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Saturday, October 8, 2011

From the Yukon Journal - April 17, 1976

Made 2 pair skis to go to Dalton Post. Weather, sunny but cool.

That's what it says.... MADE 2 pair of skis. A little thing like 3 1/2 feet of snow and no skis or snowshoes wasn't going to keep us from getting where we wanted to be. Snowshoes seemed like they might be a little harder, and we didn't have the materials for them, so we went for the skis. We salvaged some lumber from somewhere along the highway, and made harnesses from the strips cut from tanned moosehide I'd brought along to make mukluks and moccasins.

In the trailer we were towing was an assortment of hand tools and materials we thought we'd need for building our cabin. Mitch grew up with a dad who knew what to do with wood, and what tools you'd need to do it with. A real craftsman didn't use power tools. As a result, we had a pretty interesting assortment of 'primitive' wood working tools. By the end of the day we had 4 rudimentary skis cut, planed, smoothed and waxed, complete with moosehide harnesses.

But best laid plans, and all that.... We didn't have great wood to work with. One ski broke the first time we tried them out, so we did a quick evaluation of the plan and concluded that perhaps we didn't both need to go on the first reconnoitering expedition. Pidgeon Hawk and I would stay with the gear, and Mitch would travel to Dalton Post solo.

I don't recall the little offshoot road to the south and west that this map shows, being there when we were there. Dalton Post seems to have become a favorite summer sport fishing spot these days, so there's actually a road most of the way there now. Not so 35 years ago. We were camped along Haines Highway as close to Dalton Post as we could get, and had planned to hike the rest of the way in. We hadn't counted on there still being 3 1/2 feet of snow in April. We thought the snow would be mostly gone - and we were right; it was mostly gone. There was only 3 1/2 feet of it left. The Haines Highway has these poles along either side of the road along there. They're striped, red and white, like candy canes or barber poles 12 or 15 feet tall. They puzzled us for a while.... odd sort of Christmas decorations for the side of an isolated highway. What we learned is, they're markers, so you can find the road in the winter. Some winters the snow gets so deep they're completely covered. 3 1/2 feet of snow is only crumbs, when you started with 15.

Dalton Post was our destination for the next leg of our journey. . There was a trail to Dalton Post, but it wasn't negotiable by anything with wheels. The place we'd chosen was further beyond that, a sheltered valley with a salmon bearing stream running through it and mature forest on the shoulders of the surrounding mountains. According to our research, there was a small area there, a little micro climate where wild crabapples had been found growing on the shoulders of the mountains. Our own little Eden.

We had the summer to locate a spot, build a cabin, catch and preserve salmon for the winter, prepare a garden plot for the coming year, and get to know the neighborhood. We had cases of preserved fruit, berries, veggies and jam, bags of dry goods, pots and pans - including a pressure canner with dozens of canning jars and supplies, nuts 'n bolts 'n screws and nails, and a box with a couple years' supply of vegetable seeds for the garden. In addition to enough clothes, bedding and housewares for a year, we had fabric to make more of whatever was needed, my grandmother's treadle sewing machine to sew them on, and extra needles, thread, buttons, zippers and whatnots. We had coal oil lamps and oil for them, salt for making jerky, widgets and gizmos I can't even remember the name of or the use for anymore. There was even a hand powered cream separator; we hadn't been able to bring the goats with is, but planned to go back for them when we had a barn and corral built for them.

And we had mead. Honey wine, made the winter before we left, and stored in those big hillbilly gallon jugs with the little handle loop thing for easy pouring. I think A&W root beer used to come in those jugs. So when the opportunity arose, we were prepared to entertain. When company stopped by our campfire, we mixed up a batch of sweet, fruity bannock, and poured everyone a glass of mead while the hearty aroma of baking bannock wafted over those lucky enough to be downwind of the fire.

After the evening meal, we'd tuck little snoozing Pidgeon Hawk cozily in bed under the heaviest down sleeping bag ever created, topped off by the hide of an unlucky black bear. I'd tune up my guitar for a singalong. Life was good.


Ron said...

What a WONDERFUL post!

Very gifted writer you are because you had me glued to your every word. Your attention/description to detail is just wonderful!

What an amazing experienced you had!

And I loved this....

"After the evening meal, we'd tuck little snoozing Pidgeon Hawk cozily in bed under the heaviest down sleeping bag ever created, topped off by the hide of an unlucky black bear. I'd tune up my guitar for a singalong. Life was good."

Yes, it sounded good!

Thanks for sharing, dear lady! Hope you're having a lovely weekend!

gfid said...

Ron -i notice the smaller map didn't come off very well..... especially if you have a small screen. best i could find. Thanks for your kind words. Yes, life was good. Not fancy, but it didn't take much to make us happy. It's Thanksgiving here this weekend, so, yes, it'll be very fine.

susan said...

Your stories about this adventure are incredible, not far off from those I've read about the early settlers in North America but only 35 years ago. Yet even then getting away from it all meant going pretty damn far away. I could just imagine the 15 foot tall red and white striped poles that were often buried in snow. I imagine it and know for a fact I wouldn't be among the survivors of such an expedition.

You certainly were well prepared though, as well as very determined. When I read the list of supplies you carried in the back of the truck I wondered how on earth there still managed to be room for the three of you for sleeping. I'm not even going to think about how bathroom breaks were managed even though I spent some time living in little cabins on the west coast around that time with the 'facilities' along a little path over there somewhere.

I'm really looking forward to the next episode and finding out if you did find Eden. You are a remarkable woman.

gfid said...

Susan - my grandmother was one of those pioneer women who homesteaded in very similar circumstances. She couldn't believe I'd really forsake all of the conveniences and willingly do everything, as she said, 'the hard way.' Being young and invulnerable, of course, I knew better than she. We did have a small trailer as well as the truck, so we weren't sleeping on top of heaps of tools and stovepipes :0) Our adventure was probably not so different from your west coast one, just in a different place... facilities? what facilities?

susan said...

The difference, my friend, is that I was never in danger of freezing to death and that's a big one. I will continue to admire you enormously.

Cicero Sings said...

I agree with Susan, you are a remarkable woman!

Loving these stories.

gfid said...

Susan & Cicero - I can't think of a cool or clever way to reply to such praise, so i'll just say "thanks". I feel the same way about both of you.

linda said...

how could i miss this with 2 minutes of battery left...tomorrow, sweets...xoxoxo

gfid said...

Linda - you're a hoot! LOL 'see' you tomorrow. hug

stock said...

Wow.... Awesome post & your writing style is superb like as usual all your post.