Tuesday was spent recovering from the Kesugi Ridge hike. We slept in until 10:00 AM, had breakfast and coffee before heading out to have second breakfast/lunch in Willow, while also retrieving the credit card that Dave "did not forget at the gas station." :o)
Wednesday, we headed back into the cabin, with lots of extra food in tow in preparation for the arrival of Dave's cousin Theresa and her husband Justin. Dave also tested out something he has been wanting to do for a while... carrying the canoe on his own. It went very well, surprisingly well! Despite Dave's wishes to carry it alone more often in order to save time, Alex did not like giving up her end of the work, or feeling like to much of a "princess." The day went quickly, despite the load, and we were back in time to enjoy the remainder of the day, and even a rainbow!
Devils Club... nasty... but cool in bloom
We were out of bed at 6AM, on Thursday, in order to have some coffee and reading time before checking campsites and paddling back to Tanaina, where we had parked out truck the previous day. We arrived back to the station in time to take a shower and do laundry before Theresa and Justin arrived. Once we geared them up with PFD's, paddles, and dry bags, we headed back to Tanaina to begin their journey to the cabin.
On the way to the boat launch, they were lucky enough to see a moose cross the road. Throughout the long and tiring portages and paddles, and unsavory weather (rain began at Lynx Lake and persisted for the remainder of the day), they were real troopers and made good time. We did not see any other "large" animals, but we did see some cool crane like birds on Jacknife Lake. The remainder of the evening was spent relaxing and settling into the cabin.
Despite the rain and cool weather on Friday, we took Justin out to fish, while Theresa stayed back at the cabin reading, relaxing, and keeping a warm fire going. We tried our luck in Butterfly Lake, trying to save ourselves from the long, muddy portage to Buckley Lake. We had no success, so we decided to make the portage to the sure bet; Echo Ponds. Even in the Echo Ponds, the fish were not biting! We were beginning to think that we might need a new plan for dinner when Justin got a bite! No sooner did Alex get the fish in the net, Dave had a fish as well! Things were looking up! The going got slow again, eventually Dave caught the third fish of the day before passing the rod on to Alex, who snagged one as well. Though we had some fish in the boat, they were not going to supply enough meat for four people!
Fortunately, after much patience, persistence, and sitting in the rain and cold, the fish really started to bite, and Justin was on a fish catching roll! Dave and Alex began the process of cutting fillets from our bone filled friends, while Justin kept reeling them in to the boat. Eventually, we had plenty to prepare a hearty meal, and paddled our cold tired bodies back to the cabin... 5 hours after we had left. Theresa and Justin cooked up a delicious fish, rice and bean dinner, and Alex baked a chocolate-peanut butter cake for desert. The weather began to clear, and it turned into a beautiful evening. It became so nice that Theresa and Justin went out for a paddle around Butterfly Lake, while Alex and Dave sat on the dock and read.
Dave and Alex spent several hours on Saturday working on the Butterfly Lake Boat Launch project. While we worked, Theresa and Justin paddled out to Skeetna Lake and then took a walk along the portage to the Little Susitna River, where they were mauled by ferocious mosquitoes. Vic joined us on the boat launch project for a while, and by the time we wrapped things up for the day, we had leveled the lower portion of the launch area, created three geogrid panels (a panel consists of 9 pieces of geogrid secured together with screws), and installed the panels in the area nearest the water. It was really rewarding to see the project finally taking shape.
All of us rejoined at the cabin; Alex and Dave took and dip in the chilly lake, and Theresa and Justin again prepared dinner.
This time, dinner was a yummy cucumber and radish salad, paired with spinach and cheese pasta. Desert was so tasty Alex could not snap a picture before it was getting gobbled up... baked apricots and peaches topped with melted dark chocolate.
We can really get used to having these guys around... they have taken over the dinner and clean-up process! The rest of the night was spent enjoying a laid-back, not playing for points, game of "Qwirkle," followed by a rousing and competitive game where we kept score.
Sunday morning, Theresa and Justin joined us in working on the boat launch... the volunteers have acquired volunteers! Their help was awesome and made the process move with exceptional speed; so much progress was made that day, it looked like with a little work the next day, all the ground would be leveled and the remaining geogrid would be installed.
After cleaning up our tools, we spent a few hours fishing in the Echo Ponds once again. Once again we had a slow start, but eventually things picked up and we bringing home a big dinner!
We were having so much success that two fishermen, who had a whole box full of tackle, decided they were not too proud to ask what we were using. Funny thing was, this is all we had....
That evening, we had another exquisite dinner thanks to our guests!
Monday morning, we all headed to the boat launch once again (yay for excited and eager volunteers to the volunteers!). We were able to finish laying the remaining geogrid, create a stone-lined walkway to the barge area, throw down grass seed, and lay jute on the areas adjacent to the walkways in order to help protect the soon to be growing seeds. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to see so much progress! There is some remaining work, but the bulk of it is complete!
We returned to the cabin with the promise of a hearty lunch from Justin and Theresa, and it was fulfilled!
Sweet Potatoes and Cuban Beans over Rice
We also were lucky to finish our work and get back to the cabin and cleaned up before rain began. Though, this rain was a welcome sign.... it was watering the grass seed we had just spread! We spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying their last full day at the cabin. We were in charge of dinner that night... roasted red pepper pizza!
On a foggy Tuesday morning, we all packed up to head back to Tanaina. We would be joining Theresa and Justin in Denali National Park through Friday, and would be on our way as soon as we returned our things to the Ranger Station. We left ourselves plenty of time to get to the north end of the park, expecting that it may take 5 hours, but Theresa and Justin crushed the paddling and portaging this time and we made it in just over three hours!
We quickly gathered our clothes and supplies for Denali, tossed them into their rental car, and we were on our way!