"If only there were a way to get the current out of the river..."
Well, there is they tell me! But that's another story.
Things are pretty peaceful in Teslin, not much going on to rattle your doors here at the moment, and even the ravens have fallen silent as the darkness of winter descends on the lands. That, and tons of fresh clean white snow.
A friend told me of a man complaining to him about that. Kept saying "I don't like it" why not? Pressed my friend. Gettin' stuck? Too slippery? Have to shovel? Nope, he replied, "too much whiteness on our land."
Hehehe. Not much we can do about that!
Got in a discussion about wildlife harassment last night. It seems the videographer who used a drone to make the famous film of the grizzly and it's cub has been handed a whopping $250,000 dollar fine for harassing mama and baby bear. I'm sure the cub really appreciates that some government somewhere is going to have to decide how best to spend this new windfall, and we're all supposed to learn that when a state-commisioned hunter kills every wolf he can from a state-commisioned helicopter, that's just fine, but don't go filming wildlife or they own your house and car and drone.... I'm of the mind that any fine is ridiculous. Nothing died in the filming and a cub learned some useful snow climbing skills, and I got a bit inspired by the sight of the determination and eventual success of that cub! Tough little boogah!
So we disagree. Big deal.
But I have wondered about this topic now for years. Why is it illegal to find 3 raccoons that are starving because their mama got shmucked on the highway and raise them as pets? Or to bring a fawn into the cabin so your 6 year old wakens to the sight of a live Bambi standing by his bed? Or to boat up beside a swimming porcupine and film it floating high and dry because of the air in all its quills? Or to capture a sparrow which has fallen to the granary floor and raise it as a pet until your brother deliberately drives over it with his tricycle? Or to grab a real live Beaver by the tail and be amazed at its strength as he pulls you along thru the snow?
So, when is it "harassing" and when are we simply "interacting" ? And the answer to that question could have some ramifications in the mercky world of male/female interaction as well, couldn't it?
I personally like the idea of interacting with wildlife. Must we observe these amazing creatures through glass at a zoo or on the boob tube only? Surely not! I wish I could include a picture from my mind's eye (there really is one they tell us) of a huge lynx, ears pinned back, bounding through the snow across the bushtrail I was driving yesterday. Or the myriad other amazing sights I've seen in the wildlife category over the span of half a century of wildlife viewing. But you know how it is. Sometimes you have a second in which to grab a camera, focus and...oh forget it! Too late
What a world!
Yesterday I made a trip into town and looked up an old native Tlingit friend, and I do mean old: he's about 84. And I do mean friend, we've been friends for 20 years. He is a guy who would think nothing of driving for 2 hours to check on me when I was cutting firewood, bringing me drinks and sandwiches from the store.
But a decision has been made that he is unable to look after himself; references have been made to a deteriorating mental state. In my experience, I'm talking to exactly the same mind I spoke with 20 years ago. And yet, these perceptions in someone's mind are enough to stick him in the home, tearing him from his paid for home and belongings and moving him into a new community, away from his friends and enemies.
I finally found Matt in a ginormous new care home in Whitehorse and was able to have him released to make a trip downtown to get a few dollars from his account in CIBC. We parked in front and he made his way very slowly across the ice into the bank with his walker and waited in line for a good half hour while the 2 people in front of him were served by the one available teller. Finally he made it thru the queue, produced his documents and we both discovered they can't give him a single dollar from his account because it's being handled by the public trustee.
If this is the case, perhaps we should all pull our money from the bank. I understand the rationale of protecting an infirm person from bad financial decisions but to deprive an 84 year old of *all* his personally owned money is a new level of cruelty and an indignity to the aged. Matt has worked for what he has and I am witness to that.
Perhaps this idea of a nanny state caring for us by seizing our possessions for our own good needs to be revisited.
Had a wonderful three days on the water with the Morton Family. On the final day, we were making our way back to the dock when Mr Morton thanked me for making the trip possible. He asked me if I know what this means for him, connecting with three generations like this. He spoke of family outings in the wild and how its a neutral place away from controversy where people start talking again.
So I said, 'its not about the fish, is it?"
And he answered, "No, it isn't."
Earlier I'd mentioned that a country song had a line in it that will hang with me awhile, it went something like, "when its all said and done all we have are the memories". Well, this family and me too will cherish the memories of this trip. We nicknamed the youngest in the crew, the one accused of being greedy because he caught so many fish, "Taylor the Slayer".
We had an excellent shore lunch of lake trout and the super potato salad my daughter Aiyana had stayed up so late to prepare, out there below the mountain, the boat pulled up on a sandy beach, the lake as calm as glasses, and the whole scene buried in gorgeous yukon splendor.
So, if its really true that all we have left in the end are the memories, at least we made a few good ones those days i guess!
It's getting on in the year and although the weather is less than super attractive the heat is sure to arrive when the sun starts spending 20 hours a day overhead!
Canoe-tripping was for me one of the greatest discoveries in the north. After exhausting myself for awhile on numerous mountain climbs and hikes through tangled brush and enormous physical effort only to find the lawn-like appearance on the mountaintop was a lie, and the huge boulders and rocks took over where the willows stopped making passage challenging, what a relief to discover the canoe!
Dutch oven, rifle, any amount of photography gear, extra warm sleeping bag, spare clothes and raingear all stowed easily in there! As if that were not advantage enough, the river pushed me along whether I plied the paddle or abstained! And better still, the visibility, the nearness to clean drinking water, perfect campsites, and the wildlife sightings increased!
Canoes help you cover more ground, and are a great way to see country inaccessible from the road. There are spots available for guided and non canoe trips. You know what to do.
The yukon has two seasons rather than the traditional four. Summer and winter with two brief transitional zones. Still waiting for the transitional zone; it was 20 below again last night.
I decided to make the best of these days by taking a run up the frozen lake to a cabin which is open for general use. It was built by a catholic priest, according to my understanding, and the location offers a magnificent view of the Dawson Peaks or the Aces across the lake. I was hoping for a chance at photographing it during a display of northern lights now that i have a decent camera. But although i stayed up for the better part of the night that was not to be. However, I hope you will enjoy what was to be as much as i did. I spent the better part of the night in total awe of the scenery:
The main reason i decided to make my home in Yukon is the fantastic scenic beauty of the place. Oh, it's great to be accepted even though you're nuts, and there are a lot of really super people here, but turn it into rubble and i'll be movin' on, in tears.
You know how you go somewhere and all your preconceived notions are destroyed in a flash? Well, that's what happened when i first visited the Dempster region, aka the Peel River Drainage. I thought i would see vast stretches of tundra, pockmarked with lakes, and the Tombstone Range sticking out of that like a huge sore thumb. Boy was i wrong. So very wrong! I couldn't stop stopping all the way from ground zero to the Peel itself. Every turn seemed to bring some new amazing sight. The impossibly jagged spires of the Tombstone Range, the gunmetal grey/blue granite mountains, then the Black rock of the headwaters of the Blackstone. Next for me, the highlight of the drive, a forty kilometer wide river valley, all treed and nary a road to be seen in it ... anywhere! And as i travelled there was more, a tea pail of blueberries in half an hour, hundreds or thousands of caribou, the Eagle Plains lodge, (a pretty neat place) and so on and on.
And I had the thought that if i ever have to hide from Bid Daddy Government this would be a great place to do it!real good place to do it.
I hope the latest reports have somehow got it wrong. I hope that this amazing, almost untouched area will not be pillaged without restraint by share-holder owned developers, that my kids and their kids kids may be able to make this trip and be as amazed as i was someday, or better still, float the Wind and the Peel, and see it the way it should be seen, from the seat of a canoe or kayak. And I really hope that those we have entrusted with our future well-being are not as eager to turn it all upside down as they lately seem to be. Respectful question for you there, newly installed in those "halls of power": should we really do everything we can do?
We all know we cannot gently float above the earth, simply enjoying the scenery and living on nothing but fresh air without extracting and consuming some resources, but can we not leave our greedy little fingers off the very best we have left?
We're well into the new year now, and like my old camp boss Scotty used to say when i stated the obvious, "your powers of observation never cease to amaze me!"
'Nother obvious truth at theis point is that some of us who are not independently wealthy need to get back to work! My *clears throat, puffs out chest* long decades in the yukon have convinced me that the best time to leave the territory is about the end of october and the best time to return is the middle of january. That way, its possible to miss a lot of the wet sloppy conditions of November and also the shortest days of the year in Decemburrr, and about every winter i have stayed, there is a tremendous warm spell which appears in the end of January. Then, in February the temperature drops significantly but every day you see an increase in the hours of daylight, the northern lights are often spectacular and the sky is generally clear all the way until sometime in April or May. At least, that's my observation. In fact, it's a little sad to see the stream of tourists appear on the road in June fully expecting to experience summer in the north, and well, not quite yet! Usually June is wet and even cooler than May and then the mosquitoes get busy sharpening their needles for the summer's activities..
Of course, this is only my observation and you should probably pay no attention to it whatsoever, but for my ten bucks worth, (inflation even takes a bite out of our cliches) that's what i think. And i must say I'm pleased with the last two months in south Saskatchewan, though it's admittedly not all that far to the south of my residence in Teslin. The photography went well as did virtually all of the visiting and in 2 months you cant ask for more!
I close this abridged "rant" now with a few random samples of South Saskatchewan beauty. Hope you enjoy! Next stop: back home in Teslin and back to work. Feel free to contact me anytime with your travel plans for the summer!
Can I even do that?
Another year has come and went,
Christmas done, the time is spent.
I hope it all went well with yew.
And '018 won't kick you blue!
I always enjoy the last week of the year. It's kind of a time to sit back with the teapot and consider the past a little and the future a lot. 2017 was very kind to me in many ways. I'm thankful for the travelling i was able to do, and the many unique experiences i enjoyed. There was enough disappoint and pain mixed in to make the pleasure that much sweeter. Just the right mix, I would say..
And that's all the ink i want to spill on 2017. We're about to crack open 2018 and what does it hold in store for us? In the immediate future i intend to make use of my latest aquisition and do a little photography, first in the riverhills here in Saskatchewan and then, a bit later, back near my home in the beautiful yukon. There the lake freezes quite solidly, which is a great feature when you plan to motor, ski or hike upon it. Some of us guys like to do a little ice-fishing for the lake trout lurking beneath that clear sheet of 3 foot thick glass. But my "focus" (hardy har har) early this year will be more on the photographic opportunities in the area. Particularly, I hope to regale you all with some fantastic shots of the local wolf population.
I'm not as confident they will not have me over for lunch as i used to be, ever since I had one charge me from his lying position in the snow-filled ditch. I was unarmed except for a tiny camera and the only weapon i carried was my .458 bluff. I used that one for all i was worth, throwing my arms out wide and yelling at the top of my lungs. Thankfully, the big bad wolf turned and fled back the way he came. He was only ten feet from my throat when he did that. I could have quickly been reduced to a blood-spot, bone splinters and strips of denim there on the side of the alaska highway had he not turned. And ever since, I'm a lot less likely to assume any wild animal is "safe"..
Nevertheless, these shaggy killing machines intrigue me and always have. From the first time i heard one howl late in the fall, in a drizzling rain, on the Big Salmon River, I have held them in a kind of awe. I thiink at some level, they would qualify as being my favorite wild animal. It would be ironic if i was ultimately eaten by my favorite animal, though, so i believe I will pack a deterent of some kind of my wolfly forays into the sub-arctic wilderness.
My new Nikon is not exactly top of the line, being as it is, a "bridge camera". But the cute little B500 has a lot going for it. The fixed lens eliminates the need to pack a lot of alternative lenses, and is capable of zooming to i believe 80 power. This is a substantial advantage in wildlife photography, although obviously, the more the zoom is used in a given shot, the lower the quality of the pic will be. There's a little learning curve ahead for sure, but I felt like this would make a great inexpensive backup camera, should i progress onwards and upwards in photography. And if not, it looks like it should do about everything i'll ever require of a camera anyway.
So that looks after the next month or two. Keep watching this blog and I'll try not to disappoint. If i do disappoint, it wont likely be the fault of the amazing scenery and wildlife i am so blessed to live amongst, or the cute like B500 either... Like Jethro Bodine Clampett used to say on the Beverly Hillbillies: "The Lord looks after drunks, fools and small children, and I dont drink! " (hardy har har)
Time for some down time down in Saskatchewan Canada, the land of my birth and upbringing. I"d been gone a spell and knew for some time it was high time to reconnect with family and friends and yes, i do have a few of both.
I like the one about the guy driving across the prairie with a blind man in the passenger compartment. He asks, "I don't see so well, what is saskatchewan like?" And the driver, possessed of a cutting wit replies, " Put your hand on the dash... now, leave it there for three days."
Now, I don't really go along with that so much, I just chuckle as i think about how many people cross the province and think of it as a pool table, they cant wait to get across. I lived a blessed childhood really, though i didn't really understand that at the time. We lived in the country near a small community called Main Centre. And lately, we noticed that should Kim Jung Un decide to target North "Merca with a nuke and do a google search for the middle of it, he might just decide to put the crosshairs right on this little ex-hamlet. That would be a bit of a waste for whatever resources he's applied to his nuclear armament cache because the town is barely inhabited these days. In fact, the population of one-armed, metis, liberal Trump-fans at the bottom of the Red Sea would put up a fair challenge to the count.
Now if you care to drive, walk, crawl or slither a few kilometers to the north of Dad's farm, you find yourself looking down into a totally different terrain than the flat tableland covering so much of the region. First thing you'll notice is an elongated winding lake where the south saskatchewan river used to meander the length of the valley. Back in around 1967, the Diefenbaker lake was created by building a huge dam. This has resulted in providing the local region with electricity, irrigation, and decent fishing and waterskiing opportunities. And the surrounding badlands gave this farmboy no end of entertainment as i dirtbiked, hunted, fished, fixed fence and rode horseback "down in the coulees".
They say its good to touch the green green grass of home and that's a fact. It's a bit of an emotional experience to travel through the area i spent so much time in as a boy and later a young man, seeing familiar faces in the old church and on their farms. It being December at the moment, I'm going to miss out on a few things. Chokecherries have about had it, deer season just ended, there seem to be no geese left in the area and the lake is freezing over, ending the watersports for longer than I plan on staying. Will have to return when those things are possible, but for now, I'm going to content myself doing a bit of riding in the hills, chasing some cows around, maybe helping my brother find his long lost cow-calf pair. They are jet black and it just snowed, and with that drone of his, you'd think she would have been spotted by now, but noooo. Maybe the coyotes pulled them down, maybe it was one or two of the wolves people claim to have seen here lately. I don't know but we'll keep on trying.
Then, after a couple weeks my kids will join us and we look forward to a family christmas together for the first time in a couple of years.
I plan on making a few hikes down there in those hills, just to trigger some old memories, some of which I plan to share on this blog of mine. Hope you'll join me later for that and hope the season brings you the joy which we all know should be there the whole year long!
"Gun's dont kill people, people kill people." Partly true. If guns killed people with no "assistance" then these fingers wouldnt be tickling these keys right now, because i have spent a lot of time in the enjoyable company of guns and they have yet to do me any physical harm...thankfully!
But, nevertheless, here's an idea for you inventive types. And if you could find a way to do it, your business would explode in a very good way. Jails could be emptied, doctors could take up fly-fishing, and armies all over the world would be rendered impotent.
But this article is actually being written for the younger or less experienced hunter/gatherers out and about this fall. And not even touching on the matter of accidental discharges, accidental killings/woundings of fellow hunters and jogging drug dealers, there is a lot to be considered when it comes to guns and wildlife.
Its pretty obvious that it does the hunting community no good to have deer limping around with a leg blown off, an eye missing or a big dried bloody patch of hide on their sides. And no one goes out with the intention of wounding and losing an animal.. but it is an unfortunate reality.
You hunt for three days and there he stands, unaware you are there. The shot looks a bit far but you cant see how you could get closer. Afraid your animal will suddenly disappear you quickly take the shot and hear the whup! of the bullet hitting flesh. The deer staggers forward, you reload and fire... a miss. A few hours later and you're still looking stupidly amongst the leaves for the next blood spot and the next while considering the misery you've caused one of God's fine creatures...
Who wants this to happen? No one. If the animal is recovered, good for you. If not, you may require the unsend feature i just installed on my own rifle. I think I'll leave it there as a constant reminder to only fire that thing when it is absolutely safe to do so and i am certain i can make a clean kill on an animal needed for human consumption.
Most of us who live and work in the outdoors have heard a terrible guide story or two, you know the one where the guide does everything wrong with predicatible results. He is stubborn, wont listen to reason, and can't wait to get back to his woman and his bottle of hooch. But whats it like on the other side? Whats it like to be a guide? I did a little hunting guiding when i was younger so i had the privilege of watching other guides in action and hearing how they talked about their hunters offscreen.
Sometimes it all got pretty interesting. Some hunters got right in there and treated the guide as an equal, a hunting buddy. These were the best ones. They'd at least offer to help with the gutting, the heavy lifting and so on. Those who didn't help could be forgiven of course. After all, they were paying pretty bucks for these hunts so why do the job as well? Then there is the question of how skilled adn experienced the guided individual is. This is usually pretty apparent and is of course one of the first things you assess as a guide because the experience level dictates what sort of parameters to put on the trip. Physical condition is another. Maybe don't take that 350 pounder on a rock climb if it can be avoided.
Recently i had the privilege of spending almost the entire day on the water with Martin Brenstrum of New Zealand. He is the author of the book, "Hooked on Hunting" a book detailing his life as a hunter in NZ. It became evident pretty early on that Martin was experienced as an outdoorsman. We spent the morning hours trolling for lake trout without the slightest nibble. Obviously this is upsetting to a guest. When you give up your money for a trip, you do so with the expectation of results. You may console the guide by saying, "that's why its called fishing and not catching" or "a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work" but deep down, you want something to latch onto that hook and tear your arms off and prove you made the right decision hiring a guide.
Well, August is a tough time to catch a lake trout on teslin lake and i finally made the decision to put the trip out of its misery and head over to the bay for some pike to redeem my tattered pride. And wonder of wonders, Martin responds with, "I'd really like to catch a lake trout."
Now my memory is not infallible, but in 20 years i don't think i have ever heard anyone suggest that we just stay where we are and keep trying! Its unheard of. What a compliment to my guiding services, his recognition i was doing my best? And so i doubled down, quietly asking no begging the Creator for the needed fish as the motor ticked away against the power of the wind and waves. The thought came that perhaps the fish had gone much deeper than usual. We had just been through four weeks of unseasonably warm weather. Immediately i dropped the downriggers to 80 feet and voila! (thats french) there they were! One, two, three lake trout within an hour. Not bad for August on a stormy day.
The point of the story is that had Martin responded with despair and given up based on his guide's suggestion, he would not have caught and eaten that yukon lake trout on this particular day. His lifetime of experience in the outdoors had taught him that nature does not always yield up her bounty without a struggle and a lot of patience . His experience and his faith in his guide on this day paid off for the guided and the guide! A very happy ending that might not have been.
The forty horse Johnson was an excellent motor back in 1942 or whenever it was carved, but decades of living nowhere near any unplumbed water had gummed the carburetor with petroleum distillate residue.
The two American good old boys, sat sullenly as their "guide" pulled the starter cord repeatedly until the motor burped and sputtered grudingly to life, we'd troll for a few seconds and repeat the process. Eventually, one of them took pity on me and waved both arms in a downward, sweeping motion. A man of few words, "Take us in," was all he said.
And at the dock, he thrust a 20 in my direction and gave me this truly priceless advice: "Get yourself some equipment."
Well, short story short, I took his advice and the next fishermen enjoyed themselves much more as the 30 yamaha pushed us along without the annnoying clatter. 18 years of guiding later, and I have never regretted having a reliable motor on a boat.
Boats are a bit like airplanes in that, while saving money is always tempting, the quality of the motor is prolly the worst place on which to economize. You can always walk away from your car...
These days Teslin lake is slowly showing signs of letting go the icy grip of winter. Most is still ice-covered but there is a large open pool below the bridge and the ice is ready for the next big storm to pile it up on distant shores around the lake
I know my hooks could use some washing...
We're out on the water. Its a beautiful day and as we wait for the next violent tug on the line, I'm asked the inevitable question: "What do you do in the winter?" Well nobody is going to believe i'm a model or a brain surgeon so i tell them the truth! I'm a firewood logger. Faces usually go inexpressive at this point, as if i had suddenly announced I am a "climate denying" "fascist" "phobic" something. Well, firewood logging is actually a pretty cool occupation and north of sixty it can be profitable if you're willing to take on the challenges. Challenges that are very real at times. I cant believe I've been at this for almost 30 years, year on year! (Yes Im old as hell) Also i cant believe i still have all my limbs digits and appendages though i came pretty close to losing one one time.
The pictures i've posted with this article show one of my most efficient ways of turning a tree into cash.
I've found the Dodge one ton cummins diesel with a flatdeck, the Stihl MS260 saw and circa 1980 Toyota to be a "deadly combination".
First step is to locate a firekilled stand of pine. (Lodgepole pine is ideal because you waste almost no time limbing these things and the wood is straight-grained, easy to split and dense. And people like it.) Get all the apporpriate permits or dont and then just go to work.
I like to lay down about ten trees and buck them into 8 foot "cants" and get the Toyota as close as possible and pivot them all on there. These old trucks can take a lot. And the last thing you want is to take your 120k lariat in there and lean it against a tree.
Then i take the half cord or so i get on there to the waiting Dodge at the highway and slide the wood across. Haul it to the customer and cut it on the deck to the specified length and lo and behold you've got cash in hand!
When the snow is deep i like to use my skandic super wide trac to drag whole pine trees to the highway and follow a similar process after that.
So there you go. Now you can quit your boring job and go self-employed!
The main thing is to produce a product people want and are willing to pay for and, oh yeah, you have to be able to get up in the morning. You're welcome!
Looking out the window at the drifting snow and the "roosters of the north": (ravens) all bundled up, it seems impossible that in a few more weeks, like maybe 12? we won't be gabbing about taking the boat out of storage, but doing it in real time!
It"s always a little scary the first time I put the boats in the lake and crank the engine after a winter of sitting around in 30 and forty below. Will she start? Will she run? But so far, all my worries, almost, have been in vain. Running the engine dry of fuel before putting it away for the winter seems to do the trick nicely, cleaning the fuel system dry so there is nothing to turn to gum over the long winter months.
So if your thoughts are turning to spring and the Yukon, give me a call and let's put a trip together. I'm a flexible man, not like in my youth, but still flexible. Over the last couple of decades I've had the privilege of helping to organize all manner of outdoor trips in the Yukon, from fly in trips, fishing on various lakes and rivers, to water pickups from the end of Teslin Lake, to one pickup at the McKenzie Delta on the Peel River, a mighty long drive from Teslin!
And since my overhead is low, low, low.. (Dont drink, gamble, smoke, drug or swear much) I can offer you a rate that is, well, competitive at least. (Isn't that the word they all use, competitive? Maybe cutthroat would be more descriptive...."Its a dog eat dog world out there and I'm wearing milkbone underwear")
So good day and God bless as you plan your next adventure and remember: "Without a vision the people perish" Happy visioning as you make your plans.
Well, the summer solstice is behind us now and the nights are drawing in again. Six more shopping months til Christmas. Glad i got that off my chest. But, there is still a little bit of summer left! "Use it wisely, my son, use it wisely."
Several groups have run the Nisutlin recently and all arrived in Teslin happy and satisfied from all I can tell. The last group from Juneau told me they had experienced 5 minutes of rain on the five day trip for which i apologized. We Canadians are like that, always apologizing for our own existence. And I do try to provide good weather for my guests but often fail it seems.
Yesterday I received a request to pick up some people all the way up at the arctic coast, about a thousand mile one way tour for my truck and self. Seems they want to fly from Mayo into one of the tributaries of the Mackenzie and paddle to the confluence of the great river Mackenzie and at this point, start the kicker and run the rest on hydrocarbons. I applaud this idea and have used it successfully once on the Big Salmon River, which passes through amazing scenery and then hauls you through a hundred mile somewhat tedious flood plain. Still a nice part of the trip but no comparison to the mountainous portion and these days, some mighty nice little four-stroke outboards exist which are extremely light and easy to haul until needed. Being able to run a hundred miles on a cup of gas is also, *deep booming voice* "good for the environment"
As for fishing, I almost stepped on a pike warming himself in about four inches of water. He gave a flip and glided off while I assessed his fillets for width length and health. When I do this with women I get some odd responses but the fish dont seem to care at all.
June 1979 was the time the idea of driving to the Yukon became reality for me. It has been everything I ever hoped it would be. You'd think all the articles and hype I had read before coming up, all the hunting stories of bear attacks and huge bull moose would have been exaggerated and the reality would have been less than expected. But for me, overall, my entire experience in the Yukon has been one of literal jaw-dropping awe.
Even the northern bit, the Dempster and on to the Arctic ocean is largely ruggedly mountainous, not at all like the rolling tundra I had always pictured. My "mind's eye" needs a tune up. It seems to always be mistaken, as if it were deliberately lying to me so the reality could shock me more.
And In all the forty years I have known the Yukon, the land itself hasn't changed at all. I thought that development would destroy the beauty within 20 years, but it has not. In fact, the population today is not much more than it was in 1979.
The one disquieting thing from my perspective is the wild over-run of governmental authority which has taken place, decimating many homes and small businesses in the Yukon. Latest one, a boat-slip in Tagish, shut down because the government owns the land between the dock and the business, and the grandfathering clause expired when the new owner took over the property. Graciously, the Yukon Party Government only reportedly requires $400,000 for the piece of mud in between.
Imagine how soul-satisfying it was for a nineteen year old to spend an evening in the home of a co-worker, the home consisting of a house built of plywood and no more than 8 feet by 12 feet, and containing co-worker, wife, huge dog, daughter, barrel stove and me, the guest who sat listening to the stories pouring from the Czech's mouth as we sipped cognac and smoked cigars late into the dim Yukon night. Finally a place where i was free to build or do whatever I wanted and be accepted without having to pretend to be something I was not!
Today, a family living in a shipping crate would be totally forbidden and probably evicted from it's residence for it "own good". The largest employer in the Yukon today is the dang government which tells you all you really need to know. Even though I decried some of the environmental destruction I saw mining do the Yukon, the destruction of personal freedoms is doing far more damage to my heart and soul today.
And yet, perhaps, its all in the grand plan. One thing which is totally certain in the Yukon is change and change there will most definitely be in the human society we currently inhabit, while the wolves continue to encircle the moose, which lowers its rack, snorts and paws the ground as wolves and moose have done for thousands of years. Nature pays but little attention to the doings of man, and that is my continuing hope for the Yukon. I hope it will always be a place which welcomes the young, awkward types like myself from "outside" and provides them with quality memories for a lifetime, as I'm enjoying even today, though I'm way too young to reminisce just yet!! Whew! that was a close one.
This spring the ice went out much earlier than usual. I mean, like, waaay earlier! 80 year old residents cannot remember the ice leaving the lake on the last day of April. So very odd. Human-caused climate change? I don,t know about that. One rumor stated that this happened a hundred years ago but I haven,t as yet verified that one. What I do know is that I freakin' love it and so do a lot of other Yukoners I could name but won,t because you probably wont know any of the types I hang around.
And the weather, so far, has been absolutely fantastic. Yesterday we hit 23.4 Celcius, and around here that is stifling, sunbathing weather baby! Also great fishing weather! And the lakers are biting well along the mudline from the Nisutlin River.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of hauling a couple of folks up to the first bridge on the Rose River for the start of their five day canoe trip down the Nisutlin. I was worried the water might be too high and overflowing the banks due to all the hot weather we've had potentially melting the snow in the high country, but...not! The river level was just about perfect to help push them along and make the trip a little quicker than normal.
We saw a black bear and numerous porcupines on the way up and as I returned alone I saw two more fellows on the backtrip to Teslin.
My point? We just got blessed with an extra month this summer and I freakin' love it Baby! And so will you if the great weather holds and you get the opportunity to partake in some Yukon summer activities this year.
Living here in the Yukon brings you into contact with some hardy types. The sort who drive their trucks out of the bush on a flat tire by filling the tire with water and letting it freeze solid. The type who start their truck by re-charging the battery by spinning the alternator with their chainsaw, or drive back to town with heated gopher fat instead of motor oil.
But there is another bunch, and a couple of years ago when the Alaska Hwy shut down because of a landslide, the Super Store in Whitehorse virtually ran out of everything in three days! I was not there to see it but it must have been pandemonium or chaos or both with a side of bizarro. And this was in summer!
Whitehorse is a city built right on the Yukon River, which contains arctic grayling, northern pike, and in season, king salmon. The surrounding mountains are quite rich in wild fruit in the summer months. For game, there is mountain sheep, caribou, moose, black and grizzly bear, elk, bison, in addition to your predators. Wolverine Helper anyone? Mushrooms do quite well in a wet year though you have to know your 'shrooms, as some few may make you quite ill. But the Panic!
Three days in summer. Now let's consider three months in the winter shall we? A snowslide blocks the Highway. All consumables must be flown in at great expense. Well you get the picture. And as the worlds central banks flirt with negative interest rates, which will certainly devastate pensions and incomes all over the globe, it might make sense to have a backup plan.
The Alaska Highway from the lower 48 through to Alaska was only constructed around 1947. Prior to that, native people in the area where I live rarely saw a whiteman. They lived off the land and obviously were skilled and knowledgeable about how to go about that. There were no banks, though somewhere earlier in the century a grocery store was founded, supplied by sternwheelers coming up the Teslin River once or twice a year. My point is, though, that prior to all this people lived off the land without money, stores, banks, highways, cars, iphones, and heat-seeking missiles. And it could be done again.
If things get even remotely as bad as many think they will it will definitely be handy to know what is edible in the wild. If being homeless in a large city or in the country is my choice, there is no doubt which one i'd choose. Many of natures goodies are out there waiting to be pocketed and eaten. While far from being any kind of expert, I hope some of my experiences with wild edibles may benefit:
One trick I've often resorted to when i didn't know whether a certain thing was edible is to try a little taste and spit it out if its blech. Obviously i don't want any legal problems so i can't recommend the practice of eating just a bit and checking for ill effects, but it has always worked for me. With 2 exceptions. One was in northern Saskatchewan on a moose hunt. Walking across a frozen pond i noticed what appeared to be a short section of wild celery. We had just been discussing this and i decided to give it a try. After a brief chew i spat it out because it was blechy. That's when the troubles began. My mouth felt like it was full of tiny needles which worked their way into my throat as a desperately tried not to swallow. Happy ending though; in a few hours the sensation was gone. Water hemlock? Maybe.
But What if i would have chowed down on it?
Second similar experience was in Hawaii on a hike. Same scenario but this time a little berry-like bulb on a fern sort of thingy. Don't eat them.
Other than that word of caution, I've learned that the prickly pear cactus in Saskatchewan at least is edible after boiling or burning the needles off. It is a real green gooey mess when cooked with a flavour like rhubarb and strawberry. Also the bulbs on the top after flowering I have found to be delicious through experimentation with no ill effects.
Most of the berries I've encountered are a different colour than the surrounding foliage. Why are they bright red, orange, yellow? Well like the old Indian answered when asked why the salmon turn red in the rivers, "So the bears can find 'em."
Again, in Saskatchewan, as an experiment I once lived on nothing but chokecherries for three days to a week and this while working full time, hard, and mostly on my feet. I noticed no ill effects to my health whatsoever. Quite the opposite!
Here in the Yukon, I've done rather well on wild raspberries, the tiny wild strawberries, rhubarb which usually appears around old settlements and probably not indigenous, mossberries, high and low-bush cranberries and blueberries. Also many of you will know that the red berry found on the wild rose after the flower blooms is edible and full of vitamin C. You may not know that the flower itself is also edible. "OH honey, they are so Lovely! Crunch, crunch, munch. And Tasty!"
Another source of vitamin C is to be found on the spruce, not pine, but spruce tree. Early in the spring each bough extends new growth which is visible as a lighter shade of green. This new growth is very edible, and tastes a bit like lemon. You could try a little and see if it affects you in case of some allergy or other. But I eat all of it i want. Spruce also makes an excellent tea.
What concerns me now i s what I would do for carbohydrates if products ceased to fill the shelves in the store across the highway. The Yukon is capable of growing oats as there is at last some agriculture in the region, even as far north as Dawson City. But what interests me more is the possibility of using wild rice. It grows in Northern Saskatchewan and I've read there may even be some here. Of course, like all the wild edibles, these things come undistorted by large multi-national corporations who love modifying genetics and start with the letter "M".
Wild fruits, mushrooms, meat, fish, birds, and worse case wolverine meat, can all be dried for storage or in the more northerly regions buried down near the permafrost for storage. Personally I like drying as it has the added advantage of increased portability. Just lift a hindquarter of moose meat next time you get the chance and lift it again when it's been made into jerky. You'll notice less pulling on your shoulder muscles!
So that's it for now. Might add some more if there is any interest. I'll just add that whether or not the global financial system collapses wild food is a grossly under-utilized resource. Its fun and enjoyable to harvest these gifts and takes you into some of the most amazing places. In the process you may disappoint the taxmongers and the credit card people but they'll get over it. They always do.
1 2 3 4 I want to get away.... I want to fl yyyy. Yeah , yeah yeah yeah...
Ever feel like that? Well so do i! And when the folks needed a visit, (you know how parents can be) in Hawaii, who was I to refuse? And, as is always the case, all my misconceptions of havaii were shattered. Except that it was warm and had beaches that is. Other than that, well, lets take it piece by piece shall we?
First of all downtown Honolulu was, as expected, full of skyscrapers and people. The setting though is what differentiates it from other concrete jungles. The jungly mountains were unexpected. You don't have far to travel to get away and into the jungle. And jungle it is! I refrained this time from slashing and hacking my way through any of it having been warned by a somewhat bedraggled, grizzled older fella of the danger of the mongoose and his nasty bite. Although I would think I could be classified as a fairly experienced outdoorsman, i recognized all too well how lost and helpless i would be in this weird new environment, like a new-born baby deprived of his mother's milk.
And honestly there is so much to do on OAHU that i didnt have a lot of time for getting lost, bitten and medevaced from the jungle anyway. So i kept to the trails. From the day of arrival i began automatically to scan for wild edibles growing from the trees and so on and noticed a few things that looked alright. On a jungle joyride i reached from the bus and got a handful of what looked like chokecherries. They were good. But as is my habit if Im uncertain, I'll just taste a little and see what falls off me before going all buffet on the thing.
Its all a blur already. I stood on the battleship Missouri, on the exact spot where my namesake, Douglas McArthur signed the peace treaty ending the second world was with Japan, with two emaciated American soldiers, one on each side of him, representing the horrors of what the Japanese had done to American captives.
I sat by the see and listened to a one-man band, play his ukelele as the sun set and his wife danced gracefully before him. "Don't you ever, ever go." Dang! I didn't really want to ever, ever leave come to think of it!
The seafood, the white sand of Wiakiki Beach, the surfers toodlin' around on 25 foot rollers, and the highlight of it all, snorkelling in Hunauma bay, following a parrot fish, absolutely huge and verdant, as we travelled together for half an hour, me watching through the mask and he rolling his eye lazily as he scraped his dinner from the corral reef, unconcerned by this yukon dude way out of his natural element, it all was a true treat for the senses.
I saw where the opening scene of "Tears of the Sun" was filmed, and the surviving bits of the set where Jurassic Part scenes were filmed.
But there was another side to Hawaii, a side not so pleasant. The homeless "sweeps" casually announced on the evening news, wherein the homeless are told to vacate to wherever they may go, just be gone. The 70ish woman on the city bus in a wheelchair ravenously tying into a barren dinner roll, weeping in her wheelchair about the hardness of her life, the large number of tents and bicycles and inhabited junk under a concrete highway ramp. Soul-crushing stuff! What hope is there that these will ever own a house valued at typically 500,000 to one million, let alone 28 million? But as for homelessness, Id rather be homeless in Hawaii than some other places i can think of! It's warm all the time, usually in the 70s or 80s even in December and wild fruit is there to be found, as is a plentiful supply of fish just offshore.
Another highlight in retrospect was the paddling with my Dads cousin Leohoni and Kamu. They graciously took me paddling in a six-person racing canoe. These things move right along, the ama on the side helping to maintain balance on the tippey craft as the intermittent shouts keep everyone on time with the paddlestrokes. Well, everyone but me it seems. Keep your paddleside foot forward! Stop the stroke at your knee. Hold the upper arm straight! Return stroke low over the water. Timing! Dad's cousin sure knew her stuff and was doing her best to impart a lifetime of practise in racing canoes to her newest pupil. This was all very humiliating to someone who has done a thousand or two miles in a canoe, upriver and down. The stroke of a "normal" canoe is much different. Normally a much more relaxed and casual affair as the river sweeps you on lazily through the spruce thickets of a yukon river valley. But anyway, I did the trip without deliberately splashing her once, glory to God.
Well, its that time of the year again. Rain-mingled snow, icy highways, large ponds frozen completely over, geese, ducks, swans and most all creatures with this option: gone!
Of course, there are a few of the stupider animals which choose to stay in the yukon and brave the arctic, but most with the intelligence of a bookend have left the country by now, realizing that the 20 hour dark spells, coupled with, at times, temperatures hovering in the ouch-zone, are better off left to the brave and the stupid.
A friend recently shared about how he let a little dog out one night and forgot about the poor little thing until the morning. When the missing critter was noticed, the door was opened and there was pooch, standing just outside the door. Surprisinly, he wouldnt enter the house when invited, surprising until the cause was discovered, that is...
And, while on the weather topic, this year has been a dandy if you happen to make your home at the bottom of the lake. The cycle is becoming one of gorgeous January through May weather, with a general downturn after that, becoming gradually more muddy until, mercifully it begins to snow instead. We had a brief window of opportunity for a few days, right after the best time for moose hunting, which is the last half of September, and thankfully, during this spell, someone got his moose! The jerky is wonderful and all the more satisfying knowing that I dont have to fill myself solely on genetically modified cows this winter.
It was a fine thing to sit in my lawnchair on the riverbank, beside my little fire and its teapot, enjoying the surroundings and pondering the wonder of the fact that the moose meat was on the ground after a week-long search. Twice earlier had i come within yards of a huge bull, but it was not to be and i left him to his little family, consisting of a cow and calf and found my winters meat elsewhere.
The bull i eventually shot was with a cow which would not leave that evening, and became quite aggessive towards me, ears laid back, hair up, making unsettling noises... Apparently it was her calf from a couple years ago which i had decided to add to my freezer. I explained gently, that i needed the meat and told her i was sorry, which she seemed to understand and settled down a bit after that.
Winters wood is about in now as well and I rest in the contented knowledge that warmth and a full belly is really all thats needed to get through a yukon winter. Many i know, are not so blessed.
Warmth and love to you all from beautiful bountiful Teslin!
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