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  1. #1
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    Default Never Return Empty;

    I've been away for 40 days so far this year, away to the second home aka the cabin at the lake. On every return trip I have something to bring back with me. Sometimes the return load is just Boss riding in his climate controlled carrier (not really) and the trash accumulated over the stay. Other times the back haul consists of things needed on the home end of the pull. here are two that seemed picture worthy.

    Log splitter and a small freight sled for moving cut logs at home...........


    This piggyback was the result of bad weather. The machine on the sled was left behind because the snow was so deep and so wet following 36 hours of rain that it compacted in the tracks and tunnels of the machines that the tracks would not turn.


    That's the first time I have encountered conditions like that. The Skandic has a 24" X 156 track and it could not get on top the snow. The snow was like a concrete slurry and the machines just sank in and the tunnels filled until the drive belts burned up. We called for a ski plane to get Nancy home and Boss and I stayed another 4 days until it got cold again. The machine on the flatbed is a Tundra 550F long track. When that won't get on top the snow you need to stay indoors.

    The plane was able to land because there is a packed runway on the south end of the lake where bush planes come and go. The hard pack is the very last thing to get soft but I had to run down there and physically check the surface before the pilot would land..............

    Prior to that day we had just had an additional 28" of snow, it was cold but when the second snow storm tapered off it turned to rain and shot from 8* up to 46* and rained hard. This is never good when you need to cross a lake. The rain and melt percolate down through the snow and lay atop the ice. The lake looks like snow but when you try to drive on it the machine may break through and leave you in a mix of slushy snow and sometimes as much as 18" of overflow water beneath the snow. Not a good thing at all.

    I've taken to moving fuel out there in half a dozen 30 gallon drums instead of 55 gallon steel. You can get 33 gallons each in the little guys and they weigh around 200 to 225 pounds. A 55 with 57 gallons or so in it weigh around 320 apiece. This is a very big difference if that freight sled gets stuck or breaks down. I've already gotten stuck in very deep snow with 4 fifty five gallon drums onboard. When that happened I had to roll them off the sled, not hard at all to do, but getting them back on.............. That's another thing entirely especially if you're trying the op in 3 foot of snow with cold slippery hands. I am now officially a 30 gallon kinda guy.

    Next trip looks like Friday

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Ard,
    Clearly, every activity, up there must thought out and planned ahead of time. It was probably trial by fire (or ice, as the case may be) for you when you first moved up there. I'm sure Murphy's Law is always lurking. Alaska looks to be a beautiful place, but obviously, doesn't suffer fools.

    Best,
    steve
    "As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler" ...Izaak Walton

    "Nothing is as bad as something that is not so bad"...Sr. Percival Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Ard

    Thanks for posting photos of your adventure with that heavy snow/rain. This is the first photo, at least that I recall, of your big cargo hauling sled you built, pretty sweet. Life in the winter in Alaska sure isn't easy!
    Larry


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  6. #4
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    Eastern Iowa, Southern Driftless
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Quote Originally Posted by spm View Post
    Ard,
    Clearly, every activity, up there must thought out and planned ahead of time. It was probably trial by fire (or ice, as the case may be) for you when you first moved up there. I'm sure Murphy's Law is always lurking. Alaska looks to be a beautiful place, but obviously, doesn't suffer fools.

    Best,
    steve
    My opinion is it would be a good place for a fool to avoid without adult supervision. You wouldn't have to wait until winter to die, or at the least spend some time in a bad situation hoping to be rescued. When I went there in 2015 my daughter buys a book at the grocery store to read out in the bush. "1000 Ways to Die in Alaska". Ard just shook his head.
    Last edited by ia_trouter; 03-15-2017 at 11:25 AM.

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  8. #5
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Quote Originally Posted by ia_trouter View Post
    My opinion is it would be a good place for a fool to avoid without adult supervision.
    And I am frequently in need of adult supervision.

    steve
    "As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler" ...Izaak Walton

    "Nothing is as bad as something that is not so bad"...Sr. Percival Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel

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  10. #6
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Often times I realize that I should be taking more pictures however when I've found myself in trouble the thought of photographing things for the record seems to slip my mind. On Monday I did have the presence of mind to take three pictures of a fellow who caught up to me on the river as I slowly made my way home.

    I'll try to set this up for you. The rivers here turn into the ice roads when we have normal winter conditions. They are the way that a large part of the building supplies, food and fuel get transported. People who live remotely or those who operate lodges and even the recreational home / cabin types like me sock in all the non perishable stuff during winter. This is in a large part due to the fact that it is easier than using personal boats or hiring barge services in summer. With your snowmachine you can haul loads right to the door or to the fuel sheds etc. When you use your boat or a barge the load stops at the shoreline and depending on how the property is situated it can be quite difficult to move the heavy stuff from waters edge to the final destination.

    So, in winter time there is a lot of activity on the trails but week days are sometimes slow. Compared to boat people the Sledhead's seem to be more innovative. Perhaps this is due to the fact that under normal circumstances your snowmachine isn't in danger of sinking and although you can get pretty cold if stranded the fear of drowning isn't present. So the slledheads are the kings of rigging strange things up. A few years back I think it was the Guinness people who announced that Wasilla Alaska was the point on the Globe where more Duct Tape was sold than anywhere else, something to that effect. I would add that Alaskans also consume one heck of a bunch of Wire Ties commonly known as the Zip Tie. Between wire ties and duct tape a good sledhead can fix about anything except a blown engine and in that case they can probably build a tow strap from these same two components.

    Alright, here I am about 35 miles into the back haul plugging along about 25 mph wondering what time I'll really get home and a young fella pulls up on my right and is pointing down toward his front end. I immediately figured he was signaling to me that he was seeing something funky either with my load or my snowmachine and I stopped.



    He tilts his helmet up and says "What do you think?" This as he points again to his left ski - suspension and trailing arm. I look and say, "don't know". He tells me that he was just turning in some deep crusty snow and the tie rod and shock broke from the fittings. He says the tubing appeared to be rusted and just snapped. He adds that he was at a cabin somewhere around Skwentna and was able to scrounge some items to make a fix with.

    What we have here appears to be a small piece of brich, dead birch from a firewood pile having the center pulp removed either by age or by tool........ And a piece of angle stock steel, both lovingly and skillfully applied with, yep, Zip Ties.



    As the younger fellas like to say, 'sweet'.



    So I'm looken at this and thinking this guy is no rookie. Nope, this guy has some shelves somewhere that hold everything imaginable at this cabin. See, when you have a truly remote place you just don't throw things away. Oh you toss the empty cans into the outgoing trash bin but anything else, anything that may be scavenged for useful materials in the future gets stored. All actual trash needs to be hauled out for disposal unless you want to deal with bears. No on site dump equals no bears, it's that simple but that old generator, the 1980 Homelite, you hang onto that because you may be able to use parts someday.

    I told the guy on the broken sled to go on ahead and stay on the main trail. If his patch held all the way home all would be well but if he broke down I'd catch up and we would take my Tundra off the freight sled and put his on. If that happened he could ride in on the Tundra and I'd bring his sled back for him. We didn't cross paths again so I am left to assume his fix held.

    My worst experience was being stuck on a hidden sandbar 80 miles out the rivers. I got the boat off but only after a couple of the hardest hours of digging and lifting I've ever endured. I've rescued people with broken boats several times and even towed some to safety. Below is a couple pictures my wife took of me towing a huge Guide raft with a broken motor up the Copper River just a year ago.





    There were two guides and five passengers in the raft, we saw them frantically paddle to shore about half a mile downriver and I went to investigate. Small world for sure; although I didn't recognize anyone right off the bat a big guy with a thick black beard says........... "I know you, you're Ard, we met at the Kenai River Guides class a few years ago". Yep, he was right, I took the class so I could work down there if I wanted to and three years later here tow of us were. I hauled the raft up to where they could get some four wheelers' down river to ferry the clients back to their camp and went back for the other clients and delivered them to the new base of operations also. Just for good measure I ran one guide back upriver so he could start the parts search. Stuff happens and sometimes there's someone right there when it does. One time I found 3 guys with a broken boat motor way out the Yentna, two were from Germany and one from Switzerland. The water was rising fast due to warm weather and some rain added the day before. Their island was getting smaller quickly and they were doing the wave like guys in trouble. The Swiss spoke some English or I believe I would have had to take them to the cabin because I had no clue of what the German fellows were saying outer than "get us outta here" which is something that seems almost a universal understanding

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

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  12. #7
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Great stories, Ard. Sounds like even though living in remote locales requires one to be self-sufficient, the locals up there tend to look out for each other. Probably out of necessity. You never know when you might be the one needing help.

    steve
    "As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler" ...Izaak Walton

    "Nothing is as bad as something that is not so bad"...Sr. Percival Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel

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  14. #8
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    We call that BDAR in the military maintenance world Ard. Battle Damage Assessment and Repair. "Cootie Bobbin" in the south. I tried hard to make training for my mechanics relevant under fire, but entertaining and challenging. I would assemble a box of items we would usually have on hand. Epoxy, rubber, screws, bolts, zip ties, tape, chain rope, wire, Copenhagen snuff can lids, whatever.....

    Then we would intentionally bust a truck or weapon and give them ten minutes to return it's mobility. or drag it somewhere safer and continue on with the field expedient repair. We'd stab a tire, a radiator, remove the throttle cable, cut a wiring harness or whatever. Amazing how creative a ,man can be under pressure, whether under true threat of enemy fire, or in this case of training just a pizza for the winners.

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  16. #9
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    'BDAR', I like that one and will try to remember to use it in future bantering about these things buddy The kid did good on that one didn't he though?

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

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  18. #10
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    Default Re: Never Return Empty;

    Quote Originally Posted by Ard Stetts View Post
    'BDAR', I like that one and will try to remember to use it in future bantering about these things buddy The kid did good on that one didn't he though?
    He certainly did. Pivoting parts are tough to patch.

    I'm trying to think of the more creative hacks I've seen. Probably a wooden driveshaft tube patch. That's obviously a very short-term deal. Some 5 minute epoxy is a must have. You can perform some real magic tricks with epoxy and a tin can or any other sheet metal you can find. Fix almost any kind of leak. I've even seen a radiator hose repaired with that trick. A small butane torch can be handy too. The list could be endless of course but it's the little things you can store in a small toolbox that can save your tail. Not much you can't temp fix with 150 zip ties, hose clamps, wire etc.

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