“Sra Niday” means the sun is shining in our local Hän language. And it really did, for weeks. I don’t know Hän for “How the hell can it be summer already?” or “Jesus Christ, is that a mosquito?”
Things have got out of hand. A warm chinook wind roared through, hot as a hair dryer. The snow is melting, the trails have gone slushy, our meat’s thawing and there are spots opening in the creek. It’s May in March and we are reeling with it.
Across river, the cliffs rumble and crack with avalanches.
|Snow tunnel by the old cabin|
Earlier in the month, we had the most astounding March weather. Days bright enough to hurt your eyes and skies so deep you feel you can fall up into them.
|Trip to visit a disused communications station in the mountains|
The nights were ice cold and clear, down to twenty below with a hazy green aurora rippling in a wide arc around the North Pole, brushing the tops of the hills.
Our mornings were dusted with frost, floating from the trees like blossom petals and the most amazing, blazing, red and white-gold sun dogs.
|Sun dogs. No effects, this is how they looked.|
We took advantage of the incredible weather to blast off on our Skidoo. Do it while you can. That’s our motto for life in the bush and thank God we did because travel is a lot less fun now.
We made the long journey downriver to work on our Polaris Widetrak in our friends' workshop. If you read my previous blogs you will be desperate to know whether we fixed our two broken snowmachines.
Or maybe you're not. We're totally sick of the whole saga too.
|We took Homer this time in case we got stuck so he wasn't left home alone|
|Homer waiting patiently whilst we get unstuck|
We had to remove the transmission in order to replace a worn coupler. Another friend came to join us and, at one point all 5 of us were struggling trying to get the stupid transmission back in. So, after 2 days of work with 5 people involved and $180 on a new part, did we fix it?
No. It wasn’t the coupler. The transmission itself has gone. So the Widetrak is still slouching in our friends' yard. The other friend has taken the gearbox to look at and we now have our junk spread almost as far as Alaska.
And Piccolo, our little Polaris 340 that I so happily declared fixed in my last blog?
No. It wasn’t the spark plug boots. Of course it wasn’t that simple. It might be the CDI unit. We were about to head off on a 200 mile round trip to get a spare from pals in Alaska but have been foxed by the tropical weather.
We hoped to visit a few friends on our way and are very, very disappointed we now won’t. Trails downriver are getting dangerous with deep overflow and treacherous cracks opening up so we cancelled our plans.
|Cracks and overflow, taken from the back of our Skidoo|
The critters are up and moving around in the heat. We saw this otter lolloping down the middle of the river.
He was going so slowly I wanted to scoop him up, put him in the sled and drive him to a waterhole for his own safety, but that might not have gone as well as I hoped.
And then there was this- Our biggest wildlife shock since we had this black bear rubbing its back on our porch supports last spring.
|Visiting black bear with an itch|
Fucking vole in my pyjamas! Not a lemming as I’d originally thought but, after some discussion on Facebook, it seems the pyjama bandit was a vole. Someone remarked it was cute. Well, not even a baby koala bear is cute when it is sitting in your pyjamas, using them as a toilet, just as you’re about to put them on.
I was so shocked, I watched it amble across the bed and under the covers, gaping in horror until I gathered myself enough to grab a piece of firewood. Neil pulled the bed clothes back and I pounded the bugger, just as it was curling up for a nice snooze, in a bed-time variation on the game “Whack-a-mole.”
Blood and shit all over the sheets. Thank God is was on Neil’s side.
|Spring sun shows all the dust.|
Usually we get rodents in the autumn but the weather is affecting them too. Apparently this early warm up is a disaster for burrowing creatures. Their homes are filling up with water.
|Snow coming off the roof|
They are essentially climate change refugees, so I do have some sympathy, but camping in my bed clothes is a step too far.
|Luckily we got our last building log before the trails got too soft|
Some people I’ve met here are pleased with the idea of global warming. “Heck, I don’t miss 60 below!” I can understand that, but this is not a gradual change and I’ve a feeling it will get complicated.
|Checking overflow. Well frozen this time|
Average temps for this time of year are highs, 1.3C and lows, -18.5C. Check out Govt weather website.
It is +8C in the shade currently and is staying above freezing some nights which causes a very quick thaw. +12C is forecast tomorrow.
|Playing the old moose-leg guitar|
So we abandoned our other chores on Monday to process our last moose quarter. We didn’t want to can all this prime leg steak and planned to keep it for a few more weeks.
The meat is sealed once it is air-dried in the autumn as the outer layer forms a crust, but this one had some bullet damage and was beginning to bleed as it thawed.
Once we cut it open, we have to can the meat or dry it for jerky as there is no way to freeze it again now. I have heard tell of a machine like a big chest that runs by magic and keeps stuff frozen. Must be some kind of an AI robot thing they're developing at Deepmind. Anyhow, we don't have one.
|Watching the canner|
It is strangely intense work. Lots of cutting, hacking through tendons, churning the scraps through a grinder, sharpening knives. We watch the canner like a hawk to get it up to temperature on our antique wood-burning range and but not let it over-heat. There is a fine art to knowing exactly which size of log to feed the range and when.
We got two loads done (36 jars) by 9pm, Homer got his bone and after that intense concentration we all needed a lay down.
|Jays are happy|
The thing about life in the bush, and life in general really, is you can plan all you want but then suddenly things happen and you just have to get on with it.
|Turning back yesterday after finding wide patch of overflow|
After cancelling our trip to Alaska, we decided to visit our pal who has the transmission of our Widetrak. The evening before we left, a trapper friend came by, racing to get home through deep overflow and slushy trails. He advised us it may not be safe to travel that far just now. "The trails are going to shit," he said.
|Testing overflow in front of an avalanche|
He was born here and he told us, “I have never seen anything like this.”
The Percy DeWolfe dogsled race that runs between Dawson City and Eagle starts today but has been rerouted. It is not safe to go all the way to Eagle and so it will now pass by us, onto Forty Mile and take an old mining road up into the mountains. They’ve had to be careful to find a route that allows some shade for the dogs. It will be a hot run.
|Dog team passing today|
As I type, dog teams are racing down the river. Homer just tried to join one. Idiot. He's back on his chain.
It's been a funny old winter. Lots of breakdowns, injuries, a sub-zero submersion in overflow, our dog gone lame and now the inexplicable weather.
|Avalanche on the trail|
Despite the fuck ups we've had a damn good time and I don't want it to end. We would usually expect to be travelling by snow machine until early/ mid April. We won't be able to get the boat in until maybe the end of May so that's a long time alone.
|Shopping trip. Trolley at the snowmachine. Only in Dawson.|
I learnt another Hän phrase, “da'ole.” It is something that "brings bad luck."
I wonder what the people who lived here before would think of how we live now?
I don't believe in luck, fate or destiny but with such a run of odd happenings I wonder if they might think that, as individuals and as a species, maybe we are doing some things that are "da'ole"?
Hän phrases are taken from TH101. A workshop run by Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Government that we attended in the autumn. The 2 day course is amazing. Both informative and compelling. It is also free and anyone near to Dawson City ought to sign up for the next one.
Also from Coffee Courier Winter 2019, the Goldcorp newsletter for the Coffee Creek mine.
Look at www.trondek.ca for more information on the Hän language.
With thanks to Angie Joseph-Rear.
And here's a news article about our incredible weather CBC NORTH