The wildest time
This is our wildest time. Until the river is clear of ice, no one can get in, we can’t get out and we are totally alone in thousands of square miles of wilderness.
Some days we marvel at just how remote and wild it is here. If we walked due north, we would go over the pole and into Russia before we met anyone. And what a trip that would be. Neil even speaks a bit of Russian-
“Privyet. Mi iz Kanadey. U vas yest maslo?”(Hello we are from Canada. Do you have any butter?)
“Nu ladno.” (Oh well.)
|Saxifrage rockery coming back to life|
If we don’t follow the river, we could go in almost any direction and die before we meet another person or get any shopping. Yesterday we met a grizzly bear and life felt even wilder.
|Rowdy geese on the river honking away|
We’ve had a few visitors- the grizzly, wolves, two eagles and one very aggressive squirrel.
|You can't see much but that is a wolf out there|
Homer had a scare with the wolves. He was being the proverbial “dog in the manger”, so perhaps it served him right. We put his old moose bones out on the river for our neighbours. Homer had long since lost interest in them yet insisted on trying to drag them back whenever we went for a walk.
One afternoon, two large eagles came to pick over them. Homer watched from the yard but did not intervene. Hours later a big grey wolf arrived and had a chew. Homer watched from between my knees and decided he didn't want the silly old bones after all.
|Listening to wolves from the porch|
The wolf howled and howled from across river and, forgetting about our beloved pet husky’s safety, I howled back. I thought I'd scared him off with my croaky performance but no, he ran across river to find me and howled from the woods across the creek. I managed to catch it on the GoPro-
If you listen to the second howl you can hear how it rings off the hills and hangs in the air. It is the most magical sound.
|Grizzly bear tracks|
Homer redeemed himself with the grizzly. We went down to the beach yesterday for a walk. Distracted, gabbing away to Neil, I suddenly noticed a large teddy bear-like shape pacing on the bank about 20 yards way. The bear stood up on his hind legs, his mane shining thick and silver in the evening sunlight. Neil grabbed the spray, Homer’s hackles went up, but good dog, he didn’t bark or cause any aggro. I said, “Fuck, it’s a grizzly.”
|Running up the creek|
Things might have gone wrong from there, but after having a sniff, the bear bounded away up the creek. We thought it prudent to go back to the cabin.
|Good dog at the mouth of our creek|
You know how when you almost walk into someone on the pavement and you both go the same way, and then you both go the other way and it’s all a bit embarrassing? Well, what do you know, we ended up facing each other in the yard moments later having all headed the same way.
|Yard in evening sunlight.|
The bear had another good look on his hind legs again and wandered off.
|Our trails went early this year|
This is our longest break up so far. The river became unsafe for travel early when we had an extreme warm up. I wrote about it in my last blog Sra-Niday.
|Miserable, wet dog sitting under leafless tree. His choice...|
Then we had days of rain, followed by heavy wet snow. The kind of snow that falls from the trees with a thump and a splat, but for one brief morning the world was delightfully pretty again in a marshmallowy kind of way.
The river rose, with water flowing along the sides and gaps opening up. We thought we’d have the boat in the water and be off to get shopping within a couple of weeks, but no.
The weather has turned cold and crystal clear. The river is biding its time, rotting slowly, quietly and I have a feeling the ice will just shuffle away overnight.
|River opening up above us|
Meanwhile, we are happily occupied. All winter, we say, we’ll do that over break up, we’ll have loads of downtime then. We say it about so many things that break up has become a headlong rush of construction projects, mechanics and admin.
|Scribing logs on our log building|
We need to get our mechanical projects done soon, before the biting bugs arrive in their clouds of itchy-ness and misery. The window of opportunity for outdoor work is actually very short. It is too cold, then it rains, then it gets buggy.
|Project abandoned and covered in tarps due to snow|
We have spent the last few days doing amateur mechanics, which is like amateur theatre only with more drama. We took Piccolo apart, our little snowmachine, to replace a broken plastic seal.
|All the bits carefully labelled in a box|
As the machine isn’t running for other mysterious reasons we decided nothing would be lost if it doesn’t go back together again. All went well until we discovered this in the belly of the machine.
Where did it come from? Which fiddly, tiny, extremely important bit was this? And then, Iron Hands Lou with the big socket wrench snapped off a bolt into the drive shaft.
Curtain down, show over, our amateur performance is at an end until we can get an “easy out” drill bit and a new bolt. And it was all going so well…
Which brings me to our most terrifying wildlife encounter, the psychotic squirrel. We found her clinging to a bough behind the old cabin. Usually they run up out of reach and shriek in fury, but no. She came down the tree, across the ground and threatened us in little staccato charges, as if to say “C’mon on then, you want some?”
|Water running down the creek now|
We were all rooted to the spot in something approaching horror. She got about 3 feet away, felt she’d made her point and then ran back up the tree to hurl abuse. Poor, stunned Homer missed his only opportunity to realise a life’s ambition and catch one of these fluffy-tailed nutters.
|Laying in another stupid spot|
Oh well, “nu ladno”, Homer. Life is full of danger and disappointment. So be nice to your neighbours and don’t force things that won’t go.
In my next blog, the river clears of ice and our boat is in the water! Or is it? Who knows what will happen in our “new normal” Yukon climate and, more worryingly, we have mechanics to do on the boat too, so who knows if it will ever run again…