Grizzly bear picnic
We met the Yukon’s most formidable forces this spring. The annual breakup of the Yukon River ice, which will not go until it is ready and will not stop for anyone, the world’s fastest bird and a family of grizzly bears, Mum and two grown cubs.
Although larger and stronger than black bears, they are responsible for less human attacks, possibly because they range across areas where they are less likely to meet us. The advice for anyone attacked by a black bear is fight back. For grizzlies, it is essentially, don’t bother.
|Saw this male on the Top of the World highway on our first trip to town|
It is a tremendous privilege to watch these magnificent animals. They made breakfast that morning a spectacular event that I will never forget, but we will give them as much space as we can. We were almost relieved to see our local black bear returned and pacing down the bank a few days ago, knowing that he would not dare if the happy family of picnickers were still around.
|Our black bear, a puny speck on the beach|
The river is open now, so we have a (false) sense of security with a barrier between us and our bear neighbours. Bears regularly swim across river and do it alarmingly quickly so there is not much logic to this feeling. But they may not always fancy a swim and may not have their swimming trunks with them, we reason.
I woke to what sounded like a motorway choked full of huge trucks driving very slowly in lowest gear just beyond the yard, as if the cabin had been transported to rural Kent in south-east England and plonked ¼ mile from the M2.
Break up, part one, May 1st
The ice jammed after a few hours and was stuck for two days, until one evening, I glanced up from my book to see it off again. After more than 6 months of stillness, there is something terrifyingly wrong about seeing the river move and we gaped at it for hours, awe-struck and ready to run away, as if it were a tornado or an earthquake.
Break up, part two, May 3rd
Extreme warm-ups over the winter have left the river at its lowest level ever recorded for break up. The snow-melt trickled away early and there was not enough water to create the surge that usually pushes the ice out.
|Winching the boat to the water with a rope puller, anchored to a berg using ice screws|
Spring is a mad rush for everything here. Ducks have flown in and left already, with geese hot on their heels behind them. Trees pop their leaves overnight turning our world brilliant green all of a sudden, and grasses and weeds grow literally inches by the day.
|Swallows nesting in our gable top bird boxes|
But compared to the fastest living creature on the planet, all this rushing about seems sluggish. A pair of peregrine falcons, maybe 3, appeared for a few days. We weren’t sure how many as these creatures move quicker than lightning. You can see lightning quite easily, but you can barely see a peregrine when it is hunting at full speed. You will probably only hear it.
|So vulnerable I could cry- baby red pole all alone in the yard|
They have been clocked diving at over 200mph and it is believed could fly even faster if they wanted. But really, why would you bother?
Having got the boat down the bank at almost peregrine speed, we are afloat and can get to town again. We’ve been without fresh fruit for over two weeks now and we ran out of conversation months ago. I haven’t been to town since early March, so our first shopping expedition was a great excitement, even though I had to wash and brush my hair. What a pain in the ass.
|Good grief, look at the state of me...|
Now we have apples, broccoli, grapes, onions! We have an Eazy-Xtract bit and grade 8 bolt so we can continue with painting the Forth Bridge, (our never-ending snow machine repairs, see my last blog.)
|Chainsawing out knots before peeling|
|Peeling bark with a shovel|
But we get a quiet joy from seeing each log go up and, despite the natural Piccadilly Circus that is spinning around us, there is really no rush. So more on that in my next blog if, indeed, there is anything to report and if we can still find the building beneath the thrusting greenery.
|Lupins in bloom already|