Monday, December 28, 2009

Tools of the trade

Hey there
  I've been in "X-Mas" mode, and spent a few days wandering about, enjoying the country, but not deviating from the trail, and not much crossed that when I was headed down it :D

  Fact is we have a "Trail System" that connects Alaskan villages and camps, pretty much from Barrow to the Keni, so if a fella were so inclined to ride it, with dog team (as its been for thousands of years) or snowgos, like today, he could get pretty far. The Ididarod Dog race trail is popular for snowgo riding from Anchorage to Nome.....and I can be in Nome from my house in 10 hours on a clear day.........:D

 I ride Polaris, a 600cc RMK 144 inch paddle track'd..........a brand I favor because, except for the 550 series of engines, they are relaible and easy to work on. 
 The ride under me is 5 winters old , with less than 1/2 its original parts. 6-10,000 miles a year and a guy go's through alotta parts.  the cowling alone has been changed twice..~~LOL!!~~The best thing is that I "Know" my rig, litterally , inside and out, and can quickly diagnose a problem and fix it or perscribe some walking if its terminal..... Its a boost when its 50 miles to the next village, -40, dark and somethings going wrong with the ride. The top pix one of my machine bringing two others and a sled home. 

We dont use helmets, but with a couple ski masks and a padded Beaver hat, a guy can fend off some serious bumps and still be wearing the same head gear when hes chopping wood, aiming a rifle or walking. A helmet is a burden then.
 we do try to be safe, for sure. It starts with taking good care of your ride and being prepared for problems.
 We ALWAYS tell someone when we travle or hunt.

We all have "travle bags" that are stuffed with what each of us thinks they may need to get them through the night , outside in an arctic winter.
 I take basic survival gear, extra socks, gloves, and skimask , knifes and stone, 4 or 5 kinds of fire starting stuff, candles, a Zippo, with spare fluid, toilet paper,  a canteen with cup, spoon, coffee , candy, canned foods, an extensive first aid kit, spaceblankets, rope, a pocket book to pass the time with,(boredom sux and can mess you up) start a fire or wipe my butt, if need be.......and  a bag to carry it all insde the back pack.
 My Parka gos everywhere, as does my rifle.
In my inside pockets are my wallet, a pocket knife, a flashlight, xtra batteries and my VHF radio.......maby a small thermos.
 In my outside pockets theres toilet paper, lighter, food, ammo and whatnots.

Outside that be it my jacket or Parka, I sinch down my belt. It hlds my knife at the ready and hold my warm stuff down and the wind out. Besides, I can open my zipper and put stuff in therenext to my body for heat, to keep warm while its cold out.

 I also carry tools on the machine, spare lube oil,rope, spare belts, plugz, ect... and alcohol to deice my machine.

We often modify our rides to our needs and tastes.
  The first thing I do is mount ties for a rifle scabbard. I dont use one when Im in a village, but when I camp, thats where I store the rifle, and I carry more gear, as I need.
Some add little roasters to their mufflers to cook and melt drinking water, and some add VHF antennas for communicating and some just make them FAST.
 I add a decent hitch, because Polaris cant make a good one, and Ski Doo are worse. 
We weld and mount angle iron into a solid hitch that we can shackle sled to. 
I use a 144 inch track for the "Pull" and have it geard down for that Pulling.
 I put a taller windsheild and extended that, so -50 and Im not damaging my face permently from a little breeze.
 I put Gauntlet hand covers over my handle bars to keep the wind off as well.
We add extra wheels so our plastic hyfax slides dont get too worn and we suport our track better.
 Theres often alotta welding done for repair and reinforcment on the under carriage, front and back.
With todays blunt nosed look, theres no tub up in front of the suspention, and on the trail and off, theres alot more crushed up front ends and broken A frames now days. Its good to have a wide "Nose" on th efront of your rig for floatation and lift in dep snow and off trail conditions.
 Gaining weight it the price, though, and getting REALLY stuck can happen.....and can result in your long walk or death.
It will scoot open water for about 100 yards if Im alone, a good factor to have :D

   Ive used my snowgo in the summer as well, though its not advisable. 
 Using a fan cooled engine, we waited for a rainy week(To wet and cool our hyfax) and took our cowlings off, added 2 cycle oil directly into the gasoline, and pulled a basket sled because they are flexable and light. 
 Gone hunting that way as well as I once,when I Needed to get to a clinic, I cruized untll a river had to be crossed, but a few hours like that saved days of walking.

In summer we generaly bring our rigs "up to snuff" and ready to ride before it gets cold.
 We have almost no snow untill after Thanksgiving, though it freezes up in the first week of October (Though three weeks late this year)
I was glad I did this year, and our only problem so far has been a bum bering that shed a wheel, and since I run 12 wheels, it was no problem.

 Things break in the deep cold. Snomachines break ALOT.
I think of my ride like a kid that needs attention, care and proper feeding.
Putting  in clean gas can be a challang, and straining a ritual during fueling, as all gasoline this far beyond the road is suspect. Iso Heet and a Mr.Funnel rule! Theres nothing worse than icing up a rig out there, and defrosting it , with out heat or shelter, witha flashlight in your teeth at -30 on the dark trail home, at 4 am........
Shocks for the under carriage are a "Wear item" and are a most important part of the system. If your shocks go, things start breaking, so its best to think of a tracked vehicle as "High Maintainance"
 You must do a walk around inspection before you ride and when you stop.

We hitch sleds to em, of various homemade construction, and theres a few factory modles out there, mostly plastic, but home made "Basket sleds" of tied construction with thin planks for flex and strength, and  for pulling lighter loads and people, and theres "Flat sleds" made of solid bolted planks for hauling heavy loads of Fish, meat, wood and ice.
  Theres some "Best ways" to tie a sled and each learns on his/her own what will keep anything tied down, eventually~~LOL!!~~
 Every time you stop on the trail witha load, you look it over, and adjust where nessarry.

We ride these babys till early June down by the ocean, late May up the rivers as Sea ice stays longer but a 8 month season isnt long when your aving fun.....its the 6$ a gallon gas thats still putting a sober bit of thought into each ride, and how best we gain from that ride.

Horse, truck, boat or a snowgo, a guys gotta have a ride!
Best be hunting all the ride long :D


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Couldn resist

Thankgiving I had a bit of a bump on the trail, and I thought I got away with a knot on my head and a purple eye, witha a bit of a thump in my chest.
Not so.
Well, it turned out the pain in my chest only got worst, and after a couple sleepless nights, I went to the Clinik and confirmed the worst; I had 3 broken ribs. When I pinballed about on the snowgo, I had my knee shoved up near my nose and my hip bone felt like it went under my ribs. I bound them and with a couple loud snaps, the relief of having them back in place was soon gone as dull pain with each breath came on. 
There wasnt much they could do, so They gave me codine and told me to take a couple weeks off. 
This morning I felt good enough to go ride that snowgo and spring my traps, as the wife and I wont be around t o check them or care for the fur.
Came home with two fox and a Beaver I caught in an Otter trap :D

 Then I bumpe'd into 50 or so Caribou and caught two.

Slow work and a short pull of the rope with the snowgo to get them on the sled, and all was quite well.

Least Im getting better!

Friday, November 27, 2009

getting better....

Got another male today, this here guy. Nice salt and pepper back with red sides, kind of dark. 
We do have a very occassional Black or Crossed fox so he may be a relative~~LOL!!~~
I have actually nly caught 2 black fox ever, but this guys got some dark genes.

after dispatching said Fox, I jigged at the hole awhile (the trap is at our old net hole) and pulled up a nice 3 foot long Sheefish ...Oh joy!
 I was so happy, I wound up my fishing string, jumped on my snowgo, and promptly hit something on the trail up to town ,under fresh snow , that ricochet me 2 feet sideways where a waitin Willow branch tore off my hat and nearly my eye. Got a nice purple eyebrow/lid now ~~LOL!!~~ One of theose things that happens so fast (35mph) that you have no warning about untill your vaulting sideways and seeing stars.....though I managed not to crash .........wheeeeew.
  Fur and food, made my day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

started trapping ........

  Hey, its a good start for trapping 

We have been busey with our net, as our top floats have started to freeze to the bottom of the ice, we almost lost it , since we want to get a bit more mobile, and we have a ton of various fish, we pulled it for good.
 We want to set traps, but may not be around to check them  untilll after X-mas, so were likey to set only a few nearby untill we go, and see how it works out. We have enough fox furs, and were not out to get to many this winter, Fox wize. They are an incidental trap catch  often enough as well as plentyfull enough to just shoot.
 Having been a good spot for fish, alotta animals stop by to inspect, so we have left a fish inside and each day that fish is gone. Now that we have no little kids going down with us, to check the net, we set a trap. We placed a double set , one trap in the cubby, one outside.
 Woke up this morning and ask'd the oldest daughter Tinmiaq  to please take a pistol and go check it. She was joined by her oldest brother Doug in mid rout and he followed for kicks.

 Seems someone else had stopped by and gave a hand. They had killed the Fox, from the brusing they stood on its chest.... a NICE Cherry guy and leaving him in the traps, they cover'd him with snow to keep the Ravens from picking him into bits also Keeps em from chewing free when the paw freezes.

Doug showed Tin how to reset the traps by breaking them over the knee, cleared the pans/catch, and brushed them over.
 The fish was still in there. 

I skinned 'em out while he was warm and floppy, about a 5 minute job, with my daughter Mary giving me a hand with her pulling a bit on the rear legs, while I peeled it holelessly from the carcass. Tail pulled like butter.
The little girls took the carcass off to show their friends around town.
 No blood , no holes, and I set it out to freeze and  flap in the breeze from a pole for a day.

Maby towarrow will be better.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey there.........where ever you are....:D FBX?

Well Its been a bit busy about the house, as weve been in repair mode for awhile this week, as well as getting wood to keep it all warm.
Keeping the snowmachine going is important to our heavy load hauling needs, as well as hunting and travling. My voltage regulator burned up and took my light bulbs with it, so I await some all new parts.
The wife told me this weekend she and I will be in Kotzebue for the three weeks preceeding Christmas. Shell be helping with the Mail as a Postal relief. I know alotta folks there and the country as well, and it shoud be a good time to hunt a bit as well as gather woods while travling back and forth between Kotzebue and Noorvik. Theres alotta Caribou between our Delta and the pennensula that Kotzebue sit on. Having the bro and sis inlaw watch the kids while were gone, to and fro, as well as the oldest son and family, its really nice when kids grow up .
Were gonna make a trail to the mouth of the river, away from the main trail, through some lakes and trees, and set a different set of traps tward home.
Spent 4 hours today opening and widening our net holes. The fish count is down , but they are stilll trickling in.
I even traded 25 or so dogfood grade Whitefish for a new welding mask, as my lens is cracked and thats nooooooo good. Sometimes I get the crazyest stuff.

Caribou are around, saw a few dozen the other day as we checked nets, but I had no time or daylight to persue them, but Im happy with fish for now. Not more than 4 hours of sun up now, but the meteor showers and Northern lights have been lovely....

Well thats the day, nice and easy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A bit more about me and my day, if it computes..

I hope this is a good one, post wize.

Im in the North, and the suns above the horizon from 11am to just about 4Pm. Were loosing 9 minutes a day and will be up  with twilight or awhile. were low in the Arctic, so we dont have months of Darkness, but we do have a breif time now to work outside in the day light.
 Traps hunt all night long , and setting them is almost here. Our freezeup came 3 weeks late, and letting it get "Safe" is in the cards. 
For now, its a net. When thats done, it'll be a rout for fur and getting wood, insted of wood and fish..........
I went fishing again today, pulling up only 20 whitefish and 2 Tiktallik, a Burbot in the North Rivers. Thats down from 40 Whitefish yesterday and 3 Tiktallik, and the previous days 62 Whitefish and 4 Tiktallik, which have been our average catch over the weeks. Must be a couple more runs yet.
 With freezeup so late, we missed catching the Whitefish with all the eggs under the ice and freezing them. They are very good eaten frozen, baked or fryed, and the eggs are extra nutritious. The ones we caught before the freeze have fermented, so theres a special treat anyways, "Stink fish", and alotta people enjoy that for dinner.
 Was up to -26 below  today a nice change from the -35 we were having. 
Been burning alotta wood lately, and with both saws down, weve been at it with the ax's. Problem is its too cold to run the motors, and by the time were in the country the saw is cold......but we get to use them at home, simply by having them inside untill needed. Often we use a sleeping bag and a thermos, but the saw can ruin such quickly on a ride over bumpy snow.
 A sled load of wood can be had by a hard working  axman in about 3hours and heat the house for 4 or so days. We try and get as much as we can now, for the storms will arrive, and the snow will become soft and deep, no place for a heavy load.
We burn stove oil as well for hot water and keeping nice at 4am. Since stove oil is 6.80$ a gallon, and gas only 6.10$ its easyier and more efficent to go get wood. Way cheaper than last year!!
Its better to buy gas and hunt than it is to buy food. We do buy basics, coffee, flour, suger,ect. and spices, but the fish and Meat are more than 1/2 our daily intake.
Well, I chopped out the hole , which was about 9 inches thick over night, and about 14 inches thick over all. 
The splashes from the ax froze immediatly to the snow pants, and I was warm, despite being coverd in ice.
My blue sweater was frosted like snow when all wes said and done, and I contributed some heat and sweat to global warming.
 I pulled my net and the first thing up made me laugh,

  One Tiktallik was not even enmeshed, he was just too greedy ! ~~LOL!!~~ All I had to do was pull the Whitefish protruding from his mouth out of a couple mesh, or it woulda been his. He just couldnt let go, and up he came with the rest.
Nice fish too, about 12 lbs. with a larger one caught as the last fish over, in the net. I figure were getting alotta Tiktallik because they are targeting the caught whitefish, so I think Ill tie a couple three or four to the top mesh's and clear the snow from the ice , so the Tiktallik can see the "Bait" and get caught as well.........wont know till I try.

 Hope this lets ya know me a bit more, I'll about have this master'd when I get a new key board and back to my Gateway~~LOL!!~~

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Just a test post, Ill delete it.

It works with a direct link...wheeeew....
ill post when I have time, its been a ong day and Im falling asleep~~LOL!!~

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today is a good start.

   Took the wife for a round trip ride to Kotzebue, the largest town and the "Hub" of our 11 villages, here in North West Alaska.
 79 miles by the "long way" around the bends of the river with no short cuts , as with only 2 or so inches of snow on the ground, the flat ice is the place to be.
Weather was good, untill we got to Kotzebue, where the 17 mph wind from the West and the -2 were nippy.Rideing home with the wind to our backs was a joy.
  I have a Polaris 600 RMK and the wife and I doubled up. We drive in "Spurts" of slowing down for ice chunks, dead fall trees, stumps, and choppy snow drifts. Then theres the flat smooth stuff thats 5 or so miles at a time. 70 Mph is when my windsheild starts to lay back and I keep it there. 3/4ths throttle is good for gas as well as keeping out of troublw where the water is overflowing the ice in patches. We skipped about 4 of those, and they were small.
 The way back was faster :D Knowing the rout, and its conditions , we were also hitting the snow at a glide, like riding off the back of a wave insted of into it , litterally. 
 We passed 50 or so Caribou as we rode around a bend called Custers Corner, and suprised a couple hundred on our way back up Kobuk River. They were running already as we pulled up, with about half the group running "our way" and we passed them at full tilt in the headlights, laughing as we left them behind, carrying on home.

  Came home intime to check the net.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


 This is my first post for Up North, and I almost didnt make I toasted my keyboard with a cup of coffee last Sunday, But what the heck, better late than never.I tryed to use the school library computer but it wont log to blog.....
 Untill my computer is useable Im on the daughters school issued Mac, so I dont know about pix for a bit, but with time, all will come.

Right now, with the wife, our daughters, a neice and nephew as well as our oldest sons family, were 12 people living in the house and we all do different things to get through life, and alot we work together on. Were running ice nets for awhile, and as soon as its frozen safely (Freezeup is 3 weeks late this year) travling and hunting/trapping willl be the routine as well.
 Were making tools and readying skins for sewing as well as getting some crafts made to sell, as thats what we do for $$.
We will be using snomachines untill May, now. 
Theres fair ammount of game around the area, 400,000 Caribou, Bears, Sheep, Muskox and Fur to hunt.
My Game managemant unit is as big in sq miles as Indiana. It has Mountains to Ocean and rivers between. We live on the Lower Kobuk River, and have a river delta to hunt as welll as good country all around. Alota Fed lands and private, but all huntable.
No Fences.....thats important, and its good we dont have any here.
Our waters here are drinkable, and we do.

Ive been playing with the computer for 3 years now and taking pictures for alot more. Im sure I can get this figured and report here fairly timely. 
Well,thats my intro, I hope to post a good icenet set of pix from this week as soon as possible.