Daily Archives: October 15, 2014

View From Out West: Life lived large — Troyer leaves lasting legacy on terrain, traveling partners

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

What I recall most were his energetic, rollicking stories and his booming, hearty laugh. I also recall his alpine hat, often canted slightly backward, his love of fruit pie and a good after-dinner nap, and, primarily, the hunting trips he took with my father.

Almost as far back as I can remember, Will Troyer, who died Sept. 21, less than two weeks shy of his 89th birthday, was part of my father’s life. For more than four decades Dad and Will were devoted friends.

Although they hadn’t known each other back when they were boys, both had been Hoosiers, raised in the same part of the state, and they reminisced fondly about growing up in Indiana. In their early days together in Alaska — between hiking, hunting and fishing together — they strategized in tandem for the preservation of Alaska wilderness through the Kenai Conservation Society. They also united our families in a bond of friendship that has stretched across the years.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Our family met Will’s (wife, LuRue, and three children, Janice, Eric and Teresa) through the Kenai Methodist Church in about 1963, when the Troyers moved from Kodiak so Will could become the manager of the Kenai National Moose Range. A self-proclaimed “Amish/Mennonite farm boy,” Will spent 30 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service before retiring in 1981. Unlike many refuge managers today, Will continued to work in the field, flying aerial moose surveys and performing numerous other duties outside of the office.

He is largely responsible for the names of perhaps 200 lowland lakes on today’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and he personally hand-cut many of the original portages on the refuge’s extensive canoe system. For the Park Service, he traveled widely across the state. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he assisted in damage assessment on Cook Inlet beaches, and in recent years he published three memoirs about his life.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Will had the resonating kind of voice that even my hard-of-hearing father could easily discern. Dad often found it unnecessary to turn up the volume on the telephone when Will would call about another outing. He didn’t need his hearing aids when Will was regaling us with stories around the dinner table.

With fond hearts for the out-of-doors, Dad and Will planned adventures together, continuing even after the Troyers moved away from the Kenai Peninsula. Their outings increased in the 1980s when Will and LuRue moved back, establishing their retirement home off Bean Creek Road in Cooper Landing.

For years, even when Dad was in his 60s and Will was in his 70s, they tromped down woodsy trails along Swanson River Road to stalk tasty grouse and took annual trips together to the rolling wheat fields of North Dakota to flush pheasants from the grain.

They also made frequent pilgrimages to Kodiak Island to bust through alders after nimble deer, and they climbed with their English setters into the upper drainages of Shaft Creek, East Creek and Devil’s Creek to blast at ptarmigan bolting from scattered copses of willow.

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Built to blast — Gunsmithing workshop aims for information

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

“It’s kind of like the idea of a Tupperware party,” said Scott Hamann. Except it was all men gathered Saturday morning, rather than the more-typical women Tupperware crowd. And instead of taking home plastic food-storage containers, attendees left with their own semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

Having a firearm to take home wasn’t even the primary purpose of the day. The event was more for educational purposes, to learn how to build the gun, how it works and how to take care of it.

“Our country was founded on the principles laid down in the Bill of Rights, but what good is the right to bear a firearm if you don’t know how to use one?” said Hamann, coordinator for an AR-15 building class at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai.

The idea for the class grew from a humble beginning, according to Hamann. A longtime gun enthusiast, a little more than a year ago he decided that, rather than buying another gun, he would build his own AR-15. Due to the rifle’s popularity in this country, there are no shortage of build tutorials in books, magazines and on the Internet.

Hamann enjoyed the experience, and as he told a few of his friends about the endeavor, several mentioned that if he was interested in doing it again, they’d like to join him.

“Before you knew it, we had a whole group of people who wanted to build one, so we all got together and did it and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

They planned another build for the Fourth of July, Hamann said, since celebrating the freedom to own a firearm seemed like an important concept to remember on the Independence Day holiday. But even after that, still more people wanted to learn how to build their own rifles.

However, with the AR-15 often being at the center of controversy in the media and among anti-gun activists, Hamann said that he wanted to find a way to tie the build class into support for Second Amendment freedoms.

“The field representative from the NRA contacted me to see if there was a way we could raise funds, and this seemed like something we could do,” he said.

Hamann and a few other firearm enthusiasts formed the Alaska Defenders of Freedom, a group established to raise funds for political purposes.

“One hundred percent of all money — above the costs of the firearms and tool kits — from these classes goes to the NRA-ILA,” Hamann said, referring to the Institute for Legislative Action, which is the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Hamann’s group worked with Valley Armory in Palmer and the Soldotna-based Black Dog Firearms in order to gather all the necessary parts to build an AR-15, putting them into individually packaged kits, and to comply with gun regulations.

Before the building began Saturday, Mike Misner, an employee of Black Dog Firearms, ran background checks on all participants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and completed all necessary paperwork to transfer to the participants the receivers of the rifles, which house the operating parts of the gun and are, by law, considered the actual firearm and thus are strictly controlled.

“You gotta make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted with this kind of thing,” Misner said.

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Hauling in a new industry — Boat haul-outs take artful engineering

Photo by Peter S. Ford. The M/V Stormbird, a World War II-era ship owned by Clem Tillion, of Halibut Cove, was pulled out last spring. A growing demand for haul-outs means work can be done in Homer.

Photo by Peter S. Ford. The M/V Stormbird, a World War II-era ship owned by Clem Tillion, of Halibut Cove, was pulled out last spring. A growing demand for haul-outs means work can be done in Homer.

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

A research vessel and a former crabber were getting hauled out on the beach below Pier One Theatre at the Homer Spit last week, an endeavor attracting its own reality show audience in the cars that pull over to watch.
The Qualifier 105 research vessel and the F/V Susitna are each more than 100 feet in length and form quite a contrast. One is a sleek white craft that’s traveled the Alaska coast for gold mining divers in Nome and field biologists. The other is a hulk that’s retired from its Bering Sea crabbing days for a new life in freight.

When Earl Brock, owner of Salvage and Sales, orchestrates their haul-out, the vessels sit on dry land in the camping grounds to get repaired by marine tradesmen. Since Homer doesn’t yet have a heavy vessel haul-out facility, the process for pulling these behemoth boats out of the water is a large logistical undertaking.

“I had to figure the process out. I had no mentor and few resources when I started,” Brock said. “I watched them do it on an easy boat and thought, ‘I would never do it that way.’”
Brock has hauled boats out in Nome, Bethel and other coastal areas since 2006. He brought his operation to Homer when requests came in last year.

For the first time, six vessels were onshore near the Homer Harbor to get their work done. The advantage allows the big vessels to remain near their own home port, instead of expensive traveling to one of Alaska’s shipyards in Seward, Kodiak, Ketchikan or Dutch Harbor — or farther away to Puget Sound.

“All of the shipyards have their own circumstances,” Brock said. “You might wait six months in Ketchikan to get your boat in. In Seward, you might get your boat in, but won’t have all the marine trades you need to get things done.”
Brock’s system uses high-powered haul equipment, industrial air bags and natural tidal power to bring even the largest boats in the harbor to dry shore. There they undergo hull work, painting, repairs or prop work.

It’s a careful series of steps based on ancient concepts probably first strategized in Egypt, Brock said.

“I think of it as a logistical opera or opus,” said Peter Ford, one of Brock’s crew. “There are so many movements. Each has to be in place and doing its part, and it has to come together all at once.”

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Plugged In: Find the Goldilocks of pocketable cameras

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Good things are said to come in small packages, and that’s increasingly true of compact, highly mobile camera gear capable of making great images, whether on vacation, on the trail or while driving to work.

I’ve preferred traveling as light as possible ever since winter hunting trips flown 35 years ago in a small Taylorcraft. There was scant cargo space or weight allowance for rifles and winter survival gear, so we quickly learned to make the most of every ounce and every cubic inch. That same challenge still faces today’s photographers, backpackers, hunters and travelers, especially those who want to make high-quality images while traveling light.

Although a cellphone’s camera function is certainly light and compact, it’s not especially versatile nor capable of making technically adequate images except of nearby subjects in bright sunshine. On the other hand, I recall with a bemused shudder the person I recently saw walking around Portland, Oregon with his family on a hot day, obviously vacationing, yet bogged down by a hulking bag of heavy full-frame camera gear. Some vacation.

As is so often true, the most sensible solution lies somewhere between these extremes. Prominent among the new cameras introduced at this year’s Photokina trade show is a variety of premium compact cameras that pack excellent image quality into surprisingly small, versatile camera bodies. These now use larger sensors with better low-light capabilities.

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Filed under photography, Plugged in