Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shooting the Breeze at Gelvin's Cabin on the Charley River

As the summer seemed to be closing in on a very uneventful note (as far as travels go), something miraculous happened and I was invited on two (and potentially three) trips non-work related basically within a week to new places. And you know that I could not say no to any of them.I got to go out to Yukon-Charley NP for a week out seriously in the middle of nowhere for 8 days. I stayed at/near Gelvin's cabin working as Ben's assistant/bear guard (ha!). We were supposed to see a bunch of hunters, because last year at this time there were 40 people who flew into there.. but NO ONE and I mean, NO ONE flew in until the 8th day, the day I was leaving. So much for seeing people. But because there was literally 8 days of free time (other than cutting wood), I got a ton of relax time which was apparently very much needed, as I went from totally unmotivated before the trip to totally re-motivated and feeling revitalized after. It was time to read a couple of books and just gather thoughts and sleep and rest an extensive amount. I think that personal time is something that gets neglected for a lot of people...... or maybe it's just me, I don't know. But being forced to stay in a general area and only having access via foot through tussocks galore and through big trees may have been just what I needed after a slightly unplanned summer in AK.

I shot my first living animal.. a grouse that we cooked up for dinner. Something about cooking food that you yourself caught was satisfying. No processing.. just clean, gut out, and cook. I made Ben do all the dirty work though. Shooting I can do (thanks to growing up with rubber band guns?), but this time I decided to let someone else do the not-so-fun part.
If you click on the map you can see where we were at Gelvin's. We hiked up to the rapids one night and up to the old B-24 plane crash site another day.And this is the airstrip looking north.. what an airstrip huh?We saw probably 20 or so caribou during the week.. these two were outside the cabin window.Boredom and a need to feel useful prompted me to build this stand for sawing wood.All the days mesh together but I think on day 4 we decided to hike over to some rapids downstream. The hiking was not easy.. it was very rare to have solid ground. It was mostly tussock walking.Looking north down on the Charley River.
Ben suggested skirting the river for the hike back thinking it would be easier. It wasn't! The tussocks were easier to walk on than this sketchy talus.. at least for me. I guess it's debatable depending who you are.OROk, the tussocks were not always THIS bad. If they were, I might take the talus. ;)

After inspecting the sand for bear prints and only finding caribou and wolf prints, I decided to set up the tent alongside the river.
A couple of days later we hiked up to a crash site from winter solstice 1944 of a B-24 where 5 men died and one survived. Going up to the B-24 and seeing shards of airplane pieces scattered among the tundra was a humbling experience. Here is a news article about the airplane crash. Here is also a much easier to read magazine article about the crash. The man who survived wandered for 86 days in the wilderness, stopping at trappers' cabins along the way until he got to safety. What is more amazing is that the man who survived got out of the plane in -60 degree temperatures, and was not even wearing a pair of gloves or mittens.
I felt a little intrusive taking a picture with the airplane but did anyway figuring I might not make it back to this piece of history.5 small flags honor those who died in the crash.40 degree rain and wind helped to make a decision to go back to the cabin after the airplane visit rather than continuing on up the mountain.

Back to the toilet...
Back to the water...And back to flawless land...Here is a short clip of some caribou trying to figure out what we were. It felt like we were in the middle of 15 of them.
video
If you would like to experience the landing and taking off of a super cub, here's your chance!
video

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