Tag Archives: Funny River Fire

2014 KASILOF RV PARK – Summer Blog



“Hi!
My name is Spike Jr., Jr., Jr., Jr. Grandpa Jon just calls me #4. He says too many Jr.’s is too complicated. Mom and I came over this evening to munch on some of the delicious willows that Grandpa and Grandma raise for us and Aunt Debbie and all of the Super Aunts are here watching us eat. So I thought I would just show off for them a little bit. You can watch me battling the willow bush later in the Blog. It was pretty sticky and poky. Grandpa wanted me to narrate this summer’s blog, but I would rather eat willows. So I will just let him do it for me. Be sure and watch me battle the willow.”

 

2014 ALASKA SUMMER

Well, I thought we had a new narrator, but he would rather eat than talk!

Doris & Richard stacking wood
Doris & Richard stacking wood
J&R repair pipes
J&R repair pipes

This has to be one of the more unusual summers that we have had since we opened the park. First of all it was one of the warmest winters that they have had. It created a lot of unusual events such as a very strong storm in November that blew down five of our tall white spruce trees. Richard Pierce sure helped me clean up around the park. Plus he cut up all the trees that had been knocked down by the wind.  Then he and Doris cut and stacked the logs under the electric lines.  One of them fell on the front corner of the well house and put a good dent in the roof and corner of the building. Fortunately, it didn’t knock the building down! We also had three broken water pipes this year when we turned on the water. Probably the most unusual was the fishing season. Huge numbers of red salmon came up most of the Alaska Rivers this year, very early except for the large numbers in the Kenai River, but that was the fault of the Alaska Fish and Game. More about that later, but we had a good year anyway!

 

1 Refuge forest fire
Funny River wild fire

The start wasn’t great and actually pretty scary. The day we arrived in Anchorage, someone started a brush fire just off the Funny River Road, southeast of Soldotna. As I said, it had been a very warm winter and also a very dry one. The fire quickly spread in the huge Kenai Wildlife Refuge toward the Sterling highway on the west and the Kasilof river on the south. The refuge covers a large part of the area east of Soldotna all the way to the Tustumena Lake on the south and into the Kenai mountains on the east. It is almost 1.9 million acres in size and most of it undeveloped. In two days, above is the sight that we saw from our deck looking to the north. The fire had traveled 15 miles to the Lake and along the Kasilof river pushed by strong northern, dry winds. Fortunately it was still east of the homes along the highway, but was getting uncomfortably close. At this point the fire was only about 5 miles from the park and we were getting ash from the sky. We were ready to vacate, but there was no way to move all the equipment and vehicles.  A day later the weather broke. The wind changed and started blowing northeasterly and brought moisture from the ocean and inlet. This stopped the southwest movement of the fire and pushed off toward the north and east. We were saved! The fire went on to burn for the rest of the summer in the refuge. The last we heard it had burned more that 200,000 acres almost all of it wilderness. There was only one barn and one cabin burned.

2 ToddRyanwellhouse
Todd and Ryan at the well house
3 Mark instal antennas
Mark installs antennas for the park

Summer Projects – This year was the first year that we haven’t been building or modifying some of our facilities; however, there is always plenty to be done. Of course we did have to repair the well house, but I waited until Ryan and Todd were here to do that. Todd hauled all the cut logs down to the well house for splitting. Mark came up later and reworked our WiFi system. He added a new system and better antennas in the tree by the kitchen to cover the whole park with WiFi. Christine had come up during the red salmon season to help us with all the people coming and going in the park, then Mark came up the second week.

4 momma moose scar
Momma moose
5 mom&twins grazing
Another set of twins!

Moose in the Park – This was kind-of a mixed season in the park for moose. I think the fire had a lot to do with that. The fire caused a lot of moose, bear and other animals to flee it and many new ones came into the area sometimes pushing the other animals out. In this case our normal momma moose that raise their young in and around the park were pushed further south. Of course the one’s that hadn’t been around people much didn’t show themselves much. We didn’t have any trouble with the bears and never saw any sign of them. We did hear stories of them being around the area though. One of our local momma’s did come around early and as you can tell by her big tummy, she was carrying twins.Then she disappeared for almost a month. She did bring her babies back in the middle of July and they were growing pretty fast.

6 moose calf culvert
One of the new moose calves

 

7 Mom & spike4 2

It was late summer while Jan’s sisters, cousin Marg, nephew Scott and daughter, Debbie were here that we had our next visitation from the moose. This time, one of our previous year’s calves who has now become a momma moose (wow has she grown!) and her baby who we have named #4 (for the previous Spikes). You saw them at the beginning, but you really need to take the time to watch this video. It is really cute and shows how playful the moose calves are. Thanks for the videos, Debbie. And thanks Christine and Mark for modifying them so they can be used in the blog.

 

And while they were here, Scott and Debbie took the pontoon boat out on Johnson Lake just to look around and have a boat trip. As usual, when you are out on the lake in a boat, the loons come around to pester you. If you catch a fish, they might just swipe it from you. The next video is the pesky loon. The first part is of the loon call which we hear almost every early morning (when we manage to get up) and every evening at dusk. The second part is of the loon calling to his mate and if you listen closely you can hear her answer him.


There are some more animal photos that I will show you later when you read about Skip, Debbie and Scott’s bear watching trip on Talon Air and our trip to Denali National Park.

Company – We had a wonderful time with all of our family and friends this summer. Having our family and friends come stay with us for a while is what makes the Kasilof RV Park so wonderful.

8 Sally & Bob
Sally & Bob

Sally was the first of our family to arrive on the 1st of July although since she has a 5th Wheel in the park, she is a regular. However, since I am slow in writing this, there is some news to share. Summer of 2013 Sally was introduced to Bob Bakkedahl at the Elks and they started enjoying each other’s company. This summer they spent a lot of time together and on the 18th of October they were married in Lawrence. Bob has a house in Soldotna so I guess Sally will no longer be a regular member of the park, but we will get to see her and Bob a lot every summer.

8 Ryan & Cheri
Ryan & Cheri

Ryan came just in time to start catching Reds and Cheri came a couple of weeks later. With the kids and her new job, she couldn’t get so much time off. Ryan is such a big help around the park when he is here and Cheri is such a delight to us all.  Todd got to spend a couple weeks with us and also did a lot of work around the park and caught lots of fish too.

 

8A Chris&Mark boat
Chris & Mark on Johnson Lake

Christine came up during the heart of the fishing season and helped Jan with all the hassle of a full park of campers during the last two weeks of July. Mark joined her with us for the last week, got to do some fishing and upgraded our WiFi system. They even got to goof around on the pontoon boat in the lake.

 

9 jon&bill
Jon & Bill

9B Bill H Red

 

I have an old friend (I have known him for 45 years from working with him at NASA) that has been wanting to bring his sons up to go fishing for several years. He and his wife, Penny had visited us in the fall of ’07.  You may have remember the photos and the blog that year. Well he finally was able to make the trip with the boys this year. They flew into Anchorage and rented a camper, then drove down to the park and stayed a week with us.  They were avid fishermen and did each manage to catch Reds plus they got to go Halibut fishing too. 

10 Cazierdinner

 

11 dinner on deck



Todd helped Charley, Bill and Aaron cook dinner on the fire grill for all of us that night.  We certainly enjoyed all of that good food on the deck that evening.



9A arond campfire
Then after dinner, we all got to sit around the campfire and relax.  Of course, the desert had to be So-Mores!

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s group SD



Our final family visitors were Jan’s sisters, cousin, nephew and daughter. They arrived on the 6th of August and I took Debbie, Scott and Marj fishing the next day. Their photos are in the fishing section. Jan took all of them to Homer to visit the sights and Sally went with them. Jan is on the left next to Debbie, then Donna, Sally, Skip across the table, Marj and Scott on the end.

22 Jan sisters
Donna, Jan & Skip (Shirley)
23 Jan & Deb
Debbie & Jan



24 pie crust lessons25 The Jammers


Sister Sally makes the best pie crusts from a recipe she got from her mother-in-law so she had to give a lesson to all the girls. Debbie found a whole bag of berries, cranberries, raspberries and crow berries (AK blueberries) that we had picked last year around the park, so Marj, Debbie and Jan had to make berry jam. It is tasty too!

 

27 canning
Then of course at the end of fishing season, we have to can the salmon strips with bones from the year’s catch. A salmon has a strip of bones on each side of the backbone just above the gut area. We always cut out this strip and cut them into small chunks, then freeze them. At the end of the summer, we can all of those chunks for our winter supply of salmon. This year we canned 192 1 pound cans and 48 pint jars of salmon. The above photo is just part of the bounty! Thanks for the help girls.

 

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27 Talon trip

 

Just before Debbie and Scott left to go back to their homes, the two of them and Scott’s mom, Skip went on a float plane trip with Talon Air to view the bears and fish for Silver salmon (Cohos). The floatplane took them on a tour of the mountains and glacier across the Cook Inlet, then landed on a large lake below the glacier. There they got into a fishing boat and toured the lake watching the brown and black bears catching and eating the salmon.

28 brown bear on lake Deb

 

 

29 Scott&Deb silvers

 

21 jerky


Then Debbie and Scott got to fish for Silver salmon and caught their limit of three each. It was a wonderful trip and one we will want to repeat in the future.Part of that catch was cut into strips and smoked to make the best salmon jerky you could ever taste.

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Denali Trip – After Debbie and Scott left, we planned a trip up to the Denali National Park. We loaded all five of us into Grace, our big old van and headed north.

31A Grande Denali lodge

31B Grande Denali entrance

 

Just as you cross the Nenana River just past the entrance to the park, the Grande Denali Park sit’s on the top of a mountain. It is just off the side of the highway at the entrance to the small town of Denali. It is truly a beautiful resort and the views from it are spectacular! The next morning, we took the bus ride tour into Denali National Park.

 

32A Grizzlie 2

32B Dahl sheep

 

 

 

 

It was rainy and the skies were cloudy so we were unable to see Denali Mountain (Mt. McKinley), but we saw a lot of bears, caribou and Dahl Sheep.
Unfortunately the caribou were too far away to get good photos of them.

 

The bus tour was almost 8 hours long and we went back into the park 94 miles. We had a wonderful time even with the cloudy and wet weather. On our way back home, we stopped at Talkeetna to look at the town and found a wonderful bakery with great food for lunch. We arrived back at the park that evening, tired, but happy with the great time we had together.

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Fishing season – I will have to say that fishing was mixed this year. If you are interested in fishing for Kings (Chinook) salmon, it was not a good year. The King fishing is in a slump and the reasons are questionable. Many feel that it is due to the commercial fishery taking too many of the Kings before they can reach the rivers to spawn. Others, inlcuding me think that it is just the normal cycle of many species of fish. This past year was definitely a minimum number returning to the rivers to spawn and I think it will continue for a few more years so don’t plan on catching a lot of big Kings in 2015.

It was a banner year for Red fishing in Alaska. The warm waters in the ocean pushed the Reds in a couple of weeks early and there were a lot of them. The Copper River had a huge run two weeks early and the fish were thick in the river. The Kasilof River started the first week in June with large numbers going up river. There were so many fish in the Cook Inlet that Alaska Fish and Game (F&G) released all of the commercial fishermen, set-netters, drift-netters and purse netters to catch as many fish as they could. Unfortunately, they did catch almost all of them. That left the personal use dip netters and sport fishermen with very few Reds in the river to catch for their winter supply. It also kept the Fish and Game from meeting their goal of 750,000 to replenish the salmon stock for the future. The final score was commercial fishermen 40.7 million Reds and F&G with 550,000 up the river to spawn plus a bunch of pinks. All in all, the resident and sport fishermen were really upset with F&G!

Halibut was another problem and will be in the future. F&G changed the regulations for Charter boats with rod & reel fishermen to one outing a day. That really hurt the Charter boat people causing them to raise their day trip prices to $300-350 plus each fisherman can only keep one fish any size and the other has to be under 29 inches long (under 10 pounds). That makes Halibut very expense!

                                                                                

13 Early morning red fishing

R&D fishing



It was the first year Jan and I have had any success fishing for Reds in the Kasilof River. Jan took this picture of me and Richard, Doris (the 2 on the left) and others on a foggy morning just as the sun came up over the tops of the trees across the river. We would get up early and take Richard and Doris Pierce with us and find the good spots on the river before everyone got there. Jan and I caught 50 Reds in the Kasilof between June 16th and July 4th. They are smaller fish weighing 4 to 8 pounds whereas the second run Kenai Reds weigh 8 to 12 pounds.

The second run of the Kenai started on the 7th of July (also a couple of weeks early) with about 25,000 fish entering the river. Ryan arrived on the 9th and the next morning we decided to see if the fish were in the river yet. We caught our limit that day. From then on it was slow, but there were still enough fish in the river to catch your limit of 3 per day if you worked at it and we did. The run also lasted a long time and we caught fish up until the 29th of July. Plus we had a great time when Jan’s sisters, cousin, nephew and daughter came in early August.



Altogether, all of us caught 268 Reds, 9 Silvers and 58 Pinks. A banner year! So here are all the pictures.

 

Jan with her Reds
Jan with her Reds
Ryan & Jon with Reds
Ryan & Jon with Reds
Cheri with a Red
Cheri with a Red
Mark's Red & Jon
Mark’s Red & Jon
Todd fighting a Red
Todd fighting a Red
He got it!
He got it!
Scott with a Pink
Scott with a Pink
Debbie with a Pink
Debbie with a Pink
Marj with a Pink
Marj with a Pink



We were persistent and everyone had a lot of fun!

 

Then everybody left except Sally and an occasional camper guest. We closed down the park a couple of days early (no Labor Day reservations) and rented a log splitter to make firewood out of all those trees that were blown down last winter. It was hard work, but in 2 ½ days, Jan and I have enough firewood to last for several years. Sally and Bob closed down her winterized it and then she left on the 3rd of September. Jan and I winterized the park after that and finished off the season on the 9th.

It was another wonderful summer in Alaska with lots and lots of good memories. Hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed living it. We would love to have you all come and enjoy it with us.

UNTIL NEXT YEAR!

( I am working on the France Blog – coming soon!)

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2014 WILDFIRE

Hello from smoky Alaska!

We arrived in Anchorage early Wednesday morning (1 am) and went to the motel for a very short night.  Early Wednesday (combining our trip to Europe with the following trip to Alaska, our body clocks are really messed up) we got a taxi to go pick up the van for the trip back to Kasilof.  On the way there was a heavy layer of white clouds, fog or smog laying on the mountains over Anchorage.  Jan said “is that smog?”  I said “it must be fog!”  Nope the taxi driver said,  “it’s smoke from the forest fire on the Kenai.”

WELCOME BACK TO ALASKA!!!!!!

At breakfast we got the newspaper and found that a fire had been started along Funny River Road east of Soldotna on Monday afternoon In an unpopulated wildlife area called the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.  We went to Costco for our yearly purchase of supplies for the park and then headed down the Turnagain Arm through thick smoky clouds until we got into the Kenai Mountains.

 

Smoke above Soldotna

 

As we arrived in Soldotna we could see the smoke clouds above the town and they were growing darker and darker as the fire built up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map of the fire on Friday

 

 

 

The fire had grown by Wednesday afternoon to 22000 acres and stretched from the Funny River Road south of Sterling to Tustumena Lake (see map).  It was getting close to us just about 10 miles east and slightly north (the park is located just about where the r is in the Sterling Highway on the map.

Smoke cloud from our deck

 

Smoke cloud from our park.

 

 

 

 

 

Line of fire east of Sterling Highway

By Friday evening the fire had grown to the east and the west and was now about 4  miles to the east of the Sterling Highway just opposite of the town of Kasilof on the map.  It was still on the north side of the Kasilof River and wasn’t a real danger to us yet, but could be if the wind changed to the northeast.

This was the photo Jan took as we were heading to the Elks for dinner Friday evening.  This is about 4 miles north of Kasilof looking to the east of the Sterling Highway.  This bank of smoke extended south as far as we could see and as far north as 10 miles. 

Things were not looking good for us if the wind came out of the north on Saturday and the fire jumped the Kasilof River.  We had decided to gather our essential things and if we got word to evacuate, we would just get out of the area.

 

Smoke from fire burst hot spot

Saturday morning dawned sunny, cool and DRY again.  However, the wind was very calm and the smoke from the fire had calmed down during the night.  The morning paper indicated that the fire had now consumed more than 70000 acres and had inched slowly further toward Kasilof, but hadn’t got any closer to the Kasilof River.  Good news to us, so we went back to Soldotna shopping.

from the area around Funny River

As we started home, the wind picked up again, but this time it was out of the southwest very strong.  Bad news for the homes in Funny River, but great news for us as it drove the main part of the fire away from the Kasilof River and us!  The photos on the right are the clouds caused by the increased buildup of the fire driven by the strong winds out of the southwest.  They look like the huge thunderheads of a Kansa summer rain storm.

We are setting here in the park hoping that the fire continues to move away from us.  We are ready to leave if things change for the worse.  The Flagstaff trailer can be quickly connected to the black Chevy pickup. We can load the essentials quickly and get on the road away from the fire.  We would probably head to the Soldotna Elks and stay in their parking lot if necessary.

 

The winter this year wasn’t very good to the park.  We were lucky and managed to get the van started in Anchorage without any trouble and then got to the park with the threat of the fire.  Things went downhill after that.  There were 5 trees knocked down by the high winds last fall, four along the back of the lot and one dropped on the edge of the well house knocking a hole in the roof.  Another next to Ryan and Cheri’s trailer took a nose dive off the front of it.  Fortunately, it missed it by about 2 feet and the only damage was 2 scratches and the lost of both yellow running light covers on the top front.

When we arrived at the park, the batteries for the drill to removed the screws from the front gate were all dead (including the one I took from home??) and the key wouldn’t unlock the paddle lock on the gate.  Some friendly persuasion from the van’s front bumper manage to convince the gate to let us in!

 

Thursday –

The KIA’s battery was dead so we had to jump it and then after getting it out of the front of the Conex, it died and wouldn’t start again. A long clean up job and charging finally got it started. The battery in the 4 wheeler was also dead and it is still in the Conex (part of the reason for the trip to Soldotna today, new battery).  Finally we got to the water system and blew the antifreeze out of the front row water lines for the RV pads.  That went ok, but when we started to clear the water system to Park Model and the front area leading to the front row water lines, the pipe was broken at the cleaning table.  After digging out the pipe and replacing it, the Pierce’s arrived with their camper for the summer so we spent the evening getting them set up.

Next morning we turned the water on to find another gusher coming out of the ground beside the dump station.  Richard helped me dig down and replace the pipes to get the system running again.  Finally on Friday afternoon we had water all along the front including the Lodge without any more leaks!

 

SO NOW IF THE FOREST FIRE WILL STAY AWAY FROM US, MAYBE WE CAN GET THIS SUMMER STARTED!

We have lots (4550) photos from our trip to Europe and when I have time to reduce them to something reasonable I will add another blog of our trip.  Hopefully, I can get it down to the best 15 or 20.  We had a great time there, but 27 days on the road is way too much for us old blue hairs.  Maybe now that we are in Alaska, we can relax!  HA

 

 

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