Our last look at the 2017 season sky from our very favorite place on earth gave us an incredible aurora borealis show – what a fabulous send off!
Yes, summer 2017 has ended and we’ve put the Anvik River Lodge to bed for the winter. Or as Cliff likes to describe it – the lodge is now entering a period of about eight months of suspended animation. As we get settled back in Anchorage we reflect fondly on the past season. And from our prospective it was absolutely the BEST SEASON EVER! We were blessed with great fishing, great weather for the most part, fantastic guests, outstanding crew, no bear break-ins, no natural disasters hit us, no major breakage or malfunction of equipment and best of all – everyone was healthy and safe with no injuries. Being in remote Alaska all of these positive events are appreciated so much more, we believe, than in other areas of the state that are far more easily accessible in the event of a problem.
Many folks are curious to know what it takes to close down such a remote facility at the end of a busy fishing season. As you can imagine, it’s no simple task and we certainly couldn’t do it without our outstanding staff members and some close and dear friends pitching in to help with all that needs to be done. It can be cold and rainy and even snowing by the time we get some of the final chores accomplished. From inventorying just about everything on-site, to draining all of the water lines it’s a busy time and we’re as usual up against what ever mother nature decides to toss our way. Some seasons we’re super lucky and have weather akin to an Indian Summer, but more often than not, it’s in the teens or below at night and not a whole lot warmer during the day – or its constantly raining with wind howling with no relief in site. We all know that even the smallest task can take much longer to accomplish when you’re up against the elements. Our yearly goal is to get out before the river starts freezing – and we normally accomplish this goal, sometimes by the skin of our teeth – which is a story for another day.
Much like the saying “What goes up, must come down” – our fall season at the most remote lodge in Alaska’s saying is “What gets brought out, must be put away”. And mind you, after working 7 days a week for about 17 hours a day for 4 months – just the mere thought of having to tackle this chore can be daunting to say the least. Yes, we are a hardy bunch out here in the bush – it’s not an option to not be.
How do we store everything for the winter? Lets start with the left over groceries – which we try not to have very much of by the end of the season – but it doesn’t always work out that well. Anything perishable such as the garden produce that had to be harvested from nearly frozen ground or groceries in the fridge either gets eaten in a hurry or given to our friends in Anvik. Some years its a pretty funny site to see so many residents driving around the village on their four-wheelers with heads of cabbage, bunches of kale or whatever other type of veggies we had a late crop off, sitting between the handlebars or strapped to the back. Its a sure sign that Cliff has been in town and we’re winding things up. As far as canned or jarred goods, many things that’ll go bad or break if frozen get buried in 55 gallon drums, deep enough to keep from freezing – a method we discovered after many years of trial and error.
The docks & boats of course have to be pulled out of the water and secured on land before the ice pans start developing on the Anvik. Our trusty little tractor has made this project soooooo much easier than back-in-the-day before we acquired it. When the water is high, things go much smoother than when we’ve got low water levels. No matter what the circumstances are I just hold my breath until everything is out of the water safely without damage.
The fixed solar panels have to be removed and stored so as not to be damaged by the snow loads that we can get over the winter. The rotating solar array must be disabled from tracking and tilted at just the right angle so as to not get overburdened with the snow load. At the same time, the angle needs to be enough that the larger animals that make our yard their winter thoroughfare can’t damage it by reaching it to climb on, gnaw on or puncture with their massive racks.
All the linens, rugs, towels and such have to be cleaned and packaged up and stored where no varmints will get at them (hopefully). And yes, we’ve arrived at the lodge in the springtime to find that we didn’t do as good of a job as we should have and our pretty comforters and flannel sheets have been used for winter nesting grounds for anything from voles to martens.
The dry goods are especially important to secure for obvious reasons. We’re lucky to have an airtight walk-in freezer & cooler unit which also happen to be scent-tight for the most part. They’re usually perfect for protecting dry & boxed items from getting gnawed into – at least by small animals. Bears? not-so-much – they can get into anything they want. The fact that it’s airtight, scent-tight or not – just doesn’t matter.
Blowing out all of the sewer & water lines, anti-freezing the toilets, washers etc., is another task that must be done thoroughly or we’re in trouble in the spring. Not doing a thorough job with this will cause either a bunch of broken water lines or dug up septic lines from curious and in-discriminating bears. Food is food, no matter what form its in.
A final check of all of the guest rooms, storage areas and out buildings along with our living quarters is one of the most important tasks of all. It’s funny how you don’t see something until it’s been frozen and exploded all over the place, or it’s been shredded to bits. Or in the case of the giant Costco size black licorice that some weasels that found they apparently devoured the whole thing, including the plastic container! Without going into too much detail, I’ll just suffice to say that their digestive systems were not happy with the richness of that much black licorice in one sitting – YIKES! the things we find when returning in the spring. The good part is, we do live and we do learn and don’t normally make the same mistake again.
When the final cleaning and putting away is complete then it’s time to board-up and booby-trap – a project that takes a good long day or two at least. The boarding up is done over the windows & doors of every building and the booby-traps……well, I guess I shouldn’t say too much about those but it can certainly be a surprise to a bear or other animal, whether it has two or four legs if they happen to fall victim to any of them.
Once the final switch on the control panel has been turned off and the last doorway secured it’s time to hop in the boat and head downriver for the last time of the year. With mixed emotions we start our journey back to “the land of stuff”. We’re so proud to be a part of so many great adventures that our guests experience over the summer. And we look forward to a little rest time and the ability to enjoy going out to a restaurant, watching the latest movies, getting a hair cut, walking across the room to turn up the thermostat if we’re cold, getting mail delivered to our doorstep on a daily basis and all of the little things that can so easily be taken for granted. But we know after about 6 weeks in “the land of stuff” we’ll be pining for the magic of the Anvik River and can’t wait to get back here!