I had the good fortune of having help to haul lumber out to the cabin in the fall. Charles Wood insisted he could grab a couple of pals, load up their vehicles and make a quick, easy run out to the cabin with building materials. Charles had a six wheeler, and the other two had new, very capable ATVs, so I expected everything to go pretty smooth. I knew we’d have moments when someone would get stuck, but didn’t figure it would be a big issue with so many able bodies to push or pull it out.

Most of us met fairly early in the morning at Chuck’s house. It was still dark as I recall, but the days were getting short already for the winter season. We loaded up and drove on to Eagle River and linked up with one last guy, the fourth in our crew, in the Fred Meyer parking lot. After purchasing some grub at Freddy’s, Chuck’s pal that was riding with us realized he forgot the keys to his ATV. I think it might be the sort of thing he does often, so Chuck and the other guy didn’t say much. The two friends loaded up into one truck and headed back to Anchorage for the keys while Chuck and I drove on. We also stopped in Wasilla at Alaska Toy Rental for a couple of trailers.

Chuck and friends loading up the lumberFortunately, other guys made good time and weren’t far behind us once we reached the parking lot in Trapper Creek. They came pulling in moments later. Also, it seemed like we had plenty of daylight for the hauling effort, so no worries on the lost time. Chuck and I even made a quick run up the highway and grabbed some beers for the journey and pickup my lumber which was being stored at my boss’s brother’s property nearby. When we returned, the two others had the machines just about ready to roll.

Charles Wood, Sr.We loaded up the lumber, and while doing so I was careful to advice on how much weight would make for a managable load on the wet trails to come. Everything was stacked up tight, we secured the vehicles, then headed on our way.

For a while the traveling was easy on the gravel section of trail. As soon as we hit the mushy stuff though we had our first issue. One of the trailers detached from Chuck’s friend’s machine, and with all the weight on it, it was hard to get back in place to attach again. Moving along at a steady pace on more solid trailAfter a second time coming undone, we adjusted the trailer further and fastened the latch in place. That did the trick. In all, however, we probably wasted ten minutes.

Chuck turns up a wooded hill, as we near my propertyA lot of the driving was easy, but as we drove on it became clear that fall rains had really softened up the ground, and any place that was usually a problem to navigate was even more difficult now, especially with the loads of lumber. At various point we had to stop and get a machine or two unstuck. There was also an issue with tipped trailers that needed to be put back straight. Usually this was all handled rather quickly. However, there were moments when long stretches of troublesome mud wholes had us in a traffic jam or hassle. In particular I’m thinking of a location at the edge of a muskeg region just prior to reaching Mike Berg’s cabin. I seriously need to blaze a new path through there.

It was at the very place, an minimum of thirty minutes away from my cabin, that one of Chuck’s buddy’s ATV broke down. He was having trouble with it earlier when it wouldn’t start, but it finally came back to life. This time it was done for. He had a Suziki model ATV, nearly new, with all the new age electronics… which tend to fail at just the worst moment. After tons of time wasted, we finally decided to leave the machine and the trailer it was pulling. The owner rode double with Chuck’s other friend the rest of the way to the cabin, which, for the most part, was uneventful.

As dark approached we finally reached the cabin, but still had to go back for the trailer left behind.It seemed Chuck’s other pal was a bit annoyed with how slowly we had been progressing, but he worked steady. Once at the cabin we unloaded al the lumber and headed back for the trailer left behind. The problem with that whole scenario was wasted time.  At was at least an hour, if not more before we had picked up the other trailer and got it to the cabin. By this time it was getting dark, and there was little time to spare, for we were going to have to drag the broken ATV out still through all the marsh and muskeg and mud holes.

I had planned on packing things up at the cabin well. There were items to leave, some to take, some to store in a secure barrel I had out there. I needed to reinforce my tarp roof (which would have been pointless no matter what), and pull down my tent that was still erect inside. I accomplished the bare minimum, with a little help from Chuck, while the other two waited impatiently wondering what I was doing. I couln’t blame them though. We had a difficult task ahead of us and night was falling. Eventually we left the cabin and headed back.

At the broken ATV, we attempted to get it started with no hope. The dash would occasionally flicker, but remained lifeless. We strapped it up to the other ATV and began the towing effort. Sure enough, dragging the dead weight turned out to be a hassle. In a couple places we had to muscle it through the muck. Otherwise, we made steady progress as long as we rode steady and hard. Slowing down was not an option else the dead machine would act like and anchor. Long before reaching the main trail to the parking lot, darkness had overtaken us. Under headlights we pushed on with me in the lead trying hard to direct the towing effort onto the most stable ground. And, as always, with continued forward progress, we finally reached the trucks.

Back to the trucks and loaded up for the ride homeThe mood was less than joyous, though you’d think everyone would have been pleased to be done with it. There was still the 2.5 hour drive home though, and it was nearing midnight. One of Chuck’s buds was irritated the trip had been so difficult. The other had a broken machine to now deal with. Chuck and I seemed fine. We all packed up, I said my thinks, and my condolences, and we headed on back to Anchorage.

After all the hassle, some of us can still smile!True, more lumber was now at the property. And, it was a great team effort. However, I certainly learned not to make a trip in that late in the season. Also, there’s no time to waste. Had we been on the trail earlier, we could have avoided riding in the dark. And as for Chuck and his pals, some day soon when access improves and I’ve got the cabin buttoned up tight and comfortable, I’ll have to have them all out again for relaxation only. I certainly owe them a big thanks. And I can’t forget to say thanks to Chuck for the step ladder. Much apprciated!