Of all the means of wilderness transportation possible the canoe comes closest to shining.
The backpacker swats bugs and scrapes through the brambles bruising his shins, while the packer swats bugs and scrapes through the brambles swearing at his horses. ATVers and snowmobilers snarl through the woodlands like a geneticist's bumblebee project gone terribly awry and wonder where the animals are. The jetboater worries about the depletion of the world's stock of buried vegetation while his wallet gets sucked into the tank. Then he wipes the spray of oil off his face with his shirtsleeve and clanks his wrench aimlessly against the engine block, muttering to himself about drifting to shore and the long, hungry, unhappy walk back to what passes these days for civilization.
The bush pilot floats over the scene with some of the borrowed grace of the eagle, making fantastic time but an awful racket and failing to fully appreciate the scents and sounds and wonder of the three-dimensional carpet sweeping by beneath him.
The dog-musher offers some respite from the din of all these in the winter. But after the thaw, the canoe tops the list for its ability to get in and out of remote country, with a minimum of effort and a maximum of grace.
This truth struck me after a thousand miles of hiking through country much of which this pimpled youngster was often warned against crossing alone. Coming from Saskatchewan, where I'd roamed the coulees and hills of the South Saskatchewan River valley, the mountains impressed me all the more! With a headfull of overwritten bear stories and a heart-full of anticipation for all the wilderness held in store for me, I began backpacking through the mountains of the southern Yukon, rifle always ready for the drooling, "stop 'em or feed 'em" charge I was sure to have to deal with.
But that charge never came and I soon quit clinging so tenaciously to my rifle, often preferring the heart-pounding excitement of using my trigger-finger for releasing the shutter of my nikon on a nearby sheep or moose or wolf or bear.
The most satisfying thing about backpacking the mountains was the joy of realizing I had successfully forced my way through some insuperable tangle of willow or alder and managed to gain for myself a commanding view of the country I'd battled and conquered. But I still have trouble forgetting a one-day hike made back a ways from a little river I'd been traveling by more sensible means. Taking a short-cut home in the afternoon, I began negotiating with several square miles of charred pick-up sticks, which someone had dumped all over the mountainside for my personal entertainment. The charcoal on the toast was the lack of animals seen that particular sunny day. Presumably no living things were dim-witted enough to make their home here or even to pass through such a country on their way to someplace else. So much for hiking.
Of course, this world is full of its admirers of horseflesh. And I cannot say my own soul is unmoved by the creature who "with frenzied excitement ... eats up the ground." My experience with horseflesh goes back to the time
of my earliest temptations, when my mortal father, eager to impart his considerable knowledge of the beast, taught me to "let 'em know who's boss!" This presented no difficulty as I soon realized they all knew good and well just exactly who the boss was. The real trouble was, and still is to this day, I've always had a problem staying atop the graceful things. Of all the ones who've tried to throw me, only one has been consistently unsuccessful, and that one always succeeded too by rearing over backwards in the hope of crushing my thorax with his saddlehorn. At least one other animal has reached for this solution in dealing with me as her tormentor, re- arranging my left knee and adversely affecting my hiking, but thankfully leaving my paddling unscathed.
Now please don't get me wrong, the horse may well be one of man's greatest inventions and where, after all, is the canoe who will float you safely and lovingly home through darkness so dark that the treetops are discernable only from the less-blackened sky itself?
Even so, while working for a northern B.C. horseback outfitter in 1982 and a Yukon one in "83 I worked my way inevitably and fitfully to the firm resolve that horses are a wonderful way of going places where there is no water. Where the sunlight bounces off the little waves of a reach of backwater and the undercut pines sweep the swirls and eddies of the river, "hond me me poddal, mon, and rrride proudlee off on yorr wee 'orse!"
Nothing quite matches the feel of being swept along effortlessly through great sweeps of aged spruce and pine, dipping the paddle in a slow jay, perhaps, just to align the craft for the next bend, drinking in the beauty and the peace and always on the watch for a glimpse of moose, or wolf or lynx or bear.
And the camps I've enjoyed while canoeing wild rivers far surpass the ones I've endured while back and horse-packing, though, to be fair, it is possible to bring a great wash of personal comforts to the camp with an obliging string of animals. Yet the time spent finding and saddling and packing those same animals would often be better spent
roasting a salmon or a trout on the coals of an open fire in front of a large canvas tent, your personal highway ever so near and bubbling its music joyfully into the air, while the wolf tells you of his lonesomeness and the tea water bubbles over the dancing flames.
From my earliest days the sight of speeding antelope or an eagle riding the thermal currents of an azure sky gave this farmboy an inexplicable thrill. Hikes in the riverhills and around the farm never failed to produce enjoyment for me. There was always something new to study out there, whether furred or feathered or multi-legged or shelled. When not studying wildlife, and in my recesses at school where that was impossible, I often entertained myself by re- drawing the sketches of animal anatomy I found in the encyclopedia. A hawk with a broken wing once attracted my deepest sympathy and I tried my best to help it recover. Taming farm kittens was always fun, and Dad did his best to turn his son into a cowboy, even going so far as to provide a pony for his sixth? birthday. This proved to be a bit of a portent of things to come as I was thrown by it many times, never fatally. Something changed forever though, when I was handed a .177 caliber pellet gun for another birthday. Wanting to see an English sparrow up close I hunted many hours in the well- treed garden behind the house. In the dusk of the day I found I was able to stalk very closely beneath the perched birds, their form easily recognizable in the branches against the darkening sky. Close enough in fact, finally to hit one and the bird tumbled lifelessly to the ground. Dead bird, excited kid! Proudly, I took the bird into the family room to show off. No one there was anywhere near as excited as I was. Later, a bounty per gopher tail sealed my fate as a hunter, though the first gopher I killed with that pellet rifle took way too long to die, distressing me greatly at the time, but not so greatly as to halt me from my headlong pursuit of wealth. And that is how I came to see wildlife as a source of economic gain and then, when I learned from my hillbilly hero, Terry Hiebert, that furs had great value, there was no stopping me and the transition was complete. Wildlife still thrilled me and I was always glad to see animals in the wild, but now I saw them more as an opportunity to improve my riflery skills. And then I fell in love with guns. Guns I gave me a feeling of power I had never before experienced and there was a sort of romance in being able to kill an animal on the run or make a very long shot. And the wood and steel felt so wonderful in the hand. Often my pursuits were frustrated and I searched for more successful methods. But many of the most successful ones were illegal, and I grew to resent the game laws and those who enforced them and justified my infractions with "what gives them the right to interfere with my hunting?" I saw myself as an integral part of nature, a kinsmen of other predators like the coyote and the wolf, who knew nothing of posted land or game laws and killed simply because they were supposed to kill. My great love of nature, coupled with my enjoyment of literature, inevitably brought me into contact with books by Charles Sheldon and Andy Russell, who began to gently turn me back to an interest in wildlife in its living form and awakened me to the possibilities of earning my living through the study and photography of wildlife and with that a new awareness of the grand purpose behind game laws and closed seasons. Today conservation officers have my deep respect. And so, shortly after entering the Yukon in 1979 and obtaining steady work, I found favour with the manager of Hougen's and walked out with a brand new, black-bodied Nikon FM. I was thrilled with my new acquisition and anxious to try it out. At that time, Donny Jacobs mentioned a mountain in the Kluane Park which supported a good population of Dall's sheep. Needing no further coaxing, I arrived and began glassing from the highway. Immediately, I noticed white spots up there against the rock, and excitedly commenced climbing towards them, slowing my climbing as I neared the area and finally crawling into view of...a white-painted boulder! Typical Yukon humour that, though today I was less than amused by it! Hiking diagonally westward from there, I soon was rewarded for my persistence with a view of the real thing. A band of pure-white mountain ewes and lambs scampered for higher ground and I followed, using my cowboy boots in ways for which they were never designed. The cliffs I clambered around on that sunny day would have given my poor, distant, worry-warted mother yet more warts, had she known of it. But in the end, I got what I was after, a portrait of a ewe and lamb just beneath me and looking up as if in a contrived pose, nearly filling the frame of my 50 mm lens! I was absolutely elated as I worked my way back down the mountainside to the waiting truck! This wildlife photography was definitely for me. I felt no less excitement than I'd gotten killing big game animals, perhaps much more! The only trade-offs were the lack of meat and the long wait to see the "trophy", now carefully housed within the body of my brand- new Nikon.
As soon as time and money permitted, I was back at the base of Sheep Mountain for another go and a couple hours of hard climbing brought me again into contact with the beautiful white sheep of the northern mountains. This time it was a bachelor club of full curl rams that I came upon. The backdrop across and up the valley was fantastic and I enjoyed some of the best sheep photography I've ever come across. At one point a ram scratched himself on the cliff beneath me and so close I could see broken white hairs flying off his rump! Another pair of rams presented a striking pose as they looked back at me like a pair of surprised identical twins. One ram, apparently frightened, bolted across the scree on a sheep trail above my position, but by and large, these rams were amazingly tame. Obviously I was not the first visitor nor the first to burn film up here and it felt a bit like cheating, this taking of "wildlife" pictures within a national park like this, but the sheer enjoyment of the occasion was a great salve for the false guilt of it all. Finally, as I started back down the mountain, my ears picked up the unmistakable "crack" of two rams butting horn and I groaned to think of the lost opportunity. I was quite aways down, now, and felt sure the clash was just a playful one, and in fact, that one impact seems to have been the last of it and I would have wasted my time hiking back. Besides, there was the problem with my left knee. The knee had been injured in the spring of that year when the hackamore of the Morgan mare I was riding had apparently bound up, causing the animal to think I was still yanking back on the reins. In desperation to escape the pain she had reared over backwards, falling somewhat sideways and pinning my left leg to the snow-covered ground with her saddle. I had immediately stood up at the time but there was obviously some damage and now, as I worked my way down the huge mountain, the chickens really came to roost inside that left knee of mine. All my fellow weak-kneed souls understand that descending a mountain or a flight of steps is the hard part. The ascent for me had given no grief but now it was a terrible exercise of the will to get back down. Eventually the knee became impossible to bend without great pain and I actually had to back my way down the mountain, practically crawling, just to keep that wretched leg straight. I began to wonder if I would make it on my own at all but perserverance and anger did the trick and eventually I swung open the left door of the four-wheel drive, and glad this once at least for this benefit of man's ingenuity, drove off. The mountains of my life, whether physical or symbolic, have always proved to be a test of my endurance and desire. The physical ones of the Yukon usually present a vast tangle of scrub birch and willow, or the like, at the base which extends up the first thousand or two thousand feet with the unspoken question forever there, "Just how badly do you want what's up there, sir?". The eventual reward only goes to the most persistent who have earned the right to it. As to the symbolism of my still more difficult decent, are we to understand that the fine things of life come at a price, with severe payment sometimes demanded both before and after enjoyment of the desired object?
HUNTING THE YUKON'S BIG SALMON RIVER (1st trip)
Saturday Sept 20, 1980 Paul Paquet, the late welder from Whitehorse, first told me of the river in 1979. He said it was a very mountainous, very beautiful country with lots of animals. "You're sure to get a moose there." A year later, an old fifteen foot fiberglass canoe rode atop the four wheel drive up the South Canol Road and arrived at Quiet Lake, where it was loaded and boarded by a rather inexperienced and under-confident young man. Good-byes were said to good friend Danny DeForrest and also a parting thought, "I'll survive if it kills me!" Today "Quiet Lake" appeared to be a misnomer, for the strong headwind and driving rain resulted in covering only three or four miles that evening. The nylon tent was established a ways back from the shore and the wind and, glad for the shelter, he went to sleep, first wondering awhile if he'd really be able to handle this trip, all alone, with no real priors and the Yukon winter soon on its way.
Some snow fell during the night, which did nothing for my confidence in my timing for this trip. The mountaintops were covered in white but the lower altitudes soon melted off. The truck was gone and the only way back was on through this lake and down the river. The lake travel this morning was much easier on the constitution as the wind was down. Soon I reached the end of Quiet Lake and studied the sandy shore and the few log cabins there. Also had a look at the beginnings of the river that was to be my highway for the next two weeks. It was flowing all right, if a bit shallow, and with bated breath, I pointed the canoe into it and so began my first real lesson in river-running, on a remote river with no help available, no partner, and maybe no sense in my head at all! Nevertheless these potential problems only added to the excitement as I tried to discover how best to run a canoe down a river. I soon learned that the canoe has to travel at a different speed than the rivers current or steering is out of the question and so I took to paddling along a little faster than the river ran. In Bill Mason's book, "Song of the Paddle", he suggests a different approach, but my little system seemed to work quite well at the time and I survived the first little run into Sandy Lake problem-free and full of the excitement of discovering a new skill and means of bush transportation. Sandy Lake was a little jewel in the mountains though someone seemed to have stolen the sand! A short paddle across and I found myself involved in my second river lesson as the current swept me on through to Big Salmon Lake. Disdaining following the shoreline of this large body of water I made more or less of a beeline down its length, completely unmindful of the quick- cold-cruel death by exposure that even a life-jacketed paddler would experience in these waters, should he dump. At the northwest end of this lake the river begins its meandering course through the bush along the valley long ago built for it. To my great delight I suddenly noticed a trappers cabin and stopped to check it out. No one was there but the door was open and a guestbook lay on the table. At this time, not many paddlers had been by or the guestbook was a new one. I read the entries with interest, hoping to find more information on the river and its wildlife. One entry in particular jumped out at me and after I quit laughing I jotted it down in my diary. "The war canoes are pulling up on the beach. I guess this is it. Before throwing our bloated corpses into the river, please remove our left testicles for RCMP indentification." A really nice setup this was, everything neat and in its place. The cabin was very solid, woodfloored and a well built cache stood guard over the place. A nice place in every respect and snug from the rain, with a large meal behind my belt and the stove going all was well at the head of the river. I was truly thankful that night for the unexpected comforts this cabin offered though I was considerably less eloquent and courageous in my grateful entry to the guestbook than the earlier passers-by had been!
Day one of river travel went well but could have been better. At the start the river was the most vigorous I had seen it so far and I gave it all the concentration I had, learning as I went. Rocks were few and far between but one logjam was ticklish. Thankfully there was a good landing above it and I strongly considered a portage, but the bush grew so close and thick around the edge of the river here that the temptation was resisted. An S-shaped channel had been hacked through it and the current was quite swift. Not knowing what I was doing I let the canoe bounce its way through the thing, adding to the color on a log someone else had left behind. Mid afternoon I noticed two otters playing near the shore at a beaver bank den. This was a beautiful and rare treat for me. Then, as the light drizzle of rain that had begun around noon pattered onto my slicker and the surface of the winding river, an eery, nearby moan brought my thoughts up short. I leaned forward and closed my eyes and just let the lonesome beauty of the wolf's song sink deep into my wilderness-thirsty soul and rejoiced in the knowledge that I was finally "out there". Another mile or two and a light coloured wolf trotted along the shore through the brush. The canoe closed the gap and I raised the rifle. The constant dripping had covered the eyepiece of the scope and I could see nothing but a blurred-out blob. Finally the blob disappeared. I stopped here and listened to a wolf pack howl, then pitched camp. And all evening and through the night they carried on their conversation in the darkness, as though just for me, their thoughts echoing back and forth through the mist-veiled valley. The thought impressed me deeply that night that they were more at home here than I was and that my temporary stay was a true invasion of this pack's highly valued privacy. During the night it snowed again in the mountains and all over my camp. After cooking a breakfast on the sizzling, spitting firewood I had cut I pulled camp and as I paddled the snow became rain and this carried on most of the day. I encountered some fast water but nothing my newly acquired, limited skills couldn't cope with. Around noon I rounded a bend and saw a cow moose standing with her back towards me. I photographed her as she watched me go by and then downed her with my Remington. After dressing the moose in the shallow water I quartered it and loaded it into the canoe. It took some doing to get the craft into the water with that load of meat and all my gear but finally, there it was, looking very like some water- soaked log about to go to its final resting place in the bottom of the sea. Three inches of freeboard was just not enough and I was sure I'd run into big trouble somewhere in the two hundred plus miles of unknown river yet to come. I should have foreseen this problem and let the poor thing live but now I had done it, and so, feeling like an awful wicked fool I unloaded a good portion of the precious meat for the wolves and carried on, finally making camp in a nice spot with river on three sides and surrounded by mountains and I ate very well on the fresh moose meat. Indeed, I ate all I could for the thought of the waste really sickened me. Next morning I pulled camp and paddled downriver. Before long I thought I saw another moose. And that's just what it was! A very large bull at that. Then a cow materialized in the bush nearby. I photographed them as I drifted by, the bull snorting and blowing before finally crashing off into the bush, followed by the cow. The antlers had been huge, probably 60 inches or so but my tag was filled and that was that! As the river turned south it passed through some very mountainous beautiful country but it was too early to camp and I paddled on. Finally I pulled ashore at the mouth of some nameless creek near a tree which was apparently the recipient of a grizzly attack. A big chunk of wood had been ripped out about six feet up and bear tracks were abundant on the beach below. Of course, these evidences were only noticed after the tent was up and the fire lit... Since this was the last possible mountainous country on this river, at least if I was reading my topo right, I decided to spend a couple days hunting here. In the morning the weather was so poor I spent it in camp. After dinner the sun poked through and I crossed the river and climbed a mountain. From this perch I had an excellent view of the valley but as evening started to fall I began heading down. Below me in the bush a huge set of antlers swayed slowly to the strut of the old bull who wore them. I thought I saw another ahead of him as well. Scrambling down the mountainside and making for the marsh I at first saw only the cow. Another step and there was the bull. But he noticed me too and began grunting. I waited awhile for him to settle and stalked closer with my camera (and rifle) ready. The rut was in full swing and I knew the tendency of moose to go a little crazy this time of year. Finally at about 30 yards the cow decided she'd seen enough and splashed off across the tip of the marsh with the bull following. I splashed across too in hot pursuit but by the time I reached the river they were across and all I saw was the south end of the bull being gulped by the trees. Disappointed about the lack of film exposed but happy for the experience, I crawled back into the canoe and ferried home for the night. These river camps really did become home for me. All I really needed to turn a cool dark, wet night in the wilderness into a comfortable and enjoyable home was a match and the time it took to light a fire. Fire, kept of course in manageable portions, is a wonderful thing, without which life in the bush would be difficult, if not impossible. I soon became aware that fire was the most important element in a comfortable camp, warming and lighting the immediate area and warming the food and the tea pail as well. This appreciation of fire soon led to the understanding of the importance of protecting my supply of matches. I always tried to carry twenty-five or so in a waterproof container in my pocket. Nothing could have been much more uncomfortable than swamping the canoe and losing everything in the icy water, only to swim to shore and be unable to light a warming fire. Enjoying the crackling of the campfire later that night, I happened to look to my left through the trees surrounding camp. What I saw really puzzled me. A pale yellow glow seemingly coming from a point 50 yards or so back in the trees! Other hunters? Impossible. They'd have stopped to talk or at least I'd have heard their voices from that short range. A fire? If it was it was small and there must be someone tending it. As I watched and shifted position I noticed a bright yellow dome of light with mist drifting around it! My youthful imagination kicked into road gear there in the lonely darkness by the fire and I actually helped myself to my rifle! Had my campfire attracted some sample-hunters from another galaxy? I walked away from the fire onto the beach and looked through the scope of the gun, not to shoot but to get a better look. Craters? ! Try to imagine my keen disappointment to discover it was only the moon! Still, what was it doing in the bottom of My river valley beneath a huge mountain whose outline I could still clearly see?? The mountain was an unusual cloud with exactly the right shape to be a mountain! The moon rose exactly in the bottom of the V of the river valley with this great mountain-shaped cloud just above it giving it the appearance of being inside the valley with me. Of course I had no way of estimating the range to this ball of light back there in the trees behind my camp. So after a good laugh at myself I turned in for the night, content that all was well, but rather amazed at how easily I'd been spooked. I'd been ready to drift away campless! Next day broke with sunny skies and a smattering of cloud. Glad to be rid of the rain I strolled up the creek which joins the river above camp, following it some distance, then turned right and up a joining creek towards the huge mountain backing the camp. Finally the magnitude of the problem of shoving through the tangle of all that sub-alpine scrub crashed through the tangle of my thoughts and I chose to let myself be defeated this time. Going a little ways farther up the valley, I found a lot of bear diggings and kept my eyes well open for a glimpse of one of the shaggy beasts, only to be disappointed. Returned to camp tired but sad. During this hunt it also struck me that the better way would be to travel only during the late afternoon and early evening, when animals are likely to be on the river. My diary for the next day records: "Plan works! Pulling camp at 2:30 PM I travelled downriver. Some more rapids and sweepers were met and dealt with. The wind picked up, then settled near dusk and I slid on downstream knowing game would start to move. Saw four beavers and a little later, the object of my pursuit, a grizzly. She was on the near bank and I got the rifle up quickly. But she didn't care for the sight of that strange red log so close to her and so, grunting her disapproval, lit for the bush. I was about to shoot but then, noticed for the first time, a small silvertip cub close at her heels." Bears with cubs are wisely protected in the Yukon. Went on another half mile or so and pitched camp on the sandy beach at the confluence of the South and main Big Salmon Rivers. Another nice spot! A large sucking whirlpool happens where the two rivers meet. One would have to remember that one on the next trip. Next day I took a walk up the South Big Salmon. After blowing a tune on my Faulk's predator call I waited 45 minutes but all the animals ignored it or didn't hear it due to the wind. Or maybe they had heard so many dying rabbits they just aren't interested in another one. It was a boom year for rabbits in the Yukon. I have called in two wolves with this call but that's another story... Arrived back in camp just in time to see a canoe coming downriver. The lone occupant stopped to say hi. He was the first person I had seen in the last eight days. He mentioned that he and his partner in another canoe had seen wolves and one lynx on the river. He also mentioned that there are some pretty bad rapids up ahead just past where the North Big Salmon River joins the main one... I, Doug Martens, do hereby bequeath and bequest... Another fifteen miles were covered this evening but saw just one beaver and no game at all. Camp was made on a mossy bank overlooking the river. "The moon?? is just above the horizon as I write these lines and it is starting to sprinkle on the tent...Yawn... Travelling down to the North Big Salmon junction I saw no game at all, the country being flat and recently burned over. At camp that night, though, it was more hilly and the North Big Salmon looks like a nice small river with a sandy riverbottom. Next morning I got up early and crossed the North River and climbed the hill to get a look at the country. It was a nice valley, I decided, but also rather boggy and it would be tough to walk through. In the distance I could see what must be Caribou Mountain, according to the map. Deciding to try the fast water in the morning instead of before nightfall I broke camp after breakfast and carried on. The waves were big and some water climbed in but other than that there was no problem. Carried on until 1:30 when I stopped to make tea and eat dinner. A little later I again climbed a nearby hill to look over the country. Caribou Mountain could still be seen farther south now and dimly, I could just make out Last Peak which is where the river leaves the mountains and enters the Semenoff Hills through which I had been travelling the last few days. Back at the tea fire I had an afternoon nap before hitting the river. I thought I could make the Yukon this evening if I went late so I passed up one camping spot after another. Once I saw some seagulls and knew I must be close. I went entirely too late this evening and hit some good rocks in the shallows once. Finally I called a halt and beached the canoe on what was apparently a gravelly shore. To the left I could dimly see the outlines of a little grove of spruce and headed for them. Climbing a bank I found a very nice little sheltered clearing. An old spruce had fallen there and it was loaded with tinder and firewood. Sometimes it almost felt like I was being looked after. The bright orange ball hanging from the cable over the river, and my arrival in the abandoned town of Big Salmon produced an unexpected wave of sadness for me. This was a goal I had worked hard to achieve and I had been successful in my first solo run of a long wild river. I had survived the dangers and overcome the fears, but now I was about to say good-bye to an old friend, a country which had been unexpectedly good to me, and a way of life I had quickly grown accustomed to. I longed more for the wild country I was leaving than for the human fellowship and heartache ahead of me and I felt very much like turning around and going back. Maybe I should have... Promising myself I would return to this beautiful place I climbed into the packed canoe and pushed off into the muddy waters of the swollen Yukon River. With a strong wind at my back I made good time down the big Yukon and camped just a bit past the abandoned settlement of Little Salmon which is where the Little Salmon River joins the Yukon. During the day an enormous roar suddenly filled the valley and a huge flash of fast-moving orange broke my my bush serenity. Shocked, I wondered what it could be and soon discovered the highway on which the semi-driver had applied his jake-brake. Ever since this incident I have less trouble understanding how people who are lost in the woods can become, "bushed", and start thinking more like an animal than a man. What crude interruptions we inflict on the lives of the wild animals! Carried on down the river alll the next day without seeing animals all day. I did make a thoroughly fascinating stalk on a cave, though, even to the point of imagining I could see bear-hair through the five power scope... Sadly though, I'd not purchased this tag and so was forced to pass up this shot. Went late again and made my camp just upriver from a long cutbank. There on a sort of terrace, I decided I didn't feel like pitching the tent again and so, simply strung out a line between two trees and hung my five by seven tarp on that in such a fashion that viewed from the end it looked like a tent- a simple leanto. I rolled out my bed with tarp over and under me and a good stock of wood near the fire. It didn't look like it would rain and there was no wind to bring weather into the valley. Well, it rained all through the night, soaking half my bed, my rifle and even my camera which I had so carefully placed into a "waterproof" bag. It had just one hole in it...and that was enough. "I think the films okay." After taking stock of it all in the morning I decided to pull out and arrived at Carmacks shortly after noon. I still was not eager for human fellowship and built a little fire up the river from the town and cleaned up before visiting the big city... There were lots of coyotes in the Yukon River valley. I heard them every morning and evening I was on it but I really was hoping to see some game. All the river bars and islands seemed to have been sprinkled with bear tracks but even by travelling late I didn't see a one. In fact, all the game I saw was found in the mountainous section of the Big Salmon. Should've spent more time there, I think, but I had heard and read this was a ten day canoe trip so I believed I couldn't afford to take it too easy with winter closing in. In my estimation there are only 6 days actual travelling time between Quiet Lake and here. Next time, the board of directors decided, I'll go in August when the salmon are running and the bears are spending more time on the river. Also there are still some sheepish looking mountains I'd like to check out...