What a year. That is all I can think back and say! A new land to me, the Territory of the Yukon. Vast valley's vaguely touched by historic gold rushes, crested with stunted spruce appearing crotchety by their own history's. Valley's which still hint existing gold rushes through rust coloured scrub birch and brilliant yellow willow. Creek's that crave your thirst buds to surface through pristine clarity, supporting fishing holes that always fill your plates. Mountain peaks trembling North face challenges that make you grit your teeth, “sit there and call upon you to try”. While South face slopes of endless bunch fescue, casual bogs and sedge grass peacefully manage your travel energy. The territory spit snow and sleet at me and burnt crows feet to my eyes. Sucking in my waist and tightening my back muscles, I felt aching weakness leave and old wound soreness re emerge. This land challenged my senses and brought out my life force filling my mind with energy, to go on, to crest, to look... And look “we did”!
Roger and Ada Oler, the brother (18) sister (20) combo entered the Yukon with me. Full of youthful adventure they sparked my inner flare to push and crest many new horizons. The duo “card sharks” were innocent in not knowing the mess of neglected trail cutting we faced. They kept positive through my mind wandering moments of misery and patched the cabin up making it our mountain home. “A bear destroyed cabin we arrived too after eight hard days of clogged trails and willow whacking”. A cabin I was not in the mood to see destroyed. A cabin that gave me hope as it was transformed to warm, dry and comfortable once more. Roger and Ada supported each other and never locked horns like many siblings are bound to do. They made the Yukon and its colours shine.
Between our team of three we shared hunts with fellow guides Mark Parsons, Dustin Hummel, Rem Halowath and Jason Nutini, plus wrangler Wyatt Chattaway. We saddled, packed and climbed through the flowing valleys with these men and reinforced friendships and created new ones. We spotted animals all over the folds of the land and found clients antlered beasts of great sizes. We shared these hunts and created everlasting memories. Caping, skinning or even dish washing these activities bring people together and form teams of loyalty, teams of the future.
Rams twisting from age and weighted from mass we found. Grizzlies hungry for berries and flesh, we watched waddling the slopes. Massive moose we seen cradled in mountain basins bringing their antlers to ivory glory before descending to pitch dark brown paddles and white tipped daggers. Caribou wide enough to support the sky danced along the plateau's craving a view from our spotting scopes. We admired them in their glory and did our best to dodge rain storms obstructing our view's, “we failed”. Ptarmigan with angel wings and monk hoods cackled their flight to our shy away horses. Wolverines challenged our sense of lust for revenge, “from the many baby lambs they kill”, before slipping away into the void of wilderness mystery. We seen many wonders.
The battle of crumbs with mice was yet the same in the Yukon. Though we shared crackers with a gopher for the first time. We waltzed with that gopher and his gifted cracker, we waltzed and we smiled as the sun shone. Then we ate him! “Just kidding”. We loved that gopher, we loved him so much we named him “Goph”... We had chipmunks, whiskey jacks and no invites to the porky pines. Those beasts ate the ever loving heck out of our couple cabins.
Our view from the yard of our main camp in the Mendocina valley is surreal. From our fire wood stumps we spotted game everyday and some days hourly. One grizzly was stalked from these stumps to a successful end, many more were admired. A bull caribou with tops like mad hands was viewed and never caught up with. Moose never showed from our stumps. Black wolves did appear, sleekly slithering threw the high up scrub birch. One sighting for a couple minutes was all we were granted of wolves for the season.
A season is not complete without the horse stories. Yes I take a bow, Roger and Ada did most all the wrangling. But after 28 full seasons in the North I do not harbour much guilt. We created a herd from three herds and felt the repercussions of that. Slightly varied in their taste buds for grass had horses spread between creek dwellers and side hill gougers. Wrangling would take hours on a couple different occasions, but at other times the horses arrived on time for morning grain.
Yes we made it in to the mountains of the Yukon. And yes we explored and marvel at their wonder. We did look and find satisfaction. We will be back as a team of friends. To look over the Yukon Territory and find familiarity in the new challenges of a guiding Fall. PS. I wonder if Roger will find the rams this coming year? I wonder if Ada will hop on a fractured ankle again? And I wonder how many dear John letters will arrive??? So many wonders in the mountains of the Yukon.
Critters look out!!!!!!
Cheers Bart, Fall 2014