The Black Rapids 2003 Timber Framing School
Where the Past Never Left and the Future’s on the Bluff
By: Michael Hopper
Weekly Timber Framing School Updates (Summer 2003)
Final Narrative Report for the Framing of the Black Rapids Lodge (Summer 2003)
The Rise of Black Rapids by Mike Hopper (A Summer 2003 re-cap in poetic form)
Picture this: You’re standing on a bluff overlooking the boiling convergence of two alpine rivers, a confluence so gray with glacial runoff they call it Black Rapids. Across the river, you can just make out the source of all that silt as it winds its way down from its distant mountain redoubt. It’s hard to believe but that glacier once threatened to overwhelm where you are standing. Experts say that in six-month’s time that glacier, nicknamed the “Galloping Glacier” in the 1930′s, could once again threaten your vantage point should she reverse her retreat.
The buffalo herd across the river doesn’t seem concerned, so maybe you’re OK for the moment. Turn around. On the cliffs and slopes above you, see the Dall sheep… the waterfalls…the grizzly bear? (Just kidding about the grizzly; you’ve got to earn that sighting.)
Now, listen. Do you hear that sound? It’s God sighing…
Break’s over. Pick up your slick. It’s time to get back to work. You’re at this summer’s timber-framing school at Black Rapids, Alaska. You’re here to help build a solitary timber-frame outpost in this uniquely Alaskan wilderness, the new Black Rapids Lodge. Like any real beauty, she’s modest: A two-story, 32′ X 64′ timber frame set on an insulated concrete form daylight basement. There are some fancy touches: A sixteen-foot-on-a-side, single story, half-hexagon outcropping on the main floor is the dining area. And there is that sixteen-foot square belvedere lookout perched on top. Those’ll make for some advanced level framing. But when done, she’ll only boast six private rooms above the bunkhouse/youth-hostel.
But you’re not here to build a hotel. You’re here to re-create a tradition and start a new history. Look down below: There’s the original 100 y/o Rapids Roadhouse. Ester log builders Mike and Richard Musick, along with the famous Alaskan artist (and log builder) Sandy Jamieson, are in the middle of its historic resurrection. When you have a moment you really ought to see how they’ve recreated the rough-hewn ramshackle construction of those pioneering days of Alaska’s Gold rush. That old roadhouse was a central stop on the old Valdez Trail into the heart of Alaska’s gold country. Once restored it’s destined to be the trailhead for a trip into the past. But this museum will be a celebration of the human spirit and not just an exercise in nostalgia. It will house the memories, artifacts, and photos of all the hardy adventurers who dared accept the challenge of this rugged and dangerous land; long gone mountaineers, pioneers, and indigenous hunter/gatherers alike will find perpetual lodging in the Rapids Roadhouse museum.
Maybe you’ll end up there one day. You’ve got to have a little pioneer in you to sign on for this school. First, there’s the housing: It’s about seven miles south of here, a half-mile hike up this beautiful little creek. Wall tents in the woods surround the stone and timber cabin that serves as the dining hall and meeting place for the school. And then there’s the food: You’ll be sampling all those uniquely Alaskan dishes including salmon and Delta buffalo. On the mountain slopes overlooking the cabin are blueberry fields to die for; that said, you’ll need to avoid the young Grizzly sow that could effectively back that claim.
Can you imagine? Going to school in a place like that? Owners Mike and Annie Hopper of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Rich Landon of Clark, Colorado, imagined just that a few years ago. Under the guidance of a Master Framer, Jon Gantenbein, of Hope, Alaska, that dream became a reality this past summer in a series of Black Rapids Timber Framing Schools. Want to learn more? Visit our Website at www.blackrapids.org and or call (907) 455-6158.
Preliminary Session: May 16 – May 18
Session #1: June 2 – June 8
Session #2: June 12 – June 18
Session #3: June 23 – June 29
Session #4: July 3 – July 9
Session #5: July 14 – July 20
Session #6: July 24 – July 30
Session #7: August 4 – August 10
Session #8: August 14 – August 20
Session #9: August 18 – August 24
The Final Push: Weeks 10 and 11