Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2007



What is this thing they say about Murphy’s Law? If it can go wrong it will? Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like everything you attempt to do goes wrong? When these days happen or occur while you’re on an outdoor adventure they certainly can complicate things for you in a hurry. I endured one of these ordeals recently while on a hunting and fishing trip to Shirleyville.

My two fishing and bear hunting partners for this trip were Richard Wagner and Fred Maier. I'm not going to tell you how old any of us are. but when I combine our ages it comes out to 209 years of life! I had two energetic guys with a vast amount of knowledge and the eagerness to learn even more about almost any situation they are involved in. We were going to cram into a couple of days some pike fishing and also hopefully some bear viewing and maybe even shoot a bear or two in a short two day trip.

The first thing that happened was we were not able to get the cabin we had hoped to rent in the Beluga area because it was already rented. So we rented one at Shirleyville, which meant we would have to drive a little more each day then we had hoped. I had made arrangements to rent a 4x4 pickup so that we had a way to haul our boat and tackle into the lake.

I have driven into this lake at least 100 times and never got stuck before at any time of the year. In fact, nearly always I drove in with two-wheel drive. But not this time! We worked for over two hours trying to get out of the mud but never were able to get the front wheels back up on high ground. We had a winch on the truck but could not figure out how to make it work nor could we find the control cable.

I walked back out and borrowed another truck from a gal but was unable to get our truck out with that either. In the process of trying to back out with that truck, I ended up getting struck with that one, too. I then walked back out with Richard Wagner and we got Bob Freeman to come in with his monster truck to pull us out.

I then decided to carry in our 4 hp motor, fuel and tackle. I would eventually get my 14 foot Jon boat dragged in there, too. I set out while the guys started bringing in gear behind me. I’m sure the road into the lake is less then a mile long but it sure felt like it was about 5 miles long by the time we got our gear to the lake! We were greeted with a nice rain as we trudged down the soft muddy road. By the time we reached the lake we were all pretty wet.

We borrowed one of the boats that was already at the lake and quickly put on our motor with hopes of catching a few pike before heading back out. I pumped up the ball on my fuel tank, pulled the choke out and pulled the rope trying to start my motor. I pulled several times and the rope broke before it even popped once. I then used our paddles to get us across the lake. We never caught any pike at all before the cold wind started sending a chill through us so we headed in. We stashed our gear and headed out once again down the soft muddy trail.

I hurried on ahead and asked Bob Freeman if he knew of anyone I could hire to come in on 4-wheelers to help haul out my two partners. He called the two Betzold brothers and they went in and hauled both Richard and Fred back to our truck. We paid them and made arrangements to hire Michael Betzold to haul us in the next morning besides dragging in our boat.

We returned to our cabin and had some trouble getting our fuel oil stove to work. I lit the propane cook stove and oven in hopes of getting some heat in there as quickly as possible. However, after a few minutes we were out of propane. My partners were getting pretty cold by the time we got a little heat going in the cabin. Thankfully Faron McCone and Brett came down to our cabin from Aurora well service and helped us get some heat in the cabin.

The following morning I borrowed another motor from a friend, but unfortunately that motor never even popped either! We ended up paddling all over the lake carrying the extra weight of that heavy 18 hp motor with us all day! We did manage to get our boat drug into the lake by using a chain and binder to fasten a 4x4 under it as a skid to drag it in on. It worked great except where there was tree roots going across the road that would cause the skid to hang up on them.

We caught only two small pike, as I am sure they just finished spawning and were resting. I was not able to find any bears for my partners to view either, as I’m sure that too was part of the Murphy’s Law thing. I took my partners to the airport on Wednesday morning and watched as they left on the Kenai Aviation plane for Kenai.

I was thoroughly disappointed in how unproductive my trip had been for my two friends. I am not a guide but have always prided myself in being able to catch fish in almost any situation. I have had so much fun fishing and hunting in this area and wanted to share the good times I've had in one of my favorite places in Alaska with my friends, but it wasn't to be. As I drove down the road I pondered what I could have done differently to make our trip more enjoyable for my guests. I drove along the dirt roads with only the purr of the pickup engine breaking the silence. Just a few miles from Shirleyville I spotted a black bear standing up on his back legs looking at me as I stopped the truck. The bear dropped down on all fours and ran into the brush. I watched him with my binoculars for a while but was too disappointed to get out my rifle and shoot him.

I drove to Beluga and bought a can of pop from the Beluga store and stopped at one of the camps I used to stay at there when I used to work in the Beluga area. I visited with the two gals who were cleaning up the camp after the seismograph crew had just left. The girls were very disappointed in the amount of trash and gear that they simply left behind. It created a whole lot of extra work for them and it was quite obvious these girls were overwhelmed and just plain tired.

Gear left behind included chest waders, snow shoes, bunny boots, pack boots, refriga-wear bib pants, ice cleats, blue jeans that were almost new, long sleeved underwear tops, gloves, stocking hats and hard hats. Where would anyone use such items? Could they be used by people here in Alaska? Since the left behind gear was going to be thrown in the dumpster, let me tell you I did very well on my visit to this camp. To show my appreciation for the gear that I got, I mopped the entire camp for the girls besides cleaning out from under the beds and the dressers. Yes, that was the entire camp and it took me about three hours.

Even though I was still disappointed in how my trip went, I was happy that I was at least able to make myself useful in some way and very happy for all the gear I received. Maybe this was just another reminder to all of us that when things don't go right there is always something we can do to help our situation or someone else’s. I'm sure my efforts greatly brightened the day for the two girls at that remote camp and helped them to complete their job much quicker.

I'm not sure why I could not find a bear for my visitors on this trip or get them into some great pike fishing. Maybe this was just God's way of humbling me by letting me know he is still in charge of his bears and his fish. Maybe the sole purpose of me being in Beluga had nothing to do with hunting or fishing; maybe it was because two girls simply needed some help. Perhaps I need to be more thankful for the good trips I have had and not dwell on the ones that don't go right. After all often times we are not in control of anything except ourselves and the decisions we make. The next time you’re having a bad day and a big ol' guy shows up with a mop, be nice to him as his day might not be going very well either. See you next week!

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