Monday, March 19, 2012

EagleSong February 25, 2012

Doug has friends, peony farmers, who live at Trail Lake, which is at the base of Mt. Susitna. Mt. Susitna is also known as Sleeping Lady. The farm, which is their year-round home is only accessible by float plane in the summer and by ski-plane or a 2 1/2 hour snow machine ride in the winter. The farm is the first checkpoint on the Junior Iditarod. The friends made arrangements for a pilot to fly us to their farm the day the race started. They were a bit worried because the forecast was calling for them to get an additional 21 inches of snow by Sunday.


It was a gorgeous day for flying and the views were awesome. We saw a lot of moose around the airport and on the way to the farm, as well as lots of snow machine traffic. When we left to fly home, we even saw one of the dog teams on the trail.

A checker, a vet and the race judge were there to meet the kids and their teams and make sure they had everything that they were supposed to have in their sled and that the dogs were doing okay. We toured the farm as we waited for the first sled dog teams and mushers to arrive at the checkpoint. Other friends of theirs flew out for a cup of coffee or lunch. People here travel by place as easily and frequently as we do in our cars.

Doug watching our pilot fuel the plane

Plane skis

Ready for take-off

Mt. Susitna (Sleeping lady) in the distance
The snowy patch in the trees one of the rivers
The rivers become main highways when the freeze over. But there are always melted places and open water, so you have to be alert when riding a snow machine on the river, even in the winter.

Snow machine tracks

Snow machine tracks on the river

Eagle Song
The home of EagleSong Family Peony Farm and EagleSong Alaska woodcarvings, an Alaskan wilderness homestead.
Click on this link for more info about Eagle Song:
Click on "Tour of EagleSong Farm" for more great pictures. The water right in front of the house is where our plane landed on the snow runway.

Note the 1/2 oval on the left side of the picture. That is the landing strip which Mike has groomed on the frozen lake. He grooms a complete oval so the planes can land, taxi around to the house and them complete the oval to take off again (instead of a long, narrow runway where they would have to go the end and turn around to take off again.) He constantly has to keep the runway groomed so they do not lose their access to the rest of the world. 2 1/2 hours on a snow machine (one-way) is a lot different from a 20 minute plane ride to the outside world.

The large flat places behind and to the side the farmstead are the peony fields.

Our plane taking off to go pick up more people.

Chicken coop

Peony fields

The snow piles would be unbelievably high if he tried to scoop it all off the areas between the buildings after each snow. So
Mike grooms the areas by packing the snow down. It is four feet deep of packed snow. You have to go down about four feet to get into any of the buildings.

If you go to the website, you will see that Mike makes beautiful birch bowls and other wood items. These are pictures of the birch burls which they have harvested. They will be cleaned and shined and Mike will make bowls from most of them. The burls are formed when the birch trees get an infection or imperfection and the tree heals itself by growing over the problem. When they harvest them, they just cut them off the trees. No two are the same shape.

These are a couple of the huge snow machines that they use, along with the sleds they pull. The sleds can be expanded to haul things like lumber or other large loads. Mike had hauled 55 gallon drums of fuel to the farm on the sleds and had more drums to pick up and bring out to the farm. One trip takes most of the day. That is a long day on a snow machine.

Going down into Mike's wood shop

Our pilot was anxious to leave before all of the dog teams had come through the checkpoint on Saturday. When we got in the air, we found out why he was in a hurry. We could that we were flying into snow. He still had to make another trip back to EagleSong to pick up a photographer.

Snow machines below us on the river.

Cabins on the river

Fields near the airport

Apparently we got out just in time. The pilot made it back to Willow with the photographer. But the snow was so heavy that the pilot was unable to continue on to Wasilla to his house where he had a hangar for his airplane. He had to have someone pick him up at the Willow airport and drive him home.
(Remember the story of the old gentleman who was stomped by a moose at the Willow airport and his teeny tiny elderly wife rescued him by beating on the moose with a shovel? We saw him at the Willow airport walking his two dogs. The Willow airport is where the moose attack took place while he was walking his dogs. We did not see his wife with him, so he was on his own this time.)


Mike was justified in worrying about getting the 21" of snow. But instead of 21", they got 36 inches!!! This pictures he sent us are of the Iditarod folks who got stranded there for a few extra days. They were unable to get out of there until Tuesday or Wednesday. All of the "guests" helped shovel snow. But that's Alaska!
They got another 4 feet last week!!!!!

Chicken Coop - (the same one that is in the pictures above)