lodge deck. It went down nicely (with a lot of staples) and seemed less slippery than the native board. However, when I went to look for more staples I found an insufficient supply for all of the bridge and tabled that project for another time. I've decided to use the hardware cloth there, but use asphalt on the rest of the boards/stairs.

I also cleaned up the concrete site a bit, taking away tools, rinsing out the wheel barrow, and cleaning off gloves in a puddle. The pole remained plumb, which was a victory. I also ticked one another project off my list'cutting the spruce branch that overhangs the upriver corner of the lodge and has been banging into the eves on windy days. First I put on shoes and tried to climb the tree, but there weren't enough branches and it seemed a dodgy proposition. However, I managed to pull the branch itself down from the edge of the porch and managed to cut off the two lowest sections with my swede saw. I added those branches to the larger branch from the adjacent tree that I'd cut in the currents for the pole.
 
Still feeling rather out of sorts, I went for a little walk out to the rocky point and enjoyed the view, temporarily free of rain. On the way back I picked up a few more beers to stock the fridge. And then I tried one of the last tasks on my diminishing 'little things to do' list. The porch to the back door of the lodge has been rotting the corner there, which I only discovered this spring. I had thought that the moisture back there was on account of wet foot things and cloths on the floor, which I'd done away with last fall, but I now see that something in the design of the porch is saturating the corner of the lodge with water. I'm not sure if it's water bouncing up from the decking, or pooling on the decking against the lodge, or what, but I came up with a few ideas to cover the corner with metal as well as the 2x4 nailed under the door that supports the deck joists. I looked around for metal roofing and found only the beige roofing left behind here long before I first arrived. I grabbed one of the short pieces left over from roofing the shed and carried to the back porch. I thought if nothing else I could lean a piece under the deck to help keep the stringer (?) dry so it didn't get wet from above while against the lodge. I measured both sides and marked a line on the roofing with a sharpie. It wasn't quite long enough, but it would be a good start. Once I started making the cut with tin snips, though, I gave up. It's been getting wet for probably six or seven years now'it can get wet a few more weeks while I pick up more appropriate and easy-to-manage materials in town. I've since considered whether I should just roof the porch instead, which I finally realized is the reason this porch is causing problems. At some point in the day, I removed a full plastic grocery bag of ashes from the wood stove, considerably lowering the level at the bottom.
 
So I was ticking off projects, but more through abandonment than action. At that point I pulled out the cold Alaskan white and sat on the porch feeling a bit lonely and bored. I may have even fantasized about running into someone I knew at Sweetheart Creek the next day and inviting them over for tea or beer. The inlet was calm and serene and, somehow, the setting coupled with the beer and several days of solitude got me a little philosophical. I schooled Cailey on the history of her bull dog/terrier ancestry, then played a few songs on my phone while I waxed on about mankind's treatment of the world vs. its merits (music being its key achievement, in my opinion), and watched the Sikumi (a small cruise ship operated by a classmate of mine) cross the inlet. Adult Wilson's warblers joined the fledglings and I felt better in a kind of buzzed and reckless way. So I was in a reasonable mood again when I cooked half the pound of bison I'd brought along together with some leftover canned corn and green beans. I ate it on the porch with a bit more wine and managed to maintain my mood all the way to bed. The rain, meanwhile, had started up again and was quite noisy outside while I read in the lodge.


All the holes I dug

Mixing concrete

Wet work

Cailey on the rocky point
 
In the morning I had a cup of licorice tea and a yogurt and then headed up to the rocky point to take Cailey for a walk before I locked her in Hermit Thrush while I went fishing. My plans were foiled by a rapidly rising tide that was not far from the rocks on the upriver side of the creek, and surely would be by the time we got back. I glassed the meadow, seeing two eagles, a couple of crows, and gulls. I decided Cailey had had as much exercise as she would in Juneau before I went to work for four hours, so I went ahead and put her in the cabin, offering her the hoof I'd stowed away a couple of days ago, and arranging bedding so she could be as warm and comfortable as possible. Back at the lodge I finished gathering up odds and ends and donned waders. I decided that I'd travel light, which makes it easier physically and mentally to go through all the work of fishing Sweetheart. I'd removed everything unnecessary from my adventure backpack, added the net, bonker, stringer, garbage bags, an extra backpack, and pillow cases. I thought that if I did happen to catch fish I could put them in pillow cases and put those pillow cases in garbage bags, thereby protecting my backpacks and separating the fish from the slime-producing plastic.

With this light load, I paddled out to the Ronquil, checked my mixed fuel situation, saw that my small tank was nearly empty, and filled the large one with 10 gallons so I wouldn't have to refuel mid-trip. It wasn't raining, but a brisk breeze blew in off Gilbert Bay and the going was choppy. As I neared the end of the bay I slowed down to check the depth (having actually remembered to reset the thing from the kayak) and found myself in 280 feet of water. When I slowed down again, I was still quite deep, even though I was quite close to the two boats at anchor. I puttered in that direction, climbing out of the canyon until I was in about 110 where I dropped my halibut line with two hooks, each with salmon bellies. I wound up dragging the line a ways because the buoy got caught between the motors, so who know where it actually wound up. I left my big orange buoy there and anchored near the other boats in 20 feet of water.

Leaving the kayak near the timber line tied to a spruce branch, I chatted to the bears as I walked across the peninsula to the creek, where I saw a sow and two cubs crossing to the other side. There were two parties in sight'one on each side of the lower pool. I watched the folks on the other side catch a fish and chatted with the group on my side who said they'd lost two nets in a big snag just upcreek. I extended my sympathies and we talked about the fishing and they finally asked me if I was 'just' fishing today. That's when I realized why they probably seemed a bit uneasy with me: I was wearing my Fish and Game hat! And I had no obvious net, since it was stashed in my bag instead of a big bucket.

I left them and headed upcreek, stopping to visit with the folks fishing the crevasse just below the lower falls. They were friendly and indicated that they'd caught a few. I peered down to see two or three sockeyes. The three of them were fishing in a greenish hole, the only green water in the rush of white coming down off the falls. It's where I would have fished too if they hadn't been there! I tromped on up to my usual point, amazed to see the water coursing over the ridge on the upstream side of the point, and water covering most of the point itself. The usual pool between the falls was almost entirely white water. The pool below had some green in the eddy at the edge of white water, which was a possibility, though I could see the bottom in most of it. While I pondered the situation, the folks I'd been chatting with who'd lost their nets came by and we talked about the water; they said that the other group had caught some there earlier'making me wonder if those two or three sockeyes were actually from this hole rather than the lower one. In any event, although I invited them to share the meager point with me, they disappeared and I started casting. The point had more room on it and was less slippery than I expected, but the water did not yield any fish. I threw quite a few nice casts into reasonable places, but nothing came up and sometimes the net was tangled from being washed sideways. Even when not, I could see how fast it moved. I only tried two casts in the upper pool, but there was no way the net would sink properly even when I hit the greenish hole. I packed up and walked into the little crevasse just upstream next to the falls and saw a couple of fish poke in there from the white water. I remembered catching a sockeye there with Dru many years ago and thought I might give that a try. I was trying to think like a sockeye'in these conditions, where would I go? I'd seen a fish jump the upper falls, so I knew they weren't all holding up toward the mouth. I arranged my gear and made one nice cast at the edge of white water and immediately got wrapped around a rock and stuck badly. I tugged at it every which way to no avail, then finally tied it off and packed up my gear, thinking I would have to try from the other side. But the water looked too deep to cross even in my waders and I had no way to throw the line to the other side. I was just contemplating losing my brand new $100 net that had never caught a fish when I tugged at it from just another angle and it came loose. I decided that was good enough, and headed back home, stopping to chat with the son of the group across the creek on the way out. He said they'd been there since about 7 (it was now 11:30) and had caught two fish.

I'd been on the creek an hour when I hauled my kayak down and paddled back to the Ronquil. On the way I pulled my halibut gear, finding both hooks empty. I had replacements but decided that I didn't want to come all the way back the next day to check them. I am clearly not a halibut fishermen, or, well, really a fisherman at all.

And so, a little down, I headed back to the homestead, anchored up, hauled the bucket of loose halibut line up to the lodge to sort out, let Cailey out, and had some burritos for lunch, a little surprised to see that everything in the fridge was still hard frozen even though I'd dropped the temperature to 50% of max the night before. For dessert I had a cup of hot chocolate which I managed to spill all over the stove. The day just wasn't going my way.  I was pleased to see two adult Wilson's warblers again, and a quick look at a very bedraggled looking thrush (I think) nabbing a current before disappearing below. Before getting online at 2:00, I prepped the window sills for staining, clearing and dusting them off and sanding the sills. I put a first coat on all of them in good time, and then had a nice chat with Chris. He said he was heading to Petersburg tomorrow on his friend's fishing boat. At first I was very excited for a visit (because I am right on the way to Petersburg) but they need to get there tomorrow night, so it doesn't look like they'll make it.
 
After that I continued staining in the lodge, putting a first coat on the front 2/5ths of the side walls and the front wall before breaking for dinner. The other half of my bison was hard frozen, which was the first impediment for my dreams of a bison burger on sourdough bread. The second impediment was that the BBQ sauce I had on hand had been opened and it said to refrigerate after opening. It tasted questionable enough that I let discretion be the better part of valor and finally threw it away after who knows how many years of storage. In the end, I had a pile of ground bison seasoned with soy sauce and worcestershire sauce, cold green beans (all my fresh veggies were frozen) and toast with butter. I also opened the emergency bottle of wine that's been here for several years, as I ran out of boxed wine last night. After dinner I put a second coat on the window sills, so tomorrow I can put a third coast on just the bottom of the sills and a second coat on the walls and that will all be done. The rain started up again in the afternoon and hasn't stopped. I don't normally get moody about the weather here, but I have to admit that this rain is getting me a bit down. The four front windows are open to air out the stain and the rain is all I can hear (admittedly cozy, especially now that I've given up on Sweetheart Creek). A great blue heron is hunting the flats, a rare sighting here. He caught a fish, a large fish, and I watched him worry it for a long time, unable to swallow, wondering if it was worth all the effort. Earlier, an eagle had brought a clump of moss on to the nest and I was hearing the clear calls of an eaglet.
 
After an 8:00 p.m. chat with Chris, Cailey and I headed to Hermit Thrush early to escape the polyurethane fumes in the lodge, which lingered despite the open windows. I finished Silent Spring and progressed in my novel, but it probably wasn't much beyond 10:00 when I went to sleep. In the night, Cailey seemed to start shivering uncontrollably, so I tucked her in a blanket repeatedly until she stopped. Perhaps because of that (or perhaps because I have yet to recover from summer madness) I again slept until 8:30 or so. I was cheerier with the morning prospects, though, as my goals were clear. First, I has some oatmeal and then a cup of Moroccan mint tea on the porch as the rain continued to fall in what was now, at least, a flat calm inlet. The tide was lower than it had been all week, beckoning me to walk even if I hadn't promised Cailey we would. As though reading my mind, she wandered down the path and onto the mud flats and looked back for a long time as I continued to promise her I'd be along shortly, not wanting to rush my tea. In the alders, two sparrows preened and perched, at least one (and I think both) of the pale variety. Wilson's warblers in the salmonberries and currents. When I was finished with my tea, I took off my socks, put on rain gear, and headed down. As I walked upriver I was amazed to see that the rain had stopped, though I soon realized it was merely falling more faintly. All in all, though, it was a brightish and calm morning.

Near the grassy point, I heard a familiar seeping call from the trees'the same sound I've been hearing downriver on and off all week. There was another eaglet in those trees! I soon spotted an adult perched over the flats, but failed to find the nest. We walked a little beyond the grassy point and I was happy to find big smushy brown bear tracks coming downriver. On either side an equal distance away were tiny tracks'a sow and two cubs. I liked to imagine them, the mother strolling along purposefully, the cubs bumbling along on either side of her. Perhaps they were the same ones I saw yesterday?
 
On the way back the tide had already risen enough to block off most of the beach, so I had to pick along the rocks a bit. When I got back, I went straight to work: more staining! I think it took about an hour and a half to do a second coat on the walls I'd started yesterday, then I sanded the bottom of the window sills and put a third coat on top of them. At that point it was noon, so I had a cup of jasmine tea on the porch, amazed, though I shouldn't be, that it was STILL raining, despite the calm water and high clouds. It just can't seem to stop! After the break I washed the floor against the walls I'd been working on with a damp, slightly soapy rag, in anticipation of moving furniture back in place when the walls dry. Then I pulled the coat hangers and snow shoes off the walls and moved aside the fire cardboard and stick/grass/paper boxes aside so I could stain those walls as well. I still had 20 minutes before my chat date with Chris, so I managed to stain the walls where the coat hangers were and the wall to the left of the fireplace before setting up internet. I'm now waiting for him to come online, pleased to see that a hummingbird is here again making use of the fresh nectar I put out last night after watching Tubbs II fruitlessly searching for the entrance. I'm not sure this was him'he seemed more confident, but at least the nectar is fresh for anyone who comes by. Given the general lack of attention and the nearly undiminished nectar I've left behind over the last two visits, I suspect these are migrants. Or maybe just those lagging behind who can't drink enough to make a mark before the nectar goes bad.

 After internet time (which Chris accidentally missed) I stained the rest of the downriver wall past the wood box, the door, and the back wall to the refrigerator. Then I stained the upriver wall down to the desk, then took a break for some snacks (apple/peanut butter/mango/toast) before putting a second coat on the coat hanger/left of the stove area. I was feeling a bit guilty about Cailey not getting much stimulus, so I went outside with her to throw a stick. The only ones I found were a huge one, which I threw once, and one that had seaweed clinging to it, so I continued down the beach in search of more. Instead of finding any, I climbed up the cliff to the eagle's nest to see if there were any eaglets or other interesting things on the ground. I found nothing'could hardly even find the remains I saw last year, but there was a lot of bear dung under the nest and it was smoothed out and well-trampled. I think it may have been a bear hollow, based on the basin shaped area under the tree and the dung surrounding it (old now). White there, though, I saw an exciting bird, at least as far as Snettisham goes; it was my fist red-breasted sapsucker down there, young-of-the-year. I'd seen a great blue heron a couple of times on and off on the flats all day.

When I got back I relit the fire, put a box of scalloped potatoes in the oven, and applied a second coat of finish to the downriver and back walls. While dinner cooled I put a second coat on the upriver walls and then devoured much of the dehydrated potato dish along with refrigerator-cold canned green beans. Not my finest cuisine. I finally dropped the temperature meter on the fridge down to about 1.5 (1 being the lowest setting) and heard it click off this morning. This afternoon I bumped it up to 2, still trying to figure out the right setting (hard to know how long frozen food will remain frozen when the temperature drops just slightly). At least these weren't frozen like they were the other night!

 At 8:00 I set up internet on the porch again to chat with Chris, who emailed me from a boat that was trolling for salmon. It's calm again, but still raining!


COASST survey

Mama bear and cub tracks

Stained and unstained walls

Staining the upriver wall

I'm not sure I've ever heard it rain so hard and so steadily as it did all night and up until now (about 10:00 a.m.). I don't normally hear rain on the roof of the lodge (given the shelter of the trees and attic/insulation dampening), but I can hear it this morning. I woke up at 7:30, not at all pleased that I had to get up earlier than I really wanted to in order to ensure I made the tide on the Taku. I laid in bed just a little longer, then packed up and cleaned the cabin, 'sweeping' the floor with my painting pants. Back at the lodge I began rearranging everything, left in chaos the night before to allow the walls to dry before I moved things back against them. I made a few minor changes, including moving the cabinet that was right next to the door to a new place under the upriver windows. I did this mostly because that section of wall with its paneling was so pretty without anything in front of it. We'll see if I miss the surface there. I did the dishes, packed everything, closed up the shed, shut off the propane, newspapered the windows, etc., before stopping to check email and the weather report which was calling for 1-2' seas from the SW. I was pleased to see that the inlet was very calm under the steady rain, though a little breeze picked up just as I was getting ready to go.

All these preparations took longer than I'd hoped they would. I unhooked and put away the radio to dry inside the lodge, put the kayak away, and carried most of my gear down to the log. I'd neglected to bring Cheech, the big blue kayak, home after leaving it tied to a log the weekend before during a low tide departure, so decided to use this chance to get it rather than leave it a few more weeks. With Cailey trailing behind, I slid and stumbled my way hurriedly down the beach with a paddle, surprised to find the kayak a little farther away than I'd expected. I drug it down the beach and we paddled to the boat and from there back to the lodge. While assessing the fuel situation, I decided that it would be safer to grab another jerry jug just in case I made detours or had to abort an attempt out of the Taku. So after hauling the kayak up to the lodge, I grabbed a jerry jug out of the shed along with the rest of the gear. I also took the time to stuff a plastic bag in the top of the new pole to prevent critters from getting stuck inside.

All this hurried activity had me thoroughly sweaty, dressed as I was in a fleece and full rain gear (real rain gear which does not breathe)! I finally kicked off from shore, puttered a bit, and then stopped to put fuel in the other tank during which I got the boat nice and ship shape, putting Cailey's blankets preemptively against the back bench as I was anticipating seas. We headed out at 11:30, about half an hour after my ideal departure, but about three hours from high tide. At Sentinel the boat stopped, as it keeps doing, and I loosened the cap on the main tank which sucked in air like it had a vacuum, as I've learned to do. It took me only 20 minutes to get from the lodge to Pt. Styleman, which is quite fast. The going was blissfully smooth, as it was most of the way north in Stephen's Passage. It was undoubtedly the best Snettisham run I've had all season, and I even moved Cailey's blankets between the seats at Taku Harbor (50 minutes into the run) so I could cover her up better. The rain never stopped and she was soaked and quite chilled. Unfortunately, we ran into a little northerly in Taku Inlet and we moved the blankets back. I was also quite cold by then, all my adrenalin gone and the sweat and rain sapping my warmth.

I made a quick phone call to Chris in a cell window along Taku Inlet, then continued on, grateful when the little northerly ended beyond Jaw Point. I'd seen a boat on the other side of the inlet earlier, and then spotted it again parked in the middle of the inlet off Flat Point. Although I couldn't see it very well, I figured it was likely my parents, as they often arrive on the river considerably before the tide and then wait for it to rise. I buzzed over there and Cailey was beside herself with excitement at seeing them. It was 1:45 then, an hour before the tide, but the river looked high so we stopped for bucket breaks and then went on. Cailey sat on the back bench almost the entire way and stared longingly back at the other boat! We arrived at 2:15 and I tied up to the log above the landing and unloaded my boat....(continued up the Taku).



Filling the fridge for the first time!