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"The Quiet shared 5
Good news... the snow has stopped and the sun has come out again. Looks like we are going to be in good shape for the next few days. I guess it means life will be back to normal again and the shovel gets parked for another day.
Gather around and settle in for the fifth chapter in the book "The Quiet" Thank you all for the wonderful comments and encouragement. The Quiet has done well in sales since being released in eBook format. A publisher here in Canada has shown great interest in doing some work with me so that is promising.
Just learned today I will be making a fast trip into Montana on the 7th or 8th. One day and back so hopefully the roads are good. Then after mid March will be flying over the roads and spending sometime in Arizona for several days which will be a nice change.
Reflections in the Water
Reflections in the Water
The mid-afternoon sun is creating a miracle of dancing diamonds on the water: a parade of jewels as far as the eye can see. It’s mesmerizing as I watch them play on the surface.
It is narrow at this end of the lake and widens to the south. Mt. Logan looms in the distance, a stark reminder of how small we really are. A fresh layer of snow covers the peak and the lower reaches are dark grey to black. I am blessed by the impressive site. It deepens my faith and understanding there is someone far greater than I who created all this. It is here that a man searches deep within it becomes an attempt to understand the miracles of all that surrounds him.
I was raised in the Catholic Church with an understanding of God, but what you see here is nothing compared to any of those lessons I had as a child. When I look at the evolution theory and study some of what is taught to the youth today, I know in my heart it’s downright wrong. Study anything in nature; nothing has ever been left out. That amazing balance is no great accident. Every last detail has been taken care of and no explanations are necessary. The truth is right there before your eyes and you are humbled.
LY4 is another special place very similar to LY1 in many ways. It has about the same terrain but with a few surprises. The trees and shrubbery is much thinner, and it allows you to explore deep within its hidden secrets. There are a few meadows filled with wildflowers of many sorts and, as always, there is fireweed.
Many different species of trees grow in clusters and groups that seem to fight for dominance, yet there is a balance and symmetry among them. I have counted five species within a few acres: spruce, pine, larch, white birch and fir. The birch trees in this area are exceptionally tall and straight and the best choice I have seen so far for log home building.
There are several bear in this area. Some are black bear that like to use trees to sharpen their claws as well as mark their territory. One birch has a marking that measures eleven feet from the ground, which tells me that we are coming into Grizzly country. Grizzlies are king in any area and must be respected. All bears are for that matter, but a grizzly is the most cunning.
I caught site of one last summer on a high bluff to the west. He got my attention when he stood snuffing at the air as he had likely caught our scent. From the lake I watched him through the binoculars, and without a doubt, he was big.
I later visited the spot and found a two-day-old kill of a moose calf. There was no need to stay in this area for long; especially considering Tannis could easily become a snack for this guy. Grizzlies are much harder to shoot than black bears, because they are so massive.
The lake has cleared now, and we are in about ten feet of water, though it is hard to see with the glare. The vegetation is rich and lush. It is much like the moss-covered area where we will be staying tonight. It is almost emerald green in color and very vivid when seen through the water.
I have swum here in mid August but walking it is a new sensation. The water temperature in this lake is slightly warmer than the others. At night the air is filled with the chorus of frogs that simply lull you off to sleep.
Tannis has perked up because she sees something up ahead. It is a moose crossing the lake. A few strokes of the paddle, and we are along side him. He is in great condition and a powerful swimmer I am sure.
We are within 10 feet of him and Tannis starts her tough dog growl that quickens his pace. What started out to be a leisurely swim across the short lake has turned into a dash for his life swim. Each time he blows out his breath it sounds like a whale.
It is best too leave this guy alone, so we back off and watch from a distance. But what a treat to be able to see these animals up close. He was caught off guard, similar to a child getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He will likely look both ways before he crosses the lake in the future.
Just ahead is the spot where we will spend the night. It’s early but I think we can use the rest of the day to simply relax and enjoy our surroundings. With a few fast strokes we are aground, Tannis announcing our arrival with her usual chorus of barks.
My first duty is gathering the firewood for the night. No need to travel far as it’s all around us. The wind last night has brought down some old dead snags that will burn just great. I have this new fangled rope saw that I have been waiting to try out. I spotted it in a local publication and it looked interesting. A local inventor had come up with the idea. It was made of heavy gauge wire dipped in some sort of abrasive. Before we left, I cut one log back at the house to see how it worked, and it was as smooth as silk and cut very quickly. Now I can put it to the real test.
I discovered something in this very spot a few years back that could have proven to be extremely dangerous. From near the lake’s edge where I landed the canoe, I collected several rocks. I dug a respectable fire pit and placed them all around. That night I had a good sized fire going and we were just about ready to head for bed when all of the sudden there was a really loud BANG and fragments of rock flew in all directions. I was hit in the upper arm and within a few hours, sported a nasty bruise.
Closer inspection showed that a few of the rocks were still hissing. Water had secretly filled them and they were as good as bombs. The pressure that builds inside can cause them to explode and cause serious injury. Poor Tannis, I could see the whites of her eyes that night. As a result, I call this place ‘Explosion Point.’ Somehow it seems justified.
After camp is all set up, lunch is finished and the dishwasher—Tannis—has done her job well, we are ready to do some hiking and exploring.
The first time I was here I could not help but notice some rather large calcium deposits and the distinct odor of sulfur in the air. After a few hours I found a natural hot spring about 600 feet from camp. It was only a few feet deep and terribly overgrown, as well as being home to several hundred frogs. Thus I knew we would have a chorus at night.
The spring was set in a natural grotto, shielded with a great deal of underbrush. The bottom was smooth but muddy with decay from all the leaves. It took me several hours of digging and clearing to make a respectable bathhouse. From the cliffs nearby I hauled pail after pail of fine shale rock to line the bottom. I found several flat stones that became a bench to sit on. There was nothing more to do but enjoy a good scrub and a soak.
Today, with the camp in order, I load up a light pack with my essential gear. I decide to bring my rifle along in case of an emergency. With that, we head off due west.
There is a ridge that I have never climbed to the top before. I want to see what is on the other side and today is the day.
The forest vegetation is full and the pungent smell tells me we are fast approaching autumn. Fall in this country is spectacular, especially in this area of LY4 with all the different varieties of trees and shrubs.
Though they say there are few in the Yukon, I have found signs of elk, especially in this area. In late fall I have heard the bulls bugling. It is a forlorn sound intended to attract females. According to statistics, there has been a slight increase in elk numbers over the last few years. The Government is reluctant to reveal where they are since Elk is still considered a protected species here.
Their greatest enemy is the wolf. They hunt in packs and take down the weak, leaving nothing behind. For years the wolf was protected in this wilderness. Now Fish and Wildlife has a new program where they capture them, ship and release them in specified US States. They have been reintroduced with some success in Montana, but some farmers there still have a hatred for wolves and several have been shot.
The climb to the top of the ridge is hard, and I need a rest. I sit and look back down where we have just come from. It is no wonder I have never done this climb before. Even Tannis is panting, so we rest here awhile. We might as well lay back and enjoy the misty cloud cover lingering at this height.
Overhead, almost out of sight, are two eagles riding and rising on a hot air mass. They are so graceful and every once in awhile they call out. I wonder if they are calling in pure joy at flying.
Eagles are a solitude bird of prey, loving the thrill of flight as they call out in joy to each other. Up close they are huge. ‘Old Baldy’ reminds me just how big eagles get each time he does his ‘death pass’ a few feet away from my head!
Once our energy has returned, it’s onward and upward. I figure with about another hour of climbing we should reach the top. Tannis gets her second wind and sprints off as I trudge my way along.
There are several Ptarmigan just ahead and Tannis takes off in hot pursuit, so I name this spot Tannis’s Run.
Ptarmigan are common birds here. They are also called an ‘Arctic Hare.’ They are not related to the rabbit but derive the name from the fine-feathered fur they have on their legs. They are actually the official bird of Nunavut in a neighbouring Territory to the East. They are known for the low whispering sound they make. They make very good eating as well. A snare set here will likely produce supper tonight. I can make a fine stew with some wild onions and a few edible greens easily found around the campsite.
The birds are feeding on some lichen. I tie off the fine brass snare wire between two shrubs, with a slip loop in the middle on the path the birds have been using, sprinkle a few berries about and before long I will have my supper.
When I reach the top of the ridge the view stops me as I look over the majestic valley below. Way off in the distance I can see the convergence of two rivers. I recognize as the Taggish area, the home of Johnny’s family. Next time I visit I will need to reference this spot so I can point it out to him.
I also see some evidence of the fire that has been burning in the area further west. My eyes behold a panorama that is amazing and I cannot help but wonder just how many people have been on this spot before.
Off to my left stands the St. Elias mountain range. They never seem to stop. Tannis sits quietly beside me almost as if she knows how special this is. Maybe we are both feeling that sense of accomplishment from just being here. Compared to this, we are so small. I have used these words before but this time the feeling is even more powerful. I wish I could truly create a picture for you of what lies before me.
We roam the ridge for a few hours soaking in the beauty. An Elk bugles far off to the southwest. The eagles screech up above and of course the ever-present sound of misquitoes and black flies Fills my ears.
Even at this attitude they are all around us though the slight breeze will help some. Black flies are vicious and leave hard welts. They are attracted by the carbon dioxide as we exhale and by human sweat. They are so small and light that you never know they are on you until they bite. They are so quick that most of the time you miss them as you try to swat at them. They are pesky little things! Tannis is being bitten badly, so we’d best head back down to cooler country.
Just as I expected we have a Ptarmigan in the snare, and Tannis is excited; she has to give the bird a lick. I have never figured out what that is all about, always licking everything I catch. Is she giving it her approval?
Cleaning the birds is always difficult because I always end up covered in feathers. In general, I’m a mess.
Once when I was out with Johnny and we had snared five Ptarmigan, I was on my knees cleaning one. I was covered in feathers and there was Johnny, already finished with the other four. Of course, he had that grin on his face.
Later he showed me the easy way to clean them. You lay them on their backs, step on each wing and simply pull the legs. The neatest thing happens. You end up with both legs and the breasts, all clean and ready for the pot. All the feathers and innards are left behind.
I will need to soak the bird for an hour or so in salt water because they are very gamy tasting this time of the year. While I do that we will go find some wild onions. I know just where there is a good patch near some wild parsley as well. When I add a few dried carrots, I know we will eat well tonight. With just one cast, I have the fish I was thinking of as a side dish.
Pot stew can be made with anything really. The salt water has helped to tenderize the meat. Then I like to brown it and add a few extra spices and a squirt or two of Tabasco Sauce. Once the cooking starts, we simply wait. After a half hour or so I add some flour and we have a stew fit for a king. This is wilderness dining at its finest.
I’m looking forward to the mineral spring bath tonight. It’s going to feel great! There is no problem going skinny-dipping here. After all, who is going to see you? As I sit in my little grotto it is a reminder that all the day’s needs have been provided for.
My best friend through many years
Link to Chapter 6
- “The World of Quill”
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