Taku 2022 - 1: Hard Work is Celebrated
May 13 - 19


Taku Glacier at 4:00 am

Photo Album

It's Saturday morning, partly cloudy, cool. An orange-crowned warbler is purring outside and the river is dead calm, no riverboats marring the peace. It's a bit of a contrast from yesterday and I start the day relieved but tired tired tired. Perhaps this quiet will have a chance to sink in. Yesterday also started out with blue skies, a beautiful day to come up the river toward white-tipped Devil's Paw. We managed to get underway with little fuss at 9:54, ahead of our 10:00 departure goal. Cailey and I shared a seat in the back of the Kathy M, Guo Zhong sat across, Jia Jia took shotgun, and my mom drove. We drank leaving the harbor beers (actually Bubblies sparkling water) after we passed under the bridge. The channel had a nice southeasterly blowing up it, slowing us a bit as we bounced south. It was a bit better as we quartered them to Bishop, and they finally died altogether just before we reached Cooper. By then we'd had enough spray to cover the windows in dried salt, so unfortunately we didn't enjoy the fine view as we might have. My mom went up the middle of the inlet, then veered left to meet Flat Point, continued beyond Scow Cove, and across to the end of the Hut Point rocks. We knew it was a risk to try the trip with the Kathy M. The tide was 15', which is generally more than adequate if not generous, but it is spring and the river was low. I'd willed it to rise all week, but by the time we left it had only crept up to 12,500 cfs, a good 13,000 cfs lower than the average at this time of year (and presumably where it was later in the month last year when we were similarly heavily-loaded) and substantially lower than the 30,000 cfs "standard" by which we generally judge tides. How much of a difference would it make? We just didn't know, but we thought it was worth a shot. Our saving grace was that the top of the Kathy M was attractively adorned with the Taku Teal, my new beautiful green canoe; if we got stuck, we said, we always had the canoe for flexibility.

But we still didn't really expect to get stuck, even after we touched bottom between the homesteads around Hut Point (probably too close to shore, we figured, though it was the area I usually cruise). We floated off that one well enough, hit a log or a rock dramatically at the bottom of the meadows, touched bottom again below the usual danger area along the meadows, then more severely at the start of the danger zone shy of the big waterfall. We were still half an hour short of the tide, so we waited, floated, pushed, went aground, all in very short succession. A trio of boats went by in the channel offshore whose wakes allowed us to cover some ground, but we were soon thwarted again. We launched the canoe and filled it with heavy items from on board--gas, food, tools, etc. I don't remember if this actually helped, but we were soon all ashore and tracking the boat like the Taku Tlingit used to make a habit of. Jia Jia and I pulled and GZ and my mom kept it away from shore with poles. It worked for a while and I was slightly optimistic. Then we went hard aground again. I swapped out the lead line with a longer one so I could get more in front of the boat and put on my emergency waders (brought for this purpose), but we made little more headway that way. I was able to walk far beyond the boat into the river and never found deeper water. It was by then well past high tide. We were hard aground.

Plan B. We returned most of the gear to the boat, me handing it up from the water to GZ, hastily swapped out the food in a couple of totes with what we needed for the night (and most of my perishable foods), grabbed our backpacks, anchored the Kathy M on the bank, put most of the gear inside the cabin, grabbed they key, and split up. My mom and GZ took the canoe and Jia Jia and I walked along the shore. The grass and sedge there was only barely beginning to peak up and was mostly rusty red, though the meadow greened up a little as we neared the slough. Jia Jia and I were able to hop some of the smaller sloughs on the way, but most of the time we had to walk inland to find a narrow crossing or a snow bridge when we came across them, and there were a lot. While crossing one likely bridge which seemed solid enough, Jia Jia went right through the middle of it up to her waist, dangling above whatever water was below. We made some probably less-than-graceful leaps, but didn't wind up getting our feet wet. Well, Jia Jia and Guo Zhong, with the unconcern of youth, had both gone over their boots already, but we didn't have any trouble on this leg of the trip! On the way we saw piles of ptarmigan poop. We heard a warbler, robins, and fox sparrows, and watched a pair of geese on the flats in front of us.

Both groups were moving at about the same pace and met up at the mouth of the slough. As the canoe floated by shore while we made our ferrying plan, Jenny made a desperate and unstoppable move to get inside, which had no room at all. She wound up in the river, which was quite deep along shore there, becoming mostly submerged on her first plunge. She made a failed attempt to climb the steep mud bank (well, several failed attempts), then froze with a horrified look on her face at the edge of the bank, her back disappearing to where I hoped her back feet were reaching sand, but not in a place where we could easily help. Game Jia Jia finally plunged into the river up to her waist and helped the poor water dog out of the river. Then she shook all over Jia Jia and her backpack nearby.

GZ and my mom crossed the slough and dropped off the gear, then came back for the rest of us. The canoe sat low, but we all five made it back across where we reloaded the canoe and parted ways again. Not wanting my mom to strain her knee, we encouraged her to stay in the canoe with GZ while Jia Jia and I walked back, but I think she and I had the better deal in the end. We walked quickly, and were aided by large patches of easy-walking snow. I was sweaty and pretty worn out and eager to get this part of the adventure over with. This time I got a good look at the yellow-rumped warbler (myrtle) singing and heard more fox sparrows. The biggest snow dune was just beyond the entrance to our trail, as we'd seen in the past. We picked up a trail cam card on the way and soon found ourselves at the back door of the cabin about 20 minutes after we started. I opened the doors and we headed down to the landing to check on the others. To our surprise, we found them along the sandbar in the middle of the river, GZ walking in front, about to enter a channel separated from us by another sandbar. We hustled downstream until we were closer and found that they were avoiding the much-too-strong current by shore and were going to double back from above. Feeling bad for leaving my mother in that position, I returned to the cabin and opened up, lighting a fire while the propane slowly eked its way to the stove. When the pilots were lit, I returned to the landing in time to help unload the canoe. We carried everything in one trip and were soon unloading snacks inside. It was approaching 3:00 by then and we'd all missed lunch while working, so I made quesadillas for everyone. By the time we had finished lunch, sleepiness was beginning to set in and GZ had already succumbed. I was dazed.

And then a lovely female hummingbird came by and came straight to the picture window, hovering for several second close to the glass. Her message was clear. But where were the hummingbird feeders? We were baffled. I looked everywhere, beginning to wonder if we'd been burglered again--I mean, they are pretty cool feeders! I finally checked upstairs and found a box neatly labeled "hummingbird feeders" which my mom had tidily put away last fall. Thank goodness. I heated up four cups of water to melt the sugar and soon had two feeders hanging outside. And then I went to work on water, which is always my top priority, and I knew I wouldn't settle until I'd given it my best shot. I grabbed my drill and opened up the shop, half carried-half drug the pump along the snow to its house, which I then began the process of unburying. I truly dislike the monster of a tarp that covers the pump house and finally unscrewed the little piece of plywood that kept it attached to the top of the house, which was a start. But it spread out on the ground around the house, two feet on one side, one foot on one side, and about six feet on the other, all covered with from three to eight inches of course, icy snow. I had to remove all of it before I could even begin to move that horrible heavy tarp. But at last it was off and I turned the house on its side.

The first thing to do was to level the bottom of the newly-excavated hollow I dug last fall to accommodate a piece of plywood below the pump. It had not been level then, but some scraping and maneuvering dirt finally did the trick, based upon the level app on my phone. I shored it up in the center and placed the pump there, scooted it over to the inlet pipe, smeared the seam in white sealant goo, and screwed them together with a pipe wrench. It was looking pretty good. There was gas in the tank, but I needed water to prime, so grabbed the jug of well water from the back deck of the cabin and filled the tank. Low and beyond, the pump started beautifully! But once the tank was empty, no more water came out. I waited a few long seconds, then shut it off. It couldn't be frozen, could it? The inlet pipe from the well to the pump was still buried in snow, so the first thing I did was shovel that off. Then I tried again and this time I was more patient and, after a long pause, well water gushed out. Success! Next step: attach the outlet pipe. This proved to be more difficult as only the closest few feet of it were free of snow and there wasn't enough flexibility to line it up directly into the fitting on the tank. So I went back to digging, checking to see it if was enough every few feet. The depth of the snow there was from six inches at the close end to about a foot where I stopped. I wound up excavating about 15 feet to where it began to curve before I had enough flexibility to hook it up. All ready to fill the tank!

But this required someone to hold the hose in the tank itself, as the materials to fix that fitting (which had become badly kinked, hence the slow flow last summer) were still in the Kathy M. I came up to the cabin, exhausted from my labors, to find everyone sound asleep. Not wanting to wake them, I sat outside for a while until I remembered that I can't put the house (on its side) back over the pump with the outlet pipe attached, so I glumly returned and unhooked that pipe. And then, stupidly, thought that I had to do the same for the inlet pipe and unhooked that, only to find (of course) that this was made unnecessary by the design of the little house which has a slot for the pipe. I put the house back in place and reconnected both pipes, but now I had to reprime and restart the pump, made that much more awkward by the lack of room to dump a five gallon jug of water into a small hole between closely-spaced 2x4s for the priming. But I did it, and when I put the tools away (again) and returned to the lodge, my mom was up and hastened up to the back deck to put the hose in. The pump ran nicely for about five minutes while the water ran in, and then died. It started right up again but soon started sputtering. It did run until the tank was full (hallelujah!), but it took more than 20 minutes and required fiddling with the throttle several times to get it to stay running. Sometimes it seemed to be happy with more throttle, other times I had to back it off. I'm not sure what is going on there, but overall it seems to be working nicely and certainly starts up beautifully.

By then it was 6:20 and I was ready to quit and have a glass of wine. I snuggled up next to Cailey on the couch while GZ and Jia Jia emerged from their rest. We chatted a bit and then my mom made tortellini and salad for dinner, and we made a plan. The midnight tide (12:25) was a 17.6, more than two and a half feet higher than our tide earlier. GZ, Jia Jia, and I would take the canoe and pick her up. Departure time: 11:30. We talked about how the moon would be large and might light our way, but by the time I laid down for a little rest at 9:30, it was already raining. Perfect! I dozed a little for the next hour and a half, but spent more time just resting and thinking about the journey ahead. Cailey had taken herself to bed much earlier, curling up on the kids' bed and one of their pillows, then sleeping on their floor when they kicked her off to watch some anime while we waited for the tide. She was still there when I got up at 11:15. I borrowed my mom's rubber rain overalls, grabbed my leatherman, SPOT, and (most importantly), the boat key, and we headed out at 11:30, stopping by the shop on the way for another paddle, a boat throw for the middle person to kneel on, and the lone life jacket. It was darker than I expected. I was pretty sure our eyes would adjust eventually, but we needed our lights to navigate to the boat. GZ sat in front, Jia Jia sat on the throw in the middle, and I sat in the back. The river, was calm, the night was serene. I gave GZ my bright LED rechargeable headlamp so he could look for debris in the water, but Jia Jia and I paddled with no lights. We could see the outlines of the mountains and avalanches around us quite clearly, but nothing very close. It rained softly but steadily. About half way to the slough, a beaver appeared swimming next to us and we had a good look before she dove and slapped.  It was altogether a pleasant ride and I quite enjoyed it.

After crossing the main slough, we kept going. And going. And going. I kept expecting to see the Kathy M looming in the distance, or see its reflection in GZ's headlamp, but nothing. There was a lot of water and most of the cut bank was submerged, which was hopeful, but no boat. I knew that Jia Jia and I hadn't had to cross any large sloughs, so my anxiety rose every time a large indent appeared in the murky shore or we passed a slough. Was it a big one? Had the boat floated away? What if I hadn't anchored it well enough? What if someone pulled its anchor? This latter, at least, seemed unlikely, because nobody else takes this perilous path, for obvious reasons. We passed the avalanche and proceeded down into the danger zone. Would the boat appear at the bottom end of it? I was very stressed out about it, not least of which because if the boat was gone, we'd be going on a very long canoe back home, against the current. And we had walked a LONG way, much longer than I'd realized.

At last, a shadowy shape emerged ahead of us that manifested as a boat and not a big tangled log as I'd feared. She was facing downriver, so all her reflective stickers were facing away from us. She was right up against the shore, so GZ and Jia Jia hopped aboard and held the canoe line while I pulled anchor and put it aboard. We tied the canoe behind the boat and GZ held the line out of the water until we got underway, rightfully worried about the prop catching it. We sent Jia Jia onto the bow with the bright headlamp to shine it toward shore. Otherwise, I would have been mostly blind. It didn't help that the windshield wipers weren't working and the cabin was fogging up. GZ helped by wiping the fog away periodically. We couldn't move very fast with the lack of visibility, but we made good time anyway and were soon enough peering toward shore trying to find the landing in the dark among all the falling trees, which wasn't easy. GZ was again worried about the canoe since were putting around and turning, and with good cause. He went to check on it and found its line severed, the canoe floating just a few feet behind. I grabbed it with a pole and pulled the other end of the line out of the prop, but thankfully it wasn't tangled. We nosed into shore just as my mom was arriving to check on us and we unloaded most of the rest of our gear, then I left the others on shore to start hauling it up to the cabin while I anchored the boat. It was a bit awkward, but went reasonably well. I tied one end of the spare anchor line to the stern and carried the rest in the canoe as I returned to shore, tying it to a spruce. GZ helped me tie the canoe and then we all carried a second load of gear up to the cabin. It was about 1:00 and everything was inside, the boat was here, and all was well. I lingered around the fire for a little while GZ and Jia Jia dug into GZ's latest box of Japanese snacks (green macha themed), then collapsed into bed. I didn't have the energy to get the hammock ready, so stayed on the pads on the floor, encouraged by the fact that Cailey had curled up on her dog bed just next to it in my absence, never coming downstairs during the midnight jaunt.

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It's Global Big Day and I did start it with a bird survey at 7:20. Fox sparrows and varied thrushes dominated the soundscape, eleven Canada geese flew along the river, I watched a golden-crowned kinglet foraging along a dead tree overhanging the river, and a Wilson's snipe winnowed behind the cabin the entire time. The dawn chorus I heard while in bed was a trio of thrushes: varied, robins, and hermits. Back inside, desperate for a cup of tea and some rest, I naturally found the propane tank empty (pilots dead), and had to change the tank, necessarily making more noise in the kitchen than I wanted to in order to access the stove pilots. While water heated, I made several attempts to start the fridge pilot and failed in great frustration. I washed up, had a biscuit, and am here now with an overly sweet cup of Russian tea. A hummingbird just came by.

Around 10:30, my mom and I went for the second bird survey of the day, walking back to the meadows via a network of snowy "meadows" where we saw numerous paths of small bits of dead grass spread across the snow, usually originating at the base of a tree. It looked at first like a grass nest had been drug across the snow for 15 feet, but on closer inspection appeared more likely to be either windblown or even created that way under the snow. They looked like rodent caches or nests, but their length and the fact that they were on top of several feet of snow was puzzling. We continued to see these all over the snowy sections of the property all day.

We broke out onto the great snowy mound at the end of the trail and listened to a Lincoln's sparrow singing down on the bare flats. We wound up moseying along the willow clumps with the Lincoln's sparrow disappearing every time we got close until we finally encountered him on a lone alder singing in the sunshine near the tops of the bare branches. Fantastic. We stopped by the slough to look for ducks, but found only more Lincoln's sparrows, a pair of savanna sparrows, a hermit thrush, and the air boat from Taku Point which made yet another entrance into the slough, stopping near the beaver dam for a long time (mostly out of sight) before exiting. It had at least half a dozen people on board, whether trainees or tourists we couldn't tell. They did not return a hand wave. I propped up our no hunting sign which had fallen down, but they take the other side of the island so it's hard to know if they will see it. The other needs to be visited by canoe.

When we returned the kids were up and it was nearing lunch time, so Mom cut up cheese and tomatoes and we made sandwiches. We were all feeling a little sleepy (well, Mom and I were at least), but feeling the time crunch, though we were only on day 2, and fearing for boredom from the youth, I may have more or less encouraged us to start checking out our landing options. It did not go well, and my mood did not help matters. I'd put an awful lot of thought and time and energy and planning sessions and shopping and cutting into this project, and it was not hopeful. Of course it is never a good idea to plan begin executing a project far from the site, but it seemed the best option for getting a landing here in the spring. The old landing site we'd initially planned for lost three or four feet of meadow and alders, now sloughing into the river, and this was the case all along that portion of the bank (once thought to be more erosion-resistant due to its heavy growth of alders), so it seemed a poor choice for a landing, potentially rendering our work this summer short-lived. We looked at two other locations, one to either side of the landing we had been using, both of which had wide sand beaches that would make working on the ground easier. Both had horizontal trees down on either side and their beaches were probably the result of rapid erosion. In the end, we came back to the existing landing, though it has only a couple of feet of clay at the bottom to work with. Unlike the old landing, though, it doesn't get as deep as quickly and is eroding less rapidly than the others, though we can see the sand on the bank behind the overlay of groundcover disappearing. GZ and I fetched the stair stringers and three treads from the Kathy M on the Teal and we screwed two of the latter on to fasten the stringers together--which itself did not go as well as one might hope--and dropped the wobbly pseudo-stairs over the bank while my mom went to get a level and swede saw to clear the alders that would be in the way of the stairs where they needed to be. I had labored at a stair plan that was steep enough to allow the platform it would sit on to be as close to a vertical bank as possible (where the water was shallowest), but it was much too steep for this situation where the bank angled out somewhat. While I stood at the bottom with my level app, Jia Jia and GZ pushed the stairs out from the top of the bank until the treads were level, about three feet from the top of the bank. Not a good sign.

So I was not in a good mood when my mother returned. She came up with various ways to deal with it, we started talking about the implications of putting a landing there, etc. and in mounting irritation and frustration, she finally suggested we go for our planned loop walk just as I was suggested I was going to go lay down. It was getting too late to do both, so we walked. Heading upriver on the trail proved to be too difficult due to the high snow levels forcing us to push through the branches that normally overhang the woodier parts of the trail (the snow was 5-8 feet in drifts on the more open points of the trail). We made it just past the old eagle tree and turned around, heading back toward the meadow and walking in more open forest where the snow drifts were as big or bigger, but in the shape of wide dunes. It was easy walking on the hard, grainy snow. Varied thrushes continued to utterly dominate any area with spruces, but yellow-rumped warblers followed us as well. Some of the trail was a bit mysterious, but I could track our progress pretty well. The spruces near Strawberry Trail were a scene of utter devastation, all the young trees in the area around a big dune showing bare trunks and bleeding wounds, a circle of branches at their bases melting out of the snow where they'd been ripped off. Something about that area was death to branches last winter.
 
We did pick up a mallard from the slough near the property (which I plunged into while crossing on a snow bank) and three white-crowned sparrows. We returned through the meadows, arriving a little worn out. I made some hamburger patties (bison) and then we watched the videos on the camera cards. We ate burgers and sipped drinks, then GZ and I went for bird survey #4, slowly walking down to check on the boat, enjoying the hermit thrush in the clump of cottonwoods downriver who had started singing. By this time, the mood was festive (partly induced by the combination of whiskey, beer, and wine that had been imbibed by some of us), and we sang happy birthday to my mom with a German chocolate cake I'd made that morning. We broke out the asti spumanti and split it between the three of us of drinking age, then showered my mom with presents and cards and good fellowship. It was a pretty enjoyable evening. I made only last bird survey at 9:05, we chatted some more, and I collapsed in bed.

And this time, with the assistance of a sleep mask, I slept until almost 9:00 and feel considerably better this morning! The mood continued. I ate oatmeal for breakfast and drank a lovely cup of jasmine tea while getting this up to date. As such, we didn't get going until late in the morning. GZ and I headed down to the boat, followed shortly by Jia Jia, while my mom stayed behind to do tasks in the cabin. I canoed out to the boat and then pulled her ashore and we tied her as tight as we could. From there, I handed lumber off to Guo Zhong on the clay shelf--more of which was exposed at the low tide--and he handed them up to Jia Jia part way up the bank. First the 2xs, then the piece of plywood, then the pipe and earth anchors along with the sundry other items left on board. We didn't find the missing champagne, a lingering mystery. When all was unloaded, Jia Jia and I carried the plywood to Alder and Guo Zhong carried the 2x4s to the water tower and we broke for lunch. In the meantime, my mom had fixed the toilet seat, which had been entirely loose, scrubbed the bowl (the tannin/iron stains came off well, she reported), cleaned the bathroom, washed the dishes, and swept the floor. While I made the kids quesadillas, she fixed the inlet and outlet to the water tank on the back deck (I'd brought the necessary part up to fix the inlet, which had been badly kinked, and she had found the outlet loose when we filled the tank yesterday. She finished just as her quesadilla was ready. Although there were only a few beers left in the fridge (which puzzled me), one sounded so good on this high overcast day with a quesadilla, that I drank one with relish, enhanced by a squeeze of lime juice (it was a modelo especial).

After lunch, Jia Jia, Guo Zhong, and Cailey stayed in for a nap while Mom and I went to work on the water tower. She fetched sawhorses from Fox Hole and I began planning it out. We balanced the boards on top of the tower to get a feel for where they should be, discussed board length, where the 2'x6' vs. 2'x2' pieces of plywood would be, etc., and made a plan. We'd cut the 2x4s to overhang the platform 23" inches (so the plywood would overhang them 1"), and notch them to fit together at the same height, forming a box around the olive barrel. Because the platform is 24"x27", we measured the boards accordingly, made the first cuts, then measured and cut the first notches, me cutting with the skilsaw and she chiseling out the notches. The generator had started again on the first pull, and we left it running while we carried the boards up to the olive barrel to make sure we were on the right track. Everything looked good except that we discovered that we would have to notch the middle of one of the boards to accomodate the front of the olive barrel. We cut that notch and the second notch in each board, then ripped and cut the plywood and shut off the generator. Up at the olive barrel, everything went together beautifully with the exception of one of the notches that didn't quite fit together and sticks up about 1/4", not enough to worry about especially since different boards will be supported on either side. We did discover that one of the 2'x6" pieces of plywood would need to be notched further for the spiget on the olive barrel to pass through. Jia Jia had emerged from the cabin, so we invited her down to start the generator, since it had been so cooperative. She tried and tried and tried and, though it sounded hopeful, it never started. I finally gave it a pull and....nothing. The choke made no difference, nor did adding gas. We left it for the time being and returned to the olive barrel where I screwed in the grid of 2x4s, mostly accessed from the snow, which was convenient, the last few screws on the outside and all the toenails from the inside done from a ladder that Jia Jia brought up and held for me. Guo Zhong came out in time for the last screw. In the meantime, my mom had pulled out the screw stubs from the railing on the back porch stairs that had been ripped off (as though from a great weight above--perhaps that naughty bear) and I added new screws to finish the job. Now my mom is making king salmon fetuccini alfedo for dinner and we've made a plan for fetching floats tomorrow and starting on the landing just below the existing one. High overcast most of the day, perfect for working. I tidied up the bathroom window a little and overall I think we're all settling in and optimism is returning.

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That evening, we chatted and played a couple rounds of Railroad Inc. I was up at 7:30 the next morning, checked on the boat, then made a batch of pancakes with dried blueberries (soaked from the night before). They didn't turn out well! The blueberries were commercial and horrible--the kind that ruin commercial blueberry muffins. While I worked on that, my mom had gone out to clean and bleach the catchment on the olive barrel, so I ate the first batch, suffering through one pancake and then picking out the blueberries in the next. I wound up picking them all out of the batter. She dutifully ate hers and then we headed out to work. I thought I'd try the generator again since it was cold and, just as before, it started on the first pull. I made a triangular cut on the plywood to accommodate the spigot, thinking I'd been generous with the size but not wanting to make it too large. It was too small, but I'd already shut off the generator. My mom went to turn it back on and, just as before, nothing. And nothing for me either. I marked a larger triangle in the plywood and we shifted our attention to the boat landing, having decided that we really needed to focus on building the landing and then we could manipulate the stairs accordingly. We had agonized over the possibility that the special pipe pounder wouldn't be found and where it could possibly be stashed around the property if it wasn't in the shed, but my mom found it in short order and we lugged it over the snow drifts down to the landing. It was heavy, obviously. We futzed around down at the landing for a while placing pipes in likely areas to form a square until we had a general idea where they'd go and then started on the first one. The issue was primarily the desire to have the inland pipes behind the main root that is holding the groundcover in place without having to cut any of the roots around it. The most difficult part was getting the pounder over the top of the pipe, which was five feet high. We had to put the pipe inside the pounder, then one of us lifted the pounder up while the other put the pipe in place. Pounding it was jarring, but satisfying, and the first few feet went in well. It was very difficult to make sure it was plumb, as the level, though only two feet long, was too long for the pipe when inside the three-foot long pounder. Thankfully, the first one went in relatively plumb with little help from us.

Soon enough we had to add a section of pipe, not because the other was in the ground all the way but because the pounder is three feet tall and to get the last couple of feet in the ground, you need something on top to pound it down from. This proved even more tricky, as again we had to put the new (three foot) section of pipe within the pounder, then lift it up onto the top of the existing pipe and then thread them together with the pounder on top. It was awkward and took a couple of tries, but we succeeded and soon had it about where we wanted it. The next pipe was upriver and right behind the main root and the experience was similar. The edge of the pounder started scraping a live root as it descended, so we draped one of the pieces of carpet from the canoe over it for protection. It is currently a few inches above being level with the other, but we didn't have a good straight edge to be more precise, so we moved on. We were wearing out by then--it was hard work just moving the pounder around let along raising it up and banging it down on another pipe--but I thought it would be great to at least get the other two pipes in place if not all the way pounded in. This started the endless process of squaring the corners. Because we're using beams on the pipes, we don't have to be as precise as if we were tying them together with more pipe (as we'd originally intended), only close to 48" inches apart (without going over) and more or less square. With a lot of back and forth we succeeded in what we felt were reasonable places and started pounding the one downriver in. Now we were working directly in the silt (rather than sand and then silt) and we thought the rate of our pounding slowed somewhat. Still, the pipe went in, at least a foot or so, before the bottom of the pounder encountered the roots and stump of a small tree against which the pipe was standing, so we had to add another three foot pipe to continue. We tried a couple of times, but only one of use could stand on the stump at a time and the other had to stand below. Holding the pounder from above, I had no control or leverage on it in the vertical position it needed to be to line up the pipes to thread them together, and after many tries we gave up, hoping the kids could help us later, or that fresh arms would improve the situation. I probably shouldn't have, but I pushed for us to at least start the final pipe so they were all in place, and we did. This positioning was much better, but the pounding was slow and we left the pounder hanging on the pipe to go have lunch. It was 12:20. On the way, I started the once-again cold and cooperative generator and quickly made the final (successful) cut on the water tower plywood. It had rained overnight and into the morning, but we only got sprinkled on a few minutes while working at the landing and it was mostly overcast.

Jia Jia and Guo Zhong were having ramen and pancakes (I'd left batter) when we arrived, so Mom and I ate sandwiches and drank beers, quietly. After rejuvenating somewhat, I confessed to the kids that we'd had a hard morning, if they couldn't tell from our subdued attitudes! The pounding itself is a little jarring, especially when I forget to let go of the handle when it makes contact, and all the holding it up and lugging it around the steep slope was exhausting. My arm felt slightly numb. So we crashed for a precious few minutes before getting ready to head to the fetch the floats. We grabbed the "special tool" used to connect the floats, "big Charlie" the skookum pole, and WD-40 and headed to the boat. I canoed out and brought it in and we were all loaded and puttering down the river around 2:20. The 16.7' tide was noticeably higher than the 15' we'd come in on and the slough was opaque with river water. The Kathy M had no trouble getting right up to the floats, sitting just as we'd left them. We pulled the fence posts securing them, untied the lines, and all of us helped pull/push them into the water. Then I departed on a solo trip on the Teal--its first trip in the slough--to put up a no hunting sign (the one from near the floats) on the island so the boats using that deeper channel would see it. I noted that the avalanche was all the way down to the dam and had covered the rock camera. We'd seen the airboat stop at the beaver dam on Saturday, so I inspected that area on the way back but there was no evidence that they'd been going ashore. The Teal was a dream to paddle.

Back on shore, Cailey came running happily to meet me and wanted to jump in the boat. Having brought the tools (even returned to shore to get them) but forgotten the pins to attach the floats together, we had to tie the two portions together, then tied them to the Kathy M and the canoe to the floats. We tied them on in the direction they'd be on shore, which meant that the walkway was perpendicular to the current, so we had to take it very slow. We later realized this was unnecessary. It was a very pleasant overcast afternoon, the wind that had roughened the river dying by the time we were coming upriver, but I know my mom and I were nearing the end of our cheerful work energy. It had been a long day already. We overshot the landing and threw the anchor on the Kathy M, then all retired to the floats with the exception of Jenny who staying on the floor of the Kathy M. Guo Zhong took the canoe to shore for the pins and we connected the two floats after rotating the upriver square 90 degrees so the numbering on the pieces lined up (1,2,3,4). To do that, GZ returned to the Kathy M and tied on a second line to the downriver set of floats so he could cut the upriver set loose so we could rotate it. Putting them together went very smoothly, but then we had to get them to shore. Tempers may have been short. I thought I could use the long green line on the canoe to pull it in and I may not have been listening closely to other suggestions. It would have gone quickly and smoothly had the line not been badly tangled, so there I sat in the canoe while Jia Jia held me untying knot after knot after knot. Finally I pulled into shore, tied a line on the canoe, untied the green line, and began pulling. When it was clear this was going to work, they untied the last line to the Kathy M. I had pushed the canoe downriver and out of the way, but it had crept up again, so then we had the awkwardness of getting the floats close enough to access it while still having room to push it downriver. None of this was really a problem, just one little thing after another to deal with.

Soon the floats were ashore and the walkway secured with the green line to a tree. I thought we were going to use the green lines we'd had on the floats and that had tied them to the Kathy M to secure the floats to the shore, so I sent GZ after them, but my mom thought there were other lines to use. The only long one accessible was the line attached to the anchor in the river which we'd used to anchor the floats last year, so I set off to extricate yet another line from other lines (which I'd tied to it), sticks etc. I was impressed that it hadn't snarled in any logs or branches at the edge of the river, but unfortunately something was keeping the line on the bottom somewhere beneath the floats, so it was not exactly going to help them fight the current as expected. Instead, I tied it off on the edge of the floats and sent GZ in the canoe to pass it off to someone on shore to carry it to a tree. My mom thought she had to climb down the vertical bank through the brush to pick it up, so GZ just threw the line to her and it ended up in the river. My mom picked up some of it and climbed back up, giving it to Jia Jia to carry upriver to the tree. I told GZ to pick up the rest of the line left in the river and pass it up the bank, then he came back in the canoe and went to help. I instructed from below which alders to go under for a straight line. In the meantime, I tied another line to the downriver end of the floats. It all really went pretty well, but people were too exhausted to notice.

With the floats more or less secure, I canoed out to the Kathy M and brought her to the floats, then pulled up and overturned the Teal on top of them. The kids cleaned up the lines a little and we carried tools back to the shop. The floats, at least, were in place and the Kathy M secure to them. It was 5:45 and, though it was the last thing I wanted to do, there was dinner to be made. I considered cans of chili, but there was fish in the fridge, so I baked salmon with a rub, cooked green beans in the frying pan, and made a couple boxes of stovetop stuffing. I went out at 8:00 after dinner to check on the boat and do a short bird survey and found they beautiful local hermit thrush singing in the top of a spruce tree in plain sight, easy to find, and came back to get my mother. She had a good look too and then headed down to pump water, as the water had run out. It's always timing like that! When I got back from the boat, she'd gotten the engine started, but I didn't hear water in the tank, so primed it and tried again. While I was brushing my teeth, the pump began to sputter as it had for me a few days earlier and then died. My mom didn't get to it in time to play with the throttle and let it be. She and I went to bed around 9:15 and crashed.

This morning I had a dry cough around 6:00 that woke me and, after using the bathroom, was not optimistic about more sleep, but I did wind up drifting off until around 9:00, thankfully. I checked on the boat, adding fenders, then started the water pump. I had to prime it and heard water trickling, but my mother soon called me to turn it off, not hearing water. I tried again and it was working, then she again told me she stopped hearing water. Not sure what was going on, I turned it off just as the overflow flooded--the tank was full. I think it only had to run about five minutes, but the throttle thankfully never sputtered or failed. On the way back, I laid out the rest of the plywood on the olive barrel and it looks fairly attractive. I had failed to take into account the effect of the 27" side on the length of the long pieces of plywood, which were 6' instead of the 6'3" which is what the side actually is with the extra long middle, but I don't think it's very noticeable, and only amounts to the back 2'x2' plywood extending a little farther than the 6' piece. It's now nearly 11:00, my mom heroically did all the dishes while I swept and, mostly, worked on this. It's another overcast morning, lower than it has been, and felt slightly wintery when I was out. I think we're all planning on a mellower day, though I'd sure like to get the pipes finished. As they won't all be exactly plumb (I'm not sure how one could make that happen), it's unclear how it'll go from here or how hard it will be to level them, or whether those last pipes will even get driven in!

After the rigorousness of the previous day, it didn't seem like the best day to jump right into hard labor. After catching up on this log, I started looking over instructions for installing deadbolts and for using the lock installation kit I had. When I felt that I'd absorbed as much as I could, I gathered chisel and hammer from Alder and set up on the back door, first drilling the bolt hole in the door jam, then lining up the cutting template to that. Cutting through the metal was long and teeth-gritting, but the hole saw did its job and there was soon a satisfying hole in the door. What I realized I'd forgotten to do mid-cutting was to screw the template into the door so it didn't shift, but it seemed like everything lined up. I drilled the hole for the bolt in the door, then chiseled out a hollow for the plate on the edge. Thus started a long, painful process of deepening said plate in the door. Things didn't line up. I could get the outside half to line up with the bolt, but I couldn't get the screws in from the other side, and it looked like there was going to be a big open crescent on the side. I now know what the issue was. I'd cut the holes 2 3/4" from the edge of the door rather than 2 1/8". Both were options on the templates I had, but I couldn't find anything on the lock packages that suggested which to use, so I lined it up with the existing knob. The bolt was, as packaged, meant for the lesser distance and I wound up insetting the bolt into the door a centimeter or two so the two sides of the lock could join. I later learned, on looking over the cryptic instructions, that the bolt could have been adjusted for the longer distance. Still, I was just relieved that, in the end, the two sides of the lock covered their holes and the bolt had plenty of distance in the wall to be stable. I won't go into all the rigmarole with the hole saws, like how I couldn't get the guiding bit off the large saw onto the small saw, so I used the second kit that I'd borrowed, but had to use the bit from another saw, etc. etc. It had taken a long time and I was so absorbed in the work and the growing pile of shavings around me that I took no mid-project photos. Probably just as well.

In the meantime, my mom had installed a couple of her birthday presents: the bottle opener on the wall now hangs pleasantly above the garbage can sporting the phrase "Bullard's Bistro: Where hard work and adventure are celebrated with red wine and Pacificos. Est. 1993." She also installed two strip LED rechargeable motion-censor lights, one in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen. By the time my first lock was done, she was upstairs with the window and soon the youth were there to help her. It sounds like she had an even more difficult time getting all the fittings back together so the window opens and closes, but it is now installed and operational, and whole! My second attempt at a lock went much better. I still didn't know I could adjust the length of the bolt, so I installed this one a little closer to the door (which really isn't noticeable) and the process went well, more drama with the hole saws notwithstanding. I still need to clean a couple of them out and make sure the right bits are with the right kits. That one took about half an hour. I had swept up most of the shavings by the time everyone else came downstairs from working on the window. It was past 2:00 and I made everyone quesadillas for lunch. I think we all wanted to rest--I certainly did--but by the time we were all finished (cooking for four people is slow), it was 3:00 and I knew that if we took a break we'd never get back out to work. Amazingly, everyone was willing to head down to the landing to work on the pipes. When I got there, Jia Jia and my mom were already pounding down the pipe we'd left off on the day before. When it got far enough down that we started to think about making sure we didn't pound too far, we decided to finalize the height of the upriver bank-side pipe. I replaced the 3' pounding pipe on the downriver bank-side pipe with a flange, that being our starting point, and settled on using a garden stake for leveling between the two (nothing larger could make it through the roots). Then I removed the upriver pounding pipe and replaced it with another flange to check the level. It had a few inches to go, so we unscrewed the flange, screwed in a pipe, and the kids gave it some taps. I don't recall how many times we did that--having to remove both the pounder from the pipe and the 3' pounding pipe and replace them with a floor flange every time we wanted to measure--but after a few times, we found that, despite trying to be conservative, we'd overshot. Then the process repeated on the downriver pipe. Thankfully, it leveled out just as it hit the top of the sand. So we had two pipes level.

Back to the upriver river-side pipe. This time the 3' pounding pipe was going to be a part of the final length of pipe, since the original 5' length started a couple of feet lower than the others. The kids did a great job pounding it. We'd been worried that it hadn't been moving very fast when we'd left off, but as soon as I saw my mom and Jia Jia working on it it was clearly going down and continued to. The coupling was approaching the river, so we decided we'd better tighten it up before it disappeared. Our single pipe wrench was only turning the entire pipe, so we sent GZ back to the shop for a second one. I don't think we had much luck getting the coupling tighter, but for some reason we switched to the downriver river-side pipe, Jia Jia and GZ making short order of it when he returned. We used the carpet piece that had been protecting one of the roots above to protect a little spruce and the roots of the stump it was growing in. We had to add another 3' piece to finish pounding it down. We were using the 5' and 6' 2x8s I'd cut as walkways between the shore and the floats, which made for much better work platforms. The level, tape, garden stake, wrenches, pipes, and fittings were strewn about the bank. I had to cut one small dead root off with the swede saw to make room for the pounder when the pipe got low enough, but otherwise that pipe went in well. They lifted the pounder off many times as we neared level to make sure we didn't overshoot and were soon half a bubble to level. It was nearing 5:00, but we set in on the last pipe back upriver. The perpetually overcast sky had dissipated earlier and I was in a t-shirt, but by then the clouds had returned and it was cooling off. Really a perfect afternoon for working outside.

This time as the pipe approached level and we needed to start measuring, we ran into another problem. We could not get the end cap off that we'd use to protect the pipe while pounding. It had been through so much pounding (apparently) that it was unwilling to move. We tinkered with the wrenches and traded off stations, all to no avail. It was going nowhere. My mom went to get WD-40 and a hammer and it was her, channeling my dad, who got it loose through a combination of WD-40, taps with the hammer, and, ultimately, using a 3' pipe to increase the length of the wrench holding the pipe in place. As she held it, GZ twisted the cap off with the other wrench. Whew! Amazing. We put a flange on, happy that it was able to screw on, but of course it still had some length to go. We put a new cap on and tried to get the pipe as close as possible without having to take it off to replace it with the flange. When we did, it too had to be wrestled off in the same way as the other cap. When we finally got it off and replaced it with the flange, we were half a bubble from level and, after a few mostly ineffectual taps with a hammer on a board on top, decided to call it a day. We were just so very glad to get that end cap off! If we hadn't been able to, we'd have been pounding a new pipe right next to it.

Pleased with our efforts, we picked up all our tools and headed back to the cabin. I screwed in the four short pieces of 2x4 around the water tower that will help support the long pieces of plywood on their overhang while my mom made spaghetti for dinner. We watched several episodes of Taskmaster season 4 before turning in.

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It was another long day, if a lot less rigorous than yesterday! I think we're all either wearing out or tiring of the routine, and we didn't have a very social evening. I was up at 7:30 and tried my best to be quiet, but it is pretty impossible to do that, and my mother followed suit a little later. I cleaned up and lit a fire, then had breakfast, wrote the above, and had a cup of jasmine tea. Once again, the sky was a hazy overcast and blue-gray over the glacier. We were at the landing before 9:30. The first order of business was figuring out where to lay the beams which involved adding the 2x12 decking on top. All troubles that arose, of course, were because the pipes weren't square, but given the circumstances, it would have been nearly impossible to make them so with the roots and other issues, and the difficulty in measuring before pounding. It wasn't bad, but the fact that we'd forgotten that the outside of the intended 48"  width would be the outside of the flange rather than the outside of the pipe meant that the back two pilings were about 49" apart. Ultimately, we had it laid out reasonably well, just slightly offset from the front of the beams. Both back flanges would have three bolts rather than four because of the maneuvering we did. But it looked pretty decent!

Then the hard part began: we had the beams in place, but how to mark the flange holes for cutting the bolt channels? I was able to start a small drill hole through the flanges on the river side pilings since they were well above the water, but the ones on the bank were only inches above the ground, if that. I tried scraping with a screw, but that didn't work very well, so wound up smearing silt through the holes underneath and that marked the locations pretty well when I turned them over. Through this process we learned of the first major hurdle of the day: we had used one of the four flanges to determine what size bolts to buy. It turns out that there was one flange outlier of a slightly different make, and that's the one we had used to measure. The rest of the holes in the flanges were too small for our bolts to fit through. While I continued measuring and drilling holes, running through two batteries of my drill before finishing, my mom scrounged up some bits from Alder and found one that would drill bigger holes in the flanges, thank goodness. By that time I'd drilled holes in the downriver beam. When she finished with the flanges for that beam, she switched to using my new 1" paddle blade (purchased for installing the dead bolts) to drill holes for the heads of the bolts to sink into so they didn't stick up onto the beam. To my great relief, it wasn't hard to sink the bolts through the holes I'd drilled when we flipped the beam over, requiring only a little turning of one flange to tighten it because I'd taken it off to use as a template for some of my silt drills and hadn't screwed it back to the exact same place. I used my new socket set for the first time and quickly tightened the river side bolts. The bank side ones were a lot more trouble since there was almost no room beneath them. While my mom worked on drilling the flanges and the holes for the bolts on the other beam with her drill, I painstakingly tightened them. She had to help brace one of the bolts while I failed at tightening its bolt. I didn't admit to her at the time that I had the switch flipped on the socket handle and was loosening the bolt half the time... Eventually we got it reasonably tight. Meanwhile, Jia Jia was playing with Jenny at the top of the bank and ferrying dead batteries to the cabin to charge.

All but one of the seven bolts on the upriver beam went right in, though it took a little finagling, and I just had to clean out one of the holes to get the last one in. All were easy to tighten and...suddenly we had beams in place. I relaid three of the 2x12s and a 2x8 and we set about fine tuning their placement until we were happy, with all boards either overlapping the beams or just barely not on one side. We screwed them in and called it a morning. Well, all except the 2x8. The last 2x12 wouldn't fit without cutting some of the very important vertical roots holding the bank together, so we marked a spare 2x8 to cut later. It had been a three-hour task and we broke for lunch. Jia Jia and Guo Zhong were just settling in with ramen, so we had sandwiches and I hastily drank a cafe francais after packing for an afternoon adventure. We all gathered at the float ready to launch the canoe, but first we dropped the stair stringers onto the new platform, situated it, and measured how much of the stringer tread supports to cut to make them level. It's not ideal, but we hope it will work for now and allow the stairs to lean against the bank. With that done, we removed the protective wrappings from the bow and stern, slid the Taku Teal into the river (her official christening) and Jia Jia, GZ, Cailey, and I set off for the slough. It was easy floating downriver and a couple of seals watched us pass. Earlier we'd seen one breaching repeatedly. The water in the slough was low and clear and we were surprised by how shallow it was, including the sandbar at the mouth of the slough that we must have passed over in the Kathy M at high high tide. It took us less than half an hour to get to the landing (though we took the other channel) and another fifteen minutes to Big Bend. The hill at Big Bend looked all the world like a mowed meadow and it was hard to believe that in a month of two it'll be thick with 1-3' dense diverse vegetation. We continued to the mountain, fighting the wind and with GZ at the stern learning how to steer. The wind was coming off the mountain and making it a challenge. It was calmer around the corner and we cruised around a little before turning around and stopping at the huge new beaver lodge near the slough with the old beaver dam under the willow. We'd seen several pairs of green-winged teal, a pair of Canada geese, and heard just a few songbirds, mostly while on shore. It was high overcast and pretty quiet.

I heated up chili and sourdough biscuits for dinner and we chatted about when to leave. We'd sent Ezra a message via the inreach earlier asking him to find us the current cfs discharge of the river and the marine forecast and my mom had fetched the response. The cfs has risen from 12,500 to 15,300, so not dramatically, and we were in for NW winds and 2' seas in Taku Inlet on Thursday and Friday. The general consensus was to leave in the middle of the night/early morning (e.g., 4:00 am) Friday on a 17' or so tide. This was reasonable, but also, I confess, a little discouraging for me. We would hopefully have a chance to finish the stairs tomorrow, but not much else. I might end up with no time to fill potato pots or set the cameras again or....just anything to enjoy the place with the major tasks behind us. I would have to wait until the next time. Boy am I getting tired of just working here and never really settling in and enjoying it.

With a whole day of getting ready to leave ahead of me, I went outside to fetch the stringers from the landing and bring them to Alder for cutting in the morning, deciding to do a bird survey on the way. The pair of white-crowned sparrows that have been charming us on the lawn were out, which was a nice start, and I wandered toward the riverfront in the surprisingly calm and balmy evening. In the slough upriver I spotted a huge white bird--swan. I ran back to get my mother and she and Guo Zhong both saw it. On the grass next to it grazed three Canada geese and there were a few ducks among them as well. Very nice! They went back inside and I went to the landing, unscrewed the two treads that were keeping the stringers together, and carried them on my back to Alder. Then I went back and fetched my drill and a few other sundry items and went back to the water tower to screw in the plywood so that project was complete. The evening was just fantastically lovely, the sun warm, the air calm, so peaceful, I didn't want to stop. It was the sort of feeling that I'd wanted anyway! I wandered back to the landing, looking again for the trio of birds I'd seen out there earlier that I thought might be grebes, and picked up the clippers I'd left there earlier so I could cut the alders and willows that were overhanging the trail from the snow and that we'd all been pushing through or stepping over, very satisfying work, though it bothered my shoulder more than anything else I'd done today. I also tidied up around the cabin a little, bringing some items from the back porch to the front that we'd take with us, and made a little wander for things to fill the potato pots. I found a rotting round and broke that up, but will need a lot of finer material. I eyed the beach sand on either side of the landing and wondered if there was a reasonable way to get it to the top of the slope. There should be peat moss to help on the back deck as well. At one point I stopped in to let the others know that I wasn't really up for Wingspan tonight, as originally intended, but found everyone so absorbed in their activities (my mother was writing) that I didn't bother. I was having such a nice time outside.

Shortly before I came in I realized that the sky was cloudless, which must be why the sun was so wonderfully warm on my back. My mother was laying down to help the eardrops she'd put in and no one was in a social mood, so we agreed to celebrate the next night, our last, and go our separate ways tonight. My mom went to bed, the youth went upstairs to watch anime, and I puttered around, making hummingbird food to add to the feeders tomorrow, marking the outlines of the door jamb plates for the dead bolts (in case I want to tackle that), and made a plan for a canoe trip/camera setting tomorrow. If I make the stair cuts first thing (before breakfast), perhaps we can set them up to be functional as our first task. If that works, maybe there will be enough time in the morning for my mother and I to walk back to the canoe. I think we could do it in an hour and a half or two hours, have fun, survey birds (or just watch and listen), and satisfy some of my desire to enjoy the place. And, get my mom on the Teal on the slough. It's worth a try anyway! I hope those cuts go well. If they do, the rest shouldn't take too long. Those stairs are not going to be great. At this point we will settle for functional. At the moment, the landing is wonderful, but it's kind of in the middle of nowhere. At low tide, as it was today when we launched the Teal, it's a good three feet above the dock, and you still have to scramble up the bank above it. It's 9:25 now and I think I'll head to bed to read a little and relax. Last night for the first time in weeks I didn't get up in the middle of the night, which was amazing, and I'd love for that to happen again. And I have to admit, this evening to myself was perhaps just what I needed.

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After my marathon of small chores after dinner the night before, I was determined to make this final day what I wanted of it. To that end, I got up at 7:30 and managed to escape the house without disturbing anyone too much, even feeding Cailey outside. The stringers were waiting for me on sawhorses over the snow in front of Alder and I set to work re-marking them, taking off an even 2.5" from the front of each tread back to the angle, which mostly matched up with the marks I'd made in situ the day before. Because I was cutting into an existing opening in the wood, I had only minimal work to do with a handsaw. The very bottoms of the stringers were the only part that gave me trouble and I struggled to get them parallel with the tread above and also the same as each other, which was puzzling. After they were both cut (the generator started on the first pull again without choke), I laid them together and marked a few small additional cuts to make so the treads would be level, including an extra cut on the bottom. Then I carried the stringers and the 2x8 I'd cut to replace the last 2x12 to the landing, secured the latter, and slid the stringers down. To my delight, they sat perfectly on the landing, leaned nicely against the bank for a couple of feet at the top, and the treads, when placed, were level side to side and nearly level front to back. It even looked pretty good, the not-plumb stringer between the treads looking downright intentional. Satisfied that we'd be able to finish that job later in the day, I returned to the cabin, had breakfast, and easily persuaded my mom to go on a canoe trip with me.

I was mostly packed from the night before with batteries, leatherman, spot, wire, and zip ties in my backpack. I grabbed the SD cards and my camera plan (which I'd written out) and we headed out about 10:00, started a bird survey from the cabin but going pretty much straight back to the canoe. Jenny again hopped eagerly inside, which is a wonderful change from the days of practically dragging her in. The morning was still and gorgeous on the slough. We saw the pair of Canada geese again along the mountainside shore and they very nearly let us go by along the other bank without leaving, but eventually honked and flew away. Our first stop was the property line on the north end. I was happy to find the no hunting sign at the base of the post there, but took it with me in case the sign on the post inside the trees was missing its. A song sparrow flew into the alders there to join one of the many singing Lincoln's sparrows and a male green-winged teal preened and/or foraged in the shallows up the slough. I left my mom and Jenny to birdwatch there while I headed inland, quickly finding the sign post intact with its sign on the ground. I stopped to secure a sign to that post and get wire ready for the other sign which I left behind. From there I headed to the next no hunting sign and paused to watch a male mallard nipping at a female in flight, followed by a second male. After about a 20 minute excursion, Cailey and I were back at the canoe.

We returned to the landing, making it back to the cabin around noon to find Jia Jia and GZ eating ramen for lunch. I made a quesadilla for my mom and me with the last of those ingredients and then we all headed down to the landing to finish the stairs. Guo Zhong used the swede saw to cut down a small spruce on the edge of the bank between the stringers and two good sized alder branches to make room at the top. When we agreed on location of the stringers and determined that it was stable, I screwed them in and started on the treads. Because of the contours of the top of the bank, the stringers are about two feet apart, so the treads extend about 6" to either side. It was really a one-person job, so the others scattered, my mom to lubricate all the doors in the cabin with WD-40 to reduce the squeaks. We met back at the completed stairs at 2:00 and enjoyed a few minutes of the sunny afternoon. And there was so much more of that afternoon, and most of the chores were done! Now we got to putter. My mom planted the garden while I worked on potatoes, filling one of the two pots I'd brought. Actually, Jia Jia did most of the filling. I'd loaded the two-wheel cart earlier with the pot, a shovel, and a bucket and the kids had pushed it down near the landing. We tied a line to the bucket and I scrambled down to the beach, filling it partly and letting Jia Jia haul it up. Since hers was the hard part, we switched, and Guo Zhong soon joined in and took my place while I tied a safety line to the top of the stairs and returned to a pile of dry moose droppings to add to the mix. I returned just before the last bucket of sand was being dumped in the potato tub and did my best to mix the existing sand with the rotten log pieces and bundle of dry bluejoint grass that I brought back from the meadow (along with the droppings). The kids pushed it back over the snow patch to the area around the original landing upriver and we positioned it in the sun by the riverbank. Guo Zhong fetched a small pile of moose droppings he'd spotted in the snow nearby and I mixed that in. Then he and I planted three Tlingit potatoes in the garden box and three in the pot, all in the beautiful sunshine of the day. Jia Jia and Guo Zhong took a break on the swing while I made a jello cheesecake inside. Then I gave them a game I'd bought many years ago thinking it would be fun to play with the kids at the cabin when they were kids, but had never brought it out. It involves "swords" with which you toss a disk into the air for your teammate to catch. I left them to read the instructions while I chiseled out and installed the deadbolt plates for the wall and its huge screws. When I was finished I helped fetch a lost disk from the spruce cluster in front of the cabin, then made a few tosses with GZ. It was very hard to control where the disk went, but we both caught a disk once right before one went high into a spruce on the downward slope. In our effort to free it, one of the swords got stuck and GZ climbed up to get it and we quit the game, leaving the disk to confuse the hummingbirds. Meanwhile, my mom had finished planting the garden and was adding screws around the new plywood on the water tower to further discourage the bear. All in all it was just the day I wanted--blue sky, adventure, successful work, and time to relax and bop around. When all those tasks were done, it was after 4:00 and we carried beers (and a glass of ancient grape juice for GZ) to the new stairs at the landing and drank them in celebration in the sunshine.

My mom made mac and cheese for dinner (delicious) and then we broke to do all our packing and closing chores, carrying all but our personal gear down to the Kathy M, doing dishes, putting everything away at Alder and screwing everything shut, etc. On my way back from loading the gear staged at the landing onto the Kathy M, I started the water pump (priming it as usual now) and it ran well for about six minutes, but then it looked like the water was no longer spitting out of the leaky plug, so I shut it down. By that time I was much too exhausted to go on. I checked the water tank and it wasn't quite full, though it had gone up. The night before I'd measured the water level and found it two inches lower in the morning, but in this case the youth did use the water in the middle of the night, so it could be partly attributed to that. It beats the sevenish inches we lost overnight with no use the fall before. We'd wanted to leave a full tank for the next time we arrive, but I didn't have anything more in me. I told everyone I'd left the pump uncovered and my mom disappeared to take care of it and I sent the kids after her to manage that huge tarp. Then we each ate about a quarter of the cheesecake and drank the second bottle of champagne (which we'd found in a plastic bag on the back porch a few days before along with the rest of the beers). We'd thought to try Wingspan that night, or do something more festive, but we were all pretty beat and we had an early morning ahead of us. With the cabin pretty clean and ready for our departure, we turned in, my alarm set for 3:30 am. A quick foray outside before bed revealed the mountains behind us lit with pale yellowish alpenglow.

I was awake in time to shut my alarm off, though I did sleep decently well before that. I quickly dressed and packed the last of my clothes and switched the comforter cover for my comforter and put everything away. My mom did the last of the dishes, shut down the propane and turned off the water, and the kids packed gear to the landing and closed the shutters. My last task was to lock the deadbolt. The morning was dead calm and gorgeous, pink alpenglow on the mountains over the glacier, everything reflected in the river. We left the dock around 4:15 and escaped downriver without incident. The morning was cold and I think we were all pretty cold all the way home, except for a few brief periods when the sun finally rose above the mountains and warmed in the inside of the cabin past Bishop and before we turned into the channel. The wind was blowing down the river, so we had chop on our stern early in the trip, diminishing as we went. The scenery was spectacular. We pulled into the boathouse around 6:15 am and tied up as quickly as we could. GZ fetched a cart and we left most of the garbage and laundry on board in our haste to warm our icy feet and take showers. I managed to sneak into the house without waking Ezra up and was soon warm and clean and snoozing much of the rest of the morning away in my civilized bed. We'd been gone almost exactly a week, the longest stay I've had there since I was a kid, and I was unusually pleased at the various civilized elements of my town life. Now, several days later, I'm still reeling from how successful the trip was and look forward to our next trip where I hope we'll enjoy the fruits of our labors and enjoy the place in a different way.

Tracking in the shallow river