Our Molesworth Airstream

December 26th, 2014


Well, you all know about the 1948 Airstream Tradewind we found in California last year.  We towed it up to Montana and then on to Cody to get a new interior.  It’s a peach–and the third one built.  It’s currently parked in Cody Wyoming where I’m putting in a new “Molesworth” interior.  Who is Molesworth?  Read on…..


Driving to Cody is always fun.  After disembarking the Alaska Ferry from Seattle, I desperately need a haircut so stopped in a Korean barber shop in Tacoma (next to the clock shop) and there is one chair in a gymnasium sized room heated to a robust 50F.  I ask the Korean woman if she can give me a haircut to which she enthusiastically replies:  “DeRux!”  So after 15 minutes, I come out looking like Kim Jung Un.  The first stop is Portland and later Antelope Oregon where the Bhagwan used to live.  Quite frankly, I’m surprised he picked Antelope but as The New Yorker Magazine said, “Let’s let Bhagwans be Bhagwans.”

Grand Teton

The next stop is Jackson Hole where Martina and I take our usual fall hike–here the wind blows off the summit of the Grand Teton (right) like Mt. Everest.  The North Face of Teewinot doesn’t look that inviting either.  I worked here as a Jenny Lake Ranger for 7 years in the 1970s.  Great years.


In Jackson, I heat up my uncle’s old branding iron–the A Lazy D–and brand all our new Molesworth chair panels……..

Molesworth Chair

Now doesn’t this look snappy!  Thomas Molesworth founded the Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody, Wyoming in the 1930s and built furniture for lodges of the west.  He was the right man in the right place at the right time.  My great-uncle (David Thomas Abercrombie) sold this furniture at his NYC store–Abercrombie & Fitch.  It can also be found at Camp David and throughout the west.  These reproductions are built by Lester Santos of Santos Furniture in Cody. Lester is a renaissance man who once built harpsichords in New England.  He is a craftsman’s craftsman.


I’ve also included the A Lazy D brand in our fireplace doors among other park dude ranch brands.  Note the buckaroo andirons and buck & rail fence.

Cover Pattern

OK, so where we……the trailer is getting a Molesworth interior and I desperately need an air conditioner to cover the global warming issues–and a recent 114F day-time temps in Quartzite Arizona we encountered last year.  But I cannot install a butt-ugly plastic cover (under table) on a 1948 beauty.  So it’s self-fabrication–and here is a retro pattern for an aluminum cover……Buck Rogers!

Cut Pattern

I order a sheet of .025 thick 2024T3 aircraft aluminum and get out the tinsnips.  When rolled up and hauled across the street this looks like a giant aluminum squid which turns many heads in Cody.

Welding Frame

Next step is to build a frame and my welder guy, Daniel is adept at this step.  Cody is a big participant in the fracking oil boom in North Dakota and you can see fabrication of natural gas piping in the background.  Also two split water tanks–the temps went from 67F to -18F in about 5 hours catching everyone off guard.


But it didn’t catch Ranger Doug off guard.  I’m busy riveting together this ‘squid’ into a shape reminiscent of a miniature airstream……

Finished Cover

…..complete with a 1948 Pontiac tail-light mounted forwards.  Flash Gordon or what!  Expanded metal will fill in the vents and rear door.  Awesome!


A tour around the trailer is now in order.  Here is the utility area where all the tankage, spare tire, pumps, etc. will go.  Over this utility area will be a dedicated near-queen sized bed–no more sliding panels.  In the 1961 Bambi (sold to a Hollywood movie guy) things were so tight I had to step outside just to change my mind.


All the electrical will fit in this box with a tilt-down lid.  Stereo, all tank gauges, etc.  Note the beginnings of the Molesworth paneling on the settee to the right.

Galley 2

The galley is original but I’m building stainless steel backsplashes, Chicago Faucet fixtures, a fancy Italian cooktop and micro/macrowave, convection oven below.  Top notch!


Here’s a view the other way.  Oh, and no refrigerator.  In the Bambi we had one that was never used.  We simply carried a camp cooler with a block of ice–which this stainless has already built in and drained to the gray water tank and ultimately the shower pan.  The tankage is equalized so total fresh water equals the total gray water.


How about blackwater???   A macerating toilet and a 10 gallon holding tank–coupled with the gray water at the exit and all piping stored outside.  This space doubles as a shower (Chicago Faucet fixture in box).


Here’s the settee roughed out.  The table is removable to fit for an emergency bed between the seats.  It also will install outdoors on the trailer with a barbecue for outdoor cooking.   The interior curved areas will be painted like the Sistine Chapel, ala western national park scenes and some Department of the Interior artwork for accents.  Lester will add burl trim, sequoia cones (the NPS symbol), and lots of varnish for the finishing touches.  Don’t forget Chamayo cushions and a little leather fringe here and there…..Then toss in a nice stereo, catalytic heater and wide screen TV and we’re ready for the big Ranger Doug 2016 NPS Centennial Roadtrip.  More to follow!

A Stikine River Mushroon Expedition

September 18th, 2014

Chief Shake's Lake 4

For my birthday, Martina treated me to a river trip up the Stikine again; this time to pick mushrooms.  On this Google Earth photo, we live in the upper left hand corner near Petersburg (yellow dot).  I drove down to Banana Point and jumped on a jetboat with 12 other people and off we went; along the bottom left of this photo, then up the tributary river into Chief Shakes Lake.   This lake boasts icebergs from the Stikine Icefields.  On the far-side of the central mountain cluster is LeConte Glacier, an earlier post which you can revisit here.

Chief Shake's Lake

Here is one iceberg–you can see why it’s tough to get through.  Castle Mountain is beyond.  We have three areas to sample mushrooms and one is near Chief Shakes Lake which, quite by caveat, happens to be accessible today so our fearless guide (Breakaway Adventures in Wrangell) nudges a few bergs out of our way and in we go……

Chief Shake's Lake 3

This is the upper end of Shakes Lake where the glacier calves off into the lake and slowly makes its way down to the south end of the lake–the river system joining the Stikine.  The icebergs don’t calve off like the LaConte just to the west–because there is no tidal action.   We’re lucky to get this far in, especially with perfect weather.  Breakaway uses jetboats which have a draft of less than 6″.  Eric, our driver, is very knowledgeable.


This is our lunch spot.  I’ve brought along smoked steelhead, cream cheese, baguette, hot tea and an apple–a lunch on par with the view.  Lots of beaver action here–not sure what they’re trying to dam though.

Chief Shakes Iceberg

The bergs build up at the lake outlet–we’re not only lucky to get in but also to get back out.


Blueberries abound–we pick them all and my friends bring over a blueberry-nagoonberry crisp that night for dinner.


OK–I mentioned mushrooms and this is what I found–all hedgehogs, of course (Dentinum repandum with a few Dentinum umbilicatum thrown in).  One yellow ‘winter’ chantrelle, too.  And out on our point back home……


……I score a couple of pie-pan sized boletes;  it’s my lucky day.  I make up my special mushroom sauce; here it is:  pan fry bacon bits til crispy, add sliced/diced mushrooms and cook until done, water evaporates and the bacon grease can be drained off.  Add pulp of two or three large tomatoes and a tablespoon of hoisin sauce and proportionate amount of half & half and reduce volume into a thick sauce. Balance these ingredients to your taste–don’t over-do the hoisin.  Great with filet mignon.  Delicious.


What a fall day–week actually.  Back in Petersburg, our Sons of Norway lodge proudly greets anyone walking along Hammer Slough.


It’s time to row around a bit in the faering and work up an appetite.  Just beyond the faering I’m building a Traditional Norwegian “naust” or boatshed.  Stay tuned for this one.

Spruce Log Table

Finally, here’s the spruce log I harvested (previous blog) for the new boathouse; now a table in our outdoor kitchen.  This is a smaller butt which is 33″ tall and 29″ in diameter; sprouted in 1796, only three years after Alexander McKenzie crossed Canada, 10 years before Lewis & Clark’s Expedition.


We rendezvous in our outdoor kitchen and a full moon greets us over the Castle group and the Stikine River.  What a marvelous fall day!  Thanks Martina for the wonderful birthday present!

Norwegian Naust

July 4th, 2014

Net Shed

Our net shed is full of stuff, mainly boats so I decide to build a traditional Norwegian “naust” or boatshed.  You can see what one looks like here.


There is only one way to do this–take advantage of the annual Alaska “personal use permit” for lumber.  I fill out a permit for 10,000 board feet of lumber and the Forest Service’s cruiser comes out and measures each tree, marks them with a brand and I’m off to the lumber yard.

Alaska Logging 2

When we first drive up a logging road here on Mitkof, I discover this fine example of drunk logging.  An old wet, rotted, hemlock snag with this peculiar notched out area.  The forest service guy with me was bewildered (he was from the lower 48) but, after scrutinizing this ‘cut,’  I suggested looking uphill….

Alaska Logging

Yup, beer bottles, snoose and shotgun shells.  These ‘loggers’ would drive up on Friday night, stuff their lips, drink a couple bottles and then log by shotgun.  That’s Alaska.

Andy 3

But not us–we take the high road.  Here my logging buddy with his 36″ bar Stihl approaches a tree dutifully marked by permit.  An old growth yellow cedar which will yield about 1000 board feet.  Let’s get going!

Andy 2


Andy 1

…..this tree has my initials on it……  Let’s go!

Close Call

When all the dust settles, one tree misses the truck by 10 feet.  These trees are 140 feet high and 3′ diameter at the base….. Yikes!

After Work

Well, after a hard day’s work, what’s there to do…..drink a beer, of course.


Then put some crab on the table–my first pull of the season–30 crab–I keep the best 10.

Ranger Beer

Here’s a toast with Ranger Beer–Vitamin R.  Love that hat….!  Stay tuned!