Claiming land and Norman walks 3 hours in the dark to cabin

Iron traps

Common traps

Sunday, November 29, 1981—we flew into Old Boot Lake and got camp set up. We’re planning on staking and claiming some land in what the state has called Green Acres.

Friday, December 4, 1981—I got up early, had breakfast and gathered supplies, went to Tazlina and went to John’s place. Loaded the snowmobile and drove the machine back to Eleven-Mile Trail and then went 4 miles to the upper lake above Old Boot Lake. We have a tent camp there on Old Boot Lake. The snow was really deep and when I would come down the hills the snow would flow about six feet ahead of the machine. I’m going downhill that way and it flows out and along the sides. My heart in my throat, I’m hoping that I don’t get stuck. When I get there, Daryl and his dog, Rufus are doing okay. He had been flown in to the cabin site with this tent that is a military—army tent. It’s designed for winter camping.

Saturday, December 5, 1981—the days are really short, so we got what we would call a late start and it’s really cold. We got some compass bearings and paced off some land and shoreline. We did see over a hundred caribou yesterday, their tracks are all over. Saw two moose cows with calves and two fox track. When we get up on the higher places of these properties, there are some nice views.

Sunday, December 6, 1981—it was a nice day, but pretty cold. Cut firewood. We’ve got 720 feet of land boundary measured. We’ve got a hundred foot steel tape that we used. Then we took some time and looked at building sites. Building sites must be a hundred feet set back from the shoreline of the lake. Saw a few rabbit tracks and a place where ptarmigan or a spruce hen had dived in the snow to sleep—it’s pretty warm under the snow. We sure liked the nice views from around here. Darrel isn’t feeling very well.

Monday, December 7, 1981—I’m sick and what we picked up, we don’t know, but I snowmobile out—woke up sick in the night, didn’t get much sleep. Both the carburetor and steering froze up on the snow machine. Finally got it going. I had a big heavy screwdriver on the snow machine and a hatchet and I would hammer on that screwdriver handle and chip the ice out so I could get the steering so it would move. I got to Jan’s about noon. Then went home and later went to the land office in Glennallen, and then shopped for groceries. After that I went to Mike’s with a message from Henry.

Tuesday, December 8, 1981—I’m still sick.

Wednesday, December 9, 1981—I slept late. It’s a nice warm day but I don’t feel good this morning. I decide to go back in and I’m pulling the sled. Broke more trails and set six traps. Got a red fox thawed out, skinned and stretched him. He had two porcupine quills in him—so they meet porcupines and get a quill once in a while. Got things ready for the trip out, saw two moose, had a camp robber and a rabbit in the traps. An owl ate the rabbit. I made one fox set, caribou had been moving around.

Thursday, December 10, 1981—we do some more measuring on Old Boot and also across the middle lake and land dividing it from Upper Lake and another part of that lake. This is the area that Darrel has chosen. We’re expecting a plane so we snowmobiled an airstrip on the lake. Made four, square posts with the chain saw to mark our post corners with.

Friday, December 11, 1981—chipped the ice out of the steering on the snowmobile again this morning. Took two stakes with us to Darrel’s 40. Rufus has died. He had some kind of kidney problem and Darrel wanted Rufus over on his 40. We put in the stakes and chopped two lines and flagged them. Then we went to my 40 acres and staked and flagged one line and measured my lakeshore. It was getting close to dark so we get in stove wood for the night.

Saturday, December 12, 1981—we looked at what would make a building site and evaluated the lines of the sides of the 40 and then packed up to leave. Chris came in on our landing strip to fly Darrel out just before dark. I went out with the snowmobile pulling an empty sled. Then we celebrated at Nelchina.

Monday, December 14, 1981—we unpacked the Green Acres gear and packed to go out to the traplines.

Tuesday, December 15, 1981—I had a tough time getting in to the cabin. The trail was not good all the way to Blue Lake. I lost the trail entirely— deep snow. I knew where Blue Lake was and I was trying to get there and I came up over a small ridge. Just as I got to the top, there was no place to go but a bunch of alders. I got stuck in them and then the darned Ski-Doo wouldn’t start. I tried to cut some of the alders out from under the machine so I could get going but the machine just would NOT start. There was nothing to do. It was right at dark, so I started walking towards the cabin. It’s probably two miles to the cabin from where I’m stuck. The bunny boots sure got heavy! Soon it’s dark, but there were stars shining. They gave enough light so I could follow the trail—especially when you know it. When I get here, the cabin is in fine shape. I had wood split and ready to build fire. I get a fire going. It’s been dark for some time, walking on the trail. I got here three hours after dark. Saw a caribou, moose cow and a calf and three ptarmigans today.

Wednesday, December 16, 1981—I got up early, had breakfast, walked back to the snowmobile and got it un-stuck and off of the brush. It started then and I went back to the cabin and ran some of the trapline. Got a nice marten. Then I got lost from the trail and came out by the highway by way of Old Man Lake.

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Sylvia returns, Norman insulates the remote cabin

a pile of firewood

Plenty of firewood

Sunday, November 1, 1981—Sylvia called. It’s been a while since we talked over the phone.

Monday, November 2, 1981—Sylvia called to give me her plane arrival time.

Tuesday, November 3, 1981—went to Anchorage to pick up Sylvia. James went along and Jeff stopped at the lodge to visit.

Wednesday, November 4, 1981—we got some shopping done before we went out to Nelchina. The road was slippery all the way home.

Friday, November 6, 1981—cut up stove wood, built two dog houses, Rusty and I took the pickup to the wood lot and got one load. It’s a nice day this morning, -5°.

Saturday, November 7, 1981—cut and hauled a load of wood, split and stacked it, some other chores too. Of course, I’ve got the dogs to take care of every day. Went to Tolsona Lodge for the Polack party. They Monday,

November 16, 1981—it was -25°. Got up early and loaded the gear and the snowmobile on the truck and drove to the Eleven-Mile Trail on the Lake Louise Road. Jackie and Ken came twice and Jackie drove their truck back to her home.

We unloaded my truck and trailer at Jan’s on Lake Louise Road. Ken and I then drove the snow machines and sleds to the end of the seismic trail, which was about six miles. Then we broke out our own trail to my cabin. We hung up a few times, especially on one steep hill. It was a heck of a time to get up to the top of that. It was getting towards dark and I felt the pressure of finding the cabin. I go in the general direction that I think the cabin is. Ken was breaking trail for me and I was pulling a real heavy load on my sled behind the machine. We broke out into a more open place and I recognized it and knew exactly where the cabin was. I tried to holler at Ken to catch his attention. He got to be about a hundred yards away from me before he stopped and I waved him over and pointed towards where the cabin would be and he started breaking trail in that direction. We got there just as it was getting dark.

Sure glad to have plenty of wood split an the cabin up. We were so grateful to have hot water to make coffee, get warm and I had Chili to thaw out so we could have something to eat. We were very hungry. We ate the first batch of chili. I could tell Ken was really hungry yet and I could use some more. The next package of chili filled us up. He thought it was a really nice cabin. The evening temperature was running -12° to -15°. Did a few things in the cabin and built a trap carrier for the snow machine. Today was a pretty day and it also had kind of a rainbow in the sky. Very unusual.

Tuesday, November 17, 1981—it was -10°. After breakfast, we got ready and I went with Ken halfway to the end of the seismic trail to make sure he got headed out on the trail with no problems. We said our good-byes and he went out to the road. His wife was to pick him up and take him home. I headed back to the cabin. When I got to the upper end of Blue Lake, I set two marten traps and I got a ptarmigan for supper.

Wednesday, November 18, 1981—Rested all day.

Thursday, November 19, 1981—it was -18° when I woke up and it was cloudy with some ice fog. I found I was really stiff and sore today. I got a slow start. I got out on the trapline and made an otter set and some fox and marten sets south and west of Blue Lake. Saw a few ptarmigan tracks and rabbit tracks but no spruce hens. Nothing much near here, only moose and caribou tracks and some marten and fox. Went hunting for bait, didn’t get anything. Ice fog setting in this evening and it’s -15° tonight. I could see the seismic trail from a high hill west of Blue Lake. I must tell Ken that would make a landmark to follow. Not enough snow for good snowmobiling, it’s really rough.

Friday, November 20, 1981—it was -20°. Slept late, need the rest. Lots of frost in the snowmobile gas, I suppose because of the foggy nights. Broke another trap trail to the north, then east, then south, then back home. Set four marten and otter. No fox bait with me. Saw fox and marten tracks and some caribou, otter and moose. Saw a beautiful small lake today. It was really nice out there. It’s -15° at dark. Fixed supper, read and rested. The Coleman lantern lights the cabin in the evening and I cook on the airtight stove. (A type of wood burning stove.) It’s a medium sized airtight. It’s a really nice stove for a remote cabin like this. I’ve got a big firewood pile that I put up last spring just before snow left. I’ll do that again this coming spring so that I’ll have dry wood to use through the winter.

Saturday, November 21, 1981—it got warmer. I made a short trail. There are no fresh tracks of any kind, so I put up insulation in the ceiling of the cabin. It only took 2 ½ hours, but it sure made a difference in the wood it takes to keep the cabin warm. I sharpened my knives here at the cabin too. It’s -10° this evening.

Sunday, November 22, 1981—it was -10° in the morning and 0° at noon. Very bright and sunny, no wind. Measured the ice on the cabin lake. It’s 13 inches with 4 inches of snow on top. I made two sets on the ridge back of the cabin. No new game or fur tracks anywhere. It was really nice all day, but it looks like snow clouds 20-30 miles to the north by east, I can see some really nice peaks from in the higher ridges. This country right through here has little high places. When you get up on them, it’s about 2700 elevation and often times, you get a real nice view. It helps keep track of where you are in the country too, once you learn what it looks like. The cabin stays lots warmer now and heats with less wood since I insulated the ceiling. It’s -10° this evening.

Monday, November 23, 1981—it’s 5° above zero with a light dust of snow falling overnight. It was 8° at noon. I ran both lines today—no fur. Did see a cow and calf moose though. It seems to be much warmer. There is a lot of overflow and water that comes up through the ice and soaks the snow. Plan to go out to the road tomorrow.