Early ’84, trapping and pickin’

man with gray beard playing guitar

Henry Johnson from Nelchina Lodge

Sunday, January 1, 1984—snowing, 5° to 0°. Zoe, James, and Becky visited. Sally came over and we all went to KROA.

Monday, January 2, 1984—some sun, nice day, 4° to 20°. Loaded the snowgo and went to Dinty Bush’s then left to run the trapline. Saw marten track at Blue Lake and the track of a traveling Wolf family near ravine on the trapline.

Wednesday, January 4, 1984—snow last night, and today strong winds, 10° to 20°. I sewed griz rip in my sleeping bag, mixed marten bait, chinked some more in cabin.

Thursday, January 5, 1984—cloudy, 0° to 23°. Nothing on the line, made two marten sets. Saw tracks of two fox. A lot of people are staking at Loon Lake subdivision. Visited KROA, and Henry and Sally—Jim and Mary were there.

Saturday, January 7, 1984—sunny, -10° to -5°. Went to Glennallen. Couldn’t get wolf urine. Sewed lure, bait bags at Patti Billman’s (Dan is in Hawaii). Helped Allen Farmer butcher a road kill moose.

Thursday, January 12, 1984—warm and windy, light snow, 34°. Loaded snowgo and went to Dinty Bush’s, then left for the cabin. Made rat sets on Rat Lake. Saw marten, fox and lynx tracks. Nothing in traps. Emergency repair trap sled.

Friday, January 13, 1984—warm today and cloudy. Made fox set for this lake. Checked marten set and made another marten set. Explored for, and cut some new trail. Nailed some more mink and marten boxes.

Sunday, January 15, 1984—beautiful day. Remade all sets plus three new fox/coyote sets. Got a cross fox, marten and two rats. Left one rat set, skinned fox.

Monday, January 23, 1984—bright sun, -30° to -20°. Walked to wood lot, four trees blown down.

Tuesday, January 24, 1984—bright sun, clear sky and cold. -40° to -30°. Trimmed the four downed trees in the wood lot, cut into logs and piled them.

Wednesday, January 25, 1984—sunny and clear, -49° to -35°. Cut trap trail south, then west to next ridge.

Monday, January 30, 1984—cloudy, 10° to 18°. Ground 88 packages of moose meat at Allen F.’s. Visited with Sally, Darrel, Tom, Jim, and Mary for a while. Harry Billum was killed this day. I will miss him, he was a fine trapper.

Friday, February 3, 1984—it was -5° all day with light snow. Eight inches of snow on the trail to cabin. Made one fox set and one snare for lynx—remade most of the rest. Trouble getting up hill at Blue Lake. Got one marten south of cabin.

Saturday, February 4, 1984—0° to 16°. Cloudy, three inches of snow last night, sunshine this afternoon. Put up radio antenna, works well. Skinned marten and cleaned snow off roof again.

Sunday, February 5, 1984—partly cloudy, nice day, -5° to 7°. Made marten set and put up pole for another. Checked snowgo, cleaned snow off outhouse, and set snare for wolf.

Monday, February 6, 1984—bright sun, -5° to 4°. Chris R. flew Dan B. to Hole Lake and we visited for a while in the afternoon. I’ll get an early start tomorrow to go out. Put one conibear on pole and made another marten box set farther on trail.

Tuesday, February 7, 1984—sunny day, -10° to -7°. Up early, remade most sets on way out to road. Had to leave small sled half way out. Much deeper snow and many drifts, stuck in snow many times. Flat tire on truck. Stopped and visited Cora at Junction and KROA.

Wednesday, February 8, 1984—sunny day, -16° to -4°. Cleaned snow from cabin and woodshed roofs and bedded the dogs. Visited Henry and Sally, Sam, and Jim and Mary. Put belt on Patti Billman’s spinning wheel.

Thursday, February 9, 1984—beautiful day, -20° to -5°. Went to see Jim and Mary Odden. We each got a nice pile of wood out to their place and then home with ours after a nice Mexican supper. Lots of neighbors were at the supper and “pickin” after.



Siwash camping and wolves hunt past trap cabin

a small slab log cabin

Norman’s trapper cabin

Sunday, November 14, 1982—up before dawn and went to Jay’s. Parked truck. Had trouble with Blake’s snowmobile, It got stuck several times. It was dark at Blue Lake, couldn’t find trail to cabin. Siwash camped at Blue Lake, nice night for it. (Siwash is an Alaskan term meaning Indian and “siwashing” is to camp the way the Indians do—with nothing but rifle, fry pan, tea pail, salt, tea, and a little sourdough. Siwashing releases you from the necessity of returning to any fixed campsite. )

Monday, November 15, 1982—broke trail to cabin, then back to Blue Lake and pulled sleds to cabin. Cut a trail to cabin and broke a trail to woodlot. Had a nice evening at cabin, a very nice day.

Tuesday, November 16, 1982—up before dawn, went to woodlot and brought in five loads. Cleaned up cabin, loaded sled and headed out. Saw lots of wolf tracks, mink fox and marten tracks, some moose and caribou tracks. Got home early in the evening.

Tuesday, November 23 1982—very warm, light snow in the evening, 23° to 10°. Made fox, lynx, and marten sets. Must’ve been a whole family of lynx near here. Ski-Doo runs badly, Chris and Lloyd flew in for coffee, glad to see them.

Saturday, November 27, 1982—sun shines, 10° to -10°. I feel sick today. Had a good trip out here, Ski-Doo ran fine. Very beautiful here at the trap cabin, nothing in the traps. Pack of wolves hunted past the cabin. Cut up stove wood. Almost a full moon tonight.

Sunday, November 28, 1982—ice fog and 15° to 10°. Sore back. Ran some trapline, nothing. Put out two snares and one Marten set. Broke trail in woodlot. Cut up wood and ricked it. Put up fleshing beam in cabin. Beautiful moon tonight.

Monday, November 29, 1982—made wolf, marten, and fox sets today. Reached road early and visited Darrel a few minutes. Saw seven caribou along the road. Ran line here, nothing. Called Beverly.

Sylvia returns, Norman insulates the remote cabin

a pile of firewood

Plenty of firewood

Sunday, November 1, 1981—Sylvia called. It’s been a while since we talked over the phone.

Monday, November 2, 1981—Sylvia called to give me her plane arrival time.

Tuesday, November 3, 1981—went to Anchorage to pick up Sylvia. James went along and Jeff stopped at the lodge to visit.

Wednesday, November 4, 1981—we got some shopping done before we went out to Nelchina. The road was slippery all the way home.

Friday, November 6, 1981—cut up stove wood, built two dog houses, Rusty and I took the pickup to the wood lot and got one load. It’s a nice day this morning, -5°.

Saturday, November 7, 1981—cut and hauled a load of wood, split and stacked it, some other chores too. Of course, I’ve got the dogs to take care of every day. Went to Tolsona Lodge for the Polack party. They Monday,

November 16, 1981—it was -25°. Got up early and loaded the gear and the snowmobile on the truck and drove to the Eleven-Mile Trail on the Lake Louise Road. Jackie and Ken came twice and Jackie drove their truck back to her home.

We unloaded my truck and trailer at Jan’s on Lake Louise Road. Ken and I then drove the snow machines and sleds to the end of the seismic trail, which was about six miles. Then we broke out our own trail to my cabin. We hung up a few times, especially on one steep hill. It was a heck of a time to get up to the top of that. It was getting towards dark and I felt the pressure of finding the cabin. I go in the general direction that I think the cabin is. Ken was breaking trail for me and I was pulling a real heavy load on my sled behind the machine. We broke out into a more open place and I recognized it and knew exactly where the cabin was. I tried to holler at Ken to catch his attention. He got to be about a hundred yards away from me before he stopped and I waved him over and pointed towards where the cabin would be and he started breaking trail in that direction. We got there just as it was getting dark.

Sure glad to have plenty of wood split an the cabin up. We were so grateful to have hot water to make coffee, get warm and I had Chili to thaw out so we could have something to eat. We were very hungry. We ate the first batch of chili. I could tell Ken was really hungry yet and I could use some more. The next package of chili filled us up. He thought it was a really nice cabin. The evening temperature was running -12° to -15°. Did a few things in the cabin and built a trap carrier for the snow machine. Today was a pretty day and it also had kind of a rainbow in the sky. Very unusual.

Tuesday, November 17, 1981—it was -10°. After breakfast, we got ready and I went with Ken halfway to the end of the seismic trail to make sure he got headed out on the trail with no problems. We said our good-byes and he went out to the road. His wife was to pick him up and take him home. I headed back to the cabin. When I got to the upper end of Blue Lake, I set two marten traps and I got a ptarmigan for supper.

Wednesday, November 18, 1981—Rested all day.

Thursday, November 19, 1981—it was -18° when I woke up and it was cloudy with some ice fog. I found I was really stiff and sore today. I got a slow start. I got out on the trapline and made an otter set and some fox and marten sets south and west of Blue Lake. Saw a few ptarmigan tracks and rabbit tracks but no spruce hens. Nothing much near here, only moose and caribou tracks and some marten and fox. Went hunting for bait, didn’t get anything. Ice fog setting in this evening and it’s -15° tonight. I could see the seismic trail from a high hill west of Blue Lake. I must tell Ken that would make a landmark to follow. Not enough snow for good snowmobiling, it’s really rough.

Friday, November 20, 1981—it was -20°. Slept late, need the rest. Lots of frost in the snowmobile gas, I suppose because of the foggy nights. Broke another trap trail to the north, then east, then south, then back home. Set four marten and otter. No fox bait with me. Saw fox and marten tracks and some caribou, otter and moose. Saw a beautiful small lake today. It was really nice out there. It’s -15° at dark. Fixed supper, read and rested. The Coleman lantern lights the cabin in the evening and I cook on the airtight stove. (A type of wood burning stove.) It’s a medium sized airtight. It’s a really nice stove for a remote cabin like this. I’ve got a big firewood pile that I put up last spring just before snow left. I’ll do that again this coming spring so that I’ll have dry wood to use through the winter.

Saturday, November 21, 1981—it got warmer. I made a short trail. There are no fresh tracks of any kind, so I put up insulation in the ceiling of the cabin. It only took 2 ½ hours, but it sure made a difference in the wood it takes to keep the cabin warm. I sharpened my knives here at the cabin too. It’s -10° this evening.

Sunday, November 22, 1981—it was -10° in the morning and 0° at noon. Very bright and sunny, no wind. Measured the ice on the cabin lake. It’s 13 inches with 4 inches of snow on top. I made two sets on the ridge back of the cabin. No new game or fur tracks anywhere. It was really nice all day, but it looks like snow clouds 20-30 miles to the north by east, I can see some really nice peaks from in the higher ridges. This country right through here has little high places. When you get up on them, it’s about 2700 elevation and often times, you get a real nice view. It helps keep track of where you are in the country too, once you learn what it looks like. The cabin stays lots warmer now and heats with less wood since I insulated the ceiling. It’s -10° this evening.

Monday, November 23, 1981—it’s 5° above zero with a light dust of snow falling overnight. It was 8° at noon. I ran both lines today—no fur. Did see a cow and calf moose though. It seems to be much warmer. There is a lot of overflow and water that comes up through the ice and soaks the snow. Plan to go out to the road tomorrow.


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.

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.