Our Best Wildlife Day

The Yukon Blind..... Canoeing the 'Big River'
Team "Imtiaz and Howard"
Sun 26 Jun 2011 00:42

Our Best Wildlife Day
62:46.07N, 137:19.57W

A long day in almost perfect sunshine that had its unexpected events, a challenge to our team, great wild life, and took us more than 70 river kilometres downstream, ending with a huge thunderstorm.

The river terrain has changed substantially, from the mostly narrow, steep cliffed valleys, to now wide open, forested, almost flatland, with more distant mountains. This has enabled the river to regain some power in its struggle against the land's domination, and the result is a very wide river, sometimes 1.5 kilometres wide, but also a huge amount of sizeable, sometimes almost joined islands. This river terrain provides for multiple channel options, some taking one into a whole new world of micro river, very intimate, wilderness experience. Seeking a change, and desiring a bit of adventure, yesterday we took some very deviant excursions. These were rewarded with great micro, riverside scenery and a few special wild life experiences. The openness clearly is attractive to the bald eagles, as 'we' saw at least 10, but one viewing deserves special mention. Coming around a sharp, narrow river bend, that joined a chocolate brown Yukon tributary, there right in front of us, on the fast flowing river junctions, perched on an upturned spruce tree root was the most majestic eagle. Surrounded by fast flowing water, safely 1 metre above it, with wings half opened out, it was sunbathing in its seemingly private paradise. On entering the maze of channels, and sensing the more intimate wilderness closeness would produce special encounters I had fortunately asked Imi to don the video head camera. The camera was already rolling as we came upon the eagle, and with me describing to Imi the unfolding spectacle, calling out 'o'clock' numbers for him to 'look' in the direction of the numbers of the virtual clock that had 12 o'clock dead ahead, Imi captured the whole experience. Our first sighting, then the fast flowing approach to the eagles water encircled perch, to its final take off and grateful yet hurried departure. Simple stuff, just another bald eagle, but for us as a team out here in this wilderness this was special, and captured in Imi's comment as he stopped the video roll: "Hey, man that eagle was just fantastic." With my descriptions, his memories and new sensory appreciation he had 'seen' it all.

Our next wild life encounter was just as intimately special. Closer to the main river, and in more open, wider channels we had beached in search of a campsite, when we heard this loud 'plonk' in the water behind us, followed by a stampeding in water noise. Turning around I saw a mother moose had just jumped into the river, and was wading in the direction of an island a few hundred metres away. Close in pursuit were her two calves clearly not able to stand on the river bed like the mother they were falling behind The mother reached the island, searched for a place to climb up, and on finding one, dutifully waited for her young ones to catch up, showing them the way to dry ground. Imi heard the water commotion and one again I described aloud what I saw, and once again he 'saw' it all. This time, and in a in a similarly passionate tone, he said: "I just love this wilderness, man, eagles, moose, the river, the space, it’s just wonderful".

Later on we passed close by two deer, right on the river bank drinking, our relatively fast speed past them, clearly giving them confidence that we weren't a threat, as they just stood their ground and watched us go by.

The day did also bring our first major challenge to us as a team. We had set a plan to switch over to a night paddling routine for a day or so. This involved us stopping earlier than usual, 2 pm, having a hearty lunch, and then sleeping the afternoon, waking around 10 30pm, and starting paddling about 11pm. Yesterday was a very hot, virtually windless day, and I struggled to find a suitable, day sleeping campsite. The one I chose, was one Imi felt was totally inappropriate, as there was neither shade nor breeze. I told him, that with only spruce trees around, a high sun, and a generally windless day, his desired campsite was an unachievable fantasy. With my strong desire to experience paddling through the night, I'd told myself I could sleep anywhere, anytime for the prize, but with paradise in mind, Imi couldn't accept this seemingly sub standard, potentially sleepless site I had chosen. Lots of debating, questioning and, yes, arguing, ended in us, forgoing lunch and heading back onto the river in search of paradise. Well true to life, we couldn't find it, and the time searching eroded our sleep time, moving us back onto a normal day routine. We paddled on, beaching at 5 o'clock, just in front of a developing thunderstorm. Tent building was completed as the 1st big rain drops of a wild thunderstorm hit the tent roofs. One and a half hours solitary confinement for each of us as the storm passed over, gave us both wonderful reflection time, for a very mature, and bonding team discussion around the campfire, on what had gone wrong and how we could have done 'it' better. We both agreed that the central issue was our human desire for routine, and sticking with the familiarities and knows associated with the routines, rather than desiring of adaption to new circumstances required for new goals. New goals require new ways, adapting too foreign circumstances, rather than trying to recreate the mutually exclusive, and impossible, familiar. Team decision making was also talked about, and here much was learnt, as we delved into the conflict of interest I could have as firstly being Imi's trusted eyes, but secondly me being Howard the individual, with my own desires and goals. All interesting stuff and the basis for great bonding and personal learning. The five star hotel, with Imi back as the guest opened up again shortly after that, signally we were back to normal.

Earlier on in the day we had 3 hours of wilderness discussion about freedom, belonging and self identity, the three fascinating and interlinked life defining issues that are central to the book I have written. (Hmmm, still waiting the publisher's decision.) I have been slowly sharing with Imi my views on these three important life pieces, but yesterday he finally got it all, and passionately validated my life model, a very special day for me! And this is supposed to be a canoeing adventure. It's just absolutely wonderful that we can have all these diverse 'adventure' on one river trip! Imi, you are a special person, man!

Lastly from me: We did have an unexpected encounter with civilisation yesterday. River barges, graders, not sure what it was all about, but smells of some development intrusion, which is sad.

Imi's Reflection Insights

A question for all: Is earth in all its ancient splendor a worthy goal?

My encounter with the wild, open, natural Yukon, confirms my view that the destruction of the earth's environment is a travesty for which we are all responsible. Here is a question for you: Must we preserve vast wilderness if it comes at the price of prosperity and progress? Suppose we have only two options: Either we maximize prosperity in a depleted, stark, and degraded earth, where long term human survival is nevertheless possible, or humans lead simple, poor, and primitive lives in the midst of a glorious, green earth. Humanity requires that we eliminate poverty and provide opportunities for well being, for the many, but what if this results in environmental degradation?

Well, that is some big stuff to think about, and it may seem so grandiose and remote to one's day to day world, but when out here in the magnificent wilderness these questions seem very close and real.

Time to sign off... Another adventure day, I wonder what it will bring.....Hmmm, exciting!

H + I