Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Fire

Starting a fire. 

You have the cabin in the woods, all the great snacks purchased. Something good to drink and someone to enjoy it all with.
You arrive at the cabin just as the sun is setting over the magnificent view. With laughter and smiles, you both get everything inside. A quaint wood stove sits in a corner with a stack of dry wood in the wrought iron container. Kindling and paper wait there as well. 
You have seen all the survival reality shows, you have this. There's no need for worry, a full box of matches sits on a shelf above the stacked wood.
Crumple the paper, place some of the thin pieces of wood on top the paper, and two or three of the split logs on top. That's when you notice a piece of paper taped to the wall above the shelf.
Ah, the handle sticking out of the pipe is the draft. It has to be turned vertical to make this work right. Oh, and there's a handle under the stove that needs to be manipulated.
You have it now. With the dampers open and the stove door open, you strike the match, light the paper and close the door. Piece of cake. The flames flare upward, and the edges of the logs blacken.
But after pouring drinks and a few kisses to celebrate finally getting away, when you look again there are no leaping flames in the stove.
With a frown, you open the door and get inundated in a huff of smoke. No flames are devouring the wood, just glowing places here and there. Your fire hasn't caught.
Well damn! An hour later you are hunched over in front of the stove with the last match in hand. If the sucker doesn't catch this time, you'll have to resort to using twists of paper lit by the kitchen stove.
The miserable logs are charred all around the edges. How come houses and forests catch fire so easy when you can't get these logs to burn?
The thing with wood stoves and logs is more complicated than you realize. If the wood is wet in any way; either because it's green or has become damp getting it to burn won't be easy.
What kind of wood is it? Some trees burn better than others. No matter what type of wood you are using, there has to be a graduation up to logs. And you must have sufficient oxygen for the fire to not only catch but keep going.
Exhausted. Out of kindling and paper, you give up. The beauty of the stars and the person you brought along is lost in a cloud of partially smoldering wood.
Your great grandpa knew burning wood wasn't that easy. Watch those survival experts a little closer next time. They are joyous when the fire starts for a reason. It's not as easy as you think. 


Saturday, October 22, 2016

A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. Homer, Alaska.

The thing about Homer is it's one of the loveliest towns in south central Alaska. Sorry, Seward, Valdez, and Cordova. You all have your beauty spots but inch for inch the city on Kachemak Bay is beautiful. The photo above shot just as the sun was coming up over the head of the bay.

I went down there with the express purpose of getting a better handle on the town and locations of things in it. A new series in brewing in my brain. Homer and the surrounding area will figure prominently in this one. And as I love traveling around Alaska, the lure of Homer was irresistible.

What looks like a dark shadow on the bay in the photo above is Homer Spit. It is a unique finger of land that juts out into the bay itself. There are a few spits in Kachemak Bay, but this one is by far the most well known. And I've watched it evolve over the last twenty or so years.

It has a marina. And if you have watched Deadliest Catch for any length of time you know one vessel calls Homes its home port. Now there is a tidal basin where you can fish.

The Salty Dawg, a famous drinking spot is on the spit. In the summer there are a few restaurants, and I found one that was open early for the fishermen and served the best breakfast. Yum.

And there is the beach. Long and narrow, it stretches almost the entire length of the west side of the spit. People do camp out on it. My love and I did so once. It was great fun.

And here you have the sign that tells you this is it, Land's End for south central Alaska.

On the other side of the road is the Alaska Marine Highway Terminal. One Sunday I got a notion and at 3 am took off for Homer. On finding that the ferry was in, I took it over to Seldovia. I paid extra for the truck, which was a good thing as it started to rain. The tourist season was over and not sure what was open; I needed a way to stay warm.
Below is a shot of the Seldovia dock and the MV Tustumena, fondly known as the Tusty. It was a fun trip. I made it home slightly before midnight, tired and happy.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

On to Homer! It is a beautiful place. Grand views of Kachemak Bay, mountains and the Homer Spit. If you haven't been to the Spit, you are missing something special.

The shadow you see sitting out there in the Bay is the narrow spit. It is the farthest you can drive in South Central Alaska. There are all kinds of small shops, a couple of restaurants, a bar, campground, fishing hole and marina crammed on there. 

The sign proclaims it's "Land's End." Not quite true but where the road ends. And getting here is a long and beautiful drive. But prepare to have it take a little longer than you might think. It is a two-lane road and big motor homes and people towing boats can slow you down. Don't worry about it, enjoy the drive. 

Take your time to explore. East End Road will take you high above the Bay and the town. Be sure to take Old East End Road, but do so on your way back down. There are a couple of places you can pull off if you are careful; driveways to abandoned property there are no regular pull outs. But it's worth the drive. 

Best taken while driving up East End Road, Eveline Trail has several routes one can take. It is a short, easy walk to the picnic table. From there the views of the glaciers and the Bay are superb.  I took lunch along and ate while enjoying the view. It was a little drizzly, but as we say up here; if you wait until  it isn't raining to do something, you might have to wait until next year. 

 Come and visit! We would love to see you. The Great Land has to be seen to be believed. A lit later I'll post about the trip home. There is still more to see.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Road trip; destination Homer, Alaska.

But first, let's detour to Hope. 

  I understand it's approximately 132 miles from Anchorage to Hope. On Tuesday morning I woke at 3:00 am and was on the road by 3:30 having loaded the truck the night before.  Other than beating the traffic out of Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula. Hope wasn't in the plan. 
The Seward Highway is as scenic a drive as you can get.  The big problem with the road is the abundance of big trucks, motor homes and gawking tourists on this, the only highway to the Peninsula. 
A two lane road, there are passing lanes in appropriate places. We also have signs posted for tourists that it is illegal to let more than five vehicles stack up behind you. 
Don't take this wrong. I do like tourists. I'm more than happy to share the road with them. And they aren't the only ones to disregard the law. 
Locals with trailers or boats may be worse about obeying that rule than a tourist. I can tell you if you travel the Seward Highway you will see more boats than you can imagine. The Kenai Peninsula is Anchorage's playground. 
There is the ocean, the rivers; lakes abound, and there are hiking trails everywhere. Top that off with world class scenery and you now have a better picture of the draw it has.  
The picture directly below is from the back side of Turnagain Arm. The mountains in the distance are where the road hugs the slim strip of land between the peaks and the sea.  To get to this point, I drove around the Arm which if estimate to be no more than a mile or so wide at the narrow end close to Anchorage.
The bore tide and mud flats make a road straight across impractical. Not to mention the Beluga Whales, their habitat is precarious enough as it is now. So for the moment the locals dream of a couple more passing lanes and a little adherence to the law.

The detour to Hope began to stew in my brain about halfway around Turnagain arm. As I started up the grade from the flats, I decided why not. I had made real good time and didn't need to check into the motel until four in the afternoon.
I had passed most of the slow vehicles and was in the lead. Ahead of me, there were several long passing lanes on the main road. There was a small Russian Old Believers Village I wanted to visit. But it was only 5:30 in the morning; I had lots of time.

Since it was only a little over 160 miles to Homer, I took the turnoff. It's a narrow little road and dead ends in a picture perfect little campground perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Hope was a mining camp in the 1890s. The population of the town is close to two hundred people. Above is a picture of Main Street. 
A portion of the town was destroyed in the big Good Friday earthquake.  But there is a cafe and bar. The town also has a library and museum. If you feel like going gold panning, there is a place offering that next to the museum which is in the picture below.

 I walked around with my camera and took pictures of some of the buildings. Below is the social hall. The date on it is I believe 1902.

Below is a well kept little cabin with curtains in the window. Another small cabin is in the background. There were other homes in the area that appeared to have been built recently.

 I enjoyed poking around the little town. Nothing was open at that hour, but that was fine. I got into my Valley Girl truck and we went back out to the main highway. Below is a view from a pullout designed to give slower vehicles a place to pull out.
On to the Russian Village. On thinking about it, I don't think I'll give it a name at this point. They are a very private people and probably wouldn't thank me.
I hope you like the first part of my little road trip. I'll post more later. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ah, the Highland Games at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. The day eventually warmed up nicely on Saturday.
It was the first year they held the games for two days. It was great fun.
Sunday started cold and rainy. But it cleared up enough by mid-day to dry everything out.
That was good because nearly everything was damp. That stuff in the can that is supposed to seal all water out didn't work nearly as well in the flesh as on the tube. But later on, I hope to set the tent up again and give all the seams a good going over. This year we were prepared if the wind decided to blow up to Palmer gust standards. We did get lucky, and the breeze picked up just as we were packing up.
The games were amazing, and hearing all those records being broken was very thrilling. Our booth was right across from the bleachers where they were holding the events. Will all the people there we couldn't see much, but we heard everything.
I know for a fact that this is the twentieth year I have had a booth at the Highland Games. Allan used to join me about mid-afternoon, and we would spend the remainder of the day enjoying the day.
I still have the old green and white striped tent I used in those days. That old thing has seen a lot of miles including acting as the tent Heather, my daughter, and John got married under.
A great time was had by all. Thanks, Alaska for cooperating.

This little turtle didn't last long and went to a good home.

And a few of my books found their way into reader's hands as well.

The 2016 Highland Games are history and a fond memory. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We did have fun but there weren't enough people at the conference. There won't be another one hosted by Jimmy Thomas from what I understand. That's too bad it was good. The people who held classes were good. I learned a lot.
I was told that some people didn't like the venue as it wasn't on the strip or close to it. Frankly, I like Texas Station. The food was good and the room was great. The bed was one of the best I have ever used in any hotel.
After the book fair, I took a ride in the rental car with my partner in crime, Kerry. We went south to the Valley of Fire. Fantastic scenery. I took a bunch of photos that I hope to use for teasers. The new book presently with Paper Gold Publishing, Nightwind's Shadow is an apocalyptic tale set in the desert. Who knows when I'll get back down here, so I made the best of the trip.
At one point the thermometer in the car read 111 degrees. But the air conditioning worked when we were in the car so all worked out. We had a lot of water with us and drank it.
I'll post more in a bit.