Thursday, October 10, 2013

Frozen on the River (pt1 & 2)

I have had requests for more stories.... I don't know why exactly...except that my being in peril appeals to some people!

Winter before last (2010/2011) I had my little skidoo tundra snowmobile, parked on a gravel bar, on the south side of the Talkeetna, river. I was waiting for the river to freeze, so that I could drive it across and take it to the cabin. I had also left my canoe, and 9 rolls of fiberglass insluation (under the canoe), to finish the insulating my little house.
Just before christmas I decided to walk down to the river, and see if it had finally turned solid. Early in the morning I got up, got dressed and donned my snowshoes. It takes several hours without a load on your back to walk the Talkeetna river. Getting down to the landing I could see that the river had stopped moving during the night. The ice flows had suddenly stopped and the river was silent. Looking across I could see that during the freezing the river had come up further than I had figured, and my canoe, isulation, and my snowmobile, were now all firmly frozen in several inches of ice on the gravel bar.
I wasn't the only one with problems, as just down river from the landing was a snowmobile, sitting on the river, frozen in, with its track through the ice. Someone (that I know), had tried to run the river and paid the price by getting his machine severely stuck. He no doubt had a long walk back in to town, and a lot of dangerous work extricating his machine from the river...
There was nothing I could do for my snowmobile, as I had no equipment with me to chop ice. So instead I pumped a bit more air into my zodiak inflatable boat, that I keep there for emergency escapes, and drug it across the river to my canoe. Actually I tied myself off to the zodiac and pushed it across, just in case I broke through, I've have something to grab onto...

I made it across okay and loaded the, now extremely heavy fiberglass insulation into the raft. It was a much harder push back across, and as I inched across the channel, Which is the deepest part of the river, I could see water seeping up through the snow....
This didn't make me feel very good, and I was really glad when I reached the good ice shelf on the north side. I unloaded the insulation and covered it with a tarp, then returned to the cabin. After rebuilding the fire and warming up with a nice cup of coffee, I made plans to get my equipment across.
  I called Jeff, who was up at his place on a nearby lake, and asked if he could give me a hand the next day. He said sure, and I told him I'd meet him at the landing at such and such a time. Before going to bed I went out and cut a long spruce pole to take down to the river with me.   The next day I met Jeff as planned. I had the spruce pole with me to use to keep myself from going through the ice. Since I had to walk across to my machine and canoe, I took the chance on going through. We hadn't had any real cold weather yet, and the water seeping through had me a bit concerned. I had put a life vest on under my jacket took the axe in hand and tucked the spruce pole under my arms. This way if I broke through I would hopefully not get dragged under. That the pole would bridge the gap and let me pull myself out.

Jeff suggested that I tie a nylon rope to my waste in case I had trouble he could pull me back. I did so, and as I ventured out onto the ice I looked back to be that the rope trailing me was well out into the channel out of Jeffs' reach. He was tinkering with his sled and totally oblivious to me, so the "pulling me back" thing was no longer an option!
I made it across without incident, and it only took about 20 minutes to free the canoe and snowmobile. I fired up my little skidoo and warmed her up.

Jeff, in the meantime had worked at building a snow ramp to get the tundra and canoe up on the bank, and off the river. My machine doesnt have the power to drag anything off the river this early in the year. That is what Jeff was for! He crossed the river and pulled the canoe up off the river for me, while packing a bit of a trail. After crossing I hooked my canoe behind the tundra, threw some of the insulation in and took off for home. I had no trouble the rest of the way to the cabin... Now... how to salvage the soaked insulation! Obviously with it frozen there wasn't much to do. The damage was as bad as it was going to get. I stacked the insulation up under the west eve of the cabin to wait for spring. No doubt it was going to be interesting drying this stuff out.