Personal Alaska

Expotition to the East Pole

July 2, 2008

The East Pole is mentioned often on this blog. It is the name I have given to place where I built a cabin in the Alaska Bush and visit as often as is possible. Why and expotition to the East Pole? An explanation for those who need one:

OK, here is the real quote from "Winnie-the-Pooh" (the real one)

"(Pooh) had had a tiring day. You remember how he discoverd the North Pole; well, he was so proud of this he asked Christopher Robin if there were any other Poles such that a Bear of Little Brain could discover.

“There’s a South Pole,” said Christopher Robin, “and I expect there’s an East Pole and a West Pole, though people don’t like talking about them.”

"Pooh was very excited when he heard this, and suggested they should have an expotition to discover the East Pole but Christopher Robin had thought of something else to do with Kanga, so Pooh went out to discover the East Pole himself."

That's where the name came from. When I first bought the land I had never seen it. I chose it off a map. All I knew was that it was East of the closest settlement. So when I proposed to a friend that we go find it I channeled Pooh's adventure and invited him on an expotition (Pooh's word) to the East Pole.

--  Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne (Did you know his brother is buried in Dillingham?)

The original art work for the books was done by E.H. Shepard

April 1, 2018
Do these feathers make my ass look fat?
     After a winter complicated by difficult weather, injury, snowmachine breakage and a solid week of working firewood, I decided to take a day off today. At the time I hadn't realized it is April Fools Day. In fact after all that April has offered a blessing.
     In each of the past few years weather has forced me to leave before the end of March. But here it is April, there's plenty of snow, it gets down into the teens at night so the creeks stay frozen and that gives me at least another week and maybe two before I have to hightail it out of here.
     I have a whole rack of lamb and some real baker potatoes I had brought out anticipating a visit from some friends who aren't coming after all. So that's thawed and I will feast later.
I planned to take it easy, if a chore or two came to mind and weren't too difficult I would do them at my leisure.
     With hot chocolate in hand I checked and the mountain is out and in that moment was fortunate to watch an owl fly by in the valley below. Then after a tour of the Internet, I sharpened my chain saw. On a day like this that wore me out so I took a little nap.
     Last night I had noticed my windows were dirty so, next I went outside and washed them, actually only the three I look out from the most. The paint was flaking off the sill of the picture window so I got the little sander and took care of that. I considered painting once the temperature went over 40, but the paint after four winters and summers of freezing and thawing was a sticky, gloppy, muddy mess, so no deal on that.
     Of course there is still a lot of firewood to split, so I took a quick shot at that, filling the sled once and hauling it back to the stacks.
     Interspersed between each of these chores were periods of quiet contemplation sitting in the sun watching the chickadees and not letting anything pressure me at all.
     The only thing I have to do is dishes and that's no big deal.
     As the chickadees flitted back and forth to the feeder I noticed a few of them are noticeably fatter than the others. At first I thought I had fed those especially well over the winter. Then I wondered if they were females developing eggs, or further, perhaps engorged like that they attract males.
     The thermometer on the deck in direct sunlight went over 100 degrees. The one in the shade reads 44. Whichever it is, the day is marvelous.
     So with those adventures behind me, I am about to tackle the dirty dishes.
     Then it's dinner and a movie. Rack of lamb (on the Weber grill), huge baked potato, maybe some green beans and a glass of wine. Then "No country for old men." Isn't that title a beautiful paradox given the old man about to watch it deep in the Alaska forest? As far as I am concerned this country is great for old men, at least this one.

Stranger in the night

March 9, 2017

Around 11 o'clock last night there came a knocking on my door. This is not good form in bear country even in winter. A strange, out-of-place noise on the porch, the first thing a guy grabs is a gun. So, I called through the door, "who's there?" A rather timid voice called back something like, "I am cold. Could I come in and warm up?"
     I cracked the door open carefully, checked him out from head to toe, didn't see a weapon or for that matter claws and gnashing teeth, in fact I saw a human being who appeared to need some help. I had just started my going-to-bed routine and wasn't really looking for anything that could delay that downhill slide into sleep.
     Nevertheless, I welcomed him in and closed the door behind him. I moved a chair close to the wood stove where he could sit and warm himself.
     We chatted a little and slowly his story came out. He had gone to a nearby lake ice fishing with his cousin. At some point the cousin had gone out to the trail head on his snowmachine and left this guy to walk to the cousin's cabin in the dark in territory where he had never been before.
    In the dark, the fellow missed the trail to the cabin and had walked two miles along the main trail before he saw my lights and decided to seek some shelter. At the moment I realized as I had been preparing to go to sleep, if he had come by 15 minutes later, my lights would have been turned off. My cabin is maybe a quarter mile from the trail and high on a hill so he never would have spotted it in the dark.
     I had looked him over for signs of hypothermia, the temperature had dropped to about 5 degrees, but he seemed all right. At least he was suitably dressed for this journey. I put some water on to boil to make him some hot chocolate and as it was coming out that the cousin was returning at some point, I asked him if he had a flashlight. He didn't. Fortunately the moon illuminated the woods enough help a little. He said he had been using the flashlight app on his iPhone but his battery was down to 15 percent. He used some of that 15 percent to call his cousin. I had not turned off the generator yet so the cellular signal booster was still functioning and the call went through.
     The cousin had made it to the trailhead and was ready to head back. I could hear the cousin arguing about things rather than figuring out how to meet. I didn't have much respect for the cousin to begin with – leaving this guy alone walking in the dark through unfamiliar terrain. The guy was trying to explain where he was and how he had missed their cabin but all the cousin did was shout insults.
    The charge on his phone had probably fallen dangerously low at this point and I asked him what kind of phone it was. Perfect. I had my iPhone connected and charging and my cord fit his phone and thankful again the generator was still running, we plugged his in.
    By this time the water boiled and I mixed some cocoa for him. He described where he had been and what he had passed while walking and I was able to figure out the general area of the cabin's location.
    I drew him a map showing all the landmarks and where he was and the time and where he needed to go and also showed him a map on my iPad to give him a better picture of what I had drawn.
    We decided the best thing for him would be to walk back down to the main trail and be on it when his cousin returned on his snowmachine and they could go on together.
    I suggested he call the cousin again so we could get a time line for when he ought to be on the trail. Via texts we learned he was just starting out, so I checked the clock to get this fellow going in about half an hour.
    We sat at the table and chatted while he sipped his hot chocolate and as subtly as I could I asked more questions in another attempt to ascertain any hypothermia symptoms.
     It turned out he had grown up in Alaska but a few years ago he had ventured south, ending up in Southern California where he worked as a painter on movie sets.
     I shared a little of my life but being wary of strangers, not too much. I kept my eye on the clock and when half an hour had passed, I gave him the map I had drawn, a cheap spare flashlight and a bottle of Ensure for some energy on the trail just in case. I had him enter my phone number into his phone in case something went wrong. By then it had reached 45 percent charged, a little better margin for him, again, just in case.
    I watched him walk down the trail. When he reached the area I had been hauling firewood from with its tangle of interlocking loopy trails he followed the wrong one for a moment; it was a small loop that took him back to the main trail and gave me a little chuckle as I relaxed a bit when I felt he was safely on his way to the main trail.
    I shut down all the noisemakers in the cabin so I could hear a snowmachine down on the main trail. After about 15 minutes I heard it and went out onto the porch to listen. Soon enough it stopped and then I could hear voices talking. Connected again, they drove away deeper into the woods.
    I went back to my bed time routine and it was then I noticed, such a small thing, but an indication of character. With all that was going on and the worries about what was ahead, he had thought to put his cup into the sink with the other dirty dishes. I had to smile at that. It told me he was probably going to be all right.


  1. Nicely written!
  2. It's possible that you saved his life. Way to go, Tim.
  3. Lucky he hit your cabin in his wanderings. It's big country out there, and being lost on a cold night doesn't sound like a good thing.
  4. So glad you were there for him. I love how you wrote this story.

You can hike Alaska trails, but can you haul?

June 19, 2013
Anyone who's ever lived in the Alaska Bush has endured the pain and suffering of perpetual hauling along a difficult trail.  And anyone who's done it has more than one story to tell.  Everything has to go however far it is along an individual's trail and few have ever taken that trail in without pulling some kind of contraption behind, loaded with building materials, or food, or a piece of furniture.  We haul with snowmachines and we haul with four-wheelers, some haul with airplanes and others haul with dog teams. Some simply walk pulling a little red sled behind.  
It's incessant and insidious. I don't think I ever went to the East Pole without a fully packed sled behind the snowmachine. I always came out lighter though.  After all the troubles hauiling things in, no one would ever think of hauling anything out unless it was broken and you couldn't fix it yourself.
There's the ancient Action Packer.  (The gray box
on the right,  smart ass)
And, we all are looking for better ways to do it, sometimes even inventing a new method.  I have a friend who actually built a back-packing harness so he could carry 4x8 sheets of plywood on his back.
We examine other people's loads carefully looking for those better ways, some way someone else is doing it that would make our hauling if not easier, at least more efficient. One of those improvements was the Action Packer that came out, maybe a couple of decades ago.  The first models were one size, a size that fit perfectly and snuggly into the sled I usually hauled with.  This was after the cabin had been built and I had a large heavy-duty plastic sled with high sides. Even then I had a welding shop make a heavy aluminum band that fit like a U along the sides and around the back of the sled, so the towing pressure was on the metal and the back of the sled, not in easily broken-out holes that anchored the hitch in the plastic. Hauling during construction was done on a steel-runnered heavy sled, stout enough for what one friend called combat hauling. Once all the heavy stuff is in, you can go to something lighter. The Action Packer looked perfect and over the years has proved to be tough enough for the trail as well.  I still have the two I bought in the early '90s. 
But, isn't it the nature of man, that we can't leave well enough alone, that we have to keep improving, even to the detriment of the original product?  Over the years those boxes grew larger, and there was a smaller model too.  I admit to buying one of each of those, but what I found was while I could carry more stuff in the larger one, when I reached the cabin I couldn't lift the damn thing because it had too much stuff in it, so I had to lighter my goods up the steps onto the porch and into the house.
Then the manufacturer decided to put wheels on them.  Anyone worth his Haulers Anonymous card knows those wheels won't last long on the hard trail, even inside the sled.  They never even tempted me.  
The new more expensive and decidedly breakable version.
Today I saw the latest generation, and for the second time in as many trips laughed out loud in the supermarket.  That's the one in the picture.  Now it has wheels and flip-down legs that fold out so it can stand higher.  My bet is those legs won't last long on the trail either. But that wasn't my first thought. The first thought, the one that made me laugh, was that pretty soon these things are going to be self-propelled,  a small engine and maybe bigger mud-bogger wheels, or at least the wheels and a towing rig so they can be hauled without using a sled or trailer.  As a matter of fact they could make the wheels interchangeable with skis so the box could be used summer and winter.  If this new version costs $79.99 on sale, imagine what that the next generation would cost.  I think I paid about $20 for the ones I have now.
At any rate I thought it was worth a second trip into the store with my camera to get a picture of this monstrosity.

It was time for an Alaska adventure anyway

June 9, 2013
The road less traveled indeed.

Two roads diverged in the woods, and I (sigh) I took the one less traveled.

But, after all, the SPOT worked. The unit sends a signal every 10 minutes.
That's why there's a diagonal from 4 to 5.  The actual trail is between 5
and 6. That's the Knik River where I was headed in the lower right.
For the past couple of days the weather has been so nice, I decided to get better acquainted with the SPOT Locater.  Two days in a  row, I fired it up and took a ride down to the river, hoping to document that little jaunt for some as yet unknown future reference.
Both days the thing didn't work.  I came home to a blank map that should have had several positions on it but didn't.  Every time I looked at it, given the flashing lights, it should have functioned.  And at home, positioned in the driveway it worked fine. 

Thinking always produces a new plan and sure enough one popped up today.  I decided carrying the unit in a buttoned up pocket might not let it receive or send a signal and I could not remember if had positioned the antenna facing in toward my body or outward. It had worked before from a backpack on the trail to the East Pole.

So, today, I strapped the SPOT to a backpack on the front rack of the four-wheeler facing upward toward the satellites. In addition I took the iPad carefully cushioned inside the backpack so I could check along the way if the unit was sending a signal and the computer was receiving it.

Knee deep in the big muddy.
Off I went down the driveway and down the road where I came to that divergence.  There's a long straight trail that goes directly west and another that I usually take that goes west and then south.  That trail was full of people on a sunny Sunday and as I looked down that long, straight one, it looked very passable At times I've encountered huge mud puddles on it, but as far as I could see there was no water on the trail so I headed down that trail less traveled.  For maybe half a mile hard-packed, dry dirt was what I ran over. Then came the first mud, almost dried up and easily passable. Beyond that the puddles grew increasingly wider, longer and deeper.  But nothing seemed insurmountable, at least until the last one, not the last one on the trail, but that last one I was going to try.

When I went into it, it felt like the four-wheeler fell off a cliff.  Before long water was over the wheels and mud flying everywhere where the wheels kicked it up.  I tried to get to the side for some traction but that didn't work.  Flashing through my mind as if in bright neon were the words "momentum is your friend."  No stopping,  that finishes it, just keep those wheels churning and no matter how few feet you gain it is better than stopping.  Maintain the momentum."
Then the water deepened.  Sitting on the machine it came up to my knees, my shoes were full but I still had a bit of that precious forward progress.  My mind went through quick inventory of all the equipment I carry on a trip to the East Pole.  Rope, the come-along winch, spare parts, heavy boots, rain gear, tools, ax, hand saw, none of which were on board during this short jaunt from the house, not even my cell phone.  The machine slowed to a crawl but I kept the throttle pegged and it slowly dragged itself toward the far shore.  In time a low part of the bank gave it purchase and gradually it rose out of the muck like some monster emerging from primordial ooze, flinging water and mud as it did.
Once out of the water, I stopped to take inventory, and dump the water out of my shoes.  I looked ahead down the trail and could see an even bigger lake out there.  Quick decision.  I could make it if I had to, but I don't have to, so, better part of valor, I turned around.  That was when I discovered some folks had pounded a trail through the woods around that puddle.  Of course that was the way to go.

Among other things remember to wear boots.
Shortly I came to a shady spot and stopped.  I brushed a bit of mud off the SPOT, but decided to wait until I could clean it with alcohol to prevent any water or mud from getting into the case.  I pulled out the iPad to see if the thing was tracking.  Guess what.  No 4G signal.  Life in Alaska.
Having decided that was enough adventure for one day I headed home.
On the way home I argued with Robert Frost.  Robert, sometimes there's a reason the road less traveled is better not taken. You can have an adventure in any way you choose but sometimes it is better to learn the lessons from other travelers and take the trail that gets you there.


Enthusiasm for unloading on the return is not nearly
as compelling as loading is on the way out.
February 4, 2017
 Anyone who has spent a pleasurable amount of time somewhere away from home, has probably experienced re-entry to some extent, the feeling that comes with the realization of all the details involved in day to day living that had been ignored for however long the time away has been.  It may not compare with an astronaut's blast into the atmosphere returning from space, but it counts.
     I first recognized it one day returning from a week-long boat trip in Alaska's Prince William Sound. I had pulled up at a stop light and looked at the vehicle next to me, a pickup truck driven by an African-American fellow, not a usual sight if you will forgive the stereotype.  My first thought was, "we still have a civil rights problem," and with that the flood of real life came back.
     With so many trips back and forth to the East Pole, a routine has evolved and it goes pretty much the same each time but one new element joined the agenda this time.
     The day before leaving involves cleaning, organizing, early packing, making lists of food and other things to bring out the next time.
   The morning of, a reluctant crawl out of bed to finish up and head out. Get the snowmachine and sled connected and heading in the right direction, then pack everything onto the sled and the cargo carrier on the machine. Clean out the wood stove and lay a fire for next time that can be started with one match. Disconnect the propane that fuels the cook range and gas lights and bring the hose indoors. Hide everything that would be a big loss if stolen. Make sure the windows are locked and the bear boards are covering the four that a bear can reach. Search once more for the little things that could have escaped your initial search and with more reluctance, close the door and lock it and head down the hill. A stop at the bottom offers one last look before heading out.
     Taking the trail in, is focused, I just want to get there as quickly as possible, but going out if the trail and weather allow, goes slower, the woods scanned more thoroughly for the odd moose or anything else standing nearby. No hurry to leave and making it last as long as possible.
     But slowly along the trail the mindset changes. From all the thoughts that occupy life in the woods, they slowly evolve into what's ahead. First comes the condition of the Jeep and trailer that have been sitting at the trail head for almost two weeks, probably buried in snow or plowed in by the guy who does that after a storm. That's if it's there at all; thinking through if I know the license numbers in case they have been stolen. or who would I call if it's been vandalized. So far that's never happened.
     All things considered Friday everything appeared to be in good shape, except for me and that will be explained in a minute. There wasn't nearly as much snow on the vehicle as I expected but the trailer took a while to shovel off with the little avalanche emergency shovel I carry. Overall clearing off and warming the car, packing everything into the Jeep, and loading the machine and sled onto the trailer took almost an hour
     Once moving the next thought is for the condition of the road, but that proved to be clear and dry so I could go in two-wheel drive all the way home (a gas saver if nothing else).
Slowly the thought evolved into what I need to do along the way. There’s always a stop at the Post Office. I don't think I left much food at the house so maybe stop and pick up a Subway sandwich. Just not up for a huge shopping venture into a store. And there's that one other stop that I am hoping doesn't become a regular part of the routine.
     Thinking I could skip it but, then maybe not.
     Once the road items have been worked out I start thinking about the condition of this house; there was a snowfall and I hope I can get into the driveway; am I going to have to walk up and get the snowblower just to get into the yard?  Is there any food in the house? Will the birds come back when I refill the feeders? I know I left water running, have the pipes frozen anyway? Has anybody broken in? Over time I accepted the fact there were bills to pay, an awful new president, the stock market with my retirement funds was dipping, we still had a civil rights problem, actually more than one and the thoughts came gushing forward.
     Then, there is this new stop. If nobody has guessed by now, it's the Emergency Room. Two days

The case of the disappearing moose and other mysteries of spring

April 3, 2015
Mysterious tree scrapings.
Given what appears to be a very early spring for this part of the country – warmest March ever, buds popping, no snow, there were bound to be other early signs and mysteries involved with the unusual weather around here.
This morning the tappitty-tappity-tat of a woodpecker on the house shattered the misty waking reveries. The noise drew attention to the window where a moose trundled by, close enough to touch if the window had been open. Staggering around the computer and over the elliptical took too long to catch more than that glance and by the time I reached the window, the critter had disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

Moose have been pretty rare in this distinct for the past few years and this was the first one actually observed, rather than tracks in the snow or a pile of nuggets here and there, in a couple of years.  It's spring calving time so just in case this was a cow looking for a place safe enough to drop a calf or two, I didn’t venture out into the back yard for the rest of the day. The following day a close look revealed tracks in the mud of the side yard in the direction the moose had come from. Trouble was the tracks appeared to be headed in the opposite direction. Then farther back in the yard there was one, just one, nugget on top of a pile of leaves.
Also observed through the window, another mystery besides the disappearing moose had appeared. A sizeable portion of the bark on a small tree had been rubbed or chewed off.  I have no idea when it happened, but I look through that window often enough that I would have noticed it so the guess is it's fairly recent. Given the moose sighting, the first thought was a bull rubbing his velveted antlers, but that's an autumn activity when the rut is in full blossom.
A closer observation revealed parallel grooved striations at about a 45 degree angle to the ground. That more indicated a gnawing action by a buck-toothed animal. And, because the marks were four to five feet above the ground, it had to be a climbing animal, unless moose gnaw on tree bark. About the only thing it could have been is a porcupine. They are fairly plentiful around here and this is the time of year they are moving around. Back when I was commuting every day, a sure sign of spring was when the number of porkies splattered in the road suddenly increased.
Angled striations indicate some toothieness.
All this barely visible wildlife activity reminds me of a rhyme we put in the book More Wild Critters:

When I go walking in the woods.
I never see a thing.
I never see an animal
on hoof or paw or wing,

There are some big ones out there:
that I know for fact.
So how can something big as deer,
 even hide its rack?

I guess I'll just keep walking,
ever on my guard.
Someday I hope I'll see

some kind of critter in my yard.

More Wild Critters

A comment from Facebook: Sharon Wright We love that time in Spring when the snow finally melts enough to walk around & see who's shared the woods around the house. The distinctive porcupine gnawings on poplar, the scrapings left on poplar by moose shedding velvet or trying to dump those clumsy antlers, little piles of worm-casting poops from grouse. The thaw is coming, but slowly here north of 64. Still can't wade through our woods; maybe 2 weeks from now.

Melissa, McGonnegal and a muddy trail through an Alaska lifetime

Heading in, so nice and clean.
July, 6, 2015
The myth of Phoenix rising came to mind while driving toward the East Pole past the area that burned in the Sockeye fire a couple of weeks ago. Blackened skeletons of spruce that was flaming a week earlier stood along the highway margins on both sides for miles. Occasionally in clearings where houses formerly stood, the bright yellowish wood of new construction contrasted with the dismal black background, a fabled bird emerging from the ashes of  devastating conflagration. Somewhere back in the woods there are still flames and smoke as the fire is considered only 99 percent extinguished.
Coming out with the goods? Eh, not so clean.
Elsewhere moving north past the spruce forest into a more deciduous environment, the foliage seemed much more dense than in previous years, a seeming impenetrable labyrinth in various shades of green. The fact that the East Pole is well within the northern boreal deciduous forest is comforting, much more difficult to catch fire and holds its moisture better than coniferous forests.
The same held true the deeper I went into the forest on the trail to the Pole. Fully leafed-out branches intruded over the trail where I hadn't ever seen them before. The effect was one of driving through a green tunnel with only spots of light overhead. A bear could have been five feet off the trail and I might not have seen it. As a matter of fact, later on, I am pretty sure there was one.
It had been fairly dry for most of the summer with just some sprinkles in the previous week and I expected less mud and water on the trail. Silly me. It was just as bad as ever and made even worse by someone who had gone in on a tracked vehicle and dug ruts deeper than my four-wheeler could handle. On top of that they were too far apart for my machine and at times I found myself riding the machine at a 30 degree angle, the wheels on one side down in the rut and on the other side up on visible ground running down the center of the trail. Between that sort of thing and some deep, long puddles, I managed to take quite a load of water and mud to the cabin. One little mistake almost cost me a cooler full of food. On these trails you really should put duct tape to seal around the edge where the top closes onto the cooler body. If I hadn't packaged my food well I would have eaten some mud for a couple of days. And that cooler brought up a lesson that should have been learned many years ago.
The only excuse I have is that most of my time at the cabin has been in winter. Summer trips have been limited to two or three days, maybe a week. As a result, for those short trips, not needing much food, I always carry a small cooler. The thing is ice in the cooler melts pretty fast and by the second day there's usually only water left. Staring at the muddy mess in the tiny cooler I had an ah-ha moment. What do I always run out of? Food? Never. What else? Ice? Yes! So the main thing you need to bring is lots of ice, right? Duh. From now on the bigger cooler comes with me loaded as deeply with ice, perhaps even in blocks that melt slower given their smaller surface area compared with cubes. That was a lesson it only took about 30 years to learn.

Bear tracks and deep muddy ruts.
I had only two main chores in mind for the trip. One was to put some sealer on the outside deck which was showing signs of age. Because I got there in fairly good shape and the sun was shining I attacked that right away and coated half the deck in less than an hour. That was the half I didn't need to walk on and I planned to do the other half just before I left in a couple of days. Once again, silly me. It rained the night before I was leaving, soaking the deck and making it impossible for me to coat the remainder. So, now I have another chore next time I go. At least the water beaded nicely on the side I had done.
The other chore was more important. It was the list I made when I thought I might have to rescue some stuff from that fire. That rescue effort added to some other thoughts I have been having lately. I have already made some concessions to age and I am certainly not giving up yet, but I am getting closer to an age where I won't be able to go there any more and I think about what I should move out of the cabin. That list is in the back of my head to go with the written one for the fire rescue.
The need to move stuff became more intense recently. I haven't told many people this, but about a month ago I had a stroke. That's a pretty strong word for what happened. I suffered no permanent damage from it. I stood up out of bed one night and my whole left arm went sort of limp and I could not control my hand very well. I know the test using the first three letters in the word "stroke." S = smile. T = talk. R = reach. If you can't do any one of those you need to do something. I could smile and talk and reach but not very well and I for sure couldn't control my hand – not even well enough to button the pants I put on before I headed for the hospital.
I spent about six hours in the emergency room, getting test after test. They finally concluded that I had what is called a transient ischemic attack or mini stroke. Something, a bit of plaque or small blood clot, breaks loose, gets to the brain and messes something up, like left arm coordination for a time until the substance dissolves. It's also called a mini-stroke, and although there's no permanent damage it's considered a serious warning. So, I get another bottle to add to the row of daily medicines, I take cholesterol intake much more seriously and I exercise more frequently and more strenuously. Tomorrow I see a doctor about whether or not the carotid artery on the right side of my neck needs scraping, like he did to the left one a year and a half ago.

"Melissa and McGonnegal." The premise is Melissa is
a ballerina who decides to teach the moose, who usually
 just stands around, some ballet steps.
So there you have it. All this going on in the back of my mind while I sort thorough the detritus of a lifetime attempting to discern what's important and what isn't. It's odd the things that jump out at you. First two on the list were my print of Bill Berry's "Melissa and McGonnegal." I posted a rather poor picture of it with this, because I didn't want his heirs thinking I want to somehow violate their copyright. Second was the 16-pound monster maul without which I would not enjoy splitting firewood nearly as much, and which I don't think can be replaced.
From there it was pick and choose in no particular order. Probably 50 little yellow boxes of photographic slides that might hold a gem I missed going through them the first time; photo albums; loose photographs, some in frames including one of the Great Aunt Tillie I like to refer to now and then; along with two framed pictures of the crews I sailed with on big ocean voyages; toys my kids enjoyed now on their way to my new grandson; a ton of ammunition that for reasons sort of unclear I had amassed out there (in truth I have always thought of it as a place to go after the apocalypse and I would need things like ammo to survive); a set of expensive wine glasses given as a housewarming gift at one time; little memory-tickling doo dads that somehow caught my eye; a Hudson's Bay point blanket I have carried with me forever which my mother bought in 1936; copies of my books and periodicals I have been published in; one huge box marked simply "memories" that I will have to go through at some time to see what's there; and a couple of things I would rather people not find after I die.
I packed everything carefully and wrapped it all in plastic to protect it from trail mud and that was that. I went outside on the deck in the light drizzle and drank a Genesee beer, the choice from my youth, and lost myself in reveries. From here I am not sure what happens. I think about moving back there while I am still able, but honestly am hesitant to give up the comforts of life on the grid, particularly Internet and television, not to mention stores and even the odd chance of companionship. On balance, I feel much more comfortable there, for one reason it is mine and secondly I feel much more confident about myself and life there than anywhere else in the world. I am also calmer, more relaxed for not having to deal with the usual mayhem and insanity in news reports and generally faster paced life among people. Meanwhile I go there and probably will keep looking for things I want to save. I have gotten the indication that neither of my kids wants the place when I am gone, so sometimes the thought drifts to moving out completely and selling the place to take the money and follow the Rolling Stones on tour or something.

Bear tracks small enough to be a black.
Chances are I will keep going there when I can, appreciating the life, until I can't anymore and I then will have to make new choices. In the meantime it is always comforting to know I have a place I can go even if I don't get there often enough like Jimmy Buffett's "One Particular Harbor." Truth is maybe times are rough and I've got too much stuff physically, mentally, emotionally and it all needs a good clearing out, which would be much better done in the deep woods.
On the way out the next day with the load of important stuff, the trail seemed better despite the rain and I had a much easier time of it than going in. Of course I was moving slower and more carefully because there were several fragile items in the trailer. Along the way I came upon some bear tracks heading in the opposite direction. From the looks of them I had probably scared him off the trail and he was in that thick forest not too far away from me. Nevertheless I took some pictures before I moved on. Judging by the tracks I guessed the bear had trudged about four miles along that muddy trail until he heard me coming and hightailed it out of the way.  
That sort of almost meeting put a punctuation mark on the trip for me, and concluded the pleasantness of the whole experience very well. Then, feeling pretty good and with plenty of time to get home in time to watch the American women win the World Cup soccer tournament, I called friends who live along the road nearby and whom I feel guilty about every time I go out and don't stop for a visit. I went to their house and spent a couple of hours for no other reason than to renew the friendship. On the road home, Beck's "Morning Phase" album provided the perfect mellow background music for the day.

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."