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?)

“Nyet.”

“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…

Mountain crocus


Comments

  1. "ping" went my email just as I was taking a lunch break so was happy to read more great stories and see pics once again! Love how you intersperse danger with a lovely pic of a crocus. And I let out a laugh at "iron hands Lu." I've been there done that a few hundred times. Are there any books or other things you might long for from down under? Please feel free to email me and I would be happy to get a package sent out to you as a gift when you are able to get out and to town. I so enjoy getting your news from the wilds! Best spring wishes, but here in MN it looks like December, we keep getting snow. One day it was 73 and everyone was in flip flops, thinking the worst had passed but Grand Marais, (home of Lonnie Dupre) near the Ontario border got a foot of snow! Now it's just rainy and miserable out. Uffda, we Norwegians say. Take care, you two. Love the Homer stories, good dog!!

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    1. Great you got the email. I'm so pleased to hear i'm not the only one forever snapping important bolts. We are total amateurs tho and never have the right tools.And thank you so much for your kind offer to mail stuff up. Really appreciated and if we ever think of anything i'll let you know. Whenever we need stuff, like say an easy-out and a grade 8 bolt, we can never get out to get it tho it seems. Snow on friday maybe so it's very odd spring here too. take care and thanks for your lovely comment.

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  2. Grizzlies sound kind of, well, grizzly! When in northern Sweden, I lurched out of forest one afternoon with our snuffling, snorting cocker spaniel. The sound of our approach almost gave a couple of elderly neighbours on the main track a near-heart attack. They clung to each other in fear until they realised it was only the daft Brit and his dog. Immediately, they started wittering about 'bears.' I caught the plural word and shook my head knowingly, assuring them there were no bears around in the forest. Only when I trudged back home did I see the daily newspaper with a story about bears in the hamlet the day before ( a mother & cub) playfully attacking a visiting caravan. SO, what do I know! Anyway, only Brown Bears around us, pretty safe in principle.

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    1. I'm not sure any bears are good to have too close, especially not if they are chewing mobile homes! It's easy to get too relaxed when you don't see them much- which is what happened to us and it's good to have a little shock now and then to remind you- bring bearspray, gun (or snuffling spaniel.)

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  3. I don't even moo at the cows for fear of what I might be saying.

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    1. :) best not. We scared our owls off hoo-hooing at them, thinking we were being friendly. God knows what we said...

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