04 May 2009

this is how it began...

so….as I alluded to in my last post, we are in the middle of “break-up”.

this is the portion of my year I like to call “The Big Melt”….and for me, the first true sign is when the trees reclaim the patches of ground they have been sheltering from wind, ice, and human travel all winter.

but “break-up” is the term ingrained into the minds of the AK populace (in reference to the frozen rivers “breaking up” the millions of tons of ice that had them locked down for too many months, and ushering in summer)…….and as hep as I am, I don’t think I’ll be able to get “The Big Melt” into the vernacular……c’est la vie.

for the inhabitants here on Trail Lake, there are two defining points to the official beginning of “break-up”….. when we declare the lake no longer useable as real-estate, and thus, landing a plane on it is not a possibility….combined with the fact that we can no longer travel farther than a mile or so from the lodge on snowmobile (and even that mobility will disappear in a few weeks…the snow on the ground will be gone, and the only mode of transportation will be my dancin’ shoes…..in the ’09, that particular point was today.)

at the core, this means:  I can get to no where & no one…..and perhaps more importantly, no one can get to me.

when break-up begins, I know that for the next month or so, there is no way I’ll see anyone else except my fellow lake inhabitants…..and that, for all practical considerations, any situation outside of a 1 mile radius of where I am standing on the planet at the moment is a moot point. 

it takes about a week or so for this to truly both physically & mentally sink in (mind and body must be one, grasshopper)…..but when it does, the freedom this allows is…. fantastic….and impossible for me to properly describe…

but pig fever has no part in the equation, I can say that.

sunrises get earlier and sunsets later….until in a few weeks, they both will be rendered moot points as well.

labor, both mental and physical, is confined to that one mile radius….and thus can be directed only on the problems, projects, and opportunities at hand.

and all problems can only be solved with the resources at hand….so a bit of extra care is taken around chain-saws and their ilk.

360 degrees of snow melts away….at one point, the world becomes the consistency of water-ice (imagine walking through a 100 million gallon tub of Rita’s Lemon Ice, except this really doesn’t taste delicious..…ahh, Rita’s…I do miss you so…)….and then, spots of sweet terra firma appear. 

new species of bird are returning to the lake by the day…cranes, redpoles, woodpeckers, swans, gulls, geese, swallows…loons soon enough….a 7 am that was dark, cold, and silent as the grave two weeks ago is now sunlit and awash with an absolute explosion of sound.  some might liken the sounds to a cacophony, others a symphony…..but it is an explosion, without debate. 

for this guy…it is truly a joyous noise made unto DK.

bears are coming out of their dens hungry and beginning to roam, we anticipate seeing one wander through here any day now….and later, when the world is even warmer and more mellow, my personal favorite denizen of the AK, the porcupine, will stroll through….at the most relaxed pace a living being can have.


in The Big Melt version 2.009, the inhabitants of Trail Lake consist of the woodland creatures, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 21 chickens and a total of two human beings….myself and my brother-in law, Mike.

my sister flew out on the 17th of April, as she had to be in civilization for the next month…we needed to find a summer apartment in town, her daughter would be graduating from UAA, our sister would be graduating from UAF, and our mother would be arriving in the AK to witness said events and hang out for a month…so she had things to do.

interruption for a solar update – Helios just set as I was typing this, 10:01 pm

we had already lost snowmobile travel at that point, and that was the last time a plane actually landed….the lake was getting sketchy, but still useable for a bush pilot with experience.  and cajones.  

so a friend of ours who had both (and a plane, obviously) popped in and whisked her away.

we didn’t officially declare the lake finito & pop the break-up champagne until the 20th of April, when it was clear that no one would think of landing on that mass of slush…...so 4/20 was a good day…..go figure.

but in reality, since the 17th, Mike and I have been the sole scientific observers for this part of the globe. 

that will remain so until somewhere in the middle of May, when the lake is ice-free and suitable for float-planes.


two men, all alone in the wilderness….what shenanigans might occur?


I’ll answer some of that question in the next missive…. disturbingly similar to the love that two men in an 8X9 cell together can share, the first couple of weeks could be described with two words ….Wood & Pain……but no worries, kids…..this is the emerald forest, this ain’t OZ….


  1. I still don't get the whole Rita's Water Ice or soft pretzel fascination. Perhaps I was spoiled by their constant presence.

    On another note, have you heard the Peter Gabrial cover of the Vampire Weekend song "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"? Love it!


  2. when Moses & the Tribes were wandering the desert, Jehovah sent Rita's Lemon Ice down from the heavens to sustain them.....it's in the bible, you can look it up....

    that track is a smile, I had not heard it....sounds like HotChip was trying to make an old-skool Peter Gabriel sound and decided to go to the source...sublime.