Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sit-Rep

That was the situation this morning. I'm a guy that instant gratification is not fast enough for and this deal is driving me nuts. When I decide to do something ...its done...period... and not being able to get at my guide boat makes me feel like I'm  behind in my work schedule. I have new seats to install, I need to rewire my CD-radio so the moisture keeps Gary Allan from coming on when we don't need him and my wash down pump died last year and  needs replacing. Never mind that it usually takes a full day to clean, load  , massage and just work on the boat and feel good about it. For me its like practicing fouls shots for a basketball player, this guide gets warmed up with preparation, almost ritualistic. AND, a boat went down the river today while I was working on the  yard , but I'll still garner the self satisfaction of being the 2nd...or 3rd...or 15th....person down the river someday, depending on the snow melt. Oh well. If you scroll down two entries you can time lapse this deal, same pic eight days apart.

So I've been busy with launch chores. I've cut bunches of blown over trees, fixed the green house that one hit and widened our road by trimming, I hope the boys like it. For some reason this year that chainsaw and me aren't getting along like we used to. I guess I'm getting to realise what Walt Larson used to tell me years ago..."theres a lot of difference between show muscles and work muscles" .  So heres a pic of me and one of my creations blocking out the sun, but only for a bit thank goodness.
Years ago in the spring we had Snow Geese by the thousands stop on the Kenai River flats on their way farther north. But year after year there seemed to be less and less and everyone noticed. Well it seems that the ups and downs of nature are going the other way and we're seeing many more birds fly over. So MP and I went to the flats the other day and I was right, theres way more of everything eating the tasty submerged morsels on the flats. Most were way out of picture range so this was the best I could do, a bunch of Sandhill Cranes which I call Teradactyls because for some reason I see a similarity. They're loud, they're great flyers , we have nests in the swamp below our house, we live with and love em...OH, while I was taking this pic you could see a coyote slowly, creeping, staying low and trying to approach them.  MP didn't see it at first so I guess that coyote new what he was doing but eventually it moved some and she saw it. I felt like Marlin Perkins...."look Jim, theres one now"..............

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A picture is worth......

waiting all winter for. The last two years the ice went out here at Mile 14 on April 15th, we're a few days late but that's how she looked this morning. Flowing waters, aqua fresca, sounds of birds and that light little rumble of the ice banging off rocks...yahtzee, fishing season is going to happen fast now. The pic below I took from my gutting table this morning, gorgeous, one of my customers told me one time that my gutting table had a better view than his hot tub.
I always feel like nothing is ever by accident so this morning there was some inter connectivity going on, I guess I'm pretty in tune with that ol creek. I've been sleeping until 6 and then to the gym at 7. But, all summer long I'm up at 4 am with or without a fishing trip, its like in my DNA. So this morning I awoke at 4:00 am exactly. I kinda rolled and tossed and turned some and really didn't get back to sleep. So I got up and I new instantly the ice was out, there was a moist fog laying thick on the river valley and still pretty good at the house, 85 feet above the water. As I got the paper I could hear gulls and when I walked to the bluff I could hear that wonderful whistling that only mergansers make as they speed down the river a foot or two above it. Now why the ice goes out at night I don't know but that seems to always be the case so if any of you have a theory, I'd love to hear it.

So pretty soon this blog content oughta improve, me and that river have got a lot to do. I hope you keep coming back to smile 14...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Son of a Gun

The other day my nephew asked me if I'd screwed up by parking guide boat #3 down at the boat launch where it would be 'safe' for the winter. Well Mitch...the answer is a big yes. Normally right now I'd be prepping for the season, I have a lot to do. A new wash down pump , wire my radio to an off switch so it doesn't turn itself on all the time when it rains, new seats...you get the idea. But as you can see from this mornings pic that without renting a Sikorski Sky Crane the old Minnow 4 is going to be right where I parked it for awhile. 

MP's been telling me that in the morning while its still frozen that the 3 feet of snow we still have is just like cement and you can easily walk on top of it.  She's right, this morning we walked all the way to Fall-in-hole and then up the swamp and over the bench back to the launch, a one hour walk. Its hard to believe that in less than a month I'll have a boat on that river...but its breaking, we came across these gorgeous mallards in an open lead and there was big ol eagle in a cottonwood getting a jump on the competition.
The next pic is the willow tree that I mentioned before. When we did our Stream bank Stabilization project in 1996 we planted the suggested Felt Leaf Willows in various places to help hold the new river bank. Well it turns out that Felt leaf willows are the absolute favorite of beavers and moose....all of them are long gone except these few that we protected with wire fencing because they protect the launch surface itself from erosion .  This poor guy is in about the same situation as the moose that ate him, theres a good chance he's history. But, he did have some pussy willows on him so we'll see, fingers crossed.
I always say that the best part of my job is the people so the coolest thing happened the other day. We got a call from our old friend Dr. Melvin Bagley who found me and fished with his family several times in the 1980's. He was on a cruise ship coming from Japan and invited us aboard for lunch when it landed in Seward on Wednesday, how cool.  So here's a pic of the Doc back in 1986 with the first King he caught, he showed up with that small rod you'll notice and was certain it would do the job...I had my doubts but always ready for a challenge we rigged it up and walla, a nice king. But I did kind of stand out of shatter distance while he fought it. The next pic then is us and the Doc as well as his personal assistant, a wonderful woman named May. Its 26 years since we met him.


The Crystal  Serenity is not your average cruise ship, this baby is ultra luxury. It basically cruises around the world and varies its routes from year to year and then breaks the trip up into segments so you go as far as you want or as short as you want. Mae and the Doc were on their 93rd day aboard. They had left LA and gone to Australia up into Malaysia and China, then Japan and Russia before crossing to Alaska, they even found time to take a couple days to visit May's family in the Philippines. Because the 'World Cruisers' like the Doc have so much time on board the ship has everything, and I mean everything including an educational component that recently hosted political pundits James Carville and Mary Matlin as well as General Hugh Shelton.  


 So we dined on King Crab that the boat stocked in Kodiak on the way, with a ratio of 450 cruisers and 500 staff the service is amazing...the waiters laughed when I told the doc it was a good thing I wore my best levi's. Then Mae toured the boat with us, well you can imagine, the health club has more machines than ours, the computer lab has apple products with 30 inch monitors etc.... But the coolest thing was even as I was impressed with the opulence and maybe a little intimidated,  the big news, the thing of interest for diners and the staff was.....us.  As the boat is registered in the carribean the staff is European and Asian, all with a wonderment about Alaska.  So as we're introduced around we hear, "oh, you live here"?  One woman told me that we had a "quaint little town". And the best one was a waiter named Harry who served me ice cream and could barely contain himself as he wanted to know about salmon. Well...ol Harry met the right guy.
Doc Bagley is an accomplished, bright and entertaining guy. He was the 1st optometrist in Henderson Nevada and made a few bucks in real estate. At the age of 87 he co-wrote a western novel and when we loaded up and went to the Sea Life Center he proved to be quite a naturalist and asked all the right questions. MP got to play with this  harbor seal who has trained himself to follow your hand movements through the glass...pretty cool. And Mae was astounded at the vivid color of the Puffins and this King Eider.


Being a guide I sometimes wonder what I've really done in the world....but its days like this that tell me I'm doing ok. When we have people like Mae and the Doc who want to spend time, want to learn about you and how its happened, that's a pretty cool deal. So if you want to read the Docs book called Son of a Gun  go to http://www.melvinbagley.com/ , I'm going to... So thanks a ton Doc and Mae, I hope we have a chance to fish again or maybe meet up in Las Vegas. Its folks like you that teach the rest of us to keep moving, no sense just laying around when theres a big ol world out there to see. Keep it up and may all your sunsets be just as gorgeous as this one that topped off a special day....right here at mile 14.






Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dr. Dolittle and more....

That's how life seems to be here at Mile 14, like I'm living a Walt Disney movie. Just as I was concerned for the health of our resident moose a group of caribou arrived to show me they're doing just fine. I was doing my e-mail the other morning and gazing out at one of the 2 hour snow storms that cruise through here frequently when I spotted these animals. And unlike our moose these guys are healthy and happy. They tend to stay on top of the snow better which I suppose is an energy saver and according to my live-in naturalist they graze on different feed...the secret of their success I'd bet.
MP says that these lowland caribou are ground and lichen feeders so they don't compete with the moose for browse, makes sense. Also this was a group of 4 to 6 (we're not sure) and they stayed around for several days and they seem to support and maybe even warm each other when they bed . In any case they've come through the winter of 2012 in sooooo much better shape than the moose and for that we're happy. Pretty cool when you can step out the door of your house and take pics like this.
The next pic is of me entertaining the folks in Mazatlan. Its funny, that my friends there all know me as the music guy and a lot of my friends here in Alaska don't even know I play. I guess it because that as hard as I work at it I kind of save it for special occasions and of course part of it has to do with familiarity, that can be awkward....Because when you play the music you show some of yourself....you open the window into yourself and everyone gets a view. And I guess in the small town of Soldotna and the Kenai River community I've kind of felt like people know enough about me....know what I mean?
I think  people that play are a little different, and I've met plenty of them. For me this time of year its the practice and almost a meditation kind of deal as I play. Many musicians will tell you that as they play their mind wanders, kind of like having a dream while your awake. Then I do a visioning thing, like I used to do in athletics. I frame a picture of me , I'm sitting on a bar stool, theres 50 friends of mine listening, chatting and waiting for a good chuckle. I've already played my favorite love song and Hobo Jim's Iditarod song.....my friend Phil Horak wants Cheaper to Keep Her , Kevin Fowlers  song that always brings a good belly laugh. I have a sip of Pacifico to clear my throat and.....

video

So for all my Alaska friends, that's  me last night taking a trip to Mazatlan. My camera is an old 3.2 megapixel that I elected to use so it would load fast. The audio is kind of poor but you get the idea eh? Make sure you listen to it all, the end is pretty chuckly.  I know I was putting myself out there a bit by publishing the singing...but not quite as much as publishing a pic of myself in a speedo...  It's  kind of nice to have arrived at a place in life where you can let it all go, be yourself,  I think I'm just about there. Like my old friend Bill Forrest used to say " if you don't like the gate, don't swing on it ".