Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On the Road Home

Back to Beaumont means a three week road trip with no time for blogging. Fireweed has gone to cotton. There is termination dust on the Alaska Range. And moose hunting season has opened. We stopped at the Buffalo Drive In for ice cream and met a hunter returning with his supply of meat for winter. I didn't like moose's eyes, but the bags of meat were a welcome sight to Alaskans. Joseph is eating a cone. Alaska boasts the largest per capita consumption of ice cream in the U.S.
Three nights we were blessed to see an Aurora. The temp was in the low 30s. There was no moon and the stars were brilliant. Notice the big dipper. The silky, gauzy bands of green, touched with pink, rippled across the sky.
The morning before we left the camp, the temp was 22 degrees and there was a scattering of sleet.
 My favorite trail exploded with color as the high bush cranberries and fireweed leaves turned deep red. Yellow aspen brightened the trail through paper birch and spruce.
Closing up camp involves draining water lines, cleaning and securing cabins and preparing the building and grounds for freezing weather and snow. Leaving the camp, we drove to Tok to the Mission Resource and Training Center.
I've sent many pictures of MRTC but this one shows part of the massive stacks of firewood necessary for winter. Mission teams through out the summer cut 14 cords of wood and split it for the wood stoves. The logs were not pre-cut but arrived in 40 foot lengths, that's full sized trees with the branches cut off. Thank you!! chainsaw operators.

Leaving Tok we traveled through the Yukon, making stops in Whitehorse and magnificent rest areas. Our mandatory stop in Watson Lake allowed me to add 2014 to my sign in the Sigh Post Forest. As of last September there are over 79,000 signs here now. Some posted by travelers from as far away as Russia and China.

The Martins are stopped by a Bison Jam.  These big fellas know they have the right-a-way and will walk right along side the vehicle. Sassie's barking didn't faze the big bull who strolled along the passenger side window.

Our route south from Watson Lake took us a different direction through Chetwynd, British Columbia.
 In 1992 the city decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the building of the AlCan Highway and commissioned the chainsaw carving of the bears. Interest in chainsaw art grew. In 2005, Chetwynd hosted it's first annual chainsaw carving competition. Today carvers come from as far away as Japan and Wales. The town boasts over 120 huge log sculptures through out the town.
This Canadian alligator is twice my height! Look out Texas 'gaters.

The Native American and Grizzly are life-sized and intricately carved. An eagle with spread wings is on the bear's back

One of the loveliest carvings is a bench with the wings and bodies of two eagles. A reference to Isaiah 40:31 is carved in the back of the seat. Lynne is perched  on an eagle's back.
Leaving Canada, we stopped in Bellingham, Washington, where the Martin's continued south. I had a complete brake job done on the rear of the RV. Gravel, silt, and sand had ground the disks down. (other terms, I didn't understand). The brake shop got me back on the  road a day later.
 I crossed the Rockies in Washington, Idaho, and into Montana, and on to Yellowstone.

To my disappointment the campground near the north entrance was full and due to resurfacing, and closed roads it would have taken several hours to creep to the southern campground which was filling fast. I snapped this photo of an Elk at the Northern entrance. He's in front of the little town of Gardner.
Through Billings the rain turned colder and gusty. Reaching Casper, Wyoming Walmart, I discover a low tire and headed to a tire shop. The valve stem of and inside dual had sheared off and was flat. The outside dual had been taking the pressure and was beginning to  separate. Again the Lord protected me by getting me off the road and into a shop without a major blow-out.
Leaving Casper, I spent the night at a Harvest Host fruit farm. this was a pick-it-yourself farm with a huge field of pumpkins, fruit trees and grapes. I arrived to late in the evening to pick, but enjoyed a quiet evening boon docking.
From Wyoming south through Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle, the summer heat "welcomed" me. I missed the Alaskan weather!
A cool front followed me into Beaumont, but soon Texas weather returned: hot and humid. I'm glad to be home, and look forward to another mission trip in the future.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Winter's on its Way

Signs of winter. Campers are back in school, and we took a short vacation. However I didn't have internet access for the last two weeks so I'm behind in sending a blog. I've been trying to arrange pictures from the last two week in sequence, but have lost a few pics. Oh well.....
The first harbinger of winter is when the fireweed "goes to cotton". The seed pods burst open and the fluff flies. Sourdoughs say that snow will fly in six weeks. Another indication of snow is when snow is first spotted on Donnely Dome, a rounded foot hill south of Delta. There was snow on the dome this morning. so snow will be in Delta in two weeks.

We took a short vacation to the village of Homer on the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is a charter fishing and art colony that is a huge tourist attraction. Notice the halibut hanging by its tail and the other salmon, halibut and AK fish.

We camped on the beach of the Homer spit. The waters of Cook Inlet were calm, but the wind was blowing and the temp was in the low 50s, however it didn't bother these para-sailers.
On our return from Homer we stopped to visit Eric and Marla Hiatt, missionaries from Texas, they now pastor a tiny village church in Moose Pass near Seward. Please pray for them and their family as this will be their first winter in Moose Pass.

From Moose Pass we stopped in Palmer at the state fair. Douglas Yates is a Tshimsham/Haida native who is a flute player and a preacher. He played his own music at the Gathering Place. There were several small cabins with crafts representing the seven major cultures of Alaska.

One of the special attractions of the fair is a display of the champion vegetables grown that summer. The winning cabbage weighed 102.4 pounds. Lots of coleslaw. The winning pumpkin weighed in at 1,182 pounds. It was not yet on display but would make Cinderella quite a coach.

Native dancers from Wasilla dressed in kuspuks, fur headdresses and carried dance fans made of caribou fur. They danced in the style of their Native culture, to Christian contemporary music.
Returning to camp, we had the sad job of taking down the camp sign.

While Dale began to close up the camp and prepare for winter, Lynne and I made jelly from the high bush cranberries we all three had gathered while in  Wasilla. We made 86 jars of jelly to take back to Texas and North Carolina to give to our supporters and prayer partners.
Last night (at 1:30 A.M.) we were blessed to see an aurora. This is the second we've seen. The night sky has to be clear, no clouds, and the air temp is cold. We've had a low of 25 degrees, with sleet this morning.
Tomorrow we roll up the water hoses, store the sewer lines, unplug the electric cords and head to Tok. After a couple of work days at the Mission Training Center, we will be heading down the AlCAn and "outside".

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Over the River and through the Woods

What an awesome Sunday School Class I've been blessed to be part of. We had a fantastic canoe  trip with 20 ladies and a couple of token men (who provided emergency back up). Twenty ladies loaded up into canoes and kayaks for a 13 mile float trip.
Again I'm photographer and am not in the pics. The lady with the red life jacket is Wanda. Babs from the Tok Mission Center is I center and Lynne on the other side. Notice the Alaskan ladies in sandals or water shoes. The water temp is about 36 degrees. The water on Clearwater River is crystal clear showing submerged rocks of many colors.

The rapid flowing current turned over one of the canoes right off the dock. The women were soaked and cold, but okay. They were given a ride home to change clothes and warm up.
Wanda, my paddling partner is deaf. What a challenge to keep the canoe on course! We made a brief shore stop. The shore is lined with huge spruce and willows. We saw an osprey, a bald eagle landing on its nest and several "V"s of geese.

Eight miles down the Clearwater, the river joined the murky, silted Tanana River which was braided through gravel bars and lined with sweepers (fallen trees that cause an undertow in the swift current.
The wind picked up to 20 MPH wiwth gust up to 40. We struggled to enter a stream that was flowing from the Clearwater Lake. Paddling against the current and into the wind, Wanda and I gladly accepted a tow. So did the canoe on either side of the flat bottomed motor boat.
Alan and Babs Dial, the missionaries from Tok pose with their two adopted sons from Africa.
Babs and Alan have several ministries to the local (within 100 miles or so) of Tok. They house and sponsor mission teams from the lower 48 and have had an exhausting summer.

I accompanied Babs and others to one of the villages to contribute to a pot luck. The Native gentleman is preparing for a memorial potlatch in honor of his parents, his wife and his two adult children who have recently passed away.
He is holding some of the blankets donated to the potlatch.

Some of the elders were instructing the youngsters in Native songs, dance and drumming. I think the boys are dancing and chanting to a hunting song.

We visited a Native cemetery. The spirit houses and decorated fences are testimony to the influence of the early Russian settlers.

I don't know the family's personal significance of the end of the trail symbol over the American flag. Someone suggested that the person buried here had been in military service. This was his last resting place, the end of the trail.
Summer is rapidly coming to a close. Last Sunday we hosted a church wide picnic at the camp with about 80 adults and numerous children (they didn't slow down long enough to count). While the adults ate and visited, the kids ate and played in the rain.
Monday early we traveled 350 miles, 7+ hours from Delta to Wasilla. I'm at the public library in Wasilla sending this blog and enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Later we'll be going to Anchorage, then back to the camp to drain water lines, close up the camp and prepare for winter.

Friday, August 15, 2014

African Children's Choir

This past week First Baptist Delta hosted the African Children's Choir from Uganda. The 18 children, ages 9-11, and their chaperones were housed by generous families in the area. They performed at the high school gym which was packed with Delta residents and guests. Many of their songs were Christian choruses, but they also sang and danced accompanied by drummers to native songs.
This energetic group of young people was an inspiration to all of us. They are a part of the Music for Life program in Africa. Children audition for a place in the choir and are selected not only on their singing ability but on their leadership qualities and educational potential. Many children are from single parent homes or are orphans being reared by grandparent or others in extreme poverty.

The children chosen for the choir are sent to school beginning at age six and are guaranteed an education through college. Their families benefit from the children's education.

The young lady at the far right is the choir director. She was once a child in the choir and has gone on to earn a college degree. The children's choir was begun 30 years ago and has had tremendous success in educating children and raising families out of poverty.

There are several choirs on tour in the U. S. and around the world. This group started in San Francisco and have been traveling by bus up the western coast. They have a full time teacher and study as they travel. They will be on the road for more than a year. When they return to their home in Uganda, they will continue in school and learn to be leaders of their country.
I hope to arrange for them to come to our part of Texas.
Another choir is scheduled to be in Missouri City, TX in Dec.

We help people in need where ever they maybe. Lynne and I have been helping with donations at "God's Helping Hands" a local thrift store. We sort and arrange merchandise. These girls are helping their mom shop.

This past week we spent a couple of days in Tok at the Mission Resource Training Center. Fortunately the job of cutting 40 lengths of spruce, splitting the logs and stacking them had been taken care of by a group of volunteers from Tenn. A team from Texas installed the metal trailer for storage. The shed is stacked with firewood inside to the same dimensions as the woodpile outside. Believe it or not, this wood will be gone by spring.

Lynne and I tackled a job of making table cloths from fabric that had been donated. We then began the task of making curtains for the center.

We were blessed by the baptism of a young lady. Our youth pastor,, who has been her mentor had the honor of baptizing her. Through out the camping season we have had several children who have asked Jesus to be Lord of their lives, and many others who have rededicated their lives to God. Several teens have already been involved in missions.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Coming to a Close

We have hosted our last official camp, with a few short time activities left before snow flies. We are loosing about 6 minutes of daylight now. In the past nine days we've lost almost an hour of daylight. Seems strange to wake up at 2 or 3 AM in the dark. Perhaps we'll see an aurora soon.
Mickie, one of our counselors, reflects all of us as she collapses after the last youth leaves for home. However, the follow weekend we hosted 20 teens from Delta Baptist who went on a night hike and then camped over with us. We fed them breakfast, then cleaned up. A typical day.

On my rare off time, I designed and beaded a necklace using a beading loom that Dale helped me put together. I entered the necklace in the Delta Fair and won a blue ribbon. So much for having a little time off.

We are using time off a little more practically. Lynne, Dale and I spent one afternoon picking the blossoms of fireweed. The plant begins to bloom from the bottom of the stem, like a bluebonnet, and continues to open blossoms for a short period. The lower flowers become seed pods which open releasing dandy lion like fuzz called, "cotton". A week after we picked the blossoms, the fireweed began "going to cotton". This indicates summer is almost over.

Returning to camp, we spread six gallons of blossoms on sheets to allow the hitch hikers (small green bugs) to scamper away. The blossoms were then bagged and frozen until we had time to make jelly.

Never idle, with a servant's heart we agreed to power wash the new asphalt parking areas of the church to remove the silt and grit that had blown in from the Delta River.
The parking area dried in the unusually warm (70 degree) sun. Our next entry on our resume of jobs was to spread sealer on the clean asphalt. We didn't expect this job to take four days!

In between working at the church, Lynne, Dale and I took time off to head by four-wheel drive to our favorite, secret blue berry patch. In two hours we picked two gallons of tiny but sweet berries for jelly making.
Back at camp we utilized the camp's large kitchen to boil fireweed blossoms (back pot), then strained the juice (front pot), added pectin and sugar and boiled into jelly. The largest pot holds the hot water bath for sealing the jars.

We got so busy that we didn't take pictures of the 150 jars of finished fireweed jelly. Here we are with 50 jars of blue berry/rhubarb jam, and a few jars of plain blue berry jam. Don't we look proud?
I'll be bringing everyone a sample. Can't wait.

This is the view of the north slope of the Alaskan Range as seen from the church parking lot. Notice that the snow is fresh and terminates at an even elevation line. This termination dust, as it's called, is an indication that summer is almost over.
While we were working on the parking lot, we had many visitors who drove or walked to the back of the church to photograph the mountains. We met ladies from France and Quebec, and RV caravans from the lower 48. They were invited to stay and attend church.  
As summer comes to a close we are planning to do volunteer work in Anchorage and then in Tok at the Mission Training Center before heading south.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Another busy camp

This past week has been much sunnier, but the clear night skies sent the temp down to 34 degrees the other morning.
What we won't do for our youth. The beautiful blond dressed in blue (with the grey beard) is our pastor Mark, our program director. He has joined another staff and a cabin of girls in a tea party.

The boys have other games in mind. Here a dozen young men help lift a newly constructed, 20 foot long carpet ball table onto the bed of a truck for transportation to the games building. Dale and Mark designed the new game. Dale spent most of his spare time refining and building the monster.

Yes, we still have cold days, but when the sun is out Alaskans will play. How do you like the size of this slippy-slide?

Two of our counselors stopped by the kitchen. I noticed one was barefooted  in spite of her sweatshirt.

Our Mission Force (counselors in training) are so dedicated that the center girl drove her 4-wheeler to camp. This is common transportation. the following day she arrived on her bike.

A sunny day gave these girls an opportunity to model their tie-died T-shirts.

While in Fairbanks for our weekly shopping, we stopped to visit the WEIO, or World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. The even we witnessed was a painful ear weight. contestants hook a string over their ear. Attached to the string are 16 one pound weights. This strong man has lifted about 8 pounds off the floor.

Not to be out done, the lady has raised about ten pounds, that's more that the weight of a gallon of milk, with her ear!! So what's the point? the games of WEIO show some of the skills and physical abilities, such as strength, balance, tolerance to pain, and endurance that are required to survive in the Artic. The ear weight is a test of pain tolerance and endurance and simulates the pain of frost-bitten ears.

Included at the WEIO are booths of crafts by Native artists. I am most fascinated by the beaded baby belts shown above. The designs are created by sewing individual seed beads to animal skins.

As much as I'd like this pare of mukluks I don't think they would be practical in Texas.