Yukon Journal: Part 4, Aug 24 thru 29, 1972
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the Kayaker himself

Yukon Journal: Part 4

Aug 24 thru 29, 1972

Anvik, Holy Cross, Russian Mission,
and Some Interesting Waters and Wildlife

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

Thurs, Aug 24th:

     I'm safely in my tent after a full day's paddling. I left my camp this morning under a clouded sky heading for Anvik where I was going to mail some cards and a letter to my parents along with the rolls of film I have exposed. After about six or seven hours and 30 miles I reach Anvik only to find both the post office and the store closed, Drat! So I headed on down stream toward Holy Cross. I made another eight miles of the 45 between Anvik and Holy Cross. Tomorrow I go almost to Holy Cross. So that on the following day I can be sure things will be open.
     Today just after passing Grayling I hit a stretch of water a mile wide and 5 long like a giant bathtub over which a squall had passed an hour previously. The water was extreamly choppy with a seiche
1 traveling from side to side and a larger seiche traveling the length. There were no sand bars to break the waves and they just kept going. Occasionally a series of three to six reinforced waves three to four feet high would come. They would be preceded by a stretch of almost flat water of about 50' or more. Great fun to build up speed and go smashing into them. And then there were times two sets of reinforced waves at right angles would bear down on you. The only thing to do is to head for the vee. Very interesting water.
     Another interesting thing happened today. Anvik isn't on the Yukon proper, it's on a slough into which the Anvik River empties. And strange as it may seem you can actually see through it, it's actually transparent not opaque like normal water. Also it tastes flat! But I liked it anyway. As you drive a paddle into it you can actually see the blade under the surface with air bubbles streaming upward. It sparkles as it spashes.
     Identified a Harléquin Duck today. I saw a couple two days ago but I wasn't sure, today I am. Also as I made for camp tonight a flight of what sounded like jet planes flew low right over my head, teal I guess.


Fri, Aug 25th:

     Took a detour this morning through the Bonasila Slough, a 7 mile slough into the beginning of which the Bonasila River empties. The water of the Bonasila River is a clear brown, like tea. It is probably due to tannin it picks up as it flows through peat. This clear brown is immediately clouded by the waters of the Yukon when they merge. There was almost no current.
     I took the detour to fish, no luck. Another wasted morning but for one thing. Near the end of the slough I saw some American Widgeon.
     I was paddling along heading for the mouth when I glanced out of the corner of my eye. There near the bank were six brown ducks. Ah ha, a chance to to identify a new duck says I. They were about 30 yards away so I get out my book and binocs. But they, the ducks didn't fit. I needed to see more. Get them to move. I quacked they looked up stream (I was down) then returned to their preening. I started to paddle toward them, nothing. They tucked their heads in and went to sleep. I yelled, they looked around then settled down again. Hardly skittish. So I paddled toward them. I got up a good head of steam, picked up my binocs and almost ran them down. If I had used my head I probably could have gotten one for my dinner with the paddle. They finally took off when the nose of the kayak was upon them. The bow must have been about eight feet from them when they flew and I got a wing pattern and an ident: American Widgeon, immature (just dumb kids).

     Saw also a couple of Pintails.


Sat, Aug 26th:

     Last night I discovered a rare thing on this trip, a good camp site. On a high sand bar (25' above the river level and still under water earlier this year). With a good north wind to keep the insects away and plenty of fire wood I enjoyed a fire, made beans, fried some meat and dried and warmed my feet.
     Another rare phenomenon last night, stars. Lots of them; Big and Little Bear, North Star etc. And the full moon. First time since the Tanana I saw either. They didn't last long but long enough to make me feel good.
     This morning, having sated my appetite, I am sitting by the fire enjoying the Sun. Good ol' Sol. Beautiful.
     Spent about twenty minutes taking my own picture. On the first attempt I turned on the timer but forgot the shutter. There I am posing wondering when the damn thing would go off. The second attempt was an inadvertent candid photo of myself getting into position. The third seem to go ok, I hope so.
     Time to get packing if I don't want to miss the post office at Holy Cross too.

     Well I made Holy Cross ok but the Post Office was closed anyway. Seems it's Saturday (I had lost track) and it's closed. Fellow at the Trading Co. said they will open if necessary. I said no, and left the letters and some money with him. He said he would mail them tomorrow, Sunday, when the Post Office was open a half day prior to the mail going out.
     Holy Cross is an Yupik village. It is a lot neater than some of the villages upstream. The beach is clean and ship-shape. The fuel dump is in one place and clean. No garbage broken glass etc. Same for village which is inland away from the ephemeral beach about a quarter mile. Here modern construction out numbers log cabins. There is a sewer system and electric lights.


Sun, Aug 27th:

     A day of rest. Stopped at a deserted fish camp which was on a creek. Got some clear water and looked around. Found a historical noval which I read as I drifted most of the day. Beautiful weather. Partly cloudy with warm sun. No rain or high winds. Made about 20 miles.
     There's a hint of autumn in the air. Nights are getting quite chilly and during the day when the sun goes behind a cloud it is instantly cool. I am constantly putting on off my jacket, redoing the buttons on my shirt. Also, very significantly the birch leaves are beginning to turn yellow at the ends of the branches.


Mon, Aug 28th:
     Last night I camped on the usual sand bar. After I had been asleep awhile a very strong wind came up. The tent was flapping around my ears, sand was blowing right through, and I began to worry about my kayak not too far from the water's edge. Would it be blown into the river? Would the sand be eroded from beneath it?
     Finally nothing would do but that I go hot-footing it down to the water in skivies, boot laces flapping around my ankles.
     It was fine but I drove another stake into the clay and added another mooring line just to ease my sleep.
     On the way back to the tent I noticed what the wind was doing to the sky. All the clouds were were being driven off, exposing once more the full moon and a myriad of bright glistening stars. Worth getting out of the sack to see.

     This morning it was difficult getting out of the sack. I awoke to a rosy dawn and the same howling wind. After sticking my head out, feeling the snap to the air, and seeing all that sand blowing around (my sleeping bag was covered) I pulled my head right back inside my warm downy cocoon.
     I finally made it up. After a cold breakfast beside my kayak I plunged into the foaming sea. Wind and sand swirling around me, waves breaking over my bow. Onward toward Russian Mission.

     Made camp early today. Saw a good spot with plenty of wood, fresh water, and a soft spot for my tent. I've been out of bread for a day and beans are low. So need to do some cooking.

YJanimal.jpg - 7544 Bytes
     As I was sitting by the fire the above animal came hopping out of a great tangle of trees and other drift wood.
     He looks some thing like a cross between a mink and a squirrel. Longer than a mink, though slim, face more fore-shortened, brown above and white below with black tip to his tail.
YJrunning.jpg - 1986 Bytes      He hops or jumps around like a chipmunk, fore feet together and hind together, chirping with each bound.
     Not very shy, He came up to within 10' feet of me looking around then dashing back. Back and forth he came, trying to figure out this strange creature.

     Hope this bread, about nine quarter pound loafs, will last until the end as I'm out of rye flour. This is half rye and half whole wheat.


Tues, Aug 29th:

     Another glorious day. Eskimo Summer? No, Yupik Summer.
     Just stopped at Russian Mission. Two young white boys
5 showed me around the Post Office, TWO stores, and the Russian Orthodox Church.
     They, as others before them, told me of all the others going down the Yukon this year. Last week another fellow in a Klepper (?) passed by and just yesterday two guys on a raft left Russian Mission after a week's stay. They have been going down the river from Fairbanks for ten weeks. I hope to overtake them. Also another fellow on a raft from Whitehorse, seven weeks (good time). [note: I seem to recall that they had counted about ten parties this year.]

continue the journey

    notes on part 4:
  1. def:
    [French dialectal exposed lake bottom, probably from French s�che, feminine of sec, dry.]
    A stationary wave usually caused by strong winds and/or changes in barometric pressure. It is found in lakes, semi enclosed bodies of water, and in areas of the open ocean. The period of a seiche in an enclosed rectangular body of water is usually represented by the formula:
         Period (T) = 2L / square root(gd)
    in which L is the length, d the average depth of the body of water, and g the acceleration of gravity. See standing wave.
    (Thanks to Coastal Engineering Research Center)

         I wonder how deep this 'giant bathtub' was and if the waves were instrumental in forming it. If I had known this formula I might have been able to estimate the depth with a little better estimate of the period of the waves.

  3. You might ask why I didn't just sleep at Holy Cross or wherever and go to the post office in the morning. Being completely alone for so long made me extremely shy and jealous of my aloneness. I can remember skulking around the edges of some town and actually hiding from passing folk. Yet I enjoyed any companey I ran into. return

  5. sewer system
         My German is coming out here.

  7. The animal is some kind of weasel: Sable I first thought because of the black tipped tail, Marten I later concluded after studying pictures of Alaskan mammals.
         I had a similar experience with a Fisher while hiking through the Trinity Alps in winter when I was the only human within twenty miles. I had paused to photograph a snow accented sign and when I had finished I saw a Fisher on hind legs watching me. We stood there contemplating each other for a while, then went our separate ways.
         When Humans are the rare species they become the object of curiosity of the dominant species.

  9. or as they say around here, kass'aq (pronounced "gus'-suk", derived from the Russian "Cossack") return

  11. note return_

  13. note return_

  15. note return_

     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 | Anvik | Holy Cross | Russian Mission
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,