Mud Flying

a truck with big wheels and chains

The Swamp Buggy, also called the Mean Machine

Wednesday, October 3, 1979—took the buggy down to Gunsight Mountain Trail (about 25 miles). Henry went with me. The trail there goes over Ballenger Pass. He had some guys mining back on Alfred Creek and when they were moving equipment out, his Cat broke apart in the rear end. They had to leave it behind.

We are going in to pull his Cat out over the mountain and across a swamp to get it to the highway. Everything went well. Where the sun hadn’t been shining, the trail was frozen and icy, but I had chained up all four tires on the swamp buggy and it pulled this small Cat up the mountain.

When we got down to the swamp, I really put the pedal down on the swamp buggy. Henry was riding the Cat back behind me, steering and trying to keep it in the trail, mud flying. It was quite a ride for him. We got through the swamp and down a steep hill to an old lodge where we had a trailer parked. We planned to load the Cat on it. We had chains and load binders with us. We worked the load binders one after the other, one length of chain at a time. It took us a long time—and was hard work.

Henry and I were really tired by the time we got that Cat loaded and back to his lodge at Nelchina. (The next day, we were stiff and sore.) I did a few odd jobs around here at the lodge.

Caribou hanging on a meat pole

map of river

Old Man Creek at Little Nelchina

Sunday, September 30, 1979—got the Cat track on and went down the river. Saw a caribou hanging on a meat pole where some hunters had their camp during caribou season. We stopped there and Tim goes over and sniffs the meat and sure enough, it has spoiled. There was a sign posted there saying to take the meat if you want it, but of course, no one would want to eat that.

We went on down the river, and just around the bend, near an old cabin, I had to clean the carburetor on the Cat pony motor before it would start.

At lunch, where Old Man Creek comes into the Little Nelchina River, we stopped near a campground at the highway that goes to Nelchina Lodge. Henry and Ken get there a few minutes later. Henry’s been working up on a gold claim in the Yukon and he’s brought home mastodon tusks and bones from the Yukon.

When we got to the highway, Ken loaded the Cat on the trailer and Tim drove the swamp buggy. We got the Cat up on the trailer and we were going down the highway when a state trooper pulled us over. He looked the whole outfit over and turned to us and asked whose outfit this was. I told him it was mine and he said, “I could fill out several tickets with everything I see that is wrong here.” We asked him what we should be doing differently and he said, “Mud flaps on the trailer—you don’t have mud flaps and the floor of that trailer is not in very good shape.” I told him the Cat had busted the planks in the trailer and we’re just coming out from the back country and I hadn’t had a chance to replace the mud flaps that had gotten torn off traveling. He kind of accepted that, and this conversation went on over different things for a while and finally he told us, “Well, you can go on now.”

We got to Nelchina—glad this trip was over.