Tall Tale #1

Bobs Mt. Redoubt Story

Winter of 1989 at Redoubt Creek started out with my usual drop off by float plane at a small lake 1 1/2 miles from my trapping cabin. Two trips with a Cessna 206 on floats are needed to haul me in with my 6 dogs plus supplies. We always cut it close to make it in at the last minute. In mid October thin ice forms and prevents air travel until full winter sets in.

The three weeks before the season begins are busy ones. Supplies have to be freighted to the cabin, trails brushed out and the area scouted for signs of fur. It is a quiet and exiting time. Brown bear sows with cubs are out scouring the lake shores for that last spawned salmon. Feisty bull moose are winding down from their rutting season battles. The last of the migratory birds are heading south.

outlet creek

outlet creek


home sweet home


just dropped off

bear track

fresh bear track

bear lake

on the trail

Once the trapping season starts, things settles down to a routine. I'm up early to feed the dogs and prepare for a day on the trail. I usually have my morning coffee and meal while listening to the radio news and weather. Then we're off at daylight to check traps and perhaps explore a new area.

Back at the cabin near dark and it's time to feed the dogs again. Heat water and chop beaver meat to mix with their dog food for a warm evening meal.

As soon as dogs are snug and snoozing in their straw filled houses it's time to go to work skinning the days catch.


waiting out a storm
view from cabin door

deep snow

breaking trail


first view of Redoubt

Imagine my surprise the morning of December 14, 1989, when the radio news announces that Mt. Redoubt has had a major eruption, spewing ash and steam to 35,000 feet! I'm a bit concerned since my cabin is situated only 12 miles from Redoubt. The weather is unusually warm and humid with overcast skies. I can't see the summit but can hear a slight popping sound as the volcano belches ash. Luckily the ash cloud travels away with the prevailing wind. I quickly load up the dogs and spend the first of two very busy days pulling my traps.
The third morning dawns bright and clear and I get my first view and pictures of the Mountain. The dogs and I begin to shuttle gear five miles over to the bluff near the beach. I plan to retrieve it in the spring by boat. We finally find a draw near Redoubt Point that is not too badly choked by alders and offers beach access.


wind change - here comes more ash


hey boss, can we come in the house?
gear run

hauling Gear

dogs in the house

OK, you guys can come in the house

bad ash day

water run on the worst ash day

The fourth morning we are not so lucky. The wind has shifted and Redoubt's continuous eruption envelopes us in a dusty cloud of ash. It makes a slight hissing noise as it falls on the metal roof of the cabin. I can hear a popping noise again as the mountain erupts. I make a water run and continue to pack gear as the ash falls. Sometime after noon I decide to bring the 6 dogs into the cabin to escape the ash.

We spend an interesting half day and night in the cabin waiting for the ash fall to abate. The dogs aren't used to the warm cabin and are up and down all night each time a shrew or vole runs across the floor.

I have been in contact with friends and family by radio working on evacuation plans. Most air taxis are reluctant to operate because of the ash and potential engine damage. A 747 inbound to Anchorage International Airport has an encounter with an ash cloud and suffers an estimated $50 million in damages. They lose power in all four engines and endure a heart-stopping plunge of thousands of feet before a successful engine restart.

Susan and my sister Mary are able to arrange a Bellranger from Homer to attempt a pickup. I have to make my way to the beach with the dogs and my gear. The beach at low tide makes a good ash free pickup zone.

The first attempt is cut short by a fresh ash cloud from the volcano. I'm a bit glum sitting on the beach as I hear the helicopter approach and then turn and leave.

The west side of Cook Inlet is only separated from the populated east side by about 30 miles of water but I felt pretty darn isolated sitting on that beach hearing the sound of that chopper fading into the distance.

Two days later the eruption subsides and the helicopter is able to return for me and the dogs. The pilot is not thrilled with the prospect of hauling my 6 dogs but we pile in and make the flight to Homer in about 30 minutes.

I've not been back to Redoubt Creek other than for brief visits since the volcano chased me out that winter. My five seasons spent over there with the dog team were some of the best times of my life. Perhaps some day I can take a break from my busy life and venture back for another round with that volcano....

Bob Toll
May 2001


wild ride down the bluff



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