Saturday, July 30, 2016

Gone Fishing

With a few days available, and campsite reservations for two nights at the Russian River, three generations of guys headed for the Kenai. We knew it would be slow getting there because of the McHugh Creek fire with smoke building over the hills before we got out of town.

I'm not sure which came first, the name or the movie, but Conair was providing the fixed wing aerial support for fire fighting. They had two Convair CV580 hauling 2100 gallons of retardant, and an Aero Commander 690 directing traffic.

Traffic on the highway was restricted to one way at best so we had plenty of time to watch the operations. They had a couple Bell 412 helicopters dipping up to 360 gallons of sea water from Turnagain Arm to drop on hot spots.

The fire was close to the highway in a few spots and burned within about 1.5 miles of a couple neighborhoods, but thanks to some heavy rain a couple days later they got it under control without loss of homes.

While I was wearing hiking boats and long pants, the Alaska contingent seemed to think it was summer. In reality, it was. It got up past 80 that day as we headed south.

We stopped at the cafe at Summit Lake to test out their pizza and ice cream and enjoy the view.

The weather in Seward was spectacular with blue skies and warm temperatures. Spencer and I went around and visited a few places

and watched the boats come and go.

We spent the night at the city park in Seward where nearly every spot was full. Prices have gone up to $20 since BJ and I stayed there three years ago.

We spent the next two nights at the Russian River Campground. This is a very popular campground (no hookups), especially during the salmon season. We would have stayed longer but the campground was fully booked.

The whole reason for staying at the Russian River was for the guys to try to catch some of the late run sockeye salmon. They would ride their bikes from the campsite to the stairs that descended to the boardwalk along the Russian River.

They spent a lot of time hoping to spot fish moving upstream but didn't have any success.

There was a bit of success at times at the mouth of the Russian where it joins the Kenai River, with more people lined up across the mouth of the Russian on our second day, but still very few fish were showing up. The consensus was that we were a bit early.

I did spot one guy hooked up. The fellow upstream pulled his line out of the way but the third line in the picture was attached to his wife's pole. She cast again, and cut his line before he got his fish landed. I'm not sure, but I suspect there may have been more conversation when they got home.

The fishing wasn't successful this trip, but the weather was great and it was really nice to spend some time with a couple more generations.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Geocaching Alaska

Initially, the intent of the Alaska trip was to spend some time with the grandson while his parents were working. Reality was a bit different and better, but I did get to spend some time caching with him. We headed out one morning to explore parts of Mount Baldy.

There was an old timber cabin that featured some much newer foundation work, but not so new that it hid the rapid deterioration of the building now. 

There was an interesting small pond that appeared to be fed in part from a couple pipes that flowed continually. I couldn't figure out where the source was. Info I'd read suggested this had been a ranch, but that didn't seem to square with the debris I was observing.

There were two large double-oven cast iron ranges and a couple massively heavy and very long tables that would have provided space to feed a huge crew.

Alaskan geocachers carry bear spray as part of their essential equipment. We never spotted a bear but we did see lots of bear sign.

Muggles come in all sizes and shapes. These watched us as we searched for hides near the beach in Seward.

The fireweed was in beautiful bloom everywhere. Cache hides were challenging. While a few were regulars, it was much more common for the hides to be small or even micro - hidden in manners that would make them impossible to find in the winter, or in the late summer after the rapid summer growth.

The son managed to rework his schedule in hopes that his days off would match up with the salmon run in the Russian River but it turns out we were still a bit early. Folks were catching an occasional fish, but not like it will be in a few days.

This one was about five feet up in a tree, and very obvious once you bushwacked enough. Although within a couple hundred feet of the road, it seemed to only be visited a few times a year.

Apparently, some geocachers use their teeth to open the container. An earlier log entry noted the contents were strewn around the area. While the container started life as a large tin of Almond Roca, it apparently didn't hold the bruin's interest for long.

Once again, the hobby provided for visits to interesting places I wouldn't have seen otherwise and fun times enjoyed with family.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


One of the joys of having a son who flys commercially is leveraging the parental pass benefit. It's much more of a joy now than when I was working since it's almost always a bit of a challenge to find the schedule with space available. I started out at 4:30 a.m. enjoying the beginning of the sunrise in Phoenix.

The day prior, it looked like I'd be able to get on the first connecting flight in Seattle, but that all changed overnight. I had plenty of time in Seattle to visit Ivar's for fish

and Beecher's for mac n' cheese several hours later.
At the suggestion of my daughter-in-law, I even tried to get on a Fairbanks flight and then backtrack to Anchorage, but that flight ended up with weight & balance issues so there was no chance of getting that last seat.

Eventually, 18 hours after starting the process, I arrived in Anchorage where it was a beautiful day. Well worth the effort!

The next day, we were back at the airport waiting for my grandson to arrive which left time to wander around the float planes next door at Lake Hood.

It's always nice to hear the rumble of the Pratt & Whitney powered Beavers as they take off.

But the highlight was watching the world's last airworthy Pilgrim 100-B on short final to the general aviation airstrip at Lake Hood. There were only 10 of this variant built, most of which were operated by American Airlines in the early 30's. When the airlines retired them, most of them came to Alaska and operated as bush planes for decades.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Desert Wandering

With the trailer in the garage, the gear unpacked, and all the various little things that decided to quit working while we were gone now fixed, it was time to go wander in the desert. Just not for long!
Early morning starts while the sun is just starting to color the hilltops, were best. That doesn't mean it was cool, just cooler than normal. The ocotillo were all leafed out with bright green leaves but no red flowers.

The area I was in tended to hide the Superstitions. You could see the tops, but there was a fair amount of dust in the air that made them fuzzy.

Fruit was in abundance, if you wanted it. I realized how much I really do enjoy wandering the desert but I'm still not a fan of the heat. Time to go visit the Alaska family.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Home Again

Eighty-eight days and nearly 6000 miles on the trailer. It was a good trip although we had much more rain and cool weather than has been our past experience. We managed to miss some 110+ degree weather while we were gone, but there's certainly more where that came from.

Just for fun, I crunched some numbers. We moochdocked with friends and family for over 30 nights. We enjoyed classic boondocking only 3 times, and wallydocked at business locations 4 times. We were only able to make one Harvest Host location fit our schedule but love the concept. We stayed in public parks 26 nights including city, county, and national parks and forests, averaging $12.29 per night. Twelve of those nights included sites with water & electric or full hook-ups while the other 14 were dry camping. We stayed in commercial RV Parks 20 times, leveraging Passport America or Escapees discounts. Even with the discount, our commerical parks averaged over $28 per night.

We got very good value out of our Escapees membership but don't plan to renew our Passport America membership. The typical weekend limitation reduced its effectiveness. The jury is still out on Harvest Hosts for us. I love the concept, but struggled to incorporate what were typically rural, one night stays. We'll keep trying this one.

There were some equipment issues that will need to be resolved before our next trip. We were in Cody, Wyoming when I noticed that our left hand shock bracket was broken. Removed the shock and carried on. Could have had it welded, but we were headed towards the barn.

Turns out, some of the shock brackets made it through QA with the reinforcing flange out of position. New brackets are expected any day now and the change will be a quick process.

The other one surprises me. Hard to say how long the coupler has been that way, but our wet travels on this trip

allowed rust to highlight the crack. This is a failure mod that I've never heard mentioned before.

I'm going to do a mod to this one, slipping a doubler between a slightly shortened vertical brace and the top surface of the coupler that will span across to the sides of the coupler.

Trailer travel isn't all it's cracked up to be, but we'll be better than every once I get to work on it. But first, some time in Alaska...

Friday, July 15, 2016


Some may ask why we went so far out of the way on the way home. It's not our fault. Friends we hoped to see in Western Washington moved back to Colorado while we were northbound, so we HAD to come home via Durango. At least they listened when we asked them to make sure their new house had a place for moochdockers to park.

They even made sure the town put on a fireworks show for us. Much better than last year when they weren't there and it was wet and stormy. This year was beautiful and shirtsleeve warm.

We had a chance to wander around town a bit, watching the various rafting companies and their clients enjoying the Animas River through town.

One of these days I'm going to actually go to Durango with an appropriate boat on the rack. BJ said I could go to 4Corners Riversports and buy some thigh braces for the sit-on-top, but I took a pass.

Turk enjoyed some walks with us, especially when he got to flop in the grass.

As we pulled out of town after 3 days of fun and friendship, we got to the railroad crossing just in time to wave to the train.

How soon can we go back?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


We left Cheyenne and headed for the plains. Towns almost always featured grain elevators and water towers proudly announcing the name of the town.

The weather had been stormy with lots of rain the previous night and continued threats of rain throughout the day. Some of the rolling hills were green with grass and herds of cattle.

I'd hoped to get a classic photo of a phalanx of combines moving across wheat fields, but because of the rain, none of the equipment was operating. That didn't mean we didn't see lots of outfits on the road, headed to their next job,

or gathering in the occasional truck stop.

If it wasn't oversized harvesting equipment, it was oversized oil field equipment - at least I assumed that's what these rigs were. There were four of them, all moving together in a convoy.

Oil wells were scattered with lots more space between them than is typical in Bakersfield, for example. Quite a few of them were not operating - waiting for better prices???

Yes, there was geocaching involved. Kansas has a couple caches that were placed in May, 2000 - the month that geocaching started. We saved a bunch of miles by visiting Arikaree (GC31) although it did involve 18 miles of gravel road. The gravel county roads in Kansas were MUCH better than the asphalt highways in Oklahoma...

I loved the rolling hills and well kept fields. I felt for the farmers who were waiting for drier weather to continue their harvest.

We stayed one night in the Walmart parking lot in Goodland, Kansas.  The next night was at the Sierra Grande rest area southeast of Des Moines, New Mexico after touching four states that day. Meanwhile, the weather remained very breezy with occasional showers.

In spite of the threatening weather, we got a beautiful display of sunset colors reflected off of the clouds to the east during our New Mexico evening.

There was just one more hurdle to cross. Wolf Creek Pass needed to be surmounted. This was the second time we'd trailered over the pass with our Tacoma, but the first time with the Scamp. Turned out to be easier  (at least from east to west) than several other places we'd been on this trip.