Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Plural Of Moose, More On Good Looking Material, and a Piece of History Rolls Out of Eagle

I know. The plural of mouse is mice. The plural of louse is lice. So you're thinking the plural of moose should be what? Mice? Meece? Nope. Just Moose. One moose. Two moose. A whole lot of moose, which is really the only point I'm trying to make here. There are a lot of Moose in Chicken. I know how that sounds wierd, but it's true. And lately they have been showing up just about everywhere. In Camp. On the claim. By the side of the road. In the pond by the air strip. And even strolling leisurely down the landing strip itself. I guess it's just a good year for moose. In the plural that is to say. Lots of moose!

Claim Director Gene and I are working side by side mini claims up on Myers Fork. The water is pretty low at the moment- there is (are) more moose than water at the moment so there is much anticipation on what will show up for "color" when we can start running again. Overburden is being moved. Bad looking material being thrown to the side. Good looking material being readied to run. But what of good looking material? Even in side by side holes in the ground, the "look" can be drastically different. So, the question becomes: Is one "good looking material" better looking material than the other. While that remains to be seen (we'll see how it all "pans out") the difference in the appearance of the earth as we excavate it is a most fascinationg part of the exploration for gold. And while we wait to see what will eventuslly come out of the ground- in the meantime we can enjoy more and more of our good looking material.

A piece of history rolled out of Eagle today on the back of a flatbed and not under its own power. At first I thought maybe it was an RV belonging to someone who failed to heed the "soft shoulder" warning on Top of the World Highway and wound up on the "bottom" of the world highway. But instead it turned out to be an old bus that just happened to be in the village of Eagle when the ice was unleashed from the mighty Yukon River during Spring breakup. This should give "Spring Break" a new face for sure. No. The bus was not in an accident. It had simply been crushed by a block of ice as it overflowed the river bank and headed into the village. I thought it funny to look at for a moment, then thought of how sad it actually was- this memento of an event , a time, a place, where lives and history both were changed forever by a single wave of the wand by Mother Nature. The bus is headed for recycling in Fairbanks. The people of Eagle are back home struggling to rebuild ...or have moved away to try their luck in some other place. The bus is but a sign of the times in Alaska.

And Two Years Ago, this time:

Exit Only: A look at one of Alaska's most popular glaciers

IDIDARIDE: A tourists first hand look at "mushing" behind a team of sled dogs

Kenai Fjord Cruise: A whale of a tale, uh tail- oh heck, lots of marine life and plenty if ice...

Sockeye It To Me: we ride um, rope um, catch um on a fly rod

The Gold Metal: a look at the gold from the early part of our first trip to Alaska

That about wraps up another post from Chicken headed into the end of July. It was hot today- well into the 80's. It will still dip into the high 40's tonight, but even that will seem warm and is perfect for sound and restful sleeping. And actually, that sounds pretty good to me right about now....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Letters From Home

Back "home" in Pennsylvania, Dad was receiving yet another award, this time for his life long contribution to an amazing bird sanctuary called "Hawk Mountain." Excerpts from the article written for the occasion follow:

Sam Gundy, retired director of the Reading Museum and professor at Kutztown University, has received Hawk Mountain Sanctuary's highest honor, the Warden Award, symbolic of perseverance and sacrifice in the service of conservation. The award - a replica of the original warden's badge worn by founding Hawk Mountain curator Maurice Broun - was announced at the sanctuary's annual Benefit for the Birds dinner in June, and presented to Sam by Hawk Mountain Sanctuary president Lee Schisler, and by sanctuary board member (and former Gundy student) Scott Weidensaul. Sam, now 91, made his first visit to Hawk Mountain in 1932, before the sanctuary was established, when it was still a gunning site during the fall migration. In a sense he never left - his is the longest-running membership in the sanctuary's 75-year history. Starting at age 5, Sam's mother would give him a nickel and send him alone to visit the Reading Museum. One day, museum director Dr. Levi Mengel brusquely asked the boy what he was doing. When Sam replied that he was copying down the names of butterflies so he could learn them, Mengel said, "Come with me," and gave the lad a book on butterflies, setting him on a lifetime of natural history. Mengel, and his successor Dr. Earl Poole, took Sam under their wings; he was part of the "Reading Museum Collectors," a group of four nature-mad boys who worked closely with the scientists. As part of the group, Sam visited pre-sanctuary Hawk Mountain to collect dead raptors for specimens. As a science teacher at Reading High School, Sam brought a student named Jim Brett on his first trip to Hawk Mountain; Brett, of course, went on to become curator there. Gundy left his teaching position to become Poole's assistant and after four years took over as director of the museum, a post he held for 10 years. Sam was also a World War II bomber pilot, whose B-17 was shot down over Holland. His back broken and seemingly paralyzed, he was captured and spent 15 months as a prisoner of war before his release. Although he eventually regained his ability to walk, he has carried the chronic pain of those injuries for more than 60 years. In a surprise gesture, Sam and Mary Gundy then presented Schisler with an original painting of an American goldfinch by the late Irma Broun, Maurice Broun's wife. The painting will become part of Hawk Mountain's permanent collection.

Congratulations, Dad, for a most amazing life long contribution to such an incredible nature preserve as Hawk Mountain!
(Photo by long time family friend, Joan Silagy, and article forwarded by her as well)

Back on Gundy Mountain (so called), in Chicken, Alaska, mail was rolling in to congratulate Marilyn on the occasion of her birthday. We've lived in some small towns before but never one where a name and a city and state was enough to have the post master send a personal post it note to let you know you had general delivery mail. How cool is that?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Chicken Style

It was a Marilyn Milestone Birthday today- 'nuff said! Mike and Lou and the gang and The Tok Boys helped me with the details for a Chicken Style birthday surprise. The Tok Boys you say? Well, that's what we all call them affectionately and there is a larger story on them in the works that simply can't be told until the end of the season. But for now I will tell you that these are a couple of boys, uh, gentlemen, uh rugged Alaskan log-home-building, gold mining, tough as nails dudes and determined as a fox outside the hen house trying to get in. They have become real favorites of ours from the cast of characters that have played a role so far this summer. They are genuinely good guys. Exhuberant about life in general. We really just plain like them. They haven't quit the day jobs (yet) but mining is in the fever stage and they make the commute from Tok to go at the bedrock beamers every chance they get. We had them over for a quick bite before heading back one night and next trip up they rolled in with a watermelon for us - I think the basic idea being that someone in Chicken for the summer should get a dose of fresh produce now and again to ward off whatever ailments might befall those that have to go without, something on the order of a scurvy elimination program. That is hardly the case (we eat very healthy here to be sure), but it was a real treat as for certain one does not run down the hill to the convenience store and snap up a big ole watermelon whenever one feels the urge. Anyway, I don't mean to get too far along into the story line because I just plain will have too much fun telling it a bit down the road. Just want you to "get it" when you see how one of the birthday presents was "delivered" with their help. Consistantly successful miners that they are, I arranged to pick out a nugget from this year's "crop" of their dredging eyeopeners. Then they delivered in person the delivery vehicle as well.... you'll see!

I grew the flowers for the opccasion in the greenhouse. Lou baked a special fresh raspberry delight for breakfast, Mike and Debra teamed up to do a gift certificate for Chicken Gold Camp gift shop of native Alaskan items and local gold creations and collections and the whole thing fell into place quite nicely. My lovely wife thinks (or should I say thought) that I was not very accomplished when it came to keeping secrets leading up to special occasions and any type of gift giving event. But she doesn't think that any more! Thanks to everyone for their help!

And, oh yes, The Tok Boys. Not too big on being called "boys" any more. They are accomplished adults to be sure. Brad just gives you that look of his- pretty intense in a firm but pleasant manner. Keith comes right out with it, his favorite saying which he proudly uses whenever such "boyish" terminology is used in connection with the two of them:

"Dude, you wouldn't call an alligator a lizard would you???" And other than pictures form the day, I think I'll leave it right there for now....

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Garden Update. More Moose, and a Modern Day Mining Mule

Lots and lots of daylight but often very cool nights have produced some interesting results in the greenhouse to date and with the flowers that we have growing just about everywhere. Between the truly wild flowers and the wild flowers we planted in designated sites and those grown from starts or seeds- this is a very colorful camp. Of all the gardens, for certain the most popular ones with the guests are located just outside the outhouse doors. Certainly these are the most photographed outhouses in all of Alaska (if not the entire rest of the world, which is only slightly larger than Alaska). Wildflowers, petunias, African daisies, and pansies have been selected and placed for maximum color accent. Of course the main entry way to the camp, the rock garden with the flags raising in the sky above, consists almost entirely of mariGOLDS. What else would you expect? Here, dredge buckets, old pots and pans, even the old wheelbarrows are planters. In fact anything and everything in the way of gold mining antiques that will hold dirt and water is a potential for planting- even the old iron "basket" that was used to carry the gold proceeds from the dredge to the camp office at the end of a cleanup.

So here's a look at how things are shaping up here near the mid summer point:

I haven't seen the moose and her twins up on the Myers Fork claim in a few days now, and apparently she (they) missed me so they came down to the camp and stood in the roadside pond by the camp sign that we recently updated and oiled. It's a nice sign- made even better by the real live moose hanging out and admiring the view into camp.

Meanwhile, back up at the claim this week, a modern day miner and his family demonstrated how the old timers used to go at the process. Oh sure some had a mule to pack things on, but there was still an awful lot that had to be carried by the miner and prospector regardless and here's the proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same: Looks like preparation for the Chilkoot Pass to me.

And here's a few more entries from our That Was Then series from the trip to Alaska of two years ago in this same time frame. We're on the go every bit as much this year but not nearly so much on the road, and there is a difference to be sure.

Light At The End of the Tunnel: a look at Whittier, Alaska and why sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is not such a good thing after all....

Alaska Wildlife Photos
: I try my hand at shooting some pictures I don't usually get to take. I'm no Harry Pherson when it comes to this kind of stuff but if nothing else it PROVES what you did and didn't see on your trip to Alaska.

Beautiful Downtown Anchorage
: A great city shows off what it has to offer.

Flat Top: We go for a bird's eye view of Anchorage with our pals Gary and Judy.

More Odds and Ends
: Some really neat stuff that just didn'tfit into another category or story and MUST reading for those of you who want to know the skinny on Marilyn's World Famous Moose Turd Pie!

Up By Palmer Creek
: Visit another of the places that will always be part of the history of gold in Alaska.

Hope And Resurrection: A look at Hope Mining and the good people that gave us our first real schooling on prospecting for gold.

Flowers of Hope and Resurrection: a sentimental look back at those past and present that colored the pages of Alaska.

I'll close for now with a look at some of the wildflowers from all across Alaska. It seems like every day on every path a new flower opens and takes a peek at life in this great state, if only for a short time before going back to rest for next year's appearance....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

After The Fourth

I think quite possibly it was the first time in my life to this point that I was scheduled to work on the Fourth of July. Teachers don't work that day- it's never an issue for them. Retailers for the most part, even on the coast of Maine, close for the day, perhaps excepting the oddball convenience store and the like. Fireworks are the order of the day there and trying to compete with El Dia de Picnic fills the bill for the realm of the absurd. But a campground? An RV park? A gold camp? Gotta be open no matter what and someone has to mind the shop so to speak. Marilyn and I drew that straw this time around. No biggie I suppose although it was a bit of melancholy as folks on their way to the festivities stopped to inquire as to whether or not "you" will be coming to the party. Not this time. If there was a bit of justice to the work day it was that I was oiling the two story sign posts for the camp up by the entrance and I did a portion of the job standing on the trailer I was pulling behind my four(th) wheeler and my American Flag was flying quite nicely right beside me and my paint brush. Someone surely has an interesting shot from the Fourth of Chicken! I am a bit sorry not to have captured the Chicken Fourth- a (Chicken I suppose) egg toss, a gold panning contest, a Chicken and steak dinner and a bunch more activity all held up at the post office, which despite everyone else's claim to the contrary IS the center of town- or at least the place, in any community, where everyone has to come sooner or later, no matter what their politices, their preferences, or whatever it is that matters to them. From that standpoint, sorry to have missed out. Post Master Robin is a hoot and a half, a joy to be around and could in her own right make a party a party.

One of our around camp long range projects is to refloat the mighty Pedro Dredge and move it its final few hundred feet to where it will no doubt be THE photo op of all Chicken. With the old tailings shoot hanging gloriously out over the gold camp's panning troughs and standing tall right next to the new sign- won't nobody not take out their camera for that shot. I hope it is accomplised before we leave this season so that it is a shot I have as well. Mike's vision for the image is well founded and I've no doubt he is right on target for "gettin 'r done".

As if the dredge, the poster child for the age of gold in America is not enough, even the grass and flowers surrounding it are magnificent this time of year and are a joy to behold in or not in a shot of the dredge. I'm giving it to you both ways so you can see what I mean.

As for the blogging every day or so, there is so much going on and it takes so much physical energy that most nights I just shut down when the day is done and all things computer have to wait for the next day or even the next. Do I feel some guilt about that. Well, yes, but not enough to stay awake long enough to do something about it. Day long hours of light are a boon to the physical self. The body just keeps going and going, long after the energy required to keep going is long gone. Shutdown happens fast- at least for me. Trouble sleeping in the all night light? Not this guy! One couple renting a cabin from us unwrapped a roll of tinfoil as soon as they moved in and covered all the windows with it to keep the light out. And they are Alaskans? I don't get that one, but not all knowledge is easily understood, so this one goes unexplained to me.

Two years ago, in the That Was Then era, we celebrated the Fourth of Alaska in Seward with a hometown parade, a mountain marathon and more the kind of day we are used to for this occasion. It was a grand time then and looking back on it brings a lot of fond memories of our time there. Gary and Judy's son Clint ran the mountain race this year for (supposedly) his last time. I hope he won but I haven't heard. Somehow I think, runners being runners, that the last race will happen for him in his seventies or his eighties, not in his forties, but there are some people who actually do retire when they say they will and maybe that will be the case. But my money is with the "NO" odds in this case.

I'm hoping to be better about the regularity of these posts, but, honestly, I don't know if I can be. We're lagging well behind where we had hoped to be in the gold discovery department which makes me want to spend more time at that effort and not less. If I had gained a nugget for every pound I have lost since we are here then I would be just good to go. Tried to walk from the back of the coach to the front the other day in a pair of jeans without a belt on them and the belt loops were nearlt down to my ankles by the time I covered that distance!

Mark and Chris, Jim and Jane, the fossil lady from Wachula FloridaThousand Trails are here in camp now seeing Alaska so we'd like to have some time with them as well. There is too much to do and not enough time to do it all...and still have energy left over. So for now, it will be what it will be....and we shall see what we see.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Twin Moose, Chicken Salad, and a Water Bag

Spend all the time you like on this title- it won't turn out to be cute, clever, or anything of the kind. I'm too tired. Too sore. And too short on battery power to deal with all that at this moment in time. So what you get for now is a catch all...and that's all.

Here's a look at a big cow moose and her "twin" calves. They've paraded through camp a couple times and they walk the road back and froth from the Myers Fork Claim, and one day coming back from there on the four-wheeler we stopped to watch them browse in the marshy area just before we drive through the creek. She's a big girl! And the kids are growing fast. It was nice she let us watch for a time without feeling she needed to charge or otherwise drive us away or lead them away quickly. Given enough space to breath and feel safe, the family just pretty much went about their business of munching grasses in the meadow.

And the salad, well, there is no chicken in it- just the idea that everything in this salad was grown in Chicken in our small greenhouse at the Gold Camp. Bottom is a bed of radish seed gone bitter and to seed, but very aromatic, about seven different kinds of lettuce, a green zucchini picked small and sliced real thin in French cut style, some raw yellow summer squash and a couple slices of the same lightly grilled with a few pinches of green and purple basil tucked in the slices for fragrance. Two ripe tomatoes (Yes, in June, in Alaska) from our wicked expensive greenhouse starts purchased in Tok. A center spike of spinach thinnings and some fresh cilantro for a bit of a surprise.

The first salad of the summer seemed like a milestone, but back in the real world, it was off to the waterline while the power was "on" to fill the bladder we lug in the van to transfer water to the coach via a small electric motor that runs either off our generator or battery inverter system. Other than hard work, nothing gets taken for granted here. Keep up, keep going, or fall behind.

At the end of this month two years ago, this is what was happening then...

The Primary Colors of Life: a look at the environments we favor based on the colors that we feel the strongest about.

Valdez Fishing Report Update: a look back at the day I got knocked off the derby winner board by a pair of "fisher-ladies" from Arkansas, but managed to land some nice salmon to ease the pain and agony of defish, I mean, defeat.