On Tuesday morning I began my trip up to Alaska at the very end of May.
For the entire month of June, I was in Alaska.
I left from San Jose, and I flew up with a friend to Sea-Tec. Then on to Anchorage. We met up with 5 other men at Anchorage and spent the night where we could.
In the morning we got on the small MARC (Missionary Aviation Repair something)
Plane with our luggage and with a full load headed out. We had to land a Russian Mission, since the Kako Retreat Center landing strip was too soft from the winter still.
So Kako had to make a couple trips to shuttle us into kako using their 3 and 5 seat planes.
And so we all got in safely to Kako, and started working and preparing for the next week when the children(campers as we call them) were coming.
I think I explained what Kako was when I posted on the webpage last year. This year we had enough people to be the counselors as we call them, the people that are the cabin leaders.
That being the case, I was asked to be the activity director, for all four weeks. So my job was to be in charge of organizing and running the big activities.
And then I ran some of the daily activities. Helped wash dishes, serve meals, and to step in and help the counselors. I fixed stuff that broke and maintained stuff.
The seven guys were all from CA. 4 from the L.A. area and 3 from my area. We had a great team, and got stuff done.
I will now list some things that were fixed and made and made better.
One of our metal canoes was really beat up with several tears in the bottom. I put silicone down and then got a scrap piece of aluminum from one of the scrapped airplanes and shaped it and put a whole bunch of rivets in. It worked really well and came out perfect.
Another one that I watched fixed was a plastic canoe that was fixed by lighting a hunk of plastic on fire, and as it melts the plastic would fill in the whole.
When you are in AK, you use the stuff you have to fix the things that have to be fixed.
In the kitchen I repaired refrigerator door handles that broke off, fixed draws that were broken, cleaned out the drain pipes when they clogged up and stopped.
I used the welder and torch to help the guys as we put up a new swing set. Fixed the tire swing by welding more metal onto the spindle when it tore through.
Worked on four wheelers a little bit. Fixed some 220 wiring to get the compressor going.
When the truck quite on us, Caleb and I figured out the problem, and took the starter off the engine and found some metal had jammed in the starter, and thus jammed the engine.
We fixed that, and then worked on a gas engine powered generatore/welder system.
I was constantly fixing small stuff around camp.
One of by bigger projects was the swimming pool. The first week of camp was on, and the campers went swimming, but they complained about the water being cold. (Hey, it was 38 degrees! ) And what do you expect when there is still snow on the ground in places around camp?
Everyone I talked to said it was an incredibly cold summer we were having.
One evening Joshua was just lamenting that fact, and was wishing that we could heat it up. He have jokingly asked if it could be done. I said yes, and went to sleep thinking about it, and woke up thinking about it.
And so I went to work to try to find a solution. I then got out the torch and welder and got myself an old 55 gallon drum and build a stove with a heating element inside. I then hooked it all up and hoped. The weather got a bit warmer, but still, two weeks later, they were swimming in 55 degree water.
So that was a fun project, using a lot of creativity and resourcefulness.
I fixed a broken bed frame and put it back together.
A reclining soft lazy-boy type chair was broken and in the way and so I spent some time and fixed that and someone on staff claimed it.
I briefly helped dig out some soft spots on the runway and filled them in with rock.
Another big thing that I was responsible for was the obstacle course. Last year we put two or three things together for the campers to do in the woods. They had a beam to cross, and a podium they had to get their entire cabin on(3-6 people).
And that was about it, except for a course where you had to cross different tires.
And so it was desirable, I soon found out after I got there, that a new course would be really nice.
And so I went up to the woods and walked around with Caleb. As I walked, I envisioned the different things to build. I walked back and drew pictures of all the different things. And in the next two days put 7 obstacle stations in a new course. And so it was complete and ready for action for the first camp.
To briefly run through them, I will list them, and also two more that I added during the fourth week.
Swing Oh! Hanging tires in a line on a cable. You have to get across them to the other side without touching the ground.
Sticky Bridge No it is not sticky, but stickY as in it is a bridge you have to build using only about 5 to 6 small diameter saplings .
I use the example from the Bible about a cord of 3 is not easily broken.
The same is true here. If you try to get across the ‘raging river’ on ONE stick, you are not going to make it.
BUT, if you put several sticks together, you will be able to walk across them if you use them all. It may really sag, and they will bend, but they won’t break, and you will be able to get across.
Loggers Beam A good size log suspended on each end above the ground that you have to get across.
These stations being a part of the course, you want to get through as fast as you can as it is a timed event.
Alaskan Bell Tower The one and only tower like it in AK. It is a rope ladder system with a bell you have to ring at the top. It can be challenging for some.
Nature Crawl You guessed it, just like an army crawl, but in a natural environment.
Under Log A high, horizontal log that you have to cross, most commonly done upside down.
Fern Crossing which became the favorite, are two platforms, and you have to swing from one platform to the other.
BEARicade A quick, pretty high bar they have to get over.
Nature’s Waste A big pile of leaves and tundra collected from the mountain top that everyone has to jump in.
And so those are the things that the cabin has to do. The time it took varied. Some of the smaller cabins, with some agile people could get through in under 10 minutes. While others took 50 minutes.
However long they took, most of them loved it. And some were challenged. Some of them had a tough time because they were afraid. And I am not ashamed for saying that I knew some of these stations would be challenging to some. It is good for us to be challenged, and to face things we don’t like.
It was my job to keep the course in working condition, and to run the event. I had half of the campers for 1 ½ hours and so I ran 4 cabins through the course and kept all their times going.
And so that was one of my highlights. To make a course out of nothing, and to see them enjoying it. And of course after we were all done, and it was dinner time, I had the pleasure of sending the fastest team to dinner first, and second fastest next, etc.
Some other highlights.
Fishing of course!
A little about fishing. Fishing is only done after our work is done on the weekends after dinner, and that normally means if we want to fish, we are going to sacrifice sleep. But I went fishing a couple times.
We went down to the kako creek a couple times and caught a couple very small greyling.
On another trip, I drove the truck a couple miles down to where the bridge washed out, and walked the last couple miles down to the lake. There were 3 canoes, and about 10 people. I did not feel like being in a crowded canoe, and so I slipped off into the woods to just fish from the shore. They said you could not catch anything from the shore, but I have proven statements like that wrong before. And so they all went out and fished and caught nothing, while I stayed back and caught one pike.
Yet another trip was rather an adventure more than fishing. It started out with almost everyone going down in the truck, and I took along 3 inflatable rafts.
We made it to the lake, and we all went out, on the 3 rafts and one canoe. Two girls were in the canoe with me. The lead raft was the guys taking us to the fishing spot, but they slowed down some reason, and we kept going.
Pretty soon we noticed a currently, but did not think much about it, since I was fishing the shoreline as we paddled along. Awhile later it just did not feel right, and we began to realize we may not be in the right area.
The lead raft was far behind us, and out of sight, apparently turning around and going back.
I spoke up and said we should probably turn around and go back, because we were beginning to realize that we were not on the lake, but on a river, and nothing short of the great Yukon River. So we turned around and started to paddle hard, but we could make but really slow progress in the canoe.
Now the inflatable rafts are a whole lot more resistant and they could not even hold their ground, but were slowly being pulled down the river.
This is where I stepped up and took charge. I pulled out a piece of paracord about 6 feet long. That was the only rope we had in sight. We pulled along side the raft and connected. We then proceeded to struggle and toil greatly to pull ourselves, AND the drag of a raft to the opposite side of the river, where I noticed a beach earlier when we floated by. We had to fight the current for ¼ to ½ a mile across to the other side.
In the meantime the other raft which was father downstream was also in the same boat as us, and were trying to hold their ground, but slowly drifting.
Back with the canoe, we toiled for I would say 20 minutes before we finally reached the shore.
We removed all the gear from the canoe, and drank a bit of water, and the only other guy in the group, Andrew joined me and Becky in the canoe, and set out downriver to fetch the other raft way down there. It was really easy to get to them.
We turned the canoe around and got right above them and they tied on. And so the battle began again. Trying to get back. I am paddling as fast as I can and everyone is working really hard. In the raft they are paddling hard as well, but they don’t have to worry about trying to steer the raft.
It is getting late in the evening now, but thankfully the sun is still up.
After another hard battle, we got to the shore. 7 girls and 2 guys.
Now the guys are wondering what happened to us, and they are waiting for us back at base camp.
I know we need to get back, and so I load up the canoe, and put the rafts up on top of the canoes, and took a rope from the grabline of the other raft and tied it to the canoe and we set off up the shore of the Yukon.
I should note here that since I did not want to get my shoes wet, before we went out on the little fishing trip, I left them on shore at the base camp.
And so now here we are walking down the sand/mud beach in bare feet. Some other people are barefoot too as shoes are wet.
And so here we are, Becky and I are taking turns walking in the water along the shore pulling the canoe up river. It was almost fun. Sometimes you will sink a little bit.
Then we would come to a place where a little creek dumped into the river across our path, and we would need to get across it.
The problem was, it was really muddy around it. This is where we really started to laugh hard. We were singing a couple feet into this stuff. I was pulling people out by their rubber boot straps. One part was a mud swamp, and so I pulled the rafts off the canoe, and built a rubber raft bridge.
They almost interlock together and a bunch of people kind of crawled out of the mud, onto the boats across, and then back into the end of the mud on the other side.
One of our members tried to run across in one spot and ended up in the rather funny position of face down in the mud. Some of us were laugh so hard.
We think we were probably laughing harder than the people on the other side of the Yukon river that were watching these people float down the river in rafts, turn around, and pull themselves to the other side where they proceeded to crawl back upriver.
We kept going. I enjoyed running in the stuff. As I would run, in some areas I would sink a foot each step. Then on the harder areas I would run ahead to see how it was looking. My feet needed a break from being in shoes all the time I guess, to this was their chance.
We kept going until the bushes were ready to push us into the river. And the huge swarm of black things in the sky were starting to scare us. You could heard the buzz of the things.
We all got into our boats, and all tied together, with oars in hand, we made a dash for what appeared to be the other side of the river. I went as far up as we could so that when we tried to cross, because I knew we would lose ground, (or water in this case) as we tried to cross.
We made it across, but failed to make what looked like an inlet. Since there was no way we could walk along the shore up, because of the trees and the 20 foot high vertical walls of mud, Andrew and I headed up the wall, and to try to walk inland and see what was on the other side, barefoot.
Remember, we are barefoot, walking what felt like a jungle. Brush, dead trees, thick greenery, and lots of stuff made it a rough passage in the fading light.
It was not too far before we came to the other side and realized we were on a long thin island. There was only one option now. We had to carry the boats across the island.
And so gear was unloaded. Ropes tied to canoes, and I organized everyone so that we were able to pull the boats up the steep mud slope to the top. The girls did really well, and I was happy to work with them. Everyone kept a great spirit the whole time.
And so we hauled the canoe through the brush, and the inflated rafts.
Now our next task was to load the boats up and try to cross the river to the other side. I was not sure what to do after that. Weather to try to go up or down stream around a point, or just head inland on foot to where I thought the outlet of the lake was.
So everyone bravely got into their boats, and tied on, being careful not to float into the pile of sharp logs next to us.
We made a run for it, and got across without losing too much ground, and seemed to come into an inlet, but the current was gone and it seemed like we were in a protected area. The inlet was impassable, but a little farther down it looked like there was a passage way.
Suddenly we realized we were back on the lake!! We had headed across at the right spot and entered the inlet/outlet of the lake and all we had to do was cross the lake back to base camp.
There was one person to greet us there with a fire. We warmed up a little before we started our two mile trip back to the truck. A lot of them kept wearing barefeet on the slippery wet ground.
We all made it back in safety to the truck, and then we drove back to camp around 3am.
And so, the moral of the story is, don’t let your guide ever get behind you.
One of the best fishing trips I was on happened next, and literally the next night.
One of the guys drove me all the way down to the lake on the four wheeler. We were going to go pike fishing in the one canoe that was still down at the lake. When we got there some of the kako staff were just getting back on the power boat with a load of salmon. They said the canoe was used to go downriver to Russian Mission. I thought that was the end of the fishing expedition. But then one of the guys said I could use the motor boat. Wow, that sounded good, except the motor was rather old, but we still tried. After I spent a bit of time working on it, we got it started and headed to the fishing area. It was so much fun. And then I sat on the bow with my feet just above the water and started fishing for pike as my friend used the paddle to push us into the coves. I have never seen pike fishing like that! Almost every good cast, NOT in the weeds or on the trees around brought in a fish. I put one back, lost several nice fish, and have lots more that got off. I still ended up with 10 fish piled up in the boat.
That was so much fun! It was getting pretty dark, and it was raining a bit, but it was fun.
Then we safely got back, and I cleaned the fish, bagged them, and we got back around 2 or 3am again.
The next morning I filleted 10 fish. You catch them, you clean them! They were served for dinner and fed the whole crew of around 30 people with more uncooked fish. I am guessing I caught about 25 pounds of pike.
So I was really happy to have gone fishing on the lake.
The last time I went fishing was during our night out with the high school guys. We were camping down by the creek, and they were using our poles and gear and caught about 3 or 4 greyling. After I cooked dinner, and everyone went to bed I snuck out and went fishing. I caught one small one, and then towards the end late, I hooked a really nice greyling. It was a fighter, and I was using light line and tackle, and so it took several minutes before I pulled that one up on shore.
That was a real fight.
In AK, I tried to stay busy. I had my set events which I was in charge of, and I was a low grade go-to man. I spent a lot of time fixing stuff. I was sick one week, and so I did take a nap once. Otherwise I stayed up late every night making sure that everyone was asleep and ok. Most nights I would be up until midnight. Some nights it was 1-3 am. And almost every morning I would get up at 7:00-7:15am. I was late for morning meeting once, on the very last day.
Sometimes I would step in for one of the counselors and do the nightly devotion time. Other times I spent time at the swing pushing and twirling those that want it.
A BIG Thank you to First Baptist Church of San Lorenzo Valley, and their support for the work done at Kako.
They gave $600 for the ministry, and mainly for the purchase of inflatable rubber rafts. 10 4 -person rated rafts with oars were shipped to Kako Some much needed archery equipment was also ordered with the unused portion of money leftover.
Unfortunately the lake where the intended rafting was to be done was inaccessible due to the bridge over one of the larger creeks being washed out during the snow melt. It was not practical to do this year. Another intended use was for the wilderness camp.
Last year we did a lot of hiking and went up a small mountain, and then hiked down near the creek.
This year the plan was to hike a ways out, and down to the creek, and then have the rafts air dropped from the plane to us, and then we would raft down the river back to Kako area.
This trip was canceled due to a lack of interest this year. Not enough people were interested or available from the villages this year. So next year, Lord willing we will do this.
We did get to use the rafts a couple times at the lake (By walking, not by truck) with the counselors and work teams. This helped the counselors to relax and refresh, because they have a hard week. And they were able to lead many to the Christ.
And so the rafts were not a big of a part of camp this year as we had intended, but they were helpful, and next year, Lord willing, we will be able to more fully put them to use!
A couple Alaska pictures(big)
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