Friday, April 23, 2010


In Alaska, Breakup isn't about relationship, it's about snow and ice giving way to mud and slush. Lots of slush. Deep, machine sucking slush. This is the time of year when even 4-wheel drive isn't enough sometimes. It pays to invest in a winch. Unless you're looking on Craigslist, then you'd want to look for a wench. "4WD ATV with wench for sale." I don't know why they sell so many of them with wenches. Little signs started appearing on the periphery of our awareness building up slowly until now we see them everywhere. They warn truck drivers that axles have limits lower than normal; 50%, 75%, 80%. I finally heard the explanation the other day. The roads are vulnerable to frost heave this time of year so they want to keep heavy weights off of them until the frost is out.

I got to learn first hand how to use a winch yesterday. If you remember way back to October 24, 2009 I showed you the "corduroy road" section of our trail. The reason we had to put down all those little trees to make the corduroy was because there are springs that go across the trail there. The trees allow us to drive across the muddy spots. Things are a little different there now. There is a stretch of path that is one big sheet of ice. Add some fresh snow so I couldn't see where Rodney's tracks were and just a bit too far to the lower side and I went off the trail into a good 18" of slush. There was a ledge of ice preventing me from getting back on the path. Sergei had already messed up the winch once by not operating it correctly so I wisely chose to get someone who knew how to use it (that would be the tired spousal unit). I'm glad I did, not only because he taught me how to use it, but also because he was big enough to do the manhandling required to get it back up on that ledge. The winch may have done the pulling, but he still had a lot of maneuvering to do to get it out of there.

Maggie reminded me that we wanted to live out here. Actually, that was a great reminder. It helped me to be thankful for the privilege of living in such a beautiful spot, in such a beautiful house, in such a wonderful camp, with such amazing people! :) But I'll still be happy when the rest of the slush melts! We're using the ATV path exclusively now and it is quite a hike if you have to carry things. It's also a bit of work when it is REALLY slushy. I'm not that comfortable with the ATVs and mine doesn't have chains anyway so most of the time I'm hiking if I want to go out. That includes hiking IN groceries! Thankfully I also have teenagers! Lee Althens (the guy who built this place and raised his kids here) said that they used to drag a canoe across the lake with one foot in the canoe and one foot on the ice and push themselves along that way. Using that method, if the ice gave way they always had the canoe to jump in. I'm not quite Alaskan enough for that yet!

I actually bought a small motorcycle (Honda CR85R) for making the trek in but will have to wait until the snow melts to be able to use it. Nate built a windscreen for Rodney's ATV which makes it much more pleasant to ride in the cold weather, but it doesn't have a defrost unit or wipers so sometimes it is still a bit hard to see. It does block a ton of wind though! Slowly but surely we're figuring out what works, what doesn't and learning what to do better next time.

Rodney has had some really crappy days lately. He and Nate spent two days this week trying to thaw a frozen sewer pipe. They do that by blasting hot water into the pipe. Unfortunately due to the nature of a BLOCKAGE, all that water (and other "stuff" in there) has no where to go but to come right back at you. That section of pipe is only 16" below the surface at that point so it is frequently a problem. They would like to replace it with a line that is straighter and further under the surface, but to do that would require that it be built to current code, apparently a rather expensive endeavor. At this point there are so many other project requiring time and money that it isn't high on the priority list.

Speaking of priority lists, one of the highest priorities at the moment is for staff housing. There are a LOT of families preparing to come on staff at Victory soon and very little housing available. Camp is trying to raise the funds to put in a number of new houses. We're also still trying to fill counselor slots for the summer (at both Victory and Li-Wa). If you know of any college age teens that would love to spend a summer in Alaska working with kids, have them check out the Victory website!

Summer is fast approaching! May starts our work team schedule so things will be HOPPING here! I'll have to fill you in a bit later on exactly how all of that works because we've never actually seen all of it in action. We saw a little bit of it last year, but we were still settling in ourselves at that point so we didn't really get that deep into it. Keeping those work teams running will be a big part of our summer. Since they are here non-stop from May through September, we'll be BUSY! I may not be able to blog as much this summer so I hope ya'll can forgive me! Just because we still have snow on the ground does not mean summer isn't almost here. Sunrise is now at about 6 am and sunset at 9:30 pm, with twilight an hour before and after that so our days are LONG already! The kids have less than a month of school left at this point. Summer will hit us before we know it.

One more sign of spring is that the squirrels are out in full force. Ellie has taken over as squirrel-chaser-extraordinaire! She is filling the empty shoes left by the mighty squirrel hunter Piper. Too bad she doesn't fill the rest of Piper's shoes! Piper was such a great dog and Ellie is the naughtiest dog on earth. I'd started to forget that recently until yesterday. Ellie had a busy day yesterday. First I looked out the window to see Eider happily busy under my suet feeder. I became suspicious and upon closer inspection I noticed the naughty hound on TOP of the wood pile! She had broken open the suet bag and shared her ill-gotten gains with the black beast. Then she spent half the day chasing that crazy squirrel which was funny until I saw that she was standing ON the insulation around the pipe right below that feeder! It will not be a happy day if she breaks that insulation loose! Later that afternoon she suddenly appeared from upstairs! I have no idea how she got there or how long she was up there, but I had not been up there in quite some time. Somehow she had gotten past the barrier and up the stairs and then hid up there without my noticing. She wasn't done yet though! Sergei left his chair out after dinner and those who know Ellie can guess what happened next. To her, a chair left out is an invitation to climb up on the dining room table and see what she can find. Yesterday was no exception! To top off the evening she sat down next to Rodney (who had rather foolishly set his mug of water on the floor next to the couch he was lying on) and proceeded to drink all his water. There was water in the DOG water dish, but it tastes better out of a cup! Anyone want an adorable, sweet little hound dog? She had a bath recently. Not that it did any good. She was stinky again the next day! Oh wait, I'm supposed to be convincing you to take her...

Here the naughty monkey is enjoying her ill-gotten gain.
Mr. Innocent. NOT! Too bad for him he's not a chocolate Lab!

The offending squirrel. Cheeky little thing, isn't he? The ear tufts are cute.

My geranium is happy. My cousin's wife Luci gave it to me last fall. I ignored it all winter and this is how it thanks me.

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