Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hanging Around in Star Valley

The Alaska Odyssey took a lot out of us and so we are still hanging around Star Valley. We haven't been completely still as we have worked on our stone and wire and we did take a short trip to see our son and his wife. I have also explored the golf course and actually played a couple of rounds.
Its about ninety miles to Matt and Patty's house and it does our hearts so good to see them and see that they are happy. We drove there on a smokey day and Patty had made a really tasty pot roast. We also had to laugh as she has a new gun, a pink nonlethal biodegradable pellet gun that she uses to discourage roaming dogs and others varmints,(No wild animals). She shot Matt in the rear end before turning it towards the pests. Renita shot it and of course she wants one for herself.
Its so nice and relaxing to be able to work on stone and wire. I have concentrated on dinosaur remains and tiger eye, basically increasing our fossil jewelry collection. Renita has finished some of her pieces from last spring and as usual her work is truly one of a kind!

I had hoped to have more mammoth ivory done but as usual its all about having the right tools and its obvious I don't have what I really need. No problem as the dinosaur coprolite and bone,(the first image is dinosaur bone and the second coprolite), has waited patiently and so I made several cabochons and wrapped them in sterling silver. Dinosaur coprolite jewelry has been a hot seller for us and one of the reasons it has been so well received is due to the presence of phytoliths in the remains. These are fossil plants that have passed through the dinosaurs digestive processes. I am also working on a rock that contains dinosaur gastroliths. Its a sample from friends we met and traded with in Livingston, Texas.
Renita has made three stunning pieces, a large charoite pendant that of course she ground polished and wrapped, a piece of mokovite,(not really sure but at least we think it is), and a beautiful dark and unusual yellow petrified wood that she wrapped in 14 K gold filled wire.
Finally I have been venturing onto the golf course. Its a short coarse. par sixty six, and I have walked it, which of course is how golf is supposed to be played. It felt good to be able to walk a course carrying my clubs, especially since we are at six thousand feet elevation. My goal next year is to use the course to get in shape and do some hiking in the Tetons and Wind River Mountains.
Hitch itch is rearing its head however and the trip to Florida and then Texas is drawing near. It won't be long before the first snow covers this area and so we plan on heading south next week. from here to Florida is almost as far as from here to Tok, Alaska, twenty four hundred miles and while there won't be any frost heaves the roads have certainly deteriorated but that's politics and there are two things to stay away from in polite company, religion and politics! Clear skies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fishing the Salt River

It was kind of hard to cast my fly rod as I was under a bridge and having to make a sideways cast to avoid damaging my equipment on the overhanging structure. I made several casts and then cast alongside the main support. My fly and strike indicator flowed with the current before stopping and going under below the bridge. Setting the hook I was on to a decent fish!
The day before Renita asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and so after a couple of seconds thought, I decided that I would like to go for a picnic and fish the Salt River. Its the main stream that flows down Star Valley and joins the Snake just below the junction of the Grey.
So we drove up to the first public access and as soon as we stopped I got my first good look at the river. What a beautiful stream! Crystal clear cold water flowed across rock bars and ripples and there were the usual cut banks everywhere. Now if I could only spot or even hook a fish.
I spooked a small cutthroat as I stepped into the water and tried to ease my way across the shallow branch. Stepping onto the stream bed below a small island I cast  several times before I tried to set the hook on a trout. Several more casts and I again missed the fish. Salmon fishing on the Kenai was so much easier.
Wading above the island I made a series of small casts and floats, high sticking really, and I thought of my friend George and how he would be killing the fish here. Disturbing my thoughts my strike indicator disappeared and I set the hook on a small cutty.The fish cleared the water and I smiled as I fought and then lost the fish but it really didn't matter. I had planned on releasing anything I caught anyway.
Wading upstream I realized I could spend hours covering this small segment of stream and again I admired the clean water and deep holes, punctuated by numerous gravel bars. Returning to the truck Renita told me she had seen a beaver swimming and diving under a ledge.
Driving a little further downstream we stopped at the next public access and I was quickly making some casts. The water was fast and deep here and so I couldn't wade and fish like I wanted but I did catch a beautiful mountain whitefish on a small prince nymph. It was a beautiful fish and they are quite tasty but I released it as I have plenty of fish to eat.
Our next stop was again downstream and the area there had a large lot for camping. Walking across the irrigation canal I cast downstream and had a large cutthroat on! It was really a forlorn hope, landing the fish, as I was on a board walkway and the fish was in strong turbulent water so it didn't take long to lose it.
No matter really as I had learned a little about the river and it promises to be a great stream to fish and even float. Arriving back home I tried to answer all the birthday greetings on facebook but I am not a very good facebook user and so I didn't have much success.
Regardless it had been a good day and I had even caught a fish. Later the smoke from fires filled the valley and even blocked out our view of the mountains. A blood red sun set and of course my ace photographer captured the color and the haze. Clear skies

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sunsets, Colors and Just Plain Sitting Still

We have been here since August and have been sitting still. Thoughts of hooking up and moving, hitch itch, are there but we still aren't ready for it. The rest has been good and the colors have been our best reward. We are working on a list of repairs and the first one is our truck.
If you followed along with our Alaska odyssey you know we have had engine heating problems and loss of coolant, Extensive repairs in Soldotna didn't really fix the problem and so we took the truck in to the Chevy dealer in Jackson Hole.
It turned out to be bad news as the head gaskets are leaking coolant, so we rented a car and hopefully the truck should be done in ten days or so. The dealer thinks we didn't cook the heads but they have to pull the engine and so this is definitely a major repair. We just paid the truck off in May so go figure but thank goodness we made it here without blowing the engine. I shudder at the thought of what it would have been if we had broke down on the Cassier Highway.
The colors are another reason to be here in the Fall. The oaks and aspen are turning and so the mountains are red and yellow and the leaves are starting to fall. Added to this the sunsets are spectacular as the smoke from all the fires makes for beautiful refractions as it sets over the Salt Mountains.
We are kind of on a bear watch as bears are reported about two miles away in the Town of Star Valley. Nothing so far and thats good as no one here has bear proof garbage containers.We have also built and finished a picnic table and a saw horse/barbecue stand.
Another nice thing about sitting still is that we have been able to start working on some of the Alaska rock and mammoth ivory, which is a lot more fun than repairs. Raven Art, in Alpine,(hows that for a plug Barbara), displays our work  here and we have spent a couple of days talking with Barbara about a Wyoming jade display in her Art Store.
Her store is filled with local artists work and its a real pleasure to be able to spend some time there as other artists are always there dropping off their new work and so we are getting a chance to meet people working in a wide variey of media. There are quite a few shows in the area and two local artist coops so both are high on next years list.
Fires continue to be the big story here and all are watching a fire which threatens to force an evacuation of part of the town of Jackson Hole. We are quite a ways from there, fifty miles, still all are hoping for some rain and no wind. Even though my ending stays the same I really do want some rain to fall. Clear skies

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Final Thought and Suggestions for A Future Alaska Trip

Looking back, There are things we did and things I wish we had done, but no matter where you travel to you can never see everything. So we do hope to return to Alaska and spend time doing some of the things we couldn't on this trip. We also plan on repeating some of our favorite things.
So this post is really a list of things that I think are basic add ons and deletions, and are based on our activities and interests. Not everyone will agree and so if you have additions please post them as comments. Its a list of items that we will carry with us and things we will leave down south.

Some Things to take:

Buy a good camera with a telephoto lens. Our friends both had a much better camera then we did and their bear photos are so much better, with great resolution.

Really good binoculars, we love the Cannon Image stabilizer models and have birded with them for years.

Bear spray, purchased in Canada, so you can cross the borders with it. This is only if you are planning on hiking away from the road. I know I wish we had bought some, at least to give us a false sense of security:).

A good fly rod, at least eight weight and a matching fly reel. You can get by with a long spinning or casting rod and reel but a fly rod is so superior when it comes to high sticking and that's what it was all about for us, oh and a big net, but you can buy one there.

A bigger freezer! We took and Edgestar 43 quart and the small freezer in out fifth wheel and filled them with ten salmon and two small halibut. Two days limit of reds, on the Kenai, was twenty four fish for Renita and we could have easily caught that many.

A sluice box but we are into gold prospecting and rock hounding and will spend more time pursuing these activities,(we already had and always carry gold pans).

The Kindle, loaded with books

Some things to Leave Behind, or at Least Think About:

My Guns, Unless you are hiking and staying in the back country carrying a shotgun with slugs is a waste of weight and a hassle when crossing borders. The time I was most concerned about bears was when we were panning on Walker Fork Creek and hiking through the willows. I had my hands full of pans and buckets and couldn't have carried a gun if I wanted to.

Our canoe was another item that didn't get used. Now we did find some small and beautiful lakes on the Kenai Peninsula and we might actually use it next time but the rivers were too dangerous with lots of rapids and snags, too much for our level of paddling skills.

Bikes are another item we carried and did not use. Now there are some neat rides but we were so busy we didn't use them.

Our lapidary equipment also was never used, we were simply too busy.

I could go on and on but these are a few of my thoughts for future trips and this is my last post on our Alaska Adventure. Clear skies

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thoughts On Our Alaska Trip, Costs

When we first thought of going to Alaska we had  many preconceived notions, some fears of animals and the trip itself, and so much that we thought we would do. We bought The Milepost and Church's book on the Alaska Highway, talked with friends who had already made the journey, and spent a lot of time on the Internet preparing for the trip. The main concern however was what would it cost.

So here are some numbers and costs of the trip. I would like to add the that many of the costs are about what it would cost us, as fulltime rvers, to travel across the lower forty eight.
For example, lets start with camping fees. We spent nine nights boondocking, other nights in provincial and state parks, but most of the nights in private campgrounds. We wanted to do a lot of boondocking but we had problems with our water system and later wanted to have electricity for the freezers full of salmon.
So our total camping cost was $2682 for an average of  $29 a night. This was the one cost that we could have saved a lot on as our cost for camping the last year, as we traveled in the lower forty eight, was $15.42 per night. Basically the private parks are more expensive and there is no Passport America. There are numerous turnouts and places to boondock but we kind of got in a rut.
Food costs were also a little higher as we spent $2791, or $930 a month. This is about 30 dollars a day and includes paper towels, sundries, soap and other things that we lump into out grocery category. At one place, Healy, Alaska we saw eggs for seven dollars a dozen and potato chip for seven dollars a bag.
We did stockpile a lot before we crossed the border and we did refill our supplies at Anchorage and Fairbanks so the food costs weren't much different then our normal budget down south,(we usually spend $830 a month in this budget category).We only ate out twice and if we had more the food costs would have gone astronomical as fish and chips usually cost over fifty bucks for two people.
Our biggest expense was of course diesel fuel and totaled $3515. The highest price we paid was $7.70 a gallon, at Pink Mountain in Canada, and the lowest was 3.92 a gallon in Fairbanks,(we used our Safeway card and got thirty cents off per gallon).
The total mileage for our trip was 8048 miles with the average cost being 43.6 cents a mile. This compares with 30.4 cents a mile which is what it cost us to travel from Texas to Wyoming, before we headed north. Again with better planning I could have avoided topping my tanks at Pink Mountain but fuel still averaged over $ 5.90 a gallon crossing Canada.
If you do go north be sure to buy the Tour Saver Book as it will save you money. We only used three items in the book but they still saved us about two hundred and seventy dollars. Granted they were things that we normally don't do but how often do you travel to Alaska?
There is one last cost and its one I hadn't prepared for, the cost of repairs. Do plan on things breaking as you drive the frost heaves and pass construction trucks. We had water line and pump problems but luckily didn't break our windshield. We also had a slide that jammed and a water pump on the truck that gave out, but I don't think those should be added to the cost as it could have happened anywhere.
We did talk two two people who had their towed vehicle hitches fail and one lost their jeep without even knowing it as their brake system didn't work. I do think that a lot of this could be avoided as people go way to fast, but that's just me and we were some of the slowest drivers on the Alaskan Highway,(we wanted to see and enjoy the drive, not simply race north, oh and the roads are good till you reach Whitehorse).
Finally, the total cost of the trip was 8991 dollars,(three months), or about $90 bucks a day. This compares with the month of May where we had costs of $2020 or sixty five dollars per day. These totals do not include our prescriptions, or mad money or repairs so what did it really cost us to go to Alaska? As fulltime rvers it cost us about twenty five dollars a day above our normal traveling budget, and that's not bad.
Clear skies

ps I carried two extra tires and never had a single problem but I did put new tires on the fifth wheel before we started. Our suspension held up but we did meet friends who had theirs fail and Good Sams came to their rescue,(ours failed last January in Texas and was rebuilt then). We did shut our phones off, in Canada, and most of Alaska as there are miles and miles of no service. If you depend on a phone buy a satellite phone. Oh and we did stop our satellite tv subscription as you can't connect to the low angle and due to the blocking trees and mountains.
I am also not including fishing liscenses, $145 each, tour cruises, or other entertainment as all were optional.