Skip to content

Bumpy Night at Bulldog Cove

April 27, 2015

We’re back on the water after a long hiatus! How has April been? Snowy. It seems that winter happened in the span of one month here in coastal Alaska, where each April day resulted in more and more snow. Usually, you will find us out sailing in the snow, but the weather has been less than agreeable. We had a one day window for sailing this weekend, so we headed out to an old favorite: Bulldog Cove.

bumpybulldog 7

Bulldog Cove under gray skies.

Bulldog Cove is best visited during the summer months when the swells are minimal and the storms non-existent. Sometimes, even we don’t take our own advice. We headed out to Bulldog Cove noting the swell as we rounded out of Resurrection Bay. We left Seward under beautiful sunny weather and were greeted by a brewing storm moving toward land as we crossed in front of Bear Glacier. By the time we anchored up in Bulldog Cove, Carpe Ventos was rocking and rain was splattering her deck.

bumpybulldog 2

Off in the distance, Carpe Ventos buffets around under squally conditions.

We were a bit down on account of the rain and weather. The last few Aprils had been beautiful and we have excellent pictures of Carpe Ventos anchored in Bulldog under clear skies and calm seas. We realized that after two epic summers of great weather, we were due for a rainy one. Our first summer up in Alaska in 2010 saw 66 straight days of rain.

After a delicious dinner of moose burgers, we headed towards the south beach at Bulldog. A few major storms had hit the gulf recently and the beach steep and carved by waves, exposing boulders that would normally have been buried by gravel. The storms had been powerful enough to push fish carcasses ashore and clear off some of the growth so the lake behind the beach could be seen from the top of the beach.

bumpybulldog 1

Krystin stands by the lake at Bulldog Cove with full gear on to cope with the rain.

As we wondered around, Bixler noted how much he wanted to find a whale bone on shore. Sure enough, in the distance, there was the spine of some sort of whale or porpoise lying on the beach. As we got closer, one could easily smell the marine mammal as it stank of rotting flesh. We posed for a few pictures and moved on scavenging the not-so-natural marine debris: plastic. We hate how it ends up on beaches in Alaska, but have started to collect the many tubs that wash ashore for our greenhouse. They make excellent planters.

bumpybulldog 3

Success! The first marine mammal skeleton spotted on the beach. Bixler poses with his fancy new Stormr gear.

bumpybulldog 4

A close up of the spine. It sure looks nice, but boy did it stink!

We returned to the boat that evening when the winds arrived. Blowing all directions, the wind howled all night long and Carpe Ventos rocked around in the increasing swell.

bumpybulldog 5

Wind, waves, and storms. This is spring in Alaska.

bumpybulldog 6

Even the harbor seals in the cove hauled out for the night.

At some point, the storm blew out when we lay awake rocking and a new one blew in. The rocking lessened, and we slept a solid three hours before waking up.

The following morning we headed to the other beach at Bulldog, walking along looking at the usual beach trash. At some point during our walk, the Alaska State Trooper boat circled Carpe Ventos before they left. We had fishing gear out on the deck among other things, so they were probably checking in on us only to realize that we were not aboard!

bumpybulldog 9

At the other beach, we watched waves peel onto the shoreline.

bumpybulldog 10

Krystin poses atop a section of the beach where large waves wash into the lake behind the gravelly berm.

bumpybulldog 8

Martin Island? Where’s that? Near Sitka, about 500 or so miles away.

bumpybulldog 11

Yep, the Troopers are out! Luckily we always have our licenses and abide by the laws!

Our original plan was to stay out until Sunday, but as usual the weather had other plans. A fast moving storm means it will leave quickly and the wind would pipe up in Resurrection Bay. A forecast of north wind at 25 knots did not sound too much fun to beat into, so we headed home. We sailed as much as we could under a gentle south breeze, noting the many boats already out on the water. We hit the dock as the wind started to increase and headed home for some much needed sleep. This weekend, the weather in Alaska did not want to cooperate.

 

Snow River: Wild Ride in a Wild Place

April 5, 2015

Everyone has heard of the mighty Kenai River with its hordes of salmon and tourists, dotted with lodges and bordered by the Sterling Highway, but very few people have visited its origins. Far upstream past the zig-zag of Kenai Lake lies Snow River. As you drive into Seward, you cross this river at about Mile 18 and follow the river upstream for a portion before it turns deeper into the wilderness.

SnowRiver 5

Spring up Snow River Valley. Beautiful!

Snow River has access points, but no road leads up to the glaciers that feed the river. The waters rise in the summer and fall in the winter. Usually the river is covered with snow at this time of year, but our snow drought has kept it completely bare. Snow River experiences a jokulhlaup, or the bursting of a glacier dammed lake high upstream, and nearly floods the highway in the process. This happened a few years ago and we didn’t realize that the river could hold so much water!

For us it has always been a very ominous place. Access to the upstream reaches of the river is notoriously difficult at all times of the year. There are no paved roads or bridges. There is only the perfect timing and the right tool for the job: fatbikes.

SnowRiver 1

No trail? No problem, just find a nice outwash plain!

Right now with our warming temperatures and lack of snow, the water level at Snow River is low enough for any person with a load of endurance, pair of old Xtratuffs, and a fat bike to have one helluva ride upstream. We did a test ride after work one day and got reasonably far. There were a few spots where the Xtratuffs were just a hair too short to keep our feet dry. A few days later when the temperature rose to 51 degrees F, we took off one wild ride. (Note: despite the excellent weather, we didn’t sail and there is a reason for that – stay tuned!).

SnowRiver 6

A crystal clear day with an icy wind. Beautiful, regardless!

We loaded up the fatbikes and parked at essentially the only access point to the river. Where the Kenai is lined with trails and fishing points, Snow River is difficult to access with its impenetrable wall of alders. An inconspicuous turnout is where we started our journey.

Bixler rigged up his hunting pack hoping to scout for bears. There are rumors of bear sightings despite the lack of fresh vegetation. Besides, he needed to practice riding with his hunting pack for future trips.

We started heading upstream along the gravely banks crossing the river repeatedly. The jokulhlaup has carved a gravel outwash in the Snow River valley that is perfect for riding. The river meanders through this outwash and has to be crossed several times in the narrower locations. Bixler mastered the riding through the river technique while Krystin was a bit more skeptical. The tires on the fatbikes are so large that the bikes become buoyant in deeper waters. We took a few river spills during our test ride.

SnowRiver 3

Krystin rides through a shallow section of river, very tentatively.

SnowRiver 4

Bixler shows exactly how it is done!

We biked further up river away from the highway and began to see signs of moose. Snow River is a moose superhighway and tracks were everywhere. In a few of the sandy spots on the river, there appeared to be a moose skirmish.

SnowRiver 2

Either a skirmish or playing in the sandbox…only the moose will know.

Further upstream the riding became more difficult. The smoother gravel turned to cobbles covered in spring snow. Bixler took a slow-motion spill on his bike and face-planted into the snow. Krystin did a sideways plant on the return leg.

We continued to ride over cobbles and rocks, taking the time to walk our bikes over difficult sections. The fatbikes are tough, but our knees are not. After a lousy rocky section, we reach a fork in the river with another small outwash plain. There, among the rocks, we saw it: bear poop. No tracks in the rocky soil, but definitely bear poop. Bixler took some time to scout while Krystin explored the area. Surprisingly, we found a fire ring and an abandoned raft that we couldn’t pack out. Hunters frequent Snow River in the moose season, and surprisingly those were the only signs of humans.

We took a wrong turn up a deep section of the river into a bog and promptly aborted. We then continued up a snow, rocky river bed with no water. The riding on the bikes became nearly impossible, but when the river bed shift from rocks to sand, we took advantage of the situation and rode. Bixler was far ahead (as usual) when he spotted something out of place. A moose antler! For years we’ve been wanting to find a moose antler and it only took us five years and miles of riding to find one!

SnowRiver 7

SUCCESS! Coat rack, here we come!

As we continued upstream, we drank the last of our water just as Bixler spotted a second moose antler. He already had the first one on his back and he was feeling the weight of the antler. Surprisingly, those things are heavy. The extra 30 pounds on his back was making the ride difficult, so we turned around when the rocks turned to boulders. There is a glacier at the head of Snow River with a cave from the jokulhlaup that seemed to be close, but was still a few miles away. Damn that Alaska mile!

SnowRiver 10

Bixler poses with his pack and two antlers at the turnaround point. The valley keeps going up to that glacier and beyond to the left.

The ride back wasn’t easy. Out of water, we did not dare drink from the river because the origins were from a beaver pond, a big no-no unless you want a bout of giardia. The weight of the moose antler was slowing Bixler’s ride and Krystin couldn’t help in any way. She didn’t bring a backpack and her only cargo was an empty water bottle in her frame bag. Bixler made it very clear that that was her only cargo.

SnowRiver 8

Ugh, rocks. Lousy to both walk and ride on!

With each river crossing, our boots became more flooded as we neglected to walk in the shallow spots. The sun set over the mountains, darkening the river bed. Our balance was wavering and the riding was becoming more difficult. When we reached the car we found out we had been riding for five hours – that means an equally long soak in the hot tub.

SnowRiver 9

The sun began to disappear behind the mountains as we started the long journey home.

That evening, after replenishing our bodies with gatorade and water during a long hot tub soak, we discussed the adventure. Snow River was incredible and truly a wild place. As much as we like the hiking trails in the area, we are looking forward to more of this in the future.

Moose Cubanos

April 3, 2015

We often get the question of, “Have you seen that new show on blah blah blah?” Nope, we don’t have cable. Seriously, no cable TV, and its been like that for years. We only know what’s going on in Alaska reality shows when they are filming here in Seward. However, we do have Netflix, both DVD and streaming, and spend hours sifting through the B movies on the streaming to find something palatable to watch. A few nights ago we stumbled upon a new hidden gem: Chef. If you are looking for a feel-good movie mixed with ample food porn, then this is the movie for you. And what is centered on? The delicious Cuban sandwich, also called a Cubano.

A good Cubano is something we gave up when we moved to Alaska. One would think that somewhere in the most populous city in Alaska, there would be a decent Cubano. Spenard Roadhouse has a Cubano, but it is more of a modern variation of this delicious sandwich. A good Cubano has slow-cooked pork topped with ham, cheese, pickles, and mustard on delicious toasted bread. In Puerto Rico, we had the real thing.

Want a delicious, traditional Cubano? Hop on a plane and fly to Honolulu and visit Soul de Cuba Cafe.

After watching Chef, we writhed around in pain at night dreaming of a Cubano. Since flying to Honolulu to eat a single sandwich was out of the question, we developed a recipe to make Cubanos with moose. Of course, you can do the traditional pork or any other game meat, but we wanted to put an Alaskan twist on this sandwich, while maintaining some of that good Cubano highlights.

cubano

Hands down the best Cubano we’ve ever made!

 

Here’s our recipe:

Ingredients

  • Moose roast
  • Spice rub: salt, cumin, black pepper, red pepper, garlic, lime juice
  • Sliced ham
  • Swiss cheese, sliced
  • Mustard and mayo
  • Dill pickles, sliced
  • French bread sandwich rolls
  • Ample butter, softened

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven or barbeque to between 250 and 300 F. We use a Big Green Egg for that nice barbeque flavor, but you can just as easily do this in an oven. Prepare spice mixture (to taste) and liberally rub the moose meat. Wrap in foil and place in oven or on barbeque. Cook for about one hour. Note: moose can be cooked like steak, but if you are cooking pork (or bear) you need to make sure it is well done.
  2. Pull meat off and let it rest before slicing. Coarsely slice; it should shred somewhat at this point. Prepare the bread by cutting in half and buttering the insides of the bread. Place bread on grill or sear the buttered side in a skillet. Remove and prepare the sandwich: spread mayo and mustard on both sides, place down cut moose, followed by sliced ham, sliced pickles, and sliced swiss cheese. Press the sandwich together. Butter both sides on the outside.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet lid on the grill. Place sandwich on grill and cover with lid and press down. If you don’t have one, you can simply turn the sandwich in a skillet or on the barbeque and press the sandwich with a spatula. You want both sides of the sandwich crispy and the cheese melted.
  4. Remove from heat. Serve with sweet potato chips or tostones (Safeway was out of plantains, so we did sweet potato chips). Eat after watching Chef!

Summer In March

March 23, 2015

Variable wind 10 knots. Seas 2 feet. Some passing clouds, but mostly sunny. Highs in the mid-40’s, lows in the mid-20’s. High aurora activity.

Wow! What a weekend! Other than the sub-freezing chill at night and the high aurora forecast, the weather was basically analogous to summer. Gone were the fierce, cold north winds, the freezing spray, and sleet that usually occupy March. Instead we had endless sunshine, feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces once again. What a perfect weekend to start the sailing season.

2015firstovernight 12

Wow, what a weekend!

The first night out is always a little shaky. We have taken Carpe Ventos out on day trips since February, so using the boat wasn’t much of an issue; it was the food planning that we messed up. We thought we put the staples like rice, pasta, and nori and other necessities, like maple syrup, back on the boat in February. Only after we moved Carpe Ventos over to F-dock to flush and fill the water tanks did we realize what we were missing. Luckily Krystin had brought tons of canned foods from home like smoked and unsmoked salmon, moose, and some dried items made in our dehydrator. It wasn’t a total loss, but a hot breakfast would’ve been nice (we forgot the eggs, too).

2015firstovernight 7

Food planning on this trip was poor, so we ate a lot of cold things like this.

2015firstovernight 16

Except for the night we had salmon. Oh, salmon, always the best meal!

Flushing and filling the water tanks took forever as usual. We had to move our boat over to the transient dock which is the only dock with water in the off season. We double flushed our tank and filled up the water just as the pleasant north wind died. A downwind sail to Thumb Cove would’ve been nice, but instead our engine got its first decent workout of the year.

We dropped anchor in Thumb Cove in glassy water. A few jet skiers were playing around in the cove, one of which was towing a surfer behind. Mostly, we spent the afternoon absorbing the heat from the sun before heading out to shore. We watched an mountain goat nanny and kid walk along the beach from one steep mountain to the next.

2015firstovernight 1

Krystin looks out at Carpe Ventos anchored in Thumb Cove on a very low tide.

2015firstovernight 2

This tree has been stranded on the beach here for years and it always makes for great pictures.

2015firstovernight 3

Sunset on the north beach at Thumb Cove. Early season sailing is the only time we experience darkness aboard the boat.

Our first stop was the usual beach with the two state park cabins. The park service had a busy winter putting up signs for the outhouses on the beach and renovating the cabins. One cabin was vacant while the other was full of some local kids who had run out tons of gear on their jet skis. They invited us in for a friendly drink and we found out that the majority of them lived in our neighborhood. One of them, who was a bit over-served, announced VERY LOUDLY his name. He also VERY LOUDLY figured out where we live. “YOU GUYS HAVE THE BIG RED TRUCK, RIGHT?” We had a good laugh. Though they invited us to play around on their jet skis the next day, we decided to head to another cove the following morning.

Before heading out, we went to shore to explore. There was a small swell still rolling through from a passing storm. The beaches were littered with the usual marine debris. We noticed an increase in dead starfish probably due to the same, mysterious starfish die-off happening along the West Coast. We also noticed a plethora of fire rings on the beaches. Perhaps the lack of snow hadn’t flattened out or destroyed last summer’s crop of fire rings, but it appears that people had been camping virtually everywhere. People also think that metals like aluminum foil burn, so each ring was littered with foil and beer caps. After witnessing the destruction of our local public use cabins, we grabbed a trash bag and started cleaning up some of the beaches and brought back a bag full of camping filth. In the process, we stored two like-new tarps off a beach in Thumb Cove.

2015firstovernight 4

Looking south out Resurrection Bay. The water was clear and glassy it seemed unreal.

2015firstovernight 5

A winter’s worth of storms and lack of snow cover downed many trees along the beach.

2015firstovernight 6

Coming soon, Boat, Beaches, and Bears 4, now with more Bixler!

With a bag of trash and two tarps richer, we left Thumb and headed to Bulldog near Bear Glacier. This exposed stretch of coastline is open to the Gulf of Alaska swell which was still rolling through steadily from the southeast. In Krystin’s opinion, Bulldog appeared too swelly to anchor in. In Bixler’s opinion, it would be fine. After much marital strife, we ended up in Sunny Cove not talking to one another. Honestly, what do other couples fight about?

2015firstovernight 8

A thick, cold cloud sits over Bear Glacier.

2015firstovernight 9

Krystin sips a beer while bundled up en route to Bulldog Cove.

When we settled down and Bixler as usual realized Krystin was right about Bulldog, we headed to the beach. Sunny Cove has a wonderful long stretch of beach great for walking on. There are several private cabins that dot the cove and lots of beach combing. Sunny Cove doesn’t collect as much trash, but there were plenty of dead starfish.

2015firstovernight 11

The Sunny Cove beach walk.

2015firstovernight 13

Walking towards the sun at the end of Sunny Cove.

2015firstovernight 10

We found this small cave with a frozen icicle down the middle of it.

We climbed to an old cabin we found years ago only to find it had finally collapsed. The dead deer we found under the cabin whose skull sits on our bookshelf is now a mere pile of bones. We remarked that it is amazing how time flies.

2015firstovernight 15

The abandoned cabin flattened by a tree.

2015firstovernight 14

The few remains of the deer. The skull sits on our bookshelf.

Sunny is known for being sunny, except in March when you anchor too far to the south for the sun reach the boat. We watch the sun completely miss us and set behind the mountains. However, the sun was quickly replaced by a clear night sky with loads of beautiful stars. A few clouds settled over the cove, but from the warmth and safety of our boat, we were able to see the aurora borealis through the clouds. Unfortunately, it was high tide and thus too rocky to shoot a decent picture.

The next morning, a cold north wind blew into the cove. Though sailing season had started, we were quickly reminded how cold it is to sail in March. Our Dickinson stove was doing the trick at night (though we filled it too full one night and glowed red hot), but mornings were brisk. We hid behind Fox Island trying to fish and wait for the wind to die. By the time we rounded the spit, the seas were glassy once again.

2015firstovernight 21

Carpe Ventos precariously anchored near the spit on Fox Island.

2015firstovernight 19

Oh really?

Visiting the spit at Fox Island is no easy task. There is no protected anchorage and the beach is so steep that anchoring in 100 ft of water puts you a few yards off shore. Without the usual boat traffic and with perfect weather, we dropped anchor and explored the spit.

The spit is ring of cobbles and rocks that surround a lagoon. There are numerous dead trees from the 1964 earthquake which subsided some of the land. A harbor seal was following us from the lagoon while we circumnavigated the spit.

2015firstovernight 18

The lagoon on the Fox Island spit surrounded by dead, but still standing, trees.

2015firstovernight 22

A harbor seal, barely seen in this pictures, pokes its head up as it follows us around.

2015firstovernight 20

Ah! What is this? Green grass!

Bixler found two giant buoys and two 5-gallon buckets (a form of currency in Alaska) and cached them so we could continue our hike. Unfortunately, when we returned to our cache, another local family had decided to picnic right near our pile. Their kids were playing on our buoy and we apologized profusely when we grabbed our find. They didn’t seem to mind, though. In talking, Bixler mentioned that Krystin is an engineer and one of the little girls went up to her and said, “you’re an engineer?” to which Krystin replied, “yes.” Her eyes grew wide like a cat and she mentioned that she liked “tech and math” before running down the beach. Cute.

We grabbed our treasures and pulled anchor, motoring back on glassy seas to Seward. A little more wind would’ve been helpful on the way back, but in the end it was the perfect weekend to kick off the summer sailing season.

 

Chaga: The Medicinal Mushroom

March 14, 2015

Chaga. It’s medicinal, man.

No, seriously, it is.

A few posts ago we made a brief reference to the mushroom chaga (Inonotus Obliquus). Introduced to us by some friends, we were immediately skeptical because there is so much hype about this mushroom all over the Internet. Chaga cures cancer! It is a wonder drug! You can buy it processed for $60/lb! Hmm…. As we sifted through the usual crap, we found two things: 1) Chaga is not widely studied in the US, though it is growing in popularity, and 2) the Russians and Chinese know more about it than we do – in fact Chaga is a Russian word.

Chaga is first referenced in thousand-year-old Chinese texts and was also used throughout Siberia to cure common stomach ailments and to prevent cancer. Apparently, the mushroom is high in anti-oxidants and possesses immune boosters. Chaga is found primarily on birch trees, growing very slowly over the course of many years. The birch tries to fight the chaga off by sending everything is has to it and the chaga merely absorbs it, hence the immune booster claim. That’s one theory anyway. If we could read Russian, we would be able to learn more. Apparently the Soviets used to prescribe chaga to their athletes. Yeah, it’s that good.

It turns out that because chaga grows on birch, you can find it just about anywhere here down the road where the birch line starts. We have a few spots that are a chaga meccas. Just keep an eye open and you should be able to spot the black, crumbly-looking mushrooms sticking out a birch tree. In our winter of no snow, lack of decent ptarmigan hunting, thin ice for fishing, and no more room for firewood on our property, the hunt for chaga has kept our resource extraction going year-round.

chaga

Raw, unprocessed chaga.

 

Finding and Processing

Finding chaga is the easy part. Step 1: Find birch grove. Step 2: Look around said birch grove. Done.

Removing it can be kind of a pain. A hammer and chisel or a thick-bladed knife is best to pry the chaga off. Eventually, it will pop off with enough leverage. It takes about 6 years for a chaga to grow back, so no real harm in removing it. Just don’t dig into the tree itself (i.e., leave a little left).

IMG_0165

A repeat picture from a different post, you know, back when we had snow. Bixler uses a Leatherman to try to pry a chaga off a birch tree. We later switched to the hammer and chisel method or carry a stout knife if we want to save space.

Hippies will tell you that all you need to to do is put the chaga behind a woodstove or heater to dry it out, but for it to store properly it needs to be bone dry. We chop the mushroom up and use our dehydrator to dry out the mushroom. 125 degrees F at 24 hours does the trick. Store it in mason jars for that homestead feel.

Extraction

If you are spending big money on chaga pills that are simply ground up mushroom, just stop right there. All you are doing is exercising your digestive system. Chaga supposedly contains many benefits surrounded by thick cell walls that we as humans cannot digest. Instead, you must extract the compounds. Okay everyone, time for a science lesson!

The compounds in chaga exist in two forms: polar and non-polar. Polar compounds are reactive with water (since water itself is polar) while non-polar compounds are not and need something else that’s non-polar to break them apart, like say ethanol (also known as your everyday drinking alcohol). Think mixing oil (non-polar) with water (polar). Yeah, they hate each other. Ideally, both the polar and non-polar compounds should be extracted from the chaga to receive the full benefit. However, most people use the single decoction to extra the polar compounds in the form of a tea.

Single Decoction

To make a chaga tea, take about a pint jar’s worth of chaga and coarsely chop in a food processor. Add the chaga to a crock pot and fill to maximum. Cook on low for 12 hours. Using the same chaga, you can repeat the process to continue the extraction. Chaga should only be used a few times before tossing it.

There is another method for boiling the chaga, but any chemist will tell you that this risks denaturing the compounds at high temperature. Whether or not that is the case, the crockpot method is good for lazy people like us who don’t want to watch a boiling pot of water for two hours.

Either way, the process produces a concentrate that must be cut with water (or in our case, coffee). So far it stores well in a cool room and tastes great in our morning cup o’ joe. Add a shot or so. Or, for a tea, add a shot or two and top with hot water.

Double Decoction

Say you are huge nerds like we are and after pushing your glasses back up on your nose you decide that you also need those beneficial non-polar compounds. Enter the double decoction method.

To start the tincture, go to your local liquor store and buy the cheapest, bottom-shelf vodka you can get your hands on. Take a pint of chaga and grind it as fine as you can in a food processor (note: grinding chaga in a food processor creates a brown chaga ring in your food processor). Put the ground chaga in a quart jar and top off with vodka. Let sit for two months, shaking periodically.

After two months, strain the chaga, keeping both the chaga and the alcohol decoction. Take that chaga and put in a crock pot on low, filled to the max with water. Instead of just letting it sit, you will want to reduce the chaga and water mix by cracking the lid on the crockpot to reduce the water. When the water is reduced to about halfway, chuck the chaga and keep the water extraction. Combine the water extraction with the alcohol extraction.

We have a giant crock pot, so our ratio of water to alcohol was somewhere in the 4:1 range, diluting it to about 10% alcohol. We also store this in mason jars. While the single decoction is simply called “Chaga Tea Concentrate,” the double decoction has the long-winded name of “Nimble Maarit Elixir of Life Longevity Tonic,” named after our chef-friend Maarit who happens to be very nimble on icy trails and who enjoys witty titles.

Taste and Recipes

So how does it all taste? Awesome. The chaga tea has a mild birch syrup flavor. The alcohol decoction without blending with the chaga tea has a strong bitter taste that fades with the mixing of the tea. We put the straight chaga tea in our coffee to add a mild birch note.

The double decoction tonic is a little bit more difficult to work with because of the hint of bitterness. We had our friend Samm over for a hot tub and while she was showering after she had a shower epiphany: chaga root beer. The rich brown color is excellent for a mock root beer. We have a Soda Stream to make our own non-alcoholic fizzy water, but you can use bottled carbonated water for this recipe:

Chaga Root Beer

Combine 1 oz tincture, 2 oz chaga tea concentrate, 1 tbsp Torani vanilla syrup (or vanilla extract with sugar or honey to taste). Fill with fizzy water, ice,  and top off with half and half if you desire a creamier taste. Stir well.

Tastes a lot like rootbeer, we swear by it!

chaga1

Dried chaga, chaga tea and tincture, and chaga root bear. Yum!

 

Does it work?

Good question. We aren’t sure if it is psychosomatic, but drinking a chaga rootbeer everyday or having a bit in our coffee sure makes us feel pretty darn good. That and the returning sunlight!

Ice Fishing and Sailing – All in the Same Week!

February 26, 2015

For the month of February, we’ve been busy. Aside from our day jobs, here’s how we’ve been occupying our downtime:

  • Krystin has been heavily studying to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam in April. If you don’t know what that is, you should look it up. You get a stamp with your name on it, among other things. Apparently, her studying has been causing the blog to go quiet for a few months, so don’t expect updates as frequent as before until after April 17th.
  • Bixler randomly googled “Boat, Beaches, and Bears” and found a heated discussion about our first movie on the UK-based Yachting and Boating World Forum. Naturally, he joined the discussion and noticed a direct relationship between passion about protecting bears and meanness of insults. Apparently someone who feels bears should be elevated into some magical realm where they are better than other animals also hopes our boat sinks. Now we see why the American colonies rebelled from England in the 1770’s. You can read the entire transcript here.

When the weather isn’t pouring rain, we’ve been hitting up some more remote lakes for ice fishing.

icesail 4

We convinced a friend of ours to tow our gas-powered auger to a remote lake. What an ordeal! The trail hardly had any ice or snow on it, so it made the tow up to the lake interesting.

The highway-side lakes get hit hard because your average fisherman can simply park and walk to the lake. We’ve started venturing further to increase our fishing success. One lake involves a complete bushwhack to get to, one has a long trail, and the other involves a fairly steep climb up an icy trial. All lakes are still well-iced and the fishing has been hot! Thanks to the warming temperatures, our holes don’t freeze over at night, so that’s less work on the manual ice auger for us!

icesail 3

Krystin works hard to drill a hole in a remote lake. Bixler can drill a hole in half of the time.

icesail 5

Warming temperatures created slushy conditions, but that didn’t stop us!

icesail 1

Success! Krystin holds up her catch of the day!

icesail 2

The harder the hike, the better the trout. Here are two nice-sized trout from a stocked lake. The biggest one was over 15 inches in length. Note the flask for scale.

icesail 6

A typical day’s catch: several pounds of trout. Some real fat ones in there, too!

icesail 11

Finished trout cooked in a salt dome. Delicious!

Somewhere in between all of this, Bixler was out running errands in Seward when he noticed that a) the ambient temperature was above 35 degrees F and b) the wind was mild. He called up Krystin and said “let’s go sailing!” We gathered our friend Samm (who noted that her name’s is in fact spelled with two “m’s”), a newly minted Alaskan, and headed out on Carpe Ventos for a romp around the bay – in February, the earliest we’ve ever taken her out.

icesail 7

This is February?

There wasn’t much wind for sailing, but Bixler did pull up a nice yelloweye rockfish for dinner and we introduced Samm to Dall’s Porpoises, who enjoy riding Carpe Ventos’ bow wave.

icesail 8

The first yelloweye rockfish of the season!

We had some very light sailing and enjoyed the scenery.

icesail 9

Not much sailing in these parts. We rode a few zephyrs back to Seward.

There is a complete lack of snow once again, except for the mountain tops, making the scenery look more like April than February. It felt great to be back out on the water. Everything worked fine and soon we’ll be back to our usual antics aboard our boat.

icesail 10

Soon we’ll be back to our usual boat antics!

Spring is coming early this year!

Ice Fishing: Filling that Fishing Void in the Dead of Winter

February 12, 2015

Fishing. It is probably our favorite form of resource extraction. Over the last several years, we’ve become pretty darn good at ocean fishing and are slowly figuring out the intricacies of fly fishing. However, ocean fishing and fly fishing can only be done in the short time period defined as summer. In Alaska, we have long winters. People always remark that December 21st is the first day of winter, but our winter begins long before that. Ice up in October, ice out in May. Rain in between sometimes.

During that long period, we often dream of fishing, thinking it is not possible. Yet, right here under our noses, people are still fishing. How? Ice fishing.

goldenfin

A goldenfin flash freezing on the ice. Goldenfins are landlocked Dolly Varden that have, well, golden fins.

Ice fishing is not common on our side of the peninsula where mountains separate the best lakes and heavy snow usually accumulates. This year’s low-snow year has locals scratching their heads on what to do outside that doesn’t involve skiing, snowmachining, and the like. Most people have written off this winter as a terrible one. Some, like us, have invested in ice fishing gear to take advantage of the situation. Lakes normally covered in feet of snow are now accessible. The fishing potential is enormous.

icefish 4

A summary of our ice fishing setup. We fished this lake all the way until dark!

How we made the jump to buy gear is a mystery. One weekend during our spell of cold weather, we drove to Soldotna and invested in a full set of gear, minus the shanty. We drilled a few holes and realized that a local lake close to our house is full of Dolly Varden and large rainbows that didn’t seem to take our lures. We could see them amassing down the hole, interested, but skeptical. Eager for bigger fish, we started exploring out the road. And then our power auger broke.

icefish 3

The power auger is an essential tool for the roadside lake. Bixler drills a few holes on a beautiful, albeit very cold, day.

First the pull start snapped while we were sitting in -5F weather trying to figure out how to rewind the spring inside of it. Once we figured that out, we headed out to another lake the following day only to have the entire transmission fail on us. Back to Soldotna. Luckily for us, Soldotna has a large ice fishing community and it was Superbowl Sunday. We didn’t have to argue with the guys at Sportsman’s Warehouse because the manager was too busy watching the game and let us exchange it. During the auger exchange, the helpful employee offered all of his tips for fishing. We were finding that the few living souls that we encountered on some of the local lakes were more willing to share tips than the ocean fisherman around Seward. During the height of the salmon season, when the silvers run to shore and people line the beach to snag them, every asshole around seems to be fishing.

icefish 2

The view is totally worth the cold. Also, note to self: beer on ice means a beer slushy…

Despite the hangups with the old auger, we started to get a bit more successful. We pulled a few Dolly Varden out of that nearby lake. We headed out the road and caught Goldenfin (landlocked Dolly Varden) and our first sizable trout. Our fishing is usually limited by how cold we get, sans-shanty. Since we are both constantly on the move, we’ve taken a more active approach to ice fishing. Another Sewardite who had been fishing another lake we tried since the ’70’s does this same approach. He pulled a 6 lb trout out of that lake once.

Friendly people? Excellent fishing access? Refunds on broken augers? There must a few downsides to the sport! And there are: the cold, and the weird sounds the ice makes when a car drives by on it.

One thing to note: check your regulations! Your visibility of standing on the ice with a sled, auger, and fishing rods makes you an easy target for the Troopers. At the same lake where the local pulled a 6-lb trout out of, a Trooper showed up to question us. He was nice, asked to see our licenses, and was convinced there were no fish in this lake, but said if we caught anything he’d like to see it.

We’ve had some decent success on roadside lakes, but with a recent investment in a hand auger, we will start trying more remote lakes. Hopefully we can pull some big fish at our secret lakes!

icefish 1

The potential down this hole is enormous. Also, that’s spilled beer along side the hole for those of you with nasty minds.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 372 other followers