Archived blog posts from 2012 and 2013.

Blog and Book Update

Hello friends, I’d like to apologize for not keeping up with my blog posts lately. As many of you know, I have been working non-stop on another book. This one chronicles my Alaskan gold mining experiences, as well as some great mammoth and fossil hunting expeditions. I’ve also included some incredible Alaskan history, and shared some of our family experiences, too. You’ll read about my brushes with death, the excitement of incredible discoveries, and the fears and disappointments I faced along the way. My hope is that the book will inspire you to seek out your own adventures and gain a deeper appreciation for all that God has given us. The book is tentatively entitled: “One Hundred Years Too Late: Gold, Guns, and Glory on the Last Frontier”. If everything goes as planned, it should hit the shelves next spring. I doubt the mainstream media will do much to help promote the book, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have some very knowledgeable people read the manuscript and give it a “thumbs up.” Here’s a review from Dave Mack. Dave is a former Navy Seal, and author of five books on gold mining, including his newest, “Extreme Prospector”. He is also one of the most successful gold dredgers on the planet. It was an honor to get his endorsement because I’ve looked up to him for twenty years. Here’s what he had to say about it: This is a fantastic testimonial of a young man who goes against the (wise) advice of family, close friends and work colleagues, takes an unpaid extended leave of absence from his real job,... read more

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of our parents, Chuck and Sally. We will always be grateful for what they’ve given us… not the material things, but the intangibles. Through a lifetime of outdoor experiences, Dad instilled in us a sense of adventure, an appreciation of nature, and a love of animals. He also showed us what hard work really means. Mom gave us a softer example. She comforted us always; whether it was a bad dream, sickness, injury, or personal hardships as we got older, Mom has always been there for us. She taught us compassion, patience, and most importantly, to trust in God. I thought you might enjoy an excerpt from the book Dad and I wrote that tells the story of Mom and Dad meeting each other for the first time. Enjoy this story from Our Sarah: Made in Alaska. One day in a zoology lab class, I was paired with a girl named Sally Sheeran. Our assignment that day was to prick each other’s fingers and take a blood sample. At first, she refused to participate. Ever the gallant and considerate one, I responded by calling her a pansy. I liked her but wanted to date another girl in our class, Linda Mitchell. However, when I asked Linda out, she wanted to go with my roommate instead. Rather than going with me, Linda offered to fix me up for a date with her best friend. Her best friend turned out to be Sally Sheeran. I’m not sure I made a good impression on her – I paid for the movie with a sock full of coins... read more

Hiking to Independence

This past Monday, the boys and I hiked up above Independence Mine, near Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains. In 1906, Robert Hatcher discovered gold in quartz outcrops here. A major mine was set up and it operated until the 1950s. Over 500,000 ounces of gold was taken out of these hills. My family has been visiting this area since the early 1970s… hiking, prospecting, and berry picking in the summer, and skiing and ptarmigan hunting in the winter. Hatcher Pass is only a half an hour from my folks house in Wasilla. We’re blessed to have such a gorgeous area to visit. By the way, when you look at the pictures I’m posting, you’ll notice that no one else is in sight. We hiked for most of the day and didn’t see one other person in the area we visited.   The boys at the Little Sustina River near the base of Hatcher Pass. This is the start of our climb. Our first goal was the light colored rock slide you can barely see near the top of the mountain. Teko climbing hard, about halfway up the mountain. Note the Matanuska Valley sprawling in the distance. Kier and Teko resting 3/4 of the way up. We all ended up sunburned after our trip. This is an old cook shack that we call, the Dream House. The mine portal (entrance) is to the left. Inside the mine. Note the rail. Ore cars traveled miles through these mountains during the mines heyday. I went into this one but not very far… the ceiling looked extremely unstable, and as beautiful as... read more

Hunting for Gold with Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad were ready to get back on the trail. There was no holding them back, so we took advantage of the weather and good timing. Here are some shots from our recent gold mining trip in the Talkeetna Mountains.   Mom and Bo on the way up the trail to Bone’s goldmine. That’s Gunsight Mountain in the background.   Fireweed flowers line the trail to the mine. We mark the summer season with these. When the flower’s blooms reach their top, summer is over.   Mom heading over the pass with Dad and Adrian close behind. The Chugach Mountains are in the background.   Dad, George, Adrian, and Mom, in front of our late friend Bone’s cabin. This is my dad’s favorite place on earth.   Here I’m struggling to lift a 100 pound fossilized ammonite, a three hundred million year-old fossil from the hills surrounding the mine.   A young caribou loping down the airstrip towards us.   A beautiful little mossy stream on the trail.   Mountains as seen from the top of Belanger Pass.   On the way home, we stopped by Sheep Mountain Lodge for a bite to eat. The scenery doesn’t get any better than this.   Some of the gold we found in the two creeks we worked on. Most of it came from cracks in the bedrock. Subscribe free to ChuckHeathJr.com and receive notice of each new post! Just enter your email address in the subscription box found in the sidebar and watch for a verification email. Have a guest post you’d like to submit? Read about the details HERE. To purchase... read more

How to Make a Bear Laugh

Bear attacks are a frequent occurrence in Alaska, and they’re never a laughing matter. The newswoman, Julie Tremmel, who made this video had good intentions and her advice was sound, albeit a little goofy. But hey, at least she got people talking about bear encounters.     I recommend a new Alaskan book, Beyond the Bear by Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney. It chronicles a gruesome bear mauling on the Kenai peninsula and a young man’s fight to survive and return to some sort of normalcy after losing his eyes and most of his face. I also recommend reading, Alaska Bear Tales and More Alaska Bear Tales, by Larry Kaniut. Larry is a friend of my Dad, and his true stories of bear attacks are riveting. Subscribe free to ChuckHeathJr.com and receive notice of each new post! Just enter your email address in the subscription box found in the sidebar and watch for a verification email. (Featured image of bear courtesy of Jack King) Have a guest post you’d like to submit? Read about the details HERE. To purchase a signed copy of Our Sarah, mail a $25 check (made out to Sally or Chuck Heath) to: Chuck and Sally Heath 425 North Klouda Circle Wasilla, Alaska 99654   Amazon.com Widgets   Amazon.com... read more

A Wave Like No Other

Just a couple of days ago, I overheard heard my father-in-law, Mark, speaking to my father about wanting to visit a place called Lituya Bay. Dad mentioned that he had always wanted to visit the bay, too. Mark was a commercial fisherman in Ketchikan, a southeast Alaska town not far from the Bay, and my family lived in Skagway, a little further north of it. Why the interest in Lituya Bay? Because on the night of July 9th, 1958, Lituya Bay experienced the largest tidal wave in recorded history. Lituya Bay lies on the edge of the Gulf of Alaska, about half way between Cape Spencer and Yakutat. It is the only secure anchorage along more than 100 miles of the southeast coast in that particular area. View Larger Map On that July day, 55 years ago this month, three boats entered the Bay’s narrow entrance to anchor for the night. On board one boat, the Edrie, was Howard Ulrich and his eight-year old son, Sonny. Bill and Vivian Swanson were aboard the Badger, and Orville and Mickey Wagner were on the Sunmore. At 10:16 pm, a massive earthquake struck the area. Estimates of the quake’s magnitude range from 7.7 to 8.3. All three of the boats occupants were awakened by the quake, and immediately following it, a deafening roar was heard. At the end of the bay, a steep slope from a nearly 6,000-foot tall, unnamed peak broke loose. 40 million cubic yards of rock tumbled nearly vertically between 2,000-3,000 feet, into the 800 foot deep water at the Bay’s end. The rock debris displaced a tremendous amount... read more

The Golden Sands of Nome

In 1898, gold was discovered on Anvil Creek in the mountains near the present-day city of Nome by the “Three Lucky Swedes”, Jafet Lindeberg, Erik Lindblom, and John Brynteson. News of their discovery sparked a gold rush, and a year later, 10,000 people made their way to Nome… mostly by steamship from ports in Seattle and San Francisco. By 1910, the population approached 20,000, making it by far the largest city in Alaska. There’s debate as to how Nome was named. Some say it was named by Jafet Lindeberg after a place called Nome Valley in Norway. The version that I’ve always heard is more interesting. A British cartographer was mapping the coast of Alaska many years ago. When his ship reached Nome, which at that time was just a tiny Inupiat hunting and fishing camp, he didn’t know what it was called. On his map he wrote “? Name” at the spot where Nome is now located. His writing must’ve been pretty bad because when the map was returned to England to be made into a final copy, whoever read it thought the question mark was a ‘C’ and the word ‘Name’ was Nome. He took that to mean “C. Nome” or “Cape Nome”. The majority of Nome’s early occupants lived in tents along a vast beach on the shores of the Norton Sound on the Bering Sea. This was not a wise choice. Nome experiences severe winter storms and at various times any structure constructed along the beach was washed away. The gold-bearing creeks in the mountains behind Nome were quickly claimed up, so thousands of people... read more

Busy Bees by Laura Hatton

Busy, busy, busy bees. We see them in our yards and in our gardens.. quietly and efficiently pollinating the beautiful flowers, fruits, and vegetables that we enjoy during these long summer days. Just as importantly, honey bees are also working to make wild plants more productive and more nutritious; many birds, insects, and rodents enjoy the benefits of a hard-working honey bee colony near by. These bee colonies and their working ladies have been quietly doing their part to help feed the world since the beginning of time, so what is that makes them so interesting all of a sudden?     Humans, and many animals alike, have always had a sweet love of honey. Initially, the only way to get this sweet bounty was to rob it from the bees that had nested in caves or trees. Robbing honey in this environment was hard on the bees and the people, as you can imagine being chased out of a dark cave by a few serious ladies tasked with protecting their bounty for the next generation. Eventually, this evolved into people keeping bees in baskets. But again, harvesting the honey was hard on the bee colonies as many off the bees were killed in the process. Then came the gums, large sections of trees that the bees would live in. The honey could be harvested without killing bees with this method, but it was still destructive and the bees would need to rebuild much of their nest every year. Finally boxes were introduced to keep the bees in, and though they were easier to move and more functional, they... read more

The Porch

Welcome, Friends! So much to do and so little time! I’m sure many of you can relate. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more adventures soon. In the meantime, here are some photos from a recent exploration. Last weekend, I took my two boys on a trip to the Matanuska Glacier, about 100 miles north of Anchorage.     This is a picture taken from the Glenn Highway of the glacier.   Notice the blue color in the crevices. The blue is present because the dense ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. Occasionally, we’ll stumble upon an ice cave on a glacier. When you enter them, everything glows blue. We don’t spend much time in these caves… glaciers are dynamic. You never know when one of these caves will collapse.   Me standing at the glacier’s face.   Kier jumping over a glacial rivulet.   Teko jumping over the same spot (yes, he made it!).   One of the glacier’s extreme dangers: this is a sinkhole that a lot of these rivulets dump into. A few years ago, a teenage boy slipped into one of these holes and disappeared. A video camera was lowered on a cable 800′ down the hole and there was no sign of him. We dropped a boulder into this particular hole and it took six seconds for it to hit the bottom. You must use extreme caution when approaching these holes.   As we climbed higher on the glacier, we came upon this beautiful glacial lake. When I was a kid, Dad and I landed on one of these glacial... read more

The Porch

Welcome, Friends! “Polar bears in my neighborhood!” I took these pictures this morning less than two miles from my house! (I should probably mention that we were at the zoo.) It’s a myth that polar bears roam all over Alaska. They generally stick to the northern coastal regions and never venture as far south as Anchorage.     We were at the zoo Saturday so my son could compete in a fun run for kids. It snowed hard the entire time we were there. I can’t believe it’s May and winter’s still hanging on. If you ever get the chance to visit our state, make sure you get to the zoo. It’s not on the scale of the Hamburg or San Diego Zoo, but it gives the visitor a great glimpse of our native species.     By the way, the tripod is still up on the Tanana River! See here: Nenana Ice Classic Webcam Subscribe free to ChuckHeathJr.com and receive notice of each new post! Just enter your email address in the subscription box found in the sidebar and watch for a verification email. Have a guest post you’d like to submit? Read about the details HERE. To purchase a signed copy of Our Sarah, mail a $25 check (made out to Sally or Chuck Heath) to: Chuck and Sally Heath 425 North Klouda Circle Wasilla, Alaska 99654   Amazon.com Widgets   Amazon.com... read more
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