INCIDENTS OF My TRAVELS to
NEVER SEEKING ADVENTURE YET ADVENTURE FINDS ME
Our first hike to the remote job site
That next morning we set off to the job site. Loading all necessary equipment into our packs we determined what was not required for our initial setup. The work site sat about five kilometers westward and going back and forth would take the better part of a day. So as to not waste productive time our packs contained the essentials.
Harry hands me a Smith and Wesson 3000 short shotgun and a box of shells. The weapon was shiny gun metal silver without a shoulder stock, requiring the shooter to use the pump handle and hold the grip for balance during discharge. Never having a weapon previously it was surely intimidating.
“You know how to use this?” He asked.
“Yes.” No I did not.
“Good, we will run into a good amount of wildlife. Plenty of bears out here.” Kodiak bears, as a matter of fact, are the largest in the world. Growing to an impressive weigh of 1500 pounds they are formidable and fast. If they charge at you will need to defend yourself quickly. But do not aim for the head. Jim informs me that their skulls are so thick that the buckshot bounce off and will just anger them more. The best defense is an eye shot and run, or a chest shot and run. Running was the important of their narrative. With NPR reporting local bear attacks on a daily basis during this time of year most of these survivors suffer great losses in their encounters. We planned not being a forthcoming report.
Yes, Jim and Harry did impress enough fear in me with the tales they told.
In truth a shotgun this size was not much defense against much but the knowledge of having it made me feel somewhat secure. I packed the shells in my pack and slung the gun over my shoulder. At the ready for whatever need may arise.
Starting on the hike required us to travel along the northern shore of the lagoon, cut off from circumnavigation by southern paths by the inlet waterway that filled it with salty waters. In the tall browning grass the rivulets of mountain fed stream were difficult to navigate. Muddy and wide they took time away from an already involved hike. And with our backs loaded with gear the tripping into the cold water or sinking into the fresh mud was inevitable. This will be even more bothersome later when we would attempt to traverse with the Rokon motorcycle stashed at the lagoon site. Broken for now.
Along the way we would find an occasional well-worn path. I inquired as to how many people actually travel through here to create the footpath.
The paths are created by wandering bears I am told. They tend to follow familiar trails on their way to and from salmon hunting and other bear activities.
The travel is slow through this mess. An hour’s worth to achieve a brief distance around the lagoon. We can still see our igloos from here.
Sometime later we reach the opposite side of the lagoon and the field opens up to a dry riverbed. It is odd to find that this large tract of earth dry in this season but it affords us a relief of tenuous steps and we can relax from the worry of twisted ankles. We take a pause to get our bearings and take a snack.
Even in the moribund of fall season the foliage here still impresses. Among the tall grass Fireweed plants litter the land with its purplish pink flowers. Our trek brushes us against Pacific Red Elder that, if we were not already covered and clothed, would scratch us with its deceptively toothy leaves. Tall stalks of Stinging Nettles with near invisible hairs on contain irritating formic acid. Like a bee’s sting its contact would develop blisters on bare skin. I began to appreciate the minutiae in all this vastness.
We continued westward.
Jim points out the Pootchki. “Cow parsnips.” He called them. Beautiful plants with white matted blossoms on top of hollow stalks.
“They’re edible,” he says “But it might make you sensitive in sunlight. So proceed at your own risk if you want.” I was certain we had enough food that I did not need to attempt it.
Along a ravine he also points at tall stalks with yellowish leaves and inviting bright red berries on the top. “Devil’s clubs. Stay away from that one. The stalks have thousands of needles. Stings like a mother…” Talking from experience I gathered.
Berries are also found here but their numbers are sparse. The more populous on this island are Salmonberries, hanging on nearby shrubs. A cluster of red droplets making it look like Salmon eggs makes their discovery simple in a field of green and brown. I was informed that when red they are not ripe yet and why we see more of them. They turn yellow when mature and are mostly, by now, eaten by now in preparations for winter’s hibernation by the local brown bears. Soon even the red ones will be eaten by them as the colder season arrives.
We cross the trickling waters of the ravine and climb up on the opposite side to a field leading to a cluster of Sitka Spruce trees.
Mostly during this first hour we were silent, concentrating on the path. Then Jim breaks the ice.
About the Author
I have always ended up in unexpected places. So I present a collection of my tales told over the years. Places that due to circumstances I might never go on my own accord.