Monday, December 18, 2006

End of September through November


Our adventures in Bettles culminated in a chartered flight over the Arrigetch peaks thanks to two new friends we had made: Lance & Roger, hunters all the way from Michigan.

The Arrigetch peaks were an amazing sight. Sheer face granite peaks reaching skyward with spectacular pinnacles, glaciers and tiny turquoise lakes. Tyler, the pilot, skillfully weaved in and out of the peaks and alongside the sheer faces of shiny rock sometimes 3,000 feet tall.

It was a wonderful and awe-inspiring last flight before we settled down into our cabin for winter. If Roger and Lance are out there reading this, Ryan and I thank you immensely and it was wonderful to have met you.

After our great sight seeing adventure we landed home, on our glassy arctic lake on equinox.

It was amazing to realize that although we were far away from many of our friends and family, and although our daylight would soon quickly dwindle, today, our day/night was the same everywhere. It was a good way to start the next season.

As if to signal the new season our temperature dropped to near freezing our first day home. With the change of temp. we celebrated the end of all the bugs that had plagued us this summer and fall.

Although our moose hunting was unsuccessful, we did find success in hunting grouse, snowshoe hare and after reading many glowing reports in the wild game recipe books, squirrels.

In line with the history of this land and our own beliefs, we made a point of trying to use all the parts of the animal we could: tanning hides and using the brains to help with the process, boiling the scraps and bones for soup…

On October 1st, we woke up to the first snow covering the ground and celebrated with a dried veggie sushi party! On the 8th, eight grouse descended upon our cabin from all sides to happily pluck away at the grit. The actual cabin and homesite is a designated “No hunt zone,” so we just stood by in utter bewilderment.

During Ocboter we also harvested some large trees that had fallen over in last winter’s blizzard.

After an exhausting two-mile canoe ride, pulling two 20’ logs behind the canoe. Heather walked the next four logs back home, wearing waders and occasionally having to stop to break through the ice forming on the edge of the lake.

By the time we hauled back the last two logs several days later, the temperature had dropped significantly. The freezing temperature gave us extra trouble, freezing the ropes before we could tie them and freezing our mittens to the metal canoes.

In the end, it was a wonderful feeling to have the logs home and ready for next summer’s cabin building.

Ryan eating chocolate chip pancakes in bed to celebrate the cook’s day off!

October 26th was our first subzero party with the temperature dropping down to –4 degrees. We enjoyed chocolate cake and homemade party hats.

On October 31st we celebrated Halloween with a haunted house, trick-or-treating and Halloween feast that included a bottle of orange soda saved for just such an occasion. On two fine sunny days in Oct. and early Nov. we hiked up two of the nearby peaks to get a fuller glimpse of the surrounding Brooks range dressed in snow.

The highlight of our first hike was our fast descent using our rears as sleds on the snow covered shale slopes.

Our second hike held even more breath taking views, which were well earned after fighting steep sloped knee deep snow to get there.

On Nov. 3rd, the lake completely froze over making eerie and loud noises as it buckled and cracked and re-froze into a thick solid sheet. The arctic environment is clearly settling in to its winter world.

The sun no longer peaks over the mountains and instead we are graced with hours of sunrises/sunsets without the sun. Darkness sets in around 3:30 pm and within a few hours the northern lights, moon and stars light up the night in such a bright way that you rarely need a flashlight.

The temperatures hang around –20 degrees now and are promised to go much farther down.

We spend our time outdoors getting firewood and water and taking walks.

Indoors we are cozy and warm surrounded by the humming of the wood stove, the flicker of candles and lanterns and our stacks of books and projects.