July 29, Saturday – Day 37 on Water – It quit raining about 1:00 in the morning. Fortunately, Stormy can pretty much go all night long without having to go outside. I can’t. So when I get up to go pee, she always takes an advantage of that and goes out real quick. She loves to sleep, so she is in and out and back in the bed. She appears to be sleeping but she is always hearing everything or smelling it. It is uncanny what she hears I don’t.
Since the grocery store doesn’t open until 10:00 and I get up early, we were up and broke down the camp and carried everything down to the kayak to have it ready to load later on in the day when it was time to launch.
Then we walked all the way around the end of the runway, to go to the RAVN office which is the airline that flies in and out of all of the Native Villages. Once there it didn’t open until 9 so we waited. Once it opened the lady in the office was very rude and uncooperative. I learned absolutely nothing and was very stressed, because I was already thinking that my thumbs were going to be the grief that caused me to end the trip prematurely. So therefore, I needed to find out what my options were in flying out early and where from down river.
After walking a ways, a guy stopped and gave us a ride back to the grocery store. Once it was open, I bought what I needed and got a ride back to the kayak. I packed everything up, packed the kayak up and then decided to go to another part of the village, the other grocery store and a small café I had heard about and have some lunch. I was also told that the school had a library that would open at 2.
I don’t know why, but I had my waders on. I should have put my shoes on. I picked the wrong road to walk the 2 miles down to the other end of the village. I rubbed my legs raw from the sweating and walking, I just couldn’t get a ride, there was very little traffic. I finally got a ride the last couple hundred yards.
I went to the café and the lady working in there said I could use her phone. She got the numbers for RAVN and Alaska Airlines both. I order a BLT and made the calls. Since I had not made my mind up if I was going to end the trip early, the flights were for out of Emmonak, my original destination.
Since my money didn’t go into the bank until the 1st, I called Angie and asked her to make the reservations for me; giving her my card # and the flight information and made sure she understood that she needed to make them on Tuesday. She agreed to do so.
Then I went and got a few things from the 2nd grocery store, got a ride back to the kayak and finished packing up and we hit the river.
Down a ways I ran into a couple from Ontario. They had put on the river at the end of May. I started the 24th of June. So they were really taking their time. They were in a canoe and they seemed to have the right gear and were enjoying their trip.
I had paddled over close to the bank where they were sitting up camp on an Island and once I started to leave I got stuck on a sand bar. I got out and pushed off and as I was getting back in the kayak I fell in and got soaked, filling up my waders. That was the only time that had happened. I had my left leg in and my right foot got stuck in the mud and the kayak moved on me as I was trying to get in. Embarrassing to say the least, but none worse for the event.The weather turned and it started to rain again. No fun setting up the tent in the rain. But once it is set up and things are inside and the kayak is secure, things are fine.
We had paddled 30 miles since 3:30 when we left Galena. We found a great place to camp this time, right along the water on a small gravel beach.
July 30, Sunday – Day 38 on Water – There was a break in the rain in the morning when we got up. Once I got the kayak packed I had some hot oatmeal right there on the bank, then put the stove away. I quit making tea, the damn insulated cup I was using leaked and it always got in the way. No good place to put it.
As the morning progressed it cleared up and actually turned out to be a nice day. We paddled about 33 miles this day.
I can’t remember what day it was, because I got behind on the Journal. But it was a very beautiful morning, no wind, no clouds and I decided to once again fly the drone off of the kayak. There wasn’t that much current. The drone got behind me and I couldn’t see it in the sun and the breeze was blowing up river so I couldn’t hear it. It got too far away as I was drifting down river, so I hit the Home button.
It then notified me that the battery was depleted sufficiently to automatically send it into Home mode and that is where it went, where I had sent if off up river. I had made a mistake in not understanding how to use the drone more than I should have. The last thing I remember is that Chinese lady telling me the drone was “landing” right in the middle of the Yukon River. That was the end of that.
(When I got back I called DJI and they told me that there are several programs in the software that allow the drone to come back to wherever the Controller is, I just never took the time to learn how to program them and use them. Big mistake. I don’t only lost the drone but all of the video and pictures that were on the chip in the Camera.)
July 31, Monday – Day 39 on Water – We haven’t seen many bears in the last couple of days. It is kind of a hit and miss thing. They are out there to be sure. Every time we stop on the bank to take a break there are bear tracks and there are wolf tracks. There are also always moose tracks, both the cow and the calf along with the bulls. No mistaking the bulls, their tracks are huge.
We also haven’t seen anybody else on the river. The last persons seen were the couple from Ontario. I think the 3 guys from Norway have gotten in front of me and are going to get done as soon as possible because they said something about wanting to go to Mt. Denali Park.
The kids, the 9 of them are also not too far in front of me. I expect at some point in time to run into them. I have a feeling the weather is going to change. We have had way too many good days. We are bound to get some wind and rain. It is inevitable.
lefttoplefttopAugust 1, Tuesday – Day 40 on Water – I am stressed with the thumbs and joints. Not whining, but it is uncomfortable. It is at night that they bother me the most. They go numb for quite some time and it takes a good 30 minutes to get any feeling back in them. There are times I am trying to do something and I can’t because it feels like an ice pick is being jabbed into the joint.
It is tough to paddle against the wind with no current as it is; even more effort needs to be exerted when my thumbs aren’t working, because that is where the pressure is from the paddle.
A storm is coming up and the wind blowing strong. I was making no headway so I stopped across the river from another Native Village. I tied up and got a tarp, my sleeping bag and my sleeping pad and went up under a bluff, under some trees and took a nap for a couple of hours. The wind did not quit blowing and there was no question it was going to rain.
I decided to cross the river and get to the other side, so I could be on the side of the channel that looked like there was some current and some protection from the wind. I had Stormy’s bubble on and got my rain skirt on and we were water tight. This Feathercraft is made for this kind of weather. It can take a lot of wave action. So we headed straight across, with the wind coming at my left shoulder. So I wasn’t really having to fight the wind, but the waves were a different story. They were a good 2 to 3 feet high. Several village residents on the bank watched me paddle across. Took a good hour and it was only a couple of miles.
I then turned down river and managed to make pretty good time. Then it started to rain and from the looks of it, it wasn’t going to stop, which ended up being the case. Once again, I don’t mind the rain and for sure Stormy doesn’t. Making that clear bubble for her has helped make this trip. If she is stressed I am stressed.
It wasn’t long and I paddled back across the river to get to the inside of a Island to camp for the night and it ended up being a very long walk to get to a point I was out of the wind to get camp set up.
Once again, we set up camp with it raining. Stromy is immediately in the tent and does not leave unless she has to. Once I have the bed set up, she is on it and that is where she stays. She hates to be wet.
One thing I have managed to do is keep the sleeping bag and the blanket I use dry. I have yet to have a wet sleeping bag, blanket or sleeping pad. August 2, Wednesday – Day 41 on Water – I haven’t been able to take any pictures because it has been raining all the time. I suppose I could take some with my phone, because it is too much trouble when it is raining to get the notebook out and have to use the mouse to take pictures. But nothing really in the way of picture taking anyway with the clouds low on the water and it is raining.
We managed to once again get on the water fairly early, by 7:00AM in spite of it raining. It doesn’t take long to get the kayak packed and we are off. The wind is still blowing up river, which makes it tough to say the least. It also means once we have paddled along the island, we need to get across the river once again to get to the bank, the N side where I have been keeping to get out of the wind and hopefully find some current.
Because I am working so hard to get the miles in, my thumbs and joints are bothering more and more and it is stressful. It is hard to enjoy any part of this under these conditions.
August 3, Thursday – Day 42 on Water – I have decided no matter what I am going to get to Grayling, the next Native Village down river today. It looks like it is about 50 miles, which is a very long ways to go under these conditions. If I can fly out of there, that is where I will end this trip. I see no reason to suffer and not enjoy the last 250 plus or minus miles, it just doesn’t make any sense. I am sure under the circumstances that both RAVN and Alaska Air will change my tickets, assuming Angie got the reservations made.
We haven’t seen any bears lately at all. But I did see 2 different wolves today. One older male and one younger male. It is the 1st time I have seen wolves in the wild. They looked identical and look like they were from the same pack, the same litter. The older wolf was headed up river and saw us as we approached and immediately went off up into the bank trees. The younger one, once he saw us, also headed up river, just sat down and watched us go by. I also saw a Sliver Tipped Fox on the bank, he was far enough away he never did see us.
Stormy wasn’t quite sure what to make of the wolves. She was in her bubble so to bark at them or move around was out of the question, so she just sat there and watched them as I paddled by.
As I came around a corner there were the 9 “kids” camped right along the bank. Looked like they had been there a couple of days. (As it turned out when I saw them the next day, Friday, they had indeed been camped there for 2 days waiting out the wind and the rain.) It is not as easy to paddle in the wind and rain in a canoe as it is in a kayak, especially one like mine where you can basically get water tight. It was about 9:30AM and they were all in their tents, so I did not make any noise or disturb them.
It was a very long day to say the least. We paddled 52 miles in 14 hours and I was very tired and my hands were practically numb. We put on the water at 6AM and it was 8 in the evening. We had stopped 3 different times to get out of the kayak and walk a bit. I did not want to get up tomorrow morning and not know what the decisions was I was going to make in ending the trip or going on.
As I was approaching Grayling a couple on a 4 wheeler was going up river and I paddled over and got them to stop and talk to me. Yes RAVN flew out of Grayling every day. There was a covered area to camp right off of the river. This lady happens to be the cook for the Elder’s Center and she invited me to Senior Lunch the next day, she was cooking Moose Chili and traditional pan bread.
left-236220Once again it was still raining, so it was good to set up the tent under the cover. I got everything out of the kayak, under the cover and laid it all out so it could start drying out. I made something to eat, don’t even remember what it was and we went to bed, it was already past 10:00.
August 4, Friday – Day 43 – As I lay in bed last night, it became clear that the best thing for me to do was end the trip here in Grayling, AK. It is a small Native Village and RAVN flies from here to Aniak and then on to Anchorage. So once the Elders Lodge opens up at 9AM, which is a very brand new Community Center I can use the phone and make the changes in my reservations.
There was no hurry to get up, so we lingered. It has stopped raining and looks like perhaps the weather might change for the better, which was giving me 2nd thoughts about stopping the trip. However, it is not the weather that bothers me. I don’t like the wind for sure, but I can put up with it, even if it meant stopping and sitting it out. It is my thumbs and the pain and discomfort that I am experiencing that is taking the enjoyment out of the days.
leftcenterWe got up, started to pack things up and I went down to the bank and started to take the kayak apart. I knew if I got the kayak broke down, I wasn’t going to change my mind.
Once 9 came I went up to the Community Center and sat down and made the phone calls. After getting the reservations changed, there was no way I was going to make the flight out today, Friday. It would have to be tomorrow which gave me plenty of time to get the kayak broke down, packed up and ready to go.
A young guy came over from the closest house and he turned out to be one of the 4 school teachers at the school. It was his 3rd year and he had just returned for the start of school in a week or so. He offered to let me wash his clothes in his washer and dry them, which I appreciated. He also told me he would take me to the air strip just out of town in the morning about 9, which I also told him I appreciated. What a story he has teaching school there, not one of the easiest things to accomplish because of the drugs, alcohol and abuse that goes on in these Native Villages.
About 10 I looked up river and could see the 4 canoes and 1 kayak coming down river with the 9 kids.
Once they hit the bank and I told them I wasn’t going on it was a sad moment for all of us. We had spent quite a bit of time together and it wasn’t easy for me to stick with my decision. But I had the kayak broke down and had changed my reservations, so that was it.
-419105425440I continued to work all day long in getting things bundled up. I had 2 different tarps so I cut them up and tied up the 5 different bundles with the rope I had, and even bought some more rope and a roll of duct tape. My bags for shipping stuff on the plane were in a box at the post office in Emmonak.
I had mailed them there when I got all set up in Whitehorse.
Once the kids bought some supplies, spent time having lunch at the Community Center, spent time on the Internet they were ready to take off. What a sad time for me. As they were on the water headed down stream what a picture it was. It meant so much to me; I didn’t take a picture of it because I didn’t
want to share it with anyone. I hate to admit it but I was crying. It was all I could do to keep from getting my stuff down to the river, get the kayak together, go get supplies and head out after them.
But it was not to be and as the weeks have gone by, the decision to end the trip was the right one.
The only stressful thing that went on was it was payday in the Village. So the drunks were wandering around town all night long, the path to wander was right by my tent so I didn’t get a lot of sleep.
August 5, Saturday – Day 44 – We got up very early. We had to be patient and so we went for a walk along the river. I saw a huge porcupine which Stormy didn’t see thank heavens. Once 9 came along, Mike the school teacher came over with his truck and took me to the airport.
The plane arrived about 10:00 loaded with supplies for the grocery store and mail. A few of us helped unload the plane and there were 4 of us flying out. Stormy and I got on the plane and that was the beginning of the trip home, back to Bend, then on down to Havasu Landing. Stormy did great flying for the 1st time. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without her, she has become a good traveling companion and as I tell her all the time, “Stormy, it is just you and me”.