Solo Canoe Trip . Noatak River . 8/94 . Day 10

This is the life. What more could a wilderness wild man wannabe want? A warm stove. Hot food. A place to dry out everything. But outside is a real mess. 30+ mile per hour winds. A squall, a gale? We had to tie the canoes off at new locations cause the water is rising so fast, and our tie down points were getting submerged. We estimate it at better than 3 inches an hour. Looks like we are stuck here for the day. Even if the weather clears, the river looks so bad that I dont want to get on it. That may be academic with the possibility of the water getting high enough to float the cabin. (It was floated up river on several 55 galloon drums) About four feet to go.

I try to fix my filter. I use a backwash to try to clear it of silt, but its not cooperating. I give up on it for the duration of the trip. With all our chores done, we do some exploring. I though the tundra up river was bad. This is beyond bad. Tussock grasses are domes of vegetation about 6 to 12 inches in diameter. They have a hard center that rests on a spongy mass. To step on these is to risk everything. If you just place your foot on it to test, it will see sturdy enough. But as soon as you put your weight on, it will wobble in any and all direction. If you dont sprain or break your ankle, you're lucky. The other choice is to step between the Tussock. This is equally bazaar, as the spaces between are usually filled with dark water and you have no idea how deep it is. Needless to say, land travel is slooow.

The guys go off to climb some small peaks up the Nimi. I go looking for blueberries. Plenty of them around here, but still not fully ripe. A lot of fungi too. Firewood is scarce but I do manage to find some. On the far bank is a herd of about 70 bou's. Several males with large racks. Too far away to get a picture, I watch them for a hour before I head back to the cabin to read the registration notes. It turns out that they are so entertaining, I read some of them for the video camera.

Most of them mention some form of hellish endurance, animal encounters, and unabashed gratitude for Abe Howarth and his cabin. One group was chased into their boats by a griz. Others had just the opposite experience I was having. With little water, they had to make like donkeys and haul their kayaks down river. Others endured bugs beyond belief. No letters from anybody on a mountain bike.

One of the letters was from a gent writing for National Geographic. He started in Canada and worked his way along the spine of the Brooks Range by wood raft, dog team, foot, canoe, and got stuck during freeze up at Emma's Cabin up river. He was there for a month with frostbite. Stayed at Abe's a few days. Him and his dog, dated '89. May I venture a guess that many people have read his NG article and said to themselves "Oh, let's stay there too." Poor Emma must have had more uninvited guests than even a prisoner would want. I dont' blame her.

It is customary to do a few things when borrowing a cabin. Leave it cleaner than you found it. Leave more wood than you burn. Dont eat food from the cache unless its an emergency. Try to leave something behind, that you dont need or have extra of. Haul out extra trash if you can.

We find a bit of trash and a frying pan with beans still in it that have turned green with fungus. It spends the night outside in the rain. One of the food bags shows evidence of critters. None of the letters mention bed bugs, so I guess we are safe.

The water is getting higher and we have to arrange some rocks so we have a dry place to step outside the door. That lasts a few hours. Now the only way to get in or out is to get wet, or to hang on the side of the cabin and take a wide step to reach land. The guys take this opportunity to use up some of their baking goods and we have blueberry muffins as one big muffin while the storm rages on. We eventually tie the canoes off inside the cabin, and I set my watch alarm for every two hours.