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Land and Cabins

First Snow

John : September 29, 2010 9:13 am : land and Cabin

So the cabin platform is completed and so is the porch deck. Since the RV was being repaired I decided to take the dome tent and stay in that, not ever again if I can help it.

The temps dropped to below freezing and the wind was gusting to 40 MPH, it was a cold couple of days but it feels good to get the platform done and ready for the walls.

Next will be stacking materials to frame the wall and roof and then enclose the cabin in so I can work on the inside. Of course this won’t happen until next spring giving me lots of time to buy the materials and haul them in with the snowmachine over the winter months, much easier than hauling with an ATV.

Had our first snow fall and now its suppose to snow some more today, lets hope for a heavy snow year, I’d sure like to get a decent season of riding in this year.

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Chulitna, stage left

John : August 9, 2010 11:53 am : land and Cabin

On the last trip we got the railroad ties in to use as post. These are basically 7 by 8 inch beams of wood soaked in tar and as a rule are pretty good for standing up against rot and bug infestation, I guess time will tell. Anyway, I drove down on the night of the 5th of August and unloaded the load the lumber I had for the beams and cross member supports, a pretty uneventful trip and kind of relaxing for a long day.

Dean showed up Friday morning around 9:00 AM and after a quick cup of coffee or two we loaded up the trailer with about half the lumber I hauled down. This made for a pretty heavy load and we were a bit concerned about being able to get it in with all the rain we’ve been having this summer. Get it in we did and didn’t even get stuck, we saved that (getting stuck) until “after” we unloaded the trailer. Go figure, loaded with 800 pounds or so of excess weight and the ATV hauls the trailer in like its nothing, unload the trailer and we get stuck in a mud hole….

While Dean hauled the limber I got to haul in the portable Auger with a 12 inch bit and it worked out really well. We got to the site, off loaded the lumber and set up the auger for our first post. So far so good, until we got about 3 feet down, “hey Dean, where’s the drill bit extension?” reply, “we ain’t got no drill bit extension” Ooops. I forgot to mention to him that when he picked up auger and drill bit to get the 18 inch extension and of course the folks at the rental place didn’t bring it up, so, no extension. OK, no biggie, drill as deep as we can then use the manual post hole digger. Turns out it wasn’t needed anyway, the deepest we got was to the 3 foot mark and then the underlying soil was as hard as rock, probable because it was rock lost of boulders and compacted gravel. This is good as long as it doesn’t settle on us.

So by 6:00 PM Friday were both pretty tired out, but we did get 7 of the 15 post placed and compacted in. We also decided that were going to pour some concrete footers around the post at ground level to add to the overall strength and support. So back to camp and dinner, when dang nabit, I forgot to take the steaks out of the freezer for dinner, good thing Dean brought down some pre-made spaghetti, Thanks Marquise (Deans wife) for dinner.

Saturday morning I got up at 7:00 AM, what, I never sleep in that last, I guess I was more tired than I thought. Humm, so I made a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes and we loaded up the second half of the lumber and headed in to finish up the post. Another easy trip in and everything was good. Started drilling and had placed 12 of the 15 post when Dean’s sister and company show up to visit. So there’s an hour spent socializing, they were great folks to get to know. John (another John) jumped right in and gave us a hand and we got those last three post placed in record time, well record time for our normal speed. Leave it to say neither Dean nor I are speed demons when it comes to digging holes in rocky soil.

By the end of the day we had all the posts set and some temporary supports up. So we cleaned up the site and headed back to camp to cook the steaks I did remember to take out of the freezer this time :<) I actually got up by 6:00 AM Sunday morning and started cooking breakfast and so we could load up gear and head in early. There wasn’t much left to haul, fact is we didn’t even use the trailer, just loaded up the ATV’s and off we went. My hopes were that we’d get the post and maybe one beam up by the end of the weekend, but by Jove we got all the post and all 3 of the main beams glued, screwed and set. Wow. So what you say, what’s so big about setting three 24 foot 6 by 12 inch beams, well let me tell you. Since we couldn’t haul three 24 foot long prefab beams in we had to build them on site and since we didn’t have a crane to lift them on the post once they were built, we had to build them on the post. Dean’s creative mind did help here as I was looking at these posts and envisioning us getting 90% of the way done and one them suckers falling off the darn post, now that would have been a cluster (you know what) to try and solve. Ain’t no way I’ll even try to lift that beam up. A little scrap wood and a couple of support saddles are built and were off to the races, by 2:30 PM we had all three of the main beams build and placed with temporary braces, a good weekends work. The best part was sitting or standing on the beams and enjoying the view of the mountains and valleys, just makes me want to get the cabin done now so I can sit on the deck with a cup of coffee and watch the trees grown. Next trip is to add the porch beam, set the floor joist and place the floor decking. Photos of the trip in progressive creation. [flagallery gid=58 name="Gallery" skin=StylishGrey]

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The White Mountains

John : July 22, 2010 7:48 am : land and Cabin

So I got pulled for the DNR White Mountains II Staking lottery and just couldn’t pass up staking 20 acres. So Tyler and I head out Thursday night, drove up to 53.4 mile Steese and then rode the ATV’s into Jake’s cabin.

We had a pleasant night and got some sleep, not a lot of sleep as Jake has a VCR and TV in the cabin running off of his generator and Tyler had to watch a movie until 2:00 AM Friday, needless to say he was a bit tired when I woke him at 6:30 AM for breakfast.

I decided to start at the bottom of the area I wanted to stake since it was the hardest section to clear for access along the staking lines and I’m glad I did. We hung out by the location for the first post, hung out I say because we had to wait until 8:00 AM before we could place our first post and flags or take the chance of having our staking permit pulled. But at 8 o-clock on the dot we got to work brushing out the area for that first post.

My plan this trip was to use rebar and 4×4 post which worked out good. I pre-cut and drilled holes in the bottom of the 4×4’s for the rebar, drove it (the rebar) into the 4×4’s about 8 inches and then drove the whole thing into the ground for our corners. We had to place 8 corners, yeah, this was fun, I wanted to stake this one spot I knew of but part of it ran along the property line of folks who had staked land back in the early 80’s. This particular area had a weird U shaped cup on one side of about an acre in size. DNR didn’t want me isolating that acre so I had to include it in my 20, which meant 4 more post to get it included. I did get lucky and find the 4 corners to the previous staking offering and it went much faster than I expected.

As you can see in some of the photos below, a good portion of the area is inside the 2005 forest fire burn, but it did have a good start on some thick grass and lots of moose sign, and then we found this natural spring, humm, lots of tracks in that mud, maybe a new place to hunt in September or after the general moose closes and I have to fill my draw tag :<) [flagallery gid=57 name="Gallery" skin=StylishGrey] Jake showed up around noon on Friday and it’s a good thing he did too. My chainsaw had mechanical issues, alright, so I goofed and screwed up one of the bar bolts and couldn't change my chain and was not looking forward to having to keep sharpening my chainsaw chain all day. Dang rocky dirt gets hard on them chainsaw chains, has a nasty habit of dulling the edge. If you want to get a good feel for what it was like, take your chainsaw, slice out a piece of asphalt from your driveway and then try to cut a couple logs. I got to the point where I was drawing the chainsaw back and forth like hand saw, well it felt like it helped doing that. Worked on the corners and lines until around 4:30 Friday and called it a day, figured we’d just get an early Saturday, Not…. Woke up Saturday morning to a deluge of rain, I mean it was raining so hard I could of taken a shower in it, too bad the hot water wasn’t working . So we hung out and had a leisurely morning, ate breakfast, and watched it rain. Tyler asked me if we “had” to go out there and I said yes, one way or another we’ll be finishing up the field work, just hope the rain lightens up first.

We’ll the rain did lighten up around 10:00 AM so off we went and finished up placing the corners and brushing the lines. I had to make another trip to get my GPS coordinates down, figure the azimuth from corner to corner and touch up my notes. By dinner time I was all done and tired. It was pretty good two days actually, now to finish up the paper work and we can go home.

Saturday night I realized I had forgotten to get the actual footage between post, well darn it, so Sunday morning Jake heads home at 8:00 and Tyler and I go back for another trip around the perimeter so I can mark the actual foot from post to post, an easy task actually.

By 11:00 AM were done and heading home. It was nice to get this one done and this is the last land acquisition I plan on doing for a while. Now I have to finish up building a cabin and decide what to build at Mt. Ryan and when we’ll build something here.

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Chulitna, the saga continues

John : June 28, 2010 11:28 am : land and Cabin

So we went down to Hurricane again this weekend for three days of rain, sweat and mud. Plan was to finish up cutting our new trail in to the cabin site, haul the twenty 8 foot 6”x8” railroad ties to be used for the posts and start digging holes for them.

Tyler and I headed in Friday afternoon after lunch and the day was just beautiful, the sun was out and Denali was highlighted by the clouds behind it. So off we go and it’s not bad, trail is still muddy but useable, Tyler and I tried to find two of the long/lat points that indicated where the new trail should be and I think we found them, but I will have to do a recheck next trip down. Then we went back to cutting brush and moving along until about 6:30 and decided it was time for dinner.

Saturday morning Dean shows up and brings the rain with him, an unfortunate end to our sunny weekend. After breakfast we all headed in to cut brush, I was thinking this should be a cakewalk at this point, man was I wrong. The new trail is following the platted route of a road that was never built. It was platted by the state back in 1980, just never constructed and seeing how it’s on higher ground, it should also be drier, or so goes the theory we had.

Ha, the first half is OK and were doing good following the line, then we start to run into wet ground, bummer. So at around noon we decide we needed more info (more long/lat points to go by) but this means back to town and that means we won’t do any more trail work until the next time we come down. I guess I’ll be making some trips to DNR to get the long/lat info we need.

So we finish off the day hauling the rest of the post in and what I was planning to use for footers. On the way back to camp we found some nice fresh Black Bear tracks in the trail, fresh as it rained the night before and these tracks are still well defined, but no bear.

So after hauling the rest of the ties into the site we start digging out the footer holes and get down 2 feet and oh s%#t, water is just a gushing in there, not good. OK, time to rethink (again) and go to plan B. Plan B requires a 2 man auger with 10” drill stem, you ever lift one of those thing, let’s just say their 2 man augers cause one guy can hardly lift it up let alone use it with the auger going. But of course we don’t have an auger with us, so another item on the list for next trip.

So we’ve done all we could with what we had, trail building on hold until we get more data, post placement on hold until we get auger, nothing left to haul in this trip and we still have Sunday to do something, heck, guess we’ll go exploring. So it’s dinner and good night’s sleep, wake up Sunday morning and were socked in, it’s raining to beat all you know what and you can’t see the mountains the clouds are so thick and low. So it’s time to pack up to head home.

It was a disappointment that we had to leave, Tyler was of course bummed because we didn’t get to go back and set up some targets for him to shoot at with his new 22, I promised him we would next trip out. So a nice easy drive home with all the tourist rubber necking along the highway.

We get about a half mile south of the entrance into Denali Nat’l Park and the hwy is blocked by a small car and 30 foot RV in front of me. I look to the right and yeah, OK, a brown spot walking down the road, probable just a moose, wait, that ain’t no moose, to short and moose don’t have that strut, dang it’s a Griz and he’s just wandering along the highway like he owns it. Of course no one is getting out of their vehicle to dispute that attitude with him I can assure you.

We’ll we pull over and this, in Tylers words, “Small Griz”, walks right pass us by 15 feet or so. I have to admit I keep thinking “please don’t smell anything you want to eat”, last thing I needed was to have some young Griz decide he liked the smell of those groceries in the RV and enter the motorhome to help himself to some, of course that would have made one heck of story……, sorry for the mess honey, you see this little O’l Grizzly decided he wanted your potato salad and………

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The trail in

John : June 20, 2010 10:00 am : land and Cabin

Last week commenced the brushing of the cabin location and trail into it. It was a muddy and wet start.

Tyler and I went down Thursday night and got a fresh start Friday morning riding what last year was a nice dry trail. The rain this year has so far been fair and almost non-existent if you consider the fires we’ve been having, but not on our first ride in. Muddy and slick was the theme for the weekend, but we did make some good progress Friday and located the actual markers for the northeast and northwest corners. Finding the northwest corner was a fluke more than anything. The dang willows are 12 to 14 high and thicker than blades of grass on a golf course. I just happened to see this flash of sunlight reflection and low and behold there it is, the same darn marker I’d spent the last 4 hours trying to locate. But we did find it, so all is good.

Dean showed up Saturday morning at 1:00 AM, this is of course getting to be his habit coming to camp at midnight that is. We did the hellos and went back to sleep only to get up 6 hours later to have breakfast and gear up for the day. Gearing up mainly consisted of chain-saws, oil and gas and rain gear. Yup, a wet raining days to cut brush. We did a pretty good lick in on the trail and the building pad as you’ll see in the picture below. I just wished we had a week of dry sunny days to finish it up with.

Next weekend were hauling in the post timbers (railroad ties actually) and might even have some time to work on a couple of the post holes. But if we can get the trail finished up and all the poles hauled in, then life will be easier. Maybe we’ll see some more Moose like that cow and calf, or course I’d prefer to see a nice 60” bull, just so I know their there.


Starting the trail and brushing the cabin area

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Mt. Ryan

John : May 24, 2010 2:22 pm : land and Cabin

Trish and I were going to go RVing, just her, I and the pups, but then she felt sorry for Tyler as it was his birthday Sunday and he really wanted to go ATVing with me. So she stayed home and Tyler and I headed out. Now this wasn’t just a fun and play weekend, this was a working weekend, which might of helped Trish decide to stay home , any way, the weekend was set to brush out the property lines for the 20 acres were splitting with Tiff, Deans Daughter, off the Steese Hwy.

It’s beautiful high mountain country. The property sits at around the 3250 foot elevation mark, with lots of deep valleys and wild rivers, close to the Steese Conservation area. Lots of Caribou in the area late in the fall and some good Moose country. Best of all its excellent gold country if you’re into trying your hand at a little gold panning. Humm, might have to consider buying a small recreational dredge one of these days, maybe I can find enough nuggets to offset our retirement Of course panning for gold also means stepping into icy cold river water up to your waist for hours, but heck, as long as it pans out its worth it, yeah right, and I’ll bet every other gold digging fool thought the same thing. But one never knows, maybe by time I can afford the dredge my old bones won’t notice or won’t care about the cold.

So we arrived Friday evening and set up camp in a nice spot overlooking the valleys and hills. The rainbow in the pictures stayed until after midnight, or so Tyler reported to me in the morning as I was asleep by 9:00. Dean and Tiff showed up at 12:30 and of course that woke me up for a short hi, hello, see ya in few hours and back to sleep.

Woke up Saturday to a beautiful day, the sun was out with a few clouds overhead, but all in all just beautiful. We ate and hit the trail around 10:00 AM heading for the property some 6 miles or so away. Dean’s new pup, Sally, a knuckle headed Golden Retirever was running along his rig when she stopped about ½ mile down the trail, did a little smelling and an immediate about face and took off back to camp. Hum, now just what did she smell, yup, good Ol’Alaskan Grizzy Bear poop. Guess she didn’t care for that smell too much. Dean ended up putting her in the back of his rig and she got to ride. And yeah, there were nice fresh Griz tracks in the trail and seeing how it rained last night, they were pretty fresh, probable a couple hours or less ahead of us. No biggie, just another day on the trails in Alaska.

So we get to the property and take a break then start doing what we came to do, re-brush and re-flag the property lines. One of the requirements of the Land Lottery is that you must brush the property lines once a year during the three year survey and appraisal process the state goes through, so this was our day for 2010. The land we staked sits about ½ above the valley bottom and of course seeing if we could get to the creek was also on the agenda. So after we flagged 3 sides of the acreage, we decided to head down hill. Pretty easy to, for Tiff, Tyler and I anyway, were riding regular sized ATV’s, Dean on the other hand is riding what Tyler called a small Jeep :<) it’s actually a Prowler ATV, nice rig but its 24 inches wider than a regular ATV and so he needs a wider trail. OK, its Alaska, we can build a trail on state land, which were on, by hand. I.E. no tractor, D9’s or anything more mechanical than a chainsaw. So off he goes cutting trail while we continue through the bush to the river bottom. To make a long story short, Austin, Tiff’s 4 year, got tired so he, Tiff and Papa Dean headed back up the hill. Tyler and I continued on down and made it to the valley bottom, a nice ride and an easy going one at that. There was a fair amount of snow pack in the bottom, it’s that big pile of white stuff in the photos. I did a little walking on the snow pack, hoping it wouldn’t give way and drop me into the creek, while Tyler waited by the ATV’s for me. I did find a small Caribou Rack I gave to Tyler for his wall, his first wall mount rack, well half a rack anyway. Then we headed back up to join the others. So our two priority items are done, line re-brushed and flagged and we made it to the bottom of the valley. Nothing else had to get done except Tyler needed some shooting time with his new 22 pump action rifle (papa’s present to him) and the rest of the day became an exploratory trip, so off we went south along the Historical Fairbanks-Circle Trail. It was still just a beautiful day and great weather, until we got about 11 miles back in and then the rains came. Good thing I made Tyler pack along his Grandma’s rain gear, it didn’t last long but we did decide to head back. Of course we also had to check out this other trail that I was sure took us back to the main trail, wrong… A couple miles later and after a bit of discussion, Dean’s theory prevailed, the one saying we were now going down a different valley then we wanted and we turned around. Dang it, he was right, so it was a good call. Of course future trips will have to include further research down this particular trail, hey one never knows just where it’ll take you. We got back to camp by 9:30 PM and I have to say I was tired, but happy. Sunday morning and were all moving a bit slower than yesterday, stayed up late for dinner and Tyler’s birthday cake. Tiff got the cake and I forgot the candles, so she came up with a great idea, she used wooden stick matches for candles, of course we had to sing happy birthday first so Tyler could blow them out before they burned down to the cake

It was noon by time we got going and it was a slow easy ride. The plan was to get to this trail we could see from camp but didn’t know where it branched off the main trail from. After a false start down a dead end we came to another ridge trail, nope this one didn’t get us there either, but who cares. The view about 2 miles in was spectacular, OK, I want to switch locations now, move the cabin spots about 4 miles north…

The pictures just don’t do this location any justice at all, a big deep valley with a creek running down it, high mountain tops across the valley and spruce forest all around us. We found two perfect gravel benches on the ridge line that would be just right for a couple cabins, oh well, maybe a trespass cabin for hunting season.

And so ends a great couple of days of exploring and ATVing and we had to return home so Melissa (Tylers Mom) could do her thing for her son’s birthday. When I got back I had planned to tell her about his new rifle, but Trish beat me to it. She wasn’t thrilled about, but I did tell her 2 years previous, during Tyler’s 10th birthday that I brought him a rifle, she said flat no then, OK, he gets it at 12 I think she forgot, but Tyler’s happy.


MT Ryan property on Tylers 12th birthday weekend

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John : May 20, 2010 2:45 pm : land and Cabin

So how did I get myself in this fine mix of spending money and having to build a cabin. For the past few years my buddy Dean and I have talked about how one of us needed to get a cabin down in the Cantwell area so we’d have a place to stay when we went riding down there. Seeing how Cantwell is one of the best areas in the state to go sledding, it was an undisputed discussion. Of course the land in Cantwell is limited and thus extremely expensive as far as land goes.

So one day my darling bride looks at me and says “sweetie, did you this small ad for 5 acres off the Parks hwy”, nope I hadn’t. So read it I do and call the Realtor, yes it’s still for sale, no road access, the best description she can give me is it’s approximately one and half miles off the hwy at mile marker 169 Parks Hwy., hum, sounds good. OK, so I ask her to contact the state and get me the Longitude and Latitudes for it, she does, so Dean and I take a trip to 169 Mile Parks Hwy, ain’t nothing there but a pull out and lots of snow and I mean lots of snow….

GPS batteries are charged and were headed for the first way point. We didn’t get very far, turns out I had the Long and Lat but in the wrong datum, dang nabbit. But we get to what we think is the approximate area. Stop, look around, scenery is beautiful, snow is way deeper that Cantwell and the mountains are right there in front of us. OK, decision time, buy it or not. Heck, even if were 1/2 mile off of the property the place is so gorgeous we have to get it, so we do. Basically, sight unseen as it were.

So that was back in 2009 and now here it is summer 2010 and its time to build a cabin. Of course we first have to brush out a trail from the hwy to the property line so we can then brush out the building site to get a platform up to build the cabins on. Platform will have to be 6 feet off the ground so we don’t get buried in snow in the winter and considering we can’t get any equipment in, at least not at this time, it’ll all be done by hand. Lot of working coming up.

The first trip is set for June 11th – 13th. I plan to take lots of pictures of before and after. More to come on this after we return.

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