Thursday, February 23, 2012

Plants of the Opasquia Park

Fireweed at Central Lake
The Opasquia Park is abundant with fireweed in 

purple and white flowers.

Fireweed derives from the species' abundance as 

a coloniser on burnt sites after forest fires. The 

young shoots were often collected in the spring by 

Native American people and mixed with other 

greens. They are best when young and tender; as 

the plant matures the leaves become tough and 

somewhat bitter. 

The southeast Native Americans use the 

stems in this stage. They are peeled and eaten raw. When properly 

prepared soon after picking they are a good source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. The Dena'ina add 

fireweed to their dogs' food. Fireweed is also a medicine of the Upper Inlet Dena'ina, who treat pus-filled 

boils or cuts by placing a piece of the raw stem on the afflicted area. This is said to draw the pus out of the 

cut or boil and prevents a cut with pus in it from healing over too quickly.

A flowering fireweed plant

The root can be roasted after scraping off the outside, but often tastes bitter. To mitigate this, the root is 

collected before the plant flowers and the brown thread in the middle removed.

In Alaska, candies, syrups, jellies, and even ice cream are made from fireweed. Monofloral honey made 

primarily from fireweed nectar has a distinctive, spiced flavor.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

2012 Winter Road Video

Here is a short clip I put together of our winter road travels last week.

Good luck on the water everyone,

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tales from the Ice Highway.

Big Hook Camps 2012 trek to the great white north has completed.  All three drivers (myself, Ed, and Steve) are thankful to once again drive on smooth pavement.  Spanning a period of ten days two round trips were completed from Red Lake to the remote Sandy Lake reserve where the winter road winds to an end. Overall, we  averaged around 11 hours of driving time for the 355 km (220 miles) one way trip.  Every voyage to the remote land of Sandy Lake presents unique challenges to our caravan of three vehicles.  This year was no exception.

Nearest gas station is 6 hrs away 
Our biggest obstacle tackling the winter highway is the most obvious, the weather.  Plan and simple, if the weather is too warm no winter road exists.  A mild winter as of late had the road battered and slushy on our first attempt.  Our vehicles battled deep snow ruts and sloppy road conditions for a grueling 12 hour ride.  Recalling the drive, I believe my truck was in 4X4 drive for at least 3 hours.  Accompanied with the warm temperatures was a dense ice fog that limited our visibility for several days.  Fortunately, Mother Nature blasted some much needed and appreciated cold weather for the remaining three legs of the trip.  We witnessed temperatures dipping to a frigid -31 C.

Throw all rules of the road out the door
Another variable in traversing the northern ice roads is maintenance.  Different sections of the road are maintained by separate reserves.  North Spirit, Sandy Lake and Deer Lake have designated areas of the road to work on. This involves plowing snow, grating the road and flooding sections of lakes.  North Spirits region was in poor condition due to a busted grater and warm temperatures.  Deep snow also slowed our progress entering the northern Sandy Lake sections.  Keep in mind we were some of the first vehicles to drive the road this season.  After our second trip several plows were able improve the conditions and our travel times dipped from 12 hours to 9.

A final element to consider while hauling materials down the long and lonesome road is our vehicles.  This year we drove three vehicles accompanied with a 8x16' aluminum trailer.  Three vehicle caravans add a sense of insurance should one truck break down or get stuck.  The big truck, a Ram 2500 with extended cab, carries the largest of the load at around 2000-2500 pounds on top of dragging a trailer stacked with 2000-4000 lbs of materials.  With the heavy load the Ram was stuck three times in deep snow.  After some quick shoveling and a tow strap tug, the Ram was back in action in minimal time.  I usually drive the lead vehicle plowing the tracks in the road, kicking up plenty of snow.  The fine snow often accumulates on my air filter suffocating my engine.  Several times this year I was forced to stop and refresh my filter.

Random winter road facts:

  • 13,000 pds of materials were hauled including:  a new solar battery bank for Central, boat for Burnt, non perishable food items, 4 new four stroke Yamaha 20hp motors for Favourable, several thousand pounds of pressure treated material. 
  • Average temperature was mild at 26 F.  
  • Moderate snow levels in Sandy Lake should allow a good spring run off, raising levels of the lakes.
  • Animals spotted: 9 moose, 2 fox, 1 lynx, 4 grouse and a deer.  
  • Zero fuel trucks were spotted.  As a matter of fact, no fuel was available in Sandy for our final return trip.  After numerous phone calls we secured enough to fuel for our three vehicles.  Cost to gas up three trucks: $500. Ouch. 
Now we just keep our fingers crossed for cold weather and for numerous fuel trucks to reach Sandy Lake.

Stay posted for the 2012 Winter Road video.

Good Luck on the water or ice everyone,