Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lee's Cabin Stew

Gearing up

Porky and Smokey are ready to go!

on the darkening trail

Ah, a Boy and His Dogs!

Simon and his charges

Christine and Buddha sing the blues. Travis pretends not to listen

The McLoughlin Group

Lee's Cabin

Hittin the trail

Smokey and Joe at the finish line!

Take two large Kiwis. Add one petite Alaskan, throw in two Cheechakos fresh from Chicago. Sprinkle in two grown huskies, nine puppies, and one good-natured black lab. Divide into two vehicles, mix well for 45 minutes, or till you get to the parking lot at Wickersham Dome by sunset. Spread over seven miles of trail, keeping in mind that after dark mixture may get a bit separated. When you get to your destination, add all ingredients to small one-room cabin until well blended. Puppies and dogs may whine, but this can be fixed by feeding, although this may take several batches depending on how many bowls you packed. Serve up hot stew to hungry humans, along with home made sourdough bread, hot sauce, cheese and sausage, fresh avocados, and a nice Cabernet. Serve brownies and Cointreau for dessert. Add a lively game of Shabazz (a dice game invented by one of the Chicagoans, named after Malcolm X's wife). Continue until sleepy, or someone wins four dollars.

Divide mixture among several sleeping bags. Dogs go on the floor. Except for Travis the black lab, who thinks your sleeping bag is his and spreads out over it when you get up to check out the Northern Lights, which by the way are really beautiful and mysterious, like slow-motion lightning. After several hours strange sounds may occur: creakings, thumpings, snorts, whines, an occasional growl, and trickling sounds, followed by strange odors. This may cause one of the Kiwis to get up in the middle of the night in his underwear, because he now has to put down layers of newspapers to absorb all of the puddles of puppy piddle. He may let out groans, and say something like: "Oh, somebody laid an egg right by the door!" and then let out the puppies to complete what they started under our very noses.

After two hours, repeat.

At first light, exhausted cabin contents will slowly begin to rise. The second, slightly smaller Kiwi may rise first and find a patch of wild blueberries, which can then be picked, still frozen on the bush, for a sublime sweet yet tart and still slightly frozen breakfast topping over porridge, bacon and eggs, and tea. Or, you can just take a spoon and dig into them straight. Delicious! After an hour the contents of cabin may expand, after which it is considered prudent to take the bikes for a quick spin up the trail with the puppies who by now have been fed and are vigorously stirred.

After a couple hours, slowly spread contents over return trail to parking lot. At trailhead, again divide into two vehicles and mix well. Puppies may spread over seats and laps a bit after so much exertion, and adult dogs may want to join them rather than be tethered in the pickup bed with the bikes and gear for the ride back to the Hilltop Cafe. After a late lunch/early dinner at the Hilltop, carefully cover leftovers and wrap in several layers of someone's nylon parka so that delicious odors of french fries and meatloaf don't rouse the exhausted dogs. Layer leftovers, Cheechakos, Kiwis, and puppies into pickup truck, drive for 45 minutes or until everyone is home. Remove contents carefully, making sure to put puppies safely into kennel. Everyone will be completely exhausted by then. Feed dogs, and collapse into your own fluffy, soft, and non dog-smelling bed. Sleep for 13 hours straight, or until sun hits you in the face.

Serves good friends and their canine companions generously. Cook this up as often as you wish!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009


We have a mouse in our house.

Well, Joe says it's a vole. Vole, schmole, it's a rodent, and I made its acquaintance today completely by accident. It scurried right past me in the shower room and vanished under the sink.


Yes it's true, a woman will say that when a mouse scurries under her feet. I didn't know that either, but, trust me, it happened.

Joe heard my ear-splitting reaction and said, "Oh, that's Gerald."

He has apparently seen this bit of vermin before, and has given it a name, based on a Pink Floyd song.

Whatever, we have to set up a trap or something. Which I hate to do. Because if Gerald is really a wild Alaskan vole and not a house mouse, he qualifies as wildlife and not a varmint and I guess deserves to be captured and released as opposed to bashed or poisoned or suffocated.

But he's way too urban for my taste. I want him OUT, vole or mouse or rare Siberian Skrat, get the hell out of my house you creepy little crumb-and-poop-scattering RODENT!!

He should strive to emulate the ways and manners of Pipsqueak, our little tree squirrel. I watched Pipsqueak energetically run back and forth across our yard, his little cheeks puffy with seeds. Pipsqueak appears to be setting up a cache of food for the winter, and as I encountered him today for the first time, he paused in the midst of his work, as if utterly flabbergasted at the sight of me. He looked up, his little cheeks distended, then bent down quickly, as if to resume his business. But, clearly, he was peturbed, so he did what I think is the squirrel version of the double-take, as in: WHAT THE @%&$??!!!

Pipsqueak is about half the size of your typical Midwestern gray tree squirrel, is cinnamon colored, and has a decidedly Ewok-ish face. If you don't know what an Ewok is, time to cuddle up to the Star Wars trilogy again. In other words, his face bore a look of rodent-like gravitas, as if he could fly a spaceship if he really wanted to. Instead he let out a sound like a rubber squeaky toy, and fled up the side of a nearby spruce.

You will note there are no pictures accompanying this post. Rodents move at the speed of light. Perhaps Pipsqueak and Gerald will get into their tiny space ship hidden somewhere in our yard and fly back to their forest moon, Endor.

Gerald, are you listening?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Northern Alaska--it's sooooo metal

For whatever reason, people who work in bike shops, especially in the service department (mechanics and their minions), like the genre of music known as metal. For those of you who don't follow/care, it originated from heavy metal music of the 80's and 90's. From there, darker schools of the genre developed in Norway and other parts of Scandinavia, and are known by fans as Black Metal and Death Metal.

Joe's pals at the bike shop gave him a going away present of a DVD of an animated cable TV show "Metalocalypse." It centers around the lives of five members of a metal band known as Deathklok.

The boys in Deathklok get into all kinds of funny, scary, and I have to say, disgustingly gross situations. Almost every episode we've seen involved some kind of death by dismemberment of a character, or a putrefying corpse. This show is not for kids, but the point is that metal culture is all about the harsh, the scary, the gross and the gory. If you want to be a practitioner of metal, it seems you have to live in a place that has lots of dark, scary forests containing cold winds, howling wolves, bears and other assorted large and fierce carnivores whose handiwork you may come upon in the form of a dismembered half-eaten skeleton, and you have to dress in furs and skins, and carry heavy knives and other weaponry and tools as you eke your living on the barren and frozen wasteland that you call your home.

In other words, Alaska.

As we spent our fourth or fifth weekend in Alaska, I couldn't help think about the Deathklok aesthetic as we went about our weekend business of cutting brush for kindling, taking walks, stumbling upon half eaten animal parts, and just generally doing what a lot of people up here do as a very normal, sane and safe mode of existence. Take a look at the pictures from this week and see if you agree. Northern Alaska is to us at least, really metal.

If you don't believe me, consider that the sunlight shot was taken at high noon.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Got Wood?

Everyone in our neck of the woods seems to be preoccupied with wood. Specifically, the cutting, stacking, sorting, and most importantly (to humans at least) the burning of wood, for fuel.

The sounds of chainsaws and axes fill the air, and Joe has described his week or so of hauling wood in our Jeep as "one of the most dangerous and exhilarating things I've done."

Some notable exceptions would be the five or so beavers who inhabit the large dammed pond not far from our cabin. Their largest infrastructure is about a storey high, and is made of earth and, yes, wood. Mainly birch wood and poplar from the looks of it, and not mere sticks either. So, to be clear, they don't burn the wood, they just chop it down with their amazingly adapted chisel-like teeth and arrange it in such a way that it holds lots of water and allows them to build a house in the middle of the pond, accessible only by diving underwater to the entryway located somewhere in the middle of the structure.

Periodically the beavers would warn us with a big wet loud SLAP! of their tails. These animals are pretty large, and reminded me of the beavers in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Except they didn't invite us in for tea.