EXPLORING THE BIG SALMON - TOGETHER THIS TIME! Birgit Martens
So This was Whitehorse! Doug shook his head again. Much new stuff was being built. Everything was changing within these last three years since Doug had been there. We went to eat at MacDonald's. I enjoyed being back in a city, seeing people, very interesting people, some right out of the bush with big beards and hats and leather jackets-hippies, and also very normal city people. We went to visit Paul Rogan, really different people! Very fast and talkative, politically interested and very critical of the government and social issues, also very funny. He's from France and lives with his girlfriend. They both have children out of first marriages. They didn't have much time but the half-hour with peppermint tea was very nice. They invited us to come eat bear with them one other night. At Fish Lake I got to know Ian and Sylvia. They have a horseranch there. We drank tea in a Very small little place full of little niknaks. I did feel more comfortable here, maybe because I'm getting used to living in small quarters. We talked and talked and talked for a long time but finally we left to put up our tent. It was dark but on the horizon the sun did want to come up again. We put up the tent, kinda Mickey Mouse, and slept well.
Doug and I went for a picnic at the Yukon River, then we went to Andy's. Doug worked on the motor, Andy painted some fish and I packed things back and forth again.
Again we packed everything together for a canoe trip! It was a very hot day. We bought all the groceries for the ten days. Doug repaired his rifle at Paul's place and together they went to get an assistant fisherman's license which cost him a dollar! Now we're allowed to get salmon out of the Yukon River with a net! Wrote a few postcards and put them in the mailbox and then let's get out of the city. Well, then in all this hectic heat we had to follow a very slow bus. Doug is usually a very defensive driver, but this time it got him and he did pass the bus at a stop sign. We were already on the road about a kilometer when we noticed the police car right beside us. He must have followed us the whole way. Because our rearview mirror wasn't attached we didn't see him! Hm! Doug thought he was stopping us because of our broken taillight that we lost at Asiak Lake when the canoe rack broke but No!, it was because of our incorrect passing. But now he found out that we didn't have a rearview mirror. He was pretty mad and said he'd have to pull us off the road if we didn't immediately do something about our rearview mirror. We did have the mirror but the piece to connect it wasn't there. Doug had ordered it but the wrong piece had come. There was wire, he attached the mirror at the next gas station and we tried to clean the dirty plastic windows. We were just very happy that we didn't get a ticket from this nice policeman. But we didn't blame him, we also shook our heads. We Are crazy! We did get to Johnson's Crossing, bought a drink and phoned Doug's Mom and Dad and then we went again to Quiet Lake. But this time I wasn't scared at all. It looked very familiar. I was looking forward to this adventure. At the end of Quiet Lake we met a few Indians that were on their way to their hunting camp. They were there with lots of horse- saddles and they were waiting for more luggage and more and more people arrived. We drank some coffee with them and we sang. It was very interesting. We got to learn a few Indian words as well. I'm sorry I forgot them already but the tribe they were from was called Tlingit. At eleven o'clock at night we did start our journey to the end of the lake where we were happy to find an open cabin. We ate a German meal and enjoyed the first night alone in awhile. We wanted to get up very early but again, didn't make it. Doug went out at nine to make a fire and came in really quickly. There's a boat, let's go! In a real hectic we packed all our stuff together, jam, moccasins, empty yogurt containers, everything quickly into the canoe and by the time the boat came we had everything in the canoe. We stood there groggy, hungry and unwashed and the guys who also belonged to the hunting camp kind of talked funny like they wanted something, I dunno.. But we canoed on. We looked for a nice place along Sandy Lake. The mosquitoes were not bad there at all. We washed our hair, packed everything together right, made some eggs and bacon, toast and coffee and it all felt a lot better already. And again on the Big Salmon Lake we again tried to find the man with the crow feather. We did find him on the island. We had coffee and cookies with him and learned a lot of new things about this place. Robert Dunlop was a retired director of a theatre group and he liked to spend the summers on this isolated island. He was very funny, I hope we meet him again. Then we went to the log cabin we had stayed at for a week. It just about felt like coming home. The man with the crow-feather came in for a few minutes as well. We made some corn chowder, it was a great day. Next day after breakfast, we cleaned up the cabin and paddled on down the river. I was a little scared. The first three or four loops were really quite neat, it reminded me of a roller coaster, they were somewhat fast but very friendly. Doug always told me: "Paddle on the right. Paddle on the left." But All of a sudden he yells: "Back-paddle!" Then he jumped into the water and pulled us to shore. I was quite shocked. I thought it was more of a practise thing than a real emergency but when we examined the whole thing there was a big tree hanging across the whole river. So Doug scratched his head and tried to find away to get past it. Then we just pulled the canoe past the tree on the inside curve and we made it. Then, just a little farther, the same thing happened. We could always just go a few meters, go back to the shore, look things over and think. Five times, five big ones and then we came to a spot where there was a total wrecked canoe. We did make a fire there to dry off our pants. We did think about turning around. Doug said he really couldn't forgive himself if anything would happen to me. He did do this tour two times before so why should it go wrong this time? I didn't really want to turn around. We went on. One time we unpacked the whole canoe. One time we guided it on the painter. Then one last, real scarey part went down like a slide. We had to pull our heads in because there were branches over top, there was a few scratches on the canoe, but then we got to a slower, wider river. Doug thought the worst must be over and I hoped he didn't forget anything and also nothing new would have gotten placed there. We did make a very nice little camp, with mosquitoes, barbequed some weiners and enjoyed watching the river. We did see moose tracks and we also a mother moose with calf. Friday, July 24th: Happy Birthday, Doug. I did get up before Doug which I really don't like to do and seldom do because I never know what I will find in front of the tent. I started the fire, made two big pancakes, put jam in between them and decorated them with little orange segments. It just about looked like a cake. I put the whole thing on our cooler, decorated it with flowers, leaves, candles, little presents and cake and sang the birthday child out of bed. It was a beautiful morning. At around eleven o'clock we had everything packed up and pushed off the shore, it rained. My runners were still soaked from yesterday and all around I was pretty cold. After awhile we did stop and I looked for my jogging pants and an extra sweater which both were somewhat damp. The mosquitoes weren't worried about any of this at all. All they had in mind was their thirst for blood. We wound along the river like a big snake. I would like to know how many kilometers this all is if you would just fly over it. Ten miles what we had to do, not very much but it was very nice. Doug said the mountainous part was the nicest one. We did see three moose on this cool, wet day and we were really in no rush. At around four o'clock we stopped at sheep creek, the sun came out a bit very surprisingly, we built the tent, made some supper, build a fire and the whole bit. It all doesn't take only five minutes. We like to take time and I have to say when it gets kind of evening-looking I'd like to have our home set up already. I did wash my hair even and I dried my clothes and when everything was finished it did start to rain but this time for real, so we went into the tent, drank half a bottle of wine out of yogurt cups to celebrate the occasion. I made some popcorn. In Canada you salt popcorn and that suits the wine very well. When the rain was not as bad, Doug put on his rubber suit and rubber boots and took his goldpan and tried a little. I brushed my teeth and disappeared into our sleeping bag. I embroidered a little on a picture for Verna and then went to sleep. Everything seemed cold and wet and somehow I could tell a cold coming on. When Doug came back without gold I got all kinds of ... So Doug looked after my cold and thanked me for a nice birthday. Next day, Doug warmed some water and made breakfast and thought maybe we should set out a day so I could look after this cold and just not even let it get really bad. This was a really good idea. That means that we don't have to clean everything up and look for a new camp. The sun came up very hot. I did wash a few clothes, washed up the canoe and wrote diary. The mosquitoes are not bad in the heat but that also when it hatches a lot of horseflies instead. A land of extremes. About two in the afternoon Doug decided to go and look for a lake he could see on the map. He took the axe and left me with the loaded gun. Doug's need for exploration doesn't have many borders. Neither Doug nor I have seen a bear so far. Doug did find that lake and he even swam in it. That is really incredible because these mountain lakes and rivers are so very cold. The Tuesday before we had left we had heard of a guy who had been pinned under a log in a creek when he took the Wheaton Creek. They were able to rescue him just in time before he died of hypothermia, and that in July! The lake without name, was warm. Doug suspected hotsprings or something like that. I would like to see that lake in winter. We made supper and I was a little disappointed that I didn't go along in spite of my cold. But after my first adventure of hiking in the Yukon I was pretty sceptical. We did go hiking in the evening along the river and looked at the cabin across the creek. It didn't have a roof but Doug thought in about three days this log cabin could be repaired so it would be useable. That would be something! The log cabin belongs to a Mr. Fox who is an Indian who are allowed to build a cabin anywhere. Besides his family they were trappers along this river. The log cabin at the end of Quiet Lake, and the one at Big Salmon Lake and also this one here would all be his. We had also found out that Austrians not Germans, that lived in that cabin for a year were allowed to stay there for a year for free because they were fixing up that log cabin. That might be an idea for this one as well. Then I heard a noise in the bush. What it a moose? Or maybe a bear? Doug took his camera right away, followed the noise and I stayed behind him. We found a very colourful chicken. Doug followed it and took a few pictures. I'm very much looking forward to them. Back at the tent I made sandwiches for the next day and packed everything that I could already pack, cause tomorrow we do really want to start early! At nine o'clock we pushed off. That is not bad for us especially if you consider it takes an hour for us to fold the tent, pack the bags and load it all into the canoe and fasten everything. But our late mornings are really not that bad either because this morning the tent was still full of dew and damp. Today the current was a little faster than Friday and I think we have also figured out a little better how to handle the canoe. We always have to check for stones that are sticking out or close to the surface, sweepers, hidden roots, shallow water. We had dinner at moose creek, boiled eggs, salami and pepper. We still have really great food all the time but we're not quite satisfied. EXPLORING THE BIG SALMON - TOGETHER THIS TIME! Birgit Martens
So This was Whitehorse! Doug shook his head again. Much new stuff was being built. Everything was changing within these last three years since Doug had been there. We went to eaEXPLORING THE BIG SALMON - TOGETHER THIS TIME! Birgit Martens
So This was Whitehorse! Doug shook his head again. Much new stuff was being built. Everything was changing within these last three years since Doug had been there. We went to eacould see them getting ready to jump up. Could see them look at the funny hook, but they were just not ready for it or else they knew what it was. I think they're smarter than we think. So on we went. These were the hot days so for every bend we went we looked and checked out first the river for anything difficult, then the shore for anything. Often we would see a duck mother with little ones trying to go around the corner. She usually saw us first and with lots of noise and flapping of wings she tried to hide her young. Around the next bend, of course we followed her, the water takes us in the same direction, and all of a sudden there is nothing to see and nothing to hear and the ducks have disappeared. But when you look close you could see in the roots along the shore, how the long row of little ducks, quietly paddle against the current. That is pretty smart. And now around the next bend in this very far away place we see an orange tarp with two boats. Four people are building a little hut. The lady says hi but other than that we are not being acknowledged. They must have just arrived. On the map we could see that there is a little lake close to the river so we were suspecting that they might have been flown into this place. It was a strange meeting. We pulled up our shoulders and of course, just went on. Around the next bend all of a sudden we could see how the pine trees were swaying really strongly just along the shore. This was accompanied by a loud noise. The water splashed up (as the whirlwind crossed the river) and we tried to get to shore as quickly as possible. It turned out okay to explore this little place. It seemed to be another camp of this Mr. Fox. But there was no cabin. There was a bench and a well-built fireplace. There was a skeleton of a canoe that looked very much like it was built by Indians. The skeleton was probably covered with bark or leather. We also found a strange-looking rectangle out of branches in two trees. It was nailed on. My first thought: It sure looks like you could attach a poster, "MacDonalds welcomes you to Big Salmon River." My second thought was maybe to dry a bear skin. We did find lots of strawberries, mosquitoes and ants. The wind was gone. We saw the trees on the other side of the river move. It must have been a mini tornado or something. We went back into the water and paddled on to the next sandy beach. We didn't put up our tent. We did make a lean-to against wind and rain. We jumped into the ice cold water to refresh ourselves. We had rice and cheese and sand for supper and slept deep and good. We woke up to very hot weather. We did make a fire anyway, to make coffee. We poured the coffee into our thermos and tried to escape the heat but even on the water it wasn't much better. It just was a hot day and it was slow water. We both were a little irritated, yet the area we travelled through was beautiful. The landscape changed all the time. Doug did want to get to a certain spot where his map showed that a glacier had ended there. I already just about had a heatstroke when we finally got there. We saw one of the lakes in which the ice must have flown and it was very beautiful. And we found three beds, the grass pushed together. Doug said that is an animal bed. He also thought from the size he could tell that it was too big for deer but for moose it was too small. It probably was caribou- very interesting! First we sat in the shade for awhile and then we took a big moose highway along the mountain slope to one of the lakes. It was a beautiful view, there was hardly any mosquitoes, nice walking, just beautiful. This lake to the right had a kind of a U-shaped appearance and at the end it looked very swampy and we thought if we were here in the evening it could well have lots of moose in there. On the way back I saw a chicken. Doug thought, no, it's probably a squirrel, but since when do squirrels fly? Doug thought of a good idea. It sounded like a good idea. To distract the chicken, I was supposed to follow the path. When I was far enough away I set down the goldpan very quickly so I could hold shut my ears. Cause when Doug's big bear-killer booms, it's very loud and it must not have been easy to hit such a small chicken with such a big bullet so there would still be some meat left. But it worked! And here we were sitting. Doug took the eatable parts of the chicken out. Doug looked at me but I didn't make a face. He thought it was probably time to get me back into civilization if this didn't matter to me anymore. We did put the meat on a piece of bark and into the goldpan and passed a beautiful place with lots of strawberries. It looked just about like a planted field. They were big and full, well, relatively big for the wild strawberries. We filled the rest of the goldpan with the strawberries and were looking forward to a very delicious supper. We got back to the canoe. I washed the meat and put it in a bag and hid it in our cooler. I guess it was against the law to shoot a chicken because the season only starts on the first of August and this was the 27th of July. Doug had already decided where we were going to camp. It was a place where he had camped eight years ago where a grizzly had signed where his territory was. He scratches a piece of bark out of the tree at about two meters of height. And that was another hour away. I was thankful that the water was somewhat faster at this point. And there again, the task of putting up the tent, get out the bag with the clothes, the cooler, the bag with all the tin cans, the box with the dishes, the paddles, the camera bag, the sleeping bag. We did it all already like in a dream. Doug got some wood, I made a fire and soon the corn, some potatoes and the meat were cooking. I washed the strawberries and mixed up some dried skim milk. What a delicious meal. By now it was eleven at night and we had a real campfire. Tonight it was actually dark. We had coffee and talked a lot. Everything was just fine. Slept long because today we have no other plans than just to enjoy this area. I'm writing the diary. Doug's looking for gold. He's also trying to get the salmon. I can hardly believe it that I the scared German, really like it here. Towards evening we had wanted to go for a little hike but after three hot days there was a big thunderstorm which we took as an excuse to go to bed early. Yes, life is very, very different here in the wilderness. Money, time, electricity are such strange words- unecessary. Eating, having a place to dry your hat, and being alert all the time are important in the civilization as well, only now I can tell how really important it is. I can tell how much Doug lives here, especially when I compare this with the way he can be in town and how uptight he can be there. I can see how he just blossoms here with just the thought of a moose around the next bend in the swamp that he has to wait for. I'm really impressed with this love, this urge to be one with nature and its inhabitants but it also scares me a little because it isn't quite the same as I can follow it. I do like it here, it's very fascinating, how death and life are so close together everywhere, all the time. Dead trees, broken and killed by water and right beside it a new little pine tree. Life is so easy here. But actually it is easy. It's just people who make it complicated. But I cannot put civilization away. I do like cities to a degree and I especially like people. We had a good talk about this, very honest and important. And we do want to let each other grow in either way and get to know each other more all the time. I got up at five o'clock! Who would have ever thought that? At first I looked around everywhere to see if there was any sign of bear who was looking for food, but I quickly tried not to think about it anymore. Then I made a fire, it wasn't very easy because it had rained so much the night before, got breakfast ready, woke Doug and together we packed up the canoe. We were ready at seven o'clock to take off and it started to rain very hard. We put on our rainsuits and started out. It was good that we got going then because we were able to kind of paddle out of that weather and I think if it would have gone on like this for long the canoe would have become a bathtub. The water was pretty fast here as we were leaving the mountains. We were quiet so we could see some animals because the weather seemed right for that. We saw some duck families and some squirrels and some whiskey jacks. One time we heard some noises in the bush and some stomping away. The area became more hilly and the water slower. The cloudiness became worse and Doug couldn't resist any longer and started the motor. Then around 11:30 we made it all the way to South Big Salmon. It was cold and very moist. We were very wet and very cold. We tried to make a fire. The six Swiss canoes that we had been following, they must have been three days ahead of us. That's what we could tell from the diary at the Big Salmon Lake. They had left some wood under a bush- how nice of them! We made a vegetable soup out of a tin. I usually don't like it but I had never liked it as much as I did that day. It got a little lighter and we went on always looking for stones. Sometimes the river would split. Do you take the right or the left or the middle. It was very tiring in time, but everything went good so far and the water was quite easy to travel on til now. Around six o'clock we got to the North Big Salmon. We were already quite tired. The water that came here out of this creek was black and it was mosquito city and a grizzly had made marks on the tree. The Swiss people has also been here. Now I guess we've done as much as they've done in two days. We were pretty tired and tried to decide if we should go the last thirty miles to the Yukon River or stay here. We decided to open a can of beans, eat it cold and ate a buttered bread and go on. The first thing that we met were very fast rapids with lots of stones sticking out. One of them we actually drove right on and we had a hard time to balance the canoe across it. Afterwards, Doug remembered that spot but we'd hoped for thirty miles of slow water as it had been before, not such nervous dangerous, fast water, especially when you are half asleep. After four of those kind of spots we stopped. Doug was very frustrated, tired and finished. "Why do I have such a bad memory? It would be better I had none. Then I wouldn't always try to depend on it!" I gave him a grape sugar. I tried to encourage him because for some strange reason I kind of enjoyed this. Doug couldn't believe my positive attitude. We were thinking of stopping but we thought we'll just try around another bend and then we'll see and then it actually started getting a little better. Doug started the motor but the water here was pretty because of the North Big Salmon and I always had to check the depth of the water with the paddle. Around 9:30 our gas ration was out. We started to paddle. The landscape was wide and open. There was some wind. At one spot it was very interesting. There were small little hills right beside each other like little marshmallow heads. At the last one the river wound itself around like a round swimming pool. From here it's half an hour to the Big Salmon village in the Yukon Valley. And here we are in this little ghost-town. It used to be important. People used to live here when the steamship was going from Whitehorse to Dawson all the time. Today, there were two people there, who were Germans, who had been on a tour from the Nisutlin River to the Teslin Lake to the Teslin River and along the Yukon River now. I didn't tell them that I was German and I don't think I will. I can hardly believe how many Europeans are on the rivers of Canada! Here we were standing, dog-tired, should we put up our tent. We looked at some of the old log cabins. Some of them had fallen roofs and beams, one had sunk into the dirt and sat there crooked. One must have been a store at one time and it had many shelves. One of the shelves was full of bottles, wine, beer, whiskey and scotch. I guess anyone that comes by adds another bottle. The roof, floors were quite okay. There even was a bed. On the wall someone had signed, "Helmut Kohln - Ich war auch da." Let's sleep here said Doug. I couldn't close my mouth until I could get used to this thought. Doug had already unloaded the canoe and made a fire. There we sat on the bed on our sleeping bag and drank cold coffee out of the thermos. There, something came running into the door. I couldn't say we had company from a mouse, no, we were the visitors. Doug had no problem accepting that and he behaved like a guest and the mouse behaved like she owned this place. The gun case, that was leaning against the bed beside me the little mouse took a leap and used it as stairs to get into our bed. All I could do was quickly take the case and shake her off. While this mouse ran into a corner another climbed onto the bottle- shelf. I am not going to take my clothes off here. I decided to crawl into the sleeping bag and just forget- sleep. I had just dozed off when Doug screamed and scared a mouse off my pillow. That was it for my sleep. I kept listening for them until five in the morning. Mice moved everywhere. They were active all around the bottle-shelf, in the kitchen cupboards, in our pots, scratching around. I noticed one mouse along the floor trying to get to the door. It went back so I opened the door. I thought maybe she wants out. I quickly got my feet back into the sleeping bag but she didn't go out. Another one came in. The sun came up and so did I. I made a fire outside, dried our clothes, wrote diary and thought about our whole trip. A hundred miles we did yesterday. That was absolutely crazy and today we want to do another seventy to get from along the Yukon River all the way to Carmacks. Next morning Doug got up at about 8:30. It was a nice sunny day. We took it easy a little and made some pancakes for breakfast, and started out at about eleven. The Yukon River is very wide and relatively fast. The wind is very bad though. We were so tired and the sun burned on our brains. We just stopped for a short tea break at the Little Salmon and went on. I'm sure I have a sunstroke or something cause somewhere the gas had been out a long time and we were already hoping after every bend to find Carmacks. I just finally lost it. I started to get silly. I could only laugh and it was getting crazy. We asked someone on the shore how far it was to Carmacks and in very broken English he said, "Eight to ten miles". No! We had thought it would be very close. I'm sure this man was a German. About ten in the evening, with wind against us, we got there. The campground was full and the few little spaces in the forest were full of glass splinters. And now after all this paddling and being over-tired, we have to clean up this mess, set up our tent, make a fire, the whole thing. Ah, what would I do without Doug? I slept like a stone. 300 kilometers with the canoe, 55 hours on the water,