Finding a grizzly kill and choosing remote cabin site at Old Boot Lake

trees with snow

Stand of trees near Nelchina

Wednesday, September 16, 1981—Darrel and I are going out with the swamp buggy. We got the gear packed, but didn’t get started until late. We got about a half mile off the road and stopped for the night.

Thursday, September 17, 1981—the next morning we were up early and we drove the seismic trails on our way to Ranger lake and we were climbing a small knob with the “mean machine” (also known as the swamp buggy) and as we got up to the top, the brush is all torn up and piled. We realize that this is where a grizzly has made a kill. We aren’t too worried in the machine we’re in. We looked the place over and there was part of a yearling moose that still hadn’t been eaten. Later we saw a pretty darned nice, bull moose swim the lake just south of Ranger Lake. We walked around Ranger Lake and were not overly impressed. We’re looking for land to claim in this “Green Acres” that the state is putting up for people to claim for cabins and land of their own. We did see ducks, two swans and a flock of large geese fly over. This was before I knew that the geese nested and raised young in this part of Alaska. Quite a few geese were nesting in this area.

Friday, September 18, 1981—cloudy early then the sun tried to shine. Got a late start, ran seismic trails looking for a way to Old Boot Lake. Generator quit. Camped for the night at a starting place to walk to Old Boot Lake in the morning. Raining, tent got wet, slept in swamp buggy.

Saturday, September 19, 1981—got up early ate breakfast but got a late start. Saw wolf, caribou and moose tracks and sign. Walked right to Old Boot Lake across country from another seismic trail. It’s a very nice lake. Looked it over and also stopped at other small lakes. Quite windy all day. Got back to camp close to dark. Darrel and I each found 40 acres that we would like to get from the state in this “Green Acres”. They happen to be side by side. He has one along one lake and I have one on Old Boot Lake itself. I chose Old Boot Lake and Darrel chose the lake right next to Old Boot Lake. Later he named it “Satiety”.

Shooting at Tazlina, hunting boo and moose at the trap cabin

map of Tazlina Lake

Location of Tazlina Lodge

Friday, July 24, 1981—got to Tazlina at 5:00 a.m. The place is pretty littered with broken glass and bullet holes in the glass of one cabin. I felt sorry for Darrel. He was managing the lodge and alone there in that respect. This fella who had come to the lodge, got rowdy and (I don’t know the name of the guy) Darrel put him to sleep in one of the cabins and then this guy took to shooting out the windows and carrying on. When the owner comes back, it will be a mess, But Darrel did manage to get this fella under control.

Monday, August 10, 1981—went into Gulkana to the Alaska State Office, Bureau of Land Management and applied for a remote parcel of land. Henry and Tom Murdock are going to Delta for construction work. Thursday,

August 20, 1981—got gear ready for Doug and me to go caribou hunting. His dad wants Doug to go out with me to the trap cabin and hunt. He’d like to see Doug get a caribou. Prior to this, I had taken Doug out with my 20 gage shotgun and introduced him to shooting. He did real well with the shotgun; he could hit whatever he aimed at with it. He didn’t have cartridges for the rifle that he was going to use, so before we went in to hunt, I took him with me to Anchorage and got cartridges. Had a tire fail on the way into town.

Chris Ronning flew me out first and the hunting looked good around my cabin, saw a moose and caribou and a few good bulls. We got to the cabin about 5 p.m. Doug is real interested in the cabin and the area out here. We got a little rain, then it rained hard after dark. We’re grateful for the cabin as opposed to camping in a tent tonight. The cabin is in fine shape, no varmint damage at all.

Friday, August 21, 1981—we got up early, had a good breakfast, hunted to the south, came back for lunch and then we went north and I showed Doug an old bear den. A while later we saw a caribou at 500 yards—only for a second. Too far and no chance for a shot. We saw one nice flock of ducks on a lake. Then we came back to the cabin and Doug fixed some blueberries. Dan and Chris both flew their planes over the cabin this evening and we went out again for an evening hunt. No luck. Did some cabin chores and cleaned up around the place—covered some old sawdust piles. Doug fixed his own chocolate drinks. He does well for a boy his age.

Saturday, August 22, 1981—we got a good night’s sleep, got up early, it’s a beautiful day. Ate a big breakfast and started walking up to Nye Lake. The climb from Hole Lake up to Nye Lake is steep. I showed Doug how to take deep breaths to get more oxygen into his lungs. Thus, more power in his legs.

When we got there, we spotted four caribou and two legal moose bulls, one was 40+ inches at a hundred yards and another boo that I wasn’t quite able to get Doug in position to shoot. There is a gravel esker in that area that wolves use for whelping pups in the spring. I put Doug on top of one end of the esker and I went to the other end. We hope the height will help in spotting game. After some time, a nice bull caribou appears out of the brush walking in our direction. I wanted Doug to have the shot, so I slipped down the other side of the esker and over to Doug. He gets ready for the caribou but it doesn’t show up! Evidently a current of air had taken our scent to the caribou and he just disappeared into the brush. That afternoon, Doug didn’t get a chance for a shot. Then we saw another moose that was too far for shooting and then a light colored moose cow and another moose nearby—they weren’t legal.

Walked back to Hole Lake, just as Chris was looking for us to see how we were doing. He over-flies people to see if they’re okay. He stopped and told us of several moose that he had seen that day. We got back about 4:00 in the afternoon and did some cabin chores. Then a medium-sized bull caribou and two others came up to the cabin and laid down 12 feet away from the back side of the cabin. I just happened to go outside and saw them. I quietly went back in the cabin and we got the guns and got out of the cabin and got Doug in position. They got up and ran so I took a shot at the running bull but missed him. Doug didn’t get a chance to shoot.

Sunday, August 23, 1981—got up, ate breakfast, took off for Nye Lake—first I walked down to Hole Lake and left a note for Chris there. Then went on to Nye Lake to hunt. Saw six cows and a bull caribou soon after we got there. They were passing the spot where I wanted to hunt. We stayed at that spot a long time, then climbed a knoll—20 minutes later, a big, bull boo walked by right where we had been previously. Doug didn’t get a chance to shoot at that one either. We aren’t having very good luck.

Chris was to meet us at 3:15 p.m., but he didn’t stop. Something he must have had to do. We went to another knoll at the other end of the lake and no luck there. Saw another bull go by (one horn) that good crossing. Chris flew by again. Then we started for Hole Lake and he flew over again. Doug was ready to go home by this time. I twisted my knee going down to Hole Lake. We waited there for Chris for quite some time. We saw a loon take off the lake and circle it and a hawk that was hunting and lots of fish rising in that lake. Chris didn’t show up so then on to the cabin. We were really tired tonight. It had been a beautiful day though. Then Chris and Brent Myer flew in just at dusk and dropped a smoke signal canister. They landed and parked the plane down on the lake and came up from Hole Lake to the cabin and had coffee with us.

Monday, August 24, 1981—Chris had Doug and me out to Tazlina by noon and we stopped at the outlet of Old Man Lake to watch the red salmon spawn. Saw lots of ducks and swans from the air too. Chris is a really good pilot. When he came to pick us up this morning, the temperature was warming up fast. He was going to be taking off out of Hole Lake so he thought it would be better to take Doug down to Blue Lake and come back and pick me up to get out—too much weight with both of us. Doug was a little apprehensive about being at Blue Lake all alone. I told him that it wasn’t likely that a bear would be around there and we would be there shortly.

Chris came back and I got in the plane. Chris started down Blue Lake and the temperature had warmed up even more—with warm air, the plane doesn’t get the lift that it needs to take off. We’re getting down there towards the end of the lake and it’s not looking good. Chris aborts the take-off. We turned around and went down to the other end of the lake and he went deeper into the lilies and turns the plane and we start down the lake again and it’s looking like we’re going to make it and the plane DOES lift off the water. Chris then lands at Blue Lake and we pick up Doug (that’s when we stopped at the outlet of the lake to watch the red salmon spawn). There’s lots of ducks and swans on Old Man Lake, really a neat area. There are a number of old cabins around there and we know three owners that have cabins there.

Fishing Expedition to Egegik, Alaska

a map of Alaska's Kvichak Bay

Egegik, Alaska

Tuesday, June 9, 1981—Sylvia has been in Minneapolis. She called to tell me that mother has had a stroke. Later James and I went to borrow a trailer to help Henry but couldn’t get it.

Tuesday, June 30, 1981—went to see Billmans. Denny is in town. Left some lettuce for Dan and Patti and worked on the door of the swamp buggy. Rain in the morning and sunny and wind in the afternoon. Mike asked me if I wanted to go to Egegik with him. His sister Judy had tendonitis and she needed help with her commercial fishing netting and I agreed to go.

Wednesday, July 1, 1981—I got packed after 2 a.m. on July the first. Mike and I drove to Anchorage and stopped at a store where I bought some gear to go commercial fishing at Big Creek, Judy Phillips’ site at Egegik. We arranged for our tickets and caught a WEIN flight to King Salmon. We transferred to a smaller plane for a flight to Big Creek and landed on the beach there. The tide needs to be out so the plane can land on the hard sand. It was fishing time when we arrived that day and we jumped right in, pulled our hip boots on and helped Judy pick fish in her net. We got 360, six pound fish (red salmon—beautiful). Met Scott, who fishes and Claudia who fishes, they both fish nearby. Claudia is also Mike’s landlady back in Copper Center. We set up the tent in a strong wind and were really tired, but slept real well.

Thursday, July 2, 1981—it’s very windy, sand blows into everything. Wind blows on the tent so hard, it just pops and sometimes it lays down right on our face. We have it tied off to a plane that has been wrecked on the beach. That anchors our tent and keeps the wind from blowing it away. We went over twice to “Andys” fish buying. Judy sells to him. We met several people that work on the beach fishing. Judy needed more help and some guys helped carry her nets all around the sand dunes. Saw a dead seal—teeth looked old. Then I went over to another fish camp north—it’s bigger. Five skiffs and some bigger boats fish out of there. On the way back to Judy’s the wind picked up to 40+ miles per hour and we guyed the tent down some more. It sure pops in this wind. Met a guy by the name of Mike and two girls. We slept well after a great supper. I filleted fresh caught, sea run salmon for our supper. Excellent repast!

Friday, July 3, 1981—got up at 6:45 a.m. The wind has dropped some. Judy’s net had gotten partially buried in the mud last night and we only got 87 fish. We were all disappointed. She and a friend of hers canned salmon tonight.

Saturday, July 4, 1981—ate a little rice and went out to pick the net. Got 547 fish—nice, big red salmon. It was a high tide and she’s repairing holes in the net now. We’ll set in deep water for tonight’s tide. Didn’t get enough tide, one net had very few fish. Sunny day, nice in that respect. C-119’s and DC3’s haul most of the fish from this camp.

Sunday, July 5, 1981—up early, just as the tide is going out. Got a bite to eat and coffee, picked the fish out of the net. We got 500. We loaded them on the camp truck and reset the nets and got 247 this evening. Saw a small, dead, spotted seal. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful sunset.

Monday, July 6, 1981—went out with Scott to help him—half his net is tore up. Judy and Mike got 289. It was a little windy, but sunny. We did some beachcombing and then on the evening tide, we got 129 more salmon.

Tuesday, July 7, 1981—it’s blowing and a light rain, 489 fish in the morning. It rained all day and we got only 130 fish that evening.

Wednesday, July 8, 1981—it’s blowing pretty hard, cloudy. We got 240 fish. It’s sunny today. Later in the day we went beachcombing and found a glass ball, wood, and plastic floats. Saw one bear track, one dead seal. Got only 150 fish. The net got rolled by the tide and consequently we didn’t get very many fish.

Thursday, July 9, 1981—a very good day. We got 1107 fish this day. Judy is very happy. It’s rainy and nearby is Ed’s place. Ed is sick and Claudia asked me if I would take his place fishing. So I’m pulling fish over there now. I got a 130 fish outta the net I picked and I get paid for picking salmon here. One of the men who worked on a fishing boat got an infection of some kind in a wound and got very sick. His body actually stiffened out. They phoned out for a plane to come and fly him to medical help. Surprisingly, he was back in a few days and went to work. In between fishing periods and tides, we walked along the beach looking for things that had washed up on the beach. Occasionally a seal would tear a big hole in the net, and Judy would repair it. What with the carrion washing up on the beach, attracting bears, we paid close attention to our surroundings, especially in the darkest part of the night. This is quite an experience for us—me a Minnesota farmer.

Going outside to attend a funeral, Sylvia stays in Mn


Norman and sylvia return to Minnesota to attend a funeral

Tuesday, May 5, 1981—changed oil and filters on the truck. Nadia called to tell me that Roger Shequen had been killed in an auto accident. James will drive us to the airport to go to Minnesota for the funeral.

Wednesday, May 6, 1981—we didn’t have any cash on us so we gave Roy a check and he gave us cash to pay for the airline tickets. James drove us to the airport and Anchorage. We arrived in Minneapolis at 1:00 p.m. and went to Beverly’s first, later to Nadia’s.

Thursday, May 7, 1981—up at 4:30 a.m., went to the funeral for Roger. This was a very stressful time for us. We paid our respects to Roger’s family and parents and then while we were near Motley, we stayed with Taymond and Clara Hanson that night. (We had bought their farm from them some years ago).

Sunday, May 10, 1981—Beverly and Theresa and their families were all at Nadia’s for Mother’s day. Paul’s family went to Leader to be with Ruth’s family.

Monday, May 11, 1981—went back up to the farm, looked up the renters and so forth all day. Took Ernie H. and his wife Diane out for supper. Sold some hay that I had for sale. Returned to Minneapolis at 3:00 a.m. on the 12th.

Tuesday, May 12, 1981—up early and still tired, made some calls and went over to Paul and Ruth’s and back to Nadia’s. Beverly and Vanessa came over for supper.

Wednesday, May 13, 1981—Nadia’s husband, Darrell gave me a book on wilderness living. That was thoughtful of him. Flew home to Alaska. James met me (Sylvia is still in Minneapolis) at the airport and we did some shopping for groceries. Then we went to Nelchina. It’s great to be home again.

Broken leg, -25° and 20 miles from help

man down with broken leg in snow

Norman breaks his leg miles from anywhere

Monday, March 23, 1981—still a little sick, got some things ready to go back to the trapping cabin. I think I sold the Taymond Hanson 160 acres in Minnesota to a neighbor.

Tuesday, March 24, 1981—Mike came over and we left for trap cabin to get traps for the ratting expedition in another area. Ski-Doo is giving me engine trouble. Hauled wood. Put two 55-gallon drums up on the platform Cache. I will store things in them over summer. Put sharp spikes around both cabin windows to discourage bears from trying to get in. Quite tired tonight. It’s really great to be out here at the trap cabin. I think Mike likes it out here too, he is a woodsman at heart.

Wednesday, March 25, 1981—after breakfast, we went to the trap cache and brought the rat traps back here to the cabin. Had lunch and loaded everything we needed to take out to the highway on our sleds. Left the cabin after dinner some time—I was leading on my Ski-Doo pulling a heavy load on the sled behind me.

About four miles out, I was going up a short rise in the trail and gave it more gas. I don’t know how it happened, but I got knocked off my snow machine and landed butt down on a 5-gallon can of gas. My right leg was dragging in the trail in front of the runner of the sled I was pulling when the runner caught on a tree, pinning my leg in between. The Ski-Doo and sled dragged on around the tree and I went airborne and landed in a low place six or eight feet down off the trail.

When Mike arrived, we took my Sorel boot off and all the socks so I can feel my lower leg and find out how badly I was hurt. The right leg lower small bone was broken, knee twisted, and same for the ankle. It was -25° or thereabouts so we wasted no time getting the socks and boot back on. We decided Mike would drive my outfit and I would drive his smaller machine with no load. I got my right foot tucked on the running board and it wasn’t too bad until we got close to Old Man Lake. Mike couldn’t get my Ski-Doo to pull the sled up a short, but steep rise up off a small lake we were crossing. He worked hard and tried everything he knew. The sun slipped down below the trees taking the temperature even lower.

Mike came out to me on the lake to see what I wanted to do. He was concerned about leaving a sled load of gear sitting here. I told him I was cold from just sitting and he should move the sled out of the way so I can drive by and we would go on to Dan and Patti’s, which was about 18 miles from where we were. He did that and we had just gotten out onto Old Man Lake when a local pilot spotted us and taxied over. Mike walked over to him and told him what was up. This pilot offered to fly me to the airport at Gulkana. It was a small two passenger plane and I dreaded trying to get that bum leg stuffed into the close quarters of that plane, and then out again at Gulkana so I refused his kind offer.

When I got to Billman’s place, Patti saw me drive up and came out, took my left arm over her shoulder and helped me into the house. Mike came in on my Ski-Doo a little later and drove me to the little hospital in Glennallen. I have one broken bone, crushed muscle and a wrenched knee and ankle. This of course, wrecked the rat (muskrat) trapping expedition.

Thursday, March 26, 1981—I sure don’t like being in the hospital. Mike and Sylvia came to get me in the evening and when we got home, Charlie came to visit for a while.

Friday, March 27, 1981—Peter and Sam came to visit. It’s sunny today and I’m recuperating, but slow. Sylvia went to a movie with Betty and the kids in Glennallen. There isn’t much for TV here and the movie house in Glennallen is about all we have.

Saturday, March 28, 1981—my knee is red so we went to the doctor and he said it’s okay. He put a walking splint on my leg and I’m walking now—carefully. Went to KROA at Mendeltna for an Italian feed. The lady that owns it is Italian and a good cook. We had a good time there that evening.

Sunday, March 29, 1981—I hobbled up to the lodge once and back home I slept a little and read one book—I read lots of books. It’s a favorite pastime for me.

Monday, March 30, 1981—I laid around most of the day, babying my leg.

Tuesday, March 31, 1981—went to the doctor to take the splint off.

Quiet time at the trap cabin

Man in red parka and icy beard with a dog

Norman with his dog Mike

Tuesday, March 3, 1981—ran the dogs again today, five of them and they did quite well. Went to see Hoffmans—met Max Junior then came home and ate. Fed the dogs and went to Gunsight Lodge.

 Wednesday, March 4, 1981—ran the dogs with Mac in the lead, Chrissy second, then Judy, Micky, Niki and Oscar. They all did quite well.

Saturday, March 7, 1981—I started making hatchet sheaths. Mike called, then Dan called and offered to fly me to Blue Lake so I can stay at my trap cabin a few days. His new plane is very nice.

Sunday, March 8, 1981—left Dan’s about noon. Sam flew with us. We looked over the country. It was really nice, we could see so much of the land—then we landed at Blue Lake and broke trail to the cabin. On the way there, we had no trail. I had to go by where I thought the cabin was. It’s a little over a mile through the brush and trees and I led them to within a few yards of the cabin. The guys were quite surprised how I did that and I just passed it off as an everyday thing. Dan and Sam were on skis and I was on snowshoes. The cabin was just as I had left it. It was a nice day and we had a really good time there. I really appreciated Dan taking me.

Monday, March 9, 1981—a marten has been in my cache here at the trap cabin. He likes noodles and butter. I dried my frosty gear and worked on the dog tie-outs. Went snowshoeing, saw tracks of caribou, wolf, moose and marten. I’m really enjoying being out here at the trap cabin.

Tuesday, March 10, 1981—slept late, don’t feel good. Snowshoed a trail to Blue Lake for the snow machine. Light snow last night, marten visited the cabin. Sunny today. Put out two lines of spruce boughs on the little lake to mark a landing strip for Dan’s plane to land here at the cabin.

Wednesday, March 11, 1981—dressed fur stretching boards last night and more today. Snowed two inches of wet stuff, windy and clearer later this afternoon.

Thursday, March 12, 1981—bright and sunny, got ready to leave. The marten was back in the cache. I ran him away. He scolded much like a squirrel—I imitated him—he scolded more. Dan didn’t show up with the plane to pick me up—something must have delayed him.

Friday, March 13, 1981—up very early. fixed a good breakfast and snowshoed to the trap cache at the west lake, then south to pick up a trap, then back to cabin. Chris R. flew in to visit and Later Dan landed on Blue Lake. He had Mike P. with him. They skied the mile or two to my cabin. After coffee, Dan flew us to his place on Snowshoe Lake. I welded Dan’s Okio (a style of sled often used for freighting). Hauling firewood is hard on sleds.

Went “outside” for Christmas


colorful glass mosaic

Visiting family for Christmas

Saturday, December 13, 1980–got up early to get ready to go “outside” to Minnesota. Got all packed and started in Dan’s van. It was -45° and the wind was blowing the snow. It’s not fun driving around on mountain roads in these conditions, but we got into Anchorage in time to catch the plane. The airline had to deplane two people who were giving trouble to the crew, so we were late taking off. We had quick connections in Seattle and arrived in Los Angeles and my mother was there to meet us. Our luggage was lost.

Sunday, December 14, 1980—our luggage was delivered to us before bedtime. Having a nice visit with Mother, but I’m getting sleepy as I write this.

Monday, December 15, 1980—slept late and went to the VA park to see the plaque mother’s chapter of the DAR had presented—it’s very nice, liked the looks of it there. We did some shopping.

Tuesday, December 16, 1980—we said goodbye to Mother, left Los Angeles, and arrived in Minneapolis late and went to Nadia’s home.

 Wednesday, December 17, 1980—we called the FLBA office in St Cloud and set up an appointment to meet with those people.

Friday, December 19, 1980—we went over to Beverly’s and visited with her. Theresa’s family came over and we had a really good time visiting with them.

Saturday, December 20, 1980—we went to the Nutcracker Fantasy—beautiful symphony music and all that goes with it as guests of Nadia and Darrell.

Sunday, December 21, 1980—good time here at Nadia’s. Went to a program at their church.

Monday, December 22, 1980—met with FLBA in St Cloud and did business with them.

Tuesday, December 23, 1980—talked to the FHA in Brainerd and the lawyer in Staples, working at getting our business here in Minnesota squared around.

Wednesday, December 24, 1980—took care of farm business in the morning and then on to Minneapolis in the afternoon. Visited with Kevin’s family in the evening.

Thursday, December 25, 1980—they had a Christmas dinner here at Nadia and Darrell’s. She has a beautiful large table and everything was so nice. My gifts were shirts and books. They were really nice—I read lots of books and of course, wear lots of shirts.

Friday, December 26, 1980—took a short walk. Up early every day and we did a lot of visiting with Nadia and Darrell.

Saturday, December 27, 1980—we went over to Paul and Ruth’s and spent time with them.

Sunday, December 28, 1980—we’re having a good time here at Paul and Ruth’s and went to REI and shopped there.

Monday, December 29, 1980—drove up to Motley to stay with Roger and Bridgette.

Tuesday, December 30, 1980—had some farm business in the evening and we found out Bridgette’s mother had died.

Wednesday, December 31, 1980—we did some farm business. Ernie H.and I butchered two lambs and I took them in to the locker plant in Staples.

Thursday, January 1, 1981—didn’t do much all day, up late last night at a party.

Friday, January 2, 1981—I was a pall bearer for Donna Hendricks (Bridgette’s mother). After the funeral we went to see Russell Shequen at the Staples hospital.

Saturday, January 3, 1981—ran all over doing farm business.

Sunday, January 4, 1981—hurried around to go to Minneapolis. Roger and Bridgette (with their son Randy) are driving us down to Minneapolis. There we saw most of our children and will stay at Theresa’s place now.

Monday, January 5, 1981—slept late here at Theresa and Earl’s and played with the grand kids.

Tuesday, January 6, 1981—went over to Nadia and Darrell’s where we enjoyed a good supper. Kevin and Beverly came over and we got to visit with them too.

Wednesday, January 7, 1981—got on the plane about 10:00 a.m. to go to Anchorage. We arrived there 12 hours later and got home at 12 p.m.

Trouble training the sled dogs, Libby Riddles lends a hand

Two people and a dogsled

Norman (in red) and Sylvia (seated) posing for pictures after running the dogs.

Monday, November 17, 1980— I ran Fear, the lead dog, Oscar, Mack and Chrissy twice today—three miles each time. They are doing pretty well. Weather is nice, a low of zero degrees to a high of 10 above. Called Nadia, Ernie H. and Jim R.

Thursday, November 27, 1980—Charlie helped me run the dogs again today. Things didn’t go well. This is discouraging. Fear, the lead dog just isn’t strong headed enough to lead the dogs.

Friday, November 28, 1980—cut up firewood for the lodge garage, their saw is broke down so we used my saw. Did chores and took care of the dogs and ran Sylvia to Gunsight to help Nancy at the lodge. Mike was here and visited for a while.

Monday, December 1, 1980—up early, took Sylvia to Gunsight, helped Ray a little then came back and hitched the dogs to the sled and took them to Libby Riddles place (three miles). She put a dog called Phantom in my team. Had a good run, lots of excitement. Broke my brake on the grade off of Snowshoe Lake so I turned back for home to make repairs.

Tuesday, December 9, 1980—it’s -37° this morning. I glued the heels of my Sorel boots where they were weakening. Took my dogs on a training run in the afternoon at -40°. At supper time, Mike P. called.

Wednesday, December 10, 1980—put the snow hook holder that I made out of leather onto the dog sled, allowing me to more safely carry the snow hook when I’m driving the dogs and the sled. I put some oil in the front differential of the pickup and cut up some logs for Henry. It was -35° all day and dropped to -40° this evening.

Thursday, December 11, 1980—I read late last night and slept late this morning. Henry’s water system froze up and I helped get it thawed and back in service. Took dog collars and a chain and a snow hook back that I had borrowed from Libby Riddles. Now I have my own equipment. It’s -45° today.

Friday, December 12, 1980—hitched up the dogs this morning at -48° and took pictures in front of the cache here at the lodge of the dogs and sled. I tried to run them, but Fear, the lead dog that I got from Libby just wouldn’t lead. The pups sure wanted to go. It’s discouraging—maybe she thought it was too cold.

Dan’s wife Patti had asked him to bring his van down for me to take into Anchorage. He did it, but didn’t understand why Patti wanted me to drive it into Anchorage. Unbeknownst to him, Patti had made arrangements in Anchorage for his van to have a new paint job. She wanted to surprise him for Christmas.

Finishing the Trapper Cabin

wooden cabin

Finished trapper cabin

Note: this cabin was also called the remote cabin. There was another, makeshift, trap cabin Norman used that was closer to home on another line.

Friday, October 17, 1980—breakfast was over by daylight. Put up another wall, cut a window and put up a few logs on the next wall. I don’t have a drill to drill holes and I have to drive the logs together with these big log spikes with a three pound hammer. Cut 30 more logs. (It’s partly cloudy and a nice temperature to work.) Cut and trimmed most of the rafters, light snow this evening.

Saturday, October 18, 1980—up early, two-sided logs until 3 p.m., then spiked some to the cabin. Occasional light snow, really a warm and nice day. Sylvia pulled all of today’s logs in on the puka sled.

Sunday, October 19, 1980—two-sided more logs and finished the walls and cut another window, sawed boards for the door, and put the plates on top of the logs. It’s been a nice warm day.

Monday, October 20, 1980—finished putting up the end logs, the ridgepole and started the rafters. We put the plywood sheeting on the rafters as we went along. Finished the roof on the east side and got three rafters and two plywood sheets on the west side. Sylvia really likes the cabin shaping up. One night when we were sleeping in the tent, we could hear something walking around outside it. She was really concerned about what might be walking towards the tent. Listening, I knew it was a porcupine. If you’ve ever seen a porcupine walk, you’ll know what it sounds like in the snow.

Tuesday, October 21, 1980—finished the roof on the east side and got three rafters and two plywood sheets on the west side. Chris Ronning flew in and landed with wheels on our little lake. It’s frozen over now. I got in some firewood while he went after oil and insulation for us. (He brought back a bottle of whiskey.) Then he took off just as it was getting really dark. Before he left, he asked me to cut down two trees farther out, away from the lake in the landing line and take off strip.

Wednesday, October 22, 1980—I packed in more plywood, finished putting up the rafters, and ceiling, built the door and put in the windows. We moved the stove here and moved into the cabin to sleep. I am more pleased with it every day. We had a beautiful sunset. Sylvia is very glad to have solid walls to sleep behind.

Thursday, October 23, 1980—got up late, nice to be in the cabin. Got the press plates tarred and put onto the roof—these press plates are aluminum sheets that the newspaper press in Anchorage has left over when they publish their daily paper. I tarred in between the plates as I put them on the roof. Then we got some firewood in, cut and stacked up. After that, we chinked on the inside of the cabin until 11:30 p.m. We have a Coleman lantern so we have light at night.

Friday, October 24, 1980—chinked more logs, packed plywood and sawed lumber and built the kitchen, bunks and went hunting. Saw a small hawk, and huge bear tracks (measured two inches longer than my shoes). Saw no game today and chinked more logs in the evening by the light of the Coleman lantern.

Saturday, October 25, 1980—we had breakfast before daybreak. It’s frosty and foggy and I went hunting for a while with no luck. Built a bench and table. Put some finishing touches on the inside and out of the cabin. Hunted up some more trees to cut for firewood. Chinked some more tonight.

Sunday, October 26, 1980—foggy and frosty again. Cut eight dead trees and cut up and stacked the wood. Saw a big hawk. We chinked on the cabin and built a sawbuck to buck up wood for heating. Put metal guards around the trees that the cache is in to keep varmints from crawling up and getting inside. I have two 55-gallon drums up there on the cache to put food and other things—protect them from the weather and varmints.

Monday, October 27, 1980—took Sylvia to a hill to see the great view from there. Cut and stacked more wood and built five dog houses and put up the cable to tie the dogs (bedded down with spruce boughs). Really tired tonight.

Tuesday, October 28, 1980—I did a few finishing touches and Chris flew in this morning to fly us out. Sure hate to leave the cabin. We landed at Billman’s, ate dinner and then went to Nelchina. Partied this evening.

Sylvia Helps Build the Trapper Cabin

man with heavy pack, woman pulling log with strap

Norman packs in supplies, Sylvia pulls logs

Note: this cabin was also called the remote cabin. There was another, makeshift, trap cabin Norman used that was closer to home on another line.

Friday, September 26, 1980—getting ready for winter, getting gear organized and materials ready to take to the bush to build a cabin. Monday, September 29, 1980—worked on getting supplies and gear and so forth ready to go to build the cabin.

Tuesday, September 30, 1980—still working on getting the gear ready—made some stretcher boards.

Wednesday, October 1, 1980—sawed plywood sheets in half lengthways ready to be loaded on the pontoons of a super cub airplane, and got some of the gear loaded in the pickup.

Thursday, October 2, 1980—started building the dog sled and near sundown, I cut some grass hay for dog bedding. It snowed southwest of us along the mountain. With the sun shining through, the snow looked like a fire—really beautiful.

Sunday, October 5, 1980—worked on the sled and got the mortise and tenon joints done and the planeing and tied six joints with rawhide.

Monday, October 6, 1980—worked on the sled until 10:30. Ronning called to fly us to the trap cabin site. Sylvia is going there with me. We hurried to pack, started to fly at 2 p.m. with three loads. I made four packs to camp and set up a tent. Sylvia saw caribou and moose.

Tuesday, October 7, 1980—I packed seven loads from Hole Lake from where Chris had unloaded it. He flew in with another load while I was packing these in to where the cabin will be built. This is a steep grade, at least 100 feet above Hole Lake and a little more than a quarter mile of tundra and brush to get through after that. The stove was one of the last things—it was very clumsy and heavy to pack for our camp. It rained last night, but it’s very nice today. It’s too windy though at Snowshoe Lake for Chris to fly in the plywood.

Wednesday, October 8, 1980—I packed four more loads from Hole Lake to our camp, saw 12 caribou, decided on the cabin site and the cache site and packed 2 more loads. Got pretty well along with the cache.

Thursday, October 9, 1980—just finished the cache and it started snowing. I rushed to build a tarp lean-to and put gear into it for a cook camp. Set up the airtight stove and put extra food up in the cache. It’s 12 feet up off the tundra. Then we got a snowstorm of 4 inches.

Friday, October 10, 1980—started sawing the base logs and the chain saw quit, and then broke the mill attachment for sawing lumber. It just popped so easy. Got the saw fixed so it runs and I packed a can of gas in the morning from Hole Lake and then Chris flew in the plywood towards evening. I ran over to Hole Lake to meet him and help unload the plywood and I packed a can of gas back to the camp and I carried one bag of traps up to the top out of Hole Lake and cached it in a clump of black spruce. It was borderline flying for Chris, but he got our plywood to us before freeze-up. I told him how grateful I was that he was able to get this done for me. I really like Chris.

Saturday, October 11, 1980—it was a beautiful sunrise and 1° all day. We dragged the foundation logs to the site and got them into position and got seven floor joist mortised into them. Sylvia still has a sore throat. Cleared some brush and sided logs. I lost my tape measure somewhere.

Sunday, October 12, 1980—up early, beautiful day, hunted caribou (they evaded us). Saw a martin, mink, fox and porcupine tracks. Packed eight of the half sheets of plywood to camp (two packs), and finished the floor joists and nailed the plywood floor down. It’s turned cloudy.

Monday, October 13, 1980—I two-sided 14 logs, peeled 9 and cut 15 more. Cut firewood and packed in eight, 2 x 8 sheets of plywood from Hole Lake. I’m very tired. Sylvia’s cold is a little better. Luckily I found the tape measure and I won’t have to guess—I can measure my logs and lumber. It’s cloudy and the geese are flying south at night—we can hear them.

Tuesday, October 14, 1980—I went hunting and saw a cow moose and calf. Caribou had been near camp, there were more martin track and Sylvia’s cold is much better. No luck hunting.

Wednesday, October 15, 1980—up early, warmer and sunny. Cut lots of trees today, sawed lumber for a door, table and so forth—and two-side logs.

Thursday, October 16, 1980—peeled and hauled logs to the cabin with the little puka sled. Sylvia hauls the logs from the wood lot where I’m cutting them. I cut them down and two-side them. They’re six feet long. I put two in the puka and she has a rope that goes over her chest. She pulls these logs to the cabin and unloads them and comes back for the next two. This one time, she’s just ready to start out and I clicked my cheeks on my teeth and (like you do when you tell a horse to start and pull). Sylvia, she stopped, turned, looked at me, stuck her finger at me and said, “Don’t do that again!” I didn’t.

I shot a spruce hen for supper and there were more geese flying south. We can hear them especially at night. Two wolves were howling this morning, they sounded really close. They must have been young wolves and didn’t know what we were. They weren’t very far from our camp, knew we were there and were howling. We put up a wall of the cabin today.