Saturday, 16 July 2011

Yukon: Galena to the sad end

Great grassy campsite in Galena
Galena is the last "bigger" settlement on the Yukon and therefore the logical place to stock up on supplies for the last 500 miles to the delta. It has a big paved airstrip, 2 shops and a B&B for Adrian. But when we stopped just short of the public landing to hide the boat and find a camp site for me Galena did not look to inviting: Mosquitoes everywhere and hardly a good place to camp. Luckily a local in a car stopped for us and gave us some great advice: There is a nice meadow with a picnic table in front of the Fish and Wildlife Bureau and other paddlers had stayed there before. He even gave Adrian a short ride to the place and showed him the lay of the land. The rangers were very friendly and not only allowed us to camp on their lawn (Adrian's B&B had closed forcing him to camp as well), but stored our luggage during the day (local kids tend to steal stuff out of canoes) and let us refill our drinking water supplies. They even printed out the weather forecast for us. And when we learnt that there is a coffee shop with free internet the world looked much better.

Washeteria in Kaltag
We spent the whole day shopping, doing laundry, working on the internet and hitching from one end of town to the other. The only thing we could not do was taking a shower as the public showers had been closed due to vandalism. We had a nice dinner prepared on the Fish & Wildlife barbecue and got a good night's sleep despite lots of air and ATV traffic.

Next day was my 44th birthday that we celebrated with Swiss cheese fondue, white wine and mousse aux chocolate. Beside Adrian about 1,000 mosquitoes had invited themselves to the party, but after a bottle of wine for the two of us they did not matter that much any  more...

Fish wheel
In this stretch the river is dotted with loads of little native settlements - you pass a village almost every day. There were still lots of fish camps, but now they only consisted of smoke houses and no other buildings. The river is truly wide now and crossing it is definitely not recommended. We had to fight with strong head winds and high waves for the first time. Although I was a bit scared in the beginning I soon realized that the waves don't provide the most comfortable paddling, but they are not as dangerous as they look. We made very little progress due to the wind, but still managed to do 40 to 50 km per day. The weather got colder, too and it began drizzling a lot. Not the most comfortable conditions, but still pretty manageable - I thought, at least.

Alaskan bearproof grave
One evening we ran into a group of native fishermen. Of course we were immediately invited to visit and Adrian was given a fishing rod to try his luck. Well, Adrian did not catch anything, but our new friends insisted on giving us a fish. I was not overly enthusiastic about this idea as we were in prime bear country and would probably not be able to find an island for camping. And fish would of course attract the bears much more than our usual vegetarian fare. But it was already too late: Adrian was handed a huge fish and off we went - luckily being able to find a campsite on the grounds of a former hut. We decided to cook far away from our camp sites and built a fire for the fish. Adrian did a pretty good job cleaning the fish and wrapped in aluminium foil and roasted on coal it turned out to be a delicious meal. We had just started eating when our Indian friends showed up in their boat and tried to entertain us.... I must say that I felt a bit uncomfortable when we were offered alcohol and a gun (to defend us against the bears) - and all their stories about how many people they had killed in the Afghan war as soldiers in the US army did not improve my mood either. But eventually they left and we spent a quiet night inside Adrian's bear proof electrical fence - despite all the locals' warnings about bears.

The weather continued to be windy and forced us to spend the next night in the cemetery next to the little village of Kaltag. Some locals driving by could not believe their eyes when they saw that some crazy foreigners were camping right between the graves... and warned us about bears, of course.

Unfortunately, this was the end of my Yukon trip as Adrian decided that night that he did not want to continue on the Yukon - thus forcing me to give up as well because we were paddling in a 2 person canoe that is not suitable for single person use in these conditions. Now, 3 days later, I am still so furious, angry, frustrated and disappointed with Adrian's egotistical behavior that I have a hard time writing about it and will save these events for another blog entry.

I am in Anchorage right now licking my wounds and trying to recover from the shock and disappointment of having had to abandon an otherwise fantastic trip. I will leave for Denali National Park tomorrow to do some hiking and clear my head.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was an abrupt ending....good story though. Sounds like you are set up for a solo river trip now.