I am sitting here, by the very bright, very hot (my Muck boots are burning!) campfire, back in my camp (of course!) and I am not only tickled, I am content on the trail again, in Alaska.
I can hear my people (crew and guests) in the cook-cabin at dinner, hootin’, laughing and telling stories if the ride we just made.
The ride here, from home in Chisana, took us just under five hours. The river has finally gone down to normal after holding at flood stage for over two months and crossing it was almost a breeze.
Thunder and I found a nasty hole of quicksand, but we only went in deep enough to get wet to the tops of my thighs. My butt didn’t even get wet this time! (Happy day!)
(You just know you are going to have fun with clients that can come up with a plan for what they’ll do when they loose their guide to the river, as fast as this group did!)
Crossing the Chisana River, any Alaskan River, is no joke. Waters that rarely hit temperatures above 40*F and has a sucking-mud, sand and quicksand bottom is not my idea of a “walk in the Park.” But, it is part of what we do.
Safety is the bottom line. Always, of course, but on the river it is an enormous responsibility.
On the trail again, in Alaska.
Like most of the places I have shared with you as best I can, with a vocabulary that comes up woefully short, when you hit the river, breaking out of the trees, it is a completely different landscape.
Rarely, if ever in my time (over 20 years) with Pioneer Outfitters, has the Chisana River and the crossing, been more beautiful.
Massive rain storms were blowing around us, never coming too close, only near enough to create some of Nature’s greatest gifts to us.
As inspiring and photo-worthy as the river was, topping the steep bank on the other side of the river brought the same satisfied and relieved smile as it does each time the crossing is safely finished. (At least till next time!)
We passed through the familiar forests and meadows of Euker Mountain, stopping here and there for more pictures to be shared with family and friends at home. We took our time, simply enjoying where we were, what we were doing and each other.
As we crossed the base of Euker, we usually stop, take a break, stretch our legs and have our lunch at what we call “the old Indian Cabin.”
Before the Last Historic Gold Rush forever changed Chisana, the original settlers were the Athabaskin Indians. The old “Indian Cabin” is all that remains now.
The cabin still stands, in a way that speaks of how Nature reclaims what is hers, and a few of the dog houses of the dog teams that were a way of life. The old meat cache is still there and a ways away, on a little hill, one of the Indian Grave-sites (Spirit Houses) remains.
The ravages of time and the flooding of the creeks have taken their toll. Soon, Nature will have completely erased what once was home to many people living their lives in this land of no mercy.
Checking the packhorses and cinches on everyone’s horses and hitting the trail again, we shortly came out of the trees onto Cross Creek and into a strong, cold wind.
The sun had dropped low behind the mountains and the horses slowed, not liking the wind nor the rocky walk up the creek to our camp.
Cold and sore, the guests’s laughter and the rise and fall of conversations still reached me as Thunder stepped out. He knew the trail as well as I and knew that to be done, he had to get us there.
As we rode closer to our camp, the glowing trees told us that my trainee had a fabulous bonfire lit and was in camp waiting for us.
We arrived, unloaded the packhorses and started sorting gear into the proper places and tents as dinner, also readied for our late arrival by my Guide Trainee, simmered on the stove. The sounds of laughter, shouts back and forth to each other in the dark and horse-bells filled the night.
It is always a gift to be surrounded by happiness and laughter. It is even more so (for me) when that happiness comes from sharing parts of Chisana with someone who has never experienced it before.
Tomorrow, we go hunting. Today, was a gift I will always treasure.