Gators and Glades

March 16th, 2011

It’s that time of year when we attend the APPL park trade show–this year in Dallas.  We’ve now motored across from last year’s venue–San Diego and are headed to Key West Florida.  Instead of paying the labor unions hundreds of dollars to roll my Bambi Airstream into the convention center, Brian makes me a miniature…..check this out–complete in every detail including all the stickers/posters.   For two days we field questions about our unique WPA silkscreened historic and contemporary posters.  We’ve now about six others copying our style, and quite frankly the more they publish, the better we look.   Check out my genuine Route 66 necktie….and it comes with a ‘tacky’ trailer tie-tack!

We then drive east into the Bible Belt and are not surprised by the intensity of religiosity (expletive deleted); the radios were even worse….  so we keep driving to Pensacola where we meet with Martina’s brother who is perhaps the best barbeque expert I’ve ever known:

Check out his setup.  Three professional smokers and he cuts up hickory and tosses in a chip or two for flavor.  His steaks are three inches thick….

This is a heart stopper!  After this meal and a 17 lb./24 hour smoked beef brisket the following night, I take on a southern accent and have a great desire to collect guns and knives!

After three days in Pensacola, we turn eastward again but first visit Fort Pickens which was built with slave labor prior to the civil war and guards the harbor entrance here.  There are millions of bricks here–this is a massive fortress and others are even bigger.  The gun you see here was the largest guns of the war–and never fired–kind of like our cold war.  The designer was one of Napolean’s architects who directed construction of many of these around the southern ramparts of our country.

This is what the southerners mean by “walking the dog.”

So we drive all the way out to the end of the road–Key West, Florida.  This place is so tacky!….strewn with single-shot  bars and the typical tourist traps–the perfect cruise ship destination.    Both into Key West and back again, we stop for a night at Key Largo and visit many of the artisan shops in between–the essence of the Keys–quite nice actually.

Driving north, here is our campsite at Everglades National Park–our goal on this trip.

Opps!  wrong upload….here is the actual site–a very spacious campground, and this late in the season was nearly empty due to the increase of summer bugs and….rattlesnakes.   Note the Caribbean Pines that tower above our campsite.  Most of the Everglades and the gulf coast swamplands were populated with this species and have since been drained to raise paper-pulp species of pines (pinus radiata) as you will also find in most of New Zealand.   Lately there has been a big movement to reflood the Everglades back to the “River of Grass” restoring the natural ecosystem including the alligators pictured above.  Hope it works.  Meanwhile….

….we meet with the archivist and settle on a design for another poster in our series–this probably our 40th image.  We’re well on the way to completing our goal of publishing a poster of each park before the 2016 NPS Centennial.  This poster will feature many endemic birds and the alligators.   Are you ready?

This is our last night at Lake Gitch-e-goomie (or some such name) KOA–one of the nicest we found, but guess what……it’s a Christian owned and operated campground.  It took me two days of badgering them before they would let us heathens store our trailer there….   Maybe I didn’t give them the secret sign or perhaps it was our “Rubber Tomahawks” bumper stickers–don’t get me started….

Well, we two Alaskans finally made it to the opposite end of our country; as far from Kupreanof as you can get without getting our feet wet–and how opposite we found it.  We will continue this trip in the fall working up the Appalachian mountains through more parks.  Stay tuned.

January Storms

January 19th, 2011

In case you’re all thinking every day is like the Solstice photos (previous post), they aren’t. Here the Kennicott Ferry pulls in at the Petersburg dock at about 6 degrees F. This is our ferry to Wrangell for a week clinic. We return home to find 18″ of snow on our doorstep and everywhere else. And last week was single digit temperatures so this stuff sticks around. Check out our ferry ride back:


And this is tame compared to the Queen Charlotte Straits.

OK–18″ of snow and we’re back home looking out the dining room window at our slough. After a week’s absence, the birds are hungry so we put out lots of bird seed and suet. The birds are grateful–mostly juncos, a few sparrows and winter wrens. Animal tracks abound: martin, mink, otter, weasels and squirrels mostly. One of our neighbors shot the wolf…..did I mention this already?–needless waste!

Well, it’s time for another indoor project–a kitchen cabinet. I bought this Bosch table saw a few months ago–what a nice tool. It’s recommended by every builder I’ve talked to and I love it. I’m now able to make accurate cuts so I order some cherry from Crosscut Hardwoods in Seattle; “the candy store for carpenters.” It’s here within a week and I begin laying out a cabinet.

First step is to drop vertical walls down directly over the marble counter top–note the kitchen khaos. My design is for wine storage on the ends and appliances in the middle, wine glasses hung inverted beneath and dispensers for all rolled seal: wax paper, tinfoil and plastic wrap. Add in a spice rack with 360 degree rotating table…… wow!

The waffle iron is accessible between the two shelves under the log. We have fresh waffles every Sunday morning. I miss the waffle irons of yesteryear so after a brief search on the internet I find a small company in NYC that restores old toasters/appliances called Toaster Central where we purchase a 1930 Lancaster. This hurk sports a lid reminiscent of a 1954 Buick hood–here come the waffles….

Another perspective…..and yes, that is a (red) Tugboat Cookie Jar.

Here’s the wine glass rack and measuring cups hanging on copper nails…. And the spice rack spins around 360!

And now we have a curing space for our Tulikivi stove between the chimney and the cabinet. This is the last stage of a two year drying regimen–after bucking up wood in the forest, it is first covered with tarps then sledded out to the woodshed, then haul to porch, then carried inside to our woodbox, and finally transferred to this chimney spot for final drying– before burning it. This stove is 12,000 lbs of soapstone and needs very dry wood to keep our 1000 sq. ft. cabin warm. It remains warm to the touch 24 hours after firing.

Here’s a photo of our place with Bear Claw Mountain above during a brief clearing:

After shoveling 300 feet of boardwalks including our dock, I drive across the narrows and shovel the Katahdin–it is dangerous to leave snow on a boat as you might guess. This summer, we will drive her back to Seattle for some maintenance, using her for an in-city apartment.

Just before the weather cleared, we encounter this tug/fuel barge combo waiting for weather or tides. This is not place for sissies. This fuel barge supplies our diesel and gasoline which is $3.80/gallon now.

I’ll finish this post with a little Bach–the camera stopped just before the last note–a C major cord:

Super Solstice

December 21st, 2010

It was last in 1638 that a winter solstice coincided with a lunar eclipse. Last night, 372 years later, we are treated again to such a spectacle and with clear skies no less–also a rare event in these parts. Martina and I set up camera tripods on our dock and began taking one minute sequences of the moonrise over Devils Thumb beginning about 3:15pm. The above photo is with her camera–nothing more than the size of a deck of cards. Below is my D70 Nikon–a hurking 3 lb. monolith of glass but now thoroughly obsolete:

I bought this camera in 2005 for Antarctica and I have to say, it has performed very well. OK, back to Martina’s Canon for the rest of the show:

We’ve photoshopped these a bit by bumping up the contrast/brightness.

It was another six hours before the earth began moving between the sun and moon.

The atmosphere of the earth casts a beautiful orange tint over the moon’s surface during the one hour long totality; probably pollution. And speaking of pollution, I heat up a hot mug of eggnog laced with some Christmas Spirit and pull up a lounge chair at 10F–global warming of sorts–and spend the next hour watching this event….

So, it’s the shortest day of the year today and last night was the longest night. Our woods fill up with snow, birds are everywhere searching for food–we help out in this department. This is the view from our gazebo in the slough looking at our 35′ high water tower. Harry built this and the well under the tower entirely by hand so he could gravity feed water to the house–an elegant system. We’ve located our generator there to heat the building to keep pipes from freezing. Just behind this building is a 100′ high tree which will bear our new solar panels. They’ll sit nearly upright at 57 degrees, our latitude.

Martina has been elected to the City Council of Kupreanof, Alaska’s smallest city. Here, she and two other council members commute to our City Hall at 6 degrees F. She’s sitting in the middle with the day-glow survival suit. Fog lies over the narrows but it’s clear in Frederick Sound and the Coast Range to the NE.

Here I’m inspecting inspectors–guarding my coast as the Coast Guard fixes the alignment of the two southbound range markers. These markers (the other is out in the narrows and lower in perspective), also solar powered, align when a ship enters the center of the Narrows. This upper marker is about 100′ north of our property line.

All the birds have a tough time in winter–this eagle hangs around waiting for anything that drifts by, including our table scraps we put out on the beach every day. We find one dead eagle a year on our property–a statistic probably multiplied by the miles of coastline here in Alaska. The winter wrens flit around under our boardwalk and the juncos and sparrows feed at our window feeders (along with the deer). We’ve Niger seed out for the finches but no show yet. Robins still sift through the beach kelp–I’m surprised they’re still here. And ducks abound–millions of them–down from the Arctic Slope. We walk every day along our beach taking note of these small changes….

Four days ago, we find tracks of a wolf on our point but we heard one of our neighbors shot it–Palinesque game management…. Hopefully there are others in the area–they’re incredible to watch. See our earlier posts on wolves here, here and here. We do not allow hunting here in the City of Kupreanof however each property owner can shoot anything in season–a private hunting club of sorts. We don’t support this.

The above photo was taken December 27th after 16 inches of snow. What are these New Yorkers whining about? It’s about 10 in the morning and just getting light enough to shovel it–all 300 feet of boardwalk, dock, beach access and then there’s my neighbor’s walks while they’re out of town.

I’ve propped up the eaves–the fellow who built this house (and it’s very well built) provided 4′ eaves but they are cantilevered and red cedar–which is not very strong when the snow piles up. I’ll shovel the roof when it exceeds 2 feet and then it rains. As of today (December 27) our days are getting longer–by six minutes since the solstice. We’ve insulated the sauna with red cedar creating more steam–so you know where we’ll spend the winter…. Happy Holidays!