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