Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall River Camping - Crisp Day

The great thing about fall camping is the late sunrise. Sleeping in during a Yukon summer is impossible, but by mid-October it is easy to stay snuggled down in your sleeping bag, at least until your wife pokes you and tells you to start a fire in the stove.

After a hot breakfast and many cups of coffee we readied the boat for a trip further down river. The Yukon River valley opens up as it approaches Lake Laberge and we stop at a large sandbar to stretch our legs, examine the ice on puddles and watch Trumpeter swans flying in elongated Vs overhead. The crisp air and the freshness of being on the water in below freezing temperatures is exhilarating. By afternoon we're sleepy and take a snooze on the sunny side of the river.

Fall River Camping - Set up

We set up camp on Egg Island only a short run through the sleet down the Yukon River. The river level drops through the fall so we have to land on the opposite side of the island from our favorite camp site. Everything is unloaded and while Erin and Marina set up the tarp and move the gear, Andrew and I boat to the mainland where we cut firewood. On our return we set up the wall tent (a little patience, a lot of trial and error but eventually it stands on its own), saw and split our wood and set a campfire. By now it's time to run back upriver to pick up Joy after work.

The snow has stopped. Jumbalia is steaming on the camp stove and we are sitting around the fire enjoying a glass of wine and some storytelling. For dessert Marina makes soft and delicious chocolate brownies in the campfire with her Dutch oven. After dinner the tent stove is lit and we sit about the campfire. The sky has cleared so it colder, but the stars are brilliant. By the time we head for bed the tent is cozy and warm.

Fall River Camping - It snows

Our daughter's visit home from New Zealand was an excuse to go camping, actually Erin said we had to do it. And it had to be river camping. Mid-October is a grey and cool time and Erin compounded the challenges by convincing her mother to come along. This significantly raised the bar on the comfort levels required for a successful trip.

We planned out meals and gathered together our gear, the biggest difference from our usual kit was the wall tent and wood stove. The wall tent is bright and spacious, 4 metres long, 3 metres wide with a 2 metre peak. However it requires eight 5 metre poles to set it up. I spent an afternoon in the woods behind the house picking out suitably straight jackpines, dead ones are much lighter and stronger than green ones but rare in our forest. We added two big tarps, miles of rope, you can never have too much rope on an outdoor trip, and the camp kitchen - stove, pots and pans, salted nuts, chocolate and a crossword puzzle book.

We had planned an early morning start but we needed a few more things from town. As I started home the snow began. Almost immediately the roads were glazed with ice and cars skidded wildly. Once home we loaded the boat and wondered if we could make it to the boat launch, 5 kilometres away. There was some discussion about why I hadn't yet put the snow tires on the truck.

The road was giddy and the windshield plastered with slush. Slow speed and empty highway, we made it to the river and launched the boat. With great relief I locked up the truck and we pushed off. Once underway I relaxed, we were so much safer on the river and it was way more fun.

Coffee on the Dashboard

We live in an odd world. The other day as we drove into town, I pondered the reality of my sitting in a warm vehicle traveling at a marvelously high speed - which allows me to live some 15 kilometres out of town in the bush and still commute to an urban workplace. This thinking arose from my ability to sit in a comfortable seat, read my international newspaper and balance a china cup of gourmet coffee from another continent on the dashboard of the car. How is it that our culture can lay down thousands of tons of crushed rock and oil impregnated asphalt in the midst of the Yukon forest so that I can do this? Is this the most important thing we could do with all these resources - a smooth ride so my coffee don't spill? The belief in constant accelerating economic growth may feel comfortable in the moment, but taking a step sideways makes the whole thing look pretty crazy. I stand ready to give up the smooth ride, the comfy seat in a car and the work. I still need coffee and news.