Loons! I'd never seen them before, and we were on a loon quest on Summit Lake. Not far from shore, we spotted a cluster of loons paddling around. We moved slowly toward them. I was captivated by their calls to one another. First was the long lonely mournful loon call that one hears on birding tapes. Then they launched into what I would call "bird chatter," totally dissimilar to the mournful call. Their beaks flapped rapidly open and closed, as if carrying on an important conversation. Perhaps gossiping about the humans in the boat, and contemplating their own safety.
Changing direction, we left the loons and headed across the lake towards a large glacier that feeds Summit Lake. Interestingly, the water from that glacier flows on this side of Isabel Pass into the Pacific Ocean, and on the other side of the Pass, its water flows into the Bering Sea.
We were out on the lake about an hour when the engine stopped dead - out of gas - giving us a new type of physical exertion - paddling to shore.
Not a nice situation as we were rather far out. Fortunately, the closest shore was also the one with visible potential help. Mr. Hines, a friend of the owners of our B&B;had his own B&B;there. We alternated paddling for 45 minutes before running the small boat aground at the weedy lake edge. Pulling it up into the bushes, we gathered up the fishing pole, and walked off toward Hines Site B&B,;and hopefully help.
Mr. Hines, a retired escapee from California, was out doing chores, ready with full Alaskan hospitality.
"Of course we can get you going again. What type of fuel did you say he put in? Blended?"
"Yes. Do you have any that we can buy to get ourselves home?"
"Say, you know, Lee did tell me that he had a new motor for that boat. I'll find some fuel and drive you back to the boat and get you going in no time. Don't you worry about this. Lee and I trade fuel cans all of the time. I'll get it back soon."
We were grateful for his easy manner and willingness to give us a hand. Soon we were headed slowly back to Water's Edge B&B,;Mr. Hines watching from the road making sure we were well underway.
Back in camp, I did a careful once-over of all the screws and various linkages on my bike. There were a couple of very loose screws in my water bottle cages. I cleaned the chain a bit, and adjusted the rear derailleur . Minor maintenance can save hours later, I've learned.
Someone had information about Alpine Tours and their evening wildlife viewing river rafting trip down the Gulkana River, a designated Wild and Scenic River. So most of us signed up. We filled two large rafts, two of us eager to sit in the front of the first raft to get best view of anything. Naturally the owners had figured out this scam amongst their customers, and the rafts traded places in the river on a regular basis to make sure everyone had an equal opportunity to view.
While we didn't see large animals, I saw more beavers swimming along the banks, their noses, eyes and small oval ears breaking the water's surface, than I'd ever seen before (easy to do, since I don't recall ever seeing beavers in the wild). Bald eagles nearly dripped out of the trees, and there was a nest of eaglets. Sockeye salmon were running; they looked like so many brightly colored koi crowded into a small fish pond, schizophrenically splashing and flopping through the water, their dorsal fins in various stages of disintegration as they slowly died.
During the raft trip we were offered sticks of moose and caribou jerky. Caribou/moose hunting season opens tomorrow, and we were told that by midnight tonight, all the moose will have disappeared. The caribou aren't nearly so intelligent ("dumb" seems to be the operant word here) and are therefore more often killed. The RVs are moving in. Rufus may be in danger. And if he's in danger, I'll be in danger. I'll consider dressing him in bright hunter orange.
By the time we returned to at camp, the drizzle returned. I retreated to my tent, hearing the parting words for breakfast, "Hot water at 7 a.m." Breakfast wouldn't be something interesting like pancakes, or pan fried salmon, but rather instant oatmeal with the trimmings that we have been carrying: brown sugar, grated coconut, nuts, raisins.
Copyright (c) Judith J. Colwell, 1995. All rights reserved.