Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Alaska Trip - Building the shop in Hope

This is a trip that was planned very early in the summer, when I had just returned to the States from my SE-Asia trip.  My sister Holly and her husband Rob live in Anchorage, Alaska and recently bought some property out in Hope, about two hours away.  I was looking for some summer trips of course, and my sister mentioned that they could use some help building the shop on their new property.  It sounded like a good trip and a great way to help out the family, so tickets were bought and dates were set, the 8th through the 23rd. 

To get to the airport, I took the bus from my house downtown, then transferred onto the new-ish light rail system to the airport. It was my first time using our light rail system actually, and I think it is pretty nice. I am looking forward to its expansion, since Seattle so desperately needs good public transportation.  Unfortunately I thought my flight was at 9AM and when I arrived at the airport was informed my flight was actually at 9PM, haha. I went home, and returned to the airport that evening.

I arrived in Anchorage at about  midnight and Holly picked me up at the airport and brought me home.  Being Alaska, they had just finished smoking some fish they caught, and I had a tasty snack before going to sleep.

In the morning, Rob and I loaded up the truck and headed out to their property in Hope. Hope is a tiny town of about 200 people, just on the other side of the Turnagain Arm and while it is very close to Anchorage, there is no bridge meaning you drive around the water.  

The property itself is 3.1 acres, covered in cottonwoods, spruce and birch.  The road into the property was just put in in June or so, meaning work has just begun! The project now is to build a large shop, 20x22 feet, which will be a living/working space until the main cabin is built in the future.

This is the area cleared for the main cabin. Rob (on the right) and a friend who came out to help for the day.  Helpful friends were a common site on this project, and throughout my time working with Rob, we were supported by a rotating cast of friends coming out to work for a day or two.

This is where the shop is being built.  Sono tubes were put in earlier this summer and floor beams were in place, but nothing else. We have a lot of work ahead of us here!

Rob cutting with the circular saw.

That first day we got most of the sub-floor built, including the BCI joists, insulation and boards to keep critters out.

My tent-home for the two+ weeks.  To the right you can see a green pop-up tent by the truck where the kitchen was, and the outhouse is already built, off to the left in the trees.

The next day Rob's parents came out, and we got the sub-floor finished as well as a little trail work. That evening we covered everything with blue-tarps, and headed back into Anchorage for the night.

That mornings paper, gotta love Alaska. I slept in, mowed the lawn and generally had a lazy morning.

In the afternoon, Holly and I went on a short hike just outside of town.  The weather was not great and we worried about being rained on the whole time, but while the trail was pretty muddy and slippery the rain stayed away for the most part. 

We quickly got out of the trees and into the low brush and alpine flowers on our 3000 foot vertical climb.  This is an environment I really enjoy.

Holly at the summit.

Looking the other direction from the top, you could see out to the Turnagain Arm, the other side is where Hope and the property are.

Dinner of homemade pizza and beer.

The next day we returned to Hope after picking up more materials and began to build the roof trusses with another friend helping out.

Progress! We continued working until dark, which we did every night actually, and got all the trusses built.

The next day it was onto the walls, here I am at the chop saw cutting some 2x6s.

With the first wall up, it's starting to look like a building.

Celebrating with a beer, opened the manly way!

Like I said, working until dark, which came around 8:45, was a nightly thing. While it made for long days, the work is never all that hard, and plus it gets things done!

The next day it was just Rob and I, and a little bit of rain.

We got two more walls built, and now it's really starting to look like something. Framing is fun, because you see a lot of progress in a short span of time.

That afternoon Holly called to say she had tickets to a story telling event a friend was preforming in, and asked if we wanted to come.  It sounded like fun, so we wrapped up things in hope and drove back into Anchorage for the night. 

The event is called Arctic Entries and it is seven stories told by seven people in seven minutes on a specific theme.  This evening the theme was "getting schooled" and it was a lot of fun.  On stage here is Bill, who is the friend who actually married Holly and Rob, telling a story about being beat by his sister.

The next morning Holly cooked up some salmon for us to take with us and we set off on errands on the way out of town.

Picking up more lumber.

Back at work. Holly and two more friends came out to help as well this day, which was nice.

And the completion of all the walls! It's a tall shop, 9'8" ceilings for plenty of storage and work space.

Holly and Rob in the kitchen area. Those with sharp eyes may notice the prayer flags on the tent, flags I brought back from India at the home of the Dalai Lama.

We spent the night burning brush and eating dinner fireside, not a bad way to spend an evening. 

This morning was a big day, time to put up the roof trusses.  This was just a curious little guy poking around the lumber pile.

With yet more friends helping, we lifted the trusses up to the top of the walls using ladders and slid them to the back of the building. 

It's really taking shape now.

Everything went really smoothly and a job well done.

Fall is on it's way, and all the trees are beginning to turn.  I liked this birch in particular, which was right next to the building site. One stem was turning yellow, the other stem was still green, giving a cool contrast. 

Lifting and using the nail gun on a ladder, fun times!

Rob had to work on this day and had returned to town the night before, so I had a bit of a lazy day. 

This is from inside my tent, looking at a daddy longlegs spider.  These guys were all over the place, annoyingly so, and it reminded me of the day in Thailand where the ground was covered in them, although they weren't as numerous out in Hope.

A moose on the property as was I was walking around. 

I decided to do something useful with my time, since I couldn't just relax for the whole day.  Naturally, I pulled out the chainsaw and cut down a few dead trees, cut some firewood and did some general brush cleanup. 

That evening in Hope, a band was playing at the bar and I decided to check it out.  "Downtown Hope" is just a collection of maybe a dozen buildings on a dirt road, and is a pretty cool place.

The band was called the Denali Cooks and it was clearly the place to be that evening. Because everyone couldn't fit inside, it became a bit of a street party and I had a great time. 

I'd come prepared for soaking rain every day, but much to my surprise the weather was usually great. 

We had another perfect morning for work, which was good because it was time to plywood the roof.

As we were working, a small plane, a Super Cub, flew over us twice and we realized it had to be someone we knew.  A little while later we got a message from Holly, saying she had just flown over us and sent this photo!  Here you can see the three of us working on the roof, Rob's white truck, my yellow tent and left of that the site for the main cabin.

The view from the inside, plywood all done for now.  The place is being built with a 6-foot loft with the idea that it can be a sleeping area while building the main cabin, as well as a place for guests to sleep in the future. 

With the building enclosed, it was time to turn to the grand awning at the front of the shop.  Here we are with the main beams in place making sure everything is level. 

I had a fire that night to burn the brush I'd made the previous day, and played with the long exposure feature on my new digital camera.  This is a 30-second exposure and me playing with my headlamp.

The beams for the entry way were a bit rough, so now that we had a roof up (well, plywood and blue tarp) we moved operations inside and began to plane and sand the beams so they would look nice.

It was a long and messy job, that much is for sure.

Throughout the day the rain and wind grew stronger.  The forecast said wind gusts up to 80mph and heavy rain, so we tied everything down, put tools away and put plywood over some of the openings to keep everything dry, then headed back to Anchorage. 

Holly and Rob's famous gear garage.  It turned out our escape from hope was a little unnecessary, but it was nice to take a warm shower and restock on food and other supplies we needed.

That day we worked entirely on the beams for the opening, with hours spent on more sanding and planing to clean them up.  Then it was onto drilling holes for the bolts which would hold the structure together.  Rather than wasting time swapping bits on drills, we assembled 6 different drills and used all of them!  Since I had the brilliant idea of bringing a light (!) we worked until midnight, haha...

A fairly typical breakfast, big mug of hot coco, some Grape Nuts and a banana.

Time to put it all together, and Rob was very nervous to see if everything would fit together property.  Luckily it all did, and the day went pretty smoothly.

Me drilling more bolt holes. 

And the final product, man it looks good!  It sticks out a full 11 feet beyond the wall, meaning lots of covered space outdoors for working on projects.

And an evening shot on what was probably the clearest night we had.

Today was another big day.  With the front finished, we could put the last of the plywood on the roof and get to putting the shingles down.  Fall and rain were rapidly approaching and it was critical to get the roofing up to seal the building for the winter.  What you are looking at by the way, is coils of nails for the roofing nail-gun.

Installing the final sheets of plywood, and everything went well again. 

Is that a great looking shop of what? I kept telling Rob that he's going to have to do something really cool on the actual cabin, otherwise it will be upstaged by the shop it's so nice!

Now it was time to roll out the roofing felt and start laying 3-tab asphalt shingles. 

It was constantly threatening to rain which was nerve warcking since you can't install a roof when things are wet, but we got half done before dark and it looks great.  This turned out to be my last full day in Alaska, so covered the unfinished roof, packed up the tools and headed back into Anchorage. 

Beautiful fall colors at Holly and Rob's place.

That morning Rob and I set out on a short hike to go pack rafting on Glacier Creek.  The weather was perfect, and views of the mountain made me really miss being in snow, since I was in tropical areas all last winter and will be this coming winter as well.

The easy hike lead us onto part of the Iditarod Trail.

Can you tell where the boat is? Pack rafts are really awesome, they fit in a backpack, and can run some pretty serious water.  Once we got to the river, we got all setup, including a one-piece dry-suit since the water is so cold!

Me with the rafts, just look how small they are!

And here we have Rob on the water.  I was excited to take my new waterproof digital camera on a boating adventure, but the river had zero rest sections and I found it hard to pull out and take pictures without loosing control of my boat, so I didn't get many.  The water was a blast though, a very exciting 50-minute down stream ride.

We returned to town to clean up, and Holly and Rob took me out for burgers on the way to the airport. 

Bye, Alaska!

My mom kindly picked me up at the airport, and that wrapped up yet another great trip of the summer for me.  I learned a lot about building, we got a lot done and it was nice to see Holly and Rob.  

As always, the question is what next?  And as always, I have another trip in the works!  In about two weeks I'll head off to Montana to visit my other sister Robin in Whitefish, where I'll do a lot of camping and hiking.  Should be fun!