Photo, ©Robert Stein III
"I woke up this mornin" da- daa-da-da, "my camp stove was gone" da-daaa...well, not really, just not working. It seems to be the pump and that pains me deeply as, while I have two MSR stoves, I only have one fuel pump.
I've brought several redundant equipment items, and it should be no surprise that it's not one of those items that has crapped out. Murphy's Law squared.
This could be a problem. It's not that cold here yet (again, 50 degrees dropping to mid 40's in the evening) but I cant cook my dehydrated meals which comprise about half of my foodstuffs. There is wood here, small, wet, sparse, and would pose more of a hassle than help in anything but survival conditions.
I've already packed up camp as it was dry and it looked like rain was on the way. Now the wind is up a bit. I cant fix this pump in the open, I dont want to pitch one of my tents (I have a NorthFace Bullfrog with duplicate rainfly and poles, and a tarp tent for cooking...not advisable to cook in the same tent you sleep) so it looks like no hot breakfast today. Homemade trail mix, my own concoction of strawberries, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, cashews, granola, M&M's, sesame sticks, and anything else I could find. It's become rather popular among the yachting crowd here.
It turns out my friends are having trouble with one of their stoves as well. They're also missing a pot lid. They left it on the shore one night after cleaning, and it washed away. Scott has two new cameras, but one got wet and shorted out ..... started smoking.
I'm glad to say I have not lost or broken anything yet (I have faith I can fix my stove, I have a repair kit) but I cant find that first roll of 35mm film. It's got to be in one of the bags, a pocket .... I'll find it.
They are packed and hit the river within an hour, putting about two miles between us.
As I glide, I spy several small groups of caribou. All mother's with calves, no bulls with large racks. All so far away. It's much easier to get close to the animals in Africa. You can drive right up, or at least within photographic range that doesn't require a huge L-Series lens.
They are heading south and eating as they go. Take a bit, walk, stop, take a bite, run, stop, bite, walk ad infinitum. A group reaches the river as I approach. They are preparing to cross but stop when one of them sees me. A teen, spread its back legs and urinates on a rock with a sound loud enough I can hear it. This is a typical method of warning the group. The rest of the group looks at the teen, then in the direction the teen is looking. At me. I remain perfectly still, at least as still as a canoe in the water can be. Maybe they will think I am floating debris. Close enough to take a picture, but if I move to get my camera I know they will bolt, so I just enjoy it.
I'm still, they're still, the tension builds. The leader sniffs the wind, damn, I'm up wind. They're gone.
We camp together again at a nice site with the idea that between us, we should have everything we need to fix our stoves. I find two caribou antlers in the sand, sawed off. Subsistence hunters. I take one and mount it to the bow of my canoe. Will future crossing caribou think I am one of them and join me for a swim? Ya right. It looks cool anyway.
Fixed the stove pump. Sand had gotten in through the fill hole and lodged between the leather piston gasket and the wall preventing pressure from building. A simple cleaning job. How do you spell relief? But wait, the stove still doesnt work. What next! This stove has always been so reliable. Break out the Whisperlite. I'll fix the XGK stove later.
We banded together in my cook tent for a feast and more Crown Royal as they tell me a tale of woe. They had gotten their coffe mixed up with somebody else's, so they were now carrying a pound of whole beans. The had attempted to grind some on a rock. I took pity on them and gave them some instant Mocha Cappuccino.