THE SUMMER PROJECT
Guess what? Another load of wood for our next project. Some of the wood needed for the next building project was too long to haul in the truck so we had to have it hauled out by Home Depot.
It all started last year at the end of the fishing season when Todd was sitting on the deck in front of the kitchen under the metal roof awing because it was raining. Todd said, “You know what you really need to do is build a cover over the deck so we can sit out there when it is raining!” Now, as Ryan said, “Todd is our idea man, Jon is our money man, and I am the cheap labor!”
However, it was a good idea and Jan added to it by stating, “I would really like to have a chiminea on the deck.” But if we covered the deck with a metal roof, we couldn’t have a chiminea on the deck. So we had to build an extension to the deck for the chiminea and so someone could also sit in the sunshine when it wasn’t raining. See how things get out of hand very quickly!
That’s why Todd wasn’t allowed to come up to Alaska this year, we have had enough of good ideas! Just kidding, we will let him come back!
So in this case Jon was the cheap labor and the deck extension was added to the south of the existing deck. It turned out to be a nice 10 x 16 foot addition with room for the new cast iron chiminea that Jan received for Mother’s Day. It is sitting on top of cinder blocks with a tile top (because you can’t have the chiminea on a wooden deck). In addition, the vertical supports and side beam for the new roof were added before the deck extension was completed.
ROOFING THE EXISTING DECK
Richard and Doris Pierce arrived in early June to stay with us for six weeks. They brought their grandson, Tristan. They helped build the log entrance frame by cutting down several dead spruce trees in the park and stripping the bark off them to make the vertical support posts, the main cross beam and the rafters to support the end of the metal roof. It sure helped with the construction as trimming the logs, cleaning off the bark and preparing them takes a lot of time. Richard had a lot of experience as he had built a log home earlier.
Ryan Pyle came up just after the 4th of July to provide the cheap labor for building the roof. Ryan and I started fitting the log beam and rafters together on the lawn, knowing that it would be difficult to fit things together up in the air. It worked pretty well with some minor problems of our cheap labor goofing around! Fortunately, Richard and Tristan came to help and got us straightened out.
Once the log frame was completed, we could begin to build the rafters to the original kitchen/workshop building. Notice that we wanted the roof to be a continuation of the original structure rather than an add-on. So we followed the same lines of the original plus similar structural pieces. However, the original used 4 x 12 beams, 4 x 6 rafters and 2 x 12 joists. That was just a little too pricey for our pocket books, so we used doubled 2 x 6 with 4 foot spacing. As you will see, we did order the same color metal for the roof.
The structure for the roof is finally completed. Now we have to wait for Cary to come to put on the metal roofing.
Cary arrived on the 18th of July and of course the red season was in full swing so the metal roof had to wait for a break in red fishing. WHEN THE REDS ARE IN, IT IS CATCH THEM IN THE MORNING EARLY, FILET AND CUT THEM UP FOR THE FREEZER BEFORE NOON AND VACUUM PACK THEM IN THE AFTERNOON. Then it’s time for a little relaxing before it starts all over the next day.
It’s the last week of July, we have about exhausted the red fishing so it’s time to finish the metal roof. Cary started laying out the roof with string to make sure he could keep the same bottom edge, then cut the metal panels, measured and pre-drilled the screw holes, then took them up on the roof to install. In the next photo, he was screwing the panel onto the 2 x 4 roof runners. He was working his way up both sides of the roof matching the panels as he installed them.
He was about half way down the south side in the next picture.
Once the panels were in place on both sides,he climbed up on the centerline of the roof and screwed in the top cap to cover the gap between the two sides. Although there is a slight change in the color between the old part of the building and the new deck roof, we made the structure to follow the design of the old building as much as possible. The slight color change is due to the aging of the older metal and it will overtime become similar in color.
I helped him with the last sheets on each side because he needed to slide the sheets under the end of the cap top. The sheets extended over the edges of the log rafters to help keep the moisture off the logs. Cary then covered the ends of the 2 x 4s with 1 x4 end caps then covered that with metal drip covers left over from the original buildings. We then trimmed off the ends of the rafters.
The final touches were adding the eagle to watch over the park, the Kasilof RV Park sign on the front and flower pots hanging from each of the log rafters. It turned out to be a really nice addition to the park and completed the Pavilion construction project.
Thanks Todd, Good Idea!
Thanks to Ryan, Cary, Jan and Jon for all the work!
WHO WAS HERE
This was a good year for us and probably the first that we have had that least paid the expenses of keeping the park open. Although the fuel and electricity prices have sky-rocketed since we purchased the park in 2008, our summer campers have slowly built back up to where the park is about breaking even. We had a fishing guide that spent the summer with us and plans to be back next year. The Christiansons rented a place for their camper for the entire summer and will stay again. The Pierces spent six weeks with us and will return next year and the Gonzales and Smiths both spent a month with us. We were completely full for the first three weeks of July and had a total of 190 different campers plus 19 different friends and family spend time with us. We had 98 campers from 32 states in the lower 48 plus Hawaii. 20 more campers came from Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Japan and Israel. We have been surprised how many campers have stayed a few nights with us and then came back again later for a few more. Most of the comments have been, “It’s so peaceful and quiet here and we love how beautiful it is. What a nice break from the overstuffed parking lots of most campgrounds.”
And don’t let us forget our local Alaskans who make up the rest of the campers. They are our bread and butter and without them, we would have to close the park.
As I indicated earlier, Ryan came to Alaska on the 5thof July. He came to help with the roof and to fish for reds and to have some fun. He loves to goof off as well as contribute to the many projects we have going on to build up the park. Whether he is figuring out how to put together the log frame, putting jerky on the trays for smoking, preparing for the claming trip, building the roof frame or log rafters, goofing off with Bus and Carol or resting on the log beam, he has been a great help and a lot of fun.
Ryan’s wife Cheri arrived on the 14th, just after the reds made their blast into the river to kick off the fishing season for us.
Her first job was to repair the Styrofoam moose on the entrance sign of the park (it’s the one that is shown on our website with the picture of Johnson Lake). It had been mounted on a fiberboard backing and then glued to the wooden sign. The really wet spring this year turned the fiberboard to mush and the moose fell off on the ground breaking off all the legs and damaging the horns. I had put it back together, glued to a hard plastic backboard and had it ready to be repainted. Jan just didn’t have time to get it done so Cheri offered to do it. It looked great and soon it was back up bringing back in those old horny cows to the park.
Cheri was her old self when it came to catching the reds this year. However, after her first fishing triumph with Nicole two years ago, we decided not to give her such a big club to dispatch the fish when she caught them. She was just so energetic with the club, she had Ryan scared!
She and Ryan had a great time and a very quick time catching their limit the first morning she was here. The reds had arrived and the two of them took advantage of them. I want you to notice that the big ones are on Cheri’s side and she let Ryan catch the little ones on his side. That was alright because that kept Ryan from breaking his fly pole again this year! As you can see from the fish Cheri is holding that the reds were huge this year. I’m sure that many of the big males had to be 10 to 12 pounds and boy were they feisty! Lots of FUN!
Bus and Carol Stromgren (Jan’s son-in-law Craig’s parents) came up to visit on the 15th of July and spent a week with us sight seeing and fishing. Sunday morning it was bright and clear so it was a perfect time to take a visit to Homer. It was a gorgeous day and we could see the mountains across Katchemak Bay that extends from the Cook Inlet into the Kenai Mountains. The glaciers that come down out of the Harding Ice Field were crystal white in the canyons of the Kenai Mountains and very beautiful. Of course (as you have seen in the past) no trip to Homer is complete without a visit to the Salty Dawg Saloon, a drink and a dollar left somewhere inside with your name on it.
The Stromgrens and Cheri had never been clamming before and really wanted to try it. So we got all the gear together and took the Salmon Mobile to Ninilchik and attacked the mud and sand to find the little dimples where the clams hid. As always seems to happen, one of the party manages to get stuck in the mud and has to be pulled out. This time it was Carol who almost lost her boot and in trying to free it, toppled into the mud and water. After several attempts to free herself, she just crawled through the mud to the bank.
We were all a big help laughing at her.
We took them Red fishing for the first time and were able to catch some Reds. It is difficult to learn how to hook them in the mouth when they don’t eat after entering fresh water. But after a lot of trial and errors they finally caught onto the technique and were both catching fish. Over the week that they were here, they managed to catch enough to take a box home with them plus they learned all about processing and cleaning them.
As I wrote in the Summer Project section, my younger son Cary (not so young now as he just turned 50, ugh, that makes me an old Fart!) came up to help put the metal roof on the deck extension. Since he was here at the beginning of Red season, of course he had to participate. Did he ever participate! Seems that he loved Red fishing as much as I do and he caught a lot of fish. He did real well for his first time and I know it won’t be his last. He is already planned to come again next year.
We really used up a lot of hooks this summer. I had tied a pack of 100 last winter thinking that it would get us through the fishing season. NOT. It didn’t even get us half way through the season so we were tying up another pack of 100 and we used up most of them too!
FISHING AT STERLING ON THE KENAI
Our friends from Alaska, Walt and Dale Kephart invited us to come to Sterling and fish behind his son-in-law’s father’s (whew) house which was located on the Kenai River. The group that was there including our friends from Hoxie, Mark and Sue Ann Hill who had flown up and were staying with us at the Park. Murray and Bonnie Sloan from Texas were also there. They were all part of the group that hunt Pheasants and Deer near Hoxie in the fall.
The property was beautiful with a large log home, pretty back yard that overlooked the Kenai River below a bank at the rear. It is an excellent fishing location with swift water in a trough right beyond the rock & pebble bank.
The two days that we fished with them were at the end of the major Red salmon run and thus the fish were not as plentiful as they had been earlier in the season. However, by sticking with the repetition of flipping in the line and letting it sink to the bottom through the trough, we were able to occasionally hook some salmon. Over a period of four hours most of our group were able to get several fish each day. We had a great time and enjoyed fishing with them at this beautiful spot on the river.
Ryan left on the 29th of July, followed by Cary on the 2nd of August, then Jan and I had a short rest spell.
A VISIT FROM TRAVIS AND FRIENDS
Then our grandson, Travis, his beautiful girlfriend, Adrienne Struble and good friend Scott Hird arrived on the 11th to spend eleven fun filled days with us. Again the first day they were here was beautiful and sunny so we drove to Homer to show them the sights. We stopped at the Ninilchik Russian Orthodox Church, then drove down to the beach where we normally clam (and would go later in the week), stopped at the tractor pull at Deep Creek to let them watch the tractors putting in charter boats and on to the Homer Overlook. The day was beautiful with little wind so we drove out on the spit and ate lunch at Lands End on the deck. Then the kids toured all the boardwalk shops and we ended at the Salty Dawg Saloon for a beer and the traditional dollars with names on them to help decorate the walls and ceiling.
After leaving the Spit, we drove up to the top of the hill overlooking Homer. You could see the Spit sticking out in Katchemak Bay with the Kenai Mountains in the distance. The town of Homer was spread out down below them on the side of the hill and in the valley leading to the float plane lake shown just behind them.
The next week was busy with trips up to the Russian River to go Red fishing. It was late in the Red run and those fish that had not stopped to spawn in Skilak Lake were turning bright red as they reached the Russian River on their way to spawn in Kenai Lake. We had such a good time on Monday that we went back again on Thursday. On Monday we caught 13 Reds and although the big males are beginning to get a little strong tasting and their meat is turning slightly mushy, they are still good to smoke into jerky and the kids wanted to take a lot of jerky home so we kept them to clean.
Jan and I did okay too and we had fun catching the big red males. They are still very strong and give us a great fight. As you can see in the right photo, the males have turned a bright red on their body and their heads, lower fins and tails are deep green, really very beautiful fish.
THE BEAR SAGA!
On our second trip on Thursday, two days later, we had a visitor while we were fishing. Seems that a young brown bear (not so small!!!) got separated from his mom and needed to go back to the other side of the river. He came up behind us on the top of the hill above the river and looked down at us. We were hoping that he was looking to see if he could get across, then decided he didn’t want to mess will all us humans. That was just fine by us! He continued on along the top of the hill until he found a spot to get down to the river where there were no humans around, then ran down the bank into the river and swam across. Of course there were other humans on the other side fishing from their pontoon boats. As he arrived at the other side of the river, the fishermen realized that it was best to leave that side of the river. They got back on their boats and proceeded downstream.
It is interesting that two days later, the number of Reds coming up the river had changed significantly. We fished for several hours and although we hooked many fish again, it was more difficult to hook them in the mouth and get them to the bank. It really wasn’t a problem earlier when the bear came by as we really didn’t want any tasty fish laying near the bank for him to come down and sample. As a matter of fact, I had just hooked a big male and had fought it to the bank when the bear showed up. It was the first one that day that I had hooked in the mouth, but decided it might not be a good time to have a fresh fish laying on the bank, so I let him go! We had enough fish so it wasn’t a big problem and an easy one to solve.
We did wind up with 8 more fish that added to the amount of jerky that the kids were going to smoke. They helped me fillet the reds on the river bank so we didn’t have a lot of fish scraps to get dump. It was interesting to see the meat of the reds that had turned orange color. Their meat is normally dark red when we catch them during the start of the run when they are still bright silver and green. As their skin turns red on the outside, their meat looses it’s color and becomes more orange almost as if the red die in the meat is used to color their skin. The male bodies also change becoming much taller vertically and less thick. It is interesting because the females that we caught had also changed color to a reddish color; however, their body shapes had not changed and were even thicker due to the increasing size of the egg sacks.
The boys helped me cut up the fish to produce the best amount of jerky. Because the fish were becoming stronger flavored and more mushy they didn’t want to save any of the tails for cooking. We already had plenty of frozen red salmon for them to take. They put all of the jerky strips in the refrigerator tubs with the brown sugar/salt brine and let it set for 24 hours. Then they separated out the strips on the smoking trays and added the spices that they wanted to flavor them. Travis is shown placing the smoking trays into the smoker for the next part of the process. Twelve hours later the trays were removed, the jerky scraped off into tubs and then vacuum packed in small packages for later consumption. Those were flown back to Kansas with them along with some previous processed red salmon tails for winter eating.
That was not the only fishing the our kids did while they were here. They decided that they wanted to do some trout fishing in Johnson Lake too. They put together the pontoon boat that holds three people and took it over to the lake to fish. With the help of Doug (who used to be Dan, the Dandelion Man, see last year’s blog and has turned out to be a very knowledgeable individual about the area), they gathered dragonfly nymphs under the rocks in the lake for bait. It turns out that the nymphs are the favorite food of the trout. They had a very successful fishing trip although they didn’t catch any large trout and used a lot of nymphs! Never-the-less, the lake was beautiful, the afternoon, although cloudy, was warm and calm and we got some beautiful photos of them on the lake with the forest and mountains in the background!
It wasn’t all fun and games for them although Travis and Adrienne did manage to wax us playing Mexican Train and she wiped us all out playing anagrams (Travis is going to have his hands full with her and we enjoyed her immensely!). We always ask our family visitors to help us with the park, either improving it or providing some of it’s maintenance. This year the three of them were asked to paint the finish coat of wood sealer to the outside of the kitchen/workshop complex. They did a beautiful job covering every square inch of wood on the building.
Then Adrienne also painted the outside of the planters that I was building for the south side of the building. Note that the greenhouse is now full of tomato and cucumber plants. Thanks to Chris and Mark, the electric-chord soil warmer they gave us has help keep our small greenhouse warm enough to produce over a dozen wonderful cucumbers and three vine ripened tomatoes plus some more before we leave. That was even in the coldest summer recorded on the Kenai Peninsula.
The planters are now filled with soil and potting soil plus the flowers from the summer. Few of the perennial ones may last the winter and come back up in the spring; however, it’s hard for those that are not in the ground and aren’t native to Alaska. We will raise potatoes (we had a nice crop this year from three potatoes), greens (lettuce and European), radishes and lots of dill next summer. Hopefully some of our herbs will make it through the winter too. It’s always nice to have fresh produce during the summer.
There was time for relaxing and having fun plus a few drinks in the evenings. We enjoyed the chiminea with the three of them and had a couple of nights where the campfire pit was burned and a few some-mores were consumed!
WITH KIDS LIKE THEM, WE REALIZE HOW WONDERFUL THIS PLACE REALLY IS AND HOW MUCH WE ARE GLAD THAT WE CAN MAKE IT FOR THEM!
END OF SUMMER
As the summer winds down we think back on the many wonderful times we had this summer and this blog is too small and short to remember them all, but we still get too. A few of the other moments that we will remember:
Richard helping Tristan make a bird house out of scrap building materials that looks like a boat. They hung it in the Pine tree next to their camper in the space next to where they will be next summer. Hopefully a bird will be using it then.
A handful of bog flowers with a few star flowers that I picked up for my beautiful wife when we were walking around the lake last spring.
Walt fishing on the Kenai River at Sterling. What a relaxing way to catch Red Salmon.
The Russian River Ferry crossing the Kenai River with a group of fishermen. Note the Red Salmon laying in the water at the bottom of the photo.
The finished end of the deck as you walk up the steps from the front driveway.
On a drive back from Kenai one evening, the sun was shinning through the clouds showing Mt. Redoubt off in all it’s snowy glory. We stopped at one of the pull-outs overlooking the Kenai Flats. You can see all the canneries just beyond the Kenai River. Many times the local caribou herd can be seen grazing on these flats, but not this evening.
This evening the show was all about Mt. Redoubt.
What a Surprise!
Guest who showed up at the park to wish us goodbye this year? Yes, it was Spike, Jr. with a new set of horns and all grown up. We know it was him because he had to show off his new horns for us and he would turn to look at us when we talked to him. He also was very tame allowing the few campers that were in the park admire him as long as they didn’t get too close.
How can you not just love Alaska!