Thursday, August 1, 2013
Most of the crew went out on July 26. The Alaska Airlines jet was on time, but the smaller Pen Air planes were socked in by the fog. But eventually, everyone made it out. Then it was just Jean and me. These last few days were spent mostly in final cleaning, darting between all the little things I'm afraid of forgetting, like emptying the tundra-ator, packing my neglected earrings and mascara, winterizing the tools, tacking closed the outhouse doors so the wind doesn't tear them off, or sending out the last of the Alex's and Debby's ashes that I brought to leave here. There's also sorting through the food to determine what can freeze well enough, what needs to be protected from rodents, and what needs to be protected from condensation. Most stuff freezes well enough (except milk and mayonnaise - both separate and become hard to use). Cans may rust, so they need a sprinkling of rice to absorb the moisture. Dry goods may be spoiled by rodents, so they need hard containers. Other rodent defense requirements include trying to block potential entry points (like the sink drain); emptying standing water (if they get in, I don't want to find their drowned little bodies in the spring); turning over buckets and pans (if they get in, I don't want to find their starved little bodies in the spring); and covering all cooking and eating utensils (if they get in, I don't want to have to wash everything before I use it). Finally, after all the cleaning, organizing, preparing, protecting, and boarding up... it's time to go. When all the frantic busyness subsides, I begin to feel the emptiness from leaving all this behind for 10 months. Usually, that emptiness gives room for lovely things like friends, music, making mosaics, the ability to wash my hands in running water, and women's bathrooms. And if I'm not careful, deadlines, pavement, telemarketing calls and traffic will rush to occupy that emptiness. Every year, I tell myself that I will find a way to bring into my Seattle life more of what I love so much about my Naknek life. Thinking about it as I write this makes me wonder if maybe a different goal would be better: being conscious and deliberate about what - if anything - I permit into that emptiness. Have a good winter - see you next summer.
After the stairs were up, Jean and I went for a walk on the beach - I was hoping to use the low light to find agates. We walked down to Pedersen Point, getting there in time for another beautiful sunset.
While the crew was in town playing pool at the Red Dog, I got to have another sunset. The crew, however, had some trouble. One of our crew members is under age, but I said it would be OK if he went with the others (I hated to cut him away from the others if I didn't absolutely have to), although the Red Dog staff or owner might not let him in and in that case, he'd have to come right back on the four wheeler. In Alaska, a person under 21 is allowed in a bar if he is with a parent or a spouse who is over 21, or if the bar is also a restaurant. I thought there was a good chance that it would be OK since it's actually underage drinking that the law seeks to prevent and there wasn't any risk of that. When he didn't come back right away, I relaxed and figured that since it was the mellow part of the season, and he wasn't trying to get alcohol or any other trouble, the bar staff was letting it slide. So I was shocked and horrified when I got a call from David that an officer had come to the bar and was threatening to take this crew member off to jail. Once he realized that the crew member hadn't been drinking, he just issued him a ticket. He will have to call in to respond to the ticket. This will be a lesson to both of us.
We had planned to set two nets for one tide so Alok and Sabita could get a taste of fishing. But if we were going to do it, we'd have to be out there by noon at the latest and we had more preparation than usual because we had pulled the Bathtub all the way up to the base of the cliff (so we wouldn't have to worry about it swamping while we were gone). Most of the crew slept in after the very long trip back from Katmai so I went to get the truck because we were going to need it to put the Bathtub back into service. I found some leaky waders and wader boots for Jean and Alok and the three of us used the truck to pull the skiff over the rocks and then down on to the sand, and the ranger to pull the skiff out to meet the oncoming tide. It was a little nerve-wracking because I could see that we were low on gas in the ranger (and I was driving it out toward the tide???), in the skiff, and in the power pack. Looking around for our stash of 5 gallon gas cans, I realized with a bad feeling in my stomach that all our gas cans were in the skiff at Lake Camp. Uh oh. I was feeling a little naked and formulating the mental plan for running up to Debby's cabin for a line and a giant pulley so that if the ranger ran out of gas, we could run the line out to the ranger, tie it off and pull it in. The tide is merciless. We got the Bathtub out into the water and I left Jean and Alok with it while I ran the ranger back in to safety and then returned to the Bathtub. We were too late to set the outside site on foot and I thought it would be too difficult to try to do a running set with new crew (although Jean was crew many years ago, it was before we fished from skiffs). So we just decided to set the inside site. We had a few hits right away! We had planned to go in and wait until just before high water, but when we looked back, we saw many seals circling the net and we didn't want to give them our fish. So we fished! The hard way. Since the power pack was out of gas, we started out pulling by hand, and before long, resorted to running through the net with the skiff. We lost two fish that way, but we pulled in 10 - and saved out two of them for dinner. We found an empty gas can and Roger went for gas. David took Jeff and Sarah to Lake Camp to get the boat on the trailer and tow it all back to AGS. Jean, Alok, Sabita and I went back out at about high water. We went through the net pulling out a few half-fish that the seals had taken. And then we picked up the net. Happily, by this time I remembered the two small and nearly empty gas cans I keep for my generator, so we had enough to run the power pack, making it much easier to pull in the net.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
This is being written from the comfort of my desk in Washington, where electricity comes out of the wall, water comes out of the faucet, toilets flush, using a public restroom isn't (usually) traumatic, and photos upload in a flash. Good thing, too, because I think that if I were uploading this small fraction of all the photos we took using my AK connection, I would be there still. Alok and Roger both got photos of many successful fisherbears. The most dramatic place they fish is up on the falls, catching the fish as they try to jump up to spawn. I always think from the fish's perspective, what an overwhelming disappointment that must be - it's not an easy jump to make, but to make it right into the mouth of a waiting bear. Argh! The bears that stake out the shallows also do well. Instead of waiting for the fish to jump out of the water, they put their faces in the water and try to snatch them as they swim by. There is a pecking order of these bears, something worked out by threats, bluffs, and sometimes, fights. Some bears are the undisputed champions and when they arrive, all the other bears scatter widely.