Posts Tagged ‘boondocking’

Fishing, Floating, and Home

In the area of Cooper Landing are three campgrounds managed by Alaska Recreational Management.  Russian River is about 3 miles south and butts the Russian River where the infamous ‘combat fishing’ takes place at the confluence between the Kenai River and the Russian.  This is where the first-run of Red, Coho and Sockey Salmon begins on and around June 11.   For those ‘in the know,’ this time of fishing is anything but ‘relaxing’ and the fish are plentiful.  Generally there’s a three-fish limit per 24-hour period, but last year that was raised to six.  The second run of fish comes in mid-July and goes further up the Kenai.  There is always catch and release trout fishing and Dolly Varden (a type of trout).  The season actually begins further down river with King Salmon.  There is also the world-famous Halibut fishing 3 hours south of Cooper Landing at Homer.

The second campground is at the north end of Cooper Landing known as Quartz Creek.  This campground sits on the Kenai Lake and about 10 of the 45 sites open late April, early May depending on snow.  This is where we initially ‘land’ when we arrive at Cooper Landing.  ARM allows us to use electric and water from the host site which is extremely nice especially in colder weather when we are able to run our fireplace and keep the trailer a toasty 68 degrees.  Quartz Creek is where we wanted to host because of the amenities, but we have learned it has a multitude of duties that we don’t have where we host.  They have a public boat launch onto the lake along with public rest rooms, they have a pavilion to maintain, they collect trash from the bins to put into the dumpster, they have 45 sites (15 more than we do) and they are responsible for maintaining the dump station.  Boondocking looks good from that vantage point.  For those who believe campground hosting is ‘glamorous,’ I’ve come to tell you there are parts that are not!

We stayed at Quartz Creek until we got permission to enter ours, Cooper Creek.  This campground is more primitive than Quartz and is located south of Cooper Landing.  ‘Our’ campground as 29 sites, one is ours, on two sides of the Sterling Highway.  This highway is the major route to Soldotna (about 1 hour away) where we will be doing our shopping and to Homer (about 3 hours away).  We were quite happy to see that all the work we had done last fall when closing the campground down remained ‘perfect’ on the south or mountain side where we stay.  The north or river side also opens early if there is no snow and we definitely have some clean up to do.  It seems some trees were cut down by the forest service and they didn’t remove the debris; it also appears some beavers had fun this winter removing numerous trees, leaving not only the telltale signs of the stumps, but also the trees!  Don’t beavers use the trees for their lodges?  Or, do they just cut them down to sharpen their teeth?

On the mountain side, our ‘home’ side runs Cooper Creek.  Trout and Dolly Varden may be fished there, but because of some manmade issues, the fish left the creek.  The short story is many years ago the salmon returned to Cooper Creek to spawn.  A dam was built up top by Cooper Lake to divert water for a power plant.  This changed the temperature of the creek by four degrees, only four, but it was enough that the salmon couldn’t find their way.  A diversion pipe was put on Cooper Lake to siphon the top warmer water off back into the creek in order to raise the temperature.  Fish and Game now study the effects and are seeing that there is some restoration happening.

On the river side is the Kenai River and its aquamarine luster.  We have 7 non-reservable sites on the river that all have access to the river and fishing.  This is where we see most of the wildlife from eagles to moose and we’ve heard about bear sightings; thus far we haven’t been blessed with that wildlife!  Alaska River Adventures, our son-in-law’s fishing company offers not only guided fly-fishing trips down this river, but also morning, afternoon, and evening scenic float trips when wildlife can be seen along the banks.

As I mentioned, our campground, Cooper Creek, is primitive.  We have no electricity or running water though there is a well pump.  We have two pit toilets, one on the river side an the other on our mountain side.  We ‘boondock’ all summer or ‘dry camp’.  This means we haul our water from a spring or other source, use both a gas and solar generator to recharge our batteries, and haul our waste in a wagon-like hauler to the manhole of the pit toilet.  Fun? Not really, but it makes the job possible and all of the processes become routine until it becomes fun!  We know how to conserve water both in washing dishes and showering, we use the pit toilets so the black-water job isn’t often (about every 2 weeks) and we have puck battery lights everywhere in the trailer so we don’t live in the dark even with nearly 20 hours of light.  We have a propane stove, hot water heater and furnace though we use our Mr. Heater more often than not.  We spent Mother’s Day morning dumping our black water at Quartz, moving on down the road a bit, and setting up our little ‘home’ for the next four months.  Tomorrow we begin our second year of campground hosting on the Kenai Peninsula.

The gate is still closed and we are not open to the public so I’m saying that we live in a gated community where we’re the only ones living, for now anyway.  By Memorial Day weekend we will have reservations that don’t stop until Labor Day.  From June 11 to mid-August, we are booked and busy 24/7.  We will meet people from all over the world as well as nearby communities; people who love to ‘get away’ from Anchorage and fish.  We will eat pizza at Sacketts right next to the campground, enjoy scoops of ice cream at Wildmans, hike some difficult and easy trails, pick blueberries, bake Alaska sourdough bread, watch the salmon swim upstream, remind people of bears and best of all, spend the next four months with our every-growing grandson – the real reason to campground host in Alaska!

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

To Cooper Landing!

Sunrise 5:40 a.m.; Sunset 10:11 p.m.

Thompson Pass

From Valdez, we headed back north on the frost-heaved destructive road to Glennallen. I didn’t sleep much because I ‘worried’ about the weather over Thompson Pass.  I am not fond of whiteouts normally, but with a 42-foot trailer that is my home on wheels, I really am not fond of the idea of losing it on ice or snow.  All night it was as if the Lord spoke to me saying, “Trust me!”  I do trust Him; I just don’t trust ME ‘hearing’ Him clearly!  We woke to clear skies and great hopes for a safe passage.  511alaska.com said the pass was good and clear and so we headed out of Valdez.  The L-shaped poles on either side of the road mark the edges for snow plows – yes, the snow gets that high.  Near the top of the pass, we saw hundreds and hundreds of ptarmigan.

Winter Ptarmigan

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos, but they are interesting birds.  In the winter they have white plumage, in the summer camo.  I had no idea they were such small birds and quick fliers.  What’s even cooler is our daughter’s address is Ptarmigan and now I’ve seen winter ones.

From Glennallen, we took the Glen Highway.  We had clear skies with some low clouds which made for some beautiful photos of the glaciers.  We have now traveled this highway in late summer with fireweed in bloom, in fall with the autumn colors and now spring/winter with frigid temperatures and snow. 

Nelchina Glacier

When we finally arrived in Anchorage, it was time for a quick stop for lunch and … Cabela’s.  We didn’t really ‘need’ anything, but I’m looking for a rain parka (long) to replace the 30-year-old one that fell apart after last summer.  Soon, we were on the Seward Highway and heading around the Turnagain Arm, past Girdwood, the Animal Conservation site, and onto the Kenai Peninsula. Though this drive takes about two hours, it is a beautiful trip.  We met a woman at Toad River who commuted 45 minutes (1 ½ hours) for 29 years from Girdwood to Anchorage.  She said in spite of the weather, it was the most beautiful commute ever.  As always, it seems the wind blows and the rain falls, but then over Turnagain Pass, we enountered snow … again.  We passed all of the campgrounds that are managed by Alaska Resource Management and noted our memories of the hosts from last year.  

Turnagain Pass

And now … we made it to Cooper Landing.   For a short time we will be staying at Quartz Creek NFS campground until our campground is opened.  The break-up of the lake has already happened, but the winter melt hasn’t even begun to start and the lake is rather low.  A morning hike to and around the lake and then by Quartz Creek was brisk and refreshing on the Shabbat morning. 

Storytime!

Before we start our campground gig on May 15, we have some time to enjoy the REAL reason we campground host in Alaska: our daughter and grandson!

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

This Life called BOONDOCKING!

When we first decided that we wanted to campground host in Alaska, we were directed to the Kenai Wildlife Refuge.  All of the information said that we would have to ‘boondock’, a word we had never heard before.  A little research showed us that it meant ‘living in the boondocks with no amenities’ or no water, no power, no sewer.  In other words, ‘off the grid’ in a trailer.

Though we thought we could ‘pull it off’, we decided to apply for jobs that had at least two of those things: electric and water.  When we were offered a job through Alaska Recreation Management that didn’t have those things, we decided once again to ‘go for it.’

(For those who want to know – We got this job because we actually asked some campground hosts at Quartz Creek when we were here last year for our daughter’s wedding, ‘How do we get your job?’  We did not hear back from any places where we filled out applications through Chugach National Forest or the State of Alaska, only from the people to whom those hosts referred us.)

Power

Our fifth-wheel trailer comes equipped with a 12-volt battery and two 30 lb. propane tanks.  The battery, believe it or not, will run our furnace along with propane.  Our stove/oven and refrigerator are also propane powered.  When traveling, the refrigerator runs on propane, but when we plugged into electric, it ran on electrical power.

Years ago we bought a solar generator in the event we would have to live without power.  It came in handy a couple of times when blizzards blew out our power for hours and even days.  We could plug in our freezer and refrigerator and not lose our food.  So, we at least had that for power, and Alaska in the summer has 20 hours of daylight.  But what if, like today, it is cloudy and rains.  My husband had the foresight to buy a small gas generator that could take over if necessary.  Once we arrived at Cooper Creek, we put our solar panels on the roof of our trailer and the sun did its thing and charged the generator.   Today, however, the gas generator is running while it’s raining.  We are still learning how much wattage we can use with one and the other, but for the solar generator, we do need sun.  We have learned that when the furnace runs on the battery, the generator will re-charge the battery first leaving us with a smaller amount of energy.

Water

Our trailer has a 60 gallon water tank.  We traveled most of the way without filling it because of its weight.  However, through Canada, most of the campgrounds didn’t have water as it was still too cold.  Because we never knew what we would find, we kept it ⅓ full.  Now that we’re without a source of water via a hose, we will have to haul water.  We have a 42-gallon water bladder that can lay in the back of the truck so that we can haul it once it is full.  One of our options is the hand pump here in the campground.  Honestly, I can’t imagine pumping 42 gallons of water into the bladder twice a week though I would probably end up with very strong arms.  We can go to a place called Jim’s Landing and fill our water with a hose or we can visit a friend of my daughter’s.  These people live ‘off the grid’ and have a wonderful spring.  They pump it into 50 gallon containers for use in their mountain tiny house.  We have been told we can use that water which we will probably do (and they have chickens where I can buy fresh eggs!).

The next issue will be getting the water into the holding tank.  We have a little pump thingy that should do that for us, but since we’ve never used it, we don’t know how or if that will work.  We learn new things each day; some actually work, some we have to re-invent.  We also have two 6 gallon jugs that we can haul water from the hand pump or the spring.   As for drinking water, I’m weird about where my water comes from.  For example, I cannot and will not drink water from a bathroom sink.  I blame that on my brother who told me when I was little that the water from the toilet flushed into the sink.  Yeah, he does plumbing today.  We buy cases of spring water for actual drinking.

We have a hot water heater.  It runs on either propane or electric.  It holds six gallons of water.  So, showers tend to be short though I’ve never run out and I love to stand in hot water.  Since we will be hauling water, I will shorten my showers because I think hauling water will become tedious.  There is a hook-up for a washer/dryer combo in our trailer, but since we knew we would be hauling water, we didn’t buy one. We have the luxury of going to our daughter’s house and showering.  We will be doing laundry at her house, too. 

Sewer

This is the biggie.  Gray water is that water that comes out of the shower, the bathroom sink and the galley/kitchen.  We have learned that gray water can be released into the ground.  If anyone has ever tent camped, you know that you can throw your wash water out on the ground.  Well, that’s what we’re going to be doing; it’s just going to come through a hose and we’ll move the hose around and around.  The only rule is that it cannot be released on forest service property so the hose goes out about 50 feet from our trailer.  The hose is brown and camouflaged because we have heard tales about people thinking it’s black water and turning hosts into law enforcement.  

Black water is the water that comes out of the toilet.  When we first asked about the campsite, we were told that we were within 100 feet of the pit toilet.  On the one side of the toilet there is a manhole cover into a septic holding tank that we can open and  dump our black water.  We bought a flo-jet pump or what we call a ‘poop grinder’.  This little mechanism grinds up what is in the black tank, mixes it with water until it flows through a garden hose into that manhole.  Unfortunately, we’re like a million miles from that pit toilet and so pumping to that manhole is not going to work.  The second option we have is called a ‘poop hauler’.  Sounds fun doesn’t it?  This is a huge tank on wheels in which my husband (not me) will dump our black sewage.  Then, he will haul it on the back of our truck that million miles and dump it into septic tank.  

Apart from these three things, it’s going to be a fun summer living in this fifth wheel.  I have hot water to wash dishes.  I have propane for my oven to bake cookies and challah bread for Sabbath.  I have a refrigerator that keeps leftovers fresh; a freezer stocked with ice cream.  I have a hot shower.  I have a flush toilet, but will probably try to use the pit toilet as much as possible.  It will be clean and smell good because that’s part of my job.  I know what I expect in a pit toilet so that is what I will do.  I have a warm bed and when it’s cold, a furnace and the most-necessary propane-powered Mr. Heater.   The lights in the trailer are LED and do not use much power so we added battery operated lights in places where we will need them if and when it ever gets dark in Alaska.

In the meantime, I have a wonderful sofa, my Broncos throw, the means to make hot cocoa, a couple of good books along with the Good Book, internet through Verizon most of the time, some herb plants and a few flowers to make this campsite at Cooper Creek in Cooper Landing, Alaska my home for the next four months. 

*Note: Much of what we have invested came from our wonderful Cabela’s discount that we had for nearly 20 years.

©2017 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.