Monday, July 23, 2012

5 Ways Dopes Dipnet on Kenai Beach

I was all set to write the much anticipated Last Frontier Garden edition of “Advanced Rules for Dipnetting,” as promised last year.  Then I went dipnetting last weekend and discovered that a good 25% (the Last Frontier Gardener only uses made up statistics) of people on the beach either had never dipnetted in their life or were under the impression that dipnets were weapons and we were attending the beach version of a jousting tournament.

dipnet2012 065

Instead of roses and handkerchiefs being thrown around, it was red salmon, fish bonkers, and epithets. I feel I must, for the sake of posterity (or at least my dental work) put off the advanced rules and go with bare bones basics (again) because somebody is going to get maimed.  Surely you intermediate dippers can wait another year.

dipnet2012 009

Ways to ensure your neighbors on the beach will be miserable and that you are a first class dip:

  • don’t prepare beforehand. Forget about packing extra gear for a change in weather or in case you fall into the water, firewood, dipnetting accessories (i.e. empty milk jug, rope, pliers, socket wrench, filet knife, ice, cooler, fish bonker). You can beg for what you forgot. We had two beggars solicit us this trip: firewood (“grandma is getting cold”) and empty milk jug (“I can see I need one of those things for my net. You need yours?”). Um, yes, but go ahead, we have an extra.

dipnet2012 025

dipnet2012 072

chest waders, you will want these

dipnet2012 068

  • don’t look around before you insert your net into an opening on the beach. Just haphazardly jam that thing into a 6-inch space between people, if the current is strong and dragging the nets into each other, so much the better. Points for standing still if you are in a walking area or trying to walk in a standing area. Bonus points for ignoring swearing of neighbors or ugly glances in your direction.

dipnet2012 081

  • have no idea how to process the fish once caught. Ignore those that look competent, especially those that have bled the fish by yanking out some gills and are gutting fish within hours of capture. By all means forget to put fish on ice as soon as possible after gutting.

dipnet2012 077

dipnet2012 011

dipnet2012 038

  • be unfamiliar with the dipnetting regulations. Opening and closing times, harvest limits per person/family, allowable fish species, tail clipping requirements, who needs it?

dipnet2012 045

  •  be absolutely as loud as possible as late into the night as possible. Extra points for drunken, expletive laden rants near tents with children’s toys nearby. More bonus points if you leave litter behind. Beer cans, water bottles, and disposable gloves were biggies this year. You win the dip award if you drive a four-wheeler around tents after midnight. Be sure and shine your headlight directly into the tents for a minute or two. Rev the engine.

dipnet2012 056

Reading this list over, I can see it may come off a little grouchy. (Well, I feel like a saint seeing as how I wrote nothing about a request to clean the outhouse seat off if you’ve been on a bran binge as a courtesy to those behind you, dancing in line.) But things just work better when everyone is on the same page. One hopes fewer threats of violence and accidental impalings at the very least. The Last Frontier husband started getting into arguments with egregious dips and we were only on the beach for 22 hours. Time to go!

dipnet2012 071

(for a general idea of what dipnetting is, see here)

Slipped up on a rule? Want to add one? Just glad you’re not Alaskan?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Floating the Gulkana River: I survived

Yes, take a moment and dab off your fevered brow.  I realize (and regret) that I left you all in suspense after my last post wherein I mentioned in the interests of family togetherness I would be floating off into the wilderness for a few days. A surprise for the Last Frontier Gardener: we made it. Hardly any broken bones, animal attacks, or lost baggage/children.

junejuly2012 144

No snorts of derision from the pack and paddle crowd.  As a city-bred female, I am particularly and devotedly attached to the modern comforts of indoor plumbing and have quite given up expecting men to empathize. Sadly, “indoor plumbing” and “Alaskan adventure” are not often found arm in arm. But fear not, I won’t bore you with graphic details of attendant suffering during this journey.

[OK, maybe just this one graphic detail: our commode was a bag attached to a rickety comfort seat. Yes, you read that right, we had to pack everything solid out. On the liquids end of things and to save millions of women and girls the pain of piddling on a shoe whilst squatting in a mosquito infested patch of Devil’s club, I am in the process of patenting my drip proof wilderness bathroom commode for women and girls (“Potty Cup”) which I picked up at a gas station beforehand.

For humanitarian reasons, I will risk spoiling this trademarking process. I will help campers all over the world and share, for free, my idiot-tested invention: a large (plastic is most durable) concessions cup. See last picture in this post. And your welcome.]   

junejuly2012 143

Floating down a river with unseasonably high and fast water (class IV rapids anyone?) was a bit daunting.  On the Daunted Scale, 1 being a visit to your local library and 10 being a visit to your local fast food play land at noon on a rainy Saturday, I was about a 7.  At the risk of this post turning into a War and Peace saga, here’s the condensed version of our 47 mile/75 km Gulkana River float on June 27:

Day One, Wednesday

  • Drive to Paxson Lake, make arrangements for someone to take truck from lake (start) to Sourdough Creek Campground (finish), $60, worth every penny if you are a lousy hitchhiker, the alternative.
  • Put on approximately 34.97 pounds of gear. Pump up raft. Slowly. Sweat. Wish gear off again. Wish raft was on a trailer already pumped.
  • Three hours later, kids cranky. Wind picks up. Starts to rain/hail. Hard.
  • Begin 4 mile paddle down lake. Wish small motor wasn’t rubber band horsepower and on the fritz.
  • As the hours pass, and no discernible progress is made across lake, silently curse the outdoors, family trips, and occasionally husband.
  • 10pm- Find first camping spot available. Set up tent. Put sodden, hungry, and crying kids in it. Make dinner.
  • Midnight- Go to bed and hope bears eat us in the night and save us more misery tomorrow.

junejuly2012 142

Day Two, Thursday

  • Wake up and rue the day. But hey, the rain stopped, for a few minutes.
  • Eat breakfast, pack up camp for two hours.

junejuly2012 173

 junejuly2012 161

  • Load up boat again and float off. Do some fishing, catch/release quite a few grayling and one trout.

junejuly2012 177

  • Get to tricky Canyon Rapids section (class III and IV depending on conditions), stop and grind teeth.

junejuly2012 197

  • Portage all gear to campsite (there is an outhouse!!! well, more of a shack, really, and bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, kids), abuse young children silently for not being able to carry as much as a Sherpa.

junejuly2012 187

  • About forty trips up and down hill to campsite and back, laden with gear.

junejuly2012 190

  • 9pm- Camp set up, ready to float rapids. Pray. All rain gear on. Kids stowed on bank, watching with video camera to document our deaths for insurance purposes.
  • 9:02pm- Float by two gentlemen on the cliff, sipping their beers, they holler, “Good luck!” and laugh. More beer swilling men appear to watch our demise. No women appear to be within twenty miles of this place. Feelings of apprehension.
  • 9:03pm- Swept towards giant boulders. First time death imminent, but avoided.
  • 9:04pm- Second time, avoided, but small scream escapes mouth. More prayer.
  • 9:04.5pm- Third time, a steep drop and boulder thrown in for fun. I get wet, very wet.
  • 9:05pm- Pull over to side after rapids section, tie off raft, squish over to campsite. Change undees. Oarsman unscathed and laughing. Requests another float next week.
  • Sleep the sleep of the reprieved. Remnants of s’mores still smeared around face.

junejuly2012 188

Day Three, Friday

  • Pack up raft. Again. Float away. Into next section of rapids. Assured by husband that this is a cinch after yesterday. Get stuck on a couple of large trees in the water. Both adults exit the raft into fast, deep water in order to push it free. Entertain fantasies about what children would do if they floated away and we weren’t able to jump on in time. Thoughts turn slightly uncharitable towards husband. Raft slips free, we throw ourselves in.

junejuly2012 212

  • Pull out for lunch. Hot dogs on the bank. Look for hot dog loving bears over shoulder. Swat mosquitoes.

junejuly2012 228

  • Float in between every spare rock not busy holding something up in Alaska. Hit a few.
  • Campsites all full.

junejuly2012 236

  • Except this one. Stop and haul most of the gear off the raft. Again.
  • Eat a sumptuous dinner of green enchiladas cooked in a Dutch oven. Preparing food ahead of time and freezing it does have its benefits. Pat self on back.
  • 9pm- Set up portable bear fence.
  • 10pm- Still setting up portable bear fence. Electrical engineer hands housewife directions in five languages for properly attaching battery to fencing. Achtung! Peligro! Steam escapes wife’s ears. Engineer repents and figures out problem after three tries. Hint: make sure batteries are properly installed.
  • 11pm- slight humming sound of electrified bear fence is music to ears of neurotic camper. Oblivion.

junejuly2012 237

Day Four, Saturday

  • 3:30am- awake instantly and determine no more humming is heard. Hear branches crackling nearby.
  • 3:31am- force other adult to wake up and check batteries. Still going strong. Might as well use Potty Cup. Paper version on it’s last legs, determine to bring a plastic cup next time.
  • 10am- camp packed up and put back on raft (again). Float off for the last time.
  • Smooth going. A little boring. Wishing anemic, unreliable 2.5 horsepower motor was attached again.

junejuly2012 247

  • Pull into the landing at Sourdough Creek Campground after passing under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (above pic). The end.

junejuly2012 249

  • Maybe not. Unpack gear from boat (again) and haul up to truck. Deflate and fold raft.
  • Eat a sandwich with a little sand in it. Swat bugs.
  • Pack up truck. Put whining children in it. Drive away. Resolve to take a long, hot shower at home, draining the hot water tank if possible.

And next year, we’ll do it all again.


Any camping or rafting this summer? Feelings about concessions cups? And please do weigh in if you’ve floated the Gulkana!


Related Posts with Thumbnails