With the thermos full of coffee, we started up the Alaska Highway and I said, "Let's drive a little into the night." It was a strange night. The sun was coming in from the front for a long time and I asked for the time. It was 10:30 PM and I could hardly believe it! Around 1:30 AM we looked for a good place by the road where we could set up our tent. A moose crossed the road. Now the sun was gone but it still was quite bright. The evening would not end. We found a place, built the tent and crawled in. Doug told me that it probably wasn't getting any darker. I asked if we were already in bear country. His answer: "Yes". And that made falling asleep somewhat difficult but once I slept, I slept like a stone. At about eight we were wakened by a bunch of motorhomes who probably had stopped for a breakfast break and to let the dog out. We packed up the tent and we could not count the mosquitoes that were plaguing us. Each of us had a big swarm. We didn't think of breakfast. We just wanted to leave. We drove and drove but the road stayed the same. The windshield was full of little wings on little bugs that made little round circles in the dust. Pine trees and narrow ditches, a black bear. Doug took lots and lots of pictures but the bear was not interested so he trotted back into the bush. Finally we came to a hillier country. There was more to see but it was more difficult to drive. Difficult especially because of all the motorhomes. But we made Trutch Mountain. The service station was a big log house with many moose horns on the outside and many dead animals inside hanging on the walls. We tanked up and had breakfast and dinner there and drove off. The road became more narrow and had more holes. We started worrying about the canoe. Shortly before we got to Fort Nelson one of the cushions for the canoe broke on the rack. We stopped and taped all four with lots of tape. It was hot and the air was moist. The horseflies were everywhere. Help! Two months in a tent and everywhere these insects. Later we came to an area where Doug used to guide. He often talked about it and now he was trying to find the trail that would lead into that place. At first I didn't really want to. I worried that there was a rowdy gang there or something. But instead we found Dave, Elley, Andrew and Becky, a very normal family with a ranch backed by a huge mountain. They had 75 horses and during the hunting season usually around ten hunters here who came for sheep, bear, moose or caribou. It is absolutely beautiful here! We drove on to the Liard hotsprings. Here again the mosquitoes were bad. I found the hotsprings too hot. Doug really enjoyed them and tried to get me to join him but I got involved talking to a couple who had just returned from Whitehorse. After the swim, we took the road back aways to camp under a bridge. The mosquitoes were awful and now it was two AM. Next morning steady mosquitoes on the tent door and three really big ones inside. These ones had had a feast during the night. I itched all over! We packed quickly and drove on behind lots of snakes of motorhomes. Sometimes the highway was So dusty and there were some pretty dangerous situations. Lots of road workers and waiting time but finally we came to the sign "Welcome to the Yukon". Doug was very happy. Finally home. At Watson we saw all those signs on the road from all over the world. There were a whole bunch of German ones. There must have been a lot of Germans here! Beyond the little town of Teslin we drove along a lake, farther and farther, farther along this beautiful lake until we got to a place called Johnson's Crossing. Again we tanked up, shopped groceries and called Mom. We have quite a few groceries but there's always something missing and as I was trying to figure out what we would need I fell apart. A whole week in the bush. Don't forget anything! How is it going to be with bears? Is the canoe going to hold? Yep, I was quite scared and didn't know what to do. And Doug was in his element. I decided to let him shop and went back and sat in the truck. There, I asked myself why I was trying to play the brave one. If it would have been my decision we would have just stayed home. Doug noticed I was edgey and And biting at him and helped me overcome my fear. So, we started driving along a little highway north to a beautiful lake called Quiet Lake. Even though it was late we decided to unload, dust it all off and sort what we would need for the week-long canoe trip and put the rest back into the truck. Then we ate rice, set up the tent and again, slept like stones. We woke at 8:30, started to pack the canoe, fought the mosquitoes again, like yesterday, made a fire, put more mosquito repellant on, added many layers of clothes on top of each other and at about 11:30 we were ready and pushed the canoe into the water... It really swam- Wow! We made our way through Quiet Lake into a very little river. The water was crystal clear and you could actually see the fish swim by- incredible! Then we paddled to a dark little lake which was called Sandy Lake. There was a tent and two men were talking at the shore. A big black dog was sniffing around along the shore. When he saw us he started to bark. His barking sounded kind of eery because it echoed back from the mountains, back and back again. We did find black sand. Doug took a little of it into his gold pan but no gold. We're going to try it on the way back again. The next bend around the river and a little motorboat came behind us. The guy from that camp came to find out what we were doing here. He looked like a strange man. He had a hat with a wide rim and a raven feather on the side. He invited us for coffee but we said, "On the way back maybe." He told us that last year there was a canoe just like ours with three men from Edmonton. The canoe capsized and all three men died of hypothermia, but their dog survived. He kept repeating that the canoe had been just like ours. Then he left. We used our motor and went through the Big Salmon Lake. At the very end of this lake we found a little log house which Doug knew about and had stayed in already two times. I was really moved. It was a really special little place! There was a new guestbook on the table. Franz Sichs and Gabriela Fuchs stayed here for a whole year and only left at the fifteenth of June. It just worked out great that the hut was free. Our house. They had changed the house quite a bit since Doug was here last and the old diary I could see that Doug had been here August 2 in 1981 and Sept 22 in 1980. I could see that a woman had put in her part. The owners seemed to be Louise and Lilly and in the beginning maybe Willy and Sheila. We're thinking a lot about the two that stayed a whole year here. Somehow, it reminded me very much of the book I'm just reading and I kept looking for signs that these were Germans, their name sounded so German! Finally I found it. There were two magazines, a "Spiegel" and a "Stern", very typical German magazines. Are those two back in Germany, or did they already live in Canada? How was this winter? I had a thousand questions. Will I ever meet these people? We unpacked our stuff. Doug went fishing and caught a grayling so we had fish, potatoes and corn. It was a feast. We went to bed early and we slept very well. It was now July 1st and our holidays were starting. A whole day full of doing nothing. It rained. I wrote diary and tried some fishing without any success. I decided to stay inside. This is probably the first mosquito-repellant- free day. It is really not easy to keep the days apart because now it's 8:00 and it's bright as dinnertime! It's crazy! At 10:30 pm we took the canoe to the lake to try some fishing there. This is where I caught my first grayling. Didn't know what to do when the fish bit the hook. I started running away from the creek. When I turned around, there he was, wiggling on the shore and got himself off the hook, but he didn't make it back into the water. Too bad for him, but I was pretty excited. Doug caught another three fish. We went home and played cards til 2:30 in the morning. We got up at 9:30, ate fish and rationed bread for breakfast. We packed our bags for a hike and we went into the canoe so we could find a nice spot so we could go up to a mountain. Six hours we stumbled through the underbrush, always hotly pursued by clouds of blood-thirsty mosquitoes. I'm not doing this ever again! I am still totally finished. I have to say it was an incredible feeling to find the canoe again, be able to cook hot soup and coffee. My lungs burned until I finally fell asleep. ************** This hike was a great tragedy also from my point of view. I wanted so badly for her first hike in the Yukon to be a joyful one but I hadn't realized we'd be going through a bog full of knee-deep moss containing the most fantastic collection of mosquitoes I had ever seen in all my Yukon experience! The picture of this hike that best capsilizes the tale is the image I still carry in my memory of a poor, drowned mosquito, which died inside one of my wife's many tears which was caught on the inside of her glasses lens. A disaster? Yes, and more than a disaster, as I fully realized the importance of an enjoyable first experience in the bush for anyone just starting out. As is true of so many things, it would have been funny if it were not so sad. Doug.
Eleven o'clock, fish for breakfast. Listened for voices and noises, bears and murderers and things like that but until now nothing has shown up. We were just finished with eating when we really heard something. People talking? Doug looked out the window and sure enough. First we thought it might be the owners of the cabin but instead they were an Austrian couple, on a canoe trip. Her name was Sonja, his name is forgotten. We invited them for coffee. It was very interesting. During the afternoon Doug started to stack wood. I helped a little, then I washed some clothes. I swept the cabin. Then I made my own fire for the first time, put tin- foil-wrapped potatoes into the oven and cooked some soup. We talked quite a bit. It feels really good finally to have time for ourselves, to empty out and just relax. Now if I could just get rid of the fear. Tonight we both didn't sleep too well. There were too many mosquitoes in the cabin and from cooking an evening meal it was very warm. Finally we decided to burn one of those mosquito coils and then it did get a lot better but I was so itchy anyway from before that I turned around a lot in bed. Then I heard a big, hard bang behind the cabin. Some metal bending or something like that. I feared I was hallucinating but in the morning it did turn out that we had company, a bear with cubs. Doug figured this because of the tooth marks on his plastic gas can. I mentioned the noise that I'd thought I heard at night. It turned out that it was behind the outhouse where Doug found footprints from the little bear. He must have gotten too close to the metal. Doug was really excited but I felt a bit smaller. In the afternoon we took the canoe along Big Salmon Lake to find the cabin of the Crow Feather but it got pretty windy and we decided to go home. We didn't meet the man that we had met between Sandy and Big Salmon Lakes. We wanted to hear more stories. I did find a recipe of rubarb wine here. We had macaroni and cheese for our supper and I tried some carrot bread which was good and then we started to play cards. Just when Doug decided to show the whole world that he never wins he started winning. By next morning I was starting to feel more relaxed. In the afternoon we started along a little trail that began behind the cabin. We found many bear droppings and a few moose tracks and I kept waving my scarf around my face. I sometimes felt like a horse with his tail just to keep the mosquitoes away. It didn't matter how it looked, it really helped. We got back to the cabin, we both were hungry, yet our stomachs were full! That had to do with those strange pancakes we had in the morning that weren't quite done, so they kind of worked like a glue in your stomach. I think we eat lots of starchy foods. Lots of oatmeal, flour, rice, noodles, bread. So for supper we had pickles and boiled eggs and drank our last beer. I found wild rhubarb which we ate raw and we did feel better after that. Doug fished for half an hour for our morning breakfast and brought three very nice graylings home. In the meantime I'd stuffed a few of those holes in the cabin with moss to stop the mosquitoes from getting in. Now it did get quite a bit brighter in the room. We cuddled in bed and we read a few pages. We got up late again, Doug made a fire and he finally changed his watch to Yukon time, ten o'clock, only. We felt better, because now it wasn't that late that we got up. And for breakfast, fish, onions and fried potatoes. Also, I had made jello in the creek which was quite exciting to have it set in this cold water. I wrote two letters while Doug was moving lots of firewood. I hope he'll get really tired so he doesn't have ideas of big hikes over big mountains. In the cabin is a big tree mushroom or some kind of a growth that has something engraved. It says "I am monarch of all I survey. My right there is none to dispute." A quote that Doug had often mentioned before. On the door I see: "because I'd like some time it won't take long, wide open sky with lot's of room, and in the ..... of the night stand alone. I want to walk fiercely through the trees and catch the edges of a dream, see the shadows rising from stone, and then I want to be like the owl and wrap my wings around the moon and I will know all her names and I will chant the ones that bind me to you. I hear a song, the wind is full. Her voice is strong and rising still and lingers on in the winters sharp night. I try to see things through your eyes but I just get lost in the wisdom of a perfect dark sky and I will be like the owl and wrap my wings around the moon and I will learn all her names and I will chant, I will chant the ones that bind me to you. I'm not wise, nor am I blind. I stay because each time I climb above the river and stand very still the owl sings to leave me whole." Doug was tired. He'd also built a bridge. We made supper and went to bed early. He told many stories of bush fever, men and bears. So we tried the last possible trail which led us to a hunting camp. One with a cooktent, but it had burned down and we looked around in the remaining stuff. We found glass beads, somebody must have had moccasins, many nails, glass and plastic, We cleaned up a bit, followed an old riverbed and then went back. A bear had come across the bridge Doug had just built- Wow! Doug made himself a canoe seat and we packed because tomorrow we will go back. For me it is getting time because I'm starting to hear the churchbells from Staufen and the mosquitoes are starting to sound like sirens. We played cards and Doug kept winning the whole time and is just about catching up to me now, 590 to 600. Four ravens sat on the woodpile that Doug had put up and made a big noise. We got up early. The canoe was loaded, it was raining and we left. My fingers were cold but I was pretty relaxed though the wind made the boat rock on the water quite badly. I do like to swim but if you'd hear that the water can kill you within two minutes, hmm. In an hour and a half we made it to Big Salmon Lake and the little river that connected it to Sandy Lake. Doug looked at the motor, it seemed fine. We ate something and drove through Sandy Lake with a really big question mark with us wondering how we can get from this place to Quiet Lake. 'Cause already we knew that the current was pretty strong and the water very shallow. In the beginning it worked out quite well but the currents got worse. I paddled as hard as I could. Doug had the little three horsepower motor open wide and tried to paddle with the other hand. We could just barely stand with the current. It didn't seem to work that we could go ahead, but all of a sudden, like a miracle we did get around the next bend and it got better again. Then it got really shallow and we stopped at the shore to take a breath and look things over. Doug took up the motor to save the propeller and to check something and then we went on. All of a sudden there was a big branch along the shore. "Doug, a tree!", I called, but it was too late. Doug opened the motor and the little pin was broken that is supposed to break in this case. He quickly replaced it with one of his twelve spares. Then I was supposed to untie the boat and lead it into the current and Doug tried to go to the other shore. I tried but the current was so strong that the canoe didn't go to the other shore but turned around completely and took us back. But all of a sudden we stopped! Why? What happened? The current is still just as bad. I turned around and there I saw what happened. Doug had jumped out of the canoe and stood on the creekbottom. I sat in the canoe like a piece of baggage. But we made it. Doug pulled us, the baggage, the canoe and me 'til we got to the next curve. Then we stopped, looked the creek over some, to find out where it was deeper and Doug was looking for a deeper part in the creek and we tried the whole trick again. I did push into the middle and this time, it worked. I was supposed to look for big stones on the creek bottom and I didn't see any. Then Doug all of a sudden called, "It's okay now,". I looked up and there was Quiet Lake right in front of us. We'd made it!
July 13th was Sylvia's birthday. We got up early, had a German breakfast. We went to Whitehorse, after we had packed everything in, we are really packed! We needed a hose for the cool water that had broken. This is how the whole dilema started. We picked up a few more groceries, went to Andy's to add and unload some stuff. He did want to give us better directions for our fishing tour as well and at four o'clock, we finally left. We were all pushed together like the sardines until we got to the campground at Asiak Lake. The road was quite nice but then the nightmare started: Four hours of very rough dirt road with big rainholes, awful bridges ready to collapse and many big puddles, and other places, very dusty stretches and we never really knew where we were. Once in awhile a sign that we just about made it, but no it wasn't quite yet. ************** Syl sat across from me in the other bucket seat of the Landcruiser, her nose and mouth covered with a cloth of some kind to keep the choking white dust out of her lungs. She had a bit of a dark expression about her even though her face was covered. I grinned across and wished her "Happy Birthday!". Syl didn't seem to see much humour in the remark and returned what I almost took to be a glare. Doug. ********* We found abandoned Asiak. It was a terrible mess, and we just went on. Another really big hole and a strange noise. Doug stops. The canoe rack has broken. At the bottom of this hill a new place, many abandoned cabins, an eagle lifts up on the lake wind. 11:30: smoke rising from one chimney. Doug walks by says "hi". "Hi" comes back, but no more. Not very friendly, otherwise nobody was there. We're cold, tired and hungry, took off the canoe and look for a camping spot. We drove the truck up the hill again and the rack with the motor and the spare tire breaks off completely. I'm at my end. Doug ties the rack up with some wire and all four of us put up the tent together. Looked for a snack, find firewood, put the stove together, blow up the airmattresses and find room for the sleeping bags. That all worked out quite well. We eat some more and then fall down like four bugs. Next day both men went fishing and Syl and I talked a lot, ate chocolate, fed the gophers, and watched the eagle. It was somewhat uncomfortable in this ghost-town. The two came back with a very nice laketrout. After that we went for a walk through the town. It looked very, very sad how everything had become such a trash-place. Back in camp we wrapped the fish in tin-foil and had a very nice evening meal together. In the evening the two went back for another fishing excursion and that is when Herbie got his 6 pound laketrout. Just right for one meal. Syl and I had made a fire already and had crawled into our sleeping bags to keep warm. We did have trout for breakfast. I enjoyed our lazy afternoon. Doug slept. We tried to make chocolate pudding and played some cards. It rained. Both men repaired the canoe-rack, it wasn't as bad as I thought of course. It was very good and I really enjoy having those two here. Sometimes I just about feel that I'm the guest. In the evening we did go for a canoe-ride, the four of us. Doug caught an eleven pound pike on his fishing rod. We took a picture and let him go. Then we explored the little creek that led to the Sickelman? Lake. We saw beaver and muskrat, mirror-clear water and dead branches, but that was natural decay. Syl started getting cold and Doug was sorry he hadn't tried this little connecting river sooner in the day. We had a German breakfast, packed up and at around 10:45 we went on this crazy road back but this time it wasn't quite as bad. We did take a picture of the worst of the bridges. There, the truck wouldn't start. With a wire brush Herbie cleaned the battery connection and the motor started again and the trip went on. At Haines Junction, we gassed up, had some apple pie and icecream, picked up a few groceries, picked up the licenses to fish in the Park, and went on through a beautiful landscape, snow-covered mountains and green pine until we got to Dalton Post. We watched the many, many salmon that made their way up the fast current. Incredible! We ate porridge and tried a little fishing, but nothing, the heavy run of the night before was over. So we took it easy in our new camp. At six next morning, there were many, many fishermen all over the shores trying to catch salmon. We didn't see many salmon being pulled out and for us there was none all day. I made pancakes and coffee for the two cold men. And at around one o'clock we had mashed potatoes and onion sauce without salmon. So we went for a little drive to Blanchard Creek because the salmon fishing was also open there that day. The current was very fast and we saw a few salmon at least and Doug did touch a few salmon with his hook. While Herby had my fishing rod I found some garbage to pick up and I also found about twenty meters of little orange dots along in the grass. I wondered if they were salmon eggs. I took one in my hand and I squished it. It really did look like flourescent-coloured plastic but it did smell like fish. I went to Doug to tell him about my discovery. His eyes widened and he interrupted his casting. He said it did sound very much like bear but when he saw it he was happy that there were no bear tracks and no sign of fish remains, only sign of people. We did fish til about eleven at night. Syl and Herbie had already gone to bed. Doug was very disappointed that he wasn't able to serve a salmon breakfast for his German guests. We got up after Herbie and Doug made pancakes and again we had to load up the truck and this time it just didn't pack down well. I had hardly room enough to move back there! When we got back to Andy's we decided not to put up the tent but to sleep under the moose head. Then we drove to the hotsprings close to Whitehorse for a shower and a bath. Fresh clothes would have been great but that was not to be. We have to do laundry tomorrow for sure. We went to Whitehorse to a Greek restaurant, where we were able to sit on chairs and have a plate on the table, instead of the knees. Syl had salmon steak. I want to wait to eat a very-own caught salmon. We had a very nice last evening together, walked through the city, looked at the SS Klondike, which was a ferry that went from Whitehorse to Dawson around 1900 for the goldrush people. When we got back we talked to Andy for awhile. He is very happy now. Doug told me later that he had found a girlfriend. We got up at seven next morning and had breakfast with Andy and then left for the airport. It was very hard to let those two go. For me there is just too much attached: German language, home, friends who are with you and don't just kind of vegetate their lives away. But Doug hugged me tight and I knew where I belonged.