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"The Quiet shared 4
Again we find ourselves with snow and a crisp fresh morning outside. The night has brought on a fresh layer of hoer frost that has attached itself to everything. It almost appears as though we have entered into another world.
There is a sense of peace in the air this morning with the environment I find here this morning. It reminds me of years past in the far north. Gather around and take some rest and for those who are heavily burdened take all the time needed. My home is yours, so feel free to put your feet up and just be a part of this world.
This is chapter four in the first book in my seven book series called "Quiet Reflections" of the time I spent in the north here in Canada.
Chapter Four "The Quiet"
This is to be a four-day trip. I advised work not to expect me. Today is Saturday so that will put me home next Wednesday.
At work, they are used to me taking off like this. We have an agreement that works well for both of us. They have also become my safety net. If I am not back to work on time, I have one day’s grace before they place a distress call. They have the general co-ordinates of where I can be found. Thus I can slip in an extra day should I feel the need to stay longer.
It’s a blessing to have a boss that is himself an avid outdoorsman, although his idea of roughing it is very different from mine. His comforts go far beyond a tent or simply sleeping outside on the ground. Phil had his log cabin built by a professional, and it is a place to behold, overlooking Marsh Lake. He and his wife spend weekends there simply to get away. Their dinner parties for twenty are not uncommon.
Now we are loaded again. The morning fire has been well doused and we are ready for another day of adventure. One push of the canoe and we are floating in peace and quiet. I wonder how this day will unfold.
Tannis has taken her post at the helm again and is paying close attention to what lies ahead. She loves riding in the canoe. A few years ago I built a platform with four inches of foam and covered it in canvas just for her comfort.
With a few strokes of the paddle we quietly follow the lake’s edge. The slight discoloration of the water has started to dissipate as the silt starts to settle. We will do some fishing a bit later.
The basin we were fishing in yesterday is behind us, and we are into a marshy bottom now. It is somewhere between two to four feet deep at times and narrows in width to as little as ten feet in some places. It remains this way for about a mile, where there is a huge beaver dam with a drop of about fifteen feet. That means a portage over some rather rough area, but I have created a well-worn path with crudely fashioned steps because I have done this again and again.
I have only been as far as the fifth lake. According to the topographical map there should be 7 in total. Topographical maps have been developed over the years from satellite imagery and are very detailed as to elevation, terrain, water bodies, etc. They are expensive, but of great value and serve well for those who venture deep into the wilderness.
Again, I think of those who have come before me. They had nothing in comparison to what I carry. The early miners, settlers and explores were the real heroes. My modern equipment makes life much easier, and I am truly spoiled in comparison to what they must have been faced with.
I marvel each time as I come to this place, thinking of how many generations of animals have lived here undisturbed by man.
Beaver are ingenious builders and each year they repair and build a bit higher. Looking at this dam it is obvious they have built at this site for many years. Beaver dams are very similar to dams that men build. They are wide at the bottom and each layer is built back a bit farther than the last, and each layer is reinforced as they go. This one is huge. I guess it is about 20 feet wide at the bottom. I cannot help but wonder when the beavers are going to stop building. The dam is already an engineering feat in itself. The beavers passed their architectural knowledge down from one generation to the other.
As I approach, a resounding smack of a beaver tail on the surface of the water warns all of nature there is danger in the area.
Tannis is rudely awakened out of her morning sunshine slumber and joins in the clamber that breaks the quiet serenity of the valley. I sit quietly and count to 182. A beaver has been underwater for three minutes. It’s amazing these little creatures have this ability. Once up she circles, watching to see what my next move will be.
I just sit.
Quietly she returns to her duties, keeping an ever-vigilant eye on me. I believe she sees the noisy animal that rides at the helm as more of a threat. After a few minutes she climbs onto the bank. On land a beaver is somewhat out of its element. They are clumsy and slow but can certainly maneuver when threatened.
‘Kits,’ as they are called, are baby beaver that are born with little fear. Their parents teach them this within the first few months. Once I came upon a family of three that had lost their mother. I was able to reach out and pick them up and handle them. They are very cuddly and affectionate.
Beaver moms are very interesting to watch, as they are so loving and caring. Without a doubt in my mind, I could tell this little trio had been orphaned, as beaver moms are very protective. I was only alerted to them by their cries that I heard coming from the marsh that I was crossing.
After assessing their plight, I placed all three into my backpack and carried them out that way. Tannis simply accepted the fact they needed help and never bothered them. She approved with a simple lick on each as I picked them up.
I took them to the His Hand Animal Refuge, just a bit north of Whitehorse. The shelter was reluctant to take them because beaver require very special attention, water, and fresh cut poplar threes. The greatest fear in attempting to raise kits is introducing them back into the wild.
Eventually, the shelter took them in. After a few months, they were released into the MacLean Lake area. I guess I will never know the fate of those little fellows. I just trust they all survived.
On this morning, I watch the sentinel beaver that breaks the morning quiet. I cannot help but notice her condition. Her coat is exceptional— dark brown and very shiny. Beaver constantly groom themselves with oil produced by two glands that are located between their back legs.
Kits are unable to produce this oil until they are about six months old. So mother is busy not only looking after herself, but looking after her young as well. It’s a special way that nature teaches us about a mother’s love.
Just under the tail the beaver has what are called Castor Glands. They produce a yellowish orange substance called Castoreum. It is very pungent smelling and it is used to mark their territory. Once you have come in contact with it, you will be well aware of it for several hours.
Of course Tannis seems attracted to it and it is hard to get rid of the smell, so more and more baths are in order. Combine all the other smells that she seems to pick up, bring them into the small tent, and the odor becomes overpowering.
For the next two hours it is hard work getting the canoe unloaded. I have to empty it so I can carry it down the side of the dam. I have to make several trips to pack everything and reload the canoe again, but what lay ahead was worth all the effort.
I like to think that these five lakes are all part of ‘Lil Yukon,’ so in my journals I have referred to them as LY1, LY2, etc.
We are now on LY3. It is majestic with towering spruce and pine. Willows have all but taken over the shoreline so most of that is gone. It is about a mile and half long and it is near impossible to access the shore because of the undergrowth.
I have only found one spot that has a clearing suitable for a tent. Most of it is far too closed in for a tent and campsite but the fishing here is exceptional. There are small but very tasty brook trout, which grow only to about sixteen inches long. They are real scrappers and very hard to catch. But I intend to get two for lunch today but I will wait until I get to the far end of the lake because I do like them fresh.
The widest part of LY3 is no more than 200 yards wide and 15 feet deep in most areas. It is a few miles long going from narrow to wide again many times. The water here is very dark, maybe caused by the beaver dam or possibly the high mineral content and decaying foliage.
The far end has some interesting rock formations. They are very black, containing great amounts of iron pyrite and other types of minerals. One particular rock is interesting because on its surface there is an almost perfect fossil of a fern-like leaf. What catches my eye is that there are no fern-like plants in the area.
While I was passing through here once, I came upon a Cougar. He was maybe a misfit like me looking for a place to call home. He most likely moved on, as it is somewhat inhabitable here. In essence, it’s unfit for man or beast, except for the fish, which reminds me that it is close to lunchtime.The day has passed quickly again, as it is now close to high noon and the sun is high and very hot.
This section of the lake is terrible for mosquitoes and could likely carry a man away if it weren’t for repellent. Musk Oil is the only repellent that works in these parts because it contains 93% deet, which the Government is now talking about banning. There is some concern of a cancer causing agents in Deet. I remind myself to pick up a supply before that happens. No man or beast wants to be out here without it! Even Tannis needs a dab or two. I apply it between her usual growls of displeasure, as she likes her own stinks.
A few casts of the fishing line and we have lunch. It’s that simple and a reminder that one will always be provided for in this country. No matter where you look there is food of one kind or another. One needs to keep in mind there are many plants which can result in severe illness so unless you are experienced you do need to be very careful.
I find the place that has allowed a small clearing and start a small fire. In a few minutes it will be ready for the frying pan with a generous helping of butter. I see the Hibiscus is nearly ready. It is an herbal tea that nature provides by the truckload if you are willing to pick the stuff. It is a staple of the moose diet—an extremely hardy plant that grows almost anywhere. Here at the far end of the lake there is a clump that I always take from. The leaves in this area are always some of the first that are ready. So a few choice leaves later we have lunch and the afternoon tea. All supplied by nature which is a supermarket in itself.
After lunch we have another portage. The unloading and reloading will happen once again, as the lake narrows to a trickle. I laugh at myself as I think of the word I have just used “We” need to portage?
A few months ago I had a brilliant idea that Tannis should pack her own food. A friend’s wife came up with a design for a ‘Doggie Pack’ as she called it and Tannis became the prototype tester. It was somewhat cumbersome but after she got used to it, it became a game to get it on her. She is now good for carrying four cans of her favorite: ‘Dr. Ballard’s Dog Food. At first she hated to carry it, so I placed a few pieces of moose jerky into the pouches on either side of her. With a few thousand ‘Good Girl’s and the treat that came from those ‘things’ on her back, she quickly caught on. She has accepted the task and reminds me she requires a reward each time the packs are placed on her back, as well as each time they are removed. It’s a hard life this dog has! But it saves me from carrying her food. That stuff is heavy in a pack.
There are ravens in this area that are great cleaners and remove all signs that attract unwanted guests. It takes little time for word to get out there has been a fish cleaned here and it is a free lunch for a few today besides us. With lunch over and a liberal dosing of water on the fire we are off again to LY4 and what lay ahead.
We spend the rest of the day here on LY3 we will be making camp again tonight. I think we will stay here tonight and make due with the small clearing we had lunch in. For the remainder of the day we are just here to enjoy and watch nature unfold her day. What a blessing to be a part of what lie before me. I lay back in the canoe close my eyes and listen to the sounds. It is not long before the snoring of Tannis is covered with my own. It is obvious a man at peace can sleep anywhere. It is a good life here so far away from the activity of the city I have left behind.
Link to Chapter Three
Link To Chapter 5
- “The World of Quill”
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