Last summer during one of our supply runs to Talkeetna I was helping Elbert load a 160 lb propane cylinder into his Cessna 206, and I thought to myself, this sure is stupid! Two grown men trying to balance on the float of a small plane while trying not to drop the cylinder in the lake…it’s just not a great idea. Now I’m not opposed to hard work, but this is nuts!
Two thirds of the summer was over and my dad, brothers and I had talked about it quite a bit. Bouncing ideas around, and thought there had to be a safer way to do this so we don’t hurt our backs or end up swimming.
Later that day I called Joe at the lodge to see how everything went and if he and Elbert had trouble unloading the propane. Joe then begins to tell me that in the nicest way possible Elbert (in his classic soft spoken way) said “I don’t know how much longer we’ll be haulin’ propane like this”. But Joe, being smart like he is, and reading between the lines, could tell that what Elbert really wanted to say was more along the lines of…This is the dumbest thing ever and you all need to figure something out quick because I’m done with this garbage!
We totally agree Elbert!
It reminds me of my favorite line from the movie Swiss Family Robinson: “It’s better to use your head than break your back, I always say”
The problem didn’t end at the floatplane dock though. After a pilot leaves we are on our own hauling the tanks up the hill from the lake and to the shed about 100 yards away. So Joe told him about our plan to transfer all propane bottles to and from the lodge during the winter so we can use the snowmobiles and pull the sled right up to the shed, or lodge, or cabin…wherever we need a propane tank at the time.
We love the idea, but I think the pilots love it even more. Flying with propane is kind of scary and something we didn’t want to make them do.
So we bought a few more cylinders and have spent the last few months gathering all the empty cylinders from Joe and Bonnie. Filling a few of them every time we make a supply run from Palmer to Talkeetna. Those large cargo sleds pulled behind our machines have been an awesome investment.
We have hauled in approximately 350 gallons of propane that will run the refrigerator, a chest freezer, a barbeque, water heaters and heat for every guest cabin. That should last us all year…I hope! Then we will do the same thing next winter I suppose.
Now I know some will say that we are dumb for using so much propane and we should be using solar or hydro-power for everything. We would agree that solar is probably the best option for many things, and we already use solar here at the lodge for some applications. I think we will continue to expand our use of solar each year, but just like everything else at the lodge; we are experimenting and learning as we go.