Photo, ©Robert Stein III '94
How much rain can these clouds dump? This is starting to get annoying. The river rose a foot last night. Less than we thought, but that probably just means that it hasn't reached us yet. We are trying for the cabin at New Cottonwood. We must have a dry place. Another day or two of this and even my sleeping bag will be wet. Scott's already is. We load up on food and algae as we expect another long and hard day.
While cruising along I saw a baby caribou on the bank, all alone. There were no other bou's anywhere to be seen. It darted back and forth along the rivers edge, as if trying to decide to cross. It sees me. It does not run, and it must be old enough that it doesnt adopt the crouched huddle of the really young.
It momentarily advances toward me. Does it think I am a bou because of my hood ornament?
Maybe I can lead it across. It continues its confused movements, then darts off into the fog like rain. It's as good as dead. Six miles down I see another. Same thing. Same frantic movement. Same look of death. Later, a family of Loons parade by.
It takes several hours to make the cabin. It's in a braided area, so I do my best to keep right at every split. I pick the correct route and stop at a gravel bar a few hundred feet from the cabins, three red ones. I find a moose antler.
This place is impressive. It has the first "Forest" I have seen on the river. Forty foot cottonwoods, and plenty of them. The rain has subsided a bit. I can see the horizon. This must be a nice place to live. The guys show up and we walk up to the cabins. There is a small note on the front door. "This is the Property of Emma Thompson. Dont Come In".
We knock on the door. All we want is a weather report. Nobody home. There are some old atv tracks. Maybe she is out hunting. We move on, disappointed and wetter than before.
Looking at the small forest we think we'll go down river a bit to where the forest meets the river for a campsite and firewood. We must have fire. We pass Emma's gravel landing field, and it will be underwater in a few hours. We glide slowly through a few braids to get back to the main current. It turns out that we have misjudged the landscape and the forest does not meet the river. We catch the current and move on.
We reach the Nimiuktuk river. Another torrent. We move to the far side river to avoid the turbulence it creates. But wait. A cabin! It's on the far bank just down from the Nimi, but its a hard paddle to get to it before the current sweeps us by. I reach it out of breath. No body is here. The front door is a piece of plywood nail shut, with two hammers strategically placed.
Not bad inside. Corrugated metal outside, wood stove, a second inner door, window, and survival food. With such survival staples as Dorritos. There is a Registration Box and a note written in '75 requesting that we leave the dishes here. Have there been dish thefts on the Noatak?
I discover that my water filter is dead. So is Mike's. We use some of the pales here to collect river water an let is settle overnight. While starting my stove to boil some dirty water, it gets temperamental and flares up, taking all the hair off my left hand, and singeing my eyebrows, lashes and mustache. The guys got a good laugh out of it.
I take the first real bath of the trip, even if it was GI, with soap and hot water.
The river shoots up three feet that night.