The Wrangells from Lake Louise

The Wrangells  from Lake Louise

Monday, September 29, 2008

winter is coming

We had a hard frost last night. So I thought I would show some more photos of the fall colors before they blow away and are replaced by snow.
On another note, Joe and I tried to go duck hunting last weekend. We weren't so good though as I missed all five birds that I had a chance to hit. Joe got one but after it fell to the ground we could not find it in the deep grass and water. The sun rise was nice through thick fog but I left the camera in the car. I thought Heidi's red shamrock is nice but it has nothing to do with fall

Monday, September 22, 2008

The first day of fall

In remeberance of summer here are some random pics.

Dont the flowers make you feel good? Hope

so, becaus we wont be seeing them for a wile.


In celebration of the first day of fall here are some photos taken today

oh Snow in Arctic Vally? Could we have a normal winter for once?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heidi's birthday trip

Monday September 1, 2008
We left the house on a nice day for the drive north to Tangle Lakes. We lucked out with clear skies all the way. Sheep Mountain and Eureka valley looked beautiful. We had to go through a few spots of road construction, which was not a surprise; in Alaska we joke there’s only two seasons winter and road construction. Unfortunately, in one of the construction zones we got a slow leak in a trailer tire because when we got to Tangle Lakes’ campground we had a flat. We counted our blessings we didn’t have a blowout on a sharp curve on the narrow Glenn hwy and have to change the tire with no shoulder to hide from the traffic. I found the jack and set to changing the tire. The lug nuts, laden with dust and dirt from the road, were hard to turn. I of course being the brawny man that I am added more torque, gripping the wrench with both hands and leaning back with all my body weight. The nut was turning and I was making progress when the wrench came loose. My whole body flailed back, the wrench came up and smacked me in the head. Just missing my glasses and putting a nice gouge in my eye brow. I did a quick cleaning of the wound with a wet towel and a butterfly bandage then finished changing the tire. The crack in my skin wept a thin sheen of blood down my glasses the whole time I was leaned over the wheel. After I was through Heidi did a more through cleaning of the wound and put some of her herbs on it which seamed to stop the bleeding. I had a good headache the rest of the day. After the tire was changed we drove around the camp ground looking for a good spot to park the pop-up and spend the week. After it was up and we had things set we thought we would go up the road to a nice ridge and go for a hike. We saw a cow moose with two young caves. The caves looked very small to make it through the winter. We found a few blueberries and watched the sun set then walked back to the car. We went back to the camp started a fire and watched the stares come out. The night was completely clear; we watched the satellites cruising the sky and watched as the Milky Way came out. A while later the northern lights made a brief appearance in the northern sky. It was the first time that I’ve been in a place that was completely dark with no interference from man or the moon. I forgot that there are so many stars and things to watch at night. With the clear sky the temperatures dropped like a rock I think it was only in the teens or low twenties as there was a thick layer of frost in the morning.

Heidi Birthday trip

Tuesday September 2, 2008
I woke before Heidi did to let the Dog out to do her thing what ever that might be. I put the water on to heat and cranked up the furnace to heat the camper. I took the dog for a romp up the hill and when I got back the camper was good and warm. I got Heidi up and we ate a good meal. While we ate we decided to take the canoe to the other side of upper Tangle Lake on the south side of the road. When we pulled into the parking lot we were surprised by a fox that was waiting at the boat launch. We watched for a while from the car but as soon as we reached for the camera the animal trotted off. We put the canoe in and started out across the lake. In typical Alaska fashion, the lake was flat calm as we paddled through the tangled body of water to the next lake. As we glided over the lake the wind started to blow and the canoeing became hard. As we reached the far end of the vast body of water Heidi said she wanted to stop to check the berries. There weren’t a lot on the island; soon Heidi had the land picked clean. We ate a small snack then completed our track to the south shore of Tangle lake. We were considering the Portage in to Upper Tangle Lake but after the short walk over a ridge to look at the lake we found the wind making white caps so we decided to pick blueberries on the knoll that divided the lakes. It took some hunting this year but after walking up and down some moraines we found some plentiful patches; seemed that berries were on the East facing hills. After a bit of picking we filled all our containers we brought and Heidi said she was ready to stop picking. We went for a short walk and Chai started to yelp. She has a sound she makes when she finds a bird or rabbit that I can shoot. I don’t know where she learned it or if it is something that Labs are known for. I noticed it last year when I took her with me on a rabbit hunting trip. At first I thought she was hung up in the brush as the yelp sounds far away but then she went shooting out of the thicket at full speed in close pursuit of a rabbit. This happened several times that trip and she also did the same noise when she had a Ruffed grouse treed out of my site. She will run her self ragged through the bush chasing them if I let her. This time was no different I asked her what it was, walked up behind her and soon the sound of feathers burst out of the brush, as a Ptarmigan went flying out to the next hill. Too bad I did not bring the shot gun. We walked a long way to the highest ridge over looking that lake only to find another hill on the other side. Heidi looked particularly exhausted, but was game to walk through some thick brush to get to the other side. As we walked the dog started running around a clump of alder brush soon a rabbit came running out. We found a spot to stop so she could look some more and a hawk landed on the top of a spruce tree next to us; apparently, he saw the rabbit too. Unfortunately, for the hawk we chased his dinner away. We walked a little farther, and then sat to watch the mountain in front of us. We did not see anything. Soon Heidi remembered we had left the car at ten that morning, paddled to the island at eleven, picked berries till one, then went to the other side of the lake to pick some more, went for a hike at four to look at the mountain and now it was six but we did not stop to eat. We walked back to the canoe ate some food then started the long cruse back to the car. The wind was whipping good and we had to put out some effort but as we traveled closer to the car the wind completely quit. It was as calm as could be, making the fall colors reflect in the water. On our way we saw a swan, it got spooked and flew away before I could take a good photo. When we got to the car we were tired and ready for a good night sleep.

Heidi's birthday trip

Wednesday September 3, 2008
We slept in the next morning. Heidi said she wanted to stay in to can all the berries we picked on Tuesday. While she did that Chai and I took the canoe out in Round Tangle Lake to do some fishing for lake trout and grayling. I put a number four Purple Vibrix on my rod and started a slow troll across the lake. I remembered that when I was fishing for big rainbow trout in the valley it seemed trolling as slow as possible worked great. Knowing lakers are deep fish, I cast the hook as far behind the boat as I possibly could. Then I pulled out six more yards of line to get the hook as deep as I could. I pointed the canoe north across the lake and let the slight breeze push me. My only effort was to keep the canoe going in a straight line which was almost effortless. Half way across the lake the pole bubbled over and line started coming off the reel. When the fish got close to the boat it pulled straight down. Soon I lifted an 18 inch Lake trout into the boat. When I turned the fish over, wedged in between its gills and hanging out of its gill plate was a slender aquatic animal. I thought it was a lamp ray at first; an aquatic parasite that sucks the slime layer off fish. But as I looked a found that it was a small burbot about four inches long. The head was crushed and it looked like it had been there for a while. It didn’t look as if it was affecting the Lake trout’s eating habits, If any thing it was slowing the fishes oxygen intake. I kept the fish for supper and continued on my way. I caught three more trout on the way across the lake. It took me two and a half hours to get across the lake at the slow pace. When I got to the other side I went down a small channel to a creek. When I got to where the creek entered I stopped. I could see grayling jumping for flies and thought Chai needed to stretch her legs. I switched to an ultra light trout rod attached a small roster tail to the snap swivel and watched the fish jump all around me. I switched to every hook I had in my tackle box but couldn’t hook one fish. I tried retrieving the hooks fast, slow, and with a jigging motion. I could see fish follow the lures to shore but I had a hard time getting them to bite. I told myself I would not leave until I had a fish. One finally bit my hook and I had an average size fish to eat. Grayling are a slow growing fish. A fourteen inch fish like I caught is close to six years old. They don’t spawn till they’re eleven inches which takes 4 or 5 years. Therefore, I try to release most of what I catch but they taste so good I usually keep one for each person to eat. This day I wanted two one for Heidi and one for myself. I put the boat back in to catch the next fish which did not take long. I paddled back to the lake and saw where a bunch of grayling were jumping so I thought that I would do some catch and release fishing. My first cast I watched the wake of a large fish then a violent strike. Line kept coming of my reel and I had a hard time keeping it out of the weeds. I could tell right away this was a Lake trout and not a grayling. It took a long time to get it in with the light line and limber pull but it was fun. I let that fish go. After that excitement I chose to troll around the lake with the ultra light rod instead. I could cast that one longer plus I think the lighter line helps to hook more fish. Each pass through the center of the lake I would catch two or three lakers. At five pm I decided it was time to go back, clean the two grayling and lake trout, and cook them for dinner. When I got back to the camper Heidi was working on the jam and reading. She had the daunting task of clean the berries. She canned two cases while I was fishing. I flayed the lake trout and fried it. I also fried the grayling. Diced up some onions and potatoes and fried them. We had a great dinner. I was surprised that I thought the lake trout tasted better than the grayling.
After we were through eating and cleaned the dishes we cleaned more blueberries for pancakes in the morning, then hit the hay for a good night’s sleep.

Heidi's Brithday trip

Thursday September 4, 2008
The next day, Heidi said, she was tired of seeing blueberries and wanted to go for a canoe ride. Over breakfast we decided to paddle as far as we could down long tangle lake. After going north through Round Tangle Lake you enter Long Tangle Lake which narrows to the Delta River and runs through some rapids. I wanted to paddle far enough to hike to the rapids. We put the canoe in and started out of the bay and into the lake. The first thing I did was take my rod and cast out the hook. This time I pulled out even more line; thirty feet on top of what I had already cast out. I turned the boat to move along the shore but before I could go far I had a fish on. This one was the biggest fish of the trip 21 inches. After a good fight and the fish making some good runs I had it in the canoe. I quickly let the fish go so it could grow more. Twenty one inches is a small lake trout but fun to catch on an ultra light rod. Heidi seemed to like reading her book so I went on fishing. I did not catch another fish until I got to the other side of the lake. We stopped on the other side of the lake and got out to walk around. Although Heidi said she was tired of blue berries, when she saw some on the bank compulsion took over and she was back to picking. When we continued on our way we went by where I caught the grayling the day before. I did not see any fish jump so we went on into the next lake. We stopped by a beaver hut to look. It’s impressive how an animal can build a house using the environment, when the land looks rugged and inhospitable to us. It was made of small twigs and mud with some big rocks thrown in to help support it. After taking some photos we continued down the lake. I tried to troll when I could but the lake was like the land around us; it would go from only inches deep to an indiscernible depth with in a few feet. After a while we came to a short narrow channel in the lake with some current. After going through we came to another small lake. When we got to the other side we thought we should get out and walk the ridge so we could see what came next. As we walked to the top of a steep hill we could see that this was as far as we could go and paddle back. I wanted to walk to the falls but, as we stood there, the wind stopped. This might sound like a good thing but when the wind stopped the bugs came out in full force. After swatting away the flies and trying to look for moose on the mountain side Heidi had all the flies she wanted and was in a hurry to get back to the canoe. The slight breeze on the lake was all it took to get away from the bugs. We got back in and headed up stream through the channel. This proved to be harder than we thought. I had to put a lot of force behind the ore to keep us going. Heidi pushed herself to the max huffing and puffing to get us through. Luckily we came out into Long Tangle Lake and all was good or so we thought. Unfortunately, the wind came to a complete stand still and the flies came out in a dark cloud over the surface of the water. The good news is that when the bugs come out the fish come to the surface of the lake to eat them. It’s neat to sit on water as smooth as glass and watch as fish jump all around you at hoards of bugs. It sounded as if it was raining fish. I had to get out my pole to catch some. I don’t know how many of them I caught but I had a fish every cast for several hours. Most of the grayling I hooked where small, but a few were good size. I would get five or six hits a cast. After I played with them and Heidi completed another chapter of her book we continued back to camp. As we went the lake became very still the only sound was of a loon breaking the silence. We watched from the lake as a helicopter landed and took off several times with a load of stuff attached to a cable hanging from the bottom of it. When we got to the main lake, I set out the trolling hook once more, and soon I had another lake trout, this one, although not large, it put up a good fight but ended up hog tying itself in the line. After I untied it, I tried to get it to swim away, but it was worn out, so it became dinner. After that I caught two more, and then we got to the car and drove back to camp. I started a fire and sat by it for a while and Heidi finished her book then we want to bed.

Heidi's birthday trip

Friday September 5, 2008
After two days of taking the canoe off the van and sitting in it all day, my back was exhausted so we decided to go for a drive and a hike. We left in the afternoon after a relaxing morning and drove up to MacLaren Summit then for a hike. It was over cast for the drive with a few showers but there was a good view at the top of the summit. On the way we saw a cow and calf caribou walking through the fall color’s. We stopped at the summit and took a short walk. The view was still nice even with the cloudy skies. On the way back we stopped at one of the trails for a hike. I chose to stop at Glacier gap trail. The sign at the trail head to take a new trail that went on ridge tops around swamps. The sign did not say where the trail was; we thought it was behind the sign. I chose to leave my 300 mag and take a 22 instead. We were well above the tree line and I did not think there was much of a chance seeing any moose only caribou. If I did see a big bull caribou I would want to shoot it but I don’t have the permit to do so. I thought we would have a chance to see a rabbit or ptarmigan, which I could shoot with the 22. On the walk Heidi and I saw a pair of swans that had 2 signets with them. Heidi wanted to take a photo of them so she went on a short detour through the brush. After that we saw some ducks out in a lake Heidi wanted to try to shoot them with the 22. She missed but as she did I saw a group of Caribou on the other side of the lake. When they herd the shot one of them jumped up on it’s hind legs flashed it’s white tail to the others and ran, Caribou do this as a way to show the herd it’s time to escape. They were all cows with caves. As we walked farther on the trail went through a swamp, it dawns on us that we must have taken the old trail. We were wearing our hip boots but Heidi was still nervous as we sank to our knees. In the middle there was a bad spot that looked potentially very deep. I slowly put my foot in, sank mid hip, and then swung my other leg over. Heidi said she was a bit unnerved by the looks of it. I told her not to worry, I weigh a lot more and I did not get wet. I told her to go slow and she would be fine. She then took off her backpack and sweater then threw them to me. I thought at the time it was a bit over kill for such a shallow spot. Heidi looked at me and leaped into the center on one foot, she had a look of terror on her face, as she sank to her waist over her boots soaking her pants and shirt. As she tried to pull her other leg over she tripped and landed on her face in the mud. I tried hard not to laugh as she pulled her self up covered in mud but it was hard. [Editors insert: I did not exactly land on my face. I did however splatter some mud on the waist of my shirt and leak clean swamp water down my hip waders although, not enough to become a serious problem.] She cleaned herself up then we continued up the trail we soon reached the lake and Heidi was happy to fine a cabin sitting by it. It was nice and cozy with some dry wood and a fire pit next to it. There was a note book inside with a letter that said the cabin was on BLM (Borough of Land Management) land and the government had taken ownership of it. The letter said the park ranger had removed a wood stove and latrine. It also said the cabin was free for the public to use on a first come first serve basis. There was a log book that people wrote down when they were there; it didn’t look like any one had used the cabin since July. Heidi swept the cabin and hung her wet cloths to dry. I tried to catch some lake trout but had no luck. Chai set out to catch some beavers that were swimming in the lake. Heidi tried to make a fire but, as wet as the wood was that was on the ground, she had to settle for using the wood in the cabin. We felt bad as we had no way to get any more wood since we did not have a saw or axe, and there was the slight problem that there were no trees around. We relaxed by the fire watched the grayling jump in the lake then as it got later we decided to walk back to the car. Heidi requested that we walk the new trail this time so she would not have to walk through the swamp. The hike on the ridge was nice. We thought we could drive the car down it. Heidi said that her feet were sore in her hip boots and chose to walk with them off. She walked for a long time with no shoes before her feet got too cold. As she put them back on I thought I would try to shoot a duck in a pond a long ways off. I also missed, but it was close. We both thought it hit the water but we did not see any sign of it, Chai snooped around the pond and swam through the water but she did not see it either. It was twilight; I think it was a trick of the low light. We got back to the car as it got too dark to see. When we got back to the camper Chai had this to say about her day.