Solo Canoe Trip . Noatak River . 8/94 . Day 13

It's noon, and in the last fifteen hours the river has dropped an amazing four feet. The place where I had hauled my canoe onto land was now a cliff ledge of crumbling silt/sand. I need to haul all a few hundred feet farther down to where there is a gravel bar at water level I can stand on. The water is relatively quit now. I pack quickly. I want to make it to the Fish and Game cabin about twelve miles down. It's not n the USGS map but Bob says it's got a good stove. It's raining hard again. Light wind with no sun and 50.

The next river down is Nakolik, where the guys were gonna go hunt for fossils. I approach the river mouth, but there are a dozen braids feeding into the Noatak, and I cant see their camp if it is there. I pass by and catch up with Rob and Chuck just before we reach the cabin. We're told it's set back from the river, and we stop several times to scout so we dont miss it. The shoreline really sucks here, and I slip several times. It's nothing but broken tree trunks and small bush debris from the flood, all covered in mud. We locate the cabin and negotiate our way down a small braid to a slippery mud covered bank at the cabins door. Everything here, up to the door of the cabin, is covered in mud.

I arrive first and enter. It looks great. Clean, solid, good stove and plenty of wood. There is a bee hive on the outside of it. I didnt pay much attention to it, but when Chuck opened one of the windows, they freaked. Chuck get's it in the neck and lower lip. They are Yellow Jacket's and we discuss options for genocide.

Shotgun, Shovel? First Rob don's as much clothing as possible so he can get close and take a photo. We don head nets and gloves. He starts shooting about ten feet away and they attack, but do not get through his synthetic shell. After he gets his shots, he takes a shovel and slices the hive off of the cabin and onto the ground where it breaks into pieces. The bee's swarm for a brief moment, then disappear. There weren't many inside. More pictures and he kills the Queen. Chuck's lip is now three times normal size.

After getting our gear unpacked, around 19:00, Chuck spots a canoe on the river. They are too far away, and that is the last time I see Mike and Scott. There is only room for three in the cabin anyway.

With water that seems dirtier than before, we cook up a mountain of food, and dry everything out, with our raging stove. A little wine too. Every now and again bees return to the hive, cant find it and buzz around the cabin for a few minutes. The rain keeps coming and for the first time the temp drops a bit, along with the swelling in Chuck's lip.

Again no wildlife, just some rusty animal traps on a 55 gallon drum. I walk around on the tundra for a while wishing I knew more about mushrooms. They are everywhere, of every shape and color, in between the blueberries that are ripe now.

Photo, © Scott West '94

When I return there is a graveyard of bees at the base of the cabin. All those that returned to the hive only to die in the cold. Chuck likes that. He dances a victory jig on their carcasses, and their crunching sounds entice him into evermore exotic dance moves. His face looks better now.

The river drops a little than starts to rise again. The temp drops to 38 that night and it snows in the morning.