Week on the River 2014 Highlights!
The younger participants of Week on the River have filed an official request to change the name of the program to “Week in the Mud.” They became obsessed with the Tanana’s epic “sink mud” immediately after stepping out of their boats at our first rest stop on the paddle to camp and the playing in the mud continued throughout the week perforated by some very necessary swimming/cleaning sessions. The older participants countered with “Feasting on the River” due to the abundance of bacon, fish, and campfire treats. Regardless, the program was a smashing success.
Aging from 9-70, all participants proved hearty island dwellers, living and learning in some of the most beautiful weather we’ve had this summer. Over 65 fish were caught and processed, 11 band-aids administered and 4 bags of marshmallows consumed. We worked collaboratively to build a fish camp that included a fish house, fish smoker, mud oven, fish cutting tables, and a fish trap (the kids referred to this as a rocket ship). The younger participants created an additional camp of their own in the sand featuring a well, oven in the shape of a mouse and miniature landscape to test their theories about forest fires.
Fred DeCicco led the fish strip operation (which often involved getting up at 5am to start the fire), a very popular leather sheath making class, led a “mucking” expedition and shared his expert knowledge of fly casting. Steve O’Brien served as “King of Fish” taking participants out to set and check a variety of nets and also teaching folks how to mend nets, cut fish and telling lots of great fireside stories. Marianne Stolz led a variety of crafts including willow basketry, resist painting, and small boat building, kept us in delicious caviar, all while also being a full-time mom. John Manthei, despite his effort to be “the old guy relaxing in a chair”, taught spoon carving, masterminded the tarp set-up, and started a camp revolution with his tin can fishing class and derby. David Jonas led the construction of the fish trap, taught fire-making, tracking, net building, and very exciting fish skin bag making. Jenna Hertz was the force (if not the talent) behind many fish prints, juggled logistics, taught wild edibles and fish strip cutting, and led successful dessert-making and swimming operations. Most of the experience, it seemed, came from moments in between.
The Folk School wishes to thank our many partners and supporters who helped to get this project off the ground. Thanks to Arctic Wild LLC for their patience and generosity in helping us to navigate the insurance world and safely execute the paddling portion of the trip. Thanks to the Tanana Valley Watershed Association for the use of their water testing gear, information and minnow traps. A big thanks to the Northern Alaska Tour Company for the use of their shuttle and to John Pierce who drove it, waited a very long time, and provided gas. Thanks to the Fairbanks Paddlers Club for the use of their canoe trailer. Thanks to John Manthei and David Jonas for the use of their boats the Magpie and Slimy Sculpin to haul all matter of gear, people, and muck to and from camp. Big thanks to Les Graves for helping people get comfortable in canoes! Thanks to private donors Barbara and Steve Hertz, Philip Marshall, Judy and Dan Segal, Danny Bramer and all participants of the “Fire Feed”. Thank you to our volunteer instructors who organized, taught, and set up camp out of the goodness of their hearts: Fred DeCicco, Steve O’Brien, Marianne Stolz, John Manthei, David Jonas and Jenna Hertz. Thanks to Maia Jones and Susan Post for running the website and registration. Finally, thanks to this year’s participants for holding a sunny outlook throughout variations of weather, trying new things and making this a memorable and valuable experience for all.