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.



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.

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.