Yukon Journal: Part 3, Aug 17 thru 23, 1972
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the Kayaker himself

Yukon Journal: Part 3

Aug 17 thru 23, 1972

Wet and Discouraged, Kaltag, Anvik,
many Birds and some Interesting Water

force dimension
contents:      Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Thurs, Aug 17th:

     Another bad day. Wind and rain again. I'm getting tired of it.
     Also I'm not eating enough. Yesterday when I stopped early because of wind I did not even bother to eat.
1 The mosquitos were a contributing factor to my self imposed fast. So this morning I forced myself to cook a pot of vegtables and eggs, also, of course bacon. It helped.
     Today I saw my first moose on this trip. In the evening I was drifting between a long island and the mainland when ahead I saw a brown shape on the marge
2 of the island. "Could it be..." I said to myself " a Moose!? No, it never is." But I pick the ol' binoculars and sure enuf, a moose. No antlers, but a moose. I edged the kayak closer to shore, got out the camera and waited. She would look toward me and I would freeze, then she would continue her under water salad. When I was directly opposite her, about fifty feet away, Click! I immortalized her, I hope, on 35mm film. At this she decided to take off down stream. After another picture, I gave chase but she was faster. She found a place where she could scale the bank and took off into the willlows.3


Fri, Aug 18th:

     Wind too high - didn't bother leaving camp. Instead I made chile beans with salt pork and rye bread. The bread is sort of heavy because I didn't let it raise the second time (it is almost unleavened) but I made it thin like a pancake. It's very good though and I ate several 12 inch diameter pieces directly off the fire spread with bacon fat.
     Weather is getting depressing and I'm thinking considering cutting the trip short. I'll think about it again at Anvik.

Sat, Aug 19th:

     Wind down somewhat - I've started down river again.
     Just passed Kaltag where they are having some sort of festival. One event is to take your boat up river, cut some wood, bring it back and brew some tea.
     It's cold! and rainy of course.


Sun, Aug 20th:

     Rained all last night and all day continually. Stayed in the tent feeling depressed and discourged. Ready to call the whole thing off. Sleeping bag is wet.

Mon, Aug 21st:

     Weather better today, not raining continuously. It rained all last night and the sleeping bag is soaked. Luckly I bought that down sleeping bag liner (fix4). I'll be able to use that until the regular bag is dry again. And if it starts to rain I'll use a seven foot length of the nylon film tube that Harry gave me. I'll stuff myself and sleeping bag into it like a sausage. Even if it's too hot and I get sweaty at least the rain will be kept out.
     Feeling better today. Weather is good enough to travel. I opened my canned ham, together with my home made rye bread and the end of a pint of whiskey mixed with leamon-ade it made a welcome change to my diet.


Tue, Aug 22nd:     Last night's camp was dry. The sleeping bag, spread open on top of me in the sleeping bag liner, had a chance to begin to dry.
     Heading south now with a good current (4 mph) and a following breeze (5-10 mph). But even more important, the sun is out. First time I think in two weeks. The sleeping bag is piled out in front on the bow of the kayak soaking up all that good radiation.
     I was thinking that some eggs would taste good today as I was passing a bank cut into a peat bog. And lo! what should I see but a mess of Shaggy Mane mushrooms. Put the ol' brake on, hopped out n' gathered me a parcel of the tasty fungi.
     At the same time I identified the Fox Sparrow for the first time. I think, they were hopping around my tent 2 days ago. They would perch right on the front guy not ten feet away, but moved too fast for positive identification.
     It's a fine day and with all this sun think I'll take a wash.

     Didn't take much of a wash for just about then I saw an excellent place to cook. There is a gravel beach, a breeze to keep mosquitos at bay and plenty of downed fire wood.
     I cooked beans with salt pork also onions, green peppers, a little chile, cumin, oregano, basil, and bit more of rosemary and garlic. Exquisite!
     Also I cooked eggs and mushrooms with salt pork, tarragon, nutmeg, pepper and a little garlic. Delectable!
     And finally, I baked leavened rye bread, with a picture to prove it.
     Now I am enjoying my pipe while the sun goes down. Taking a few pictures. At peace with the world. I did not make many miles today (about 20) but it was good.
     Sandhill Cranes are making their peculiar racket. Takes the place of the loons of the northern Wisconsin woods.

click for enlarged view      While spell-bound by the departing sun I have drifted by my chosen camp.
     But who cares for just now the bottom edge of the clouds have turned a brilliant blood red. I never seen such sunset.6


Wed, Aug 23rd:

[Finally I've picked up a pen and the journal is legible once more.]
     If I had any idea that the weather was clearing they were soon dashed into the mud. Intermittant rain all night, then at dawn a real downpour. I thought the tent would be blown down on top of me. But it held.
     Any progress I had made yesterday in drying the regular bag was more then over-come last night. Where any thing touched the sides of the tent, floods came oozing through. I managed to keep the liner bag dry by using the nylon film tube. But that won't work for long because of the sweat of my own body. Already the top outside fabric is wet. May be ventilation slits on the top of the nylon film. I'll try it tonight. [note: no down sleeping bag]
     I got a fairly early start this morning - as soon as most of the rain was over - trying to make up some miles.

     Been paddling awhile now. Stopped to rest my tired arse. All my cusions are hopelessly flat and now confined to the deep. I'm sitting on a combinatuion of my life preserver and ensolite sleeping pad. I must devise a decent seat some time soon.
     ...Drat! Just dropped my pen over side. [I second that 'Drat!' 30 years later as I prepare to decipher the faint pencil record.]

     Another observation. When I waxed and polished my hull I improved paddling performance but lessened the speed in a drift, the current just slips by. Oh well, back to the old paddle.

     Just got a reading on the sun, 160°. It set at 270° yesterday. (110 / 15 = 7) There is about 7 hours of daylight left.
     I was leasurly paddling along a cut bank, grown with cottonwoods for a change, listening to the music: part the wind in the trees, part the water against the banks and through the snags, and part within my head; a Tyrolian childrens choir singing in pure soprano voices far off into the next valley. And lo, there is a small black bear walking along beside me. Giving me no mind. Intent on some berries accross the stream, or perhaps also listening to the Tyrolian childrens choir.

     Recap: Todays weather was much as yesterday's: Rainy and overcast in the morning, clearing in the afternoon but with accompaning wind and waves (some four footers today). No sunset though, clouds in the way.
     I paddled almost continually today. First time in a long time I did so much and my arms and hands are tired. Made about 40 miles.
     It was a good day with much peace stored up inside. And so to bed when I find it.

continue the journey

    notes on part 3:
  1. wet, tired, depression return

  3. note: R Service return

  5. This was a good lesson in the avoidance of humans, as the indigenous people carry rifles instead of cameras. Although to make things even again they announce themselves with the use of kickers instead of paddles. Maybe its not because they want to even the chances of the chase but to make life easier, I don't know. return

  7. This must be note to myself to repair the liner. return

  9. I always considered the Common Loon to be almost a totemic animal for me. Here on the Yukon and three years ago on the Colorado the Sandhill Crane has joined the loon in its special meaning to me. universal dancing voice size return

  11.      I think I was so agog at this sunset that words escaped me. I remember drifting down the river for an hour or so, engrossed in the constantly changing light show. The almost continuous partly cloudy conditions lend an interesting canvas to splash the colors accross and the high latitude enables the long duration.
         The final fadeout left me in darkness on the river. Northern Lights occasionally provide an encore to this celestial show, but not this night. I remember stranding on a sand bar. The swift icy current swirling around my knees, as I, with difficulty, extricated myself. I remember setting up camp in a mosquito infested marsh because it was all I could do in the dark. But the show was worth the admission price. The peace I experienced drifting along, enchanted with the display still lives within me.
         In case you might think that this is an isolated incident, let me assure you that it is not. In 1977 high on a peak over looking Sugar Bowl Ski Area it happened again. I and Ed Sherman sat watching the departing sun and the Alpen Glow until it was quite dark. We then had to descend the mountain and make our way through the black forest at the bottom. We were late for dinner that night by several hours.

     If you are just scanning notes as I do: Previous Notes | Next Notes
     The following links lead to maps of my route. To follow the route from city to city click on the river at the down stream edge of the map.
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Maps by Expedia.com Travel
large scale route map | Nulato | Kaltag | Anvik
Contents this Page | Journal Contents | Home Page Contents
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

edited by Peter J Wait,