Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Early Breakup

After a couple of months in the big cities of Whitehorse, New York, Williamstown, Mass. and Vancouver, I got back to the lake in mid-April.  Although I was weighted down with onions and apples the trip in was good:  one day up along the shore on the ice of the West Arm to the wall tent; the second day through the forest and across the frozen ponds home.  All was well here except that my internet connection was not working.

On the Way
Now six weeks without YouTube is bad enough, but since the VHF radiotelephone tower was decommissioned last fall email and Skype are my only connections outside.  And on trips like these I always set a date:  if I am not heard from by a certain day, the search will begin.  I really did not want the Mounted Police out here in a helicopter looking for me, so my only option was another long hike, more than 25 miles in the other direction on the lake, to the Lodge.  Conditions were nearly ideal, but it was a long day.  Thank goodness the folks were there and I could get the message out that I was OK.

After that I enjoyed a very peaceful time until breakup, untroubled by any news from outside.  I had a few projects:  I cut firewood and restrung some snowshoes with nylon — I like the traditional frames, but babiche is no good in wet spring conditions; I worked on a new woodshed.  But mostly I spent the lengthening days observing the spring changes.  I watched the ducks, geese and swans who were already gathered in the open water where the river flows into the lake — paddling around, sitting quietly, or circling off when the eagle flapped over.  I waited for favorites like the first rattle of kingfishers, Spring Azure butterflies and camass lily shoots.  It was good to be here to welcome them all, though as usual there were more than enough mosquitoes.  Finally the first caribou, looking rather shabby, came plodding up the beach on the way to their summer ranges in the mountains — three cows, all heavily pregnant, one had already lost an antler.   These two bulls, with their growing antlers in the velvet, crossed the creek about a week later.  I photographed this earnest bear right from the porch — he reluctantly ambled away when I banged on a saucepan.

Stringing Snowshoes

Spring Bulls

Spring Bear
There was very little snow last winter and the beaches and trails were clear early.  Sped up by an unusually long stretch of hot sunny weather the ice mostly melted away in place and the waters began to rise quickly, coming up around ten feet in just a couple of weeks and hiding all the beaches.  Even before the lake was clear I saw an orange tint on the clouds signaling smoke from distant early forest fires, a real mark that summer had already begun, and on my first boat trip to the landing there was a fire burning in the Narrows about 25 miles away.   On my way back the the flames had come right down to the water’s edge and the lake was shrouded with heavy smoke for miles.

Fire in the Narrows