Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just like the 4th of July, but colder.

Everything is different on the Kenai. Just look at our fireworks traditions, its daylight all night on the 4th of July so we have our fireworks to kick off the Christmas Season on the night after Thanksgiving. Its been a long family tradition for us so MP and I keep it alive and go every year.

We used to all meet with our snowmachines at my sister Karen's house. We'd spend the day riding and then come evening wander over to town where the Chamber sponsors a huge bon fire. Some years its been -20 and some years like this one a civilised +20. The fireworks themselves cost the community thousands and has grown into quite a show through the years. One year we had a driving snowstorm and the fireworks reflected and the light bounced around in a really cool way. Even though it was fairly warm last night as you can see by this pic of MP we still needed to be bundled for an hour out in it. The whole town is out for this event so we ran into alot of friends and spent time with my only relatives still in the area, my nephew and his wife, Mitch and Jessica.

You know I'm always on the watch to find the unusual and the city of Kenai is a perfect place to find exactly that. This truck with the Texas style hood ornament was parked right next to our friends Rueben and Mindy....As we walked through the snow we had a high school boyfriend / girlfriend couple walk by. She was having trouble keeping up in the snow and all and I heard him tell her to "heel"....yikes, not many of us would live through that one.

The Fireworks are over and when we get back to the Suby I'm struck with this Deja Vu. Parked right next to us is this Ford Tempo just like my sister would have driven to this same event 20 years ago. But even though its the same color as her Tempo, its not her. The Tempo's long gone and she's in Oregon missing one of her favorite Kenai things. But whoever runs the co-incidence department around here gave me and MP a pretty good laugh.

This last pic is of the street scene. It gives you and idea of how popular the event is. Its that time of year where folks have a bit of cabin fever and Alaskans are never afraid to embrace the outdoors. Pretty cool and unique Friday night here at Mile 14. All in all my new camera seemed to capture it well enough. All the lights are a real challenge. But the darn camera has a 'fireworks' mode that took blury pictures again. Roy, what am I doing wrong? How do you get a good fireworks shot?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Airport Security @ Mile 14

I usually don't editorialize on this blog but somethings been in the news lately that's really bugging me. Yup, all these folks so wound up over losing their privacy by submitting to full body screenings or pat downs in the airport. Its obvious to me that these are not people who have spent 35 winters in Alaska, if they were I'd bet dollars to donuts just like me they'd submit to just about anything with the prospect of a break from an Alaskan winter. Give me a frontal lobotomy, I don't care. They can frisk me, interrogate me, see through my clothes...I don't care, lets just get this thing moving and get on the plane. OK?....

But I realized this is a serious situation for folks who might not be as secure in their skin as I am so I got to doing some problem solving and I think I've got it. My solution although it might sound complex really gets at the heart of several issues facing America, security, health and our desire to always be bargain hunting....So I propose that we evolve this 'body scan' machine that everybody seems to hate into a full blown C.A.T. scan machine. After all if it can tell you have a tumor it ought to be able to tell the TSA folks if you're packing a box cutter. Then when you clear the TSA station you're given a print out of your scan to use as you'd like, maybe spend a two week vacation worried about that new dark spot on your liver, who knows. Brilliant eh?...we do something for preventative medicine, take the gripe out of the system and we all fly securely. Problem solved.

I guess I have a knack for noticing the small things in life, Its part of that quest I'm on...appreciation. So now that its cold and the river is starting to freeze I got to taking a good look at the ice here at Mile 14. Its beautiful, really. MP and me along with Jet-Blue the dog that's learned to stand on two legs when on the ice walked down to Fall-in-Hole yesterday. That first pic is how the ice pans and floats down the river, its kind of cool because we see many shades of the same thing. Then the next pic I took of the shore ice. Naturally theres less current next to shore so the freezing process starts at the shoreline and works out. When it gets close to the water there is a strange ribbon of these ice crystals laying on top of the river ice. I don't know what causes it but I suppose it has something to do with the open water close by and when its really cold it kind of condensates dropping the frozen ice crystals onto the sheet ice. In whatever case its everywhere and really cool. I guess it underlines what I tell people all the time when they ask if I get tired of being on the river...the river is really a living thing and its different every single day. You just have to notice.

So this last pic is me and the crew saying happy Thanksgiving to all of you. This year its going to be a bit strange here as I think its just the 3 of us. Our boys are grown up and gone, our friends Dick and Loretta who we enjoyed many a holiday with have moved to the 48 and my nephew and his wife are going to Fairbanks to be with his sister. It'll be alright, MP has a mini-turkey and we'll light one of our Mexican candles, open a bottle of good Merlot and be thankful for all of you and all that we have here on the Kenai River. Keep reading, we'll have some fishing stuff going on real soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Schooshing through the Woods

The new owners of our gym have done a wonderful job of cleaning and fixing it up for us gym rats. But, for what we assume are religious reasons they are closed on Saturdays which means we have to find other exercise options. Its really not a problem and you have to respect their religion, I'm just darn glad they're not Muslim or we'd be taking a whole month off for Ramadan. So today was the perfect day for me and my friend-advisor-workout partner-bread winner-conscience-lover and critic to hit the ski trails.

We all know Soldotna is a cool town, but lots of folks might not know that we have arguably the best Nordic ski trail system in the State. The trails have been a work in progress, spearheaded by local enthusiasts and centered around SkyView High School where its no surprise that the x-country team routinely competes for the State title. They even have 15 K's of illuminated trails which is huge for us here in the frozen north.

So today we opt for the ' Wolverine Trail' , its our first time out and the 'mountain goat' just doesn't sound right. The trail is fast, well as fast as x-country skiing can be and is perfectly groomed and wide. Theres room for either skating or tracks are cut for the old traditional way. We skied the entire loop and never saw another person until we ran into my friend John Mohorich in the parking lot. As I skied along I was thinking of the downhill skiing I did as a kid, I was pretty good and could attack the moguls or bust the powder with the best of them. We're a long way from that but what I'm doing today is just as good if you ask me. I'm in the woods, the air has that clean crispness to it and just like downhill skiing theres a chance I can wreck and hurt myself. I'm happy.

Before we started our trips to Mexico every winter I was into the snowmachines pretty good and had alot of fun with them. But this skiing is better, exercise, no breakdowns, you can't get lost (so far anyway) and I'm hanging around with exactly the right people. That's MP at the end of a downhill, she's dragging her poles just a bit to slow down, I don't blame her that snow is pretty hard. So we ski the entire loop, no falls, no tweaked knees and when we get out we come across this ultra cool one of a type metal gate. The close up of the bear tells our story, its got a fish. That's our town, I think we lead the nation in per capita fish figures...

This last pic I took from the landing a few mornings ago. While fishing I'm often asked how the hunting is around here, well its the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. Thats alot of ducks eh?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


After getting through the month of October with an unusual lack of snow it finally hit Saturday. Our friends Porter and Gena were over Friday night for pizza, Coronas and to play music. Porter is a great guitar player and after years of promising to get together we finally did. It was fantastic. 'When they left at 9:00 it had just started, huge wet flakes, already 2 inches deep. In the morning it was a full 8 inches of wonder, that quiet sound with an eerie cleanness it gives everything and me and MP had our weekend set....a snow day as they called it when we were kids.

So we plan our day out over a Chili Cheese Omelet at the King Salmon restaurant. We get the mail and then a trip to Safeway for 3 movies on DVD and get home to settle in for the day.
Well, as usually happens here at Mile 14 nothing goes as planned, I'm not complaining because often the plans change for the better, but not today. The power is out, and it stays out. Mmmmmm....we keep a pretty cool temp in the house to begin with, seems for reasons we need not go into MP has a different view of the ambient temperature than me. She just seems to be warmer than me I guess. So, the temp in the house drops to 65, then to 6o, then, well on and on until finally when power is returned 5 hours later its a pretty cool 45 degrees in the house. And of course without power theres no movies so MP reads and I change oil in the snow blower and the 4-wheeler.

The power outage phenomena which we're kind of used to is right here in our own back yard. MP walks Jet-dog down to the river and on return tells me that our old tired Birch tree by the garden is creaking and crackling. Sure enough it is, the wet snow has its limbs bent towards earth and after just a few minutes the old tree gives up and down comes one of its Major branches. Right in front of our eyes. So between this and all the beetle killed spruce trees I've seen blow over I can tell you for sure...yes, if nobody is around to witness it I'm about 100% or so sure that trees do make a sound when they fall. But then again, I don't really know. Maybe. Could be.

But with the power back on and the snow still falling we rally the weekend. A good hot sauna by the river, a silly Denzel Washington Movie, with popcorn (no fat) and I got to run my favorite machine, the snow blower. That is until it locked up with a rock or something stuck in the 2-stage. Its in the garage now making a puddle and I'll sort it out tomorrow.
So I'll leave you with this little pic of the river, by now you've all seen this pic in many forms and seasons. I don't get tired of it . I really liked the way the snow stuck to the rope we have to help keep people from vaulting down the bank. If you enlarge you'll see a pretty good passel of Mallards on the water. The lakes are freezing and the river is the last open water around. Soon, it'll freeze too and they'll be gone. Like most Alaskans I figure lets have all the seasons, its winter now, give me some snow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Theres More to it than just Fish

"Some men fish their whole lives without knowing its not fish they're after"

Somebody famous said that years ago and although I think it doesn't give people like us enough credit it certainly underlines what we all know about this sport, theres alot to appreciate. So, to help celebrate my 10,000 visit milestone I decided to go through my Picasa and post some of the many cool wildlife sightings I've experienced here and around Mile 14. Naturally in 30 years on the creek I've seen just about everything I'd guess but I've only packed the digital camera for the last 7 or 8 years....some of the most memorable sights have been without a camera or caught with the old film deal. Of all the wildlife I've seen though the coolest was years ago. I was downriver in May, the only boat around when the entire lowland Caribou herd crossed the river below me. It was a like a scene from the Serengeti, the migration of the Wilda beast, over a hundred animals swimming with me, full of direction, knowing exactly where they were going.
Anchored up silver fishing we watched this huge Caribou come out and swim straight towards us. Unbelievable close, I stood at the bow with the anchor line in hand so I could throw it out and float away if we had a problem, we didn't.
This little guy and his twin got separated from its Mom one spring right here at Mile 14. They hung around for days and we were all worried sick that they'd be lost forever. But low and behold the mom came back and we watched them swim the river off to the future. This Caribou Pic was a no brainier to take. I don't know whats cooler, the animal or the mountains behind him, I guess the combo is the deal.
We've got lots of Moose but how often do you see them up close? We do routinely, some days that King Salmon might be hard to catch but we can generally mitigate that with at least a Moose sighting or two.
Getting a pic of a seal is almost impossible. You get the camera out, they go down. You set the camera down and they come up. They're the one creature here that likes to watch us as much as we like to watch them I think. These guys are seriously smart, you can see it in his eyes.

Me and MP were anchored up one fall silver fishing at Eagle Rock when this coyote came out. He was flat bold and we watched him scavenge around for almost an hour. The coyotes might be the toughest life form on the river. In the winter we find holes the ice where they scratch down a foot or so to get at an old salmon carcass.

Every year we seem to have more and more Bald Eagles. This guy is an immature one, I've been told it takes 3 years for them to get good and white, if somebody knows for sure, I'd like to know. One of my favorite things is watching them get the first salmon guts of the year after we clean our first King of the year, usually in early to mid May. As far as fish go they seem to depend on us but I have seen them take live fish and those poor Merganser ducklings don't have a chance.

Sandhill Cranes are pretty confident birds, they make no secret of their arrival. You can hear them a looooong way off. They kind of cackle. I call them Pterodactyls as they just look so different than geese or other big birds when they fly over.

Those Trumpeter Swans are the last migratory bird to exit stage south every year. This bunch here I jumped right at the end of the island below my house. I would have gotten a better pic of them and maybe one of them feeding but the Jet-Dog could show no restraint and needed a closer look, fast. With all the talk I've made lately about our bears here I'm embarrassed to say that I don't have any really good pics. Just two nights ago we had a sow and two cubs outside and one was on the picnic table 15 feet from our bedroom window. MP had some sunflowers on it for the Jay Birds and the cub just had to have some....but theres just no way to get a picture with the dark and reflection of the window. I tried. I'll bet my photography major buddy Roy could have pulled it off. So that leaves me with this ultra magnified pic of a browny that we watched across the river for many days. He's having a spawned out Humpy all you can eat buffet.

Sometimes around here you just have to share the fishing hole. Thats what my buddy Jacques Lizin is doing here. I'd bet he's not as calm as he looks here....would you be?

I'll close out this little camera Safari with a pic that Jacque took in Seward. Absolutely gorgeous. The porpoises are like the seals I'd say, they love to entertain....Hope you liked the tour.